< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON [Vol. II]  |  > next chapter >


[-133-]

CHAPTER CLXXVIII.

THE TAVERN AT FRIULI.

    THROUGH the broad meadows, thin waving woods, and the delicious valleys which lie on the northern side of the Ferretti, in the State of Castelcicala, two foot-travellers pursued their way.
    Lovely flowed the river amidst the meads that were clothed in the country's everlasting green.
    Busy hamlets, neat farm-houses, and the chateaux of nobles or wealthy gentlemen, varied the appearance of the magnificent landscape.
    Although it was the middle of November, the climate was as mild and genial as that of September in the British Islands: the vines had not been entirely stripped of their luscious fruit; and the citrons, so plentiful that they were but little prized by the inhabitants, grew wild by the road-side.
    Here groups of mighty chesnut-trees afforded a delicious shade to the way-worn traveller: there the tapering spire of a village church, or the white walls and slated roof of some lordly country-seat, appeared above the verdant mulberry-groves.
    Nevertheless, the woodlands of Castelcicala were not characterised by that gloominess of foliage which invests the English and German forests with such awful solemnity; for the leaves were of a brighter green, and the density of their shade was relieved by the luxuriousness of the botany that spread its rich and varied colours over the surface of the land.
    The banks of the Ferretti yielded an immense profusion of aromatic herbs, which imparted a delicious perfume and, at the same time, a freshness to the air.
    Much as those two travellers had been accustomed to admire the loveliness of their own native Eng land, they could not avoid exclamations of joy and surprise as they pursued their way amidst the fertile plains of Castelcicala.
    We need scarcely inform our readers that those travellers were Richard Markham and his faithful Morcar.
    Our hero, dressed in a neat but modest garb and carrying a portfolio of drawing materials under his arm, journeyed along a little in advance of his attendant, who bore a small valise of necessaries.
    In his pocket-book Richard had secured the two passports, for himself and follower, which the interest of Mario Bazzano had obtained, and which were made out in fictitious names.
    Fastened to a riband round his neck, and carefully concealed beneath his raiment was a small morocco leather case, containing the sealed letter left him, with such mysterious instructions, by Thomas Armstrong.
    The well-filled purse which the generosity of the Grand Duchess had supplied, and a map of the Duchy, completed the stock of materials with which the travellers had deemed it fit to furnish themselves.
    Their way now lay, according to the Advice which Richard had received from the Grand Duchess, to wards Friuli: thence it was his intention to strike off abruptly in a longitudinal direction, and, passing between Dandolo and Lipari, proceed straight toward the Neapolitan frontier.
    On the fourth evening the two travellers arrived at Friuli, having walked upon an average thirty miles each day, and slept at night in some cottage or farm-house.
    They did not, however, penetrate into the fine and spacious town which they had now reached; but stopped at a small tavern in the suburbs. There they ordered supper, which was served up to them in the public room, as Richard did not think it prudent to excite notice by having a private apartment.
    Several other persons were sitting in the public room, busily engaged in imbibing the various liquors suited to their respective palates, and discussing, with great solemnity, the political aspect of the State.
    By their conversation Markham judged that they must be the small tradesmen of the suburbs of the town, as they all seemed well acquainted with each other, and spoke as if they were in the habit of meeting at that tavern every evening after the bustle and cares of the day's business.
    "Are you certain, neighbour," said one worthy burgher, addressing himself to another, "that the proclamation will be made to-morrow morning?"
    "I believe, gentlemen," answered the individual thus appealed to "you are all aware that my wife's father is Adjunct to the Mayor of Friuli; and the title of Adjunct is pretty nearly synonymous with that of Deputy. Well, then, gentlemen, my father-in-law being, you perceive, as good as Deputy-Mayor," continued the speaker, thinking that his prosiness would add to his importance, "he cannot fail to be in the mayor's secrets. That once granted, gentlemen, you can easily estimate the value of my authority for the tidings I reported to you just now. You may therefore rely on it, that the proclamation placing the entire province of Montecuculi under martial law, will be read in Friuli, as well as in all the other towns, villages, and hamlets of the aforesaid province, to-morrow morning at nine o'clock."
    "Then I suppose the whole Duchy will be placed under martial law?" observed another member of the party.
    "No doubt of it," said the second speaker. "The worshipful mayor hinted as much to the not less worshipful adjunct, or deputy, this afternoon."
    "The province of Abrantani has been for some time in an exceptional state, you know," said the individual who had first spoken; "and by all accounts, we had much better be under the yoke of the Austrians at once  just like the northern provinces of Italy. I tell you what," added the individual who was now addressing his companions,  "I tell you what," he repeated, sinking his voice almost to a whisper, "there is not a man in Castelcicala who will not be ready to draw his sword against this most odious tyranny."
    "Hush! hush!" exclaimed the relative of the civic authority, as he glanced towards Richard Markham and Morcar; "we do not know who may overhear us, as the adjunct often observes to me."
    "The gentleman is an artist, and looks like a foreigner, too," said the individual whose freedom of speech had provoked this remonstrance: "he is not likely to meddle with our political business."[-134-]
    "Gentlemen," said Richard, "it is true that I understand your language, although I speak it imperfectly; but if you apprehend that I should make any improper use of the remarks which fall from you, I will at once retire to a private room."
    "Well spoken!" ejaculated one of the company. "No, sir   you shall not leave the room on our account, If I mistake not, you must be an Englishman or a Frenchman; and I like both those nations  for they know what true freedom is, while we are slaves,   abject slaves."
    "Yes,  and I admire the English, too," cried the person who had before spoken with so little reserve. "Have they not given an asylum to that excellent Prince who is only exiled because he was the people's friend  because he wished to obtain for us a Constitution that would give us Houses of Parliament or Chambers, to be the bulwark of our liberties? Is not our Grand Duchess an Englishwoman? and has she not exerted herself to the utmost to mitigate the severity of Angelo III? That is no secret. And, when I think of it, I remember hearing at Ossore (where I was, you know, a few days ago,) that it was a young Englishman who rallied the Constitutionalists when they were flying, after the fall of General Grachia."
    "What became of him?" asked one of the company.
    "It is known that he was taken prisoner," was the reply; "but as he disappeared almost immediately afterwards, it is supposed that he was hurried off without delay to one of the fortresses in the interior  Pinalla or Estella, for instance. Poor young fellow  I wish he had had better luck! But, as I was saying, you see we have good reason to admire the English  God bless them!"
    "Amen!" exclaimed several voices.
    The emotions of our hero, while this discourse was progressing, may be more readily imagined than explained: but prudence on his own account, and obedience to the advice of the Grand Duchess, sealed his lips.
    Morcar continued to eat and drink without excitement, because the conversation passing around was totally unintelligible to him.
    The relative of the mayor's adjunct was dilating pompously on the duties of a sovereign, when a post-chaise drove furiously up to the door of the tavern.
    All was immediately bustle and confusion.
    "Horses! four horses wanted!" shouted a voice in the passage.
    Then commenced the rattling of harness,  the running hither and thither of ostlers,  and the usual calling and bawling which characterise such occasions.
    All the inmates of the coffee-room, with the exception of Markham and the gipsy, rushed out to stare at the equipage.
    Scarcely was the room thus left comparatively empty, when a tall man, wrapped in an ample travelling cloak, entered hastily, followed by the landlord.
    "Here-we have not a moment to lose-give me change for this bank-note," cried the traveller.
    "Yes, sir," said the host, and hurried from the room.
    "Signor Bazzano," whispered our hero, who had started from his seat at the sound of the traveller's voice.
    "What! Signor Markham!" said the young aide-de-camp, shaking him kindly by the hand. "This is indeed most fortunate! But I have not a moment to spare. Listen! terrible events have taken place at Montoni: you are in danger. You must separate from your attendant, and each gain the Neapolitan frontier by a separate route. Follow my advice, my dear Markham,  as you value your life!"
    At that moment the host re-appeared with the gold and silver in change for the note; and Bazzano, having hastily consigned the money to his pocket, hurried from time room,  but not before he had darted a significant glance upon our hero.
    In a few moments the post-chaise drove rapidly away.
    Richard returned to his seat in a cruel state of uncertainty, doubt, and suspense.
    What could that precipitate journey mean? was Bazzano the sole occupant of the carriage? what terrible events could have occurred at Montoni? and what was that fearful peril which would oblige him to adopt so painful a precaution as to separate from his companion?
    Richard was at a total loss how to solve these queries which naturally suggested themselves to his mind.
    While he was yet pondering on the singularity of the incidents which had occurred, all within the space of three or four minutes, the company poured back again to the coffee-room.
    "Something mysterious there," said one.
    Yes-a post-chaise with the blinds drawn down," observed another.
    "Four horses  and travelling like wild-fire," exclaimed a third. "The tall man in the cloak, who rode outside, came into this room. What did he want, sir?" demanded the speaker, turning abruptly towards Markham; "for I believe you did not leave the room."
    "He obtained change from the landlord for a bank-note, sir," answered our hero laconically.
    "Oh! that was all  oh? Well  the thing still looks odd  particularly in such troubled times as these. Did anybody hear the orders given to the postillions?"
    "The tall man in the cloak said in a loud voice, 'The road towards Dandolo, my boys!'" observed another of the company.
    Richard smiled imperceptibly; for he thought within himself, "Then it is precisely because Bazzano said in a loud tone, 'Towards Dandolo,' that the travellers are going in another direction."
    The company continued to debate, as all gossips will, upon the incident which had just occurred; and Richard determined to lose no more time ere he explained to Morcar, who had of course recognised the young aide-de-camp, the nature of the warning he had received from this individual.
    He according bade the assembled guests "Good night," and left the room, followed by Morcar.
    At his request, the landlord conducted them to a double-bedded room; and the moment the boat had retired, Richard communicated to the gipsy all that Bazzano had said to him.
    "There is but one course to pursue, sir," exclaimed Morcar.
    "Which is that?" asked Richard.
    "To follow the Castelcicalan officer's advice." returned Morcar. "He saved your life  he restored [-135-] me to your service  and he is incapable of deceiving us. He is your friend, sir-and you must obey him."
    "But, my poor Morcar," said Richard, "I cannot part with you. I have lured you away from your family and native land, to lead you into these difficulties; and I would sooner die than abandon you in a strange country, with even the language of which you are unacquainted."
    "My dear, good master," exclaimed the gipsy, his eyes dimmed with tears, "it will go to my heart to leave you; but if your life is in danger, I shall not hesitate a moment. Besides, the same peril that would overtake one, would crush both, were we together when it came; and it is folly for either of us to run idle risks in such a strait. No  let us follow the advice of your friend."
    "Again, I say, Morcar, that I cannot part with you. Were any thing fatal to happen to you, I should never forgive myself. No," continued Richard, "you shall remain with me. If danger come, it is only I who will suffer  for it seems that it is only my life which is in danger. And this is probable enough."
    "Ah! sir  I am not afraid of myself," exclaimed Morcar: "I would lay down my life to serve you! But I am convinced that you will only attract unpleasant attention to yourself, if you travel with a follower: one person can slip unperceived through so many perilous places, where two together would be suspected. Besides, sir, I shall not be quite so badly off in this strange country, as you suppose."
    'How so, Morcar?" demanded Richard, surveying him with astonishment.
    "There are Zingarees in this land as well as elsewhere," replied Morcar; "and amongst them I shall be safe."
    "On that consideration alone," exclaimed Richard, struck by the truth of the observation, and well-pleased at the idea that his faithful dependant would indeed derive no small benefit, under circumstances, from the aid of that extensive and mysterious freemasonry to which he belonged,  "on that consideration alone I will consent to this separation At day-break we will rise, and each take a different route. I will give you the map of Castelcicala, as its geography has been so well studied by me that I am fully acquainted with the direction of all the principal towns and cities. But let us fix a place where we can meet again. Our grand object must be to gain the city of Naples. On your arrival there, proceed to the abode of the English Consul, and leave with him the name of the inn where you put up: If I have reached Naples before you, that functionary will be enabled to tell you where I am to be found."
    "I will strictly follow your instructions, sir," said Morcar.
    "And now, my good friend," continued our hero, "I must speak to you as if I were making my last will and testament; for heaven alone knows whether I shall ever quit this country alive. You remember the secret of my affection for a noble lady, which I communicated to you the night before we landed on the Castelcicalan coast?"
    'Not a syllable of what you told me, sir, has been effaced from my memory," replied Morcar "You enjoined me that, if any thing fatal should occur to yourself, and Providence should enable me to return to England, I was to seek the Princess Isabella, and break to her the tidings and manner of your death, with the assurance that your last thoughts were given to her!"
    "Such was my request, Morcar," said Richard. "I need now observe little more than repeat it. Let the one who reaches Naples first wait for the other fifteen days; and, if he come not by the expiration of that period, then let him-"
    "Surmise the worst," added Morcar, seeing that our hero hesitated. "Your message to the Princess shall be delivered  if God ordain that so sad a result ensues. And, on your part, sir-if I come not to the place of appointment, and you succeed in reaching it  "
    "Say no more, my dear friend," interrupted Markham, pressing the gipsy's hand; "we understand each other!"
    And they each dashed away the tears from their eyes.
    Richard then divided the contents of his purse into two equal portions, and presented one to Morcar. The gipsy positively refused to accept any thing beyond a few pieces of gold; but Markham was more positive still, and compelled him to assent to the equitable partition of the large sum which Eliza's bounty had supplied.
    They then retired to rest.
    At day-break Markham started up; but he looked in vain for Morcar.
    On the table stood a pile of gold: it was the one which our hero had forced upon the gipsy;  and only two of the pieces had been taken from the heap.
    "Generous man;" cried Markham: "God grant that I may one day be enabled to reward him for his fidelity and devotion to me!"
    Having hastily dressed himself, our hero concealed about his person the few necessaries that were indispensable, and left the remainder in his valise.
    He then descended to the coffee-room, hurried over a slight refreshment, and, having settled the account, took his departure, telling the landlord to keep the valise for him until his return.
    But now how lonely, forlorn, and friendless did he feel, as he hurried away from the inn where he had parted with his faithful dependant!        

< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON [Vol. II]  |  > next chapter >