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now expected to give the podestâ an illustration of the p.ac. tical benefits of general learning, a subject that had often been discussed between them, “ we book-worms can manage these trifles in our own way; and if you will consent to enter into a short dialogue on the subject of England, her habits, language and laws, this question will be speedily put at rest.”
“ You have me at command; and nothing would delight me more than to chat for a few minutes about that little island. It is not large, Signore, and is doubtless of little worth; but, as my country, it is much in my eyes."
“This is natural. And now, Signor Capitano, added Andrea, glancing at the podestâ, to make sure that he was listening, “ will you have the goodness to explain to me what sort of a government this Inghilterra possesses whether monarchy, aristocracy or democracy ?"
6 Peste !-that is not so easily answered. There is a king, and yet there are powerful lords; and a democracy, too, that sometimes gives trouble enough. Your question might puzzle a philosopher, Signor Vice-governatore."
“ This may be true enough, neighbour Vito Viti, for the constitution of Inghilterra is an instrument of many strings ! Your answer convinces me you have thought on the subject of your government, Capitano, and I honour a reflecting man, in all situations in life. What is the religion of the country ?"
Corpo di Bacco ! that is harder to answer than all the rest! We have as many religions, in England, as we have people. It is true, the law says one thing, on this head, but then the men, women and children say another. Nothing has troubled me more than this same matter of religion.”
“ Ah! you sailors do not disquiet your souls with such thoughts, if the truth must be said. Well, we will be indul. gent on this subject—though, out of doubt, you and all your people are Luterani ?”
“ Set us down as what you please,” answered the captain, with an ironical smile. “Our fathers, at any rate, were all good Catholics once. But seamanship and the altar are the best of friends, living quite independent of each other.”
6 That I will answer for. It is much the same here, caro
Vito Viti, though our mariners do burn so many lamps, and offer up so many aves.
“ Your pardon, Signor Vice-governatore,” interrupted the Signor Smeet, with a little earnestness ;" this is the great mistake of your seamen,
in general. Did they pray less, and look to their duties more, their voyages would be shorter, and the profits more certain.”
“Scandalous !” exclaimed the podestâ, in hotter zeal than it was usual for him to betray –
Nay, worthy Vito Viti, it is even sn," interrupted the deputy, with a wave of the hand, that was as authoritative as the concession was liberal and indicative of a spirit enlightened by study ; “the fact must be conceded. There is the sable of Hercules and the wagoner, to confirm it. Did our men first strive, and then pray, more would be done, than by first praying and then striving; - and now, Signor Capitano, a word on your language, of which I have some small knowledge, and which doubtless you speak like a native.”
“ Sairtainlee," answered the captain, with perfect selfcomposure, changing the form of speech from the Italian to the English with a readiness that proved how strong he felt himself on this point; one cannot fail to speak ze tongue )f his own mozair.”
This was said without any confusion of manner, and with an accent that might very well mislead a foreigner, and it sounded imposing to the vice-governatore, who felt a secret consciousness that he could not have uttered such a sentence, to save his own life, without venturing out of his depth : therefore, he pursued the discourse in Italian.
“ Your language, Signore,” observed Andrea Barrofaldi, with warmth, “is no doubt a very noble one, for the lan guage in which Shakspeare and Milton wrote cannot be else but, you will permit me to say that it has a uniformity of sound, with words of different letters, that I find as unreasonable as it is embarrassing, to a foreigner.”
“I have heard such complaints before," answered the captain, not at all sorry to find the examination, which had proved so awkward to himself, likely to be transferred to a language about which he cared not at all, “and have littln
to say in its defence. But, as an example of what you
Why, Signore, here are several words that I have written on this bit of paper, which sound nearly alike, though, as you perceive, they are quite differently spelled. Bix, bax, box, bux, and bocks,” continued Andrea, endeavouring to pronounce, “ big," “ bag,” bug," “ bog,” and “ box," all of which, it seemed to him, had a very close family resemblance, in sound, though certainly spelled with different letters; “these are words, Signore, that are enough to drive a foreigner to abandon your tongue in despair.”
“Indeed they are; and I often told the person who taught me the language _"
“ How ; did you not learn your own tongue as we all get our native forms of speech, by ear, when a child ?" demanded the vice-governatore, his suspicions suddenly revived.
“ Without question, Signore, but I speak of books, and of learning to read. When . big,' bag,' bug,' bog,' and .box,'” reading from the paper, in a steady voice, and a very tolerable pronunciation, “first came before me, I felt all the embarrassment of which you speak.”
“ And did you only pronounce these words when first taught to read them ?"
This question was an awkward one to answer; but Vito Viti began to weary of a discourse in which he could take no part, and, most opportunely, he interposed an objection of his own.
“Signor Barrofaldi,” he said, “ stick to the lugger. All our motives of suspicion came from Tommaso Tonti, and all of his from the rig of Signor Smees' vessel. If the lugger can be explained, what do we care about bixy, buxy, boxy !"
'The vice-governatore was not sorry to get creditably out of the difficulties of the language, and, smiling on his friend, he made a gentle bow of compliance. Then he reflected a moment, in order to plan another mode of proceeding, and pursued the inquiry.
My neighbour Vito Viti is right,” he said, “and we will stick to the lugger. Tommaso Tonti is a mariner of experi. ence, and the oldest pilot of Elba. He tells us that the lugger is a craft much in use among the French, and not at all among the English, so far as he has ever witnessed.”
« In that To.nmaso Tonti is no seaman. Many luggers are to be found among the English; though more, certainly, among the French. But I have already given the Signor Viui to understand that there is such an island as Guernsey, which was once French, but which is now English, and that accounts for the appearances he has observed. We are Guernsey-men — the lugger is from Guernsey — and, no doubt, we have a Guernsey look. This is being half French, I allow."
“ That alters the matter, altogether. Neighbour Viti, this is all true about the island, and about its habits and its origin ; and if one could be as certain about the names, why nothing more need be said. Are Giac Smees, and Ving-y-Ving, Guernsey names ?”
“They are not particularly so," returned the sailor, with difficulty refraining from laughing in the vice-governatore's face; “ Jaques Smeet being so English, that we are the largest family, perhaps, in all Inghilterra. Half the nobles of the island are called Smeet', and not a few are named Jaques. But little Guernsey was conquered; and our an. cestors, who performed that office, brought their names with them, Signore. As for Ving-And-Viny, it is capital English."
“I do not see, Vito, but this is reasonable. If the capitano, now, only had his commission with him, you and I might go to bed in peace, and sleep till morning."
“Here, then, Signore, are your sleeping potions," continued the laughing sailor, drawing from his pocket several papers. “ These are my orders from the admiral; and, as they are not secret, you can cast your eyes over them. This is my commission, Signor Vice-governatore — this is the signature of the English minister of marine and here is my own, · Jaques Smeet', as you see, and here is the order to me, as a lieutenant, to take command of the Ving. And-Ving."
All the orders and names were there, certainly, written in a clear, fair hand, and in perfectly good English. The only thing that one who understood the language perfectly would have been apt to advert to, was the circumstance that the words which the sailor pronounced " Jaques Smeet',” were written, plainly enough, “ Jack Smith” an innovation on the common practice, which, to own the truth, had proceeded from his own obstinacy, and had been done in the
teeth of the objections of the scribe who had forged the papers. But Andrea was still too little of an English scholar to understand the blunder, and the Jack passed, with him, quite as currently as would “ John,” “ Edward,” or any other appellation. As to the Wing-And-Wing, all was right; though, as the words were pointed out and pronounced by both parties, one pertinaciously insisted on calling them “ Ving-And-Ving," and the other, “ Ving-y-Ving." All this evidence had a great tendency towards smoothing down every difficulty, and 'Maso Tonti's objections were pretty nearly forgotten by both the Italians, when the papers were returned to, and pocketed again by, their proper owner.
“ It was an improbable thing that an enemy, or a corsair, would venture into this haven of ours, Vito Viti,” said the vice-governatore, in a self-approving manner; 6 for we have a reputation for being vigilant, and for knowing our business, as well as the authorities of Livorno, or Genova, or Napoli.
“ And that too, Signore, with nothing in the world to gain but hard knocks and a prison,” added the Captain Smeet, with one of his most winning smiles- a smile that even softened the heart of the podestâ, while it so far warmed that of his superior, as to induce him to invite the stranger to share his own frugal supper. The invitation was accepted as frankly as it had been given, and, the table being ready in an adjoining room, in a few minutes Il Capitano Smees and Vito Viti were sharing the vice-governatore's evening meal.
From this moment, if distrust existed any longer in the breasts of the two functionaries of Porto Ferrajo, it was so effectually smothered as to be known only to themselves. The light fare of an Italian kitchen, and the light wines of Tuscany, just served to strengthen the system, and enliven the spirits; the conversation becoming general and lively, as the business of the moment proceeded. At that day, tea was known throughout southern Europe as an ingredient only for the apothecary's keeping; nor was it often to be found among his stores; and the convives used, as a substitute, large draughts of the pleasant mountain liquors of the adjacent main, which produced an excitement scarcely greater, while it may be questioned if it did as much injury