A PICTURE-BOOK WITHOUT PICTURES 1127
painted cheeks and the crisp beard. He looked up at me and smiled ; and yet he had been hissed off only a minute before—hissed off from a wretched theatre by a miserable audience. And to-night a shabby hearse rolled out of the town gate. It was a suicide—our painted, despised hero. The driver of the hearse was the only person present, for no one followed except my beams. In a corner of the churchyard the corpse of the suicide was shovelled into the earth, and nettles will soon be rankly growing over his grave, and the sexton will throw thorns and weeds from the other graves upon it.'
'I come from Rome,' said the Moon. ' In the midst of the city, upon one of the seven hills, lie the ruins of the imperial palace. The wild fig-tree grows in the clefts of the wall, and covers the nakedness thereof with its broad grey-green leaves ; trampling among heaps of rubbish, the ass treads upon green laurels, and rejoices over the rank thistles. From this spot, whence the eagles of Rome once flew abroad, whence they" came, saw, and conquered," a door leads into a little mean house, built of clay between two broken marble pillars ; the wild vine hangs like a mourning garland over the crooked wrindow. An old woman and her little granddaughter live there : they rule now in the palace of the Caesars, and show to strangers the remains of its past glories. Of the splendid throne-room only a naked wall yet stands, and a black cypress throws its dark shadow on the spot where the throne once stood. The earth lies several feet deep on the broken pavement; and the little maiden, now the daughter of the imperial palace, often sits there on her stool when the evening bells ring. The keyhole of the door close by she calls her turret window ; through this she can see half Rome, as far as the mighty cupola of St. Peter's.
' On this evening, as usual, stillness reigned around ; and in the full beam of my light came the little granddaughter. On her head she carried an earthen pitcher of antique shape filled with water. Her feet were bare, her short frock and her white sleeves were torn. I kissed her pretty round shoulders, her dark eyes, and black shining hair. She