Billeder på siden

my soul.'

The dejection I felt, on a comparison of my own far worse political position with that of this poor man, was considerably alleviated about this time by the restoration of some of my beloved books. This indulgence, as usual, I owed to the sympathy of Counsellor Minghini ; and on the strength of it I, for the first time since my imprisonment, yielded to the importunities of my good-natured bon vivant jailer, Riboni, by ordering a good dinner from the famous cook who exercised his calling within the walls of the police prison of Milan. Meantime I found a higher though melancholy gratification in kissing one by one the precious volumes, consisting of the Life of Alfieri, a Petrarch, a La Bruyère, a volume of Dante, and a little French and Italian dictionary.

These were my treasures. I stood and gazed on them. They had arrived at the very moment when my heart was weighed down; and now that they were in my possession, I could not bring myself to open them. The last time they had been in my hands I was free. At length I took up Alfieri, and happened to open it at the very passage which had so struck me on the day of my arrest, in which he says: 'The flame of glory, kindling before my eyes, electrified

This train of thought was next day superseded by the delight I anticipated from my books, and I was wholly absorbed in Petrarch when Minghini entered. “What! already at your books? I assure you it was with difficulty I obtained them. Salvotti was very averse to it, and is not aware that you will receive them for several days.'

I warmly acknowledged this proof of his kindness. "My poor friend,' said he, 'I am very glad to have it thus far in my power to alleviate your misfortunes.'

Supplied, through his continued goodness, with a tolerable quantity of books, I resolved to resume my studies, as the only means of relieving the tediousness of my captivity, and the uneasiness which preyed on my mind. I devoted the mornings to Italian authors, intending to make myself thoroughly acquainted with the language, history, and literature of the country in whose cause I seemed destined to perish. I wished to die an Italian.

The man in affliction must have some vent for his feelings ; and when in prison, without a friend, he will write them on the walls of his cell, like Tasso; or on a table, like Pellico. I wrote mine with the point of a pin on the margin of my Life of Jacopo Ottis. * Little did I think that the book would be taken away and preserved by my sister; and that, after many long years of captivity, it would help me to recall to mind a multitude of sensations which I never could, without such assistance, have recollected in all their vivid reality!

The days were becoming longer, the weather was less showery, the skies less cloudy. Spring was at hand. In spite of bolts and bars, I felt its influence, and opened my window to inhale the breeze, which was still chilly, though tempered by a March sun. My attention was drawn to the branches of the willow-tree fronting my window, which was now beginning to bud; and then an inexpressible pang shivered through my frame, on thinking that the beauties wherewith the Almighty covers the earth at the return of spring were never again to bless my eyes. The birds, singing on the house-tops and trees, announced the glad days which were coming ; but, alas! they sang not for me; they affected not my soul in the least. Absorbed in grief, the bright earth was to me as nothing. I turned away from it, and with downcast feelings gazed around my prison. And this, then, thought I, is all the place which is allotted to methis is my world until the time when I shall be released from life and absorbed into eternity!

* An Italian patriot and exile.

But at four-and-twenty, a very slight circumstance is sufficient to revive our attachment to the world. The sound of a female voice, and some light and quick steps which I heard, attracted my attention, and induced me to try to gain a sight of her who was in the yard. I clambered softly to the top of the window, lest I should alarm the sentry, and stood on tiptoe for a while ; but the boards with which it was blinded reached above my head. I remained as long as I could in this fatiguing position, and was about to descend, when a bunch of violets, adroitly thrown, fell at my feet. To drop from the bars by which í clung, and leap on the floor, was the work of an instant. It was well I happened to be so agile, for I had scarce time to conceal my violets before the keeper entered my room.

Hardly was I alone, when I took out the pretty bouquet, addressing in my heart warm thanks to the compassionate girl who had taken pity on an ill-fated foreigner; for I had no doubt she was the charitable being who had thrown me the flowers. My spirits revived; my dejection was overcome. A fondness, a love for life reawoke within me. I returned to the window : I again clambered up, with the violets on my lips. I listened eagerly. The sentinels ironshod foot tramping the court was the only sound. girl was gone, but her vision stood before my eyes ; and my soul, reanimated and full of gratitude, thanked God for the delightful sensations the incident had produced-raising my eyes with confidence and love towards the brightness of the blue heavens, and almost fancying He had made them thus brilliant to give me an omen that ere long better days were in store for me.

The following day I reopened my window, in the hope of another nosegay; but the day passed over without any step being heard save that of the sentinel and jailer. 'She will not come,' said I with a sigh, closing the window, which despite of the cold breeze that chilled me, I had kept open nearly the whole day. 'To-morrow, perhaps, I shall be more fortunate. But day after day wore over, and she returned not.

The young

On the 18th of March, Riboni brought me, as I had requested, an enormous bunch of violets. They were beautiful, odoriferous; but the heart that gave a sentiment to the others was wanting. I laid them by coldly, without even smelling them. I was sad, overcome by the memory of the past, when the flowers and presents which my relations usually showered on me on that day filled me with delight. I wrote in my book: 'Never, never more shall I look forward with joy to my birthday! No more kind surprises, no more unexpected trifles, no more of those effusions of friendship which reunite hearts. Ah me! when this anniversary next recurs, the grass will be green on my grave, and oblivion have effaced my name from the recollection of the living.'

In vain did I strive against the sadness and depression produced by the conviction, that none of the friends dear to my heart would be present during my last moments. Vainly did I attempt to fix my thoughts solely on my Creator and on a future existence. I did not, it is true, murmur against God; indeed I invoked Him. I called upon Him to succour me; but these outbursts, these appeals to His mercy, did little towards imbuing my heart with that submission to His decrees which a true Christian only can attain. I was not yet taught that in this world our lot is that of suffering, but a suffering which becomes a species of joy, when it is supported by reliance on the love of a God whose word and whose promises are not of to-day or yesterday, but for ever.

One morning, it was the 2d of April, I opened my window, and enjoyed the glow shed by the sun over the vault of heaven. The tree, which I had not observed for several days, was now clothed with leaves, and I delighted to gaze on its fresh green—the harbinger of spring-to observe the graceful movement of its slender branches, as the wind blew it to and fro. Its young foliage presented to my soul an emblem of hope-a celestial message, bringing light to my heart in the depth of its gloom. My feelings assumed a healthier tone ; and, looking at the renewal of nature after the long and dismal winter, I said to myself: 'Who knows but that God, who preserves the vital germ of the plants under the cold snow, may not also rescue me from the tomb, to restore me to life and happiness?'

The next morning the door of my prison opened quickly, and Minghini, with a smiling and eager countenance, entered with a letter in his hand. 'Read, read' said he abruptly. I took the letter ; but I had scarcely begun to read it, ere I fell on my knees, crying : 'My God, my God! I thank thee!' Minghini, respecting this outburst of gratitude, allowed me without interruption to read the letter, which was from my sister, announcing her arrival with her husband and daughter.

They are arrived I repeated I, sobbing ; 'but is it true?-is it quite certain?'

'Your sister herself,' said Minghini,' wrote this note ; I have this instant seen and spoken with her.'

“May I see them soon?-immediately?'

"To-day, or to-morrow at latest, if it were in my power. But you are in the hands of Salvotti ; to him you must address yourself; and I fear the result.'

"What! can he have the barbarity to deny me an interview with my family, who have travelled six hundred miles, braving the dangers of the Alps at this season, to comfort me? No; I will never believe it : such cruelty belongs not to this age.'

'I wish it were so; but I advise you to see Salvotti immediately, to prevent his sending back your relations.'

Send them back!-it would be infamous. He has not the power.'

'Do not trust to that; whatever he does is sanctioned by the emperor.

Your fate is in his hands ; and I repeat to you, that if you wish to see your family at all, you must apply to Salvotti this day. But do not indulge the hope of seeing your friends immediatelydays, even weeks may elapse. Meantime, rejoice that they are here. I could hardly have hoped they would have obtained passports. Farewell : I am glad to have been of some comfort to you. But I forgot : here is a letter from your father ; keep it, as well as your sister's, and return them in an hour's time by the jailer.'

My heart was so full of joy and gratitude, that the thought of God and prayer alone relieved it. I threw myself on my knees, on the same spot where I had so often shed scalding tears. O merciful and powerful God, I thank thee! I was alone, and forsaken ; Thou hast sent my sister-my guardian angel !'

Salvotti, whose arrival at the prison followed closely on that of the herald of good tidings, was not one to lose sight of, or undervalue, the new engine of torture which now presented itself.

With a semblance of compassionate good-will, more difficult a thousand times to withstand than his former harshness, did he set before me all the array of motives, so powerfully seconded by the best feelings of nature, which might influence me to yield to the wishes of the emperor, by putting him in possession of the names of parties implicated in the projected movement. But all attempts to procure these disclosures failed. At the risk of having my beloved sister sent back to France, without even the sad comfort of an interview, and with death, in its most ignominious aspect, as the inevitable alternative, I recoiled from violating a trust reposed in me.

Astonished that his proposals should admit of any hesitation, Salvotti now threw in the cruel hint, formerly alluded to, that all this heroism before a private tribunal, which had it in its power to give what turn it might think proper to the prisoner's disclosures, was in all probability wasted. Concluding one of his harangues, he abruptly asked : 'Do you not understand me?'

me once more.

But too well,' said I, repressing with the greatest difficulty my painful indignation. "To point out to the unfortunate man who is drowning a saving branch which he cannot reach, is only to increase his despair at the fatal moment.'

"You then continue deaf to my counsels ?' he resumed with his wonted tone of irony; 'you refuse your life, your liberty, and all that his majesty would in his generosity do for you? Like a madman, like a wretch without feeling, you will condemn your relations to see you die on the scaffold?'

'In the name of Heaven say no more, sir-say no more! What you require of me is not in my power. Spare me these tortures-a thousand times more cruel than the death with which you continually threaten me. If I cannot clasp to my heart the unhappy ones who have come so far to sustain me in my affliction, it will indeed be very bitter to me ; but I shall pray to the Almighty that my trials may plead for me at the day of judgment. But in the name of pity and of justice do not inflict upon my family any part of the misery which ought to fall on me alone; do not employ your power to drive them from Milan, or deprive them of the hope of embracing

I supplicate you in the name of the emperor, whose goodness is too great to sanction such a proceeding.'

‘His majesty,' answered Salvotti, whose pallid face had resumed its expression of audacity and wrath, has no pity for those wilful culprits who, like you, persevere to the last in hardened impenitence. Good-morning! You have to-day put the seal to your death-warrant. If your father die with anguish, if your brother and sister are distracted with grief, no one is to blame but yourself. I have tried to save you, and you have prevented me; justice must now take its course.'

[In the meantime, intercourse with his relatives being probably relied on as the best chance of softening, through the medium of strong family affection, the inflexibility of the prisoner, he was permitted to exchange, once or twice a week, a letter with his sister ; nay, even to despatch one, affecting a light-heartedness and hope he had long ceased to feel, to his aged and disconsolate father.

It was not, however, till the expiration of his ten years' captivity that he learnt, from the journals of her whom he might truly call his 'guardian angel,' the particulars of the unwearied efforts she, during that whole period, never ceased to make to procure his liberation. From this interesting source we will extract, as he does, the entry relating to the first arrival of herself and her husband on their benevolent errand to Milan.

' April 5:—How happy I am! We have just received a letter from our dear Alexander. Oh, how transported he seems at the idea that we are near him! His joy almost amounts to delirium. The words are nearly blotted out by his tears. I read it myself to my husband and daughter, and we all wept over it. My poor Alexander! We

« ForrigeFortsæt »