« AnteriorContinuar »
CALASPO, THE REPUBLICAN.
FROM the commencement of the remitted torture. Yet to the French French Revolution, the whole Ita- the Italians have always turned with lian peninsula was in a state of dis- a languishing look for liberty, which turbance. A lingering recollection the French have always returned by of the glittering days of the free, promises, pillage, and the abandonfighting, conquering, and lavish re- ment of every soul who was fool publics of the Middle Ages, has al- enough to trust them. The lightways prompted the Italian. He is, headed nation has always been outof all idlers, the most idle. No man witted, betrayed, and plundered by living has a more habitual fondness the light-heeled. for beginning the day without an object, and ending it without a recollection. Sunshine and his cigar are his luxuries-macaroni is his maintenance-time his enemy-love-making his business-sonnetteering his talent-and sleep his resource against all the calamities of the four-andtwenty hours.
That the peninsula inhabited by heroes of this calibre, should have been for the last thousand years a toy for the ambition, the avarice, or the tyranny of every power on its borders, is a mere natural consequence; that its people should be at once the most querulous of subjects, and the most submissive of slaves, is a principle; and, that the national soul should think itself made for the conquest of the earth, and yet be not large enough to keep the foot of every or any intruder from its own fireside, belongs to the plainest page of the great chapter of truisms.
Of all nations, Italy is the most contemptuous of foreigners. But its contempt for them varies by curious shades. By the Italian, the Spaniard is held as the most ludicrous of pedants-the Englishman as the most intolerable of boors-the Austrian as the most incapable of existing animals, biped or quadruped; but the Frenchman brings down the whole accumulation of scorn, and which whole is summed up in the phrase, dancingmaster. To the sensitive, still-life Italian, the Frenchman's catlike restlessness is a perpetual suffering; to his fine faculty for sounds, the Frenchman's tongue utters nothing but discords, less the human voice than the representative of a forest of monkeys; to his natural rich tide of language, the Frenchman's abrupt, epigrammatic labour to shine, his speech of smartnesses, and his shrugs, is un
In 1793, the old game which had perplexed the world, and pilfered Italy a hundred years before, was begun again. The gallant name of Republic covered, like charity, all sins. The Italian was superstitious beyond all living animals-the Frenchman had abolished even the fragment of belief that served for religion under the Bourbons; the Italian bowed down before a whole army of Virgins and Saints-the Frenchman had broken up the Virgins for firewood, dug up the Saints for nitre, stript holy ears and noses, as countless as the sands of the sea, of their pearls and diamonds, and turned churches and cathedrals by the score into cavalry stables; the Italian honoured a nun, and worshipped a priest, and never thought of the Pope without crossing himself the Frenchman had routed nuns by the hundred thousand out of their dormitories, harnessed the priests to their baggage-waggons, and made no secret of their considering the Pope as a personage whom they would speedily visit at Rome for the purpose of bringing to Paris as a curiosity. Still the magic of liberty reconciled all the quarrels of the national characters. The name of Republic found an echo in every bosom of beggary, from Genoa to Venice; the Savoyard, whose distinction it was to brush chimneys and shoes through all his generations
the Lombard, who, after the manner of his forefathers, was born to play the usurer on farthings, and raise an agio upon the rejected pantaloons of mankind-the Piedmontese, the Man of the Milanese, whose thoughts were of oxen, and whose cerebellum was, beyond all question, but a more dexterous compound of butter and cheese-all were suddenly enamoured of liberty, and all
exhibited the popular operation of the panacea in burning their landlords' mansions-refusing to pay rents, tithes, or taxes-in cheating all who would bear to be cheated, and in shooting those who remonstrated. The whole country was in the most furious yet fantastic con=fusion.
Among the crowd of landlords who were thus put in perplexity, was the Marquis Spinola, a descendant of the famous officer of Philip the Second, and, like him, a gallant soldier, without being, like him, a lover of blood, plunder, and persecution. Spinola was an Italian of three generations, a noble of quarterings enough for the Golden Fleece, and -rich enough to have purchased the whole cabinet of Turin. But he had a treasure which he valued above the jewel-house of the Great Mogul, and which he was right in so valuing-a daughter fair, whom an ancient Greek would have called Hebe, or Iole, if not Venus, but whom the archbishop of Spoleto had christened Melanie Isadora, the united names of her mother and her patron saint. She was a Spanish beauty, lightened by an Italian birth; the fiery glance of the south, softened by Italian languors; the highly pronounced expression of Andalusia, touched with the delicious sensibility of Naples. But what is the use of attempting to describe beauty, or who has ever succeeded in the attempt? Is it not enough to say, that the Signora Melanie was lovely, and what can be said more? Or if the world will insist on having more, let it be satisfied with knowing that her charms actually withheld a German archduke three successive evenings from the Loto table, stopped a French prince in the midst of a quadrille, and disturbed the sensibilities of a Spanish Infant, to the extraordinary extent of his moving his royal lips to ask who she was?
The Marquis Spinola had become a diplomatist when he had grown weary of leading the Piedmontese grenadiers, with all the honours of war, in their march from their barracks to the cathedral, and from the cathedral to their barracks. He thought that at forty he had seen high masses enough, and became an ambassador. At the court of France he had at
tended ten years of levees, until even in France weariness seized him, and he thought that a man and a noble might have something better to do, even in this worthless world, than eternally dressing for court days, playing ecarte with superannuated Duchesses, and poring over the journals to discover the secrets of the cabinet. He solicited his recall; but rejoiced as the Minister of Savoy was at the opportunity of patronage, so many were to be patronised, such a conflux of young Dukes, and old Field-Marshals, found in themselves the diplomatic faculties at the moment, that to decide was impossible, without an insurrection of the whole bed-chamber. The gravest courts are sometimes absurd things, and the court of his Sardinian Majesty was not graver than the rest of the earth. During the decision, the Marquis was compelled to remain at his post. But the Parisians soon gave him subjects for his despatches, undecorated by the epigrams of the journals, or the whispers of the royal saloon. Blood, fury, and rebellion, were spreading their sullen wings over the gayest population of the gayest land under the moon. War was engendering in the streets against the throne; the coffeehouses were cabinet councils, and the harangues of the cobblers and craftsmen of the thousand dens and hovels of Paris, filled the trumpet with a breath that blew all nations into a flame.
The Marquis Spinola had now no alternative but to withdraw without even making his bow to the Convention, or be shot by the first friend of human rights who objected to his existence.
He was an Italian, and the word implies much. He accordingly kept his own secret, left diplomacy to make its excuses for him, ordered the four fleetest horses that could be found in Paris to be in readiness for him outside the barrier, took an evening promenade through the Palais Royal, with his daughter on his arm; admired every thing that he saw there; applauded a harangue by a half-naked orator, who proclaimed the downfall of all the despots of the globe, and flourished a red flag, bearing
the effigy of the unfortunate king in the centre, as a general warning; and then gliding away from the height
of republican gala into a bypath in the Champs Elysées, handed the Signora into his chaise de poste, and was gone at full speed.
But what is more rapid than freedom? He found the French, cavalry, artillery, and chasseurs, on every spot from Nice to Turin. His Piedmontese grenadiers, heroes to a man on parade, and six feet two in their rear-ranks, had been so long out of the habit of fighting, that on the appearance of the Frenchmen, they had marched off by whole battalions to exchange the spear for the reaping-hook, and wait for better times. The court had fled, the King leading the van, the Cardinal Legate bringing up the rear, and the whole army in the centre, for security. A whole autumn of banquets, and a whole winter of balls, were utterly broken up, and the noble circles of Turin began to feel, for the first time, the misery of being compelled to fight, fly, or labour; to use their own limbs, and the remnant of underetandings that time and levees had spared to them.
Spinola drove through the long and lofty streets of the capital, and was astonished at their desertion; he drove to the palace, and was astonished still more. There was neither Count nor Countess, petition in hand for a dozen sequins more to be added to their salaries; the old mob of nobles, distinguishable from their own footmen only by their greater profusion of bows, and their more perpetual smile-all were gone. The grand gallery from which the aides-de-camp and the guards hung like the show of a mountebank's caravan, a basket of apes chattering and grimacing at the world below, was all deserted. Guards, King, Queen, and their whole menu fretin, the whole starred and ribboned ring that live upon the smallest possible pensions, and shine like the flowers of the field, all were stricken by the blast of the French trumpet from the hills of the Argentiese, all faded away, all vanished like the flowers of spring under the scorchings of summer.
But Spinola, though an Italian and an ambassador, was a man of sense. He at once decided on the absurdity of staying where his only entertainers would soon be a brigade of sans-culottes; of fighting for those
who would not fight for themselves; and of flying, with the chance of being starved, and the certainty of being robbed if overtaken. His estates lay on the side of the Col de Vars, an extensive district among the mountains, but which is memorable to all travellers for the magnificent panorama of the Alps which it commands, and to all historians for the variety of gallant exploits which it has witnessed in the French and Italian invasions. In this stately wilderness no French general could find either pictures or plate, and therefore there was the strongest human probability that it would not be the scene of a French general's ambition. The soil was barren, the people were few but fierce, the noble mansions were scattered, and the sequins none; and for these reasons there was an equal probability that it would be scorned by the eye of the Grand Republic, which, in its hatred of Kings, involved a love of their property, and disdained to bestow liberty on those who were not worth robbing.
The Marquis instantly turned his horses' heads from the deserted city, and drove up his mountains. But what is an Alpine journey without a storm, an overturn, and an adventure? They were all in reserve for him. As the snowy top of the Argentiese came in view, it was crowned with one of those turbans of cloud, which make so frequent and so sublime a finishing to the Alpine picture. The sun threw its colours with the infinite richness of the Italian sunset among those wreaths and folds, and the Argentiese in his frontal of purple, scarlet, and gold, looked like the Grand Turk of mountains. But to the experienced traveller, this picturesque sight is a formidable warning, and the postilions were ordered to gallop. The vehicle went on at full speed, but the tempest began to be angry in his dominions among the higher Alps, and after a few fantastic murmurs and flights among the clouds, which threw them into still loveliér shapes and dyes, on came the gale. The sunset, so prodigal of beauty, like an earthly spendthrift, exhausting all its wealth in one pre-eminent burst of splendour, flooded the sky with carnation, bathed the mountain tops in a sea of gold, showered down pur
ple richer than all the amethysts of Persia, upon the long valley of the Riumonas; and after pausing for a few moments, as if to admire what it had done, plunged into a bottomless abyss of vapour, and was no more. Then came the battle of the elements, the thunder opened all its batteries from cloudy mountain top to the highest heavens. The mists rushed in black battalions along the valleys at their feet; the rivers swelled instantly to torrents, and roared like encounter ing armies. All was war. Evening I was dead and buried; it was followed by a pale procession of gloomy shades, the long, livid vapours which I belong to tempests among the Alps; then came darkness, midnight dark ■ness, which suddenly covered all like a shroud let down from the skies, and under this shroud the battle still went on, deeper and deeper still, pealing, crashing, roaring.
In this scene further progress was impossible. The postilions were worn out with the quantity of sacres which they had poured upon their horses during the last half hour of the ascent; the horses were so weary of the struggle, that between the storm and the postilions, they at length refused to stir a step in advance, though they gave sufficient signs of being willing enough to let the chaise de poste roll back, or roll over the precipice, two thousand feet above the white torrent of the Riumonas. The next expedient was, to take shelter under the first rock that was large enough to cover them, and wait until the gale was tired
But even this resource was not easily obtained. The road was in the state which had distinguished Sardinian road-making since the accession of the first Amadeus, and which would not have put to shame the original Rhæti or Vindelici. It had all the characteristics of an Italian dynasty upon it, and was monkish and Sardinian in every rut and rock, for an ascent of three leagues. The houses of the cantonniers, who had been in earlier days stationed for the relief of travellers, were now devoted to the cultivation of the mosses and ferns of the province; the dweller within had disappeared a hundred years before, and Nature
YOL, XXX. NO. CXCV,
was left to supply the repairs of the edifice, which she did, after her own manner, by a handsome tapestry of weeds and wild-flowers. To lead the horses was the last expedient, and the Marquis and the postilions dismounted for the purpose; but the sheets of lightning which alone shewed the road, so startled the horses at the same time, that to lead them was as impracticable as to drive. In this extremity, a bridge lay before them. The foul fiend was once the established bridge-builder of the Alps, and well it was for them that he was, for he appears to have sometimes made passable ones. The bridge that now lay before the travellers unluckily was Sardinian, and it gave palpable evidence of its inferior architecture, by creaking and quivering in every rush of the blast. Still they went on, for the fall of the pines from the heights rendered their stay under the brow of the mountain a matter of the most formidable hazard. The tired horses were dragged to the foot of the little bridge, and, in the pause, the Marquis left his post at their heads to speak a word of cheer to his daughter, to which she made no other answer than by a prayer for her father's safety. He lingered at the door with double fears for the peril of a creature so lovely and so dear; but this painful indulgence was brief; a burst of thunder, that seemed to peal round his very head, deafened him-a sheet of lightning, red as the flame from a furnace, swept and crackled round him. In momentary blindness and terror he still stretched out his hands to save his daughter, but a general shriek, and a crash heard through all the roar of the elements, told him that some fearful catastrophe had happened. With his sight still seared by the lightning, he struggled forward to grasp the carriage. But it was beyond his grasp. Utter darkness was round him; he felt his way a few steps onward, by clinging to the roots of the trees. Still all was vacancy. He cried aloud; he was answered only by the storm. He threw himself on his face, determined to follow his child, whose name he now shouted out in accents of despair; still in blindness and agony, he crept on, when he felt himself suddenly grasp
ed and flung back on the bank by a strong hand. The action was courteous, but the tone of the actor might have suited a rougher service. "In the name of all the saints, where is the fool going?" was the exclamation. "Do you not see that the old bridge is broken down at last; and in two steps more you must have gone along with it ?”’'
There was a time when Spinola would have answered this speech with his hand on the hilt of his sword, like the Frenchman when he lectures his wife, or when his coiffeur perpetrates an erroneous curl. But he now had voice but for, " My daughter, my daughter, my child, lost, lost, lost!" The intelligence evidently produced a pause in his rescuer's tone; he asked a hurried question about the misfortune. Spinola could tell him no more, than that the carriage had been lost in attempting the bridge. But before even this brief communication could be completely delivered, the stranger was gone. The sounds of horns, and voices shouting among the hills, followed; but they soon passed away again. The unhappy father was again left to solitude, and the misery of heart that can be felt only by a father.
Towards midnight the fury of the tempest began to go down, and the moon, then in her wane, threw a touch of silver on the tops of the Alps of Chamouni. As she advanced, the storm seemed to shrink before her, the gale died away, and her light, reflected from the immense piles of cloud that still hung over the hills, threw a wavering and melancholy, but a clear gleam over the valleys and ravines innumerable, that make such network of an Alpine region. Guided by the rising light, some of the mountaineers had found Spinola where he sat, almost unconscious of existence, and murmuring in broken tones the language of true sorrow," My Melanie, my child, my child; lost, lost, for ever!" But there were better tidings in store for him. A concourse of the peasants were seen gathering on the side of one of the ravines, exchanging signals of horns and shouts with a group far below. In another half hour, the lower group had ascended, the two now combined, and the whole party ascended the mountain. Two
figures now started from the crowd, and were seen rushing towards the spot where the Marquis lay, unable to move. In another moment he felt himself clasped in the arms of the one who was dearer to him than the world besides. His Melanie's lips were pressed to his forehead, her voice was whispering consolation to his ears, he felt her, tears streaming on his cheeks, and in a rapture of piety and gratitude he loudly thanked heaven for the restoration of his child.
The next and most natural enquiry was, how she had been restored? To this she could make no answer further than that she had fortunately fainted when the bridge gave way under the weight of the carriage, and that her first sensation of life was finding herself in the hands of the peasantry, as her first joy was in once more returning to her father. But this brief history was fully made up by the tongues of the mountaineers. "It was all the work of Calaspo. It was Calaspo, whose horn had brought them from their cottages; it was Calaspo who had sprung down a precipice, which nothing but a goat or his infernal majesty ever sprang down before; it was Calaspo who by main strength had stopped the carriage on the brink of a declivity of a thousand feet; it was Calaspo's knife that had cut the harness, and let the whole four restive animals go down the precipice in the midst of their kicking and rearing, at the moment when they were dragging the carriage after them; it was Calaspo's hand that had extracted the lady from the carriage door, like a bird from the eagle's nest; it was Calaspo's arms that had carried her up the cliff; it was Calaspo above, below, beginning and end, Calaspo every where."
"But where is this Calaspo?" said the Marquis; "send him here that I may reward him.”
No Calaspo came. He was, at last, found lurking in the outskirts of the crowd, and forced forward. nola, feeble as he was, advanced toSpiwards him, took him by the hand, and telling him the name of those to whom he had rendered such essential service, offered him his protec tion, and, as a beginning, presented him with his purse.