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6 What! to Bill Green! She wouldn't let him walk where she walked last year!"
Here I saw I had made a misstep. Resolving to be more cautious, I left the selection to the lady herself, and only begged for one of the girls. But my eloquence was wasted. The Miss Randalls had been a whole quarter at a select school, and will not live out again until their present stock of finery is un. wearable. Miss Rachel, whose company I had hoped to se. cure, was even then paying attention to a branch of the fine arts.
“Rachel Amandy!" cried Mrs. Randall at the foot of the ladder which gave access to the upper regions—“fetch that thing down here! It's the prettiest thing you ever see in your life !” turning to me.
And the educated young lady brought down a doleful-looking compound of card-board and manycolored waters, which had, it seems, occupied her mind and fingers for some days.
“There !" said the mother, proudly, “a gal that's learnt to make sich baskets as that, a'n't a goin' to be nobody's help, I
I thought the boast likely to be verified as a prediction, and went my way, crestfallen and weary. Girl-hunting is certainly among our most formidable “chores."
THE REGATTA AT VENICE.-JAMES FENIMORE COOPER.
VENICE, from her peculiar formation and the vast number of her watermen, had long been celebrated for this species of amusement. Families were known and celebrated in her traditions for dexterous skill with the oar, as they were known in Rome for feats of a far less useful and of a more barbarous nature. It was usual to select from these races of watermen the most vigorous and skilful; and, after invoking the aid of patronsaints, and arousing their pride and recollections by songs that recounted the feats of their ancestors, to start them for the goal with
every incitement that pride and the love of victory could awaken.
Most of these ancient usages were still observed. As soon as the Bucentaur was in its station, some thirty or forty gondoliers were brought forth, clad in their gayest habiliments and surrounded and supported by crowds of anxious friends and relatives. The intended competitors were expected to sustain the long-established reputations of their several names, and they were admonished of the disgrace of defeat. They were cheered by the men, and stimulated by the smiles and tears of the other sex. The rewards were recalled to their minds; they were fortified by prayers to the saints; and then they were dismissed amid the cries and the wishes of the multitude to seek their allotted places beneath the stern of the galley of state.
The city of Venice is divided into two nearly equal parts by a channel much broader than that of the ordinary passages of the town. This dividing artery, from its superior size and depth, and its greater importance, is called the grand canal. Its course is not unlike that of an undulating line, which greatly increases its length. As it is much used by the larger boats of the bay-being in fact a sort of secondary port--and its width is so considerable, it has throughout the whole distance but one bridge—the celebrated Rialto. The regatta was to be held on this canal, which offered the requisites of length and space, and which, as it was lined with most of the palaces of the principal senators, afforded all the facilities necessary for viewing the struggle.
In passing from one end of this long course to the other, the men destined for the race were not permitted to make any exertion. Their eyes roamed over the gorgeous hangings, which, as is still wont throughout Italy on all days of festa, floated from every window, and on groups of females in rich attire, brilliant with the peculiar charms of the famed Venetian beauty that clustered in the balconies. Those who were domestics rose and answered to the encouraging signals thrown from above, as they passed the palaces of their masters; while those who were watermen of the public endeavored to gather hope among
the sympathizing faces of the multitude.
At length every formality had been duly observed, and the competitors assumed their places. The gondolas were much larger than those commonly used, and each was manned by three watermen in the center, directed by a fourth, who, standing on the little deck in the stern, steered while he aided to impel the boat. There were light, low staffs in the bows, with flags that bore the distinguishing colors of several noble families of the republic, or which had such other simple devices as had been suggested by the fancies of those to whom they belonged. A few flourishes of the oars, resembling the preparatory movements which the master of fence makes ere he begins to push and parry, were given; a whirling of the boats, like the prancing of curbed racers, succeeded; and then at the report of a gun, the whole darted away as if the gondolas were impelled by volition. The start was followed by a shout which passed swiftly along the canal, and an eager agitation of heads that went from balcony to balcony, till the sympathetic movement was communicated to the grave load under which the Bucentaur labored.
For a few minutes the difference in force and skill was not very obvious. Each gondola glided along the element, apparently with that ease with which a light-winged swallow skims the lake, and with no visible advantage to any one of the ten. Then, as more art in him who steered, or greater powers of endurance in those who rowed, or some of the latent properties of the boat itself came into service, the cluster of little barks which had come off like a closely united flock of birds taking flight together in alarm, began to open till they formed a long and vacillating line in the centre of the passage. The whole train shot beneath the bridge, so near each other as to render it still doubtful which was to conquer, and the exciting strife came more in view of the principal personages of the city.
But here those radical qualities, which insure success in efforts of this nature manifested themselves. The weaker began to yield, the train to lengthen, and hopes and fears to increase, until those in the front presented the exhilarating spectacle of success, while those behind offered the still more noble sight of men struggling without hope. Gradually the distance between the boats increased, while that between them and the goal grew rapidly less, until three of those in advance came in, like glancing arrows, beneath the stern of the Bucentaur, with scarce a length between them. The prize was won, the conquerors were rewarded, and the artillery gave forth the usual signals of rejoicing. Music answered to the roar of cannon and the peals of bells, while sympathy with success, that predominant and so often dangerous principle of our nature, drew shouts even from the disappointed.
The clamor ceased, and a herald proclaimed aloud the commencement of a new and a different struggle. The last, and what might be termed the national race, had been limited, by an ancient usage, to the known and recognized gondoliers of Venice. The prize had been awarded by the state, and the whole affair had somewhat of an official and political character. It was now announced, however, that a race was to be run in which the reward was open to all competitors, without questioning as to their origin, or as to their ordinary occupations. An oar of gold, to which was attached a chain of the same precious metal, exhibited as the boone of the doge to him who showed most dexterity and strength in this new struggle; while a similar ornament of silver, was to be the portion of him who showed the second best dexterity and bottom. A mimic boat of less precious metal was the third prize. The gondolas were to be the usual light vehicles of the canals, and as the object was to display the peculiar skill of that city of islands, but one oarsman was allowed to each, on whom would necessarily fall the whole duty of guiding while he impelled his little bark. Any of those who had been engaged in the previous trial were admitted to this: and all desirous of taking part in the new struggle were commanded to come beneath the stern of the Bucentaur, within a prescribed number of minutes, that note might be had of their wishes. As notice of this arrangement had been previously given, the interval between the two races was not long:
The first who came out of the crowd of boats which environed the vacant place that had been left for the competitors, was a gondolier of the public landing, well known for his skill with the oar, and his song on the canal.
“How art thou called, and in whose name dost thou put thy chance ?" demanded the herald of this aquatic course.
“ All know me for Bartolomeo, one who lives between the Piazzetta and the Lido, and, like a loyal Venetian, I trust in San Teodoro.”
“Thou art well protected; take thy place and await thy fortune.”
The conscious waterman swept the water with a back stroke of his blade, and the light gondola whirled away into the centre of the vacant spot like a swan giving a sudden glance aside.
“And who art thou !" demanded the official of the next that
“Enrico, a gondolier of Fusina. I come to try my oars with the braggarts of the canals.”
“ In whom is thy trust !"
“Thou wilt need his aid, though we commend thy spirit. Enter and take place.”—“And who art thou?" he continued, to another, when the second had imitated the easy skill of the first.
“I am called Gino of Calabria, a gondolier in private service." “ What noble retaineth thee ?" “The illustrious and most excellent Don Camillo Monforte,
Duca and Lord of Sant' Agata in Napoli, and of right a senator in Venice.”
“Thou shouldst have come of Padua, friend, by thy knowledge of the laws ! Dost thou trust in him thou servest for the victory?"
There was a movement among the senators at the answer of Gino; and the half-terrified varlet thought he perceived frowns gathering on more than one brow. He looked around in quest of him whose greatness he had vaunted, as if he sought succor.
“ Wilt thou name thy support in this great trial of force ?" resumed the herald.
‘My master,” uttered the terrified Gino, “St. Januarius, and St. Mark.”
“ Thou art well defended. Should the two latter fail thee, thou mayest surely count on the first !”
Signor Monforte has an illustrious name, and he is welcome to our Venetian sports," observed the doge, slightly bending his head toward the young Calabrian noble, who stood at no great distance in a gondola of state, regarding the scene with a deeply-interested countenance. This cautious interruption of the pleasantries of the official was acknowledged by a low reverence, and the matter proceeded.
“Take thy station, Gino of Calabria, and a happy fortune be thine,” said the latter; then turning to another, he asked in surprise—“Why art thou here?” “I
come to try my gondola's swiftness." “ Thou art old and unequal to this struggle; husband thy strength for daily toil. An ill-advised ambition hath put thee on this useless trial.”
The new aspirant had forced a common fisherman's gondola, of no bad shape and of sufficient lightness, but which bore about it all the vulgar signs of its daily uses, beneath the gallery of the Bucentaur. He received the rebuke meekly, and was about to turn his boat aside, though with a sorrowing and mortified eye, when a sign from the doge arrested his arm.
“Question of him, as of wont,” said the prince.
“How art thou named ?” continued the reluctant official, who, like all of subordinate condition, had far more jealousy of the dignity of the sports he directed than his superior.
“I am known as Antonio, a fisherman of the Lagunes.” “Thou art old !”
“Signore, none know it better than I. It is sixty summers since I first threw net or line into the water.”