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stiletto; at first the chips were not bigger than a grain of corn, but by and by they increased to respectable splinters; the deals were about sixteen inches broad. I dug my hole where two of them joined, and was obliged to be expeditious, for what was I to do if another prisoner had come, who would have insisted on having the cell swept out. I had moved my bed on one side, lighted my lamp, and lay on the ground, my stiletto in one hand, and a napkin to collect the chips in the other; fortunately I met with no nail nor cramp to impede my progress. After six hours' work, I tied the napkin together, intending to empty the chips behind the lumber in the anti-room, and I put the bed back again in its place. On continuing my work on the following day, I discovered a second deal under the first, and of the same thickness; I had no interruption, but was in continual dread of it. In this way I laboured daily for three weeks: three planks were now cut through, and under them I found a pavement of small pieces of marble, called "terrazzo marmorin;" against this my weapon was ineffectual. I recollected Hannibal's contrivance for passing the Alps, and resolved to try it on this occasion. I found that the vinegar, aided by my perseverance, enabled me, if not to dig through the marble, at least to get out the mortar that cemented the pieces together, and in four days I accomplished my purpose, and had not broken my stiletto. I now found, as I expected, another plank, probably the last, but with which I had greater difficulties, for the hole was already ten inches deep.
It was on the twenty-fifth of June, as in the afternoon, after working three hours, laying on my stomach on the ground, and quite naked, dropping with sweat, and my lamp standing lighted in the hole, when I heard the rattling of the bolts in the anti-rooms. What a moment! I blew out the lamp, left the stiletto and napkin in the opening, pushed the bedstead into the alcove, threw mattress and bedding upon it, and sunk on the floor, nearly dead, just as Lorenzo entered he would have trod on me if I had not cried out. 66 Ah, my God!" exclaimed he, "how I pity you, signor; this place is like an oven. Get up, and thank heaven for having sent you such a companion. Your Excellency may now come in." He said this to the unfortunate man who followed him, without thinking of my nakedness; the stranger, however, perceived it, and turned away, while I searched in vain for a shirt. The new comer must have thought himself in hell, and he exclaimed, "Where am I? and where am I to be confined? What a heat, and what a smell! With whom am I imprisoned?" Lorenzo called him out of the cell; begged me to put on a shirt, and to go out into the garret. He told the stranger he had orders to get him a bed, and whatever he might want, directly; in the mean time he might walk up and down in the room, and the smell in the cell would go off: this smell, in fact, came from the lamp, which I had blown out. Lorenzo made me no reproaches on the subject, though I was certain he suspected the truth, and I began to respect him a little for this forbearance.
At length I went out into the room with my shirt and dressing gown on the new prisoner wrote with a pencil what he wanted: but as soon as he saw me, he exclaimed, "You here, Casanova!" I recognised him immediately for the Count Abbé Fanarola, from Brescia: he was
an agreeable, much-esteemed man, fifty years of age, and rich. I embraced him with tears, and said he was the last man I expected to see there. I told him, when we were left alone, that I would, when his bed came, offer him the alcove, but begged him to refuse it, and to forbid the sweeping out of the room. I would tell him afterwards my reasons. I mentioned the blowing out of the lamp: he promised secresy, and rejoiced that he was confined with me. I learnt from him that no one knew the crime of which I was accused; and that, therefore, there were all sorts of reports and conjectures afloat about it. Towards the evening his bed, chair, linen, perfume, an excellent dinner, and good wine, were brought him. He could eat nothing, but I was far from following his example. His bed was placed without moving mine, and we were shut in together.
I now brought my lamp out of the hole, and laughed at finding my napkin soaked in oil; when an adventure that might have had tragical consequences ends with a trifling one, we have a right to laugh: the Abbé joined me in my mirth when he heard the story, as I set it to rights again, and lighted it. We never slept the whole night, less on account of the vermin, as that we had numerous questions to ask of one another. From him I learnt that the cause of his arrest was an insignificant but indiscreet observation of his, made at a public place. I told him he might expect to remain here a week, and that then he would be banished to Brescia for a few months; but he would not believe he would be kept here even a week; he afterwards, however, found my prophecy correct. I did my best to console him for the mortification of his confinement.
In the morning early, Lorenzo brought us coffee, and the count's dinner in a basket; the latter could not understand why he must eat at this hour. We were allowed to walk in the gallery for an hour, and were then shut in. The fleas which tormented us, induced the Abbé to ask me why I would not have the place swept? I told him, and showed him every thing. He was astonished, and mortified that he had compelled me to the disclosure. He, however, encouraged me to persevere.
The eight days quickly passed; but how unwilling I was to lose my companion may be conceived. It was superfluous to enjoin him to secresy at his departure; I should have offended him by the mention of it. With much toil I completed my work by the twenty-third of August; an unfortunate discovery had retarded me till then. When I had made a small hole in the last plank, I found I was right in my supposition, that it was the chamber of the inquisitors that was beneath; but I perceived that I had made the aperture just above a large crossbeam, a circumstance that I had all along feared. I was, consequently, obliged to widen the hole on the other side, to escape this. I stopped the small hole in the plank with bread, that the light of my lamp might not be perceived, for I resolved to postpone my flight till the night before St. Austin's day, for then I knew that the great council assembled, and that therefore the Bussola would be empty, which adjoined the chamber I must escape through.
But on the twenty-fifth of August an event happened that even now makes me shudder at the recollection of it. I heard the bolts drawn, and a death-like fear seized me; the beating of my heart shook my
body, and I threw myself almost fainting in my arm-chair. Lorenzo, still in the garret, said to me through the grating, in a tone of pleasure, "I wish you joy of the news I bring." I imagined he had brought me my freedom, and I saw myself lost; the discovery of the hole I had made would effectually debar me from liberty. Lorenzo entered, and desired me to follow him; I offered to dress myself, but he said it was unnecessary, as he was only going to remove me from this detestable cell, to another quite new, and well lighted, with two windows, from which I could overlook half Venice, and could stand upright in; I was nearly beside myself. I asked for some vinegar; begged him to thank the secretary, but to intreat him to leave me where I was. Lorenzo asked me if I were mad, to refuse to exchange a hell for a paradise; and offering me his arm to aid me, desired my bed, books, &c. to be brought after. Seeing it was in vain to oppose any longer, I rose, and left my cage, and heard him, with some small satisfaction, order my chair to be brought with me, for in the straw of that was my spontoon hid. Would it had been possible for my toilsome work in the floor to have accompanied me also!
Leaning on the shoulder of Lorenzo, who tried by laughing to enliven me, I passed through two long galleries, then over three steps. into a large light hall, and passed through a door at the left end of it, into a corridor, twelve feet long and two broad; the two grated windows in it presented to the eye a wide extensive view over a great part of the town, but I was not in a situation to be rejoiced at the prospect. The door of my destined prison was in the corner of this corridor, and the grating of it was opposite to one of the windows that lighted the passage, so that the prisoner could not only enjoy a great part of the prospect, but also feel the refreshment which the cool air of the open window afforded him; a balsam for any creature in confinement at that season of the year; but I could not think of all this at that moment, as the reader might easily conceive. Lorenzo left me and my chair, into which I threw myself, telling me he would go for my bed.
I sat like a statue; I saw all my labour lost; I could yet hardly lament it: not to think of the future was all the alleviation I could find for my misery. I acknowledged my situation as a punishment for having delayed my escape for three days; but did I deserve to be so severely punished, for listening to the most prudential dictates of reason, instead of following the suggestions of my habitual impatience?
In a few minutes, two under-jailers brought me my bed, and returned to fetch my other things; but two hours elapsed without my hearing any thing further, though the door stood wide open; this delay excited many reflections, but I could come to no resolution; as I had every thing to fear, I endeavoured to bring my mind. to that state of composure that might arm me against whatever might happen.
Besides the "Camerotti," and the prisons in the inner court, there are also nineteen other frightful subterraneous dungeons in the ducal palace, destined for prisoners condemned to death. All judges and rulers on earth have esteemed it a mercy if they left the wretch his life, however painful that life might be for him. It can only be a mercy when the prisoner considers it himself as such; and he ought to be consulted on the subject, or else the intended mercy becomes injustice.
These nineteen subterraneous dungeons are really graves; but they are called "wells," because they are always two feet deep in water, the sea penetrating through the gratings that supply the wretched light that is allowed to them. The prisoner, who will not stand all day long in salt water, must sit on a trestle, that serves him at night for a bedstead; on that is placed his mattress, and each morning his bread, water, and soup, which he must swallow immediately, if he do not wish to contend for it with large sea-rats, that infest these wretched abodes. In these fearful dungeons, where the prisoner remains for life, some have, notwithstanding the misery of their situation and meagreness of their food, attained a considerable age. I knew of a man of the name of Beguelin, a Frenchman, who having served as a spy for the republic in a war with the Turks, had sold himself as an agent also to them: he was condemned to death, but his sentence was changed to perpetual imprisonment in the "wells;" he was four-andforty years of age when he was first immured, yet he lived seven-andthirty years in them; he could only have known hunger and misery, yet thought" dum vita superest, bene est," and to this misery did I now expect to be condemned.
At last I heard the footsteps of one approaching in a towering passion; it was Lorenzo, absolutely mad with rage; foaming with passion, and cursing God and all the saints, he demanded of me the axe with which I had made the hole, and insisted on knowing the sbirri who had furnished me with it; and he ordered me to be searched. I stood up, threatened, stripped myself, and told him to search as he pleased. He ordered my bed, my mattrass, every thing to be examined, and when he found nothing-" So," said he, " you won't tell me where the tools are you used to cut through the floor; I'll see if you'll confess to others." "If it be truth I have cut through the floor, I shall say that I had the tools of yourself, and that I have given them back again to you." At these words, which obviously were concurred in by his followers, he began literally to howl; he ran his head against the wall, stamped and danced about like a madman; he then left me; and after his people had brought me my books, clothes, bottles, and in short every thing, even to the piece of marble and the lamp, he shut the widows of the corridor, so that I was deprived of the fresh air; yet I had reason to rejoice in having escaped so cheaply; experienced as he was at his trade, he had neglected searching the under side of my arm-chair; I still possessed my stiletto, on which I might rely for achieving my escape.
The heat and change of situation prevented my sleeping: early in the morning, sour wine, stinking water, stale salad, tainted meat, and hard bread, were brought me; my room was not swept out; and when I begged for the window to be opened, I got no answer: a jailer examined the walls and the floor, especially under my bed, with an iron bar; fortunately he forgot the ceiling, for I resolved to effect my escape through the roof; but to effect this I should require co-operation, which I could not yet hope to obtain; every thing which I did would be obvious to the eye, as the room was quite new.
I passed a dreadful day; towards noon the heat increased so much, that I felt as if I should be suffocated; I could neither eat nor drink, for all that was brought me was spoilt; perspiration, that literally
dropt from me, hindered me from reading or stirring, but no change was made; the meat and the water that were brought me on the following day, were equally repulsive; I asked whether it were commanded that I should be killed through heat and noisome smells, but Lorenzo would give me no answer; I dipped some bread into some cypress wine, to support me, and to enable me to stab my tormenter when he appeared next day; however, I contented myself with saying, that as soon as I regained my liberty, I would certainly throttle him; he laughed, and left me without a word; I concluded that I was treated thus by command of the secretary, whom he had told of my attempt at escape; I was nearly overcome by the agitation of my mind and the exhaustion of my body.
On the eighth day, I demanded in a rage my monthly reckoning before the under-jailers, and called Lorenzo a cheat; he promised to bring it next morning; the window, which he opened for a moment through necessity, he shut again, and laughed at my cries; but I determined to persevere in using a violent behaviour, as I had gained a little by it; but on the morrow my rage subsided, for before Lorenzo gave me the reckoning, he handed me a basket of lemons, which Bragadino had sent me, with a bottle of good water, and a chicken; an attendant opened the window. I looked only at the balance of my account, and except one zechin, which was to be divided among his men, I desired the rest to be given to Lorenzo's wife: when we were alone, he said to me calmly, " You have told me that you were indebted to me for the work-tools you made the great opening in the floor of your cell with; I am not therefore curious to know any thing more of that; but who gave you the lamp ?"
"You yourself you gave me oil, flint, and sulphur; the rest I had already."
"That is true; can you as easily prove I helped you to the tools to break through the floor?"
"Just as easily; I got every thing from you."
"Grant me patience! what do I hear? did I give you an axe ?" "I will confess all, but the secretary must be present."
"I will ask no further, but believe you; be silent, and remember I am a poor man, and have a family." He left me, holding his hands to his face. I rejoiced to have discovered something by which I could keep in awe a man to whom I was apparently indebted for my life; I knew that his own interest would keep him silent about what I had done. Shortly after, I commissioned him to buy for me the works of Maffei; he was vexed at the laying out of so much money, but he did not venture to own it, but asked what use I could make of more books, since I already had so many. "I had read them all," I replied; he then promised to borrow others of another prisoner, to whom I could lend mine in return, as he assured me they should not be romances, but learned works, since there were many people of education in the prison; I agreed to his offer, and gave the Chronology of Petand to get another book in exchange for it.
In four minutes he returned with the first part of Wolff's writings; this suited me; I recalled the commission for Maffei's works, and he left me, exulting in the advice he had given me. I was not less pleased at the circumstance than him, not so much on account of the books,