Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

tion as to the fate of his child perishing with her. There was one trivial circumstance, however, which, years afterwards, when his daughter had grown up into womanhood, and the name of his son was all but forgotten, had produced a powerful impression on his mind. Deprived of his wife, it was not surprising that the count should, in the pride of manhood, and with every advantage around him, occasionally seek female society, although he abstained from forming a second matrimonial connexion. For other purposes than those of enjoying air, or of dispensing charity, was Morentali supposed to visit the more retired streets of Venice.

For some time a singular and costly jewel was observed to glitter in the hair of a very pretty black-eyed damsel, residing in the strada, now known by the name of St. Giuseppe. The fair wearer seemed by no means desirous of concealing her ornament, and one evening as she wandered along the bank of a neighbouring canal, shooting those roguish glances so well on the Adriatic, a young gondolier, who accidentally approached her, incautiously exclaimed, « Saints of heaven! I could risk my soul on the identity of that jewel withand the rough hand of a friend, which was suddenly placed upon his lips, did not prevent the remark from being overheard. That night Miollano found himself in one of the dungeons of the Council of Ten. He was subsequently examined by Morentali, who appeared to take an interest in the trinket, but the gondolier could give no satisfactory replies, save that he persisted in recognizing the jewel, though unable to say to whom he supposed it to belong, or upon what his suspicions were grounded. His silence was judged to be contumacious, and a severe application of the rack ensued, but without better success. It was then considered that he had seen too much for liberty, and at the instigation of the count, who witnessed the perpetration, he underwent the horrible agonies and death of the Fiery Vault. His fate, in itself, would have produced no effect upon Morentali, who was far too much in ured to similar scenes for pity or remorse, but a short time after the occurrence, a thought arose in the noble's mind too startlingly hideous to be borne. For days and nights it never left him, until the uncertainty could not be sustained, and as a last resource, the haughty Venetian resolved to seek a celebrated magician, or astrologer, who resided in a wing of the Doge's palace, retained for the purpose of imposing a more fearful and undefined idea of the power of knowledge of the Council upon the popular mind, than could be preserved by mere human agency. But the skill of Columbo Asprenici did not exist in report alone. Difficult of access, even the count was compelled to request, as a favour, admittance to the astrologer. It was towards midnight, when wrapped in a large cloak, armed, but unattended, Morentali entered the awful abode, around which the very air seemed filled with terror.

Few of the appendages, with which romance and superstition have invested the communer with other worlds, were to be seen in the small and gloomy apartment where the magician pursued, his tremendous studies. The chamber, or rather vault, to which name its stone walls and arched roof would better entitle it, was reached by the count after he had traversed several spacious halls, and darkened

me."

galleries, admirably adapted to secure seclusion, not by gate and barrier, but by the far more powerful agency of fear. The calculating mind of Morentali armed him with courage as he pursued his dreary way, nor was the astrologer's reception of his visitor such as to strike awe, or even unusual respect. A slightly formed, middle-aged man, with a countenance of delicate and precise outline, shaded by the tuft and moustache of the age, simply but neatly apparelled in a dark dress, rose to meet the Italian noble, with the air rather of a retired and satiated man of the world, than with that which might have been expected in a sage of such undoubted fame. A transparent globe, in the centre of which a light seemed glowing, a few mathematical instruments scattered around among numberless papers and parchments, with a low black marble column, inscribed with foreign characters, were all the uncommon features of the room. Behind Asprenici was a large window, but no moonlight was visible through it, although the queen of heaven was silvering all Venice as Morentali entered the palace. The count removed his mask, and bowed, and the astrologer first spoke.

“ To what fortunate circumstance is the humble student to ascribe the visit of the noblest senator in Venice?"

“ After craving pardon for my intrusion, learned sir, I have to beg from you the assistance which none other in the world can give

“ Even had I known nothing of the Count di Morentali, the hospitality I have received in your glorious city would compel me to do all the little in my power for any of her sons. Speak, signore, and my service is with you.”

“ Learned Asprenici, to one to whom the past is so well known as to yourself, I have only to name an incident, to bring it to his recollection. A short time ago an unhappy man, for an insult to myself, died in a dungeon of this palace. In his examination he named a jewel, with which strange ideas are connected in my imagination. If it please you, I would have the whole event cleared up, that I may at least know my doom.”

“ The victim bore the name of .?"

Miollano, among his fellows,” replied the count, in a stifled voice.

“ The jewel was given by yourself, signore, to a damsel of the city,” said the astrologer, with a half smile; " from whence did you obtain it?"

“ It was among many that have been long in my family. I have no particular recollection of it, however, but took it for my purpose, as being elegant and of small value."

“ Thus far, signore, my knowledge extends, but beyond this the answers of another must be sought, if you are resolved on gaining the information. I would caution you, here, against pursuing the inquiry, for it will be fearful in its following out, and its end may be fatal. Can you not rest satisfied with the belief, which appears to me most probable, that Miollano had made an empty boast, which obstinacy prevented him from retracting, or that he was totally mistaken in supposing that he knew the trinket?”

“ I had not sought you, Asprenici, for the mere opinion of a lawyer, and I am not to be terrified by the dangers of the pursuit. I pray you immediately to satisfy me by those means which you alone possess. I will not offend you by naming reward,” added the count, as he placed carelessly a heavy purse on the table.

“ I have said, signore, that I will obey you, but beware of shrinking when he appears, who must answer the questions you must yourself propose. Be seated for the present, and be silent."

Columbo Asprenici arose, and from a box near him took a small silver dagger, sheathless, and exquisitely chased. Retaining this in his left hand, he proceeded with the other to withdraw from the same cabinet a light long chain of dark metal, occasionally studded with crimson spots, which glistened like spangles, as the links were shaken. The astrologer, attaching one end of the chain to the upper part of the black column before mentioned, placed the other below the transparent globe, which continued to glow with internal fire. His next movement was to a corner of the apartment, from whence in a few moments came the sound of an enormous bell, and it appeared to Morentali that sparkles of light were bursting from Asprenici's hand, as it struck the wall. If so, they were speedily extinct, and the magician returned to the globe, and with the silver dagger touched the chain near its centre. The fame in the globe was instantly extinguished, an appalling roar, neither of thunder nor animal, ensued, and the vault was for an instant in utter darkness. Then a light green Aame rose from the summit of the column, and its inscriptions were seen in characters of fire. As this subsided, the same horrible roar was again heard, and the chamber was once more dark. The astrologer took his guest's hand, and guiding him to the column, placed him at a short distance from the window. As Asprenici raised the latter, the dreadful sound arose for the third time, and Morentali gazed forth upon an open plain. It appeared to be night, but there was no moon in heaven. All seemed as objects we behold in a feverish dream.

“Now be firm, and fear not," whispered Columbo. A wide expanse of dark blue sky was before them, and it was without a cloud or star. A rustling, as of dried leaves before autumn winds, commenced, and gradually increased. Then meteors danced before the eyes of the count, and successively expired. Two long lines of red light, apparently descending from above the building, and reaching the plain at a distance, were next visible. The space between them became filled with various coloured fires, until a broad belt was formed from the heaven to the earth. The deafening bell sounded-once--and the lights changed their places among themselves, glowing with the utmost brilliancy; twice—and a dark form was seen to pass rapidly down the fiery arch, to its termination in the distance ; thrice—and the fearful, yet half-defined shape rushed rapidly to the window, as the appalling roar again echoed around. Morentali dared not look at the hideous object, but enveloped his face in his ample cloak. Asprenici again whispered,

Speak, boldly and to the purpose; three questions only may be heard."

In a faltering voice, the once haughty noble asked, while he trembled for the answer, “ Does my son live ?”

“ He is dead," was the reply, in a low, thrilling, unearthly tone, which penetrated to the soul. The count was silent, his last hopes were blighted, and he half turned away, with a deep sigh, when his companion reminded him that two questions were yet to be demanded. In a firmer voice he inquired, “ What jewel was it that I gave Julia Venyas ?"

“ Thy wife wore it on the last day she ever wore ornament.”

“ How did Miollano recognize it?" said the count, in a tone of but little concern.

The answer was given, and the Italian nobleman, with a shriek of the direst anguish, sank insensible upon the ground.

Lorenzo di Castiglia led his beautiful bride from her wedding gondola to the steps of the church of Saint Anne. In the prime of life, with a noble person and large wealth, all admitted that the bridegroom was worthy of Giulia di Morentali. The soubriquet of the duellist, which he had acquired, told of numberless exploits of his sword, and the chamber of many a Venetian lady might have testified his skill in the science of love. His influence, too, was great, and it was this which had given him favour in the eyes of Morentali, before all the other suitors for his daughter's hand. In obedience to her father's commands, Giulia had accepted the offer of Castiglia, though with a heavy heart, for though her virgin affections had not centred elsewhere, she abhorred the man for whom she was about to swear to love. The bridegroom was not blind to her feelings, but he cared not for them, the rather that he intended to put her affections as a wife to but little proof, for he married principally because the fancy seized him, and possibly because his libertine career had in some measure rendered it needful, even in Venice, that he should retrieve a little of his reputation. Such were the feelings of those who stood that lovely morning, at the head of a magnificent bridal train, on the steps of the church of Saint Anne, awaiting the appearance of the Count Morentali.

The count arrived, and the procession entered the church. The organ poured out a full tide of melody, the censers waved, the pennons glistened, and the bridegroom reached the altar, with his lovely companion. A wide semicircle was formed by the friends of each, and the priest stood forth to record their vows. Morentali advanced and confronted him.

“ Stay, father, I have a word to say to our friends, and to these children too, ere thou joinest their hands. Lorenzo and Giulia, and you around, listen. It was this day month that a gondolier, named Miollano, was seized by the agents of the Council at my command, and brought before me, in the torture chamber of the palace, for the crime of recognizing this jewel. Daughter, have you ever beheld it before ?"

The Lady Giulia received the trinket, and burst into tears. Her father proceeded.

“ Ha! thou knowest it. But, my friends, I am to inform you that it once belonged to my wife, and that I gave it to an easy damsel of

be

this city, for good reasons, and from whom I have regained it. Miollano saw it in her possession, but as he refused, when before me, to say why he recollected it, I broke every limb in his body on the rack, and then roasted him to death in a fiery vault."

The effect which this horrible communication produced, delivered as it was by Morentali with a cool and almost flippant manner, may imagined. Lorenzo was the first to speak.

“ Methinks, signore, this tale were better fitted for the secret archives of the Council, than for the holy church, and least of all is it suited to the ear of the Lady Giulia.”

“ Why not, Lord of Castiglia, seeing the sufferer was my son, and her brother?"

A loud and maniac yell followed these words. The Count di Morentali pressed a pistol to his temples, and the report mingled with the dying cry of Giulia, as she sank, broken-hearted, into the arms of Castiglia.

Reithra.

THE RUINED FOUNTAIN.

Fount of the woods! o'er whom ages have pass’d,
And the walls of whose chapel are roofless at last,
Though thy shrine is deserted, and silent thine aisles,
The light of tradition upon thee still smiles.

No more thy green turf by the pilgrim is prest,
But the skylark upon it is building her nest,
The arms of the ivy around thee are clinging,
And the voice of the breeze to thy slumbers is singing.

But the hymns that were blended, the pray’rs that were breath'd,
When the last gleams of sunset to thee were bequeath’d,
And the vigils of mourners prolong'd at thy shrine,
No more-save in memory's records—are thine.

The woodman retires to thy brink for a draught,
And thy rills by the lips of the reaper are quaff'd,
And the child, with a spirit as blameless and free
As the fawn's, fills her pitcher at sunset from thee.

Oh! who can forget that the noon of thy pride
Has faded away like the sun from the tide,
When thy waters no longer are bound with a chain,
And the bright eyes of heav'n beam upon thee again?

C.

« ForrigeFortsæt »