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Paolina took the position of the inspired
pythoness with lips apart, and eyes upraised,
and robe trimmed loosely upon her leg; while
Giuseppe, bent on one knee, seemed to listen
for the first words of the oracle in wondering
expectation.

The other children applauded, and led the
performers in triumph to receive the parents'
approbation.

"But you have said nothing, my beautiful
prophetess," said the admiring mother.
"Feel you no inspiration settling on your
heart and opening bright views of the
future?"

"Speak, Paoletta of my soul! " exclaimed
Giuseppe, again putting himself in a posture
of expectation. "Speak! We listen for
your accents as the oracles of fate."

Some strange fancy took possession of the
girl. Her dark olive complexion glowed
with some irrepressible thought; her eyes-
the most beautiful eyes in the world- for a
moment swam in tears.

"Yes, mother, most loved, most precious!
how often have I felt in reality the impulse of
the divine afflatus! Phoebus Apollo! " she
cried, placing herself as before, and waiting,
"rapt, inspired," to hear the whisperings of the
god, "fill your votary with truthful words-
paint to her eyes the scenes of coming years.
Ha! he comes! he comes! I feel his breath
upon my cheek! —- his lips are opening!
Hark!"

"Really madame, you will forgive me for
suggesting," interposed the father, trying in
vain to conceal his gratification at the
beauty and elegance of his child, "for
reminding you that these theatrical displays
are of evil tendency. I shouldn't be
surprised to see our Paolinetta figurante at an
opera."

"At an opera, father mine?" exclaimed
the indignant pythoness; "the priestesses of
Delphi never dance!"

"You are too harsh, my Carlo," said the
mother. "Let them have their play. How
magnificently she stands! What an air!—-
what a shape!"

"Priestess of the coming time!" said
Giuseppe, still kneeling, and speaking in a
low, solemn voice, "permit a worshipper of
the god you serve to ask you a question about
himself."

"Ask!" said Paolina, in a raised tone, and
gazed upward.

"Shall I all my life live in this dark spot,
and rise, as the highest point of my career, to
be a learned gentleman at the bar?"

The young people all gathered round with
smiling faces- which, however, they managed
to reduce to the solemnity necessary for so
great an occasion, when the beautiful sybil
began:

"You will plead, brother mine, but in the
courts of kings. You will defend the cause
of a nation. You will denounce the tyranny
of your master- of your benefactor. A whole
people will bless you for your efforts in their
cause, and you shall be crowned ——" Here
she paused for want of a word.

"With a fool's cap," suggested the father,
"and Paolina shall find you the bells. Cease,
my foolish children!"

"Nay, Carlo, let them go on," said the
mother. "He shall be crowned, you say,
dread priestess?"

"I have said."

"Well," said Giuseppe, rising, "it is something
to have one's fortune told, when it ends
in a royal diadem. 'Tis better than a lawyer's
hood."

"Don't let Mucius Scævola hear your
majesty's rejoicing," said the father. "He is
not much addicted to crowned heads. I
wonder, by the bye, what detains the Roman
regicide all this time."

"He went out with his uncle the abbé for
a day on the water," replied the lady.
"They will soon be back, for I hear the
church clock strike ten."

"And me, sister pythoness!" cried the
youngest of the group- a little boy with a
great family likeness to his elder brother,
but rather spoilt and selfish. While he
spoke his mouth was filled with a morsel of
ham and bread, which he had surreptitiously
seized from the plate upon the table in the
arbour.

"What naughty little applicant is this?"
inquired the priestess. "No answer can be
given to greedy little pilferers. Away!"

But the boy swallowed the stolen mouthful
at the risk of strangulation, and insisted.

"Tell me what I am to be; you have told
Giuseppe."

"You are a greedy worshipper, and can
get but a poor response. But let this be a
comfort to you. You shall reign over a
region of hams; so your rank will be as
high as Giuseppe's."

"And a better kingdom a great deal,"
said the gratified little potentate, rising and
clapping his hands. "Giuseppe is only to be
a pleader, and be crowned, papa says, with a
paper crown; but I am to be a real monarch
of hams, and won't I eat the delicious food
all day!"

"And I, my sister?" cried another fair
and graceful girl, kneeling like the rest.

"O! you are so fond of shows and dances
and maccaroni, my best Lina, and are so idle
and so gay, you will be queen of the lazzaroni."

"Forgive me, dearest spouse," said the
gentleman once more, "for observing that
the perpetual hankering after great dignities
will be very injurious to their future repose.
How will they contentedly accommodate
themselves to their rank in life- barristers,
physicians, soldiers, and wives of simple
landowners or members of our municipality,
if their heads are filled with visions of
kingships and queenships, even "if their subjects
are only hams and maccaroni?"

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