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with the secret passage into which the countess had previously flown, and having opened it, they hurried up a narrow staircase, built in the thickness of the wall, and soon arrived at the sliding panel.
An eyelet-hole enabled them to examine the room, and perceiving nothing, Caterina touched the spring, and found the apartment empty. The sound of heavy footsteps told them that a guard was pacing to and fro within the corridor. Whispering a word to the countess, Malvezzio drew his poniard, and waiting till the footsteps turned, stealthily followed the man and stabbed him to the heart.
While this was executed, the princess flew to the adjoining chamber, and found there only a female attendant, seated beside a couch, on which the two youngest children were lying, while Ottavio was slumbering in a chair. On seeing her, the attendant could not repress a cry; but Caterina, snatching up the two youngest children, ordered the woman to follow her with the boy. The infant thus hastily disturbed from its slumbers, cried loudly, but was speedily pacified by the countess.
The alarm, however, had been given. A second man-at-arms, at the lower end of the corridor, hearing the groan of his comrade, hastened to the spot, and, attacking the commandant with his pike, shouted loudly for aid. Tumultuous sounds from below proclaimed that the whole guard was roused. Not a moment, therefore, was to be lost. Clasping her precious charges to her bosom, the countess flew to the further room, followed by Francesca, and the
Just as they gained it, Cecco del Orso appeared at the further end of the corridor. Aroused by the noise, he had flown to ascertain the cause of it; and on beholding his prey thus snatched from him, dashed forward, with a furious ejaculation. He was attended by his officers, Ronco and Panzero, and a host of men-at-arms. Seeing no other means of accomplishing the countess's escape, Malvezzio called her to fly, and planted himself resolutely in the path of the condottierre. His fate appeared certain; but Cecco ordered his men not to kill him, as he would prove & valuable hostage. In the terrible struggle that followed, Malvezzio, glancing backwards, perceived that the fugitives were gone, but that the secret door was left open. On descrying this, he leaped backwards, and dashing through the aperture before any one could intercept him, succeeded in closing the door.
Nigh frantic with rage, Cecco ordered the panel to be burst open ; but this was a work of some difficulty, and before the necessary implements could be procured, it was evident that the fugitives would have made good their retreat. Leaving the accomplishment of the task to Ronco and some of the others, he hurried off with Panzero to search the garden, as he concluded the secret passage must have an outlet in that direction.
Meanwhile, Malvezzio overtook the countess and her companions just as they were issuing forth. A few seconds enabled them to gain the grove where the horsemen were concealed. In another instant the countess was mounted, and the nurse and children committed to the care of the troopers; Malvezzio himself taking the infant in his arms. Scarcely was this accomplished, than Cecco del Orso and his men appeared. The fugitives were instantly discovered, and several bolts were launched at them, one of which struck Malvezzio on the right hand, but notwithstanding the pain it occasioned him, he kept fast hold of his charge.
“Whither shall we go, madam?” he demanded of the countess.
“To the citadel-to the citadel!" she rejoined.
The distance between the palace and the fortress was speedily cleared. Dashing through the ranks of the insurgents, most of whom were buried in slumber, they crossed the drawbridge, which their vigilant friends on seeing them had caused to be instantly lowered. As the last man passed over, and as the gateway received the countess and her children, the baffled condottiere reached the edge of the moat. He made an effort to vault upon the bridge, which was just rising, but was stricken backwards, and had only the mortification of hearing Malvezzio's laugh of defiance as he entered the fortress.
On dismounting from her steed, Caterina flung herself on her knees, and offered up heartfelt thanks to Heaven for the providential deliverance of her children. She then proceeded to a chamber where the young count and his little sister, notwithstanding the alarm they had so recently undergone, were speedily composed to slumber.
Accompanied by the nurse Francesca, bearing the infant, Caterina next descended by a deep stone staircase into the great hall of the citadel where several of the officers were carousing. It was a long chamber lighted by a brass lamp suspended from the coved stone ceiling, and was chiefly remarkable for the enormous thickness of its walls, as shown by the deep embrasures on either side. Across it stood a large oak table, at which, on huge benches of the same material, the officers were seated, making the vaulted roof ring with their joyous toasts and laughter. In one of the embrasures two damsels were stationed gazing into the outer court, where a great fire had been lighted, the ruddy blaze of which was reflected in the hall, while a third damsel was listening to the converse of an amorous young soldier.
On seeing the countess, the officers instantly arose, and saluting her, expressed their delight at the success of the enterprise. Thanking them, Caterina begged that her presence might be no restraint upon their mirth, and took a seat on a couch, placed near an antique oak cabinet full of silver drinking vessels, and surmounted by breast-plates, morions, and pikes, while Francesca took a seat on a rich carpet spread out at the feet of her mistress, and tried to hush the babe to repose. For some time, the countess remained with her head resting against her hands, pondering over the strange and terrible events that had recently occurred. She was roused from her abstraction, by hearing the tread of armed men approaching, and looking up, saw Malvezzio, attended by a dozen pikemen, enter the upper part of the hall from a passage on the right. As he approached, Caterina rose to meet him.
“ You bring good news, commandant ?" she said, noticing the glad expression of his countenance.
"I do, madam,” he replied. “I am persuaded that the success of your achievement has wrought a great and most desirable change in the temper of the insurgents. They have refused to obey Cecco's orders for another attack.”
“ Ha!” exclaimed Caterina, joyfully.
“ And, what is more,” returned Nalvezzio, “the condottiere's messengers have just returned from Faenza, bringing word that the commissary, Antonio Boscoli, refuses to send assistance to the rebels.”
« Lorenzo de Medicis, then, disowns all share in the deed?” cried the countess.
“ It is his policy to do so, madam,” returned the commandant. “ Having used Cecco as an instrument of vengeance, he will now leave him to his fate. Have you any further orders, madam?".
“ Announce to the insurgents that I offer a free pardon to all, with three exceptions, if they throw down their arms, and own their allegiance to the Count Ottavio.
“ The exceptions, madam, are
“ The assassins of my husband— Cecco del Orso, Ludovico Panzero, and Jacopo Ronco. I will not spare them.”
“ The proclamation shall be instantly made," replied the commandant. “Go, Orlando,” he added, to an officer, “ and summon a herald."
And as the officer departed, he said—“Is this all, madam ?"
" It is,” she replied. “Stay,” she added, quickly. “What ails your hand, Malvezzio ?"
“ I have been hit by a quarrel from an arbalist,” he replied, carelessly.
“ The wound must give you great pain. Let me dress it,” she rejoined.
And taking ointment from a medicine-pouch suspended to her side, with which she had provided herself previous to her late perilous expedition, she anointed the wound, and then bound it round with linen.
* Of a surety, the hurt is much easier,” said Malvezzio, as he submitted to the gentle ministry.
Enchanted with Caterina's kindness, several of the officers drinking at the table rose, and lifting their tall glasses, charged with wine to the brim, above their heads, shouted A health to our brave and noble
*Thanks, my friends," she replied; "but I pray you drink, also, to the health of your brave commandant, for to him I owe my freedom, and the lives of my children.”
“ Health to Malvezzio!-health to our brave commandant !" cried the officers, again raising their glasses.
Repairing to the gateway, Malvezzio caused a trumpet to be blown thrice ; after which, the proclamation was made by a herald. It was received in perfect silence by the rebels, and the commandant, fearing some surprise might be intended, kept his men in readiness throughout the night.
About an hour before daybreak, a thick fog came on, and the darkness was so intense, that he could not discern a single object. He heard, however, a stir amongst the insurgent army, followed by suppressed groans, coming from the direction of the gibbet ; and then all was still.
After a while, not even the tread of a sentinel could be heard; but as the darkness continued, and he was apprehensive of a sudden assault, he ordered his men to redouble their vigilance. In this way, he anxiously awaited the dawn.
Meanwhile, Caterina had in vain sought repose. Visions of her loved and slaughtered husband continually flitted before her eyes, and chased sleep from them. As soon as it became light she arose, and had just left the room, when she met Malvezzio hurrying towards her. Perplexed by the strange and undefinable expression of his countenance, she hastily demanded the nature of his errand.
“ Come with me, madam, and you shall learn,” he replied. And without a word more he led the way to the battlements.
Arrived there, Caterina uttered an exclamation of surprise. The insurgent army was gone. Her husband's body had been removed from the gibbet, and in its place three others were swinging. A glance at these wretches showed her that they were the assassins of the count--the condottiere Cecco, and his two officers.
satisfied, madam ?” asked Malvezzio. “ I have never beheld, fairer sight,” replied the countess, with a terrible smile which gave her, for a moment, the appearance of an avenging fury. “ Call Count Ottavio! Take him forth, and proclaim him throughout the city Lord of Forli and Imola !"
[See notice of the Baroness Calabrella's "Evenings at Haddon Hall.”— Post, p. 419.)
MY ROOM'IN THE COUNTRY.
BY ANDREW WINTER.
With aspect south, my
Of pictures round I would have few,
Athwart its face should slowly melt,
Not all alone I'd keep apart
One window should be trellised deep With jasmine stems, and you should peep An arm's depth through the shelt'ring green ; And there should struggle up between A rose tree, and its blooms above, Heavy as woman's heart with love, Should, when the fitful winds bode rain, Throb gently 'gainst the casement pane. The lattice I'd have open wide (The hindring stems just push'd aside) Upon the cool deep grass of June, 'Thwart which there should be swathes beat down, Such as we trench with feet all white From dusty roads with pure delight, Just issuing from a city hived, With pure delight, and heart revived That we have lived once more to feel God's breath about the country steal. And when an idle fit came on, I'd ope the window, and the song Of birds in high up branches clear Let in upon my charmed ear. And as I lay at length, the breeze From base to spire the poplar trees Should ever stir with slumberous song, Whilst quiver'd all their leafy throng.. And, like a fall of summer snow, The apple blooms should softly flow, 'Till every nook within the room Was filld with drifts of fresh perfume. Then musing, half awake, I'd lie, And, as I gazed, a bird should fly Swiftly across the window pane, And then a full shrill note should strain, Right in my ear, and as I mused, Both sight and sound should grow confused ; But still, within my inmost brain, That bird's song should bring back again With one sad touch of sense refined, Some old forgotten state of mind.