But this is to look forward: these were the days not of Victor Emanuel but of Charles Albert; and it was on Charles Albert that mother and son had now fixed their eyes as on the sword-bearer of Italy. On Fleeming's sixteenth birthday, they were, the mother writes, 'in great anxiety for news from the army. You can have no idea what it is to live in a country where such a struggle is going on. The interest is one that absorbs all others. We eat, drink, and sleep to the noise of drums and musketry. You would enjoy and almost admire Fleeming's enthusiasm and earnestness - and, courage, I may say - for we are among the small minority of English who side with the Italians. The other day, at dinner at the Consul's, boy as he is, and in spite of my admonitions, Fleeming defended the Italian cause, and so well that he "tripped up the heels of his adversary" simply from being well-informed on the subject and honest. He is as true as steel, and for no one will he bend right or left. . . . . Do not fancy him a Bobadil,' she adds, 'he is only a very true, candid boy. I am so glad he remains in all respects but information a great child.'

If this letter is correctly dated, the cause was already lost and the King had already abdicated when these lines were written. No sooner did the news reach Genoa, than there began 'tumultuous movements'; and the Jenkins' received hints it would be wise to leave the city. But they had friends and interests; even the captain had English officers to keep him company, for Lord Hardwicke's ship, the VENGEANCE, lay in port; and supposing the danger to be real, I cannot but suspect the whole family of a divided purpose, prudence being possibly weaker than curiosity. Stay, at least, they did, and thus rounded their experience of the revolutionary year. On Sunday, April 1, Fleeming and the captain went for a ramble beyond the walls, leaving Aunt Anna and Mrs. Jenkin to walk on the bastions with some friends. On the way back, this party turned aside to rest in the Church of the Madonna delle Grazie. 'We had remarked,' writes Mrs. Jenkin, 'the entire absence of sentinels on the ramparts, and how the cannons were left in solitary state; and I had just remarked "How quiet everything is!" when suddenly we heard the drums begin to beat and distant shouts. ACCUSTOMED AS WE ARE to revolutions, we never thought of being frightened.' For all that, they resumed their return home. On the way they saw men running and vociferating, but nothing to indicate a general disturbance, until, near the Duke's palace, they came upon and passed a shouting mob dragging along with it three cannon. It had scarcely passed before they heard 'a rushing sound'; one of the gentlemen thrust back the party of ladies under a shed, and the mob passed again. A fine-looking young man was in their hands; and Mrs. Jenkin saw him with his mouth open as if he sought to speak, saw him tossed from one to another like a ball, and then saw him no more. 'He was dead a few instants after, but the crowd hid that terror from us. My knees shook under me and my sight left me.' With this street tragedy, the curtain rose upon their second revolution.

The attack on Spirito Santo, and the capitulation and departure of the troops speedily followed. Genoa was in the hands of the Republicans, and now came a time when the English residents were in a position to pay some return for hospitality received. Nor were they backward. Our Consul (the same who had the benefit of correction from Fleeming) carried the Intendente on board the VENGEANCE, escorting him through the streets, getting along with him on board a shore boat, and when the insurgents levelled their muskets, standing up and naming himself, 'CONSOLE INGLESE.' A friend of the Jenkins', Captain Glynne, had a more painful, if a less dramatic part. One Colonel Nosozzo had been killed (I read) while trying to prevent his own artillery from firing on the mob; but in that hell's cauldron of a distracted city, there were no distinctions made, and the Colonel's widow was hunted for her life. In her grief and peril, the Glynnes received and hid her; Captain Glynne sought and found her husband's body among the slain, saved it for two days, brought the widow a lock of the dead man's hair; but at last, the mob still strictly searching, seems to have abandoned the body, and conveyed his guest on board the VENGEANCE. The Jenkins also had their refugees, the family of an EMPLOYE threatened by a decree.

Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin Page 18

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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