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child crawled from a doorstep to paddle in the stagnant waters of a kennel; but,
with the exception of these doubtful evidences of human industry, the prevailing
characteristic of the few groups of the lowest orders of the people which appeared
in the streets was the most listless and utter indolence. All that gave splendour to
the city at other hours of the day was at this period hidden from the eye. The
elegant courtiers reclined in their lofty chambers; the guards on duty ensconced
themselves in angles of walls and recesses of porticoes; the graceful ladies
slumbered on perfumed couches in darkened rooms; the gilded chariots were shut
into the carriage-houses; the prancing horses were confined in the stables; and
even the wares in the market-places were removed from exposure to the sun. It
was clear that the luxurious inhabitants of Ravenna recognised no duties of
sufficient importance, and no pleasures of sufficient attraction, to necessitate the
exposure of their susceptible bodies to the noontide heat.
To give the reader some idea of the manner in which the indolent patricians of the
Court loitered away their noon, and to satisfy, at the same time, the exigencies
attaching to the conduct of this story, it is requisite to quit the lounging-places of
the plebeians in the streets for the couches of the nobles in the Emperor's palace.
Passing through the massive entrance gates, crossing the vast hall of the Imperial
abode, with its statues, its marbles, and its guards in attendance, and thence
ascending the noble staircase, the first object that might on this occasion have
attracted the observer, when he gained the approaches to the private apartments,
was a door at an extremity of the corridor, richly carved and standing half open.
At this spot were grouped some fifteen or twenty individuals, who conversed by
signs, and maintained in all their movements the most decorous and complete
silence. Sometimes one of the party stole on tiptoe to the door, and looked
cautiously through, returning almost instantaneously, and expressing to his next
neighbour, by various grimaces, his immense interest in the sight he had just
beheld. Occasionally there came from this mysterious chamber sounds resembling
the cackling of poultry, varied now and then by a noise like the falling of a
shower of small, light substances upon a hard floor. Whenever these sounds were
audible, the members of the party outside the door looked round upon each other
and smiled--some sarcastically, some triumphantly. A few among these patient
expectants grasped rolls of vellum in their hands; the rest held nosegays of rare
flowers, or supported in their arms small statues and pictures in mosaic. Of their
number, some were painters and poets, some orators and philosophers, and some
statuaries and musicians. Among such a motley assemblage of professions,
remarkable in all ages of the world for fostering in their votaries the vice of
irritability, it may seem strange that so quiet and orderly a behaviour should exist
as that just described. But it is to be observed that in attending at the palace, these
men of genius made sure at least of outward unanimity among their ranks, by
coming equally prepared with one accomplishment, and equally animated by one
hope: they waited to employ a common agent--flattery; to attain a common end--
The chamber thus sacred, even from the intrusion of intellectual inspiration,
although richly ornamented, was of no remarkable extent. At other times the eye
might have wandered with delight on the exquisite plants and flowers, scattered