« ForrigeFortsæt »
of disposing of them. On looking over the packet, he found that certain documents compromised individuals in Milan from whom he had received a kind reception; and these he considerately burnt. The others, he was informed, would be called for by the proposed messenger next morning at nine or ten o'clock. The destruction of some, and the expectation of being speedily relieved of all the others, set his mind at ease, and he went in the evening to La Scala, one of the most magnificent theatres in Italy. At this place of amusement he saw Lablache, the celebrated singer, whom he invited to visit him in the morning, with the view of having his advice on the subject of taking instructions in music in different parts of Italy. What ensued may best be described in his own words.*
MY ARREST. After seeing and speaking to Lablache at the theatre, I retired home to the hotel, anticipating in imagination the happy days I was going to enjoy in the fair and genial south. The Life of Alfieri, which I had for some days been reading with increasing interest, had in no small degree contributed to hasten my determination. I took it up. The example of a man who at seven-and-twenty hardly knew his native tongue, and at forty was the first dramatist of Italy, revived all my longing after literary fame. I thought that if I was not possessed of his genius, I had a tenacity of purpose, a craving to rise above mediocrity, and a confidence of success, not at all inferior to his own.
As I fell asleep, my last thought-I still remember itwas, that, being only twenty-four years of age, I had before me a long futurity of studies and hopes; and the dreams I had in my sleep were dreams of happiness and glory.
When I awoke on the 18th of January, it was late ; later than it appeared by the light; for it snowed, and the weather was wintry and gloomy. I eagerly spread the map of Italy before me. I found out Florence and Naples. I thought of the delightful days I should pass there—of the rambles, the excursions I should make in Tuscany, the Papal States, Sicily, and Calabria.
A clock in the neighbourhood struck nine ; the person who was to come for the papers might be expected every moment ; I therefore hurriedly drew the parcel from its hiding-place, and put it under one of the cushions of my sofa, ready to my hand when my friend came. The door-bell rang. "?Tis he !' said I to myself. It was only a servant from an acquaintance to know if I should be at home at noon. Shortly after, the bell was rung again. If this is not he, surely it must be Lablache, with his rich voice and hearty merriment.' No; it was not Lablache, but a gentleman in a brown coat, of a sinister and cadaverous visage, followed by several gendarmes. I
* What follows is a translation from the original narrative of Andrayne. We have, however, found it necessary to abridge many passages.
shuddered ; a thought struck me like a thunderbolt: 'It is all over with me!'- a moment of intense agony, which, however, I mastered sufficiently to assume a polite and unconcerned air, and ask to what I owed the honour of his visit.
"Excuse me,' he replied ; 'I am sent by the customs to search for contraband goods.'
'I am not a merchant; the customs ought to be aware of that.'
'I trust you will pardon me, but it is my duty,' and so saying, he and his myrmidons entered the room. A sudden thought, a glimpse of safety shot through my mind. The fire was blazing in the chimney ; to throw my papers into it, whilst I confused these pretended custom-house officers by engaging them in a scuffle, was worth attempting. I rapidly strode two or three steps towards the sofa ; but I found I had to do with a man who was no novice. Two of his alguazils had immediately stationed themselves in front of the fireplace. I should, however, have proceeded in my design, relying on my own strength, but that it occurred to me the papers were contained in a leathern case, and would not therefore at once catch fire.
A last resource struck me : to gain possession of the writing-case, and hurl it on the roofs of the neighbouring houses, then covered with snow ; whilst, profiting by the surprise of my visitors, I should throw myself out into the streets. It was a desperate measure, which would have availed me nothing, and which the next moment rendered impracticable. Several of the police were already, in the course of their search, arrived at the sofa, towards which, as if by instinct, the commissary, Count Bolza, an old blood-hound, well versed in the art and mystery of arrests, all at once advanced. The first cushion he lifted discovered the case ; he eagerly clutched it, and held it up. A mortal chill ran through my veins; I felt that my fate was about to be decided !
The evil was without remedy; and I had now only to brace myself for whatever might happen, and bear it with becoming fortitude. With this view I preserved an air of perfect assurance and politeness towards the agents of police, which prevented their losing for an instant the respect due to me. On leaving the room with Bolza, who loaded me with marks of deference, the staircase, the court, and the door, at which a coach was in waiting, were all guarded by soldiers, placed ready to prevent any attempt at escape.
I have taken every precaution, you see,' said the prudent commissary with a self-satisfied air. “I knew with whom I had to deal ; and, to tell the truth, I would not have undertaken your arrest if they had not given me a strong force.'
"I see you understand your business,' answered I.
In a few minutes we arrived at the head-office of police, where I was introduced into the cabinet of the director. The case, sealed up at my lodgings by Bolza, was handed over to him. He took it, tore off the envelope, opened it, and desiring Bolza to examine its contents, and make a list of them, sat himself down again to his desk, and continued his employment.
The silence which prevailed in the room, only broken by the rustling of the parchments as the commissary drew them from the case, and the scratching of the pen of the director as he wrote, left me entirely to myself, and I began more clearly to fathom the abyss into which I had fallen. No chance of saving myself occurred to my mind. 'I am in the power of the Austrians! i am lost! I see it-I feel it !' These were my only thoughts.
Sometimes a glimmer of hope enlivened my spirits, and I said to myself : ‘After all, what have I done to warrant my arrest? They can only send me, with a good escort, to the frontier. Already I had traversed the Alps; I had gained Switzerland; I was at Geneva ! A momentary illusion, which the director very soon dispelled, by requesting that I would look over and check the list; adding, that he was sorry it was his duty to place me in confinement.
On being conducted into another chamber, they undressed me from head to foot; the first of the long series of annoyances which were continued to the very last moment of my captivity. After undergoing the scrutiny of the jailer, who was half-inclined, in his disappointment at finding nothing, to peer under my very eyelids for concealed dispatches, they conducted me to a lower apartment, where Bolza was waiting to lead me to the prisons of the police.
IMPRISONMENT AT MILAN.
Passing through a low and dark corridor, which looked out upon a small court surrounded by a high wall, the jailer opened a little door studded with iron, on which my eyes had been from the first presagingly fixed. “May I trouble you to enter?' said Bolza. I entered, and the door closed behind me with a hollow sound. May God recompense one day or other the intense anguish which fell upon my heart at that moment !
The last bolt was hardly drawn when the aspect of my cell, rendered more miserable by the sudden disappearance of the light, made me turn briskly towards the door. I gazed upon it-nerveless, overwhelmed, motionless—with an anguish which no pen can depict, and which no man could sustain for an hour without losing his
I had no thoughts, no volition. I was overcome by an acute sense of suffering-a suffering which relieved itself by these words alone : 'O God !-0 God!' which my lips murmured incessantly, without attaching any distinct meaning to them. The closing of that door, from which I never took my eyes, had deprived me of all the presence of mind I had till then kept up. My fortitude abandoned me all at once; I felt nothing but an indefinable desire, a horrible craving after the blessed light of the sun, and an awful temptation to dash out my brains against the walls of my dungeon.
I know not how long this fearful stupor continued; I only remember grasping the bars of the door with my hands; and, as I tugged at them in the wildness of my despair, my legs failed me, and my head fell violently against the thick boards. The quick step of the sentinel, attracted by the noise, and his challenge, brought me to myself. Mechanically I put myself in motion. Í walked, I paced hurriedly from the window to the door, from the door to the window, backwards and forwards, and quicker and quicker.
I passed nearly an hour in this manner; it was an occupation suggested by instinct. Gradually my spirits grew more composed. I collected my ideas; I began to see what my prison really was. A grated window, nearly blinded with boards, let in a dim light, which was now still more intercepted by the snow-laden branches of a tree. Its only furniture was a stove ; its whole extent three paces wide by five in length. I saw this in all its stern reality : and it was here that I was henceforth to live, to sigh out many and many a day, to undergo many a bitter hardship! All that I had left, all that I had lost-my country, my family, my dear sister, my studies, my hopes of the future-alone occupied my thoughts. Italy, Milan, all I had expected, all was vanished—lost ! Sometimes wearied, distracted by this continual pacing to and fro in a space so confined, I stopped ; I looked for a chair, a bed, anything to sit down uponthere was none! This trifling circumstance did more than anything else towards plunging me into a state of utter prostration, mental and physical; a state during which, had the inquisitorial judge come to me, and offered liberty at the price of honour, of the revelation of my secret, I believe I might have accepted it. Thank God, I was not to die with such a weight of infamy on my head !
My first visitors were the jailer and his underlings bringing me a bed, a chair, a chest of drawers, and a table. As this humble furniture was arrayed around me, the wildness of my excitement subsided. The few sticks, scarce deserving the name, did away with the bareness of the prison ; and, making me feel that I was to be treated like a rational being, revived my shattered spirits. Even so little a thing—can ye conceive it, ye that are free?—is enough to cheer the poor prisoner who feels' himself abandoned by all, and doomed to every hardship.
I paced a step or two, threw myself on my bed, and covered myself with my cloak: it was a kind of refreshment to my feelings. But hardly had I shut my eyes, weighed down with fatigue, than I started with the impression that my imprisonment could not be real, that it was only a dream. But no; the prison bars too bitterly undeceived me. Again I closed my eyes, and reflected on all I might have done to avoid my arrest, and how coolly I should have
Teceived the police if the papers had no longer been in my possession. How different would have been my situation could I but have gained ten minutes ! I might have fortified myself in my room, and burnt the papers while they battered at the door. Oh, how happy I should have been !—what joy, what triumph! The scene stood vividly before me: I pictured their astonishmentthe ludicrousness of their disappointment. I fancied myself receiving them with mock ceremony, pointing to the embers of the writing-case, and saying: 'Gentlemen, one minute sooner, what a prize you would have had ! Now, do your worst !' Then again my imagination wandered further. I thought I had escaped. I was scrambling over the roof of a neighbouring house. I was at St Gothard, at last freed from the pursuit of the police. Illusions, miserable illusions ! but which yet had their charm, and consoled the being who indulged in them.
I was half asleep, when the sound of the clock striking the hour .awoke me. What a heart-breaking sensation came over me when I recognised where I was! I wept : I had not wept till then. I leant my head against the wall in bitter anguish, and wept-oh, how I wept ! The misery which would be felt in my family, the grief which my arrest would cause my good old father, all overwhelmed me at once; then the idea of my desolate situation arose, adding sorrow to sorrow. Who will, who can intercede for me? No one ; alas, no one ! I am alone. My prison is
deliverance will perhaps be a scaffold. Oh, bitter, very bitter is that despondency which weighs down the poor captive, on reflecting that he has no one to take up his cause, and that henceforth his only society with his fellow-men will be that of the accused with the judge, the condemned with the executioner.
In this sadness of soul my thoughts turned to the Almighty. It was but a mere impulse—the first cry of a wretch towards Him from whom all proceeds—both the wound and the healing ; but it sufficed, nevertheless, to keep me from a second excess of dejection and despair. Some moments after, when the commissary Bolza came into my prison to inquire if I had need of anything, he found me as cool and composed in my conversation as in the morning. My tears had ceased, and my manner was that of a man alive to the difficulties of his situation, but not overwhelmed by them. On asking him if he would allow me to have some books, he replied that he would immediately speak to the director of police, on whom it depended, and left the apartment.
Night came; all was still. The dread of passing the rest of my existence in such darkness came over my thoughts like a pall. The thought struck me that, on the preceding night, at that self-same hour, I was preparing to go to the theatre. I was then free, could depart, could escape : and now—the idea maddened me. I clutched my forehead with my hands, and grasped it as though I could have