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NARRATIVE OF EMILIA DURANO,
MARCHESA DI ALBAROZZI.
BY B. H.
The following narrative is an episode from an unpublished work, which circumstance it is necessary to mention, in order to account for the rapid way in which many details and intermediate events are hurried over. The appalling story is fully believed to this day in many parts of the south of Italy. It was communicated in papers left by Emilia Durano, to be opened by her son Sebastiano, after her death.
Forgive, my child, this long concealment of my eventful history, and the total ignorance in which you have been kept, both as relates to yourself and to me. The agony of memory rather than shame, and the consideration also of thy youth, have hitherto caused me to remain silent. Nor could the information have done you any service, as my family would never have recognised your birth. Oh what a time of delirious thoughts was that for me; and at what a time are these recollections forced from my pen, so long concealed, so wrung from me at last by the consciousness of my approaching end, with no more hours to waste.
Now that strangers are casually standing by my deathbed, I vainly wish for thy dear presence, to tell thee all with my own faltering lips. Why have they sent thee away before I am cold? How often have I called for thee, and no one would listen to my entreaties? It seems as if they thought I was not in my proper mind. All I can say only confirms them in that suspicion, so that, in truth, my dear son, I begin to think they must be right, though their very suspicions and treatment are in part the cause. But read—read!
I am the only daughter of an English nobleman, whose estates were lost by disastrous circumstances, over which he had no control. So far from being able to retain sufficient to support his rank, he scarcely had enough remaining to maintain a respectable existence. He retired, in consequence, to an. old halfruined castle on the Kentish coast, accompanied by my mother and myself, there to live as best we might, and at any rate avoid the
VOL. vi. 6
endless shames that attend the poverty of a
person of condition in England.
I had just attained my nineteenth year, when a rich foreign nobleman, bearing the title of the Marchese di Albarozzi, arrived one morning at the castle, with letters for my father from a Neapolitan nobleman, who did not know of his present condition. Concealment was in vain. The pride of an English nobleman, who had been accustomed to all the attentions and homage which they so commonly receive on the continent, was no longer supported by any of the usual adjuncts, but squalid ruin stared at his visiter on all sides. My father therefore had no alternative but to state his altered circumstances, and the impossibility of his receiving the Marchese with that hospitality which his letters of introduction would undoubtedly have commanded. I was really glad of this, as I had conceived the utmost antipathy to him at first sight.
But the Marchese made quite light of the
matter—assured Lord and Lady A that he
was a traveller, and could be comfortable with any sort of accommodation—flattered them by great respect, and reminding them of their princely equipage and position when among his friends in Naples—lauded my beauty in the most unmeasured terms—and finally threw out hints about me, which ended in his taking up his abode for a few days in our poor dilapidated castle.
Day after day passed and he did not depart, nor speak of it, but paid me the most marked and odious attentions. I protested against it to my mother. She wept, and referred me to
Lord A . I besought him not to allow me
to be subject to any further addresses from the Marchese. Lord A replied that he extremely regretted my indisposition to receive them, but he could not interfere, as he had already been solicited, and had granted permission. He said it would keep up the honour of the family, and that there was always a blessing of some kind in a wealthy marriage.
I will not surround with vain words a result which is one of the oldest and painfullest stories in the world. My father and mother were
wretchedly proud and equally poor; the Marchese was rich; I was the daughter doomed to
be sold. Lord A commanded me to accept
the proposals of the Marchese. I refused.
Still he did not depart. Indeed he persisted in regarding my refusal as the mere timidity of juvenile innocence. It was more than that. I felt—I had an instinct—that the passion the Marchese professed for me—had for me—was without one spark of pure affection and delicate regard. His wolfish eyes betrayed him—his lambent smile betrayed him—his feverish lips, his cold, restrained air, his hard look of selfpossession, his savage patience,—all betrayed
him. Lord and Lady A saw nothing of
this. But I was to be the victim. I saw it all.
The Marchese slept in a chamber of the south wing of the castle, beneath a tower so ruinous as to bo little more than a shell; and never did I hear the wind rise and come roaring across the sea, that I did not wish it might strike that tower with a sweoping gust, and bury him in its ruins. This may seem wicked, but I felt it, and consider myself justified in the eyes of heaven, if not in the eyes of man.
I said I would be brief in telling this story of a common curse. I refused the hand of the Marchese. My father, my mother,—they both tried every means to persuade me. My suffering was to be their saving. They gave me no rest. I had no affection for any one but them. After a few weeks I gave my consent.
The Marchese was tall and well-proportioned, except this,—his arms were too long. lie was handsome, as to features, except that he had a hideous mouth; his hair was black and luxuriant; his manner elegant and courtly; he dressed with great taste and style, and was in many respects the beau ideal of an Italian nobleman. My feelings, however, were my own, and so were my reasons for aversion; and I was right.
There was one thing which the Marchese
stipulated, to which Lord A for some time
refused his consent. It was the concealment of our marriage during a period of six months, or at least during the time that he remained in England. He said he wished first to settle some diplomatic business he had at court, and that his reception in fashionable circles would be more favourable if he were supposed to be
unmarried. Lord and Lady A well knew
how true this was, and fearing to lose what they considered so excellent a match for me, (and for themselves, alas !) they suffered themselves to be persuaded. We were therefore married privately, no one but Lord and Lady A being present at the dreadful ceremony.
As we drove off from the poor old ruined oastle, I looked out of the carriage window, and saw my mother's pale face in the entrance
porch, suffused with tears, and Lord A
standing in the court-yard without his hat, trying to look cheerful with a hollow cheek, but appearing not to know very well where he was, or what was happening. It was aU a horrible mistake. I turned to the Marchese— I know not what made me—and saw a sardonic smile playing over his features. My heart died within me. Not a word was exchanged during the first hour, when suddenly, as if awakening from a dark trance, the Marchese threw aside all consideration and restraint— taunted me with the ruin of my family,—reproached me scornfully with my refusal of his hand, and reluctant consent,—and then treated me, partly in revenge, as though I had been (and oh! how truly I was so,) a mere victim of his purchase. No words can record my dismay.
We drove to London, where he took me to an obscure lodging in the suburbs. We lived there under an assumed name. All my worst apprehensions were realized. I was united to a man —must I call him such—who had gone through the whole round of a licentious and utterly unbridled course—who had chosen me merely as the last novelty that had crossed his path, and who entertained for me no single feeling that did not cause me to shudder. I had often
heard Lady A declare that personal beauty
and personal attractions were the greatest blessings with which a woman could be endowed in the present state of society. Alas! if this applied to me, how certainly had they become my unutterable curse.
I have said that my worst apprehensions were realized. It was far more than that; for how should a delicate girl, excluded from society, the daughter of a nobleman, brought up with the most scrupulous avoidance of the least knowledge of the vices and contaminations of the world—how should such a girl even conceive of a character in which the atrocities of the most depraved imaginations seemed to have reached their utmost height? I have since thought at times, that the evil blood of this tyrant to whom I was wedded, would have displayed itself in acts of the most remorseless cruelty, if he had been placed in circumstances which enabled him to exercise a lawless will. Indeed, I sometimes fancied him a sort of monomaniac, like Nero. A slow fever was ever burning in his veins. My torment, my loathing, were his relief and pastime.
"Madam," said he one evening as we were sitting at the window, facing a dead wall, of our obscure and murky lodgings, "Madam, would you like a divorce ; to return to your family once again; and again to have the pleasure of refusing the honour of my hand? Yes, me,— to refuse me! As for the poor Lord and Lady there, they thought to sell you at a good price. Well—tacitly understood, and by a courtly, circuitous evasion in terms, they did so. They made a capital bargain. I lost a small estate at cards with your father the evening before our wedding—do you comprehend me. Now, madam, to bed. I shall go out to supper, and return some time in the night, or towards morning."
So refuge—no relief—there was no hope for
me. I could neither write to Lord A , nor
escape from my diabolical destroyer. It was plain he did not regard me as his wife—merely a victim, and as much so, as those poor girls we read of, who are recklessly sold to men, perhaps like the Marchese.
I once ventured to ask him how long I was to remain under an assumed name, and thus hidden from the world in a dark and dismal lodging. He smiled, and answered "You should rather dive into the darkness to hide from the world, seeing the use to which your beauty and pride have been turned. You know well that I bought you as a slave." Thus was the "honour of our family" to be kept up! Here was the "blessing" of a. wealthy marriage in defiance of a daughter's feelings!
I was often left alone, yet never quite alone. Whenever the Marchese was absent, I was always narrowly watched by a servant of his, named Andreugo. Not only were any letters of mine certain to be intercepted, but the means of writing were denied me. I made an appeal to the woman of the house, but I soon perceived she had been suborned by the Marchese. Yet, truth to say, even if I could have escaped, I began to feel after a few weeks so stricken down,—so utterly prostrated in soul and body, that I could scarcely have made the effort. My tyrant was right, I thought, in respect of my seeking darkness. I felt a desire to shun the countenances of my fellow-creatures.
I suppose this could not have lasted with me much longer, but that I should have died, or gone mad; but heaven granted me a change,— a respite from torment and despair. The Marchese informed me that he was about to return to Naples; that I should set out first, under the care of Andreugo, and he would shortly follow. The thought of being carried out of England would have seemed like the last blow to my doom, thus placing me beyond the remotest chance of any communication with my family; hat the feeling that I should, for a time, be relieved from the detested presence of the Marchese made it endurable, and I submitted with the feeling of one who has been half stifled, on inding a window suddenly opened into the fresh air.
I arrived at Naples, and was taken to a house in the outskirts of the city, where Andreugo and two other creatures of the Marchese took up their abode with me. I found that I was to
be called "the Signora Emilia," and was not to be regarded as the wife of the Marchese. Was
it for this, Lord and Lady A besought me,
with tears in their eyes, to consent to such a marriage!
To my surprise I discovered that my liberty was comparatively restored. I walked about the gardens of the house; no one followed me. I extended my rambles to the neighbourhood, and was suffered to continue doing so. It was merely intimated to me by Andreugo, that while the Marchese had no objection to my taking any walks or pastime good for my health, yet he had strictly forbidden that I should enter the city. I promised I would not. The period of his absence I was told was uncertain.
Blessing my temporary release from the Marchese, yet looking forward with horror to his coming at no distant day, I wandered about the delicious gardens and groves of the neighbourhood, enjoying the odours of the air, the scenery, the pure azure heavens, but speculating how I should get some peasant to furnish me secretly with the means of writing, (still denied to me at home,) and of conveying it to the post. I dreaded betrayal.
During one of these rambles, I was seated at the foot of a tree, trying in vain to read, for my feelings were too sad, perplexed and apprehensive, to allow me to attend to anything but themselves, when the page of the book was gradually obscured by a moving shade. On looking up, I perceived a young man, with a sweet and earnest countenance, leaning over me. Ho bowed in apology—again looked at me with the same earnest eyes—and withdrew. I sighed unconscious of the cause, as I returned homeward.
A few days after this I received a letter from the Marchese, saying that his departure from England was still protracted, and that in the mean time he desired to have my portrait. This surprised and alarmed me, as I had begun to flatter myself with the hope, that he had grown quite tired of me, and did not trouble himself much more about me. I subsequently learned
that this was to pacify Lord and Lady A ,
who were astonished at receiving no letters from me.
A certain Neapolitan artist had been designated by the Marchese. His name was Sebastiano del Guaradi. To him I accordingly repaired. The recognition was immediate. It was he whom I had seen, and of whom—shall I confess it,—I had already dreamed with strange emotions.
I went to him several times on this affair of the portrait. Why delay to speak all at once? We knew each other's feelings from the first hour, which was one of deep though silent com
I was terrified and delighted, uplifted and cast to earth alternately, as my extreme love, and his, became apparent to my aching heart. How could it continue? how teat it to end?
A female servant always accompanied me to the artist's house. She was a creature of the Marchese, but conceived a love for me greater than his bribes, and besides this, she was very glad to be allowed to amuse herself where she pleased for a time.
I could scarcely make up my mind to confess my position to Sebastiano. Do you feel his name vibrate in your bosom, my son?
We wept tears of mutual wretchedness at the cruel fate that sundered us, and agreed to part —never to meet again. Then we agreed to meet again, but only as dear friends. We met many times, and found that dear friendship, and no more, was as impossible as separation.
V..ii. my son, are called 'Sebastiano' after this object of my first affections. He was thy father. Think not evil of thy mother in her grave, but think of all her sufferings which I have already told—of those which cannot be told—and of what is yet untold.
One day Andreugo hinted darkly at some suspicions. In extreme terror, I told Sebastiano. I had no money to bribe the wretch. Sebastiano gave him money, and also presents of wine, with which he continually intoxicated himself, even to insensibility. I heard no more of his suspicions.
Soon—oh how soon—a few weeks that seemed to have flown like days, or rather, hours—and my life's bliss was dashed into turbulent air. A letter arrived from the Marchese, ordering the portrait to be sent to him, and adding, that he should arrive in Naples within a month.
The words stunned me. The very characters of his hand seemed to leap up into my eyeballs till I reeled with the aching pain! A month !—It was like to-morrow 1 What was I to do?—Fly with my lover?—whither? Iflremain, is it not certain all will be discovered? Can I evade those eyes?—again endure his loathed embraces? Ah let me fly! I had resolved on this, and Sebastiano began directly to concert
the measures, when, three days after the receipt of his letter, to my utter consternation, the Marchese presented himself before me!
There were no marks of suspicion in his countenance, and no other expression than what I had been too well accustomed to see both waking and dreaming; but I fancied as he wound me in his long arms, that there was an air of more than usual savage voluptuousness in the action. I fancied, also, there was a malignity in it; but this I persuaded myself was mere apprehension, from a consciousness of all I had to conceal. Five days passed—I know not how—my reason was in a delirium of terror and disgust; and when I thought of Sebastiano—I wished to die.
Shortly, however, the Marchese having removed me to his mansion in the Strada di Toledo, placed all my fears beyond doubt . Who but he could have so delayed it! 'Twas on
the night of the seventh day—and at what a moment!—Will not the kind earth swallow me at the thought! But do not think me mad. I know quite well what I am writing. He told me he knew all!—His long arms, like serpents, wound round me, and yet again he whispered —he knew all! I gasped, and struggled, and as my convulsed senses were thickening into insensibility, his abhorred tongue still whispered—he knew all!
It was some days ere I recovered my senses. I saw nothing of the Marchese. I had no possible means of communicating with Sebastiano, who, I doubted not, would be speedily reached by the stiletto. Almost a week passed while I remained a prisoner in my apartment. In the middle of the first night in which I had really fallen into a slumber since the dreadful words which ever sounded in my ear, I was awakened by a hand being spread roughly over my neck. I awoke with a scream, for it was my husband! After looking at me with fiendish malignity for several minutes, he set his lamp upon the table—[A break here occurs in the Manuscript, as though nearly a whole page had been obliterated.]
He arose, and seating himself close to my pillow, drew forth a knife, and said these words, "I know all that has passed between thee and Sebastiano. Was it for such a man that you refused the hand of the Marchese di Albarozzi! You turn pale, but you will look paler when you are a ghost!" In answer to this I conld only gasp out for "Mercy—mercy!" He felt the point of his knife with his fingerends. "Well," said he, "'tis certain you are Tery young. Your noble parents should not have been so heedless in getting you richly married off—and I ought to be merciful. Come, I (hall make my terms. Swear to me an oath that you will never divulge, by word, or look, or sign, what I shall at fit time impart—nor attempt to thwart my purposes—nor suffer Sebastiano to know of this discovery."
Had the hand of God fallen upon me, I would have weleomed death, but thus to be coldly butchered, by one who seemed to me Bore like a demon than a man, was beyond my strength to endure. I repeated the oath after him, pausing many times in horror; it was one of that awful kind which I felt it would be impossible to break, without forfeiting every hope of salvation. A ghastly smile overspread the features of the Marchese, and he then left ae.
The Marchese, I found, had received the information from old Andreugo, who had frequently counterfeited drunkenness to lull my suspicions of his vigilancy. Thus the matter rested. Some months passed, and the Marchese behaved to me almost the same as formerly, when to my renewed astonishment I found that he had made acquaintance with Sebastiano! What dreadful events did I not anticipate! Sebastiano being unable to avoid the Marchese with
out giving cause of suspicion, was eventually brought to his house, and formally introduced to me, now for the first time designated as the Marchesa Albarozzi. The Marchese would never appear to notice our emotions, and often turned his back as it were purposely; but he seldom did so without facing a mirror, in which I frequently saw his smiling visage watching us. I could not, therefore, have made any sign to my lover, even had no oath bound me to concealment. Two entire months crawled away in this cold protraction of some horror which I felt sure was to come.
One evening the Marchese proposed a water excursion for the ensuing day, inviting Sebastiano to be of the party. A vessel was got in readiness—the hour arrived, and the others who were invited not coming in time (as it was pretended), the Marchese affected great anger, and sailed out into the bay without them. I now saw that some dreadful tragedy was to take place, which the wide blind ocean was alone destined to witness.
We sailed out a league or two with a good wind, the Marchese keeping Sebastiano in conversation nearly the whole time. About noon we lay-to, for the purpose of fishing; and a kind of platform on one side was drawn up, to render the deck wider. This platform had been constructed to the orders of the Marchese. It was in two parts, each formed of planks to the width of about four feet, which lay flat to the side of the vessel; and they were to be drawn up level with the deck, like the flaps or leaves of a table, and fastened in that position by an iron bolt to each. On these platforms we sat above two hours watching our lines, but caught nothing. We now ceased this intolerable occupation, during which I was compelled to command myself to something like a composed appearance. We left the platforms. The Marchese, unobserved by Sebastiano, threw a quantity of raw meat overboard, and very shortly I observed several sharks, which at this season are abundant in the Bay of Naples, were darting or lurking round the vessel's sides.
We presently descended to dinner, and the Marchese began to ply Sebastiano very ardently with wine, appearing in great spirits, and professing the utmost friendship for him. To my consternation, I found Sebastiano deceived by this, and partaking very freely of wine, as though he would drive away tormenting thoughts. Was it poison? I believed so, and seizing a cup, drank a deep draught to the health of the Marchese. He turned his head aside, and smiled hideously. I saw I was wrong. We thus continued till almost evening. I begged we might return. What was my dismay when the Marchese replied that the weather would continue very serene now that