Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

quil and placid as the waters of the Lago Maggiore. Even night, that sable and constant mantle with which the Omnipotent has so wisely enveloped the gorgeous beauties of nature,-even night failed, in this instance, to hide the beautiful scené, for the dusky red column of smoke, which arose during the day from the crater of Vesuvius, was changed by the coming darkness to a bright and beautiful column of living fire, which performed the part of a nocturnal sun, and kept the splendid panorama at its feet in a state of constant illumination. Well might the bard of " Memory” exclaim,

“ This region, surely, is not of the earth!

Was it not dropped from heaven? Not a grove,
Citron, or pine, or cedar ; not a grot,
Sea-worn and mantled with the gadding vine,

But breathes enchantment." It is a trite but a true observation, that the contemplation of nature, under favourable circumstances, especially beneath the sunny skies and the soft atmosphere of the South, has a tendency to make us love the species of which we form a part, and for which this beautiful world itself was created ; and still further to draw the mind from

“Nature up to Nature's God." Nor were these thoughts wanting upon the present occasion. When I reflected upon man-upon his great powers and endowments—I did, indeed, regard him as the brightest and most perfect emanation of the Eternal Mind. Alas! how soon was I to behold an instance of the deep degradation and perversity of our common nature !

I had alighted at the inn, which was a common pot-house, in the outskirts of the city, and was just leaving it, after having prescribed for my patient and ascertained that his ailment was trifling, when I was informed, by the master of the house, that a poor woman,

who was without money or friends, and whom he believed to be of English extraction, was dying in a loft over the stable. I instantly requested to be led to her, and with great difficulty ascended into the old and ruinous loft where she lay. I found her lying upon some straw in the corner; the humanity of one of the ostlers had induced him to throw an old horsecloth over her, but in her struggles it had become displaced, and I perceived that she was habited in a rich but faded and disfigured dress of purple velvet. Her legs were enormously swollen, and the sandals of her shoes were literally buried in the flesh, the blackness of mortification, from impeded circulation, being actually visible through the thin silk stockings which covered them.

She had been stricken with a coup-de-soleil, which is somewhat similar in its effects to apoplexy; the left angle of the mouth was drawn down for nearly an inch, and two artificial teeth hung suspended by a wire, and were driven to a level with the lips by each deep and painful expiration of air. The eyebrows were also artificial, and one of them had been removed by the hot perspiration which rolled from her brow, and' now lay directly across instead of above the eye; the cheeks too were painted, and the perspiration, in passing down, had formed channels through the paint, which gave her the appearance of a painted Indian savage. But I will not pursue this disgusting and humiliating picture any further : suffice it to say, that a sight so revolting to humanity never before met my eyes. A moment's examination satisfied me that this unhappy being was in a moribund state, and past all the resources of my art; my principal duty, therefore, was to smooth her painful passage from this world. Her condition would not admit of her being removed to a proper apartment, and it was in vain that I sought to learn from those around her any thing of her connexions. She had been found by the humane ostler, to whom I have already alluded, lying upon a heap of dirt in the stable-yard, evidently in a dying state, and was removed by him to the loft, that she might end her days a little more decently. She herself lay apparently unconscious of every thing, though now and then she was shaken with a slight convulsion, during which she

gave utterance (but with difficulty, in consequence of the distortion of her mouth) to the wildest and most delirious expressions. Once, while I was holding her head, I thought she seemed to comprehend my question, when I asked her name and if she had any friends, for her eye appeared for an instant to brighten, and her face, which was already stamped with the signet of death, showed a gleam of consciousness. She spoke in French, and said, in broken and hollow accents," I-I am the Goddess of Reason; let every lover of liberty worship me.” In a moment after this her head fell back, and she was a corpse.

“Oh Liberty! what crimes are committed in thy name !" How often has thy altar been defiled by wild and unbridled license, which has assumed thy form and attributes ! Behold another hapless victim to its excesses! Yes, the unhappy being whose death I have described, was drawn into the vortex, and swept from the earth, by that whirlwind of destruction which commenced in the French Revolutionwhich burst upon the world to mar the majesty of nature, and render it a stage for strife, and the seat of human misery. At the close of the scene I have described above, I left the house, and proceeded to the residence of Mr. G the worthy vice-consul at Naples, with a view to procure Christian burial for the unhappy deceased; and it was from him and others that I collected the following incidents of her life :

Lady the daughter of a noble ducal house, and closely connected with the venerable head of the church, and the then first commoner of England, left her country under the care of a maiden aunt, for the purpose of residing a short time in Paris. This was about the beginning of the year 1789, and just at the period when the subtle successors of Voltaire were engaged in spreading their revolutionary doctrines. It is well known that these men availed themselves largely of female influence; and hence we find, from the Baroness de Stael downwards, that there were few women who failed to figure in the various cabals of the day. The aunt of Lady --, in particular, was a woman of strong passions and weak principles, and it was no wonder, therefore, that she quickly became an advocate for liberty, equality, the rights of man, universal benevolence, and the majesty of the people.

Her house was the principal rendezvous for the revolutionary leaders, where Condorcet, Mirabeau, Abbé Sieyes, and still later, the two Robespierres and Hebert, were constantly engaged in disseminating their doctrines. It was not surprising, under these circumstances, that the unformed and romantic mind of a girl of seventeen should become vitiated, and should imbibe the poison so liberally spread before her. The

elder Robespierre soon discovered that she would be an apt instrument for his designs, and an acceptable victim to his lust: he therefore applied himself, with all the sophistry which he possessed, to wean her affections from a young nobleman to whom she was betrothed in England, and to destroy the last remnants of her virtuous principles; the contest was unequal—all around her spoke the language of the arch-deceiver.

Reason, as it was called, and sophistry, triumphed over religion and virtue; and when, a short time afterwards, her aunt died from the effects of a brain fever, brought on by the indulgence of her passions, Lady

resisted the importunities of her friends to return to England, and ultimately sought a shelter from them in the arms of the arch fiend. Will it be credited ?—the noble, accomplished, beautiful Lady actually united herself to Maximilian Robespierre by the republican ceremony then in vogue of dancing unclad round the tree of liberty.

The sequel of this unfortunate woman's story is soon told : she continued with Robespierre during the early part of his career, and even after he had for some time exercised supreme power, joining in all the wild excesses which marked this terrible period of human history.

She identified herself with a party of women who were known by the name of Robespierre's Devotees, most of whom had been united to him by the same impious and indecent ceremony she herself had submitted to, and whom he had tutored to attend upon him at the Assembly and the Jacobin clubs for the purpose of applauding the different sentiments to which he gave utterance,

,-a scheme to which he owed much of his early popularity, as the galleries readily followed the impulse which was given to them. Repeatedly, also, was she seen with the other devotees dancing farandoles round the permanent guillotine, in mockery of the myriads of victims sacrificed by the monsters who made liberty and reason the watchwords for their crimes, and whose single enormities, such as chaining an affectionate wife to the guillotine where her husband was executed, because she presumed to implore pardon for him, would alone have handed them down to the execrations of posterity.

It was Lady -, also, who personated, almost in a state of nudity, the Goddess of Reason at the impious fête given by Robespierre for the worship of “Reason," and hence the expressions which I have stated as falling from her dying lips.

Ultimately this unhappy woman eloped from Paris with an Italian Count, to whom she was married at Naples in the Roman Catholic ritual, and who deserted her as soon as he had secured the little property which remained to her. Her noble relatives in England had, as may be supposed, totally given her up; and she continued, during the rest of her life, to indulge in every species of excess, until it closed in the scene which I have described. I shall leave my readers to draw the moral from what I have related. A beautiful, 'nobly connected, and accomplished girl, changed by circumstances into the fearful character I have described, and dying almost on a dunghill, in a foreign land,

and with appearances too frightful to contemplate. Again I say,

“Oh, Liberty! what crimes have been committed in thy name !''

March.-VOL. XL. NO. CLIX.

х

II.-THE ITALIAN BANDIT.

On one

A short time after the occurrence to which I have alluded in my previous narrative, I left Naples for the purpose of spending a few weeks at the country residence of my friend, Mr. C-, the banker and vinegrower, My friend's house was situated about thirty miles from Naples, on the road to Pæstum, in a delightful part of the country between the sea and the mountains of the Apennine, richly wooded and embellished with convents, villages, and the ruins of ancient edifices. Mr. C's avocations called him frequently to Naples, and my principal delight during his absence was to wander about the neighbouring country, and inspect the remains of the numerous ancient temples, some of which had resisted the destroyer Time for upwards of two thousand years. of these occasions I left the house soon after day-break, mounted on a sturdy mule, with the intention of visiting an ancient aqueduct and villa which stand amidst hanging gardens at the foot of the Apennine. According to my usual custom, I went without a guide, as I preferred enjoying the great natural beauties which presented themselves unembarrassed by the presence of a stranger. It was harvest season, and the beautiful and interesting landscape was rendered still more so by the occasional groups of Calabrian farmers and peasants, all armed with short swords and fowling-pieces, and equipped in the romantic costume in which they are so frequently pourtrayed by the masterly pencil of Salvator Rosa. As I approached the river Šilaro, anciently Silarus, famed from time immemorial for the petrifying quality of its waters, the scene began to change, the farm-houses had totally disappeared, and the face of the country became wild, melancholy, and like the Pontine Marshes twenty years ago. The soil

, too, was loose and swampy; and the frequent crazy bridges, made with boughs of trees, and throwu over deep ditches, rendered the route both dangerous and disagreeable. My ardour, however, was not to be damped by these circumstances, nor by the numerous stories which I had heard respecting the brigands who infested this part of the country: to the latter, indeed, I had not paid much attention, conceiving most of the stories which I had heard to result from the exaggeration and extravagance which are so natural to the Neapolitan character.

An incident, however, shortly occurred which changed the current of my thoughts. I was riding slowly up a mountain ravine, the path being extremely narrow, and cut through a wood of tamarisk and myrtle trees; I had left the bridle of the mule upon his neck, and had thrown my arms carelessly behind me, as was my common habit when immersed in thought. Suddenly I felt my elbows pinioned forcibly together, and at the same instant the muzzle of a large horse-pistol was held within two inches of my left temple, while a voice at my ear exclaimed, in Italian, “Signor, you are my prisoner! Resist, and I will slay you with as little remorse as I would kill one of those swinish buffaloes below; submit, and I will not harm a hair of your head.”

I was without weapons, and being taken at a disadvantage, felt that resistance was useless, and that the best part of valour in this instance was discretion : I therefore remained perfectly quiescent, whilst he continued, You are right, Signor, not to resist. I must bind your arms in their present position, and we will then treat of

your ransom.' He accordingly replaced the pistol in his belt, and untying a long sash from his waist, bound my arms closely but not painfully behind me; the sash was also passed under the body of the mule, and brought up over my thighs. My position now was sufficiently serious, and yet so absurd, that I found it impossible, upon glancing at my own person, bound so helplessly upon the back of the mule, to resist a smile at the ridiculous figure I cut. The bandit observed it, and remarked, “ You are right, Signor, not to lose your temper or your spirits; and yet there are hundreds who would tremble at the mere thought of being in this wild place, and in the power of Marco d'Abruzzo.' Marco d'Abruzzo! thought I; this, then, is the celebrated bandit of whom my friend Chas spoken, and of whom the peasants tell so many gallant and fearful deeds, who has forced the whole country round to pay him tribute for the protection of their property, much of the same kind as the black mail which was formerly levied in the Highlands of Scotland. A sudden thought struck me; I knew that C—was a tributary to this Neapolitan Rob Roy, and resolved to learn whether the protection extended to his friends as well as his property. I therefore informed him that I was an intimate friend of CV's, and at that time a visitor at his country-house. Before I could proceed further, Marco eagerly demanded if I had spent a night under his roof?—if I had broken bread at his table? I answered, of course, in the affirmative; and, without waiting for proofs of my assertion, the bandit instantly untied the sash by which I was bound, and proceeded to overwhelm me with apologies for the temporary inconvenience to which I had been subjected. He entertained, he said, the highest respect for C—, who always paid his dues with the greatest punctuality; that his respect for C—would alone have induced him to refrain from molesting his friend, had he known me as such ; and that the circumstance of my having broken bread with one who relied upon him for protection, made it doubly repugnant to his old Roman feelings to inflict an injury upon me. He added, also, that he hoped I saw the matter in its right light; that I would represent it fairly to Mr. C-~; and, after again apologizing, disappeared through the foliage of one of the thick clumps of myrtles by which we were surrounded.

Such were the particulars of my rencontre with the noted brigand who played so dreadful a part in the scenes which I shall shortly describe. In person, Marco was somewhat below the middle stature, but formed in a Herculean mould, and possessed of the noble Roman features which are still so common to the descendants of the ancient masters of the world. His dress was composed of a purple velvet jacket and breeches, the former slashed across the shoulder with scarlet; and his legs, from the ankle to the knee, were bound round with thongs made from the skin of the buffalo; round his waist was a broad belt of leather, containing two pistols and daggers, with the sash to which I have before alluded. Over his jacket, and hanging from his left shoulder, was the short mantilla so generally worn by Italians, which he was able at pleasure to cast around him, and so conceal the formidable array his belt. On his head he wore a conical hat, turned up at the side, and

of

weapons in

« НазадПродовжити »