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started up with a frantic air. he already felt the dungeon's pon“ Yes !” he exclaimed, looking derous roof descending on him—he wildly round his dungeon, and breathed hard and thick, as though shuddering as he spoke –"Yes! writhing between its iron walls. it must be so ! I see it !-I feel the Then would he spring up-stare maddening truth like scorching wildly about him-stretch forth his flames upon my brain! Eternal hands, to be sure he yet had space God support me ! it must be so ! enough to live-and, muttering -Yes, yes, that is to be my fate! some incoherent words, sink down Yon roof will descend!—these walls again, to pass through the same will hem me round—and slowly, fierce vicissitudes of delirious sleep. slowly, crush me in their iron arms! The morning of the fourth day Lord God! look down upon me, dawned upon Vivenzio.
But it was and in mercy strike me with instant high noon before his mind shook off death! Oh, fiend-oh, devil-is its stupor, or he awoke to a full this your revenge ?”
consciousness of his situation. And He dashed himself upon the what a fixed energy of despair sat ground in agony ;-tears burst from upon his pale features, as he cast him, and the sweat stood in large his eyes upwards, and gazed upon drops upon his face-he sobbed the three windows that now alone aloud-he tore his hair-he rolled remained! The three !—there were about like one suffering intolerable no more and they seemed to anguish of body, and would have number his own allotted days. Slowbitten the iron floor beneath him ; ly and calmly he next surveyed the he breathed fearful curses upon top and sides, and comprehended Tolfi, and the next moment passion- all the meaning of the diminished ate prayers to heaven for immediate height of the former, as well as of death. . Then the violence of his the gradual approximation of the grief became exhausted, and he lay latter. The contracted dimensions still, weeping as a child would weep. of his mysterious prison were now The twilight of departing day shed too gross and palpable to be the its gloom around him ere he arose juggle of his heated imagination. from that posture of utter and hope- Still lost in wonder at the means, less sorrow. He had taken no food. Vivenzio could put no cheat upon Not one drop of water had cooled his reason, as to the end. By what the fever of his parched lips. Sleep horrible ingenuity it was contrived, had not visited his eyes for six and that walls, and roof, and windows, thirty hours. He was faint with should thus silently and impercephunger, weary with watching, and tibly, without noise, and without with the excess of his emotions. motion almost, fold, as it were, He tasted of his food; he drank within each other, he knew not. with avidity of the water; and reel- He only knew they did so; and he ing like a drunken man to his straw, vainly strove to persuade himself cast himself upon it to brood again it was the intention of the contriver over the appalling image that had to rack the miserable wretch who fastened itself upon his almost fren- might be immured there, with antizied thoughts.
cipation, merely, of a fate, from He slept. But his slumbers were which, in the very crisis of his agonot tranquil. He resisted, as long ny, he was to be reprieved. as he could, their approach ; and Gladly would he have clung even when, at last, enfeebled nature to this possibility, if his heart would yielded to their influence, he found have let him ; but he felt a dreadful no oblivion from his cares. Terri- assurance of its fallacy. And what ble dreams haunted him-ghastly matchless inhumanity it was to doom visions harrowed up his imagination the sufferer to such lingering tor-he shouted and screamed, as if ments—to lead him day by day to
so appalling a death, unsupported haps, susceptible of pity. Or if by the consolations of religion, un- not, to be told even that his apprevisited by any human being, aban- hensions were just, and that his fate doned to himself, deserted of all, was to be what he foreboded, would and denied even the sad privilege be preferable to a suspense which of knowing that his cruel destiny hung upon the possibility of his would awaken pity! Alone he was worst fears being visionary. to perish !-alone he was to wait a The night came ; and as the hour slow coming torture, whose most approached when Vivenzio imaginexquisite pangs would be inflicted ed he might expect the signs, he by that very solitude and that tardy stood fixed and silent as a statue. coming!
He feared to breathe, almost, lest “ It is not death I fear,” he ex- he might lose any sound which claimed, but the death I must pre- would warn him of their coming. pare for! Methinks, too, I could While thus listening, with every meet even that—all horrible and re- faculty of mind and body strained volting as it is—if it might overtake to an agony of attention, it occurred me now. But where shall I find to him he should be more sensible fortitude to tarry till it come? How of the motion, probably, if he stretchcan I outlive the three long days ed himself along the iron floor. He and nights I have to live ? There accordingly laid himself softly down, is no power within me to bid the and had not been long in that posihideous spectre hence-none to tion when-yes-he was certain of make it familiar to my thoughts ; or it—the floor moved . under him! myself, patient of its errand. My He sprang up, and in a voice sufthoughts, rather, will flee from me, focated nearly with emotion, called and I grow mad in looking at it. aloud. He paused—the motion Oh! for a deep sleep to fall upon ceased—he felt no stream of airme! That so, in death's likeness, all was hushed—no voice answered I might embrace death itself, and to his-he burst into tears; and, as drink no more of the cup that is he sunk to the ground, in renewed presented to me, than my fainting anguish, exclaimed, “Oh,
Oh, my spirit has already tasted !”
God ! my God! You alone have In the midst of these lamentations, power to save me now, or strengthVivenzio noticed that his accus en me for the trial you permit.” tomed meal, with the pitcher of Another morning dawned upon water, had been conveyed, as be- the wretched captive, and the fatal fore, into his dungeon. But this index of his doom met his eyes. circumstance no longer excited his Two windows and two days, surprise. His mind over- and all would be over ! Fresh food whelmed with others of a far greater – fresh water ! The mysterious magnitude. It suggested, however, visit had been paid, though he had feeble hope of deliverance; and implored it in vain.
But how awthere is no hope so feeble as not to fully was his prayer answered in yield some support to a heart bend- what he now saw ! The roof of the ing under despair. He resolved to dungeon was within a foot of his watch, during the night, for the head. The two ends were so near, signs he had before observed ; and that in six paces he trod the space should he again feel the gentle, between them. Vivenzio shuddertremulous motion of the floor, or ed as he gazed, and as his steps the current of air, to seize that mo- traversed the narrowed area. But ment for giving audible expression his feelings no longer vented themto his misery. Some person must selves in frantic wailings. With be near him, and within reach of folded arms and clenched teeth, his voice, at the instant when his with eyes that were bloodshot from food was supplied ; some one, per- much watching, and fixed with a
vacant glare upon the ground, with crack and crumble in the mighty a hard quick breathing, and a hur- grasp of the iron walls ! Unknowried walk, he strode backwards and ing what it is he does, he fumbles forwards in silent musing for several in his garment for some weapon of hours. What mind shall conceive, self-destruction. He clenches his what tongue utter, or what pen de- throat in his convulsive gripe, as scribe, the dark and terrible charac- though he would strangle himself ter of his thoughts? Like the fate at once. He stares upon the walls, that moulded them, they had no si- and his warring spirit demands, militude in the wide range of this “ Will they not anticipate their ofworld's agony for man. Suddenly fice, if I dash my head against he stopped, and his eyes were rivet- them ?” An hysterical laugh chokes ed upon that part of the wall which him as he exclaims, “Why should was over his bed of straw. Words I ? He was but a man who died are inscribed there! A human lan- first in their fierce embrace ; and I guage, traced by a human hand! should be less than man not to do He rushes towards them ; but his as much !” blood freezes as he reads :
The evening sun was descending, " I, Ludovico Sforza, tempted by and Vivenzio beheld its golden the gold of the Prince of Tolli, spent beams streaming through one of the three years in contriving and exe- windows. What a thrill of joy shot cuting this accursed triumph of my through his soul at the sight! It art. When it was completed, the was a precious link, that united perfidious Tolfi, more devil than him, for the moment, with the world man, who conducted me hither one beyond. There was ecstasy in the morning, to be witness, as he said, thought. As he gazed, long and of its perfection, doomed me to be earnestly, it seemed as if the winthe first victim of my own pernicious dows had lowered sufficiently for skill ; lest, as he declared, I should him to reach them. With one bound divulge the secret, or repeat the he was beneath them—with one wild effort of my ingenuity. May God spring he clung to the bars. Whepardon him, as I hope he will me, ther it was so contrived, purposely that ministered to his unhallowed to madden with delight the wretch purpose! Miserable wretch, who- who looked, he knew not ; but, at e'er thou art, that readest these the extremity of a long vista, cut lines, fall on thy knees, and invoke, through the solid rocks, the ocean, as I have done, His sustaining mer- the sky, the setting sun, olive groves, cy, who alone can nerve thee to shady walks, and, in the farthest meet the vengeance of Tolfi, armed distance, delicious glimpses of magwith his tremendous engine, which, nificent Sicily, burst upon his sight. in a few hours, must crush you, as How exquisite was the cool breeze it will the needy wretch who made as it swept across his cheek, loaded it."
with fragrance ! He inhaled it as A deep groan burst from Viven- though it were the breath of continuzio. He stood, like one transfixed, ed lite. And there was a freshness with dilated eyes, expanded nostrils, in the landscape, and in the rippling and quivering lips, gazing at this of the calm green sea, that fell upon fatal inscription. It was as if a his withering heart like dew upon voice from the sepulchre had sound- the parched earth. How he gazed, ed in his ears, “ Prepare !” Hope and panted, and still clung to his forsook him. There was his sen- hold ! sometimes hanging by one tence, recorded in those dismal hand, sometimes by the other, and words. The future stood unveiled then grasping the bars with both, as before him, ghastly and appalling. loath to quit the smiling paradise His brain already feels the descend- outstretched before him ; till exing horror,-his bones seemed to hausted, and his hands swollen and
2 ATHENEUM, VOL. 5, 3d series.
benumbed, he dropped helpless choly token. And yet he did notice down, and lay stunned for a consi- it ; for, as he raised his eyes and derable time by the fall.
saw the portentous sign, there was When he recovered, the glorious a slight convulsive distortion of his vision had vanished. He was in countenance. But what did attract darkness. He doubted whether it his notice, and at the sight of which was not a dream that had passed his agitation was excessive, was the before his sleeping fancy ; but gra- change his iron bed had undergone. dually his scattered thoughts return- It was a bed no longer. It stood ed, and with them came remem- before him, the visible semblance brance. Yes ! he had looked once of a funeral couch or bier ! When again upon the gorgeous splendor he beheld this, he started from the of nature ! Once again his eyes ground; and, in raising himself, had trembled beneath their veiled suddenly struck his head against lids, at the sun's radiance, and the roof, which was now so low sought repose in the soft verdure of that he could no longer stand upthe olive-tree, or the gentle swell right. “God's will be done !" of undulating waves.
Oh, that he was all he said, as he crouched his were a mariner, exposed upon those body, and placed his hand upon the waves to the worst fury of storm bier ; for such it was. The iron and tempest ; or a very wretch, bedstead had been so contrived, by loathsome with disease, plague- the mechanical art of Ludovico stricken, and his body one leprous Sforza, that as the advancing walls contagion from crown to sole, came in contact with its head and hunted forth to gasp out the rem- feet, a pressure was produced upon nant of infectious life beneath concealed springs, which, when those verdant trees, so he might made to play, set in motion a very shun the destiny upon whose edge simple though ingeniously contrived he tottered!
machinery, that effected the transVain thoughts like these would formation. The object was, of steal over his mind from time to course, to heighten, in the closing time, in spite of himself; but they scene of this horrible drama, all the scarcely moved it from that stupor feelings of despair and anguish into which it had sunk, and which which the preceding ones had kept him, during the whole night, aroused. For the same reason, the like one who had been drugged with last window was so made as to admit opium. He was equally insensible only a shadowy kind of gloom rather to the calls of hunger and of thirst, than light, that the wretched captive though the third day was now com- might be surrounded, as it were, mencing since even a drop of water with every seeming preparation for had passed his lips. He remained approaching death. on the ground, sometimes sitting, Vivenzio seated himself on his sometimes lying; at intervals, sleep- bier. Then he knelt and prayed ing heavily; and when not sleeping, fervently; and sometimes tears silently brooding over what was to would gush from him. The air come, or talking aloud, in disordered seemed thick, and he breathed with speech, of his wrongs, of his friends, difficulty ; or it might be that he of his home, and of those he loved, fancied it was so, from the hot and with a confused mingling of all. narrow limits of his dungeon, which
In this pitiable condition, the sixth were so diminished that he and last morning dawned upon Vi- could neither stand up nor lie down venzio, if dawn it might be called — at his full length. But his wasted the dim, obscure light, which faintly spirits and oppressed mind no longer struggled through the one solitary struggled within him.
He was past window of his dungeon. He could hope, and fear shook him no more. hardly be said to notice the melan- Happy if thus revenge had struck
its final blow ; for he would have head, even as he sat cowering befallen beneath it almost unconscious neath it ; and he felt that a farther of a pang
But such a lethargy of contraction of but a few inches only the soul, after such an excitement must commence the frightful operaof its fiercest passions, had entered tion. Roused as he had been, he into the diabolical calculations of now gasped for breath. His body Tolfi ; and the fell artificer of his shook violently-he was bent neardesigns had imagined a counteract- ly double. His hands rested upon ing device.
either wall, and his feet were The tolling of an enormous bell drawn under him to avoid the presstruck upon the ears of Vivenzio! sure in front. Thus he remained He started. It beat but once. The for more than an hour, when that sound was so close and stunning, deafening bell beat again, and again that it seemed to shatter his very there came the crash of horrid brain, while it echoed through the death. But the concussion was rocky passages like reverberating now so great that it struck Vivenpeals of thunder. This was follow- zio down. As he lay gathered up ed by a sudden crash of the roof in lessened bulk, the bell beat loud and walls, as if they were about to and frequent - crash
frequent - crash succeeded fall upon and close around him at crash—and on, and on, and on, once.' Vivenzio screamed, and in- came the mysterious engine of stinctively spread forth his arms, as' death, till Vivenzio's smothered though he had a giant's strength to groans were heard no more! He hold them back. They had moved was horribly crushed by the pondenearer to him, and were now mo rous roof and collapsing sides and tionless. Vivenzio looked up, and the flattened bier was his Iron saw the roof almost touching his Shroud.
It has always struck me that the ator's omnipotence and immutabiliocean is the fittest emblem, and ty. Nature is always interesting. conveys the deepest impression of Elsewhere she is lovely, beautiful : God's immensity and eternity ; the here she is awful, sublime. ElseAlps, of his unapproachable power, where she shrouds all things in a and everlasting unvariableness. In temporary repose, again to clothe the sea, wave
succeeds wave fore- them with surpassing beauty and ver and forever ; billow swells upon verdure. But here there is no hillow, and you see no end thereof. change : such as the first winter But magnificent a spectacle as beheld them, after they sprang from ocean ever is, at all times, and un- the hands of their Great Architect, der all aspects, it still cannot be such they still are-like himself, enjoyed without some alloy. It unchangeable and unapproachable. must be seen either from a ship, in Nor summer's heat, nor winter's which man enters too much; or cold, have any effect on their everfrom the land, which again breaks lasting hues ; nor can the track or the unity of the idea.
works of man stain the purity of The effect of the scenes among their unsullied snows ! His voice which the chamois-hunter lives, is may not even reach that upper air weakened by no such intrusion as to disturb “the sacred calm that this. Man's works enter not there. breathes around”-that stilly siFrom the moment he quits the cha- lence which holds forever, save let in which he has taken his short when the lauwine wakes it with the rest, until his return, he sees no voice of thunder! In such situatrace of man; but dwells amid tions, it is impossible not to feel as scenery stamped only wįth its Cré- far elevated in mind as in body,