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Vernet, anxious to fulfil his promise to Antonietta, and to dismiss the revolting subject for ever from his mind, repaired the next morning to Nicastro. He succeeded in obtaining a sentence condemning Peppè Tosco and his two associates to solitary confinement, in a fortress on the coast; and, full of joy, and picturing to himself a sunny futurity, he mounted his horse, to return.
A short time after the departure of Vernet from his quarters, a little old man, in the dress of a mendicant friar, arrived at the masseria, and asked to speak with the officer. He was admitted to Beauchamp, to whom, after numerous salutations and benedicite, he revealed, that he could conduct him to a spot, three or four miles off, on the skirts of the wood, where a small body of robbers, rich with booty they had just captured, might be easily surprised by his troop. He pretended to be very anxious for his own safety, and begged he might be disguised as a French soldier, and mixed with the men, to avoid being seen acting as a guide by any of the country people, who would not fail to inform the brigands, and so bring down certain destruction upon him. All this deceived Beauchamp: he unreflectingly fell into the snare, and leaving six or seven men to guard the house, prepared to march with the rest of his company. Accordingly, to the great amusement of the soldiers, the guide's "holy wool” was stripped off, and after a deal of trying on and fitting, his droll figure was equipped in a chasseur's uniform, and his burly person placed between two
soldiers. They set out at full speed: in the course of an hour, they reached the spot referred to by the priest, panting from the rapidity of their movements—for the pseudo friar had made them race like a pack of houndswhere the reverend gentleman came to a serious halt, and told Beauchamp that as they were within a few shots of the brigands, he must go forward in his monastic dress to lure them into the toils. “Do you, meanwhile,” said he, “keep yourself concealed among this brushwood, and do not move until you hear my shrill whistle ; -in ten minutes you will have them, and the whole of their booty in your hands.” He now resumed his former toilette, retaining only the good blue breeches — part of his military disguise that could not be seen under his monk's garments — and advanced at an exceedingly brisk pace into the wood.
The soldiers followed his advice, and lay down without moving or speaking: ten minutes passed away—a quarter of an hour —half an hour; but when nearly an hour had elapsed, and no other sounds were heard than the chirping of the little birds that were fitting about in: the woods, Beauchamp arrived at the very mortifying conclusion, that he had been duped, and with hearty curses on the fugitive friar, ordered his men homeward. When he approached the outward gate of the musseria, he, perceived, to his great dismay, that the ground was in several places stained with blood; and hastening on to the house, he soon learned the object of the trick that
had been played upon him. The room where Peppe Tosco and his companions had been confined, was broken open, and two of his men were lying dead near the doorway: Beauchamp was now informed by a wounded soldier, who had just descended the stairs, that soon after he had set out with the monk, the masseria was surrounded by a number of robbers, who advanced and attacked the few French that remained; they had defended the prison as long as they could, and after two of them had been killed, the others retreated, with the people of the house, to the upper part of a small square tower, in which they had barricaded themselves, and whence they had seen the brigands carry off the prisoners in triumph.
“Truly,” said Beauchamp to himself, when he recovered from the excess of his rage and mortification,“ truly I have got myself into a pretty scrape: how shall I answer for this to Vernet? He will call me a madman for having trusted to any thing in the shape of a monk ! Oh, I shall be ashamed to see his face!” But that face he had never to see again lit up with life!—He had nothing more to fear from its biting, sarcastic air,- or to hope from its commiserating and friendly expression! Its muscles had moved for the last time, and were now fixed in the rigid languor of death!
Poor Vernet, cantering gaily homeward, attended by only one soldier, had reached a little thicket not far from his quarters, when a shot, from an unseen hand, laid his attendant upon the earth. The next instant, he saw Peppè Tosco, by the side of a tree, aiming at him, and in another moment, the villain's shot had pierced his heart! When the brigands rushed on the body of the unfortunate young man, in search of plunder, they found three or four dollars—the whole of his worldly wealth, an edition of Horace, a lock of Antonietta's hair, and a pardon for his assassin, Peppè Tosco. The bodies were discovered in the evening by some soldiers returning with forage: the orderly-man was not dead, and had just breath enough to relate the above particulars.
The sad news soon reached Antonietta: it almost killed her. Indeed, her real existence ended at that moment; for she was soon induced to bury herself in the deadening monotony and unserviceable sanctity of a monastery, with all her youth, and beauty, and disposition for the loftiest virtues.
[This narrative was written at Naples, after a tour in the Calabrias, and while the scenes I have attempted to describe, were fresh in my mind. The whole of the story, with a very slight exception, is matter of fact. The attacks and decoys of the brigands were related by an eye-witness,—an officer in the French service. -CHARles Mac FARLANE].
HYMN TO LIBERTY.
BY W. S. WALKER, ESQ.
Yet were life a charnel, where
O Freedom! who can tell thy worth,
Thou art the chain from heaven suspended,