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By Horse-Car To Boston
by [?]

At a former period the writer of this had the fortune to serve his country in an Italian city whose great claim upon the world’s sentimental interest is the fact that–

“The sea is in her broad, her narrow streets
Ebbing and flowing,”

and that she has no ways whatever for hoofs or wheels. In his quality of United States official, he was naturally called upon for information concerning the estates of Italians believed to have emigrated early in the century to Buenos Ayres, and was commissioned to learn why certain persons in Mexico and Brazil, and the parts of Peru, had not, if they were still living, written home to their friends. On the other hand, he was intrusted with business nearly as pertinent and hopeful by some of his own countrymen, and it was not quite with surprise that he one day received a neatly lithographed circular with his name and address written in it, signed by a famous projector of such enterprises, asking him to cooperate for the introduction of horse-railroads in Venice. The obstacles to the scheme were of such a nature that it seemed hardly worth while even to reply to the circular; but the proposal was one of those bold flights of imagination which forever lift objects out of vulgar association. It has cast an enduring, poetic charm even about the horse-car in my mind, and I naturally look for many unprosaic aspects of humanity there. I have an acquaintance who insists that it is the place above all others suited to see life in every striking phase. He pretends to have witnessed there the reunion of friends who had not met in many years, the embrace, figurative of course, of long lost brothers, the reconciliation of lovers; I do not know but also some scenes of love-making, and acceptance or rejection. But my friend is an imaginative man, and may make himself romances. I myself profess to have beheld for the most part only mysteries; and I think it not the least of these that, riding on the same cars day after day, one finds so many strange faces with so little variety. Whether or not that dull, jarring motion shakes inward and settles about the centres of mental life the sprightliness that should inform the visage, I do not know; but it is certain that the emptiness of the average passenger’s countenance is something wonderful, considered with reference to Nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum, and the intellectual repute which Boston enjoys among envious New- Yorkers. It is seldom that a journey out of our cold metropolis is enlivened by a mystery so positive in character as the young lady in black, who alighted at a most ordinary little street in Old Charlesbridge, and heightened her effect by going into a French-roof house there that had no more right than a dry goods box to receive a mystery. She was tall, and her lovely arms showed through the black gauze of her dress with an exquisite roundness and morbidezza. Upon her beautiful wrists she had heavy bracelets of dead gold, fashioned after some Etruscan device; and from her dainty ears hung great hoops of the same metal and design, which had the singular privilege of touching, now and then, her white columnar neck. A massive chain or necklace, also Etruscan, and also gold, rose and fell at her throat, and on one little ungloved hand glittered a multitude of rings. This hand was very expressive, and took a principal part in the talk which the lady held with her companion, and was as alert and quick as if trained in the gesticulation of Southern or Latin life somewhere. Her features, on the contrary, were rather insipid, being too small and fine; but they were redeemed by the liquid splendor of her beautiful eyes, and the mortal pallor of her complexion. She was altogether so startling an apparition, that all of us jaded, commonplace spectres turned and fastened our weary, lack-lustre eyes upon her looks, with an utter inability to remove them. There was one fat, unctuous person seated opposite, to whom his interest was a torture, for he would have gone to sleep except for her remarkable presence: as it was, his heavy eyelids fell half-way shut, and drooped there at an agonizing angle, while his eyes remained immovably fixed upon that strange, death-white face. How it could have come of that colorlessness,–whether through long sickness or long residence in a tropical climate,–was a question that perplexed another of the passengers, who would have expected to hear the lady speak any language in the world rather than English; and to whom her companion or attendant was hardly less than herself a mystery,–being a dragon-like, elderish female, clearly a Yankee by birth, but apparently of many years’ absence from home. The propriety of extracting these people from the horse-cars and transferring them bodily to the first chapter of a romance was a thing about which there could be no manner of doubt, and nothing prevented the abduction but the unexpected voluntary exit of the pale lady. As she passed out everybody else awoke as from a dream, or as if freed from a potent fascination. It is part of the mystery that this lady should never have reappeared in that theatre of life, the horse-car; but I cannot regret having never seen her more; she was so inestimably precious to wonder that it would have been a kind of loss to learn anything about her.