THE ADVENTURE OF THE LITTLE ANTIQUARY.
My friend the doctor was a thorough antiquary: a little, rusty, musty Old fellow, always groping among ruins. He relished a building as you Englishmen relish a cheese, the more mouldy and crumbling it was, the more it was to his taste. A shell of an old nameless temple, or the cracked walls of a broken-down amphitheatre, would throw him into raptures; and he took more delight in these crusts and cheese parings of antiquity than in the best-conditioned, modern edifice.
He had taken a maggot into his brain at one time to hunt after the Ancient cities of the Pelasgi which are said to exist to this day among the mountains of the Abruzzi; but the condition of which is strangely unknown to the antiquaries. It is said that he had made a great many valuable notes and memorandums on the subject, which he always carried about with him, either for the purpose of frequent reference, or because he feared the precious documents might fall into the hands of brother antiquaries. He had therefore a large pocket behind, in which he carried them, banging against his rear as he walked.
Be this as it may; happening to pass a few days at Terracina, in the course of his researches, he one day mounted the rocky cliffs which overhang the town, to visit the castle of Theodoric. He was groping about these ruins, towards the hour of sunset, buried in his reflections,—his wits no doubt wool-gathering among the Goths and Romans, when he heard footsteps behind him.
He turned and beheld five or six young fellows, of rough, saucy demeanor, clad in a singular manner, half peasant, half huntsman, with fusils in their hands. Their whole appearance and carriage left him in no doubt into what company he had fallen.
The doctor was a feeble little man poor, in look and poorer in purse. He had but little money in his pocket; but he had certain valuables, such as an old silver watch, thick as a turnip, with figures on it large enough for a clock, and a set of seals at the end of a steel chain, that dangled half down to his knees; all which were of precious esteem, being family reliques. He had also a seal ring, a veritable antique intaglio, that covered half his knuckles; but what he most valued was, the precious treatise on the Pelasgian cities, which, he would gladly have given all the money in his pocket to have had safe at the bottom of his trunk in Terracina.
However, he plucked up a stout heart; at least as stout a heart as he could, seeing that he was but a puny little man at the hest of times. So he wished the hunters a “buon giorno.” They returned his salutation, giving the old gentleman a sociable slap on the back that made his heart leap into his throat.
They fell into conversation, and walked for some time together among The heights, the doctor wishing them all the while at the bottom of the crater of Vesuvius. At length they came to a small osteria on the mountain, where they proposed to enter and have a cup of wine together. The doctor consented; though he would as soon have been invited to drink hemlock.