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In general, the Maltese speak a language not unlike the Arabic, though
English and Italian are used in trade.
They are a swarthy, robust, fearless people, strong in their loves and
hates, and the vendetta has been known to exist here just as fiercely as
in its native home of Corsica.
Many dress in the costume of the Franks, but the native garb is still
worn by the lower classes, and is a picturesque sight, such as we see
upon the stage.
It consists of a long bag made of wool, and dyed various colors, making
a cap such as is worn by the sailors in stage scenes like the "Pirates
The top part of this is used for a purse, or forms a receptacle for any
small articles the wearer desires to carry.
A short, loose pantaloon, to the knee, which leaves the lower leg bare,
is confined at the waist by a girdle or sash of colored cotton or silk.
Then there is worn a cotton shirt, with a short, loose vest, or
waistcoat, as they were formerly known, covering the same; the latter
often ornamented with rows of silver buttons, quarter-dollars, or
As to the ladies of Malta, their costume is very odd, and reminds one
somewhat of Spain. In part, it consists of a black silk petticoat, bound
round the waist, over a body of some other kind of silk or print which
is called the _half onuella_. The upper part, the _onuella_, of the same
material, is drawn into neat gathers for the length of a foot about the
center of one of the outer seams. In the seam of one of the remaining
divisions is inclosed a piece of whalebone, which is drawn over the
head, and forms a perfect arch, leaving the head and neck bare.
As may be expected, it requires much practice to wear such a dress
gracefully. Many of the best ladies of Valetta now get their fashions
direct from Paris--so the world moves.
The little party of tourists have ascended the hill for the purpose of
obtaining the glorious view referred to, and at the same time whiling
away a few hours of time, for their stay at the Island of Malta has not
been of their choosing, a peculiar accident causing the steamer on which
they were taking passage to put in here for some necessary repairs.
The tourists are five in number, and a very brief description will
give the reader an idea as to their identity, leaving individual
peculiarities to be developed as our story progresses.
Probably the one that would attract the attention of a stranger first
would be the young lady with the peach-bloom complexion and sunny blue
eyes, whose figure is so stylish, and whose rather haughty manner
bespeaks proud English blood.
There is another female, whom the young lady calls Aunt Gwen, and as a
specimen of a man-female she certainly takes the premium, being tall,
angular, yet muscular, and with a face that is rather Napoleonic in its
cast. A born diplomat, and never so happy as when engaged in a broil or
a scene of some sort, they have given this Yankee aunt of Lady Ruth the
name of Gwendolin Makepeace. And as she has an appendage somewhere,
known as a husband, her final appellation is Sharpe, which somehow suits
her best of all.
Aunt Gwen is a character to be watched, and bound to bob up serenely,
with the most amazing assurance, at unexpected times.
Then there is Sharpe, her worse half, a small gentleman over whom she
towers, and of whom she is secretly fond in her way, though she
tyrannizes him dreadfully.
Near him may be seen a young American, whom they have somehow dubbed
"Doctor Chicago," because he is a medical student hailing from that
wonderful city, by name John Alexander Craig. Among his friends he is
simply Aleck. His manner is buoyant, and he looks like an overgrown boy,
but his record thus far proves his brain to contain that which will some
day cause him to forge ahead.
No one knows why Craig is abroad. That he has some mission besides a
tour for health and sight-seeing, several little things have proved.
There is another member of the group, a gentleman of sturdy build, with
a handsome face, whose ruddy tint suggests the English officer, even
without the flowing whiskers.
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