Imatges de pÓgina
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not cause me to doubt their presence, particularly as I did see upon the screen a great number of coins offered for the repose of the martyrs' souls. I threw down some soldi, and thus enthralled the sacristan.

If the signor cared to see prisons, he said, the driver must take him to those of Ecelino, at present the property of a private gentleman near by. As I had just bought a history of Ecelino, at a great bargain, from a second-hand bookstall, and had a lively interest in all the enormities of that nobleman, I sped the driver instantly to the villa of the Signor Pacchiarotti.

It depends here altogether upon the freshness or mustiness of the reader's historical reading whether he cares to be reminded more particularly who Ecelino was. He flourished balefully in the early half of the thirteenth century as lord of Vicenza, Verona, Padua, and Brescia, and was defeated and hurt to death in an attempt to possess himself of Milan. He was in every respect a remarkable man for that time, fearless, abstemious, continent, avaricious, hardy, and unspeakably ambitious and cruel. He survived and suppressed innumerable conspiracies, escaping even the thrust of the assassin whom the fame of his enormous wickedness had caused the Old Man of the Mountain to send against him. As lord of Padua he was more incredibly severe and bloody in his rule than as lord of the other cities, for the Paduans had been latest free, and conspired most frequently against him. He extirpated whole families on suspicion that a single member had been concerned in a meditated revolt. Little children and helpless women suffered hideous mutilation and shame at his hands. Six prisons in Padua were constantly filled by his arrests. The whole country was traversed by witnesses of his cruelties, men and women deprived of an arm or leg, and begging from door to door. He had long been excommunicated; at last the Church proclaimed a crusade against him, and his lieutenant and nephew

more demoniacal, if possible, than himself- was driven out of Padua while he was operating against Mantua. Ecelino retired to Verona, and maintained a struggle against the crusade for nearly two years longer, with a courage which never failed him. Wounded and taken prisoner, the soldiers of the victorious army gathered about him, and heaped insult and reproach upon him; and one furious peasant, whose brother's feet had been cut off by Ecelino's command, dealt the helpless monster four blows upon the head with a scythe. By some, Ecelino is said to have died of these wounds alone; but by others it is related that his death was a kind of suicide, inasmuch as he himself put the case past surgery by tearing off the bandages from his hurts, and refusing all medicines.

II.

ENTERING at the enchanted portal of the Villa P, we found ourselves in a realm of wonder. It was our misfortune not to see the magician who compelled all the marvels on which we looked, but for that very reason, perhaps, we have the clearest sense of his greatness. Everywhere we beheld the evidences of his ingenious but lugubrious fancy, which everywhere tended to a monumental and mortuary effect. A sort of vestibule first received us, and beyond this dripped and glimmered the garden. The walls of the vestibule were covered with inscriptions setting forth the sentiments of the philosophy and piety of all ages concerning life and death; we began with Confucius, and we ended with Benjamino Franklino. But as if these ideas of mortality were not sufficiently depressing, the funereal Signor Phad collected into earthern amphora the ashes of the most famous men of ancient and modern times, and arranged them so that a sense of their number and variety should at once strike his visitor. Each jar was conspicuously labelled with the name its illustrious dust had borne in life; and if

one escaped with comparative cheerfulness from the thought that Seneca had died, there were in the very next pot the cinders of Napoleon to bully him back to a sense of his mortality.

We were glad to have the gloomy fascination of these objects broken by the custodian, who approached to ask if we wished to see the prisons of Ecelino, and we willingly followed him into the rain out of our sepulchral shel

ter.

Between the vestibule and the towers of the tyrant lay that garden already mentioned, and our guide led us through ranks of weeping statuary, and rainy bowers, and showery lanes of shrubbery, until we reached the door of his cottage. While he entered to fetch the key to the prisons, we noted that the towers were freshly painted and in perfect repair; and indeed the custodian said frankly enough, on reappearing, that they were merely built over the prisons on the site of the original towers. The storied stream of the Bacchiglione sweeps through the grounds, and now, swollen by the rainfall, it roared, a yellow torrent, under a corner of the prisons. The towers rise from masses of foliage, and form no unpleasing feature of what must be, in spite of Signor P————————, a delightful Italian garden in sunny weather. The ground is not so flat as elsewhere in Padua, and this inequality gives an additional picturesqueness to the place. But as we were come in search of horrors, we scorned these merely lovely things, and hastened to immure ourselves in the dungeons below. The custodian, lighting a candle, (which ought, we felt, to have been a torch,) went before.

We found the cells, though narrow and dark, not uncomfortable, and the guide conceded that they had undergone some repairs since Ecelino's time. But all the horrors for which we had come were there in perfect grisliness, and labelled by the ingenious Signor P—————————— with Latin inscriptions.

In the first cell was a shrine of the Virgin, set in the wall. Beneath this,

while the wretched prisoner knelt in prayer, a trap-door opened and precipitated him down upon the points. of knives, from which his body fell into the Bacchiglione below. In the next cell, held by some rusty iron rings to the wall, was a skeleton, hanging by the wrists.

"This," said the guide, "was another punishment of which Ecelino was very fond."

A dreadful doubt siezed my mind. "Was this skeleton found here?" I demanded.

Without faltering an instant, without so much as winking an eye, the custodian replied, “Appunto."

It was a great relief, and restored me to confidence in the establishment. I am at a loss to explain how my faith should have been confirmed afterwards by coming upon a guillotine-an awful instrument in the likeness of a straw-cutter, with a decapitated wooden figure under its blade - which the custodian confessed to be a modern improvement placed there by Signor P—. Yet my credulity was so strengthened by his candor, that I accepted without hesitation the torture of the water-drop when we came to it. The water-jar was as well preserved as if placed there but yesterday, and the skeleton beneath it found as we saw it was entire and perfect.

In the adjoining cell sat a skeleton - found as we saw it - with its neck in the clutch of the garrote, which was one of Ecelino's more merciful punishments; while in still another cell the ferocity of the tyrant appeared in the penalty inflicted upon the wretch whose skeleton had been hanging for ages as we saw it-head downwards from the ceiling.

Beyond these, in a yet darker and drearier dungeon, stood a heavy oblong wooden box, with two apertures near the top, peering through which we found that we were looking into the eyeless sockets of a skull. Within this box Ecelino had immured the victim we beheld there, and left him to perish in view of the platters of food and gob

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to the block by an immense spike driven through from the back was the little slender hand of a woman, which lay there just as it had been struck from the living arm, and which, after the lapse of so many centuries, was still as perfectly preserved as if it had been embalmed. The sight had a most cruel fascination; and while one of the horrorseekers stood helplessly conjuring to his vision that scene of unknown dread, the shrinking, shrieking woman dragged to the block, the wild, shrill, horrible screech following the blow that drove in the spike, the merciful swoon after the mutilation, his companion, with a sudden pallor, demanded to be taken instantly away.

In their swift withdrawal, they only glanced at a few detached instruments of torture, all original Ecelinos, but intended for the infliction of minor and comparatively unimportant torments,— and then they passed from that place of fear.

III.

In the evening we sat talking at the Caffe Pedrocchi with an abbate, an acquaintance of ours, who was a Professor in the University of Padua. Pedrocchi's is the great caffè of Padua, a granite edifice of Egyptian architecture, which is the mausoleum of the proprietor's fortune. The pecuniary skeleton at the feast, however, does not much trouble the guests. They begin early in the evening to gather into the clegant saloons of the caffè, somewhat too large for so small a city as Padua, -and they sit there late in the night over their cheerful cups and their ices with their newspaper and their talk.

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Not so many ladies are to be seen as at the caffè in Venice, for it is only in the greater cities that they go much to these public places. There are few students at Pedrocchi's, for they frequent the cheaper caffè; but you may nearly always find there some Professor of the University, and on the evening of which I speak, there were two present besides our abbate. Our friend's great passion was the English language, which he understood too well to venture to speak a great deal. He had been translating from that tongue into Italian certain American poems, and our talk was of these at first. Then we began to talk of disinguished American writers, of whom intelligent Italians always know at least four, in this succession, — Cooper, Mrs. Stowe, Longfellow, and Irving. Mrs. Stowe's Capanna di Zio Tom is, of course, universally read; and my friend had also read Il Fiore di Maggio, — "The Mayflower." Of Longfellow, the "Evangeline" is familiar to Italians, through a translation of the poem; but our abbate knew all the poet's works, and one of the other Professors present that evening had made such faithful study of them as to have produced some translations rendering the original with remarkable fidelity and spirit. I have before me here his brochure, printed last year at Padua, and containing versions of "Enceladus," "Excelsior," "A Psalm of Life," "The Old Clock on the Stairs," "Sand of the Desert in an Hour-Glass," "Twilight," "Daybreak,” "The Quadroon Girl," and "Torquemada," - pieces which give the Italians a fair notion of our poet's lyrical range, and which bear witness to Professor Messadaglia's sympathetic and familiar knowledge of his works. A young and gifted lady of Parma, now unhappily no more, published only a few months since a translation of "The Golden Legend"; and Professor Messadaglia, in his Preface, mentions a version of another of our poet's longer works on which the translator of the " Evangeline" is now engaged.

At last, turning from literature, we

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Things got up for show. No doubt, Ecelino used such things, and many worse, of which even the ingenuity of

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"Eh!" said our friend, "I believe Signor P cannot conceive. you."

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But

he is an eccentric man, loving the horrors of history, and what he can do to realize them he has done in his prisons."

"But the custodian, how could he lie so?"

Our friend shrugged his shoulders. "Eh! easily. And perhaps he even believed what he said."

The world began to assume an aspect of bewildering ungenuineness, and there seemed to be a treacherous quality of fiction in the ground under our feet. Even the play at the pretty little Teatro Sociale, where we went to pass the rest of the evening, appeared hollow and improbable. We thought the hero something of a bore, with his patience and goodness; and as for the heroine, pursued by the attentions of the rich profligate, we doubted if she were any better than she should be.

POOR RICHARD.

A STORY IN THREE PARTS.

PART II.

RICHARD got through the follow

ing week he hardly knew how. He found occupation, to a much greater extent than he was actually aware of, in a sordid and yet heroic struggle with himself. For several months now, he had been leading, under Gertrude's inspiration, a strictly decent and sober life. So long as he was at comparative peace with Gertrude and with himself, such a life was more than easy; it was delightful. It produced a moral buoyancy infinitely more deli

cate and more constant than the gross exhilaration of his old habits. There was a kind of fascination in adding hour to hour, and day to day, in this record of his new-born austerity. Having abjured excesses, he practised temperance after the fashion of a novice: he raised it (or reduced it) to abstinence. He was like an unclean man who, having washed himself clean, remains in the water for the love of it. He wished to be religiously, superstitiously pure. This was easy, as

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we have said, so long as his goddess smiled, even though it were as a goddess indeed,-as a creature unattainable. But when she frowned, and the heavens grew dark, Richard's sole dependence was in his own will, -as flimsy a trust for an upward scramble, one would have premised, as a tuft of grass on the face of a perpendicular cliff. Flimsy as it looked, however, it served him. It started and crumbled, but it held, if only by a single fibre. When Richard had cantered fifty yards away from Gertrude's gate in a fit of stupid rage, he suddenly pulled up his horse and gulped down his passion, and swore an oath, that, suffer what torments of feeling he might, he would not at least break the continuity of his gross physical soberness. It was enough to be drunk in mind; he would not be drunk in body. A singular, almost ridiculous feeling of antagonism to Gertrude lent force to this resolution. No, madam," he cried within himself, "I shall not fall back. Do your best! I shall keep straight." We often outweather great offences and afflictions through a certain healthy instinct of egotism. Richard went to bed that night as grim and sober as a Trappist monk; and his foremost impulse the next day was to plunge headlong into some physical labor which should not allow. him a moment's interval of idleness. He found no labor to his taste; but he spent the day so actively, in the mechanical annihilation of the successive hours, that Gertrude's image found no chance squarely to face him. He was engaged in the work of self-preservation, the most serious and absorbing work possible to man. Compared to the results here at stake, his passion for Gertrude seemed but a fiction. It is perhaps difficult to give a more lively impression of the vigor of this passion, of its maturity and its strength, than by simply stating that it discreetly held itself in abeyance until Richard had set at rest his doubts of that which lies nearer than all else to ⚫ the heart of man, - his doubts of the strength of his will. He answered VOL. XX. - NO. 117.

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these doubts by subjecting his resolution to a course of such cruel temptations as were likely either to shiver it to a myriad of pieces, or to season it perfectly to all the possible requirements of life. He took long rides over the country, passing within a stone's throw of as many of the scattered wayside taverns as could be combined in a single circuit. As he drew near them he sometimes slackened his pace, as if he were about to dismount, pulled up his horse, gazed a moment, then, thrusting in his spurs, galloped away again like one pursued. At other times, in the late evening, when the window-panes were aglow with the ruddy light within, he would walk slowly by, looking at the stars, and, after maintaining this stoical pace for a couple of miles, would hurry home to his own lonely and blackwindowed dwelling. Having successfully performed this feat a certain number of times, he found his love coming back to him, bereft in the interval of its attendant jealousy. In obedience to it, he one morning leaped upon his horse and repaired to Gertrude's abode, with no definite notion of the terms in which he should introduce himself.

He had made himself comparatively sure of his will; but he was yet to acquire the mastery of his impulses. As he gave up his horse, according to his wont, to one of the men at the stable, he saw another steed stalled there which he recognized as Captain Severn's.

"Steady, my boy," he murmured to himself, as he would have done to a frightened horse. On his way across the broad court-yard toward the house, he encountered the Captain, who had just taken his leave. Richard gave him a generous salute (he could not trust himself to more), and Severn answered with what was at least a strictly just one. Richard observed, however, that he was very pale, and that he was pulling a rosebud to pieces as he walked; whereupon our young man quickened his step. Finding the parlor empty, he instinctively crossed over to a small room adjoining it, which Gertrude had converted into

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