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served and counted them ; for he and there his day's meal! Nor was was rather surprised at their num- this all. Casting his looks towards ber, and there was something pecu- the windows of his dungeon, he liar in their form, as well as in the counted but FIVE ! Here was no manner of their arrangement, at deception ; and he was now conunequal distances. It was so much vinced there had been none the day easier, however, to suppose he was before. But what did all this pormistaken, than that a portion of the tend ? Into what strange and mys. solid iron, which formed the walls, terious den had he been cast? He could have escaped from its posi- gazed till his eyes ached ; he could tion, that he soon dismissed the discover nothing to explain the thought from his mind.
mystery. That it was so, he knew, Vivenzio partook of the food that Why it was so, he racked his imawas before him, without apprehen- gination in vain to conjecture. He sion. It might be poisoned ; but if examined the doors. A simple it were, he knew he could not es- circumstance convinced him they cape death, should such be the de- had not been opened. sign of Tolfi, and the quickest death A wisp of straw, which he had would be the speediest release. carelessly thrown against them the
The day passed wearily and preceding day, as he paced to and gloomily ; though not without a fro, remained where he had cast it, faint hope that, by keeping watch though it must have been displaced at night, he might observe when by the slightest motion of either of the person came again to bring him the doors. This was evidence that food, which he supposed he would could not be disputed ; and it foldo in the same way as before. The lowed there must be some secret mere thought of being approached machinery in the walls by which a by a living creature, and the oppor person could enter. He inspected tunity it might present of learning them closely. They appeared to the doom prepared, or preparing, him one solid and compact mass of for him, imparted some comfort. iron; or joined, if joined they were, Besides, if he came alone, might with such nice art, that no mark of he not, in a furious onset, over- division was perceptible. Again power him? Or he might be ac- and again he surveyed them and cessible to pity, or the influence of the floor-and the roof—and that such munificent rewards as he could range of visionary windows, as he bestow, if once more at liberty and was now almost tempted to consider master of himself. Say he were them : he could discover nothing, armed. The worst that could be- absolutely nothing, to relieve his fall, if nor bribe, nor prayers, nor doubts or satisfy his curiosity. Someforce prevailed, was a faithful blow, times he fancied that altogether the which, though dealt in a damned dungeon had a more contracted apcause, might work a desired end. pearance—that it looked smaller ; There was no chance so desperate, but this he ascribed to fancy, and but it looked lovely in Vivenzio's the impression naturally produced eyes, compared with the idea of upon his mind by the undeniable disbeing totally abandoned.
appearance of two of the windows. The night came, and Vivenzio With intense anxiety, Vivenzio watched. Morning came, and Vi- looked forward to the return of venzio was confounded! He must night; and as it approached, he have slumbered without knowing it. resolved that no treacherous sleep Sleep must have stolen over him should again betray him. Instead when exhausted by fatigue, and in of seeking his bed of straw, he conthat interval of feverish repose, he tinued to walk up and down his had been baffled ; for there stood dungeon till daylight, straining his his replenished pitcher of water, eyes in every direction through the
darkness, to watch for any appear- contrivance, an opening was obances that might explain these mys- tained through the iron wall, and teries. While thus engaged, and that through this opening the curas nearly as he could judge, (by rent of air had found entrance. the time that afterwards elapsed But how noiseless ! For had a before the morning came in,) about feather almost waved at the time, two o'clock, there was a slight tre- he must have heard it. Again he mulous motion of the floors. He examined that part of the wall ; but
; stooped. The motion lasted nearly both to sight and touch it appeared a minute ; but it was so extremely one even and uniform surface, while gentle, that he almost doubted whe- to repeated and violent blows, there ther it was real, or only imaginary. was no reverberating sound indicaHe listened. Not a sound could tive of hollowness. be heard. Presently, however, he This perplexing mystery had for felt a rush of cold air blow upon a time withdrawn his thoughts from him ; and dashing towards the quar- the windows ; but now, directing ter whence it seemed to proceed, his eyes again towards them, he he stumbled over something which saw that the fifth had disappeared he judged to be the water ewer. in the same manner as the precedThe rush of cold air was no longer ing two, without the least distinperceptible ; and Vivenzio guishable alteration of external apstretched out his hands, he found pearances. The remaining four himself close to the walls. He looked as the seven had originally remained motionless for a consi- looked ; that is, occupying, at irrederable time ; but nothing occurred gular distances, the top of the wall during the remainder of the night on that side of the dungeon. The to excite his attention, though he tall folding door, too, still seemed continued to watch with unabated to stand beneath, in the centre of vigilance.
these four, as it had at first stood in The first approaches of the morn- the centre of the seven. But he ing were visible through the grated could no longer doubt, what, on windows, breaking, with faint divi- the preceding day, he fancied might sions of light, the darkness that still be the effect of visual deception. The pervaded every other part, long be- dungeon' was smaller. The roof fore Vivenzio was enabled to dis- had lowered—and the opposite ends tinguish any object in his dungeon. had contracted the intermediate disInstinctively and fearfully he turn- tance by a space equal, he thought, ed his eyes, hot and inflamed with to that over which the three winwatching, towards them. There dows had extended. He was bewere four! He could see only wildered in vain imaginings to acfour : but it might be that some in- count for these things. Some tervening object prevented the fifth frightful purpose-some devilish from becoming perceptible ; and he torture of mind or body--some unwaited impatiently to ascertain if it heard-of device for producing exwere so. As the light strengthen- quisite misery, lurked, he was sure, ed, however, and penetrated every in what had taken place. corner of the cell, other objects of Oppressed with this belief, and amazement struck his sight. On distracted more by the dreadful the ground lay the broken fragments uncertainty of whatever fate imof the pitcher he had used the day pended, than he could be dismayed, before, and at a small distance from he thought, by the knowledge of them, nearer to the wall, stood the the worst, he sat ruminating, hour one he had noticed the first night. after hour, yielding his fears in It was filled with water, and beside succession to every haggard fancy. it was his food. He was now cer- At last a horrible suspicion flashed tain, that, by some mechanical suddenly across his mind, and he
started up with a frantic air. he already felt the dungeon's pon“ Yes !" "he exclaimed, looking derous roof descending on him—he wildly round his dungeon, and breathed hard and thick, as though shuddering as he spoke-"Yes! writhing between its iron walls. it must be so ! I see it !-I feel the Then would he spring up-stare maddening truth like scorching wildly about him-stretch forth his flames upon my brain! Eternal hands, to be sure he yet had space God !-support me ! it must be so ! enough to live-and, muttering -Yes, yes, that is to be my fate ! some incoherent words, sink down Yon roof will descend!—these walls again, to pass through the same will hem me round-and slowly, fierce vicissitudes of delirious sleep. slowly, crush me in their iron arms! The morning of the fourth day Lord God! look down upon me, dawned upon Vivenzio. But it was and in mercy strike me with instant high noon before his mind shook off death! Oh, fiend-oh, devil—is its stupor, or he awoke to a full this your revenge ?"
consciousness of his situation. And He dashed himself upon the what a fixed energy of despair sat ground in agony;-tears burst from upon his pale features, as he cast him, and the sweat stood in large his eyes upwards, and gazed upon drops upon his face-he sobbed the THREE windows that now alone aloud-he tore his hair—he rolled remained! The three !-there were about like one suffering intolerable no more !—and they seemed to anguish of body, and would have number his own allotted days. Slowbitten the iron floor beneath him ; ly and calmly he next surveyed the he breathed fearful curses upon top and sides, and comprehended Tolfi, and the next moment passion- all the meaning of the diminished ate prayers to heaven for immediate height of the former, as well as of death. Then the violence of his the gradual approximation of the grief became exhausted, and he lay latter. The contracted dimensions still, weeping as a child would weep. of his mysterious prison were now The twilight of departing day shed too gross and palpable to be the its gloom around him ere he arose juggle of his heated imagination. from that posture of utter and hope- Still lost in wonder at the means, less sorrow. He had taken no food. Vivenzio could put no cheat upon Not one drop of water had cooled his reason, as to the end. By what the fever of his parched lips. Sleep horrible ingenuity it was contrived, had not visited his eyes for six and that walls, and roof, and windows, thirty hours. He was faint with should thus silently and impercephunger, weary with watching, and tibly, without noise, and without with the excess of his emotions. motion almost, fold, as it were, He tasted of his food; he drank within each other, he knew not. with avidity of the water; and reel- He only knew they did so ; and he ing like a drunken man to his straw, vainly strove to persuade himself cast himself upon it to brood again it was the intention of the contriver over the appalling image that had to rack the miserable wretch who fastened itself upon his almost fren- might be immured there, with antizied thoughts.
cipation, merely, of a fate, from He slept. But his slumbers were which, in the very crisis of his agonot tranquil. He resisted, as long ny, he was to be reprieved. as he could, their approach ; and Gladly would he have clung even when, at last, enfeebled nature to this possibility, if his heart would yielded to their influence, he found have let him ; but he felt a dreadful no oblivion from his cares. Terri- assurance of its fallacy. And what ble dreams haunted him-ghastly matchless inhumanity it was to doom visions harrowed up his imagination the sufferer to such lingering tor-he shouted and screamed, as if ments—to lead him day by day to
80 appalling a death, unsupported haps, susceptible of pity. Or if
He feared to breathe, almost, lest “ It is not death I fear,” he ex- he might lose any sound which claimed, “ but the death I must pre- would warn him of their coming. pare for! Methinks, too, I could While thus listening, with every meet even that—all horrible and re- faculty of mind and body strained volting as it is—if it might overtake to an agony of attention, it occurred me now, But where shall I find to him he should be more sensible fortitude to tarry till it come? How of the motion, probably, if he stretchcan I outlive the three long days ed himself along the iron floor. He and nights I have to live? There accordingly laid himself softly down, is no power within me to bid the and had not been long in that posihideous spectre hence-none to tion when-yes-he was certain of make it familiar to my thoughts ; or it—the floor moved under him! myself, patient of its errand. My He sprang up, and in a voice sufthoughts, rather, will flee from me, focated nearly with emotion, called and I grow mad in looking at it. aloud. He paused--the motion Oh ! for a deep sleep to fall upon ceased—he felt no stream of airme! That so, in death's likeness, all was hushed—no voice answered I might embrace death itself, and to his—he burst into tears ; and, as drink no more of the cup that is he sunk to the ground, in renewed presented to me, than my fainting anguish, exclaimed,—“Oh, my spirit has already tasted !"
God! You alone have In the midst of these lamentations, power to save me now, or strengthVivenzio noticed that his accus- en me for the trial you permit.” tomed meal, with the pitcher of Another morning dawned upon water, had been conveyed, as be- the wretched captive, and the fatal fore, into his dungeon. But this index of his doom met his eyes. circumstance no longer excited his Two windows and two days, surprise. His mind over- and all would be over ! Fresh food whelmed with others of a far greater fresh water ! The mysterious magnitude. It suggested, however, visit had been paid, though he had a feeble hope of deliverance; and implored it in vain. But how awthere is no hope so feeble as not to fully was his prayer answered in yield some support to a heart bend- what he now saw ! The roof of the ing under despair. He resolved to dungeon was within a foot of his watch, during the night, for the head. The two ends were so near, signs he had before observed ; and that in six paces he trod the space should he again feel the gentle, between them. Vivenzio shuddertremulous motion of the floor, or ed as he gazed, and as his steps the current of air, to seize that mo- traversed the narrowed area. But ment for giving audible expression his feelings no longer vented themto his misery. Some person must selves in frantic wailings. With be near him, and within reach of folded arms and clenched teeth, his voice, at the instant when his with eyes that were bloodshot from food was supplied ; some one, per- much watching, and fixed with a
vacant glare upon the ground, with crack and crumble in the mighty a hard quick breathing, and a hur- grasp of the iron walls ! Unknowried walk, he strode backwards and ing what it is he does, he fumbles forwards in silent musing for several in his garment for some weapon of hours. What mind shall conceive; self-destruction. He clenches his what tongue utter, or what pen de- throat in his convulsive gripe, as scribe, the dark and terrible charac- though he would strangle himself ter of his thoughts? Like the fate at once. He stares upon the walls, that moulded them, they had no si- and his warring spirit demands, militude in the wide range of this “ Will they not anticipate their ofworld's agony
Suddenly fice, if I dash my head against he stopped, and his eyes were rivet- them ?" An hysterical laugh chokes ed upon that part of the wall which him as he exclaims, “Why should was over his bed of straw. Words I ? He was but a man who died are inscribed there! A human lan- first in their fierce embrace ; and I guage, traced by a human hand! should be less than man not to do He rushes towards them ; but his as much !,” blood freezes as he reads :
The evening sun was descending, “I, Ludovico Sforza, tempted by and Vivenzio beheld its golden the gold of the Prince of Tolli, spent beams streaming through one of the three years in contriving and exe- windows. What a thrill of joy shot cuting this accursed triumph of my through his soul at the sight! It art. When it was completed, the was a precious link, that united perfidious Tolfi, more devil than him, for the moment, with the world man, who conducted me hither one beyond. There was ecstasy in the morning, to be witness, as he said, thought. As he gazed, long and of its perfection, doomed me to be earnestly, it seemed as if the winthe first victim of my own pernicious dows had lowered sufficiently for skill ; lest, as he declared, I should him to reach them. With one bound divulge the secret, or repeat the he was beneath them—with one wild effort of my ingenuity. May God spring he clung to the bars. Whepardon him, as I hope he will me, ther it was so contrived, purposely that ministered to his unhallowed to madden with delight the wretch purpose ! Miserable wretch, who- who looked, he knew not ; but, at e'er thou art, that readest these the extremity of a long vista, cut lines, fall on thy knees, and invoke, through the solid rocks, the ocean, as I have done, His sustaining mer- the sky, the setting sun, olive groves, cy, who alone can nerve thee to shady walks, and, in the farthest meet the vengeance of Tolfi, armed distance, delicious glimpses of magwith his tremendous engine, which, nificent Sicily, burst upon his sight. in a few hours, must crush you, as How exquisite was the cool breeze it will the needy wretch who made as it swept across his cheek, loaded it.”
with fragrance ! He inhaled it as A deep groan burst from Viven- though it were the breath of continuzio. He stood, like one transfixed, ed life. And there was a freshness with dilated eyes, expanded nostrils, in the landscape, and in the rippling and quivering lips, gazing at this of the calm green sea, that fell upon fatal inscription. It was as if a his withering heart like dew upon voice from the sepulchre had sound- the parched earth. How he gazed, ed in his ears, “Prepare !” Hope and panted, and still clung to his forsook him. There was his sen- hold! sometimes hanging by one tence, recorded in those dismal hand, sometimes by the other, and words. The future stood unveiled then grasping the bars with both, as before him, ghastly and appalling. loath to quit the smiling paradise His brain already feels the descend- outstretched before him ; till exing horror,-his bones seemed to hausted, and his hands swollen and
2 ATHENEUM, vol. 5, 3d series.