« ZurückWeiter »
not be expected from the forces at his command, still less from his own conduct, which was far from displaying the same spirit of magnanimity, liberality, and valour that distinguished his father Peter III. At length Don Jayme (James II.) yielded, and by renouncing all claim to Sicily, and undertaking to compel his mother and brother to leave the island by force of arms, if he could not prevail upon them to do so by other means, he adjusted a peace with the Church and the Kings of France and Naples. It was likewise arranged that he was to marry a daughter of the King of Naples, and by a secret article it was agreed that he should exchange the islands of Sardinia and Corsica for Sicily.
"As soon as the purport of those negociations reached Sicily, ambassadors were sent to the King of Aragon beseeching him either to cancel altogether or to reform a treaty which was so inimical to their interests. The King put them off with evasive replies till the treaty was concluded, but as soon as it was signed, and when he was on the point of celebrating his nuptials at Villabertran with a daughter of the King of Naples, he gave them his final answer-namely, that he had resigned all his rights and claims upon the kingdoms of Sicily and Calabria in favour of his father-in-law the King of Naples. The ambassadors listened to this declaration in the utmost consternation and dismay; and Cataldo Russo, one of the number, in presence of the King and the whole assembled court, thus expressed himself upon the occasion:
"In vain then have we Sicilians sustained the burden of such grievous wars, shed so much blood, and gained so many victories, if those very defenders whom we had chosen, and to whom our fealty was pledged, deliver us now into the hands of our bitterest enemies! No! it is not the French, so often vanquished by land and by sea, that conquer Sicily! The King of Aragon forsakes us-the man who shows less courage in sustaining his own good fortune than do his enemies perseverance and endurance in confronting their reverses! Sicily secured, all Calabria with many of the neighbouring provinces reduced, conquerors as often as we have fought, we Sicilians want but a king who can appreciate us and set a just value upon his own successes. Unhappy that we are! what arguments can we urge with a monarch who, contemning every obligation both human and divine, not only abandons his most faithful subjects, but even places his mother and brothers in the power of their enemies? When they come to our houses they will see the walls still stained with the blood of their friends; and if we found them arrogant and cruel before, what treatment may we not expect at their hands when they shall be transported with rage and a thirst for vengeance at a sight that reminds them of the slaughter of their countrymen? Speak! to whom are you about to deliver us? Is it to the Prince of Salerno, whom, when a prisoner for your cause and in your presence, we condemned to death? Shall we surrender your mother and your brothers into the hands of the son of that man who, in one day, deprived her father King Manfred of both life and kingdom? But wretchedness and injustice are in the end the parents of independence. The people of Sicily are not a flock of sheep
that may be purchased for money and transferred from one hand to another at the will of the master. In the house of Aragon we sought a protector to whom we swore allegiance, and with whose assistance we drove our tyrants from the island and chastised their atrocities. If the house of Aragon now deserts us, we revoke that oath of allegiance, and shall look around us for a prince who may be able to defend us. From this moment we are no longer yours, nor his to whom you would transfer us. Command the castles and fortresses now in your possession to be given up to us; and then, owing vassalage to no man, we shall return to the same state in which your father Don Pedro found us when we received him as our king.'
"These words, accompanied by every demonstration of sorrow and despair, touched with compassion all who heard them; and the King, who had already decided upon the course he should pursue, listened graciously to their demands for freedom, and then giving orders that the strongholds should be restored to them as they had requested, he dismissed them with a charge that they should be watchful over the safety of his mother and sister, adding that he said nothing about the Infanta, Don Fadrique, because he was a true knight and knew himself what to do.
"Boniface VIII. at that time filled the pontifical throne-a pope celebrated as much for his ambition and sagacity as for his misfortunes. Prior to his election he had held some correspondence with Don Fadrique, and as soon as the latter heard that he was elevated to the papacy he sent an embassy to congratulate him thereon and bespeak his good offices. Boniface requested him to come and see him, and to bring with him John of Procida, Roger de Lauria, and some Sicilian nobles, whom he named for the purpose, he said, of regulating the affairs of Sicily, and consulting as to the best manner of adding to the dominions of Don Fadrique.
"The interview between the pope and the prince took place at the mouth of the Tiber, not far from Rome; and when Boniface had an opportunity of observing the noble disposition of the Infanta, and the discretion and frankness of his conversation, he at once despaired of leading him to his purpose, which was to induce him to place Sicily under the control and guidance of the Holy See. As soon as they met the pope embraced him and gave Don Fadrique his holy benediction; then, observing that he was armed, he told him he was sorry there should be any cause why so young a man should embrace the profession of arms. He next turned to De Lauria, and, regarding him leisurely for some time, he exclaimed, 'Is this the great enemy of the Church? the man who has slain so many people?' Holy Father,' replied Roger, 'I am that man; but the fault of so much mischief belongs rather to you and your predecessors than to me.'
"Conversing in this manner, the pope and Don Fadrique separated, Boniface first advising him to consent to the peace which his brother had concluded, and he promised to procure his marriage with Catalina, the niece of Baldwin, the last of the Latin Emperors of Constantinople, and afterwards to assist him with the forces of France and of the Church to conquer that empire.
"No credit was given at first to the report that peace was made between the King of Aragon and the enemies of Sicily; but as soon as their ambassadors returned with Don Jayme's definitive answer and declaration, the Sicilians, drawing courage from despair, assembled in general parliament in Palermo, and requested Don Fadrique to take upon himself the charge of the State. Having received this request and consented thereto, Don Fadrique appointed a day for the barons and chief lords of the island, with the syndics and procurators of the cities to assemble in Catania, and there take the oath of allegiance.
"The moment the Pope became aware of the proceedings in Sicily, he sent ambassadors to try to counteract them, if possible; but, on their arrival, they were driven from the island without a hearing. The King of Aragon, clearly foreseeing that there must be war between him and his brother, when all the force that he could muster would be wanting, had published an edict commanding all Catalan and Aragonese soldiers serving in Sicily to return to Spain. A few complied with this order; but the greater part, acting under the advice and persuasion of Don Blasco de Alagon, who (in fulfilment of the promise which he had given to Don Fadrique to return to the island, had done so) remained in Sicily. Don Blasco explained to them that, as the kingdom of Sicily belonged of right to the Infanta, Don Fadrique, nothing ought to induce them to give their support to the claims of the French, who were the enemies of both Sicily and Aragon, and whose barbarous rule they were again endeavouring to establish over the island; offering himself, at the same time, to maintain the prince's right against whatever power should attempt to contravene it.
"Don Blasco de Alagon was one of the most distinguished noblemen of the age, as well by birth and lineage as for his known virtues and deeds of prowess. His name and authority tended to keep together and hold in order a great number of his countrymen; and it may with truth be said that his presence in Sicily contributed more than anything else to the maintenance of its independence during the storm with which it was threatened.
"But the time was near at hand when the island was to be deprived of its best defender by the desertion of Roger de Lauria
Crawford ceased reading.
"We will keep the remainder for the evening," he said, turning over the pages. "We shall have to finish it to-day; but, just now, I must go out and inquire what is become of the young fox-hunters, and if that garçon has got the brush."
ENGRAVED BY E. HACKER, FROM A PAINTING BY E. CORBET.
"Where shall we go now, sir?"
And quite right, too. If Mr. Millionaire with four horses out has not had enough of it he can get one of his men to lead a lark back, and this will answer his purpose quite as well as a second fox.
There is such a thing as knowing when to leave well alone, and we have seen the effect of many a brilliant finish obliterated by the Master not showing strength of mind enough to call a go.
The chief objection to leaving off early is, as to what is to be done for the rest of the day. We hate to hear a man say that after killing their fox he got back to his office or his merchandise in time to do a good day's work. A hunting day should be held sacred as a high holiday. We might pardon a man writing a letter or two before dinner, or doing a little farming on his way home, but it is something like desecration to get into harness on the same afternoon; and of the two we had rather devote it like the Cheltenham dandy, or Brighton swell to sunning ourselves in all the glory of scarlet, boots and leathers, before the much admiring fair.
How weary, and yet how self-satisfied men, horses, and hounds look as they come upon us round the corner. They have had a run we will pound it, and with a who-whoop at the end of it.
"A very good day indeed, sir."
As the partridge makes her roughly-constructed nest on the ground, so does the pheasant. The former in a corn--field, among brush-wood or grass will find some slight depression, and then, scratching together a few dead leaves and stalks, deposit her eggs. The pheasant has a preference for moist and thick clover bottoms for her scantily-furnished nest, and, strange to say, her eggs are occasionally found in that of the partridge, an impression also prevailing that two hen pheasants will lay in one nest. We are unable to illustrate by any anecdotes the care of the hen pheasant for her eggs and love for her young; but she is not wanting in maternal cunning when sitting, Waterton remarking that in the wild state, when wearied Nature calls for relaxation, she first covers her eggs, and then directly takes wing, not running from the nest, and on returning, still on the wing, drops suddenly down upon it. "By this instinctive precaution," he says "by rising imme. diately from the nest on the bird's departure and its dropping on it at return, there is neither scent produced nor track made in the neighbourhood, by which an enemy might have a clew to find it out and rob it of its treasure. These little wiles are the very safety of the nest, and I suspect they are put into practice by most birds which have their nests on the ground.' And it was to these wiles, in part, before gangs of poachers desolated his district, that he attributed the increase of his pheasants, though they were surrounded by hawks, jays, crows, and magpies, "which had all large families to maintain and bring up.'
Mr. Waterton takes the opportunity here of protesting against keepers and others disturbing game, whether pheasants or partridges by searching for them, the track they leave often being followed up by the cat, fox, or weasel, the keeper himself probably driving the bird from the nest. The period when the pheasant was introduced here is not known; but that it was naturalized several centuries since is very certain, the bird, from the beauty of its plumage and the flavour of its flesh, having at all times been highly prized. Daniels in his Rural Sports tells us it was brought into Europe by the Argonauts 1,250 years before the Christian era. It was served at the banquets of both Greeks and Romans, though the assertion that the cock birds had a preference given them by the ancients is, we think, founded upon erroneous conclusions. As "cockerels" pheasants and poultry may