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Title: Adventures of an Aide-de-Camp, Volume II (of 3) - or, A Campaign in Calabria
Author: Grant, James, archaeologist
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Adventures of an Aide-de-Camp, Volume II (of 3) - or, A Campaign in Calabria" ***

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VOLUME II (OF 3) ***



                              *ADVENTURES*

                                  *OF*

                           *AN AIDE-DE-CAMP:*

                                 *OR,*

                       *A CAMPAIGN IN CALABRIA.*


                                   BY

                           JAMES GRANT, ESQ.

                    AUTHOR OF "THE ROMANCE OF WAR."



_Claud._ I look’d upon her with a soldier’s eye,
That liked, but had a rougher task in hand
Than to drive liking to the name of love:
But now I am returned, and that war thoughts
Have left their places vacant; in their rooms
Come thronging soft and delicate desires,
All prompting me how fair young Hero is,
Saying how I liked her ere I went to war.
  SHAKSPEARE.



                           IN THREE VOLUMES.
                                VOL. II.



                                LONDON:
                    SMITH, ELDER, AND CO., CORNHILL.
                                 1848.



                                London:
                     Printed by STEWART and MURRAY,
                              Old Bailey.



                            dedication info



                              *CONTENTS.*

CHAPTER

I.—Italian Intrigues in Country Quarters
II.—Francatripa, the Brigand
III.—A Snake in the Grass
IV.—The Horn Sounds
V.—A Duel and a Discovery
VI.—Arrival of the Philistines
VII.—Adventure at "The Centaur"
VIII.—Love and War
IX.—Poor Luisa!
X.—The Siege of Scylla
XI.—The Forlorn-Hope
XII.—A Rencontre!
XIII.—Reggio.—An Improvisatore
XIV.—Navarro—Revenge!
XV.—The Cavallo Marino
XVI.—A Race.—Galley-Slaves
XVII.—The Revolt of the Galley Slaves
XVIII.—The Three Candle-Ends
XIX.—Who Is He?
XX.—The Cardinal
XXI.—The First Penitent.—The Nun
XXII.—A Chance Of Escape Lost
XXIII.—The Second Penitent.—The Cavalier



                              *ADVENTURES*

                                *OF AN*

                            *AIDE-DE-CAMP.*



                              *CHAPTER I.*

                *ITALIAN INTRIGUES IN COUNTRY QUARTERS.*


On arriving at the base of those lofty rocks which were crowned by the
Villa Belcastro, a sound like the baying and growling of dogs, caused
Marco’s horse to snort, and mine to plunge and curvet furiously.  On
advancing a little further we discovered by the light of the moon a
sight which filled us with disgust.  Two enormous lynxes had been
contending for the shattered corse of the Cavaliere Galdino, which had
already suffered considerable mutilation under their fangs.  They
retired on our approach, but one dragged the remains nearly a hundred
yards, nor dropped them until we fired our pistols and wounded it, when
they both fled over the mountains, howling: one with agony, and the
other with fear.  We had considerable trouble in getting our horses past
the body, which lay fairly in the centre of our narrow path; and,
notwithstanding that Cartouche was a trained military charger, he
plunged, reared, and perspired with rage and fear, until, by dint of
spur, I forced him right over the ghastly remains of our late
entertainer.

Soon after, the moon went down: the sky changed from deep blue to dusky
grey, and gloomy clouds hurried in flitting masses across it; at times a
solitary star shot forth, and then was lost.  The tinkling rivulet
winding through the valley, and the silver haze which floated from it
through pine and orange groves, faded away, and we could no longer see
the track before us. Castelermo now proposed that we should bivouac for
the night in the first eligible place, that our nags might have better
bottom for continuing our journey by daybreak.

After a brief reconnoisance we chose a sheltered spot where there was a
little fountain; the water bubbled away from a fissure in one of those
masses of grey sandstone so common in Calabria, and of which the rocks
of the Apennines are chiefly composed.  We picqueted our horses within a
circle of little maple trees, which formed a pleasant border round the
rocky alcove, and rolling our cloaks about us, were in five minutes
alike oblivious of the terrors of wolves, banditti, and the malaria.

When I awoke, the morning sun was rising like a globe of fire above the
mountains, and pouring between their craggy summits a flood of yellow
lustre into the misty valley where we lay.  Afar off, the villa of
Belcastro, its casements gleaming in the dancing sunbeams like plates of
polished gold, towered on the cliff that rose above the waving woodlands
bathed in purple and white.  A solitary fig-tree threw its shadow across
the fountain; the rude bason of which had been built by the shepherds
with the richly sculptured fragments of some ancient building: a relic,
perhaps, of the days of Magna Græcia.  On the moss-grown pieces were
initials and inscriptions which I had neither time nor lore to decipher;
and close by me lay, half sunk in the flowery turf, a mossy Corinthian
capital, with a winged horse, exquisitely carved, springing from the
acanthus leaves at each corner, and supporting on its outspread pinions
the acute angles of the abacus.  A glittering snake was twining around
it; and the contiguity of such a reptile recalling the adventure with
the gypsies, I sprang up, shook my ample cloak, and prepared for the
saddle again.

A gallop in the pure air of a breezy morning is delightful exercise; it
refreshes the body and enlivens the spirits, bracing the frame and
lightening the heart.  The place where we had reposed was swampy, and a
pestilential vapour hovered about it, oppressing us with an inclination
to doze, which we had some trouble in combating; but our gallop along
the sunny mountain-side soon shook off the drowsiness which weighed down
our eyelids, and the numbness that stiffened our limbs.  The sensation I
mean, must have been experienced by all who have bivouacked by night in
low marshy places in a warm atmosphere.

We passed the little town of Belcastro, the streets of which, according
to ancient use and wont, were so encumbered with herds of wild pigs, the
common stock of the inhabitants, that we could scarcely get our startled
horses through, and were every moment in danger of being thrown by the
snorting porkers running between their legs.  We had a hasty repast at a
miserable albergo; but it was the best in the place, and, as the host
averred, the identical house in which Thomas Aquinas was born.

The roads were so winding: and intricate that as yet we were only twenty
miles distant from Crotona, and we pushed rapidly forward, resolving to
make up for the previous day’s delay.

Castelermo, upon whom the adventures of the past night had made a gloomy
impression, rode beside me for many miles in silence.  His mind was,
doubtless, reverting to a thousand long-forgotten dreams and cherished
thoughts, which his interview with the fickle Despina and the sound of
her voice had summoned before him; while I, on the contrary, felt
light-hearted as the distance diminished between us and the villa
D’Alfieri, which it was my intention to visit on our way to
head-quarters.  I thought more of Bianca’s bright eyes and glossy
ringlets, than the oblong despatches, returns of killed, wounded,
prisoners and missing, lists of captured cannon, stores, &c. &c., with
which Macleod had stuffed my sabre-tache, for the perusal of Sir John
Stuart.

After a time, the wonted serenity of the cavalier returned, and as the
country into which we penetrated became more mountainous and romantic,
he related to me many a wild legend and tradition of blood and
sorcery—of Gothic chiefs, Norman knights, and Saracen emirs, and many a
sad story of Italian love; all of which have long since passed away from
my remembrance. Every rood of ground was rich in memories of the past,
and covered with the moss-grown relics of bygone nations and ages.

A ride of twelve miles or so brought us to Catanzaro, in the
principality of Squillaci, one of the finest towns in Calabria Ultra,
situated about two miles from the Adriatic.  Catanzaro then bore many
traces of that terrible earthquake which in 1783 devastated those
provinces and the Isle of Sicily; and it has been almost wholly
destroyed by a similar visitation in 1832.  Its ladies were esteemed the
most beautiful in southern Italy; but I had little opportunity of
judging for myself: we had the pleasure of seeing only one handsome
girl, who, during the hour or two we halted, displayed a formidable
sample of the worst traits in the Calabrian character.  A small party of
Italian troops, sent over from Palermo, were quartered in the town.
Their uniform was white, with scarlet facings and epaulettes, black
cross-belts and heavy bear-skin caps; altogether they were very
soldier-like fellows, and their commanding officer, a gay young
Neapolitan, whom we met at the table d’hôte, was not less so.  As we had
been acquainted at Palermo, in the course of ten minutes we became
intimate as old friends; and Captain Valerio Piozzi, of Caroline’s
Italian Guard, soon made us aware that he was the most reckless and
dissipated cavalier in Ferdinand’s service, and that he thought it no
small honour to be deemed so.  But we knew all that before: his pranks
and gallantries had long furnished laughter and conversation for every
mess and coterie in Sicily.

Castelermo changed colour when we met him.

"Valerio Piozzi!" he whispered to me; "our friend is the identical
officer of whom our late acquaintance the Signor Galdino was so jealous.
Basta! there was good reason to be on the alert, and keep Despina close
while he was so near as Catanzaro!"

"I have news for you, Signor Capitano," said Marco, as we lounged from
the table d’hôte towards a cantina.

"My friend, I am glad of that," said the captain, with a half yawn,
"’tis so deuced dull here, that one seems quite out of the
world—entombed—bedevilled!"

"Il Cavaliere di Belcastro—"

"Ha!" exclaimed the captain, changing countenance, and turning briskly
to Marco, whom he keenly scrutinized through his glass, which never left
his eye.

"My gay Valerio, I have a tale to tell which will harrow up your heart,
if you have one."

"The deuce!"

"The husband of Despina is dead—"

"The devil! is that all?" exclaimed the captain, with an almost
uncontrollable burst of laughter.  "That makes me merry," he added,
stroking his mustachios, which were well perfumed and pointed with
pomatum.  "The particulars, Caro Signor: slain by the brigands, I
presume?"

"No, by his own evil passions."

"Faith, they nearly slew even me in Venice," replied Piozzi, who, on
hearing of our visit to the villa, tossed his cap into the air.

"Che gioja, what happiness!" he exclaimed; "I must to horse, and away to
Despina (I saw poor Marco’s brow cloud).  Ola, my horse! Annibale Porko,
seek my servant," he cried to a sergeant who passed, "and order my
horses in an hour."  The soldier saluted, and withdrew. "Per Baccho!
’tis joyous news: old Galdino gone to the Styx.  Amen!  Devil go with
him. What a merry bout we shall have.—And his property—all settled on
the Cavalieressa—bravo, Valerio! luckiest of dogs!  Here, Signor
Cantiniero, wine—wine!  What shall we have, Marco—say Signor Dundas—you
are a judge: Muscatelle?"

"Basta! no—we have had enough of that," said Castelermo shrugging his
shoulders.

"Ha—ha!  I forgot," replied Valerio with a reckless laugh—"ruddy
Burgogna then—golden Andaluzia—sparkling champagne, gleaming like
diamonds in sunbeams?’

"As you please, I am no connoisseur," said I, and two large crystal jars
of the last were speedily summoned.

"Corpo di Baccho! it is a punishment for a Carthusian to reside here in
this dull place on the Adriatic shore," said the captain, as we lounged
on the rustic sofas, beneath the vine covered verandah of the cantina,
and pushed the wine jars about the well polished table; "positively I am
ennuied to death, and would give a year’s pay to find myself once more
at Naples, or even at Reggio—there are some sprightly girls there."

"And yet the women of Catanzaro are considered the fairest in Italy,"
observed a smart young fellow, with whom we had been conversing on
various topics for some time past: he had followed us uninvited from the
table d’hôte, where his very handsome features and long fair locks had
won him our favour.

"Handsome they may be; but I would not give a lively sewing-girl of
Naples for the fairest lady in the Calabrias.  Ah! had you heard Italian
whispered by the dulcet tongues of Venetian girls, you would turn with
disgust from the guttural Greek of these poor provincials."

"’Tis a matter of taste," replied our boyish friend, sipping his wine to
conceal the rising colour which glowed on his beardless face.  "I am a
stranger here and pretend not to judge of the beauty or vivacity of the
ladies: so I presume is this British Officer; and the Cavaliere di Malta
cannot be expected to venture an opinion on such topics."

"Now by all the gods of accursed heathendom!" cried the Italian officer,
showing all his white teeth as he laughed boisterously.  "Heaven help
thine ignorance, most gentle signor of this barbarous land.  I have seen
at the windows of the Maltese knights fairer faces than all the towns of
these wild provinces could produce. These cavaliers are greater
connoisseurs than a Turkish dealer in such commodities; for the
portentous cross on their breasts does not in any way freeze the heart
below, or render it insensible to such impressions.  By grey dawn, many
a pretty damsel shrouded in a loose domino have I seen stealing away
from the portal of the knights’ palace at Naples: though these cavaliers
deport themselves demurely enough by day, the stars do not look on
merrier revellers or more joyous companions; and the Cavaliere Marco
knows well the truth of what I affirm.  All Italy knows the famous
military _dis_-order of Saint John."

"The Cavaliere Marco would advise your lively valour to speak more
gently of his order.  Some irregularities are doubtless committed by my
brethren of the sword and mantle; but you must bear in memory, the
saying of the cunning Lucchesi—’There are good and bad people every
where.’  Signor, speak not against my order! When I remember what it was
but a few years ago—when the church of St. John was hung with the
shields of four thousand Knights; its marble floors covered with the
achievements of those who were gone; and its dome filled with the
captured trophies of the Infidels—when the unsullied banner of the order
waved from the ramparts of Sant’. Elmo, and we had gallies at sea and
soldiers on the land, my mind is filled with sorrow and regret.  When I
look back to the glorious days of our illustrious grand master, old
Villiers de L’Isle Adam, to those days when six hundred knights shut up
in the island of Rhodes defended it for six months against two hundred
thousand Turks, my soul is filled with exultation and chivalry!  So
beware, Signor Valerio!  The Knights of Malta have suffered so much of
late from the usurpation of Buonaparte and the unfulfilled and often
reiterated promises of Britain, that they have grown somewhat petulant
and hasty."

"Enough, signor—I sit rebuked, and submit quietly, knowing that I may be
a little in error," answered the frank officer.  "But to change the
subject: if I am not soon recalled to head quarters, I shall have to
quit this Catanzaro without beat of drum.  The air of the place is
getting quite too hot for me: I have been here only three weeks, and in
that time contracted debts to the amount of some thousand ducats.  I
tried the rouge et noir—abomination! they only made matters worse, and
the villanous shop-people, the Podesta, the Eletti and the tipstaves,
are all ready to pounce upon me en masse: worse than all, the women of
the place are at drawn daggers about me."

"You are quite to be envied!" said the young Calabrian with an air of
impatient scorn.

"You shall hear whether it be so," replied the captain.  "Ah! the
uniform of the Queen’s Italian Guard is something new here; and in truth
we have been rather free with our favours: myself in particular.  Three
narrow escapes have been the consequence (these Calabrians are
wondrously prone to assassination): once from the knife of a rascal
hired by some frail fair one unknown, and once from a dose of bella
donna, with which an angry damsel contrived to drug my chocolate the
other morning: when I was just about to drink it, she threw herself at
my feet in an agony of sorrow and horror, imploring my pity and
forgiveness; so, after abundance of tears, threats, upbraiding, and all
that sort of thing, I quietly put her outside the door"—

"And the third, signor; the third?" said the young Calabrian
impatiently.

"Was from the poisoned weapon of a furious brother, whose sister I had
jilted and grown weary of.  Ah! the cowardly dog! he called it honour, I
think: rather amusing in this rustic land of fauns and satyrs.  But the
adventure would have gone otherwise with me, had not my trusty serjeant,
Annibale Porko, sucked the wound, and bathed it with brandy.  Behold! ’t
is yet far from well," he added, pulling up the richly laced sleeve of
his white uniform, and showing a long scar above the wrist.

"Faith!" said I, "if you have many such scrapes, Captain Piozzi, you are
likely to be cut off, and suddenly: an Italian seldom brooks a wrong."

"But I cannot comprehend the nature of these unpolished Calabrians,"
replied this heedless harum-scarum gallant, into whose empty head the
wine was rapidly mounting.  "Per Baccho! they are mere
savages—hottentots!  Will you believe it?  if I venture to pay a
compliment to the mistress of my billet, or to kiss her daughter (which
I am often disposed to do, the said daughter being rather fresh and
pretty), the Maestro di Casa jerks up his Messina sash, twirls his
whiskers, and plays so ominously with the haft of his knife, that I am
compelled to keep my gallantry within very narrow bounds.  I must even
refrain from those little acts of cavalier-like politeness, by which
some obliging citizens of Naples would consider themselves duly
honoured: more especially if it were a noble gentiluomo of the Queen’s
Guard that deigned to salute one of his family.  O! for joyous Venice,
and its money-making mothers, who for sixty sequins—"

"Basta!" interrupted Marco, "you let every one hear you, Valerio, by
speaking in such a key.  By St. Antony—!"

"Hush Marco, ’t is quite unfashionable to swear by these old saints: the
newest canonizations are always most in vogue.  St. Antony, indeed!  The
ancient fool; I would rather swear by his gridiron, which the monks show
at Rimini.  But to resume.  Here, in this cursed province, if one but
looks at a woman, cold iron is thought of instantly, and one may be dead
as Brutus in less time than one can utter a credo.—What the deuce can
delay my rogue of a groom?"

"You labour under so many annoyances, that I am astonished you have
survived them," observed the young provincial contemptuously.

"By the jovial San Cupido! you know not half of them.  As my soldiers
are apt to imitate their accomplished commander in many things, the
king’s service has lost several smart fellows in these domestic brawls.
But courage, Valerio! It is quite a godsend, this sudden death of that
bear, old Belcastro; and as the charming Despina is so near I shall hope
to pay her many a visit of condolence.  Nay, frown not, Marco, my love
for her is of the most pure and Platonic description.  Besides, I have
sent a most heart-rending memorial to the queen, and it is so well
seconded and flanked by the Duchessa di Bagnara, and other fair ladies
who are impatient for my return, that I have no doubt my party will soon
be ordered to rejoin at Palermo, without my troubling our gruff
commander-in-chief, Giambattista Fardella.  Then adieu to Catanzaro, its
wickedness, and its women."

"And Signora Teresa with the rest?" asked the Calabrian, with a low
voice and a flushing cheek.

"Ha! know you Teresa Navona?" asked the captain, scanning the fine
features of the youth with a keen glance.  "Do you belong to Catanzaro?’

"Yes, signor,—no.  That is, not now," stammered the boy, with angry
confusion.  "But I once resided here, and have only just returned after
a long absence.  You know Teresa?"

"As well as man can know such a compound of fascination and subtlety as
an Italian woman," laughed the handsome guardsman.  "You are to learn,
gentlemen, that this is the escapade I spoke of: the duel with the devil
of a brother.  There was a judge of the grand civil court of Cosenza,
who died here lately, after living in retirement since our friends the
French crossed the Alps. This learned old fellow had two daughters,
Pompeia and Teresa; the first I have never seen, but the last, who
resides with her mother here, has been for some time past the happy
means of cheering my dreary detachment duty in the towns hereabout: and
truly the girl is a magnificent creature for a Calabrian!  Her bright
eyes and ruby lips are Italian; her white skin, full bosom, and long
flowing hair have come with the Greek blood; and her vivacity is quite
oriental."

"_Was_, you should say," muttered the young man.  "Alas! signor, her
vivacity has fled since you knew her."

"In short, Captain Piozzi, you have had an intrigue," said I.

"Right, signor," he replied, composedly; "but one fraught with the due
proportion of mystery and cold steel which usually accompany an Italian
intrigue.  It being discovered that I had carried the fortress by a
_coup de main_, the girl Teresa was consigned to that convent yonder,
the campanile of which you now see shining in the sun; and the mother
solaced herself with strong hysterics and strong waters until the
arrival of her son, a fiery young subaltern of the Sicilian volunteers,
who galloped across from the camp of St. Eufemio, with the express
purpose of parading me.

"Three days ago, when returning from this wine-house, and just under the
Madonna at the street corner yonder, this young spark assaulted me sword
in hand; flinging his hat on the ground and his cloak round his left
arm, in the most approved duellist fashion.  So furious was his onset
that I had scarcely time to stand on my guard, but we thrust and cut at
each other like any two bravos on the boards of the San Carlo; my
superior skill soon overcame the Herculean strength of the Calabrese
officer, and the fifth passado laid him dead at my feet."

"Madonnia mia!" exclaimed the Calabrian, smiting his breast with horror.

"The devil!" I exclaimed; "poor fellow, and you really killed him?"

"Not quite, signor; but old Porko, I believe, brained him with his
halberd," was the cool reply.

"The villain, Porko, shall answer dearly for this mutiny and murder!"
exclaimed Castelermo, with an aspect of severity.  "And so, Signor
Piozzi, you have gone from bad to worse; first outraged the confiding
sister, and then destroyed the spirited brother!"

"Cospetto!" muttered Piozzi, "I know these things will sound ill at the
court, and in old Fardella’s office at Palermo, whatever they may be
thought of at our mess-house on the Cassero."

"But how will they appear in the court of Heaven, on that dread day,
when all men will be judged by their deeds?" asked the Maltese
commander, with a stern expression: which, however, did not abash our
volatile friend.

"Admirable!" he replied, waving his cigar; "you act the military monk to
the life.  That sort of air did very well in L’Isle Adam’s days, but it
won’t pass now, Marco; so pray lay it aside, or assume it only in the
convent at Malta, or the palace at Naples, and for the present be the
frank cavalier of the last hour.  A proud spirit cannot brook an
admonitory tone.  Ah! here comes my rascally groom at last: while he
loiters with that girl yonder, let us drink to la Signora Teresa.  Her
family, if they be wise, will hush the matter up, and she may yet marry
some honest artisan; who will deem her none the worse for having a few
ducats from Valerio Piozzi, captain of the Royal Italian Guard, knight
grand cross of San Marco, and Heaven knows what more."

The eyes of the young Calabrese flashed fire.

"And think you, base ruffian," he exclaimed, in a voice shrill and
tremulous with rage, "that old Albanian Greeks, though now sunk to the
grade of mere Italian citizens, will forget that their blood has
descended to them from the long line of the princes of Epirus, and
permit these foul wrongs to pass without retribution?"

"Insolent brat, I neither know nor care!" replied the captain, grasping
his riding switch, and regarding the bold youth sternly; "and but that
your chin is smooth as an apple—poh!  I can bandy word and blow with any
blusterer in Italy, and shall not shrink from a peasant or woodcutter of
this rustic land: but now, since the days of chivalry have passed away,
tell me, my pretty Messerino, who will become the champion of this
fallen star? and, save myself, to whom can she look for redress?"

"To the right hand of her sister, since death has left none other to
avenge her," cried the youth, in a voice rising almost to a shriek; and
the bright barrel of a pistol glittered in the sunlight which streamed
between the vine-leaves of the trellis.  Levelling it full at Valerio,
she fired, just as I struck up her weapon.  From the tone of the voice,
and the despair that glared in the eye, there flashed upon me a
suspicion of the sex and purpose of this youth.

The ball dashed to pieces the head of the large waxen Madonna, which
occupied a lofty niche at the corner of the street.  A cry of
"sacrilege, and murder!" arose, and the people rushed towards us from
all quarters.  As the smoke cleared, we discovered the imperturbable
captain stroking his moustache, and smiling grimly, but with an air of
exquisite nonchalance.

"Thrice my heart failed me; but he is destroyed at last!" cried Pompeia,
in terrible accents, as she cast away the pistol (which she had fired
with both her eyes closed), and sinking back on the rustic sofa, burst
into a passion of tears.

"Holy St. John of Jerusalem, and of Rhodes, look here!" exclaimed
Castelermo, while I seized her that she might not escape.

"Wretch!" muttered Marco.

"I am wretched, indeed!" she replied bitterly, still keeping her eyes
closed; "yet I do not deem myself so abject as to be grasped thus with
impunity.  Unhand me, signor: I have only slain the destroyer of my
sister’s peace, my brother’s life (perhaps my mother’s too), and the
fame of our family.  Guiltless of wanton wickedness, I have only
destroyed a ribald and reckless libertine, in the midst of his sinful
boasting."

"Here is a devil of a damsel!" said Valerio, with a laugh.  "Per Baccho!
a pestilent narrow escape it was.  But for you, Signor Claude, I might
have been chaffering with Charon for a passage across the Styx, and
squabbling, perhaps, with old Belcastro on the voyage.  To your care I
commend this amiable sample of her sex, while I canter off to the villa
of Despina."

His servant at that moment rode up with a led horse, and he leaped into
the saddle.

"Wretch!" shrieked Pompeia, "hast thou escaped that death so richly
merited?"

"Safe and sound, my pretty termagant—aim better next time," replied the
officer, caracoling his horse, to push back the clamorous crowd. "Adieu,
Caro Marco! adieu, Signor Claude! your most humble servant, my pretty
Pompeia. Ola! keep out of my horse’s way, signori, the rabble: and so,
buona sera, good-evening to everybody;" and, with a reckless laugh, he
dashed off at a gallop through the street, which was darkening fast, as
the sun had set.  He was followed by a volley of execrations from the
crowd, some of whom he tumbled into the kennel, as he pushed headlong
through.

"Unhand me, signor," said the damsel, with an assumption of dignity.  "I
am a Calabrese woman, and all Calabria will applaud the deed!"

A shout arose from the admiring populace; yet the girl trembled with
shame, sorrow, and anger.

"But not so will He into whose awful presence you were about to hurl a
fellow-being, with many grievous sins and follies accumulated on his
head.  You would have destroyed him, body and soul: he would have passed
away unbidden, unconfessed, and unforgiven!  Heaven judge between him
and thee, woman! but in this matter you have acted unwisely.  Madonna
grant forgiveness to you both!" added Marco, signing the cross.

"Madonna grant it!" muttered the rabble round us, bowing their heads.

"I am not a child to be preached to, either by canon regular or church
militant!" retorted this fiery damsel.  She was a noble-looking beauty,
about twenty, with long dark lashes, silken hair, and ripe pouting lips,
which consorted oddly with her broad hat and black surtout of the newest
Neapolitan cut.  The colour was fast returning to her pallid cheek, and
the fire of her eyes had never dimmed.  "Lead me to the Podesta of
Catanzaro! by him will I be judged; but not by a knight of the Maltese
cross."

"No, signora," replied Castelermo, "I am not prosecutor in this matter:
to your own sorrows and conscience I leave you—adieu!" and she was led
away by the people, her face buried in her mantle, and utterly deserted
by that stern confidence which had sustained her throughout this wild
affair.

Sergeant Annibale Porko we reported to the officer next in command, who
promised to send him to St. Eufemio for trial by court-martial: a pledge
which he never redeemed.

About an hour after Ave-Maria rang, we quitted the mountain town of
Catanzaro, and struck directly across the country, with the intention of
visiting the villa D’Alfieri.

Not long after this affair I remember Castelermo handing me, with a cold
and grim smile, a copy of the "Gazzetta Britannica," in which there was
a paragraph, announcing that our wild friend the captain had been
married to the widow of Belcastro, with great splendour, at the
archiepiscopal residence of the Bishop of Cosenza.

From that hour I never again heard him utter the name of Despina.



                             *CHAPTER II.*

                      *FRANCATRIPA, THE BRIGAND.*


I was aware that, according to strict orders, I ought to have proceeded
forthwith, without deviation or delay, to Scylla; but a detour of twenty
miles, to visit my gentle Bianca, could not in any way injure the
service: and how seldom is it when campaigning that the impulse of one’s
own heart can be obeyed.  Too often does duty interfere with the best
and tenderest affections of the soldier; sending him forth with a heart
seared and almost broken, to fight the battles of his country; or, still
worse, to close a long life of expatriation, by perishing amid the
pestilent swamps of the West, or the wars and diseases of the East
Indies.

We were now getting within the vicinity of the redoubtable brigand
Francatripa, and his terrible handiwork became manifest at every mile of
the way, as we neared his stronghold in the forest of St. Eufemio.  In a
solitary pass we found a carriage, apparently from Naples, a wreck by
the way-side, with its springs broken, and one of the mules lying shot
between the traces.  The trunks, which had been strapped before and
behind, were rifled; the morocco lining had been ripped and torn down in
search of concealed valuables, and the gilt panels were riddled by
musket-balls.

The unfortunate traveller, scarcely alive, lay half out of the vehicle,
his head on the ground, covered with wounds, and bleeding profusely: he
seemed to have offered a desperate resistance, for one hand grasped a
discharged pistol, while the other yet clenched a poniard.  We raised
him gently, and laid him on the slope of a grassy bank, where his clammy
white face and glazing eyes glimmered horribly in the cold moonlight.

"Signor," said Castelermo, as he knelt down and held his crucifix before
the eyes of the dying sufferer, "tell us who committed this detestable
outrage?"

"Francatripa!" muttered the quivering lips of the dying man, who
immediately expired. We then placed the body within the carriage, and
after fastening the doors to protect it from the wolves, rode towards a
village which lay about a league off, to rouse the peasantry.

A little farther on we passed a poor country girl, weeping over the body
of an aged shepherd, whose dog sat whining at his feet. The old man had
been slain by a blow from the butt of a musket.  His daughter supported
his head in her lap, bedewing it with tears, and wiping the blood from
his pale lifeless face and silver hairs with her linen head-dress, while
she mingled with her prayers many an anathema on the name of
"Francatripa!"  Around lay the ruins of their hut: the old man had
perished in defence of his flock; and the extreme youth of the girl had
alone saved her from being carried off to the stronghold of the
brigands.

As we approached the village, the white cottages of which shone in the
moonlight on the dark-green mountain side, a lurid flame shot across the
sky: they were in flames!  Then the reports of musketry were heard: a
skirmish had ensued between the brigands and the armed peasantry; the
latter had been defeated, and the unrelenting lieutenant of Francatripa,
after laying their dwellings in ashes, leisurely retreated up the hills
with his band.

"Satan seems abroad to-night!" said I, as the wailing of women and
children was borne past us on the night-breeze.

"Since the days of Marco Sciarra, such outrages as these have been
matters of daily occurrence in our mountain provinces," replied the
cavalier.  "These villains have probably been foraging in the valley;
and desolation and death invariably attend resistance.  But, perhaps,
the villagers may have been guilty of some disloyalty to our cause, and
have thus brought upon them the vengeance of Francatripa; who is one of
Carolina’s robber-knights, and by her authority bears the rank of
colonel.  Alas! signor, you see how war calls forth all the worst traits
of the Calabrian character.  When I look on these things, I blush that I
am an Italian."

"Truly," said I, "we have seen some things which make me suppose that
there is more of truth than malice in the old Italian proverb applied to
the Neapolitan people."

"_Naples is a paradise inhabited by devils!_" replied Marco.  "Ha!  I
fought a Tuscan on the ramparts of Valetta one morning, for uttering
that impertinent saying."

On reaching the hamlet we found the greater number of the cottages
burned down; and the only answers our inquiries received were, "the king
of the forest, Francatripa—the hunchback—the devil!"

A man warned us not to proceed, for the banditti were still hovering
about; but as only one pass of the mountains lay between us and Maida,
we determined to push forward at all risks.  After examining our girths
and pistol-locks, we dashed at a gallop into a gorge of the hills, which
seemed doubly dark after leaving the blaze of the burning hamlet; being
also deprived of the moon, whose light was intercepted by a gigantic
peak of the Apennines.

The hoofs of our galloping horses alone broke the stillness around us,
until we had reached the centre of the pass, or chasm, where the
frowning cliffs arose on each side like sable walls; their summits, in
some places, overhanging the base: when, hark! the shrill blast of a
Calabrian horn, waking the echoes of that dismal hollow, caused us to
rein suddenly up and prepare for action.  As the reverberations of the
horn died away, a glare of crimson light burst through the gloom: it
burned steadily, increasing in radiance and splendour, tinging hill and
rock, the forms of ourselves and horses, with the hue of blood, and
shedding over the whole landscape, woodland, hill and hollow, the same
sanguine tint.  This effect, at any other time, or under other
circumstances, we should have admired; as it was, our lives were in
jeopardy, and delight gave place to apprehension.

An enormous red light, blazing on a pinnacle of rock, distinctly
revealed our position and appearance to a horde of banditti, in conical
hats or long blue caps and gay parti-coloured garments, who swarmed on
the cliffs above and around us, barring advance or retreat, with their
levelled rifles.

"Basta!" exclaimed Castelermo, his voice faltering with shame and
chagrin.  "O! for thirty cavaliers of John de Valette, or old L’Isle
Adam!  Must we yield—and to wretches such as these?"

"Surrender or die!" I replied, considerably excited: "the path is open
before us; but we should assuredly be blown to pieces before we had
moved a horse’s length."

We were immediately surrounded, and peremptorily commanded to dismount.
I saw how the fierce spirit of my companion blazed up within him as he
obeyed the order; and my own indignation was not less.  Our swords were
next demanded; and, knowing the futility of resistance, I submitted to
be deprived of my sabre and despatches.

"My good fellows," said I, "remember I am a British officer!"

"Base vagabonds!" thundered Castelermo, while his pale lips quivered
with rage, "at least respect the garb _I_ wear!  You may keep my sword
now, for to me it is useless, after being sullied by such dishonourable
hands; but bear in mind that this night you have committed a most horrid
sacrilege!"

"We will bear the weight of that easily, cavaliere," said one fellow,
"and pay our blessed Mother Church a moiety out of your ransom. We must
obey our orders; and if Ferdinand IV., or even the grand bailiff of the
province passed this way, they would be required to yield both cloak-bag
and sword to the king of St. Eufemio."

"Take the matter quietly, signor," said another, striking me on the
shoulder with insolent familiarity; "remember you might have fallen into
rougher hands than Francatripa’s free companions."

"Bring a horse-halter, ho! ho! and bind them!" cried a shrill voice,
which I immediately recognised.  I turned towards the speaker, who had
just dropped down from the rocks; but could not distinguish his figure:
the blaze of the red light having now expired.

"By Heaven!  I would not have surrendered without fighting to the last,
could I have suspected this foul indignity!" exclaimed Marco bitterly,
while I bit my lips in silence; and Gaspare Truffi, by whose orders we
were bound, rolled on the turf yelling and grinning like a fiend with
malicious delight and exultation.

"Forward!" he commanded.  "Where did you say we were to meet the
capitano?"

"Where the Maida road intersects the ancient way to the town of
Cosenza," replied one of the band.  "He awaits us among the old ruins of
those pagan Greeks."

"On then," replied the little man of authority. "On: but, povero voi!
keep well together when crossing the hills, or I will blow to the night
wind the brains of the first man who straggles!"

I was surprised to find these fierce desperadoes submitting to the
incessant hectoring of a pitiful hunchback: but after a time I observed
that his commands, although strictly obeyed, were a source of secret
merriment to the band.  I also discovered amongst them many young men of
superior birth, address, and education; who had been reduced to such
ignoble fellowship by their own excesses, or by preferring a state of
free brigandage on their native mountains, to bowing beneath the yoke of
France, and submitting to its military conscription.

Some of them still retained in their manners traces of good Neapolitan
society, but the majority were a crew of the most hardened ruffians that
ever were congregated together.  I fully expected on being presented to
the leader, to experience the most brutal treatment; having been always
led to suppose that Francatripa was a very demon incarnate, and save
Mammone, the worst of all the outlaws of lawless Calabria.

"Now then, gentlemen, remember that with my own hand I will shoot the
first who attempts to escape.  Hear me! you in particular?" said Gaspare
Truffi, giving his threat additional force by bestowing on my shoulder a
smart stroke with a pistol butt (one of my own silver-mounted pops with
rifled barrels, a present from the General.)  At that moment, my heart
swelled almost to bursting!  I turned fiercely towards Truffi; but, on
beholding him astride my gallant grey, with his short crooked legs
scarcely reaching below the saddle flaps, his prodigious hump, his
overgrown head and amply bearded visage surmounted by a straw hat of the
largest size, his grotesque figure viewed by the moonlight was so
ludicrous that I burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.  Even the
grave Castelermo laughed aloud, and the whole band joined in a hearty
roar of merriment.  This, though it put us all in tolerable humour,
roused the wrath of the hunchback; who glared from one to another
without knowing on whom to wreak his passion.

"It is quite a riddle to me how this odd fellow was ever permitted
beneath the roof of the St. Agata palace: you remember, we first met him
there," said I to my companion.

"The cursed reptile played well and deeply: but I doubt much if he would
again dare to approach——"

"Silenzio!" thundered the hunchback, as he forced Cartouche (whom he
could scarcely manage) toward me, sideways, and twice endeavoured to
ride over me: but the brave charger knew me too well, and always swerved
aside when approaching too close.  Failing thus in his object, Gaspare
dealt me a blow on the mouth with the pistol butt, which covered my face
with blood, and nearly demolished my front teeth. The band murmured at
this cowardly outrage; and perhaps nothing but fear of Francatripa
prevented his incensed lieutenant from pistolling me on the spot.

We had now arrived at the place appointed; the ruins of a majestic fane,
which had once echoed the precepts of Pythagoras and the triumphs of
Milo: its massive doric columns, the ponderous abacus, and carved
entablature, with the most exquisite specimens of sculpture, were all
hurled together in chaotic heaps, just as the temple had been left by
some tremendous convulsion, which had levied its glories to the dust.
The stones were mossy and green; the vine and ivy, the scarlet fuschia
and the wild rose, and a thousand odorous plants flourished luxuriantly
and entwined the ruins with wreaths of blossom.  But there was something
melancholy in the aspect of the place when viewed by the brilliant moon:
the same orb which had beheld the first stone of their foundations laid,
amid all the religious solemnities of pagan Greece.

A horn was sounded; but the echoes died away, and no answering blast
awoke them again: the ruins were minutely searched, but there was no
appearance of Francatripa.

"Maladetto!" said one fellow, shrugging his shoulders, "the capitano
stays somewhat long with his dear love to-night!"

"Colonello, you should say, Gaetano," replied another.  "Does he not
bear the king’s commission; ay, and a sweet letter, they say, Carolina
sent him, written with her own hand?"

"Yes, and we are to become soldiers like the men of Marco Sciarra.
Madonna bless the day!  I am tired of this life."

"Gaetano is as bad as his master, who seems to love a throw of the dice
at the gaming-table better than a rifle-shot on the green mountainside
in the merry moonlight."

Gaetano only answered by a sigh.

"The smiles must have been sweeter to-night than usual," growled Gaspare
Truffi; "he stays so long at the villa D’Alfieri."

"No good will come of his going there; where a woman is, there will
always be treachery and mischief," said Gaetano.  "May Cupid put it in
his heart to bring his girl up the mountains!"

"Welcome to the capitanessa!" said another of the band, drinking from a
leathern bottle, which he held aloft at the full stretch of his arm,
permitting the sparkling wine to stream down his throat—a famous feat
with the Italian vulgar.

"Ho! ho!" chuckled the hunchback, "it would be bearding the grand
bailiff with a vengeance, to follow Gaetano’s advice.  But, Sfarmato!
wind the horn again!"

Once more its blast was poured to the hollow wind: but there was no
reply, save from the echoing woods of Maida; and the banditti, as they
seated themselves on the verdant grass and marble blocks, cursed the
delay of their leader in no gentle terms.

The villa D’Alfieri!  How my pulses quickened at the sound.  Francatripa
was then the lover of Annina, or some of the waiting women.  I resolved
to speak with the viscontessa about the dangerous friends with whom her
household corresponded.  How little I then knew of the ambition and
presumption of that accomplished robber!

"Here, good fellow," said I, to the one whom they named Gaetano, "take
the handkerchief from my breast, and give my moustachios a wipe.  You
see how freely the blood is flowing from my mouth."

"Certainly, Signor Cavalier," said the man, good-naturedly, raising his
hand to his hat.

"Ha!" said I, "you have been a soldier?"

"Yes, signor," said he, turning pale, "I enlisted in the Corsican
Rangers, under the British: but I knew not their fashions; I quarrelled
with a sergeant, and they flogged me like a dog; I ran away, and so I am
here."

Before he could do me the simple act of kindness requested, Gaspare
snatched the handkerchief from his hand, and threw it away; dealing
Gaetano at the same time a sound box on the ear, and muttering a remark,
which, when translated, meant that I might "bleed to death, and be——"

I was extremely exasperated; and feeling at that moment the cords which
bound me becoming a little slackened, I snapped them asunder, and
rushing upon Truffi unhorsed him like lightning; then snatching from him
his pistols and poniard, I threw them to a distance.  He swore a
terrible oath, and grappled with me.  I was amazed by the strength he
displayed: although barely the height of a well-grown boy, he appeared
to possess the strength of two ordinary men, and his arms and hands were
of great size and muscular power.  My breast burned with shame to find
myself more than matched in the grasp of a creature so despicable: I
would rather have died than have been defeated. The brigands; aware of
their little lieutenant’s great strength, confidently expected he would
overcome me; so, without interfering, they leant upon their rifles, and
with shouts of laughter crowded round to witness a contest which
Castelermo beheld with equal indignation and astonishment: he, of
course, supposed I should toss my adversary into the air like a
cricket-ball.

At any other time, or under different circumstances, I would have
scorned to encounter in any manner such an adversary: but, alas!  I
found myself almost mastered by this miraculous dwarf.

Firm as Hercules, he stood planted on his curved legs, which appeared to
possess all the unyielding principle of the arch; while his huge head,
round and hard as a cannon-ball, was thrust like a battering-ram into my
breast, and his ample hands grasped me like a vice: he had all the
aspect of some powerful gnome, or dwarf, of German romance; but dwarf or
devil, I was determined not to yield while bone and muscle remained
firm.

While quartered at Truro, I had been taught a few of the tricks of
wrestling by a corporal of the Cornish Miners, and I now put all these
in practice against this crooked Italian; who, being quite unprepared
for any display of science, was suddenly thrown off his feet, and hurled
backwards with such force that he fell on the sward about ten yards off,
and nearly fractured his capacious skull, which was instantly buried in
the deep recesses of his conical hat.

"Ghieu!" cried he, scrambling up.  "Ho, ho! woe betide you, povero voi!"

He was rushing forward, like a mad bull, to renew the conflict, when a
figure stepped from behind a fragment of the ruins, and interposed
between us.

"Francatripa!" he exclaimed, recoiling with a growl of surprise.

"Most excellent captain!" cried the thieves, with one voice.  "Viva
Francatripa!"

"Silence all, comrades," said Francatripa; "and you, signor," he added,
addressing himself to me, "I thank you for giving my lieutenant this
rough lesson to treat my prisoners better. But inform me,
circumstantially, on your honour, who you are, whence you have come,
where you are bound, and what is your business among these mountains?"

"I am an officer on the Sicilian staff, bearing despatches from the
commanding officer at Crotona to General Sir John Stuart at Scylla.  I
trust my papers will be restored me; as they can be of no use to you,
sir, and the service of King Ferdinand may suffer by their detention."

"Madonna keep his most sacred majesty!" said the robber chief,
uncovering: "your horse and baggage shall be restored to you, and all
letters addressed to the good Cavaliere Stuardo, the friend of Naples.
Signor, we war not with the soldier, unless in arms against us: like our
own, his profession is a poor one, and shame fall on the hand that would
pilfer his hard-earned ducats—the wages of sweat, toil, and blood. But
the gentleman who accompanies you?  By the star of heaven! a knight of
Malta!  This is sacrilege!  Pardon, Signor Cavaliere, this outrage by my
people: one for which, believe me, on my word of honour, as a free
Calabrian, I am in no way to blame.  Gaetano! restore to these gentlemen
their swords."

Unbinding Castelermo himself, he ordered our horses to be instantly led
up to us.

"Gaspare!" he exclaimed, while grasping a pistol, "thou accursed,
deformed Judas, thou piece of an ass!  I would this instant send a
bullet through your brain, had I another to supply your place: for,
truly, there is not in all Italy another such subtle serpent and
compound of mischief, to whom I could delegate my troublesome command
when absent.  But keep out of my sight till morning, Messerino Esop!
Signori, he has the eyes of Argus, and is worth his hump in gold to me,
so that I could ill spare him.  Meanwhile, to make all the amends in my
power, this night you shall sup with me, and to-morrow pursue your
journey.  Please to step this way, gentlemen, and we shall see what my
cook has in preparation for us."

He led us behind a lofty mass of the ruins, where heavy green laurels
and clusters of ivy and vine overhung the marble blocks and fragments of
fluted columns, which yet remained in their original position.  A whole
roebuck was roasting and sputtering before a wood fire, which cast its
red and varying glare on the shattered temple, the waving foliage, the
glancing arms, and fierce swart visages of our captors; whose well-known
bandit costume completed the striking effect of the scene.

A beetle-browed and bare-legged rogue, clad only in yellow breeches and
a blue shirt, the sleeves of which were rolled up, superintended the
cooking; while the contents of a hamper (taken probably from the
carriage we had seen some hours before) were spread upon the turf: light
pastries, fruit, and a few flasks of continental wine.  After posting a
few well-accoutred scouts on the neighbouring roads and eminences,
Francatripa sent away his band to join the main body in the forest,
where several hundred wild spirits served under him.  After seeing them
off, in a manner which was a burlesque on military order, this
formidable chief—who afterwards fought so many severe battles with the
French, and whose name was soon to become like that of Marco Sciarra in
Italy—rejoined us.  I had then an opportunity of recognising in him one
of the mutilators of the poor tanner (mentioned in volume first), and I
also remembered his face as one I had often seen in the fashionable
gaming-houses of Messina.

He was an eminently handsome man, between thirty and forty years of age;
and being closely shaved he had rather a more civilized aspect than his
rough, whiskered, and bearded associates. Though to us polite and
courteous in the extreme, to his band he acted the furious and
swaggering bandit: stern firmness and sullen ferocity alone seemed to
keep their mutinous spirits in check, and they quailed beneath his
sparkling eye whenever it turned on them.

He was habited in one of those richly-laced scarlet uniforms, which
Queen Caroline sent from Palermo to Benincasa, the miller of Sora, and
all the brigand chiefs of those provinces; and on his breast shone the
star and enamelled cross of St. Constantine: the gift of the same
politic princess, who endeavoured to prop the tottering throne of her
husband by the support of the brave banditti of southern Naples; just as
the Venetians, in 1590, courted the aid of the chivalric Sciarra and his
followers against the Grand Duke of Tuscany.  A plume of white ostrich
feathers, clasped by a golden band and diamond madonna, drooped from his
broad hat over his right shoulder, imparting a peculiar grace to his
figure.  His belt sustained a very handsome sword, poniard, and pistols;
which, with a short rifle, completed the arms and accoutrements of this
gallant robber: his air and aspect were very different from those of the
desperado who, under his name, usually figured in the accounts published
in the Neapolitan and Sicilian cities.

We supped heartily.  The wine was excellent: and if Francatripa came by
it lightly, he did not spare it on his guests.  The flasks of red and
white capri were numerous and potent enough; but when I remembered the
unhappy proprietor, whom we had found weltering in blood by the wayside,
it was not without considerable compunction that I regaled on the
contents of his plundered hamper.  However, the affair lay between
Francatripa and his conscience.  Castelermo and I soon fell asleep,
under a sheltered part of the ruins which had witnessed the midnight
carousal.

When we awoke, the morning sun had risen far above the hills of Maida;
our horses with our arms and valises, all in perfect order, stood
picqueted beside us: but our late host and his followers had departed,
leaving no trace behind them, save the well-picked venison bones, and
the ashes of the fire which had cooked it.  My mouth was still painful,
and a little swollen by the blow from the hunchback: whom I hoped to
repay at a future time; but I sprang gaily up to rub down Cartouche with
a tuft of dried grass, and shook off the dreams and odd fancies which
had floated through my brain: caused, doubtless, by the Capri wine, and
the stories related by Francatripa of his mountain friends.  My ears yet
rang with the exploits of the Abbot Proni, who drove the French from
Abruzzi; of Frà Diavolo, the cruel and vindictive bandit of Itri; of the
miller of Sora, and Benedetto Mangone, who was so savagely executed at
Naples by being beaten to death with hammers.

Mammone of Sora was no ordinary bandit, but a fiend in human shape,
out-Heroding in cruelty all the monsters of romance: he could boast of
having slain with his own hand four hundred fellow-beings; he never
dined without having "a bleeding human head placed on the table," and in
his mildest mood is said to have drunk human blood "gushing from his
victims."

These, and such as these, were the brigand leaders of Italy, and the
terror of France, before the merciless General Manhes—"the man of
iron"—brought the Calabrian war of extermination to a close, by almost
depopulating the country.



                             *CHAPTER III.*

                        *A SNAKE IN THE GRASS.*


Passing through Maida—a large and substantial town, built on an eminence
equidistant from the Tyrhene Sea and the Adriatic, at the narrowest part
of the peninsula, and situated among those pine-clad mountains which
overlook the scene of our victory and the vale of the Amato—we visited
the battle-ground; but nothing remained to mark that glorious day, save
the burnt cartridge-paper fluttering about among the graves of those who
fell: the mould was yet fresh, and the new grass just beginning to
sprout above the great burial-mounds; the sight of which at that moment
filled us with sad thoughts.  The sun shone brightly, pouring his
noon-day glory from above the wooded Apennines across the warm and misty
plain; bees were humming, birds chirping, and wild flowers blooming,
above those "scattered heaps" where so many brave men were mouldering
into dust.

This melancholy train of thought, and the deep solitude around us, were
broken by a most unexpected shout of "Hark forward! tally-ho!" coming
from a distance; and presently two noble English greyhounds, in full
chase after a spotted lynx, bounded from the banks of the Amato, and
swept across the plain towards the hills.

"There they go, neck and neck,—Bravo, Springer!" cried a well-known
voice; and, crashing headlong through the vine-trellis of some poor
peasant, Oliver Lascelles, the general’s extra aide, dashed up to us,
breathless with a long ride. Oliver was the most determined sportsman in
the regiment, and contrived to take his horses and dogs wherever he
went, in spite of barrack, ordnance, and transport regulations.

"There go the gallant dogs, and I have no horn to recall them," he
cried.  "See how the spotted devil doubles!—the water now!  Ha! the
scent’s lost, and Springer’s at fault.—What on earth are you doing here,
Dundas?  Moralizing, eh?—Buon giorno, Signor Marco; happy to see you.
By the Lord! had I got that lynx’s brush, I would have stuck it in my
cocked hat, and ridden with it so to old Regnier at Cassano.  Ha!
Dundas, at home you never roused such game as that, by the Muirfute
Hills, or in Arniston woods;" and the light-hearted Englishman, laughing
at his own conceit, hallooed on his dogs till the blue welkin rang.

He congratulated me on my promotion to a company in the Regiment de
Rolle, from which I was re-gazetted to my old corps: a double favour,
which I had no doubt was to be attributed to the general’s favourable
mention of me in his despatches, and my good fortune in capturing the
eagle.  This trophy, by-the-bye, may now be seen in the hall of Chelsea
Hospital, in company with thirteen others.

Poor Oliver! he found his grave beneath the towers of the Castello
d’Ischia; where the waves roll over the bones of many a bold Calabrian
and Ross-shire Highlander.  He was barely twenty when he was shot at the
head of his stormers.

After a hurried ride over the well-known positions of the third of July,
we separated; Castelermo and I to pursue our journey to St. Eufemio, and
Lascelles to continue his to General Regnier’s camp: he was the bearer
of a copy of Sir John Stuart’s third proclamation, dated 18th July, and
issued in consequence of the barbarous cruelties exercised by the French
troops on those Italian royalists who unhappily fell into their hands.
In that official document, after a long statement of appalling facts,
Sir John reminded the French general that three thousand of their
soldiers were prisoners to the British arms, together with many of
Buonaparte’s well-known partisans.  "If, therefore," concluded the
manifesto, "such violence is not put an end to, for the future, I shall
not only deem myself justified, but compelled by my duty, to have
recourse to the severe but indispensable law of REPRISALS!"  This
determined threat had some effect on the iron-hearted Regnier, and for a
time we heard less of slaughtered peasantry and priests shot before
their altars; of nuns and poor country girls torn from their homes and
hiding-places, to become worse than slaves in the camps and bivouacs of
the French: who were yet entrenched at Cassano, awaiting the advance of
Massena’s division.

Not choosing to be seen so far out of our proper road by any of our
troops cantoned in St. Eufemio, or encamped around it, we took a
solitary path across the plain towards the villa; and, as there was no
ford, we had to swim our horses across the Amato, in a part where the
stream was both deep and rapid.  We then sought the shelter of an
orange-grove, where, having poured the water out of our boots, we passed
the noon-time until the intense heat passed away.  It was a still and
solitary place, where the silence was broken by no ruder sounds than the
hum of the bee, the flap of the plover’s wing, the murmur of the Amato,
the notes of a shepherd’s zampogna, and the faint tinkling bells of his
flock afar off on the green and verdant mountains.  We remained nearly
two hours in that delightful grove, through the thick foliage of which
the hot rays of the sun never penetrated: the shining river swept slowly
past us to the sea, with its smooth surface glittering in the sunlight,
and the whole air was fragrant with the perfume of the wild flowers
blooming among its sedges, and the orange-trees which shaded its rocky
banks.  The ruddy fruit hung in rich golden clusters above us; and
though, from the appearance of some of the trees, the winds of a hundred
years had swept their branches, they were yet, in a "green old age,"
bending beneath their load of produce.  The Calabrian knows well that
the oldest trees bear the sweetest oranges: those that are soft and
juicy, with thin skins: the thickly rinded are always the fruit of young
saplings, and are seldom cared for by the orange-gatherer.

Cavaliere Marco—who had not such reasons as I for visiting the villa,
and whose knowledge of the world led him to suppose that his presence
could, perhaps, be dispensed with—suddenly recollected that he had a
gambling affair with Ser Villani, the lawyer (there was only one in the
province), and rode on to St. Eufemio, promising to rejoin me in a few
hours.  Meanwhile I pursued my way to the villa alone; and passing
through its luxuriant orchards, reached the terraces unperceived by any
of the inhabitants.

Leaving my horse under the portico, I passed through a white marble
corridor into the lofty and superb saloon; where, through a cupola of
stained glass covered with heraldic blazonry, the sun poured down a
flood of variegated light upon three rows of gilded galleries, and a
bronze fountain: the Neapolitan emblem, a winged horse, vomited forth a
jet of sparkling water. Save the ceaseless plash of the fountain, the
place was silent: no sounds of life were heard.

After a time, however, the laugh of the giddy Annina rang merrily in one
of the vast corridors, where she was flirting with the old Greek
chasseur, Andronicus; but only to drive away ennui in the absence of her
cavalier Giacomo, whom with his party the visconte had sent back to
Crotona.

"There can be nothing amiss, when Annina laughs so joyously," thought I;
"and yet this great Italian villa, so gloomy and so silent, looks like a
vast catacomb by the evening light.  Ola! Annina!"

"Ecco, signor," cried the damsel, as she danced into the saloon: she
evidently expected a stranger, and could not conceal her astonishment on
beholding me; but assuming a prim air, she placed a little finger on her
ripe pouting lips, and, with a glance full of archness and mystery,
imposed silence.

"My pretty Annina, I am not inclined to flirt just now," said I, kissing
her cheek with jocose gallantry, in proof of my assertion: though,
indeed, the girl of Capri was attractive enough to tempt one to be
gallant in good earnest. "Where is your lady?"

"My lady, the viscontessa, has gone to confession at the Sylvestrian
monastery; old Frà Adriano surfeited himself with choke-priest, and was
unable to officiate this evening."

"Tush!" said I, drawing her into a deep alcove, "I mean, la Signora
Bianca."

"She is in the garden with the colonel."

"What colonel?  Is Luigi here?"

"Signor Claude, you are so impatient!" she replied slowly, while her
black eyes twinkled provokingly, and raising their arched brows with
affected surprise, she added, "Have you never heard of the colonel?"

"Colonel again! no, no!  Who the devil is he?" I muttered impatiently,
jerking up my sword-belt, while I ran over in my memory all those I knew
who were likely to rival me.  "Who the mischief?—it cannot be De
Watteville, he is too old; Oswald, he is at Scylla; or Kempt—Annina,
tell me, and you shall give me a kiss in exchange for as many ducats as
will buy a magnificent embroidered panno to set off these jetty locks of
yours."

"A girl of Capri would rather give the kiss without the ducats: it would
look so like selling the secrets of the signorina, otherwise;" and while
a blush suffused her face she began to sing, with a coquettish air, "O
sweet isle of Capri," &c.

"You shall have both: the kiss now, and the ducats hereafter," said I,
saluting the Madonna-like cheek of the pretty Italian; and then it
blushed red as the ruby wine of her own rocky isle, while her eyes
sparkled like the waves that roll around it in the sunshine.

"Signor," she whispered, "truly I wish you well; but beware of the
Colonel Almario, who is daily at the villa, and is even now with my
young lady in the garden—in the walk; you know it, shaded by the great
laburnums."

"Almario!  I never heard such a name before—sounds well enough, though:
but how the deuce came he here?"

"On horseback, signor: he rides a beautiful black Barbary horse, which
Signora Bianca seems to admire more than your dashing grey."

"The mischief she does!  Who introduced this colonel to the family?"

"He is a great friend of Father Petronio, the bishop of Cosenza; and all
the world allows that _he_ is a saint."

"Your world, Annina, is this little corner of Italy.  Well, and the
viscontessa met him at a _conversazione_ at Nicastro?"

"Exactly so, and won from him a hundred pieces of gold: he lost them
with so good a grace that my lady was quite enchanted with him; for the
more the colonel lost, the more merry he became.  San Gennaro!  I think
he is a sorcerer, who can coin ducats from vine-leaves. He scatters a
handful of gold among the servants every time he comes here! so you may
easily imagine how much they are devoted to him.  He is either Satan or
a rich man, and has a way with him that makes all the men his slaves,
and the girls his worshippers: that is, all save myself, signor.  And
then, such pretty things he says to the signorina, when they play
together on their guitars!  You would imagine he sat with the Lady Venus
herself: but he says the very same things to the old viscontessa, when
at cards after supper.  O, that Giacomo was returned! I am sure he would
not value his ducats or dread his dagger (I know he wears one) a rush.
No, he would trim him well with a stout pole for presuming to make so
free at the villa."

"I comprehend the hint.  But one word more," said I, in a husky voice,
while my heart palpitated with anxiety at this relation.  "Have you
heard aught of the visconte?"

"Only what you must surely know, that he has fled to the mountains: to
Francatripa, they say, for abducting a nun.  Madonna mia! what can tempt
handsome young men to run off with these pale and melancholy frights,
when so many plump and pretty women, with good flesh on their bones, are
dying for husbands both in town and country."

"Annina, your tongue is again at full gallop. The visconte, then, is not
here?"

"No; and yet I could have sworn that I heard him singing a barcarole in
the wolf’s chamber. God’s grace! ’tis a place of gloom and mystery.
Poor, dear young man!  I hope he may come to no harm in these perilous
times, when the hills and woods are swarming with Frenchmen and wolves,
idle sbirri, starving peasantry, and desperate robbers."

Stepping hastily and cautiously, I passed through the beautiful garden,
which extended from the terraces to the southward.

There was now a rival in the way, whose superior military rank, and
apparent wealth, besides his being Bianca’s countryman, made him
sufficiently formidable to me: but as I remembered her artlessness, her
trembling confusion when we exchanged our rings, and her burst of
tenderness when we parted, and how she buried her face in the bosom of
Luisa Gismondo, could I believe that she would so very soon prove false?
Yet I had heard so much of the volatility of Italian girls, their
faithlessness and coquetry, that the words of the waiting-woman fell
like molten lead upon my heart.

Before advancing, like a prudent general I made a complete
reconnoissance, and discovered Bianca walking with this redoubtable
colonel, conversing and flirting through the folds of her black lace
veil.  She opened it only at times, when I obtained a glimpse of her
pure and happy face: her bright eyes sparkling, her cheek glowing, and
her pretty teeth shining like pearls in the sun, as its rays flashed
between the waving branches and pendent golden flowers of the old
laburnums. The long shady walk echoed with their voices, though they
conversed in a low tone; and at that moment the sharpening of a handsaw
would not have grated on my ears so painfully as did Bianca’s merry
laughter at the jests of this confounded colonel.

He was a tall and handsome man, apparently in the prime of life: I had a
dim recollection of having seen him before, but when or where I
endeavoured in vain to remember.  He was dark-complexioned, and so much
sunburned that I thought he must have seen considerable service. From
beneath a scarlet velvet foraging cap, his dark hair descended in
curling ringlets; his nose was aquiline, and a pair of appalling
moustaches, black, bushy, and fierce, curled under it.  He wore a
sky-blue military undress frock, laced with silver, and open at the
neck, showing a scarlet waistcoat, which was also richly laced; on his
breast glittered a medal and the star of St. Constantine; military boots
with gilt spurs, completed his costume.  A gold belt encircled his
waist, and sustained a small poniard of exquisite workmanship; his sabre
rested on his left arm, and on his right the jewelled hand of Bianca.

Notwithstanding the noble contour of this colonel’s features, and a
certain lofty dignity in his carriage, there was something so peculiar
in his uniform (which I failed to recognise) and in the expression of
his eye (which I did not like) that, altogether, I did not consider him
a very dangerous rival; though he whispered to Bianca in a way that was
anything but agreeable to me, and she maintained the conversation with
true Italian vivacity and spirit of raillery.  I was not under the
unpleasant necessity of acting eavesdropper long; for, piqued at
something he had said, Bianca suddenly quitted his arm and withdrew a
few paces; her eyes sparkled with unusual brilliancy, and her brow, wont
to be so pale, now flushed with indignation.  The Colonel Almario sank
upon his knee, and held in his her right hand, which tightly grasped a
rose she had plucked but a moment before.

"Beautiful Bianca!" I heard him exclaim, while his voice rose and fell
with true theatrical cadence, "be not offended if my treacherous tongue
has too suddenly revealed the long-cherished sentiments of my heart.  O,
most gentle signora! how faintly can I express the deep love, the
sincere admiration, which at this moment glow within me!"

"I would give ten guineas to have a good long-shanked hunting-whip here
just now," I muttered, exasperated by this sudden declaration of
passion; at which the poor girl seemed the image of confusion: though
its pomposity evidently excited more amusement than pleasure.

"Signor Colonello, unhand me, if you please. I cannot—I _will not_ be
spoken to thus.  Ola! Zaccheo!  Annina!—here!  You have all been bribed!
Oh! the treacherous——"

"For the love of all that is gracious! summon no one."  (I really think
the fellow loved her; so touching was his tone, so earnest his manner.)
"Hear me, lady!  I am an unfortunate and most unhappy man.  I love you
passionately——"

"And noisily——"

"Cruel!  No man can love a woman more. Will you not vouchsafe me an
answer?  Bel l’ idolo! will you not even hear me?"

"No, I will hear nothing while you continue to grasp me thus.  Annina!
Am I a prisoner in my own house?"

"Give me but this rose: it is a small favour, Signora d’Alfieri, but you
have placed it once to your beautiful lips, and their touch has enhanced
its value.  Bestow it on me, Bianca, as a token that I may yet
hope—that, even though withered I may look upon it and say——"

"Fico! hope you never shall!" exclaimed the spirited girl, as she pulled
the rose to pieces, and scattered the leaves upon the upturned face of
her admirer; from whom she broke away, and moved toward the villa with
all the sweeping hauteur of an offended Juno.

Almario uttered a very audible oath, and sprang forward rudely to seize
her; when, stepping from out the shrubbery, I suddenly interposed
between them.

"Dearest Claude!" exclaimed Bianca, in a tone of joy, as she passed her
arm through mine; while he of the sky-blue frock and star grew pale with
anger: he laid his hand on the hilt of his sabre, and, retiring back a
few paces, we surveyed each other from top to toe, with all the stern
composure of two melodramatic heroes.

"How now, sir?" I exclaimed.  "Would you dare to follow the young lady,
and continue this ridiculous scene?"

"I am noble—an Italian gentleman, and my purposes are not to be
questioned by any foreigner, especially one of subaltern rank," he
replied through his clenched teeth.  "Signor, learn that I am a colonel
of cavalry in the Neapolitan service, and shall not permit this insolent
interference to pass unpunished."

"It may be so: but I do not recognise your uniform."  His face grew
scarlet, and his eyes sparkled with rage at my insinuation.  "You must
be aware," I continued, "that I have merely done my duty as a gentleman
and soldier in rescuing the signora from your impertinent importunity;
and it is well for you," I added, considerably ruffled, "that I have
neither a whip nor cane wherewith to chastise you as you deserve."

"And well it is for you likewise, signor.  By Heavens! were such an
indignity as a blow put upon me, I would destroy you on the spot; and if
you escaped that vengeance which my hand must shortly take for this
insulting threat, a thousand stilettoes would be on your track!  Not in
the caverns of Scylla, or the wilds of La Syla—not amid all the guards
and gates of Malta and Messina, would you be safe from my revenge."

"O signori!" implored the trembling Bianca.

"Sir, I have very great doubts that you are an officer, but none that
you are both a knave and fool to rant in this manner," I replied, with
provoking coolness, while pressing the arm of the agitated girl to my
side.  "I comprehend nothing about those thousand knives of which you
speak so pompously, but here is my card, Signor Colonello: I will be at
the villa until near noon to-morrow, and any communication with which
you honour me will reach me there.  I am not to be terrified by the
blustering of any man; therefore, sir, it is quite unnecessary to ’get
up in your stirrups’ when addressing me."

"Good!" said he, haughtily; "I have not my card-case with me, but I can
understand this, signor.  By noon to-morrow, I must be on the march to
join the chiefs of the Masse in the Upper Province."

"Your regiment is, then, in the neighbourhood?"

"My regiment!" he stammered, while again the flush crossed his olive
cheek and haughty brow.  "Yes, yes—undoubtedly; and one it is that will
be heard of ere long.  Signor, you have treated me somewhat cavalierly;
which, considering the difference of our rank and years, I deem
considerable presumption on your part: but you British behave so to all
foreigners.  Ha! that _I_ should colour at the taunts of a mere boy!—I,
who have heard more bullets whistle in a week than he has done since he
first girt on a sword! Behold this medal!—on the ramparts of Andria, I
tore it from the breast of the traitorous Count of Ruvo, whose savage
followers, giving all to fire and sword, made an earthly hell of
beautiful Apulia.  Ha! boy, you never witnessed such a leaguer as that."

He jerked his sabre under his arm, bowed profoundly to Bianca, and was
swaggering haughtily away, when I followed him.

"Sir, then you will not grant me a meeting?"  He wheeled sharply round,
and muttered, in a fierce and rapid whisper,

"When a horn sounds over the lawn this evening, I will be awaiting you
on the road which leads to the ruined hospital of the Maltese knights.
Fail not to come; as a recourse to arms can alone decide now, whether
you or I shall possess this girl and her ducats."

"Enough!" said I, scornfully, and we separated.



                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                           *THE HORN SOUNDS.*


I led Bianca into the villa, where she flung herself upon a sofa, and,
overcome with excitement, gave way to a passion of tears.  I very
naturally seated myself close by, to console and pacify her.

"Dear Bianca, this is quite foolish, now!" said I, putting an arm gently
round her: "why are you weeping?"

"This colonel—this Almario——"

"Upon my honour!  Bianca, I shall send expressly to the camp for Bob
Brown, my groom, to horsewhip him, for making you weep thus. He is
unworthy my own——"

"O no, no!" she exclaimed, weeping very bitterly; "I do not wish Signor
Bob Brown to be killed on my account.  But promise me? dear Claude, that
you will never seek or meet him in a hostile manner," she added, looking
up, and smiling so imploringly, that I quite forgot what I meant to say,
and so kissed her in my confusion.

"Claude," she continued, taking both my hands in hers, and looking me
full in the face, with her clear and brilliant eyes,—"Claude, promise me
that you never will.  Ah! my heart would break—it would—it would,
indeed, if blood were shed on my account."

"Well, then, dear one!  I will never seek the presence of the colonel.
But the service, you must be aware—my character—O, the devil!—let him
beware how he summons me!"

"Swear it on this Agnus-dei!" said she, taking a little bag of perfumed
satin from her bosom.  To please her, I kissed the amulet which reposed
in so adorable a place, and the innocent girl was satisfied.

"When we are married, I will cure her of all this nonsense," I thought,
and ratified the treaty of peace on her flushed and dimpled cheek.

"And now, caro," said she, in a soft, low voice, "I have a great secret
to entrust you with.  Of course you know all about poor Luigi’s wild
adventure?"

"My bones ache at the recollection thereof; I narrowly escaped hanging,
shooting, and drowning: all of which were proposed in turns by a little
hunchbacked fellow, a follower of Francatripa, who chose to make himself
very active on the occasion.  And do you know, Bianca, that I was
immured in the thieves’ cage at the end of the town prison: a good joke,
is it not?"

"I heard it all from Annina, whose last love-letter from Giacomo
(written, of course, by an itinerant scrivano) was filled with a history
of the affair.  O, the madness of my dear and foolish sister!  How
bitterly I wept for and deplored it! Believe me, Claude, had an Italian
cavalier been put into that horrid cage, his soldiers would have set the
town on fire: but you, British! oh, you take some things very quietly.
Yesterday a mounted sbirro brought me a letter from my sweet little
friend Luisa Gismondo, who is with her father in the camp at Cassano.
O, what dreadful things she tells me of!  And Massena, that very bad
Italian, he is gathering together an army, who boast that they will soon
clear Calabria of the British."

"But where is Luigi now?"

"Just behind you, signor, and most happy to congratulate you on your
promotion, I saw it in the _Messina Gazette_," said the visconte, coming
from the recess of a window, where, unseen he had been a smiling
spectator.  Grasping my hand, he continued, "How I rejoice that you
escaped from the villanous Crotonians.  On my honour!  Dundas, nothing
but fear for my poor Francesca restrained me from putting back to save
or avenge you: and we all imagined those base paesani would have
respected your uniform and character——"

"No more apologies: but say, how does the Signora Francesca?’

"Indifferently, indeed.  She bemoans her degraded situation incessantly
(here Bianca reclined her head on my epaulette, and sobbed audibly).
Torn from her convent, to which she dare return no more, she is still a
nun; and, until her vows are dispensed with at Rome, I cannot make her
my wife.  I now see that her position is deplorable, and hourly wish
that I had been less rash: but what will not a wild spirit dare, when
love leads, and the fiend prompts?  I have, perhaps, blighted her
prospects for ever, and placed myself in most deadly jeopardy: every
hour increases our peril!  The Bishop of Cosenza (so famous for his
pretended piety) has taken up the matter hotly, and placed us under the
ban of the church; while, armed with warrants, procured from the Grand
Criminal Court at Palermo, his sbirri, aided by those of that old
blockhead the Barone di Bivona (who owes me a thousand sequins, lost at
Faro), are searching all Lower Calabria for us: I expect them here every
hour. King Ferdinand, anxious to flatter our priesthood and please his
bigoted subjects, has declared himself my enemy, and we dare not venture
to Sicily, even could we reach its shores: the commissaries of the
townships are everywhere on the alert, and we could never, unless
escorted by some armed followers, embark on the Calabrian seas.

"To pass into the Upper Province would only redouble the danger:
Francesca would become the prey of the bishop, or the brutal Massena;
who would, undoubtedly, order me to be shot. Ha! the French have not
forgotten certain exploits of mine, when I first unsheathed my sword
beneath the walls of Altamurra, on that great day when, on the eve of
battle, Ruffo performed high mass before the whole Calabrian line.

"I never dreamt that the toils of my adversaries would close so tightly
round me!  But the villa is well provided with lurking-holes, and I have
little doubt of being able to baffle completely any band that may come
in pursuit of us here.  Were my old sbirri under its roof-tree—were
Benedetto del Castagno, Marco of Castelermo, and my trusty Giacomo by my
side, I would yet shew them that the Visconte of Santugo was not to be
hunted like a wild boar.  No, by the gods!  I would make good the house
against the bishop’s rascals, though backed by the papal guard.  San
Gennaro! rather than surrender, I would blow it into the air, and flying
to the Grecian isles, there hoist the red banner of piracy, as many a
reckless Italian noble has done before."  His eyes glared, as black eyes
only do: he laughed bitterly, showing his white teeth beneath the sable
moustache, and he panted rather than breathed, as he continued, "Our
king, Monsignore Macheroni, should remember the feeble tenure on which
he holds his tottering throne, and be wary of raising enemies in this
last stronghold of Italian independence.  Palermo will not always have a
British fleet to protect its walls from the cannon of France: withdraw
your frigates from the straits of the Faro, your red coats from the
ramparts of Messina, Milazzo, and Syracuse, and the power and throne of
the lazzaroni king will fall prone to the earth, like a house of cards!"

"Hush! dearest Luigi," exclaimed his timid and terrified cousin, when a
pause in this long tirade permitted her to speak.  "This is all treason,
every word; and you know not who may be within hearing."

"If there are any within hearing who would prove false to the race of
Santugo, I would crop their ears like base Jacobins, and then bore their
tongues with a hot bodkin, that they may the more glibly tell their
story at Palermo.  Corpo di Baccho!  I defy and scorn them all!" and
snatching a large cup of wine from a marble cooler, he drained it to the
bottom; then casting himself upon an ottoman, he tossed the cup to the
other end of the apartment with such force, that it dashed to pieces a
rich Etruscan vase.

"Dundas, my good friend," he continued, "hot and high words are but a
poor welcome to you, after coming so far out of your way to visit us:
yet I am so exasperated about this matter—this elopement with my cousin!
Queen Caroline, she too has become an enemy.  I had the ill fortune to
please her eye once, and she could forgive me for any scrape in which a
woman is not concerned: you comprehend?  In fact, I was quite a rival to
Master Acton—your half countryman—the ci-devant apothecary, whom all the
world knows about."

"O Luigi, Luigi!" exclaimed Bianca.

"Tush!  I tell you, Bianca, that once when I was waiting on the king—per
Baccho! what am I going to say?"—he paused and coloured.  At that moment
the blast of a horn came, in varying cadence, on the evening breeze: I
started at the expected signal.

"Ola! what may that portend?" said the visconte, whom it relieved from
his embarrassment. "I shall be glad to learn who dares to sound a horn
within the bounds of my jurisdiction?" he added, taking up his sword.

"I will accompany you."

"Good: then let us go!"

Glad to have a decent pretext for quitting her presence, I pressed
Bianca’s hand to my lips with trembling anxiety, while there stole over
me a dismal foreboding that we might meet no more. My promise to her was
forgotten: could I keep it?  Impossible!

"Luigi, beware of a quarrel; and, dear Claude, for the love of Heaven!
curb his rashness.  I can depend on you" said she, as we hurried down
the staircase; and her words sank deeply into my heart.  Too well I knew
the deadly mission on which we were bound; and the shrill mountain-horn
poured another warning blast, which, as it seemed more faint and
distant, made us quicken our steps.  The visconte’s horses stood in
their stalls, saddled and bridled ready for any emergency; and,
summoning Zacheo Andronicus to bring forth a couple of nags, we mounted,
and, accompanied by him, galloped in the direction of the signal, with
the purport of which I acquainted my friend, as we rode on.

"Cospetto!" he exclaimed; "then this quarrel is mine.  I cannot permit
you to jeopard life or limb for any member of my family; of whose honour
I, as chief and head, am the defender and guardian.  I will in person
meet this Colonel, of whom more has been said at the villa than I cared
to listen to.  He is one of my mother’s gambling friends, picked up at
that select resort, Father Petronio’s palace; and is, perhaps, some
barefaced charlatan, who assumes the name of Almario and the rank of
colonel."

"But there are many officers of the Masse and other irregular corps,
whose uniforms are so motley and fanciful, and whose names are not borne
on any authorized list, that it is impossible to say what he is."

"True; but time shall prove all: and I——"

"Santugo! it was to me, and with me alone, that defiances were
exchanged: I cannot permit another to fight in my quarrel."

"But the quarrel is my pretty Bianca’s, and I am her only kinsman."

"And I her betrothed husband: behold this ring!"

"Buono! but I am an unfortunate dog, who would more willingly be shot
to-night than live longer."

"And leave Francesca alone—alone in her misery and helplessness?"

"O Madonna!  Yet I will meet the Colonel."

"On my honour you shall _not_," I continued, with equal pertinacity.  "I
must fight or horsewhip him.  But if I am winged, or knocked on the
head, you can take up my ground, and parade him in turn.—By-the-by, have
you not been somewhat rash in venturing forth with me this evening
before dusk, when so many enemies are hovering round and ready to pounce
on you?"

"I am aware of it: but you have need of a friend; and when I heard this
horn blown within the boundaries of my estate, the thought that the base
banditti, the ungrateful shepherds, or the carbonari, presuming on my
outlawry, were poaching or plundering under the very eaves of the villa,
aroused my anger——"

"Excellenza," said Zacheo the chasseur, riding up with alarm in his
countenance, "a party of horsemen are now entering the Valley of Amato."

"Armed, too," I added, as, following the eye of the venerable retainer,
I saw about thirty mounted men riding, three deep, at an easy pace
across the broad and level valley, through which the river wound like a
gilded snake; "well horsed and armed.  See how their appointments flash
in the sun!"

"They are about a cannon-shot distant," replied the visconte; "and
should they prove to be authorities from Cosenza, we can still baffle
them, even if they come up with us."

"Three to thirty?" said I, inquiringly.

"And what of that?  We have good Calabrian cattle under us; the free
mountains, the deep rivers, the dense forests, and a bright moonlight
night before us: all glorious for a flying skirmish; and we may empty a
dozen of their saddles yet before the stars go down."

"And what if they search the villa?"

"I trust to Madonna that the same secret place in the round tower which
saved my ancestor from the followers of Carlo of Anjou, will avail my
Francesca now: save by terror or treachery, it cannot be discovered.—I
hope, Master Zacheo, that the contents of the holsters are in service
order?"

"Most carefully flinted and loaded, excellency," replied the Greek from
the rear.

"But these may be neither the sbirri of the bishop nor his meddling
friend the barone; and, as they do not pursue a way leading either to
the villa or to us, let us avoid them, in God’s name! We have business
enough of our own to settle before the night closes."

At a hand-gallop we passed the redoubts, garrisoned by part of the
Regiment de Watteville, and which they had erected on the day of our
disembarkation.  On the turf bastions the sentries were pacing briskly
to and fro; and as we left the fort behind, the evening gun was fired,
its echoes rolling along the hills with a thousand reverberations, and
dying away in the distance.  The gaudy union descended slowly from the
flag-staff; while the fifes playing, and the drums beating, in that
peculiar time which is called "the sunset, or evening retreat," awoke
the gentler responses of the woods and winding shore, when the hollow
boom of the cannon had pealed away on the passing wind: it was "Lochaber
no more," a plaintive northern air, often played by our bands when the
sun is setting, announcing that another day has rolled into eternity.

Its slow-measured beat, and melancholy notes, are among the domestic or
home-sounds of the barrack-square: then the captain of the day, sulky at
being obliged to leave his wine, lounges forth with a cigar in his
mouth, and leaves the mess-room to parade the inlying piquet, who are
mustered in their dark great coats by the indefatigable sergeant-major:
the gates are shut, the drawbridges lowered, and the canteen cleared of
its noisiest revellers: the last flush of the sun has died away over the
distant hill, and a stillness settles over the whole community, only
broken by a laugh now and then from the mess, or by the tread of feet
and clash of arms, as the sentinels are relieved at their posts.

I listened sadly as the music faded away in the distance; and truly my
deadly mission began to press more heavily upon me than before.  Never
again might I hear those well-known sounds, and when the same drums were
beating the merry reveille and the lark was soaring aloft to greet the
rising sun, where might I be?  I strove to divert the current of my
thoughts, and not to think of it; but the same obstinate and gloomy idea
ever thrust itself before me.  The affection of Bianca d’Alfieri, my
recent promotion, and the chances of still further advancement, now made
life seem of some value.  I never experienced these depressing thoughts
on the eve of a battle, or assault: but the cold-blooded and deliberate
preparations for a duel give one time to _reflect_, and reflection may
damp the courage of a man who otherwise would hear, without wincing, a
salvo of cannon-balls whistling about his ears.

I thought of my old familiar friends at the regiment, who were,
doubtless, at that moment, enjoying their iced Sicilian wines, with the
mess-room windows open, while our matchless band played to the ladies
and cavaliers promenading on the Marina; and I wished myself amongst
them.  I thought of my home—my happy boyhood’s home—where the Esk
flowing down from the heath-clad hills, sweeps onward to the ocean, and
I wished the colonel where Empedocles went. But enough of this, or the
reader will be supposing I felt inclined to "show the white feather."



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                       *A DUEL AND A DISCOVERY.*


All those depressing thoughts evaporated the moment I obtained a glimpse
of my adversary; he was leaning against a tree, smoking a cigar, and
stroking the nose of his boasted black horse, whose bridle reins were
thrown negligently over his arm.  Remembering only his taunts and
defiance, his presumption and rivalry, I was ready to rush into
hostilities with him, and wage life against life.

He awaited us near the ruinous Preceptory House of the Maltese knights,
through whose ivy-clad arches, rent walls, and windows choked up with
grass, the last flush of sunset was poured in strong columns of light;
around us flourished gigantic green laurels, and many a glittering ilex,
which completely screened us from the eyes of any stray passenger, and
from the sentinels on Sir Louis de Watteville’s field-work.

"I trust, sir," said I, saluting him, "that we have not detained you
long?"

"Not very," was the cold reply; "but we must be quick, or this affair
will scarcely be settled before dusk."

"You have no friend with you?"

"None, save my usual weapons; but you have come pretty well attended.
Two gentlemen well horsed and armed to the teeth!"

"His excellency the grand bailiff, and one of his servants," said I.

"My lord, the visconte, rarely rides abroad at present, and I think his
presence here is somewhat unwise," said Almario, bowing to Santugo; who
was piqued at the observation, and, nodding coldly, replied,

"I cannot permit your coming to blows with this officer, in the quarrel
of my cousin. By-the-by, to what branch of the service do you
belong?—the cavalry?"

"The irregular troops of the Masse," replied he, with a dark frown.

Luigi bowed and said, "I am the guardian, the only protector and
defender of Bianca d’Alfieri; and I claim this quarrel as mine."

"I never meant to insult the Signora Bianca, or quarrel with her
family—nothing would be further from my thoughts; but if my respectful
declaration of a sincere passion offended, I am most heartily sorry, and
will make any amends to which an Italian gentleman may stoop without
dishonour."

Luigi bowed again, in reply to this apology, and reined his horse back a
few paces.

"But with you, Signor Capitano," continued the colonel, addressing me,
"the quarrel is too serious to be satisfied so easily.  We have mutually
defied each other, and my honour demands redress.  Am I to understand
that you are the challenger, and that by receiving your card it is at
your request I am here?"

"Assuredly, sir!" I answered haughtily.

"Good!" said he, throwing his snaffle rein over the branch of a tree;
"then with me lies the choice of weapons.  Is it not so, visconte?"

Santugo merely bowed again, but with evident hesitation; and
dismounting, we gave our horses to Andronicus, who immediately drew off
a little way.

By so frankly avowing myself challenger, I had fallen into a regular
scrape: an Italian would, perhaps, have prevaricated; yet I could hardly
believe that the Colonel would make so cowardly a choice as to select
the national weapon—the poniard.  But it was so: after rolling his cloak
round the left arm, with the utmost care and deliberation, he drew off
his gloves, turned up his right sleeve to leave the hand and wrist
perfectly free; buttoned his light blue military frock lip to the
throat, threw aside his sabre, and offered me a pair of poniards,
saying, briefly, "Choose."

They were daggers of Campo-forte, with elaborately carved ivory hilts,
and blades about nine inches long, triangular, and fluted on two sides
like bayonets.

"Colonel," said I, "although in acknowledging myself challenger, I may
have placed at your disposal the choice of weapons, if you suppose that
a British officer will condescend to fight with knives or poniards like
a drunken lazzarone, a hired bravo, or any brawling coward of Naples,
you labour under an unhappy mistake.  I have pistols in my holsters, and
with these will meet you on equal terms."

"By heaven! you greatly over-rate my good nature, if you imagine I will
engage you with any weapons save those of my own choosing.  Any other
Neapolitan would have dispatched this business, by bestowing three
carlini on some bold lad of the knife to tickle your ribs in the dark."

"Your language is not that of an officer."

"We fight with poniards, or not at all!"

"Must this be?" I asked Santugo.

"Formal duels are seldom fought in Italy: secretly or openly, the knife
generally ends all disputes," replied the visconte; "but the challenged
usually has the choice of weapons in all countries.  Castelermo, a great
authority in these matters, has—but I am astonished that Colonel
Almario, as a soldier and a gentleman, should resort to this vulgar and
antiquated mode of settling disputes."

My friend seemed under considerable anxiety on finding that I had fallen
into such a dilemma—about to fight with a murderous weapon in the
management of which I was totally unskilled.

"Captain Dundas, you had better make up your mind," said Almario, with a
sneering aspect; "or our meeting may be ended in the dark like those of
the bravos you so greatly despise."

"Sir!" I replied sternly, "I am not ashamed to acknowledge my ignorance
of the management of this pig-butcher’s weapon, and so—"

"So decline the contest?"

"No!—far from it; but I will meet you with my sabre or pistols."

"I will accept of neither; being determined to slay you: so if you stand
not on the defensive, I will rush on and end the matter by a single
blow."

This threat put an end to all further negotiation, and I felt the devil
stirred up within me.

"For God’s sake be wary!" whispered the visconte, as Zacheo bound a
horse-cloak round my left arm; "keep the guard well up to protect your
face and breast, and watch his eyes with the acuteness of a lynx."

"Remember this ring," I muttered hurriedly (assassination now seemed
certain); "it is our poor Bianca’s—and if anything happens—you
understand me?"

"No—no—not I—if aught untoward happens, by the blood of San Gennaro! the
colonel shall cross his blade with mine:" and he left me.

Standing now about twelve yards distant from my enemy, I felt not unlike
a recruit when a loaded firelock is first placed in his hands: I knew
not what position to assume, and was only restrained from protesting
against the combat, by dread of the triumph such a course would afford
to Almario.  He saw my confusion: his dark eyes glittered with malice
and joy; while my heart burned only with hatred and rage at the prospect
of becoming a victim to an uncompromising guerilla, who deemed himself
sure of easy victory over my inexperience.

With his hat drawn over his eyes, and his arms folded on his breast,
Santugo stood apart, regarding us with a flushed cheek, and a stern, yet
troubled eye; while Andronicus had placed his crucifix against a tree,
and was praying on his knees before it for my success, with all the
energy and devotion of a monk of La Trappe.

The position I assumed, with my hands clenched, my left foot advanced,
and my head well thrown back, was rather that of a boxer, than of a
combatant in such a contest as that in which I figured. My antagonist
bent forward on his left instep, keeping the arm muffled with his cloak
before him as a buckler, while the right hand grasped the upraised
poniard, ready to plunge it, to the hilt, in the first unprotected
place.

After regarding me for a moment with eyes to which bitter animosity lent
unusual vivacity, the colonel rushed upon me like a tiger.

More by chance than skill, I received the blade of the descending
poniard in the thick folds of Zacheo’s horse-cloak, and—contrary to all
rule—before he could withdraw it, dealt him a tremendous blow under the
left ear, causing his rattling jaws to clatter like a pair of castanets;
when as if struck by lightning, he measured his length on the turf.
Though given in a moment of confusion, it was a regular knock-down blow,
which would have charmed the English gentlemen of the fancy; but Signor
the Colonel Almario was quite unprepared for such a mode of fighting,
and seemed in no way delighted with it.  He lay for a moment motionless
as if dead.

"Glorious!" exclaimed Santugo, while I took the poniard from the relaxed
hand of my adversary, whose long curly ringlets and mustaches fell off
one by one (as we raised him up), and revealed the shaven chin, close
shorn hair, and firm swart features of one well-known to us.

"Now, by all the imps of Etna!" exclaimed Santugo, in a transport of
fury and surprise, letting him fall heavily on the turf, "’tis the
brigand—Francatripa!"

"Al vostro commando, (at your service)"—replied that personage, bowing
with perfect nonchalance.

"Rascal! and you presumed to speak of love to Bianca of Santugo?  Carpo
di Baccho!  I am half inclined to sabre him where he lies, to teach him
the respect he owes to noble ladies!"

"Aye do, your excellency," cried Andronicus; "slay him—the impostor! his
head is worth its weight in ducats: crush him like a torpedo—gash him
across the throat like a lynx!  Where, cattivo! have I left my knife?
Only think, signor—his villains the other night, burned the village of
Amato—plundered the shrine of the Virgin, whose milk is preserved there
in a bottle.  O horror he broke off the neck and drank the contents!"

"Silence, dolt!" exclaimed Francatripa.  "You have discovered me,
gentlemen," continued the prostrate robber, whose throat I still
grasped; "and what mean you to do now?  I am in your power, and there is
not a syndic or commandant in the Calabrias but would—notwithstanding
that I stand so high in the Queen’s favour—give a thousand pieces of
gold for my head.  However, as it is of more use to me, they shall not
have it for ten times that number.  Maladetto! how it rings after that
crackjaw!  Do you mean to make me prisoner?"

"No, Francatripa!" replied the generous Santugo, in a voice which, from
being sternly slow, became soft and kind; "I am one of the Alfieri—thou
knowest me, and knowest too well I would scorn the deed: savage and
bloody though all men term you, I have heard many a good and generous
trait of your character; and the uncompromising hostility you have ever
evinced to France, your high courage and incorruptible patriotism, have
gained my admiration and esteem: although at heart I abhorred the
cruelties perpetrated by your people on our countrymen—defending our
towns gallantly from Regnier to-day, and pillaging them ruthlessly
to-morrow."

The brigand, who expected to be overwhelmed with reproaches and scorn,
was confounded by this unexpected address; and he became still more so
when I assisted him to rise, and restored his poniard, saying—

"Let us be friends, Signor!  I have not forgotten how generously you
entertained the Cavaliere di Castelermo and myself last night;
protecting us from the insolence of your band, and the petulence of
their lieutenant.  Receive your poniard, and learn to make a better use
of it: or rather not to use it at all.  I esteem you as a brave man,
though an erring one; and trust that the blow I gave you will not
occasion you further inconvenience."

"Francatripa!" added Santugo, striking him familiarly on the shoulder,
"seek another path than that which leads through the prison-gate to the
scaffold.  Carolina has sent to you, though but a mountain robber, the
same badge of knighthood with which she adorns the noblest breasts in
Naples—the star of St. Constantine.  Learn to deserve it and to wear it
with honour.  Grow wise in time: become honest as you are brave: lead
your bold followers against the legions of France, instead of the poor
carbonari of our hills, and the peaceful vine-traders of our valleys.
Fight only for Italy and honour, and, corpo di Baccho! you will live in
history and in song, like Marco Sciarra—re della campagna—and lord of
the wilderness!"

The robber seemed deeply affected by our frankness.

"Monsignore Visconte and Signor Capitano," said he, saluting us
gracefully, and retiring a pace; "I am not the hardened villain the evil
tongues of slanderers would make me.  God and his blessed Mother, who
read our hearts, know that I have been by stern necessity compelled to
witness—ay, and to participate in—many a deed of blood and horror, from
which my soul shrank with disgust.  Yet there was a time, to which I
look back through the long dark vista of many a sinful year" (he spoke
slowly and with sighs)—"a time when, in youth and innocence, I sat by my
mother’s knee in our little cot among the wilds of La Syla, and when she
sang to me of the exploits of Sciarra the glorious, Battimello the
treacherous, and Mangone the terrible.  Ah! how little did I then dream
of following so closely in their footsteps—of being what I have since
become!  Deeply these songs sank in my heart, and more fondly were they
remembered than the Ave Maria and hymn to the little child Jesus, which
the same dear lips taught me to chant every night before the humble
shrine in our cottage.  I am not a cold-blooded and deliberate rascal.
No: a combination of circumstances brought me to the unenviable position
in which I now stand; roused all the evil passions of my breast, and
made me an outcast and an enemy to mankind.  My wife was false—her
seducer was noble—my knife was sharp as my vengeance—that is my history.
The Barone of Castelguelfo was my evil genius: but he did not die.  I
fled to poverty and despair—thence to crime.  How easy is the
transition! There was a time—but via! ’tis past: let me recur to it no
more, but forget it; as Francatripa the gentleman is forgotten in
Francatripa the capobandito.

"Remember, excellency, that I sought not the villa D’Alfieri uninvited:
I went there on the pressing invitation of the viscontessa; to whom, in
this disguise, I was introduced by the Bishop of Cosenza, of whom—but
enough!  The recollection of what I have been, leads me to love that
society in which I once moved as an equal; but from whose magic circle I
am now proscribed, as if the mark of Cain were upon me.  Between us
crime has raised up a mighty barrier, which neither this honoured badge,
the gift of a queen, nor that commission (at which all men laugh as a
burlesque when bestowed on me) can level.  And truly, though proud of my
knightly star, I know too well that it shines with diminished lustre on
the breast of a poor Calabrian outlaw."

His voice faltered, and his brow clouded still more; he took his horse
by the bridle, and yet paused as if he had something more to say.

"My lord, beware of our mutual enemy, the Baron Guelfo.  My people
lately intercepted a letter from him to the Cavaliere Belcastro,
concerning some Buonapartist plot they were hatching.  He has been
enrolling an unusual number of sbirri, and reports are current that he
intends to raise the standard of Joseph on this side of the Calabrian
lines.  And, my lord, let the excellent lady, your mother, be more wary
in future, and avoid inviting to her own mansion those gamesters whom
she meets at the palace of the bishop. Would to Heaven, I had never
beheld the Signorina Bianca!—Pardon me, visconte.—Her beauty and
innocence have awakened in my breast old feelings and long-forgotten
sentiments of honour and love, which all the sins and toils of
four-and-twenty years—wretched years of wandering and misery—have not
been able to obliterate from the memory of the hapless, the
crime-hardened, and heart-broken robber of Calabria!"

He turned aside for a moment to conceal the passing emotion, which
caused every muscle and feature of his handsome face to quiver
perceptibly.

"Gentlemen," said he, recovering, "you imagined I was completely at your
mercy, yet you behaved with a noble generosity which I shall never
forget.  You might have proposed to slay me at that instant" (he darted
a terrible glance at Andronicus), "or to deliver me up to the nearest
podesta: you betrayed no intention of doing either; but, had you made
the attempt, behold my prevention!"

He placed to his lips a bugle of black buffalo horn, and blew a shrill
signal, which made hill and valley, wood and shore, now growing dark and
grim in the twilight, re-echo to the sound. It acted like the whistle of
Black Roderick in the wilderness.  His followers, to the number of twice
five hundred men, sprang up from their concealment among the underwood,
the dark green laurels, the long wavy grass, the rocks and the crumbling
ruins, and crowded around us: a startling swarm of black-browed and
ruffian-like fellows, all clad in the gay brigand’s garb, and well armed
with the Calabrian rifle, pouch, and powder-horn; some with the spoil of
the unhappy Frenchmen massacred at La Syla and the villa of Sauveria,
but most of them with good British buff-belts, muskets, bayonets, and
cartridge-boxes, which on our landing we had issued, perhaps rather too
indiscriminately, to the peasantry.

My friend and I confronted this appalling array with firmness; but old
Zacheo grew pale as death: his legs tottered under him, and he sank
humbly on his knees, while the memory of the fatal words by which he had
urged us to despatch Francatripa, caused a cold perspiration to come
over him.

"Signori, behold my followers, those free foresters of St. Eufemio,
whose fame is so terrible through all the Neapolitan territories.
During our whole interview they have been around us; so you were all
more in my power than I could be in yours.  Do me the honour to keep the
poniards for my sake; and if ever you are assaulted by a Calabrian
outlaw, show him my cypher on the pommel, and his arm will be powerless
against you, and the passage free.  Yes! fallen though he is, the name
of Francatripa finds an echo in every Italian heart; and there is
something glorious in that!"

He vaulted gracefully into his saddle, and assuming all his former
loftiness of manner, made a signal to his band, who immediately moved
off at a running trot towards the forest, led by my old acquaintance the
crookback, who now very ignobly bestrode a paunchy mule.

"Buona notte, Monsignore Visconte; Capitano, santa notte!" cried the
gallant robber, waving his cap, and putting spurs to his horse.

"A long good-bye to Francatripa, and all his company," I replied,
significantly, as he rode away at full gallop: but Luigi, who had also
resumed his hauteur, merely gave him a cold bow, and muttered to me—

"Pshaw!  I hate these sentimental ruffians. Yet he is a famous fellow."

I preserved one of the brigand’s poniards, as a memorial of that strange
encounter; but my haughtier friend gave the other as a gift to his
servant, who immediately placed it in his leathern girdle.  After
watching the disappearance of the brigands, as they retired by one of
those gloomy gorges through which the Calabrian roads generally wind, we
prepared to return to the villa, having now been absent two hours; as we
remembered how great would be the anxiety of the timid Bianca for our
safety.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                     *ARRIVAL OF THE PHILISTINES.*


It was now night, and the stars were shining in the dark blue sky; the
lights from the tents and huts within the field-work sparkled amid the
deep gloom which involved the lower parts of the shore, and shed red
streaks of uncertain radiance on the black heaving waters of the bay.
The moon, like a gigantic silver shield, began slowly to show its white
disk in the direction of the Lipari Isles, and to throw a brightening
ray of pallid lustre from the level horizon to the shingly beach of St.
Eufemio.

"Excellency," said Andronicus, cantering up to us, "there are armed
horsemen crossing the Amato, and riding straight upon our path.  They
may be Castel-guelfo’s men: his people are not with the Masse.  Shall we
meet them or turn aside?"

"The former of course," replied the imprudent visconte: "why, am I to
turn aside my horse every time a mounted man appears on the road?  Let
us once be past yonder post, and we are safe within the bounds of my own
territory."

The Greek made no reply, but reined in his horse, and fell into our rear
again; yet I perceived him unbuttoning the flaps of his holsters. Our
path lay along the skirts of the forest, and we rode unseen under the
deep shadow it cast across the path: but the bright moon revealed the
dark outline of several horsemen, posted at a spot where the road
crossed the river; which glittered like a broad belt of silver in the
dancing beams, when its current, emerging from the depths of the wood,
swept through the illumined plain.  The strangers were thirteen in
number, and all well armed with pikes and carbines; except one, who, by
his drawn sabre and the plume in his hat, appeared to be an officer.  By
their equipment, we knew them to be a party of the Loyal Calabrese
Masse; and we paused to reconnoitre them before pushing our horses
across the stream.

"Who are you that bar our way in this manner?" demanded Santugo.

"The bearers of a message to his Excellency the visconte; who, I
presume, now addresses me," was the reply.

"A troublesome one, if it requires thirteen men to deliver it.  Who
sends it?"

"The most reverend father in God, the Lord Bishop of Cosenza, president
of the grand criminal court at Palermo," was the formal reply.
"Resistance is madness.  Surrender your sword, Monsignore."

"To whom?" asked Santugo, with fierce surprise.

"The Barone di Bivona."

"The hereditary bailiff surrender to a mere barone of his province!
Never, by Heaven!" exclaimed the visconte, drawing the sword which, as
an officer of the Free Corps, he wore continually.  "Follow me, Claude!
Zacheo, forward and at them.  I will not be captured tamely within the
bounds of my own jurisdiction. On! and cut a passage through them."

Although not quite so rash and hot-blooded as my Italian friend, I had
no time for reflection; but, following his example, drew my sabre, and,
despising the Masse as all our army did, we dashed through the Amato,
splashing the sparkling water on every side, while a volley from twelve
carbines whistled about our ears.  I lost an epaulette by one shot, and
had my right cheek grazed by another, but luckily no harm was done; and,
charging three abreast, we fell upon them pell-mell.  I contented myself
with acting strictly on the defensive, and used my sabre so expertly in
guarding my head, limbs, and body, that I was invulnerable; but Santugo,
whose inherent Italian ferocity now burst forth without control, laid
open the cheek of one poor wretch, threw a second from his horse with a
thrust, and, dealing a sweeping backstroke at them all, pushed forward
at full speed.

Andronicus, who was armed with a heavy couteau-de-chasse, which his sire
had wielded in the wars of the gallant Conte di Leyda, after laying
about him like his namesake at Tyre, followed his master’s example;
which I, too, was not slow in imitating.

The skirmish was one which I did not in the least relish, being aware
that I stood an excellent chance of receiving a shot or a pike-thrust,
without gaining an atom of honour; and that a severe reprimand, perhaps
a court-martial, would be the consequence, if our general learned that I
was prowling about like a wandering knight, and brawling with the
constituted authorities, when I should have been riding, post-haste,
with the papers which M’Leod so carefully prepared for his perusal—and
for which our ambassador at Palermo was no doubt waiting with the utmost
impatience.

The provincial horses are famous for their strength and speed, and
Santugo’s cattle carried us across the country at a tremendous pace.  We
were closely followed by the exasperated troopers of the Masse, who now
and then fired a shot after us, by way of giving us a relish to our
ride.

"Which way, visconte?" cried I.

"To the villa: it is our safest—our only halting-place.  The mountains
are too far off."

"By Jupiter!  I feel half inclined to turn and show fight, if they
continue to fire at us thus."

"Would to Heaven and San Ugo, that Giacomo and any four of my old sbirri
were here!" exclaimed the visconte, as he fired his pistols at random.
The last shot _told_ (as we say) effectually. A cry was heard: I looked
back for a moment, and saw by the moonlight a man rolling in agony on
the road, while his horse was rushing to the rear at full gallop.

"It is no sinecure being on the staff here, truly," thought I, as we
pulled up in the quadrangle of the villa, after having distanced our
pursuers by two miles.

The gruff clamour of male voices swearing in most guttural Neapolitan,
the shrill cries of women, and the confusion reigning within the
mansion, announced to my friend that the enemies of his peace had
penetrated to the very centre of his household; armed equally with
carnal and legal weapons, warrants of the church and state, and assisted
by the followers of Bivona, who wore the red cockade of the Masse.

"Francesca is lost, and for me nothing now remains but to die!  Oh! my
cousin—my love—my wife, I alone am guilty!" exclaimed Santugo, in a
piercing voice, as he leaped from his horse, drew his sword, and rushed
up the marble staircase towards the apartment where the greatest uproar
seemed to reign.

The chamber which had concealed the fugitive from the field of
Benevento, in the days of Charles of Anjou, had not availed his
descendant now. Dragged forth from the vault below the round tower, we
beheld the unhappy Francesca, almost inanimate from terror, in the hands
of two rough-looking fellows who wore the bishop’s livery: a kind of
monkish garb, with which their black cross belts and cartridge-boxes,
and flaming scarlet cockades, but ill accorded.  Overcome with shame and
horror, the poor girl drooped like a crushed flower in their rude grasp.

Never was I so much struck with her resemblance to Bianca.  She had the
same placid brow, the same clear and brilliant eyes, the same
exquisitely gentle expression and classic contour of face, which had
gained these lovely sisters the soubriquet of the three Italian Graces.
But now, alas! her features wore the hue of death, and appeared yet more
ashy when contrasted with the heavy masses of black curls which fell in
disorder over her shoulders; her teeth were set, and her eyes glared
with an unnatural lustre.

With all the tenacious energy of one who struggles for life, she clung
to the satin skirt of the viscontessa, whose right hand yet grasped a
suite of cards, whilst her left was filled with counters. The old lady
was quite paralyzed.

On the other side clung Bianca, almost sinking with terror, and
surveying, with restless and tearful eyes, the fierce group of armed men
who thronged the apartment.

"Heaven!—O Heaven!" exclaimed Francesca, in piercing accents; "save me,
dearest Signora—my aunt—my second mother—save me! Let me not be torn
from my father’s house by these frightful men!  O misery! what have I
done?  O for my father’s arm to shield me now! But he died in Apulia.
Luigi, Luigi, save me, or I am lost to you for ever!  Luigi, anima mia!"

What a voice she had!  Never did that common, but most endearing epithet
of Italian love sound so soft, so thrilling, to my ear.  She was free,
almost ere the words had left her pallid lips.  Santugo struck down both
the men who held her, and the flashing of their pistols in his face only
served to increase his fury.  Bearing her to the other end of the room
he defied them to come on, with a chivalric rashness not often possessed
now by his countrymen.

They were not slow in accepting the invitation: their courage—as usual
with the "swinish multitude"—being increased by their numbers, they
pressed forward with clubbed carbines and fixed bayonets, and a sharp
conflict ensued.  Feeling certain that Santugo would be worsted, I
forced a passage to his side, and endeavoured to beat back the
assailants with my sabre; and now came the tug of war.

Francesca had swooned, and hung like a piece of drapery over Luigi’s
arm; the viscontessa implored mercy for her, whilst Bianca buried her
face in the bosom of Anina, who lent her powerful voice to swell the
clamour: reviling the intruders, and encouraging us to slay them without
mercy.

The outcries of the assembled household, together with the clank of
heavy boots, the clash of weapons, the snapping of pistols, the groans
and cries of the wounded, and the imprecations of the troopers, and,
added to this, my own voice calling fruitlessly on the assailants to
fall back, to desist, made the lofty chamber seem a very pandemonium.
Sometimes a pistol-shot filled the place with smoke: one ill-directed
ball shattered the chandelier, scattering the wax-lights, and involving
us in comparative darkness; after which, I believe, we all laid about us
at random.  Another ball stretched on the floor the venerable
Andronicus, who had just come to our assistance, and was cutting away
among the buskinned shins of the enemy, using his sharp couteau like a
scythe.

For a time I merely used my sabre in defending Luigi and the unhappy
girl, who hung insensible upon him; but finding that our numerous
antagonists were repeatedly having recourse to fire-arms, and that our
safety was, consequently, more endangered, I slashed a few adroitly
across the fingers, cleft a slice from the buffalo-head of a sbirro, and
might have performed many more exploits, had not Castelermo at that
moment burst in amongst us, holding a lamp aloft in one hand, and his
sword in the other.

"Basta! on peril of your lives, hold all your hands, or, by San Ermo, I
will drive my sword through the body of the first who strikes!" cried
this formidable cavalier, with the voice of a stentor. "Croce di Malta!
has hell broken loose, or are ye mad?  What!  Italians fighting like
wild wolves, while so many Frenchmen are yet on this side of the Alps?
Sheath your sword, Santugo—back Signor Claude: shame upon you all!"

On hearing this determined threat, and beholding the Maltese cross, the
troopers of the Masse shrank back respectfully: but the furious
visconte, whom the protracted conflict, the helpless state of Francesca,
and a wound he had received, had worked up into a perfect frenzy, yet
defied them once more to the encounter; and fear of abandoning his
charge, even for a moment, alone restrained him from rushing upon them.

"Anathema! a curse upon ye, cowards!" he exclaimed; "away from my house,
or abide the consequences!  Corpo di Caio Mario!  O that the thrice
villainous Bishop of Cosenza, or his contemptible minion di Bivona were
here, to receive at my hands the reward of all this outrage!"

"I am here, excellency," cried the tough old barone, bursting through
the throng, and confronting the fiery Santugo.

He was a thickset, hard-featured man, and wore the scarlet cockade and
scarf of the Masse, with a military sword and buff belt; though
otherwise he was attired as a civilian.  His gray hairs glistened in the
light; he bent his keen, hollow eye on Santugo with a stern careworn
aspect, and his sword flashed as he stood on his guard with the air of a
perfect fencer.  With eyes absolutely blazing with animosity, the
visconte was rushing upon him; but faint with loss of blood, he reeled,
fell upon the floor, and lay still, without signs of life.  His mother
uttered a piercing cry: Bianca covered her face, and knelt beside him.
I, too, thought him dead: his classic features expressed all that
combination of mental and corporeal agony, stiffening into rigidity,
which the pencil of Guido Reni has so powerfully portrayed in some of
his works.

In the confusion which the visconte’s fall occasioned, the bishop’s
officials easily possessed themselves of the inanimate Francesca, and
bore her away in a close carriage.  I was disposed to interfere, but
Castelermo grasped my hand.

"Signor Claude," said he, "I honour the sentiment which prompts you to
defend this unhappy lady; but contending in her favour is to fight
against the Church, whose cause is ever the most popular in Italy.  The
consecrated bride of God, sworn to Heaven at the blessed altar,
D’Alfieri cannot make her his either by force or fraud.  For the bosom
of a lover she has left that of the Church, and back to it she must
return; to be chastened and mortified, but I trust not abandoned in the
flesh!  No, the days when that dread phrase was used have passed away.
Had Santugo been more religious and less rash, her vows would have been
dispensed with in the usual manner, and she might have been his happy
bride; but _now_, alas! after all that has passed, they must part to
meet no more.  The dungeons of the castle of Cosenza, or the still more
horrible vaults of Canne, must close over her, and, perhaps, for ever.
Madonna, be merciful to her soul!"

The voice of Castelermo faltered, as he deplored the miseries to which
the wretched Francesca would be subjected by his bigoted and
superstitious countrymen.  With these miseries I was then unacquainted,
as I knew not the secret horrors those living tombs of Canne were yet to
unfold to me, and was ignorant of the cruelties which were too often
practised within the walls of continental convents; where a system of
domestic persecution had replaced the greater terrors of that mighty
engine of ecclesiastical tyranny, the Holy Office, whose punishments for
broken vows were founded on those to which the Roman vestals were
sentenced by the law of Tarquinius Priscus.

The bishop’s followers having departed, the Barone di Bivona collected
his horsemen and withdrew; threatening, however, to call the visconte to
a severe reckoning on some future day: indeed, his dangerous wound and
Castelermo’s intervention, alone prevented his being carried off
prisoner, as the bishop’s warrant included him in the charge of
sacrilege; but events which soon after occurred prevented that prelate
from troubling him again about the matter.

Bivona had been despatched with thirty horsemen from the army of the
Masse, in pursuit of two fugitives suspected of treason and of tampering
with the enemy; and as he passed southward had been requested by the
bishop to assist in the capture of Francesca, whom for certain reasons,
yet to be explained, that pious prelate was most eager to have in his
power.  The baron departed for Jacurso in pursuit of the runaways; but
our unlucky acquaintance with him ended not that night.

The visconte’s senses returned on his wounds being bound up; but he
nearly suffered a relapse on discovering that Francesca was away, and in
the power of the bishop’s people.  In his ravings he cursed us all; he
called for his horse, his sword and pistols, and before day dawned he
was in a raging fever, which brought him to the brink of the grave.
Alarmed at his danger, dreadfully agitated by the scene acted before
them, and in excessive sorrow for the fate of Francesca, his mother and
Bianca were scarcely less ill; so the whole household was in a state of
disorder.

Mistrusting the skill of the neighbouring physicians, I despatched a
note to the camp for Dr. Duncan Macnesia of ours, who was still with the
medical staff.  He arrived in a short time, and the visconte was
committed to his care. Remembering my encounter with Francatripa, and
knowing well how little a brigand’s word could be relied on, I applied
to the commandant at St. Eufemio for a guard to protect the villa till
quieter times.  Early next morning, a Serjeant and fourteen rank and
file of De Watteville’s corps arrived.  After seeing them quartered, and
giving a few orders relative to the posting of sentinels, &c.,
accompanied by my cicerone, I once more set out, very unwillingly, on my
mission to Scylla; congratulating myself, however, that my opportune
return to the villa had freed it from a dangerous personage, and Bianca
from a suitor so unworthy of her.

The visconte was too ill and too indignant to bid us adieu; but he sent
word by Macnesia that we should never be forgiven for having permitted
his cousin to be carried off, and that he would call us out the moment
he recovered.  He said he had sworn by Madonna, by the body of Bacchus,
and of Caius Marius to boot, that I must think no more of Bianca; who
parted with me in tears, and promised, with her aunt’s permission, to
answer my letters, notwithstanding his threats.  Thus ended my
long-wished-for visit to the villa; and the event left me full of doubt
and anxiety for the future.

It was evening before we were again in our saddles and _en route_.  We
hired a goat-herd to conduct us by a short, though unfrequented, road to
Francavilla; but it proved a long journey to us: the rogue led us the
wrong way, and absconded about nightfall, leaving us among the mountain
forests near Squillaci, on the Adriatic side of this land of brawl and
uproar.



                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                      *ADVENTURE AT THE CENTAUR.*


By the way-side we met a poor and aged priest, travelling on foot; he
was exhausted with toil, and his gray hair and tattered cope were
covered with the dust of a long journey; he had sandals on his feet, a
wallet on his back, and a long staff in his hand.  I could not ride past
him: I, who was young, stout, and active; so dismounting, I marched on
foot for six miles, while the thankful canon rode my caparisoned grey to
Squillaci. He was a Greek priest, travelling from Rossano, where there
were several monasteries of the order of St. Basil; all afterwards
suppressed by Murat.

My kindness was repaid by his superior, the old Abate of the Basilians;
to whom he reported our arrival in the decayed and solitary town, which
was then involved in the gloom and obscurity of night.  We heard no
sound as we entered, save that of our horse’s hoofs ringing on the old
Roman road, and the distant roar of the Ionian sea, as it rolled on the
reverberating shores of the gulf—the Scylletic gulf of classical
antiquity, famous for the shipwreck of "wise Ulysses;" who, as tradition
asserts, with the survivors of his disaster, founded the city.

We were hospitably received by the Abate, who was a true Calabrian and
staunch royalist; and he made the purple wines of the province flow like
water, in honour of Ferdinand and Carolina of Naples—"il Cavaliere
Stuardo, and the brave soldiers of his Britannic Majesty—Evoe, viva!"

As we had ridden our horses at an easy pace, they held out admirably;
but seventy miles of such miserable roads as those we had travelled—ways
suited only for mules, goats, and buffaloes—were equal to a hundred on
level ground.  By the war-like operations of the French, the Masse, and
the brigands, the rustic bridges were everywhere broken down, and the
roads trenched and cut up to hinder the passage of cannon and waggons;
so we had to make many a weary detour among the hills, following
sheep-tracks, at one time at the summit, at another at the bottom of a
precipice: too often we had no better road than the dry channel of a
mountain stream afforded; and on such a path it required the utmost
powers of spur and bridle, and all the rider’s skill, to prevent the
horse breaking his knees by slipping on the wave-worn pebbles.

On quitting the monastery next morning, we beheld the ceremony of a
military salutation of the consecrated host, by a party of the Sicilian
volunteers belonging to Kempt’s brigade, then lying there in cantonment.

The host was borne aloft through the streets by the venerable Abate,
followed in solemn procession by his Greek basilians, carrying crosses,
banners, relics of saints and martyrs, smoking censers and lighted
tapers, which filled the air with perfume. They moved to the sound of a
low chant; and the whole population knelt bare-headed on each side, as
they passed.  The Sicilian infantry formed a lane, with the ranks facing
inwards—the commanding officer kneeling in front, while the arms were
presented—the colours levelled to the dust, and the drums beat a march
on the flanks. Castelermo dismounted, and knelt on the pavement; but I,
like a heretical presbyterian, kept my saddle: yet the sour looks of the
watchful fathers softened when I uncovered my head; for I was well aware
that it would have been gross disrespect not to have done so, on an
occasion so solemn.

Turning our horses eastward to regain our lost ground, we passed through
the village of Jacurso, and the town of Francavilla, crossed the stream
of Angistola, and ascended towards Monteleone; whose castled height, and
groves of oak, burst at once upon our view, as we turned an angle of the
mountain path.  At our feet spread the Tyrrhene sea, calmly rolling, and
stretching like a vast blue mirror from St. Eufemio to Castello di
Bivona; whilst its waves flashed golden in the sun, as they broke on the
distant promontory of Tropea—the Portus Hercules of the Romans.  Further
westward, the dim but sunny horizon was streaked by the light smoke
ascending from the peak of Stromboli, nearly fifty miles distant.
Around us the country was like a beautiful garden: the maple, the
vallonia oak, the dark sepulchral cypress, the wild acacia, the towering
pine, the pistachio, the sweet-chestnut, and the walnut-trees, all
displayed their varying foliage on the lowlands; while the quivering
aspen and evergreen oleander waved their leafy branches from the sandy
rocks. Sheltered by graceful weeping-willows and lofty Judas’-trees,
little cottages peeped out on the green hill sides; whilst the ruddy
orange, the golden-apple, the pomegranate, the almond, the grape, and
the plum, were flourishing around in glorious luxuriance beneath the
warm light of an unclouded sun.

Spangled with myriads of flowers, the green and lofty hills reared their
verdant or wooded summits to the azure sky; numerous flocks browsed on
their sides, beneath the shepherd’s care, and the cawing rooks wheeled
in airy circles around them.  We were always greeted with a wave of the
hat by the guardians of this modern Arcadia; who lay basking on the
grassy sward, or sat beneath the brow of an ivy-clad rock, or a shadowy
tree, where they had slept away the night in their rough tabarri.  Each
had by him his keen-eyed wolf-dog, courageous in spirit, strong,
muscular, and beautiful in form, with bushy tail and long hairy coat
whiter than snow.  These dogs watched alternately the browsing herds,
the twittering birds, and the dark eyes of their indolent masters; who
spent their solitary hours in smoking home-made cigars, sucking
liquorice root, carving cudgels, scraping reeds for the zampogna, or
improvising their mistresses on the three-stringed guitar.

The breeze from the Tyrrhene Sea swept over the fertile shore, making
the morning air delightfully cool and agreeable; but when noon
approached, we were glad to halt at Monteleone, until its fierce glow
and suffocating closeness had passed away.

Monteleone (a marquisate which Buonaparte had bestowed on one of the
most famous and favoured of his officers) lies close to the base of
lofty mountains, which are covered with the richest foliage during the
greater part of the year: they form a part of that mighty chain which
runs through the centre of all Italy.  Its regular streets and handsome
houses, built in the picturesque style of the country, were securely
enclosed by a fortified wall, where the bayonets of our sentinels were
gleaming through loop and embrasure.  On the towers of its castle, which
were half-hidden amid a wood of lordly oaks and pines, the standard of
Naples drooped listlessly; every breath of wind had died away, and the
air was hot and still: profound silence reigned in the streets, and the
white sunny pavement appeared new and strange to us, after riding so
long on the green velvet turf of the country.  Both piazza and street
were lonely and deserted; the citizens were enjoying their forenoon nap,
and the sentinels kept close within their boxes.

We put up at an inn, or hotel, over the arched portal of which projected
a hideous centaur, holding loft a sign-board, on which a long string of
verses informed us that Andrea da Fossi gave the best entertainment in
Italy for man and horse. Beneath this peeped out a coat armorial, cut in
stone, time-worn and decayed; but the collar that surrounded it bore the
Order of the Crescent, instituted by Rendler of Anjou on his conquering
Sicily.  Above this was the coronet of the Princes of Squillaci, to
whom, in happier times, the edifice had been a palace; and, though
partly ruined, altered, and transmogrified, it still bore traces of its
ancient grandeur.

"We shall be well quartered here," said Castelermo, with a sigh of
weariness, as we dismounted; both feeling inactive enough after our long
morning ride: "but if Signor da Fossi promises more than he can perform,
why, then, basta! my riding-rod shall cultivate acquaintance with his
shoulders. We gentlemen of Malta like not to be trifled with."

The ostlers received our horses, and with much ceremony we were ushered
up-stairs by mine host himself (who, indeed, was seldom troubled with
visitors), and led into a magnificent room of the old palace: the
cushions of the sofas and chairs were of scarlet silk, figured with
gold; the hangings were of crimson velvet, edged with the same costly
material; the ceiling was in fresco, and the floor of fancy tiles; while
the tables were slabs of white or yellow marble, on columns of gilded
wood.  Above a sideboard, stood a little Madonna in a niche, with a lamp
before it, before which, on entering, Castelermo made a most profound
genuflexion: we afterwards found it very convenient for our cigars.

Wine and iced water were the first refreshments we summoned; then
throwing open the windows, which faced the west, to admit the cool
breeze from the distant sea, we drew the dark thick curtains to elude
the glaring sun, and each threw himself upon a sofa, overcome with
fatigue and lassitude.  What a relief I experienced when divested of my
sash and belt, and its heavy appurtenances the sword and sabre-tache;
and when I exchanged for a light shell-jacket, the tight regimentals: in
which it was no joke to be harnessed and buttoned from waist to chin in
a climate so sultry.

Among novelists and narrators, an inn has always been famous as a place
of introduction, a starting point, or the casual scene of unexpected
rencontres and adventures; and so "Il Centauro" proved to us: we had not
been two hours beneath its roof before we became involved in a very
heart-stirring affair.

The waiter had cleared away a hasty luncheon, and the glittering
decanters of well-iced champagne and gioja, the salvers of cool,
refreshing grapes, and little maccaroons sweet as sugar and almonds
could make them, were all receiving due justice from myself and
cicerone.  The sun was verging westward, the air grew more cool, and we
were beginning to breathe again; when a bustle was heard at the gate of
the inn-yard, and an elderly man, armed like an officer of the Loyal
Masse, and dressed in a suit of light green, bare-headed and with his
long white hair streaming behind him, dashed through the archway on a
swift and powerful horse—one of the true Barbary breed, clean-legged,
compact, black as jet, and full of blood and fire.  It was covered with
foam, and seemed to have been ridden far and fast; for no sooner did the
fierce rider pull impetuously up, than the noble horse staggered back
upon its haunches, threw up its head wildly, and then rolled in the dust
beneath the weight of its double burden: for a young girl was seated
across the holsters.  She clung to the officer with a degree of terror
and affection, which at once excited our interest and curiosity; and
uttering a cry of despair, as their last hope, the brave horse, sank
beneath them, she fainted: but the old cavalier, disengaging himself
from the falling steed, bore her up harmless, and in a manner so
graceful and adroit, that Marco clapped his hands and muttered "Basta!"
The days of the Barbary courser were ended: stretching out his long yet
slender legs, he beat the gravel with quivering hoof, and protruded a
dry white tongue; a spasm convulsed his form, the dark blood gushed in a
torrent from his dilated nostrils, and the brave horse moved no more.

"Horses, fresh horses for Scylla," cried the cavalier.  "Quick! as you
value life—fresh horses!"

"Maladetto," muttered Andrea da Fossi, nonplussed, "we have not had such
a thing these three years as relays of horses.  When Signor the Marchese
di Monteleone——"

"Enough—the old story.  Are there British troops in the town?"

"In the castle, signor."

"Blessed be Madonna, then we are saved! Farewell! my faithful Barbary,
that has borne me through the hot perils of many a dangerous day: thou
hast failed me now!" said the old officer, turning to his dead horse,
and gazing wistfully upon it.  A tear shone in his eye: it was the
feeling of a moment; other and weightier cares pressed close upon him,
and he advanced to the inn-door with the inanimate lady.

The burly Andrea seemed rather unwilling to admit guests who came in
such a questionable manner; but Castelermo and I cut the matter short by
conducting the strangers into our apartment; while their horse-furniture
was pounced upon by the innkeeper, to make sure amends so far for any
trouble or expense he might be put to on their account.  His wife and
the female part of the household, used all means to restore the
inanimate girl; after which I had leisure to observe her companion.  He
was a fine-looking old man, somewhere about sixty, with all the
_beau-ideal_ of the gentlemanly old soldier in his figure, aspect, and
address; his thin hair and moustaches were silvered with age, and his
cheek had been well tanned by the fourteen years’ campaigning of the
French invasion; his coat was laced with silver and girt with a scarlet
sash, after the fashion of the Masse, and he wore a heavy sabre of
Eastern fashion, which, when he laid it on a side-table, Andrea da Fossi
also secured unobserved.  So deep was his anxiety, so vivid his
excitement, while the young girl slowly revived, that he had not as yet
addressed us; but kept his face closely bent over her.

We became deeply interested in their fortunes.

"’Tis some wild love-adventure, like poor Luigi’s," whispered
Castelermo: "may it end less fatally!  The cavalier is none of the
youngest; but this pretty donzella has quite won my friendship."

At that moment the heavy velvet curtains were withdrawn, the bright
light of the setting sun poured into the room, and the stranger turned
towards us.

"Major Gismondo!" we both exclaimed, now recognising him, for the first
time, through the dust which powdered his altered features.

"The same, signori," said he, with a grave bow, and, grasping our hands.
"Thank God you are here: we are safe, then: Signor Dundas can protect
us—my daughter is saved!"  He covered his face with his handkerchief,
while Marco handed him wine.

"Poor little Luisa!" said Castelermo.  "Claude, saw you ever a girl so
beautifully fair?  But, in Heaven’s name, what has happened?—speak,
Signor Gismondo."

"You shall hear, when these people are gone—when Luisa recovers.  My
tongue can scarcely articulate: patience—but a minute!"

He was dreadfully exhausted and agitated. Castelermo might well term
Luisa fair: one excepted, her face appeared to me the most enchanting I
had yet seen in Calabria.  Though less showy and stately than the three
sisters D’Alfieri, her beauty was, perhaps, more touching and girlish.
A tight satin vest, with sleeves that reached only to the elbow,
displayed the full outline of her bust; whose whole proportions were
equally just and delicate.  The thick white lace which edged her
boddice, and fell in folds from her short sleeves, could not rival in
whiteness the snowy arms and swelling bosom; of which her disordered
attire revealed rather more than usual.  Her complexion was remarkably
pale for an Italian girl: but the arch of her brown eyebrows, the length
of her lashes, and the delicate little lids they fringed were perfectly
beautiful; her cheeks were full and round, almost imperceptibly tinged
with red, and, as Marco said of her mouth, so pretty and pouting, it
"seemed formed only for kisses."  The girl was a very Hebe! and not more
than sixteen.  The glossy ringlets of her long hair streamed in the
sunlight, like a golden shower, over the shoulder of the old man on
whose arm she rested, and who hung over her with all the tenderness and
anxiety she merited.  After a time she sighed deeply, disclosing a row
of little white teeth, pure as those of an infant, and opening her eyes
she became at once alive to the scene around her.  The vivacity which
sparkled in those bright blue orbs, together with the crimson blush
which overspread her face and polished neck, made her appear a thousand
times more attractive than before.  "It was the hectic of a moment:" it
died away. Alas! the poor girl was utterly exhausted, and almost
speechless.

"My daughter! have I saved you only to see you perish from fatigue?"
said Gismondo, in a faltering voice.  "Luisa, look up—’tis your poor
father who speaks!  Hear me, little one!"

She embraced him closely and burst into tears.

"Luisa!"

"Caro padre, are they near us yet?"

"About three leagues in the rear, perhaps," he replied in a troubled
voice.

"And these gentlemen?"

"Our friends, and I trust our saviours!  You remember the Signor di
Castelermo?"

"O yes; and Signor Claude," she added, in a faint voice.

"May their timely presence and intervention avert that most dread
catastrophe, of which even the contemplation is horror."

"You may depend upon us—ay, to the death!" said we both at once.

"You are pursued, I have reason to believe;" added the Maltese knight.

"Yes, and wish to continue our journey."

"Where to, signor?"

"Anywhere to safety: but my poor daughter would certainly expire with
fatigue if we rode a league further.  We have travelled seventy miles on
the spur without drawing bridle once; save when Luisa’s horse fell
beneath her in the wilderness of La Syla, when I was compelled to take
her on the saddle of my own gallant Barbary. Often since then have we
been in deadly peril: when lynxes shrieked, and herds of forest wolves
howled behind us—when rivers foamed in front, and the mountain robbers
showered their bullets from the rocks—I trembled and I prayed: but only
for my daughter; and God—good and merciful—has spared her.  Cavalieri!
I am very unfortunate: I throw myself upon your generosity; and when did
one soldier implore in vain the generosity of another?  I trust that,
like honourable men, you will stand by me in the coming peril: not for
my sake, but for that of this poor sufferer; whom the Mother of Mercy
preserve from the fury of those who are tracking her with horse and
horn, as if she were some wild boar of Abruzzi, instead of the adorable
girl she is. Perdition—let them come!  The cowards shall find that
Battista Gismondo has a willing heart and able hand, to defend the child
that God has given, and the last that war and man have left him."  He
pressed the trembling girl to his breast: she sobbed convulsively, and
nearly relapsed into unconsciousness.

"O my father!" exclaimed she, in piercing accents; "padre mia, my lips
refuse to utter what my heart would bid them say: I can only hang upon
your neck and sob like a little child, and kiss your cheek and weep.  My
father, I have destroyed you."

"Say rather, Luisa, that by casting temptation in your way, I have been
the destroyer of you. Peace, peace little heart!  Ah! how it beats and
flutters!" he added, half playfully, pressing his fingers on her bosom.

"There are those at hand who may soon make it cease to beat for ever,"
said she, in a faint voice; and, sinking backwards on the sofa, her eyes
closed, and the pallor of her hue increased.

"Madonna, preserve my child!" exclaimed the old cavalier, beating his
breast, while his eyes gleamed with fear and distraction; for at that
moment the noise of advancing hoofs was heard on the hard dusty road
that wound down from the mountains.  Though the inn stood within the
Porto Nuovo of the town, we could hear the din of the pursuers: but it
sounded faint and distant.

"Major Gismondo, I implore you to tell us the meaning of all this," said
I.

"They come:" replied he, turning round to look for his sabre, "they
come; and with renewed vigour, too, to judge by the trampling hoofs.
Perdition! all the powers in Italy, or in hell below it, shall not
separate us while hand and hilt can hold together: but, O San Gennaro,
what has my poor child done to be persecuted thus?  I had hopes of
reaching the British fleet; when, perhaps, we should have found safety;
but I trust that with you, Captain Dundas, I shall find that protection
which your countrymen never refuse to the unfortunate."  I bowed, but
understood him not.



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

                            *LOVE AND WAR.*


"Gentlemen," he continued, when the room had been cleared of Fossi and
his household, who were all in an agony of curiosity; "you know me well:
I am Battista Gismondo, a major of the loyal Masse, and this is my
daughter, Luisa.  After the events of these few hours past I can
scarcely deem myself the same person: I am bewildered.  Luisa is the
last of a once numerous family; but my sons—my sons!—they have all gone
before me to God: one perished on the walls of Andria, one in the breach
of Altamurra, and three in the hands of the French; cruelly and savagely
shot as rebels by the Marchese di Monteleone,—whom Madonna forgive! for
I never can.

"When that unrelenting commander was attacked by our patriots at La
Syla,—where all perished save himself and his aide-de-camp—from the
rocks above that hideous gorge I beheld the work of death.  It was a
scene of thrilling horror. Within that narrow space, hemmed in on every
hand—in front, in rear, on each side, and above—the rifles poured down
volleys of leaden hail: miserable was the slaughter of the unhappy
Frenchmen.

"The whole vale was enveloped in smoke, and its dark rocks were
illuminated by the flashing musketry; the shrieks and yells of
vengeance, of despair and death, and the roar of the fire-arms
reverberated among the echoing hills; mingled with the crash of enormous
stones, which, rent from the solid mountains, and urged by strong
revengeful hands, fell thundering on the foe beneath. Few have looked
upon such a scene: but I thought only of my sons, and laughed scornfully
as the cries of agony—the last agony of many a parting soul—arose from
the smoky gulf below me.  The measure of revenge was full.  Of all that
gallant band, the Marchese and his aide-de-camp alone escaped. Brave,
resolute, and maddened, he forced his gallant horse up the walls of
basaltic rock (which on every hand enclose the valley, so that it seems
like a vast pit or well) and, missed by a thousand bullets, he dashed
down the mountains unhurt, and disappeared.

"His aide-de-camp, a French officer, young, and equally brave, strove to
imitate his example: spurring his horse up the rocks, he rushed from the
gloomy dell and emerged suddenly, almost at my feet.  How terrible was
his aspect! at this moment I can behold him: the panting horse, with
starting eyes, erect mane, and snorting nostrils; the breathless rider,
bareheaded and pale—his face streaked with blood—his broken sabre
gleaming in his hand.

"’France!  France!—vive l’Empereur!" cried he, and was dashing on, when
a stray bullet struck his horse; it plunged wildly forward and rolled
dead on the turf, hurling its rider at my feet.  The next moment my knee
was upon his breast, and my sabre at his throat: his sword arm was
broken—he was powerless.

"’Ruffian!’ he exclaimed, ’would you slay me in cold blood?’

"’As your countrymen slew my sons,’ was my fierce rejoinder: he saw but
little mercy in my aspect at that moment.

"’Old man,’ said he, with a faltering voice, ’if you are indeed a
father, spare me for my father’s sake, if you will not for my own!’

"’So pleaded my sons, perhaps—but no! they would have scorned to ask
mercy of a Frenchman. Enough, young man; with me you are safe: like
yourself, I am an officer, and will do nothing that is unworthy of a
gentleman.’  I assisted him to rise.  ’Your name, signor?’

"’Phillipe Regnier, a lieutenant of the First Regiment—the favourite
corps of Napoleon.’

"’Would you had some other name than that of our accursed persecutor.’

"’Beware, sir!’ exclaimed the other haughtily; ’if you mean Regnier,
Chevalier of the Iron Crown, and general of division under the
Emperor—he is my father.’

"’It is enough,’ I replied.  ’Young man, he is our deadly enemy: yet I
will say nought to which his son may not listen with an unruffled brow;
but, as you value life, utter not his name in the hearing of an Italian.
You must be aware of the necessity for this.’

"He bowed.  To preserve him from the fury of the followers of
Francatripa, I conveyed him to my house, which was not far distant.
Night had descended on the unfinished work of death, and we retired
unseen.  The poor French youth was deeply grateful for my care: he
suffered acutely from his broken arm and a wound on the head, where a
ball had laid bare the temple; fever ensued, he grew worse daily, and
was brought almost to the brink of the grave: yet I dared not bring him
any medical assistance.  Had the secret of his dwelling at my house been
noised abroad, his doom had been sealed as a Frenchman, and mine as a
traitor: my house would have been levelled to the ground.  He had no
other nurse or attendant than my poor little daughter.—Signori, spare
the tears and blushes of my dear Luisa, by imagining the rest.  Both
were young, handsome, and ardent: too much so to be thrown so entirely
together, and left so much in each other’s society; as our secluded
habitation, and my long and frequent absences, compelled them to be.

"I discovered their passion at last: but I could blame neither; having
long anticipated and dreaded it as an evil not to be averted.  I could
not leave the poor French lad to perish on the mountains, and to none
save my daughter, in these times of peril, could I with safety and
honour to myself have imparted the secret of his escape and existence.
Yet I could not restrain a stern reproof.

"’By Heaven, Signor Phillipe,’ said I, ’you have not acted well in
smiting the hand that spared your life on the battle-field, and has
since fostered you so tenderly: by indulging in this passion, which with
you is fleeting—thought of but for a moment—you have stung the heart
that warmly cherished and saved you from the just vengeance of our
incensed people.  In so doing, I have placed in imminent jeopardy my
life, my honour, and the high reputation of my family for patriotism and
loyalty; and this is my reward: you gain the love of my daughter, on
whom you can never bestow your hand—the difference of clime, of manners,
and above all your political position, forbid it, and raise up a mighty
barrier between you.  I honour you as a brave youth, but of an accursed
nation; I wish you well, and shall ever do so—yet in the name of
Madonna, recover your health and rejoin your father’s army.’

"’And wherefore, my dear Monsieur Gismondo, is the barrier so
insuperable?’ said he, starting from the sofa on which he reclined, and
taking my hand in one of his; whilst the other held that of Luisa, who
hid her blushing face, as she hides it now, behind her silken
tresses.—’Better times—Oh, yes! better and happier times are in store
for both France and Italy; on whose united throne now sits our Emperor,
crowned by the hand of Ruffo, raised by the valour of his soldiers, and
blessed by the favour of God.’

"’To the young all things seem possible,’ said I, coldly: ’to me, whose
heart is seared, whose beard is gray, whose head the hand of time has
bared, the future can never be so bright as the past.  Believe me,
Phillipe, I esteem you highly, and know none on whom I would more
willingly bestow this fair bud—the last of my race!—than on thee.’

"Perhaps this was too honest? an avowal—too great a concession; but, ere
I could retract it, Phillipe exclaimed:—

"’Oh! joy, my dear major; you know not how happy you make me—us—ah! let
me say us,’ he added, drawing Luisa towards him. ’Promise me, good
Monsieur Gismondo, that when peace comes: as come it soon must, when we
have tossed all the enemies of Joseph into the sea at Scylla, and when
France and Italy have become one—and one they shall be; for the Emperor
has so willed it—promise me that mademoiselle shall be mine.  Oh! good
sir, complete the joy of this hour by giving a promise, which I know you
will rather die than break.’

"Their upturned faces blushed with youth and love; their eyes beamed
with delight and hope; and the fair golden curls of my daughter almost
mingled with the raven hair of the Frenchman. It was a picture of beauty
and happiness that I had not the heart to destroy: I promised, and
signed the cross above them.

"’I will redeem my pledge when France and Italy are _one_,’  said
I;—’but _when_ will that day come to pass?’ I added, mentally, on
turning away and leaving the happy lovers together. ’Yes, ere that time
comes, Charybdis shall give up its wrecks, and Etna vomit water in lieu
of flame.’

"In truth I loved the lad, because I had saved his life: for which he
seemed sincerely grateful to me; and I could not but admire his courage
and heroic enthusiasm, though in the cause of that bad and renegade
emperor, whose name is enough to make the blood boil in every Italian
heart.  At that time I saw little prospect of M. Regnier being united to
my daughter: but, as it was impossible to foresee what turn the tide of
war might take, I thought it well that Luisa had in the French camp so
powerful a friend as the general’s son. These ideas might be selfish;
but I knew that care and the hand of time were beginning to lie heavier
on me; that I was exposed to the innumerable dangers of continual
strife; and that, when God called upon me, my poor little daughter would
be alone in the world."

The old officer stopped; he sobbed audibly, and I saw the heavy tears
which oozed from his gray eye-lashes, falling on the fair forehead and
sunny hair of his daughter.  It was a picture.  Alas! he heard not, as
we did, the distant clang of advancing horses; so much was he absorbed
in his story.

"To be brief," he continued, "M. Regnier departed next day, disguised as
a buffalo-herd.  I conducted him in safety to his father’s camp at
Maida; where, two days after, the British obtained that victory so
glorious to themselves, and so auspicious to Italy.  Their foes retired
with precipitation, and the bright future which Luisa and her lover had
so fondly anticipated, became enveloped in gloom and obscurity.
Phillipe escaped unhurt, but lost the standard of his regiment in that
desperate single combat with you, Captain Dundas.

"I belonged to one of those battalions of the Masse which so closely
invested General Regnier’s entrenched camp at Cassano.  Luisa was with
me; and, from my tent, she could daily see the sentinels in the blue
uniform of Phillipe’s regiment, almost within musket-shot.  Hourly we
were engaged in skirmishes with the enemy, who were soon driven to the
utmost extremity.  Being joined by Frà Diavolo, Mammone, and some of the
loyalist brigands, and hearing that Marshal Massena was rapidly
advancing, the chiefs of the Masse directed that, an hour after Ave
Maria on the night before last, a general and grand assault would be
made on the French encampment; and an order was circulated strictly
forbidding quarter to be shown to any of the enemy.  For three days
there had been a cessation of hostilities, and our false leaders
resolved to fall upon our foes at a moment when an attack was least
expected.

"A rocket sent up from the mountains was to be our signal—VENGIANZA! our
watchword: but traitors were amongst us; and, fully acquainted with the
plotting of our treacherous chiefs, Regnier resolved to anticipate the
attack, and overwhelm them with confusion and dismay.

"Ave-Maria passed; one by one the stars began to glimmer in the
darkening sky: silently our troops began to muster in their ranks, and
many an eye was bent to the gloomy mountains, awaiting the red burst of
the rocket.  I was bidding a hasty and sorrowful adieu to my daughter,
who was doubly agitated with anxiety for the fate of both her father and
lover, when the roar of the French artillery opening on our field works
from every part of their entrenchments, the clang of their galloping
cavalry, and the shout of ’Vive l’Empereur!’ as their whole light troops
made a desperate sortie, equally furious and unexpected, made me grasp
my sabre, and rush from the presence of Luisa.

"Led by Regnier in person, the French burst headlong on our trenches,
and both horse and foot scoured all the approaches; from which the Masse
fled with precipitation.  Three of our chiefs, many cavaliers of
distinction, and a thousand Italian soldiers perished in the slaughter;
after which the French retired leisurely within their defences, without
the loss of a man."

"Basta! and all this took place but two nights ago?" exclaimed
Castelermo.

"But the worst remains to be told.  Not Dante’s self could describe the
fierce longing for reprisals—the wrath, the horror of our people at
daybreak.  They beat their breasts and tore their hair: they raved like
maniacs: they called on the chiefs to lead them against the foe: the air
was laden with their shout—it was ’_Vengianza!_’

"Anon, there rose a universal cry of treason! and every man looked with
dark scrutiny in the face of his comrade.  In the midst of this, whilst
seated with Luisa in my tent, I was surprised by seeing a hand raise the
canvass wall and throw in a piece of paper; on which was written:—

"’If you value the lives of yourself and daughter, fly!  A letter from
the son of General Regnier, and addressed to the Signora Luisa, was last
night found in your tent, and is now lying before the chiefs in council.
They are at this moment deliberating on the mode of her death, whether
by the cord or bullet: she is supposed to have acquainted the French
with the projected assault of last night—there is not a moment to be
lost—away!  _A Friend to the Major Gismondo_.’

"I felt crushed and broken to the earth: for a time my mind was a chaos;
then it was wrung with the bitterest anguish, while my cheek glowed with
indignation and shame.  Had I been alone, to have rushed to our nobles
and repelled with scorn the insinuation would have been the thought and
deed of a moment; but my child made a coward of me: the wild shouts of
our lawless soldiery were ringing around us, and our stern chiefs were
sitting in council, deciding upon the death of my daughter—my poor
innocent Luisa.

"We stole from the camp, procured horses, and fled; but not unperceived:
we have been pursued fiercely and hotly, and have passed through
innumerable toils and horrors.  Our only chance of safety lay in getting
on board the British fleet; or under your friendly flag, Signor Dundas.
Thank Heaven! it waves over Monteleone; and I trust our pursuers will
respect it: but deadly, indeed, must be the purpose of those who have
followed us so rapidly, and so far, without drawing bridle."



                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                             *POOR LUISA!*


Dusk had set in ere his relation concluded, and the exhausted girl had
fallen into a deep slumber on his breast.  Just as the waiter—who,
probably, had heard the whole story through the keyhole—brought in
lights, a party of armed horsemen galloped through the Porto Nuovo, and
halted.

"Which way, said you?" asked one.

"The Centauro, monsignore," replied a voice: it was that of Da Fossi,
our villanous host; and the same party of irregular cavalry we had
encountered at the Villa D’Alfieri, wheeled into the inn-yard.

"They come!  O, my father—O, my God!" cried the unhappy girl, embracing
her parent. "O, Signor Claude!—O, Cavaliere di Castelermo, protect us!"

"My daughter!" gasped the old man.  "Ah! the agony of this moment!
Signor," he added, addressing me, "intercede for us.  As a British
officer you may do much: my daughter, she may yet be saved—spared to
cheer the little time that is left me."

"On my honour! major, we will stand by you to the last," I replied,
while my heart melted at the old man’s passionate entreaties.  "Let us
close up and barricade the door, while a message is despatched to the
castle for the inlying piquet."

"Thanks, thanks, Madonna bless you! you may do much—and yet for what can
I hope?" he muttered, with an air of distraction, as he laid his half
lifeless daughter on the sofa, and looked round him for his sabre.

"Signor Claude," whispered Marco, in an agitated manner; "I can only
contemplate with horror the probable issue of this affair.  Be wary of
using your sword," he observed, as I buckled it on.  "Innocent as the
signorina may be, appearances are against her; and the Masse carry
matters with a high hand."

Ere I could reply, we heard the following orders by the leader of the
party:—

"Surround the house, and shoot all who attempt to escape.  Unsling
carbines!"  He at the same time leaped from his horse, and rushed up the
staircase.  A trampling of heavy boots, a jangling of steel spurs and
scabbards succeeded—the door of our apartment was thrown open by our
half-frightened, half-officious landlord, bowing humbly, with a candle
in each hand; and our acquaintance of the preceding evening, the stern
old Barone of Castello di Bivona pressed forward, followed by fifteen or
twenty well-armed, but motley garbed troopers.

"Traitress! a devil of a chase you have given us," said he, striking his
sword on the floor.

"Ahi! protect me, my father! they are come—those enemies of our peace—of
my innocent love. Save me! or kiss me and let me die."

"Die!" reiterated her father, in a dreadful tone.

"Surrender all here, in the name of the king!" said the baron, in a loud
voice; "in the name of Ferdinand of Naples and Sicily."

"How now, my lord," I inquired, throwing myself forward; "this is a
private apartment, and by what right do you make this intrusion?"

"In right of the name I have mentioned.  But who are you that assume
this air of authority?" he asked, with a frown of surprise.

"What my uniform proclaims: I am one whom you would do well in
addressing more politely."

"And your friend is a cavalier of Malta?"

Marco bowed.

"Well, gentlemen, I am a Neapolitan barone, a chief of the Masse, and
commandant of Irregular Cavalry; empowered to capture this unfortunate
fugitive, and execute upon her a sentence decreed by the chiefs in
council at Cassano: the reward due to treason, and leaguing with the
enemy. Signori, well aware as you must be of the utter futility of
resisting the authority with which I am vested, it will be wiser to
restrain the sorrow of this unhappy parent, than to attempt to defeat
the views of justice.  The girl must _die_!  As for _you_, signor," he
added, addressing me particularly—perhaps because I did not seem to care
much for his "authority"—"we have met before; and if my followers are
again obstructed, a formal complaint shall be sent to General Sir John
Stuart, and you must abide the consequence.  The edicts of the chiefs of
the Masse, are, just now, the laws of the land.  Seize the woman!"

The soldiers advanced, the poor father threw himself before his
daughter; I started; but Marco grasped my arm, and I observed that his
dark cheek was turning pale: he bit his nether lip, and said:—

"Resistance is indeed vain."

"Monsignore Barone," cried the old major, in a trembling voice; "for the
love of the blessed Madonna, spare my daughter!  By the head of the
Pope!—by the bones of the Saints!—by God himself!—I swear to you she is
innocent.  The child that is unborn—yea, the beatified Mary herself was
not more pure.  ’T is my daughter," he added, in a bewildered manner;
"O, the little creature I have nurtured from infancy—and to perish thus!
’T is my daughter—my child—the last of them—she—pity me, Signor
Barone—you are very good—her mother was slain by a cannon-ball at
Altamurra—my arms were around her when her soul went up to her Redeemer.
My daughter is pure—innocent—innocent as Madonna!"

"Poor man! you blaspheme," said the barone.

"Spare her, signor illustrissimo—have mercy: it is good to do so, and
pleasant to the eye of Heaven.  Think how you may one day crave it at
the throne of grace, when the deeds of this hour will stand recorded
against you in letters of fire. Spare her, for my sake!  Remember all I
have endured and done for my country.  Behold these scars gained when
Macdonald was driven from Terracina: her brothers have all followed
their mother; they have gone before me to heaven—they died for Italy!
Remember, monsignore, when Ettore Caraffa, the Count of Ruvo, took
Andria by storm, and reduced it to ruins and ashes—remember how I saved
your life at the risk of my own; how my boy, my dark-haired Battista—O,
my God! the last of five—fought for you, and fell at your feet covered
with wounds.  I dragged you from the press, through flames and balls and
bayonets—ha! ha!—you were then wounded, faint, and bleeding; but you
promised, in a burst of gratitude, that if ever you could serve me you
would do it, even to the peril of your life.  _Yours_ I seek not; but
the life that I gave—the life of my daughter."  Gismondo uttered another
sepulchral laugh.  "The hour is now come, Signor Barone, and I call upon
you to redeem the given promise—the life of my daughter."

"Sancto Gennaro!" muttered the old barone, in a troubled voice, as he
smote his forehead, "what an hour of shame and agony is this!  Give me
back the lives of two sons now lying dead in the trenches of Cassano,
slain by the treachery of your daughter—hear you that, Maggiore
Gismondo?—by her leaguing with the enemy!—Away with her to the verandah,
and knot a halter, some of you.  Povero voi! entreat me not, vile
traitress!" he exclaimed, roughly shaking off the horror-stricken girl,
who clasped his knees.  "Most unhappily for thee, I remember, at this
moment, but too poignantly the loss of my gallant sons. Forward, some of
you: seize this unfortunate father; he must not see that which is to
ensue.  Away with him, and secure the daughter! I would to Heaven, some
other than Di Bivona had been sent on this cursed hangman’s errand!"

"My sabre! my sabre!" cried Gismondo, wildly rushing round the room, and
dashing the chairs and tables right and left in his frenzy.

Seized by many powerful hands, the parent and child were torn asunder:
the former was borne away, almost senseless, to a neighbouring
monastery; happily for herself, the latter lay in a deep swoon.

"Quick!" cried Bivona; "for Heaven’s sake! get this affair over as soon
as possible."

"Would monsignore wait till she recovers a little, to pray?" said
Baptistello Varro, whom I now recognised as one of the troopers, and who
alone seemed to recoil with disgust from the task imposed.  "Ah! signor,
permit her a little time to pray?"

"No, no, Varro; that would be cruelty: we have not a moment to spare for
tears and entreaties.  Diavolo! if once she opens these blue eyes of
hers, we may be bewitched: there is that in their glance—’tis the
mal-occhio!—And you, gentlemen," he addressed us, "will do me the favour
to remain where you are, or interfere at your peril."

Gladly would we have resisted, to save this poor victim from those stern
and unrelenting patriots; but, as our efforts would have been perfectly
futile, and a serious compromise of our own safety, we were compelled to
become spectators of the horrible scene which ensued—one, of which I
willingly give but a hurried description.

From one of the rafters of a covered verandah, or gallery, which
projected on rough wooden columns round three sides of the court or
quadrangle of the inn, Baptistello suspended a strong cord with a noose:
two red torches, streaming in the night wind, were held aloft, and cast
their fitful glare around.  The picturesque façade of the old palace,
with the rude alterations made by Da Fossi—its broad eaves, its gloomy
galleries, vine-clad columns and gleaming casements; the motley group of
wild-looking volunteers, with their Calabrian troop horses, and glancing
buckles and weapons; the dark visages of those who bore the poor girl to
the place of death; and the beautiful victim herself, with her pale
cheek and paler bosom, and the dishevelled tresses of her long bright
hair, which the old man loved to stroke, were illumined by the strong
red light poured from the torches, whilst a dusky gloom enveloped the
background: the whole scene would have formed a striking subject for the
pencil of a Salvator Rosa.

Revived by the cool night wind, the lips of Luisa were beginning to
move: she sighed deeply. Ah! it was agony to contemplate that beautiful
bosom, now throbbing almost for the last time!—She opened her eyes, but
closed them instantly, as a torch close by flashed full upon her face;
consciousness was just returning as the detestable cord was placed round
her pure and slender throat.

"Madonna—Madonna receive her!" exclaimed Castelermo, as he held his
crucifix aloft to heaven. "Mother of mercy, look on her!—O, gran Dio!"
he ejaculated, as she was tossed over the balcony.

There was a horrid jerking and cracking sound, as the cord strained with
her weight: her blue eyes opened—oh! frightful was their aspect, as the
light of the sputtering torches fell on them; and still more frightful
were the distortions of that enchanting form—but for a moment only.
There it swung round vibrating, then hung still and motionless; the fair
head drooped heavily forward, and the long bright ringlets floated in
disorder on the passing wind.

"To horse, and away!" cried Di Bivona; and ere his party had clattered
through the Porto Nuovo, Marco and I returned to our apartment,
sickening with disgust and horror.

"Basta! let us quit this accursed den, and seek some place of
amusement," said the knight. "There is surely some gaming-house or merry
cantina in Monteleone.  Let us go."

"With all my soul," said I.  "Some of the Corsican Rangers are in
garrison here.  I had a brother amongst them once, and know the corps
well, having many friends in it."

"Buono: we shall be sure to fall in with the officers somewhere, at the
cafés or the promenade."

We left the inn about the same time that two men of the Campagnia di
Morti bore away the remains of Luisa Gismondo in a shell, covered by a
pall; around it walked six others, carrying torches, and completely
enveloped in sackcloth, having even their faces covered by a black hood,
which descended to the chin.  They formed a grim and mysterious group,
as they wound, by the light of their links, through a dark and narrow
alley, to the entrance of some obscure and ghastly charnel-house.

"And Luisa was the bosom friend of Bianca!" thought I, as their
monotonous chant died away. "What a tale of horror I have to tell the
family of Alfieri!"

Of the Major Gismondo I shall have to relate more hereafter.



                              *CHAPTER X.*

                         *THE SIEGE OF SCYLLA.*


Next evening we arrived at Scylla: the Scylla of classical antiquity,
hoary and worn with the storms of ages, dark with the lapse of years;
the stronghold, successively, of the Greek, the Roman, the fair-haired
Goth, the swarthy Saracen, the mail-clad Norman knight, the proud
Italian prince, the prouder Spaniard, and, lastly, the grasping Gaul. As
we approached it, Castelermo bade me remark the roar of the ocean in the
caverns beneath the rock; which rises perpendicularly from the water,
and is still of considerable danger to mariners. To the ancients it was
terrible, on account of its real and fabled dangers, which occupy so
prominent a place in the heroic poems of Homer, Ovid, and others; and
famous for the loves of Glaucus, and the magic art of Circe, the
daughter of the sun (who transformed the beautiful nymph Scylla into
that tall rock, which "bulged the pride of famed Ulysses’ fleet") and
the roar of whose dogs was so terrible to Æneas and his followers.

Opposite rose the fair and fruitful coast of Sicily, the spires of
Messina, and the green ridge of the Neptunian hills; behind which sank
the setting sun, whose last rays changed the hue of the ocean from blue
to purple: the Straits were studded with craft of every description,
from the stately British line-of-battle ship, to the little scampavia,
with its red and yellow latteen sail. As we pulled up our horses beside
Monte Jaci, to view the splendid prospect, the old tradition came to my
remembrance:—

      "The Italian shore
    And fair Sicilia’s coast were _one_, before
    An earthquake caused the flaw: the roaring tides
    The passage broke, that land from land divides;
    And, where the lands retired, the rushing ocean rides."
        _Æneas_, iii.


The roaring of the sea in the cavern of Dragara caused our horses to
snort and rear; and the sound was not unlike the cry of some "tremendous
pest," or monster, such as Scylla was fabled by the poets of old.  But,
enough; or the reader will suspect me of that "dull pedantry which finds
everything ancient necessarily sublime."

The whole coast bore traces of that dreadful visitation, the earthquake
of 1783; when vast masses of the shore fell into the sea, burying
gardens, fields, dwellings: at the base of Monte Jaci lay a mighty piece
of rock, which had been hurled from its summit to the margin of the
Mediterranean.

"On that night of horrors," said Castelermo, "when all Calabria was
trembling with the internal convulsions of the world; when the sea
exhaled brimstone, and the whole face of the land became changed; when
rivers were choked up by the fall of the mountains, or rolled back upon
their source; when cities, engulfed in yawning earth, were lost for
ever; when hills became lakes, and the last day of dread and judgment
seemed at hand;—the ocean heaved up its waters to the height of twenty
feet; and, rushing on the coast for the distance of three miles, swept
back into the abyss two thousand four hundred and seventy human beings,
who had fled to the shore for safety from the crumbling cliffs and
falling mountains.  The heavens seemed all in flames, and the ocean
rolled on, wearing the red tint which the light reflected on it; the
promontory of Campala fell into the waves, and not a fragment of it
remained: Scylla was split to its foundations, and the solid towers of
its castle flung from the rock upon the town below.  The eagles screamed
and grovelled panting on the ground; whilst the wolves howled with
affright in the recesses of the woods.  All nature seemed convulsed,
paralyzed, and trembling on the brink of destruction."

The castle was the property of Castelermo’s uncle, the Cardinal Ruffo,
Prince of the ancient house of RufFo Sciglio, and a man of political and
military celebrity: it was his principal residence, until ruined and
dismantled on his defection; but the skill of French engineers had
restored it to more than its former strength and glory.  On the south
side lay the snug little town, terminated by the castle rock; the cliff
descending sheer down to the sea, which rolls two hundred feet below.
An ample tri-colour waved heavily over the dark grey keep; and the
glittering arms of the sentinels flashed in the setting sun, over the
ramparts and embrasures, through which protruded the muzzles of heavy
cannon: their fire, during the siege, had scared away all the
inhabitants of the town below.

Evening deepened around, as we advanced; and we soon saw the light in
the Pharo di Messina shed its tremulous rays across the rushing and now
dark waters of the Strait.

The garrison of the French marquis was completely invested, on the land
side, by the brigade of my countryman, Colonel (latterly
Lieutenant-General Sir John) Oswald; who, at the head of the 20th and
58th Regiments, with five companies of De Watteville’s corps, and two
four-pound field-pieces, had marched to this part of Lower Calabria,
immediately after our victory at Maida.  Two days after the battle, he
captured the town and castle of Monteleone, took three hundred Frenchmen
prisoners, seized all the depot there, and, pushing on by forced
marches, laid siege to Scylla; which, at the time of my arrival, had
been closely blockaded for nearly twenty days.

The twilight of eve had given place to the more sombre shadow of night,
when we entered the town; but no chant of vespers arose from the ruined
chapels of its deserted convents: soldiers alone crowded its streets and
terraces; where the shattered houses, roofless and desolate, and strewn
with broken furniture, exploded shells, splinters, and cannon-shot, gave
evidence of the daily work of strife.

The quarters of the general were in an old mansion, the gloomy and
antique aspect of which, with its vicinity to a church, declared it to
have been once the residence of an ecclesiastic of rank. The jagged
archivolts, twisted columns, and grotesque decorations, all displayed
the peculiar taste of the Saraceno-Norman architect, who raised the
massive walls of the building; which Sir John found a very comfortable
shelter from the shot of the enemy’s batteries.

Leaving our horses with the quarter guard, who occupied the lower part
of the building, we were ushered up a narrow wheel-staircase to a
vaulted room, where we found Sir John and Colonel Oswald seated by a
black oak-table, studying a plan of Scylla; which divided their
attention with an imposing jar of wine and a case of cigars.

"Welcome, Dundas," they exclaimed.  "Good news, I hope?  Crotona—"

"Surrendered on last Wednesday evening."

"Glorious fellow, Macleod!"

"We have taken six hundred prisoners, forty pieces of cannon, and all
their stores."

"Excellent!" said the general, rubbing his hands; "and your friend—he
belongs to the Free Corps, I presume?"

"Santugo’s battalion.  Allow me to introduce the Cavaliere di
Castelermo, of the military order of Malta, who has accompanied me
hither from Crotona: no easy journey, Sir John, in such a land as this.
The signor is now lord of Scylla and its castle, since the defection and
consequent forfeiture of his uncle, the cardinal."

The knight and general bowed.

"We must drink your health as captain," said Oswald, filling the glasses
from the grey-beard, and pushing the cigars towards us; "we must also
invite some of the brigade and christen your commission—eh, Dundas!
Some of the cardinal’s wine this—plenty more in the cellars below—(this
was the house of his steward)—capital stuff, is it not?"

"And I have to congratulate the general on the rank he has obtained:
long may he enjoy it!" said I, alluding to Sir John’s recent elevation
to the title of Count of Maida, bestowed on him by Ferdinand of Naples.

Muttering an excuse, he tore open the covers, and hastily conned over
the despatches of Macleod.

"Capitulated—honours of war—prisoners—um, um—I am afraid we shall not
get possession of Scylla so easily.  Here we have been for twenty days
before this place—a mere tower with outworks—and are not nearer
possession than we were at the first hour of our arrival; we have lost
many valuable officers and men, and without having gained any advantage
to compensate the service for their loss.  Massena may advance to
relieve the fortress, if the besieged do not soon yield; and Monteleone,
the commandant, appears a most determined fellow: in answer to a flag of
truce, he sent me his pledged word that he would fight to the last, and
then blow up the place; but never surrender it."

"And this man," I observed, "is said to be a countryman of our own."

"You must not say that, Dundas," replied the general; "it is a mere
rumour, I suppose."

"He is resolved to die game," said Oswald: "but Dundas, as you have some
notion of these things, just look over this plan, will you, and say
which you think the weakest point?"

"We were planning an assault," continued the general, "you may examine
the features of the place to-morrow; but it is rather dangerous work to
reconnoitre within range of their long nines and twenty-four pounders.
This is a plan of the fort, sent to me by Francatripa, who found it in
the baggage of a French officer killed in the massacre of Sauveria: it
appears to represent the place very correctly.  Here is the drawbridge,
there the _téte-du-pont_ and fosse.  You will observe, Claude, that the
castle is built on the extreme verge of the cliff of Scylla, which forms
the termination of a promontory washed on three sides by the sea.  Our
friend, the Cavaliere Marco, no doubt, knows the interior well: massive
walls encompass the keep, flanked by strong towers, defended by heavy
cannon and mortars."

"The curtains are well loopholed for musketry, which will sweep the
ditches in every direction," said Castelermo.

"The casemates are vaulted with solid masonry," added Oswald, removing
his cigar: "they are in the flanks of the bastions, and capable of
containing a company each.  No joke to get into a ditch, exposed to such
annoyances as these, eh?  They have six thirty-twos to sweep the
exterior slope of the advanced fosse; in endeavouring to cross which
Colonel Ross has lost some of the bravest fellows in the ranks of the
20th.  The place is victualled amply, and watered by a cistern, and its
garrison are resolute as their leader.  So now what say you to all this?
It has baffled the bravery of _my_ brigade, and the skill of M. Navarro,
our Italian engineer; though he comes of a stock which has achieved
great things in its day."

Here the colonel pointed to a little man, clad in the scarlet Neapolitan
uniform, who had hitherto sat quietly smoking a cigar behind the shadow
of a column, unseen by us.

"Yes, Signor Colonello," said he, coming forward, and placing a finger
on the plan.  "I am of opinion still, that there is nothing so effectual
as a mine under that part of the wall nearest the town: I myself will
volunteer to fire the saucisson."

"The place you speak of, is protected by a battery of thirty-two
pounders," replied the general: "you are zealous and brave, Signor
Navarro, and we thank you; but a party of workmen could never form
chambers in a place so rocky and exposed."

"Signor Count of Maida," retorted the Italian, "I think I have served
long enough to know something of mines, their capabilities and nature.
My ancestor, Pietro Navarro, first introduced the noble art of springing
mines, when chief engineer to the Genoese, at the siege of Serezenella
in Florence; and they gained the town by means of this branch of the art
military, which is as useful as it is wonderful to behold.  He also took
the castle of the Egg at Naples, when serving with the Spaniards; and I
hold the Castel del’Ova to be stronger than the Castello di Sciglio."

"Perhaps so: but our friend the marquis will take care that we do not
undermine any part of his premises.  Tell me, Claude, what is your
opinion?"

Having a little smattering of engineering, I examined the plan
attentively, and found that it was almost impossible to execute
Navarro’s project of a mine: but by using the compasses and scale, and
by an observation made when approaching the place, I discovered that the
fortress was completely commanded by a neighbouring hill; by carrying
guns to the scarp of which, the outer and inner defences would be easily
battered, and a breach effected.  It gave me no great opinion of
Navarro’s skill, that he had not discovered this very simple and obvious
method before.

The general gave an exclamation of delight when I proposed and explained
my mode of attack; but the eyes of the little Italian, of course,
gleamed with malice and anger: which, for the present, he chose to
conceal, although he pulled fiercely at his cigar, and kicked with his
heels against the column behind him.

"Now, then, Sir John, what ordnance have you?"

"Two curricle guns, four pounders only: they are of little use; but Sir
Sidney Smith has lent us eight thirty-sixes from his frigate, for the
especial behoof of the marquis and his garrison. To drag them to the
scarp of the hill is no easy task: but it shall be done, and this night
too! Scylla must be ours, at all risks.  Its position at the gorge of
the Strait renders it of the greatest importance as a defence against
shipping."

"A little Gibraltar," said Castelermo.

"And ours it shall be, if it costs us as much trouble as ever old Gib.
did," replied Stuart. "Hallo, Pierce!"

His orderly appeared.

"Give my compliments to Gascoigne, the brigade-major; tell him to get
three officers and one hundred and fifty privates from each regiment, to
drag the frigate’s guns to the top of the hill yonder, where they must
be in a position to open at daybreak; and desire him—or stay—I had
better give you a note, perhaps."

He scribbled one hastily on the back of a guard-report, or some such
valuable document; and Pierce, who had stood erect as a ramrod, raised
his hand to his forehead, wheeled sharply round as if upon a pivot, and
withdrew. Immediately afterwards a bugle sounded, and in the course of
ten minutes the parties went off at a rapid pace with pickaxes,
crow-bars, shovels, and ropes; the former to clear the way, and the
latter to drag the cannon up the rocky, rough, and steep hill-side.

"Finish the contents of the jar, gentlemen," said Sir John, filling
Castelermo’s glass, and passing the ample graybeard; "mend the fire,
somebody."

Oswald gave the smoky fire-pan a kick, causing its contents to blaze up
and diffuse a very little heat, and a great deal of smoke through the
apartment; which, like most in Italy, being without fire-place or
chimney, was warmed by a panful of burning olive-husks, impregnating the
atmosphere with a disagreeable odour.

"O, for the coal fires of old England!" said the general.

"Or the snug parlour of Dunnikeir!" chimed in Oswald; thinking,
doubtless, of his comfortable mansion in the east neuk of Fife.

After half an hour’s conversation, maintained principally by myself, in
describing the journey from Crotona, we adjourned to the scene of
operations; where four hundred and fifty soldiers were toiling along a
narrow and rugged road, dragging the heavy guns from the beach towards
the mountain.

"Beware of that little fellow Navarro!" said Castelermo, tapping me on
the shoulder; "he regards you with no friendly eye, for the _exposé_ you
made of his ignorance.  He is Sicilian bred, and the Sicilians are
slippery dogs."

A party provided with hatchets, pickaxes, and spades, moved in front,
and cleared the way by cutting down trees and hedges, levelling walls
and fences, and removing all obstacles to the progress of those who
brought the cannon; some pulling the ropes attached to the clumsy
ship-carriages, whilst others urged the little creaking wheels by
applying crow-bars behind.  It was a task equally slow and laborious;
but the officers, with proper zeal, set an example to the soldiers, by
sharing in the toil, and working among them without their coats.  On the
hill all traces of road or track had disappeared, and thickets of
olives, wild vines, ruined walls, masses of sandstone, ruts, and gorges,
obstructed the way so much, that the hour of two in the morning arrived
ere the guns were posted and ready for service.

Our little party of artillery, assisted by some of the infantry of the
line, had them loaded, depressed, and prepared to open fire, the instant
day began to brighten the Straits of Messina.

Meanwhile, the marquis and his garrison were not idle: by the noise in
the town below, they became aware that something unusual was going on;
and blue balls were burned on every battlement and pinnacle, until all
Scylla seemed wrapped in livid flames: a ghastly glare lighted up the
ocean to the west, and the mountains to the east; the clouds above us
floated in sulphury blue; and even the spires of Fiumara and Messina
glimmered in the cold, unearthly lustre shed from those lofty ramparts.
The castle was so distinctly revealed, that we could have counted every
stone in the massive keep, and every bar in the grated windows; but the
night was so dark as effectually to conceal our operations.  They fired
a few rounds of shot and shell at random, killing a few of the guards
who blocked up the avenues of the place, but otherwise without effect;
and I have no doubt they were a little disconcerted, when dawning day
revealed to them eight thirty-sixes on the mountain-side, and opposed to
the weakest part of their works.  A commotion was immediately observable
among them; and a still greater one when, on firing our first salvo, a
mass of the outer bastion, above the cordon, fell into the ditch below.

Encouraged by this, our artillerymen plied the cannon with might and
main, working in their shirt-sleeves (it was a broiling morning); but
after an hour’s firing, the carronades became heated, and began to
"kick" and recoil so much, that they were compelled to cease operations
for a time, and permit them to cool: a process which the French usually
facilitate by introducing sponges steeped in vinegar, when it can be
had; which is not often, on service.

The gallant garrison strove hard to interrupt these successful
operations; but as we were rather beyond the range of musketry, and
their battery-guns could not be pointed to such an elevation as that on
which we were situated, they had recourse to mortars: these, however,
were so ill-managed that the bombs generally fell short, and either sank
into the turf or rolled down the hill to the sea-shore and exploded
among the breakers.

When again our battery opened, we heard the French band playing the old
republican carmagnole—a piece of mere gasconade.

"I will bet a dozen of wine we change their tune in an hour," said the
general, who was watching the operations through his telescope. "We will
humble them yet."

"Ha! what can that be?" I exclaimed; "a sortie?"

"No; but the devil seems to have jumped over the castle-wall into the
town below," said Oswald.  An unusual bustle took place amongst our
soldiers, who were seen running through the streets in confusion, and
exposed to the enemy’s musketry, which instantly opened on them.

An enormous carcass, 230-pounds weight, had been blown from a mortar
into Scylla; with the intention of setting it on fire.  The combustibles
which compose this amiable engine of modern warfare, are pitch, tallow,
powder, saltpetre, oil, broken barrels of muskets, loaded grenades, bars
of iron, chains, and broken bottles, all hooped together in one globular
mass; through these, fuse-holes are bored, and to which lighted matches
are applied the moment before the bomb is shot forth.

This ponderous affair descended through the roof of the general’s
temporary quarter; where, luckily, there was no wood-work to burn: but
the house was shattered to its foundations, unroofed, and blown to ruins
in a moment.

"Basta!" exclaimed Cavaliere Marco, as the carcass exploded, without
doing further harm; "a rare fellow is this marchese!  He will fight to
the death-gasp, I warrant; and Scylla will never fall while his hand can
hold a sabre."

"Then we will leave the castle in a worse predicament than the
earthquake left it," replied Sir John, closing his telescope sharply.

"You may blow it into the sea, for aught that I care, gentlemen," said
the Italian; "its late lord, my uncle, was ever a niggard of his ducats
to me, and I have no great love for his old house.  Many an unhappy
heretic and infidel has perished in the obscurity of its dungeons.  I
know something of them.  Will you believe it, Signor Claude? the old
bashaw once lodged me in them for a week, because I interfered with his
friendship for a certain fair damsel of Reggio: cardinals are not to be
trifled with!"

"Well, sir," said the general, "you may join the assault to-night, if
the breach is practicable."  The eyes of the brave cavalier sparkled.

"With heart and hand, excellency!  I bear as much hatred to our foes in
Scylla, as a Christian man may bear to others.  They are the false,
tyrannical, and oppressive French!  I have not forgotten that when
Napoleon’s fleet appeared off Malta, the knights of Provence, Auvergne,
and all the French langue, abandoned the banner of the order, instead of
fighting like L’Isle Adam of old, as long as stone wall and steel blade
remained true to them."

The general bowed, and smiled slightly at the Italian’s enthusiasm.

"Thank Heaven, the carcass did no more damage," said he: "the effect of
one, properly shot, is indeed tremendous.  I saw one fired when Moore
took the Mozzello fort.  Ah!  Dundas, it was your poor brother, Frank,
and I who led on the stormers there: he was a brave and dashing fellow,
and would have been a glory to his profession but for that dog of a
German—Kranz."

Before sunset a tolerable breach was effected in that part of the
bastions next the town; and by way of filling up the interval of time
till dusk, our battery played on the keep with such success that a great
part of the wall repaired by the French fell down, and thus weakened the
fort considerably. But the marchese kept his soldiers steadily at work
the whole day, although exposed to our fire; and, with billets and
facines, endeavoured, in the usual manner, to repair the breaches: they,
however, were reported fully practicable by the officer in charge of the
battery, and at eleven o’clock that night an assault was ordered to take
place.



                             *CHAPTER XI.*

                          *THE FORLORN-HOPE.*


At sunset the following notice was circulated:—

"_Brigade Orders_.—Officers desirous of leading the forlorn-hope are
requested to send in their names, without delay, to Brigade-Major
Gascoigne."

After turning over this invitation in my mind for some time, and
weighing the chances of promotion against those of escape, I resolved
not to send in my card to Gascoigne; notwithstanding that longing for
fame and distinction—a secret craving to be the first man among the
multitude, which, in fact, is the true sentiment that makes us buckle on
the sword at first: but to lead a forlorn-hope is to throw away one’s
life.

Just when the troops were getting silently under arms in a sheltered
place, near an old, gloomy, and empty convent, I went to the rallying
post. The spirited Cavaliere di Castelermo earnestly requested the
general to allow him the honour of heading the dangerous enterprise; but
his services, his high courage and birth, and his commander’s cross,
availed him nothing in the present instance. Sir John politely thanked
him; and hinted, as delicately as he could, that a British officer alone
could lead where British soldiers were to follow.

"Signor Count," replied the Italian bitterly, "there was a time when the
cross of St. John was valued more highly—when its wearers _followed_
none; but alone led the way.  It has pleased Fate to try us sorely, like
the Templars of other days: we have been deprived of our ships, our
castles, and our possessions, of all but our name and glory; yet I trust
there is a time to come when once more the banner of Malta will be what
it was—what it has been ever since the accursed Mussulmans captured
Rhodez: the shield of the Christian mariner, and the terror of the
African barbarian!"

The restoration of his order to all its chivalric glory and military
power, was one of Castelermo’s darling themes; and one about which he
bored me for many a long hour.  Poor Marco! he was doomed never to
behold the realization of those gay visions of his bold and heroic
fancy.

"Yet, signor," he continued, "if I cannot lead in the assault, I will
endeavour to be the second man within the breach."

"Young Morley, of the 20th, has sent in his name," said Gascoigne; who
at that moment approached, with a number of notes in his hand. "The
little fool!" muttered the general; "poor boy—he has seen little enough
of life yet to be in such a hurry to quit it.  Does he lead the
stormers?"

"No—Dundas, of ours," replied Gascoigne, who was a 62nd man.  "So you
mean to lead ’the lost children’ to-night," he added to me.

"No, faith! a company is not got every day, and——"

"Your name is on my list as a volunteer, though!"

"The deuce it is!" I exclaimed, gravely; "I never sent it to you."

"Amazing!" said he, handing me a note, written in a hand and signed with
a signature so like my own—having every blot, turn, and dash—that I was
confounded and nonplussed.

"I never penned this note, gentlemen!  Never! I pledge my honour: it is
a forgery, to lead me into unnecessary danger."

"Singular!" said the brigade-major, puzzled.

"’T is the roguery of Navarro," whispered Marco: "I will wager a hundred
crowns to a carlino, this is a piece of his revenge."

"Dundas, there is no time for inquiry or exposure just now," said
Colonel Oswald.  "What do you propose—to withdraw your name?"

"No, I will lead the assault; and tomorrow, if I survive, shall expose
this cowardly Sicilian forger, who is a disgrace to the uniform he
wears;" said I, exasperated to find myself compelled, in honour, to
undertake this most perilous and deadly duty, where the chances of
escape with life were as one to a hundred, without the glorious credit
of being a willing volunteer.

"Fall in—the stormers," cried Gascoigne.

"Gentlemen—to your posts," cried Sir John; and I was left almost alone.
The time of attack was so close at hand, that luckily I had little time
for reflection: yet, for a few minutes, I became grave and melancholy
enough.  Life, death, home, Bianca, wounds and agony, all floated in
confusion before me: but these misgivings were stifled, and a chivalric
recklessness—a desperate hope—a glow of courage that would make one face
the devil, took possession of my breast, when the stormers, two hundred
in number, selected from volunteers of the 20th, threw off their
knapsacks, blankets, and canteens, and were handed over to me by their
adjutant.  For my heavy cocked-hat, with its long staff plumes, I
substituted a light foraging cap; for my tasselled hessians, a pair of
large jack-boots.  I buckled my waist-belt tighter, examined the blade
and hilt of my sword, threw away my cigar, and gave the word—

"Attention!  Mr. Morley you will inspect the rear-rank."

The pouches were opened, the flints and ammunition examined by the light
of the diamond-like stars; the orders to fix bayonets, and load with
ball-cartridge, followed.  The ramrods went home on the charges with a
sullen, muffled sound; the muskets rattled, and then the ranks became
motionless and still.  The bell of some distant campanile tolled the
eleventh hour, and as the sound floated away, I could hear my own heart
beating, through all its thickening pulses.

My subaltern, poor lad, looked very pale: I could perceive it by the
starlight.

"Morley!" I whispered, in a tart tone of surprise.

"I am thinking of my mother—she is far away, at home;" he faltered, and
colouring deeply, added, "I cannot help these thoughts."

"Few of us will hear twelve strike," thought I, whilst closing the
ranks, and lowering the point of my sabre to the general, to intimate
that we were ready.

"Success to you, Dundas," said he.  "Move on by sections: you know the
breach—at the top, the main street.  The fellows begin to scent our
purpose already.  You will be ably supported: Oswald, with the 58th;
Ross, with the 20th; de Watteville’s corps is the reserve.  Forward!"

We moved off, and at the same moment the French guns again opened on the
town, worked with renewed energy and rapidity.  The rock of Scylla was
shaken to its sea-worn foundations; and the lights, flashing from
battlement and embrasure, revealed the parapets lined with stern faces
and bristling bayonets, the lofty keep crowded with men, and its giant
outline towering over the whirling smoke which issued from the guns of
the lower works.

The windings of the shore, the peak of Monte Jaci, and the caverns below
us, rang with continual discharges of the artillery; and the intervals
were filled by the roar of the seething surf, and its booming in the
yawning depths of Dragara, where

      "Scylla bellows from her dire abodes!
    Tremendous pest! abhorred by men and gods!
    Hideous her voice, and with less terror roar
    The whelps of lions in the midnight hour."
        _Odyssey_, Book xii.


The night was close and still; the frequent flashes of the fire-arms
reddened the gathered clouds, and lightened the bosom of the ocean: the
scene was grand and impressive.  But we had very little poetry in our
hearts as we stumbled up the rough dark street, over which the
thirty-twos and long nines whistled incessantly; one moment dealing
death and mutilation amongst us, and the next bringing some ruined gable
or ponderous balcony thundering down on our perilous line of march.
With the utmost speed we pressed forward, while Oswald followed with his
corps, and without much loss we passed the houses, and debouched upon
the ridge, when the whole outline of the fortress burst at once upon our
view.  We rushed forward to the breach under a tremendous fire, which
rained from every parapet, point, and loophole.  Magnificent and
terrible was the aspect of the castle at that moment: once more,
innumerable blue lights shed their livid and sepulchral glare on town
and fortress, land and sea; enabling the defenders to direct their fire
steadily upon us. The musketry rolled in one voluminous blaze over
breastwork and palisade, while the batteries played with incessant
rapidity, loading the air with the sound of thunder; for the echoes,
thrown back by the hills, were redoubled by the resounding caverns of
the rock.  From the summit of the keep to the lower walls, every point
seemed to swarm with men; and was either blazing with light or shadowed
by smoke, and bristling with lines of flashing steel.

Before us lay the breach, foredoomed to be the deathbed of many; it was
an immense mass of loose stones, and the ascent to it was most
troublesome, with such obstacles as we had to contend with.  Fascines
and chevaux-de-frise were thrown across the gap; and in rear of this
crowded the garrison, who were firing on us with deadly coolness and
precision.

Morley fell dead at my feet!  An indescribable sensation—a kind of
frenzy possessed me.  I shouted and rushed up, brandishing my sabre and
holding aloft in my left hand the little standard, which I had
undertaken to place on the walls of Scylla or die in the attempt: it was
blown to ribbons by the storm of balls. Navarro was forgotten: I thought
only of glory and Bianca!

"Forward, 20th!  Remember Egmont!  On, on!  Hurrah!"

"Hurrah! hurrah!" cried the wild stormers, as they scrambled up the
breach in a mob, encumbered by the killed and wounded, who were falling
every second under their feet.  A shower of hand-grenades, thrown by the
grenadiers of the 20th, who were posted in rear of a low wall close by,
drove the enemy back from the chevaux-de-frise, and shattered it to
pieces.  These military engines, which are now most unaccountably laid
aside, were followed by a few round shot from our battery: their
discharge created great confusion among the French; so much so that we
reached the summit of the breach without suffering half the slaughter I
had anticipated.

A new engine was now brought into operation, the effect of which will
never be forgotten by me, while life and memory remain.

"Push on, for God’s sake!  O, my brave fellows! trust now to the
bayonet, and the bayonet only!" I cried.

"Viva Ferdinando nostro e la Santa Fede!" shouted Castelermo, springing
to my side; but the Calabrian war-cry was almost lost in the cheers of
the 20th, and the terrific din around us: the ear was stunned with one
continual roar of frightful sounds.  But the groan, the stifled gasp,
the agonizing cry were unheard or unheeded: we made the corpses of our
dearest comrades stepping-stones, and through the shot and
shell-splinters, which swept around us like a hail-storm, we rushed on,
to close, to grapple with, and overwhelm the enemy.  At their head we
perceived the marquis, a noble-looking fellow, on whose broad breast the
stars and medals of his achievements were shining in the light from the
muskets and bursting bombs.

At that instant I reached the summit of the breach, and laid my hand on
the chevaux-de-frise to vault over, when the earth heaved and yawned
beneath our feet; a tremendous explosion and a dreadful crash ensued: a
hundred of my party were blown to atoms in a moment, and I was thrown
over the barrier, falling headlong in the midst of the enemy.

Unseen by us, after dusk, a caisson des bombes, or tub filled with
loaded shells, had been secretly sunk under the stones of the breach,
and being slightly covered over by fragments of masonry, lay concealed
until the moment we trod upon it; when the French fired it by means of a
saucisson, and produced a frightful catastrophe. There was a pause for a
moment; but a moment only.

The few survivors of the storming party recoiled, and I saw Castelermo
clinging with all the desperation of a dying man to a cope-stone of the
shattered battlement.  The stone yielded and gave way; there was a cry
of "Basta!" and the poor knight vanished; but whether into the fosse or
the sea beneath the cliffs, I knew not: in either case, I was sure he
must have perished.

A yell of triumph burst from the French; it was echoed by one of
defiance from our stormers, who once more rushed forward, led on by
Colonel Oswald.  His tall and stately figure afforded a prominent mark
for the fire of the besieged; but he miraculously escaped.  With all the
courage that desperation could inspire, I used my sabre among the
French, with a strength and energy they were unaccustomed to; but my
efforts to clear the barrier and rejoin our stormers were perfectly
ineffectual.  At the very moment that Oswald sprang, sword in hand, over
the now shattered blades of the chevaux-de-frise, followed by the 20th,
thirsting for vengeance, I received a blow from the butt of a musket,
and felt as if crushed beneath the weight of a mountain; the light of a
thousand stars seemed to dance before me; then all was dark, horribly
dark! My God!  I faltered, and sank to the earth: the French, supposing
me dead, trod over me as they rushed forward to the conflict.

The fatal breach was now passed, and our soldiers fought like lions to
retain their ground within it. The conflict was maintained, hand to
hand, with resolute valour: swords and ponderous musket-butts were
whirling about like sticks at Donnybrook fair.

My head swam with the effects of the blow; yet I contrived to crawl from
among the legs of the French—whose red breeches and leather leggings I
shall not soon forget—and drew near Oswald. Then starting up, half
blinded with blood, smoke, and confusion, I rushed upon the French
commandant.  I had not exchanged half a dozen passes with him, ere a
heavy dizziness came over me: I staggered backwards, and, sinking, clung
to a cannon for support.  He had raised his sabre aloft to cleave my
head in two; but, like a gallant soldier as he was, he spared me, and
engaged Oswald, in whom he found no common adversary; for the colonel
was stout of heart and strong of hand as any kail-supper that ever came
out of the famous "kingdom" of Fife.

Short but desperate was the combat that ensued: a stroke across the
temple laid the famous marchese, whose name was so terrible to the
Neapolitans, prostrate before his conqueror; and he was trodden to the
earth among the gory corpses which cumbered the breach; while the whole
58th, with their black standards in front, swept over us.



                             *CHAPTER XII.*

                             *A RENCONTRE!*


As all our impetuous troops had now passed through the breach, the
French were driven beyond it; but the conflict raged with undiminished
fury in other parts of the fortress.  The place where I had fallen,
benumbed and bruised, was comparatively quiet and still; and whilst I
lay there, I heard a voice close by me exclaim, in pure English, "O, my
God! and here end all my hopes, my joys, and sorrows!  My mother—my
home—I shall never see them more!  Alas! the one would weep for, the
other scorn me! Aloise—dearest Aloise! we meet no more!  Well, I have
ever been faithful to you, and to our emperor.  You have ever been
loving, and my sovereign grateful."

Turning with surprise, I found it was the French commandant who was thus
soliloquizing; whilst he bled profusely from a wound, which disfigured
him very much.

"Here is a stout Briton who has been fighting under the tricolor, or
some wild spirit that has fled from Ireland after the last rising," I
thought, whilst approaching him on my hands and knees. I tied up his
head with my handkerchief to stanch the blood—though I myself needed the
same attention—and on dividing the contents of my pocket-flask between
us, the commandant recovered wonderfully.

"Sir, you have betrayed yourself to be British!" said I, in a low stern
voice.  "With me your secret is safe: I respect you as a brave man, and
should have done so still more had you been a Frenchman; but beware how
you become known to Sir John Stuart: he is a stern soldier of the old
school, who will assuredly order a drum-head court-martial, and have you
shot as a traitor!"

The eyes of the marquis flashed fire.

"I am now a soldier of fortune," he replied, "free to serve where and
whom I please.  Stuart, if he knew all—if he remembered.  But there is a
secret spirit whispering at this moment within me, that I have met you
before: you are the officer who led the forlorn hope?"  His voice
faltered.

"Yes."

"And whom I encountered in the breach, before that tall officer cut me
down?"

"The same."

"O, fate! if it should be so," he exclaimed, passing his hand across his
blood-stained brow; and then grasping me with energy, "your name, sir?"

"Dundas," said I; "Claude Dundas."

"Of the 62nd Foot?"  His eyes were now starting in his head, so
intensely he gazed on me.

"Yes, sir," I replied sharply; "_I_ am not ashamed to acknowledge
myself."

"Taunt me not—taunt me not!" he exclaimed, wildly; "God!  I am your
brother—I am Frank, who was dismissed from the Corsicans so unjustly.
This hour—this agony—my wound—O say, in ten years have you quite
forgotten my features?"

For a moment I regarded, with wonder, his bronzed and bearded visage,
now covered with blood; then, appalled by his words, I endeavoured to
trace in his features those of the fair-haired and light-hearted boy who
used to carry me on his back to school, and was my champion and
protector in many a fisticuff battle and bicker: who was so often
flogged by the grim old janitor for taking my faults and blunders on
himself, and for whom I wept like a girl through many a long weary
night, when, as a stripling ensign, he joined the army under the good
Duke of York, and first fired my boyish ardour by being gazetted for his
valour at Valenciennes.

For a time, memory carried me back to the pleasant days of our
childhood, and my heart, which a moment before had been strung for
stirring deeds of carnage and death, relaxed and melted within me: in
that terrible hour, in the gory breach of Scylla, surrounded by the
dying and dead, with the uproar of the assault yet sounding above and
around me, I threw away my sabre, and weeping, as I had done in my
boyish days, embraced that brother over whom all believed the grave had
closed, and whom I had never expected to meet again on earth.

"Happy as I am to meet you, Frank, I would rather that we had never met,
than that I should meet you thus.  The French uniform——"

"Is that of as brave an army as the sun shines on!" he replied,
enthusiastically.  "Insulted pride, necessity, and revenge, forced me
into its ranks, where I have served faithfully and honourably; as the
high civil and military rank I have attained, together with these
badges, received some of them from Napoleon’s hand on the Champ de Mars,
and some on the battle-fields of Holland and Italy, can amply testify.
Our mother," he added, in a broken voice, "tell me, our mother——"

"Lives still; but old and sorrowing."

"And Kranz—my evil genius?"

"Dead—shot at St. Eufemio."

"There ends our enmity," he replied, through his set teeth.  "I have
gained a rank infinitely above that from which he degraded me.  Heaven
knows how my heart bled when first I found myself opposed to the ranks
of your army at Maida: the well-known colours and red-coats—ay, even my
own old regiment, the gallant Rangers; whose officers and men, all save
one, had been my comrades through many a perilous day.  O, it was an
hour of acute and indescribable agony when I saw them marching by the
Amato in close column, with their band in front, playing the same merry
quickstep to which I had often marched in happier days.  I have found
the French as honourable as they are brave, and could I have forgotten
home, should have been supremely happy in their service. My marriage
with Aloise Milette, daughter of the general of division—you must have
heard of him—would have given me additional ties to France. Aloise—ah!
if you knew her, Claude;" he paused, as if to collect his scattered
thoughts, and then, although his senses were wandering, continued:—

"This last stronghold of the emperor in the Calabrias, I have defended
to the last—yes, with all my power and courage; and in this moment of
extremity I must not desert my brave fellows, while a chance remains of
driving Oswald’s brigade through the breach or into the sea.  Farewell!
God bless you, Claude!  Speak kindly of me to those at home—to my poor
mother—she will never see me more."

He strained me for a moment to his breast, and snatching up his notched
sabre, staggered towards that part of the works where an unequal contest
was maintained by a section of Frenchmen; whom our soldiers were
endeavouring in vain to dislodge from a bomb-proof vault, by firing in
through the same loop-holes from which the enemy dealt death so
securely.

"Vive l’Empereur!" he exclaimed, rushing towards them with his
brandished sabre.

"Frank!" I cried; "Frank, by the memory of all that has passed!—for the
love of God—hear me!"  But he heard me not.  He had scarcely advanced a
dozen paces, when a shot—whether aimed or fired at random, I know
not—passed through his head and flattened on a gun-breech beside me.  He
fell dead across a heap of his own men, and never moved again.  A cry of
horror rose to my lips; but expired upon them unuttered.  Stupified with
the events of the night, my brain whirled, and I sank down on the
slippery and bloody pavement of the inner bastion: my mind was a fearful
chaos, and I experienced a sensation like that of a horrible nightmare.

Weak as a child, and quite unmanned, bitter tears rolled over my cheeks.
A dead man lay across me: I was half-stifled, but could not move.  I
thought of home; and the splashing of the waves far below me sounded
like the murmur of my native Esk: again I heard, in imagination, the
ripple of its waters tinkling in Roslin’s lonely glen; the woods of
Dalkeith rustled over me.  Frank’s last words yet rang in my ears: but
it seemed the familiar voice of a boy; then came that of my mother, low
and sad—she was weeping for her son.

Again I was a child, and her kiss was on my cheek.  Salt and hot were
the tears I shed, and bitter the agony I endured, ere blessed
unconsciousness possessed me, and sinking back against the gun-slide, I
swooned among the bodies of the dead.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Long ere this, the place had been taken.  Infuriated by the protracted
assault, our men burst over the fortress like a torrent.  De
Watteville’s soldiers were like madmen.  Woe to the officer who dared to
check their plundering, or curb their fury!—and woe to the unhappy women
who fell into their power!  Innumerable episodes of horror followed the
conclusion of the storm.  The French, who had been disarmed, were
marched instantly to the beach, and embarked on board Sir Sidney’s
squadron; which had come close in shore on hearing the noise of the
attack.

No time was to be lost in making Scylla again defensible; therefore,
before daybreak, the dead were all interred in a common grave, in a
hollow near Monte Jaci.  For one amongst the hundreds thus buried, I
desired a separate and more secluded sepulchre; but, stripped of his
epaulettes and orders, his body, without being recognised, had been
hurried away, and entombed with the common herd in that dreadful grave,
over which two hundred soldiers hurled the earth for concealment of the
ghastly heaps within it.  I remember the place: an orange tree, of
gigantic size, shadowed it; and a ruined Grecian column may yet point it
out to the tourist: it was lying near, and our soldiers placed it over
the grave.



                            *CHAPTER XIII.*

                      *REGGIO.—AN IMPROVISATORE.*


Whilst I was still lying where I had sunk down exhausted—stunned by my
wound, appalled by the recent discovery, weak with pain and loss of
blood, and utterly prostrated in spirit—the fortress became still, or
comparatively so, and the objects all around were veiled in darkness:
the blue lights had burned out, and the lurid gleam of the cannon and
musketry no longer flashed through the gloom.  Cries and piteous
exclamations of agony resounded from every quarter; and the living were
dragged from beneath heaps of dead, to be sent to the hospital—an old,
half-ruined convent, which was appropriated to receive the wounded; but
which was soon found to be inadequate to contain them.

Three soldiers employed in searching for those who needed relief
approached me; one of them bore a lantern, and its light glared on the
once gay, but now tattered, uniform of Castelermo, who accompanied them,
and whose fate I had altogether forgotten.

"Basta! and here he is!" he exclaimed; "only stunned, I hope.—How now,
Signor Capitano?—nothing more than a few inches of the skin ripped up?"

"A cloven head, only," I replied, in a faint voice.

"Only!" he reiterated.

"An old wound broken out again.  I was struck by a musket-butt on the
very place where a ball grazed my head at Cefalu.  But I am glad to see
you alive and scatheless, after that sad tumble you had when blown out
of the breach."

"I have indeed had an escape which, to my dying day, will never be
forgotten.  I fell only into the fosse: but a yard more, on one side,
would have launched me into the deep; and, by this time, I should have
been—Madonna knows where, in the depths of ’devouring Scylla.’  Never
shall I forget the storming of this castle, though I should live as long
as father Adam."

The soldiers raised me up, and, on receiving the assistance of
Castelermo’s arm, I was able to walk, and was led into the interior of
the castle; where, after guards had been posted, one party of the
conquerors was making merry on the wine, brandy, and viands found in the
French stores. Another party was already bearing away the dead for
interment: they were so numerous that the general deemed it prudent, in
so hot a climate, to have the poor fellows all under the turf by
sunrise.  The taking of the place had been attended with considerable
slaughter: but I have forgotten the exact casualties.

For several days after the assault, our troops were occupied in
repairing the old defences, building new ones, remounting cannon,
burying the stray corpses, which were sometimes found in retired nooks
and corners, and in attending to the wounded; whilst I remained inactive
on the list of the convalescents.  To me, these were days of
indescribable misery and _ennui_: I endured agony, both of mind and
body; for a wound on the head, dangerous at all times, is doubly so in a
warm climate.  I became feverish and restless, and was haunted by gloomy
visions and fancies.

The assault—its dangers, uproar, and excitement—that unexpected and
terrible rencontre—the voice—the face—the words—the figure, which seemed
to come to me from the grave, to appear only and be lost for ever—all
flitted continually before me, like some hideous dream.  I brooded over
the secret, which I dared not reveal even to my most intimate friends in
the garrison; and it oppressed and weighed upon me like some vast
incubus.  I was restless, unhappy, and careless of all that was passing
around me; or, if I spent a thought on the external world, it was always
accompanied by a wish to be again engaged on some piece of active
service.

Oswald being the officer who fairly led the stormers through the breach,
I did not receive promotion; but, in lieu, a ribbon with a silver clasp,
having the word _Scylla_ inscribed on it, was presented to me.  This I
considered no ordinary compliment; rewards for merit being—strange to
say—almost unknown in the British service: if we except those rings worn
on the arms of the privates, and called "good conduct stripes," in
contradistinction to the _bad_, which are bestowed elsewhere.

My name was duly emblazoned in the general orders, and transmitted to
the Horse Guards, whence the reiterated compliments of the
Commander-in-chief were published through all the journals of the day;
and while, in my obscure billet at Scylla, I knew nothing about it, I
was becoming quite a man of note at home.

As soon as the fall of the fortress became known, the inhabitants of the
town, whom the din of war had driven to Reggio and Messina, came
flocking back to their ruined and rifled habitations; and the
picturesque little place soon resumed its wonted appearance of life and
activity, which the presence of Oswald’s brigade, and the vicinity of
our fleet, not a little increased.

I had a tolerably comfortable billet with an ancient lady, who did all
in her power to make me happy; for she perceived that something weighed
heavily on my spirits, and that I was gloomy and melancholy.  She was a
garrulous old gossip, whose head was then as full of saints and miracles
as it had been of love and lovers thirty years before, and a famous
maker of polenta and choke-priest: with which she often nearly choked
me; but old Signoressa Pia was so kind and motherly in her manner, that
I have ever since remembered her with gratitude.

The little town and its castle were crowded to excess; the latter with
Oswald’s brigade, and the former with its returned inhabitants, our own
wounded, and those of the enemy.  There was not a closet, garret, or
cellar unoccupied; and Castelermo shared with me the hospitality of
Signora Pia.  Our quarters could not be called billets, as each person
housed himself where he could; the seniors generally occupying the best,
by right of rank.

From the windows of my apartment, we had a noble view of the Straits,
studded with vessels, and gleaming in blue and saffron by day, and in
silver and green by night: the white-terraced houses and spires of
Messina, the beautiful mountains, and all the Sicilian shore.  In the
evening, I often enjoyed the cool prospect and a fragrant cigar, while
sipping the scanty half-pint of ration wine, to which the medical
officer restricted me, and listening to the dashing of the waves on the
cliffs below.  The little library of the signora was placed at my
disposal; but the "Gierusalemme," the "Hundred Ancient Tales," the poems
of Alfieri, and the sayings and doings of many holy personages, were all
turned over listlessly; until, at last, I found one volume which
interested me deeply.  It was one of which I had heard Bianca speak most
rapturously, and which all Italians mention with admiration—the Poems of
Ossian, the Bard of Selma, which are so ably translated by the
celebrated poet Cesarotti; whose pen has added an essay on their
authenticity and beauty, which the Italians can appreciate, even through
the medium of a second translation.  From Napoleon—who is said never to
have been without a copy of this work, especially when writing bulletins
and general orders—the Abate Cesarotti received a handsome pension.  The
book afforded me occupation during the few weeks I remained at Scylla.
I say weeks, because Ossian is not a work to be skimmed, but rather
studied; every line is so replete with power and beauty.  But my quiet
mode of life was not fated to last long, as I was sent on duty the
moment my name was off the staff-surgeon’s list.

As soon as I could ride, I ordered out Cartouche, and, accompanied by
Castelermo, rode over to Reggio, in faint hope of beholding that famous
phenomenon, the Fata Morgana—the sea fairy, as our padrona called
her—who, according to the Calabrese tradition, is a mermaid dwelling in
the Straits of Messina, above the waves of which she displays her
palaces of shell and coral, to lure young men to destruction: but there
are fairies in all the cities of Italy, whose lures are more dangerous
than those of the poor mermaid in the fable.

Castelermo informed me that he had been hearing mass at a chapel of San
Bartolemmeo, among the hills, where he had solemnly returned thanks to
the great patron of his order, for his narrow escape at Scylla.

"And San Bartolemmeo, who was he?" I asked.

"A most blessed saint, signor.  To-day is the anniversary of his
martyrdom: he was flayed alive by order of Astiages, the Armenian.  But
my escape—maladetto! ’t was a narrow one: when my hold relaxed and I
fell from the broken battlement, I thought myself gone for ever.  Yes,
signor, but for St. John of Malta, and the beatified Madonna, I must
have been dashed to pieces on those stone-flags, which received me so
softly: in all my campaigns under the cardinal, in all my fighting under
the winged-horse at Rome, and the Maltese flag, I never encountered an
adventure equal to it!"

"Under the Maltese flag?  Against the Turks, I presume?"

"Basta! ay, and Corsairs of Barbary, pirates of Greece, and, lastly,
Frenchmen.  You are aware that three months after the soldiers of
Napoleon captured that solitary rock, where the banner of the true faith
had waved so long, the hereditary vassals of the order, irritated by the
tyranny of his general, Vaubois, rose in arms: with a few knights of the
old Italian langue, I hastened to put myself at their head, and assist
in the expulsion of those irreligious invaders.  Ha! then we had
something like war.  The gates of Valetta, and the other cities of the
isle, were shut, and their blockaded garrison reduced to the utmost
famine and distress.  Then ensued that long and bloody siege which
lasted for two years; during which time more than twenty thousand
soldiers perished by the sword or starvation.  As the great master
spirit of those military operations, I was in my glory; and was full of
fervour, rapture, and extasy at the prospect of once more establishing
my order.  No pilgrim, on first beholding the holy city from afar, ever
experienced the glow of indescribable feeling which possessed me, when
the fleet of Portugal, sent by Lord Nelson to our assistance, burst
joyously on my gaze; as the gallant ships, with their frowning tiers of
artillery, their standards streaming, and white canvass swelling in the
breeze, steered round the promontory, and opened their broadsides
against the castle of St. Elmo.  O, hour of joy!  I kissed my sword, and
raised my hands to the blue sky above me, in thankfulness.  Lastly came
the fleets of Britain and Sicily; after which the fortresses
surrendered, and the soldiers of Vaubois, marching to the sea-shore,
threw down their arms.  All the treasured hopes, the glowing thoughts of
years, were about to be accomplished: I stepped forward to receive the
sword of the general; judge of my wrath, when Lord Nelson anticipated
me; bowing low, Vaubois presented his sword by the hilt, and the admiral
immediately handed it to a short squat fellow, a sailor, who stood
behind; and who, with the most provoking indifference and sang froid,
put it under his arm with those of other officers, as he received them
in succession."

Castelermo heaved a deep sigh, paused, and then continued:—

"I had in my hands the same consecrated standard which Ximenes, our most
illustrious grandmaster, had, in better days, unfurled against the
infidels of Algeria; I was about to hoist it on the ramparts of Valetta,
and at the point of the sword claim the Isle in the name of the knights
of St. John of Jerusalem, when, lo! the British flag was hoisted on the
turrets of St. Elmo: a cold shivering seized my frame, while my heart
glowed with honest indignation at the grasping nature of England. Slowly
the flag ascended, unrolling its gaudy crosses to the breeze, when the
cheers of the troops, mingling with those of our fickle and perfidious
vassals, were echoed back by the shipping of the allies in our harbour,
and the Sicilians thundered a salute from the bastions of Ricasoli.  I
thought of old Villiers de l’Isle Adam, of Diomedes, of John de Valette,
and the glories that had passed away for ever.  Sick at heart, and
disgusted with the world, I tossed into the sea beneath me the banner of
Ximenes, and sheathing my sword, quitted for ever the Isle of Malta:
where for two long years I had fought, toiled, and bled; animated by the
proud and chivalric hope, that by restoring to its pristine grandeur the
order of St. John, I should live in story, like those brave warriors who
shine In the glowing pages of Vertot.  But, alas! we are falling now, as
the Templars fell of old."

I never interrupted him: the departed glories of his order formed a sad
but favourite theme, and he continued to dwell upon it until we arrived
at Reggio.  The white houses of the town, the undulating hills,
palm-groves, and orangeries, formed a very agreeable landscape, sloping
down to the glassy bosom of the dark blue ocean.

"And this is Rhegium, so celebrated in the history of the past."

"Where guilty Circe trod the waves with feet unwetted, and where the
wild warriors of Barbarossa gave all to fire and sword," said the
cavaliere, as we rode over ground strewed with ruins, now rapidly
becoming hidden under luxuriant masses of ivy and vine.  "These
shattered walls bear traces of the great earthquake of 1783; which will
never be forgotten until some still greater calamity overwhelms all
Calabria with destruction and horror."

"The Grecian columns yonder——"

"Are the relics of an earlier age: fragments of the great temple of
Minerva.  Reggio was once famous for its country villas; of those you
behold only the ruins, which are used as a common quarry by the people;
and here you will look in vain for the city, once so famed for its
extent and opulence: but the sacking and burning of 1544, the convulsion
of 1783, and succeeding wars and woes, have reduced it to what you now
see."

Though some of its streets were new and handsome, they were quiet as
those of a sequestered hamlet at home: impoverished and oppressed by the
invaders, their inhabitants were few, and those poor and dejected in
appearance.  The scenery, however, was beautiful; the winding shores,
the dark waters of the Straits, the high mountains of the purest green,
and the variously tinted groves of aromatic trees, all combined to
render the place charming.  The smooth bosom of the glassy sea vividly
reflected the landscape: but we looked in vain for that wondrous
phenomenon, the Fairy Morgana; who was so condescending, a few years
before, as to display her coral palaces thrice to the Dominican Frà
Antonio Minaci.  Less favoured by the fair mermaid, we beheld neither
inverted fleets, nor submarine cities; and, after a canter along the
Marina, adjourned to the Café Britannica to dine.

In the evening, as we sat sipping our wine at the open windows, enjoying
the cool west wind from the Straits, and observing the passers-by—for
the streets became a little more animated, as the men turned out to
smoke their cigars and talk politics, the women to see them and
promenade—a crowd beneath the balcony attracted our attention.

"An improvisatore," said Castelermo, as the notes of a guitar were
heard.  "Shall I give him a theme!"

"Certainly: but what shall it be!  The Fall of Rhodez?"

"You shall hear: the capture of Scylla."

He drew a card from his case, wrote something on the back of it with a
pencil and threw it over the balcony.  In the midst of the crowd stood a
young man, in the common but graceful garb of the province, with a broad
scarlet ribband encircling his hat, the front of which was adorned by a
loyalist cockade of the same hue.  His jacket of green plush was gaily
embroidered, a broad white shirt-collar was folded over it, yellow
cotton breeches, a green silk sash and leather gaiters finished his
attire; but there was something very jaunty, intelligent, gay, and
impudent in his rosy face and _tout ensemble_.  His mandolin announced
him to be one of the improvisatari: wandering minstrels, or itinerant
storytellers.

I know not whether those men are worthy of the name of inspired poets;
but so wonderful is their talent for versification, that some of the
better class of them have been known to produce, ex-tempore, a five-act
tragedy, and an epic, divided into cantos and having a regular plot,
characters and dialogues: all maintained in octave-syllabic rhyme.  I
had often encountered them in Sicily, where, by the wayside and among
the mountains, their songs had cheered the tedium of many a long march,
and had bestowed many a ducat upon them; regarding the wanderers as
representatives of the ancient troubadours or minnesingers, once so
common over the whole of Europe: but the modern minstrel we encountered
at Reggio provoked me extremely.

"Benissimo!"’ cried he, while coins of every description showered from
all quarters into the high crown of his inverted hat.  "The illustrious
cavalier has given me a gallant theme: Madonna aid me to do it justice!
Signori, you will hear a story of the brave English captain, who took
the castle of Scylla for King Ferdinand, and so gained the love of a
fair Italian signora."

"Bravissimo!" cried the men, and the women clapped their hands
exultingly.

Castelermo glanced at me with a droll smile, and we both burst into a
fit of laughter.

"Impossible! the fellow cannot mean me!" said I.

"You shall hear.  Ah! the prelude—hear him—excellent!  He excels Andrea
Marone in verse; and our fair Gorilla, the gifted peasant girl of
Pistoia, who, amid the roar of a hundred cannon, was crowned queen of
the gentle art at Rome, could not finger the mandolin more lightly, or
with better taste.  Basta! he should make his fortune!"

Imagine my surprise, on hearing the improvisatore give forth, extempore,
to his eager, silent, and gaping audience, a song or poem of some thirty
or forty long verses, in very tolerable _ottiva rima_, descriptive of
the siege and storm of Scylla, in which, under the name of Claudio
Dundazo, I was continually mentioned in a strain of most extravagant
compliment, as the _valoroso capitano_, and most gallant _cavaliere_ in
the world. What annoyed me most, was that the name of Bianca d’Alfieri
had not escaped the minstrel; who made her the heroine of his impudent
epic.

"Oh!  Castelermo—by the Lord! this is too ridiculous.  I care not about
myself; but Bianca’s name to be used thus, for amusing the rabble of
Reggio!" said I, starting up.  "How the proud girl’s cheek would flush,
if she knew of this!  You gave him the theme."

"The theme, merely.—Hush!" added the knight, detaining me, as the
improvisatore concluded, describing our joyous marriage in a splendid
cathedral, with incense burning, bells ringing, and priests praying.
After a grand invocation of all the saints—to whom he described us as
vowing several pounds of excellent wax candle, whilst a magnificent
petticoat was promised to Our Lady of Burello—the bard concluded: once
more he inverted his hat; into which we each threw our mite.

"His profession must be the best in Italy," said I, on beholding the
shower of coins which rained into the amply-brimmed receiver—the
clanking dollar, the ringing carlino, and the tinkling bajocch.

"He has acquitted himself well: Gorilla herself could not have done
better; and, believe me, I pay the wanderer no ordinary compliment in
saying so."

"But he must be cautioned against using the name of the Signora
d’Alfieri in future."

"Already he has gone, signor," replied the knight; "and your threats and
requests he would neither hear nor obey.  The improvisatori will find
the celebration of the fall of Scylla the most popular theme in the
Calabrias; where all rejoice that the horse of Naples once more spreads
its wings over the last stronghold of Napoleon in the province.  Did you
not observe how his enthusiasm enabled him to acquit himself, and how he
seemed to rejoice in his wondrous art?  While describing the night
attack on Scylla, his breast seemed to pant with ardour, and his eyes
sparkled with animation: his swarthy cheek glowed crimson, while his
rapid and liquid words enchained his listening audience.  He is a
handsome fellow: at that moment he seemed beautiful, and all the women
were in raptures with him.  Yet how still they remained, as if a spell
was upon them, until he concluded; and then burst forth the universal
shout of ’Excellentissimo—oh! most excellent!’"

On our return to Scylla, as I dismounted, throwing the reins to my
groom, he informed me that an Italian general officer was waiting for me
at the house of Signora Pia on some business of importance.  Startled by
this communication, I hurried to my billet, and found the supposed
general to be old Zaccheo Andronicus; who, in his gorgeous chasseur’s
livery, might easily be mistaken for some officer by Mr. Bob Brown,
whose perceptions of things, beyond the heel-post of the stable, were
none of the clearest.

I joyously welcomed "the old grey Grecian;" who had recovered from his
wound, and was now bearer of a letter from Bianca, in answer to one
despatched the night before Scylla was stormed.

I consigned him, forthwith, to the care of my padrona; and hurried away,
to enjoy, in solitude, the delight of perusing Bianca’s first—and, as it
proved, her last—letter.

Written in her pretty little running hand, it began with the usual
address of "caro signor;" but my heart leaped, on finding the fair girl
using the frank and more endearing phrase of "anima mia."  The
viscontessa begged to be remembered to me: she had lost an enormous sum
at faro last night, with the last of her suite of brilliants.  Luigi was
slowly recovering from the effects of his wound; but his peace of mind
was gone for ever.  To hasten his recovery, his mother had thrice vowed
a solemn pilgrimage to the cave of St. Rosalia, in Sicily; but had as
often abandoned the attempt, and vowed candles to San Ugo instead: since
which he had begun to recover more rapidly, and all at the villa had no
doubt that the saint had interceded in his behalf.  She applauded my
conduct at Scylla; and, to me, her praise was more valuable, and more
highly prized, than that of the generals.  She had perused all the
despatches in the _Gazetta Britannica_, and her heart had leaped
alternately with pride and joy—with fear and horror—at the narration.
"Oh!  Claude," she continued, "you know not how proud I am of you: how I
rejoice at your escape! But Francesca, my sister—my unhappy sister!—we
can discover no trace of her: her fate is enveloped in mystery.  We have
every horror to fear; for Petronio the Bishop of Cosenza, though deemed
a saint by the peasantry, is a bold and bad-hearted man; and, Francesca
in his power!—oh! Madonna!  Would that you could visit us: her loss and
Luigi’s illness fill us with perplexity and dismay."

Next day, I despatched an answer by the chasseur, promising to solicit
the general for a few days’ leave of absence, to visit the villa.  But
this idea was never realized in the manner I expected; as I was
despatched, on urgent duty, to the Adriatic shore, a day or two
afterwards.



                             *CHAPTER XIV.*

                          *NAVARRO.—REVENGE!*


Although I had no doubt that this honourable personage, for the purpose
of disgracing me or endangering my life, had, in that true national
spirit of revenge of which every day brought forth some new example,
forged the letter which Gascoigne received; still I had not sufficient
proof of the fact, either to "call him out," or place him under arrest.
We met daily in the garrison, and glances of undisguised hostility from
him were duly answered by those of contempt from me: but such a state of
things, between men wearing swords, could not endure long.

A whisper of suspicion—most injurious to the honour of Navarro, as a man
of courage and loyalty—was circulated through the brigade.  Shunned,
scorned, and placed _in Coventry_ by the officers, slighted and regarded
with curious eyes by the soldiers, his baseness recoiled upon himself:
he led a life of solitary wretchedness and misery.  But he was a traitor
and Buonapartist at heart, and in close correspondence with Regnier; to
whom he soon deserted: yet not before committing one of those atrocities
which disgraced Italy then, as often as they do a certain western island
now.

Having so many adventures to describe, and so much to relate, I must be
brief.  My quarrel with Navarro soon came to a crisis: being sent to him
by the general, with a message relative to the re-fortifying of Scylla,
I was so provoked by his dogged insolence, that I laid my riding switch
pretty severely across his back; a challenge ensued, and we were to
fight next morning, in the most remote part of the fortress.

Cool and determined, though exasperated, I went to bed without the least
anxiety: I had no doubt of coming off victorious; and, hardened as I was
by the bloodshed of service, would have cared no more for shooting
Navarro than killing a partridge.  _Now_ it appears to me singular with
what deliberation Castelermo and I made our preparations over-night;
rolling six pistol cartridges, fixing the flints, oiling the springs,
and putting all in order to start by daybreak.  After supping as usual,
we retired to bed; each giving the other solemn injunctions not to sleep
too long.

I have already stated, that in consequence of the crowded state of the
billets, we both occupied the same room.

About daybreak, I started, and awoke: the business on hand rushed upon
my memory.  I sat up in bed and reflected for a moment on the events
another hour might bring forth: my train of thought was arrested by
observing a current of air agitating the muslin curtains of my couch,
and causing them to float about like banners.  I leaped out, and, to my
surprise, perceived the casement unbolted and open; admitting, at once,
the cold sea-breeze, and dull grey morning light.

"Castelermo—signor, rouse!  It wants but twenty minutes to the time, by
my watch."

"And ten by mine," said Gascoigne, putting in his head: he was closely
muffled up in his cloak. "What! only turning out; eh, Dundas?"

"It is all very well for you to be in a hurry," said I, pettishly.  "You
Irishmen take these affairs quite as matters of course.  I’ll be ready
in a minute: a chill morning for a shooting party," I added, with a poor
attempt at a laugh, "Where is Macnesia?’

"Below, with his instruments: but your friend, the knight, sleeps
soundly.  Hallo, Castelermo!"

There was still no reply.  Dressing in haste, I called often, but
received no answer; and supposing that he must have risen, I drew back
the curtain of his sleeping place to assure myself, when a scarcely
articulate exclamation of horror escaped my lips.  Imagine my grief and
astonishment, to behold our poor friend lying drenched in his blood,
pale and lifeless!

I placed my hand on his heart; it was cold and still.  Gascoigne bent
over the window, and shouted—

"Macnaisha—Macnaisha—you devil you, come here!"  The doctor arrived in a
moment, but the cavalier was beyond his skill: there was not the
slightest warmth or pulsation.  The gallant, the noble, and chivalric
Castelermo had perished by the hand of a cowardly assassin.  Buried to
the very cross-guard, in his heart, a little ebony-hilted poniard, was
struck, with such force that some strength had to be exerted to draw it
forth; and on my doing so a strip of paper, attached to the pommel,
attracted our attention; it contained these words:—

"Let those who would avenge this insolent _Briton_, seek me among the
ranks of the French at Cassano: a word I might have forgiven—a blow
never.—_Pietro Navarro_."

Although boiling with indignation, I shuddered at the fate I had so
narrowly escaped.  For me it was that the fatal stroke had been
intended; and I then remembered Castelermo’s warning, to beware of the
cowardly Navarro.  Clambering up by a garden-wall, the miscreant had
reached our casement, which he had contrived to open noiselessly; but on
entering the room he had mistaken the unfortunate cavalier’s bed for
mine, and my friend had thus perished in my stead.

"The blow must have been struck about midnight," said Macnesia.

Only an hour after we retired to rest: perhaps Navarro had been outside
the window during the greater part of the night watching our
preparations for the intended meeting next morning.  But with three
hundred of our soldiers we had all a narrower escape from this Italian’s
hatred and duplicity: of which the reader shall hear more anon.

The Signoressa Pia was overwhelmed with consternation and dismay on
learning that the knight of Malta had perished under her roof.  Followed
by a mob of fishermen, the podesta, with his clerk, arrived and
committed to writing a statement of the facts; while I preserved the
poniard and the assassin’s signature for production and evidence, should
a day of retribution ever arrive.

Enraged at this act of sacrilege, the populace searched every nook and
corner in the town; two or three old knights of Castelermo’s order, who
resided in the neighbourhood, armed and mounted their followers and
servants, who, in conjunction with those of the podesta, and a
detachment of our light troops, scoured the whole country round: yet
without success.  Navarro was nowhere to be found: but we soon after
learned that he had sought refuge behind the lines of his friends, the
French; who still remained entrenched at Cassano, awaiting the slow
advance of Massena.

In the solitary mountain-chapel of San Bartolommeo, poor Castelermo was
interred with military honours: the grenadiers of Sir Louis de
Watteville, drawn up outside the edifice, fired three volleys over it,
while the coffin was lowered down in front of the altar; where he now
lies with his mantle, sword and spurs, like a knight "of old Lisle
Adam’s days."

He was one of the last cavaliers of the original order, which for two
hundred and sixty-eight years had possessed the Isle of Malta.  Since
1800, when France ceded the Rock to Britain, they have been gradually
declining in power and disappearing; and, although at the petty courts
of Italy a few aged men are sometimes seen with the eight-pointed cross
of the order on their bosoms, the Knights of Rhodes and St. John of
Jerusalem have, in effect, passed away: like Castelermo himself, their
glory is now with the things that were.

Unfortunately I was not present to witness the celebration of my
friend’s obsequies.  On the close of this day, which had commenced so
inauspiciously, I had returned with the Light Infantry, and wearied by a
long search among the woods and hills, was sitting dejectedly in my
billet alone, when Pierce, the general’s orderly, arrived with a
message, that I was wanted by his master.  I took up my sabre, and
followed him to the antique mansion where I had first seen Sir John
Stuart, on my arrival at Scylla.

The General was engaged in writing: the table was covered with
despatches, returns, reports, and morning-states; a map of Italy and a
pair of compasses lay close by.  The rosy light of the setting sun
streamed through the barred and latticed window on his stern Scottish
features, his silver hairs and faded uniform; and the tarnished
aigulette and oak-leaves, a cross of the Bath, a medal for Maida, and
clasps for other services, all blackened by powder-smoke and the effects
of the weather, gave him a very service-born and soldier-like aspect.

"Pierce, hand Captain Dundas a chair, and wait outside."

"Help yourself, Claude," said he, pushing two decanters of Lacrima and
Zante towards me, after asking a few hurried questions concerning our
fruitless chase after the runaway engineer. "Fill your glass: the Zante
is tolerable; and just excuse me for five minutes, will you?"  He
continued writing, and then folded a long and very official-like
document.  "A journey is before you," said he; "and as you will have to
start to morrow morning by day-break, light marching order is best."

"For where, Sir John?"

"Crotona: I would not have sent you back there, but Lascelles of yours
has not returned from Cassano, and Lieutenant-Colonel Moore is not
available.  Will you believe it?  I have received orders from the
ministry to abandon the Calabrias forthwith, or do that which is the
same; to order back the expedition to Sicily, leaving garrisons in the
strong places we have taken. These troops will, of course, become the
prisoners of Massena; who (I am informed by a despatch from General
Sherbrooke) has arrived at Cassano, and is there concentrating a force,
which will soon burst over both provinces like a torrent: so that Maida
was won, the citadel of Crotona taken, and the castles of St. Amanthea,
Monteleone and Scylla all gallantly stormed, for nothing. We might as
well have remained in peace in our barracks at Palermo.  But, however
foolish and contrary to my own conviction, those orders must be obeyed.
One of the Sicilian government gallies will take you hence to-morrow,
and put you on board the _Amphion_ in the Adriatic.  Give my compliments
to Captain Hoste, with this order to take on board Colonel Macleod’s
command from Crotona, and convey it straight to Messina.  To Macleod you
will convey these instructions: to deliver over the citadel, with its
cannon and stores, to five hundred of the free Calabri: who will in
future be its garrison, and be commanded by Major the Cavaliere del
Castagno, or any other officer whom that insubordinate fellow the
Visconte Santugo may appoint.  A detachment of De Watteville’s shall
hold Monteleone; and Captain Piozzi, with a few of the Italian Guards,
the castle of St. Amanthea.  I am resolved that as few British troops as
possible shall be sacrificed by the folly of our friends in authority.
Your regiment is the best in Sicily, and a wing, or detachment, of it
will garrison Scylla; which is of the utmost importance to us as a key
to Italy: but if hard pressed by Massena, they can easily abandon it
under the protection of our shipping.

"To-morrow I return to the camp, to embark the main body of our army for
Messina: you will, of course, come round with Macleod’s Highlanders, and
rejoin me at Palermo; where I hope we shall spend many a merry evening
in talking over our campaign among the Apennines."

I was in a sort of a maze while the general so good-naturedly explained
his plans and orders: in which I felt very little satisfaction.  My
thoughts were at the villa.  To leave Calabria at present was, perhaps,
to leave Bianca: a deadly blow to my air-built castles; unless Massena’s
legions marched south in time to change the intentions of our leader.
Relying on the general’s friendship, I had no doubt that my return to
Sicily might be delayed for a time; therefore I did not hesitate to
solicit the appointment of commandant at Scylla, with the local rank of
major in Italy.

"You are but a young officer, and the charge is a most important one,"
said he, impressively: "but you are getting tired of me, Dundas?"

"Far from it, Sir John; the staff——"

"I am afraid I task you too severely: well, as a punishment for your
discontent, you shall have Scylla to keep, so long as our friend Massena
will permit.  His advance will soon scare the garrison out of it.  I
cannot refuse you that which you underwent so many toils and risks to
attain: the nomination will appear shortly in general orders," (he made
a memorandum) "but on _one_ condition it is granted, that you do not
spend too much of your time at St. Eufemio."

I coloured at the inuendo, while the old fellow laughed at what he
considered a hit, and held the decanter of glowing Zante between him and
the sunlight.  He shook me heartily by the hand, and, buckling up the
despatches in my sabre-tache, I hurried back to my billet to desire my
servant to pack my valise, and have all in order for starting by
daybreak.



                             *CHAPTER XV.*

                         *THE CAVALLO MARINO.*


The report of the morning gun had scarcely pealed away from the ramparts
ere Brown appeared by my bedside, and the reveillé rang through the
echoing stillness of the castle above me.  In barracks there are few
sensations more agreeable than that of being awakened by the reveillé on
the dawn of a summer’s day: gradually its sweet low wail steals upon the
waking senses, sadly and slowly at first, then increasing in strength
and power till the full body of music floats through the morning air,
redoubled by the echoes of the empty barrack-courts; when as the measure
from the slowness of a Scottish lament increases to the rapidity of a
reel, the drams roll impatiently as if to rouse the tardy sleepers.

"Well, Bob, what kind of morning is it?" said I, scrambling up,
shivering and yawning.

"Cold and raw, sir—the drums sound as if muffled, a sure sign of a damp
morning.  The galley’s boat is at the castle stairs, sir."

It was chilly and dark daybreak: the ramparts of Scylla looked black and
wet; the sentinels buttoned up in their dark great-coats kept close
within turret and box; a thick fog floated on the surface of the sea,
and rolled in eddying volumes around the caverned rock and the hills of
Milia. With Bob’s assistance I soon donned my tight leather breeches and
jack-boots, and shaved hurriedly by candle-light, using the case of my
watch in lieu of a dressing-glass.  It was a morning of that kind when
it requires all one’s resolution to leave a comfortable bed, and turn
out in five minutes, to face a drizzly fog and cold sea-breeze: so
tightening my waist-belt, I threw my cloak round me, bade a hasty adieu
to my kind Padrona and her dishes of polenta, and sallied forth.

The boat awaited me at the sea stair-case, a flight of steps hewn in the
solid rock, and descending from the castle to the water, which was
rolling in snowy foam on those at the bottom, I threw my portmanteau on
board, and leaped after it.  Brown saluted and bade me adieu, while I
warned him, on peril of his head, to attend to Cartouche and see him
duly fed and watered, as I used to do myself.

The boat was shoved off, and we shot away into the mist from the lofty
rock of Scylla; which, with its castled summit, loomed like some tall
giant through the flying vapour.  The oars dipped and rose from the wave
in measured time, while the boatmen chanted and sang of the glories of
Massaniello the fisherman of Amalfi, and of the mad friar Campanello,
who led the Calabrian revolters in 1590.

In the pauses of their chorus, I could hear the boom of the waves in the
hollow caverns, sending forth sounds like the howling of dogs and the
roaring of Scylla’s ravening wolves, who abode among darkness and
misery, and rendered the spot so terrible to the ancient mariner: but
the noise died away as the distance increased.  The fog arose from the
face of the waters, the rising sun began to gild the summits of the
Sicilian and Italian hills, and I beheld the war-galley lying, like a
many-legged monster, on the bosom of the brightening deep.  We steered
alongside, the oars were laid in, and the side-ropes and ladder were
lowered into the boat; which two sailors held steady, at stem and stern,
by means of hooks.  The galley was named the Cavallo Marino, and a
gigantic sea-horse reared up at her prow: the same emblem appeared
carved upon her quarters, and the name was painted, in large red
letters, on the broad white blade of every sweep.  She was a high
vessel, pulled by fifty oars, each of them at least forty feet long and
worked by five miserable slaves, half naked: they were chained by the
wrists to the oar, or else fastened to their seats; between which there
ran, fore and aft, a long plank or gangway, where the boatswain or
taskmaster walked about, applying his lash on the bare shoulders of
those unhappy wretches who did not exert themselves sufficiently.

The sailors of the Cavallo Marino, about fifteen in number, were
stationed forward; she was armed with a large thirty-two pound
forecastle-piece, and manned by two hundred and fifty slaves, the dregs
of the prisons and dungeons of Naples and Sicily: assassins, bandits,
runaway priests, and villains of all descriptions, steeped in guilt of
every imaginable kind.  She had a captain, two lieutenants, and a few
petty officers, who wore the government uniform: they were grouped on
her lofty poop when I ascended on board.  I was received, according to
the custom of that service, by a cheer from the slaves: but, alas! such
a cheer!  It was more like a yell from the regions of darkness; for the
boatswain and his mates used their rattans unsparingly, to increase the
joy of my arrival.  Many a bitter malediction was growled by the
Italians, whose eyes gleamed like those of coiled-up snakes; many a
pious cry to God broke from the swarthy Algerines, who were there doing
penance for the slavery to which their countrymen subjected those
unhappy Christians who, by conquest or shipwreck, fell under their
horrible dominion.  A Moor of Barbary, or a corsair of Algeria, formed
the fifth slave at every sweep.  The poop was armed with a few brass
swivel guns; and the standard, having the arms of Sicily quartered with
those of Naples, was displayed from a tall staff rigged aft, and hung
drooping in deep folds over the water, which it swept at times, when
agitated by the morning breeze.

The officers were the only men on board who wore their side-arms: the
slaves were all too securely chained to be dreaded; notwithstanding
their number.

By the captain, Guevarra, a pompous little Sicilian, I was formally
welcomed on board "His Majesty’s galley, _Sea-Horse_" (a phrase he was
very fond of repeating), and invited to breakfast with the officers in
their little den under the poop. Here we were often in darkness, as the
long folds of the standard obscured the windows; but when the wind
wafted it aside, the full radiance of the rising sun glared in through
the openings, on the light blue uniforms, silver epaulettes, and
weather-beaten visages of my entertainers; on the glass cups of smoking
coffee and thick chocolate, a savoury ham, with piles of eggs, pyramids
of bread, and all the appurtenances of the breakfast table.

"Per Baccho!" said the captain—who, though a little man, was armed with
a prodigious sabre, and wore a most extravagant pair of moustachios—"per
Baccho! signor," he continued, with a most bland Sicilian smile, "it
would have been a particular favour had the general sent you off to us
last night: by this time we should have doubled Spartivento; and, as
there is some word of a French line-of-battle ship being up the Gulf of
Tarento, his valour who commands the _Amphion_ will be impatient to be
joined by his Majesty’s galley _Sea-Horse_.—Lieutenant, I’ll trouble you
for the maccaroons.—We shall have some rough weather before evening, and
these double-banked galleys ship every sea that strikes them.—The
muffins? with pleasure, signor.—And, truly, one is safer anchored close
by the Tower of the Lantern, than exposed to a lee shore and all the
damnable currents that run round Spartivento in the evening. But,
believe me, signor, that his Majesty’s galley _Sea-Horse_—Boy! pass the
word for more coffee."

"Si Signor Capitano," replied a little olive-cheeked urchin in shirt and
trousers, who vanished with the silver coffee-pot.

"Considering the beauty of the morning, and the unclouded splendour of
the sun, I trust," said I, "with all due submission to your better
judgment, that you may prove a false prophet."

"Impossible, signor!" replied the Sicilian; who was doing ample justice
to all the good things before him.  "I have sailed in—an egg, thank
you—in his Majesty’s galleys, for forty years, and know every shoal,
current, rock and sign of the Italian seas, better than the boasted
Palinurus of old—Better? said I.  Bah!  I hold him to be an arrant
blockhead, and no seaman, to resign his helm to Signor Morpheus; whose
’Stygian dew’ I believe to have been a big-bellied flask of most potent
Gioja or French brandy."

"But Palinurus was an accursed heathen, like his master, misnamed the
’pious Æneas;’ and having no saint to patronize him, could expect
nothing else than mishaps," said one of the lieutenants.

"Right, Vinoni," replied the captain; "but we, sailors of his Majesty of
Sicily, are the Madonna’s peculiar care.  Faugh! a tarantella in the
cream-pot and fire-flies in the marmalade. Yes, Signor Dundas," he
continued, resuming his former theme, "there is a regular hurricane
gathering; though from what point I cannot quite determine.  Last night
the yellow moon rose above the Calabrian hills, surrounded by a luminous
halo; a sure sign of a tough gale, which Madonna avert: what is worse,
we may have it in our teeth, blowing right a-head, before we round
yonder Capo del Armi.  On our voyage from Palermo, yesterday, as we
passed through the Lipari Isles, they were covered by a white vapour; a
sure sign of a north-east wind: but though the shore lies on our lee,
his Majesty’s galley can always use her sweeps, and give it a wide
berth."

"But did you not remark, signor," said Vinoni, "that before we came in
sight of the Pharo, the mist had floated away from the Lipari, and the
mouth of Stromboli threw clear flames across the sky, whilst the waves
smoked and growled with a remarkable noise? all sure tokens of a land
breeze."

"Right, Vinoni!" said the captain, whose opinion was generally formed on
that of his lieutenant; "right: corpo!  I feel it blowing down the
Straits at this moment, and the white foam that curls before it on the
water, announces a coming squall."

Leaving these weatherwise Italians to settle the matter as they chose, I
walked forward to observe the accommodation and construction of this
peculiar vessel.  She was now under weigh; and though strained from stem
to stern by every stroke of the sweeps, she moved through the water with
a motion so easy and rapid, that her officers had little occasion to
dread either contrary winds or tides.

The broad-bladed sweeps brushed the ocean into foam, which roared in
surf beneath the sharp bows, boiling away under the counter, and leaving
astern a long white wake in the glittering sea. The sun was now up, and
his rosy morning light cast a warm glow over land and ocean.

Captain Guevarra stood beside me on the poop, and pointed out the
different towns, mountains, and headlands, as we moved down the Straits:
his observations proved amusing, from the strange compound of knowledge
and ignorance, religion, superstition, and vanity they exhibited.

We were soon in mid-channel: the fruitful shore of old Trinacria,
studded with innumerable towns and villages, nestling on the green
hills, embosomed among the richest foliage or shining along the sandy
and sunny beach, rose in succession on the view, while piles of
picturesque mountains closed the background; and soon, chief amongst
them all, gigantic Etna reared up its mighty cone, appearing to rise
from the watery horizon on our starboard bow.  From its yawning crater a
lengthened column of light vapour ascended into the pure air, in one
steady, straight, and unbroken line, piercing the pale-blue immensity of
space, and rising to an altitude, where, in the soft regions of upper
air, it was for ever lost to the eye.

As the range of the Neptunian hills, and the town of Messina with its
large cathedral—its numerous churches and convents, its terraced streets
sweeping round swelling eminences, and its busy harbour crowded by a
forest of masts—closed, lessened, and sank astern; the bay of Reggio, on
the other hand, opened to our view, with all the spires and casements of
its town gleaming in the beams of the morning sun: the high peaks of its
hills behind covered to the summit with dark green pines, and fragrant
orange or citron trees.  The galley-slaves were now pulling with all
their strength, to make headway against the strong current which runs
towards Cape Pelorus; but we soon got clear of the eddies, and moved
through the water with astonishing speed.



                             *CHAPTER XVI.*

                       *THE RACE.—GALLEY-SLAVES.*


"Yonder is Rhegium, signor," said the Captain Guevarra; "where Eolus
dwelt before he removed his government over to Sicily; and where he sold
fair winds to mariners, and tied the foul ones up in paper bags—the
cursed heathen!  And yet it would be some advantage if such commodities
could be purchased in these vulgar modern days.  I have known the time
when I would have given sixty pieces of gold for a single puff of fair
wind: but that was before I had the honour of commanding his Majesty’s
galley _Sea-Horse_ and all those stout rogues who work it.—Ah!  Madonna
mia!" he ejaculated, crossing himself, as we walked on the weather side
of the poop; "what is all this I have been saying?  Our Lady of Sicily
forgive me the thought, and keep me contented with such winds as pass
over the sea, without buying from heathen, heretic, or devil!—Viva! how
bravely the old _Sea-Horse_ shoots through the water!  Believe me,
Signor Dundas, there is not another galley in the service of his
Sicilian Majesty equalling this, for strength, speed, and beauty of
mould."

"Yet there is a little vessel yonder, cracking on under every stitch of
canvass, which seems able and disposed to beat you."

"Beat the _Sea-Horse_—beat his Majesty’s galley!" cried the little
commander, stamping his feet on the deck.  "Corpo di Baccho! if any man
on board, save yourself, signor, had even hinted that such a thing was
possible, I would have dropped him from the yard-arm with a forty-pound
shot at his heels: I would, this instant—I, Gandolfo Guevarra."

After this outburst, I did not venture on another remark; and we walked
up and down in silence. Between us and Cape Pillari, a swift little
Maltese schooner, of a most rakish cut, was flying through the water,
with her snow-white canvass shining in the sun, and bellying out to the
breeze; while her flashing sweeps were moving, stroke for stroke, with
those of the galley, which she was evidently leaving astern.  She was
low-built, almost level with the water, which she cleft like an arrow.

"Ola! the boatswain," cried Guevarra, perspiring with rage, which made
every fibre of his little body quiver, while he twisted his long
moustachios and looked fierce as a rat at bay.  "By the blood of
Gennaro! that villainous craft is leaving us astern.  Shall a runaway of
Malta, laden with base merchandize, beat his Majesty’s galley the
_Sea-Horse_?  No, no—Madonna!  Quick, rascal, there! fly-flap the
shoulders of the oarsmen, or your own shall smart before sunset.—And
you, signor—master-gunner."

"Si signor illustrissimo."

"Ready—the gun there, forward; to teach these vagabonds to keep their
distance, and not attempt to rival those who sail under his Majesty’s
pennant."

The forecastle-piece was double-shotted and cleared away for action;
while the boatswain and his mates flew from stem to stern, lashing
unmercifully the bare shoulders of the slaves, with as little remorse as
one would the flanks of a vicious horse.  Tremendous curses and horrible
blasphemies followed this application of the rattans, and the unhappy
wretches toiled until their swarthy skins were deluged in perspiration,
which mingled with the blood streaming from their lacerated backs.  The
storm of maledictions soon died away, their exhausted strength requiring
that they should work in silence; and I looked on, in pity and disgust,
while the miserable beings toiled at the ponderous oars, with measured
action which strained every muscle to its utmost power of tension.  On
glancing along the rows of black-browed, unshaven, and lowering visages,
I read one expression in them all—a fearful one!  Of what demoniac minds
were those stern eyes the index!  A thirst for vengeance, rather than
for freedom, animated their savage Italian hearts: every bosom was a
hell of pent-up passion; every man a chained fiend.

The sweeps were moved by each gang rising simultaneously from their
bench, and then resuming the sitting position; again rising, and again
sitting, without a moment’s respite from toil; and if any man failed to
exert himself sufficiently, every slave at that particular sweep
received the same number of blows as the delinquent.  Such, Guevarra
informed me, was the unjust rule in his Majesty’s galleys.  One poor
wretch dropped dead; and while a shower of blows was distributed to his
four comrades, to make them work harder, the iron-hearted boatswain,
unlocked with a master-key the padlock which held the chain, and the
body was flung into the deep.  Many a glance of envy followed it, as it
disappeared beneath the bright green water; and once more groans of
grief and growls of smothered rage broke forth: but, though the slaves
toiled on till the galley seemed to fly through the water, the little
scampavia still kept ahead of her.

"Work! work! or beware the scurlada," cried the boatswain, who now
flourished a gigantic whip, beneath the whisk of which every slave
cowered instinctively.  "Ahi, Frà Maso, different work this from
mumbling latin at Palermo," he cried, bestowing a burning lash on the
back of one who had been a priest; "work, work, sloths, if you wish not
your hides flayed off.  Ola! you, there, with the nose like Ovid, and
face like the O of Giotto, dost think thou art selling paste buckles at
Messina once more?  Bend to the oar Maestro Naso, or feel that!"

A yell burst from the unhappy Israelite, as the terrible lash ploughed
up his tender skin, while the task-master continued:—"Work, work! pull
away larboard and starboard: give way, my beauties, if you would have
life left you to behold the sun set. Bravo, my merry little devil at the
bow-oar; you seem a very Cicero, and look as if born with the sweep in
your hand."

A laugh, rising into a yell, at the bow, attracted my attention, and on
going forward I perceived the hunchback, Gaspare Truffi, tugging away at
the first oar, which he pulled in conjunction with three men: his
strength being deemed equal to that of two slaves.

As I stepped along the gangway, scowling and imploring glances were cast
upon me, by the swart and naked oarsmen.  I could not resist saying, in
a low voice,

"Poor men! truly I pity you!"

These words were not thrown away.

"Madonna bless thee, Signor Inglese," said he who had been called Frà
Maso; "like thy countrymen, thou art merciful!"

"Merciful! bah!" cried Truffi; "have I not seen them scourge their brave
soldiers like dogs—even as we are now scourged!"

I watched the exertions of the powerful hunchback with surprise: he
toiled away with what appeared most decided good-will, without receiving
a single blow from the boatswain, although his conical hump and shaggy
breast presented prominent marks for the taskmaster’s scourge.  His
aspect was grotesque beyond description, as he tugged away and strained
until every muscle in his deformed body seemed about to snap; his matted
black hair overhung his fierce twinkling eyes, and a forest of the same
material fringed his capacious mouth, which every instant sent forth a
yell or a shout of laughter.  On my approach, he bent to the oar with
redoubled fury, raving and howling, while he spat towards me in token of
hatred and undying enmity.  With more astonishment than commiseration,
with more disgust than pity, I regarded this curious little desperado;
whose hideous form contrasted so strongly with the powerful and
herculean frames of the other slaves: their bodies, naked to the waist,
and having every muscle hardened to rigidity by excessive toil,
presented in almost every instance perfect models for the artist and
sculptor.

A half-stifled sob—a hurried exclamation—caused me to turn towards a
fine-looking old slave, to whose antique contour of head and face
additional dignity was lent by a venerable beard, which swept his
breast.  Never shall I forget the glance with which his keen dark eyes
regarded me: his features had all that noble regularity and proud
contour which are often found in old Italian portraits; but there was a
stern expression of care in them, and the hard contracted lines of his
face showed a long acquaintance with grief, or an exquisite degree of
mental agony.  It was the Major Gismondo!  Alas! how changed now was the
brave old cavalry officer—the once gay cicisbeo of the fashionable
viscontessa!

"Here! you here?" I exclaimed.

"Well may you wonder that I survive," said he, the blood suffusing his
temples when our eyes met: but he was compelled to turn away; the whip
of the boatswain at that moment descended on his shoulders, and I
returned to the poop.  My heart bled for the unmerited misery and
degradation of the poor old man: but to converse with him was quite
contrary to etiquette and orders.  On questioning Guevarra concerning
him—

"I trust, signor," said he, "you will excuse me; but it is impossible
for a captain of his Majesty’s galleys to know the biography of every
rogue who tugs at the benches."  He coloured with manifest confusion.

"A droll fellow that hunchback who pulls the bow-oar."

"Ah!" replied Guevarra, "a perfect imp of Etna: I am very much indebted
to my good friend, the Visconte Santugo, for sending him off to me
yesterday.  He was caught lurking near the villa D’Alfieri by the
soldiers who guard it.  Per baccho!  I was half frightened when I saw
him on board—ha, ha! he has all the aspect of a stunted Cyclope, and
works so well that he has a fair prospect of being promoted to the rank
of task-master. He laughs, chuckles, and sings incessantly; but for what
reason is beyond my comprehension, as there is nothing here but hard
work, heavy blows, and scanty provender—unless we except the honour of
serving in his Majesty’s galley _Sea-horse_. Diavolo!" he cried, rushing
to the other side of the poop, "the Maltese schooner has passed us. Pull
rascals—give way ye lubberly Padri—give way fore and aft!  Shall the
gallant Cavallo Marino, the flower of our galleys, and the peculiar care
of our thrice blessed Madonna, be beaten by a d——d scampavia?"  He bowed
and crossed himself with great devotion before a little gilt figure of
the Virgin, which occupied a niche in the centre of a row of brightly
painted buckets, ranged along the top of the poop.  But Madonna was sued
in vain.  Again the whistling rattans were flourished on all sides: even
Gaspare Truffi did not escape, and his elfish yell sounded shrill as the
whistle of a steam-engine when the blows descended on his naked hump.

On—on shot the scampavia, and the lofty galley toiled after her in vain:
the former carried a press of canvass sufficient to run her under the
water, which flashed like blue fire before her sharp prow: and she
shipped sea after sea, as we rounded the Capo del Armi, and the
snow-clad summit of Etna sank beneath the dim horizon astern: the water
was getting rough, the breeze increasing, and it was evident that she
must take in sail or be capsized.  A half-smothered cheer arose from her
crew, who crowded her side, as they saw us rapidly dropping astern.

Boundless was the wrath of Guevarra: he stamped about the deck, while
his long sword became entangled at every stride with his little bandy
legs; he curled his bushy whiskers, fumed and blasphemed like a pagan.
Save the slaves, all on board, more or less, partook of his chagrin:
while smiling at his rage, even I could not avoid a feeling of
annoyance; for one becomes jealous of being passed at sea, or beaten by
a rival mail, or getting the "go-by" from a friend’s team on a country
road.

"By the miraculous blood of Gennaro!  I will teach these mongrel curs,
these Arabian Maltese, to beware how they try speed with his Majesty’s
galley.  Is the gun ready there forward?"

"All ready, Signor Capitano," replied the gunner, taking the tompion
from the lofty forecastle-piece, and lighting his match.

"Then give them a shot between wind and water.  Madonna speed the
ball—fire!"

The helmsman brought the galley’s head round, and the thirty-two pounder
was levelled and fired. The _Sea-Horse_ shook with the concussion: the
shot whistled over the water; a breach was made in the low bulwarks of
the Maltese, and a shower of white splinters flew away to leeward.  The
schooner was immediately thrown in the wind: down came her fore and main
topsails, her jib and staysail, like lightning on her deck; while the
scarlet flag of Britain was run up to her gaff-peak.  The galley shot
ahead: her great latteen sail, that tapered away and aloft, was braced
sharp up, and once more we flew forward; while the Maltese did not again
begin to make sail, until she was a league or so astern.

"Bravissimo, _Sea-Horse_!" said Guevarra, clapping his hands in glee.
"Now we are leaving her hand over hand."

In the ardour of the race he had not been paying due attention to his
course; and, in keeping to seaward of the scampavia, which was probably
bound for the Venetian Gulf, the galley was further from the land than
she ought to have been: her head was turned northward; and, as we slowly
approached the Apennine chain, the promontory of Hercules rose gradually
on the view.

We now made but little progress: the breeze had died away; the heat of
the day was intense, for the sirocco was abroad, and the air was
flittering with sulphury particles, blown, probably, from the peak of
Etna.  Wearied with their late exertions, the over-tasked slaves,
exposed to the broiling sun, sat gazing listlessly, with their glaring
and bloodshot eyes, on the glassy sea; and even the rattan of the drowsy
and perspiring boatswain failed to rouse them from their apathy.  The
little way we made was solely owing to the large square mainsail; and,
though the galley lay close to the scarcely perceptible current of air,
our progress was not a mile an hour: yet, long before the setting sun
began to redden the blue Ionian Sea, Guevarra had the mortification to
see the little Maltese pull with her sweeps round the promontory and
disappear.

During the weary noon of that scorching day, while the wretched slaves
sat naked at their oars, exposed to the fierce bright sun, Guevarra and
his officers were seated under a cool awning on the poop, enjoying their
siesta, after a luncheon of light fruits and lighter wines; while the
boatswain, his mates, the gunner and his mates, chewed their maccaroni
and drank cold water under a similar contrivance on the forecastle.
Miserable was the plight of the poor unpitied slaves: chained to the
oaken bench, which formed their seat when they toiled and their bed when
they slept; and on which they were alternately exposed by noon to the
broiling heat of an Italian meridian, and by night to the chill blasts
of the ocean; half naked, continually suffering castigation, fed on the
worst and coarsest food, and packed so closely that dreadful diseases
were continually breaking out among them.

The day became closer: not a breath stirred the languid breezeless air;
the sea-birds floated on the still bosom of the glassy deep, and the
mainsail flapped heavily on the mast as the galley rolled on the slow
heaving ground swell.  She was drifted shoreward by the currents: in the
afternoon we were close to the land, and I began to fear that my journey
to Crotona would be of longer duration than the general expected.



                            *CHAPTER XVII.*

                   *THE REVOLT OF THE GALLEY SLAVES.*


It was night—beautiful night!  The cold pale moon gleamed on the waste
of waters, on the silent shore, on the hills of Magna Græcia, and on the
wide Ionian sea.  Ten thousand luminous animalculæ glittered in its
briny depth, as if to rival the bright stars above; while the white
columns on a distant promontory—the last relics of a people, a power,
and a creed that have passed away—the wooded mountains and the pebbled
beach, and Albanian Bova, the towers of Theodosia, LaBianca, and other
towns, rose in succession on our view, all glittering in the radiance of
that broad and lovely moon.

A guitar broke the silence, accompanied by a clear voice: it was young
Vinoni chanting a verse of Pignotti’s Novella, beginning with "Donne
leggiadre, allorche," &c.

    "Woman enchanting! when I look on thy form,
        And behold the soft graces of lip, cheek, and hair;
      And thy bosom of snow, nature’s loveliest charm,
        Ah! who would not kiss it, and love to die there?
      "Sweet to behold the unsullied snow!
        The dark eye that rolls——"


"Come, come, caro tenente, stop your twangling, and make sail on the
galley!" cried Guevarra, starting up from the sleep he had enjoyed under
the awning since dinner.  "Corpo di Baccho! here comes the breeze at
last," he continued, snuffing it over the quarter; "and the
tunny-fish—ah! the fine fellows, see how they are passing us in shoals."

Humming "Donne leggiadre," &c., the lieutenant relinquished his guitar,
and looked intently over the quarter.

"Ha!  Signor Guevarra, I knew that the clear fires of Stromboli
betokened something—behold!"  As he spoke, a heavy and dense bank of
clouds spread from the northern horizon, and gradually veiled the whole
sky; the moon disappeared, or shot forth her lustre only at times on the
whitening waves: the sea became black, and the land loomed close and
high.  The mainsail filled as the breeze freshened, and the boatswain
warned the slaves to prepare for hard work.

The darkness was now dense; and I felt, I knew not why, considerable
anxiety as to the issue of the night.  The little captain generally
about this time retired to his cabin, to enjoy, alone, his cigar and a
glass of lacrima; resigning the command to Vinoni.  The features of the
young lieutenant were clouded with care, or by some gloomy presentiment:
he often walked to windward to watch the weather and look at the waves,
which the rushing breeze edged with white.  Suddenly he ordered the
great mainsail to be furled, and all made snug for the night.

"Out sweeps: give way there forward!"  The shrill pipe of the boatswain
echoed his command, and a commotion immediately took place among the
slaves, who had hitherto been sitting silent and motionless in the dark.
From the bosom of the startled deep a fierce yell arose.  Imagine my
astonishment and the horror of Vinoni, on beholding the galley-slaves,
instead of resuming their monotonous labour at the oar, spring up at
once from their benches, and rush, some forward and some aft, shouting
like devils or maniacs broken loose.

A desperate but momentary conflict ensued: most of the seamen were
tossed overboard, while the rest were driven below the forecastle.
Vinoni, brave to rashness, sprang to the front of the poop, and drawing
from his belt pistols (which the galley-officers were never without) he
fired, and a slave fell bleeding on the deck; then rushing to the
swivel-guns he slued them round to sweep the waist: but they were
without matches and useless. Instinctively I drew my sabre; but old
Gismondo threw his arms around me.

"Madman!" he exclaimed, "would you tempt the unfettered fury of two
hundred and fifty ruffians—the fiercest in Italy: men whom years of
slavery, tyranny, and toil have transformed into demons?  Sheath your
sword, signor—I alone can protect you."  I returned my sabre to its
scabbard: but a groan burst from me on beholding what followed.

"Corpo di Baccho! what is all this?" cried the captain, rushing upon the
poop; "eh! a mutiny,—a revolt in his Majesty’s——" in a moment he was
borne over, and dashed to the deck by the hunchback, who instantly
brained poor Vinoni with one blow of a handspike.  With one of his
elfish laughs he was rushing upon me, whirling his club aloft; and, but
for the stern intervention of Signor Gismondo, my campaign and my days
had ended together.  By what agency he exercised authority over these
lawless spirits, I know not; but the most forward of them slunk away to
continue the work of slaughter elsewhere: and frightful were the
outcries and din around us, as the taskmasters and mariners perished
beneath the weaponless hands, and even the teeth, of those over whom
they had so long tyrannized.  In one minute the galley was in the
possession of the slaves; and the unfortunate captain, his boatswain,
and two or three Sicilians of his crew, were dragged along the benches
bound with cords.

"Follow me—this way, signor—ere worse come of your remaining on deck!"
said Gismondo, hurrying me into a cabin and shutting the sliding door.
"I will forget," he added, with an icy smile, "how coldly and cruelly
you stood by while my—my daughter was murdered by that high-born
ruffian, Bivona.  May his race perish, or be followed by a curse to its
latest generation!"

"Keenly at this moment do I feel the reproach—yet what could I do?"

"Had you not a sabre?" he asked, with fierce contempt.  "Her death—it
slaked not the thirsty vengeance of our accursed chiefs—they sent me to
these galleys——" he threw himself on a locker and covered his face with
his hands.

How full of excitement and of agony was that time to me!  Sad were the
cries for pity, uttered to the pitiless—for mercy from those who had
never received it, and knew it not—which mingled with the hideous uproar
that reigned on the creaking deck above us.  I heard plunge after
plunge, as the corded victims were flung overboard by the desperate
revolters; who, to refine upon cruelty, tied them back to back, and so
hurled them into the seething waves, without the least chance of escape.

At last all was silent: the plunges were heard no more, and the last cry
of despair had died away on the wind; I heard the heavy sweeps once more
dipping in the water, and knew by the straining of the timbers and
clatter of the thole-pins, that the _Sea-Horse_ was under weigh again.

"I hope, major, your late companions do not mean to carry me off a
prisoner!"

"No," he replied, gloomily; "and your life is safe.  These unhappy men
have no cause to be your enemies—you will be shortly sent ashore."

"But how were you all enabled to break loose, as if by magic?"

"The little hunchback, whom I verily believe to be satan, possessed
strength sufficient to wrench his fetters in two; he then stole the
master-key from the belt of the boatswain, as he slept beside the
windlass: it was handed along the banks of oars—up the larboard and down
the starboard benches—each slave in succession unlocking his manacles,
until it came to me; when I opened the accursed padlock, and flung it,
fetters, key and all, into the ocean."

"And these ruffians——"

"Will form no mean recruit to Francatripa, Benincasa, or some of those
other robber chiefs who divide the hills and forests of Calabria among
them."

At that moment we heard the splash of a quarter-boat, as it was hastily
lowered down from the davits.

"Signor," said Gismondo, rising, "the boat awaits you; and the sooner we
separate the better. A den such as this, crowded with these poor
wretches, whom servile labour and the lash have degraded to the
condition of brutes, cannot be agreeable to one in the honourable
station of a cavalier—a soldier—such as I once was in happier days.
Adieu!" he pressed my hand, and led me to the side of the galley, where
the boat was held close to the ladder by Frà Maso and three other
slaves, who had chosen to land on that part of the coast.

"You accompany me, of course, Signor Major?" said I.

"Never!  Broken in spirit—degraded as I am—this naked body—these scars:
away, leave me to my misery! leave me!  These poor men, at least, will
not shrink from—adieu!  Signor Dundas—adieu! Frà Maso—shove off!"

Before descending into the boat, I was compelled to deliver up my watch
and purse: my sabre-tache was searched, but returned to me when found to
contain only military letters and papers. I should probably have been
deprived of my epaulettes, but as they were my fighting pair, they had
become so tarnished by smoke and weather, that the searchers allowed
them to pass unnoticed.

Gaspare Truffi had now succeeded poor little Guevarra in command of "His
Majesty’s Galley," as the reward of his strength and cunning.  He was
seated in Madonna’s niche, on the poop, kicking his heels, swinging his
long arms like the sails of a mill, shrieking, swearing, and drinking
from a flask of lacrima, by turns.  About twenty sweeps were manned; but
the greater number of slaves were busy, rummaging every lockfast place
in search of plunder.

The night was black and stormy: not a star was visible, and the dark
outline of the land rose up high and gloomily above us.  We heard the
boom of the white breakers, as they rolled on the rocky and silent
shore; and their echoes mingled with the dash of the long sweeps, as the
galley was pulled away and disappeared in the obscurity around us.

When again I met the Signor Gismondo, it was under very different
circumstances: more fortunate than myself, he reached Crotona next day,
and was protected by the Duke di Bagnara; who gave him a command in his
battalion of the Free Calabri.

We were soon amidst the surf; and as the boat shipped sea after sea, we
were quickly drenched to the skin.  While I sat shivering in the stern
sheets, the four rescued slaves pulled on in silence, and with all their
strength; lifting the light shallop out of the water at every stroke, in
their eagerness to tread on earth once more.  How joyously and strongly
they seemed to stretch their now unfettered limbs!  Having the tiller
ropes, I steered the boat towards a piece of sandy beach which we
discerned through the gloom; and, not without fear of crashing on some
concealed rock, I saw its head shoot into a narrow creek, between two
jutting crags, against which the eastern current of the Ionian sea was
running in mountains of angry foam.  In consequence of the boat’s
headway, the fury with which she was pulled, and the strength of the
current, she was run up high and dry on the beach, with a concussion
that nearly tossed us all out on the sand.  The rowers leaped up with a
triumphant shout of "Buon viaggio, Signor Inglese!" and springing away
towards the hills, left me to my own reflections.

Behold me, then, in a most desolate condition: landed at midnight on the
sea-shore, in a remote part of Calabria—the lawless land of robbery and
outrage—then "the _terra incognita_ of Europe"—minus my valise and
purse, and without a guide. The rogues had stripped me of everything,
save Bianca’s dear little ring; the diamond of which my thick leathern
glove had concealed from their prying eyes.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII.*

                        *THE THREE CANDLE-ENDS.*


For some time I sat by the sea-shore, reflecting on what course to
pursue; until the increased howling of the wind, the roar of the surf,
and a drop or two of rain splashing on my face, announced that a rough
morning was coming on. Not knowing whom I might encounter, I regretted
the want of my pistols.  Stumbling landward from the rocky beach, I
succeeded in discovering a rude flight of steps, hewn in the basaltic
rocks which faced the sea; but so obscure was all around, that on
gaining the summit I knew not whether the dark chaotic masses before me
were a bank of clouds or the termination of the long chain of the
Apennines.

In a short time I perceived a light twinkling through the gloom, and
could discern a little bay or harbour, where three small craft lay at
anchor close under the lee of the high land.  A narrow path brought me
to a neat little cottage, over the low roof of which the vines
clambered, mingling with the orange trees, which raised their rich
foliage and golden fruit above the sea-beat promontory.  The wind was
increasing, the clouds began to whirl and break, the rain to descend,
and a single star, red, bright, and fiery, sparkling on the dark and
distant horizon, was lost at times, as the billows of the Ionian main
tumbled and rolled between it and me.  Gladly I knocked at the cottage
door; and after a long delay an aged domestic appeared at a loop or
slit, through which the rays of her lamp shot forth, radiating into the
gloom: she seemed unable to understand and unwilling to admit me.

"Open the door," said a man’s voice, "should it be a robber, what have
we to fear?  I never harmed the brigands, and they dare not to meddle
with me."

I expected, from this defying and confident tone, to behold some very
ferocious personage when the door was opened; and was, therefore,
agreeably surprised on being welcomed by a reverend old man, with silver
hairs, and a most patriarchal beard flowing from a pleasing and
benevolent countenance.  It was my old friend the Basilian priest of
Squillaci; and we immediately recognised each other.  On my apologizing
for disturbing him at an hour so unreasonable, he replied,——

"Say no more, signor; I am the priest of this district, and my door is
open to all: from the great lord to the poor lazzarone, all are equally
welcome here.  But thrice welcome the soldier; for, though now but a
poor padre, I have borne arms in my youth, and fought in the wars of
Charles of Parma; and I love the sight of a soldier for the sake of the
thoughts of other years."

In the snug room of the Basilian, with my feet on the fire-pan of
charcoal, I partook of a slight supper, and related the seizure of the
galley and the destruction of her officers and crew: a tale which filled
the gentle old Greek with horror.  I then recurred to the urgent nature
of my despatches, and the dilemma in which I found myself in consequence
of being stripped of everything requisite to enable me to pursue my
journey.

"Keep yourself easy, signor," said my host; "a little craft, bound
northward, put into the harbour below, a few hours after sunset, to
repair some damage sustained at sea; and I have no doubt her master
will, at my request, be happy to land you at Crotona."

I was well pleased to hear this.  After a little more conversation, the
Basilian retired; and I slept till sunrise upon his sofa, with my cloak
over me.

The skipper of whom he had spoken came to breakfast with us, and I
discovered he had charge of the scampavia which had suffered from the
_Sea-Horse’s_ forecastle-gun.  Her starboard bulwark and part of her
mainmast had been so much injured, that he had run into the little cove
for the double purpose of repairing the damage and waiting till the
threatened squall blew past.

Maestro Maltei was, as his name imports, a thorough Maltese,
quick-sighted, polite, and intelligent.  His features displayed all the
national peculiarities of his race; the black, shining Arabian eyes,
thick lips, and swarthy visage.  He was a stout man, upwards of thirty,
and clad in a yellow cotton shirt, embroidered on the breast and
sleeves; over it he wore an ample vest of red velvet, adorned with
innumerable little silver buttons; a long silk scarf encircled his
waist, and retained his sheathed knife; and on his head he wore a long
tri-coloured woollen cap, which hung down his back below the waistband
of his white cotton breeches.  He had rings in his ears, and a rosary
round his neck: altogether Maestro Maltei, though he had much of the
pirate in his aspect, was, in reality, as smart a nautical dandy as one
could see in these days lounging about the galley-arches at Malta.

After breakfast, he returned on board, promising to send for me when
ready to put to sea.  Anxious to proceed, I watched from the windows of
the priest’s house the operations of the carpenter busy at work; though
the weather was lowering, and torrents of rain fell at intervals during
the day, which dragged on slowly.  I soon became heartily tired of the
Basilian; who bored me, for six consecutive hours, with an essay he was
writing on the lives of two eminent ancients: Quintius Ennius, a
Calabrian, the friend of Scipio and Lælius, author of eighteen books of
metrical annals, and tragedies, epigrams, and satires innumerable; and
Aurelius Cassiodorus, a Roman patrician and minister of Theodric, who
founded a great monastery near Squillaci, where he wrote a history of
the Goths.

Politeness compelled me to endure complacently the learned pedantry of
the reverend father, to whose hospitality I was so much indebted; but I
rejoiced when the bare-legged mate of the _Santelmo_ approached with the
information that she was ready to put to sea. Immediately after dinner I
went on board, with my ears ringing with the Grecian’s sonorous voice,
and the epigrams, satires, and witty sayings of the immortal Quintius:
whom I had never heard of before, and have seldom heard of since.

The weather, which had been alternately cloudy and sunny, now settled
down into a dull grey evening: the whole sky became canopied by dusky
vapour, which towards sunset was streaked with a pale stormy yellow; the
saffron sun was seen for a few minutes, as it sank behind the hills of
Oppido; and, as the light died away, the sea turned gloomy and black.
The wind blew in gusts, and the billows rolled on the beach with a
hollow sound: everything betokened a rough night; but the Maltese were
ready for sea, and the warps were cast off.  I had some misgivings about
sailing in such weather, but concealed my anxiety. The other two craft,
a xebecque and a sloop, remained at anchor; and their crews showed no
sign of preparing for sea.  I spoke of this to Maestro Maltei, and asked
if he thought they expected rough weather.

"Probably they do, signor," said he, removing his cigar, as we walked to
and fro on the weather side of the quarter-deck; while the fleet
schooner flew onward, straining under her bellying canvass. "The masters
are timid Venetians, and the sailors tremble for their share of the
cargo."

"Then stormy weather _is_ expected?"

"Doubtless we shall have a dirty night: but, having repaired all the
damage done by that cursed shot, and, moreover, having received from my
very good friend, the Basilian father, three sacred wax candles, which
have burned before the shrine of Our Lady of Bova, after being duly
blessed and sanctified by the Bishop of Cosenza——"

"And with these——"

"We light our binnacle, and no danger can overwhelm us."

"On the faith of these you put to sea on a stormy night!—three old
candle-ends——"

"Undoubtedly, signor," said he, turning away abruptly, while I was
equally annoyed by his folly and ignorance.

The _Santelmo_, as she was named, was a smart little schooner, with a
lofty tapering mainmast; she was broad in the beam, but sharp at the
bows, where an image of her saintly patron spread his arms above the
deep.  Her well-scrubbed decks were flush and white; while the brass
plates on her four carronades, her binnacle-lamps, and the copper on her
sides, were all polished and shone like burnished gold.  She was gaudily
painted, and straight as a lance from stem to stern.  With all her snowy
canvass set, we ran along the coast, favoured by the land-breeze, and
soon saw the lights of Gierazzo and the Locrian temples of Palepoli
vanish behind us in the dusk.  Upon a wind the _Santelmo_ sailed
admirably, and midnight saw us far beyond the Capo Stilo; but the breeze
had increased so much that, notwithstanding his intense faith in the
candle-ends, Maltei was obliged to take in sail.  Still more tough grew
the gale; the night became darker: the high outline of the Calabrian
hills could be discerned no more, and the breaking sea was covered with
white foam.  The miraculous candles had been lighted in the binnacle
with great formality, by the cabin-boy on his bare knees; imploring, at
the same time, in the names of St. Elmo and St. John of Malta, a
peaceful night for the master and crew.

The blessed candles burned and sputtered merrily; the bushy-whiskered
and grim-visaged timoniere hitched up his cotton breeches, twitched down
the net which confined his long black hair. and grasped the helm in
confident silence.  But harder blew the wind: it roared through the
rigging, and the _Santelmo_ was soon flying through the rolling sea,
stripped of half her canvass.

The mate slung himself from the spritsail yard; and, when endeavouring
to place a candle in the hand of the image on the cutwater, dropped
overboard, and (poor fellow!) was seen no more. The sailors now became
excited.

"Clew up the fore-topsail—in with the forestaysail! Saints and devils!
be quick, will you!" yelled Maltei, through his speaking-trumpet. "Close
reef the foresail, and take in everything else fore and aft.  Per
Baccho!—Our blessed Lady!—Devil in hell!  Look sharp, will ye!—Quick,
there, or I will shoot the last man off the deck.  Away, aloft, while ye
can get out on the yard!"  But not a man would venture, and Maltei might
as well have roared to the wind.

"Corpo! you blundering asses, let all go by the sheets, then.  Apostles
and angels!  Quick, cowards!—let fly, or the masts will go by the
board."

The order was obeyed: the cordage rattled, the blocks shrieked; the
canvass flew to leeward, split to ribbons, which crackled and lashed the
rigging, as they flapped on the furious wind: but we escaped a capsize,
and the schooner skimmed along under her close-reefed foresail; while
Maltei took the tiller and strove to keep her to her course, swearing
and praying by turns.

The loss of the mate and the increasing tempest rendered all gloomy and
discontented.  Anon, there was a cry.  I instinctively grasped the
bulwarks.  A tremendous sea was shipped; it swept over the whole deck,
washing three sailors, the long boat, all the spare booms and spars,
overboard: also the binnacle, with the compass and—horror of
horrors!—the three miraculous candles; which were extinguished in an
instant.

A howl of dismay burst from the Maltese, who from that time seemed to
abandon all hope and exertion.  For a moment the schooner staggered and
stood still: had such another sea burst over her she must have
foundered; but saved by her buoyancy, as the water ran off her deck, she
again plunged forward on her perilous path.  A groan burst from Maltei
on beholding the candles washed overboard: he quitted the helm and
abandoned the schooner to her fate.

"Signor Maltei—Padrone di Vascello—madman and blockhead!" I exclaimed,
rushing towards the tiller, which snapped its ropes and was dashed to
pieces in an instant.  The _Santelmo_ fell away round, and yawing from
side to side, flew at a fearful rate before the wind.  There was a
crash! the foremast went by the board, bringing the maintopmast down
with it; the wreck fell to leeward, and was swept away astern; while the
vessel lay a helpless log upon the sea, tossing about like a cork, and
exposed continually to the waves, which hurried on in successive
mountains as if to overwhelm the shattered ship, rolling with fury over
the deck, and burying her far into the deep dark trough of the midnight
sea.  A torrent of water pouring down the companion-hatch filled the
cabin; others succeeded: the vessel became water-logged, and the wood
lumber in her hold alone prevented her from sinking.

"Holy Saint Elmo! blessed Madonna! and O Thou, who walked on the
waters—who said to the storm ’Be still,’ and it was still—look upon us!"
cried the survivors of the crew.

"Master Maltei," said I, bitterly, "you have thrown away your vessel,
and the lives of all on board, by your despicable ignorance and want of
seamanship.  Your crew are cowards, and unworthy to sail under a British
flag!"  He made no reply; but, sunk in gloomy apathy, remained lashed to
the capstan, while I secured myself similarly to the windlass: from stem
to stern the bulwarks were totally gone, save a fragment which afforded
me shelter at the bow.

When the storm lulled a little, I prevailed on the sailors to rig a sail
forward with some canvass and two spare spars brought up from below; and
a jury foremast was soon set up, with a dexterity which showed what the
men were capable of if properly directed.  Now, once more before the
fierce hurricane, the sharp schooner drove on with the speed of a
galloping horse: but whether running in full career against the rocks of
Stilo, or away into the Ionian sea, we had not the least idea. The seven
survivors began to work at the pumps, and we all took heart anew as
daylight slowly approached, and the long night, with its excitement and
horror, passed away.

It came, the sunless morning—a grey sky, a black sea—a cold gloom
everywhere.  Afar off we discerned land on the larboard-bow: but there
was not a sail in sight, save a ship which rode securely under the coast
with her top-gallant-masts struck. I had no doubt it was the _Amphion_
anchored off Cape della Colonna, the promontory so close to the place of
my destination.

We were drenched to the skin, and had been so all night: we were without
food, yet continued to toil at the pumps; which soon, to our great
dismay, brought up clear water.  The sea having torn away stern-post and
rudder, the pumps were our only chance of safety; and the Maltese,
encouraged by my example (more than that of their skipper), worked until
they were sinking with fatigue.  On, on we flew before the sweeping
wind, and soon lost sight of

    "Fair Lacinia, graced with Juno’s fane."

Once more the mountains sank beneath the horizon; and soon nothing but
sea and sky were around us, as we flew before the blast into the Gulf of
Tarentum, where we were at the mercy of the wind and tide during the
whole of that miserable day.  The sailors became dejected: three quitted
the pumps and betook themselves to prayer, and the leaks gained on us.
Four men still continued to toil, exposed to every wave that washed over
the defenceless deck, which was then almost level with the ocean; and
the planking was so slippery that we were in continual danger of being
carried away to leeward.

"The sunless day went down;" night began to darken sea and sky, and we
contemplated its approach with gloomy forebodings and absolute horror.
The _Santelmo_ now made less way, in consequence of the thoroughly
wetted state of her cargo, which buried her to the chain-plates in the
water, where she lurched and pitched heavily. When it was dark, the gale
increased; not a star was visible, and the dense gloom thickened in
every direction around us.

By breaking through a bulk-head, the carpenter contrived to get up a keg
of brandy from the forehold, and with a reckless shout the sailors
crowded around him.  They drank copiously, and the liquor rendered them
mad: they yelled and screamed, shaking their clenched hands at the storm
in defiance, reviling the Basilian and his candles, and cursing St.
Elmo; whose head the carpenter clove with his hatchet.

In the midst of this ghastly merriment, while they were dancing
furiously, hand in hand, over the slippery deck, a tremendous sea took
us right amidship.  I saw it coming on, dark, heaving, and terrible—a
roaring mountain of liquid blackness—and embraced the windlass with all
the strength with which despair and love of life endued me. In
irresistible fury, the stupendous wave rolled its mighty volume over the
wreck: when it passed away I was _alone_.  It had swept, into the
boiling sea, every one of them.  A cry came feebly on the bellowing
wind, and all was over: I heard only the hiss of the dashing spray, and
the plunging of the wreck, as alternately it rose on the crest of a
wave, and thundered down into the yawning ocean.  I had bound myself
securely to the windlass with my sash, and my principal fear was that
the water-logged hull might sink; for in such a sea, and when so far
from land, swimming would be unavailing.

O, the multiplied horrors of that dismal night! How gladly, amid that
intense ocean solitude, I would have hailed the sound of a human voice—a
glimpse of the distant shore—a gleam from a lonely star.  Strange
visions of home and happiness—of sunny fields and green moving
woods—floated before me.  Then came other scenes and sounds: the boom of
cannon and the roll of the drums.  Now I was leading on my stormers at
Scylla; anon I was with Bianca—I heard her soft low voice, her sweet
Italian tone, and her gentle hand clasped mine— * * * *



                             *CHAPTER XIX.*

                              *WHO IS HE?*


From a state of dreamy apathy—a delirium between sleeping and waking:
the very fever of desperation—the increased roar of ocean aroused me.
Through the sullen gloom I discerned, a-head, a mighty barrier of rocks,
against which the sea was running with incredible fury, casting the foam
of its breakers to the clouds, and hurrying the wreck onwards to total
destruction.  I heard my heart beat: the critical moment was come, for
safety or destruction.  I drew off my boots, buttoned up the despatches
in the breast of my coat, and casting another glance at that frowning,
sable, and appalling barrier of rock, felt my heart sink within me: yet
that heart had never quailed in the breach, or on the battle-field.

An exclamation of sincere piety escaped my lips, and suppliantly my
hands were raised to Heaven.  Next moment there was a frightful crash!
the parting wreck sank beneath me, the deck split under my feet, and I
was struggling breathlessly in the dark water amid the dashing breakers;
which were covered with froth and foam, and fragments of spare masts,
yards, ribs, cargo, planks, &c.: from these I received more than one
severe blow; while blinded with spray, sick at heart, and trembling in
every nerve, I swam towards this black and terrible shore. Thrice my
hand touched the slippery rocks, and thrice the greedy waves sucked me
back into their whirling vortex: but one flung me headlong forward on a
ledge, and I grasped, convulsively, the strong tough sea-weed which grew
on its beetling face.

Fervently thanking Heaven for my escape, I clambered up the slippery
cliffs beyond the reach of the breakers; whose bitter and heavy spray
beat over me incessantly.  After stopping for a few minutes to recover
breath and recall my scattered energies, I ascended to the summit: the
level country spread before me, and a few lights sparkling at a
distance, announced a neighbouring town.  A distant bell tolled the
eleventh hour as I walked forward along a road bordered by trees: but my
knees bent tremulously at every step; for I felt still the roll of the
ship and the dull boom of the ocean, and the hiss of its salt frothy
breakers yet rang in my ears.

As if its object had been accomplished in the destruction of the little
schooner, the storm, which had raged so long, now began to die away: the
trees became less agitated; the veil of dark clouds, which had obscured
the face of heaven, withdrew; and the silver stars were seen sparkling
in the blue dome above.

Though rejoicing in my safety, and pitying the poor fellows who had
perished, I moved on in dread and doubt, shivering with cold and misery.
My uniform was drenched with salt water, and stuck close to me, and my
head and feet were without covering.  I longed to learn whether Fate had
thrown me on the Calabrian shore, or on that of Otranto: if on the
latter, I felt certain of becoming a prisoner to the French; whose
commanders often displayed, at that time, more of the savage spirit of
the Revolutionists, than of that chivalry which distinguished the brave
soldiers of the empire.  When I thought on the many years of captivity
which might elapse ere I again beheld Bianca or my home, I almost
regretted that the ocean had not swallowed me up; immediate death
appearing preferable to the sickening future I anticipated: hope
deferred for years, promotion stopped, and prospects blighted, perhaps,
for ever.

As I walked slowly forward, my feet were soon cut by the hard flinty
road; which I pursued towards the town.  But the appearance of a
handsome little villa, in the centre of a lawn, standing by the wayside,
changed my intentions: I did not hesitate to approach the house; deeming
it safer to acquaint an Italian gentleman with my condition, than to
proceed, with the chance of being captured by the quarter-guard of a
French camp or cantonment.

Passing through an ornamental wicket, I approached the villa, which was
surrounded by a paved terrace, enclosed by a stone balustrade: every
window was dark, save one on the ground floor, which appeared made to
open like a folding door.  In front of this a flight of marble steps
descended from the terrace, between two pedestals, on each of which
reposed a sculptured lion.  I stood before the window, between the
crimson curtains of which the interior was revealed; and its decorations
and furniture were more splendid than the general aspect of the villa
led me to expect.

An aged man, of a venerable, benign, and truly noble aspect, sat near an
ebony table, on which he leant, intently reading by the light proceeding
from the globe of a silver lamp.  He wore a baretta of crimson velvet,
adorned in front with a gold cross, and a cape and stockings of scarlet
peeped out from under an ample dressing-gown of faded brocade, which
enveloped his person. A few thin silvery hairs escaped from beneath his
cap, and they glittered in the lamplight; his forehead was high and
commanding, the curve of his lip was majestic, and there was an
indescribable dignity in his whole aspect.  His cheek and brow were
pale; yet, at times, his eyes sparkled as brightly as those of an
Italian girl, as he conned over an old and discoloured piece of
parchment, to which various seals and coloured ribbons were attached.

I know not what it was that agitated me at that moment, but there was
something in the presence of that venerable stranger which, as it were,
drew me insensibly towards him; and all dread of acquainting him with my
situation, and entrusting him with my liberty and safety, vanished.
Once more, ere essaying, I looked steadily at him.  He was replacing the
charter in an iron safe, and had drawn forth another, to which a seal,
like a pancake, was appended. The light flashed more fully on his
features than it had done before; and, strange to say, they appeared to
me like those of an old friend, or of one whom I had a dim recollection
of having seen before: but where, I endeavoured in vain to recollect.

"O, my illustrious brother!" he exclaimed, "though thy gallant heart is
mouldering at Frescati, thy memory will be cherished while chivalry and
valour are respected among men!"  He paused, and lay back in an
arm-chair, when I could perceive that tears were running down his
cheeks; but the deep emotion passed away, and he again resumed his
reading.  I then tapped gently on the casement, and lifting the latch
entered the apartment.

"Pardon this intrusion—be not alarmed, reverend signor."

He started; the paper fell from his hand; he closed the safe with
precipitation, and grasping the gilded knobs of his arm-chair, stared at
me in astonishment.  Certainly my appearance was not very prepossessing:
my old fighting coat, which had long since acquired a purple hue by
campaigning and the blood of wounds, had become of a most unique colour,
by being drenched in salt water.  I was unshaven, grisly, and gaunt of
visage; minus boots and hat, and my damp hair hung around my face in
matted locks.

"A British officer in my presence, and at this time of night!" he
exclaimed.  "Whence come you, sir?" he added, surveying me with a proud
stern glance, which gradually melted into one more pleasant and benign.
"Your name and purpose, signor?’

"Claude Dundas, a captain of the 62nd regiment, and aide-de-camp to
General Sir John Stuart, now serving in the Calabrias."

"Stuart—_Stuart_!" he muttered, "the times are indeed changed when—you
say your name is Dundas?  Which family are you of?"

Though surprised at this question from an Italian lord, I satisfied him;
he smiled, and said, "I know them."

"Illustrissimo, I have undergone great misery during the past storm in
the Gulf of Tarento, and in this condition have been wrecked: I know not
upon what part of the Italian shores I have been thrown, but trust to be
received with that hospitality which I, as an officer of Italy’s ally,
have a right to expect."

"Welcome, signor: but excuse my rising. I never rise but to equals.  No
Briton in distress ever sought succour from me in vain; yet
little—little, truly, do these heretical islanders deserve favour at my
hands!  Ola, Catanio!"

He rang a silver hand-bell, and an attendant, or old priest, made his
appearance; who exhibited the same aspect of dismay that his master had
done on beholding me.

"With us, signor," said my host, "you are safe, although Massena’s
soldiers swarm everywhere around us.  Here you can remain in disguise
until we discover some means of sending you to Calabria."

"You speak my very wishes—I am deeply indebted to you!  Upon what part
of the coast have I been thrown?"

"Near Canne, in Basilicata, a few miles from the frontier of Upper
Calabria."

"I am then in rear of the French lines at Cassano!" said I, aghast at
the intelligence.  He bowed.

"Follow Catanio; change your attire, and partake of some refreshment—go!
afterwards I will speak with you."  He had all the air and tone of a man
who through life had been accustomed to wield authority.

"Basilicata!" I repeated inwardly, as we retired: it seemed almost
incredible that the water-logged wreck, under a jury-foresail, even when
aided by wind and tide, could have run so far up the gulf since
daybreak.  Her sailing must have averaged five knots an hour, since we
lost sight of the Capo della Colonna.  Catanio, who by his taciturnity
and outward trim appeared to be a monk, led me into an ante-room, where
he furnished me with dry apparel.  I asked him numerous questions
concerning my host, but he seemed very unwilling to gratify my
curiosity.

"Signor Catanio," said I, while slipping on a pair of black cotton
breeches; "I presume he is a man of rank."

"In Italy none is nobler; the vicegerent of God excepted," he replied,
energetically.

"You are an Abbruzzese by your accent, I think?"  The old fellow smiled
sourly, and took a great pinch of snuff.

"I am an honest man," said he, handing his snuff-box to me, and bundling
my wet uniform, somewhat contemptuously, into a chest, which he locked.

"And my host," I continued, thrusting on a black serge jacket; "he must
be a churchman, as he is served by priests: how am I to address him?"

"Italians style him, ’his eminence;’ but we, his faithful domestics and
followers,——"

"Eminence!—is he Cardinal Ruffo?"

"Ruffo, the apostate!" repeated the other, with such intense scorn, that
I was undeceived.

"He is a cardinal at all events; and I (unhappy pagan!) have been
styling him plain signor. Excuse my laughing; but, faith! one feels so
comfortable in these dry clothes, after the misery of—but what is this?
I am not going to a masquerade!"

"It is our master’s pleasure that you attire yourself thus," said
Catanio, handing me a cassock and three flapped-hat like his own; "it is
your only safe disguise."

"It is just like a snug dressing-gown after all," said I, donning the
garment.

"You are a perfect monk, signor!" said the old man, smiling kindly; "but
do not keep your head so erect: that is an old habit.  Ah! there was a
time—but here are your beads—tie the girdle thus. Bravo! you are a very
monk."

"Snuff, grease, garlic, &c. excepted," I thought.

"I am happy to assist in saving a countryman from those false
Frenchmen."

"A countryman—what! are you a Scotchman?’

"Born and bred, sir," said he, laying aside his Italian, and with an
effort recalling the strong northern dialect of his boyhood.  "I was
called Duncan Catanach, and in happier days dwelt near Lochaber, in old
Caledonia; which I would fain behold once more before I die."

The eyes of the old man glistened, and we shook hands with all the
brotherly warmth of heart with which Scot greets Scot in a foreign land.

"I rejoice to meet in this place a subject of old George III."

"I am no subject of his! the petty princes—"

"Ha! some follower of Watt, who was beheaded for treason—eh?"

"No!" he replied, proudly and sternly; "I follow no traitor—nor do I
participate in treason!"  At that moment his master’s bell rang loudly,
and he hurriedly withdrew.



                             *CHAPTER XX.*

                            *THE CARDINAL.*


In a few minutes he led me back to the presence of my host.  A slight
repast had been hastily laid for me in a snug little library, the walls
of which were adorned with a few trophies of arms and portraits, some of
them veiled by crimson curtains; but I was too much interested in the
cold fowls, the sparkling wine, and other viands displayed on the snowy
table-cloth, to bestow a thought upon anything else.  On entering, I
bowed profoundly to his eminence, who occupied a large gilt chair,
cushioned with crimson velvet.  Catanio seated himself at the table to
help me.

"Make yourself quite at home, signor," said my host, "and sup without
ceremony; being lashed to a wreck for ten hours is enough to give any
man an appetite: but excuse my not bearing you company. I have already
supped, the hour is late, and I do not usually admit strangers to my
table. Catanio, be attentive to our friend."

Catanach—or Catanio—filled my glass with glowing sherry; and long ere
the speech of my host was finished, I had dissected the major part of an
excellent fowl.  My eye fell upon my figure reflected in a mirror
opposite, and I could scarcely restrain my mirth: I was a perfect canon,
save that a head of curly brown hair supplied the place of a shaven
scalp.

"Truly, signor, you make an excellent friar," said the cardinal, who
seemed to know what was passing in my mind; "and I doubt not that were
you to resign the sword and belt for the cross and cord, you might rise
in our catholic church, as many of your countrymen from Douay have done.
You must be aware," he continued, after a pause, "that while here, in
rear of Massena and Regnier’s lines, you run considerable risk of
discovery, with the danger of suspicion as a spy.  But the ruthless
marshal never disturbs my household; and while with it you are safe.  He
regards me with respect; although his master’s iron hand robbed me of
the little that war, rebellion, and crime had left me: the poor remnant
of the fairest patrimony in Europe."

"I am indebted to your eminence: it would be a deathblow to my hopes to
be taken prisoner just now, and would quite play the devil with me!"

"A British frigate often comes up the gulf as far as Canne."

"Ah! the _Amphion_"

"I will send you off to her by a boat: to pass the French picquets at
Cassano is too dangerous a mode of escape.  I wish to befriend you,
signor; and would deplore—ah!  I love the scarlet coat: for I, too, have
worn it in my youth."

"A cardinal in a red coat!  In our service, my lord?"

"No," he replied coldly, while his eyes sparkled and his cheek flushed.
"No: but when I commanded fifteen thousand French infantry at Dunkirk,
in the service of my father, whose portrait is behind you."

From the incomprehensible speaker, I turned to the portrait, which was
that of a dark and oval-featured cavalier, in a long wig, which flowed
over his steel breastplate and scarlet coat; his eyes possessed the same
keen and proud expression which I beheld in those of the Italian.

"I presume, my lord, you have seen service?"

"None worth mentioning," he replied; and, after pausing a while, till
Catanio had retired and the table was cleared, he thus continued:—"And
you are a Scotsman?  How I love to meet with one!  Ah! capitano, the
Scots were a loyal people once; but how changed since their rampant
Presbyterian priesthood have moulded the nation to their purpose—the
designing heretics! Oh, cunning clodpoles!  I may live to mar you yet."

"You, eminenza?"

"I," he replied, his eyes sparkling again.

"You have been in Scotland, I presume?" I asked, with an air of pique.

"Never: but the name of that country finds an echo in my heart.  Though
born a Roman, the ideas of your people, their Lowland nobles and the
chiefs of the loyal and illustrious clans, are all well known to me.
Dear to me, indeed, is every inch of the isle of Great Britain: though
truly I owe little to the land which set a price on the heads of my
nearest and dearest relatives."

"Whom have I the honour of addressing?"

"_Your king!_" he replied, with a deep voice, which caused me to start,
as he rose erect from his chair, and his tall and venerable figure
seemed to dilate, and his faded cheek to glow.  "Your king, sir," he
added, in pure English: "one, at least, who should have been so; but the
hands of time and fate are now laid heavily upon him.  I am Henry the
Second of Scotland and the Ninth of the sister kingdom—the Cardinal Duke
of York: now, alas! known as the last of the House of Stuart.
Fate—fate—yes, hardly hast thou dealt with me!  Expelled from Rome by
Napoleon, robbed of my estates, and driven to penury in my old age, I
dwell here in forgotten obscurity, subsisting on that poor pittance
which is yearly doled out by the Government of Britain.  Yet let me not
be ungrateful to George their king: even that he might have withheld
from me.  A time may come—God hath given, and God can take away.  You
know me now, sir: let your wonder cease."

As if exhausted by this outburst of his troubled spirit, the venerable
cardinal sank back in his chair, while I arose from mine in a very
unpleasant state of astonishment, pleasure, and doubt: astonishment at
the discovery, a joyous pleasure at beholding the aged and illustrious
prelate (even then the secret idol of many a heart which clung to
memories of the past), and doubt how to address him; having heard that
he exacted the title of "Majesty," which it was as much as my commission
was worth to yield him.  But a spell was upon me.  I had looked on kings
at the head of armies, surrounded by their staff and courtiers; and,
though banners were lowered and cannon thundered in salute, to me they
were just as other men: but in the air and aspect of the aged Henry
Stuart, even in that humble apartment, and surrounded by no external
grandeur save that with which the mind invested him—with no insignia of
royalty save those with which inborn grace and majesty arrayed him—there
was a nameless charm, a potent and mysterious influence which quite
bewildered me; and all the romance, the misfortune, the ten thousand
stirring memories of the past—so stirring, at least, to every thorough
Scotsman—rushed upon my mind like a torrent. It was a sensation of
happiness, a gush of chivalric sentiment and honest veneration which
accompanied them.  I bowed, with proper humility, before the old
cardinal-duke; whose proud dark eyes sparkled again, as he extended his
hands above my head, and, forgetting his imaginary majesty in the
churchman, bestowed on me a solemn Latin benediction.

"Wear this in memory of me."  He threw around my neck a ribbon to which
a gold medal was attached; and, when the tumult of my spirits passed
away, and I raised my head, he was gone. Catanio stood beside me.

"Has he not the air of a king?" he asked, while a bitter smile curled
his thin lips, and lit up his sharp gray eye.  "You are afraid to
answer. You are wearied, perhaps.  His Majesty has retired for the
night: allow me to lead you to your apartment."

In the solitude of my chamber, I endeavoured to unravel the chaos of
thought that whirled through my brain.  The driving wreck, the drowning
crew, and the terrors of the midnight storm—the white salt foam, the
roaring sea, the cliffs up which I clambered—the villa, the
cardinal-duke blessing me: all passed before me in rapid review.  I drew
forth the ribbon and medal to examine them: the latter was of massive
gold; it was one of those struck by order of the cardinal on the death
of his brother, Prince Charles, and distributed among his friends (who
even then, as his papers afterwards revealed, were both powerful and
numerous), in commemoration of his imaginary succession.  It bore his
head in bold relief, with the motto—"Henricus Nonus, Anglia Rex."  On
the reverse was a cross, supported by Britannia and the Virgin; behind
rose a bridge and cathedral, with the crown of Britain.  George III.
became possessed of two of those singular medals; but perhaps I was the
first of his officers who received one from the hand of York: I have
preserved the gift, with proper reverence, in memory of an interview
which I shall never forget.

Next morning, I was awakened by the familiar but unwelcome sound of
drums beating.  Dressing in my strange garb, and descending to the lawn
which lay around the mansion, I walked forth to enjoy a ramble in
solitude.  I looked on my shovel-hat, the serge sleeves and knotted
girdle of my strange attire.  Three days ago, I was aide-de-camp to the
Count of Maida, galloping along the line on a garrison parade; to-day, a
monk, and a follower of Henry Stuart, the Cardinal-Duke of York!

The beauty of the scenery and freshness of the morning drew my steps
towards Canne, which I beheld on the sea-shore, about two miles distant;
its white walls, church spire, and casements, gleaming in the rising
sun.  The sound of distant bells reminded me that it was Sunday.  The
morning was cloudless, the sky blue, the earth green and glistening with
dew; the wide gulf of Tarento sparkled with light as it vanished into
dimness and misty obscurity; the horizontal line where sea met sky,
being only marked by some sail glittering, like a snow-wreath or white
cloud, in the distance.  The road was narrow, and, being bordered by
thick copsewood, was cool and shady. I wandered on until a turn
unexpectedly brought me upon the parade of a regiment of French
infantry, which had just been inspected by Massena, and was being formed
into sections preparatory to marching.  My heart beat quick: discovery
was death, and I shrank from the lynx-like gaze of the ferocious
Massena; who, after a few words with the colonel, galloped off
accompanied by his aide.  I began to breathe a little more freely. I
recognised the 12th Grenadiers in their blue greatcoats and bear-skin
caps; and at their head my old friend De Bourmont, as paunchy and merry
as ever.  An exchange of prisoners had taken place, and all that we had
captured were once more in arms against us.  The band struck up, the
arms flashed as they were sloped in the sun, and the battalion moved
off, _en route_ for the frontiers of Calabria; where Massena was
concentrating his forces at the very time our troops were about to
abandon the country.  How bravely the sharp trumpet and the hoarse drums
rang in the wooded way, as they marched through the green defiles!
Whilst I listened, regardless of time and place, cassock and cope, some
peasant women approached that I might bestow a benison on their
children; they, however, received only very vague and curious answers as
I pushed past and hurried back towards the good cardinal’s villa, from
which I had been too long absent.

After I had breakfasted hastily in my own apartment, Catanio informed me
that as his majesty was to celebrate high mass at Canne, as a piece of
etiquette it would be necessary for me to attend.

"Faith!  I have entertained the natives enough for one day," said I.
Catanio frowned; and being obliged to consent, a mule was brought me,
and I set off with the household of the cardinal. A lumbering,
old-fashioned coach bore his eminence from the villa, at a most solemn
pace; its little Roman horses appearing dwarfed to the size of ponies
beside the ancient vehicle, on whose carved and gilded pannels shone the
crown and arms of Britain.  The old man considered himself in everything
a king; and doubtless an excellent one he would have made, if we judge
by the goodness of his heart, and the fidelity of his few and
disinterested adherents.

That magic influence by which his family always gained the unbounded
loyalty and most romantic attachment of their followers, he certainly
possessed in no small degree: there was a nobility of soul, a quiet
stateliness of demeanor, and a pious resignation to his obscure fate,
which made his imaginary crown shine with greater lustre; and he passed
through life more peacefully and happily, in consequence of taking no
active part in the great question of hereditary right, which had
embittered the days of his father and brother. His years, his rank, his
reputed sanctity, and general amiability of character procured him the
admiration and devotion of the Italians; who were exasperated by the
invasion of Rome, and the expulsion of so many ecclesiastics of rank.
The crowd surrounding the porch of the church uncovered, with reverence,
as he descended from the coach, and, followed by his household, three
old Scottish priests, an Irish valet, and myself, ascended the steps of
the church.  On these crowded a number of wretched mendicants,—a hideous
mass of festering sores, ragged garments, black visages, and squalid
misery; they fell upon their knees, and when Catanio scattered some
silver among them, there arose cries of—

"Viva eminenza!  O, the gracious lord! the beneficent father!  Viva
Enrico Stuardo!  Viva la famiglia Stuardi!"

High mass in its most impressive form was celebrated by the cardinal.
The congregation consisted of the people of Canne, a few ladies, fewer
cavaliers, and a sprinkling of the French garrison.  Though the church
was not large, its ancient aisles and carved roof presented a noble
specimen of the old Italian gothic, exhibiting those striking extremes
of light and shadow for which that style is remarkable.  The strong
blaze of the noon-day sun poured between the many mullions of its
stained windows, slanting on the picturesque crowd who stood or knelt
around the columns; on the cavalier in his ample cloak, the signora in
her veil and mantle, the peasant in his rough jacket, and the graceful
country girl with her sparkling eyes and olive cheek, shaded by a modest
muslin panno.  Six tall candles glimmered before the dark altar-piece,
while the altar itself, being covered with the richest carving and
gilding, shone like a blaze of glory around the aged cardinal, who stood
on the highest step.

The relics of several saints and martyrs, of great reputed sanctity,
stood upon it; and an old ragged mantle, which hung from one of the
columns, was said to be the cloak of Madonna, and to have cured divers
disorders by being wrapped round the sufferers.

My informant was a priest: while speaking he glanced at Bianca’s diamond
ring which sparkled on my finger; and the scrutinizing eye with which he
regarded me brought the blood to my temples.  I was also exposed to the
watchful glances of a French officer; in whom, to my horror, I
recognised General Compere, whom I had met at Maida: some recollections
of my face appeared to flash across his mind, and he stared at me with
cool determination.  Uneasy at the chance, the danger, and disgrace of
discovery, I withdrew, by a side door, into a little oratory which
adjoined the body of the church.

"Reverend father," said a man advancing with a bunch of keys, "are you
the Frà Sermonello, whom his eminence has deputed to visit the chapel of
the penitents?"

"To be sure, fool! for what should I be here else?" I answered, gruffly,
forgetting my assumed character in the annoyance I felt; but immediately
adding, "of course, my son, I am come to visit these unfortunate
devils—heretics, I mean."

"This way, then, Signor Canonico," said he, with an air which showed he
had no great veneration for my sanctity.



                             *CHAPTER XXI.*

                     *THE FIRST PENITENT—THE NUN.*


"A cursed scrape!" thought I, whilst following him through a little
side-door of iron, which creaked on its rusty hinges as it rolled slowly
back, revealing a long passage, dark and mysterious as any in the pages
of ’Anne Radcliffe,’ and interrupted by flights of steps; where we
required a lamp to aid us in descending.  The black walls were covered
with glistening slime, and reflected the flashes of the lamp, which
flickered and almost expired as it struggled with the noxious vapours
floating through these dismal vaults; and I became chilled with cold as
we descended. An iron grate or portcullis, which barred our way, was
raised up in a sliding groove by my guide; who requested me to pass,
and, saying he would await me there, gave me his lamp.

Many tales of the holy office, and of the bigoted ferocity of Italian
monks, flashed on my remembrance.  Perhaps I was in a snare! Doubtful
whether to proceed, or knock the fellow down and regain the church, even
at the risk of being discovered by General Compere, I stood for a moment
irresolute: but I had no secret enemy there, and the cardinal was a
powerful friend.

"Father," said my guide, "you are a stranger here?"

"I am in these vaults for the first time."

"They contain three penitents: first, a nun, who broke her vows, and
lies sneezing and coughing in the cell just before you.  Poor girl! she
has been here three weeks, and likes her quarters no better than the
first hour she saw them: maladetto! you may hear how she moans.
Opposite lies the cell of a mad cavalier, who is chained like a tiger—my
lord bishop intends confining him here for life; and next his cell is
that of a monk, sent hither for living too joyous a life—gaming and
drinking with gay damsels, when he should have been snug in his
dormitory."

"I have a project," said I; "leave me the keys. On my return, I will
deposit them in the niche at the chapel door."

"That was old Frà Grasso’s way," replied the keeper or warder; and,
doffing his hat, withdrew.

"Now, were there a thousand prisoners here, I should set every one of
them free!" I exclaimed, while hurrying along the passage, lamp in hand;
execrating the cruelty of that tyrannical prelate, who confined three
human beings in a place which I could not contemplate without a shudder.
The low, narrow passage was arched by rough stone groins, springing from
corbelled heads, hideous as those of demons, that projected from walls,
through the joints of which the damp reeking slime had been distilling
for ages: innumerable stalactites hung long and pendent like foul
icicles; enormous fungi flourished luxuriantly on the sable masonry;
large bloated toads croaked on the slippery floors; rats peeped forth
from holes and corners, and the whistling bat flitted to and fro on the
cold vapours of those dripping dungeons.

Before me lay the cell of the nun: intending to visit her first, I
unlocked with great difficulty the oaken door, and entered.  Accustomed
to the gloom, I could survey the whole place at a glance; it was a dark,
cold, and comfortless den, about sixteen feet square, and had a narrow
zig-zag loop-hole opening high in the wall, which admitted little air
and less light.  Crouching upon a bundle of straw, in a corner of that
detestable place, lay the poor nun; wasted and worn, pale and ghastly.
Her eyes were raised to Heaven; and though her lips moved not, she was
praying, but in that still voice which God alone can hear.  At the sound
of my steps, she turned on me an apathetic stare, and her sunken eyes
sparkled wildly between the long dishevelled masses of her raven hair,
which wandered over her bare bosom and shoulders.  She was almost
destitute of covering; having, I believe, no other garment than a gown
of black serge, which was torn in many places, revealing her pure white
skin, that gleamed like alabaster through the gloom.

"Oh, pity, pity! for the gentle love of God!" she exclaimed; and added,
with a shriek, "Ah! it is the bishop—again—again!"

Shuddering, she hid her face in her long hair, and began to weep as if
her heart would burst. Approaching her, I laid my hand kindly on her
soft shoulder, and said—

"Poor woman! be comforted; you are not entirely forsaken——"

"Begone!" she exclaimed, spitting upon me; "away, priests of hell, who
murdered my love—my husband!  Away, lest I tear you with my teeth!  Ha!
ha! madness is coming fast upon me!  Oh, joy, Jesu Christo! my brain
begins to wander."

"Signora——"

"Preach on—of what? religion—and in this dungeon!—in which religion has
consigned me to darkness, solitude, and horror.  Oh! the soul-sinking
misery I have endured these many, many weeks!  My husband—who murdered
him before my face?—A priest.  Who would have dishonoured me?—A priest!
Ha, away to your tyrant bishop! I will commune with God without the
medium of wretches such as thee!"

"Lady, I am no priest," I replied, deeply touched by her misery and
piercing voice.  "I am a soldier—a gentiluomo in disguise.  Trust me,
and you may yet escape to be free and happy."

As I spoke, she rose from the floor, grasped my arm with convulsive
energy, and gazed upon my face with a searching glance, as if she would
read the inmost secrets of my breast: she passed her hand across my head
and face, to assure herself my figure was not a vision; her whole arm
was thus revealed, and, though attenuated, its purity was dazzling.

"Oh, signor! dear and good signor! oh, if you should deceive me!" she
exclaimed, clinging to my hand and weeping bitterly.  "Oh, if you should
be but some emissary from the accursed bishop!  At times he comes, like
an evil genius, to offer me freedom.  Ah! canst thou guess its price?  I
will not go with thee—away! leave me!"

"Can there be greater misery than that which you now endure?"

"No, no; there cannot!  Who can live without hope? yet all fled from me!
Oh, my Luigi! hadst thou been living, I had not been forgotten to perish
thus!  My sisters——"

"Luigi!" I reiterated, while gently removing the dishevelled masses of
silky hair which veiled her features—a cry burst from me!  I beheld the
belle of Palermo, the nun of Crotona, the sister of Bianca, who had been
so cruelly carried off by the sbirri of this infamous Petronio of
Cosenza. "Francesca!" I exclaimed; "Francesca of Alfieri do you not
remember me?"

She regarded me fixedly, pressed her hands upon her temples, and then
shook her head mournfully.

"I am Claude Dundas—the friend of Santugo, and betrothed of your sister
Bianca."  I threw my arm around the poor bewildered girl, whom at that
moment I loved with all the tenderness of a brother.

"The friend of Luigi!—O, tell me if he yet lives?  Tell me, though the
answer should destroy me at the instant!"

"He lives, signora; but you alone can restore him to perfect happiness."

She raised her hands to Heaven, and an exclamation of pious and fervent
thankfulness died away on her lips: a bright blush for a moment shone on
her wan, but alas! no longer beautiful cheek, and had not my arm
supported her she would have sunk on the pavement in a swoon.  Without
delaying a moment, I bore her away, and locking all the doors after me,
deposited the keys in my pocket instead of in the niche.  The church was
empty, and the cardinal gone.  Leaving my charge for a moment in the
recess of an old monument, I hurried to the porch: I reeled giddily as
the full glory of noon blazed on my sight; so overpowering was the glare
of light after the obscurity of the vaults.  Hailing a passing calesso,
I desired the driver to draw up near the door: on beholding Francesca,
he scratched his unshaven chin, and appeared in an unpleasant state of
doubt; but on my slipping a scudo into his hand, and desiring him to
drive to the cardinal’s villa, all his scruples vanished, and we drove
off.

Great was the astonishment of the good cardinal, when I entered the
lower saloon or drawing-room, leading the squalid apparition of poor
Francesca; who was weakened by long confinement, and overcome with awe
on finding herself in the presence of so high a dignitary of the church.
She sank upon her knees, clasping my hand in hers, and not once daring
to raise her timid eyes to the face of York; who had arisen on our
entrance, and regarded us with a stare of silent wonder.

"Captain Dundas!" he exclaimed, in a tone which had something of
sternness in it; "what am I to understand by this intrusion—and who is
this woman?"

Francesca trembled violently; she would have spoken, but the words died
away in whispers on her pallid lips.

"My lord—your eminence, pardon me!  The case is urgent, and my meeting
with this lady so unexpected, that with your usual goodness you will
excuse my importunity, while I relate as briefly as possible her unhappy
story: it cannot fail to draw forth that gentle sympathy which no member
of your illustrious house ever refused to the unfortunate."

This was graciously received: the old cardinal was as accessible to
flattery as if he wore a crown; a pleasant smile spread over his
features, and resuming his throne-like seat in the large gilt-chair, he
said, waving his hand,—

"Proceed, sir: I trust I have fallen not away from the ancient virtues
of my ancestors.  You know the old homely saying,

    ’A king’s face
    Should give grace:’

And here at least we are a king, and our subjects shall not sue in vain.
Catanio, hand the lady a chair, and Captain Dundas will please to
proceed."

I endeavoured to raise Francesca; but altogether overcome with a sense
of her imaginary unworthiness, in a presence so august, she remained
kneeling in painful humility, with downcast eyes and trembling limbs.  I
pressed her hand to reassure her, and recalling all her story related it
briefly, and in such a mode as I deemed would be most pleasing to the
ear of the aged duke, and most likely to obtain his sympathy; which the
unhappy never claimed in vain.

"De Bivona and my Lord Bishop did right," he replied, "in capturing this
runaway; and the doom to which the latter consigned her, is only such as
the laws of the most holy Catholic Church have from time immemorial
directed for broken vows."

Francesca trembled more violently, and my heart sank: all hope seemed to
die away when the cardinal frowned on our cause.

"O, may it please your eminence to bend a favourable eye on this unhappy
girl?  You will confer a boon on the descendant of a family which of old
was never wanting in loyalty to your house."

He remained buried in thought for a time.

"Captain Dundas," said he, "I will think over this matter: the bishop
may have stretched rather too far that high authority with which the
Church invests her servants; but this unfortunate sister must return to
a convent, and there remain until her case has been duly considered.  My
order will assure her of the kindest treatment. Catanio!" he rang his
bell, and the fac-totum appeared.

Although Francesca regarded with invincible repugnance a return to a
convent, where she would be subjected to the impertinent scrutiny of the
sisterhood, and perhaps that of a severe superior, yet it was a joyful
relief from the horrors she had endured: I led her away, in tears, and
gave the cardinal those thanks which she was unable to articulate.  He
wrote a brief note to the abbess, which Catanio was to deliver.  The
calesso was at the door, and we drove off at true Neapolitan speed to
the Cistercian convent at Canne.

We resigned Francesca to the superior; whom I was glad to find was a
short and stout old lady, with double chin, two merry twinkling eyes,
and a visage which betokened the utmost good-nature. The poor girl wept
as if her heart would burst, when we prepared to retire; but on my
obtaining permission to visit her often, she became more reconciled.  I
left the prison-like nunnery, feeling happy that I could thus befriend
Santugo by protecting his Francesca, and restoring her to light and
life: the whole affair had quite the air of a romance.  Dismissing
Catanio, I went to the shop of a locksmith, whom I desired to make three
keys like those of the vaults, which were placed in his hand.

He bestowed an inquisitive glance at my curious monastic garb; but on my
displaying a few ducats, readily took an impression of the keys in wax:
on receiving his promise that a new set should be in readiness next day,
I hurried off and restored the originals to the niche where I had
promised to deposit them.

I was overjoyed to find the venerable cardinal so much interested in
Francesca’s favour, that he forthwith despatched a courier to Rome,
praying for her dispensation; which I then considered as certain: his
influence with Pope Pius being so great, that a boon so trifling as
loosening the vows of a nun could not be refused him.  I knew not how to
express my thanks: he was conferring as great a gift on me as on the
visconte, and I contemplated with joy the happiness our return would
diffuse at the Villa D’Alfieri, when I restored a bride to the arms of
Luigi; while, in return, he——but let me not anticipate that, for fear of
a disappointment.



                            *CHAPTER XXII.*

                       *A CHANCE OF ESCAPE LOST.*


A week slipped away: I visited Francesca every morning, and saw, with
pleasure, the bloom returning to her faded cheek, and the lustre to her
sunken eye: yet I spoke not of the dispensation, while there was the
least chance of a miscarriage; knowing that she was too weak to stand
many alternate shocks of grief and joy.

Notwithstanding the gracious manner and winning kindness and hospitality
of the cardinal—who appeared to possess that charm hereditary in his
family, by which he gained the hearts of all who knew him—I was
impatient to deliver at Crotona the despatches with which I was
entrusted; to fling aside the slovenly cassock, and don, once more, my
smart uniform.  I grew heartily tired of the disguise, when its novelty
passed away; and bestowed many a most unpriestly malison on its ample
skirt, when it impeded me in walking.

One evening Catanio came to me in a hurry, saying "_his Majesty_ wished
to see me without a moment’s delay:" he was most scrupulously exact in
styling him thus.

I found the cardinal seated on a lofty terrace, where he usually passed
the evening, enjoying the beauty of the prospect and coolness of the
air.

"Sir," said he, "a path is just opened for your escape, and you have an
opportunity which may never occur again.  The British ship I mentioned
to you is again off the coast, and a boatman will take you on board
after dusk.  There are no French gun-boats in the gulf, therefore you
can escape in perfect safety."

While he spoke, a frigate hove in sight: she was clearing a point of
land, over which her topsails were glittering in the light of the
setting sun; which was then gilding the glassy waters of the gulf, and
reddening, with its last rays, the surrounding shore.  It was the
_Amphion_: her bellying canvass shone white as snow, as she rounded the
promontory, and the evening wind unrolled the bright scarlet standard at
her mizzen peak: that standard which a Briton never hails with such
joyous pride as when it waves in the breeze of a foreign clime.
Gracefully the beautiful frigate came on, with the white foam curling
under her bows and rolling past her swelling sides, from which
thirty-six pieces of cannon protruded through the port-holes; and we
could discern the long flush line of her gun-deck crowded with men.

A smart American ship, which had probably been blown up the gulf by the
late storm, passed at a short distance on the opposite tack, showing her
stripes and stars.  Scarcely had she cleared the _Amphion’s_ quarter,
when a puff of white smoke curled from it, and a gun-shot whistled
across her fore-foot, skimming the water beyond.  The Americans
immediately took this rough hint, and lowered their topsails to our
flag—a good old custom of ocean homage, which of late years has been
disused.

"For what reason has the frigate fired on the poor merchantman?" asked
the cardinal.

I acquainted him with the ancient etiquette, by which Britain compelled
the flags of foreign nations to do homage on her wide watery dominions;
and a smile of gratified pride lighted up the glistening eyes of the
listener.

The frigate would be close off Canne, when she crossed the gulf on the
other tack; and the cardinal observed that Catanio would have a boat
waiting on the beach after dusk.  It was a tempting offer, and a most
tantalizing sight to behold within musket-shot a British ship, for whose
commander I had important despatches; but to abandon poor Francesca,
when I was so anxious to convey her to a place of safety, and to present
her in person to Luigi, was a project I could not relinquish.  The
cardinal read the expression of doubt which my face betrayed.

"Do you not wish to return to your friends and your duty?" he asked.

"Anxiously," I replied; "but not without the Signora D’Alfieri, whose
dispensation you so graciously requested.  Permit me to reside here a
few days longer—at least until it arrives—that I may convey this
desolate girl to the arms of the only friends whom war and time have
left her. You will thus confer another boon, which I shall long
remember, though I never can repay."

"As you please, Captain Dundas.  I shall be very happy if you reside
with me so long as your duty and inclination will permit you.  Happy
indeed!  Seldom it is now that an English tongue is heard among my
diminished household; save when some Scottish priest from Douay, or some
Highland gentleman whom English interest and the change of manners have
left uncorrupted, comes here to pay homage to the last of the Stuarts.
Yet their presence brings more sorrow than pleasure: it raises up those
airy visions which shipwrecked the happiness of my chivalric brother,
and beseem me not to think upon now, in my helpless obscurity and very
old age; creating a useless longing to behold that isle of which I have
heard and thought so much, and which I fain would look upon before my
eyes close in their last slumber, and I am laid in the tomb of my father
at Frescati."

Thus the good cardinal continued for hours: there was a something in his
tone and manner which touched me deeply.  Could I listen to his words
without sympathizing with fallen greatness, in the person of the last
representative of our long line of kings?

The sun went down, crimsoning land and sea with a warm glow, as it sank
behind the hills; the ocean changed from bright yellow to deep blue, the
stars were shining in heaven, and the _Amphion_ had diminished to a
speck on the distant waters of Tarentum, before the cardinal ended his
reminiscences and disjointed self-communings, and, leaning on my arm,
retired to his apartment. The frigate appeared no more: but after that
evening I became doubly anxious to be gone, and waited with intense
impatience the return of the courier, bringing from Rome the decree
which would free Francesca, or seal her doom for ever.

Remembering the false keys made for me at Canne, I resolved, in my
assumed character, to visit the cells of the penitents, and discover
those who were worthy of liberty, and those who deserved to remain in
durance vile.  One dusky evening I departed on this mission, with my
duplicate keys and a dark lantern, and having my shovel-hat flapped over
my face to avoid observation.  The night soon became dark; not a star
was visible, and the wind howled through the battlements of the ancient
church, and moaned in its hollow aisles.  Had I been timid or
superstitious, here was enough, in the horrible aspect of these vaulted
chambers, to deter me from advancing: but in them day and night were
almost alike.

I first opened the cell of the cavalier mentioned by the guide, and on
entering awakened the occupant from a dreamy sleep—a man: although his
features were hollowed by long confinement, want, and care; though his
eyes were wild and his beard grizzled—the expression of whose face was
as prepossessing and noble as his figure was commanding.  He was tall
and strong in person, but heavily fettered; and his garments were rags,
which fluttered in the breeze that swept through his prison: he trembled
with cold and debility.  Poor man!  a captivity of three long years had
not inured him to the misery of the den to which the tyranny of a
powerful persecutor had consigned him: his manacles clanked as he rose
from the damp pavement, and a stern and scornful frown gathered on his
haughty brow when he beheld me.

"Reverend signor," said he, waving his fettered hand, "you may spare me
your usual exhortations, and begone: yet think not that I am so hardened
as to scorn a Christian churchman. God forbid you should suppose so! but
I have nothing to confess, save my abhorrence of these bonds and the
foul tyranny which immures me here, in a living grave, from light and
happiness; subjecting me to misery under which, had not my own
indomitable spirit supported me, reason must have given way.  Leave
me—begone!"

"Signor Cavalier speak less angrily: I am not what you take me for, but
a friend who comes to set you free.  Remember, signor, that the British
are the friends of Calabria; which our victorious army has already freed
from the yoke of France."

"What is this you tell me?" he exclaimed. "British troops in Calabria!
And what am I reserved to hear?  Naples has again become a province of
France! yet not a voice has whispered it to me in this living tomb,
where I have been kept in ignorance of all those great events that have
shaken my country.  From France—again from the grasp of France?" said
you.

"From the brother of Napoleon, whose soldiers we have driven from the
rocks of Scylla to the hills of Cassano; hoisting the banner of
Ferdinand on the towns and castles of the provinces, and gaining one
most signal victory in a battle on the plains of Maida."

"I am thunderstruck!  And all this has passed in three years?"

"In as many months."

"O joy!  And you have come to set me free, most reverend father?"

"Yes,—but address me not thus: I am a British officer in disguise, and
placed in a most peculiar position," I replied; quite forgetting the
part I intended to act, in my sympathy for this unfortunate, whose frank
and graceful bearing gained my entire good-will.  "This Bishop of
Cosenza," I observed, "seems a tyrant, of whose cruelty and injustice I
have heard innumerable instances."

"A tyrant, said you?  Call him monster, fiend, or what you will: the
flaming depths of hell contain not a darker spirit, a more designing
devil!  You offer me life: yet what is life to me now, when every flower
that adorned my path in youth has been crushed and blighted, and every
beam of joy extinguished, till gloom, horror, and revenge have settled
like a shadow on my soul? O, signor! words cannot depict the bodily and
spiritual agony I have endured.  Ere we go, hear me, but a moment!  My
story is short, but bitter. Hear it, and pity me!"



                            *CHAPTER XXIII.*

                  *THE SECOND PENITENT—THE CAVALIER.*


I am the Cavaliere Paolo, of Casteluccio, one of the fairest patrimonies
in Naples.  No young man entered life with brighter prospects than mine,
when, at the age of twenty, I found myself master of a handsome fortune
and the love of Laura Molina, my fair cousin.  I had been betrothed to
her in infancy by my father; who, as her guardian, wished to keep her
ducats in the family. When at college, the idea of being compelled to
marry my little cousin was a source of continual vexation to me; and
from very obstinacy made me prone to fall in love with every other girl.
My marriage seemed the commencement of something terrible, and I saw
with dismay the arrival of my twentieth birthday; when throwing aside
gown and tocque, and after spending a year amid the gaieties of Florence
and Naples, I should have to demand my bride at the convent where she
boarded.

"Per Baccho!" thought I; "if this repugnance is mutual, what a happy
couple we shall be!"

On reaching the convent of St. Sabina, I found the inmates were hearing
mass performed by Father Petronio, the great ecclesiastical orator of
Cosenza.  I entered the chapel in no pleasant mood, conning over the
compliments which courtesy required should be paid to Laura; who I had
been informed was the prettiest girl in a convent which was famous for
its fashionable beauties.

"Ah! if Laura is like thee, young girl, what a happy rogue wilt thou be,
Signor Paolo!" thought I, as the veil of a young lady (who occupied a
stool near a column against which I leaned) was blown aside, revealing
to me a face of such mild and perfect beauty that I became quite
bewitched, and wished my unlucky cousin in the crater of Etna. Her
complexion was extremely fair; her eyes blue and tender, and a quantity
of light-brown hair fell curling around a face which had all that
softness and bloom of feature one might imagine in a seraph. Enough! for
the time, she banished all thoughts of Laura.

At last Father Petronio made an end of his discourse, of which I had not
heard a syllable. The people dispersed, and in the crowd of nuns,
novices, and boarders, I lost sight of my fair unknown.  I turned away
with a sigh to visit this provoking cousin, whom I was bound, by my
father’s will, to espouse, or my ducats would every one be forfeited to
the altar of Madonna.

I sent in my card to the abbess, and presented myself at the grate.  The
Signora Molina was called, and imagine my joy on discovering my
betrothed to be the same fair girl whose beauty had impressed me so
favourably at church.  I conversed with her for an hour, kissed her hand
respectfully, and withdrew; thinking myself a most fortunate fellow in
being compelled to espouse so handsome a girl, whose fortune was almost
equal to my own.

Petronio was the confessor at the convent, and officiated in the same
capacity to all the beauties of Cosenza; the ladies would confess their
peccadilloes to none other than this celebrated churchman, whose
learning, talent, and supposed sanctity, made him the pride of the
province: but he was a subtle fiend at heart, as my story will show.  He
was the confessor of Laura, and to him she confided all her little
secrets; until for some cause she dismissed him, and preferred an aged
and decrepit Basilian.  I remonstrated, but she said there were reasons:
adding, with a sweet smile, that I must be her humble servant then if I
would have her obey me by-and-bye.

I allowed her to please herself, and passed the time in alternately
visiting the convent and my villa, which I was fitting up suitably for
the reception of such a bride.  The more we saw and knew of each other,
the stronger our mutual love became; and often, hand and hand, have we
blessed my good and provident father who betrothed us in our childhood.

One night when returning from a café, where I had spent some hours
joyously with my friend Captain Valerio and a few of his brother
officers, old fellow-students, all choice spirits and roisterers, with
whom I had a farewell supper, I had a singular encounter.

It was a lovely Italian night; the brilliancy of the pale moon eclipsed
the light of the stars, which disappeared as she rose in her silver
glory above the Apennines, and poured her lustre on Cosenza’s seven
hills—on its steep and lofty streets, and on the round towers of its
hoary castello, where Alaric the Goth gave up his soul to God—whilst
their giant shadows fell, frowning and dark, on the shining waters of
the Bussiento and the Gratis. Midnight tolled from the steeple of
Sabina, and the most profound repose pervaded the moonlit city.  I gazed
on the towering hills, on the wild and ample forest—which in the days of
the Brutti extended to the promontory of Rhegium, but is now shrunk to
the wood of La Syla—where the wood-cutter and carbonari have replaced
the nymphs and satyrs of the ancients; I looked towards the distant sea
sparkling in the moonlight, as its waves rolled round the Campo di Mare,
and everything slept in silence, beauty, and repose: I was disposed for
meditation and reverie—I thought of Laura, and my heart beat happily.

"In three days," thought I, "I shall be married——"

"To Laura Molina," said a voice near me.

I started: some one had spoken, but not to me. I was near the portal of
St. Sabina, and looked inquiringly at the stone figure of Bruno of
Cologne—could it have addressed me?  No one appeared: I paused and
listened.

"And this girl is beautiful, say you?" asked a voice.

"Lancelloti, thou canst not conceive such loveliness."

"I would compliment your taste, signor, could I but find you," I
muttered, grasping my poniard.

"Again I say, Lancelloti——’

"Sword of Omar! you forget: my name is Osman Carora," replied the second
speaker.  "I am a respectable Mahometan.  Corpo di Baccho! I swear by
turban and beard,—yea, by Mahomet!——"

"Silence, fool! and hear me whisper."

"Either Petronio spoke just now, or Satan himself!" thought I, looking
cautiously about me; having a laudable curiosity to discover those good
people who took such an interest in my affairs. I retired within the
deep portal at the moment that two men stood before it in the full blaze
of the moonlight, and I could distinctly hear all that passed.  One was
a short, squat, villainous-looking fellow, whose red vest, yellow
trousers, turban, brass pistols, and sabre declared him to be an Italian
renegade, acting under the Algerine flag in the double capacity of
pirate and smuggler. The other was the immaculate Petronio, whose breast
was the repository of half the female secrets in the city—Petronio, the
paragon of Cosenza,—the man of holiness, and of God!

"I tell you, again and again, Lancelloti, Carora, or whatever you call
yourself," he exclaimed, in a hoarse whisper, "that I love this girl
fondly: yea, madly; and shall I behold her given up to this chit-face
cavalier, and without a struggle?"

"Of course not," replied the other, stroking his beard, while his
imperturbable gravity formed a strong contrast to the whirlwind of
passion which racked the bosom of the monk.

"For two years I was her confessor.  O, the rapture I have felt in her
presence!  The exceeding beauty of that young girl has cast a spell upon
me: I am no longer myself, the cold-hearted and calm-visaged monk, but a
jealous and amorous lover.  Curse on this robe! which excites only awe
and gloom in the hearts of the young and beautiful.  When at confession
she knelt before me, was it not rapture to obtain those glimpses of her
soft and snowy bosom?"

"Ay, truly, it was," responded he of the turban and slippers
impatiently.

"To look on those bright blue eyes, and the stray, golden curls that
shaded the dimpled cheek, to feel those beautiful hands clasped on my
knee in prayer, though I dared not touch them.  Never before did such a
fairy being cross the path of a priest, to wean him from his God, and
destroy his peace for ever."

"No, indeed, no!  Sacramento! come to anchor, will you?  The moon is on
the wane; La Syla is growing dark, the land-breeze is coming, and the
_Crescent_ lies close to under the Campo di Mare, with jib and foresail
loose: I must sail by daybreak, if I would keep clear of the British
fleet; which my prince of crookbacks, Gaspare Truffi, says, stood down
the Straits of Messina last evening."

"Right before the wind, with studding-sails and royals," said a hideous
hunchback, whom I had not before observed; "and if this breeze
continues——"

"Peace, imp of darkness! and sheer off," said the pirate, grasping a
pistol.

The hunchback growled, and withdrew.

"Prythee, make an end, Petronio, and say for what purpose you have
brought my handsome shipmate and me hither.  A priest in love is—bah! in
time you will tire of this baby-faced girl."

"Tired!" exclaimed the priest—

      "O, no!
    I ne’er shall tire of the unwearying flame.
    But I am weary, kind and cruel dame,
    With tears that uselessly and ceaseless flow.
    Scorning myself, and scorned by you, I long
    For death!——"


"Pshaw! you are mad," cried the pirate, with angry impatience; "quoting
the sonnets of Petrarch like a day-dreaming student, when you should act
like a man of mettle.  Here I am, at your service, mine ancient friend
and gossip,—Frà Lancellotti once, now Osman Carora, of the brave
xebecque _Crescent_, in the service of his sublime puissance the Bey of
Tripoli.  Thou seest that, while at the summit of my oriental dignity, I
have not forgotten thee: but speak to the purpose.  That d——d British
fleet—quick—thy project——"

"Is—but come this way!"  They moved forward; I paused for a moment,
rooted to the spot by astonishment; and when I darted from the shadow of
the porch, lo! they were gone; nor priest nor pirate could I see, though
the bright moonlight still shone in full splendour on the tall windows
and marble columns of St. Sabina.  The _project_—the very essence of the
matter—I had not yet learned; O, diavolo!  On every side I searched, but
saw them no more; and, with a heart full of anger and apprehension, I
returned to my temporary residence in the city.

"And this is the sainted Petronio!" I exclaimed; "in love with my Laura,
and leaguing with pirates to rob me of her: curse on his presumptuous
soul!  The podesta shall hear of what this night has revealed, and he
shall drag forth to justice this wolf in sheep’s clothing."  But
recollecting that my single assertion could not pull down the mighty
fabric of Petronio’s fame, I resolved to be calm, and watch narrowly:
three days more would see Laura in my arms, when I might laugh at the
friar, his passion, and his projects.

Fool that I was, to be outwitted by a villainous monk, after such a
warning!  Laura’s dismissal of her sanctified confessor was sufficiently
accounted for: a dubious glance or word had, doubtless, offended her
delicate sensibility, and his visits had been dispensed with for ever.

A thousand lights burned in the villa of Casteluccio, tinting with a
ruddy glow the sea and the rocks of Campo di Mare, around which the
waves rolled sparkling like diamonds.  Hangings of satin fringed with
gold; festoons of fragrant flowers, gilded statues, and vases of
alabaster; ceilings of fresco, columns of marble, floors of mosaic, and
pyramids of particoloured lamps, had turned my villa into a fairy
palace.  Every hall and chamber was gleaming with light, and crowded
with beauty and gaiety; while the band of the Italian Guards played
divinely in the saloon.  The soft music floated along the echoing roofs,
and all were joyous and happy.  It was our marriage night. The fête was
superb: six weeks before, the invitations had been issued, and all of
any note in the province were invited.  The fountains flowed with wine;
and the pillared hall was crowded with dancers, who whirled in the airy
waltz, or threaded the graceful quadrille.  Nor did less joy reign
without; where, on the green lawn, lighted less by the summer moon than
by the countless variegated lamps which covered the walls of the villa
and the trees around it, the young paesani danced the gay tarantella to
the tabor and guitar.

I was waltzing with the Duchess of Bagnara, one of the most famed of our
Neapolitan beauties; but I saw only my Laura, who, attired in her white
bridal robe, shone among our loveliest women like a planet amongst the
stars.  How shall I describe her?  Oh, for the power of Petrarch, and
the same glowing words with which he described _the_ Laura of Avignon!
Not less beautiful was mine, as she shone in all her blushing
loveliness; her bright hair waving around her, and her blue eyes
sparkling with happiness and love.  The duchess, a stately woman, with
diamonds gleaming among her raven locks, was managing her train with
inimitable grace, and rallying me severely on my want of gallantry and
inattention to her, when the report of a pistol was heard, and shrieks
of women followed.  The dance stopped, the ladies turned pale, eyes met
in wonder, the music died away, and all listened in surprise; which soon
gave place to terror.

Headed by a tall and powerful ruffian, in whom, notwithstanding his
Eastern garb, I recognised Father Petronio, a band of armed Algerines
rushed among the dancers with pistol, pike, and scymitar. Defenceless as
I was, I sprang to the side of Laura; my brave friend, the young
Santugo, interposed with his drawn sword: but he was struck to the earth
by Petronio’s pistol, the ball of which wounded the fair duchess who
stood near him.

"Miscreant monk!" I exclaimed; but was beaten down, senseless: the last
I remember was beholding Laura struggling in the arms of the piratical
priest.

When I returned to this world of misery, I found myself many leagues
away at sea, chained to the deck of the renegade’s ship, the _Crescent_;
which stood towards the African coast, and, favoured by the land-breeze,
was then leaving the Sicilian shores behind.  Through an open port, I
saw the last headland fading in the distance. The deck was strewn with
the plunder of my villa: but I thanked Heaven that my friends had been
left, and that I alone had been carried into slavery.  Laura!—had she
escaped, or was she too in the hands of barbarians—a slave, exposed to
every indignity and horror?  I trembled—my heart sickened: I gnashed my
teeth, and sank upon the deck in a stupor, caused by rage and
disappointment, mingled with love and fear for Laura.

From this state I was roused by being dragged along the deck by the
villainous Carora, who flung me, while heavily ironed and unable to
resist, down the companion-ladder with such force that I lay stunned and
motionless.  Oh, misery of miseries! in the cabin of the pirate was
Laura Molina—the girl whom but yesterday I had so joyously and solemnly
espoused at the altar of St. Sabina—whom I had sworn to love for
ever,—struggling in the strong grasp of Petronio.

She yet wore her bridal dress: but her bloom, her jewels, and wreath
were gone.  A stranger could not have recognised the blushing bride of
yesterday, in the pale but beautiful phantom of to-day!  I would have
rushed to embrace her, but Carora held my fetters.

"Paolo!—my husband!—save me! save me!" she cried wildly, stretching her
arms towards me.

"Laura, to God alone——"

"Peace!" exclaimed Petronio, grasping a pistol. "Laura Molina, accept of
my love, or I will blow the brains of your cavalier against the
bulkhead!"

"Thy love!—O, horror!" she raised her eyes to Heaven.

"Woman!  I am not in a humour for trifling. On the wide ocean, far from
aid, you are completely in my power, and must address your supplications
to me; for I tell you, not even heaven above, nor hell below the waters,
can save you from me now!  Decide—your Paolo, or me?  A word may save
him, or a word destroy!"

Levelling a pistol, he seemed more like a fiend than a human being:
passion rendered his accents hoarse, and his visage black; his bulky
frame seemed to dilate, and his breast to pant, while his eyes glared
beneath their shaggy brows; and the knotted locks that fringed his
shaven scalp twisted like the vipers of Lugano.  His right hand was on
the pistol-lock,—his left grasped the shrinking form of Laura.

"Signora!" he exclaimed, in a fierce, fond whisper, "think of the bright
fortune I can offer thee in the sunny land of the Algerine!"

"Holy Madonna, instruct me what to do in this hour of agony!" prayed the
unhappy girl, whose excessive misery would have melted any heart save
that of the apostate.  "O, my Paolo,—thou,—every hair of whose head is
more dear to me than my own life, what can I say to save thee?"

"Loved one! bid death welcome, and defy fear: but forget not that you
are the wedded wife of a Neapolitan cavalier!"

"Farewell, dearest,—Laura will soon follow thee."

"Thou wilt have me then?" exclaimed Petronio, with fierce triumph.

"Never!" replied Laura, faintly, as she swooned and sank senseless in
his arms.

"Then away to Satan, thou!" cried the priest, as he fired at my head:
but at that moment the pirate Lancelloti (or Carora), renegade and
ruffian as he was—touched by one of those qualms of conscience which at
times trouble even the most hardened villains, or, perhaps, moved to
pity by the exceeding beauty and agony of Laura—struck up the weapon,
and the ball passed through the deck above.  The priest turned furiously
upon his partner in crime: but the distant report of a cannon, and the
cry of "a sail on the weather beam," diverted their mutual anger for the
time.

Confused by the explosion of the pistol, I was dragged back to the
ring-bolt on deck; where I remained, helplessly, during all the horrors
of the battle which ensued.  Laura,—it was the last I beheld of her—the
last!  O, Madonna mia and Thou whose power enabled me to survive such an
accumulation of woe, teach me how, at this distance of time, to look
upon the events of that day with resignation and calmness!

The corsair had fallen in with a Maltese corvette of twenty guns,
bearing a knight-commander’s pennon at the foremast head.  She proved to
be the _Gierusalemme_, commanded by the brave Calabrian, Marco of
Castelermo; and an engagement being unavoidable, the corsair, which had
an equal number of guns, prepared for action.  Five hundred of the
greatest villains under the sun stood to quarters: the ports were hauled
up, the guns double-shotted, the tackles laid across the deck, while
round-shot, wadding, grape, and cannister lay between them in profusion.
The crimson flag of Algeria was displayed from the mizzen peak. The
renegade seemed in his glory, and swaggered about with scymetar and
speaking-trumpet; while the once meek and holy Petronio, with a cutlass
and priming-box buckled to his waist, officiated as captain of a gun;
and Truffi, the hunchback, crawled like a gigantic toad about the deck,
bearing an immense basket filled with shot-plugs and oakum.

Thus prepared, the Algerines awaited the attack of the corvette; for
whose success I prayed with the holiest fervour.

On came the _Gierusalemme_, the water flashing; under her bows, and her
taut canvass shining like snow in the noonday sun: both vessels as they
neared shortened sail.  The first cannon-ball passed close to my ear,
and, stupified by its wind, I grovelled on the deck in despair.  The
corsair, after failing to weather her adversary, steered under her lee.

"Base infidels, surrender or sink!" cried a voice from the corvette, as
we crossed on opposite tacks.

"To the tyrant knights of Malta!" bellowed Lancelloti through his
trumpet: "to become their slaves!  Bah!  Never, while the great deep can
hide us, and we can throw a match in the magazine!"  After a good deal
of skilful manoeuvring, the action commenced in stern earnest.

The pirates fought like demons: for slavery or death was their fate if
vanquished; but the Christians opposed them with coolness and bravery,
The heavy metal of the latter battered to wreck and ruin the bulwarks of
the former,—dismantling their guns, and heaping the deck with dead; whom
they were soon compelled to throw overboard to clear the way.  The
enormous fifty pound balls of the corvette’s forecastle piece, created a
devastation, to behold which made my heart leap with joy.  The corsair
was evidently getting the worst of the battle: her deck was torn up and
ploughed in a thousand places, and the white splinters flew around in
incessant showers; her sails were blown to rags, her standing and
running rigging hung all in bights and loops, useless and disordered;
while the blessed banner, the taper masts, and taut cordage of the
Gierusalemme towered above the dense smoke in as perfect order as when
the engagement began.

During this yard-arm contest, my situation was horrible: I was ironed
helplessly to the deck, amid all its fury, and was, consequently, unable
to fight or fly, to save Laura or myself.  Ah! how I trembled lest the
missiles of the Maltese might penetrate the place of her confinement.
Incessantly they were crashing around me, tearing up the strong planks,
dashing boats and booms to fragments, and scattering brains and blood on
every side.  The slippery deck was flooded with the red current, which
gushed from the lee scuppers.  I was suffocating beneath the corpses
which fell continually above me, and shrieked and struggled under the
ghastly load; but the ring-bolts were immoveable, and my cries were
unheeded amid that frightful din.  On all sides rang the curses, threats
and cheers of the living, the groans of the dying, the clanking of
blocks and handspikes, the rattle of chains, and stamping of feet,
mingled with the creaking and jarring of the guns as they were worked on
deck, hauled back by their tackles, loaded and urged again to port; and
then burst the deafening roar, while the small arms from forecastle,
poop, and tops, made up a medley of horrors!  Riddled below and wrecked
aloft, the corsair lay like a log on the water, and the fire of her guns
died away.

_La Gierusalemme_ forged ahead and lay across her bows, which the
Maltese grappled fast; and the brave cavalier who commanded leaped upon
her bowsprit at the head of his boarders.  A yell burst from the pirates
as the red flag of death floated from the _Gierusalemme_; whose guns,
crammed to the muzzle with round shot and grape, were once more poured
into her: the tremendous fury of the broadside, sweeping through from
stem to stern, killed one-half of her fighting men, and struck
consternation to the souls of the rest.

The moment of deliverance was at hand.  On came the boarders like a
torrent; when a cry of "fire!" arrested the faculties of all, and
Petronio, the demon-monk, leaped up the hatchway with a flaming match:
he had fired the ship.

"Throw her off—cut the grapplings—man the main-deck guns—fill the
fore-yard!  Bravissimo, St. John for Malta!" cried Castelermo, as his
boarders scrambled back to the corvette, and their foes fought like
fiends at the grapnels, that all might perish together.  But the Maltese
passed from their reach, backed their mainyard, and once more their
broadside belched forth destruction on the sinking _Crescent_.  Three
hours had the combat lasted: the setting sun was now gilding the
Tunisian hills and the Isle of Giamour.

The corsair was soon enveloped in a cloud of murky vapour, which rolled
away to leeward; and Lancelloti, after throwing all his wounded
overboard, prepared to abandon the wreck.  Concealed by the smoke, the
crew crowded into their remaining boats and fled.

O, signor, imagine my situation then!  Laura—if she yet lived—and
myself, were alone in the corsair; which reeled every instant as the
heavy shot of the corvette pierced her.  I heard a shriek from the
cabin—another: it died away—O, frightful! The corsair was now a mass of
flame.  I might have saved Laura had I been free, but ironed hand and
foot to the accursed deck—a victim, helpless as herself—I could only
rave and pray; until exhausted by the terrible emotions which wrung my
soul, and half-stifled by the heat and smoke, I lay motionless in a
state of stupefaction and misery.

As from an ocean hell, the hot flames burst through every hatch and
port: all became red around me—my heart panted, my eyes were bursting in
their sockets.  I saw the masts and yards blazing and rocking above me;
I heard the "vivas" of the Maltese, and the report of the corsair’s guns
exploding, as they successively became heated by the roaring and
scorching flame.

"Now—I am gone—I am dying—God receive me!"  The deck yielded beneath,
and I expected to sink to the bottom of the flaming hold: but my fate
was changed.  At that moment the magazine blew up—a whirlwind of sparks
burst on every side, the crackling deck parted beneath me, and I found
myself struggling in the ocean: the corsair sank, hissing and roaring,
and nearly drawing into her vortex the planks to which I was chained.
The bitter briny water rushed in at every pore, and I became insensible.

On recovering, I found myself upon the deck of the corvette; from whose
commander I received every kindness and attention that the brave can
yield to the unfortunate: but I was filled with an agony of horror when
I reflected on the past, and the fate of Laura Molina.

Time softened those pangs; and remembering that she was with the angels
in heaven, and happier than she could ever have been on earth, I became
contented: but vowed never to love another!—a solemn pledge of love and
piety which I have most religiously preserved.  To be brief—I served
with the Cavalier di Castelermo during the remainder of his cruise,
against the Algerines, with whom we had many encounters; and the desire
of avenging my wrongs endued me with the valour of a lion.

After the blockade of Valetta, when all hope of restoring the order of
St. John to its pristine splendour had failed, Castelermo and I set out
for Italy to join the grand-master at Genoa.  During the voyage the
vessel anchored off the Campo di Mare, and I was seized with a longing
to behold my native city, and visit once more those places which the
associations of childhood and love have rendered so dear to me.

On hearing that so distinguished a cavalier, with his train, was in the
vicinity, the bishop of Cosenza invited us all to his palace.  It was
one of our glorious Italian days: the landscape danced joyously in the
sunbeams; the green peaks of the Syla, the spires of the city, the
winding river, the waving woods, and the distant sea, all shone in
summer beauty beneath the bright blue sky.

The memory of Laura, her beauty, her gentle innocence, our love, and our
misery, made my heart alternately a prey to the tenderest sorrow, and
the fiercest longings to requite her wrongs upon the wretch Petronio.

It was the levée day of the bishop; a guard of mounted sbirri received
us in the porch of his palace.  A crowd of richly dressed cavaliers,
officers, and knights of military orders, mingling with churchmen,
thronged the ante-rooms, and were introduced, in turn, by the
chamberlain. Entering the presence-chamber of the great prelate, I
beheld him seated in a lofty chair, wearing his canonicals and sparkling
mitre, gleaming with jewels and embroidery.  On my nearer approach,
judge of my sensations on recognising in his stern and sallow visage,
the accursed lineaments of Father Petronio.  The blood rushed
tumultuously on my heart, and all the long slumbering spirit of the
devil arose within me.

"Gesu Christo!" I exclaimed, raising my hands to Heaven; "is this one of
Thy servants—Thy chosen servants?"

Castelermo arose from his knees in astonishment, while I unsheathed my
sword and sprang upon the bishop, alike regardless of his power, his
friends, and my life: I trembled, I panted, I thought only of Laura and
retribution.

"Hypocritical apostate!" I exclaimed, grasping him by the throat, and
dashing his mitre to the earth.  "Thou pest of hell! thou murderer of my
wife, and wrecker of my peace! have we met at last—ha!"

"Sacrilege!" cried the strangling bishop.  "O, gentlemen and cavaliers,
save me from this mad man!"

"Madman! ha—peace, thou wolf in sheep’s-clothing! I am Paolo of
Casteluccio, and too well thou knowest me: but die, fiend, die!"  The
strong hand of my friend grasped my descending sword, and the life of
the dog bishop was spared; although I dashed him to the floor with such
force that he lay stunned and senseless.

I laughed with fierce exultation, and strove to trample him to death,
but was grasped by a hundred hands.  All the smothered fury of years had
broken forth; and, imagining I had the strength of a Goliah, I thought
to burst, like cobwebs, the fetters which were heaped upon me.  I was
mad—a maniac; and, knowing that I was so, rejoiced when men who were
valiant and strong, quailed before the demon-glare of my eye.  The
crowded chamber, the gleaming swords, the halberts of the sbirri, the
prostrate bishop, and the uproar of tongues are yet before me, like a
dream of yesterday: I remember no more.

When the passion-fit passed away, and reason returned, I was here, in
fetters, amid gloom and woe.  Three summers have come and gone, since
last I saw the sun. * * * O, signor! all hope of life and liberty had
faded away, and your presence alone has revived a love of existence, and
a wish to look on the beautiful world once more,—on its blue skies and
green hills, ere death closes these eyes for ever."

The cavalier concluded just as my lamp was about to expire, and the grey
dawn was peeping through the little iron grating which lighted his
dismal vault.  I gave the unfortunate man my hand, and, leading him
forth, struck off his rusty fetters with a stone I found near the chapel
door. No pen can describe his joy on finding himself free, and breathing
the pure air of the summer morning.  The sun was rising in all its
beauty above the dark green ridge of the distant hills; for three years
he had not beheld it: he wept with joy, and, embracing me, declared,
with the enthusiasm of his nation, that his life was at my service.

"O, signor! never since I stood by Laura’s side at the altar, have I
felt a happiness equal to that which animates me now!"

His eyes sparkled with joy, and his haggard cheek flushed.  He appeared
about thirty years of age; and, but for his tattered garments and matted
hair and beard, his features and figure would have been eminently
striking and noble. Reminding him that instant flight was necessary, I
advised him to join the chivalric Francatripa, with whom he would be
safer than in any Italian city. He relished the proposal; as many men of
birth and education did not disdain to serve against France under such a
leader.

We parted.  Catanio was tolling the bell for matins, at the villa, when
I returned; and, gaining my room unobserved, threw myself on a couch,
and slept till noon: I then joined the old cardinal in his daily
promenade, under the cool arcades, on the seaward side of his residence.



                            END OF VOL. II.





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