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ABOUT a year ago the eye of Misery, which is ever prone to discern a companion in her woe, might have seen a dejected Sophomore slowly wending his way, with his Lares and Penates heaped on an unpitying cart, to the home of his ancestors.
Why was he thus deserting the place of his choice? Clio drops a tear, and discreetly turns the page; certain it is, however, that circumstances over which he had no control had made it highly desirable that he should seek some faroff shore, "where censure-marks cease from troubling, and the lazy are at rest." Casting around for a place worthy to be graced by his unrivalled talent for a life of indolent luxury, he pitched upon Brazil as the country affording the maximum of physical enjoyment with the least mental strain; so, with no companion but a Portuguese conversation-book, he set out for the great city of South America, - Rio de Janeiro.
But why preserve the incognito? Reader, I am that miserable Soph.; it is from my own bitter experience that I relate these facts,
"Quorum pars magna fui."
Long study of the conversation-book had rendered me confident of my ability to speak the language with native elegance and fluency. But my confidence was destined to meet with a rude shock. I had been wandering about the city, and on returning to the wharf asked a boatman to "take me to the ship," in what I fondly supposed was the choicest Portuguese. "Si, si, Mr. Merican man, me understand you," was the encouraging rejoinder. That was enough for me. I confined myself to pantomime afterwards, except in one instance, when my success was still more startling.
Being driven around the city once by a man who, by his devotional signs made at every church we passed by, seemed to be a very devout Catholic, I determined to address him in Latin, and began in the approved Lanonian style to repeat to him the "Ave Maria." "Si, si, is entende," was the reply; and in a few minutes he drew up before a place with the sign "Sorvetes," which I had previously learned, by experience bien entendu, meant "American drinks compounded." I did not enlighten him, however, and I feel certain that he thinks to this day that he understood that "American" perfectly. I discovered afterwards, that any sentence that a hackman did not understand was interpreted by him as a request to stop at some "Palais Royal." This, however, is natural, and shows a commendable insight into the needs of travellers.
They have a French opera of considerable merit of its kind. Being of a mathematical turn of mind, I established the proportion, Old Hundred : Soldene Troupe : Soldene Troupe : The Rio Opera Bouffe. This must be seen to be believed, but I have seen it.
I found it desirable to take a little voyage. Why? Well - So I took passage in a ship bound to Panama, hoping thus to get again to an abode of temperance and virtue.
But our dearest dreams are often blighted, as my experience will show.
I went ashore the first day upon our arrival. My first impression was not favorable. On entering the Plaza I observed two men coming across it from opposite directions; when they had approached within about six feet of each other, one produced a pistol, and-with a charming insouciance shot the other through the heart. Several gentlemen then appeared from the shops around, and congratulated the jovial sportsman on his good shooting, taking him into a cafe where they did not drink coffee on the lucus a non lucendo principle. The victim of this practical joke was removed about an hour afterwards by his friends, who had the pleasure of seeing the other man carried home by his companions of the cafe, with many marks of regard. No, really on the whole, my first impression was not favorable. I was afterwards informed that since the suppression of bullfighting this little amusement has become quite popular.
The children - real children, after the Dress Reform's own heart - do not "load their frames with useless and cumbersome garments, destructive alike to health and grace."
As may be imagined, I did not choose Panama as a place of residence, but crossed the isthmus, through a country as beautiful as the bowers of the Arabian Nights, to Aspinwall, a city infinitesimally small and infinitely bad. On the whole, my "Search after Happiness" in tropical climes had not been a startling success, and I determined to take the first opportunity to reach a civilized country where the Dress Reform had not such complete sway, and where one could search for a lady with Diogenes's lantern; though I fear even that would be useless in Rio.
As I seemed fated to find no rest in South America, I have returned, and am prosecuting my search after happiness at present in the wild waste known as the Quadrangle, with slightly brighter prospects.
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