King Bomba and the Carpet
King Bomba was the King of Naples, until he angered his populate so much that they threw him out.
THE KING OP NAPLES ON THE CARPET.
A History and No Romance
CE upon a time (a very few years ago) there reigned a certain King (who, alack the day! reigns still) called FERDINAND, otherwise IL RE BOMBA, of Naples. “See Naples and die,” was a proverb that his Majesty had often worked out upon his faithful subjects. Now this FERDINAND was a potentate of most volcanic viscera, the very spit, saving the reader’s presence, of Vesuvius. A King, much given to the stick that was much given to his people. He was withal a man of sport and many humane accomplishments. He could kill mosquitos like COMMODUS, and play upon the fiddle like NERO.
Now, it chanced one day, that this excellent King, making a procession of himself through the rooms of his palace, bethought him that the carpets thereof bad become faded, and, for royal carpets, mighty threadbare. The Bourbon flowers had sickened, and the moth, that spares neither the frieze of the peasant, nor the coffin-velvet of the Emperor, the moth had devastated. Whereupon, seeing these things, the superb and magnificent monarch resolved within himself to have new carpets carpets spick and span.
“SEGRETARIO mio,” said RE BOMBA to his penman, “straightway write an order to that accursed heretical England; for the Lutherans” and here his Majesty crossed himself “the Lutherans can, it must be confessed, do two things; truly they can grind razors, and they can weave carpets. Therefore, straightway, write and order” –
“Razors?” said the secretary; but ere he could add “your Majesty” he was footed by a sudden movement of the royal muscles into the extreme corner of the cabinet.
“Cane!” (otherwise “dog!”) cried RE BOMBA, “Carpets!”
Whereupon the canine secretary gathered himself up on his two legs, and like a dog returning to bis seat, he sat him down, and proceeded to write “carpets.”
“Bestia!” cried RE BOMBA. “First, let painters be summoned; and let the royal patterns be drawn and limned; and when this shall be done, and we have approved thereof, then shall you write to the Lutheran slave” here his Majesty graciously spat “and the carpets be commanded.”
And in due season these things were done, even as the King had given order.
A LOVELY morning broke upon the Bay of Naples. The golden sun! The glittering dew! The azure heaven! The sapphire ocean!
There might be seen an English barque, cleaving the liquid field. The Union Jack fluttered to the eye of a Briton defyingly from the peak. Boldly, saucily, did that English vessel plough the main. She brought up she dropt anchor. She was straightway accosted by a boat of the King’s.
That British craft was the proud bearer of the carpets woven by the happy Lutheran, whom RE BOMBA had delighted to honour. Now the carpet-weaver embracing his saddened wife, and kissing his happy children, had quitted the soil of Albion to come, and in his own person, to deliver and lay down the royal carpets. Perchance, too, the sordid dealer had brought with him a receipt for the royal ready-money.
Now the carpets were duly sent to the royal palace.
AN interval of six weeks is here supposed to take place; when a British islander, of bilious and malevolent aspect in the unalterable opinion of a Neapolitan physiognomist, much attached to the Neapolitan police might be observed, with his dog, for every British islander travels with a British bull-dog, pacing the sunny side of the Piazza Reale. That bilious stranger was the Lutheran carpet-maker, and hope deferred had made yellow his cheek. For six weeks had passed; and the carpets – the goods as in his trade dialect, he called those woven fabrics – had been delivered to the King; and the King had vouchsafed no word to the man whom with his royal commission lie had delighted to honour.
The islander with a brutality that a love of truth compels us to own, too much distinguishes the travelled Briton resolved to write a letter to the King. Yes: the sordid Lutheran determined to tell unto RE BOMBA, a bit of his carpet-dealing mind. With this thought, he took his way to his Hotel.
Arrived at, his hostelry his faithful dog still bearing him company he beheld at the door a waggon, blazing with the arms of Naples.
Now, in. this van, or waggon, were the carpets returned to the carpetmaker. Of a verity, the carpet thrown back upon the carpet-maker’s hands.
IT were vain to hope to paint the dismay, the rage, of the carpetmaker. He called down not a shower of manna on the anointed head of BOMBA the King. He vehemently swore; but, with a craftiness that characterised the tradesman, he swore in English. Whereupon, the faithful servants of BOMBA the King let him swear his belly empty, and arrested him not.
“What was wrong in the carpets?” “Did they think he’d be swindled?” “He, a free-born Briton!” “He, who was represented in his own British parliament!” “He, who was never born to be a slave!” ” To come to Naples to be robbed – plundered – bamboozled – and that, too, by a – a – “
But, as we have said, felicitously for the ferocious Briton, he raved and swore in his mother-tongue; and the officers and the King’s servants hindered him not.
Of what availed it, that he commanded the ragamuffins about him to set him face to face with the Majesty of Naples! Of what availed it, that he demanded to know in what whit, tittle, or particular, the carpets differed from the order given. They were woven even as commanded; and the arms of Bourbon and of Naples –
(The Bourbon arms! How much blood has gone to paint them! How much more blood of man, woman, and child; blood in the dungeon; blood at the wine-feast; blood on the scaffold; blood in the chamber, to paint the blazonment, that still blackening and blackening in heaven’s air, will have more blood to keep it fresh. But, to return to our Briton, perspiring, and ever, as he utters the sacred name of BOMBA the King, shaking his clenched and parricidal fists.)
The carpets were shot down at the door of the hostelry; they had been looked upon by the eye of the King, and the King in his heart spat upon them.
And now, the carpets being rejected of the sovereign, the law of Naples required of the British islander to pay upon the British woven fabrics the duty of import. The Briton had brought carpets into the kingdom of Naples, and Naples was not to be fobbed of her due; for it is known that Naples has her duties, even as no Neapolitan has his rights.
Pay import duty! Be robbed! No, the bold Briton would go to prison. He would rot with pleasure in a dungeon first.” And then, exhausted by the expression of his unflinching firmness, the Briton paid the cash.
THE Times newspaper, gashed by the stiletto of the Neapolitan censor, lay upon the table of the Hotel Victoria. That sheet called up all the home feelings of our wanderer. He looked at the “Births,” he knew not why, for he had no expectations. He read the “Marriages,” idleness all, for was he not already wedded? He paused at the “Deaths;” but somehow nothing cheered him. And again and again home-sickness pressed upon him, and he felt his heart-strings twitched towards the sea.
He would go: he would shake from his polluted shoes the dust of Naples, and England should ring with his wrongs; and he would take his carpets with him.
Sunny Naples is the land of the free. The Briton might depart he might even take his carpets with him; bul; ere departing with his carpets, he must pay the state tax for the removal of the merchandise yea the duty on export.
Vesuvius never poured forth streams more consuming in their fierceness and fury than the volcanic Briton ejected at the paternal government of Naples. No, he would not be swindled a second time; he would even at an alarming sacrifice sell the carpets sell them in the broad daylight bv public auction.
THE day came. The mart was crowded. The carpet-pieces were displayed; and great and general was the praise of the fabrics, glowing like flowers. But of what use to the private modest Neapolitan citizen? How could his foot trample upon the Bourbon arms? As well think to put his shoe-leather on the anointed neck of IL RE BOMBA assoluto.
Who would raffle for an elephant? Who would put into a lottery for a knot of rattle-snakes? Who would draw chances for a hippopotamus? Surely, no private man or woman.
Who, we ask, would bid for carpets enriched and solemnised with the Bourbon arms, the arms of Naples? Is there not constructive treason in the very thought of a bidding?
Even so. Hence, the carpets where put up, and no voice dared to make an offer.
At last one man took courage. He made a bidding; a low and modest bidding. But the auctioneer smiled, nodded his head, and was satisfied; for to the amazement of the vulgar Briton, the auctioneer knocked down the carpets for an old song; and that a Neapolitan one.
And who was the fortunate purchaser? Surely no private man – no private woman? No.
The carpets were bought by an officer in the household of his sacred Majesty BOMBA IL RE!
CURIOUS are the coincidences of this our human life. The happy visitor, ennobled by a passing privilege to visit the palace of the King of Naples, may behold in every room every carpet-piece (a great bargain) as at first commanded by his Most Catholic Majesty of that most Lutheran carpet-maker!