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Author: William A. Stein
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This etext was prepared by David Price, email [email protected],
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from the 1886 Cassell & Co. edition.
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MY TEN YEARS' IMPRISONMENT
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by Silvio Pellico
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INTRODUCTION.
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Silvio Pellico was born at Saluzzo, in North Italy, in the year of
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the fall of the Bastille, 1789. His health as a child was feeble,
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his temper gentle, and he had the instincts of a poet. Before he
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was ten years old he had written a tragedy on a theme taken from
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Macpherson's Ossian. His chief delight as a boy was in acting plays
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with other children, and he acquired from his father a strong
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interest in the patriotic movements of the time. He fastened upon
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French literature during a stay of some years at Lyons with a
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relation of his mother's. Ugo Foscolo's Sepolcri revived his
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patriotism, and in 1810, at the age of twenty-one, he returned to
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Italy. He taught French in the Soldiers' Orphans' School at Milan.
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At Milan he was admitted to the friendship of Vincenzo Monti, a poet
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then touching his sixtieth year, and of the younger Ugo Foscolo, by
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whose writings he had been powerfully stirred, and to whom he became
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closely bound. Silvio Pellico wrote in classical form a tragedy,
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Laodicea, and then, following the national or romantic school, for a
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famous actress of that time, another tragedy, Francesca di Rimini,
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which was received with great applause.
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After the dissolution of the kingdom of Italy, in April 1814,
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Pellico became tutor to the two children of the Count Porro
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Lambertenghi, at whose table he met writers of mark, from many
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countries; Byron (whose Manfred he translated), Madame de Stael,
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Schlegel, Manzoni, and others. In 1819 Silvio Pellico began
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publishing Il Conciliatore, a journal purely literary, that was to
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look through literature to the life that it expresses, and so help
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towards the better future of his country. But the merciless
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excisions of inoffensive passages by the Austrian censorship
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destroyed the journal in a year.
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A secret political association had been formed in Italy of men of
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all ranks who called themselves the Carbonari (charcoal burners),
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and who sought the reform of government in Italy. In 1814 they had
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planned a revolution in Naples, but there was no action until 1820.
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After successful pressure on the King of the two Sicilies, the
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forces of the Carbonari under General Pepe entered Naples on the
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ninth of July, 1820, and King Ferdinand I. swore on the 13th of July
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to observe the constitution which the Carbonari had proclaimed at
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Nola and elsewhere during the preceding month. On the twenty-fifth
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of August, the Austrian government decreed death to every member of
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a secret society, and carcere duro e durissimo, severest pains of
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imprisonment, to all who had neglected to oppose the progress of
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Carbonarism. Many seizures were made, and on the 13th of October
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the gentle editor of the Conciliatore, Silvio Pellico, was arrested
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as a friend of the Carbonari, and taken to the prison of Santa
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Margherita in Milan.
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In the same month of October, the Emperors of Austria and Russia,
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and the Prince of Prussia met at Troppau to concert measures for
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crushing the Carbonari.
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In January, 1821, they met Ferdinand I. at Laybach and then took
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arms against Naples. Naples capitulated on the 20th of March, and
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on the 24th of March, 1821, its Revolutionary council was closed. A
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decree of April 10th condemned to death all persons who attended
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meetings of the Carbonari, and the result was a great accession to
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the strength of this secret society, which spread its branches over
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Germany and France.
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On the 19th of February, 1821, Silvio Pellico was transferred to
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imprisonment under the leads, on the isle of San Michele, Venice.
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There he wrote two plays, and some poems. On the 21st of February,
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1822, he and his friend Maroncelli were condemned to death; but,
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their sentence being commuted to twenty years for Maroncelli, and
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fifteen years for Pellico, of carcere duro, they entered their
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underground prisons at Spielberg on the 10th of April, 1822. The
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government refused to transmit Pellico's tragedies to his family,
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lest, though harmless in themselves, the acting of them should bring
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good-will to a state prisoner. At Spielberg he composed a third
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tragedy, Leoniero da Dordona, though deprived of books, paper, and
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pens, and preserved it in his memory. In 1828, a rumour of
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Pellico's death in prison caused great excitement throughout Italy.
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On the 17th of September, 1830, he was released, by the amnesty of
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that year, and, avoiding politics thenceforth, devoted himself to
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religion. The Marchesa Baroli, at Turin, provided for his
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maintenance, by engaging him as her secretary and librarian. With
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health made weaker by his sufferings, Silvio Pellico lived on to the
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age of sixty-five, much honoured by his countrymen. Gioberti
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dedicated a book to him as "The first of Italian Patriots." He died
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at Turin on the 1st of February, 1854.
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Silvio Pellico's account of his imprisonment, Le Mie Prigioni, was
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first published in Paris in 1833. It has been translated into many
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languages, and is the work by which he will retain his place in
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European literature. His other plays, besides the two first named,
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were Eufemia di Messina; Iginia di Asti; Leoniero da Dordona,
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already named as having been thought out at Spielberg; his Gismonda;
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l'Erodiade; Ester d'Engaddi; Corradino; and a play upon Sir Thomas
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More. He wrote also poems, Cantiche, of which the best are Eligi e
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Valfrido and Egilde; and, in his last years, a religious manual on
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the Duties of Men.
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H. M.
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AUTHOR'S PREFACE.
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Have I penned these memorials, let me ask myself, from any paltry
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vanity, or desire to talk about that self? I hope this is not the
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case, and forasmuch as one may be able to judge in one's own cause,
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I think I was actuated by better views. These, briefly, were to
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afford consolation to some unfortunate being, situated like myself,
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by explaining the evils to which I was exposed, and those sources of
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relief which I found were accessible, even when labouring under the
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heaviest misfortune; to bear witness, moreover, that in the midst of
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my acute and protracted torments, I never found humanity, in the
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human instruments around me, so hopelessly wicked, so unworthy of
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consideration, or so barren of noble minds in lowly station, as it
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is customary to represent it; to engage, if possible, all the
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generous and good-hearted to love and esteem each other, to become
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incapable of hating any one; to feel irreconcilable hatred only
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towards low, base falsehood; cowardice, perfidy, and every kind of
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moral degradation. It is my object to impress on all that well-
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known but too often forgotten truth, namely, that both religion and
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philosophy require calmness of judgment combined with energy of
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will, and that without such a union, there can be no real justice,
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no dignity of character, and no sound principles of human action.
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MY TEN YEARS' IMPRISONMENT
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CHAPTER I.
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On Friday, the 15th of October, 1820, I was arrested at Milan, and
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conveyed to the prison of Santa Margherita. The hour was three in
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the afternoon. I underwent a long examination, which occupied the
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whole of that and several subsequent days; but of this I shall say
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nothing. Like some unfortunate lover, harshly dealt with by her he
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adored, yet resolved to bear it with dignified silence, I leave la
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Politica, such as SHE IS, and proceed to something else.
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At nine in the evening of that same unlucky Friday, the actuary
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consigned me to the jailer, who conducted me to my appointed
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residence. He there politely requested me to give up my watch, my
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money, and everything in my pockets, which were to be restored to me
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in due time; saying which he respectfully bade me good-night.
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"Stop, my dear sir," I observed, "I have not yet dined; let me have
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something to eat."
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"Directly; the inn is close by, and you will find the wine good,
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sir."
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"Wine I do not drink."
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At this announcement Signor Angiolino gave me a look of unfeigned
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surprise; he imagined that I was jesting. "Masters of prisons," he
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rejoined, "who keep shop, have a natural horror of an abstemious
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captive."
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"That may be; I don't drink it."
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"I am sorry for you, sir; you will feel solitude twice as heavily."
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But perceiving that I was firm, he took his leave; and in half an
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hour I had something to eat. I took a mouthful, swallowed a glass
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of water, and found myself alone. My chamber was on the ground
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floor, and overlooked the court-yard. Dungeons here, dungeons
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there, to the right, to the left, above, below, and opposite,
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everywhere met my eye. I leaned against the window, listened to the
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passing and repassing of the jailers, and the wild song of a number
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of the unhappy inmates. A century ago, I reflected, and this was a
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monastery; little then thought the pious, penitent recluses that
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their cells would now re-echo only to the sounds of blasphemy and
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licentious song, instead of holy hymn and lamentation from woman's
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lips; that it would become a dwelling for the wicked of every class-
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-the most part destined to perpetual labour or to the gallows. And
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in one century to come, what living being will be found in these
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cells? Oh, mighty Time! unceasing mutability of things! Can he who
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rightly views your power have reason for regret or despair when
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Fortune withdraws her smile, when he is made captive, or the
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scaffold presents itself to his eye? yesterday I thought myself one
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of the happiest of men; to-day every pleasure, the least flower that
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strewed my path, has disappeared. Liberty, social converse, the
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face of my fellow-man, nay, hope itself hath fled. I feel it would
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be folly to flatter myself; I shall not go hence, except to be
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thrown into still more horrible receptacles of sorrow; perhaps,
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bound, into the hands of the executioner. Well, well, the day after
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my death it will be all one as if I had yielded my spirit in a
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palace, and been conveyed to the tomb, accompanied with all the
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pageantry of empty honours.
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It was thus, by reflecting on the sweeping speed of time, that I
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bore up against passing misfortune. Alas, this did not prevent the
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forms of my father, my mother, two brothers, two sisters, and one
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other family I had learned to love as if it were my own, from all
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whom I was, doubtless, for ever cut off, from crossing my mind, and
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rendering all my philosophical reasoning of no avail. I was unable
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to resist the thought, and I wept even as a child.
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CHAPTER II.
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Three months previous to this time I had gone to Turin, where, after
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several years of separation, I saw my parents, one of my brothers,
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and two sisters. We had always been an attached family; no son had
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ever been more deeply indebted to a father and a mother than I; I
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remember I was affected at beholding a greater alteration in their
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looks, the progress of age, than I had expected. I indulged a
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secret wish to part from them no more, and soothe the pillow of
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departing age by the grateful cares of a beloved son. How it vexed
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me, too, I remember, during the few brief days I passed with them,
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to be compelled by other duties to spend so much of the day from
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home, and the society of those I had such reason to love and to
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revere; yes, and I remember now what my mother said one day, with an
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expression of sorrow, as I went out--"Ah! our Silvio has not come to
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Turin to see US!" The morning of my departure for Milan was a truly
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painful one. My poor father accompanied me about a mile on my way;
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and, on leaving me, I more than once turned to look at him, and,
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weeping, kissed the ring my mother had just given me; nor did I ever
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before quit my family with a feeling of such painful presentiment.
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I am not superstitious; but I was astonished at my own weakness, and
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I more than once exclaimed in a tone of terror, "Good God! whence
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comes this strange anxiety and alarm?" and, with a sort of inward
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vision, my mind seemed to behold the approach of some great
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calamity. Even yet in prison I retain the impression of that sudden
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dread and parting anguish, and can recall each word and every look
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of my distressed parents. The tender reproach of my mother, "Ah!
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Silvio has not come to Turin to see US!" seemed to hang like a
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weight upon my soul. I regretted a thousand instances in which I
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might have shown myself more grateful and agreeable to them; I did
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not even tell them how much I loved; all that I owed to them. I was
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never to see them more, and yet I turned my eyes with so much like
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indifference from their dear and venerable features! Why, why was I
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so chary of giving expression to what I felt (would they could have
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read it in my looks), to all my gratitude and love? In utter
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solitude, thoughts like these pierced me to the soul.
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I rose, shut the window, and sat some hours, in the idea that it
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would be in vain to seek repose. At length I threw myself on my
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pallet, and excessive weariness brought me sleep.
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CHAPTER III.
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To awake the first night in a prison is a horrible thing. Is it
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possible, I murmured, trying to collect my thoughts, is it possible
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I am here? Is not all that passed a dream? Did they really seize
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me yesterday? Was it I whom they examined from morning till night,
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who am doomed to the same process day after day, and who wept so
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bitterly last night when I thought of my dear parents? Slumber, the
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unbroken silence, and rest had, in restoring my mental powers, added
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incalculably to the capability of reflecting, and, consequently, of
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grief. There was nothing to distract my attention; my fancy grew
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busy with absent forms, and pictured, to my eye the pain and terror
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of my father and mother, and of all dear to me, on first hearing the
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tidings of my arrest.
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At this moment, said I, they are sleeping in peace; or perhaps,
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anxiety for me may keep them watching, yet little anticipating the
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fate to which I am here consigned. Happy for them, were it the will
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of God, that they should cease to exist ere they hear of this
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horrible misfortune. Who will give them strength to bear it? Some
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inward voice seemed to whisper me, He whom the afflicted look up to,
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love and acknowledge in their hearts; who enabled a mother to follow
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her son to the mount of Golgotha, and to stand under His cross. He,
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the friend of the unhappy, the friend of man.
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Strange this should be the first time I truly felt the power of
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religion in my heart; and to filial love did I owe this consolation.
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Though not ill-disposed, I had hitherto been little impressed with
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its truth, and had not well adhered to it. All common-place
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objections I estimated at their just value, yet there were many
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doubts and sophisms which had shaken my faith. It was long, indeed,
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since they had ceased to trouble my belief in the existence of the
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Deity; and persuaded of this, it followed necessarily, as part of
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His eternal justice, that there must be another life for man who
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suffers so unjustly here. Hence, I argued, the sovereign reason in
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man for aspiring to the possession of that second life; and hence,
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too, a worship founded on the love of God, and of his neighbour, and
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an unceasing impulse to dignify his nature by generous sacrifices.
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I had already made myself familiar with this doctrine, and I now
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repeated, "And what else is Christianity but this constant ambition
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to elevate and dignify our nature?" and I was astonished, when I
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reflected how pure, how philosophical, and how invulnerable the
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essence of Christianity manifested itself, that there could come an
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epoch when philosophy dared to assert, "From this time forth I will
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stand instead of a religion like this." And in what manner--by
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inculcating vice? Certainly not. By teaching virtue? Why that
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will be to teach us to love God and our neighbour; and that is
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precisely what Christianity has already done, on far higher and
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purer motives. Yet, notwithstanding such had, for years, been my
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opinion, I had failed to draw the conclusion, Then be a Christian!
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No longer let corruption and abuses, the work of man, deter you; no
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longer make stumbling-blocks of little points of doctrine, since the
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principal point, made thus irresistibly clear, is to love God and
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your neighbour.
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In prison I finally determined to admit this conclusion, and I
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admitted it. The fear, indeed, of appearing to others more
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religious than I had before been, and to yield more to misfortune
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than to conviction, made me sometimes hesitate; but feeling that I
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had done no wrong, I felt no debasement, and cared nothing to
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encounter the possible reproaches I had not deserved, resolving
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henceforward to declare myself openly a Christian.
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CHAPTER IV.
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I adhered firmly to this resolution as time advanced; but the
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consideration of it was begun the first night of my captivity.
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Towards morning the excess of my grief had grown calmer, and I was
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even astonished at the change. On recalling the idea of my parents
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and others whom I loved, I ceased to despair of their strength of
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mind, and the recollection of those virtues which I knew they had
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long possessed gave me real consolation. Why had I before felt such
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great dismay on thinking of them, and now so much confidence in
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their strength of mind? Was this happy change miraculous, or the
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natural effect of my renewed belief in God? What avails the
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distinction, while the genuine sublime benefits of religion remain
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the same.
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At midnight two secondini (the under jailers are so termed) had paid
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me a visit, and found me in a very ill mood; in the morning they
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returned, and were surprised to see me so calm, and even cheerful.
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"Last night, sir, you had the face of a basilisk," said Tirola; "now
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you are quite another thing; I rejoice at it, if, indeed, it be a
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sign, forgive me the expression, that you are not a scoundrel. Your
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scoundrels (for I am an old hand at the trade, and my observations
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are worth something) are always more enraged the second day after
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their arrest than the first. Do you want some snuff?"
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"I do not take it, but will not refuse your offer. If I have not a
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gorgon-face this morning, it must surely be a proof of my utter
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insensibility, or easy belief of soon regaining my freedom."
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"I should doubt that, even though you were not in durance for state
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matters. At this time of day they are not so easily got over as you
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might think; you are not so raw as to imagine such a thing. Pardon
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me, but you will know more by and by."
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"Tell me, how come you to have so pleasant a look, living only, as
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you do, among the unfortunate?"
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"Why, sir, you will attribute it to indifference to others'
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sufferings; of a truth, I know not how it is; yet, I assure you, it
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often gives me pain to see the prisoners weep. Truly, I sometimes
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pretend to be merry to bring a smile upon their faces."
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"A thought has just struck me, my friend, which I never had before;
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it is, that a jailer may be made of very congenial clay."
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"Well, the trade has nothing to do with that, sir. Beyond that huge
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vault you see there, without the court-yard, is another court, and
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other prisons, all prepared for women. They are, sir, women of a
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certain class; yet are there some angels among them, as to a good
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heart. And if you were in my place, sir--"
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"I?" and I laughed out heartily.
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Tirola was quite disconcerted, and said no more. Perhaps he meant
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to imply that had I been a secondino, it would have been difficult
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not to become attached to some one or other of these unfortunates.
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He now inquired what I wished to take for breakfast, left me, and
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soon returned with my coffee. I looked hard at him, with a sort of
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malicious smile, as much as to say, "Would you carry me a bit of a
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note to an unhappy friend--to my friend Piero?" {1} He understood
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it, and answered with another: "No sir; and if you do not take heed
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how you ask any of my comrades, they will betray you."
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Whether or not we understood each other, it is certain I was ten
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times upon the point of asking him for a sheet of paper, &c.; but
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there was a something in his eye which seemed to warn me not to
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confide in any one about me, and still less to others than himself.
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CHAPTER V.
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Had Tirola, with his expression of good-nature, possessed a less
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roguish look, had there been something a little more dignified in
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his aspect, I should have tried to make him my ambassador; for
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perhaps a brief communication, if in time, might prevent my friend
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committing some fatal error, perhaps save him, poor fellow; besides
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several others, including myself: and too much was already known.
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Patience! it was fated to be thus.
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I was here recalled to be examined anew. The process continued
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through the day, and was again and again repeated, allowing me only
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a brief interval during dinner. While this lasted, the time seemed
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to pass rapidly; the excitement of mind produced by the endless
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series of questions put to me, and by going over them at dinner and
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at night, digesting all that had been asked and replied to,
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reflecting on what was likely to come, kept me in a state of
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incessant activity. At the end of the first week I had to endure a
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most vexatious affair. My poor friend Piero, eager as myself to
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have some communication, sent me a note, not by one of the jailers,
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but by an unfortunate prisoner who assisted them. He was an old man
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from sixty to seventy, and condemned to I know not how long a period
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of captivity. With a pin I had by me I pricked my finger, and
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scrawled with my blood a few lines in reply, which I committed to
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the same messenger. He was unluckily suspected, caught with the
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note upon him, and from the horrible cries that were soon heard, I
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conjectured that he was severely bastinadoed. At all events I never
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saw him more.
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On my next examination I was greatly irritated to see my note
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presented to me (luckily containing nothing but a simple
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salutation), traced in my blood. I was asked how I had contrived to
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draw the blood; was next deprived of my pin, and a great laugh was
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raised at the idea and detection of the attempt. Ah, I did not
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laugh, for the image of the poor old messenger rose before my eyes.
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I would gladly have undergone any punishment to spare the old man.
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I could not repress my tears when those piercing cries fell upon my
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ear. Vainly did I inquire of the jailers respecting his fate. They
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shook their heads, observing, "He has paid dearly for it, he will
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never do such like things again; he has a little more rest now."
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Nor would they speak more fully. Most probably they spoke thus on
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account of his having died under, or in consequence of, the
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punishment he had suffered; yet one day I thought I caught a glimpse
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of him at the further end of the court-yard, carrying a bundle of
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wood on his shoulders. I felt a beating of the heart as if I had
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suddenly recognised a brother.
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CHAPTER VI.
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When I ceased to be persecuted with examinations, and had no longer
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anything to fill up my time, I felt bitterly the increasing weight
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of solitude. I had permission to retain a bible, and my Dante; the
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governor also placed his library at my disposal, consisting of some
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romances of Scuderi, Piazzi, and worse books still; but my mind was
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too deeply agitated to apply to any kind of reading whatever. Every
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day, indeed, I committed a canto of Dante to memory, an exercise so
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merely mechanical, that I thought more of my own affairs than the
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lines during their acquisition. The same sort of abstraction
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attended my perusal of other things, except, occasionally, a few
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passages of scripture. I had always felt attached to this divine
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production, even when I had not believed myself one of its avowed
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followers. I now studied it with far greater respect than before;
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yet my mind was often almost involuntarily bent upon other matters;
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and I knew not what I read. By degrees I surmounted this
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difficulty, and was able to reflect upon its great truths with
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higher relish than I had ever before done. This, in me, did not
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give rise to the least tendency to moroseness or superstition,
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nothing being more apt than misdirected devotion to weaken and
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distort the mind. With the love of God and mankind, it inspired me
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also with a veneration for justice, and an abhorrence of wickedness,
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along with a desire of pardoning the wicked. Christianity, instead
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of militating against anything good, which I had derived from
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Philosophy, strengthened it by the aid of logical deductions, at
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once more powerful and profound.
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Reading one day that it was necessary to pray without ceasing, and
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that prayer did not consist in many words uttered after the manner
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of the Pharisees, but in making every word and action accord with
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the will of God, I determined to commence with earnestness, to pray
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in the spirit with unceasing effort: in other words, to permit no
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one thought which should not be inspired by a wish to conform my
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whole life to the decrees of God.
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The forms I adopted were simple and few; not from contempt of them
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(I think them very salutary, and calculated to excite attention),
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but from the circumstance of my being unable to go through them at
497
length, without becoming so far abstracted as to make me forget the
498
solemn duty in which I am engaged. This habitual observance of
499
prayer, and the reflection that God is omnipresent as well as
500
omnipotent in His power to save, began ere long to deprive solitude
501
of its horrors, and I often repeated, "Have I not the best society
502
man can have?" and from this period I grew more cheerful, I even
503
sang and whistled in the new joy of my heart. And why lament my
504
captivity? Might not a sudden fever have carried me off? and would
505
my friends then have grieved less over my fate than now? and cannot
506
God sustain them even as He could under a more trying dispensation?
507
And often did I offer up my prayers and fervent hopes that my dear
508
parents might feel, as I myself felt, resigned to my lot; but tears
509
frequently mingled with sweet recollections of home. With all this,
510
my faith in God remained undisturbed, and I was not disappointed.
511
512
513
514
CHAPTER VII.
515
516
517
518
To live at liberty is doubtless much better than living in a prison;
519
but, even here, the reflection that God is present with us, that
520
worldly joys are brief and fleeting, and that true happiness is to
521
be sought in the conscience, not in external objects, can give a
522
real zest to life. In less than one month I had made up my mind, I
523
will not say perfectly, but in a tolerable degree, as to the part I
524
should adopt. I saw that, being incapable of the mean action of
525
obtaining impunity by procuring the destruction of others, the only
526
prospect that lay before me was the scaffold, or long protracted
527
captivity. It was necessary that I should prepare myself. I will
528
live, I said to myself, so long as I shall be permitted, and when
529
they take my life, I will do as the unfortunate have done before me;
530
when arrived at the last moment, I can die. I endeavoured, as much
531
as possible, not to complain, and to obtain every possible enjoyment
532
of mind within my reach. The most customary was that of recalling
533
the many advantages which had thrown a charm round my previous life;
534
the best of fathers, of mothers, excellent brothers and sisters,
535
many friends, a good education, and a taste for letters. Should I
536
now refuse to be grateful to God for all these benefits, because He
537
had pleased to visit me with misfortune? Sometimes, indeed, in
538
recalling past scenes to mind, I was affected even to tears; but I
539
soon recovered my courage and cheerfulness of heart.
540
541
At the commencement of my captivity I was fortunate enough to meet
542
with a friend. It was neither the governor, nor any of his under-
543
jailers, nor any of the lords of the process-chamber. Who then?--a
544
poor deaf and dumb boy, five or six years old, the offspring of
545
thieves, who had paid the penalty of the law. This wretched little
546
orphan was supported by the police, with several other boys in the
547
same condition of life. They all dwelt in a room opposite my own,
548
and were only permitted to go out at certain hours to breathe a
549
little air in the yard. Little deaf and dumb used to come under my
550
window, smiled, and made his obeisance to me. I threw him a piece
551
of bread; he took it, and gave a leap of joy, then ran to his
552
companions, divided it, and returned to eat his own share under the
553
window. The others gave me a wistful look from a distance, but
554
ventured no nearer, while the deaf and dumb boy expressed a sympathy
555
for me; not, I found, affected, out of mere selfishness. Sometimes
556
he was at a loss what to do with the bread I gave him, and made
557
signs that he had eaten enough, as also his companions. When he saw
558
one of the under-jailers going into my room, he would give him what
559
he had got from me, in order to restore it to me. Yet he continued
560
to haunt my window, and seemed rejoiced whenever I deigned to notice
561
him. One day the jailer permitted him to enter my prison, when he
562
instantly ran to embrace my knees, actually uttering a cry of joy.
563
I took him up in my arms, and he threw his little hands about my
564
neck, and lavished on me the tenderest caresses. How much affection
565
in his smile and manner! how eagerly I longed to have him to
566
educate, raise him from his abject condition, and snatch him,
567
perhaps, from utter ruin. I never even learnt his name; he did not
568
himself know that he had one. He seemed always happy, and I never
569
saw him weep except once, and that was on being beaten, I know not
570
why, by the jailer. Strange that he should be thus happy in a
571
receptacle of so much pain and sorrow; yet he was light-hearted as
572
the son of a grandee. From him I learnt, at least, that the mind
573
need not depend on situation, but may be rendered independent of
574
external things. Govern the imagination, and we shall be well,
575
wheresoever we happen to be placed. A day is soon over, and if at
576
night we can retire to rest without actual pain and hunger, it
577
little matters whether it be within the walls of a prison, or of a
578
kind of building which they call a palace. Good reasoning this; but
579
how are we to contrive so to govern the imagination? I began to
580
try, and sometimes I thought I had succeeded to a miracle; but at
581
others the enchantress triumphed, and I was unexpectedly astonished
582
to find tears starting into my eyes.
583
584
585
586
CHAPTER VIII.
587
588
589
590
I am so far fortunate, I often said, that they have given me a
591
dungeon on the ground floor, near the court, where that dear boy
592
comes within a few steps of me, to converse in our own mute
593
language. We made immense progress in it; we expressed a thousand
594
various feelings I had no idea we could do, by the natural
595
expressions of the eye, the gesture, and the whole countenance.
596
Wonderful human intelligence! How graceful were his motions! how
597
beautiful his smile! how quickly he corrected whatever expression I
598
saw of his that seemed to displease me! How well he understands I
599
love him, when he plays with any of his companions! Standing only
600
at my window to observe him, it seemed as if I possessed a kind of
601
influence over his mind, favourable to his education. By dint of
602
repeating the mutual exercise of signs, we should be enabled to
603
perfect the communication of our ideas. The more instruction he
604
gets, the more gentle and kind he becomes, the more he will be
605
attached to me. To him I shall be the genius of reason and of good;
606
he will learn to confide his sorrows to me, his pleasures, all he
607
feels and wishes; I will console, elevate, and direct him in his
608
whole conduct. It may be that this my lot may be protracted from
609
month to month, even till I grow grey in my captivity. Perhaps this
610
little child may continue to grow under my eye, and become one in
611
the service of this large family of pain, and grief, and calamity.
612
With such a disposition as he has already shown, what would become
613
of him? Alas; he would at most be made only a good under-keeper, or
614
fill some similar place. Yet I shall surely have conferred on him
615
some benefit if I can succeed in giving him a desire to do kind
616
offices to the good and to himself, and to nourish sentiments of
617
habitual benevolence. This soliloquy was very natural in my
618
situation; I was always fond of children, and the office of an
619
instructor appeared to me a sublime duty. For a few years I had
620
acted in that capacity with Giacomo and Giulio Porro, two young men
621
of noble promise, whom I loved, and shall continue to love as if
622
they were my own sons. Often while in prison were my thoughts
623
busied with them; and how it grieved me not to be enabled to
624
complete their education. I sincerely prayed that they might meet
625
with a new master, who would be as much attached to them as I had
626
been.
627
628
At times I could not help exclaiming to myself, What a strange
629
burlesque is all this! instead of two noble youths, rich in all that
630
nature and fortune can endow them with, here I have a pupil, poor
631
little fellow! deaf, dumb, a castaway; the son of a robber, who at
632
most can aspire only to the rank of an under-jailer, and which, in a
633
little less softened phraseology, would mean to say a sbirro. {2}
634
This reflection confused and disquieted me; yet hardly did I hear
635
the strillo {3} of my little dummy than I felt my heart grow warm
636
again, just as a father when he hears the voice of a son. I lost
637
all anxiety about his mean estate. It is no fault of his if he be
638
lopped of Nature's fairest proportions, and was born the son of a
639
robber. A humane, generous heart, in an age of innocence, is always
640
respectable. I looked on him, therefore, from day to day with
641
increased affection, and was more than ever desirous of cultivating
642
his good qualities, and his growing intelligence. Nay, perhaps we
643
might both live to get out of prison, when I would establish him in
644
the college for the deaf and dumb, and thus open for him a path more
645
fortunate and pleasing than to play the part of a shirro. Whilst
646
thus pleasingly engaged in meditating his future welfare, two of the
647
under-jailers one day walked into my cell.
648
649
"You must change your quarters, sir!"
650
651
"What mean you by that?"
652
653
"We have orders to remove you into another chamber."
654
655
"Why so?"
656
657
"Some other great bird has been caged, and this being the better
658
apartment--you understand."
659
660
"Oh, yes! it is the first resting-place for the newly arrived."
661
662
They conveyed me to the opposite side of the court, where I could no
663
longer converse with my little deaf and dumb friend, and was far
664
removed from the ground floor. In walking across, I beheld the poor
665
boy sitting on the ground, overcome with grief and astonishment, for
666
he knew he had lost me. Ere I quite disappeared, he ran towards me;
667
my conductors tried to drive him away, but he reached me, and I
668
caught him in my arms, and returned his caresses with expressions of
669
tenderness I sought not to conceal. I tore myself from him, and
670
entered my new abode.
671
672
673
674
CHAPTER IX.
675
676
677
678
It was a dark and gloomy place; instead of glass it had pasteboard
679
for the windows; the walls were rendered more repulsive by being
680
hung with some wretched attempts at painting, and when free from
681
this lugubrious colour, were covered with inscriptions. These last
682
gave the name and country of many an unhappy inmate, with the date
683
of the fatal day of their captivity. Some consisted of lamentations
684
on the perfidy of false friends, denouncing their own folly, or
685
women, or the judge who condemned them. Among a few were brief
686
sketches of the victims' lives; still fewer embraced moral maxims.
687
I found the following words of Pascal: "Let those who attack
688
religion learn first what religion is. Could it boast of commanding
689
a direct view of the Deity, without veil or mystery, it would be to
690
attack that religion to say, 'that there is nothing seen in the
691
world which displays Him with such clear evidence.' But since it
692
rather asserts that man is involved in darkness, far from God, who
693
is hidden from human knowledge, insomuch as to give Himself the name
694
in scripture of 'Deus absconditus,' what advantage can the enemies
695
of religion derive when, neglecting, as they profess to do, the
696
science of truth, they complain that the truth is not made apparent
697
to them?" Lower down was written (the words of the same author),
698
"It is not here a question of some trivial interest relating to a
699
stranger; it applies to ourselves, and to all we possess. The
700
immortality of the soul is a question of that deep and momentous
701
importance to all, as to imply an utter loss of reason to rest
702
totally indifferent as to the truth or the fallacy of the
703
proposition." Another inscription was to this effect: "I bless the
704
hour of my imprisonment; it has taught me to know the ingratitude of
705
man, my own frailty, and the goodness of God." Close to these words
706
again appeared the proud and desperate imprecations of one who
707
signed himself an Atheist, and who launched his impieties against
708
the Deity, as if he had forgotten that he had just before said there
709
was no God. Then followed another column, reviling the cowardly
710
fools, as they were termed, whom captivity had converted into
711
fanatics. I one day pointed out these strange impieties to one of
712
the jailers, and inquired who had written them? "I am glad I have
713
found this," was the reply, "there are so many of them, and I have
714
so little time to look for them;" and he took his knife, and began
715
to erase it as fast as he could.
716
717
"Why do you do that?" I inquired of him.
718
719
"Because the poor devil who wrote it was condemned to death for a
720
cold-blooded murder; he repented, and made us promise to do him this
721
kindness."
722
723
"Heaven pardon him!" I exclaimed; "what was it he did?"
724
725
"Why, as he found he could not kill his enemy, he revenged himself
726
by slaying the man's son, one of the finest boys you ever saw."
727
728
I was horror-struck. Could ferocity of disposition proceed to such
729
lengths? and could a monster, capable of such a deed, hold the
730
insulting language of a man superior to all human weaknesses? to
731
murder the innocent, and a child!
732
733
734
735
CHAPTER X.
736
737
738
739
In my new prison, black and filthy to an extreme, I sadly missed the
740
society of my little dumb friend. I stood for hours in anxious,
741
weary mood, at the window which looked over a gallery, on the other
742
side of which could be seen the extremity of the court-yard, and the
743
window of my former cell. Who had succeeded me there? I could
744
discern his figure, as he paced quickly to and fro, apparently in
745
violent agitation. Two or three days subsequently, I perceived that
746
he had got writing materials, and remained busied at his little
747
table the whole of the day. At length I recognised him. He came
748
forth accompanied by his jailer; he was going to be examined, when I
749
saw he was no other than Melchiorre Gioja. {4} It went to my heart:
750
"You, too, noble, excellent man, have not escaped!" Yet he was more
751
fortunate than I. After a few months' captivity, he regained his
752
liberty. To behold any really estimable being always does me good;
753
it affords me pleasant matter for reflection, and for esteem--both
754
of great advantage. I could have laid down my life to save such a
755
man from captivity; yet merely to see him was some consolation to
756
me. After regarding him intently, some time, to ascertain if he
757
were tranquil or agitated, I offered up a heart-felt prayer for his
758
deliverance; I felt my spirits revived, a greater flow of ideas, and
759
greater satisfaction with myself. Such an incident as this has a
760
charm for utter solitude, of which you can form no idea without
761
experiencing it. A poor dumb boy had before supplied me with this
762
real enjoyment, and I now derived it from a distant view of a man of
763
distinguished merit.
764
765
Perhaps some one of the jailers had informed him where I was. One
766
morning, on opening his window, he waved his handkerchief in token
767
of salutation, and I replied in the same manner. I need not
768
describe the pleasure I felt; it appeared as if we were no longer
769
separated; and we discoursed in the silent intercourse of the
770
spirit, which, when every other medium is cut off, in the least
771
look, gesture, or signal of any kind, can make itself comprehended
772
and felt.
773
774
It was with no small pleasure I anticipated a continuation of this
775
friendly communication. Day after day, however, went on, and I was
776
never more gratified by the appearance of the same favourite
777
signals. Yet I frequently saw my friend at his window; I waved my
778
handkerchief, but in vain; he answered it no more. I was now
779
informed by our jailers, that Gioja had been strictly prohibited
780
from exciting my notice, or replying to it in any manner.
781
Notwithstanding, he still continued to look at me, and I at him, and
782
in this way, we conversed upon a great variety of subjects, which
783
helped to keep us alive.
784
785
786
787
CHAPTER XI.
788
789
790
791
Along the same gallery, upon a level with my prison, I saw other
792
prisoners passing and repassing the whole day to the place of
793
examination. They were, for the chief part, of lowly condition, but
794
occasionally one or two of better rank. All, however, attracted my
795
attention, brief as was the sight of them, and I truly
796
compassionated them. So sorrowful a spectacle for some time filled
797
me with grief, but by degrees I became habituated to it, and at last
798
it rather relieved than added to the horror of my solitude. A
799
number of women, also, who had been arrested, passed by. There was
800
a way from the gallery, through a large vault, leading to another
801
court, and in that part were placed the female prisoners, and others
802
labouring under disease. A single wall, and very slight, separated
803
my dwelling from that of some of the women. Sometimes I was almost
804
deafened with their songs, at others with their bursts of maddened
805
mirth. Late at evening, when the din of day had ceased, I could
806
hear them conversing, and, had I wished, I could easily have joined
807
with them. Was it timidity, pride, or prudence which restrained me
808
from all communication with the unfortunate and degraded of their
809
sex? Perhaps it partook of all. Woman, when she is what she ought
810
to be, is for me a creature so admirable, so sublime, the mere
811
seeing, hearing, and speaking to her, enriches my mind with such
812
noble fantasies; but rendered vile and despicable, she disturbs, she
813
afflicts, she deprives my heart, as it were, of all its poetry and
814
its love. Spite of this, there were among those feminine voices,
815
some so very sweet that, there is no use in denying it, they were
816
dear to me. One in particular surpassed the rest; I heard it more
817
seldom, and it uttered nothing unworthy of its fascinating tone.
818
She sung little and mostly kept repeating these two pathetic lines:-
819
820
821
Chi rende alla meschina
822
La sua felicita?
823
824
Ah, who will give the lost one
825
Her vanished dream of bliss?
826
827
828
At other times, she would sing from the litany. Her companions
829
joined with her; but still I could discern the voice of Maddalene
830
from all others, which seemed only to unite for the purpose of
831
robbing me of it. Sometimes, too, when her companions were
832
recounting to her their various misfortunes, I could hear her
833
pitying them; could catch even her very sighs, while she invariably
834
strove to console them: "Courage, courage, my poor dear," she one
835
day said, "God is very good, and He will not abandon us."
836
837
How could I do otherwise than imagine she was beautiful, more
838
unfortunate than guilty, naturally virtuous, and capable of
839
reformation? Who would blame me because I was affected with what
840
she said, listened to her with respect, and offered up my prayers
841
for her with more than usual earnestness of heart. Innocence is
842
sacred, and repentance ought to be equally respected. Did the most
843
perfect of men, the Divinity on earth, refuse to cast a pitying eye
844
on weak, sinful women; to respect their fear and confusion, and rank
845
them among the minds he delighted to consort with and to honour? By
846
what law, then, do we act, when we treat with so much contempt women
847
fallen into ignominy?
848
849
While thus reasoning, I was frequently tempted to raise my voice and
850
speak, as a brother in misfortune, to poor Maddalene. I had often
851
even got out the first syllable; and how strange! I felt my heart
852
beat like an enamoured youth of fifteen; I who had reached thirty-
853
one; and it seemed as if I should never be able to pronounce the
854
name, till I cried out almost in a rage, "Mad! Mad!" yes, mad
855
enough, thought I.
856
857
858
859
CHAPTER XII.
860
861
862
863
Thus ended my romance with that poor unhappy one; yet it did not
864
fail to produce me many sweet sensations during several weeks.
865
Often, when steeped in melancholy, would her sweet calm voice
866
breathe consolation to my spirit; when, dwelling on the meanness and
867
ingratitude of mankind, I became irritated, and hated the world, the
868
voice of Maddalene gently led me back to feelings of compassion and
869
indulgence.
870
871
How I wish, poor, unknown, kind-hearted repentant one, that no heavy
872
punishment may befall thee. And whatever thou shalt suffer, may it
873
well avail thee, re-dignify thy nature, and teach thee to live and
874
die to thy Saviour and thy Lord. Mayest thou meet compassion and
875
respect from all around thee, as thou didst from me a stranger to
876
thee. Mayest thou teach all who see thee thy gentle lesson of
877
patience, sweetness, the love of virtue, and faith in God, with
878
which thou didst inspire him who loved without having beheld thee.
879
Perhaps I erred in thinking thee beautiful, but, sure I am, thou
880
didst wear the beauty of the soul. Thy conversation, though spoken
881
amidst grossness and corruption of every kind, was ever chaste and
882
graceful; whilst others imprecated, thou didst bless; when eager in
883
contention, thy sweet voice still pacified, like oil upon the
884
troubled waters. If any noble mind hath read thy worth, and
885
snatched thee from an evil career; hath assisted thee with delicacy,
886
and wiped the tears from thy eyes, may every reward heaven can give
887
be his portion, that of his children, and of his children's
888
children!
889
890
Next to mine was another prison occupied by several men. I also
891
heard THEIR conversation. One seemed of superior authority, not so
892
much probably from any difference of rank, as owing to greater
893
eloquence and boldness. He played, what may musically be termed,
894
the first fiddle. He stormed himself, yet put to silence those who
895
presumed to quarrel by his imperious voice. He dictated the tone of
896
the society, and after some feeble efforts to throw off his
897
authority they submitted, and gave the reins into his hands.
898
899
There was not a single one of those unhappy men who had a touch of
900
that in him to soften the harshness of prison hours, to express one
901
kindly sentiment, one emanation of religion, or of love. The chief
902
of these neighbours of mine saluted me, and I replied. He asked me
903
how I contrived to pass such a cursed dull life? I answered, that
904
it was melancholy, to be sure; but no life was a cursed one to me,
905
and that to our last hour, it was best to do all to procure oneself
906
the pleasure of thinking and of loving.
907
908
"Explain, sir, explain what you mean!"
909
910
I explained, but was not understood. After many ingenious attempts,
911
I determined to clear it up in the form of example, and had the
912
courage to bring forward the extremely singular and moving effect
913
produced upon me by the voice of Maddalene; when the magisterial
914
head of the prison burst into a violent fit of laughter. "What is
915
all that, what is that?" cried his companions. He then repeated my
916
words with an air of burlesque; peals of laughter followed, and I
917
there stood, in their eyes, the picture of a convicted blockhead.
918
919
As it is in prison, so it is in the world. Those who make it their
920
wisdom to go into passions, to complain, to defy, to abuse, think
921
that to pity, to love, to console yourself with gentle and beautiful
922
thoughts and images, in accord with humanity and its great Author,
923
is all mere folly.
924
925
926
927
CHAPTER XIII.
928
929
930
931
I let them laugh and said not a word; they hit at me again two or
932
three times, but I was mute. "He will come no more near the
933
window," said one, "he will hear nothing but the sighs of Maddalene;
934
we have offended him with laughing." At length, the chief imposed
935
silence upon the whole party, all amusing themselves at my expense.
936
"Silence, beasts as you are; devil a bit you know what you are
937
talking about. Our neighbour is none so long eared an animal as you
938
imagine. You do not possess the power of reflection, no not you. I
939
grin and joke; but afterwards I reflect. Every low-born clown can
940
stamp and roar, as we do here. Grant a little more real
941
cheerfulness, a spark more of charity, a bit more faith in the
942
blessing of heaven;--what do you imagine that all this would be a
943
sign of?" "Now, that I also reflect," replied one, "I fancy it
944
would be a sign of being a little less of a brute."
945
946
"Bravo!" cried his leader, in a most stentorian howl! "now I begin
947
to have some hope of you."
948
949
I was not overproud at being thus rated a LITTLE LESS OF A BRUTE
950
than the rest; yet I felt a sort of pleasure that these wretched men
951
had come to some agreement as to the importance of cultivating, in
952
some degree, more benevolent sentiments.
953
954
I again approached the window, the chief called me, and I answered,
955
hoping that I might now moralise with him in my own way. I was
956
deceived; vulgar minds dislike serious reasoning; if some noble
957
truth start up, they applaud for a moment, but the next withdraw
958
their notice, or scruple not to attempt to shine by questioning, or
959
aiming to place it in some ludicrous point of view.
960
961
I was next asked if I were imprisoned for debt?
962
963
"Perhaps you are paying the penalty of a false oath, then?"
964
965
"No, it is quite a different thing."
966
967
"An affair of love, most likely, I guess?"
968
969
"No."
970
971
"You have killed a man, mayhap?"
972
973
"No."
974
975
"It's for carbonarism, then?"
976
977
"Exactly so."
978
979
"And who are these carbonari?"
980
981
"I know so little of them, I cannot tell you."
982
983
Here a jailer interrupted us in great anger; and after commenting on
984
the gross improprieties committed by my neighbours, he turned
985
towards me, not with the gravity of a sbirro, but the air of a
986
master: "For shame, sir, for shame! to think of talking to men of
987
this stamp! do you know, sir, that they are all robbers?"
988
989
I reddened up, and then more deeply for having shown I blushed, and
990
methought that to deign to converse with the unhappy of however
991
lowly rank, was rather a mark of goodness than a fault.
992
993
994
995
CHAPTER XIV.
996
997
998
999
Next morning I went to my window to look for Melchiorre Gioja; but
1000
conversed no more with the robbers. I replied to their salutation,
1001
and added, that I had been forbidden to hold conversation. The
1002
secretary who had presided at my examinations, told me with an air
1003
of mystery, I was about to receive a visit. After a little further
1004
preparation, he acquainted me that it was my father; and so saying,
1005
bade me follow him. I did so, in a state of great agitation,
1006
assuming at the same time an appearance of perfect calmness in order
1007
not to distress my unhappy parent. Upon first hearing of my arrest,
1008
he had been led to suppose it was for some trifling affair, and that
1009
I should soon be set at liberty. Finding his mistake, however, he
1010
had now come to solicit the Austrian government on my account.
1011
Here, too, he deluded himself, for he never imagined I could have
1012
been rash enough to expose myself to the penalty of the laws, and
1013
the cheerful tone in which I now spoke persuaded him that there was
1014
nothing very serious in the business.
1015
1016
The few words that were permitted to pass between us gave me
1017
indescribable pain; the more so from the restraint I had placed upon
1018
my feelings. It was yet more difficult at the moment of parting.
1019
In the existing state of things, as regarded Italy, I felt convinced
1020
that Austria would make some fearful examples, and that I should be
1021
condemned either to death or long protracted imprisonment. It was
1022
my object to conceal this from my father and to flatter his hopes at
1023
a moment when I was inquiring for a mother, brother, and sisters,
1024
whom I never expected to behold more. Though I knew it to be
1025
impossible, I even calmly requested of him that he would come and
1026
see me again, while my heart was wrung with the bitter conflict of
1027
my feelings. He took his leave, filled with the same agreeable
1028
delusion, and I painfully retraced my steps back into my dungeon. I
1029
thought that solitude would now be a relief to me; that to weep
1030
would somewhat ease my burdened heart? yet, strange to say, I could
1031
not shed a tear. The extreme wretchedness of feeling this inability
1032
even to shed tears excites, under some of the heaviest calamities,
1033
is the severest trial of all, and I have often experienced it.
1034
1035
An acute fever, attended by severe pains in my head, followed this
1036
interview. I could not take any nourishment; and I often said, how
1037
happy it would be for me, were it indeed to prove mortal. Foolish
1038
and cowardly wish! heaven refused to hear my prayer, and I now feel
1039
grateful that it did. Though a stern teacher, adversity fortifies
1040
the mind, and renders man what he seems to have been intended for;
1041
at least, a good man, a being capable of struggling with difficulty
1042
and danger; presenting an object not unworthy, even in the eyes of
1043
the old Romans, of the approbation of the gods.
1044
1045
1046
1047
CHAPTER XV.
1048
1049
1050
1051
Two days afterwards I again saw my father. I had rested well the
1052
previous night, and was free from fever; before him I preserved the
1053
same calm and even cheerful deportment, so that no one could have
1054
suspected I had recently suffered, and still continued to suffer so
1055
much. "I am in hopes," observed my father, "that within a very few
1056
days we shall see you at Turin. Your mother has got your old room
1057
in readiness, and we are all expecting you to come. Pressing
1058
affairs now call me away, but lose no time, I entreat you, in
1059
preparing to rejoin us once more." His kind and affecting
1060
expressions added to my grief. Compassion and filial piety, not
1061
unmingled with a species of remorse, induced me to feign assent; yet
1062
afterwards I reflected how much more worthy it had been, both of my
1063
father and myself, to have frankly told him that most probably, we
1064
should never see each other again, at least in this world. Let us
1065
take farewell like men, without a murmur and without a tear, and let
1066
me receive the benediction of a father before I die. As regarded
1067
myself, I should wish to have adopted language like that; but when I
1068
gazed on his aged and venerable features, and his grey hairs,
1069
something seemed to whisper me, that it would be too much for the
1070
affectionate old man to bear; and the words died in my heart. Good
1071
God! I thought, should he know the extent of the EVIL, he might,
1072
perhaps, run distracted, such is his extreme attachment to me: he
1073
might fall at my feet, or even expire before my eyes. No! I could
1074
not tell him the truth, nor so much as prepare him for it; we shed
1075
not a tear, and he took his departure in the same pleasing delusion
1076
as before. On returning into my dungeon I was seized in the same
1077
manner, and with still more aggravated suffering, as I had been
1078
after the last interview; and, as then, my anguish found no relief
1079
from tears.
1080
1081
I had nothing now to do but resign myself to all the horrors of long
1082
captivity, and to the sentence of death. But to prepare myself to
1083
bear the idea of the immense load of grief that must fall on every
1084
dear member of my family, on learning my lot, was beyond my power.
1085
It haunted me like a spirit, and to fly from it I threw myself on my
1086
knees, and in a passion of devotion uttered aloud the following
1087
prayer:- "My God! from thy hand I will accept all--for me all: but
1088
deign most wonderfully to strengthen the hearts of those to whom I
1089
was so very dear! Grant thou that I may cease to be such to them
1090
now; and that not the life of the least of them may be shortened by
1091
their care for me, even by a single day!"
1092
1093
Strange! wonderful power of prayer! for several hours my mind was
1094
raised to a contemplation of the Deity, and my confidence in His
1095
goodness proportionately increased; I meditated also on the dignity
1096
of the human mind when, freed from selfishness, it exerts itself to
1097
will only that which is the will of eternal wisdom. This can be
1098
done, and it is man's duty to do it. Reason, which is the voice of
1099
the Deity, teaches us that it is right to submit to every sacrifice
1100
for the sake of virtue. And how could the sacrifice which we owe to
1101
virtue be completed, if in the most trying afflictions we struggle
1102
against the will of Him who is the source of all virtue? When death
1103
on the scaffold, or any other species of martyrdom becomes
1104
inevitable, it is a proof of wretched degradation, or ignorance, not
1105
to be able to approach it with blessing upon our lips. Nor is it
1106
only necessary we should submit to death, but to the affliction
1107
which we know those most dear to us must suffer on our account. All
1108
it is lawful for us to ask is, that God will temper such affliction,
1109
and that he will direct us all, for such a prayer is always sure to
1110
be accepted.
1111
1112
1113
1114
CHAPTER XVI.
1115
1116
1117
1118
For a period of some days I continued in the same state of mind; a
1119
sort of calm sorrow, full of peace, affection, and religious
1120
thoughts. I seemed to have overcome every weakness, and as if I
1121
were no longer capable of suffering new anxiety. Fond delusion! it
1122
is man's duty to aim at reaching as near to perfection as possible,
1123
though he can never attain it here. What now disturbed me was the
1124
sight of an unhappy friend, my good Piero, who passed along the
1125
gallery within a few yards of me, while I stood at my window. They
1126
were removing him from his cell into the prison destined for
1127
criminals. He was hurried by so swiftly that I had barely time to
1128
recognise him, and to receive and return his salutation.
1129
1130
Poor young man! in the flower of his age, with a genius of high
1131
promise, of frank, upright, and most affectionate disposition, born
1132
with a keen zest of the pleasures of existence, to be at once
1133
precipitated into a dungeon, without the remotest hope of escaping
1134
the severest penalty of the laws. So great was my compassion for
1135
him, and my regret at being unable to afford him the slightest
1136
consolation, that it was long before I could recover my composure of
1137
mind. I knew how tenderly he was attached to every member of his
1138
numerous family, how deeply interested in promoting their happiness,
1139
and how devotedly his affection was returned. I was sensible what
1140
must be the affliction of each and all under so heavy a calamity.
1141
Strange, that though I had just reconciled myself to the idea in my
1142
own case, a sort of phrensy seized my mind when I depicted the
1143
scene; and it continued so long that I began to despair of mastering
1144
it.
1145
1146
Dreadful as this was, it was still but an illusion. Ye afflicted
1147
ones, who believe yourselves victims of some irresistible, heart-
1148
rending, and increasing grief, suffer a little while with patience,
1149
and you will be undeceived. Neither perfect peace, nor utter
1150
wretchedness can be of long continuance here below. Recollect this
1151
truth, that you may not become unduly elevated in prosperity, and
1152
despicable under the trials which assuredly await you. A sense of
1153
weariness and apathy succeeded the terrible excitement I had
1154
undergone. But indifference itself is transitory, and I had some
1155
fear lest I should continue to suffer without relief under these
1156
wretched extremes of feeling. Terrified at the prospect of such a
1157
future, I had recourse once more to the only Being from whom I could
1158
hope to receive strength to bear it, and devoutly bent down in
1159
prayer. I beseeched the Father of mercies to befriend my poor
1160
deserted Piero, even as myself, and to support his family no less
1161
than my own. By constant repetition of prayers like these, I became
1162
perfectly calm and resigned.
1163
1164
1165
1166
CHAPTER XVII.
1167
1168
1169
1170
It was then I reflected upon my previous violence; I was angry at my
1171
own weakness and folly, and sought means of remedying them. I had
1172
recourse to the following expedient. Every morning, after I had
1173
finished my devotions, I set myself diligently to work to recall to
1174
mind every possible occurrence of a trying and painful kind, such as
1175
a final parting from my dearest friends and the approach of the
1176
executioner. I did this not only in order to inure my nerves to
1177
bear sudden or dreadful incidents, too surely my future portion, but
1178
that I might not again be taken unawares. At first this melancholy
1179
task was insupportable, but I persevered; and in a short time became
1180
reconciled to it.
1181
1182
In the spring of 1821 Count Luigi Porro {5} obtained permission to
1183
see me. Our warm friendship, the eagerness to communicate our
1184
mutual feelings, and the restraint imposed by the presence of an
1185
imperial secretary, with the brief time allowed us, the
1186
presentiments I indulged, and our efforts to appear calm, all led me
1187
to expect that I should be thrown into a state of fearful
1188
excitement, worse than I had yet suffered. It was not so; after
1189
taking his leave I remained calm; such to me proved the signal
1190
efficacy of guarding against the assault of sudden and violent
1191
emotions. The task I set myself to acquire, constant calmness of
1192
mind, arose less from a desire to relieve my unhappiness than from a
1193
persuasion how undignified, unworthy, and injurious, was a temper
1194
opposite to this, I mean a continued state of excitement and
1195
anxiety. An excited mind ceases to reason; carried away by a
1196
resistless torrent of wild ideas, it forms for itself a sort of mad
1197
logic, full of anger and malignity; it is in a state at once as
1198
absolutely unphilosophical as it is unchristian.
1199
1200
If I were a divine I should often insist upon the necessity of
1201
correcting irritability and inquietude of character; none can be
1202
truly good without that be effected. How nobly pacific, both with
1203
regard to himself and others, was He whom we are all bound to
1204
imitate. There is no elevation of mind, no justice without
1205
moderation in principles and ideas, without a pervading spirit which
1206
inclines us rather to smile at, than fall into a passion with, the
1207
events of this little life. Anger is never productive of any good,
1208
except in the extremely rare case of being employed to humble the
1209
wicked, and to terrify them from pursuing the path of crime, even as
1210
the usurers were driven by an angry Saviour, from polluting his holy
1211
Temple. Violence and excitement, perhaps, differing altogether from
1212
what I felt, are no less blamable. Mine was the mania of despair
1213
and affliction: I felt a disposition, while suffering under its
1214
horrors, to hate and to curse mankind. Several individuals, in
1215
particular, appeared to my imagination depicted in the most
1216
revolting colours. It is a sort of moral epidemic, I believe,
1217
springing from vanity and selfishness; for when a man despises and
1218
detests his fellow-creatures, he necessarily assumes that he is much
1219
better than the rest of the world. The doctrine of such men amounts
1220
to this:- "Let us admire only one another, if we turn the rest of
1221
mankind into a mere mob, we shall appear like demi-gods on earth."
1222
It is a curious fact that living in a state of hostility and rage
1223
actually affords pleasure; it seems as if people thought there was a
1224
species of heroism in it. If, unfortunately, the object of our
1225
wrath happens to die, we lose no time in finding some one to fill
1226
the vacant place. Whom shall I attack next, whom shall I hate? Ah!
1227
is that the villain I was looking out for? What a prize! Now my
1228
friends, at him, give him no quarter. Such is the world, and,
1229
without uttering a libel, I may add that it is not what it ought to
1230
be.
1231
1232
1233
1234
CHAPTER XVIII.
1235
1236
1237
1238
It showed no great malignity, however, to complain of the horrible
1239
place in which they had incarcerated me, but fortunately another
1240
room became vacant, and I was agreeably surprised on being informed
1241
that I was to have it. Yet strangely enough, I reflected with
1242
regret that I was about to leave the vicinity of Maddalene. Instead
1243
of feeling rejoiced, I mourned over it with almost childish feeling.
1244
I had always attached myself to some object, even from motives
1245
comparatively slight. On leaving my horrible abode, I cast back a
1246
glance at the heavy wall against which I had so often supported
1247
myself, while listening as closely as possible to the gentle voice
1248
of the repentant girl. I felt a desire to hear, if only for the
1249
last time, those two pathetic lines, -
1250
1251
1252
Chi rende alla meschina
1253
La sua felicita?
1254
1255
1256
Vain hope! here was another separation in the short period of my
1257
unfortunate life. But I will not go into any further details, lest
1258
the world should laugh at me, though it would be hypocrisy in me to
1259
affect to conceal that, for several days after, I felt melancholy at
1260
this imaginary parting.
1261
1262
While going out of my dungeon I also made a farewell signal to two
1263
of the robbers, who had been my neighbours, and who were then
1264
standing at their window. Their chief also got notice of my
1265
departure, ran to the window, and repeatedly saluted me. He began
1266
likewise to sing the little air, Chi rende alla meschina; and was
1267
this, thought I, merely to ridicule me? No doubt that forty out of
1268
fifty would say decidedly, "It was!" In spite, however, of being
1269
outvoted, I incline to the opinion that the GOOD ROBBER meant it
1270
kindly; and, as such I received it, and gave him a look of thanks.
1271
He saw it, and thrust his arm through the bars, and waved his cap,
1272
nodding kindly to me as I turned to go down the stairs.
1273
1274
Upon reaching the yard below, I was further consoled by a sight of
1275
the little deaf and dumb boy. He saw me, and instantly ran towards
1276
me with a look of unfeigned delight. The wife of the jailer,
1277
however, Heaven knows why, caught hold of the little fellow, and
1278
rudely thrusting him back, drove him into the house. I was really
1279
vexed; and yet the resolute little efforts he made even then to
1280
reach me, gave me indescribable pleasure at the moment, so pleasing
1281
it is to find that one is really loved. This was a day full of
1282
great adventures for ME; a few steps further I passed the window of
1283
my old prison, now the abode of Gioja: "How are you, Melchiorre?" I
1284
exclaimed as I went by. He raised his head, and getting as near me
1285
as it was POSSIBLE, cried out, "How do you do, Silvio?" They would
1286
not let me stop a single moment; I passed through the great gate,
1287
ascended a flight of stairs, which brought us to a large, well-swept
1288
room, exactly over that occupied by Gioja. My bed was brought after
1289
me, and I was then left to myself by my conductors. My first object
1290
was to examine the walls; I met with several inscriptions, some
1291
written with charcoal, others in pencil, and a few incised with some
1292
sharp point. I remember there were some very pleasing verses in
1293
French, and I am sorry I forgot to commit them to mind. They were
1294
signed "The duke of Normandy." I tried to sing them, adapting to
1295
them, as well as I could, the favourite air of my poor Maddalene.
1296
What was my surprise to hear a voice, close to me, reply in the same
1297
words, sung to another air. When he had finished, I cried out,
1298
"Bravo!" and he saluted me with great respect, inquiring if I were a
1299
Frenchman.
1300
1301
"No; an Italian, and my name is Silvio Pellico."
1302
1303
"The author of Francesca da Rimini?" {6}
1304
1305
"The same."
1306
1307
Here he made me a fine compliment, following it with the condolences
1308
usual on such occasions, upon hearing I had been committed to
1309
prison. He then inquired of what part of Italy I was a native.
1310
"Piedmont," was the reply; "I am from Saluzzo." Here I was treated
1311
to another compliment, on the character and genius of the
1312
Piedmontese, in particular, the celebrated men of Saluzzo, at the
1313
head of whom he ranked Bodoni. {7} All this was said in an easy
1314
refined tone, which showed the man of the world, and one who had
1315
received a good education.
1316
1317
"Now, may I be permitted," said I, "to inquire who you are, sir?"
1318
1319
"I heard you singing one of my little songs," was the reply.
1320
1321
"What! the two beautiful stanzas upon the wall are yours!"
1322
1323
"They are, sir."
1324
1325
"You are, therefore,--"
1326
1327
"The unfortunate duke of Normandy."
1328
1329
1330
1331
CHAPTER XIX.
1332
1333
1334
1335
The jailer at that moment passed under our windows, and ordered us
1336
to be silent.
1337
1338
What can he mean by the unfortunate duke of Normandy? thought I,
1339
musing to myself. Ah! is not that the title said to be assumed by
1340
the son of Louis XVI.? but that unhappy child is indisputably no
1341
more. Then my neighbour must be one of those unlucky adventurers
1342
who have undertaken to bring him to life again. Not a few had
1343
already taken upon themselves to personate this Louis XVII., and
1344
were proved to be impostors; how is my new acquaintance entitled to
1345
greater credit for his pains?
1346
1347
Although I tried to give him the advantage of a doubt, I felt an
1348
insurmountable incredulity upon the subject, which was not
1349
subsequently removed. At the same time, I determined not to mortify
1350
the unhappy man, whatever sort of absurdity he might please to
1351
hazard before my face.
1352
1353
A few minutes afterwards he began again to sing, and we soon renewed
1354
our conversation. In answer to my inquiry, "What is your real
1355
name?" he replied, "I am no other than Louis XVII." And he then
1356
launched into very severe invectives against his uncle, Louis
1357
XVIII., the usurper of his just and natural rights.
1358
1359
"But why," said I, "did you not prefer your claims at the period of
1360
the restoration?"
1361
1362
"I was unable, from extreme illness, to quit the city of Bologna.
1363
The moment I was better I hastened to Paris; I presented myself to
1364
the allied monarchs, but the work was done. The good Prince of
1365
Conde knew, and received me with open arms, but his friendship
1366
availed me not. One evening, passing through a lonely street, I was
1367
suddenly attacked by assassins, and escaped with difficulty. After
1368
wandering through Normandy, I returned into Italy, and stopped some
1369
time at Modena. Thence I wrote to the allied powers, in particular
1370
to the Emperor Alexander, who replied to my letter with expressions
1371
of the greatest kindness. I did not then despair of obtaining
1372
justice, or, at all events, if my rights were to be sacrificed, of
1373
being allowed a decent provision, becoming a prince. But I was
1374
arrested, and handed over to the Austrian government. During eight
1375
months I have been here buried alive, and God knows when I shall
1376
regain my freedom."
1377
1378
I begged him to give me a brief sketch of his life. He told me very
1379
minutely what I already knew relating to Louis XVII. and the cruel
1380
Simon, and of the infamous calumnies that wretch was induced to
1381
utter respecting the unfortunate queen, &c. Finally he said, that
1382
while in prison, some persons came with an idiot boy of the name of
1383
Mathurin, who was substituted for him, while he himself was carried
1384
off. A coach and four was in readiness; one of the horses was
1385
merely a wooden-machine, in the interior of which he was concealed.
1386
Fortunately, they reached the confines, and the General (he gave me
1387
the name, which has escaped me) who effected his release, educated
1388
him for some time with the attention of a father, and subsequently
1389
sent, or accompanied him, to America. There the young king, without
1390
a sceptre, had room to indulge his wandering disposition; he was
1391
half famished in the forests; became at length a soldier, and
1392
resided some time, in good credit, at the court of the Brazils.
1393
There, too, he was pursued and persecuted, till compelled to make
1394
his escape. He returned to Europe towards the close of Napoleon's
1395
career, was kept a close prisoner at Naples by Murat; and, at last,
1396
when he was liberated, and in full preparation to reclaim the throne
1397
of France, he was seized with that unlucky illness at Bologna,
1398
during which Louis XVIII. was permitted to assume his nephew's
1399
crown.
1400
1401
1402
1403
CHAPTER XX.
1404
1405
1406
1407
All this he related with an air of remarkable frankness and truth.
1408
Although not justified in believing him, I nevertheless was
1409
astonished at his knowledge of the most minute facts connected with
1410
the revolution. He spoke with much natural fluency, and his
1411
conversation abounded with a variety of curious anecdotes. There
1412
was something also of the soldier in his expression, without showing
1413
any want of that sort of elegance resulting from an intercourse with
1414
the best society.
1415
1416
"Will it be permitted me," I inquired, "to converse with you on
1417
equal terms, without making use of any titles?"
1418
1419
"That is what I myself wish you to do," was the reply. "I have at
1420
least reaped one advantage from adversity; I have learnt to smile at
1421
all these vanities. I assure you that I value myself more upon
1422
being a man, than having been born a prince."
1423
1424
We were in the habit of conversing together both night and morning,
1425
for a considerable time; and, in spite of what I considered the
1426
comic part of his character, he appeared to be of a good
1427
disposition, frank, affable, and interested in the virtue and
1428
happiness of mankind. More than once I was on the point of saying,
1429
"Pardon me; I wish I could believe you were Louis XVII., but I
1430
frankly confess I cannot prevail on myself to believe it; be equally
1431
sincere, I entreat you, and renounce this singular fiction of
1432
yours." I had even prepared to introduce the subject with an
1433
edifying discourse upon the vanity of all imposture, even of such
1434
untruths as may appear in themselves harmless.
1435
1436
I put off my purpose from day to day; I partly expected that we
1437
should grow still more friendly and confidential, but I had never
1438
the heart really to try the experiment upon his feelings. When I
1439
reflect upon this want of resolution, I sometimes attempt to
1440
reconcile myself to it on the ground of proper urbanity,
1441
unwillingness to give offence, and other reasons of the kind. Still
1442
these excuses are far from satisfying me; I cannot disguise that I
1443
ought not to have permitted my dislike to preaching him a sermon to
1444
stand in the way of speaking my real sentiments. To affect to give
1445
credit to imposture of any kind is miserable weakness, such as I
1446
think I should not, even in similar circumstances, exhibit again.
1447
At the same time, it must be confessed that, preface it as you will,
1448
it is a harsh thing to say to any one, "I don't believe you!" He
1449
will naturally resent it; it would deprive us of his friendship or
1450
regard: nay it would, perhaps, make him hate us. Yet it is better
1451
to run every risk than to sanction an untruth. Possibly, the man
1452
capable of it, upon finding that his imposture is known, will
1453
himself admire our sincerity, and afterwards be induced to reflect
1454
in a manner that may produce the best results.
1455
1456
The under-jailers were unanimously of opinion that he was really
1457
Louis XVII., and having already seen so many strange changes of
1458
fortune, they were not without hopes that he would some day ascend
1459
the throne of France, and remember the good treatment and attentions
1460
he had met with. With the exception of assisting in his escape,
1461
they made it their object to comply with all his wishes. It was by
1462
such means I had the honour of forming an acquaintance with this
1463
grand personage. He was of the middle height, between forty and
1464
forty-five years of age, rather inclined to corpulency, and had
1465
features strikingly like those of the Bourbons. It is very probable
1466
that this accidental resemblance may have led him to assume the
1467
character he did, and play so melancholy a part in it.
1468
1469
1470
1471
CHAPTER XXI.
1472
1473
1474
1475
There is one other instance of unworthy deference to private
1476
opinion, of which I must accuse myself. My neighbour was not an
1477
Atheist, he rather liked to converse on religious topics, as if he
1478
justly appreciated the importance of the subject, and was no
1479
stranger to its discussion. Still, he indulged a number of
1480
unreasonable prejudices against Christianity, which he regarded less
1481
in its real nature than its abuses. The superficial philosophy
1482
which preceded the French revolution had dazzled him. He had formed
1483
an idea that religious worship might be offered up with greater
1484
purity than as it had been dictated by the religion of the
1485
Evangelists. Without any intimate acquaintance with the writings of
1486
Condillac and Tracy, he venerated them as the most profound
1487
thinkers, and really thought that the last had carried the branch of
1488
metaphysics to the highest degree of perfection.
1489
1490
I may fairly say that MY philosophical studies had been better
1491
directed; I was aware of the weakness of the experimental doctrine,
1492
and I knew the gross and shameless errors in point of criticism,
1493
which influenced the age of Voltaire in libelling Christianity. I
1494
had also read Guenee, and other able exposers of such false
1495
criticism. I felt a conviction that, by no logical reasoning, could
1496
the being of a God be granted, and the Bible rejected, and I
1497
conceived it a vulgar degradation to fall in with the stream of
1498
antichristian opinions, and to want elevation of intellect to
1499
apprehend how the doctrine of Catholicism in its true character, is
1500
religiously simple and ennobling. Yet I had the meanness to bow to
1501
human opinion out of deference and respect. The wit and sarcasms of
1502
my neighbour seemed to confound me, while I could not disguise from
1503
myself that they were idle and empty as the air. I dissimulated, I
1504
hesitated to announce my own belief, reflecting how far it were
1505
seasonable thus to contradict my companion, and persuading myself
1506
that it would be useless, and that I was perfectly justified in
1507
remaining silent. What vile pusillanimity! why thus respect the
1508
presumptuous power of popular errors and opinions, resting upon no
1509
foundation. True it is that an ill-timed zeal is always indiscreet,
1510
and calculated to irritate rather than convert; but to avow with
1511
frankness and modesty what we regard as an important truth, to do it
1512
even when we have reason to conclude it will not be palatable, and
1513
to meet willingly any ridicule or sarcasm which may be launched
1514
against it; this I maintain to be an actual duty. A noble avowal of
1515
this kind, moreover, may always be made, without pretending to
1516
assume, uncalled for, anything of the missionary character.
1517
1518
It is, I repeat, a duty, not to keep back an important truth at any
1519
period; for though there may be little hope of it being immediately
1520
acknowledged; it may tend to prepare the minds of others, and in due
1521
time, doubtless, produce a better and more impartial judgment, and a
1522
consequent triumph of truth.
1523
1524
1525
1526
CHAPTER XXII.
1527
1528
1529
1530
I continued in the same apartment during a month and some days. On
1531
the night of February the 18th, 1821, I was roused from sleep by a
1532
loud noise of chains and keys; several men entered with a lantern,
1533
and the first idea that struck me was, that they were come to cut my
1534
throat. While gazing at them in strange perplexity, one of the
1535
figures advanced towards me with a polite air; it was Count B- , {8}
1536
who requested I would dress myself as speedily as possible to set
1537
out.
1538
1539
I was surprised at this announcement, and even indulged a hope that
1540
they were sent to conduct me to the confines of Piedmont. Was it
1541
likely the storm which hung over me would thus early be dispersed?
1542
should I again enjoy that liberty so dearly prized, be restored to
1543
my beloved parents, and see my brothers and sisters?
1544
1545
I was allowed short time to indulge these flattering hopes. The
1546
moment I had thrown on my clothes, I followed my conductors without
1547
having an opportunity of bidding farewell to my royal neighbour.
1548
Yet I thought I heard him call my name, and regretted it was out of
1549
my power to stop and reply. "Where are we going?" I inquired of the
1550
Count, as we got into a coach, attended by an officer of the guard.
1551
"I cannot inform you till we shall be a mile on the other side the
1552
city of Milan." I was aware the coach was not going in the
1553
direction of the Vercelline gate; and my hopes suddenly vanished. I
1554
was silent; it was a beautiful moonlight night; I beheld the same
1555
well-known paths I had traversed for pleasure so many years before.
1556
The houses, the churches, and every object renewed a thousand
1557
pleasing recollections. I saw the Corsia of Porta Orientale, I saw
1558
the public gardens, where I had so often rambled with Foscolo, {9}
1559
Monti, {10} Lodovico di Breme, {11} Pietro Borsieri, {12} Count
1560
Porro, and his sons, with many other delightful companions,
1561
conversing in all the glow of life and hope. How I felt my
1562
friendship for these noble men revive with double force when I
1563
thought of having parted from them for the last time, disappearing
1564
as they had done, one by one, so rapidly from my view. When we had
1565
gone a little way beyond the gate, I pulled my hat over my eyes, and
1566
indulged these sad retrospections unobserved.
1567
1568
After having gone about a mile, I addressed myself to Count B-. "I
1569
presume we are on the road to Verona." "Yes, further," was the
1570
reply; "we are for Venice, where it is my duty to hand you over to a
1571
special commission there appointed."
1572
1573
We travelled post, stopped nowhere, and on the 20th of February
1574
arrived at my destination. The September of the year preceding,
1575
just one month previous to my arrest, I had been at Venice, and had
1576
met a large and delightful party at dinner, in the Hotel della Luna.
1577
Strangely enough, I was now conducted by the Count and the officer
1578
to the very inn where we had spent that evening in social mirth.
1579
1580
One of the waiters started on seeing me, perceiving that, though my
1581
conductors had assumed the dress of domestics, I was no other than a
1582
prisoner in their hands. I was gratified at this recognition, being
1583
persuaded that the man would mention my arrival there to more than
1584
one.
1585
1586
We dined, and I was then conducted to the palace of the Doge, where
1587
the tribunals are now held. I passed under the well-known porticoes
1588
of the Procuratie, and by the Florian Hotel, where I had enjoyed so
1589
many pleasant evenings the last autumn; but I did not happen to meet
1590
a single acquaintance. We went across the piazzetta, and there it
1591
struck me that the September before, I had met a poor mendicant, who
1592
addressed me in these singular words:-
1593
1594
"I see, sir, you are a stranger, but I cannot make out why you, sir,
1595
and all other strangers, should so much admire this place. To me it
1596
is a place of misfortune, and I never pass it when I can avoid it."
1597
1598
"What, did you here meet with some disaster?"
1599
1600
"I did, sir; a horrible one, sir; and not only I. God protect you
1601
from it, God protect you!" And he took himself off in haste.
1602
1603
At this moment it was impossible for me to forget the words of the
1604
poor beggarman. He was present there, too, the next year, when I
1605
ascended the scaffold, whence I heard read to me the sentence of
1606
death, and that it had been commuted for fifteen years hard
1607
imprisonment. Assuredly, if I had been inclined ever so little to
1608
superstition, I should have thought much of the mendicant,
1609
predicting to me with so much energy, as he did, and insisting that
1610
this was a place of misfortune. As it is, I have merely noted it
1611
down for a curious incident. We ascended the palace; Count B- spoke
1612
to the judges, then, handing me over to the jailer, after embracing
1613
me with much emotion, he bade me farewell.
1614
1615
1616
1617
CHAPTER XXIII.
1618
1619
1620
1621
I followed the jailer in silence. After turning through a number of
1622
passages, and several large rooms, we arrived at a small staircase,
1623
which brought us under the Piombi, those notorious state prisons,
1624
dating from the time of the Venetian republic.
1625
1626
There the jailer first registered my name, and then locked me up in
1627
the room appointed for me. The chambers called I Piombi consist of
1628
the upper portion of the Doge's palace, and are covered throughout
1629
with lead.
1630
1631
My room had a large window with enormous bars, and commanded a view
1632
of the roof (also of lead), and the church, of St. Mark. Beyond the
1633
church I could discern the end of the Piazza in the distance, with
1634
an immense number of cupolas and belfries on all sides. St. Mark's
1635
gigantic Campanile was separated from me only by the length of the
1636
church, and I could hear persons speaking from the top of it when
1637
they talked at all loud. To the left of the church was to be seen a
1638
portion of the grand court of the palace, and one of the chief
1639
entrances. There is a public well in that part of the court, and
1640
people were continually in the habit of going thither to draw water.
1641
From the lofty site of my prison they appeared to me about the size
1642
of little children, and I could not at all hear their conversation,
1643
except when they called out very loud. Indeed, I found myself much
1644
more solitary than I had been in the Milanese prisons.
1645
1646
During several days the anxiety I suffered from the criminal trial
1647
appointed by the special commission, made me rather melancholy, and
1648
it was increased, doubtless, by that painful feeling of deeper
1649
solitude.
1650
1651
I was here, moreover, further removed from my family, of whom I
1652
heard no more. The new faces that appeared wore a gloom at once
1653
strange and appalling. Report had greatly exaggerated the struggle
1654
of the Milanese and the rest of Italy to recover their independence;
1655
it was doubted if I were not one of the most desperate promoters of
1656
that mad enterprise. I found that my name, as a writer, was not
1657
wholly unknown to my jailer, to his wife, and even his daughter,
1658
besides two sons, and the under-jailers, all of whom, by their
1659
manner, seemed to have an idea that a writer of tragedies was little
1660
better than a kind of magician. They looked grave and distant, yet
1661
as if eager to learn more of me, had they dared to waive the
1662
ceremony of their iron office.
1663
1664
In a few days I grew accustomed to their looks, or rather, I think,
1665
they found I was not so great a necromancer as to escape through the
1666
lead roofs, and, consequently, assumed a more conciliating
1667
demeanour. The wife had most of the character that marks the true
1668
jailer; she was dry and hard, all bone, without a particle of heart,
1669
about forty, and incapable of feeling, except it were a savage sort
1670
of instinct for her offspring. She used to bring me my coffee,
1671
morning and afternoon, and my water at dinner. She was generally
1672
accompanied by her daughter, a girl of about fifteen, not very
1673
pretty, but with mild, compassionating looks, and her two sons, from
1674
ten to thirteen years of age. They always went back with their
1675
mother, but there was a gentle look and a smile of love for me upon
1676
their young faces as she closed the door, my only company when they
1677
were gone. The jailer never came near me, except to conduct me
1678
before the special commission, that terrible ordeal for what are
1679
termed crimes of state.
1680
1681
The under-jailers, occupied with the prisons of the police, situated
1682
on a lower floor, where there were numbers of robbers, seldom came
1683
near me. One of these assistants was an old man, more than seventy,
1684
but still able to discharge his laborious duties, and to run up and
1685
down the steps to the different prisons; another was a young man
1686
about twenty-five, more bent upon giving an account of his love
1687
affairs than eager to devote himself to his office.
1688
1689
1690
1691
CHAPTER XXIV.
1692
1693
1694
1695
I had now to confront the terrors of a state trial. What was my
1696
dread of implicating others by my answers! What difficulty to
1697
contend against so many strange accusations, so many suspicions of
1698
all kinds! How impossible, almost, not to become implicated by
1699
these incessant examinations, by daily new arrests, and the
1700
imprudence of other parties, perhaps not known to you, yet belonging
1701
to the same movement! I have decided not to speak on politics; and
1702
I must suppress every detail connected with the state trials. I
1703
shall merely observe that, after being subjected for successive
1704
hours to the harassing process, I retired in a frame of mind so
1705
excited, and so enraged, that I should assuredly have taken my own
1706
life, had not the voice of religion, and the recollection of my
1707
parents restrained my hand. I lost the tranquillity of mind I had
1708
acquired at Milan; during many days, I despaired of regaining it,
1709
and I cannot even allude to this interval without feelings of
1710
horror. It was vain to attempt it, I could not pray; I questioned
1711
the justice of God; I cursed mankind, and all the world, revolving
1712
in my mind all the possible sophisms and satires I could think of,
1713
respecting the hollowness and vanity of virtue. The disappointed
1714
and the exasperated are always ingenious in finding accusations
1715
against their fellow-creatures, and even the Creator himself. Anger
1716
is of a more universal and injurious tendency than is generally
1717
supposed. As we cannot rage and storm from morning till night, and
1718
as the most ferocious animal has necessarily its intervals of
1719
repose, these intervals in man are greatly influenced by the immoral
1720
character of the conduct which may have preceded them. He appears
1721
to be at peace, indeed, but it is an irreligious, malignant peace; a
1722
savage sardonic smile, destitute of all charity or dignity; a love
1723
of confusion, intoxication, and sarcasm.
1724
1725
In this state I was accustomed to sing--anything but hymns--with a
1726
kind of mad, ferocious joy. I spoke to all who approached my
1727
dungeon, jeering and bitter things; and I tried to look upon the
1728
whole creation through the medium of that commonplace wisdom, the
1729
wisdom of the cynics. This degrading period, on which I hate to
1730
reflect, lasted happily only for six or seven days, during which my
1731
Bible had become covered with dust. One of the jailer's boys,
1732
thinking to please me, as he cast his eye upon it, observed, "Since
1733
you left off reading that great, ugly book, you don't seem half so
1734
melancholy, sir." "Do you think so?" said I. Taking the Bible in
1735
my hands, I wiped off the dust, and opening it hastily, my eyes fell
1736
upon the following words: --"And he said unto his disciples, it must
1737
needs be that offences come; but woe unto him by whom they come; for
1738
better had it been for him that a millstone were hanged about his
1739
neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of
1740
these little ones."
1741
1742
I was affected upon reading this passage, and I felt ashamed when I
1743
thought that this little boy had perceived, from the dust with which
1744
it was covered, that I no longer read my Bible, and had even
1745
supposed that I had acquired a better temper by want of attention to
1746
my religious duties, and become less wretched by forgetting my God.
1747
"You little graceless fellow," I exclaimed, though reproaching him
1748
in a gentle tone, and grieved at having afforded him a subject of
1749
scandal; "this is not a great, ugly book, and for the few days that
1750
I have left off reading it, I find myself much worse. If your
1751
mother would let you stay with me a little while, you would see that
1752
I know how to get rid of my ill-humour. If you knew how hard it was
1753
to be in good humour, when left so long alone, and when you hear me
1754
singing and talking like a madman, you would not call this a great
1755
ugly book."
1756
1757
1758
1759
CHAPTER XXV.
1760
1761
1762
1763
The boy left me, and I felt a sort of pleasure at having taken the
1764
Bible again in my hands, more especially at having owned I had been
1765
worse for having neglected it. It seemed as if I had made atonement
1766
to a generous friend whom I had unjustly offended, but had now
1767
become reconciled to. Yes! I had even forgotten my God! I
1768
exclaimed, and perverted my better nature. Could I have been led to
1769
believe that the vile mockery of the cynic was applicable to one in
1770
my forlorn and desperate situation?
1771
1772
I felt an indescribable emotion on asking myself this question; I
1773
placed the Bible upon a chair, and, falling on my knees, I burst
1774
into tears of remorse: I who ever found it so difficult to shed
1775
even a tear. These tears were far more delightful to me than any
1776
physical enjoyment I had ever felt. I felt I was restored to God, I
1777
loved him, I repented of having outraged religion by degrading
1778
myself; and I made a vow never, never more to forget, to separate
1779
myself from, my God.
1780
1781
How truly a sincere return to faith, and love, and hope, consoles
1782
and elevates the mind. I read and continued to weep for upwards of
1783
an hour. I rose with renewed confidence that God had not abandoned
1784
me, but had forgiven my every fault and folly. It was then that my
1785
misfortunes, the horrors of my continued examinations, and the
1786
probable death which awaited me, appeared of little account. I
1787
rejoiced in suffering, since I was thus afforded an occasion to
1788
perform some duty, and that, by submitting with a resigned mind, I
1789
was obeying my Divine Master. I was enabled, thanks be to Heaven,
1790
to read my Bible. I no longer estimated it by the wretched,
1791
critical subterfuges of a Voltaire, heaping ridicule upon mere
1792
expressions, in themselves neither false nor ridiculous, except to
1793
gross ignorance or malice, which cannot penetrate their meaning. I
1794
became clearly convinced how indisputably it was the code of
1795
sanctity, and hence of truth itself; how really unphilosophical it
1796
was to take offence at a few little imperfections of style, not less
1797
absurd than the vanity of one who despises everything that wears not
1798
the gloss of elegant forms; what still greater absurdity to imagine
1799
that such a collection of books, so long held in religious
1800
veneration, should not possess an authentic origin, boasting, as
1801
they do, such a vast superiority over the Koran, and the old
1802
theology of the Indies.
1803
1804
Many, doubtless, abused its excellence, many wished to turn it into
1805
a code of injustice, and a sanction of all their bad passions. But
1806
the triumphant answer to these is, that every thing is liable to
1807
abuse; and when did the abuse of the most precious and best of
1808
things lead us to the conclusion that they were in their own nature
1809
bad? Our Saviour himself declared it; the whole law and the
1810
Prophets, the entire body of these sacred books, all inculcate the
1811
same precept to love God and mankind. And must not such writings
1812
embrace the truth--truth adapted to all times and ages? must they
1813
not ever constitute the living word of the Holy Spirit?
1814
1815
Whilst I made these reflections, I renewed my intention of
1816
identifying with religion all my thoughts concerning human affairs,
1817
all my opinions upon the progress of civilisation, my philanthropy,
1818
love of my country, in short, all the passions of my mind.
1819
1820
The few days in which I remained subjected to the cynic doctrine,
1821
did me a deal of harm. I long felt its effects, and had great
1822
difficulty to remove them. Whenever man yields in the least to the
1823
temptation of undignifying his intellect, to view the works of God
1824
through the infernal medium of scorn, to abandon the beneficent
1825
exercise of prayer, the injury which he inflicts upon his natural
1826
reason prepares him to fall again with but little struggle. For a
1827
period of several weeks I was almost daily assaulted with strong,
1828
bitter tendencies to doubt and disbelief; and it called for the
1829
whole power of my mind to free myself from their grasp.
1830
1831
1832
1833
CHAPTER XXVI.
1834
1835
1836
1837
When these mental struggles had ceased, and I had again become
1838
habituated to reverence the Deity in all my thoughts and feelings, I
1839
for some time enjoyed the most unbroken serenity and peace. The
1840
examinations to which I was every two or three days subjected by the
1841
special commission, however tormenting, produced no lasting anxiety,
1842
as before. I succeeded in this arduous position, in discharging all
1843
which integrity and friendship required of me, and left the rest to
1844
the will of God. I now, too, resumed my utmost efforts to guard
1845
against the effects of any sudden surprise, every emotion and
1846
passion, and every imaginable misfortune; a kind of preparation for
1847
future trials of the greatest utility.
1848
1849
My solitude, meantime, grew more oppressive. Two sons of the
1850
jailer, whom I had been in the habit of seeing at brief intervals,
1851
were sent to school, and I saw them no more. The mother and the
1852
sister, who had been accustomed, along with them, to speak to me,
1853
never came near me, except to bring my coffee. About the mother I
1854
cared very little; but the daughter, though rather plain, had
1855
something so pleasing and gentle, both in her words and looks, that
1856
I greatly felt the loss of them. Whenever she brought the coffee,
1857
and said, "It was I who made it," I always thought it excellent:
1858
but when she observed, "This is my mother's making," it lost all its
1859
relish.
1860
1861
Being almost deprived of human society, I one day made acquaintance
1862
with some ants upon my window; I fed them; they went away, and ere
1863
long the placed was thronged with these little insects, as if come
1864
by invitation. A spider, too, had weaved a noble edifice upon my
1865
walls, and I often gave him a feast of gnats or flies, which were
1866
extremely annoying to me, and which he liked much better than I did.
1867
I got quite accustomed to the sight of him; he would run over my
1868
bed, and come and take the precious morsels out of my hand. Would
1869
to heaven these had been the only insects which visited my abode.
1870
It was still summer, and the gnats had begun to multiply to a
1871
prodigious and alarming extent. The previous winter had been
1872
remarkably mild, and after the prevalence of the March winds
1873
followed extreme heat. It is impossible to convey an idea of the
1874
insufferable oppression of the air in the place I occupied. Opposed
1875
directly to a noontide sun, under a leaden roof, and with a window
1876
looking on the roof of St. Mark, casting a tremendous reflection of
1877
the heat, I was nearly suffocated. I had never conceived an idea of
1878
a punishment so intolerable: add to which the clouds of gnats,
1879
which, spite of my utmost efforts, covered every article of
1880
furniture in the room, till even the walls and ceiling seemed alive
1881
with them; and I had some apprehension of being devoured alive.
1882
Their bites, moreover, were extremely painful, and when thus
1883
punctured from morning till night, only to undergo the same
1884
operation from day to day, and engaged the whole time in killing and
1885
slaying, some idea may be formed of the state both of my body and my
1886
mind.
1887
1888
I felt the full force of such a scourge, yet was unable to obtain a
1889
change of dungeon, till at length I was tempted to rid myself of my
1890
life, and had strong fears of running distracted. But, thanks be to
1891
God, these thoughts were not of long duration, and religion
1892
continued to sustain me. It taught me that man was born to suffer,
1893
and to suffer with courage: it taught me to experience a sort of
1894
pleasure in my troubles, to resist and to vanquish in the battle
1895
appointed me by Heaven. The more unhappy, I said to myself, my life
1896
may become, the less will I yield to my fate, even though I should
1897
be condemned in the morning of my life to the scaffold. Perhaps,
1898
without these preliminary and chastening trials, I might have met
1899
death in an unworthy manner. Do I know, moreover, that I possess
1900
those virtues and qualities which deserve prosperity; where and what
1901
are they? Then, seriously examining into my past conduct, I found
1902
too little good on which to pride myself; the chief part was a
1903
tissue of vanity, idolatry, and the mere exterior of virtue.
1904
Unworthy, therefore, as I am, let me suffer! If it be intended that
1905
men and gnats should destroy me, unjustly or otherwise, acknowledge
1906
in them the instruments of a divine justice, and be silent.
1907
1908
1909
1910
CHAPTER XXVII.
1911
1912
1913
1914
Does man stand in need of compulsion before he can be brought to
1915
humble himself with sincerity? to look upon himself as a sinner? Is
1916
it not too true that we in general dissipate our youth in vanity,
1917
and, instead of employing all our faculties in the acquisition of
1918
what is good, make them the instruments of our degradation? There
1919
are, doubtless, exceptions, but I confess they cannot apply to a
1920
wretched individual like myself. There is no merit in thus being
1921
dissatisfied with myself; when we see a lamp which emits more smoke
1922
than flame, it requires no great sincerity to say that it does not
1923
burn as it ought to do.
1924
1925
Yes, without any degradation, without any scruples of hypocrisy, and
1926
viewing myself with perfect tranquillity of mind, I perceived that I
1927
had merited the chastisement of my God. An internal monitor told me
1928
that such chastisements were, for one fault or other, amply merited;
1929
they assisted in winning me back to Him who is perfect, and whom
1930
every human being, as far as their limited powers will admit, are
1931
bound to imitate. By what right, while constrained to condemn
1932
myself for innumerable offences and forgetfulness towards God, could
1933
I complain, because some men appeared to me despicable, and others
1934
wicked? What if I were deprived of all worldly advantages, and was
1935
doomed to linger in prison, or to die a violent death? I sought to
1936
impress upon my mind reflections like these, at once just and
1937
applicable; and this done, I found it was necessary to be
1938
consistent, and that it could be effected in no other manner than by
1939
sanctifying the upright judgments of the Almighty, by loving them,
1940
and eradicating every wish at all opposed to them. The better to
1941
persevere in my intention, I determined, in future, carefully to
1942
revolve in my mind all my opinions, by committing them to writing.
1943
The difficulty was that the Commission, while permitting me to have
1944
the use of ink and paper, counted out the leaves, with an express
1945
prohibition that I should not destroy a single one, and reserving
1946
the power of examining in what manner I had employed them. To
1947
supply the want of paper, I had recourse to the simple stratagem of
1948
smoothing with a piece of glass a rude table which I had, and upon
1949
this I daily wrote my long meditations respecting the duties of
1950
mankind, and especially of those which applied to myself. It is no
1951
exaggeration to say that the hours so employed were sometimes
1952
delightful to me, notwithstanding the difficulty of breathing I
1953
experienced from the excessive heat, to say nothing of the bitterly
1954
painful wounds, small though they were, of those poisonous gnats.
1955
To defend myself from the countless numbers of these tormentors, I
1956
was compelled, in the midst of suffocation, to wrap my head and my
1957
legs in thick cloth, and not only write with gloves on, but to
1958
bandage my wrist to prevent the intruders creeping up my sleeves.
1959
1960
Meditations like mine assumed somewhat of a biographical character.
1961
I made out an account of all the good and the evil which had grown
1962
up with me from my earliest youth, discussing them within myself,
1963
attempting to resolve every doubt, and arranging, to the best of my
1964
power, the various kinds of knowledge I had acquired, and my ideas
1965
upon every subject. When the whole surface of the table was covered
1966
with my lucubrations, I perused and re-perused them, meditated on
1967
what I had already meditated, and, at length, resolved (however
1968
unwillingly) to scratch out all I had done with the glass, in order
1969
to have a clean superficies upon which to recommence my operations.
1970
1971
From that time I continued the narrative of my experience of good
1972
and evil, always relieved by digressions of every kind, by some
1973
analysis of this or that point, whether in metaphysics, morals,
1974
politics, or religion; and when the whole was complete, I again
1975
began to read, and re-read, and lastly, to scratch out. Being
1976
anxious to avoid every chance of interruption, or of impediment, to
1977
my repeating with the greatest possible freedom the facts I had
1978
recorded, and my opinions upon them, I took care to transpose and
1979
abbreviate the words in such a manner as to run no risk from the
1980
most inquisitorial visit. No search, however, was made, and no one
1981
was aware that I was spending my miserable prison-hours to so good a
1982
purpose. Whenever I heard the jailer or other person open the door
1983
I covered my little table with a cloth, and placed upon it the ink-
1984
stand, with the LAWFUL quantity of state paper by its side.
1985
1986
1987
1988
CHAPTER XXVIII.
1989
1990
1991
1992
Still I did not wholly neglect the paper put into my hands, and
1993
sometimes even devoted an entire day or night to writing. But here
1994
I only treated of literary matters. I composed at that time the
1995
Ester d'Engaddi, the Iginia d'Asti, and the Cantichi, entitled,
1996
Tanereda Rosilde, Eligi and Valafrido, Adello, besides several
1997
sketches of tragedies, and other productions, in the list of which
1998
was a poem upon the Lombard League, and another upon Christopher
1999
Columbus.
2000
2001
As it was not always so easy an affair to get a reinforcement of
2002
paper, I was in the habit of committing my rough draughts to my
2003
table, or the wrapping-paper in which I received fruit and other
2004
articles. At times I would give away my dinner to the under-jailer,
2005
telling him that I had no appetite, and then requesting from him the
2006
favour of a sheet of paper. This was, however, only in certain
2007
exigencies, when my little table was full of writing, and I had not
2008
yet determined on clearing it away. I was often very hungry, and
2009
though the jailer had money of mine in his possession, I did not ask
2010
him to bring me anything to eat, partly lest he should suspect I had
2011
given away my dinner, and partly that the under-jailer might not
2012
find out that I had said the thing which was not when I assured him
2013
of my loss of appetite. In the evening I regaled myself with some
2014
strong coffee, and I entreated that it might be made by the little
2015
sioa, Zanze. {13} This was the jailer's daughter, who, if she could
2016
escape the lynx-eye of her sour mamma, was good enough to make it
2017
exceedingly good; so good, indeed, that, what with the emptiness of
2018
my stomach, it produced a kind of convulsion, which kept me awake
2019
the whole of the night.
2020
2021
In this state of gentle inebriation, I felt my intellectual
2022
faculties strangely invigorated; wrote poetry, philosophized, and
2023
prayed till morning with feelings of real pleasure. I then became
2024
completely exhausted, threw myself upon my bed, and, spite of the
2025
gnats that were continually sucking my blood, I slept an hour or two
2026
in profound rest.
2027
2028
I can hardly describe the peculiar and pleasing exaltation of mind
2029
which continued for nights together, and I left no means untried to
2030
secure the same means of continuing it. With this view I still
2031
refused to touch a mouthful of dinner, even when I was in no want of
2032
paper, merely in order to obtain my magic beverage for the evening.
2033
2034
How fortunate I thought myself when I succeeded; not unfrequently
2035
the coffee was not made by the gentle Angiola; and it was always
2036
vile stuff from her mother's hands. In this last case, I was sadly
2037
put out of humour, for instead of the electrical effect on my
2038
nerves, it made me wretched, weak, and hungry; I threw myself down
2039
to sleep, but was unable to close an eye. Upon these occasions I
2040
complained bitterly to Angiola, the jailer's daughter, and one day,
2041
as if she had been in fault, I scolded her so sharply that the poor
2042
girl began to weep, sobbing out, "Indeed, sir, I never deceived
2043
anybody, and yet everybody calls me a deceitful little mix."
2044
2045
"Everybody! Oh then, I see I am not the only one driven to
2046
distraction by your vile slops."
2047
2048
"I do not mean to say that, sir. Ah, if you only knew; if I dared
2049
to tell you all that my poor, wretched heart--"
2050
2051
"Well, don't cry so! What is all this ado? I beg your pardon, you
2052
see, if I scolded you. Indeed, I believe you would not, you could
2053
not, make me such vile stuff as this."
2054
2055
"Dear me! I am not crying about that, sir."
2056
2057
"You are not!" and I felt my self-love not a little mortified,
2058
though I forced a smile. "Are you crying, then, because I scolded
2059
you, and yet not about the coffee?"
2060
2061
"Yes, indeed, sir?"
2062
2063
"Ah! then who called you a little deceitful one before?"
2064
2065
"HE did, sir."
2066
2067
"HE did; and who is HE?"
2068
2069
"My lover, sir;" and she hid her face in her little hands.
2070
2071
Afterwards she ingenuously intrusted to my keeping, and I could not
2072
well betray her, a little serio-comic sort of pastoral romance,
2073
which really interested me.
2074
2075
2076
2077
CHAPTER XXIX.
2078
2079
2080
2081
From that day forth, I know not why, I became the adviser and
2082
confidant of this young girl, who returned and conversed with me for
2083
hours. She at first said, "You are so good, sir, that I feel just
2084
the same when I am here as if I were your own daughter."
2085
2086
"That is a very poor compliment," replied I, dropping her hand; "I
2087
am hardly yet thirty-two, and you look upon me as if I were an old
2088
father."
2089
2090
"No, no, not so; I mean as a brother, to be sure;" and she insisted
2091
upon taking hold of my hand with an air of the most innocent
2092
confidence and affection.
2093
2094
I am glad, thought I to myself, that you are no beauty; else, alas,
2095
this innocent sort of fooling might chance to disconcert me; at
2096
other times I thought it is lucky, too, she is so young, there could
2097
never be any danger of becoming attached to girls of her years. At
2098
other times, however, I felt a little uneasy, thinking I was
2099
mistaken in having pronounced her rather plain, whereas her whole
2100
shape and features were by no means wanting in proportion or
2101
expression. If she were not quite so pale, I said, and her face
2102
free from those marks, she might really pass for a beauty. It is
2103
impossible, in fact, not to find some charm in the presence and in
2104
the looks and voice of a young girl full of vivacity and affection.
2105
I had taken not the least pains to acquire her good-will; yet was I
2106
as dear to either as a father or a brother, whichever title I
2107
preferred. And why? Only because she had read Francesca da Rimini
2108
and Eufemio, and my poems, she said, had made her weep so often;
2109
then, besides, I was a solitary prisoner, WITHOUT HAVING, as she
2110
observed, either robbed or murdered anybody.
2111
2112
In short, when I had become attached to poor Maddalene, without once
2113
seeing her, how was it likely that I could remain indifferent to the
2114
sisterly assiduity and attentions, to the thousand pleasing little
2115
compliments, and to the most delicious cups of coffee of this young
2116
Venice girl, my gentle little jailer? {14} I should be trying to
2117
impose on myself, were I to attribute to my own prudence the fact of
2118
my not having fallen in love with Angiola. I did not do so, simply
2119
from the circumstance of her having already a lover of her own
2120
choosing, to whom she was desperately, unalterably attached. Heaven
2121
help me! if it had not been thus I should have found myself in a
2122
very CRITICAL position, indeed, for an author, with so little to
2123
keep alive his attention. The sentiment I felt for her was not,
2124
then, what is called love. I wished to see her happy, and that she
2125
might be united to the lover of her choice; I was not jealous, nor
2126
had I the remotest idea she could ever select me as the object of
2127
her regard. Still, when I heard my prison-door open, my heart began
2128
to beat in the hope it was my Angiola; and if she appeared not, I
2129
experienced a peculiar kind of vexation; when she really came my
2130
heart throbbed yet more violently, from a feeling of pure joy. Her
2131
parents, who had begun to entertain a good opinion of me, and were
2132
aware of her passionate regard for another, offered no opposition to
2133
the visits she thus made me, permitting her almost invariably to
2134
bring me my coffee in a morning, and not unfrequently in the
2135
evening.
2136
2137
There was altogether a simplicity and an affectionateness in her
2138
every word, look, and gesture, which were really captivating. She
2139
would say, "I am excessively attached to another, and yet I take
2140
such delight in being near you! When I am not in HIS company, I
2141
like being nowhere so well as here." (Here was another compliment.)
2142
2143
"And don't you know why?" inquired I.
2144
2145
"I do not."
2146
2147
"I will tell you, then. It is because I permit you to talk about
2148
your lover."
2149
2150
"That is a good guess; yet still I think it is a good deal because I
2151
esteem you so very much!"
2152
2153
Poor girl! along with this pretty frankness she had that blessed sin
2154
of taking me always by the hand, and pressing it with all her heart,
2155
not perceiving that she at once pleased and disconcerted me by her
2156
affectionate manner. Thanks be to Heaven, that I can always recall
2157
this excellent little girl to mind without the least tinge of
2158
remorse.
2159
2160
2161
2162
CHAPTER XXX.
2163
2164
2165
2166
The following portion of my narrative would assuredly have been more
2167
interesting had the gentle Angiola fallen in love with me, or if I
2168
had at least run half mad to enliven my solitude. There was,
2169
however, another sentiment, that of simple benevolence, no less dear
2170
to me, which united our hearts in one. And if, at any moment, I
2171
felt there was the least risk of its changing its nature in my vain,
2172
weak heart, it produced only sincere regret.
2173
2174
Once, certainly, having my doubts that this would happen, and
2175
finding her, to my sorrow, a hundred times more beautiful than I had
2176
at first imagined; feeling too so very melancholy when she was
2177
absent, so joyous when near, I took upon myself to play the
2178
UNAMIABLE, in the idea that this would remove all danger by making
2179
her leave off the same affectionate and familiar manner. This
2180
innocent stratagem was tried in vain; the poor girl was so patient,
2181
so full of compassion for me. She would look at me in silence, with
2182
her elbow resting upon the window, and say, after a long pause, "I
2183
see, sir, you are tired of my company, yet _I_ would stay here the
2184
whole day if I could, merely to keep the hours from hanging so heavy
2185
upon you. This ill-humour of yours is the natural effect of your
2186
long solitude; if you were able to chat awhile, you would be quite
2187
well again. If you don't like to talk, I will talk for you."
2188
2189
"About your lover, eh?"
2190
2191
"No, no; not always about him; I can talk of many things."
2192
2193
She then began to give me some extracts from the household annals,
2194
dwelling upon the sharp temper of her mother, her good-natured
2195
father, and the monkey-tricks of her little brothers; and she told
2196
all this with a simple grace and innocent frankness not a little
2197
alluring. Yet I was pretty near the truth; for, without being aware
2198
of it, she uniformly concluded with the one favourite theme: her
2199
ill-starred love. Still I went on acting the part of the UNAMIABLE,
2200
in the hope that she would take a spite against me. But whether
2201
from inadvertency or design, she would not take the hint, and I was
2202
at last fairly compelled to give up by sitting down contented to let
2203
her have her way, smiling, sympathising with, and thanking her for
2204
the sweet patience with which she had so long borne with me.
2205
2206
I no longer indulged the ungracious idea of spiting her against me,
2207
and, by degrees, all my other fears were allayed. Assuredly I had
2208
not been smitten; I long examined into the nature of my scruples,
2209
wrote down my reflections upon the subject, and derived no little
2210
advantage from the process.
2211
2212
Man often terrifies himself with mere bugbears of the mind. If we
2213
would learn not to fear them, we have only to examine them a little
2214
more nearly and attentively. What harm, then, if I looked forward
2215
to her visits to me with a tender anxiety, if I appreciated their
2216
sweetness, if it did me good to be compassioned by her, and to
2217
interchange all our thoughts and feelings, unsullied, I will say, as
2218
those of childhood. Even her most affectionate looks, and smiles,
2219
and pressures of the hand, while they agitated me, produced a
2220
feeling of salutary respect mingled with compassion. One evening, I
2221
remember, when suffering under a sad misfortune, the poor girl threw
2222
her arms round my neck, and wept as if her heart would break. She
2223
had not the least idea of impropriety; no daughter could embrace a
2224
father with more perfect innocence and unsuspecting affection. I
2225
could not, however, reflect upon that embrace without feeling
2226
somewhat agitated. It often recurred to my imagination, and I could
2227
then think of no other subject. On another occasion, when she thus
2228
threw herself upon my confidence, I was really obliged to
2229
disentangle myself from her dear arms, ere I once pressed her to my
2230
bosom, or gave her a single kiss, while I stammered out, "I pray
2231
you, now, sweet Angiola, do not embrace me ever again; it is not
2232
quite proper." She fixed her eyes upon me for a moment, then cast
2233
them down, while a blush suffused her ingenuous countenance; and I
2234
am sure it was the first time that she read in my mind even the
2235
possibility of any weakness of mine in reference to her. Still she
2236
did not cease to continue her visits upon the same friendly footing,
2237
with a little mere reserve and respect, such as I wished it to be;
2238
and I was grateful to her for it.
2239
2240
2241
2242
CHAPTER XXXI.
2243
2244
2245
2246
I am unable to form an estimate of the evils which afflict others;
2247
but, as respects myself, I am bound to confess that, after close
2248
examination, I found that no sufferings had been appointed me,
2249
except to some wise end, and for my own advantage. It was thus even
2250
with the excessive heat which oppressed, and the gnats which
2251
tormented me. Often have I reflected that but for this continual
2252
suffering I might not have successfully resisted the temptation of
2253
falling in love, situated as I was, and with one whose extremely
2254
affectionate and ardent feelings would have made it difficult always
2255
to preserve it within respectful limits. If I had sometimes reason
2256
to tremble, how should I have been enabled to regulate my vain
2257
imagination in an atmosphere somewhat inspiring, and open to the
2258
breathings of joy.
2259
2260
Considering the imprudence of Angiola's parents, who reposed such
2261
confidence in me, the imprudence of the poor girl herself, who had
2262
not an idea of giving rise to any culpable affection on my part, and
2263
considering, too, the little steadfastness of my virtue, there can
2264
be little doubt but the suffocating heat of my great oven, and the
2265
cruel warfare of the gnats, were effectual safeguards to us both.
2266
2267
Such a reflection reconciled me somewhat to these scourges; and I
2268
then asked myself, Would you consent to become free, and to take
2269
possession of some handsome apartment, filled with flowers and fresh
2270
air, on condition of never more seeing this affectionate being? I
2271
will own the truth; I had not courage to reply to this simple
2272
question.
2273
2274
When you really feel interested about any one, it is indescribable
2275
what mere trifles are capable of conferring pleasure. A single
2276
word, a smile, a tear, a Venetian turn of expression, her eagerness
2277
in protecting me from my enemies, the gnats, all inspired me with a
2278
childish delight that lasted the whole day. What most gratified me
2279
was to see that her own sufferings seemed to be relieved by
2280
conversing with me, that my compassion consoled her, that my advice
2281
influenced her, and that her heart was susceptible of the warmest
2282
devotion when treating of virtue and its great Author.
2283
2284
When we had sometimes discussed the subject of religion, she would
2285
observe, "I find that I can now pray with more willingness and more
2286
faith than I did." At other times, suddenly breaking off some
2287
frivolous topic, she took the Bible, opened it, pressed her lips to
2288
it, and then begged of me to translate some passages, and give my
2289
comments. She added, "I could wish that every time you happen to
2290
recur to this passage you should call to mind that I have kissed and
2291
kissed it again."
2292
2293
It was not always, indeed, that her kisses fell so appropriately,
2294
more especially if she happened to open at the spiritual songs.
2295
Then, in order to spare her blushes, I took advantage of her want of
2296
acquaintance with the Latin, and gave a turn to the expressions
2297
which, without detracting from the sacredness of the Bible, might
2298
serve to respect her innocence. On such occasions I never once
2299
permitted myself to smile; at the same time I was not a little
2300
perplexed, when, not rightly comprehending my new version, she
2301
entreated of me to translate the whole, word for word, and would by
2302
no means let me shy the question by turning her attention to
2303
something else.
2304
2305
2306
2307
CHAPTER XXXII.
2308
2309
2310
2311
Nothing is durable here below! Poor Angiola fell sick; and on one
2312
of the first days when she felt indisposed, she came to see me,
2313
complaining bitterly of pains in her head. She wept, too, and would
2314
not explain the cause of her grief. She only murmured something
2315
that looked like reproaches of her lover. "He is a villain!" she
2316
said; "but God forgive him, as I do!"
2317
2318
I left no means untried to obtain her confidence, but it was the
2319
first time I was quite unable to ascertain why she distressed
2320
herself to such an excess. "I will return tomorrow morning," she
2321
said, one evening on parting from me; "I will, indeed." But the
2322
next morning came, and my coffee was brought by her mother; the
2323
next, and the next, by the under-jailers; and Angiola continued
2324
grievously ill. The under-jailers, also, brought me very unpleasant
2325
tidings relating to the love-affair; tidings, in short, which made
2326
me deeply sympathize with her sufferings. A case of seduction!
2327
But, perhaps, it was the tale of calumny. Alas! I but too well
2328
believed it, and I was affected at it more than I can express;
2329
though I still like to flatter myself that it was false. After
2330
upwards of a month's illness, the poor girl was taken into the
2331
country, and I saw her no more.
2332
2333
It is astonishing how deeply I felt this deprivation, and how much
2334
more horrible my solitude now appeared. Still more bitter was the
2335
reflection that she, who had so tenderly fed, and watched, and
2336
visited me in my sad prison, supplying every want and wish within
2337
her power, was herself a prey to sorrow and misfortune. Alas! I
2338
could make her no return; yet, surely she will feel aware how truly
2339
I sympathize with her; that there is no effort I would not make to
2340
afford her comfort and relief, and that I shall never cease to offer
2341
up my prayers for her, and to bless her for her goodness to a
2342
wretched prisoner.
2343
2344
Though her visits had been too brief, they were enough to break upon
2345
the horrid monotony of my solitude. By suggesting and comparing our
2346
ideas, I obtained new views and feelings, exercised some of the best
2347
and sweetest affections, gave a zest to life, and even threw a sort
2348
of lustre round my misfortunes.
2349
2350
Suddenly the vision fled, and my dungeon became to me really like a
2351
living tomb. A strange sadness for many days quite oppressed me. I
2352
could not even write: it was a dark, quiet, nameless feeling, in no
2353
way partaking of the violence and irritation which I had before
2354
experienced. Was it that I had become more inured to adversity,
2355
more philosophical, more of a Christian? Or was it really that the
2356
extremely enervating heat of my dungeon had so prostrated my powers
2357
that I could no longer feel the pangs of excessive grief. Ah, no!
2358
for I can well recollect that I then felt it to my inmost soul; and,
2359
perhaps, more intensely from the want both of will and power to give
2360
vent to it by agitation, maledictions, and cries. The fact is, I
2361
believe, that I had been severely schooled by my past sufferings,
2362
and was resigned to the will of God. I had so often maintained that
2363
it was a mark of cowardice to complain, that, at length, I succeeded
2364
in restraining my passion, when on the point of breaking out, and
2365
felt vexed that I had permitted it to obtain any ascendancy over me.
2366
2367
My mental faculties were strengthened by the habit of writing down
2368
my thoughts; I got rid of all my vanity, and reduced the chief part
2369
of my reasonings to the following conclusions: There is a God:
2370
THEREFORE unerring justice; THEREFORE all that happens is ordained
2371
to the best end; consequently, the sufferings of man on earth are
2372
inflicted for the good of man.
2373
2374
Thus, my acquaintance with Angiola had proved beneficial, by
2375
soothing and conciliating my feelings. Her good opinion of me had
2376
urged me to the fulfilment of many duties, especially of that of
2377
proving one's self superior to the shocks of fortune, and of
2378
suffering in patience. By exerting myself to persevere for about a
2379
month, I was enabled to feel perfectly resigned.
2380
2381
Angiola had beheld me two or three times in a downright passion;
2382
once, as I have stated, on account of her having brought me bad
2383
coffee, and a second time as follows:-
2384
2385
Every two or three weeks the jailer had brought me a letter from
2386
some of my family. It was previously submitted to the Commission,
2387
and most roughly handled, as was too evident by the number of
2388
ERASURES in the blackest ink which appeared throughout. One day,
2389
however, instead of merely striking out a few passages, they drew
2390
the black line over the entire letter, with the exception of the
2391
words, "My DEAREST SILVIO," at the beginning, and the parting
2392
salutation at the close, "ALL UNITE IN KINDEST LOVE TO YOU."
2393
2394
This act threw me into such an uncontrollable fit of passion, that,
2395
in presence of the gentle Angiola, I broke out into violent shouts
2396
of rage, and cursed I know not whom. The poor girl pitied me from
2397
her heart; but, at the same time, reminded me of the strange
2398
inconsistency of my principles. I saw she had reason on her side,
2399
and I ceased from uttering my maledictions.
2400
2401
2402
2403
CHAPTER XXXIII.
2404
2405
2406
2407
One of the under-jailers one day entered my prison with a mysterious
2408
look, and said, "Sometime, I believe, that Siora Zanze (Angiola) . .
2409
. was used to bring you your coffee . . . She stopped a good while
2410
to converse with you, and I was afraid the cunning one would worm
2411
out all your secrets, sir."
2412
2413
"Not one," I replied, in great anger; "or if I had any, I should not
2414
be such a fool as to tell them in that way. Go on."
2415
2416
"Beg pardon, sir; far from me to call you by such a name . . . But I
2417
never trusted to that Siora Zanze. And now, sir, as you have no
2418
longer any one to keep you company . . . I trust I--"
2419
2420
"What, what! explain yourself at once!"
2421
2422
"Swear first that you will not betray me."
2423
2424
"Well, well; I could do that with a safe conscience. I never
2425
betrayed any one."
2426
2427
"Do you say really you will swear?"
2428
2429
"Yes; I swear not to betray you. But what a wretch to doubt it; for
2430
any one capable of betraying you will not scruple to violate an
2431
oath."
2432
2433
He took a letter from his coat-lining, and gave it me with a
2434
trembling hand, beseeching I would destroy it the moment I had read
2435
it.
2436
2437
"Stop," I cried, opening it; "I will read and destroy it while you
2438
are here."
2439
2440
"But, sir, you must answer it, and I cannot stop now. Do it at your
2441
leisure. Only take heed, when you hear any one coming, you will
2442
know if it be I by my singing, pretty loudly, the tune, Sognai mi
2443
gera un gato. You need, then, fear nothing, and may keep the letter
2444
quietly in your pocket. But should you not hear this song, set it
2445
down for a mark that it cannot be me, or that some one is with me.
2446
Then, in a moment, out with it, don't trust to any concealment, in
2447
case of a search; out with it, tear it into a thousand bits, and
2448
throw it through the window."
2449
2450
"Depend upon me; I see you are prudent, I will be so too."
2451
2452
"Yet you called me a stupid wretch."
2453
2454
"You do right to reproach me," I replied, shaking him by the hand,
2455
"and I beg your pardon." He went away, and I began to read
2456
2457
"I am (and here followed the name) one of your admirers: I have all
2458
your Francesca da Rimini by heart. They arrested me for--(and here
2459
he gave the reason with the date)--and I would give, I know not how
2460
many pounds of my blood to have the pleasure of being with you, or
2461
at least in a dungeon near yours, in order that we might converse
2462
together. Since I heard from Tremerello, so we shall call our
2463
confidant, that you, sir, were a prisoner, and the cause of your
2464
arrest, I have longed to tell you how deeply I lament your
2465
misfortune, and that no one can feel greater attachment to you than
2466
myself. Have you any objection to accept the offer I make, namely,
2467
that we should try to lighten the burden of our solitude by writing
2468
to each other. I pledge you my honour, that not a being shall ever
2469
hear of our correspondence from me, and am persuaded that I may
2470
count upon the same secresy on your part, if you adopt my plan.
2471
Meantime, that you may form some idea, I will give you an abstract
2472
from my life."--(It followed.)
2473
2474
2475
2476
CHAPTER XXXIV.
2477
2478
2479
2480
The reader, however deficient in the imaginative organ, may easily
2481
conceive the electric effect of such a letter upon the nerves of a
2482
poor prisoner, not of the most savage disposition, but possessing an
2483
affectionate and gregarious turn of mind. I felt already an
2484
affection for the unknown; I pitied his misfortunes, and was
2485
grateful for the kind expressions he made use of. "Yes," exclaimed
2486
I, "your generous purpose shall be effected. I wish my letters may
2487
afford you consolation equal to that which I shall derive from
2488
yours."
2489
2490
I re-perused his letter with almost boyish delight, and blessed the
2491
writer; there was not an expression which did not exhibit evidence
2492
of a clear and noble mind.
2493
2494
The sun was setting, it was my hour of prayer; I felt the presence
2495
of God; how sincere was my gratitude for his providing me with new
2496
means of exercising the faculties of my mind. How it revived my
2497
recollection of all the invaluable blessings he had bestowed upon
2498
me!
2499
2500
I stood before the window, with my arms between the bars, and my
2501
hands folded; the church of St. Mark lay below me, an immense flock
2502
of pigeons, free as the air, were flying about, were cooing and
2503
billing, or busied in constructing their nests upon the leaden roof;
2504
the heavens in their magnificence were before me; I surveyed all
2505
that part of Venice visible from my prison; a distant murmur of
2506
human voices broke sweetly on my ear. From this vast unhappy
2507
prison-house did I hold communion with Him, whose eyes alone beheld
2508
me; to Him I recommended my father, my mother, and, individually,
2509
all those most dear to me, and it appeared as if I heard Him reply,
2510
"Confide in my goodness," and I exclaimed, "Thy goodness assures
2511
me."
2512
2513
I concluded my prayer with much emotion, greatly comforted, and
2514
little caring for the bites of the gnats, which had been joyfully
2515
feasting upon me. The same evening, my mind, after such exaltation,
2516
beginning to grow calmer, I found the torment from the gnats
2517
becoming insufferable, and while engaged in wrapping up my hands and
2518
face, a vulgar and malignant idea all at once entered my mind, which
2519
horrified me, and which I vainly attempted to banish.
2520
2521
Tremerello had insinuated a vile suspicion respecting Angiola; that,
2522
in short, she was a spy upon my secret opinions! She! that noble-
2523
hearted creature, who knew nothing of politics, and wished to know
2524
nothing of them!
2525
2526
It was impossible for me to suspect her; but have I, said I, the
2527
same certainty respecting Tremerello? Suppose that rogue should be
2528
the bribed instrument of secret informers; suppose the letter had
2529
been fabricated by WHO KNOWS WHOM, to induce me to make important
2530
disclosures to my new friend. Perhaps his pretended prison does not
2531
exist; or if so, he may be a traitor, eager to worm out secrets in
2532
order to make his own terms; perhaps he is a man of honour, and
2533
Tremerello himself the traitor who aims at our destruction in order
2534
to gain an additional salary.
2535
2536
Oh, horrible thought, yet too natural to the unhappy prisoner,
2537
everywhere in fear of enmity and fraud!
2538
2539
Such suspicions tormented and degraded me. I did not entertain them
2540
as regarded Angiola a single moment. Yet, from what Tremerello had
2541
said, a kind of doubt clung to me as to the conduct of those who had
2542
permitted her to come into my apartment. Had they, either from
2543
their own zeal, or by superior authority, given her the office of
2544
spy? in that case, how ill had she discharged such an office!
2545
2546
But what was I to do respecting the letter of the unknown? Should I
2547
adopt the severe, repulsive counsel of fear which we call prudence?
2548
Shall I return the letter to Tremerello, and tell him, I do not wish
2549
to run any risk. Yet suppose there should be no treason; and the
2550
unknown be a truly worthy character, deserving that I should venture
2551
something, if only to relieve the horrors of his solitude? Coward
2552
as I am, standing on the brink of death, the fatal decree ready to
2553
strike me at any moment, yet to refuse to perform a simple act of
2554
love! Reply to him I must and will. Grant that it be discovered,
2555
no one can fairly be accused of writing the letter, though poor
2556
Tremerello would assuredly meet with the severest chastisement. Is
2557
not this consideration of itself sufficient to decide me against
2558
undertaking any clandestine correspondence? Is it not my absolute
2559
duty to decline it?
2560
2561
2562
2563
CHAPTER XXXV.
2564
2565
2566
2567
I was agitated the whole evening; I never closed my eyes that night,
2568
and amidst so many conflicting doubts, I knew not on what to
2569
resolve.
2570
2571
I sprung from my bed before dawn, I mounted upon the window-place,
2572
and offered up my prayers. In trying circumstances it is necessary
2573
to appeal with confidence to God, to heed his inspirations, and to
2574
adhere to them.
2575
2576
This I did, and after long prayer, I went down, shook off the gnats,
2577
took the bitten gloves in my hands, and came to the determination to
2578
explain my apprehensions to Tremerello and warn him of the great
2579
danger to which he himself was exposed by bearing letters; to
2580
renounce the plan if he wavered, and to accept it if its terrors did
2581
not deter him. I walked about till I heard the words of the song:-
2582
Segnai mi gera un gato, E ti me carezzevi. It was Tremerello
2583
bringing me my coffee. I acquainted him with my scruples and spared
2584
nothing to excite his fears. I found him staunch in his desire to
2585
SERVE, as he said, TWO SUCH COMPLETE GENTLEMEN. This was strangely
2586
at variance with the sheep's face he wore, and the name we had just
2587
given him. {15} Well, I was as firm on my part.
2588
2589
"I shall leave you my wine," said I, "see to find me the paper; I
2590
want to carry on this correspondence; and, rely on it, if any one
2591
comes without the warning song, I shall make an end of every
2592
suspicious article."
2593
2594
"Here is a sheet of paper ready for you; I will give you more
2595
whenever you please, and am perfectly satisfied of your prudence."
2596
2597
I longed to take my coffee; Tremerello left me, and I sat down to
2598
write. Did I do right? was the motive really approved by God? Was
2599
it not rather the triumph of my natural courage, of my preference of
2600
that which pleased me, instead of obeying the call for painful
2601
sacrifices. Mingled with this was a proud complacency, in return
2602
for the esteem expressed towards me by the unknown, and a fear of
2603
appearing cowardly, if I were to adhere to silence and decline a
2604
correspondence, every way so fraught with peril. How was I to
2605
resolve these doubts? I explained them frankly to my fellow-
2606
prisoner in replying to him, stating it nevertheless, as my opinion,
2607
that if anything were undertaken from good motives, and without the
2608
least repugnance of conscience, there could be no fear of blame. I
2609
advised him at the same time to reflect seriously upon the subject,
2610
and to express clearly with what degree of tranquillity, or of
2611
anxiety, he was prepared to engage, in it. Moreover, if, upon
2612
reconsideration, he considered the plan as too dangerous, we ought
2613
to have firmness enough to renounce the satisfaction we promised
2614
ourselves in such a correspondence, and rest satisfied with the
2615
acquaintance we had formed, the mutual pleasure we had already
2616
derived, and the unalterable goodwill we felt towards each other,
2617
which resulted from it. I filled four pages with my explanations,
2618
and expressions of the warmest friendship; I briefly alluded to the
2619
subject of my imprisonment; I spoke of my family with enthusiastic
2620
love, as well as of some of my friends, and attempted to draw a full
2621
picture of my mind and character.
2622
2623
In the evening I sent the letter. I had not slept during the
2624
preceding night; I was completely exhausted, and I soon fell into a
2625
profound sleep, from which I awoke on the ensuing morning, refreshed
2626
and comparatively happy. I was in hourly expectation of receiving
2627
my new friend's answer, and I felt at once anxious and pleased at
2628
the idea.
2629
2630
2631
2632
CHAPTER XXXVI.
2633
2634
2635
2636
The answer was brought with my coffee. I welcomed Tremerello, and,
2637
embracing him, exclaimed, "May God reward you for this goodness!"
2638
My suspicions had fled, because they were hateful to me; and
2639
because, making a point of never speaking imprudently upon politics,
2640
they appeared equally useless; and because, with all my admiration
2641
for the genius of Tacitus, I had never much faith in the justice of
2642
TACITISING as he does, and of looking upon every object on the dark
2643
side. Giuliano (as the writer signed himself), began his letter
2644
with the usual compliments, and informed me that he felt not the
2645
least anxiety in entering upon the correspondence. He rallied me
2646
upon my hesitation; occasionally assumed a tone of irony; and then
2647
more seriously declared that it had given him no little pain to
2648
observe in me "a certain scrupulous wavering, and a subtilty of
2649
conscience, which, however Christian-like, was little in accordance
2650
with true philosophy." "I shall continue to esteem you," he added,
2651
"though we should not agree upon that point; for I am bound, in all
2652
sincerity, to inform you, that I have no religion, that I abhor all
2653
creeds, and that I assume from a feeling of modesty the name of
2654
Julian, from the circumstance of that good emperor having been so
2655
decided an enemy of the Christians, though, in fact, I go much
2656
further than he ever did. The sceptred Julian believed in God, and
2657
had his own little superstitions. I have none; I believe not in a
2658
God, but refer all virtue to the love of truth, and the hatred of
2659
such as do not please me." There was no reasoning in what he said.
2660
He inveighed bitterly against Christianity, made an idol of worldly
2661
honour and virtue; and in a half serious and jocular vein took on
2662
himself to pronounce the Emperor Julian's eulogium for his apostasy,
2663
and his philanthropic efforts to eradicate all traces of the gospel
2664
from the face of the earth.
2665
2666
Apprehending that he had thus given too severe a shock to my
2667
opinions, he then asked my pardon, attempting to excuse himself upon
2668
the ground of PERFECT SINCERITY. Reiterating his extreme wish to
2669
enter into more friendly relations with me, he then bade me
2670
farewell.
2671
2672
In a postscript he added:- "I have no sort of scruples, except a
2673
fear of not having made myself sufficiently understood. I ought not
2674
to conceal that to me the Christian language which you employ,
2675
appears a mere mask to conceal your real opinions. I wish it may be
2676
so; and in this case, throw off your cloak, as I have set you an
2677
example."
2678
2679
I cannot describe the effect this letter had upon me. I had opened
2680
it full of hope and ardour. Suddenly an icy hand seemed to chill
2681
the life-blood of my heart. That sarcasm on my conscientiousness
2682
hurt me extremely. I repented having formed any acquaintance with
2683
such a man, I who so much detest the doctrine of the cynics, who
2684
consider it so wholly unphilosophical, and the most injurious in its
2685
tendency: I who despise all kind of arrogance as it deserves.
2686
2687
Having read the last word it contained, I took the letter in both my
2688
hands, and tearing it directly down the middle, I held up a half in
2689
each like an executioner, employed in exposing it to public scorn.
2690
2691
2692
2693
CHAPTER XXXVII.
2694
2695
2696
2697
I kept my eye fixed on the fragments, meditating for a moment upon
2698
the inconstancy and fallacy of human things I had just before
2699
eagerly desired to obtain, that which I now tore with disdain. I
2700
had hoped to have found a companion in misfortune, and how I should
2701
have valued his friendship! Now I gave him all kinds of hard names,
2702
insolent, arrogant, atheist, and self-condemned.
2703
2704
I repeated the same operation, dividing the wretched members of the
2705
guilty letter again and again, till happening to cast my eye on a
2706
piece remaining in my hand, expressing some better sentiment, I
2707
changed my intention, and collecting together the disjecta membra,
2708
ingeniously pieced them with the view of reading it once more. I
2709
sat down, placed them on my great Bible, and examined the whole. I
2710
then got up, walked about, read, and thought, "If I do not answer,"
2711
said I, "he will think he has terrified me at the mere appearance of
2712
such a philosophical hero, a very Hercules in his own estimation.
2713
Let us show him, with all due courtesy, that we fear not to confront
2714
him and his vicious doctrines, any more than to brave the risk of a
2715
correspondence, more dangerous to others than to ourselves. I will
2716
teach him that true courage does not consist in ridiculing
2717
CONSCIENCE, and that real dignity does not consist in arrogance and
2718
pride. He shall be taught the reasonableness of Christianity, and
2719
the nothingness of disbelief. Moreover, if this mock Julian start
2720
opinions so directly opposite to my own, if he spare not the most
2721
biting sarcasm, if he attack me thus uncourteously; is it not all a
2722
proof that he can be no spy? Yet, might not this be a mere
2723
stratagem, to draw me into a discussion by wounding my self-love?
2724
Yet no! I am unjust--I smart under his bitter irreligious jests,
2725
and conclude at once that he must be the most infamous of men. Base
2726
suspicion, which I have so often decried in others! he may be what
2727
he appears--a presumptuous infidel, but not a spy. Have I even a
2728
right to call by the name of INSOLENCE, what he considers SINCERITY.
2729
Is this, I continued, thy humility, oh, hypocrite? If any one
2730
presume to maintain his own opinions, and to question your faith, he
2731
is forthwith to be met with contempt and abuse. Is not this worse
2732
in a Christian, than the bold sincerity of the unbeliever? Yes, and
2733
perhaps he only requires one ray of Divine grace, to employ his
2734
noble energetic love of truth in the cause of true religion, with
2735
far greater success than yourself. Were it not, then, more becoming
2736
in me to pray for, than to irritate him? Who knows, but while
2737
employed in destroying his letter with every mark of ignominy, he
2738
might be reading mine with expressions of kindness and affection;
2739
never dreaming I should fly into such a mighty passion at his plain
2740
and bold sincerity. Is he not the better of the two, to love and
2741
esteem me while declaring he is no Christian; than I who exclaim, I
2742
am a Christian, and I detest you. It is difficult to obtain a
2743
knowledge of a man during a long intercourse, yet I would condemn
2744
him on the evidence of a single letter. He may, perhaps, be unhappy
2745
in his atheism, and wish to hear all my arguments to enable him the
2746
better to arrive at the truth. Perhaps, too, I may be called to
2747
effect so beneficent a work, the humble instrument of a gracious
2748
God. Oh, that it may indeed be so, I will not shrink from the
2749
task."
2750
2751
2752
2753
CHAPTER XXXVIII.
2754
2755
2756
2757
I sat down to write to Julian, and was cautious not to let one
2758
irritating word proceed from my pen. I took in good part his
2759
reflection upon my fastidiousness of conscience; I even joked about
2760
it, telling him he perhaps gave me too much credit for it, and ought
2761
to suspend his good opinion till he knew me better. I praised his
2762
sincerity, assuring him that he would find me equal to him in this
2763
respect, and that as a proof of it, I had determined to defend
2764
Christianity, "Well persuaded," I added, "that as I shall readily
2765
give free scope to your opinions, you will be prepared to give me
2766
the same advantage."
2767
2768
I then boldly entered upon my task, arguing my way by degrees, and
2769
analysing with impartiality the essence of Christianity; the worship
2770
of God free from superstitions, the brotherhood of mankind,
2771
aspiration after virtue, humility without baseness, dignity without
2772
pride, as exemplified in our Divine Saviour! what more
2773
philosophical, and more truly grand?
2774
2775
It was next my object to demonstrate, "that this divine wisdom had
2776
more or less displayed itself to all those who by the light of
2777
reason had sought after the truth, though not generally diffused
2778
till the arrival of its great Author upon the earth. He had proved
2779
his heavenly mission by effecting the most wonderful and glorious
2780
results, by human means the most mean and humble. What the greatest
2781
philosophers had in vain attempted, the overthrow of idolatry, and
2782
the universal preaching of love and brotherhood, was achieved by a
2783
few untutored missionaries. From that era was first dated the
2784
emancipation of slaves, no less from bondage of limbs than of mind,
2785
until by degrees a civilisation without slavery became apparent, a
2786
state of society believed to be utterly impracticable by the ancient
2787
philosophers. A review of history from the appearance of Christ to
2788
the present age, would finally demonstrate that the religion he
2789
established had invariably been found adapted to all possible grades
2790
in civilised society. For this reason, the assertion that the
2791
gospel was no longer in accordance with the continued progress of
2792
civilisation, could not for a moment be maintained."
2793
2794
I wrote in as small characters as I could, and at great length, but
2795
I could not embrace all which I had ready prepared upon the subject.
2796
I re-examined the whole carefully. There was not one revengeful,
2797
injurious, or even repulsive word. Benevolence, toleration, and
2798
forbearance, were the only weapons I employed against ridicule and
2799
sarcasm of every kind; they were also employed after mature
2800
deliberation, and dictated from the heart.
2801
2802
I despatched the letter, and in no little anxiety waited the arrival
2803
of the next morning, in hopes of a speedy reply.
2804
2805
Tremerello came, and observed; "The gentleman, sir, was not able to
2806
write, but entreats of you to continue the joke."
2807
2808
"The joke!" I exclaimed. "No, he could not have said that! you must
2809
have mistaken him."
2810
2811
Tremerello shrugged up his shoulders: "I suppose I must, if you say
2812
so."
2813
2814
"But did it really seem as if he had said a joke?"
2815
2816
"As plainly as I now hear the sound of St. Mark's clock;" (the
2817
Campanone was just then heard.) I drank my coffee and was silent.
2818
2819
"But tell me; did he read the whole of the letter?"
2820
2821
"I think he did; for he laughed like a madman, and then squeezing
2822
your letter into a ball, he began to throw it about, till reminding
2823
him that he must not forget to destroy it, he did so immediately."
2824
2825
"That is very well."
2826
2827
I then put my coffee cup into Tremerello's hands, observing that it
2828
was plain the coffee had been made by the Siora Bettina.
2829
2830
"What! is it so bad?"
2831
2832
"Quite vile!"
2833
2834
"Well! I made it myself; and I can assure you that I made it
2835
strong; there were no dregs."
2836
2837
"True; it may be, my mouth is out of taste."
2838
2839
2840
2841
CHAPTER XXXIX.
2842
2843
2844
2845
I walked about the whole morning in a rage. "What an abandoned
2846
wretch is this Julian! what, call my letter a joke! play at ball
2847
with it, reply not a single line! But all your infidels are alike!
2848
They dare not stand the test of argument; they know their weakness,
2849
and try to turn it off with a jest. Full of vanity and boasting,
2850
they venture not to examine even themselves. They philosophers,
2851
indeed! worthy disciples of Democritus; who DID nothing but laugh,
2852
and WAS nothing but a buffoon. I am rightly served, however, for
2853
beginning a correspondence like this; and still more for writing a
2854
second time."
2855
2856
At dinner, Tremerello took up my wine, poured it into a flask, and
2857
put it into his pocket, observing: "I see that you are in want of
2858
paper;" and he gave me some. He retired, and the moment I cast my
2859
eye on the paper, I felt tempted to sit down and write to Julian a
2860
sharp lecture on his intolerable turpitude and presumption, and so
2861
take leave of him. But again, I repented of my own violence, and
2862
uncharitableness, and finally resolved to write another letter in a
2863
better spirit as I had done before.
2864
2865
I did so, and despatched it without delay. The next morning I
2866
received a few lines, simply expressive of the writer's thanks; but
2867
without a single jest, or the least invitation to continue the
2868
correspondence. Such a billet displeased me; nevertheless I
2869
determined to persevere. Six long letters were the result, for each
2870
of which I received a few laconic lines of thanks, with some
2871
declamation against his enemies, followed by a joke on the abuse he
2872
had heaped upon them, asserting that it was extremely natural the
2873
strong should oppress the weak, and regretting that he was not in
2874
the list of the former. He then related some of his love affairs,
2875
and observed that they exercised no little sway over his disturbed
2876
imagination.
2877
2878
In reply to my last on the subject of Christianity, he said he had
2879
prepared a long letter; for which I looked out in vain, though he
2880
wrote to me every day on other topics--chiefly a tissue of obscenity
2881
and folly.
2882
2883
I reminded him of his promise that he would answer all my arguments,
2884
and recommended him to weigh well the reasonings with which I had
2885
supplied him before he attempted to write. He replied to this
2886
somewhat in a rage, assuming the airs of a philosopher, a man of
2887
firmness, a man who stood in no want of brains to distinguish "a
2888
hawk from a hand-saw." {16} He then resumed his jocular vein, and
2889
began to enlarge upon his experiences in life, and especially some
2890
very scandalous love adventures.
2891
2892
2893
2894
CHAPTER XL.
2895
2896
2897
2898
I bore all this patiently, to give him no handle for accusing me of
2899
bigotry or intolerance, and in the hope that after the fever of
2900
erotic buffoonery and folly had subsided, he might have some lucid
2901
intervals, and listen to common sense. Meantime I gave him
2902
expressly to understand that I disapproved of his want of respect
2903
towards women, his free and profane expressions, and pitied those
2904
unhappy ones, who, he informed me, had been his victims.
2905
2906
He pretended to care little about my disapprobation, and repeated:
2907
"spite of your fine strictures upon immorality, I know well you are
2908
amused with the account of my adventures. All men are as fond of
2909
pleasure as I am, but they have not the frankness to talk of it
2910
without cloaking it from the eyes of the world; I will go on till
2911
you are quite enchanted, and confess yourself compelled in VERY
2912
CONSCIENCE to applaud me." So he went on from week to week, I
2913
bearing with him, partly out of curiosity and partly in the
2914
expectation he would fall upon some better topic; and I can fairly
2915
say that this species of tolerance, did me no little harm. I began
2916
to lose my respect for pure and noble truths, my thoughts became
2917
confused, and my mind disturbed. To converse with men of degraded
2918
minds is in itself degrading, at least if you possess not virtue
2919
very superior to mine. "This is a proper punishment," said I, "for
2920
my presumption; this it is to assume the office of a missionary
2921
without its sacredness of character."
2922
2923
One day I determined to write to him as follows:- " I have hitherto
2924
attempted to turn your attention to other subjects, and you
2925
persevere in sending me accounts of yourself which no way please me.
2926
For the sake of variety, let us correspond a little respecting
2927
worthier matters; if not, give the hand of fellowship, and let us
2928
have done."
2929
2930
The two ensuing days I received no answer, and I was glad of it.
2931
"Oh, blessed solitude;" often I exclaimed, "how far holier and
2932
better art thou than harsh and undignified association with the
2933
living. Away with the empty and impious vanities, the base actions,
2934
the low despicable conversations of such a world. I have studied it
2935
enough; let me turn to my communion with God; to the calm, dear
2936
recollections of my family and my true friends. I will read my
2937
Bible oftener than I have done, I will again write down my thoughts,
2938
will try to raise and improve them, and taste the pleasure of a
2939
sorrow at least innocent; a thousand fold to be preferred to vulgar
2940
and wicked imaginations."
2941
2942
Whenever Tremerello now entered my room he was in the habit of
2943
saying, "I have got no answer yet."
2944
2945
"It is all right," was my reply.
2946
2947
About the third day from this, he said, with a serious look, "Signor
2948
N. N. is rather indisposed."
2949
2950
"What is the matter with him?"
2951
2952
"He does not say, but he has taken to his bed, neither eats nor
2953
drinks, and is sadly out of humour."
2954
2955
I was touched; he was suffering and had no one to console him.
2956
2957
"I will write him a few lines," exclaimed I.
2958
2959
"I will take them this evening, then," said Tremerello, and he went
2960
out.
2961
2962
I was a little perplexed on sitting down to my table: "Am I right
2963
in resuming this correspondence? was I not, just now, praising
2964
solitude as a treasure newly found? what inconsistency is this! Ah!
2965
but he neither eats nor drinks, and I fear must be very ill. Is it,
2966
then, a moment to abandon him? My last letter was severe, and may
2967
perhaps have caused him pain. Perhaps, in spite of our different
2968
ways of thinking, he wished not to end our correspondence. Yes, he
2969
has thought my letter more caustic than I meant it to be, and taken
2970
it in the light of an absolute and contemptuous dismission.
2971
2972
2973
2974
CHAPTER XLI.
2975
2976
2977
2978
I sat down and wrote as follows:-
2979
2980
"I hear that you are not well, and am extremely sorry for it. I
2981
wish I were with you, and enabled to assist you as a friend. I hope
2982
your illness is the sole cause why you have not written to me during
2983
the last three days. Did you take offence at my little strictures
2984
the other day? Believe me they were dictated by no ill will or
2985
spleen, but with the single object of drawing your attention to more
2986
serious subjects. Should it be irksome for you to write, send me an
2987
exact account, by word, how you find yourself. You shall hear from
2988
me every day, and I will try to say something to amuse you, and to
2989
show you that I really wish you well."
2990
2991
Imagine my unfeigned surprise when I received an answer, couched in
2992
these terms:
2993
2994
"I renounce your friendship: if you are at a loss how to estimate
2995
mine, I return the compliment in its full force. I am not a man to
2996
put up with injurious treatment; I am not one, who, once rejected,
2997
will be ordered to return."
2998
2999
"Because you heard I was unwell, you approach me with a hypocritical
3000
air, in the idea that illness will break down my spirit, and make me
3001
listen to your sermons . . . "
3002
3003
In this way he rambled on, reproaching and despising me in the most
3004
revolting terms he could find, and turning every thing I had said
3005
into ridicule and burlesque. He assured me that he knew how to live
3006
and die with consistency; that is to say, with the utmost hatred and
3007
contempt for all philosophical creeds differing from his own. I was
3008
dismayed!
3009
3010
"A pretty conversion I have made of it!" I exclaimed; "yet God is my
3011
witness that my motives were pure. I have done nothing to merit an
3012
attack like this. But patience! I am once more undeceived. I am
3013
not called upon to do more."
3014
3015
In a few days I became less angry, and conceived that all this
3016
bitterness might have resulted from some excitement which might pass
3017
away. Probably he repents, yet scorns to confess he was in the
3018
wrong. In such a state of mind, it might be generous of me to write
3019
to him once more. It cost my self-love something, but I did it. To
3020
humble one's self for a good purpose is not degrading, with whatever
3021
degree of unjust contempt it may be returned.
3022
3023
I received a reply less violent, but not less insulting. The
3024
implacable patient declared that he admired what he called my
3025
evangelical moderation. "Now, therefore," he continued, "let us
3026
resume our correspondence, but let us speak out. We do not like
3027
each other, but we will write, each for his own amusement, setting
3028
everything down which may come into our heads. You will tell me
3029
your seraphic visions and revelations, and I will treat you with my
3030
profane adventures; you again will run into ecstasies upon the
3031
dignity of man, yea, and of woman; I into an ingenuous narrative of
3032
my various profanations; I hoping to make a convert of you, and you
3033
of me.
3034
3035
"Give me an answer should you approve these conditions."
3036
3037
I replied, "Yours is not a compact, but a jest. I was full of good-
3038
will towards you. My conscience does not constrain me to do more
3039
than to wish you every happiness both as regards this and another
3040
life."
3041
3042
Thus ended my secret connexion with that strange man. But who
3043
knows; he was perhaps more exasperated by ill fortune, delirium, or
3044
despair, than really bad at heart.
3045
3046
3047
3048
CHAPTER XLII.
3049
3050
3051
3052
I once more learnt to value solitude, and my days tracked each other
3053
without any distinction or mark of change.
3054
3055
The summer was over; it was towards the close of September, and the
3056
heat grew less oppressive; October came. I congratulated myself now
3057
on occupying a chamber well adapted for winter. One morning,
3058
however, the jailer made his appearance, with an order to change my
3059
prison.
3060
3061
"And where am I to go?"
3062
3063
"Only a few steps, into a fresher chamber."
3064
3065
"But why not think of it when I was dying of suffocation; when the
3066
air was filled with gnats, and my bed with bugs?"
3067
3068
"The order did not come before."
3069
3070
"Patience! let us be gone!"
3071
3072
Notwithstanding I had suffered so greatly in this prison, it gave me
3073
pain to leave it; not simply because it would have been best for the
3074
winter season, but for many other reasons. There I had the ants to
3075
attract my attention, which I had fed and looked upon, I may almost
3076
say, with paternal care. Within the last few days, however, my
3077
friend the spider, and my great ally in my war with the gnats, had,
3078
for some reason or other, chosen to emigrate; at least he did not
3079
come as usual. "Yet perhaps," said I, "he may remember me, and come
3080
back, but he will find my prison empty, or occupied by some other
3081
guest--no friend perhaps to spiders--and thus meet with an awkward
3082
reception. His fine woven house, and his gnat-feasts will all be
3083
put an end to."
3084
3085
Again, my gloomy abode had been embellished by the presence of
3086
Angiola, so good, so gentle and compassionate. There she used to
3087
sit, and try every means she could devise to amuse me, even dropping
3088
crumbs of bread for my little visitors, the ants; and there I heard
3089
her sobs, and saw the tears fall thick and fast, as she spoke of her
3090
cruel lover.
3091
3092
The place I was removed to was under the leaden prisons, (I Piombi)
3093
open to the north and west, with two windows, one on each side; an
3094
abode exposed to perpetual cold and even icy chill during the
3095
severest months. The window to the west was the largest, that to
3096
the north was high and narrow, and situated above my bed.
3097
3098
I first looked out at this last, and found that it commanded a view
3099
of the Palace of the Patriarch. Other prisons were near mine, in a
3100
narrow wing to the right, and in a projection of the building right
3101
opposite. Here were two prisons, one above the other. The lower
3102
had an enormous window, through which I could see a man, very richly
3103
drest, pacing to and fro. It was the Signor Caporale di Cesena. He
3104
perceived me, made a signal, and we pronounced each other's names.
3105
3106
I next looked out at my other window. I put the little table upon
3107
my bed, and a chair upon my table; I climbed up and found myself on
3108
a level with part of the palace roof; and beyond this was to be seen
3109
a fine view of the city and the lake.
3110
3111
I paused to admire it; and though I heard some one open the door, I
3112
did not move. It was the jailer; and perceiving that I had
3113
clambered up, he got it into his head I was making an attempt to
3114
escape, forgetting, in his alarm, that I was not a mouse to creep
3115
through all those narrow bars. In a moment he sprung upon the bed,
3116
spite of a violent sciatica which had nearly bent him double, and
3117
catching me by the legs, he began to call out, "thieves and murder!"
3118
3119
"But don't you see," I exclaimed, "you thoughtless man, that I
3120
cannot conjure myself through these horrible bars? Surely you know
3121
I got up here out of mere curiosity."
3122
3123
"Oh, yes, I see, I apprehend, sir; but quick, sir, jump down, sir;
3124
these are all temptations of the devil to make you think of it! come
3125
down, sir, pray."
3126
3127
I lost no time in my descent, and laughed.
3128
3129
3130
3131
CHAPTER XLIII.
3132
3133
3134
3135
At the windows of the side prisons I recognised six other prisoners,
3136
all there on account of politics. Just then, as I was composing my
3137
mind to perfect solitude, I found myself comparatively in a little
3138
world of human beings around me. The change was, at first, irksome
3139
to me, such complete seclusion having rendered me almost unsociable,
3140
add to which, the disagreeable termination of my correspondence with
3141
Julian. Still, the little conversation I was enabled to carry on,
3142
partly by signs, with my new fellow-prisoners, was of advantage by
3143
diverting my attention. I breathed not a word respecting my
3144
correspondence with Julian; it was a point of honour between us, and
3145
in bringing it forward here, I was fully aware that in the immense
3146
number of unhappy men with which these prisons were thronged, it
3147
would be impossible to ascertain who was the assumed Julian.
3148
3149
To the interest derived from seeing my fellow-captives was added
3150
another of a yet more delightful kind. I could perceive from my
3151
large window, beyond the projection of prisons, situated right
3152
before me, a surface of roofs; decorated with cupolas, campanili,
3153
towers, and chimneys, which gradually faded in a distant view of sea
3154
and sky. In the house nearest to me, a wing of the Patriarchal
3155
palace, lived an excellent family, who had a claim to my gratitude,
3156
for expressing, by their salutations, the interest which they took
3157
in my fate. A sign, a word of kindness to the unhappy, is really
3158
charity of no trivial kind. From one of the windows I saw a little
3159
boy, nine or ten years old, stretching out his hands towards me, and
3160
I heard him call out, "Mamma, mamma, they have placed somebody up
3161
there in the Piombi. Oh, you poor prisoner, who are you?"
3162
3163
"I am Silvio Pellico," was the reply.
3164
3165
Another older boy now ran to the same window, and cried out, "Are
3166
you Silvio Pellico?"
3167
3168
"Yes; and tell me your names, dear boys."
3169
3170
"My name is Antonio S-, and my brother's is Joseph."
3171
3172
He then turned round, and, speaking to some one within, "What else
3173
ought I to ask him?" A lady, whom I conjecture to have been their
3174
mother, then half concealed, suggested some pretty words to them,
3175
which they repeated, and for which I thanked them with all my heart.
3176
These sort of communications were a small matter, yet it required to
3177
be cautious how we indulged in them, lest we should attract the
3178
notice of the jailer. Morning, noon, and night, they were a source
3179
of the greatest consolation; the little boys were constantly in the
3180
habit of bidding me good night, before the windows were closed, and
3181
the lights brought in, "Good night, Silvio," and often it was
3182
repeated by the good lady, in a more subdued voice, "Good night,
3183
Silvio, have courage!"
3184
3185
When engaged at their meals they would say, "How we wish we could
3186
give you any of this good coffee and milk. Pray remember, the first
3187
day they let you out, to come and see us. Mamma and we will give
3188
you plenty of good things, {17} and as many kisses as you like."
3189
3190
3191
3192
CHAPTER XLIV.
3193
3194
3195
3196
The month of October brought round one of the most disagreeable
3197
anniversaries in my life. I was arrested on the 13th of that month
3198
in the preceding year. Other recollections of the same period, also
3199
pained me. That day two years, a highly valued and excellent man
3200
whom I truly honoured, was drowned in the Ticino. Three years
3201
before, a young person, Odoardo Briche, {18} whom I loved as if he
3202
had been my own son, had accidentally killed himself with a musket.
3203
Earlier in my youth another severe affliction had befallen me in the
3204
same month.
3205
3206
Though not superstitious, the remembrance of so many unhappy
3207
occurrences at the same period of the year, inspired a feeling of
3208
extreme sorrow. While conversing at the window with the children,
3209
and with my fellow prisoners, I assumed an air of mirth, but hardly
3210
had I re-entered my cave than an irresistible feeling of melancholy
3211
weighed down every faculty of my mind. In vain I attempted to
3212
engage in some literary composition; I was involuntarily impelled to
3213
write upon other topics. I thought of my family, and wrote letters
3214
after letters, in which I poured forth all my burdened spirit, all I
3215
had felt and enjoyed of home, in far happier days, surrounded by
3216
brothers, sisters, and friends who had always loved me. The desire
3217
of seeing them, and long compulsory separation, led me to speak on a
3218
variety of little things, and reveal a thousand thoughts of
3219
gratitude and tenderness, which would not otherwise have occurred to
3220
my mind.
3221
3222
In the same way I took a review of my former life, diverting my
3223
attention by recalling past incidents, and dwelling upon those
3224
happier periods now for ever fled. Often, when the picture I had
3225
thus drawn, and sat contemplating for hours, suddenly vanished from
3226
my sight, and left me conscious only of the fearful present, and
3227
more threatening future, the pen fell from my hand; I recoiled with
3228
horror; the contrast was more than I could bear. These were
3229
terrific moments; I had already felt them, but never with such
3230
intense susceptibility as then. It was agony. This I attributed to
3231
extreme excitement of the passions, occasioned by expressing them in
3232
the form of letters, addressed to persons to whom I was so tenderly
3233
attached.
3234
3235
I turned to other subjects, I determined to change the form of
3236
expressing my ideas, but could not. In whatever way I began, it
3237
always ended in a letter teeming with affection and with grief.
3238
3239
"What," I exclaimed, "am I no more master of my own will? Is this
3240
strange necessity of doing that which I object to, a distortion of
3241
my brain? At first I could have accounted for it; but after being
3242
inured to this solitude, reconciled, and supported by religious
3243
reflections; how have I become the slave of these blind impulses,
3244
these wanderings of heart and mind? let me apply to other matters!"
3245
I then endeavoured to pray; or to weary my attention by hard study
3246
of the German. Alas! I commenced and found myself actually engaged
3247
in writing a letter!
3248
3249
3250
3251
CHAPTER XLV.
3252
3253
3254
3255
Such a state of mind was a real disease, or I know not if it may be
3256
called a kind of somnambulism. Without doubt it was the effect of
3257
extreme lassitude, occasioned by continual thought and watchfulness.
3258
3259
It gained upon me. I grew feverish and sleepless. I left off
3260
coffee, but the disease was not removed. It appeared to me as if I
3261
were two persons, one of them eagerly bent upon writing letters, the
3262
other upon doing something else. "At least," said I, "you shall
3263
write them in German if you do; and we shall learn a little of the
3264
language. Methought HE then set to work, and wrote volumes of bad
3265
German, and he certainly brought me rapidly forward in the study of
3266
it. Towards morning, my mind being wholly exhausted, I fell into a
3267
heavy stupor, during which all those most dear to me haunted my
3268
dreams. I thought that my father and mother were weeping over me; I
3269
heard their lamentations, and suddenly I started out of my sleep
3270
sobbing and affrighted. Sometimes, during short, disturbed
3271
slumbers, I heard my mother's voice, as if consoling others, with
3272
whom she came into my prison, and she addressed me in the most
3273
affectionate language upon the duty of resignation, and then, when I
3274
was rejoiced to see her courage, and that of others, suddenly she
3275
appeared to burst into tears, and all wept. I can convey no idea of
3276
the species of agony which I at these times felt.
3277
3278
To escape from this misery, I no longer went to bed. I sat down to
3279
read by the light of my lamp, but I could comprehend nothing, and
3280
soon I found that I was even unable to think. I next tried to copy
3281
something, but still copied something different from what I was
3282
writing, always recurring to the subject of my afflictions. If I
3283
retired to rest, it was worse; I could lie in no position; I became
3284
convulsed, and was constrained to rise. In case I slept, the same
3285
visions reappeared, and made me suffer much more than I did by
3286
keeping awake. My prayers, too, were feeble and ineffectual; and,
3287
at length, I could simply invoke the name of the Deity; of the Being
3288
who had assumed a human form, and was acquainted with grief. I was
3289
afraid to sleep; my prayers seemed to bring me no relief; my
3290
imagination became excited, and, even when awake, I heard strange
3291
noises close to me, sometimes sighs and groans, at others mingled
3292
with sounds of stifled laughter. I was never superstitious, but
3293
these apparently real and unaccountable sights and sounds led me to
3294
doubt, and I then firmly believed that I was the victim of some
3295
unknown and malignant beings. Frequently I took my light, and made
3296
a search for those mockers and persecutors of my waking and sleeping
3297
hours. At last they began to pull me by my clothes, threw my books
3298
upon the ground, blew out my lamp, and even, as it seemed, conveyed
3299
me into another dungeon. I would then start to my feet, look and
3300
examine all round me, and ask myself if I were really mad. The
3301
actual world, and that of my imagination, were no longer
3302
distinguishable, I knew not whether what I saw and felt was a
3303
delusion or truth. In this horrible state I could only repeat one
3304
prayer, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
3305
3306
3307
3308
CHAPTER XLVI.
3309
3310
3311
3312
One morning early, I threw myself upon my pallet, having first
3313
placed my handkerchief, as usual, under my pillow. Shortly after,
3314
falling asleep, I suddenly woke, and found myself in a state of
3315
suffocation; my persecutors were strangling me, and, on putting my
3316
hand to my throat, I actually found my own handkerchief, all
3317
knotted, tied round my neck. I could have sworn I had never made
3318
those knots; yet I must have done this in my delirium; but as it was
3319
then impossible to believe it, I lived in continual expectation of
3320
being strangled. The recollection is still horrible. They left me
3321
at dawn of day; and, resuming my courage, I no longer felt the least
3322
apprehension, and even imagined it would be impossible they should
3323
again return. Yet no sooner did the night set in, than I was again
3324
haunted by them in all their horrors; being made sensible of their
3325
gradual approach by cold shiverings, the loss of all power, with a
3326
species of fascination which riveted both the eye and the mind. In
3327
fact, the more weak and wretched I felt, at night, the greater were
3328
my efforts during the day to appear cheerful in conversing with my
3329
companions, with the two boys at the palace, and with my jailers.
3330
No one to hear my jokes, would have imagined it possible that I was
3331
suffering under the disease I did. I thought to encourage myself by
3332
this forced merriment, but the spectral visions which I laughed at
3333
by day became fearful realities in the hours of darkness.
3334
3335
Had I dared, I should have petitioned the commission to change my
3336
apartment, but the fear of ridicule, in case I should be asked my
3337
reasons, restrained me. No reasonings, no studies, or pursuits, and
3338
even no prayers, were longer of avail, and the idea of being wholly
3339
abandoned by heaven, took possession of my mind.
3340
3341
All those wicked sophisms against a just Providence, which, while in
3342
possession of reason, had appeared to me so vain and impious, now
3343
recurred with redoubled power, in the form of irresistible
3344
arguments. I struggled mightily against this last and greatest evil
3345
I had yet borne, and in the lapse of a few days the temptation fled.
3346
Still I refused to acknowledge the truth and beauty of religion; I
3347
quoted the assertions of the most violent atheists, and those which
3348
Julian had so recently dwelt upon: "Religion serves only to
3349
enfeeble the mind," was one of these, and I actually presumed that
3350
by renouncing my God I should acquire greater fortitude. Insane
3351
idea! I denied God, yet knew not how to deny those invisible
3352
malevolent beings, that appeared to encompass me, and feast upon my
3353
sufferings.
3354
3355
What shall I call this martyrdom? is it enough to say that it was a
3356
disease? or was it a divine chastisement for my pride, to teach me
3357
that without a special illumination I might become as great an
3358
unbeliever as Julian, and still more absurd. However this may be,
3359
it pleased God to deliver me from such evil, when I least expected
3360
it. One morning, after taking my coffee, I was seized with violent
3361
sickness, attended with colic. I imagined that I had been poisoned.
3362
After excessive vomiting, I burst into a strong perspiration and
3363
retired to bed. About mid-day I fell asleep, and continued in a
3364
quiet slumber till evening. I awoke in great surprise at this
3365
unexpected repose, and, thinking I should not sleep again, I got up.
3366
On rising I said, "I shall now have more fortitude to resist my
3367
accustomed terrors." But they returned no more. I was in
3368
ecstasies; I threw myself upon my knees in the fulness of my heart,
3369
and again prayed to my God in spirit and in truth, beseeching pardon
3370
for having denied, during many days, His holy name. It was almost
3371
too much for my newly reviving strength, and while even yet upon my
3372
knees, supporting my head against a chair, I fell into a profound
3373
sleep in that very position.
3374
3375
Some hours afterwards, as I conjectured, I seemed in part to awake,
3376
but no sooner had I stretched my weary limbs upon my rude couch than
3377
I slept till the dawn of day. The same disposition to somnolency
3378
continued through the day, and the next night, I rested as soundly
3379
as before. What was the sort of crisis that had thus taken place?
3380
I know not; but I was perfectly restored.
3381
3382
3383
3384
CHAPTER XLVII.
3385
3386
3387
3388
The sickness of the stomach which I had so long laboured under now
3389
ceased, the pains of the head also left me, and I felt an
3390
extraordinary appetite. My digestion was good, and I gained
3391
strength. Wonderful providence! that deprived me of my health to
3392
humble my mind, and again restored it when the moment was at hand
3393
that I should require it all, that I might not sink under the weight
3394
of my sentence.
3395
3396
On the 24th of November, one of our companions, Dr. Foresti, was
3397
taken from the Piombi, and transported no one knew whither. The
3398
jailer, his wife, and the assistants, were alike alarmed, and not
3399
one of them ventured to throw the least light upon this mysterious
3400
affair.
3401
3402
"And why should you persist," said Tremerello, "in wishing to know,
3403
when nothing good is to be heard? I have told you too much--too
3404
much already."
3405
3406
"Then what is the use of trying to hide it? I know it too well. He
3407
is condemned to death."
3408
3409
"Who? . . . he . . . Doctor Foresti?"
3410
3411
Tremerello hesitated, but the love of gossip was not the least of
3412
his virtues.
3413
3414
"Don't say, then," he resumed, "that I am a babbler; I never wished
3415
to say a word about these matters; so, remember, it is you who
3416
compel me."
3417
3418
"Yes, yes, I do compel you; but courage! tell me every thing you
3419
know respecting the poor Doctor?"
3420
3421
"Ah, Sir! they have made him cross the Bridge of Sighs! he lies in
3422
the dungeons of the condemned; sentence of death has been announced
3423
to him and two others."
3424
3425
"And will it be executed? When? Oh, unhappy man! and what are the
3426
others' names?"
3427
3428
"I know no more. The sentences have not been published. It is
3429
reported in Venice that they will be commuted. I trust in God they
3430
may, at least, as regards the good Doctor. Do you know, I am as
3431
fond of that noble fellow, pardon the expression, as if he were my
3432
own brother."
3433
3434
He seemed moved, and walked away. Imagine the agitation I suffered
3435
throughout the whole of that day, and indeed long after, as there
3436
were no means of ascertaining anything further respecting the fate
3437
of these unfortunate men.
3438
3439
A month elapsed, and at length the sentences connected with the
3440
first trial were published. Nine were condemned to death,
3441
GRACIOUSLY exchanged for hard imprisonment, some for twenty, and
3442
others for fifteen years in the fortress of Spielberg, near the city
3443
of Brunn, in Moravia; while those for ten years and under were to be
3444
sent to the fortress of Lubiana.
3445
3446
Were we authorised to conclude, from this commutation of sentence in
3447
regard to those first condemned, that the parties subject to the
3448
second trial would likewise be spared? Was the indulgence to be
3449
confined only to the former, on account of their having been
3450
arrested previous to the publication of the edicts against secret
3451
societies; the full vengeance of the law being reserved for
3452
subsequent offenders?
3453
3454
Well, I exclaimed, we shall not long be kept in suspense; I am at
3455
least grateful to Heaven for being allowed time to prepare myself in
3456
a becoming manner for the final scene.
3457
3458
3459
3460
CHAPTER XLVIII.
3461
3462
3463
3464
It was now my only consideration how to die like a Christian, and
3465
with proper fortitude. I felt, indeed, a strong temptation to avoid
3466
the scaffold by committing suicide, but overcame it. What merit is
3467
there in refusing to die by the hand of the executioner, and yet to
3468
fall by one's own? To save one's honour? But is it not childish to
3469
suppose that there can be more honour in cheating the executioner,
3470
than in not doing this, when it is clear that we must die. Even had
3471
I not been a Christian, upon serious reflection, suicide would have
3472
appeared to me both ridiculous and useless, if not criminal in a
3473
high degree.
3474
3475
"If the term of life be expired," continued I, "am I not fortunate
3476
in being permitted to collect my thoughts and purify my conscience
3477
with penitence and prayer becoming a man in affliction. In popular
3478
estimation, the being led to the scaffold is the worst part of
3479
death; in the opinion of the wise, is not this far preferable to the
3480
thousand deaths which daily occur by disease, attended by general
3481
prostration of intellect, without power to raise the thoughts from
3482
the lowest state of physical exhaustion."
3483
3484
I felt the justice of this reasoning, and lost all feeling of
3485
anxiety or terror at the idea of a public execution. I reflected
3486
deeply on the sacraments calculated to support me under such an
3487
appalling trial, and I felt disposed to receive them in a right
3488
spirit. Should I have been enabled, had I really been conducted to
3489
the scaffold, to preserve the same elevation of mind, the same
3490
forgiveness of my enemies, the same readiness to lay down my life at
3491
the will of God, as I then felt? Alas, how inconsistent is man!
3492
when most firm and pious, how liable is he to fall suddenly into
3493
weakness and crime! Is it likely I should have died worthily? God
3494
only knows; I dare not think well enough of myself to assert it.
3495
3496
The probable approach of death so riveted my imagination, that not
3497
only did it seem possible but as if marked by an infallible
3498
presentiment. I no longer indulged a hope of avoiding it, and at
3499
every sound of footsteps and keys, or the opening of my door, I was
3500
in the habit of exclaiming: "Courage! Perhaps I am going to
3501
receive sentence. Let me hear it with calm dignity, and bless the
3502
name of the Lord."
3503
3504
I considered in what terms I should last address my family, each of
3505
my brothers, and each of my sisters, and by revolving in my mind
3506
these sacred and affecting duties, I was often drowned in tears,
3507
without losing my fortitude and resignation.
3508
3509
I was naturally unable to enjoy sound repose; but my sleeplessness
3510
was not of the same alarming character as before; no visions,
3511
spectres, or concealed enemies were ready to deprive me of life. I
3512
spent the night in calm and reviving prayer. Towards morning I was
3513
enabled to sleep for about two hours, and rose late to breakfast.
3514
3515
One night I had retired to rest earlier than usual; I had hardly
3516
slept a quarter of an hour, when I awoke, and beheld an immense
3517
light upon the wall opposite to me. At first I imagined that I had
3518
been seized with my former illness; but this was no illusion. The
3519
light shone through the north window, under which I then lay.
3520
3521
I started up, seized my table, placed it on my bed, and a chair
3522
again upon the table, by means of all which I mounted up, and beheld
3523
one of the most terrific spectacles of fire that can be imagined.
3524
It was not more than a musket shot distant from our prison; it
3525
proceeded from the establishment of the public ovens, and the
3526
edifice was entirely consumed.
3527
3528
The night was exceedingly dark, and vast globes of flame spouted
3529
forth on both sides, borne away by a violent wind. All around, it
3530
seemed as if the sky rained sparks of fire. The adjacent lake
3531
reflected the magnificent sight; numbers of gondolas went and came,
3532
but my sympathy was most excited at the danger and terrors of those
3533
who resided nearest to the burning edifice. I heard the far off
3534
voices of men and women calling to each other. Among others, I
3535
caught the name of Angiola, and of this doubtless there are some
3536
thousands in Venice: yet I could not help fearing it might be the
3537
one of whom the recollection was so sweet to me. Could it be her?--
3538
was she surrounded by the flames? how I longed to fly to her rescue.
3539
3540
Full of excitement, wonder, and terror, I stood at the window till
3541
the day dawned, I then got down oppressed by a feeling of deep
3542
sorrow, and imagined much greater misfortune than had really
3543
occurred. I was informed by Tremerello that only the ovens and the
3544
adjoining magazine had suffered, the loss consisting chiefly of corn
3545
and sacks of flour.
3546
3547
3548
3549
CHAPTER XLIX.
3550
3551
3552
3553
The effect of this accident upon my imagination had not yet ceased,
3554
when one night, as I was sitting at my little table reading, and
3555
half perished with cold, I heard a number of voices not far from me.
3556
They were those of the jailer, his wife, and sons, with the
3557
assistants, all crying:
3558
3559
"Fire! fire. Oh, blessed Virgin! we are lost, we are lost!"
3560
3561
I felt no longer cold, I started to my feet in a violent
3562
perspiration, and looked out to discover the quarter from which the
3563
fire proceeded. I could perceive nothing, I was informed, however,
3564
that it arose in the palace itself, from some public chambers
3565
contiguous to the prisons. One of the assistants called out, "But,
3566
sir governor, what shall we do with these caged birds here, if the
3567
fire keeps a head?" The head jailer replied, "Why, I should not
3568
like to have them roasted alive. Yet I cannot let them out of their
3569
bars without special orders from the commission. You may run as
3570
fast as you can, and get an order if you can."
3571
3572
"To be sure I will, but, you know, it will be too late for the
3573
prisoners."
3574
3575
All this was said in the rude Venetian dialect, but I understood it
3576
too well. And now, where was all my heroic spirit and resignation,
3577
which I had counted upon to meet sudden death? Why did the idea of
3578
being burnt alive throw me into such a fever? I felt ashamed of
3579
this unworthy fear, and though just on the point of crying out to
3580
the jailer to let me out, I restrained myself, reflecting that there
3581
might be as little pleasure in being strangled as in being burnt.
3582
Still I felt really afraid.
3583
3584
"Here," said I, "is a specimen of my courage, should I escape the
3585
flames, and be doomed to mount the scaffold. I will restrain my
3586
fear, and hide it from others as well as I can, though I know I
3587
shall tremble. Yet surely it is courage to behave as if we were not
3588
afraid, whatever we may feel. Is it not generosity to give away
3589
that which it costs us much to part with? It is, also, an act of
3590
obedience, though we obey with great repugnance."
3591
3592
The tumult in the jailer's house was so loud and continued that I
3593
concluded the fire was on the increase. The messenger sent to ask
3594
permission for our temporary release had not returned. At last I
3595
thought I heard his voice; no; I listened, he is not come. Probably
3596
the permission will not be granted; there will be no means of
3597
escape; if the jailer should not humanely take the responsibility
3598
upon himself, we shall be suffocated in our dungeons! Well, but
3599
this, I exclaimed, is not philosophy, and it is not religion. Were
3600
it not better to prepare myself to witness the flames bursting into
3601
my chamber, and about to swallow me up.
3602
3603
Meantime the clamour seemed to diminish; by degrees it died away;
3604
was this any proof that the fire had ceased? Or, perhaps, all who
3605
could had already fled, and left the prisoners to their fate.
3606
3607
The silence continued, no flames appeared, and I retired to bed,
3608
reproaching myself for the want of fortitude I had evinced. Indeed,
3609
I began to regret that I had not been burnt alive, instead of being
3610
handed over, as a victim, into the hands of men.
3611
3612
The next morning, I learnt the real cause of the fire from
3613
Tremerello, and laughed at his account of the fear he had endured,
3614
as if my own had not been as great--perhaps, in fact, much greater
3615
of the two.
3616
3617
3618
3619
CHAPTER L.
3620
3621
3622
3623
On the 11th of January, 1822, about nine in the morning, Tremerello
3624
came into my room in no little agitation, and said,
3625
3626
"Do you know, Sir, that in the island of San Michele, a little way
3627
from Venice, there is a prison containing more than a hundred
3628
Carbonari."
3629
3630
"You have told me so a hundred times. Well! what would you have me
3631
hear, speak out; are some of them condemned?"
3632
3633
"Exactly."
3634
3635
"Who are they?"
3636
3637
"I don't know."
3638
3639
"Is my poor friend Maroncelli among them?"
3640
3641
"Ah, Sir, too many . . . I know not who." And he went away in great
3642
emotion, casting on me a look of compassion.
3643
3644
Shortly after came the jailer, attended by the assistants, and by a
3645
man whom I had never before seen. The latter opened his subject as
3646
follows: "The commission, Sir, has given orders that you come with
3647
me!"
3648
3649
"Let us go, then," I replied; "may I ask who you are?"
3650
3651
"I am jailer of the San Michele prisons, where I am going to take
3652
you."
3653
3654
The jailer of the Piombi delivered to the new governor the money
3655
belonging to me which he had in his hands. I obtained permission to
3656
make some little present to the under jailers; I then put my clothes
3657
in order, put my Bible under my arm, and departed. In descending
3658
the immense track of staircases, Tremerello for a moment took my
3659
hand; he pressed it as much as to say, "Unhappy man! you are lost."
3660
3661
We came out at a gate which opened upon the lake, and there stood a
3662
gondola with two under jailers belonging to San Michele.
3663
3664
I entered the boat with feelings of the most contradictory nature;
3665
regret at leaving the prison of the Piombi, where I had suffered so
3666
much, but where I had become attached to some individuals, and they
3667
to me; the pleasure of beholding once more the sky, the city, and
3668
the clear waters, without the intervention of iron bars. Add to
3669
this the recollection of that joyous gondola, which, in time past,
3670
had borne me on the bosom of that placid lake; the gondolas of the
3671
lake of Como, those of Lago Maggiore, the little barks of the Po,
3672
those of the Rodano, and of the Sonna! Oh, happy vanished years!
3673
who, who then so happy in the world as I?
3674
3675
The son of excellent and affectionate parents, in a rank of life,
3676
perhaps, the happiest for the cultivation of the affections, being
3677
equally removed from riches and from poverty; I had spent my infancy
3678
in the participation of the sweetest domestic ties; had been the
3679
object of the tenderest domestic cares. I had subsequently gone to
3680
Lyons, to my maternal uncle, an elderly man, extremely wealthy, and
3681
deserving of all he possessed; and at his mansion I partook of all
3682
the advantages and delights of elegance and refined society, which
3683
gave an indescribable charm to those youthful days. Thence
3684
returning into Italy, under the parental roof, I at once devoted
3685
myself with ardour to study, and the enjoyment of society;
3686
everywhere meeting with distinguished friends and the most
3687
encouraging praise. Monti and Foscolo, although at variance with
3688
each other, were kind to me. I became more attached to the latter,
3689
and this irritable man, who, by his asperities, provoked so many to
3690
quarrel with him, was with me full of gentleness and cordiality.
3691
Other distinguished characters likewise became attached to me, and I
3692
returned all their regard. Neither envy nor calumny had the least
3693
influence over me, or I felt it only from persons who had not the
3694
power to injure me. On the fall of the kingdom of Italy, my father
3695
removed to Turin, with the rest of his family. I had preferred to
3696
remain at Milan, where I spent my time at once so profitably and so
3697
happily as made me unwilling to leave it. Here I had three friends
3698
to whom I was greatly attached--D. Pietro Borsieri, Lodovico di
3699
Breme, and the Count Luigi Porro Lambertenghi. Subsequently I added
3700
to them Count Federigo Confalonieri. {19} Becoming the preceptor of
3701
two young sons of Count Porro, I was to them as a father, and their
3702
father acted like a brother to me. His mansion was the resort not
3703
only of society the most refined and cultivated of Italy, but of
3704
numbers of celebrated strangers. It was there I became acquainted
3705
with De Stael, Schlegel, Davis, Byron, Brougham, Hobhouse, and
3706
illustrious travellers from all parts of Europe. How delightful,
3707
how noble an incentive to all that is great and good, is an
3708
intercourse with men of first-rate merit!. I was then happy; I
3709
would not have exchanged my lot with a prince; and now, to be
3710
hurled, as I had been, from the summit of all my hopes and projects,
3711
into an abyss of wretchedness, and to be hurried thus from dungeon
3712
to dungeon, to perish doubtless either by a violent death or
3713
lingering in chains.
3714
3715
3716
3717
CHAPTER LI.
3718
3719
3720
3721
Absorbed in reflections like these, I reached San Michele, and was
3722
locked up in a room which embraced a view of the court yard, of the
3723
lake, and the beautiful island of Murano. I inquired respecting
3724
Maroncelli from the jailer, from his wife, and the four assistants;
3725
but their visits were exceedingly brief, very ceremonious, and, in
3726
fact, they would tell me nothing.
3727
3728
Nevertheless where there are five or six persons, it is rarely you
3729
do not find one who possesses a compassionate, as well as a
3730
communicative disposition. I met with such a one, and from him I
3731
learnt what follows:-
3732
3733
Maroncelli, after having been long kept apart, had been placed with
3734
Count Camillo Laderchi. {20} The last, within a few days, had been
3735
declared innocent, and discharged from prison, and the former again
3736
remained alone. Some other of our companions had also been set at
3737
liberty; the Professor Romagnosi, {21} and Count Giovanni
3738
Arrivabene. {22} Captain Rezia {23} and the Signor Canova were
3739
together. Professor Ressi {24} was dying at that time, in a prison
3740
next to that of the two before mentioned. "It follows then," said
3741
I, "that the sentences of those not set at liberty must have
3742
arrived. How are they to be made known? Perhaps, poor Ressi will
3743
die; and will not be in a state to hear his sentence; is it true?"
3744
3745
"I believe it is."
3746
3747
Every day I inquired respecting the unhappy man. "He has lost his
3748
voice; he is rather better; he is delirious; he is nearly gone; he
3749
spits blood; he is dying;" were the usual replies; till at length
3750
came the last of all, "He is dead."
3751
3752
I shed a tear to his memory, and consoled myself with thinking that
3753
he died ignorant of the sentence which awaited him.
3754
3755
The day following, the 21st of February, 1822, the jailer came for
3756
me about ten o'clock, and conducted me into the Hall of the
3757
Commission. The members were all seated, but they rose; the
3758
President, the Inquisitor, and two assisting Judges.--The first,
3759
with a look of deep commiseration, acquainted me that my sentence
3760
had arrived; that it was a terrible one; but that the clemency of
3761
the Emperor had mitigated it.
3762
3763
The Inquisitor, fixing his eye on me, then read it:- "Silvio
3764
Pellico, condemned to death; the imperial decree is, that the
3765
sentence be commuted for fifteen years hard imprisonment in the
3766
fortress of Spielberg."
3767
3768
"The will of God be done!" was my reply.
3769
3770
It was really my intention to bear this horrible blow like a
3771
Christian, and neither to exhibit nor to feel resentment against any
3772
one whatever. The President then commended my state of mind, warmly
3773
recommending me to persevere in it, and that possibly by affording
3774
an edifying example, I might in a year or two be deemed worthy of
3775
receiving further favours from the imperial clemency.
3776
3777
Instead, however, of one or two, it was many years before the full
3778
sentence was remitted.
3779
3780
The other judges also spoke encouragingly to me. One of them,
3781
indeed, had appeared my enemy on my trial, accosting me in a
3782
courteous but ironical tone, while his look of insulting triumph
3783
seemed to belie his words. I would not make oath it was so, but my
3784
blood was then boiling, and I was trying to smother my passion.
3785
While they were praising me for my Christian patience, I had not a
3786
jot of it left me. "To-morrow," continued the Inquisitor, "I am
3787
sorry to say, you must appear and receive your sentence in public.
3788
It is a formality which cannot be dispensed with."
3789
3790
"Be it so!" I replied.
3791
3792
"From this time we grant you the company of your friend," he added.
3793
Then calling the jailer, he consigned me into his hands, ordering
3794
that I should be placed in the same dungeon with Maroncelli.
3795
3796
3797
3798
CHAPTER LII.
3799
3800
3801
3802
It was a delightful moment, when, after a separation of three
3803
months, and having suffered so greatly, I met my friend. For some
3804
moments we forgot even the severity of our sentence, conscious only
3805
of each other's presence.
3806
3807
But I soon turned from my friend to perform a more serious duty--
3808
that of writing to my father. I was desirous that the first tidings
3809
of my sad lot should reach my family from myself; in order that the
3810
grief which I knew they would all feel might be at least mitigated
3811
by hearing my state of mind, and the sentiments of peace and
3812
religion by which I was supported. The judges had given me a
3813
promise to expedite the letter the moment it was written.
3814
3815
Maroncelli next spoke to me respecting his trial; I acquainted him
3816
with mine, and we mutually described our prison walks and
3817
adventures, complimenting each other on our peripatetic philosophy.
3818
We approached our window, and saluted three of our friends, whom we
3819
beheld standing at theirs. Two of these were Canova and Rezia, in
3820
the same apartment; the first of whom was condemned to six-years'
3821
hard imprisonment, and the last to three. The third was Doctor
3822
Cesare Armari, who had been my neighbour some preceding months, in
3823
the prisons of the Piombi. He was not, however, among the
3824
condemned, and soon obtained his liberty.
3825
3826
The power of communicating with one or other of our fellow-
3827
prisoners, at all hours, was a great relief to our feelings. But
3828
when buried in silence and darkness, I was unable to compose myself
3829
to rest; I felt my head burn, and my heart bleed, as my thoughts
3830
reverted to home. Would my aged parents be enabled to bear up
3831
against so heavy a misfortune? would they find a sufficient resource
3832
in their other children? They were equally attached to all, and I
3833
valued myself least of all in that family of love; but will a father
3834
and a mother ever find in the children that remain to them a
3835
compensation for the one of whom they are deprived.
3836
3837
Had I dwelt only upon my relatives and a few other dear friends,
3838
much as I regretted them, my thoughts would have been less bitter
3839
than they were. But I thought of the insulting smile of that judge,
3840
of the trial, the cause of the respective sentences, political
3841
passions and enmities, and the fate of so many of my friends . . .
3842
It was then I could no longer think with patience or indulgence of
3843
any of my persecutors. God had subjected me to a severe trial, and
3844
it was my duty to have borne it with courage. Alas! I was neither
3845
able nor willing. The pride and luxury of hatred pleased me better
3846
than the noble spirit of forgiveness; and I passed a night of horror
3847
after receiving sentence.
3848
3849
In the morning I could not pray. The universe appeared to me, then,
3850
to be the work of some power, the enemy of good. I had previously,
3851
indeed, been guilty of calumniating my Creator; but little did I
3852
imagine I should revert to such ingratitude, and in so brief a time.
3853
Julian, in his most impious moods, could not express himself more
3854
impiously than myself. To gloat over thoughts of hatred, or fierce
3855
revenge, when smarting under the scourge of heaviest calamity,
3856
instead of flying to religion as a refuge, renders a man criminal,
3857
even though his cause be just. If we hate, it is a proof of rank
3858
pride; and where is the wretched mortal that dare stand up and
3859
declare in the face of Heaven, his title to hatred and revenge
3860
against his fellows? to assert that none have a right to sit in
3861
judgment upon him and his actions;--that none can injure him without
3862
a bad intention, or a violation of all justice? In short, he dares
3863
to arraign the decrees of Heaven itself, if it please Providence to
3864
make him suffer in a manner which he does not himself approve.
3865
3866
Still I was unhappy because I could not pray; for when pride reigns
3867
supreme, it acknowledges no other god than the self-idol it has
3868
created. How I could have wished to recommend to the Supreme
3869
Protector, the care of my bereaved parents, though at that unhappy
3870
moment I felt as if I no more believed in Him.
3871
3872
3873
3874
CHAPTER LIII.
3875
3876
3877
3878
At nine in the morning Maroncelli and I were conducted into the
3879
gondola which conveyed us into the city. We alighted at the palace
3880
of the Doge, and proceeded to the prisons. We were placed in the
3881
apartment which had been occupied by Signor Caporali a few days
3882
before, but with whose fate we were not acquainted. Nine or ten
3883
sbirri were placed over us as a guard, and walking about, we awaited
3884
the moment of being brought into the square. There was considerable
3885
delay. The Inquisitor did not make his appearance till noon, and
3886
then informed us that it was time to go. The physician, also,
3887
presented himself, and advised us to take a small glass of mint-
3888
water, which we accepted on account of the extreme compassion which
3889
the good old man expressed for us. It was Dr. Dosmo. The head
3890
bailiff then advanced and fixed the hand-cuffs upon us. We followed
3891
him, accompanied by the other bailiffs.
3892
3893
We next descended the magnificent staircase of the Giganti, and we
3894
called to mind the old Doge Faliero, who was beheaded there. We
3895
entered through the great gate which opens upon the small square
3896
from the court-yard of the palace, and we then turned to the left,
3897
in the direction of the lake. In the centre of the small square was
3898
raised the scaffold which we were to ascend. From the staircase of
3899
the Giganti, extending to the scaffold, were two lines of Austrian
3900
soldiers, through which we passed.
3901
3902
After ascending the platform, we looked around us, and saw an
3903
immense assembly of people, apparently struck with terror. In other
3904
directions were seen bands of armed men, to awe the multitude; and
3905
we were told that cannon were loaded in readiness to be discharged
3906
at a moment's notice. I was now exactly in the spot where, in
3907
September, 1820, just a month previous to my arrest, a mendicant had
3908
observed to me, "This is a place of misfortune."
3909
3910
I called to mind the circumstance, and reflected that very possibly
3911
in that immense throng of spectators the same person might be
3912
present, and perhaps even recognise me.
3913
3914
The German Captain now called out to us to turn towards the palace,
3915
and look up; we did so, and beheld, upon the lodge, a messenger of
3916
the Council, with a letter in his hand; it was the sentence; he
3917
began to read it in a loud voice.
3918
3919
It was ushered in by solemn silence, which was continued until he
3920
came to the words, CONDEMNED TO DEATH. There was then heard one
3921
general murmur of compassion. This was followed by a similar
3922
silence, in order to hear the rest of the document. A fresh murmur
3923
arose on the announcement of the following:- condemned to hard
3924
imprisonment, Maroncelli for TWENTY YEARS, and Pellico for FIFTEEN.
3925
3926
The Captain made a sign for us to descend. We cast one glance
3927
around us, and came down. We re-entered the court-yard, mounted the
3928
great staircase, and were conducted into the room from which we had
3929
been dragged. The manacles were removed, and we were soon
3930
reconducted to San Michele.
3931
3932
3933
3934
CHAPTER LIV.
3935
3936
3937
3938
The prisoners who had been condemned before us had already set out
3939
for Lubiana and Spielberg, accompanied by a commissary of police.
3940
He was now expected back, in order to conduct us to our destination;
3941
but the interval of a month elapsed.
3942
3943
My time was chiefly spent in talking, and listening to the
3944
conversation of others, in order to distract my attention.
3945
Maroncelli read me some of his literary productions, and in turn, I
3946
read him mine. One evening I read from the window my play of Ester
3947
d'Engaddi, to Canova, Rezia, and Armari; and the following evening,
3948
the Iginia d'Asti. During the night, however, I grew irritable and
3949
wretched, and was unable to sleep. I both desired and feared to
3950
learn in what manner the tidings of my calamity had been received by
3951
my family.
3952
3953
At length I got a letter from my father, and was grieved to find,
3954
from the date, that my last to him had not been sent, as I had
3955
requested of the Inquisitor, immediately! Thus my unhappy father,
3956
while flattering himself that I should be set at liberty, happening
3957
to take up the Milan Gazette, read the horrid sentence which I had
3958
just received upon the scaffold. He himself acquainted me with this
3959
fact, and left me to infer what his feelings must have been on
3960
meeting thus suddenly with the sad news. I cannot express the
3961
contempt and anger I felt on learning that my letter had been kept
3962
back; and how deeply I felt for all my poor unhappy family. There
3963
was doubtless no malice in this delay, but I looked upon it as a
3964
refinement of the most atrocious barbarity; an eager, infernal
3965
desire to see the iron enter, as it were, the very soul of my
3966
beloved and innocent relatives. I felt, indeed, as if I could have
3967
delighted to shed a sea of blood, could I only punish this flagrant
3968
and premeditated inhumanity.
3969
3970
Now that I judge calmly, I find it very improbable. The delay,
3971
doubtless, was simply owing to inadvertency on the part of
3972
subordinate agents. Enraged as I was, I heard with still more
3973
excited feelings that my companions were about to celebrate Easter
3974
week ere their departure. As for me, I considered it wholly
3975
impossible, inasmuch as I felt not the least disposition towards
3976
forgiveness. Should I be guilty of such a scandal!
3977
3978
3979
3980
CHAPTER LV.
3981
3982
3983
3984
At length the German commissioner arrived, and came to acquaint us
3985
that within two days we were to set out. "I have the pleasure," he
3986
added, "to give you some consoling tidings. On my return from
3987
Spielberg, I saw his majesty the Emperor at Vienna, who acquainted
3988
me that the penal days appointed you will not extend to twenty-four
3989
hours, but only to twelve. By this expression it is intended to
3990
signify that the pain will be divided, or half the punishment
3991
remitted." This division was never notified to us in an official
3992
form, but there is no reason to suppose that the commissioner would
3993
state an untruth; the less so as he made no secret of the
3994
information, which was known to the whole commission. Nevertheless,
3995
I could not congratulate myself upon it. To my feelings, seven
3996
years and a half had little more horrible in them (to be spent in
3997
chains and solitude) than fifteen; for I conceived it to be
3998
impossible to survive so long a period. My health had recently
3999
again become wretched! I suffered from severe pains of the chest,
4000
attended with cough, and thought my lungs were affected. I ate
4001
little, and that little I could not digest. Our departure took
4002
place on the night of the 25th of March. We were permitted to take
4003
leave of our friend, Cesare Armari. A sbirro chained us in a
4004
transverse manner, namely, the right hand and the left foot, so as
4005
to render it impossible for us to escape.
4006
4007
We went into a gondola, and the guards rowed us towards Fusina. On
4008
our arrival we found two boats in readiness for us. Rezia and
4009
Canova were placed in one, and Maroncelli and myself in the other.
4010
The commissary was also with two of the prisoners, and an under-
4011
commissary with the others. Six or seven guards of police completed
4012
our convoy; they were armed with swords and muskets; some of them at
4013
hand in the boats, others in the box of the Vetturino.
4014
4015
To be compelled by misfortune to leave one's country is always
4016
sufficiently painful; but to be torn from it in chains, doomed to
4017
exile in a horrible climate, to linger days, and hours, and years,
4018
in solitary dungeons, is a fate so appalling as to defy language to
4019
convey the remotest idea of it.
4020
4021
Ere we had traversed the Alps, I felt that my country was becoming
4022
doubly dear to me; the sympathy we awakened on every side, from all
4023
ranks, formed an irresistible appeal to my affection and gratitude.
4024
In every city, in every village, in every group of meanest houses,
4025
the news of our condemnation had been known for some weeks, and we
4026
were expected. In several places the commissioners and the guards
4027
had difficulty in dispersing the crowd which surrounded us. It was
4028
astonishing to witness the benevolent and humane feeling generally
4029
manifested in our behalf.
4030
4031
In Udine we met with a singular and touching incident. On arriving
4032
at the inn, the commissary caused the door of the court-yard to be
4033
closed, in order to keep back the people. A room was assigned us,
4034
and he ordered the waiters to bring supper, and make such
4035
accommodation as we required for repose. In a few moments three men
4036
entered with mattresses upon their shoulders. What was our surprise
4037
to see that only one of them was a servant of the inn; the other two
4038
were our acquaintance. We pretended to assist them in placing the
4039
beds, and had time to recognise and give each other the hand of
4040
fellowship and sympathy. It was too much; the tears started to our
4041
eyes. Ah! how trying was it to us all, not to be allowed the sad
4042
satisfaction even of shedding them in a last embrace.
4043
4044
The commissaries were not aware of the circumstance; but I had
4045
reason to think that one of the guards saw into the affair, just as
4046
the good Dario grasped me by the hand. He was a Venetian; he fixed
4047
his eyes upon us both; he turned pale; appeared in the act of making
4048
an alarm, then turned away his eyes, as if pretending not to see us.
4049
If he felt not assured that they were indeed our friends, he must
4050
have believed them to be some waiters with whom we were acquainted.
4051
4052
4053
4054
CHAPTER LVI.
4055
4056
4057
4058
The next morning we left Udine by dawn of day. The affectionate
4059
Dario was already in the street, wrapped in his mantle; he beckoned
4060
to us and followed us a long way. A coach also continued at some
4061
little distance from us for several miles. Some one waved a
4062
handkerchief from it, till it turned back; who could it have been?
4063
We had our own conjectures on the subject. May Heaven protect those
4064
generous spirits that thus cease not to love, and express their love
4065
for the unfortunate. I had the more reason to prize them from the
4066
fact of having met with cowards, who, not content with denying me,
4067
thought to benefit themselves by calumniating their once fortunate
4068
FRIEND. These cases, however, were rare, while those of the former,
4069
to the honour of the human character, were numerous.
4070
4071
I had supposed that the warm sympathy expressed for us in Italy
4072
would cease when we entered on a foreign soil. But I was deceived;
4073
the good man is ever the fellow-countryman of the unhappy! When
4074
traversing Illyrian and German ground, it was the same as in our own
4075
country. There was the same general lamentation at our fate; "Arme
4076
herren!" poor gentlemen, was on the lips of all.
4077
4078
Sometimes, on entering another district, our escort was compelled to
4079
stop in order to decide in what part to take up our quarters. The
4080
people would then gather round us, and we heard exclamations, and
4081
other expressions of commiseration, which evidently came from the
4082
heart. These proofs of popular feeling were still more gratifying
4083
to me, than such as I had met with from my own countrymen. The
4084
consolation which was thus afforded me, helped to soothe the bitter
4085
indignation I then felt against those whom I esteemed my enemies.
4086
Yet, possibly, I reflected, if we were brought more nearly
4087
acquainted, if I could see into their real motives, and I could
4088
explain my own feelings, I might be constrained to admit that they
4089
are not impelled by the malignant spirit I suppose, while they would
4090
find there was as little of bad in me. Nay, they might perhaps be
4091
induced not only to pity, but to admire and love us!
4092
4093
It is true, indeed, that men too often hate each other, merely
4094
because they are strangers to each other's real views and feelings;
4095
and the simple interchange of a few words would make them
4096
acknowledge their error, and give the hand of brotherhood to each
4097
other.
4098
4099
We remained a day at Lubiana; and there Canova and Rezia were
4100
separated from us, being forthwith conducted into the castle. It is
4101
easy to guess our feelings upon this painful occasion.
4102
4103
On the evening of our arrival at Lubiana and the day following, a
4104
gentleman came and joined us, who, if I remember rightly, announced
4105
himself as the municipal secretary. His manners were gentle and
4106
humane, and he spoke of religion in a tone at once elevated and
4107
impressive. I conjectured he must be a priest, the priests in
4108
Germany being accustomed to dress exactly in the same style as
4109
laymen. His countenance was calculated to excite esteem. I
4110
regretted that I was not enabled further to cultivate his
4111
acquaintance, and I blame myself for my inadvertency in not having
4112
taken down his name.
4113
4114
It irks me, too, that I cannot at this time recall the name of
4115
another gentle being, a young girl of Styria, who followed us
4116
through the crowd, and when our coach stopped for a few minutes,
4117
moved towards us with both hands, and afterwards, turned weeping
4118
away, supported by a young man, whose light hair proclaimed him of
4119
German extraction. But most probably he had been in Italy, where he
4120
had fallen in love with our fair countrywoman, and felt touched for
4121
our country. Yes! what pleasure it would have given me to record
4122
the names of those venerable fathers and mothers of families, who,
4123
in different districts, accosted us on our road, inquiring if we had
4124
parents and friends; and on hearing that we had, would grow pale,
4125
and exclaim, "Alas! may it please God to restore you soon to those
4126
wretched, bereaved ones whom you have left behind."
4127
4128
4129
4130
CHAPTER LVII.
4131
4132
4133
4134
On the 10th of April we arrived at our place of destination. The
4135
city of Brunn is the capital of Moravia, where the governor of the
4136
two provinces of Moravia and Silesia is accustomed to reside.
4137
Situated in a pleasant valley, it presents a rich and noble aspect.
4138
At one time it was a great manufactory of cloth, but its prosperous
4139
days were now passed, and its population did not exceed thirty
4140
thousand.
4141
4142
Contiguous to the walls on the western side rises a mount, and on
4143
this is placed the dreaded fortress of Spielberg, once the royal
4144
seat of the lords of Moravia, and now the most terrific prison under
4145
the Austrian monarchy. It was a well-guarded citadel, but was
4146
bombarded and taken by the French after the celebrated battle of
4147
Austerlitz, a village at a little distance from it. It was not
4148
generally repaired, with the exception of a portion of the outworks,
4149
which had been wholly demolished. Within it are imprisoned some
4150
three hundred wretches, for the most part robbers and assassins,
4151
some condemned to the carcere dare, others to that called durissimo,
4152
the severest of all. This HARD IMPRISONMENT comprehends compulsory,
4153
daily labour, to wear chains on the legs, to sleep upon bare boards,
4154
and to eat the worst imaginable food. The durissimo, or hardest,
4155
signifies being chained in a more horrible manner, one part of the
4156
iron being fixed in the wall, united to a hoop round the body of the
4157
prisoner, so as to prevent his moving further than the board which
4158
serves for his couch. We, as state prisoners, were condemned to the
4159
carcere duro. The food, however, is the same, though in the words
4160
of the law it is prescribed to be bread and water.
4161
4162
While mounting the acclivity we turned our eyes as if to take a last
4163
look of the world we were leaving, doubting if ever the portals of
4164
that living grave would be again unclosed to us. I was calm, but
4165
rage and indignation consumed my heart. It was in vain I had
4166
recourse to philosophy; it had no arguments to quiet or to support
4167
me.
4168
4169
I was in poor health on leaving Venice, and the journey had fatigued
4170
me exceedingly. I had a fever, and felt severe pains, both in my
4171
head and my limbs. Illness increased my irritation, and very
4172
probably the last had an equally ill effect upon my frame.
4173
4174
We were consigned over to the superintendent of Spielberg, and our
4175
names were registered in the same list as that of the robbers. The
4176
imperial commissary shook our hands upon taking leave, and was
4177
evidently affected. "Farewell," he said, "and let me recommend to
4178
you calmness and submission: for I assure you the least infraction
4179
of discipline will be punished by the governor in the severest
4180
manner."
4181
4182
The consignment being made out, my friend and myself were conducted
4183
into a subterranean gallery, where two dismal-looking dungeons were
4184
unlocked, at a distance from each other. In one of these I was
4185
entombed alive, and poor Maroncelli in the other.
4186
4187
4188
4189
CHAPTER LVIII.
4190
4191
4192
4193
How bitter is it, after having bid adieu to so many beloved objects,
4194
and there remains only a single one between yourself and utter
4195
solitude, the solitude of chains and a living death, to be separated
4196
even from that one! Maroncelli, on leaving me, ill and dejected,
4197
shed tears over me as one whom, it was most probable, he would never
4198
more behold. In him, too, I lamented a noble-minded man, cut off in
4199
the splendour of his intellect, and the vigour of his days, snatched
4200
from society, all its duties and its pleasures, and even from "the
4201
common air, the earth, the sky." Yet he survived the unheard of
4202
afflictions heaped upon him, but in what a state did he leave his
4203
living tomb!
4204
4205
When I found myself alone in that horrid cavern, heard the closing
4206
of the iron doors, the rattling of chains, and by the gloomy light
4207
of a high window, saw the wooden bench destined for my couch, with
4208
an enormous chain fixed in the wall, I sat down, in sullen rage, on
4209
my hard resting-place, and taking up the chain, measured its length,
4210
in the belief that it was destined for me.
4211
4212
In half an hour I caught the sound of locks and keys; the door
4213
opened, and the head-jailer handed me a jug of water.
4214
4215
"Here is something to drink," he said in a rough tone, "and you will
4216
have your loaf to-morrow."
4217
4218
"Thanks, my good man."
4219
4220
"I am not good," was the reply.
4221
4222
"The worse for you," I answered, rather sharply. "And this great
4223
chain," I added, "is it for me?"
4224
4225
"It is, Sir; if you don't happen to be quiet; if you get into a
4226
rage, or say impertinent things. But if you are reasonable, we
4227
shall only chain you by the feet. The blacksmith is getting all
4228
ready."
4229
4230
He then walked sullenly up and down, shaking that horrid ring of
4231
enormous keys, while with angry eye I measured his gigantic, lean,
4232
and aged figure. His features, though not decidedly vulgar, bore
4233
the most repulsive expression of brutal severity which I ever
4234
beheld!
4235
4236
How unjust are mankind when they presume to judge by appearances,
4237
and in deference to their vain, arrogant prejudices. The man whom I
4238
upbraided in my heart for shaking as it were in triumph those
4239
horrible keys, to make me more keenly sensible of his power, whom I
4240
set down as an insignificant tyrant, inured to practices of cruelty,
4241
was then revolving thoughts of compassion, and assuredly had spoken
4242
in that harsh tone only to conceal his real feelings. Perhaps he
4243
was afraid to trust himself, or that I should prove unworthy gentler
4244
treatment; doubtful whether I might not be yet more criminal than
4245
unhappy, though willing to afford me relief.
4246
4247
Annoyed by his presence, and the sort of lordly air he assumed, I
4248
determined to try to humble him, and called out as if speaking to a
4249
servant, "Give me something to drink!" He looked at me, as much as
4250
to say, "Arrogant man! this is no place for you to show the airs of
4251
a master." Still he was silent, bent his long back, took up the
4252
jug, and gave it to me. I perceived, as I took it from him, that he
4253
trembled, and believing it to proceed from age, I felt a mingled
4254
emotion of reverence and compassion. "How old are you?" I inquired
4255
in a kinder tone.
4256
4257
"Seventy-four, Sir; I have lived to see great calamities, both as
4258
regards others and myself."
4259
4260
The tremulous emotion I had observed increased as he said this, and
4261
again took the jug from my hand. I now thought it might be owing to
4262
some nobler feeling than the effect of age, and the aversion I had
4263
conceived instantaneously left me.
4264
4265
"And what is your name?" I inquired.
4266
4267
"It pleased fortune, Sir, to make a fool of me, by giving me the
4268
name of a great man. My name is Schiller." He then told me in a
4269
few words, some particulars as to his native place, his family, the
4270
campaigns in which he had served, and the wounds he had received.
4271
4272
He was a Switzer, the son of peasants, had been in the wars against
4273
the Turks, under Marshal Laudon, in the reign of Maria Theresa and
4274
Joseph II. He had subsequently served in the Austrian campaigns
4275
against France, up to the period of Napoleon's exile.
4276
4277
4278
4279
CHAPTER LIX.
4280
4281
4282
4283
When we begin to form a better opinion of one against whom we had
4284
conceived a strong prejudice, we seem to discover in every feature,
4285
in his voice, and manner, fresh marks of a good disposition, to
4286
which we were before strangers. Is this real, or is it not rather
4287
founded upon illusion? Shortly before, we interpreted the very same
4288
expressions in another way. Our judgment of moral qualities has
4289
undergone a change, and soon, the conclusions drawn from our
4290
knowledge of physiognomy are equally different. How many portraits
4291
of celebrated men inspire us only with respect or admiration because
4292
we know their characters; portraits which we should have pronounced
4293
worthless and unattractive had they represented the ordinary race of
4294
mortals. And thus it is, if we reason vice versa. I once laughed,
4295
I remember, at a lady, who on beholding a likeness of Catiline
4296
mistook it for that of Collatinus, and remarked upon the sublime
4297
expression of grief in the features of Collatinus for the loss of
4298
his Lucretia. These sort of illusions are not uncommon. I would
4299
not maintain that the features of good men do not bear the
4300
impression of their character, like irreclaimable villains that of
4301
their depravity; but that there are many which have at least a
4302
doubtful cast. In short, I won a little upon old Schiller; I looked
4303
at him more attentively, and he no longer appeared forbidding. To
4304
say the truth, there was something in his language which, spite of
4305
its rough tone, showed the genuine traits of a noble mind. And
4306
spite of our first looks of mutual distrust and defiance, we seemed
4307
to feel a certain respect for each other; he spoke boldly what he
4308
thought, and so did I.
4309
4310
"Captain as I am," he observed, "I have fallen,--to take my rest,
4311
into this wretched post of jailer; and God knows it is far more
4312
disagreeable for me to maintain it, than it was to risk my life in
4313
battle."
4314
4315
I was now sorry I had asked him so haughtily to give me drink. "My
4316
dear Schiller," I said, grasping his hand, "it is in vain you deny
4317
it, I know you are a good fellow; and as I have fallen into this
4318
calamity, I thank heaven which has given me you for a guardian!"
4319
4320
He listened to me, shook his head, and then rubbing his forehead,
4321
like a man in some perplexity or trouble.
4322
4323
"No, Sir, I am bad--rank bad. They made me take an oath, which I
4324
must, and will keep. I am bound to treat all the prisoners, without
4325
distinction, with equal severity; no indulgence, no permission to
4326
relent, to soften the sternest orders, in particular as regards
4327
prisoners of state."
4328
4329
"You are a noble fellow; I respect you for making your duty a point
4330
of conscience. You may err, humanly speaking, but your motives are
4331
pure in the eyes of God."
4332
4333
"Poor gentleman, have patience, and pity me. I shall be hard as
4334
steel in my duty, but my heart bleeds to be unable to relieve the
4335
unfortunate. This is all I really wished to say." We were both
4336
affected.
4337
4338
He then entreated that I would preserve my calmness, and not give
4339
way to passion, as is too frequent with solitary prisoners, and
4340
calls for restraint, and even for severer punishment.
4341
4342
He afterwards resumed his gruff, affected tone as if to conceal the
4343
compassion he felt for me, observing that it was high time for him
4344
to go.
4345
4346
He came back, however, and inquired how long a time I had been
4347
afflicted with that horrible cough, reflecting sharply upon the
4348
physician for not coming to see me that very evening. "You are ill
4349
of a horse fever," he added, "I know it well; you will stand in need
4350
of a straw bed, but we cannot give you one till the doctor has
4351
ordered it."
4352
4353
He retired, locked the door, and I threw myself upon the hard
4354
boards, with considerable fever and pain in my chest, but less
4355
irritable, less at enmity with mankind, and less alienated from God.
4356
4357
4358
4359
CHAPTER LX.
4360
4361
4362
4363
In the evening came the superintendent, attended by Schiller,
4364
another captain, and two soldiers, to make the usual search. Three
4365
of these inquisitions were ordered each day, at morning, noon, and
4366
midnight. Every corner of the prison was examined, and each article
4367
of the most trivial kind. The inferior officers then left, and the
4368
superintendent remained a little time to converse with me.
4369
4370
The first time I saw this troop of jailers approach, a strange
4371
thought came into my head. Being unacquainted with their habits of
4372
search, and half delirious with fever, it struck me that they were
4373
come to take my life, and seizing my great chain I resolved to sell
4374
it dearly by knocking the first upon the head that offered to molest
4375
me.
4376
4377
"What mean you?" exclaimed the superintendent; "we are not going to
4378
hurt you. It is merely a formal visit to ascertain that all is in
4379
proper order in the prisons."
4380
4381
I hesitated, but when I saw Schiller advance and stretch forth his
4382
hand with a kind, paternal look, I dropped the chain and took his
4383
proffered hand. "Lord! how it burns," he said, turning towards the
4384
superintendent; "he ought at least to have a straw bed;" and he said
4385
this in so truly compassionate a tone as quite to win my heart. The
4386
superintendent then felt my pulse, and spoke some consolatory words:
4387
he was a man of gentlemanly manners, but dared not for his life
4388
express any opinion upon the subject.
4389
4390
"It is all a reign of terror here," said he, "even as regards
4391
myself. Should I not execute my orders to the rigour of the letter,
4392
you would no longer see me here." Schiller made a long face, and I
4393
could have wagered he said within himself, "But if I were at the
4394
head, like you, I would not carry my apprehensions so very far; for
4395
to give an opinion on a matter of such evident necessity, and so
4396
innocuous to government, would never be esteemed a mighty fault."
4397
4398
When left alone, I felt my heart, so long incapable of any deep
4399
sense of religion, stirred within me, and knelt down to pray. I
4400
besought a blessing upon the head of old Schiller, and appealing to
4401
God, asked that he would so move the hearts of those around me, as
4402
to permit me to become attached to them, and no longer suffer me to
4403
hate my fellow-beings, humbly accepting all that was to be inflicted
4404
upon me from His hand.
4405
4406
About midnight I heard people passing along the gallery. Keys were
4407
sounding, and soon the door opened; it was the captain and his
4408
guards on search.
4409
4410
"Where is my old Schiller?" inquired I. He had stopped outside in
4411
the gallery.
4412
4413
"I am here--I am here!" was the answer. He came towards the table,
4414
and, feeling my pulse, hung over me as a father would over his child
4415
with anxious and inquiring look. "Now I remember," said he, "to-
4416
morrow is Thursday."
4417
4418
"And what of that?" I inquired.
4419
4420
"Why! it is just one of the days when the doctor does not attend, he
4421
comes only on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Plague on him."
4422
4423
"Give yourself no uneasiness about that!"
4424
4425
"No uneasiness, no uneasiness!" he muttered, "but I do; you are ill,
4426
I see; nothing is talked of in the whole town but the arrival of
4427
yourself and friends; the doctor must have heard of it; and why the
4428
devil could he not make the extraordinary exertion of coming once
4429
out of his time?"
4430
4431
"Who knows!" said I, "he may perhaps be here tomorrow,--Thursday
4432
though it will be?"
4433
4434
The old man said no more, he gave me a squeeze of the hand, enough
4435
to break every bone in my fingers, as a mark of his approbation of
4436
my courage and resignation. I was a little angry with him, however,
4437
much as a young lover, if the girl of his heart happen in dancing to
4438
press her foot upon his; he laughs and esteems himself highly
4439
favoured, instead of crying out with the pain.
4440
4441
4442
4443
CHAPTER LXI.
4444
4445
4446
4447
I awoke on Thursday morning, after a horrible night, weak, aching in
4448
all my bones, from the hard boards, and in a profuse perspiration.
4449
The visit hour came, but the superintendent was absent; and he only
4450
followed at a more convenient time. I said to Schiller, "Just see
4451
how terribly I perspire; but it is now growing cold upon me; what a
4452
treat it would be to change my shirt."
4453
4454
"You cannot do it," he said, in a brutal tone. At the same time he
4455
winked, and moved his hand. The captain and guards withdrew, and
4456
Schiller made me another sign as he closed the door. He soon opened
4457
it again, and brought one of his own shirts, long enough to cover me
4458
from head to feet, even if doubled.
4459
4460
"It is perhaps a little too long, but I have no others here."
4461
4462
"I thank you, friend, but as I brought with me a whole trunk full of
4463
linen, I do hope I may be permitted the use of it. Have the
4464
kindness to ask the superintendent to let me have one of my shirts."
4465
4466
"You will not be permitted, Sir, to use any of your linen here.
4467
Each week you will have a shirt given you from the house like the
4468
other prisoners."
4469
4470
"You see, good man, in what a condition I am. I shall never go out
4471
of here alive. I shall never be able to reward you."
4472
4473
"For shame, Sir! for shame!" said the old man. "Talk of reward to
4474
one who can do you no good! to one who dare hardly give a dry shirt
4475
to a sick fellow creature in a sweat!" He then helped me on with
4476
his long shirt, grumbling all the while, and slammed the door to
4477
with violence on going out, as if he had been in a great rage.
4478
4479
About two hours after, he brought me a piece of black bread.
4480
"This," he said, "is your two days' fare!" he then began to walk
4481
about in a sulky mood.
4482
4483
"What is the matter?" I inquired; "are you vexed at me? You know I
4484
took the shirt."
4485
4486
"I am enraged at that doctor; though it be Thursday he might show
4487
his ugly face here."
4488
4489
"Patience!" said I; but though I said it, I knew not for the life of
4490
me how to get the least rest, without a pillow, upon those hard
4491
boards. Every bone in my body suffered. At eleven I was treated to
4492
the prison dinner--two little iron pots, one of soup, the other of
4493
herbs, mixed in such a way as to turn your stomach with the smell.
4494
I tried to swallow a few spoonfuls, but did not succeed. Schiller
4495
encouraged me: "Never despair," said he; "try again; you will get
4496
used to it in time. If you don't, you will be like many others
4497
before you, unable to eat anything but bread, and die of mere
4498
inanition."
4499
4500
Friday morning came, and with it came Dr. Bayer at last. He found
4501
me very feverish, ordered me a straw bed, and insisted I should be
4502
removed from the caverns into one of the abodes above. It could not
4503
be done; there was no room. An appeal was made to the Governor of
4504
Moravia and Silesia, residing at Brunn, who commanded, on the
4505
urgency of the case, that the medical advice should be followed.
4506
4507
There was a little light in the room to which I was removed. I
4508
crawled towards the bars of the narrow window, and had the delight
4509
of seeing the valley that lay below,--part of the city of Brunn,--a
4510
suburb with gardens,--the churchyard,--the little lake of Certosa,--
4511
and the woody hills which lay between us and the famous plains of
4512
Austerlitz. I was enchanted, and oh, what double pleasure, thought
4513
I, would be mine, were I enabled to share it with my poor friend
4514
Maroncelli!
4515
4516
4517
4518
CHAPTER LXII.
4519
4520
4521
4522
Meanwhile, our prison dresses were making for us, and five days
4523
afterwards mine was brought to me. It consisted of a pair of
4524
pantaloons made of rough cloth, of which the right side was grey,
4525
the left of a dark colour. The waistcoat was likewise of two
4526
colours equally divided, as well as the jacket, but with the same
4527
colours placed on the contrary sides. The stockings were of the
4528
coarsest wool; the shirt of linen tow full of sharp points--a true
4529
hair-cloth garment; and round the neck was a piece of the same kind.
4530
Our legs were enveloped in leather buskins, untanned, and we wore a
4531
coarse white hat.
4532
4533
This costume was not complete without the addition of chains to the
4534
feet, that is, extending from one leg to the other, the joints being
4535
fastened with nails, which were riveted upon an anvil. The
4536
blacksmith employed upon my legs, in this operation, observed to one
4537
of the guards, thinking I knew nothing of German, "So ill as he is,
4538
one would think they might spare him this sort of fun; ere two
4539
months be over, the angel of death will loosen these rivets of
4540
mine."
4541
4542
"Mochte es seyn! may it be so!" was my reply, as I touched him upon
4543
the shoulder. The poor fellow started, and seemed quite confused;
4544
he then said; "I hope I may be a false prophet; and I wish you may
4545
be set free by another kind of angel."
4546
4547
"Yet, rather than live thus, think you not, it would be welcome even
4548
from the angel of death?" He nodded his head, and went away, with a
4549
look of deep compassion for me.
4550
4551
I would truly have been willing to die, but I felt no disposition
4552
towards suicide. I felt confident that the disease of my lungs
4553
would be enough, ere long, to give me freedom. Such was not the
4554
will of God. The fatigue of my journey had made me much worse, but
4555
rest seemed again to restore my powers.
4556
4557
A few minutes after the blacksmith left me, I heard the hammer
4558
sounding upon the anvil in one of the caverns below. Schiller was
4559
then in my room. "Do you hear those blows?" I said; "they are
4560
certainly fixing the irons on poor Maroncelli." The idea for the
4561
moment was so overwhelming, that if the old man had not caught me, I
4562
should have fallen. For more than half an hour, I continued in a
4563
kind of swoon, and yet I was sensible. I could not speak, my pulse
4564
scarcely beat at all; a cold sweat bathed me from head to foot.
4565
Still I could hear all that Schiller said, and had a keen
4566
perception, both of what had passed and was passing.
4567
4568
By command of the superintendent and the activity of the guards, the
4569
whole of the adjacent prisons had been kept in a state of profound
4570
silence. Three or four times I had caught snatches of some Italian
4571
song, but they were quickly stifled by the calls of the sentinels on
4572
duty. Several of these were stationed upon the ground-floor, under
4573
our windows, and one in the gallery close by, who was continually
4574
engaged in listening at the doors and looking through the bars to
4575
forbid every kind of noise.
4576
4577
Once, towards evening (I feel the same sort of emotion whenever I
4578
recur to it), it happened that the sentinels were less on the alert;
4579
and I heard in a low but clear voice some one singing in a prison
4580
adjoining my own. What joy, what agitation I felt at the sound. I
4581
rose from my bed of straw, I bent my ear; and when it ceased--I
4582
burst into tears. "Who art thou, unhappy one?" I cried, "who art
4583
thou? tell me thy name! I am Silvio Pellico."
4584
4585
"Oh, Silvio!" cried my neighbour, "I know you not by person, but I
4586
have long loved you. Get up to your window, and let us speak to
4587
each other, in spite of the jailers."
4588
4589
I crawled up as well as I could; he told me his name, and we
4590
exchanged few words of kindness. It was the Count Antonio Oroboni,
4591
a native of Fratta, near Rovigo, and only twenty-nine years of age.
4592
Alas! we were soon interrupted by the ferocious cries of the
4593
sentinels. He in the gallery knocked as loud as he could with the
4594
butt-end of his musket, both at the Count's door and at mine. We
4595
would not, and we could not obey; but the noise, the oaths, and
4596
threats of the guards were such as to drown our voices, and after
4597
arranging that we would resume our communications, upon a change of
4598
guards, we ceased to converse.
4599
4600
4601
4602
CHAPTER LXIII.
4603
4604
4605
4606
We were in hopes (and so in fact it happened) that by speaking in a
4607
lower tone, and perhaps occasionally having guards whose humanity
4608
might prompt them to pay no attention to us, we might renew our
4609
conversation. By dint of practice we learnt to hear each other in
4610
so low a key that the sounds were almost sure to escape the notice
4611
of the sentinels. If, as it rarely happened, we forgot ourselves,
4612
and talked aloud, there came down upon us a torrent of cries, and
4613
knocks at our doors, accompanied with threats and curses of every
4614
kind, to say nothing of poor Schiller's vexation, and that of the
4615
superintendent.
4616
4617
By degrees, however, we brought our system to perfection; spoke only
4618
at the precise minutes, quarters, and half hours when it was safe,
4619
or when such and such guards were upon duty. At length, with
4620
moderate caution, we were enabled every day to converse almost as
4621
much as we pleased, without drawing on us the attention or anger of
4622
any of the superior officers.
4623
4624
It was thus we contracted an intimate friendship. The Count told me
4625
his adventures, and in turn I related mine. We sympathised in
4626
everything we heard, and in all each other's joys or griefs. It was
4627
of infinite advantage to us, as well as pleasure; for often, after
4628
passing a sleepless night, one or the other would hasten to the
4629
window and salute his friend. How these mutual welcomes and
4630
conversations helped to encourage us, and to soothe the horrors of
4631
our continued solitude! We felt that we were useful to each other;
4632
and the sense of this roused a gentle emulation in all our thoughts,
4633
and gave a satisfaction which man receives, even in misery, when he
4634
knows he can serve a fellow-creature. Each conversation gave rise
4635
to new ones; it was necessary to continue them, and to explain as we
4636
went on. It was an unceasing stimulus to our ideas to our reason,
4637
our memory, our imagination, and our hearts.
4638
4639
At first, indeed, calling to mind Julian, I was doubtful as to the
4640
fidelity of this new friend. I reflected that hitherto we had not
4641
been at variance; but some day I feared something unpleasant might
4642
occur, and that I should then be sent back to my solitude. But this
4643
suspicion was soon removed. Our opinions harmonised upon all
4644
essential points. To a noble mind, full of ardour and generous
4645
sentiment, undaunted by misfortune, he added the most clear and
4646
perfect faith in Christianity, while in me this had become
4647
vacillating and at times apparently extinct.
4648
4649
He met my doubts with most just and admirable reflections; and with
4650
equal affection, I felt that he had reason on his side: I admitted
4651
it, yet still my doubts returned. It is thus, I believe, with all
4652
who have not the Gospel at heart, and who hate, or indulge
4653
resentments of any kind. The mind catches glimpses, as it were, of
4654
the truth, but as it is unpleasing, it is disbelieved the moment
4655
after, and the attention directed elsewhere.
4656
4657
Oroboni was indefatigable in turning MY attention to the motives
4658
which man has to show kindness to his enemies. I never spoke of any
4659
one I abhorred but he began in a most dexterous manner to defend
4660
him, and not less by his words than by his example. Many men had
4661
injured him; it grieved him, yet he forgave all, and had the
4662
magnanimity to relate some laudable trait or other belonging to
4663
each, and seemed to do it with pleasure.
4664
4665
The irritation which had obtained such a mastery over me, and
4666
rendered me so irreligious after my condemnation, continued several
4667
weeks, and then wholly ceased. The noble virtue of Oroboni
4668
delighted me. Struggling as well as I could to reach him, I at
4669
least trod in the same track, and I was then enabled to pray with
4670
sincerity; to forgive, to hate no one, and dissipate every remaining
4671
doubt and gloom.
4672
4673
Ubi charitas et amor, Deus ibi est. {25}
4674
4675
4676
4677
CHAPTER LXIV.
4678
4679
4680
4681
To say truth, if our punishment was excessively severe, and
4682
calculated to irritate the mind, we had still the rare fortune of
4683
meeting only with individuals of real worth. They could not,
4684
indeed, alleviate our situation, except by kindness and respect, but
4685
so much was freely granted. If there were something rude and
4686
uncouth in old Schiller, it was amply compensated by his noble
4687
spirit. Even the wretched Kunda (the convict who brought us our
4688
dinner, and water three times a day) was anxious to show his
4689
compassion for us. He swept our rooms regularly twice in the week.
4690
One morning, while thus engaged, as Schiller turned a few steps from
4691
the door, poor Kunda offered me a piece of white bread. I refused
4692
it, but squeezed him cordially by the hand. He was moved, and told
4693
me, in bad German, that he was a Pole. "Good sir," he added, "they
4694
give us so little to eat here, that I am sure you must be hungry."
4695
I assured him I was not, but he was very hard of belief.
4696
4697
The physician, perceiving that we were none of us enabled to swallow
4698
the kind of food prepared for us on our first arrival, put us all
4699
upon what is considered the hospital diet. This consisted of three
4700
very small plates of soup in the day, the least slice of roast lamb,
4701
hardly a mouthful, and about three ounces of white bread.
4702
4703
As my health continued to improve, my appetite grew better, and that
4704
"fourth portion," as they termed it, was really too little, and I
4705
began to feel the justice of poor Kunda's remarks. I tried a return
4706
to the sound diet, but do what I would to conquer my aversion, it
4707
was all labour lost. I was compelled to live upon the fourth part
4708
of ordinary meals: and for a whole year I knew by experience the
4709
tortures of hunger. It was still more severely felt by many of my
4710
fellow-prisoners, who, being far stouter, had been accustomed to a
4711
full and generous diet. I learnt that many of them were glad to
4712
accept pieces of bread from Schiller and some of the guards, and
4713
even from the poor hungry Kunda.
4714
4715
"It is reported in the city," said the barber, a young practitioner
4716
of our surgery, one day to me, "it is reported that they do not give
4717
you gentlemen here enough to eat."
4718
4719
"And it is very true," replied I, with perfect sincerity.
4720
4721
The next Sunday (he came always on that day) he brought me an
4722
immense white loaf, and Schiller pretended not to see him give it
4723
me. Had I listened to my stomach I should have accepted it, but I
4724
would not, lest he should repeat the gift and bring himself into
4725
some trouble. For the same reason I refused Schiller's offers. He
4726
would often bring me boiled meat, entreating me to partake of it,
4727
and protesting it cost him nothing; besides, he knew not what to do
4728
with it, and must give it away to somebody. I could have devoured
4729
it, but would he not then be tempted to offer me something or other
4730
every day, and what would it end in? Twice only I partook of some
4731
cherries and some pears; they were quite irresistible. I was
4732
punished as I expected, for from that time forth the old man never
4733
ceased bringing me fruit of some kind or other.
4734
4735
4736
4737
CHAPTER LXV.
4738
4739
4740
4741
It was arranged, on our arrival, that each of us should be permitted
4742
to walk an hour twice in the week. In the sequel, this relief was
4743
one day granted us and another refused; and the hour was always
4744
later during festivals.
4745
4746
We went, each separately, between two guards, with loaded muskets on
4747
their shoulders. In passing from my prison, at the head of the
4748
gallery, I went by the whole of the Italian prisoners, with the
4749
exception of Maroncelli--the only one condemned to linger in the
4750
caverns below. "A pleasant walk!" whispered they all, as they saw
4751
me pass; but I was not allowed to exchange a single word.
4752
4753
I was led down a staircase which opened into a spacious court, where
4754
we walked upon a terrace, with a south aspect, and a view of the
4755
city of Brunn and the surrounding country. In this courtyard we saw
4756
numbers of the common criminals, coming from, or going to, their
4757
labour, or passing along conversing in groups. Among them were
4758
several Italian robbers, who saluted me with great respect. "He is
4759
no rogue, like us; yet you see his punishment is more severe"; and
4760
it was true, they had a larger share of freedom than I.
4761
4762
Upon hearing expressions like these, I turned and saluted them with
4763
a good-natured look. One of them observed, "It does me good to see
4764
you, sir, when you notice me. Possibly you may see something in my
4765
look not so very wicked. An unhappy passion instigated me to commit
4766
a crime, but believe me, sir, I am no villain!"
4767
4768
Saying this he burst into tears. I gave him my hand, but he was
4769
unable to return the pressure. At that moment, my guard, according
4770
to their instructions, drove him away, declaring that they must
4771
permit no one to approach me. The observations subsequently
4772
addressed to me were pretended to be spoken among each other; and if
4773
my two attendants became aware of it, they quickly interposed
4774
silence.
4775
4776
Prisoners of various ranks, and visitors of the superintendent, the
4777
chaplain, the sergeant, or some of the captains, were likewise to be
4778
seen there. "That is an Italian, that is an Italian!" they often
4779
whispered each other. They stopped to look at me, and they would
4780
say in German, supposing I should not understand them, "That poor
4781
gentleman will not live to be old; he has death in his countenance."
4782
4783
In fact, after recovering some degree of strength, I again fell ill
4784
for want of nourishment, and fever again attacked me. I attempted
4785
to drag myself, as far as my chain would permit, along the walk, and
4786
throwing myself upon the turf, I rested there until the expiration
4787
of my hour. The guards would then sit down near me, and begin to
4788
converse with each other. One of them, a Bohemian, named Kral, had,
4789
though very poor, received some sort of an education, which he had
4790
himself improved by reflection. He was fond of reading, had studied
4791
Klopstock, Wieland, Goethe, Schiller, and many other distinguished
4792
German writers. He knew a good deal by memory, and repeated many
4793
passages with feeling and correctness. The other guard was a Pole,
4794
by name Kubitzky, wholly untaught, but kind and respectful. Their
4795
society was a great relief to me.
4796
4797
4798
4799
CHAPTER LXVI.
4800
4801
4802
4803
At one end of the terrace was situated the apartments of the
4804
superintendent, at the other was the residence of a captain, with
4805
his wife and son. When I saw any one appear from these buildings, I
4806
was in the habit of approaching near, and was invariably received
4807
with marks of courtesy and compassion.
4808
4809
The wife of the captain had been long ill, and appeared to be in a
4810
decline. She was sometimes carried into the open air, and it was
4811
astonishing to see the sympathy she expressed for our sufferings.
4812
She had the sweetest look I ever saw; and though evidently timid,
4813
would at times fix her eye upon me with an inquiring, confiding
4814
glance, when appealed to by name. One day I observed to her with a
4815
smile, "Do you know, signora, I find a resemblance between you and
4816
one who was very dear to me." She blushed, and replied with
4817
charming simplicity, "Do not then forget me when I shall be no more;
4818
pray for my unhappy soul, and for the little ones I leave behind
4819
me!" I never saw her after that day; she was unable to rise from
4820
her bed, and in a few months I heard of her death.
4821
4822
She left three sons, all beautiful as cherubs, and one still an
4823
infant at the breast. I had often seen the poor mother embrace them
4824
when I was by, and say, with tears in her eyes, "Who will be their
4825
mother when I am gone? Ah, whoever she may be, may it please the
4826
Father of all to inspire her with love, even for children not her
4827
own."
4828
4829
Often, when she was no more, did I embrace those fair children, shed
4830
a tear over them, and invoke their mother's blessing on them, in the
4831
same words. Thoughts of my own mother, and of the prayers she so
4832
often offered up for HER lost son, would then come over me, and I
4833
added, with broken words and sighs, "Oh, happier mother than mine,
4834
you left, indeed, these innocent ones, so young and fair, but my