But the music which called up these parenthetical reflections has died away, and with it the slight animosities it inspired. The last song has been sung, the piano closed, the lights are withdrawn from the windows, and the white skirts flutter away from stoops and balconies. The silence is broken only by the rattle and rumble of carriages coming from theatre and opera. I fancy that this sound—which, seeming to be more distinct at this hour than at any other time, might be called one of the civic voices of the night—has certain urbane suggestions, not unpleasant to those born and bred in large cities. The moon, round and full, gradually usurps the twinkling lights of the city, that one by one seem to fade away and be absorbed in her superior lustre. The distant Mission hills are outlined against the sky, but through one gap the outlying fog which has stealthily invested us seems to have effected a breach, and only waits the co-operation of the laggard sea-breezes to sweep down and take the beleaguered city by assault. An ineffable calm sinks over the landscape. In the magical moonlight the shot-tower loses its angular outline and practical relations, and becomes a minaret from whose balcony an invisible muezzin calls the Faithful to prayer. “Prayer is better than sleep.” But what is this? A shuffle of feet on the pavement, a low hum of voices, a twang of some diabolical instrument, a preliminary hem and cough. Heavens! it cannot be! Ah, yes—it is—it is—SERENADERS!
Anathema Maranatha! May purgatorial pains seize you, William, Count of Poitou, Girard de Boreuil, Arnaud de Marveil, Bertrand de Born, mischievous progenitors of jongleurs, troubadours, provencals, minnesingers, minstrels, and singers of cansos and love chants! Confusion overtake and confound your modern descendants, the “metre ballad-mongers,” who carry the shamelessness of the Middle Ages into the nineteenth century, and awake a sleeping neighborhood to the brazen knowledge of their loves and wanton fancies! Destruction and demoralization pursue these pitiable imitators of a barbarous age, when ladies’ names and charms were shouted through the land, and modest maiden never lent presence to tilt or tourney without hearing a chronicle of her virtues go round the lists, shouted by wheezy heralds and taken up by roaring swashbucklers! Perdition overpower such ostentatious wooers! Marry! shall I shoot the amorous feline who nightly iterates his love songs on my roof, and yet withhold my trigger finger from yonder pranksome gallant? Go to! Here is an orange left of last week’s repast. Decay hath overtaken it,—it possesseth neither savor nor cleanliness. Ha! cleverly thrown! A hit—a palpable hit! Peradventure I have still a boot that hath done me service, and, barring a looseness of the heel, an ominous yawning at the side, ’tis in good case! Na’theless, ’twill serve. So! so! What! dispersed! Nay, then, I too will retire.