by Harriet Prescott
"Tortured with winter's storms, and tossed with a tumultuous sea."
WHEN God's curse forsook my country, it fell on me. I had been young and heroic; I had fought well; what portion
of the clock-work of Fate had been allotted me I had utterly performed. Twelve years ago I became a man and
strove for my country's freedom; now she has attained her heights without me, and I — what am I? A shapeless hulk,
that stays in the shadow, and that hates the world and the people of the world, and verily the God above the world!
"Fight!" whispered Father Anselmo, the young priest, to me, at my last shrift; and fight I did. For from Italy's bosom
I had drawn the strength of sword-arm, hip, and thigh; and I vowed to lose that arm and life and all that made life
dear toward the trampling of oppressors from the sacred place.
My sun rose in storm, it continued in storm, — why not so have set? Why not have died when swords swept their
lightnings about me, when the glorious thunders of battle rolled around and sulphurous blasts enveloped, when the
air was full of the bray of bugle and beat of drum, of shout and shriek, exultation and agony? Why not have gone
with the crowd of souls reeking with daring and desire? Why, oh, why thus left alone to wither? Why still hangs that
sun above me, yet wrapt and veiled and utterly obscured in thick, murk mists of sorrow and despair?
Peace! — let me tell you my story.
Since Father Anselmo — like all youth, whether under cowl, cap, or crown — was a Liberal at heart, I had not
wanted counsel; but when I had told him all my yearnings and aspirations, had bared to him the throbbings of my
very thought, and he had replied in that one blessed word, I hastened away. There were none to whom I should say
farewell; I was alone in the world. This wild blood of my veins ran in no other veins; I knew thoroughly the wide freedom of
solitude; the sins and the virtues of my race, whatever they were, had culminated in me. As I looked back, that
morning, the castle, planted in a dimple of its demesnes, old and gray and watched by purple peaks of Apennine,
seemed to hide its command only under the mask of silence. The wood through which I went, with its alluring
depths, the moss verdant in everlasting spring beneath my eager feet, each bough I lifted, the blossoms that blew
their gales after, the bearded grasses that shook in the wind, all gave me their secret sigh; all the sweet land
around, the distant hill, the distant shore, said, "Redeem me from my chains!" I came across a sylvan statue, some
faun nestled in the forest: the rains had stained, frosts cracked, suns blistered it; but what of those? A vine covered
with thorns and stemmed with cords had wreathed about it and bound it closely in serpent-coils. I stayed and tore
apart the fetters till my hands bled, cut away the twisting branches, and set the god free from his bonds. Triumph
rose to my lips, for I said, "So will I free my country!" Ah, there was my error, — the shackling vines would grow
again, and infold the marble image that had consecrated the forest-glooms; there is the flaw in all my work, — I have
shorn, but have never uprooted an evil. Youth is a fool; the young Titans cannot scale heaven, — heaven, that, if
what I live through be true, is ramparted round with tyrant lies! But is it true? Am I what I seem to myself? Did I fail in
my purpose, in my will? Did Italy herself belie me? Did she, did she I loved, she I worshipped, she the woman to
whom I gave all, for whom I sacrificed all, did she, too, forsake me? Ah, no! you will tell me Italy is free. But I did not
free her! She waits only to put on in Venice her tiara. And for that other one, that fair Austrian woman, that devil
whom I serve and adore, that yellow-haired witch who brewed her incantations in my holiest raptures, — she did not
then play me foul, and falsely feign love to win me to disgrace? May all the woes in Heaven's hands fall on her!
God! what have I said? That I should live to ban her with a word! Did I say it? Oh, but it was vain! Woe for her? No,
no! all blessings shower upon her, sunshine attend her, peace and gladness dwell about her! Traitress though she
were, I must love her yet; I cannot unlove her; I would take her into my heart, and fold my arms about her. — Oh, I
pray you do not look upon me with that mocking smile! Pity me, rather! pity this wretched heart that longs to curse
God and die! — Nay, I want not your idle words. Can good destroy? Can love persecute? I was a worm that turned.
What then? Why not have crushed me to annihilation? Oh, no, not that! He took me up and shook me before the
world, clipped me, and let me fall. I derisive Deity, — why, the words give each other the lie!
Stop! Your sad eyes look as if you would go away, but for this infinite pity in you. What makes you pity me?
Because I am shorn of my strength? because of all my fair proportions there is nothing left unshrivelled? because
my body — such as it is — is racked with hourly and perpetual pain? because I die? For none of these? Truly, your
judgments are inscrutable. For what then? Because, — yet, no, that cannot be, — because I bear a stubborn heart?
because I will not bend my soul as He has bent my body? Partly, — but you are witless! What else? Because I toss
off a shield and buckler, you say. Because I will not lean upon a tower of strength. Because I will not throw myself on
the tide of divine love, and trust myself to its course. It was that divine love, then, that tower of strength, that shield
and buckler, that made m this thing you see. Tarpeia was enough. Away with your generalities! Go, go, you slave of
Yet no, — you have not gone? You believe what you say, — I know with those eyes you cannot deceive. Ah, but I trusted her eyes once! Yet it gives you rest; — your sorrows are not like
mine, — there is no rest for me. I cannot go and gather that balm of Gilead, — I have no legs. I have as good as
none. This wheel-chair and that dog of a turnkey are not the equipage for such a journey. — Ah, do not turn from me
now! My railing is worse than my cursing, you feel indeed. Well, stay with me at least, and if it is twelve years since
you shrived me at first, perhaps you shall shrive me at last, — for I doubt if I am ever brought out to this sunshine
again, if I do not die in the prison-damps tonight, — and you, with all your change, are Father Anselmo, I think. —
Stay, I will confess to you, confess this. Man! man! this infinite pity of your soul for mine throws a light on my dark
ways: God's curse has fallen on me through man's curse, why not God's love through man's love? Anselmo, though
you became priest, and I went to become hero, we were children together; I was dear to you then; I am so still, it
seems. In your love let me find the love of that Heaven I have defied. — Stay, friend, yet another word. If man's love
can be so great, what can God's love be? That which I said I said in desperation; in very truth, that peace hangs like
an unattainable city in the clouds before my soul's vision, that love like a broad river flowing through the lands, an
atmosphere bathing the worlds, the subtile essence and ether of space in which the farthest star pursues its course,
— why, then, should it escape me, the mote? Oh, when the world turned from me, I sought to flee thither! I sighed for
the rest there! Wretched, alone, I have wept in the dark and in the light that I might go and fling myself at the
heavenly feet. But, do you see? sin has broken down the bridge between God and me. Yet why, then, is sin in the
world, — that scum that rises in the creation and fermentation of good, — why, but as a bridge on which to re-seek
those shores from which we wander? Man, I do repent me, — in loving you I find God. And you call that blasphemy!
— Nay, go, indeed, my friend! So humble, you are not the man for me. I can talk to the winds: they, at least, do not
visit me too roughly.
These are thy tears, Anselmo? Thou a priest, yet a man? Still with me? Yet thou wilt have to bear with wayward
moods, — scorn now, quiet then. I am a tetchy man; I am an old man, too, though but just past thirty. — So! I thank
God for thee, dear friend!
Anselmo, look out on this scene below us here, as we sit on our lofty battlement. Not on the turrets of the
loopholes, the grates and spikes, or all the fortified horror, — but on the earth. It is fair earth, though not Italy; this is
a mountain-fortress; here are all the lights and shadows that play over grand hill-countries, and yonder are fields of
grain, where the winds and sunbeams play at storm, and a little hamlet's sheltered valley. Doubtless there are
towers, besides, half hidden in the hills. It is Austria: slaves tread it, and tyrants drain it, it is true, — but the wild, free
gypsies troop now and then across it, and though no fiction of law supports a claim they would scorn to make, they
use it so that you would swear they own it. Do you see how this iron reticulation of social rule and custom and force
makes a scaffolding on which this tameless race build up their lives? I watch them often. Each country has its
compensations. Anselmo, this first made me tremble in my petty defiance, — I, an ephemera of May, defying the
dominations of eternity! — Not so, — not too lowly; I also am, and each limitation of life is as well, a domination of
eternity. But I saw that it was no purpose of God to have destroyed Italy; when men in weakness and wantonness
suffered their liberties to be torn from them, suffered themselves to become enslaved, there was compensation in
that their sons had chance for heroic growth; they might, in efforts for freedom, create virtues that, born to freedom,
they would never have known. I, too, had my field; I lost it; my enemy was myself. But when I think of her — Ay, there it is! Do
not let me think of her! I become mad, when I think of her! — At least, allow me this: God's ways are dark. Not that?
Not even that? I needed what I have? If my ambitions, my passions, my will, had ruled, my soul would have
remained null? Ah, friend, and is that so much the worse? It is the soul that aches! — I am a man of the people, a
man who acts, — I was, I mean, — not a man who thinks; and all your subtleties of word perchance entrap me. I am
not wary when you come to logic. See! I surrender point after point. I shall be dead soon, you know; when this
morning's sun shall have set, when the moon shall hold the night in fee, I shall depart, — wing up and away; — is it,
that, my body already dead, my mind sickens and dies with it, bit after bit, and so I yield, and attest, that, without the
agony of my life, death had failed to burst my soul's husk? Oh, for I was born of an earthy race, blood ran thick in
our veins, we were sensuous and passionate, the breath and steam of pleasure stifled our brains, and our filmy
eyes could not see heaven. Yes, yes, I needed it all; but, friend, it is pitiful.
I like to sit here in the sun. It is only a twelvemonth, of all my long years' imprisonment, that this has been allowed
me. I like to sleep in it, like any wild creature, — the lizard, a mere reptile, — the bird, a hindered soul. To lie thus,
weak as I am, but pillowed and warmed by the searching genial rays, seems such comfort, when I think of the bed I
once had on the rack! This little slumber from which I wake revives me. I feared not to find you, and did not unclose
my eyes at once. It was good in you to come, Anselmo; it must have been at risk of much.
You ask me to speak of my life since I went away on that morning of your command, — to reconcile the hostile
acts, to gather the scattered reports. Hear it all!
You know my wealth was equal to my demand. I used it; before six months were over, I was the life and soul of
those who must needs be conspirators. They saw that I was earnest, that my sacrifices were real; they trusted me.
Soon the movement had become general; all the smothered elements of national life were convulsed and throbbing
under the crust of tyranny.
How proud and glad was I that morning after our victory! I saw great Italy, beautiful Italy, once more put on her
diadem; I beheld the future prospect of one broad, free land, barriered by Alps and set impregnably in summer
seas, storied seas, keys of the West and East. We embraced each other as brothers of this glorious nation, ancient
Rome risen from trance; as we walked the streets, we sand; Milan was turbulent with gladness; no gala-day was
ever half so bright; the very spires appeared to spring in the white radiance of their flames up a deeper heaven; the
sun stayed at perpetual dawn for us. Walking along, jubilant and daring, at length we paused in a square where a
fountain dashed up its column of sunshine, and laved our hands. By Heaven! We forgot independence, Italy,
freedom; we were crazed with success and hope; it seemed that the stream was Austrian blood! Then, in the midst
of all, I looked up, — and on a balcony she stood. A fair woman, with hair like shredded light, her great blue eyes
wide and full and of intense dye, her nostril distended with pride, and fear and hate of us, — but on the full lips, ripe
with crimson bloom, juicy and young and fresh, on those Love lay. The others wound forward, — I with them, yet
apart; and my eyes became fixed on hers. Then I lifted my cap with its tricolor. She did not return the courtesy, but
stood as if spellbound, one hand threading back the straying hair, the lips a little parted; suddenly she turned to fly,
that hand upraised to the casement's side, and still, as she looked back, the beautiful eyes on mine. My companions
had preceded me; we were alone in the square; she wavered as she stood, then tore a rose from her bosom, kissed it deep into its heart, and tossed it to me.
"Let all its petals be joys!" I said, and she vanished.
Oh, friend, the leaves have fallen, the rose is dead! Look! I have kept it through all, — sear leaf and withered spray!
That night we danced; and the Austrian girl was there. They told me she was exiled, and that she loved liberty; no
one told me she was a spy. I saw her swim along the dance, the white satin of her raiment flashing perpetual
interchange of lustrous and obscure, the warm air playing in the lace that fell like the spray of the fountain round her
golden hair and over her pearly shoulder; grace swept in all her motions, beauty crowned her, she seemed the
perfect pitch of womanhood.
Still she swims along the lazy line with indolent pleasure, still floats in dreamy waltz-circles perchance, still bends to
the swaying tune as the hazel-branch bends to the hidden treasure, — but as for me, my dancing days are over.
By-and-by it was I with whom she danced, whose hand she touched, on whom she leaned. I wondered if there
were any man so blest; I listened to her breath, I watched her cheek, our eyes met, and I loved her. The music grew
deeper, more impassioned; we stood and listened to it, — for she danced then no more, — our hearts beat time to it,
the wind wandering at the casement played in its measure; we said no words, but now and then each sought the
other's glance, and, convicted there, turned in sudden shame away. When I bade her good-night, which I might
never have done but that the revel broke, a great curl of her hair blew across my lips. I was bold, — I was heated,
too, with this half-secret life of my heart, this warm blood that went leaping so riotously through my veins, and yet so
silently, — I took my dagger from my belt and severed the curl. See, friend! will you look at it? It is like the little gold
snakes of the Campagna, is it not? each thread, so fine and fair, a separate ray of light: once it was part of her! See
how it twists round my hand! Haste! haste! let me put it up, lest I go mad! — Where was I?
I busied myself again in the work to be done; because of our victory we must not rest; once more all went forward.
I saw the Austrian woman only from a window, or in a church, or as she walked in the gardens, for many days. Then
the times grew hotter; I left the place, and lived with stern alarums; and thither she also came. I never sought what
sent her. She was with the wounded, with the dying. Then the need of her was past, and she and all the others took
their way. At length that also came to an end.
We were in Rome, — and thither, some time previously, she had gone.
One night, our business for the day was over, our plans for the morrow laid, our messages received, our
messengers despatched, and those who had been conspirators and now bade fair to be saviours were sleeping.
Sleep seemed to fold the world; each bough and twig was silent in repose; the spectral moonlight itself slept as it
bathed the air. I alone wandered and waked. With me there were too many cares for rest; work kept me on the alert;
to court slumber at once was not easy after the nervous tension of duty. I was torn, too, with conflicting feelings: half
my soul went one way in devotion to my country, half my soul swerved to the other as I thought of the Austrian
woman. I grew tired of the streets and squares; something that should be fragrant and bowery attracted me. I
mounted on the broken water-god of a dry bath and leaped a garden-wall.
No sooner was I there than I knew why I had come. This was her garden.
Heart of Heaven! how all things spoke of her! How the great white roses hung their doubly heavy heads and
poured their perfume out to her! how the sprays shivered as I spoke the name she owned! how the nightingales
ceased for a breath their warbling as she rustled down a fragrant path and met me! All her hair was swept back in one great mass and held by an ivory comb; a white cloak wrapped her white array; she was
jewelless and stripped of lustre; she was like pearl, milky as a shell, white as the moonlight that followed in her wake.
"You breathed my name, — I came," she said.
"Pardon!" I replied. "I heard the fountains dash and the nightingales sing, and I but came for rest under the spell."
"And have you found it?"
"I have found it."
We remained silent then, while floods of passion gathered and lay darkly still in our hearts. No, no! I know now that
it was not so; yet I will tell it, tell it all, as I thought it then.
She did not stir; indeed, she had such capability of rest, that, had I not spoken, she would never have stirred, it
may be. She knew that my glance was upon her; for herself, she looked at the broad lilies that grew at her feet, and
listened to the melody that seemed to bubble from a thousand throats with interfluent sound upon the night. It was
her repose that soothed me: moulded clay is not so calm, the marble rose of silence not half so beautifully folded to
dreamful rest, so lovely and so still no garden-statue could have been; the cool, soft night infiltrated its tranquillity
through all her being.
As we stood, the nightingales gave us capricious pause; one alone, distant and clear, fluted its faint piping like the
phantom of the finished strain. Another sound broke the air and floated alone on this too delicious accompaniment:
music, fine and far. Some other lover sang to her his serenade. The voice in its golden sonority rose and crept
toward her with persuading sweetness, winding through all the alleys and hovering over the plots of greenery with a
tranquil strength, as if such song were but the natural spirit of the night, or as if the soul of the broad calm and
silence itself had taken voice.
"Thy beauty, like a star
Whose life is light,
Shines on me from afar,
And on the night.
"Each midnight blossom bends
With sweetest weight,
And to thy casement sends
Its fragrant freight.
"Each air that faintly curls
About thy nest
Its daring pinion furls
Within thy breast.
"The night is spread for thee,
The heavens are wide,
And the dark earth's mystery
"For thee the garden waits,
The hours delay,
The fountains toss their jets
Of shimmering spray.
"Then leave thy dim delight
In dreams above,
Come forth, and crown the night
With her I love!"
She listened, but did not lift her head or suffer the change of a fold; then there came the tinkle of the strings that
embalmed the tune, and the singer's steps grew soundless as he left the street. A new phantasm crept upon me.
What right had any other man to sing to her his love-songs? Did she not live, was not her beauty created, her soul
given, for me? Did not the very breath she drew belong to me? My voice, hoarse and husky, disturbed the stillness,
my eyes flamed on her.
"Do you love that man who sang?" I murmured.
"Signor, I love you," she said.
Then we were silent as before, but she stood no longer alone and opposite. One passionate step, an outstretched
arm, and her head on my bosom, my lips bent to hers.
All the nightingales burst forth in choral redundance of song, all the low winds woke and fainted again through the
balmy boughs, all the great stars bent out of heaven to shed their sweet influences upon us.
It seemed to me that in that old palace-garden life began, my memory went out in confused joy. I held her, she
was mine! mine, mine, in life and for eternity! Fool! it was I who was hers! Man, you are a priest, and must not love. I, too, was sworn a priest to my country.
So we break oaths!
O moments of swift bliss, why are you torture to remember? Let me not think how the night slipped into dawn as
we roamed, how pale gold filtered through the darkness and bleached the air, how bird after bird with distant chirrup
and breaking tune announced the day. She left me, and as well it might be night. I wound a strange way home. I
questioned if it were the dream of a fevered brain; I wondered, would she remember when next she saw me? None
met with me that day; I forgot all. With the night I again waited in the garden. In vain I waited; she came no more. I
waxed full of love's anger, I crushed the tendril and the vine, I wandered up and down the walks and cursed these
thorns that tore my heart. As I went, an angle of the shrubbery allured; I turned, and lo! full radiance from open
doors, and silvery sounds of sport. I leaned against the ilex, lost in shadow, and watched her as she stirred and
floated there before me in the light. She seemed to carry with her an atmosphere of warmth and brilliance; all things
were ordered as she moved; one throng melted before her, another followed. By-and-by she stood at the long
casement to seek acquaintance with the night. Constantly I thought to meet her eye, and I would not reflect that she
saw only dusk and vacancy. Then indignantly I stepped from the ilex and confronted her. A low, glad cry escapes
her lips, she holds her arms toward me and would cross the sill, when a voice constrains her from within. It is he, the
"Signor," she says, "a vampire flitted past the dawn."
Dawn indeed was breaking. The man still stood there when she left him, and still looked out; his eyes lay on me,
and irate and motionless I returned their gaze. One by one her guests departed; with a last threatening glance, he,
too, withdrew. I plunged into the silent places again, and waited now, assured that she would come. The
constellations paled, and still I was alone. Then I wandered restlessly again, and, winding through thickets of
leaf-distilled perfume, I came where just above a balcony, and almost beyond reach from it, a light burned dimly in
one narrow window. I did not ask myself why I did it, but in another moment I had clambered to the place, and
standing there, I bent forward to my right, pulled away the tangle of ivy that filled half the niche, and was peering in.
"What is that?" said a voice I knew, with its silvery echo of the South, the accursed Neapolitan's.
"It is the owl that builds in the recess, and stirs the ivy," she replied.
"Haste!" said a third, — "the day breaks."
She was sitting at a low table, writing; Pia, the old nurse, stood behind her chair; the oil was richly scented that she
burned; the single light illumined only her, and covered with her shadow the low ceiling, — a shadow that seemed to
hang above her like a pall ready to fall from ghostly fingers and smother her in its folds; the others lounged about
the room and waited on her pen, in gloom they, their faces gleaming from that dusk demoniacly. It was a concealed
room, entered by secret ways, unknown to others than these.
When she had written, she sealed.
"There is no more to await. Adieu," she said.
"It is some transfer of property, some legal paper, some sale, some gift," I said to myself, as I watched them take it
and depart. Then she was alone again. I saw her start up, pace the narrow spot, — saw her stand and pull down the
masses, so interspersed with golden light, that crowned her head, and look at them wonderingly as they overlay her
fingers, — then saw those fingers clasped across the eyes, and the lips part with a sigh that, prolonged and
deepened, grew to be a groan, — while all the time that shadow on the ceiling hovered and fluttered and grew still, till it seemed the cluster of Eumenides waiting to pounce on its prey. In another pause I had taken the
perilous step, had hung by the crumbling rock, the rending vine, had entered and was beside her. A cold horror iced
her face; she warned me away with her trembling hands.
"What have you seen?" she said.
"You, O my love, in grief."
"And no more?"
"I have seen you give a letter to the Neapolitan, who departs to-morrow with the little Viennois, — perhaps to your
friends at home."
"And that is all?"
"That is all."
"I have no friends at home. To whom, then, could the letter be?"
"How should I divine?"
"It was for the Austrian Government! Now love me, if you dare!"
"And do you suppose I did not know it?"
"Then is your love for me but a shield and mask?"
As I gazed in reply, my steady eyes, the soul that kindled my smile, my open arms, all must have asseverated for
me the truth of my devotion.
"Still?" she said. "Still? And you can keep your faith to me and to Italy?"
What was this doubt of me, this stain she would have cast upon my honor? That armor's polish was too intense to
sustain it; it rolled off like a cloud from heaven. Italy's fortunes were my fortunes; it was impossible for me to betray
them; this woman I would win to wed them. How long, how long my blood had felt this thing in her! how long my
brain had rebelled! In a proud innocence, I stood with folded arms, and could afford to smile.
"Stay!" she said again, after our mute gaze, and laying her hand upon my arm. "You shall not love me in vain, you
shall not trust me for nothing. Your cause is mine to-day. That is the last message I send to Vienna."
And then I believed her.
The light, slanting up, crept in and touched the brow of an ideal bust of Mithras which she had invested with her
faintly-faded wreath of heliotropes; their fragrance falling through the place already made the atmosphere more rich
than that of chest of almond-wood, — this perfume that is like the soul of the earth itself exhaled to the amorous air.
Behind an alabaster shrine she lighted a holy-taper, slowly to waste and pale in the spreading day. We went to the
window, where among the ivy-nooks day's life was just astir with gaudy wings.
"All will be seeking you, and yet you cannot go," she said.
"Why can I not go?"
"It is broad morning."
"And what of that?"
"One thing. You shall not compromise yourself, going from the house of an Austrian woman and worse!"
She was too winningly imperious to fail. I delayed, and together we looked out on the rosy sky.
"Come down," she said at last, "and on an arbor-moss the sun shall drowse you, the flower-scents be your
opiates, the birds your lullaby, and I your guard."
We went, and, wandering again through the garden-paths, she brushed the dew with her trailing festal garments,
and plucked the great blue convolvuli to crown her forehead. Soon, on a plot of Roman violets, screened by tall
trees and trellises, we breakfasted. One might have said that the cloth was laid above giant mushroom-stems, the
service acorn-cups and calices of milky blooms; golden was the honey-comb we broke, manna was our bread; she
caught the water in her hand from the fountain and pledged me, and swift as sunshine I bent forward and prevented
the thirsty lips. Then she laid my head on her shoulder, with her cool finger-tips she stroked the temples and
soothed the lids, they fell and closed on the vision bending above me, — loveliness like painting, pallor that was
waxen, yellow tresses wreathed with azure stars, eyes that caught the hue again and absorbed all Tyrian dyes. The plash and bubble of waters swooned dreamily about my ears, and far off it seemed I heard the wild, sad songs
of her native land, that now in tinkling tune, and now in long, slow rise and fall of mellow sound, swathed me with
sweet satiety to dreamless rest.
The sun stole round and rose above the screen of trees at last and woke me. I was alone, the silent statues
looked on me, the breath of the dark violets crushed by my weight rose in shrouding incense. I lifted myself and
searched for her, and asked why I must needs believe each hour of joy a dream, — then went and cooled my brow
in the lucent basin at hand, and waited till she came, in changed raiment, and gliding toward me as the Spirit of
Noon might have come. She led me in, well, refreshed, and in the cool north rooms of the palace the warm hours of
the day slipped like beads from a leash. It scarcely seemed her fingers that touched the harp to tune, but as if some
herald of sirocco, some faint, hot breeze, had brushed between the strings. It scarcely seemed her voice that talked
to me, but something distant as the tone in a sad sea-shell. What I said I knew not; I was in a maze, bewildered with
bliss; I only knew I loved her, I only felt my joy.
She told me many things: stories of her mountain-home, in distant view of the old fortress of Hellberg, — this is the
fortress of Hellberg, Anselmo, — of her youth, her maidenhood, her life in Vienna, her lovers in Venice, her health,
that had sent her finally there where we sat together.
"I thought it sad," she said at length, "when they exiled me, so to say, from Vienna and all my gay career there
because Venice, with its water-breaths, might heal my attainted health, — and sadder when the winter bade me
leave night-tides and gondolas and repair to Rome. Now spring has come, and all the hills are blue with these deep
violets, the very air is balm, the year is at flood, and life at what seems its height is perfected with you."
"But you love that land you left?" I replied, after a while, and lifting her face to meet my gaze.
"Love it? Oh, yes! You love your land as you love a person in whose veins and yours kindred blood runs, because
it is hardly possible to do otherwise. The land gave me life, that is all; I never knew till lately that it was anything to be
thankful for. It is not sufficiently a country to kindle enthusiasm; it has no national life, you know, — is an automaton
put through its motions by paid and cunning mechanists. I thought it right to obey orders and serve it. But now you
are my country, — I serve only you."
It was easy so to pass to my own hopes, to my own life, to my land, the land to which I had vowed the last drop of
blood in my gift. Her eyes beamed upon me, smiles rippled over her face, she clasped me now and then and sealed
my brow with kisses. Soon I left her side and strode from end to end of the long salon, speaking eagerly of the
future that opened to Italy. I told her how the beautiful corpse lay waiting its resurrection, and how the Angel of
Eternal Life hovered with spreading wings above, ready to sound his general trump. My pulses beat like
trip-hammers, and as I passed a mirror I saw myself white with the excitement that fired me.
"You are wild with your joyous emotion," she said, coming forward and clinging round me. "Your eyes flame from
depths of darkness. What, after all, is Italy to you, that your blood should boil in thinking of her wrongs? These
people, for whom in your terrible magnanimity, I feel that you would sacrifice even me, to-morrow would turn and
"No, no!" I answered. "All things but you! You, you, are before my country!"
The tears filled her large, serious eyes, her lips quivered in melancholy smile, as sunshine plays with shower over
autumn woodlands. Was I not right? Right, though the universe declare me wrong! I would do it all again; if she
loved me, she had authority to be first of all in my care; in love lie the highest duties of existence.
I had forgotten the subject on which we spoke; I was thinking only of her, her beauty, her tenderness, and the debt
of deathless devotion that I owed her. It was otherwise in her thought; she had not dropped the old thread, but,
looking up, resumed.
"It is, then, an idea that you serve?"
Brought back from my reverie, "Could I serve a more worthy master?" I asked.
"You do not particularly love your countrymen, nine-tenths of whom you have never seen? You do not particularly
hate the hostile race, nine-tenths of whom you have never seen?"
"Abstractly, I hate them. Kindliness of heart prevents individual hatred, and without kindliness of heart in the first
place there can be no pure patriotism."
"And for the other part. What do you care for these men who herd in the old tombs, raise a pittance of vetch, and
live the life of brutes? what for the lazzaroni of Naples, for the brigands of Romagna, the murderers of the
Appenine? Nay, nothing indeed. It is, then, for the land that you care, the mere face of the country, because it
entombs myriad ancestors, because it is familiar in its every aspect, because it overflows with abundant beauty. But
is the land less fair when foreign sway domineers it? do the blossoms cease to crowd the gorge, the mists to fill it
with rolling color? is the sea less purple around you, the sky less blue above, the hills, the fields, the forests, less
"Yes, the land is less fair," I said. "It is a fair slave. It loses beauty in the proportion of difference that exists
between any two creatures, — the one a slave of supple symmetry and perfect passivity, the other a daring woman
who stands nearer heaven by all the height of her freedom. And for these people of whom you speak, first I care for
them because they are my countrymen, — and next, because the idea which I serve is a purpose to raise them into
free and responsible agents."
"Each man does that for himself; no one can do it for another."
"But any one may remove the obstacles from another's way, scatter the scales from the eyes of the blind, strip the
dead coral from the reef."
She took yellow honeysuckles from a vase of massed amethyst and began to weave them in her yellow hair, —
humming a tune, the while, that was full of the subtilest curves of sound. Soon she had finished, and finished the
fresh thought as well.
"Do you know, my own," she said, "the men who begin as hierophants of an idea are apt to lose sight of the pure
purpose, and to become the dogged, bigoted, inflexible, unreasoning adherents of a party? All leaders of liberal
movements should beware how far they commit themselves to party-organizations. Only that man is free. It is easier
to be a partisan then a patriot."
"Lady, you are like all women who talk politics, however capable they may be of acting them. You immediately beg
the question. We are speaking of patriotism, not of partisanship."
"You it was who forsook the subject. You know nothing about it; you confess that it is with you merely a blind
instinct; you cannot tell me even what patriotism is."
"Stay!" I replied. "All love is instinct in the germ. Can you define the yearnings that the mother feels toward her
child, the tie that binds son to father? Then you can define the sentiment that attaches me to the land from whose
breast I have drawn life. The love of country is more invisible, more imponderable, more inappreciable than the
electricity that fills the air and flows with perpetual variation from pole to pole of the earth. It is as deep, as
unsearchable, as ineffable as the power which sways me to you. It is the sublimation of other affection. A portion of
you has always gone out into the material spot where you have been, a portion of that has entered you, your past
life is entwined with river and shore. You become the country, and the country becomes a part of God. Those who love
their country, love the vast abstraction, can almost afford not to love God. She is a beneficence, she is a shield,
something for which to do and die, something for worship, ideal, grand; and though the sky is their only roof, the
earth their only bed, affluent are they who have a land! Passion rooted deeply as the foundations of the hills: a man
may adore one woman, but in adoring his land the aggregation of all men's love for all other women overwhelms
him and accentuates to a fuller emotion. It is unselfish, impersonal, sheer sentiment clarified at its white heat from all
interest and deceit, the noblest joy, the noblest sorrow. Bold should they be, and pure as the priests who bore the
ark, that dare to call themselves patriots. And those, Lenore, who live to see their country's hopeless ruin, plunge
into a sadness at heart that no other loss can equal, no remaining blessing mitigate, — neither the devotion of a wife
nor the perfection of a child. You have seen exiles from a lost land? Pride is dead in them, hope is dead, ambition is
dead, joy is dead. Tell me, would you choose me to suffer the personal loss of love and you, a loss I could hide in
my aching soul, or to bear those black marks of gall and melancholy which forever overshadow them in widest grief
She had sunk upon a seat, and was looking up at me with a pained unwavering glance, as if in my words she
foresaw my fate.
"You are too intense!" she cried. "Your tones, your eyes, your gestures, make it an individual thing with you."
"And so it is!" I exclaimed. "I cannot sleep in peace, nor walk upon the ways, while these Austrian bayonets take
my sunshine, these threatening approaching French banners hide the fair light of heaven!"
"Come," she said, rising. "Speak no more. I am tired of the burden of the ditty, dear; and it may do you such injury
yet that already I hate it. Come out again into our garden with me. Dismiss these cares, these burning pains and
rankling wounds. Be soothed by the cool evening air, taste the gorgeous quiet of sunset, gather peace with the
So we went. I trusted her the more that she differed from me, that then she promised to love Italy only because I
loved it. I told her my secret schemes, I took her advice on points of my own responsibility, I learned the joy of help
and confidence in one whom you deem devotedly true. Finally we remained without speech, stood long heart to
heart while the night fell around us like a curtain; her eyes deepened from their azure noon-splendor and took the
violet glooms of the hour, a great planet rose and painted itself within them; again and again I printed my soul on her
lips ere I left her.
At first, when I was sure that I was once more alone in the streets, I could not shake from myself the sense of her
presence. I could not escape from my happiness, I was able to bring my thought to no other consideration. I
reached home mechanically, slept an hour, performed the routine of bath and refreshment, and sought my former
duties. But how changed seemed all the world to me! what air I breathed! in what light I worked! Still I felt the thrilling
pressure of those kisses on my lips, still those dear embraces!
So days passed on. I worked faithfully for the purpose to which I was so utterly committed that let that be lost and I
was lost! We were victorious; after the banner fell in Lombardy to soar again in Venice and sink, the Republic
struggled to life; Rome rose once more on her seven hills, free and grand, child and mother of an idea, the idea of
national unity, of independence and liberty from Tyrol to Sicily. My God! think of those dear people who for the first
time said, "We have a country!"
Yet how could we have hoped then to continue? Such brief success dazzled us to the past. Piedmont had long
since struck the key-note of Italy's fortunes. As Charles Albert forsook Milan and suffered Austria once more to mouth the
betrayed land and drip its blood from her heavy jaws, till in a baptism of redder dye he absolved himself from the sin,
— so woe heaped on woe, all came to crisis, ruin, and loss, — the Republic fell, Rome fell, the French entered.
Our names had become too famous, our heroic defence too familiar, for us to escape unknown: the Vascello had
not been the only place where youth fought as the lioness fights for her whelps. Many of us died. Some fled. Others,
and I among them, remained impenetrably concealed in the midst of our enemies. Weeks then dragged away, and
months. New schemes chipped their shell. Again the central glory of the land might rise revealed to the nations. We
never lost courage; after each downfall we rose like Antaeus with redoubled strength from contact with the beloved
soil, for each fall plunged us farther into the masses of the people, into closer knowledge of them and kinder depths
of their affection, and so, learning their capabilities and the warmth of their hearts and the strength of their
endurance, we became convinced that freedom was yet to be theirs. Meanwhile, you know, our operations were
shrouded in inscrutable secrecy; the French held Rome in frowning terror and subjection; the Pope trembled on his
chair, and clutched it more franticly [sic] with his weak fingers: it was not even known that we, the leaders, were now
in the city; all supposed us to be awaiting quietly the turn of events, in some other land. As if we ourselves were not
events, and Italy did not hang on our motions! But, as I said, all this time we were at work; our emissaries gave us
enough to do: we knew what spoil the robbers in the March had made, the decree issued in Vienna, the order of the
day in Paris, the last word exchanged between the Cardinals, what whispers were sibilant in the Vatican; we mined
deeper every day, and longed for the electric stroke which should kindle the spark and send princes and
principalities shivered widely into atoms. But, friend, this was not to be. We knew one thing more, too: we knew at
last that we also were watched, — when men sang our songs in the echoing streets at night, and when each of us,
and I, chief of all, renewed our ancient fame, and became the word in every one's mouth, so that old men blessed
us in the way as we passed, wrapt, we had thought, in safe disguise, and crowds applauded. Thus again we
changed our habits, our rendezvous, our quarters, and again we eluded suspicion.
There came breathing-space. I went to her to enjoy it, as I would have gone with some intoxicating blossom to
share with her its perfume, — with any band of wandering harpers, that together our ears might be delighted. I went
as when, utterly weary, I had always gone and rested awhile with her I loved in the sweet old palace-garden: I had
my ways, undreamed of by army or police or populace. There had I lingered, soothed at noon by the hum of the
bee, at night by that spirit that scatters the dew, by the tranquillity and charm of the place, ever rested by her
presence, the repose of her manner, the curve of her dropping eyelid, so that looking on her face alone gave me
Now, as I entered, she threw down her work, — some handkerchief for her shoulders, perhaps, or yet a banner for
those unrisen men of Rome, I said, — a white silk square on which she had wrought a hand with a gleaming sickle,
reversed by tall wheat whose barbed grains bent full and ripe to the reaper, and round the margin, half-pictured,
wound the wild hedge-roses of Paestum. She threw it down and came toward me in haste, and drew me through an
"He has returned, they say," she said presently, — mentioning the Neapolitan, — "and it would be unfortunate, if
"Unfortunate for him, if we met here!"
"How fearless! Yet he is subtler than the snake in Eden. I fear him as I detest him."
"Why fear him?"
"That I cannot tell. Some secret sign, some unspeakable intuition, assures me of injury through him."
"Dearest, put it by. The strength of all these surrounding leagues with their swarm does not flow through his wrist,
as it does through mine. He is more powerless than the mote in the air."
"You are so confident!" she said.
"How can I be anything else than confident? The very signs in the sky speak for us, and half the priests are ours,
and the land itself is an oath. Look out, Lenore! Look down on these purple fields that so sweetly are taking nightfall;
look on these rills that braid the landscape and sing toward the sea; see yonder the row of columns that have
watched above the ruins of their temple for centuries, to wait this hour; behold the heaven, that, lucid as one dome
of amethyst, darkens over us and blooms in star on star; — was ever such beauty? Ah, take this wandering wind, —
was ever such sweetness? And since every inch of earth is historic, — since here rose glory to fill the world with wide
renown, — since here the heroes walked, the gods came down, — since Oreads haunt the hill, and Nereids seek the
"Whereabout do Nereids seek the shore?" she archly asked.
"Why, if you must have data," I answered, laughing, "let us say Naples."
"What is that you have to say of Naples?" demanded a voice in the doorway, — and turning, I confronted the
She had started back at the abrupt apparition, and before she could recover, stung by rage and surprise I had
"What have I to say of Naples? That its tyrant walks in blood to his knees!"
A man, I, with my hot furies, to be intrusted with the commonwealth!
"I will trouble you to repeat that sentence at some day," he said.
"Here and now, if you will!" I uttered, my hand on my hilt.
"Thanks. Not here and now. It will answer, if you remember it then. — I hope I see Her Highness well. Pardon this
little brusquerie, I pray. The southern air is kind to loveliness: I regret to bring with me Her Highness's recall."
She replied in the same courteous air, inquired concerning her acquaintance, and ordered lights, — took the letter
he brought, and held it, still sealed, in the taper's flame till it fell in ashes.
"Signor," she said, lifting the white atoms of dust and sifting them through her fingers, "you may carry back these
as my reply."
"Nay, I do not return," he answered. "And, Signorina, many things are pardoned to one in — your condition.
Recover your senses, and you will find this so among others."
Then, as coolly as if nothing had happened, he spoke of the affairs of the day, the tendency of measures, the
feeling of the people, and finally rose, kissed her hand, and departed. He was joined without by the little Viennois,
and the accursed couple sauntered down the street together. I should have gone then, — the place was no longer
safe for me, — but something, the old spell, yet detained me.
Lenore did not speak, but threw open all the windows and doors that were closed.
"Let us be purified of his presence, at least!" she cried, when this was done.
"And you have ceased to fear this man whom you have dared so offend?" I asked.
"He is not offended," said Lenore. "Austria is not Naples. He will not transmit my reply till he is utterly past hope."
"Hope of what?"
"Of my hand."
"Lenore! Then put him beyond hope now! Become my wife!"
"Ah, — if it were less unwise" —
"If you loved me, Lenore, you would not think of that."
"And you doubt it? Why should I, then, say again that I love you, — I love you?"
Ah, friend, how can I repeat those words? Never have I given her endearments again to the air: sacred were they
then, sacred now, however false. Ah, passionate words! oh, sweet issimos! tender intonations! how deeply, how
deeply ye lie in my soul! Let me repeat but one sentence: it was the key to my destiny.
"Yes, yes," she said, rising from my arms, "already I do you injury. You think oftener of me than of Italy."
It was true. I sprang to my feet and began pacing the floor, as I sought to recall any instance in which I had done
less than I might for my country. The cool evening-breeze, and the bell-notes sinking through the air from distant old
campaniles, soothed my tumult, and, turning, I said, —
"My devotion to you sanctifies my devotion to her. And not only for her own sake do I work, but that you, you,
Lenore, may have a land where no one is your master, and where your soul may develop and become perfect."
"And those who have not such object, why do they work?"
Then first I felt that I had fallen from the heights where my companions stood. This ardent patriotism of mine was
sullied, a stain of selfishness rose and blotted out my glory, others should wear the conquering crowns of this grand
civic game. Oh, friend! that was sad enough, but it was inevitable. Here is where the crime came in, — that, knowing
this, I still continued as their leader, suffered them to call me Master and Saviour, and walked upon the palms they
Lenore mistook my silence.
"You cannot tell me why they work?" she said. "From habit, from fear, because committed? It cannot be, then, that
they are in earnest, that they are sincere, that they care a rush for this cause so holy to you. They have entered into
it, as all this common people do, for the love of a new excitement, for the pleasurable mystery of conspiracy, for the
self-importance and gratulation. They will scatter at the signal of danger, like mischievous boys when a gendarme
comes round the corner. They will betray you at the lifting of an Austrian finger. Leave them!"
This was too much to hear in silence, — to hear of these faithful comrades, who had endured everything, and were
yet to overcome because they possessed their souls in patience, each of whom stood higher before God than I in
unspotted public purity, and whose praise and love led me constantly to larger effort. At least I would make them the
reparation of vindication.
"You mistrust them?" I exclaimed. "They whose souls have been tried in the furnace, who have the temper of fine
steel, pliant as gold, but incorruptible as adamant, — heroes and saints, they stand so low in your favor? Come,
then, come with me now, — for the bells have struck the hour, and shadows clothe the earth, — come to their
conclave where discovery is death, and judge if they be idle prattlers, or men who carry their lives in their hands!"
Fool! Fool! Fool! Every sound in the air cries out that word to me: the bee that wings across the tower hums it in
my ear; the booming alarm-bell rings it forth; my heart, my failing heart, beats it while I speak. I would have carried a
snake to the sacred ibis-nest, and thenceforth hope was hollow as an egg-shell!
She ran from the room, but, pausing in the door-way, exclaimed, —
"Remember, if you take me there, that I am no Roman patriot, — I! I, who am of the House of Austria, that House
that wears the crown of the Caesars, those Caesars who swayed the very imperial sceptre, who trailed the very
imperial purple of old Rome! I endure the cause because it is yours. I beseech you to be faithful to it; because I
should despise you, if for any woman you swerved from an object that had previously been with you holier than
I stood there leaning from the lofty window and looking down over the wide, solitary fields. Recollections crowded upon me, hopes rose before me. One
day, that yet lives in my heart, Anselmo, sprang up afresh, a day forever domed in memory. Fair rose the sun that
day, and I walked on the nation's errands through the streets of a distant town, — a hoar and antique place, that
sheltered me safely, so slight guard was it thought to need by our oppressors. It pleased that reverend
arch-hypocrite to take at this hour his airing. Late events had given the people courage. It was a market-day,
peasants from the country obstructed the ancient streets, the citizens were all abroad. Not few were the
maledictions muttered over a column of French infantry that wound along as it returned to Rome from some
movement of subjection, not low the curses showered on an officer who escorted ladies upon their drive. As I went, I
considered what a day it would have been for emeute, and what mortal injury emeute would have done our cause.
Italy, we said, like fools, but honest fools, must not be redeemed with blood. As if there were ever any sacred pact,
any new order of things, that was not first sealed by blood! Therefore, when I, alone perhaps of all the throng, saw
one man — a man in whose soul I knew the iron rankled — stealing behind the crowd, behind the monuments, and,
as the coach of His Excellency rolled luxuriously along, levelling a glittering barrel, — it was but an instant's work to
seize the advancing creatures, to hold them rearing, — and then a deadly flash, — while the ball whistled past me,
grazed my hand, and pierced the leader's heart. In a twinkling the dead horse was cut away, and His Excellency,
cowering in the bottom of the coach, galloped home more swiftly than the wind, without a word. But the populace
appreciated the action, took it up with vivas long and loud, that rang after me when I had slipped away, and before
nightfall had echoed in all ears through leagues of country round. I went that night to the theatre. The house was
filled, and, as we entered, a murmur went about, and then cries broke forth, — the multitude rose with cheers and
bravos, calling my name, intoxicated with enthusiasm, and dazzled, not by a daring feat, but by the spirit that
prompted it. Women tore off their jewels to twist them into a sling for my injured hand; men rose and made me a
conqueror's ovation; the orchestra played the old Etrurian hymns of freedom; I was attended home with a more than
Roman triumph of torch and song, stately men and beautiful women. But chameleons change their tint in the
sunshine, and why should men always march under one color? Friend, not six months later there came another day,
when triumph was shame, — plaudits, curses, — joyous tumult, scorching silence. Oh! — — - But I shall come to that
in time. Now let me hasten; the hours are less tardy than I, and they bring with them my last.
Thought of this day — sole pageant defiling through memory — was startled again by the far, sweet sound of a bell,
some bell ringing twilight out and evening in across the wide Campagna. I wondered what delayed Lenore. Did it
take so long to toss off the cloudy back-falling veil, to wrap in any long cloak her gown of white damask and all the
sheen of her milky pearl-clusters and fiery rubies? I thought with exultation then of what she was so soon to see, —
of the route through sunken ruins, down wells forsaken of their pristine sources and hidden by masses of moss,
winding with the faint light in our hands through the awful ways and avenues of the catacombs. The scene grew real
to me, as I mused. Alone, what should I fear? These silent hosts encamped around would but have cheered their
child. But with her, every murmur becomes a portent of danger, every current of air gives me fresh tremors; as we
pass casual openings into the sky, the vault of air, the glint of stars, shall seem a malignant face; I fancy to hear
impossible footsteps behind us, some bone that crumbling falls from its shelf makes my heart beat high, her dear
hand trembles in my hold, and, full of a new and superstitious awe, I half fear this ancient population of the graves will rise and surround us with phantom array. Now and then, a
cold, lonely wind, blowing from no one knows where, rises and careers past us, piercing to the marrow. I think, too,
of that underground space, half choked with rubbish, into which we are to emerge at last, once the hall of some old
Roman revel. I see the troubled flashes flung from the flaring torch over our assembly. Alert and startled, I see
Lenore listen to the names as if they summoned the wraiths and not the bodies of men whom she had supposed to
be lost in the pampas of Paraguay, dead in the Papal prisons, sheltered in English homes, or tossing far away on
the long voyages of the Pacific seas. I see myself at length taking the torch from its niche and restoring it, as a
hundred times before, to Pietro da Valambo, while it glitters on some strange object looking in at the vine-clad
opening above with its breaths of air, serpent or hare, or the large face and slow eyes of a browsing buffalo. And as
I think, lo! an echo in the house, a dull tramp in the hall, a stealthy tread in the room, a heavy hand upon my
shoulder, — I was arrested for high treason.
Do not think I surrendered then. Without a struggle I would be the prize of Pope nor King nor Kaiser! I shook the
minions' grasp from my shoulder, I flashed my sword in their eyes; and not till the crescent of weapons encircled me
in one blinding gleam, vain grew defence, vain honor, vain bravery. Of what use was my soul to me thenceforth? I
became but carrion prey. I fell, and the world fell from me.
Sensation, emotion, awoke from their swooning lapse only in the light of day, the next or another, I knew not
which. I was lifted from some conveyance, I saw blue reaches of curving bay and the great purifying priest of flame,
and knew I was in the city guarded by its pillar of cloud by day, of fire by night. I had reason to know it, when, yet
unfed, unrested, faint, smirched and smeared with blood and travel, loaded with chains, I was brought to a tribunal
where sat the sleek and subtle tyrant of Naples.
"Signor," said a bland voice from the king's side, — and looking in its direction, I encountered the Neapolitan, —
"Signor, I lately said that at some day I would trouble you to repeat a brilliant sentence addressed to me. The day
has arrived. I scarcely dared dream it would be so soon. Shall we listen?"
I was silent: not that I feared to say it; they could but finish their play.
Then I saw the beautifully cut lips of my judge part, that the voice might slide forth, and, taking a comfit, he uttered,
with unchanging tint and sweetest tone, the three words, "Apply the question."
Why should I endure that for a whim? Who courts torment? Already they drew near with the cunning instruments.
Let me say it, and what then? Nothing worse than torture. Let me not say it, and certainly torture. Oh, I was weaker
than a child! my body ruled my spirit with its exhaustion and pain. Yet there was a certain satisfaction in flinging the
words in their faces. I waved back with my remaining arm the slaves who approached.
"You should allow a weary man the time to collect his thoughts," I said, and then turned to my persecutors. "I have
spoken with you many times, Signor," I replied to the Neapolitan, "yet of all our words I can remember none but
these, that you could care to hear with this auditory. I said, — that the tyrant of Naples walks in blood to his knees!"
The Neapolitan smiled. The king rose.
"Well said!" he murmured, in his silvery tones. "One that knows so much must know more. Exhaust his knowledge,
I pray. Do not spare your courtesies; remember he is my guest. I leave him in your hands."
He fixed me with his eye, — that darkly-glazed eye, devoid of life, of love, of joy, as if he were the thing of another
element, — then bowed and passed away.
"The urbanity of His Majesty is too well known to suppose it possible that he should prove you a liar," said the Neapolitan.
Truly, I was left in their hands! Shall I tell you of the charities I found there? Not I, friend! it would wring your heart
as dry of tears as mine was wrung of groans. At last I was alone, it seemed, — on a wet stone floor, sweat pouring
from every muscle, each fibre quivering; I was distorted and unjointed, I only hoped I was dying. But no, that was too
good for me. Anselmo, how can I but be full of scoffs, when I remember those hours, those ages? The cold
dampness of the place crept into my bones; I became swollen and teeming with intimate pain. But that was light, my
body might have ached till the throbs stiffened into death-spasms, and yet the suffering had been nought, compared
with that loathing and disgust in my soul. It had seemed that I was alone, I said. Alone as the corpse in unshrouded
grave! I was in a charnel-house. Men who were sinless as you hung dead upon the wall, hung dying there. Darkness
covered all things at a distance, sighs crept up from far corners, chains clanked, or imprecations or prayers uttered
themselves, — bodiless voices in the night. I did not know what untold horror there might yet be hid. I heard the drip
of water from the black vaults; I heart the short, fierce pants and deadly groans. Oh, worst infliction of Hell's armory
it is to see another suffer! Why was it allowed, Anselmo? Did it come in the long train of a broken law? was it one of
the dark places of Providence? or was it indeed the vile compost to mature some beautiful germ? Ah, then, is it
possible that Heaven looks on us so in the mass?
But for me, after a while I lay torpid, and then perchance I slept, for finally I opened my eyes and found the white
strong light; I lay on a bed, and a surgeon handled me. Too elastic was I to be long crushed, once the weight
removed. Soon I breathed fresh air; and save that my frame had become in its distortion hideous, I was the same as
Then, indeed, began my torture, — torture to which this had been idle jest. I was taken once more to the room of
tribunal. Beside the Neapolitan a woman sat veiled and shrouded in masses of sable drapery. "A queen?" I thought,
"or a slave?" But I had no further room for fancy; the same interrogatories as before were given me to answer, and
then I felt why I had been nursed back to life. In the months that had elapsed, I could not know if Italy were saved or
lost, if Naples tottered or remained impregnable. I stood only on my personal basis of right or wrong. I refused to
open my lips. They wheeled forward a low bed that I knew well. Oh, the slow starting of the socket! Oh, the long
wrench of tendon and nerve! A bed of steel and cords, rollers and levers, bound me there, and bent to their creaking
toil. I was strong to endure; I had set my teeth and sworn myself to silence; no woman should hear me moan. Even
in this misery I saw that she who sat there, shaking, fell.
The tyrant was lily-livered; seldom he witnessed what others died under; he intended nothing further then; — many
men who faint at sight of blood can probe a soul to its utmost gasp. Now he motioned, and they paused. Then
others lifted the woman and held her beside him, yet a little in advance.
"Keep your silence," said he, in a voice unrecognizable, and as if a wild beast, half-glutted, should speak, "and I
keep her! She is in my power. Mine, and you know what that means. Mine," and he bent toward me, " body — and —
soul. To use, to blast, to destroy, to tear piecemeal, — as I will do, so help me God! unless you meet my condition."
And extending his hand, he drew aside the black veil, and my eye lay on the face of Lenore, thin and white as the
familiar faces of corpses, and utterly insensible in swoon.
Ah, that mortal horror stops my pulse! Was I wrong? Why not have borne that, too? Had she loved me, she had
chosen it, chosen it rather. And death would have made all right! — God! why not have seized some poignard lying there? why not have sprung upon her, have slain her? Then silence had been
simply secure. Then I could have smiled in their frustrated faces, one keen, deep smile, and died. I was dissolved in
pain, writhed with prolonged strokes that thrilled me from head to foot, pierced as with acute stabs, my heart
seemed to forge thunderbolts to break upon my brain, — but this agony had been spared me. They unbound me,
fed me with some stimulating cordial, gave me cold air, and I rose on my elbow a little.
"Swear!" I said, hoarsely. "But you do not keep oaths. God help you? Never! There must be a Hell to help you!
Imprecate this, then, on yourself. May you in your smooth white body know the torture I have known, be racked till
each bone in your skin changes place, hang festering in chains from the wall of a living grave, make fellowship with
putridity, and lie in the pitiless dark to see all the dead who died under your hand rise, rise and accuse you before
God! And may your little son know the deeds you have done, live the life those deeds merit, and die the death that I
shall die, — if you do not keep your word!"
"What word?" he said.
"Promise, if I reveal all, and my revelations shall be true and thorough therefore, — promise that you will leave her
in safe security and freedom to-day, untouched, unscathed, unharmed, and that so ever shall she remain. And false
to this oath, may no priest shrive you, no land own you, God blight you and curse you and wither you from the face
of the earth!"
And taking a crucifix, he swore the oath.
Then they busied themselves about Lenore, revived her, soothed her, gave her of the same cordial to drink, and
placed her once more in her dais-seat. Her veil was thrown back, her wide blue eyes fixed on me in intense strain,
her face and lips still blanched more bitterly beneath that hue, her features sharp as chisel-graven death. Ah, God!
must I endure that too? Was she to hear me, — she, not knowing why, never knowing why, — she in whom that look
of aching passion and pity was to die out and freeze and fade in one of utter scorn?
They brought me some strange draught, as if one swallowed fire. The blood coursed richly through my shrunken
veins; I felt filled with a different life. I arose and left that bed of torture, but came back to it as to my rest.
And lying there, I betrayed Italy.
Root and branch and spray and leaf, I uprooted all my memories; I forgot no name, I lost no fact; I was eagerer
than they; I modified nothing, I abbreviated nothing; the past, the future, what had been, was to be, plan and
scheme and supreme purpose, I never faltered, I told the whole!
I did not look at her, I kept my eyes on the tyrant; I wished I might have the evil eye, — but that gift was for him, the
Neapolitan. Yet at length I heard a low moan trailing toward me; I turned and saw her face, as I saw it last, Anselmo,
— stonily quiet, frozen from indignant pain to icy apathy, and the words she would have said had hissed inarticulately
through her ashen lips. Then they brought me the confession, and, as I could, I signed it.
"Madame," said the tyrant, "your knowledge is coextensive with his. Does all this agree?"
"Sire, it does agree," she answered, and they led her out.
"I have no authority over you," said the tyrant then to me. "You might go freely now, but that, precious as Homer,
seven cities claim you, Signor! My prisons also will now be full of rarer game. But as a crime of your commission
places you within Austrian jurisdiction, I shall take pleasure in presenting you to my cousin and surrendering you to
his mercy," and he withdrew.
"You may not be aware," said the courteous Neapolitan, "that on the night of your arrest your frantic
sword-slashes had serious result. My friend the little Viennois fell at your hands."
"God be praised," I answered, "that I do not die without one good work!"
"Well said! And worthy of a traitor both to his ancient blood and to his cause, — the betrayer of comrade and
I do not know what look was in my eye, or whether, with the savage ferocity taught me but now, I was about to
leap and throttle him, and suck the life-blood from his veins. But suddenly he laughed, a feigned merriment, twirled
his moustache, opened a door, looked back, uttering this one sentence: —
"You have simply corroborated her statement: you are not even the first in at the death: Lenore told all this more
swiftly, with a better grace, and a something less sardonic mute-comment," — closed the door and was gone. The
breath of the bottomless pit had blown in my face.
They gave themselves time to swoop down and pounce on every man whose name I had given, and others; they
prevented future trouble, they made terrible examples, they sated themselves with vengeance. But their feet were
shod with velvet, — history will never record it; to the world I and those nameless ones pass as mere idle agitators,
bubbles that blew out to sea, — but at my mention kings in their closet remember how their thrones trembled! Then
they looked about them for one last morsel, and I was led to Rome.
O stormy days that I have to remember! O wild mornings of the cannonade, and of the sally! One noon blots ye all
out in sullen darkness!
It was a gala-day, the day when I passed through; all the populace were out, my signed confession placarded the
corners, Pasquin harvested my sins, Church and State made holiday. Cries of derision awaited me, ribald laughter,
taunting jests, hisses and groans, gleaming stilettos, shining barrels, eyes of rage. But when I reached them, all was
silence; silence closed up the ranks behind me. The shouting crowds grew noiseless, breathless. They each
received the terrible impress of him who passed, — his brow was branded as by doom; he went out Cain, and
carried with him the curse of a ruined people. I gazed right and left, — on these men who had once hailed me,
followed me, worshipped me; their hate melted as they met my eye; slowly a cloud of terror and pity gathered and
hung above the city. I did not repent; I would have done it again: not for a universe of Italies would I have resigned
her to that fate. But, O friend, this forgiveness of theirs was unmerciful! For hate they had cause; for this none: they
knew nothing of my reason, they only knew that I had betrayed them. Each man had despised me; he thought that
to save my limbs like a young god's, to keep my face that had been splendid in youth's beauty, to spare that shape
of antique symmetry and grace, to win ease and rest and wealth and happiness, perhaps, I had done this. Each
man, as I met his gaze, shrunken, dismembered, deformed, dishonored, held his breath, shook with indefinable
fear, felt the neighborhood of agony and despair, and forgave, forgave: — oh! to live to be forgiven! But the women,
— the women, Anselmo, were not so cruel. There were torrents of streamers, but all were black, pouring from
window and roof, — there were sunny heads, and dark, fair faces, rosy cheeks, snowy shoulders, clustered in door
and arch like bunches of poison-flowers, — and of all shrill sounds of hate, Anselmo, that can pierce and part red
lips, the fiercest, shrillest, fell on me; and at last, from one lofty balcony, where erst I had seen her leaning forth in
sunset to catch the evening winds, the evening bells, crowned, too, by the evening star, one woman, now centred in
merciless mid-noon, leaned, leaned and gazed down as into her grave: it was Lenore. It had been late spring when
last I passed that way; all the hot, pestilential summer I had lain in the dungeons of Naples; now it was autumn, and
the town was full. Full, but I saw no one; blank became the spaces on which I gazed; my gyves vanished, my
guards; my brain swam through dazzling rings of light, and I fell forward in the cart and hung by my chains among the hoofs of the trampling
horses who dragged me. On that day I had taken my last step; I never set foot on the round earth again. But, with
all, I smiled through my groans; for the shining, solid hoofs that did their work on me did their work as well on the
man who walked by my side, — dashed dead the accursed Neapolitan.
They were not the surgeons of Naples who essayed to galvanize volition through my paralyzed limbs, but those
who knew the utmost resources of their art. And so I lived, — lived, too, by reason of my inextinguishable vitality, by
reason of this spark that will not quench, — and so I came to Hellberg. It would have been mockery to give this
shapeless hulk to sentence, and then to headsman or hangman; perhaps, too, her haughty name had been
involved; and so I was never brought to trial, and so I am at Hellberg.
And I have never set foot on the ground again. But, oh, to touch it for a moment, to sit anywhere on the summer
mould, to pull down the sun-quivering, sun-steeped branches about me, to scent the fresh grass as it springs to the
light! Oh, but to touch the sweet, kind earth, the warm earth, silent with ineffable tenderness and soothing, to feel it
under my hand, to lay my cheek there for a moment, while it drew away pain and weariness with its absorbing,
purifying power! Oh, but to lie once more where the blossoms grow! Soon, soon, they will grow above me! Soon the
kind mother will cover me!
What had happened in the outer world I knew not till you came. I fancied Lenore returned, breathing Austrian air,
and living under the same horizon that girds me in. Sometimes I have seen a distant cavalcade skimming over the
vale, as once we careered over the Campagna, when she handled her steed as another woman handles her
needle, and the sweet wind fanned peach-tints to her cheeks and drew out unravelled braids of gold in lingering
caress. She could have come to me, had she pleased, then: this old chief who rules the place was her father's friend
and hers. — But look! but see! Who is it comes now, — sweeps round the donjon flank? Lean over the embrasure,
and learn! Ah, man, are my eyes so old, my memories so treacherous, that I do not know day from night? They
have gone on, — or did they enter, think you? Or yet, there is to be carousal, perhaps, in the halls beyond and
below, and she comes to join the gay feast; she will drink healths in red wine, will listen to flattering dalliance with
pleased eyes, will utter light laughs through the lips that once glowed to my kisses, and will forget that the same roof
which shelters the revellers shelters also her lover dying in moans? Careless — — - Best so! best so! What cavalier
whispered in her ear as she passed? Have years tarnished her beauty? Ah, God! this wind, that maddens me now,
a moment since touched her!
Anselmo, I will go in. This vault of heaven with its spotless blue, this wide land that laughs in festive summer, these
winds that lift my hair and come heavy with odors, — these do not fit with me, I burlesque the fair face of creation. O
invisible airs, that softly sport round the castle-towers, why do you not woo my soul forth and bear it and lose it in the
flawless cope of sky?
Nay, why, any more than Ajax, should I die in the dark? Never again will I enter the cell, never again! The wide
universe shall receive my breath. Lower the back of my chair, pull away the cushions, wrap my cloak round me,
Anselmo. There! I will lie, and wait, and look up. Give me ghostly counsel, my friend, console me. You are not too
weary with this long tale? Tell me I needed all the tears I have shed to quench the fiery defiance, the independence
of heaven and tumult of earth in my being. If you could tell me that she had not been false, that she never feigned
her passion to decoy, that, Austrian though she were — — - Ah, but I had evidence! I had evidence! his words, that ate out my life
like gangrene and rust. — Speak slower, Anselmo, slower. Can it be that I sinned most, when I held his words before
hers, — his black damning falsehoods? — Mother of God! do you know what you say?
Tell me, then, that I am a fool, — that not through other loss than the loss of faith did the curse fall on me! Tell me,
then, that these dark ways lead me out on a height! Needful the shadow and the groping. He anointed my eyes with
the clay beneath his feet, — I was blind, but now I see God!
Repeat, Anselmo, repeat that she was true, though the knowledge blast me with self-consuming pangs. But, true
or false, one thing she promised me: though other spheres, though other lives had come between us, she would be
with me in my dying hour. Soon the bell will toll that hour, and toll my knell!
What is this, Anselmo, — this face that hangs between me and heaven, — this pitying, sorrowing countenance? —
Ave Maria! — Never! Never! Still of the earth, this melting mouth, these violet eyes, this brow of snow, this fragrant
bosom pillowing my head! Mirage of fainting fancy, — out, beautiful thing, away! Do not torment me with such a
despairing lie! do not cheat me into death! let me at least look on the unobstructed sky, as I sink lower and lower to
my eternal rest!
Still there? Still there? Still bending above me, smiling and weeping, sweet April face? Oh, were they truly thy lips
that lay on mine, then, that stamped them with life's impress, that woke me? Are they truly thy fingers that pressed
my throbless temples? These arms that are wound about me, are thine? Thy heart beats for me, thy tears flow, thy
perfect womanhood does not recoil in horror? Lenore! Lenore! is it thou?
Nay, nay, Sweet, ask me no question; I have wronged thee; he shall tell thee how. Yet best thou shouldst never
hear it. Sin to thee greater than all treachery had been. Forgive, forgive! I go, — in meeting, leave thee; but be glad
for me, — whether I sleep or whether I wake, know that a great curse will have fallen from me. Swathe my memory in
thy love. Kiss me again, child! Rock me a little; stoop lower, and croon those old mountain-songs that once you sang
when the sunshine soaked the sward and your hair was crowned with blue morning-glories.
Ah, your song drowns in tears! Yet you do not wish me to live, Lenore? O love, I can do nothing but die!
The sunlight fades from the hills, the air wavers and glimmers, and day is dim. Thy face is mistier than a vision of
angels. There are faint, strange voices in my ear, swift rustlings, far harmonies; — has sense become so attenuated
that I hear the blood in my failing pulses? Lenore, love, lower. Thy lips to mine, and breathe my life away. Twice
would I die to save thee!
— Anselmo! man! where art thou? Come back ere I fall, — strength flares up like a dying flame. Never tell her why
I betrayed Italy!
— Closer, dear love, closer! What old murmurs do I hear?
"The night is spread for thee,
The heavens are wide,
And the dark earth's mystery" —
So, — in thy arms, — from thee to God! O love, forever — kiss — forgive! — Life me, that I confront eternity and