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A Scene in the Campagna by T. Adolphus Trollope

You remember the Piazza della Bocca della Verità at Rome? No? Perhaps it is too far away from the Piazza di Spagna and the stairs of the Monte di Trinità, which may be taken to be the central points of English or American Rome. Yet you must have passed by the Bocca della Verità on your way to your drive on the Via Appia and the tomb of Caecilia Metella. Do you not remember a large, shambling, unkempt-looking open space, a sort of cross in appearance between the piazza of a city and a farmyard, a little after passing the remains of the Teatro di Marcello, the grand old arches of which are now, in the whirligig of Time's revenges, turned into blacksmiths' shops? The piazza in question is nearly open on one side to the Tiber, on the immediate bank of which stands that elegant little round temple, with its colonnade of charming fluted pillars, which has from time out of mind been known as the Temple of Vesta, though the designation, as modern archaeologists tell us, is probably erroneous. All the world, whether of those who have been at Rome or not, knows the Temple of Vesta, for it is the prettiest, if not the grandest, of the legacies to us of old pagan Rome, and it has been reproduced in little drawing-room models by the thousand in every conceivable material. Close to it, at one corner of the piazza, is the ancient and half-ruinous house which is pointed out as the habitation of Cola di Rienzi. It is altogether a strange-looking spot, that Piazza della Bocca della Verità, standing as it does on the confines of what may be called the inhabited part of Rome and that portion of the huge space within the walls which still remains sacred to the past and its memories and remains. But not the least strange thing about it is its name—the Piazza of the Mouth of Truth! There is a story of some one of the great doctors of the early ages of Christianity having taught in the very ancient church which stands on the side of the piazza farthest from the Tiber. Ay, to be sure, the name must come very evidently thence. The "mouth of truth" was the mouth of that seraphic or angelic or golden-tongued or other "doctor gentium," and the old church and the piazza still preserve the memory of his eloquence. Not a bit of it! Under the venerable-looking portico of this church there is a huge colossal marble mask, with a gaping mouth in the middle of it. There it lies, totally unconnected in any way with the various other relics of the past around it—tombs and frescoes and mosaics—and the stranger wonders what it is, and how it came there. To the last question there is no reply. But in answer to the former, tradition says that the Roman populace when affirming anything on oath were wont to place their hands in the mouth of this mask as a form of swearing, and hence the stone was called the "Bocca della Verità," and has given its name to the piazza.

Well, it was while traversing this piazza a few days since with a stranger friend, whom I was taking to visit the curious old church above mentioned, that I received and returned the salutation of an acquaintance whose appearance induced my companion to ask with some little surprise who my friend was. The individual whose courteous salutation had provoked the question was a horseman mounted on a remarkably fine black mare. Whether, in consequence of some little touch with the spur, or whether merely from high condition and high spirits, the animal was curvetting and rearing and dancing about a little as she crossed the piazza, and the perfect ease—and one may say, indeed, elegance—of the rider's seat, and his consummate mastery of the animal he bestrode, must have attracted the attention and excited the admiration of any lover of horses and horsemanship. It was abundantly evident that he was neither one of the "gentlemen riders" who figure in the somewhat mild Roman steeple-chase races, nor of those Nimrods from beyond the Alps who, mounted on such steeds as Jarrett or Rannucci can supply them with, attend the "meets" of the Roman hunt. The man in question was very unlike any of these; his horse was quite as unlike any that such persons are wont to ride; and his seat upon his horse and his mode of riding were yet more unlike theirs. It was not the seat of a man accustomed to "go across the country" and ride to hounds; and still less was it the seat of a cavalry-man, the result of teaching in a military riding-school. It was more like the seat (if the expression be permissible) of a centaur. The rider and his steed seemed to be one organization and governed by one and the same will.

But I must endeavor to give the reader an idea of the outward appearance of my acquaintance. He wore a long horse-man's cloak of dark-brown cloth, with a deep fur collar, which hung loosely from his shoulders, and being entirely open in front displayed a scarlet waistcoat ornamented with silver buttons beneath it, and thighs clad in black velveteen breeches. His lower legs were cased in gaiters of a very peculiar make. They were of light-brown colored leather, so made as to present an altogether creaseless surface, and yet fitted to the leg by numerous straps and buckles so closely that they exhibited the handsome and well-formed limb beneath them almost as perfectly as a silk stocking could have done. Below the ankle they closely clasped a boot which was armed with a very severe spur. The rider wore a high conical black felt hat—such a hat as is called, significently enough, "un cappello de brigante," a brigand's hat. It had, moreover, a scarlet ribbon around it, which added much to the brigand-like picturesqueness of the figure. Yet my friend was by no means a brigand, for all that. But the portion of his accoutrement which was perhaps the most remarkable has not been mentioned yet. While managing his reins, snaffle and curb, with excellent ease in his left hand, his right held—not a whip or stick of any sort, but—a lance like a rod, some seven or eight feet long, and armed at the end with a short iron spike. This spike rested on the toe of his boot as he rode—an attitude which, resembling that of a cavalier entering the tournament lists, gave to the rod in question all the appearance of a knightly lance. Yet there is in the recollection or the imagination of most people another figure whom on the whole the rider in the Piazza della Bocca della Verità would have been more likely to recall to their minds—the mounted Arab of the desert. I hardly know why it should be so. But there was a something about the general outline of the figure draped in its cloak, and in the way in which the long slight lance was held, that had an unmistakably Eastern look about it. There was a certain air of dignity too about my friend which contributed to his Arab-like appearance. Yet it was not exactly the dignity of the grave and impassible Eastern man. It was a mixture of dignity and jauntiness. There was a certain air of self-consciousness about the man in the cloak and brigand's hat that told you clearly enough that he knew he was riding remarkably well, and expected you to mark it too. He would have been exceedingly unwilling that the glories of the scarlet waistcoat with its silver buttons should have been eclipsed, and he would have unmistakably fallen in his own esteem had the broad scarlet ribbon been taken from his hat. The pose and turn of his well-shaped head on his shoulders provocatively challenged admiration, and would have had a dash of insolence in them if the expression had not been corrected by a pleasant smile, which showed a range of bright white teeth beneath a jet-black moustache, and the good-humor of the glance that tempered the frank roving boldness of the well-opened eye. When it has been added that he was in the very prime of manhood, a man of some thirty-five or thereabouts, I think that the reader will be able to form a tolerably correct picture to himself of my acquaintance, Nanni Silvani.

"And who and what is Nanni Silvani?" asked my companion when I had categorically answered his question by stating the name of the rider whose salutation I had returned.

"Nanni—or, more correctly, Signor Giovanni—Silvani is a buttero of the Roman Campagna," said I.

"And, pray, what may a 'buttero' be?" rejoined my Johnny Newcome, looking back after the receding figure of the horseman with no little curiosity.

"A buttero," I answered, "is one of the most peculiar and characteristic products of that very peculiar region, the Agro Romano."

The conditions under which the district around Rome is cultivated—or rather possessed and left uncultivated—are entirely sui generis—quite unlike anything else in the world. The vast undulating plain called the Campagna is divided among very few proprietors in comparison to its extent, who hold immense estates, which are more profitable than the appearance of the country, smitten to all seeming with a curse of desolation, would lead a stranger to suppose. These huge properties are held mainly by the great Roman papal families and by monastic corporations whose monasteries are within the city. In either case the property is practically inalienable, and has been passed from father to son for generations, or held by an undying religious corporation in unchanging sameness for many generations. Cultivation in the proper sense of the word is out of the question in this region: the prevalence of the deadly malaria renders it impossible. But the vast extent of the plain is wandered over by large herds of half-wild cattle, in great part buffaloes, the produce of which is turned to profit in large dairy and cheese-making establishments, and by large droves of horses, from which a very useful breed of animals is raised. The superintendence and care of these is the work of the buttero. Large flocks of sheep and goats also are fed upon the herbage of the Campagna. But the shepherds who tend them are quite a different race of men from the buttero, and are deemed, especially by himself, to hold a far inferior position in the social scale. And, as is ever the case, social prejudice justifies itself by producing the phenomenon it has declared to exist. The shepherd of the Campagna, having long been deemed the very lowest of the low, has become such in reality. Clad in the dried but untanned skin of one of his flock, he has almost the appearance of a savage, and, unless common fame belies him, he is the savage he looks. The buttero looks down upon him from a very pinnacle of social elevation in the eyes of every inhabitant of the towns and villages around Rome, especially in those of the youthful female population. While the poor shepherd, shaggy as his sheep, wild-looking as his goats, and savage as his dogs, squalid, fever-stricken and yellow, spending long weeks and even months in solitude amid the desolation of the Campagna, saunters after his sauntering flock, crawling afoot, the gallant buttero, in the saddle from morning to night, represents that aristocracy which among all uncivilized races and in all uncivilized times is the attribute of the mounted as distinguished from the unmounted portion of mankind. And if this fact is recognized by the generality of the world in which he lives, it is very specially assumed to be undeniable by the buttero himself. There is always a smack of the dandy about him. He is proud of his appearance, of his horse and of his mastery over him. He knows that he is a picturesque and striking figure, and the consciousness of the fact imparts a something to his bearing that is calculated to make the most of it. His manners and ways of life, too, are really more tinctured by civilization than those of the rest of the rural population among whom he lives. And this arises mainly from the fact that his occupations bring him more and more frequently into contact with his superiors in the social scale. The agricultural system prevailing in the district around Rome differs markedly and essentially from that in use generally in Tuscany. There the system of rent is almost unknown. The present tiller of the soil occupies it on condition of rendering to the landowner the half of the produce of it, and this arrangement is conducted under the superintendence of a fattore. But the widespreading possessions of a Roman landowner are for the most part let to a speculator, who is termed a "mercante di campagna." The commercial operations engaged in by these "merchants of the country" are often very extensive, and many of them become very wealthy men. It is hardly necessary to say that neither they nor their families live on, or indeed in most cases near, the land from which they draw their wealth. They are absentees, with a paramount excuse for being so. For the vast plains over which their herds and flocks and droves wander are for the most part scourged by the malaria to such an extent that human life, or at all events human health, is incompatible with a residence on them. The wealthy mercante di campagna lives in Rome therefore, and his wife and family take the lead in the rich, but not in the aristocratic, circles of the society of the capital. One of these men may be seen perhaps at a "meet" of the Roman hunt, mounted on the best and most showy horse in the field, attended probably by a smart groom leading a second (very needless) horse for his master's use, or holding in readiness an elegant equipage for him to drive himself back to the city at the termination of the day's sport. His wife and daughters meanwhile are probably exhibiting themselves in the Villa Borghese or on the Pincian Hill in the handsomest carriage and with the most splendid horses in all the gay throng, and displaying toilettes which throw into the shade the more sober style of those of the duchesses, princesses and countesses whom they would so gladly, but may not, salute as they pass them in their less brilliant equipages. The balls, too, given in the Carnival by these men and their wives will probably be the most splendid of the season, in so far as the expenditure of money can ensure splendor, but they will not be adorned by the diamonds of the old patrician families, nor will it be possible for the givers of them to obtain access to the sighed-for elysium of the halls of the historical palaces where those diamonds are native. Between the two classes there is a great gulf fixed, or perhaps it would be more accurately correct to say that there was such a great gulf fixed a year or two ago. The great gulf exists still, but it is beginning gradually to be a little bridged over. No doubt another twenty years will see it vanish altogether. But enough has been said to indicate the social position of the mercante di campagna as it was, and for the most part still is. But, fine gentleman as he is, the wealthy speculator, if he would remain such, is not always at the hunt or lounging in the Corso. He is often at the tenuta (or estate) from which his wealth is gathered, and on such occasions spends long hours on horseback riding over wide extents of country, and attended by the all-important buttero, sure to be mounted on as good a horse as that which carries his employer, or perhaps a better. Perhaps two or three of these functionaries are in attendance upon him. And such excursions necessarily produce a degree of companionship which would not result from attendance in any other form. As riders the two men are on an equality for the nonce. The tone of communication between the men is insensibly modified by the circumstances of a colloquy between two persons on horseback. It cannot be the same as that between a master sitting in his chair and a servant standing hat in hand before him. And then how proudly does the gallant buttero ride past the pariah shepherds tending their shaggy flocks and seeming barely raised above them in intelligence!

All this tends, as may be supposed, to civilize the buttero to a degree that he would not attain without it. He is, as has been intimated, generally eminently self-conscious of his own advantages and proud of his position. To the other elements which go to produce this feeling may be added the pride of caste. Our buttero is probably the son and the father of a race which follows the same occupation. The knowledge and skill which are absolutely necessary to his profession, and which are acquired no otherwise than traditionally, have a tendency to produce this result. He grew up to be a buttero, with a consummate knowledge of horses and horned cattle, and a sure eye for the condition of the pastures from one to another district of which the animals are constantly moving, under the eye of his father, who put him on a half-broken colt almost as soon as he could walk. And he is giving his son the same education. For a young buttero to marry with a daughter of the despised shepherd class would be a mésalliance not to be thought of. Nor would a marriage with the daughter of a small artisan of the towns be deemed a very acceptable one. The chances are that the young centaur marries a girl of his own centaur breed, and all the prejudice and barriers of caste are thus propagated and intensified. It must not be supposed that the buttero or his family lives on the malaria-stricken plains which his occupation requires him to be constantly riding over. The wretched shepherd is constrained to do so, and sleeps in the vicinity of his flock, finding, if he can, the shelter of a ruined tomb or of the broken arch of an aqueduct, or even of a cave from which pozzolana has been dug, and strives to exorcise the malaria fiend by kindling a big fire and sleeping with his head in the thick smoke of it. But the buttero, well mounted, to whom it is a small matter to ride eight or ten miles to his home every night, lives with his family either in Rome or in one of the small towns on the slopes of the hills which enclose the Campagna. And it is thus that these strikingly picturesque figures may often be seen traversing the streets and piazze of Rome, and especially of those parts of it which lie on the far side of the Tiber or to the southward of the Quirinal Hill and the Piazza di Venezia. They are almost always handsome fellows, well grown, and striking specimens of robust and manly vigor, probably by virtue of the lives they lead, and of the similar lives the race from which they spring have led before them; partly also, no doubt, from the fact that should any son be born to a buttero who should not be thus happily endowed, he could not think of following the ancestral occupation, but would have to be weeded out from the race and seek his place in the towns, where he would not become the father of degenerate butteri.

My friend Nanni Silvani was all that I have described the buttero to be. He was indeed a very perfect specimen of his class; and if the reader will allow me to tell him how I first came to be acquainted with Nanni, the relation of the circumstances will at the same time show him one of the most remarkable phases of the buttero's life, and one of the most curiously characteristic scenes of Italian—and especially Roman—life which it falls to the lot of foreign visitors to witness.

It will be readily understood that the cattle, whether horned beasts or horses, which wander from pasture to pasture over the vast extent of the Campagna are liable to stray occasionally, and perhaps to become mingled with the herds belonging to another proprietor. It is necessary, therefore, that they should be marked; and this marking is the occasion of a great and very remarkable festival and solemnity. It is called La Merca, which is a Romanism for La Marca, the "mark" or "marking" of the cattle. This operation takes place in the spring, generally in May; and the mercante di campagna whose herds of horned cattle, oxen, cows and buffaloes and droves of horses are to be marked on a settled day invites all his friends and acquaintance to come and see the operation. From what has already been said of the social habits and status of the persons occupying that position, it will be readily imagined that the company thus called together is often a very numerous and sufficiently brilliant one. A good half of the assemblage will in all probability belong to the more ornamental sex. A liberally supplied picnic luncheon will not fail to complete the pleasures of the day; and altogether the festival of the merca of such or such a year will probably remain as an epoch in the memories of many of those invited to be present. The carriages, the horses, the light country gigs and conveyances of all kinds must be ordered early in the pleasant May morning, for a drive (or ride) of several miles across the Campagna is before us, and perhaps before the spot appointed for the business in hand is reached a scramble across a mile or so of open rolling ground impracticable for wheels. But nothing can be more lovely than the views of the hills around Rome in the fresh early hours of a May morning. Even the melancholy Campagna puts on a look of brightness and smiles a pale smile for the nonce. We soon overtake or are overtaken by other parties bound for the same destination. All are chatting and laughing in high good spirits, for the spectacle that awaits us is a favorite one with the Roman dames and their attendant squires. There are very few, if any, foreigners among the invited, partly because it hardly comes in their way to hear anything about the merca and its specialties, or to make the acquaintance of the hosts upon such occasions; partly and mainly perhaps because they have almost all of them left Rome for the summer before the season for these rural festivals commences.

At length we reach the ground. A large hollow in the undulating surface of the Campagna, surrounded in great part by a steeply rising bank, has been chosen as the scene of operations, in order to afford as much vantage-ground as may be for the spectators. But other accommodation than such as is afforded by Nature has been provided. A range of seats of rough planks, something in the form of the grand stand on a race-course, has been erected by the hospitable mercante di campagna, who is busily engaged in receiving and seating his numerous friends. Large droves of young horses, and still larger herds of bullocks and buffaloes, are assembled in a neighboring yard. Before taking our places on the range of seats we go to have a look at this portion of the dramatis personae in the coming spectacle—from the outside, be it understood, of a high railed palisade, or stazzionata, as this description of enclosure is called in the language of the Roman Campagna. The appearance of the animals inside, of the buffaloes especially, does not tempt one to make any nearer acquaintance with them. The wild cattle of the Western prairies can hardly look wilder or more savage. Whether the buffaloes are in reality more savage in their temper than the other horned cattle, or not, seems to be a doubtful question. Some of the herdsmen say they are so: others deny it. Possibly the former may have the more sensitive imaginations, for unquestionably the buffalo is a far more terrible-looking fellow than his congener. His dark color and the form of the vicious-looking, crumply horn in great part contribute to this. But it seems to me that the expression of the eye produces the same effect to a yet greater degree. The buffalo's eye is smaller than that of the ordinary bull or cow, and often gleams out of the shaggy thicket of black hair around it with a red glare that has something truly diabolical in it. There may perhaps be collected in the yard and in one or two enclosures near it some forty or fifty young horses, and perhaps altogether from a hundred to a hundred and fifty head of horned cattle. Lounging about around these enclosures, or looking on while the last completing touches are given to the strong and high railing which surrounds the space in front of the range of seats, are several butteri and their aids, awaiting the master's signal for the beginning of the day's work.

Altogether, the scene is a very strange one. The contact of the rural and the city life, the elements of which meet in these countries so rarely and mix so little and so unwillingly, seems strange and incongruous. Nothing can be wilder than all the local surroundings of the scene; nothing less town-like than the living things, human and other, which are to enact their parts in it; nothing less rural, nothing more completely of the town townish, than the assembled company of spectators. Evidently, the individuals belonging to either category look upon those of the other very little in the light of fellow-creatures. In no country in the world is the division between the town population and that of the country so wide as it is in Italy. No one of either class seems to be struck by, or even to see, the extreme beauty of the prospect from the spot on which we are standing. It is a spot in the Campagna somewhat to the south-west of a line drawn from the city to the base of the Alban Hills; and though the place chosen for the operation of the merca is, as I have said, a hollow, the generality of the immediate neighborhood is somewhat higher than the level of the surrounding plain, and the eye is thus enabled to wander far and wide over the Campagna—to the Alban Hills southward; to the peak of Monte Cavo, where the early rays of the sun are just touching with light the old gray walls of the convent on its summit; to the large village of Rocca di Papa on its hillside a little farther to the left; to the town of Grotto Ferrata on the lowest instep of the hill, and more still to the left; and then Frascati, with the heights of Tusculum above it; and thence to that wonderfully beautiful opening in the range of hills where Preneste lies; and beyond that, as we turn the delighted eye slowly round to the eastward, the olive-rich hill of Tivoli, the woods that mark the position of Hadrian's Villa, and the whole range of the Sabine Hills. But little do the Roman dames care for the scene so fair. Their eyes are all for matters nearer at hand. They are curiously scanning the men who are going to be the heroes of the day—the butteri—some sitting carelessly on their horses, some lounging around the enclosure. And well aware are they in either case that they are the cynosures of neighboring eyes, and the consciousness that they are so is betrayed in every movement and every glance of their roving eyes. Never did knights of old enter the lists, while the heralds reminded them that bright eyes beheld their deeds, more stimulated to bear themselves well in the coming contest than are these modern knights of the Campagna to show their prowess in the ring which is to witness a not less arduous and hardly less dangerous emprise.

At length the hospitably busy mercante di campagna has seated all his guests, and the work of the day may begin. Some half dozen or so of butteri and their aids enter the arena, which is thoroughly enclosed on all sides by high and secure palisades. The long cloaks are discarded now, as may be supposed. I hardly know when else the butteri are to be seen without them or on foot. Now they are seen as succinct as may be. Every muscle is braced up for the coming struggle, and there may be observed something in the faces and bearing of the men that indicates that the work in hand is not expected to be child's play. They stand in a group in the middle of the enclosed space. The day's work will begin with the most arduous part of it—with that which needs all the fresh strength and address of the men—the marking of the buffaloes. A young buffalo bull, not yet grown to his full strength, but yet abundantly powerful enough to be a very formidable antagonist, is driven into the arena, and the gate by which he has entered is immediately closed behind him. Many a yearling of the more domesticated breeds is a larger and heavier animal, and yet most men would, if they were compelled to such a struggle, prefer to measure their force against an animal of the latter class than against this half-savage creature. He may be considered, indeed, to be wholly savage, save in so far as he may be supposed to inherit from his progenitors the nature of a race that man has more or less perfectly subjected and compelled to labor. On first entering the arena he tosses up his head and shakes the shaggy black locks of wiry hair from before his small wicked-looking eyes, looks half alarmedly, half defiantly around, and stamps three or four times with one fore foot on the ground, partly, as it would seem, in wonder and doubt, and partly in increasing anger. Then he trots slowly round the enclosure, starting aside and shying as the bright colors of the ladies' dresses (at safe distance behind the palisades) catch and offend his eye. Evidently he is seeking an egress and escape from a scene which must appear to him so wondrous and full of strange and unknown dangers. But he has soon satisfied himself that there is no way out, that his enemies have encompassed him about on every side. Then once again he throws his shaggy head into the air, shaking his short thick curly horns in a very menacing manner, and this time accompanying the action with a loud bellow, the compound expression of fear, wonder and wrath.

Now, what has to be done is simply this—to seize him, throw him to the ground on his side, then to impress the branding-iron on his flank, and dismiss him to make way for another. Of course nothing would be easier with properly contrived appliances and means than to accomplish this with promptitude, safety to man and beast, without struggle and without glory. But this would involve change of habitudes, recourse to new methods, modern improvements, a confession to the mind of the buttero that he was no longer able to do what his fathers for many a generation had done before him. It would be to lose the opportunity of exhibiting himself and his prowess on the great festival of the year, together with those subsequent hours of repose and reward for danger and fatigue endured which heroes of all ages, from the quaffers of mead in the halls of Odin to the "food for powder" around the vivandière's paniers, have never disdained. For these sufficient reasons the merca is practiced still in the old way in the Roman Campagna, and the victory of the man over the brute has to be achieved by main force and dexterity. The buttero has not so much as a lasso, or even a halter or a stick, to assist him in the struggle. There is the beast with his horns, and there is the man with his hands. Probably it might have been better to seize the creature instantly on his entry into the arena, while he was under the influence of his first bewilderment; and doubtless when the men have got hot to their work, and the advancing sun warns them to get on with it, the business will be more summarily despatched. But in the first opening of the day's work a little show-off is indulged in. The buffalo has ceased his trot round the railing, and stands head in air as he bellows his defiance. That is the moment seized by the watchful buttero for accepting the challenge. With a sudden spring at the animal he seizes him by the horns, and with a sudden vigorous and knowingly-applied wrench throws him to the ground on his side. Then burst forth the plaudits from the well-dressed crowd, more heartily bestowed perhaps by the ladies than by their kid-gloved cavaliers, who are conscious that they could not have done so much to save their own lives or those of the fair dames by their side. With the fall of the beast to the ground the work is done. All the rest is without difficulty, and is completed in a minute. Other men come forward and apply the brand to the struggling but comparatively helpless brute, who in the next minute finds himself free from his persecutors and at liberty to trot off out of the enclosure.

Thus matters pass in a case where the buttero is master of his business, where he is in his own best condition of muscular force and activity, and where he is not matched against a beast of exceptional strength. It frequently occurs, however, that all these conditions are not fulfilled. Some men are cleverer at it than others. It will be readily understood that, as in wrestling, the knack of the thing counts for much, and sometimes, either from want of this or some other circumstance of disadvantage, the struggle is prolonged. Man and beast put forth their utmost strength. They sway backward and forward; the ground becomes trampled into mud; the strong muscles of the creature's brawny neck resist every effort of his enemy. Not a man of the group within the area comes to the assistance of his comrade. They watch the contest indeed with vigilant eyes, and should real danger to the man's life ensue they are ready to throw themselves forward and overpower or drive off the buffalo. But short of this the fight must be a duel. The man must throw his beast, or be thrown. Not unfrequently, the latter occurs; and then the city crowd, who were so loud in their plaudits of the victor—cruel as their ancestors whose upturned thumbs condemned the conquered gladiator in the Coliseum—are equally loud in their hooting of the prostrate buttero. But only his self-love and self-respect, and not his life, in these days pays the penalty. As he falls worsted his fellows, watchful to prevent mischief, though perhaps not sorry for a rival's discomfiture, rush forward and overpower the conquering brute.

And this goes on until the assembled butteri and their aids have got through their day's work and marked all the animals that were awaiting the brand, and the merca for that year is finished. The citizens, dames and dandies get them back to their carriages and to the city, while the butteri, victors and vanquished alike, spend the night in discussing the vicissitudes of the merca and worshiping Bacchus with rites which in this most conservative of all lands two thousand years have done but little to change.