Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 10/Beppo, the conscript - Part 17

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Part 16Part 18

Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/153 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/154 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/155 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/156 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/157 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/158 remaining half, which she had reserved, "is all I have in the world! See, I will leave it in the hole now. You may come back and rob me, if you will, as soon as my back is turned! But I am not afraid that you will do anything of the sort."

"Very good. I won't rob you, signora. I will bring you a letter; that is, if Signor Beppo will give me one to bring. If not, I shan't come back for the money. But it's no good your coming to look for it for the next four days. And it may be longer before I can return."

"Be as quick as you can. See, there is the money; it's quite safe in the hole. Good bye! I must run back to the cura."

And Giulia regained the kitchen before any one had become aware of her absence.

"Oh! what a benedizione della Santa Vergine it was, that I wrote the letter last night!" thought she to herself. "Santa Maria della Valle di Abisso, sopra Piobico!" she repeated to herself carefully; and said the word and over again to herself at intervals during the remainder of the day.

(To be continued)


As the months in China are lunar, and their years computed accordingly, new year's day with them never falls on the same day, but varies every year; neither of course does it correspond with ours, for it mostly happens somewhere in February, and sometimes even as late as March.

For a full week or ten days before the "first sunrise," as the auspicious day is called, dawns upon a Chinese city, its whole population is busy beyond description preparing for the coming holiday. First and foremost accounts have to be made up and closed. The Chinaman is essentially a money-making creature, no matter what his calling or place in society may be, and it is always his dearest wish to square his accounts as far as he possibly can at the year's end, so that he may begin the new year afresh; everything due to him paid up, and himself free of all obligations, or at any rate clear in his own mind as to their extent, if he cannot manage to pay them off. Anxious bustling men of all classes may therefore be seen at this season hurrying along, some on foot, others in the sedan chairs of the country, and all intent on paying and being paid; and the banks, stores, shops, and every commercial establishment, swarm with customers settling their scores, or creditors seeking their rightful due. Then there are all the purchases to be made against the coming holiday, for John Chinaman as a rule eats, drinks, and dresses as inexpensively as he possibly can through the year, and indulges in luxuries only on grand occasions. Ducks, fowls, geese, pork, fresh fish, wine, and the numberless curious condiments only precious to a Chinese palate, have to be procured; fur jackets and robes, and silk, satin, and cloth clothes of every description, have to be redeemed from the pawnbrokers, or bought anew; new boots or shoes, and caps of ceremony, essential articles all, have to be provided; crackers and fireworks have to be got for frightening away evil spirits and to afford fun; tapers, incense-sticks, and silver-paper money for worship of idols and ancestors, have to be prepared; candles of gaudy colours and huge size have to be purchased for decoration of family altars; lanterns for house and hand use have to be newly bought, or re-varnished and lettered; new scrolls have to be found for decorating walls, doors, and windows; house and shop fronts have to be washed and scoured; twigs of peach and other blossom, which about that time shoot forth, have to be brought home; and a thousand other things have to be done of which an English mind can have no conception, but which to a Chinese idea are all important to the occasion. It may be imagined, then, what a pushing, busy, and excited crowd all this must bring about in the narrow confined streets of a thickly populated Chinese city; more especially when it is remembered that a Chinaman always talks in a loud screeching tone, and that all porterage is invariably (save in the north) done on shoulders of men, who deem it necessary to yell hideously in order to clear their way.

The Chinese being strangers to gas, and their towns being entirely unlighted, it becomes necessary for every one moving about to carry a lantern (in some places, such as Amoy, they even use torches), and for every temple, house, and shop to be furnished with the same convenience. The consequence is, a large trade, unknown to western countries, is done in lanterns of all sizes, from that of an English boy's fire balloon—aye, and bigger—down to that of a large ostrich's egg. These are made of paper or silk, stretched on split bamboo and coated with varnish; in some instances, of glass; and the family surnames, shop-sign, title of temple, &c., are always written with black or red paint, in the best style of the caligraphist, in the body of the lantern; so that, when lighted with the usual "dip," the characters are distinctly legible. The more respectable the family or shop, the more elaborate and solid the lantern, and the handsomer the inscription, and the effect of a Chinese