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THE LADIES' CABINET,
FASHION, MUSIC, AND ROMANCE.
A FINE night had succeeded a lovely day. It was a festival at Venice. The gondolas rapidly circulated on the Grand Canal: some passed and repassed beneath the Rialto; others quitted the Sestiero di San Mario in the direction of the sea, to inhale the aria marina (sea-breeze,) beneath the shady trees of the public garden. A fleet of péotti (small vessels) and gondolas glided with the swiftness of arrows on the same waters which formerly bathed the palaces of mighty Venice; but now only reflected the slumbering ruins which time and cupidity have bequeathed to the Adriatic. The mournful silence of this scene was now disturbed, it was a fete; and the gondoliers plied their oars to the tuneful measure of their voices. Their barcarollas awoke the echoes of the Licto, and were repeated by the Ridotto. It seemed that for a day the iron wings of slavery ceased to waive over this magic city; that in this hour of general enjoyment, Venice was once again— happy Venice.
Beneath the brilliantly illuminated arcades of St. Marc's Square were seen moving groups of females, nearly all young and pretty; each one provided with the bouquet of roses so dear to the Venetians. Some of their heads received a Correggio-like expression from the antique black veil, the graceful rival of the Spanish mantilia; both of which have been so often sung by poets. Others dressed with modern elegance represented Grecian statues animated by recent drapery. Most of these groups were followed by a crowd of admirers for even in Venice women still retain a shadow of their power, though surrounded by the ruins of its former ascendancy. They are, it is true
but dethroned queens-queens without a kingdom; but possessing youth and beauty, they yet kindle the sacred fire of poetry and painting.
Venice was long not only a city of love and glory, but at the same time one of happiness; for the despotism of its government was less known to its inhabitants than to every other people of Europe; and it often occurred that a Venetian of the Sestiero Castello received intelligence from a distant spot of any act of tyranny committed by the secret Council of Ten, though unknown to him next door.
Amuse yourselves: laugh, dance, sing, and make love just as you like, but do not meddle with politics; endeavour to make yourselves happy in any way you can; but at your peril find fault with our way of guiding the helm of state. And so it was: for no people in the world were more happy-more thoughtless, than the Venetians. Music, dancing, poetry, and painting were the objects of their idolatry; love and pleasure, their chief pursuits.
Venice is not however quite a disinherited widow. She has always her palaces, her magnificent churches, her enchanting environs, and that lovely Brenta, with its emerald banks. Venice yet stands alone in the world as a conquest from the elements by the hands of man; this must ever give it a special charm, and an interest worthy of admiration to all other cities. It is however melancholy to reflect, that the hand of man could not protect this monument of his industry from the spoliations of nations, jealous of its fame and greatness-envious of its happiness and wealth.
It was a festival on this day, and first a representation of the ballet of Paul and Virginia was to be given at the Theatre Fenecia. There was at this time in Venice a young girl of extreme beauty and highly cultivated mind; possessing all the gifts of nature, combined with a talent that was more appreciated by her Venetian admirers, than others more solid she was a professional dancer of marvellous skill and grace.
To say that she was admired and loved at Venice, would not convey the sentiment with which her appearance on the stage was always greeted by the Venetians it was an enthusiasm-a furor-peculiar to the Italian people and their climate. Prolonged plaudits, crowns, garlands, showers of bouquets, eulogistic verses, constantly formed a species of ovation at the conclusion of her performances. Grateful for the affection bestowed upon her, La Zerbi ́ experienced a reciprocity for the Venetians, and consecrated all her talent to their enjoyment. In addition to the delight of the public, from her good conduct she acquired the esteem of a numerous circle of private friends, who thronged to her conversaziones in order to admire her mental qualifications and unaffected deportment. The most distinguished men of talent and rank considered themselves honoured by being admitted to her soirées; and ladies of unexceptionable character honoured her with their friendship.
On the day of her first appearance in Paul and Virginia, La Zerbi enjoyed a long promenade on the water, previous to going to the theatre, Reclined on the elastic cushions of her gondola, she appeared thoughtful, silent, and out of spirits; though surrounded by several ardent admirers, who had followed her promenade: some of these professed love; and generally that declaration constituted a source of amusement to her. But to-day neither love nor flattery, however delicately concealed, made any pleasing impression upon her senses, or called forth the conscious smile of self-merit. Something weighed upon her mind apparently of a painful nature: she suddenly drew aside the curtains of her gondola, and speaking to the boatmen, desired them to direct their course towards St. Mark; then resumed her recumbent posture.
"You are not well to-day, dear Zerbi," observed one of her favourite female friends. Zerbi answered not, but remained absorbed in thought.
"Zerbi, carina (dearest), what ails you! Are you studying your part ? that is quite useless, as we have no Paul here, and no Count, La Zerbi."
Zerbi did now lift her large black eyes upon her fair friend, Annonciata; but their long lashes were moist with tears. Annonciata also wept, fearing she had unintentionally touched a painful chord. Pressing Zerbi's hand, she observed with that naïve innocence of manner so peculiar to the Italian females: "Good heavens! dearest, has any evil befallen him?" Zerbi shook her head, but replied not; and covering her eyes, sobbed convulsively Annonciata put no more questions; and wept in sympathy with her friend At this moment the gondolas touched the Piazetta landing stairs. Zerbi's tears had ceased to flow, and she greeted Count Grimani with a faint smile as he sprung forward to assist her disembarkation. No sooner was she landed than, being known to the public, a crowd pressed round her, and her march resembled a triumph, as she passed towards the Theatre Fenecia. But she who was the object of their adulation, appeared constantly in search of some object-some absent friend, whose homage would have better pleased her heart. As she approached the theatre, her gloomy thoughts were dispelled, and she entered it a prototype of the Therpsicore, which decorates its noble façade.
"Where can he be gone to-day?" said Zerbi, tapping the floor (of her dressing-room with expressively impatient little feet. "Holy Mother]! what a fool I am thus to think so much about him, yet I cannot help it." Zerbi again gave way to tears. "Some one knocks! run quickly, let no one enter," rejoined Zerbi to her waiting woman; but before she could be obeyed, a young man presented hsmself without waiting further permission.
"So you are here at last, sir ?” said she to the visitor, who as respectfully kissed the hand extended towards him, as he would have done that of the Empress of Austria. "And if you please, where have you been, that the day has passed without my once seeing you? but no doubt you have been in more agreeable society. It annoys me to scold you: so as you are now come, I may as well confess that I am very glad to see you."
The Count Mariani was the grandson of the last doge. Since the revolutions which had reversed the ancient republic of Venice, and the fortunes of his noble house, he experienced the necessity of some strong stimulating passion, to prevent his thoughts from dwelling upon events that filled his heart with sorrow. From one extreme he ran into another, and gave himself entirely up to noisy and ruinous pleasures. He became a determined gamester; not as a business of profit, but as a mental distraction. This infatuation, joined to prodigal liberality, soon deranged his fortune, large as it yet was.
In the midst of this mad career, La Zerbi made her debut in Venice. He saw her, and in common with the rest of his countrymen, admired and poved her, more as a woman than an actress; and more fortunate than his rivals, he was loved in return. But as "true love never did yet run smooth," he had frequent altercations with La Zerbi, who struggled hard to cure him of the fatal passion that engrossed every good feeling of a warm heart and cultivated mind, and which; notwithstanding all her efforts, seemed rather to augment than diminish. Looking at him steadfastly, she perceived the count's eyes were inflamed, his appearance neglected: he was pale and thoughtful. "Mariani, you have been playing?"
The count blushed deeply, as he answered with a smile: "Certainly I have, mia alma (my soul),-you know I cannot pass a day without playing, or without seeing you."
"You make a very pretty complimentary comparision, Count, upon my word; but in future, I request you will not place me on the same line with your cards and dice. What have you lost it is strange, but you always seem to lose. I am not sorry for it,-it may one day or other be the means of curing your disease, if you have not already smarted sufficiently."
"Nothing, dearest friend, a mere trifle, some five-and-twenty ducats, that's all. But I was not amused with the game; that fat Englishman always wins my money with the greatest coolness-nothing seems to warm him up. I positively will not play again with him. But, by the bye, Zerbi, I have promised him the honour of an introduction to you: I really want to see if any thing will animate the stupid expression of his never-changing face."
"Thank you, once more, Mariani, for making me so useful to your wants; but please to understand, that if this English lively gentleman is a gambler,