From "The Italian Novelists" translated from the originals with Critical and Biographical Notices by Thomas Roscoe; Frederick Warne and Co.; London; [undated edition, c. 1900; first published, 1824]; pp. 238-250.
Novels of Gentile Sermini.
At such times he would exclaim, “Oh, wretched, wretched Gallio! How dare I even imagine these means of revenge? — revenge at the expense of my beloved Cardina! To injure her father is to injure her — her whom I must ever worship and ever serve, though the daughter of my bitterest enemy! Oh, distraction! I am torn with contending duties; I am injured, and I burn for revenge; I love, and yet I am about to offend the object of my idolatry. For, alas! I must do it, or remain for ever dishonoured! Hath he not driven me forth as a rebel and a traitor from my native place? Yet thou, my love, my Cardina, were not here to blame, for I fondly trust thou hast shed tears over my lot. When shall I behold thee — when return to Belfiore again? O, ye gods! that I could cease to think, cease to exist, under the cruel thoughts that rack me! For revenge ought to call louder than my love, and yet I know I can do nothing to displease her. Fester thy base heart, Marmoreo, that could conceive the foul and vindictive purpose of rendering me the veriest wretch that loads earth’s weary bosom, weary of such monsters as thee”
Gallio having thus resolved to abandon all measures of vengeance, absence and hopelessness had soon the effect of weakening his love. In the course of a year or two the image of Cardina ceased to haunt his fancy, but feelings of revenge and hatred, on the other hand, seemed to have usurped its place. She no longer continued to stand, like a good genius, between him and her father; and after revolving a thousand schemes of vengeance in his mind, he resolved, in order to deprive his enemy both of his authority and his life, to attempt the 241 subjugation of his countrymen under the yoke of the Soriani. With this view he made himself acquainted with a party whose secret object was to watch every opportunity of rendering themselves masters of Belfiore. The number appointed consisted of fifteen, and to these Gallio discovered his design of subjecting his native place, observing, at the same time, “I require of you nothing further than the power of disposing as I please of the persons of Marmoreo and Cardina: the one for the sake of vengeance; the other, I trust, to be treated in a kinder way.” To this the confederates gave their ready consent, and the conspiracy was matured before the beginning of the ensuing year; while a number of persons, amounting to sixty, of Sorian families which had long resided at Belfiore, united with them, in order better to betray the place. Among these, Saladino, who had the command of the Porta Marina, was the most powerful, his family having enjoyed many lucrative offices of high trust in Belfiore during a period of nearly two hundred years. With him Gallio and his party arranged the manner in which they were to be admitted through the said gate; and at the appointed hour the whole force of the Soriani was secretly marched by night into the province of Belfiore. Gallio, having been intensely engaged during many days previous, allowing himself little time for sleep, devoted a few moments to repose before setting out on his final exploit, and tried to compose himself to rest. In this state of suspense the idea of Cardina naturally occurred to his mind; and the goddess of love attempting, from compassion, to counteract the influence of Mars and Saturn that so greatly predominated in him, presented her image in his slumbers, arrayed in more than her usual beauty, and with an expression of sorrow and tenderness in her countenance, while she seemed to say that her everlasting love and gratitude should be the reward of his forbearance, if he would consent to abandon his cruel and sanguinary designs. So vivid was the impression upon his mind, that, opening his arms as if to embrace her, he awoke, and found he had clasped only his sword that lay at his side. With a feeling of rage and disappointment, he felt inclined to turn it against his own bosom, so strongly had his dream affected him, and altered his previous resolution of persevering in his enterprise. His love for Cardina also seemed to acquire renewed strength; and recollecting every word and action of the vision, his desire of vengeance and all his bitter hatred against her father was forgotten as he burst into a passionate flood of tears. Then the hopes of mutual passion which she appeared to hold out to him in his dreams, and the expression of her grief and trouble, all combined to turn the tide of his feelings into a more loyal and patriotic course. Suddenly acting under the impulse of this change, he summoned his fellow-conspirators, exiles, like himself, from Belfiore, to a secret meeting, and proceeded to address them in the following words: “Fellow-citizens and brothers! Can it be true that we are about to destroy the place that gave us birth and to betray the city of our ancestors into the hands of her deadliest foes? Let us pause ere we produce irreparable evils, that may call down on us the execration of posterity, by turning our arms against our native land, that ought to be directed against its enemies. Alas! 242 how shall we bear to see the Soriani lords of us and of our countrymen, ourselves the worst of vassals! For let us not flatter ourselves that we shall reap other than the traitor’s reward. Honour and treachery are yet in our power to choose. Fellow-citizens, which shall we embrace?” “Honour and our country!” exclaimed all with one voice. “Stay, hear me further,” cried Gallio, taking advantage of the enthusiasm he had produced; “a messenger is just arrived, bringing me such tidings that, if you have heart to join me, we will return to our own city, but not without the glory of having first vanquished its enemies!” Inspired with the fervour of his patriotism, the whole of his companions promised to follow him whithersoever he would lead. “Then,” cried Gallio, “let one of you attend me,” and he selected the man he wished, “and let the rest await us here!” Having thus agreed upon the course they were to pursue, Gallio, along with his companion, affected to proceed with the scheme as before, and, under the pretence of an interview with Saladino, the governor of the Porta Marina, in order to fix upon the signals that were to be given for entering into the city of Belfiore, they proceed forwards on horseback, until they reached Castel Fioralto, of which the governor, Parione, was one of the principal citizens, and strongly exasperated against the people of Soriana on account of their having cruelly slain his father; and with him they took further counsel about their plans. On his inquiring into the cause of their arrival, Gallio replied, “We are come to inform you that it is in our power either to destroy or make our city twice as powerful as it is, and as we are quite aware of your wishes, we shall reveal everything to you just as it occurred.”
On hearing the particulars, Parione expressed his entire concurrence, and united in their plans with the utmost joy. Having matured these and sworn fidelity to each other, Parione, speedily mounting horse, took his leave, and arrived before sunset at Belfiore, where presenting himself before Patrioni, master of the palace where the seigniory held their sittings, he desired him to call a secret meeting of a hundred of the chief citizens of the place. This done, and the subject being proposed, it met with the general approbation of the whole assembly; and instantly closing all the gates and doubling the guards, they gave orders for the arrest of Saladino and the sixty conspirators, ready prepared for the undertaking. Upon being subjected to the question and confronted with Gallio, they made confession and were placed in strict confinement. The whole city, in the meantime, was put under arms and prepared for the reception of the force of the Soriani led on by Gallio. About two hours before daylight, the tramp of horse was heard approaching; and Saladino was compelled to open the gate, as had been agreed upon, at the appointed signals, betraying his party to destruction, on condition that his own and his children’s lives should be spared; the whole of his family, in case of failure, being involved in one common ruin. When the time approached, therefore, though desirous of saving his own party, he opened the gates by command of Gallio, and the hostile force, led on by the chief citizens of Soriana, rushed forward into the city. Many of the leaders were richly armed and caparisoned, vieing with each 243 other in the splendour of their appearance, and shining with gold and precious gems, ornaments in which their country abounded. Add to these, the great variety of burnished shields, lances, bows, and quivers, with dark plumes nodding in the air, and the flash of arms glittering through the moonlight. Thus proudly decorated are the Soriani accustomed to march forth to meet their enemies in the open field, the chief lords and gentlemen eagerly pressing forward in the van, leaving the least considerable of the citizens to bring up the rear. Marshalled, accordingly, in their best array, the Soriani now arrived at the Porta Marina, where, received by Saladino, they believed themselves upon the point of becoming masters of the city. By the advice of Gallio, they immediately marched forward and took possession of the cloister of Diana’s temple, to the number of six thousand men, while three thousand were held in reserve in the temple of Mercury. Before daybreak, however, just as they imagined they were on the point of striking a decisive blow, they were startled by the loud clash of arms above them, and looking up, beheld crowds of armed men lining the walls of the great cloister of Diana, the chiefs of whom addressed the astonished Soriani with the cry of, “Yield, traitors, yield; or death to our prisoners!” at the same time showering down loads of burning combustibles upon their heads, so as to convince them they had not the least chance of escape. After some threats of rage and despair, the Soriani, finding every means of opposition useless, were induced to surrender, and threw down their arms. The whole of their rich equipage and all their golden armaments became the spoil of their adversaries, while they were themselves led away in ranks of ten to be consigned to the gloomy dungeons of Sabar. Their great commander, Rabooth, who guarded the temple of Mercury with his three thousand soldiers, shortly afterwards met with the same fate, appealing only to the mercy of his victorious enemy. By the intercession of Gallio, he was pardoned on the following conditions: that he should make oath never again to enter into the city of Soriana or attempt anything against his victorious enemy. After making a solemn engagement to this effect, he was allowed to go free, and directly took his departure from the city, establishing his residence, with his companions, at Sarbonia, one hundred leagues from Soriana. The Belfioresi then returning in triumphal procession to the grand cloister of Diana, collected the spoils of their adversaries, and carried them afterwards to their palace-master, who appropriated them to the benefit of the community. They next proceeded to witness the execution of the treacherous friends of Saladino, who had entered into terms with Gallio to betray their country, and who now were led forth into the large square to the number of sixty-five, all of whom were quartered alive. Over the heads of the traitor and his sons, whose lives were spared, was written in large letters the result of the invasion in the following manner: “We, the people of Belfiore, have revenged ourselves upon our enemies by turning their arms against themselves; let the traitor Saladino bear witness to this. We send him and his children to you, with his companions, all of whom may be known by the tickets appended to their necks; the rest of the soldiers, for good reasons, 244 we, the people of Belfiore, think proper to retain. Moreover, we decree that in future no native of Soriana shall become resident in our city, or dare to assume the name of a Belfiorese, that he may no longer enjoy the advantage of betraying us, and of turning our hospitality into our ruin.”
Along with this fatal proclamation were sent four cartloads filled with the dead bodies of their enemies, which reached about nightfall the gates of Soriana, whose inhabitants were expecting the arrival of their countrymen with a very different escort. Upon the return of the party to Belfiore, a grand tournament, with festivals of every kind, was proclaimed for the people, to be continued during a series of many weeks. Gallio, who had now greatly distinguished himself in the eyes of the Belfioresi, ordered a great feast in honour of the victory, and proceeded with a numerous party to wait upon Patrioni, grand-master of the palace, requesting an assemblage of the chief citizens, to which Marmoreo and his daughter Cardina should be invited. When met together, Gallio entered with a train of friends and nobles, and harangued them in the following words: “My honoured fathers, senators, and chiefs of bands! When I contemplate the singular degree of prudence, fortitude, temperance, and valour with which you have hitherto conducted your affairs, I bow to the decree that rendered me an unhappy exile from my native land. Nor am I here come to question the justice of the proceeding instituted against me by your learned and distinguished citizen, Marmoreo, though I still remain in ignorance of his motives. Rather would I accuse myself in having been so unfortunate as to draw down upon myself the weight of your displeasure; for which I do here humble entreat your forgiveness, more especially in consideration of my tender age, not presuming to make other defence or set up any better excuse. And so far am I sensible of your high wisdom and authority and of my own slight deserts, that I am here ready to deliver myself up to your judgment once more, as a traitor to my own company, and the author of the hateful and sacrilegious plot just attempted my your enemies. True, it was I, and I alone, who brought the whole secret power of Soriana into the bosom of your homes, who induced Saladino, with his fellow-traitors, on whom you had conferred your offices of trust and honour, to league with your foes in this nefarious design, and open to us your gates, that we might bring you under the yoke of Soriana, from which you are now fortunately for ever free. And let me caution you, before I yield my forfeit life, never in future to commit offices of trust or the command of gates to the Soriani, or to any other foreigners upon the face of the earth. It is enough to grant them passports through your dominions; but to make them governors over gates and citadels is the height of infatuation; for the love of country never becomes entirely obliterated from the human breast. Now, as the unhappy cause of the gret evil that had so nearly befallen the state, I surrender my person into your hands, entreating only, with my dying prayers, that the glory and triumph of our last noble enterprise may be wholly attributed to the youthful and beauteous Cardina, whose many virtues have produced, by their influence 245 over my soul, the present happy result. It was she who snatched the patricidal sword out of my hand, who, when I was bent on the irretrievable destruction of her father and her friends, stood between us, like a guardian angel of peace, and with her tender and sorrowful aspect, her passionate tears, and sweet appeals to my love and honour, restored me to higher and better thoughts, pointing out to me the path of patriotic duty that I have since pursued. If, then, death be due to me as a traitor, to her let triumphal arches and honours befitting a queen be afforded; let her praises be sung over my obsequies; let her be called the saviour of Belfiore, and soothe my wounded spirit ere it takes its final flight!” Here Gallio became silent, and kneeling in the midst of the council, he raised his hands, as if in prayer, while his eyes were bent upon the ground, and awaited in this attitude his sentence. The chiefs and elders of the city, imagining that Gallio would have closed his harangue by soliciting honours and rewards for his great services, having risen by his last exploit high in the estimation of all ranks, were surprised at such proofs of unfeigned humility and contrition, and began to consider him in a still nobler point of view than before. Mingled tears, congratulations, and applause followed the conclusion of his address. But the emotions of Cardina and her father, the author of all Gallio’s sufferings, far surpassed those of any others present: the lady’s tears flowed passionately and uncontrolled; her sobs drowned her voice when she attempted to intercede for him; while the more silent but deep and painful struggles of her father, torn as he was by the sense of ingratitude and remorse, produced a sensation of awe and trouble throughout the assembly. It was evident that that the lovers had long been attached to each other; that he must have opposed their union by the most cruel and unjustifiable measures, and a feeling of compassion for both soon communicated itself to the people, who rushing forward with wild and tumultuous cries, demanded the head of Marmoreo, and declared Gallio their liege lord and prince. The chiefs, and elders, yielding to the popular commotion, rose from their seats, and deputing one of their members to bear the ensigns of authority, they placed the gold staff in the hands of their new master. After a due degree of modest refusal and deference to the superior claims of the aged senators, Gallio was induced to accept the government of the state, and mounting the sovereign tribunal, in an harangue to the people expressed his gratitude for the high trust reposed in him. The people then becoming acquainted with his attachment to the Lady Cardina, unanimously insisted upon her taking her place as his bride-elect at his side, the sole condition upon which they consented to spare the life of the treacherous and cruel Marmoreo. The nuptials were accordingly soon after solemnised in the most splendid manner, followed by every variety of games and jousts, and such exhibitions as were best adapted to gratify the taste of the people. Wherever Gallio made his appearance he was welcomed with the most enthusiastic shouts of applause as the beloved sovereign of his people; and he long continued lord of Belfiore, blest in the affections of the wise and beautiful Cardina, and esteemed for his equal administration of the laws. The season of these joyous festivals 246 being over, it was resolved in council that the dungeons of Sabar should be blocked up on all sides, with the six thousand Sorian soldiers enclosed within, all of whom thus miserably perished. A herald was next despatched to summon the city of Soriana, which was soon compelled to send in its submission to Gallio, and was annexed to his dominions.
The Count then sentenced him to lose his hands and tongue by the public executioner, as a lasting proof of perfidy and ingratitude in bearing false witness and suborning others against the honour of his compeer, his fellow-countrymen and his neighbour. Turning next towards his colleague Savojetto, he continued: “As for thee, thou basest and most perfidious of villains, thou whom I have loaded with riches and honours, and called by the familiar names of counsellor, companion, and friend, while thou hast repeatedly perjured thy soul with a thousand false oaths of loyalty and truth; tell me what species of death, what thousand tortures are enough to expiate thy black ingratitude? The justice upon thy head, however inadequate, shall at least be retributive.” And forthwith the Count summoned together all the surviving relatives of those whom the arch-traitor had basely betrayed to death in the attacks upon the gate and citadel of Belvaso. Seizing upon the body of Savojetto with the insatiate thirst of revenge, they bound him alive to a column and made him a mark to shoot at for their amusement. They next proceeded to hang, to draw, and quarter him, dividing his limbs between the different gates of Monforte, while they placed his head upon the walls of the great palace, on the sides of which were ordered to be erected two marble pillars. On one of these was engraved the number of honours and benefits 250 lavished upon the traitor Savojetto, while the other was painted red to denote his family name of Sanguigna, tracing its origin to Belvaso, and on this was written the amount of all the treason and ingratitude received from him in return by the noble Count, with the loss attending it. In the middle of the chain, suspended between the two columns, was seen the head of the culprit, fixed in such a way that no one could either reach or remove it; and the columns were so situated that none of the members belonging to the Count’s council could pass and repass to their hall without being reminded of their duty by going under them. The possessions of Savojetto were next distributed among the persons who had revenged their slaughtered relatives upon the body of their cruel enemy; and shortly afterwards fourteen of his fellow-traitors and conspirators were discovered and executed in the city of Monforte.
When this impressive tragedy was concluded, the Count, turning towards the noble Cherubino, with a joyous countenance said, “Now, my good and faithful servant, the fruits of thy worth and fidelity are seen. Having happily rid my dominions of traitors, do thou, my friend, receive all the honours and privileges which they enjoyed, and take thy seat at my right hand.