Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership

Title: A Night In Rome
Author: William Harrison Ainsworth
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0602961.txt
Edition: 1
Language: English
Character set encoding: Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted: July 2006
Date most recently updated: July 2006

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to

A Night in Rome
William Harrison Ainsworth

The Pope was saying the high, high mass.
All on Saint Peter's day;
With the power to him given by the saints in heaven.
To wash men's sins away.

The Pope he was saying the blessed mass.
And the people kneel'd around;
And from each man's soul his sins did pass.
As he kissed the holy ground.

The Grey Brother

I. Santa Maria Maggiore

Chancing to be in Rome in the August of 1830, I visited the gorgeous
church of Santa Maria Maggiore during the celebration of the
anniversary of the Holy Assumption.

It was a glorious sight to one unaccustomed to the imposing religious
ceremonials of the Romish church, to witness all the pomp and
splendour displayed at this high solemnity--to gaze down that
glittering pile, and mark the various ecclesiastical dignitaries, each
in their peculiar and characteristic costume, employed in the
ministration of their sacred functions, and surrounded by a wide
semicircle of the papal guards, so stationed to keep back the crowd,
and who, with their showy scarlet attire and tall halberds, looked
like the martial figures we see in the sketches of Callot. Nor was the
brilliant effect of this picture diminished by the sumptuous framework
in which it was set. Overhead flamed a roof resplendent with burnished
gold; before me rose a canopy supported by pillars of porphyry, and
shining with many-coloured stones; while on either hand were chapels
devoted to some noble house, and boasting each the marble memorial of
a pope. Melodious masses proper to the service were ever and anon
chanted by the papal choir, and overpowering perfume was diffused
around by a hundred censers.

Subdued by the odours, the music, and the spectacle, I sank into a
state of dreamy enthusiasm, during a continuance of which I almost
fancied myself a convert to the faith of Rome, and surrendered myself
unreflectingly to an admiration of its errors. As I gazed among the
surrounding crowd, the sight of so many prostrate figures, all in
attitudes of deepest devotion, satisfied me of the profound religious
impression of the ceremonial. As elsewhere; this feeling was not
universal; and, as elsewhere, likewise, more zeal was exhibited by the
lower than the higher classes of society; and I occasionally noted
amongst the latter the glitter of an eye or the flutter of a bosom,
not altogether agitated; I suspect; by holy aspirations. Yet me
thought, on the whole, I had never seen such abandonment of soul, such
prostration of spirit, in my own colder clime, and during the exercise
of my own more chastened creed, as that which in several instances I
now beheld; and I almost envied the poor maiden near me, who, abject
upon the earth, had washed away her sorrows, and perhaps her sins, in
contrite tears.

As such thoughts swept through my mind, I felt a pleasure in singling
out particular figures and groups which interested me, from their
peculiarity of costume, or from their devotional fervour. Amongst
others, a little to my left, I remarked a band of mountaineers from
Calabria, for such I judged them to be from their wild and picturesque
garb. Deeply was every individual of this little knot of peasantry
impressed by the ceremonial. Every eye was humbly cast down; every
knee bent; every hand was either occupied in grasping the little
crucifix suspended from its owner's neck, in telling the beads of his
rosary, or fervently crossed upon his bare and swarthy breast.

While gazing upon this group, I chanced upon an individual whom I had
not hitherto noticed; and who now irresistibly attracted my attention.
Though a little removed from the Calabrian mountaineers, and reclining
against the marble walls of the church, he evidently belonged to the
same company; at least, so his attire seemed to indicate, though the
noble cast of his countenance was far superior to that of his
comrades. He was an old man, with a face of the fine antique Roman
stamp--a bold outline of prominent nose, rugged and imperious brow,
and proudly-cut chin. His head and chin, as well as his naked breast,
were frosted over with the snowy honours of many winters, and their
hoar appearance contrasted strikingly with the tawny hue of a skin
almost as dark and as lustrous as polished oak. Peasant as he was,
there was something of grandeur and majesty in this old man's
demeanour and physiognomy. His head declined backwards, so as
completely to expose his long and muscular throat. His arms hung
listlessly by his side; one hand drooped upon the pavement, the other
was placed within his breast: his eyes were closed. The old man's garb
was of the coarsest fabric; he wore little beyond a shirt, a loose
vest, a sort of sheep-skin cloak, and canvas leggings bound around
with leathern thongs. His appearance, however, was above his
condition; he became his rags as proudly as a prince would have become
his ermined robe.

The more I scrutinised the rigid lines of this old man's countenance,
the more I became satisfied that many singular, and perhaps not wholly
guiltless, events were connected with his history. The rosary was in
his hand--the cross upon his breast--the beads were untold--the
crucifix unclasped--no breath of prayer passed his lips. His face was
turned heavenward, but his eyes were closed,--he dared not open them.
Why did he come thither, if he did not venture to pray Why did he
assume a penitential attitude, if he felt no penitence?

So absorbed was I in the perusal of the workings of this old man's
countenance, as to be scarcely conscious that the service of high mass
was concluded, and the crowd within the holy pile fast dispersing. The
music was hushed, the robed prelates and their train had disappeared,
joyous dames were hastening along the marble aisles to their
equipages; all, save a few kneeling figures near the chapels, were
departing; and the old man, aware, from the stir and hum prevailing
around, that the ceremonial was at an end, arose, stretched out his
arm to one of his comrades, a youth who had joined him, and prepared
to follow the concourse.

Was he really blind? Assuredly not. Besides, he did not walk like as
one habituated to the direst calamity that can befal our nature. He
staggered in his gait, and reeled to and fro. Yet wherefore did he not
venture to unclose his eyes within the temple of the Most High? What
would I not have given to be made acquainted with his history! For I
felt that it must be a singular one. I might satisfy my curiosity at
once. He was moving slowly forward, guided by his comrade. In a few
seconds it would be too late--he would have vanished from my sight.
With hasty footsteps I followed him down the church, and laid my hand,
with some violence, upon his shoulder.

The old man started at the touch, and turned. Now, indeed, his eyes
were opened wide, and flashing full upon me,--and such eyes!
Heretofore I had only dreamed of such. Age had not quenched their
lightning, and I quailed beneath the fierce glances which he threw
upon me. But if I was, at first, surprised at the display of anger
which I had called forth in him, how much more was I astonished to
behold the whole expression of his countenance suddenly change. His
eyes continued fixed upon mine as if I had been a basilisk. Apparently
he could not avert them; while his whole frame shivered with emotion.
I advanced towards him; he shrank backwards, and, but for the timely
aid of his companion, would have fallen upon the pavement.

At a loss to conceive in what way I could have occasioned him so much
alarm, I rushed forward to the assistance of the old man, when his
son, for such it subsequently appeared he was, rudely repelled me, and
thrust his hand into his girdle; as if to seek for means to prevent
further interference.

Meanwhile the group had been increased by the arrival of a third
party, attracted by the cry the old man had uttered in falling. The
new comer was an Italian gentleman, somewhat stricken in year; of
stern and stately deportment, and with something sinister and
forbidding in his aspect. He was hastening towards the old man, but he
suddenly stopped, and was about to retire when he encountered my gaze.
As our eyes met he started; and a terror, as sudden and lively as that
exhibited by the old man, was at once depicted in his features.

My surprise was now beyond all bounds, and I continued for some
moments speechless with astonishment. Not a little of the inexplicable
awe which affected the old man and the stranger was communicated to
myself. Altogether, we formed a mysterious and terrible triangle of
which each side bore some strange and unintelligible relation to the

The new comer first recovered his composure, though not without an
effort. Coldly turning his heel upon me, he walked towards the old
man, and shook him forcibly. The latter shrank from his grasp, and
endeavoured to avoid him; but it was impossible. The stranger
whispered a few words in his ear, of which, from his gestures being
directed towards myself, I could guess the import. The old man
replied. His action in doing so was that of supplication and despair.
The stranger retorted in a wild and vehement manner, and even stamped
his foot upon the ground; but the old man still continued to cling to
the knees of his superior.

"Weak, superstitious fool!" at length exclaimed the stranger, "I will
waste no more words upon thee. Do, or say, what thou wilt; but
beware!" And spurning him haughtily back with his foot, he strode

The old man's reverend head struck against the marble floor. His
temple was cut open by the fall, and blood gushed in torrents from the
wound. Recovering himself, he started to his feet--a knife was
instantly in his hand, and he would have pursued and doubtless slain
his aggressor, if he had not been forcibly withheld by his son, and by
a priest who had joined them.

"Maledizione!" exclaimed the old man--"a blow from him--from that
hand! I will stab him, though he were at the altar's foot; though he
had a thousand lives, each should pay for it. Release me, Paolo!
release me! for, by Heaven! he dies!"

"Peace, father!" cried the son, still struggling with him.

"Thou art not my son, to hinder my revenge!" shouted the enraged
father. "Dost not see this blood--my blood--thy father's blood?--and
thou holdest me back? Thou shouldst have struck him to the earth for
the deed--but he was a noble, and thou daredst not lift thy hand
against him!"

"Wouldst thou have had me slay him in this holy place?" exclaimed
Paolo, reddening with anger and suppressed emotion.

"No, no," returned the old man, in an altered voice; "not here, not
here, though 'twere but just retribution. But I will find other means
of vengeance. I will denounce him--I will betray all, though it cost
me my own life! He shall die by the hands of the common executioner;--
there is one shall testify for me!" And he pointed to me.

Again I advanced towards him.

"If thou hast aught to disclose pertaining to the Holy Church, I am
ready to listen to thee, my son," said the priest; "but reflect well
ere thou bringest any charge thou mayest not be able to substantiate
against one who stands so high in her esteem as him thou wouldst

The son gave his father a meaning look, and whispered somewhat in his
ear. The old man became suddenly still.

"Right, right," said he; "I have bethought me. 'Twas but a blow. He is
wealthy, I am poor; there is no justice for the poor in Rome."

"My purse is at your service," said I, interfering; "you shall have my

"Your aid!" echoed the old man, staring at me; "will you assist me,

"I will."

"Enough. I may claim fulfilment of your promise."

"Stop, old man," I said; "answer me one question ere you depart.
Whence arose your recent terrors."

"You shall know hereafter, signor," he said; "I must now begone. We
shall meet again. Follow me not," he continued, seeing I was bent upon
obtaining further explanation of the mystery. "You will learn nothing
now, and only endanger my safety. Addio, signor." And with hasty steps
he quitted the church, accompanied by his son.

"Who is that old man?" I demanded of the priest.

"I am as ignorant as yourself," he replied, "but he must be looked to;
he talks threateningly." And he beckoned to an attendant.

"Who was he who struck him?" was my next inquiry.

"One of our wealthiest nobles," he replied, "and an assured friend of
the church. We could ill spare him. Do not lose sight of them," he
added to the attendant, "and let the sbirri track them to their
haunts. They must not be suffered to go forth to-night. A few hours'
restraint will cool their hot Calabrian blood."

"But the name of the noble, father?" I said, renewing my inquiries.

"I must decline further questioning," returned the priest, coldly. "I
have other occupation; and meanwhile it will be well to have these
stains effaced, which may else bring scandal on these holy walls. You
will excuse me, my son." So saying, he bowed and retired.

I made fruitless inquiries for the old man at the door of the church.
He was gone; none of the bystanders who had seen him go forth knew

Stung by curiosity, I wandered amid the most unfrequented quarters of
Rome throughout the day, in the hope of meeting with the old
Calabrian, but in vain. As, however, I entered the court-yard of my
hotel, I fancied I discovered, amongst the lounging assemblage
gathered round the door, the dark eyes of the younger mountaineer. In
this I might have been mistaken. No one answering to his description
had been seen near the house.

II. The Marchesa

Une chose tnbreuse fait par des hommes tnbreux.--Lucrece Borgia.

On the same night I bent my steps towards the Colosseum; and, full of
my adventure of the morning, found myself, not without apprehension,
involved within its labyrinthine passages. Accompanied by a monk, who,
with a small horn lantern in his hand, acted as my guide, I fancied
that, by its uncertain light, I could discover stealthy figures
lurking within the shades of the ruin.

Whatever suspicions I might entertain, I pursued my course in silence.
Emerging from the vomitorio, we stood upon the steps of the colossal
amphitheatre. The huge pile was bathed in rosy moonlight, and reared
itself in serene majesty before my view.

While indulging in a thousand speculations, occasioned by the hour and
the spot, I suddenly perceived a figure on a point of the ruin
immediately above me. Nothing but the head was visible; but that was
placed in bold relief against the beaming sky of night, and I
recognised it at once. No nobler Roman head had ever graced the circus
when Rome was in her zenith. I shouted to the old Calabrian, for he it
was I beheld. Almost ere the sound had left my lips, he had
disappeared. I made known what I had seen to the monk. He was
alarmed--urged our instant departure, and advised me to seek the
assistance of the sentinel stationed at the entrance to the pile. To
this proposal I assented; and, having descended the vasty steps and
crossed the open arena, we arrived, without molestation, at the

The sentinel had allowed no one to pass him. He returned with me to
the circus; and, after an ineffectual search amongst the ruins,
volunteered his services to accompany me homewards through the Forum.
I declined his offer, and shaped my course towards a lonesome vicolo
on the right. This was courting danger; but I cared not, and walked
slowly forward through the deserted place.

Scarcely had I proceeded many paces, when I heard footsteps swiftly
approaching; and, ere I could turn round, my arms were seized from
behind, and a bandage was passed across my eyes. All my efforts at
liberation were unavailing; and, after a brief struggle, I remained

"Make no noise," said a voice which I knew to be that of the old man,
"and no harm shall befal you. You must come with us. Ask no questions,
but follow."

I suffered myself to be led, without further opposition whithersoever
they listed. We walked for it might be half an hour, much beyond the
walls of Rome. I had to scramble through many ruins and frequently
stumbled over inequalities of ground. I now felt the fresh breeze of
night blowing over the wide campagna, and my conductors moved swiftly
onwards as we trod on its elastic turf.

At length they came to a halt. My bandage was removed, and I beheld
myself beneath the arch of an aqueduct, which spanned the moonlit
plain. A fire was kindled beneath the arch, and the ruddy flame licked
its walls. Around the blaze were grouped the little band of peasantry
I had beheld within the church, in various and picturesque attitudes.
They greeted my conductors on their arrival, and glanced inquisitively
at me, but did not speak to me. The elder Calabrian, whom they
addressed as Cristofano, asked for a glass of aqua vitae, which he
handed respectfully to me. I declined the offer, but he pressed it
upon me.

"You will need it, Signor," he said; "you have much to do to-night.
You fear, perhaps, it is drugged. Behold!" And he drank it off.

I could not, after this, refuse his pledge. "And now, signor," said
the old man, removing to a little distance from the group, "may I
crave a word with you--your name?"

As I had no reason for withholding it, I told him how I was called.

"Hum! Had you no relation of the name of---"

"None whatever." And I sighed, for I thought of my desolate condition.

"Strange!" he muttered; adding, with a grim smile, "but, however,
likenesses are easily accounted for."

"What likenesses?" I asked. "Whom do I resemble? and what is the
motive of your inexplicable conduct?"

"You shall hear," he replied, frowning gloomily. "Step aside, and let
us get within the shade of these arches, out of the reach of yonder
listeners. The tale I have to tell is for your ears alone."

I obeyed him; and we stood beneath the shadow of the aqueduct.

"Years ago," began the old man, "an Englishman, in all respects
resembling yourself; equally well-favoured in person, and equally
young, came to Rome, and took up his abode within the eternal city. He
was of high rank in his own country, and was treated with the
distinction due to his exalted station here. At that time I dwelt with
the Marchese di---. I was his confidential servant--his adviser--his
friend. I had lived with his father--carried him as an infant--sported
with him as a boy--loved and served him as a man. Loved him, I say;
for, despite his treatment of me, I loved him then as much as I abhor
him now. Well! signor, to my story. If his youth had been profligate,
his manhood was not less depraved; it was devoted to cold, calculating
libertinism. Soon after he succeeded to the estates and title of his
father, he married. That he loved his bride, I can scarcely believe;
for, though he was wildly jealous of her, he was himself unfaithful,
and she knew it. In Italy, revenge, in such cases; is easily within a
woman's power; and, for aught I know, the marchesa might have
meditated retaliation. My lord, however, took the alarm, and thought
fit to retire to his villa without the city, and for a time remained
secluded within its walls. It was at this crisis that the Englishman I
have before mentioned arrived in Rome. My lady, who mingled little
with the gaieties of the city, had not beheld him; but she could not
have been unacquainted with him by report, as every tongue was loud in
his praises. A rumour of his successes with other dames had reached my
lord; nay, I have reason to believe that he had been thwarted by the
handsome Englishman in some other quarter, and he sedulously prevented
their meeting. An interview, however, did take place between them, and
in an unexpected manner. It was the custom then, as now, upon
particular occasions, to drive, during the heats of summer, within the
Piazza Navona, which is flooded with water. One evening the marchesa
drove thither: she was unattended, except by myself. Our carriage
happened to be stationed near that of the young Englishman."

"The marchesa was beautiful, no doubt?" I said, interrupting him.

"Most beautiful!" he replied; "and so your countryman seemed to think,
for he was lost in admiration of her. I am not much versed in the
language of the eyes, but his were too eloquent and expressive not to
be understood. I watched my mistress narrowly. It was evident from her
glowing cheek, though her eyes were cast down, that she was not
insensible to his regards. She turned to play with her dog, a lovely
little greyhound, which was in the carriage beside her, and patted it
carelessly with the glove which she held in her hand. The animal
snatched the glove from her grasp, and, as he bounded backwards, fell
over the carriage side. My lady uttered a scream at the sight, and I
was preparing to extricate the struggling dog, when the Englishman
plunged into the water. In an instant he had restored her favourite to
the marchesa, and received her warmest acknowledgments. From that
moment an intimacy commenced, which was destined to produce the most
fatal consequences to both parties."

"Did you betray them?" I asked, somewhat impatiently.

"I was then the blind tool of the marchese. I did so," replied the old
man. "I told him all particulars of the interview. He heard me in
silence, but grew ashy pale with suppressed rage. Bidding me redouble
my vigilance, he left me. My lady was now scarcely ever out of my
sight; when one evening, a few days after what had occurred, she
walked forth alone upon the garden-terrace of the villa. Her guitar
was in her hand, and her favourite dog by her side. I was at a little
distance, but wholly unperceived. She struck a few plaintive chords
upon her instrument, and then, resting her chin upon her white and
rounded arm, seemed lost in tender reverie. Would you had seen her,
signor, as I beheld her then, or as one other beheld her! you would
acknowledge that you had never met with her equal in beauty. Her raven
hair fell in thick tresses over shoulders of dazzling whiteness and
the most perfect proportion. Her deep dark eyes were thrown languidly
on the ground, and her radiant features were charged with an
expression of profound and pensive passion.

"In this musing attitude she continued for some minutes, when she was
aroused by the gambols of her dog, who bore in his mouth a glove which
he had found. As she took it from him, a letter dropped upon the
floor. Had a serpent glided from its folds, it could not have startled
her more. She gazed upon the paper, offended, but irresolute. Yes, she
was irresolute; and you may conjecture the rest. She paused, and by
that pause was lost. With a shrinking grasp she stooped to raise the
letter. Her cheeks, which had grown deathly pale, again kindled with
blushes as she perused it. She hesitated--cast a bewildering look
towards the mansion--placed the note within her bosom--and plunged
into the orange-bower."

"Her lover awaited her there?"

"He did. I saw them meet. I heard his frenzied words--his passionate
entreaties. He urged her to fly--she resisted. He grew more urgent--
more impassioned. She uttered a faint cry, and I stood before them.
The Englishman's hand was at my throat, and his sword at my breast,
with the swiftness of thought; and but for the screams of my mistress,
that instant must have been my last. At her desire he relinquished his
hold of me; but her cries had reached other ears, and the marchese
arrived to avenge his injured honour. He paused not to inquire the
nature of the offence, but, sword in hand, assailed the Englishman,
bidding me remove his lady. The clash of their steel was drowned by
her shrieks as I bore her away; but I knew the strife was desperate.
Before I gained the house my lady had fainted; and, committing her to
the charge of other attendants, I returned to the terrace. I met my
master slowly walking homewards. His sword was gone--his brow was
bent--he shunned my sight. I knew what had happened, and did not
approach him. He sought his wife. What passed in that interview was
never disclosed, but it may be guessed at from its result. That night
the marchesa left her husband's halls--never to return. Next morn I
visited the terrace where she had received the token. The glove was
still upon the ground. I picked it up and carried it to the marchese,
detailing the whole occurrence to him. He took it, and vowed as he
took it that his vengeance should never rest satisfied till that glove
had been steeped in her blood."

"And he kept his vow?" I asked, shuddering.

"Many months elapsed ere its accomplishment. Italian vengeance is
slow, but sure. To all outward appearance, he had forgotten his
faithless wife. He had even formed a friendship with her lover, which
he did the more effectually to blind his ultimate designs. Meanwhile,
time rolled on, and the marchesa gave birth to a child--the offspring
of her seducer."

"Great God!" I exclaimed, "was that child a boy?"

"It was--but listen to me. My tale draws to a close. One night, during
the absence of the Englishman, by secret means we entered the palazzo
where the marchesa resided. We wandered from room to room till we came
to her chamber. She was sleeping, with her infant by her side. The
sight maddened the marchese. He would have stricken the child, but I
held back his hand. He relented. He bade me make fast the door. He
approached the bed. I heard a rustle--a scream. A white figure sprang
from out the couch. In an instant the light was extinguished--there
was a blow--another--and all was over. I threw open the door. The
marchese came forth, The corridor in which we stood was flooded with
moonlight. A glove was in his hand--it was dripping with blood. His
oath was fulfilled--his vengeance complete--no, not complete, for the
Englishman yet lived."

"What became of him?" I inquired.

"Ask me not," replied the old man; "you were at the Chiesa Santa Maria
Maggiore this morning. If those stones could speak, they might tell a
fearful story."

"And that was the reason you did not dare to unclose your eyes within
those holy precincts--a film of blood floated between you and heaven."

The old man shuddered, but replied not.

"And the child?" I asked, after a pause; "what of their wretched

"It was conveyed to England by a friend of its dead father. If he were
alive, that boy would be about your age, signor."

"Indeed!" I said; a horrible suspicion flashing across my mind.

"After the Englishman's death," continued Cristofano, "my master began
to treat me with a coldness and suspicion which increased daily. I was
a burden to him, and he was resolved to rid himself of me. I spared
him the trouble--quitted Rome--sought the mountains of the Abruzzi--
and thence wandered to the fastnesses of Calabria, and became--no
matter what. Here I am, Heaven's appointed minister of vengeance. The
marchese dies to-night!"

"To-night! old man," I echoed, horror-stricken. "Add not crime to
crime. If he has indeed been guilty of the foul offence you have
named, let him be dealt with according to the offended laws of the
country. Do not pervert the purposes of justice."

"Justice!" echoed Cristofano, scornfully.

"Ay, justice. You are poor and powerless, but means may be found to
aid you. I will assist the rightful course of vengeance."

"You shall assist it. I have sworn he shall die before dawn, and the
hand to strike the blow shall be yours."

"Mine! never!"

"Your own life will be the penalty of your obstinacy, if you refuse;
nor will your refusal save him. By the Mother of Heaven, he dies! and
by your hand. You saw how he was struck by your resemblance to the
young Englishman this morning in the chiesa. It is wonderful! I know
not who or what you are; but to me you are an instrument of vengeance,
and as such I shall use you. The blow dealt by you will seem the work
of retribution; and I care not if you strike twice, and make my heart
your second mark."

Ere I could reply he called to his comrades, and in a few moments we
were speeding across the campagna.

We arrived at a high wall: the old man conducted us to a postern-gate,
which he opened. We entered a garden filled with orange-trees, the
perfume of which loaded the midnight air. We heard the splash of a
fountain at a distance, and the thrilling notes of a nightingale
amongst some taller trees. The moon hung like a lamp over the
belvidere of the proud villa. We strode along a wide terrace edged by
a marble balustrade. The old man pointed to an open summer-house
terminating the walk, and gave me a significant look, but he spoke
not. A window thrown open admitted us to the house. We were within a
hall crowded with statues, and traversed noiselessly its marble
floors. Passing through several chambers, we then mounted to a
corridor, and entered an apartment which formed the ante-room to
another beyond it. Placing his finger upon his lips, and making a sign
to his comrades, Cristofano opened a door and disappeared. There was a
breathless pause for a few minutes, during which I listened intently
but caught only a faint sound as of the snapping of a lock.

Presently the old man returned.

"He sleeps," he said, in a low deep tone to me; "sleeps as his victim
slept--sleeps without a dream of remorse; and he shall awaken, as she
awoke, to despair. Come into his chamber!"

We obeyed. The door was made fast within side.

The curtains of the couch were withdrawn, and the moonlight streamed
full upon the face of the sleeper. He was hushed in profound repose.
No visions seemed to haunt his peaceful slumbers. Could guilt sleep so
soundly? I half doubted the old man's story.

Placing us within the shadow of the canopy, Cristofano approached the
bed. A stiletto glittered in his hand. "Awake!" he cried, in a voice
of thunder.

The sleeper started at the summons.

I watched his countenance. He read Cristofano's errand in his eye. But
he quailed not. "Cowardly assassin!" he cried, "you have well
consulted your own safety in stealing on my sleep."

"And who taught me the lesson?" fiercely interrupted the old man. "Am
I the first that have stolen on midnight slumber? Gaze upon this? When
and how did it acquire its dye?" And he held forth a glove, which
looked blackened and stained in the moonlight.

The marchese groaned aloud.

"My cabinet broken open!" at length he exclaimed--"villain! how dared
you do this? But why do I rave? I know with whom I have to deal."
Uttering these words he sprung from his couch, with the intention of
grappling with the old man; but Cristofano retreated, and at that
instant the brigands, who rushed to his aid, thrust me forward. I was
face to face with the marchese.

The apparition of the murdered man could not have staggered him more.
His limbs were stiffened by the shock, and he remained in an attitude
of freezing terror.

"Is he come for vengeance?" he ejaculated.

"He is!" cried Cristofano. "Give him the weapon!" And a stiletto was
thrust into my hand. But I heeded not the steel. I tore open my
bosom--a small diamond cross was within the folds.

"Do you recollect this?" I demanded of the marchese.

"It was my wife's!" he shrieked, in amazement.

"It was upon the infant's bosom as he slept by her side on that fatal
night," said Cristofano. "I saw it sparkle there."

"That infant was myself--that wife my mother!" I cried.

"The murderer stands before you! Strike!" exclaimed Cristofano.

I raised the dagger. The marchese stirred not. I could not strike.

"Do you hesitate?" angrily exclaimed Cristofano.

"He has not the courage," returned the younger Calabrian. "You
reproached me this morning with want of filial duty. Behold how a son
can avenge his father!"

And he plunged his stiletto within the bosom of the marchese.

"Your father is not yet avenged, young man!" cried Cristofano, in a
terrible tone. "You alone can avenge him!"

Ere I could withdraw its point the old man had rushed upon the dagger
which I held extended in my grasp.

He fell without a single groan.


This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia