« AnteriorContinuar »
The castle of the Prince of Tolfi that had been prepared for him. was built on the summit of the tow- His menaces and his entreaties, ering and precipitous rock of Scylla, his indignant appeals for justice, and commanded a magnificent view and his impatient questioning of of Sicily in all its grandeur. Here, their intentions, were alike vain. during the wars of the middle ages, They listened, but spoke not. Fit when the fertile plains of Italy were ministers of a crime that should devastated by hostile factions, those have no tongue ! prisoners were confined, for whose How dismal was the sound of ransom a costly price was demand- their retiring steps ! And, as their ed. Here, too, in a dungeon, exca- faint echoes died along the winding vated deep in the solid rock, the passages, a fearful presage grew miserable victim was immured, within him, that never more the whom revenge pursued,--the dark, face, or voice, or tread, of man, fierce, and unpitying revenge, of would greet his senses.
He had, an Italian heart.
seen human beings for the last time! Vivenzio—the noble and the And he had looked his last upon generous, the fearless in battle, and the bright sky, and upon the smiling the pride of Naples in her sunny earth, and upon a beautiful world hours of peace—the young, the he loved, and whose minion he had brave, the proud, Vivenzio, fell been! Here he was to end his beneath this subtle and remorseless life-a life he had just begun to spirit. He was the prisoner of revel in! And by what means ? Tolfi, and he languished in that By secret poison ? or by murderous rock-encircled dungeon, which stood assault ? No-for then it had been alone, and whose portals never needless to bring him thither. Fas opened twice upon a living captive. mine, perhapsma thousand deaths
It had the semblance of a vast in one! It was terrible to think of cage, for the roof, and floor, and it—but it was yet more terrible to sides, were of iron, solidly wrought, picture long, long years of captiviand spaciously constructed. High ty,' in a solitude so appalling, a above there ran a range of seven loneliness so dreary, that thought, grated windows, guarded with massy for want of fellowship, would lose bars of the same metal, which ad- itself in madness, or stagnate into mitted light and air. Save these, idiocy. and the tall folding doors beneath He could not hope to escape, them, which occupied the centre, unless he had the power, with his no chink, or chasm, or projection, bare hands, of rending asunder the broke the smooth black surface of solid iron walls of his prison. the walls. An iron bedstead, lit- could not hope for liberty from the tered with straw, stood in one cor- relenting mercies of his enemy. ner: and beside it, a vessel with His instant death, under any form water, and a coarse dish filled with of refined cruelty, was not the obcoarser food.
ject of Tolfi, for he might have inEven the intrepid soul of Viven- ficted it, and he had not. zio shrunk with dismay as he enter- too evident, therefore, he was reed this abode, and heard the pon- served for
premeditated derous doors triple-locked by the scheme of subtle vengeance ; and silent ruffians who conducted him what vengeance could transcend in to it. Their silence seemed pro- fiendish malice, either the slow phetic of his fate, of the living grave death of farine, or the still slower
one of solitary incarceration, till powered him. He remained for the last lingering spark of life ex some time lamenting, like a truth, pired, or till reason fed, and nothing the bright visions that had vanishshould remain to perish but the ed ; and recoiling from the present, brute functions of the body? which clung to him as a poisoned
It was evening when Vivenzio garment. entered his dungeon, and the ap When he grew more calm, he proaching shades of night wrapped surveyed his gloomy dungeon. it in total darkness, as he paced up Alas! the stronger light of day and down, revolving in his mind only served to confirm what the these horrible forebodings. No gloomy indistinctness of the precedtolling bell from the castle, or from ing evening had partially disclosed, any neighboring church or convent, the utter impossibility of escape. struck upon his ear to tell how the As, however, his eyes wandered hours passed. Frequently he would round and round, and from place to stop and listen for some sound that place, be noticed two circumstances might betoken the vicinity of man; which excited his surprise and cubut the solitude of the desart, the riosity. The one, he thought, might silence of the tomb, are not so still be fancy ; bụt the other was posiand deep, as the oppressive deso- tive. His pitcher of water, and lation by which he was encompass- the dish which contained his food, ed. His heart sunk within him, had been removed from his side and he threw himself dejectedly while he slept, and now stood near upon his couch of straw. Here the door. Were he even inclined sleep gradually obliterated the con- to doubt this, by supposing he had ciousness of misery, and bland mistaken the spot where he saw dreams wafted his delighted spirit them over night, he could not ; for to scenes which were once glowing the pitcher now in his dungeon was realities for him, in whose ravishing neither of the same form nor color illusions he soon lost the remem as the other, while the food was obrance that he was Tolfi's prisoner. changed for some other of better When he awoke, it was daylight; quality.
He had been visited, but how long he had slept he knew therefore, during the night. But not. It might be early morning, or how had the ,person obtained enit might be sultry noon, for he could trance ? Could he have slept so measure time by no other note of its soundly that the unlocking and progress than light and darkness. opening of those ponderous portals He had been so happy in his sleep, were effected without waking him ? amid friends who loved him, and the He would have said this was not sweeter endearments of those who possible, but that, in doing so, he loved him as friends could not, that must admit a greater difficulty, an in the first moments of waking, his entrance by other means, of which startled mind seemed to admit the he was convinced there existed knowledge of his situation, as if it none. It was not intended, then, had burst upon him for the first that he should be left to perish from time, fresh in all its appalling hor- hunger. But the secret and mys
He gazed round with an air terious mode of supplying him with of doubt and amazement, and took food, seemed to indicate he was to up a handful of the straw upon have no opportunity of communiwhich he lay, as though he would cating with a human being. ask himself what it meant. But The other circumstance which memory, too faithful to her office, had attracted his notice, was the soon unveiled the melancholy past, disappearance, as he believed, of while reason, shuddering at the task, one of the seven grated windows flashed before his eyes the tremen- that ran along the top of his prison. dous future. The contrast over- He felt confident that he had ob
served and counted them ; for he and there his day's meal! Nor was was rather surprised at their num- this all. Casting his looks towards ber, and there was something pecu- the windows of his dungeon, he liar in their form, as well as in the counted but five ! Here was no manner of their arrangement, at deception ; and he was now conunequal distances. It was so much vinced there had been none the day easier, however, to suppose he was before. But what did all this pormistaken, than that a portion of the tend ? Into what strange and myssolid iron, which formed the walls, terious den had he been cast? He could have escaped from its posi- gazed till his eyes ached ; he could tion, that he soon dismissed the discover nothing to explain the thought from his mind.
mystery. That it was so, he knew. Vivenzio partook of the food that Why it was so, he racked his imawas before him, without apprehen- gination in vain to conjecture. He sion. It might be poisoned; but if examined the doors. A simple it were, he knew he could not es- circumstance convinced him they cape death, should such be the de- had not been opened. sign of Tolfi, and the quickest death A wisp of straw, which he had would be the speediest release. carelessly thrown against them the
The day passed wearily and preceding day, as he paced to and gloomily ; though not without a fro, remained where he had cast it, faint hope that, by keeping watch though it must have been displaced at night, he might observe when by the slightest motion of either of the person came again to bring him the doors. This was evidence that food, which he supposed he would could not be disputed ; and it foldo in the same way as before. The lowed there must be some secret mere thought of being approached machinery in the walls by which a by a living creature, and the oppor- person could enter. He inspected tunity it might present of learning them closely. They appeared to the doom prepared, or preparing, him one solid and compact mass of for him, imparted some comfort. iron ; or joined, if joined they were, Besides, if he came alone, might with such nice art, that no mark of he not, in a furious onset, over- division was perceptible. Again power him? Or he might be ac- and again he surveyed them-and cessible to pity, or the influence of the floor and the roof—and that such munificent rewards as he could range of visionary windows, as he bestow, if once more at liberty and was now almost tempted to consider master of himself. Say he were them : he could discover nothing, armed. The worst that could be- absolutely nothing, to relieve his fall, if nor bribe, nor prayers, nor doubts or satisfy his curiosity. Someforce prevailed, was a faithful blow, times he fancied that altogether the which, though' dealt in a damned dungeon had a more contracted apcause, might work a desired end. pearance—that it looked smaller ; There was no chance so desperate, but this he ascribed to fancy, and but it looked lovely in Vivenzio's the impression naturally produced eyes, compared with the idea of upon his mind by the undeniable disbeing totally abandoned.
appearance of two of the windows. The night came, and Vivenzio With intense anxiety, Vivenzio watched. Morning came, and Vi- looked forward to the return of venzio was confounded! He must night ; and as it approached, he have slumbered without knowing it. resolved that no treacherous sleep Sleep must have stolen over him should again betray him. Instead when exhausted by fatigue, and in of seeking his bed of straw, he conthat interval of feverish repose, he tinued to walk up and down his had been baffled; for there stood dungeon till daylight, straining his his replenished pitcher of water, eyes in every direction through the
darkness, to watch for any appear- contrivance, an opening was obances that might explain these mys- tained through the iron wall, and
While thus engaged, and that through this opening the curas nearly as he could judge, (by rent of air had found entrance. the time that afterwards elapsed But how noiseless ! For had a before the morning came in,) about feather almost waved at the time, two o'clock, there was a slight tre- he must have heard it. Again he mulous motion of the floors. He examined that part of the wall ; but stooped. The motion lasted nearly both to sight and touch it appeared a minute ; but it was so extremely one even and uniform surface, while gentle, that he almost doubted whe- to repeated and violent blows, there ther it was real, or only imaginary. was no reverberating sound indicaHe listened. Not a sound could tive of hollowness. be heard. Presently, however, he This perplexing mystery had for felt a rush of cold air blow upon a time withdrawn his thoughts from him ; and dashing towards the quar- the windows ; but now, directing ter whence it seemed to proceed, his eyes again towards them, he he stumbled over something which saw that the fifth had disappeared he judged to be the water ewer. in the same manner as the precedThe rush of cold air was no longer ing two, without the least distinperceptible ; and Vivenzio guishable alteration of external apstretched out his hands, he found pearances. The remaining four himself close to the walls. He looked as the seven had originally remained motionless for a consi- looked ; that is, occupying, at irrederable time ; but nothing occurred gular distances, the top of the wall during the remainder of the night on that side of the dungeon. The to excite his attention, though he tall folding door, too, still seemed continued to watch with unabated to stand beneath, in the centre of vigilance.
these four, as it had at first stood in The first approaches of the morn- the centre of the seven. But he ing were visible through the grated could no longer doubt, what, on windows, breaking, with faint divi- the preceding day, he fancied might sions of light, the darkness that still be the effect of visual deception. The pervaded every other part, long be- dungeon was smaller. The roof fore Vivenzio was enabled to dis- had lowered—and the opposite ends tinguish any object in his dungeon. had contracted the intermediate disInstinctively and fearfully he turn- tance by a space equal, he thought, ed his eyes, hot and inflamed with to that over which the three winwatching, towards them. There dows had extended. He was bewere four! He could see only wildered in vain imaginings to acfour : but it might be that some in- count for these things. Some tervening object prevented the fifth frightful purpose-some devilish from becoming perceptible ; and he torture of mind or body-some unwaited impatiently to ascertain if it heard-of device for producing ex
As the light strengthen- quisite misery, lurked, he was sure, ed, however, and penetrated every in what had taken place. corner of the cell, other objects of Oppressed with this belief, and amazement struck his sight. On distracted more by the dreadful the ground lay the broken fragments uncertainty of whatever fate imof the pitcher he had used the day pended, than he could be dismayed, before, and at a small distance from he thought, by the knowledge of them, nearer to the wall, stood the the worst, he sat ruminating, hour one he had noticed the first night. after hour, yielding his fears in It was filled with water, and beside succession to every haggard fancy. it was his food. He was now cer- At last a horrible suspicion flashed tain, that, by some mechanical suddenly across his mind, and he