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paling, overhung with thorns and hollies, comes sweeping round it, to meet the rich coppices which clothe the opposite acclivity. Just under the high and irregular paling, shaded by the birches and sycamores of the park, and by the venerable oaks which are scattered irregularly on the green, is a dark deep pool, whose broken banks, crowned with fern and wreathed with briar and bramble, have an air of wildness and grandeur that might have suited the pencil of Salvator Rosa.
In this lonely place (for the mansion to which the park belonged had long been uninhabited) I first saw our gipsies. They had pitched their little tent under one of the oak trees, perhaps from a certain dim sense of natural beauty, which those who live with nature in the fields are seldom totally without; perhaps because the neighbourhood of the coppices, and of the deserted hall, was favourable to the acquisition of game, and of the little fuel which their hardy habits required. The party consisted only of four-an old crone, in a tattered red cloak and black bonnet, who was stooping over a kettle, of which the contents were probably as savoury as that of Meg Merrilies, renowned in story; a pretty black-eyed girl, at work under the trees; a sun-burnt urchin of eight or nine, collecting sticks and dead leaves to feed their out-of-door fire; and a slender lad, two or three years older, who lay basking in the sun with a couple of shabby dogs of the sort called mongrel, in all the joy of idleness, whilst a grave patient donkey stood grazing hard-by. It was a pretty picture, with its soft autumnal sky, its rich woodiness, its sunshine, its verdure, the light smoke curling from the fire, and the group disposed around it so harmless, poor outcasts! and so happya beautiful picture! I stood gazing on it till I was half ashamed to look longer, and came away half afraid that they should depart before I could see them again.
This fear I soon found to be groundless. The old gipsy was a celebrated fortune-teller, and the post having been so long vacant, she could not have brought her talents to a better market. The whole village rang with the predictions of this modern Cassandra-unlike her Trojan predecessor, inasmuch as her prophecies were never of evil. I myself could not help admiring the real cleverness, the genuine gipsy tact with which she adapted her foretellings to the age, the habits, and the known desires and circumstances of her clients.
To our little pet Lizzy, for instance, a damsel of seven, she predicted a fairing; to Joe Kirby, a youth of eleven, head batter of the boys, a new cricket-ball; to Joe's sister Lucy, a girl some three years his senior, and just promoted to that ensign of womanhood a cap, she promised a pink top-knot; whilst, for Miss Sophia Matthews, our oldmaidish school-mistress, who would be heartily glad to be a girl again, she foresaw one handsome husband, and for the smart widow Simmons, two. These were the least of her triumphs. George Wheeler, the dashing young farmer of the hill-house, a gay sportsman, who scoffed at fortune-tellers and matrimony, consulted her as to whose greyhound would win the courser's cup at the beacon meeting; to which she replied, that she did not know to whom the dog would belong, but that the winner of the cup would be a white greyhound, with one blue ear, and a spot on its side, being an exact description of Mr. George Wheeler's favourite Helen, who followed her master's steps like his shadow, and was standing behind him at this very instant. This pre
diction gained our gipsy half-a-crown; and master Welles-the thriving thrifty yeoman of the lea-she managed to win sixpence from his hard honest frugal hand, by a prophecy that his old brood mare, called Blackfoot, should bring forth twins; and Will the blacksmith, who was known to court the tall nursemaid at the mill-she got a shilling from Will, simply by assuring him that his wife should have the longest coffin that ever was made in our wheelwright's shop. A most tempting prediction ingeniously combining the prospect of winning and of surviving the lady of his heart-a promise equally adapted to the hot and cold fits of that ague, called love; lightening the fetters of wedlock; uniting in a breath the bridegroom and the widower. Will was the best pleased of all her customers, and enforced his suit with such vigour, that he and the fair giantess were asked in church the next Sunday, and married at the fortnight's end.
No wonder that all the world-that is to say, all our world-were crazy to have their fortunes told-to enjoy the pleasure of hearing from such undoubted authority, that what they wished to be should be. Amongst the most eager to take a peep into futurity, was our pretty maid Harriet, although her desire took the not unusual form of disclamation," nothing should induce her to have her fortune told, nothing upon earth!" "She never thought of the gipsy, not she!" and to prove the fact, she said so at least twenty times a day. Now Harriet's fortune seemed told already; her destiny was fixed. She, the belle of the village, was engaged to our village beau, Joel Brent; they were only waiting for a little more money to marry; and as Joel was already head carter to our head farmer, and had some prospect of a bailiff's place, their union did not appear very distant. But Harriet, besides being a beauty, was a coquette, and her affection for her betrothed did not interfere with certain flirtations which came in like Isabella, "by-the-bye," and occasionally cast a shadow of coolness between the lovers, which, however, Joel's cleverness and good humour generally contrived to chase away. There had probably been a little fracas in the present instance, for at the end of one of her daily professions of unfaith in gipsies and their predictions, she added, "that none but fools did believe them; that Joel had had his fortune told, wanted to treat her to a prophecy-but she was not such a simpleton."
About half an hour after the delivery of this speech, I happened, in tying up a chrysanthemum, to go to our wood yard for a stick of proper dimensions, and there, enclosed between the faggot pile and the coalshed, stood the gipsy, in the very act of palmistry, conning the lines of fate in Harriet's hand. Never was a stronger contrast than that between the old withered sybil, dark as an Egyptian, with bright laughing eyes, and an expression of keen humour under all her affected solemnity, and our village beauty, tall, and plump, and fair, blooming as a rose, and simple as a dove. She was listening too intently to see me, but the fortune-teller did, and stopt so suddenly, that her attention was awakened and the intruder discovered.
Harriet at first meditated a denial. She called up a pretty innocent unconcerned look; answered my silence (for I never spoke a word) by muttering something about "coals for the parlour;" and catching up my new painted green watering-pot, instead of the coal-scuttle, began filling it with all her might, to the unspeakable discomfiture of that
useful utensil, on which the dingy dust stuck like birdlime-and of her own clean apron, which exhibited a curious interchange of black and green on a white ground. During the process of filling the wateringpot, Harriet made divers signs to the gipsy to decamp. The old sybil, however, budged not a foot, influenced probably by two reasons: one, the hope of securing a customer in the new comer, whose appearance is generally, I am afraid, the very reverse of dignified, rather merry than wise; the other, a genuine fear of passing through the yard-gate, on the outside of which a much more imposing person, my grey-hound Mayflower, who has a sort of beadle instinct anent drunkards and pilferers, and disorderly persons of all sorts, stood barking most furiously.
This instinct is one of May's remarkable qualities. Dogs are all, more or less, physiognomists, and commonly pretty determined aristocrats, fond of the fine and averse to the shabby, distinguishing, with a nice accuracy, the master castes from the pariahs of the world. But May's power of perception is another matter, more, as it were, moral. She has no objection to honest rags; can away with dirt, or age, or ugliness, or any such accident, and, except just at home, makes no distinction between kitchen and parlour. Her intuition points entirely to the race of people commonly called suspicious, on whom she pounces at a glance. What a constable she would have made! What a jewel of a thief-taker! Pity that those four feet should stand in the way of her preferment! she might have risen to be a Bow-street officer. As it is we make the gift useful in a small way. In the matter of hiring and marketing the whole village likes to consult May. Many a chap has stared when she has been whistled up to give her opinion as to his honesty; and many a pig bargain has gone off on her veto. Our neighbour, mine host of the Rose, used constantly to follow her judgment in the selection of his lodgers. His house was never so orderly as when under her government. At last he found out that she abhorred tipplers as well as thieves-indeed, she actually barked away three of his best customers: and he left off appealing to her sagacity, since which he has, at different times, lost three silver spoons and a leg of mutton. With every one else May is an oracle. Not only in the case of wayfarers and vagrants, but amongst our own people, her fancies are quite a touchstone. A certain lame cobbler, for instance-May cannot abide him, and I don't think he has had so much as a job of heel-piecing to do since her dislike became public. She really took away his character.
Longer than I have taken to relate Mayflower's accomplishments stood we, like the folks in the Critic, at a dead lock: May, who probably regarded the gipsy as a sort of rival, an interloper on her oracular domain, barking with the voice of a lioness-the gipsy trying to persuade me into having my fortune told-and I endeavouring to prevail on May to let the gipsy pass. Both attempts were unsuccessful; and the fair consulter of destiny, who had by this time recovered from the shame of her detection, extricated us from our dilemma by smuggling the old woman away through the house.
Of course Harriet was exposed to some raillery, and a good deal of questioning about her future fate, as to which she preserved an obstinate, but evidently satisfied silence. At the end of three days, however-my readers are, I hope, learned enough in gipsy lore to know that, unless kept secret for three entire days, no prediction can come
true-at the end of three days, when all the family except herself had forgotten the story, our pretty soubrette, half bursting with the long retention, took the opportunity of lacing on my new half-boots to reveal the prophecy. "She was to see within the week, and this was Saturday, the young man, the real young man, whom she was to marry." "Why, Harriet, you know poor Joel." "Joel, indeed! the gipsy said that the young man, the real young man, was to ride up to the house drest in a dark great coat (and Joel never wore a great coat in his lifeall the world knew that he wore smock-frocks and jackets), and mounted on a white horse-and where should Joel get a white horse?" "Had this real young man made his appearance yet?" "No; there had not been a white horse past the place since Tuesday: so it must certainly be to-day."
A good look-out did Harriet keep for white horses during this fateful Saturday, and plenty did she see. It was the market-day at B., and team after team came by with one, two, and three white horses; cart after cart, and gig after gig, each with a white steed; Colonel M.'s carriage, with its prancing pair-but still no horseman. At length one appeared; but he had a great coat whiter than the animal he rode; another, but he was old farmer Lewington, a married man; a third, but he was little Lord L., a school-boy, on his Arabian poney. Besides, they all passed the house; and as the day wore on, Harriet began, alternately, to profess her old infidelity on the score of fortune-telling, and to let out certain apprehensions that, if the gipsy did really possess the power of foreseeing events, and no such horseman arrived, she might possibly be unlucky enough to die an old maid-a case for which, although the proper destiny of a coquette, our village beauty seemed to entertain very decided aversion.
At last, just at dusk, just as Harriet, making believe to close our casement shutters, was taking her last peep up the road, something white appeared in the distance coming leisurely down the hill. Was it really a horse? Was it not rather Titus Strong's cow driving home to milking? A minute or two dissipated that fear: it certainly was a horse, and as certainly it had a dark rider. Very slowly he descended the hill, pausing most provokingly at the end of the village, as if about to turn up the Vicarage-lane. He came on, however, and after another short stop at the Rose, rode full up to our little gate, and catching Harriet's hand as she was opening the wicket, displayed to the halfpleased, half-angry damsel the smiling triumphant face of her own Joel Brent, equipped in a new great coat, and mounted on his master's newly-purchased market nag. Oh, Joel! Joel! The gipsy! the gipsy!
Some say 'tis hard to gain the heart
Some say 'tis harder to impart
M. M. New Series.-VOL. I. No. 1.
MIASMA OF THE MARSHES CONTIGUOUS TO THE MEDITERRANEAN.
A MARSHY strand extends along the Mediterranean, between the rivers Serchio and Frigido, in the territory of Massa de Carrara, and appears to be formed by the sands deposited by the Serchio and the Arno in the gulf which formerly reached to the foot of the Ligurean Appenines; for the bottom of the marshes is formed of the same sand as that of the coast, which increases yearly in breadth, by an alluvion of four or five fathoms. This district comprizes three lakes, viz. Massaciuccoli, Della Torre et di Motrone, and de Petrotto, each of which has a natural or artificial communication with the sea, into which they discharge their superfluous waters. But as their level is lower than that of the sea at high water, they were overflowed by the spring tides, or whenever the libecciata (north-west wind) blew strongly. The mixture of salt and fresh water in the lakes, slowly and seldom renewed during summer, became corrupted, and infected the air. The effects of the cattiva aria are at present too well known to render it necessary to go into any detail upon the miserable state to which the inhabitants in the neighbourhood of these lakes were reduced. Suffice it to say, that they were continually subject to diseases of the liver and spleen; and that the population was composed of languishing children, and sickly men and women, though in the prime of life. Old age was unknown amongst them. Such was the state of things before the year 1741, when a partial attempt was made to purify the air. One of the principal causes of the insalubrity of the air in similar situations as that described above was known to the ancients, for Vitruvius, in his "Architecture," book 1st, chap. iv., says that no town should be built near a marsh, the level of which was not above that of the sea. For in the case where it was not so, the salt-water, driven by the tide or high winds, had no means of flowing off afterwards. Silvius, Donat, Pringle, Boerhave, Monsignor Lancisi, and others, have more or less clearly intimated that it is principally from those marshes in which there is a mixture of fresh and sea-water, and in which this mixture remains for a long time exposed to the summer sun, that arise the most deleterious miasmata. This opinion had, however, hitherto been supported by no direct proof; for to ascertain with certainty that the insalubrity of the air in the neighbourhood of marshes where a mixture of fresh and salt water existed was caused by this mixture, it was necessary to permit and hinder, successively, the communication between the fresh and sea water, and thereby become assured that their separation was followed by a purification of the air, and that their re-meeting was as certainly accompanied by mephitic and pestilential exhalations. This experiment has been tried in our days, with the most complete and almost unhopedfor success. The following are the details:-In 1714, Gemignano Rondelli, the engineer of Bologna, offered to attempt separating the water of the sea from those of the lakes. In 1730, the celebrated Eustache Manfredi made a similar proposal. In 1736, Bernardino
* Substance of a Memoir upon the causes of the insalubrity of the air in the neighbourhood of marshes in communication with the sea. Read at the Royal Academy of Sciences, at Paris, by Mr. Gaetano Giorgini, Member of the Academy of Lucca,