Imágenes de página

many peaceful hours. There they saw, with a new outcry of mingled sor row, wrath, and vengeance, the blaze of musketry, which shewed them a strong French column bursting like an eruption of lava through every fissure of the precipices above and round the castle. The Austrians, surrounded by this unexpected advance, evidently defended themselves with great obstinacy; and fighting step by step, at last retreated to the walls, which now began to feel the effects of the French guns. The windows of the unfortunate Chateau now poured forth vollies of musketry, and the spots which had once heard nothing louder than the tones of the Signora Melanie's harp, or the songs of the birds in answer, were now sending into all the mountains a fierce and perpetual uproar, which they echoed with their thunder. The contest fluctuated long, and in every moment of it the hearts of the unhappy gazers, from the summit of the pass, vibrated with some new agitation. At length, from the very casement, among whose lilies and roses the fair arm of the mistress of the mansion had rested the evening before, and where she had sat watch ing the moon, with the delight of one of those spirits of the Persian paradise that inhale their life from flowers, whirled forth a volume of livid flame with a loud explosion. A shell from the French batteries had fallen upon the chamber, and, blowing up, had set every thing in it instantly in a blaze.

This was a chamber of recollections deep and dear; the old memorials of a dead parent, the presents of living friends, the thousand fond remembrances of hours of love ly and lonely thought, of brilliant acquirement, of intellectual joy, and perhaps of those dreams of young passion that hover on pinions of more than mortal power and brightness round the solitude of genius and beauty. The attendants, as they saw the whole mansion rapidly absorbed by the flames, exhibited the frenzy of Italian grief, called on their saints with furious reprobation of their negligence, tore their hair, flung themselves on the ground, gnashed their teeth, and threatened all the Frenchmen on the face of the globe with severe retribution from the dagger, Spinola, in deep dejec

tion, only pressed his daughter to
his breast, and wiped away her tears.
Melanie promised to be calm, and
only wept the more.
One expres
sion of her father alone roused her.
After a pause of thought, he burst
out with," That ungrateful villain,
Calaspo! It was he, who, I am now
confident, drew this night's attack
upon us. The French could never
have found their way through the
hills without a guide; and his flight
furnished them with just the one
which they wanted." Melanie
doubted; Spinola was strong in his
"The villain knew every
spot of the ground; and I even recol-
lect his having talked to me, not
twelve hours since, of the proba-
bility of their surprising the Aus-

Melanie listened with surprise,
but without conviction. She was
not then in the mind to argue. But
she could affirm, and without hesi-
tation she declared her belief, that
the fugitive forester was totally guilt-
less. Spinola smiled at the generous
incredulity of youth; but repeated
his conviction, pronouncing aloud
that Calaspo was at once
66 an assas-
sin and a traitor." As he spoke the
words, a rustling in the thicket be-
hind startled him, he laid his hand
upon his sword, and in the next mo-
ment Calaspo stood before him. He
had evidently been in the engage-
ment, for his arm was in a sling,
and the blood from a sabre wound
was still trickling from his forehead.
He was as evidently worn out with
fatigue, and it was some time before
he could recover breath. He eager-
ly waved his hand, every feature of
his powerful visage writhed, but
speech would not come.
he uttered with difficulty, "Signor,
At length
you have named me an assassin and
a traitor. I am both, and yet nei-
ther. But the time is short. I am
wounded, perhaps mortally. I have
come to tell you, that in five minutes
more you will be surrounded by a
battalion of the French chasseurs,
whom I left marching up the pass."
nance, and pronounced in a stern
Spinola looked full in his counte-
tone, "Begone, sir. How am I to
trust you? Is not this a new attempt
to betray your master ?" Calaspo's
that dropped down it. He staggered
cheek flushed as red as the blood
back a few paces and fell, then

throwing open his cloak, shewed his bosom covered with gore, and said, "Sir, if I am dying, let me have justice. It was I who wounded the Austrian Count, because he drew on me, and would have taken my life. It was I who led the French through the ravines, because in my departure from a castle, where, whether I deserved friends or not, I had left none, I was taken prisoner, and dragged along with them. But it was in defence of that castle, that I received these wounds, and to save this portrait for the Lady Melanie, that I escaped through the midst of the enemy's fire, and followed you up the mountain." He gave the portrait to the lady, who received it with deep gratitude. It was her father's, and set round with brilliants that had once adorned the portrait of a king.

But there was now no time for thanks. For the sound of the tiraillade was rising at the roots of the hill. "Fly for your lives," said Calaspo, with a faint attempt to rise. Spinola had felt his old compassion alive again, and paused. "How can we ever repay you?" said Melanie, leaning for ward from her father's arm, and in a voice soft as the dew that fell round her. "Suffer me to kiss your hand," sighed the victim. The hour was dark-the world's eyes were sightless-Spinola himself was wrapt in reverie on consenting to this simple kindness to the dying. Melanie gave the hand, and felt it clasped with a wild pressure, that thrilled unaccountably through her frame. She attempted to withdraw it. But it was clasped still closer, it was pressed to the lips, to the cheeks, to the forehead, as if to convince her that it had kindled a flame in every feature. She felt her own cheeks burn. Neither spoke a syllable. But in that hour a secret voice told her that she had never loved before, and that she then loved for ever; a new light seemed to have dawned upon her mind. A new stream of existence seemed to have been poured into her being. She seemed to have found a new soul.

A volley of bullets showered on them through the trees, striking down branch and leaf, and covering them with fragments of the rocks. "Away, away," exclaimed Calaspo, starting from his trance. Away,

[ocr errors]

away," exclaimed Spinola, drawing his sword, and not knowing where to turn for his life. "Away, away," exclaimed the crowd of attendants, overthrowing each other and every thing else in the general confusion. There was but one voice which uttered no word, and one step which made no movement. The Sig

nora Melanie continued with her eyes fixed on the form of their friend, protector, and victim. In that moment, years passed through her mind. She remembered the night of her preservation from death, the night of the storm, the precipice, the heroic intrepidity with which Calaspo had flung himself down from tree to tree, and from rock to rock, until he arrested her fall, on the edge of a chasm a thousand feet deep. She remembered, too, the noble qualities which not even his peasant cloak could hide, the manly bearing, the fine physiognomy, the sweet impressive tongue; the talent for all and every thing. Even a new key was given by that hour to looks and sighs, to the sudden dejection and extravagant joy, which till then had been enigmas to her. Genius and beauty had made their impression on her unconscious mind, and it was only on this night, that the depth and glow of that impression was revealed to her eye.

But for these feelings of young passion, the most feverish and poignant that can sting the human heart, what an hour was chosen! All around them was dismay, plunder, flight, ruin. The labour of years was trampled by the hoofs of the French cavalry-the wealth of generations was burnt up before their glance. Even if this night was not to end their career, where were they to turn? France was a horde of hostile barbarians-Italy was a region of terror

Germany was falling to pieces with invasion and insurrection; and where was the lord of a castle in ashes, of domains in the hands of the French commissaries, and of hopes only beyond the earth, to hide his hoary head, and shelter his daughter? But with that daughter all was concentrated in the dying man. To leave him to perish by the enemy, was suddenly felt to be the greatest of human crimes; all calamity seemed to be bound up in the single one of seeing his face no more on this side of the

grave. Life seemed at once to have become worthless without him; and death at his side, but a simple act of duty, a natural fulfilling of the law of her being, a calm and hallowed termination of a career of truth, feeling, and happiness. Melanie loved like an Italian, with her whole spirit touched by lightning.

But the more earthly flame of a howitzer, which had just been dragged to the brow of the precipice above their heads, to play upon the retreat ing columns of the Austrians in the valley, at once shewed the whole party to each other, and shewed the madness of lingering there. Calaspo's resolution was taken. He had heard, in the broken confessions of those lips, whose words to him were oracles, "that he must not be left behind." His sagacity knew, that the attempt to carry him off must cause the inevitable capture of all. His generosity determined to save them at all personal risk. And by an extraordinary effort, more of mind than body, he rose from the ground, and tottering a few steps down the hill, threw himself into the midst of the advancing battalion. The enemy, startled by his appearance, paused for a moment, and, in the next, recognising him for one of the mountaineers, ordered him to the front as a guide. He was mounted on a mule, and sent forward to lead the 75th demi-brigade of the republic, one and indivisible, to glory. He led up paths where they might have gained glory from the goats, for no other faces would have taken post there; he led them down ravines, where they might have fought pitched battles against the bears and the wolves, if their wiser devastators had been belligerent enough to wait for them. But no human being did the warriors of freedom disenthral from either dungeon or castle, from the tyranny of kings, or the troubles of this world. The 75th demi-brigade returned, after a week's tour among marble pinnacles, forests of pine, silver foaming cataracts, and fountains dark, deep, and cool, as the bottom of a mine. And Calaspo, on his mule, rode home at their head to Barcelo nette, to leave his fellow tourists shoeless, footless, and heartless, loading the Alps with maledictions, to which only the tourists had been entitled, and sick of castle-hunting for

the rest of their lives. Calaspo did not escape without the honours of war. The enthusiasm of the demibrigade for gathering laurels among the rocks had no sooner cooled, than the Frenchmen began to suspect that they were deceived; the next idea was, that they were laughed at—an affront never pardoned, nor pardonable, by any Gaul from Picardy to Provence. Calaspo was accordingly degraded from his office as guide, and brought back with the corps as a prisoner.

[ocr errors]

Those were times when justice, if not always wise, was expeditious; and the drumhead-tribunal, before which the prisoner was carried within the next twenty-four hours, contenting itself with the simple process of asking him his name, country, and pursuit, found him, on the strength of these facts, guilty of being a spy, an assassin of Frenchmen," and a beguiler of their steps on an expedition which otherwise must have covered the 75th demibrigade with glory. The prisoner made his defence with sufficient earnestness, and denied all intention of laughing at a nation so impervious to all ridicule as the French. But the defence had the misfortune of aggravating the charge. He was remanded to the dungeon without delay, but with the notice, that within twelve hours he was to be shot on the glacis of Barcelonette.

There had been periods in Calaspo's career, when this intelligence would have been as welcome as any other. But the night of the battle on the hills had thrown a new light on him, and strangely altered his theory of existence. He felt that he had only just begun to live, when life was to be torn from him. He grew indignant, gloomy, furious, and ashamed of his fury. He reckoned and measured one by one the stones in the wall of his dungeon; he sounded the vault under it with his heel, to discover some weaker part, some crevice, through which he might evade the jailer and the platoon, and escape to the sun and air again. He climbed up to the casement, tried the strength of its bars, found them, as he might have expected, not to be moved by either his strength or his sorrows; and fell back upon the pavement again, envying the beggar that whined at the prison gates,

or the deserter who was shot the day before. But all these experiments did not retard the progress of day and night, and the town-clock of Barcelonette at length gave signal of the beginning of the last twelve hours that were to be spent by him in meditations or murmurings in this world.

In the evening, the French commandant, mellowed probably by dinner, and the captured champagne of the Piedmontese field-marshal whom he had ejected from the governorship, ordered one of his aides-decamp to enquire, whether" the Italian scoundrel who was to be shot next morning, had any thing to ask for himself, or any one else; a father confessor for his sins, if such must be the everlasting folly of his country; or any message to send to his wife, or his dozen wives."

The aide-de-camp was dispatched; the keeper of the dungeous dispatched his subordinate, at the sight of the commandant's signature and the aide-de-camp's epaulets, and the deputy of the deputy ushered the aide-de-camp into the cell where Calaspo was lying on the pavement, wrapped in his cloak, and thinking of the parting pressure of the Signora Melanie's hand. The aide-decamp announced his business, but the prisoner had too nearly done with the business of this earth, to venerate even the plumage of the état major of the most gallant and plumaged army under the sun.

He, too, had sensations new to him, but solemn, high, and absorbing, beyond all other that besiege the mind of man. Although accustomed to a career of hazard, and leading the wild life of a mountaineer, a hunter, and a soldier, he now, for the first time, felt himself within the grasp of death. He had faced death often, but it was in hot blood, with that glow and enterprise which almost extinguishes danger with the extinction of the sense of danger. He had leaped the precipice, where a false step would have dashed him to atoms; he had swam the torrent, where the strength of man seemed but as a weed on the waters; he had fought in the face of batteries, every discharge of which laid hundreds low. He had but within a few days rushed into one of the hottest actions

of the war, and, though desperately wounded, yet had never felt the image of death before him. But now, in the loneliness of his cell, in the dreary silence that seemed made to let his bitter thoughts have their full revel in his heart; in the sullen sounds that, at intervals, broke that dreary silence, the knell of the turret chime, the watchword of the jailers, the measured tread of the sentinels, he had time and subject for meditation that let in a new world of ideas upon him.

Of all the influences on the mind of man, there are two paramount, and but two, that awake him a totally new tribe of sensations Passion, which comes at the period when man is about to enter on the great career of active life, when his understanding is on the point of acquiring its vigour, and he is summoned to substantiate his claim to the honours of society; -the sudden sense of beauty,-the high consciousness stirred up in the human heart, of the capability of doing all and suffering all for the pos session of a being whom imagination resistlessly invests with all the attri butes that enchain the human feelings, one of the noblest fountains of the noblest efforts of the spirit of man,-the great summoner of genius, of generous sacrifice, of gallant selfdenial, of heroic ambition. But this first career had long been run by the heart of the being who now lay silent upon the pavement of the dungeon, but with his mind darting, as if it were already disembodied, from hea ven to earth, and from earth to heaven. The second grand stage of hu man sensation had now come upon him-the solemn conceptions, which, coming at the close of life, and opening the gates of the grave, are perhaps sent to prepare the mortal for his first step into the world of immortality. A flood of strange and intense thought was rolling through his mind, and sweeping away all its old landmarks. The wildness and capricious vigour of his past hours were extinguished in the presence of the grave. The dreams of earthly distinction found a loftier object in the magnificence and power of things above the stars. The world assumed to him a new aspect; he felt like one lifted above its sphere on a spiritual wing, and with a consciousness that

he was to tread it no more. The earth, which had never been so vast to his thought, so magnificently coloured with pomp and beauty, so opulently filled with life, lustre, and power, was now to him the speck in the universe that it is. He felt that he could now die, and die willingly, -embrace the axe, or welcome the bullet, that put an end to his disas trous experiment of existence, and, offering but one fond and mortal regret to the memory of her whom he had already less mingled with his human hopes, than identified with his future and boundless being, rejoicingly feel the blow that dismissed him from the world.

The aide-de-camp waited in vain for an answer. Calaspo, disturbed in thoughts that now seemed to him the only fitting dwellers of the mind, simply waved his hand to him to retire. But the visitant was not to be

so repelled. He approached the prisoner, and leaning down, whispered in his ear the name of Spinola. Calaspo started from the ground at the word. Spinola himself stood before him. His explanation was brief, but sufficient. "I had done you wrong, Calaspo," said he, " and I had found it out only when it was too late. The Austrian coxcomb whom you wounded has since acknowledged the truth, and I find that you behaved like a man of sense and honour. I had done you wrong, too, in the charge of your having led those French brigands to the castle; and I have now come to save you from the consequences of my unjust judgment. The commandant's aide-de-camp has been indebted to me for some early favours, which he now returns by giving me this disguise. I have ventured into the fortress to save you. You have nothing more to do than to throw this cloak over you, and follow me."

high with the thoughts of being once more among the valleys and mountains, free and vigorous as one of their own eagles, when a troop of cavalry arriving, as the escort of General Desaix, stopped up the entrance. The Frenchman's eye fell upon Spinola. Nothing could be more unlucky, for Desaix had been well acquainted with his person in the Parisian embassy. An enquiry followed. The protector and the protected were, of course, put under arrest; and Calaspo had the agony of heart to hear the order issued for Spinola's being shot as a spy, at the same time with himself, who was now charged with the various offences of spy, traitor, and deserter. They were thrown into the same cell for the few hours that were to interpose between them and the future world. Their conference was solemn, but calm. Those were hours when mystery is no more, and Calaspo revealed the secret of his wild and lonely life. He was the only surviving branch of a noble tree, the Counts Ottaviani of the Val di Noto. The Sicilian viceroys, jealous of their influence in the island, had denounced them to the court; and Neapolitan cruelty, always the link of Neapolitan fear, had thrown the last ancestor of Calaspo into the dungeons of St Elmo, where he expired. His son had been conveyed away an infant by some friends of his house; and in the confiscation of the family estates, and in the proscription of the family name, he had disdained to return under a government of injustice and ingratitude.

The mountains of the north, which had sheltered his infancy, became the dwelling of his manhood. "He had lived a wild man, and a wild man he would have died, but for the accidental rencontre with the Light and life flashed in the dark Marquis Spinola on the night of the eyes of the Italian at the word. He tempest; there a finer feeling was sprung from the ground, kissed his infused into his nature, and in the benefactor's hand, threw on the mi- impulse of that feeling, to enjoy the of the dungeon were passed, the life itself, he had stooped to the willgates of the citadel were closed be- ing obscurity, which alone could gates of the fortress were opened for iled man the happiness of her fe have secured to a broken and an ex. the passage of "M. l'Aide-de-camp sence. But all was now over. He

hind the prisoner and his friend. The

nette;" and Calaspo's heart beat the added misery of soul, of having mandant de la Place de Barcelo- feelings, and he must expire, with of M. le General Caftorelli, Com- had never offended her ear with his

« AnteriorContinuar »