Abbildungen der Seite

pattern peasantry, and an unexceptionable lord, and spick and span satin heroine, or white muslin maiden, all in the turning of a band. Not should this

this be done, even had

we those wonderful powers of creation, and that rapid resource and happy mode of throwing stones wherewith Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha re-peopled the world after the deluge, saving an incalculable amount of time and trouble, and all effected as “ directed by the oracle.”

It was, then, at a time of which, unfortunately, there comes down to us no record, or such a tattered one as we, being very particular and most fastidious as to completeness, could not piece together, that our story opens. Most happy should we have felt ourselves if we could have succeeded in fixing our date within the Christian chronology with that precision which should have placed our narrative beyond question. We have, however, not been so fortunate.

A certain trembling beset us when we found we were rapidly losing sight of that consistent time when church-spires were in fashion, and people wore stockings. For this latter peculiarity we are forced to confess we have always retained predilection, though we are free to allow that what has been gained in comfort and propriety has been sacrificed in personal picturesqueness. Could we have persuaded ourselves that the events of our story occurred in those comfortable days when people lived indoors, and such things had disappeared from the face of the earth as heroes and fine curly heads and other nuisances, and wild-boars with awful tusks, and boarspears as long as lamp-posts, and tiger-skin jackets, such as we see see in old pictures, infinitely happier as well as more cosily-hearted should we have felt ourselves. But as our rigorous Fate with her “nose as sharp as a pen," and her shining green spectacles and skinny arms, and her long scissars ground up sharpest and thirstiest upon the swiftest grindstone, forbade such a hope, all that remains to us is submitting with a good grace.

We will now, if the reader pleases, proceed at once to the first round bold sweep of the outline of our story.

At a very remote period of Spanish history, indeed it is so distant in its antiquity that we are loth to fix it at either the old Gothic or Moorish epoch, or ascribe it to later and more christian-like and christian times, that a certain district bordering on the sunny shores of the wide Mediterranean, and called the Costa d'Oro, was agitated by various singular rumours, and disturbed by impressions of an extraordinary character. Civilization and the arts had happily here developed themselves much more broadly than elsewhere. The consequence was a high state of refinement of the inhabitants.

To this might be owing the speculation implied in, and fanciful character of the persuasion upon which the reader shall shortly perceive

the interest of our story hangs. This persuasion was so dim and shadowy, and at the same time so improbable, that I feel fearful of proceeding

“ Plague this fellow !" cries the reader. “ There he goes again! When will he leave off these tedious digressions! Here has he been at it for the last half hour, hovering about his story without commencing it. Nibbling like a child at a cherry, taking a ridiculous and misplaced pleasure in going all round it, and never attacking it honestly at once. Is his story so hot that he cannot handle it?”

“Dear reader, be not impatient. Smooth that ruffled front, and pray consider that if you do not permit us, like Sancho, to tell our story in our own way, the chances are that you

will get no story at all. And that would be a great pity, we can tell you;

take it upon our conscience to aver that our tale will be, if not the longest in the world, (which is a blessing), the most"

for we

Amusing, of course. Oh, we understand all that! But, good sir, you are---"

“ Becoming tedious. We fear so. Patience, considerate reader; and as Durandarte says, • shuffle the cards, which being interpreted, means shuffle off, if you please, the first chapter. We have but three words more before we plunge in medias res. Well then..."

Our dread is that geographers instead of holding up their hands in wonder, and opening their eyes in astonishment, as we should desire them, might disappoint us, and when they have held up their heads turn them away sneeringly aud in impatience, which would be worse work than the shaking them in simple incredulity.

Greatly is it to regretted, and deeply to be deplored, that there should be so much reluctance to believe. To acknowledge assertions which, though true, must be necessarily destitute of evidence, and the means of confirmation, in proportion to their strangeness. Of

« ZurückWeiter »