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Reading of knights and ladies,
Who walked in the forests old,
Bright as the morning planet
Ere gathered to its fold;

And the chamber walls grew lustrous,
And the furnaced depths of fire,
That flamed on the red horizon,
Were filled with dome and spire,

And minarets, from out whose tops
The bells of heaven blew
Such harmonies and melodies
That thrilled her through and through.

The dusk fell on the casement,
The moonlight touched the chair.
And she saw through the tender twilight
The bats in the crimson air.

Plucking a scented leaflet
From the vine beneath the eaves,
She folded the wondrous volume,
And placed it in the leaves.

The day looked through the casement,
The evening fell more fair,
And came and fled the dawn and dusk,
But still she came not there.

The robin from the orchard
Flew in upon the floor,
And piped for his absent mistress,
That never fed him more.

Her gentle soul was gathered
Up through the midnight blue,
As the glory of the sun exhausts
The chalices of dew.

And friends who read the volume
Beheld the withered leaf,
And the quaint and child-like symbol hushed
The utterance of grief.

For they, in faith, believed that fled
This garden of tears and strife,
The flower of her soul lay folded
In the book of Endless Life.


I WAS in the Smithsonian Institution at
Washington one torrid August afternoon. The
Smithsonian Institution is a sort of young
British Museum, or infant Louvre, and is
situated in grounds of its own, not far from
the banks of the beautiful river Potomac, up
which Washington, cocked-hat, epaulettes, and
all, has so often paddled in search of wild-ducks
and " sheep's-head" fish. The Institution, though
as promising an exhibition of the kind as any
in the world, has, in common with many American
show-places, a look of rawness and newness,
which to an Englishman conveys a sense of
provincialism and incompleteness. Yet it is this
very feeling of repulsion which an Englishman
in America is specially bound to overcome, for
how can a new country resemble an old one?
And why should it, since the new has other
aims, and other possibilities, and youth is no
more age than age is youth?

I had examined the exterior of the building,
with its spurious Early English arches and
windows, and its dark red stone that almost
looked like chocolate. A very spurious
ponderous Castle of Otranto piece of Gothic it
is, I must say. Indeed, Gothic does not
thrive in Ameriea, and the audacious
unmediaeval people of the States take much more
kindly to Corinthian pillars of white marble, fine
Palladian windows, and other anti-Ruskin
enormities. But the Americans, remember, are a
lightly taxed people ; without a national debt
to encourage their national industry; with no
standing army to pay for, and with no distant
colonies costing more than they bring in ; so no
wonder the Smithsonian Institution still shows
signs of youth, and is still imperfect in many
departments. The statuary consists of half a
dozen casts, and a few engravings of Albert
Durer, and two or three Ostades. But then the
Japanese collection is superb, and the South
American curiosities of matchless excellence.

I had stared at the Chinese plough, tied
together with strips of cane, the shark's-teeth
necklaces from the South Sea Islands, the
Japanese silks, and the South American mummies,
when I was " brought up," as the sailors say,
by a glass-case that stood on the ledge of one
of the windows, just by a huge gilt globe which
a shaft of lightning had drilled with holes,
rendering its admission into the "Smithsonian"
necessary because it was of no use elsewhere.

I looked at the outside of the case; it was


I looked inside; there they were, two of
them, each about three fingers wide, coiled up,
fold in fold. The dreadful pair, " fresh writhing
from 'th' Erinnys' hair," with half-shut
eyes and languid coil, seemed just commencing
their winter's sleep. They regarded me with a
listless and mild hatred, with small, satanic bead-
like eyes glancing askance. They had recently
been casting their sloughs; a fragment of loose
skin still hung upon the head of one of them.
It was the corner piece by the mouth, which had
been the last bit to change.

The box was composed of sheets of glass
lapping over each other; the sides were of wood,
and worked up and down in slides for the
purpose of passing food to the snakes. For fear of
accident, I suppose, those slides were now screwed
down; for the American countryman at
museums, or anywhere else, is an inquiring, irreverent,
meddling being, and, sure as snakes are
snakes, but, for this precaution, would have
his hand in, to see if the " things were rale,"
two or three times every afternoon.

The snake has always played a great part in
my nightmares; whether twining around a corpse
head, as in Leonardo's picture at Florence; grow-
ing enormously big and maned, frightening
whalers' boats' crews into fits as the sea serpent;
nodding its head in cadence to the snake
charmer's fiute; or battling with Apollo as the Python
in my early Greek exercises; or snapping at my
legs in English coverts; or poisonous and spotted
in bottles in the Hunterian Museum; or wrapped
heavy and slimy between a Greenwich