« PreviousContinue »
scription of criminals were strangled beforehand. | monly supposed to have belonged to the punishOf those who were broken alive, none were de- ment. The weight of the body was borne by a nied the coup-de-grace for the final stroke. This ledge which projected from the middle of the upwas a blow on the pit of the stomach, with the in- right beam, and not by the hands and feet, which tention, seldom defeated, of putting an end to the were probably found unequal to the strain. The tortures of the victim. Rarely after the blow of frailty of man's frame comes at last to be its grace did he continue to breathe-more rarely to own defence; but enough remained to preserve feel. Yet upon the ground of this feature in the the preeminence of torture to the cross. punishment of the wheel Mr. Alison declares he is process of nailing was exquisite torment, and yet tempted to forget all the cruelties of the Revolu- worse in what ensued than in the actual infliction. tion, and exclaim with Byron, "Arise, ye Goths, The spikes rankled, the wounds inflamed, the loand glut your ire!" But assuming the truth of cal injury produced a general fever, the fever a the misstatements which he has adopted from a most intolerable thirst; but the misery of miseries writer of French memoirs, was it because ruffians to the sufferer was, while racked with agony, to who had inflicted greater suffering than they en- be fastened in a position which did not permit him dured were put to death by methods repudiated in even to writhe. Every attempt to relieve the a humaner age, or, if he pleases, though it was muscles, every instinctive movement of anguish, not the case, repudiated at the time by the aveng- only served to drag the lacerated flesh, and wake ers, whom events proved to be more sanguinary up new and acuter pangs; and this torture, which than the laws-was it on this account that kings must have been continually aggravated, until adand nobles should be brought to the scaffold, inno- vancing death began to lay it to sleep, lasted on cent men, women, and children butchered by thou- an average two or three days. sands, the church be overthrown, property confiscated that massacre, war, havoc, and ruin should desolate the land? Feelings find vent in exaggerated language, and we should not be critical upon an expression of sympathy, though extravagant in sentiment and offensive in form, unless these outbursts of spurious indignation had pervaded the whole of Mr. Alison's account of the French Revolution. There are, it is true, abundance of passages of an opposite description, for the jarring elements of hot and cold are poured out indiscriminately, and left to mingle as they may.
Several punishments allied to crucifixion, but which differed in the method of fastening the body, were once common, and are not entirely obsolete. Whether men are nailed to a cross, hung up with hooks, or fixed upon stakes, there is a strong resemblance in the suffering produced; and any differential circumstance which adds to the torture, also curtails it. Maundrell has given from hearsay an account of impalement as practised at Tripoli, which would throw its rivals into the shade. A post the size of a man's leg, sharpened at the top, was placed in the ground, and when the point had been inserted between the legs of the victim, he was drawn on, as a joint of meat upon a spit, until the stake came through at the shoulders. In this condition he would sometimes sit for a day and a night, and by smoking, drinking, and talking, endeavor to beguile the weary time. Maundrell is a trustworthy traveller, but on this occasion he was certainly deceived, or the anatomy of man has degenerated since. A race of beings who could endure a post the size of a leg to traverse their vitals, and be alive at the close-who, yet more, could sit for four-and-twenty hours, engaged in festive occupations, no matter with how slight a relish, while pierced from end to end with a staff more clumsy than that of Goliath's speara race of beings so tenacious of life, and insensible to pain, would require punishments to be heightened to meet the callousness of their structure; but with our delicate organization, too rough a usage breaks the golden cord. Nature has set bounds to the cruelty of man, for torture carried beyond a certain point defeats itself. Sorrow The Head, the Hope, the Supporter of those occupies a larger space in our minds than it does who gave their bodies to be burnt, drank himself in our existence. Time, who in our happier hours of a bitterer cup. Of all the devices of cruel imag-put on wings and flew like the wind, in our misery ination, crucifixion is the masterpiece. Other toils heavily with leaden feet; but though he may pains are sharper for a time, but none are at once lag he cannot stop, and, when every other alleviaso agonizing and so long. One aggravation, how- tion is gone, this will always remain to sustain ever, was wanting which, owing to the want of patience under aggravated torments-that there knowledge in painters, is still, we believe, com- must be a speedy abatement or a speedy release.
Worse than the halter, axe, or wheel, was the fire which, as typical of the flames of hell, was employed in the blindness of theological fury to consume the foremost of the pilgrims to heaven. The legs of Bishop Hooper were charred, and his body scorched, before he was fully enveloped in the fire, which a wind blew aside, nor was it till the pile had been twice replenished that he bowed his head and gave up the ghost. A similar misfortune attended Ridley. An excess of fagots hindered the flames ascending, and his extremities were in ashes when his body was unsinged. Ridley yielded slightly to the dictates of nature, and struggled at the height of his protracted anguish. Hooper remained immovable as the stake to which he was chained. For three quarters of an hour his patience was proof against the fury of the flames, and he died at length as quietly as a child in its bed. But the pain of burning is of fearful intensity, and the meek endurance of these heroes at the stake was the triumph of mind over the tortures of the flesh.
We have been accompanying the body in its progress to the grave. We had meant next to retrace our steps, and observe the workings of the mind in its approach to the boundary which divides time from eternity; but this subject is, we find, too extensive to be made an appendage.
From the Presbyterian.
Caprices. New York, 1849, Robert Carter & Brothers: Philadelphia, William S. Martien. 12mo. pp. 154.
THE first caprice of the author is his adopting one of the very briefest titles we have ever seen in a new book, which said title, like a sign-board, is too often used to exaggerate the quality of the articles to be found within; and then the very term caprices might repel the reader as setting forth things with which he had rather not meddle. The second caprice is no less remarkable. The book has not a line of preface, introduction, or advertisement, and not the remotest clue is furnished to those who are curious about authors' names. Passing over these, we dive into the midst of the caprices, and if we are not mistaken, we have found ourselves, although without introduction, in the best company. According to our estimate of the muses, the unknown author is a poet-one who has felt the true afflatus. In these brief and occasional productions of his muse, he has evinced the possession of a chaste imagination, the pictures of which are drawn with vigor and spirit. All the pieces are good, without being of uniform merit, and although we occasionally detect a false rhyme, and, peradventure, some other faults, we are ready to venture some of these stanzas side by side with some of the best of Longfellow's, which they more resemble than those of any other poet. We indicate the lines beginning "Rest?—there is no such thing," as felicitous, and there is more of the same quality; and "The Blue Beard chambers of the heart,' we copy at large, as a thrilling, graphic, and truly poetical portraiture of a blood-stained conscience.
Mould upon the ceiling,
Mould upon the floor,
Windows barred and double-barred,
Opening never more;
Spiders in the corners,
Spiders on the shelves,
Weaving frail and endless webs
Back upon themselves;
Weaving, ever weaving,
Waken not the echo,
Nor the bat that clings
In the curious crevices
It will haunt your ear,
Where a breath hath brushed away
On the shelf and wainscot,
Hist! the spectres gather,
Blood upon the panels,
Blood upon the floor,
Blood, that baffles wear and washing, Red forever more.
See-they pause and listen,
Where the bat that clings, Stirs within the crevices
Of the panelings.
See-they pause and listen,
Listen through the air;
See-they pause and listen,
For a startled breath is sighing,
Sighing in the corners,
Sighing on the floor,
Sighing through the window-bars,
Waken not those whispers ;
They will pain your ears; Waken not the dust that deepens
Through the solemn years
Deepens in the silence,
Covering closer, as it gathers,
Hist! the spectres gather,
Blood upon the panels,
Blood upon the floor,
Blood that baffles wear and washing, Red forever more.
CHAPTER XVI. THE GOVERNOR'S SOIRÉE.
When one has been riding for several hours, whether in a carriage or on horseback, it is often agreeable to take a stroll on foot, especially through the streets of a strange town, where everything one sees is new. This opinion I shared in common with the Dalmatian and the Milanese; so, having ordered a late dinner, which might as well have been called supper, we sallied forth to see the lions of Nove.
All travellers have celebrated the beauty of an Italian evening. The air you breathe seems to be an intoxicating fluid, which induces some degree of soft languor, while it excites and exhilarates. It is difficult to explain the feeling. There is a sort of perfume floating about you, which is neither that of groves nor gardens, nor yet of artificial composition. It appears to descend from above, and to impregnate every particle of the atmosphere; which, at the same time, is radiant with golden light, and put into a gentle, undulating motion by the breeze.
"He has just gone down into the town," she answered, to buy something for me; he is so good. You must stay till he comes back-he will be here presently."
Just at that moment I made the discovery that my companions had disappeared. But it did not signify. I was determined to wait till the husband came back, provided he did not make a very long stay; and proceeded with the conversation. "Do many strangers pass through Nove?" said I.
"I don't know; I seldom go out, except when I take the bambino into the fields."
"And how long have you been married?" "Just a year and five weeks last Tuesday; and yet it already seems an age, I have enjoyed so much happiness in it."
"Then you have not heard the Spanish proverb, that a year of pleasure passes like a fleeting dream, while a moment of misfortune seems an age of pain.'”
"I don't know what misfortune means. I have never lost a person I loved. My father and mother are living, with all my brothers and sisters, all younger than I, and all at home.” "And so you think," said I, lengthens time?"
It is delicious, when certain trains of thought come over you, to slip away from company, and be alone; but it is best when accident effects the purpose for you. As we walked along, I could hear through the open windows the rocking of cradles, and the sweetest lullabies sung over halfsleeping infants. No sound in nature is so sweet as a mother's voice, when she is hushing the child of her love to rest. There is something seraphic in it. All the charities, and loves, and happiness of our earliest years rise up from the depth of the past, as we listen. We fancy that Heaven is listening with us, and pouring abundant blessings on the scene. Oh, how sacred a thing a mother is ! What religion is in her love! How she prays, and yearns, and watches over the cradle, looking forward and backward through time, weaving bright destinies for her child, or dreaming of moments when her own soul was first steeped in the Elysium of delight, 'Oh, very much," she replied; "for though, and the baby she is now gazing on began to be. as you see, I am young, still I almost fancy I Turning a corner, we entered a street, down have lived forever. I can't tell when I began to which the sun was throwing a flood of glory, think-when I began to feel—when I began to sheathing the walls and eaves with gold, and be happy. I have always been happy! Did glittering with dazzling brightness on the case- you ever look on the water at sunset, and observe At the entrance of a lofty porte cochére, how the sun's wake stretches away into the dissat a young woman, with a cradle by her side, tance, till you don't know where it ends; but it is which she rocked occasionally with her right foot, all golden and glittering, and, though every wavekeeping time with the other on the ground. She let seems like the other, they are all bright-all was gathering up a rent in a white lace veil, alive with pleasure? It has been exactly so with which hung in graceful folds over her dark dress, my life-nothing but one endless streak of sunand added greatly to the interest of her figure. shine. In a low, sweet voice, she murmured, rather than band. sung, a hymn to the Virgin. I stood still to look at the picture. At first her various avocations prevented her from noticing me; but when she did, pointing to an empty chair on the other side of the cradle, she politely invited me to sit down. I did not wait for a second invitation, but immediately taking the proffered chair, began the conversation by inquiring, very superfluously, I ad
But look," cried she, "there is my husAh! see how he smiles as he comes along ; he is so glad to come back to me. Dear Giuseppe," said she as he approached, "here is a strange gentleman who has been admiring our child, and to whom I have been saying I don't know what."
Gieuseppe was a fine fellow, and seemed to be quite as proud as his wife of the little boy who constituted so large a portion of their happiness.
He had been out buying something for supper, he said. He had it in his hand in a little basket, and invited me to join them. I sincerely wished I could, but my travelling companions would have thought it unkind; so, bidding the happy pair a good evening, and promising to call if I ever again passed through Nove, I took my leave not, however, without kissing the young Giuseppe, who took it, wrapt in balmy slumbers, without waking. At the end of the street I met my friends, who were coming back in search of me. We then continued our walk, and, shortly after sunset, reached the square, where, from the windows of a large, fine house, we heard strains of very delicious music, issuing like a flood. The Milanese affected a great passion for singing; so, requesting us to wait a moment, he stepped towards the door of the house, which stood wide open, and, entering the hall, found there a soldier, who informed him it was the governor's house, adding, with extraordinary politeness, that he might go up stairs into an unoccupied room, and listen to the music, if he liked.
"The governor," said he, "is a very good gentleman; and I know I shall not offend him by taking the liberty to invite you."
house entered, and, with a sweetness and a grace altogether irresistible, insisted on our entering the salon. When we did, Carlotta rose, and, coming half across the room to meet me, exclaimed,
"How very fortunate! Mamma and I were just saying how much we should have liked you to be here. But we were not aware you knew the governor."
"But I have two friends waiting for me in the the women superb. square," answered the Milanese.
"Ask them in also," said the soldier.
were less striking.
In reply, I related to her the manner of our introduction; at which she laughed very heartily, and then took me over to repeat it to Madame B. Never, perhaps, did three greater Guys make their appearance at a party. We were covered with dust from head to foot, had been smoking cigars, and, for my own part, with my long beard and northern costume, I must have appeared the strangest of all figures. The governor's lady was puzzled, and, in the course of the evening, asked Carlotta if I were not an Africano. There is, in the Italians, an innate taste which enables them to do everything with grace. The apartment in which we were now assembled was full of elegance. The lamps, from which the light was diffused on all sides, were modelled after the antique. The furniture was rich, without being gaudy; and the dresses and figures of Upon the whole, the men Possibly I am incompetent to comprehend the physiognomies of musical men, When our free and easy friend came out, and which always appear to me wanting in expression, related the circumstance to us, we laughed heart- especially in countries like Piedmont, where the ily; because, in the first place, we could hear the political feeling is not permitted to develop itself, music much better where we were, and, secondly, and impart grandeur and decision to the countebecause we thought the soldier was exceeding his nance. Men are there musical, because they can duty, and that we should, probably, be ejected be nothing else. It helps to plunge them into very unceremoniously by the governor when he that dreamy state in which a slave should pass his came to learn how matters stood. Upon the days-humming, whispering, crowding round assurance of our Carbonaro, however, that it pianos-fanning ladies' faces, and talking nonwould be all right, we entered the house, and sense. It is a woful existence, worse than that were conducted by the soldier up stairs into a led in many departments of Dante's Hell; and small room adjoining that in which the party yet men exist for ages under such circumstances! were assembled. Here, he said, we might sit as And the women, what are they born to? Let long as we pleased; and when we were tired, we lago explain for me" To suckle fools, and had only to come down stairs, and he would let chronicle small beer." us out. At that moment there was a lady sing- It is a godsend in the country to catch four or ing and it immediately struck me that I had five strangers at once, just to break the monotony heard her voice before. It was so rich, so full, of life. Persons who circulate perpetually among so sweet, there could be, I thought, but one such each other gradually subside into a sort of aniin the world. It must be it was-Carlotta's. mate clocks, that go on ticking for years, neither I trembled slightly. This, then, was perhaps her louder nor lower, beside each other. Tick, tick, home--this her father's house; and here I should tick, from morning till night, without the slightlose her company. My speculations were cut est variation. They may be very good people, short by the entrance of the governor, who ap- altogether, and, as the phrase is, without vice; proached us with a smile and a bow, and begged but their conversation is like ratsbane, and enough we would do him the honor to join his party, to kill one with a single dose—and yet, as I have which consisted, he said, of a few musical friends said, it does not kill, but only induces mental got together in a hurry to hear a lady who had lethargy, in which state men reach the age of just arrived in Nove. We excused ourselves on Methuselah. Yet their existence, methinks, very the ground of being covered with the dust of the much resembles that of a toad in a stone; they road; and, at the same time, made a thousand turn about, they hum, they mutter, they dream, apologies for the liberty we had taken. He felt they lie for ease now on this side, and now on that, quite gratified, he said, that we should have done and their blood congeals within them into a sort him so much honor. Finding his persuasions of virtuous paste, which has no more motion in it unavailing, he left us; and we were beginning to than a standing pool. think of beating a retreat, when the lady of the
At supper, Carlotta could not avoid whispering
"What would you take to settle down | often made me forget whether we were going up here at Nove for the rest of your life?"
Nothing short of yourself," I replied; "but with you, I could settle anywhere, and be happy." "I doubt it," answered she; "and I frankly confess that I don't believe either you or any one else could make me happy long in a place like this. A night and a single party exhaust all its vitality. I am glad we are to be off to-morrow." This was one side of the picture. Shortly after, I found myself beside the lady of the house, who asked me what pleasure I could find in wandering about the world, leaving all my friends, breaking all my old associations, "and laying in," added she, a store of restlessness for the remainder of your days." She said she had never quitted Nove, which every year acquired fresh charms for her.
or down hill, whether the prospect was picturesque or otherwise-in short, everything but ourselves. We picked up at Nove a new set of companions, consisting of an English officer and his family, who intended to proceed with us as far as Genoa. They were all of them very agreeable; and the father, who had often gone the road before, proposed, when we became tolerably familiar, that we should spend the following Sunday at a lovely village in the Apennines, where, he said, he had once staid a whole day. We then began to compare notes, and found that we had for some time been neighbors, he having lived at a chateau near Morges, while I was at Lausanne. Of that chateau he related many curious particulars, of which, at the present moment, I only remember the following. As he spoke Italian perfectly, he related it in that language, for the benefit of Carlotta and her mamma :—
"One night," he said, "in the depth of winter, having staid up late in my library, I retired late to bed. The snow had been falling for hours, so that the whole country round was deeply covered with it. A strong wind, meanwhile, was blowing, and beating the flakes against my window, which shook and rattled and conspired, with uneasy thoughts, to keep me awake. The old clock of the chateau had already told twelve, and one, and two; and still I could not sleep. There is an odd sensation produced, even in the neighborhood of the Alps, by a snow-storm. which seems to be engaged in wrapping a winding-sheet around the earth, and preparing it for its everlasting rest. I had a blazing wood-fire in my room; and I got out of bed every now and then to cast fresh logs upon it, and keep myself
"In its quiet little churchyard," said she, "all my forefathers lie buried; and I often go there to count them over, and sit down and shed tears of pleasure on their graves. What tranquillity we enjoy! what a blissful ignorance of all that passes in the great world! My husband is contented with me, and I with him; and neither of us would change our situation for the best in Italy. We have three dear little children asleep; and if you could but see their happy faces when they first awake and kiss me in the morning! They send a thrill of delight through my whole frame; and morning and evening, on my knees, I offer up only this prayer, that such as my state now is, it may continue forever. With all the friends you see here, we have been familiar from childhood. The women were brought up in the same convent; the men went to school with my husband. We are like one family. We pray in the same church, we shall all be buried in the same church- comfortable. Now and then, too, I went to the yard; and we hope," added she, with a sweet smile, "that we shall all hereafter meet in the same heaven."
window, and looked out. There was nothing to be seen, for the snow fell so thick that it filled the air, and allowed no passage for a single ray of light, though the moon was at that moment shining, I knew, on the backs of the clouds, and
"God grant it!" cried I, greatly touched by the earnestness of her manner. I felt my spirit rebuked, and saw that happiness may be tasted rendering them luminous for the wandering spireverywhere, though, not, perhaps, by one who has once known what it is to wander and be alone, and craves the excitement of perpetual change.
My friend the Carbonaro had been trying hard all the evening to get up a flirtation with a musical young lady, but without success. The Dalmatian listened to the music almost in silence, but yet appeared to enjoy the evening much. one o'clock in the morning when we returned to our inn, where innumerable oaths had been showered on us by cooks and waiters for ordering a dinner, and not coming back to eat it, though, of course, it was not forgotten next morning in the bill.
its of the Alps. Presently I heard the bell of the castle sound faintly, as it shook the snow off its back, and tried to thaw itself with motion. Ding, dong, it went, with a chill and low sound; which, however, wakened my man Francois, who, in anything but the best humor in the world, dressed, and descended to the gate. Presently I heard him knocking at my bed-room door.
"What do you want, Francois?' inquired I. "If you please, sir,' answered he, here are two young women who wish to speak with you.'
"With me,' I exclaimed, at such an hour as this? Tell them I am in bed, Francois, and that they had better come to-morrow.'