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Saracinesca   By: (1854-1909)

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SARACINESCA

BY F. MARION CRAWFORD

AUTHOR OF 'MR. ISAACS,' 'DR. CLAUDIUS,' 'A ROMAN SINGER,' 'ZOROASTER,' 'A TALE OF A LONELY PARISH,' ETC.

1887

NOTE

It was at first feared that the name Saracinesca, as it is now printed, might be attached to an unused title in the possession of a Roman house. The name was therefore printed with an additional consonant Sarracinesca in the pages of 'Blackwood's Magazine.' After careful inquiry, the original spelling is now restored.

SARACINESCA.

CHAPTER I.

In the year 1865 Rome was still in a great measure its old self. It had not then acquired that modern air which is now beginning to pervade it. The Corso had not been widened and whitewashed; the Villa Aldobrandini had not been cut through to make the Via Nazionale; the south wing of the Palazzo Colonna still looked upon a narrow lane through which men hesitated to pass after dark; the Tiber's course had not then been corrected below the Farnesina; the Farnesina itself was but just under repair; the iron bridge at the Ripetta was not dreamed of; and the Prati di Castello were still, as their name implies, a series of waste meadows. At the southern extremity of the city, the space between the fountain of Moses and the newly erected railway station, running past the Baths of Diocletian, was still an exercising ground for the French cavalry. Even the people in the streets then presented an appearance very different from that which is now observed by the visitors and foreigners who come to Rome in the winter. French dragoons and hussars, French infantry and French officers, were everywhere to be seen in great numbers, mingled with a goodly sprinkling of the Papal Zouaves, whose grey Turco uniforms with bright red facings, red sashes, and short yellow gaiters, gave colour to any crowd. A fine corps of men they were, too; counting hundreds of gentlemen in their ranks, and officered by some of the best blood in France and Austria. In those days also were to be seen the great coaches of the cardinals, with their gorgeous footmen and magnificent black horses, the huge red umbrellas lying upon the top, while from the open windows the stately princes of the Church from time to time returned the salutations of the pedestrians in the street. And often in the afternoon there was heard the tramp of horse as a detachment of the noble guards trotted down the Corso on their great chargers, escorting the holy Father himself, while all who met him dropped upon one knee and uncovered their heads to receive the benediction of the mild eyed old man with the beautiful features, the head of Church and State. Many a time, too, Pius IX. would descend from his coach and walk upon the Pincio, all clothed in white, stopping sometimes to talk with those who accompanied him, or to lay his gentle hand on the fair curls of some little English child that paused from its play in awe and admiration as the Pope went by. For he loved children well, and most of all, children with golden hair angels, not Angles, as Gregory said.

As for the fashions of those days, it is probable that most of us would suffer severe penalties rather than return to them, beautiful as they then appeared to us by contrast with the exaggerated crinoline and flower garden bonnet, which had given way to the somewhat milder form of hoop skirt madness, but had not yet flown to the opposite extreme in the invention of the close fitting princesse garments of 1868. But, to each other, people looked then as they look now. Fashion in dress, concerning which nine tenths of society gives itself so much trouble, appears to exercise less influence upon men and women in their relations towards each other than does any other product of human ingenuity. Provided every one is in the fashion, everything goes on in the age of high heels and gowns tied back precisely as it did five and twenty years ago, when people wore flat shoes, and when gloves with three buttons had not been dreamed of when a woman of most moderate dimensions occupied three or four square yards of space upon a ball room floor, and men wore peg top trousers... Continue reading book >>




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