“Burlas de manos, burlas de villanos. There seldom is wit in practical jokes,” said L’Isle; “but there was certainly more wit than wisdom in this.”
“By-the-bye,” said Lady Mabel, “our excursion yesterday has procured me a new correspondent. You will be astonished to hear who he is, and at the style in which he writes.”
“Indeed!” said L’Isle, with heightening color. “I hope he writes on an agreeable topic, and in a suitable style?”
“You shall judge for yourself,” said Lady Mabel. “But the grandiloquence of the epistle, worthy of Captain Don Alonzo Melendez himself, calls not for reading, but recitation. Do you sit here as critic, while I take my stand in the middle of the room, and give it utterance with all the elocution and pathos I can muster. You must know that this epistle I hold in my hand, is addressed to me by no less a personage than the river-god of the Guadiana, who, contrary to all my notions of mythology, proves to be a gentleman, and not a lady.” And, in a slightly mock-heroic tone, she began to recite it:
Maiden, the sunshine of thine eye,
Flashing my joyous waves along,
The magic of thy soul-lit smile,
Have waked my murmuring voice to song.
Winding through Hispania’s mountains,
Watering her sunburnt plains,
I, from earliest time, have gladdened
Dwellers on these wide domains.
I have watched succeeding races,
Peopling my fertile strand,
Marked each varying lovely model,
Moulded by Nature’s plastic hand.
Striving still to reach perfection,
Ruthless, she broke each beauteous mould;
Some blemish still deformed her creature,
Some alloy still defiled her gold.
The Iberian girl has often bathed,
Her limbs in my delighted flood,
And no Acteon came to startle
This very Dian of the wood.
The stately Roman maid has loitered,
Pensive, upon my flowering shore,
Shedding some pearly drops to think,
Italia she may see no more.
While gazing on my placid face,
She meditates her distant home;
And rears, as upon Tiber’s banks,
The towers of imperial Rome.
The blue-eyed daughter of the Goth,
Fresh from her northern forest-home,
In rude nobility of race,
Foreshadowed her who now has come.
The loveliest offspring of the Moor
Beside my moon-lit current sat;
And, sighing, sung her hopeless love,
In strains, that I remember yet.
The Christian knight, in captive chains,
The conqueror of her heart has proved;
His own, in far Castilian bower,
He bears her blandishments unmoved.
Thus Nature tried her ’prentice
Become, at last, an artist true;
In inspiration’s happiest mood,
She tried again, and moulded you.