George Hooker Colton.

The American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 14) online

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riveted his attention, and then indeed he felt
convinced that he had been transported to
the garden of some enchantress, so strange,
and, as it were, so marvellous was the spec-
tacle offered to his glances.

In the centre of a -wide lawn, which was
intersected by a verdant arbor, a fountain
cast its waters into the air, which fell in cas-
cades into a basin of white marble. Tall
trees environed this lawn on every side, and
through various openings, skilfully contrived
between their long files of green and waving
boughs, was seen, here and there, an old di-
lapidated turret, or on the summit of some
ascending labyrinth a Belvidere, concealing
its antiquity beneath garlands of flowers and
luxuriant herbage. Here and there tame
deer darted from the depths of these woods,
and came to sport upon the lawn ; beautiful
birds, with hooked beaks, discordant notes,
and dazzling plumage, rocked on the tops of
the trees, pursued from branch to branch
by marmosets, whose shrill cries re-echoed
through the wood as often as they saw the
former take to flight at their approach.

About a score of persons of both sexes,
elegantly attired, were assembled around the
fountain. The most joyous hberty, the most
famihar intimacy seemed to prevail among
this group. Some chased the deer, which
suffered them to approach and caress them ;
others were walking to and fro, arm in arm,
laughing and discoursing together. The
greater number were reclining upon the herb-
age, some partaking, amid the flowers, of a
rural repast, othei-s playing at dice, or sing-
ing to the accords of the mandolin. Pure
and unmingled joy seemed to prevail among
them ; their radiant brows, their expanded
and smiling lips betrayed no regret for the
past, no care for the present or the future.
It was a fair sight, in truth, to see them sport-



ing thus with the careless ingenuousness of
childhood, beneath the bright blue sky, un-
der the shade of those tall green trees, and
amid the cool vapors of that magnificent cas-
cade, whose murmurs fell with such melody
upon the ear.

A single person formed a remarkable con-
trast to this joyous assemblage, casting by
her presence something strange and myste-
rious upon this charming scene. It was a
young maiden, younger and more beautiful
than any of those who surrounded her. Her
step was at times abrupt and irregular, at
times slow and melancholy, and her glance
now wandered careless and wild, and was
now fixed in gloom upon the ground. She
displayed all the symptoms of madness, and
still no one seemed to sympathize in her con-
dition, no one seemed to perceive her pres-
ence. The games, the laughter, the songs
were still prolonged, and not a person pres-
ent appeared to remark the movements of
the poor maniac.

An indifference so profound to a misfor-
tune so touching, above all, at such an age ;
a joy so natural and so unrestrained in the
presence of madness, was something singu-
lar and inexplicable, and it appeared to pro-
duce a violent impression upon the imagin-
ation of the young horseman who witnessed
this scene, for he deeply sympathized with
the young maiden ; still he remained rooted
to his place by some irresistible emotion.

The poor maniac had approached the ba-
sin, where she kneeled, collected the daisies
and butter- cups that grew around her, ar-
ranged them into a nosegay, and having
dipped them in the water, rose, walked slowly
towards those who, extended upon the grass,
were enjoying a rustic meal, and scattered
the flowers upon the viands, murmuring at
the same time a few notes of a sad and se-
rious melody.

The persons who composed the group did
not even raise their heads ; they cast aside
the daisies and butter-cups, and continued
their repast as if nothing had interrupted it.
Then the young girl collected one by one
her poor slighted flowers. As she stooped
to raise them from the ground, she addressed
to each some words, bathing it with her tears ;
and when she had gathered them all, she car-
ried them to a young fawn, which ate them
from her hand. When not a single one re-
mained, she untied a cord of silk and gold
which encircled her waist, fastened it about



1851.



JBenvenuto Cellini.



165



the fawn's neck, and disappeared with the
animal in the forest.

Scarcely had she vanished when those
whom she had left started suddenly from the
ground, and then stood motionless and stu-
pefied as if a thunderbolt had burst above
their heads. The young horseman, who had
watched all the maniac's gestures with such
interest, had just leaped his steed across the
wide ditch which surrounded the castle, and
with a single bound was in the midst of the
gay throng. For some moments they stood
confounded at this act of audacity. When
the first feeling of surprise had passed, every
man rushed indignantly towards the bold
intruder, and one of them, grasping him by
the throat, dragged him rudely from his
horse.

The young man leaped up so suddenly,
that it seemed as if he had scarcely touched
the groimd, and confronting the one who had
just forced him from the saddle, he cast a
fierce glance upon him, and half drew his
poiguard from its sheath. Still he did not
attempt to execute the significant menace
intimated by this energetic gesture.

The man from whom he had suffered this
indignity was of lofty stature, and so vigor-
ously formed, that he seemed endowed with
strength sufficient to crush him in his hands.
His temples, worn by the chafing of his
casque, his lofty, calm, and intrepid brow,
the large mustachios, which covered half his
face, together with his cold and sarcastic air,
his imperturbable attitude as he faced that
poignard which was raised against his breast,
all gave him an aspect singularly imposing.
Whether it were that his adversary was
daunted by an exterior so intimidating, or
whether another thought, flashing across his
mind, had changed his resolution, he restored
his poignard to its sheath, and calmly pick-
ing up his cap, which had rolled to a distance,
and returning to the man fi-ora whom he had
received so serious an afiront, he said :

"Your name. Sir?"

" I am very willing to tell it to you," re-
plied the other, " but I will first give you a
little piece of information, which Avill prob-
ably cool your curiosity."

" Let me hear it."

" About a year since, a personage, whom
I had treated somewhat roughly — as I have
you — demanded my name — like you — and,
on the following day, the poor fool sufi'ered
my sword to pass through his body ; and



this was the eighth that I had cui-ed of the
sin of curiosity. Do you still wish to learn
my name ?"

" Most certainly."

" Well, then, my poor friend, know that
I am Captain Hector Fiaramonti."

" I shall not forget it."

" The d — 1 is in it, if you do not forget it
within twenty-four hours. I am in the habit
of acting generously with my adversaries ;
I always allow thera twenty-four hours of
exist(?nce, before I send them to the shades."

" It is a display of generosity that I am
willing to recognize, by giving you a piece
of information in my turn."

" It must be something curious."

" You shall judge. Do you see this, and
this ?"

He pointed with his finger to two deep
scars that he had received, the one upon the
temple, the other above the left eyebrow.

"A man almost as robust as you," he con-
tinued, " and perhaps as skilful in the use of
his weapons, grossly insulted me one day ;
it is now two years since. I challenged him,
and he came upon the ground, scoffing at
my youth and weakness, for I was then even
more slender and delicate than I am to-day ;
but I calculated neither my strength nor my
skill in the art of fence. The result was
such as might have been expected. 1 was
stretched upon the meadow, with this wound
upon my temple, a wound which brought
me to the verge of the grave, and confined
me for eight months to my bed. As soon
as I was healed, my first thought was to seek
out my victorious adversary ; and after hav-
ing roamed over all Italy, I encountered him
at Milan. We fought a second time, and I
received another wound, which, like the first,
was almost mortal, and the scar of which
you see here, above my eyebrow. This
double failure, the result of which had, in
both cases, so nearly proved fatal to me, had
not yet aj^peased the thirst for vengeance
that devoured me ; and as soon as I had re-
covered health and strength, I hastened to
Rome, where I learned that my enemy was
passing the summer. He laughed in my
face when I challenged him to a third com-
bat ; but an hour after he laughed no longer."

" You wounded him ?"

" I slew him. Captain Hector Fiaramonti,
remember this narrative ; I shall soon re-
mind you of it. And now, gentlemen, is
the Prince Vivaldi pi-esent among you ?"



166



Bmvenuto Cellini.



August,



" He is before you," replied an old man,
whose white beard, whose sad and serious
features, were well adapted to inspire respect.

" Prince, will you consent to grant me a
moment's interview ?"

" The manaer in which you have intro-
duced yourself here, Signor, might well jus-
tify me in refusing your request ; still I deem
you already too severely punished, by the
lesson which the Captain Hector has given
you ; therefore I will not treat you rigorously.
I will hsten to you, but in the presence of
these knights and dames, who are ray friends,
and when you have told me your name."

"My name is Fiorentino."

" And you are a soldier, doubtless, if I
may judge by your exterior ?"

" No ; I follow another caUing."

" And what have you to communicate to
me, that is of such importance ? What has
brought you hither V

" I have come to heal your daughter, if
you will confide her to my care."

" You !" cried the Prince, casting a glance
of astonishment upon the young man, whose
exterior promised none of those qualifications
that in all ages are required of a physician.

He whispered a few words in the ear of
another old man, of an austere and imposing
visage. The latter rephed by an incredulous
smile, and cast upon Fiorentino a glance of
the most profound contempt.

" I thank you," repHed the Prince at last ;
" but here is Messire Pezzolini, whose repu-
tation is widely spread throughout Italy, and
it is to him that I have intrusted my daugh-
ter's recovery."

With these words he pointed to the old
man with whom he had just spoken.

"And during the year that Messire Pez-
zolini has been engaged in this task, what
has been his progress ? Scarcely such as to
promise great hopes of his success. Since
the first day of his attendance he has not
advanced a step towards the desired result.
Well, if you are wiUing to trust to my skill,
I engage to heal her in three days."

"This young man is mad!" said Messire
Pezzolini, disdainfully.

" Decidedly mad !" re-echoed Captain Fia-
ramonti, turning his back upon the stranger.

The Prince cast a glance of compassion
upon Fiorentino, and departed, followed by
all present.

But the young man hastened after him,
and barring his passage, said :



" Prince, pardon me for still insisting ; but
I feel a profound conviction that I shall be
successful in the cure that I wish to under-
take. I cannot ofter my life as a guarantee,
since I am to venture it against Captain
Fiaramonti, but I offer you my good steed,
Uzelino, which I value more than life."

The Prince Vivaldi cast an irresolute
glance upon those who stood around him ;
so tenacious a resolution moved him in his
own despite.

" Remember," resumed Fiorentino, " that
during the year that she has been a maniac,
your daughter's condition has remained un-
altered, and that the more inveterate her
malady, the more difficult will be the cure.
Let her madness endure yet for a year, and
without wishing to question the skill of
Messire Pezzolini, I declare that it will be
incurable."

"And you aspire to do that which is
beyond the science of Signor Pezzolini ?"

" I do ; and I demand three days to give
the proof."

" What say you to this self-confidence,
Signor ?" said the Prince, turning to the old
man.

"I say. Prince, that it will be the first
time that I have ever seen a madman cure
madness. If you are inclined to make the
trial, however, I confess I am not less curious
than you to see the result."

" So, then, it is agreed," said Fiorentino ;
"your daughter's health is, from this mo-
ment, intrusted to my care ; and for three
days I assume the responsibility of her cure."

" Well, bo it so ! I consent."

" And if within three days I do not fulfil
my engagement, my poor Uzelino is yours.
A word more. Every means which it shall
please me to employ, in order to reach my
aim, shall be left at my disposal, provided
Siffnor Pezzolini acknowledaies them to be
without danger V

" Certainly."

" In addition, I will act always beneath
your eyes, and those of the persons here
present. And now that you have accepted
my proposal, Prince Vivaldi, I wish to be
informed on many points. It would be well
that I should learn the cause of this madness,
and the means that have been employed to
heal it."

" Let us sit upon this greensward, my
young Signor, and I will relate all to you."

All the assemblage, both men and worpo»i^



1851.



Benvenuto Cellini.



167



seated themselves upon the grass. Fiorentino
took a place in their midst, enduring with
imperturbable calmness the scotiing glances
which were cast upon him from all sides.

" Signer, I listen !" he said to the Prince.

The Prince began. "When I lost my
wife, the Princess," he said, stifling a sigh,
" I sent this poor child to my sister, who dwelt

near the little village of W , wishing to

remove Vanina for a while fi'om the spot
where her mother had just breathed her last.
I left her there for six months, at the expira-
tion of which time I wrote to my sister to
send her back to me, as I had resolved to
conclude her marriage with Captain Fiara-
monti ; a marriage which had been agreed
upon before her departure. The domestic
whom I dispatched with this letter returned
in a few days with an answer from my sister,
in which she prayed me to leave Vanina with
her for some time, as she was ill, and found
in the society of her niece a great relief to
the sufterings that she endured. I could not
refuse without hai-shness. I left my daughter
■with her, notwithstanding the remonstrances
of the Captain, who was vexed at this new
delay, and I waited patiently for my sister's
recovery, that she might send her back to me.

"Still, as after an interval of two months
she did not return, I resolved to go for her,
and I set out with the Captain, who persisted
in accompanying me, in order that he might,
a few days earlier, see her who was soon to
be his wife. But we were both far from
anticipating the misfortune that awaited us
at the end of our journey. We reached my
sister's mansion, after a ride of two days.
She was dead ! I advanced to embrace my
daughter. She uttered a piercing shriek
when she beheld us, and fell senseless to the
floor. When we raised her, she was a maniac !
Was this sad event to be attributed to grief
at her aunt's death, or to our sudden ap-
pearance ? Alas, I cannot say. I questioned
all those among whom she had lived, as to
her pleasures, her habits, the persons whom
she visited, collecting the slightest particu-
lars, in the hope of discovering some fact
that could enlighten me. I learned nothing,
except that during her aunt's malady, she
often went to pass part of her days in a
neighboring castle, in which dwelt a young
maiden, an intimate friend, of about her own
age. I repaired to this castle ; its occupants
had left it several days before.

"Overwhelmed with grief, we returned



hither with my poor child, and I at once
dispatched a messenger to Messire Pezzo-
lini, begging him to come upon the instant,
and to employ for my daughter's cure all
the means that lay in his power, let the cost
be what it might. Messire Pezzolini in-
formed me that it was necessary that Vanina
should have, incessantly, charming scenes
before her eyes, and gay society continually
around her ; that she should often receive
novel and always agreeable impressions. It
was of great importance, above all, he said,
that she should enjoy the utmost hberty,
and that no one should appear to regard
her movements, however singular and sense-
less they might be. All these instructions
have been scrupulously fullowed. I have so
arranged every thing within and about this
mansion that the eyes of my poor Vanina
can always repose upon a beautiful and
varied landscape. I have gathered around
her a circle of devoted friends, who aid my
eftbrts with all their power ; and, in fine, no
one appears to hear her incoherent words,
or see her unmeaning glances. This is all
that we have thus far tried, and, until now,
these means have remained without result.
She has not yet displayed a ray of reason."

" Well, Signor Fiorentino," said Messire
Pezzohni, in a tone of irony, " do you ap-
prove of these measures ?"

" I approve of them much ; but this will
not prevent me from pursuing a course
directly opposite. I have conceived a plan
that I have formed from my observations
upon nature and the human mind."

" We are about to see something rare, I
think."

" You will see a cure effected, which you
have looked upon as hopeless. I do not
think that there is any thing rare in that."

"That which I see most clearly in this
arrangement," said Captain Fiaramonti, "is
that the Signor Fiorentino gains thereby
two days of existence, upon which he had
no. right to count ; and this proves that he is
a skilful man, to say the least."

" You have no farther particulars to tell
me concerning your daughter V said Fioren-
tino to the Prince, without replying to this
insolent speech.

" You remind me of one thing that I had
forgotten ; one thing rather singular indeed.
Among the friends who have been willing
to seclude themselves with me in this man-
sion is a young sculptor, the Signor Gabuzzi,



Benvenuto Cellini.



August,



■who is now seated at your side. As lie could
not renounce Lis art, he has arranged for
himself a studio in my castle ; my daughter
often repairs thither, and seems to take the
greatest ple;asure in examining, one by one,
the productions of his chisel. Chief of all,
there is a vase of bronze there, for which she
has shown such decided partiality, that my
young friend has consented to have it placed
in her chamber, and she often passes long-
hours in admiring it, conversing with it, and
sometimes kissing it, or bathing it with her
tears."

"And is there any person here for whom
she seems to display a marked attachment ?"

" Yes ; she manifests an evident predilec-
tion for Captain Fiaramonti."

" Very well ; all this suits admirably with
my plan. I need but one thing, and your
daughter's recovery is certain. It is neces-
sary that one of these charming Signoras
should consent to consider me, for an hour
only, as a favored lover. Beautiful Signo-
rina," said Fiorentino, turning to a pretty
maiden, who was seated a few paces from
him, "will you refuse to assist me in this
little comedy ?"

" On the contrary, I will do so very will-
ingly, Signor."

" The sacrifice that I have to demand of
Signor Gabuzzi and the Captain Fiaramonti
is somewhat more difficult, but I do not
doubt that both will be sufficiently generous
to accord it to me."

" What can I do to serve you V said the
artist.

" I need your vase of bronze."

" And I ?" said the Captain.

"I need your life. When I shall have
broken both, the Princess will no longer be
a maniac, and in three days, Captain Hector
Fiaramonti, she will have recovered her rea-
son."

CHAPTER II.
THE FIRST TRIAL.

On the following morning, at break of
day, all the guests of the villa Juliana, ex-
cept Fiorentino, were assembled around the
fountain. They were discoursing of this
strange personage, and the convereation was
very animated, for in the bold engagement
which he had taken upon himself, and the
first trial of which he was now about to
make, he found as many partisans as ojipo-



nents. The women, especially, always fond
of the marvellous, warmly defended him
against the attacks of Captain Fiaramonti,
who represented him as a contemptible ad-
venturer.

" If he were a man of courage," said the
Captain, " would he have coldly borne, as he
did yesterday, the most deadly insult that a
man can suffer V

' " But did you not remark. Captain," ob-
served the sculptor Gabuzzi, "the rage that
sparkled in the glance that he cast at you
on I'ising, and the rapidity with which he
placed his hand upon his poignard to avenge
the aflVont ?"

"Most certainly," rephed the Captain.
" I remarked all that very plainly ; but I saw
also, and you saw it as well as I, that this
great rage disappeared as soon as he saw
with whom he had to deal."

" It may be so, but I cannot believe that
this man is a coward. There is that about
him which too completely contradicts this
opinion."

" You think, then, that he will not try to
escape, in order to avoid the combat V

" I believe so, firmly."

"And have you the same confidence in
his science as in his courage ?"

'^ No ; and still I do not deny that he
possesses it. I cannot resolve to pass judg-
ment upon this matter before the issue of
the first trial, which we are about to witness."

" If he ventures to attempt it, indeed ; for
I do not see him approach."

" Here he is. Captain."

Fiorentino, in truth, now joined those who
expected him so impatiently, and with sen-
timents so diverse. His air was firm and
decided, but grave and thoughtful.

"Prince, and you, Signorina," he said,
addressing Vivaldi and the young maiden
who was to aid him in his attempt, "the
Princess Vanina is at this moment in this
meadow, on the borders of the large sheet
of water. Be so good as to accompany me."

The three went, and the rest folloAved
them at some distance, as far as the middle
of the meadow.

When there, Fiorentino begged them to
pause, the Prince Vivaldi with the rest, and
advancing alone with the young Signorina,
they took their seats upon the grass, at a
few steps' distance from the poor maniac,
wlio was gazing at the water that murmured
at her feet.



1851.



Benvenuto Cellini.



169



"Your name, beautiful Signorina?" said
Fiorentino to the young maiden, "or that
which it pleases you to adopt ?"

"My name is Giulia."

" Well then, my charming Giulia, be so
kind as to imagine for a moment that you
have given me all your soul, and, without
anger, suffer me to take those slight favors
that are granted to a happy lover."

" Well, Signor," said Giuha, smiling, " I
will not refuse you."

" And bear well in mind, divine Signorina,
that it is very important for the success of
our enterprise that you should do all that
I demand of you with the most rigorous
punctuality."

" Command ! I will obey."

" In the first place, it is necessary that I
should sit somewhat lower than you do —
so 1 that is very well ; then my head must
rest partly upon your lap, and my lips must
touch your hand as I speak to you."

"Tliis is all, I suppose?"

"This is all, as regards the pantomime,
divine Giulia ! But I must address words
of love to you, and it is necessary for you to
answer."

" That appears to me a little singular."

"It is nothing but a jest; and then have
you not promised to obey me with the do-
cihty of a child ?"

" Well, then, be it so ! Murmur in my
ear your words of love, and I will do my
best to suit you in my answers."

"I commence then, for here comes the
Princess."

The poor girl, in truth, had just perceived
the young pair, in the attitude indicated by
Fiorentino, and she seemed to feel a sudden
agitation at the sight; then she advanced
slowly towards them, her lips smiHng, her
brow radiant. As soon as he saw her ap-
proach, Fiorentino half leaned his head upon
the lap of the beautiful Giuha, and spoke to
her in the language agreed upon between
them.

At this decisive moment no one thought
longer of jesting ; the most vivid anxiety
seized upon every mind, and the Prince
Vivaldi, his heart palpitating, his eyes fixed
upon his child, almost swooned beneath the
violence of his emotions.

Vanina approached close to Fiorentino,
and bent her head aside, the more distinctly
to hear the words that he addressed to
Giulia.

VOL. VIII. NO. II. NEW SERIES.



" Do you see, beloved Giulia," said the
young man, " do you see these waters so
calm, these islands so verdant, that horizon



Online LibraryGeorge Hooker ColtonThe American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 14) → online text (page 16 of 89)