+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

service of the galley-slaves who escorted
them. In this they were sent off to the
Island of Ponza. A scorridojo is a small
boat, much in use in the Mediterranean. It
carries latine sails, is worked with oars, and
has a small cabin. It was of bad augury for
the future of the poor prisoners, that the
captain of their vessel, Agostino Cuiaja, was
better known on account of his ferocious
qualities by the name of Saccoefuoco (sack
and fire). Three days and three nights they
were tossed about on a tempestuous sea,
sleeping, in the month of February, exposed
to the air, and living like the commonest
sailors on biscuits soaked in sea-water. I
must, however, except one day, when, from
stress of weather, they were compelled to
put into the little Bay of Ventotene, where
an officer called Fusco dared to treat them
as a Christian man should. Fusco is now
dead, and his name may be mentioned; for
that incident which, if known before, would
have condemned him to a Neapolitan prison,
is doubtless registered in Heaven. Wearied,
hungry, cold, and wretched, those subjects
of an adored sovereign and paternal
government arrived at length at their destination.

On a lofty part of the Island of Ponza
stands an old tower, and on the roof of it
are two small rooms: underneath is a large
chamber and a drawbridge. The two officers
were confined on the roof, and here for nine
months they had opportunity enough to study
all the changes of the atmosphere, and feel all
the miseries of their position. These were
aggravated during the first six months by the
fact that from some cause or other they
received no pay, and subsisted on the proceeds
of what they sold, whilst their food was turned
over by the soldier on guard with his bayonet.
I have heard it stated that their doors and
windows were in so dilapidated a condition
that they could be scarcely closed, and that
when the wind blew they were compelled to
close the door by placing a pole against
it. At the end of nine months they were
driven out of the tower, and lived at
large on the island, in company with
the numerous other prisoners, who are
detained for common crimes. The position
was painful enough; but it was an
improvement, and the commander rendered it less
irksome still, by certain indulgences which it
would be imprudent to dwell upon in a country
where mercy is a sin.

Thus they dragged on a weary existence
till February the twenty-fourth, eighteen
hundred and fifty. No charge had ever
been preferred against them. No judges
had questioned, tried, and condemned them.
They knew not why they suffered, and
this ignorance added to the bitterness of
their suffering. On the day above
mentioned, the royal steamer the St. Winifred
arrived in Ponza, bringing orders to
receive them on board, and conduct them to
Naples. Another scene was now opening
upon them. On arriving in Naplesto which
they were taken under the usual escortthey
were conducted to Castle St. Elmo, which
commands the capital, and batters it down
when subjects dare to be unruly. There is
no man in Naples who does not speak of the
prisons of the St. Elmo with terror.

The chamber named Fifty-four is, in an
especial manner, surrounded by this
superstitious dread. No man was ever known, it is
said, to come out of it alive; and, lest the
report may appear utterly extravagant and
outrageous, I can name a man whoin another
much less dreaded prison, after a confinement
of fifteen days without chair or table, in a
damp roomcame out with his hair turned
white. On arriving at St. Elmo, orders were
given to confine the two prisoners in Number
Fifty-four; but counter-orders fortunately
condemned them to chambers Eighty-five and
Eighty-six. Dark rooms, with the windows
guarded by heavy iron bars. "Happy were
you, indeed," said a custodier to them, "that
you were not confined in Fifty-four!" Again,
on the fifth of March, another change took
place. The Count di Vico was sent to Ischia,
and his companion to Capri; but, up to the
present, not a word has transpired to throw
any light upon the nature of their offence.
Di Vico has since been pardoned, if we may
speak of pardon where no charge has ever
been made. His companion still lingers on in
exile, and it is now the month of April,
eighteen hundred and fifty-seven.

In this brief but veritable sketch of
misfortunes only the broad outlines have
been thrown off; but the imagination
will know how to fill up with details of
petty sufferings and persecutions inflicted by
the authorities, great and small, who, by an
ostentation of severity, try to curry favour
with their superiors. To those must be
added the annoyances and privations which
men of education and taste must always feel
on finding themselves intermingled with
ordinary criminals, and under the control of
vulgar-minded hirelings. They are better
felt than described; and the heart that
knoweth its own bitterness has often burst
under the frequent repetition of sufferings
which the pen would labour in vain to paint.
Of course the first impulse of the inhabitant
of a free country is to ask, Why does not the
prisoner appeal to the laws, and, in default of
their being executed, why not to the
Sovereign? Time after time, and in every imaginable
form, have these appeals been made, and
still the poor lieutenant lingers on in his
solitude, fearful to give umbrage by word
or look, and yet often denounced to the
authorities at Naples by private malice or by
some secret paid spy. Petition after petition
has been sent to ministers and to the King,
praying to be informed of the charges against
him, and demanding at least a trial; yet no
answer has been retumed.

In one case where considerable influence