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ON THE ROAD.
AFTER going on for a short distance, the carriage came to a place where the street widened into a sort of open square, at the farther end of which was one of the gates of the city. The name of this gate is the Porta del Popolo, which means Gate of the People. It is the usual egress for travellers proceeding northward. There were were two churches on this square, precisely alike in form, one on each side. The carriage passed on until it reached the gate, and then Pacifico reined in his horses, and descended from his seat. "What are we stopping here for, I wonder?" asked John.
"There is a custom house here, I suppose, or a passport office, or something like that," said Florence. "But we have nothing to do with it, whatever it is. Pacifico will see to everything."
Pacifico having left his horses in charge of a man who was all ready there to perform this
service, came to the door of the carriage and said in English,
"I shall take your passport, my young lady." Florence gave him the passport. It was in the form of a small, thin book, bound in morocco, and contained a large number of blank leaves which, as well as the passport itself, were covered with an unlimited number of stamps and impressions, of every conceivable form and in all languages. Florence had the passport all ready, having placed it, before she left the hotel, in a part of her travelling bag where it was very ready at hand, knowing very well from past experience, that in travelling in Italy, the passport must always be ready at a moment's notice.
The vetturino was gone for nearly a quarter of an hour. In the course of this time a man, dressed in some sort of official costume, came out and looked at the children, and also at the carriage and horses. He opened the carriage door and looked inside, and he also inspected particularly some letters which had been branded upon the hips of the horses-the forms of which were made apparent by the changed appearance of the hair. The trunk was also taken off and carried into an office near by; but it was soon brought out and strapped on in its place again.
The party was detained by these various cere
monies for nearly half an hour. At length, however, everything seemed to be arranged, and Pacifico appeared at the door of the office, drawing up the strings of his great leather purse, as if the business was finished. Florence observed that there was an expression of impatience and vexation upon his countenance, and something like muttering upon his lips; but as he looked up. and caught her eye, these signs of discontent immediately disappeared, and his face assumed his customary good natured smile. He mounted to his seat, grasped the reins, cracked his whip, and trotting rapidly on through the great gateway, entered upon the grand avenue that led out to the northward over the Campagna of Rome, and which has been known and celebrated throughout all the civilized world, for nearly two thousand years, by the name of the Flaminian Way.
The whole country in the immediate vicinity of Rome is one vast field of desolation, made so by some mysterious principle in the atmosphere which produces fevers of a very malignant character, that destroy the constitution of the patient, and cause him to pine away in a hopeless and incurable decline, when they do not run their course more rapidly and result in speedy death.
In consequence of this malaria, which seenis to
be slowly and continually increasing in its efficacy and virulence from year to year, the whole region is almost entirely uninhabited. There are a few villas belonging to the Roman noblemen in the immediate environs of the city, that can be inhabited in the winter season, but beyond these the country is a great waste of what might be called verdant desolation, for the ground looks fertile, and the grass is green, and the surface, beautifully undulating, seems exactly adapted to tillage. For miles, however, in some places, not a house nor a tree is to be seen, nor any other signs of human occupancy, except now and then a herd of cattle or a flock of sheep, attended by a pale and sickly looking he Isman or shepherd.
The air of desolation is enhanced in many places by the crumbling walls, and broken arches, and tall columns which are seen standing here and there in solitary grandeur, or extending in a long line across the country, to mark the course of an ancient aqueduct. These imposing remains of ancient grandeur rising in the midst of a scene so lonely and desolate, impress the mind of the passing traveller with a feeling of inde scribable gloom.
The country is, however, traversed by magnificent roads, broad. smooth, hard and level, and
kept always in perfect condition. These roads often present a very lively scene to view, being filled with peasants and market men and women coming in from the villages that lie beyond the malarious region, and bringing vegetables, fruits, wine and other products for the consumption of the inhabitants of Rome.
As soon as the carriage had left the city, and the horses had commenced their rapid trot, John's attention began to be strongly attracted to the various groups that he saw coming along the road.
"Florence," said he, "would it do for me to stand up in the carriage ?" I can see better." "Yes," said Florence, "you can stand up if you like."
Now, the fact was, that Florence, if she had thought only of her own comfort and pleasure, would have preferred that John should not stand up. It was much more agreeable for her to have him remain quietly in his seat. Some girls would have said, in such a case, "Oh no, Johnny, I would not stand up. You can see just as well sitting down. Besides, there is danger of your falling out, or being thrown out, if you stand up." And then, if they found that their brother could not be contented to retain his seat, would have finally consented, though in a very reluc