Imágenes de páginas

of the cellar was brought out and piled for the burning. Winebutts drained of their contents—scarce books, all the elegancies of a lady's boudoir, all the works of art that genius could devise or wealth purchase, were heaped together in a pyramid and fired. More like devils than men the revolutionists danced wildly round the blazing pile, and shouted in answer to the fire's roar, and, not content with this, they slew horses and cattle, and threw their carcasses into the flames. Still worse, they took the hunting dogs, bound them, and cast them into the furnace; they served cage birds after the same cruel fashion, and yelled their mad triumph as the jubilant flames leaped and danced at every fresh addition. In some places they were guilty of still more atrocious acts. They threw living beings in the fire-babes plucked from their mother's arms. There was no effort made to restrain the fury of the populace. The Company of Death knew no mercy.

But a singular species of order prevailed throughout the general disorder. The portraits of the king and queen of Spain were treated with marked respect. They were exposed to the populace on a daïs beneath a canopy of cloth of gold, and no violence was offered to them. While the most violent acts of incendiarism also were being committed, not a single sailing vessel was destroyed.

As Masaniello ascertained that some of those on whom he had counted were withdrawing from the insurrection, he issued a decree by which it was ordained, on the penalty of death, that all males above a given age should enrol themselves under the popular flag within twenty-four hours. On the following day he attacked with ten thousand men, and carried by storm, the fort of St. Lorenzo, where he found a large quantity of arms and an excellent supply of ammunition, together with eighteen pieces of artillery. He then reviewed his troops with all the ostentatious display that could be brought to bear on the spectacle,-troops amounting in number to 112,000 men; he selected seven thousand as his own personal body-guard, and made a triumphal progress through the city. Bells were rung-banners and banderols displayed-all Naples gathered to do him honour, and the air rang with the shouts—"Long live Masaniello, the saviour of the people, the enemy of despots.”

The market-place is the principal place in Naples. In the marketthe scene of the most striking, gorgeous, and solemn events in Neapolitan history-Masaniello was enthroned as viceroy,—the fisherman kingpontiff-general—the chosen of the people—the emancipator of his

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

countrymen. The spectacle was one of the most brilliant that can well be imagined. On a throne covered by a canopy of golden cloth, sat the fisherman, while the people did homage before him as before a monarchoffered reverence as before a god. He was ready of speech and impressive in manner, and when he addressed the multitude there were thunders of applause. It may be the effect was theatrical—that the triumph in Auber's opera is scarcely more dramatic—but it was suited to the temperament of the people,-it was in keeping with the scene and the time. Around him were grouped his lieutenants, Peronne and Palumbo, Mario Vitale his secretary, and Genovino, his prime minister; he moved with the activity of Hercules, spoke with the address of an accomplished statesman, and with something of the sublimity of a prophet. Indeed the people were strongly disposed to regard him as an inspired man; but there were those who knew the secret of his inspiration,—those who were discreetly silent, except among themselves when they had their quiet jest at the afflatus of Genovino.

In the meantime, two of the ejected nobility, Duke Madolini and his brother Caraffa, plotted against the life of the fisherman king. They corrupted Peronne by a large bribe, and that sworn adherent of the popular cause accepted the money and played the traitor. The occasion for the proposed assassination was a state visit of Masaniello to the church of the Virgin of Carmel; a hired assassin-gentlemen by no means rare in these times—being introduced among the three hundred peasants who were privileged to occupy the court-yard of the church. As the Liberator rode into the enclosure a shot was fired, no one could tell by whom, and a cry was raised that Masaniello was slain; but this was a mistake, he was uninjured, the ball had rebounded from an ornament—the cross of Carmel—and he was saved. This incident gave rise to the popular belief that Masaniello bore a charmed life, and it was confidently stated that he was proof against both lead and steel. The indignation of the guards and of the people without the enclosure at the attempted assassination of their chief was uncontrollable. They rushed upon the two hundred and ninetynine just men and the one sinner, and made an end of them all. Those who escaped into the church were murdered before the altar, there was no quarter given-no time allowed for explanation; and in the afternoon of that day three hundred human heads—a grisly trophy, which might have suited the taste of Tamerlane—was exhibited before Carmel, and there left to blacken and rot in the sun.


The Duke of Madolini did not escape suspicion. It was thought-and it is not improbable that Peronne threw out the suggestion—that he was the instigator of the attempted murder ; but as he had taken the precaution of being out of the way, apprehensive of the Neapolitan Lynch law which would certainly be dealt out to him in liberal measure could he be found, the vengeance of the people was turned against his brother Caraffa. This noble was not spotlessly innocent, but at the same time he was not the direct agent in the affair. This signified but little to the people in search of a victim; they seized him in a monastic house where he had taken refuge, and put him to a cruel death,-indulging in wanton barbarity that need not be specified, and sent his head to deck the table of their hero.

He, alas for him! was fast losing his reason under the pressure of business,—the toils of state, and the scenes of butchery in which he was called to take part. He began to yearn after the quiet of his old home, to pine for the society of his old friends—changed into plotting counsellors of state and grandees of the first water. He refused to live in the viceregal palace, but insisted in taking up his abode in a house which he had formerly occupied near the market. There he: sedulously cultivated the acquaintance of Basilo, the rat-catcher, the only man—Imbecile the people called him-who seemed unaffected by the revolution in Naples.

Giuseppe Basilo, the rat-catcher, in his sordid dress and ragged cap, with his beard unshaven and his face unwashed, sat for hours opposite King Masaniello in dress of state, and discussed familiarly all that was going on—from a rat-catcher point of view. What should he know of state craft! what matter to him who swayed the sceptre ! But it was well understood both between Masaniello and himself that he had been an official spy of the late government; that, to use his own expression, he had caught a few rats for the viceroy, and that he was willing on fair terms to catch rats for his highness the Fisherman. He adopted a plan not very common with spies. He told the truth-not all the truth, keeping a few “rats" still undiscovered, just enough to arouse the interest, fix the attention, and gratify the wishes of his listener. He told Masaniello that the Marquis Châtillon was a traitor; that he was plotting so as to undermine the plans of the Liberator; that the marquis was, in fact, the agent of Louis XIV. and of Cardinal Mazarin ; that it was their intention to dethrone the Fisherman, and put the Duke of Guise in his place. He told him that the Marquis had his own private interest in the game, that he proposed obtaining possession of the daughter of the late viceroy, and insisting on being allowed to marry her. At first Masaniello treated the story as a skilful invention of his friend the rat-catcher, but that wily person placed before him so much proof that he was fain to acknowledge its truth. With regard to his own wife, seized and imprisoned as we have seen by command of the viceroyal, Basilo was able to state that she was well, and well cared for, but that her great anxiety was to know how her husband fared, and her great desire to be restored to him. Basilo made no disguise of being in communication with Duke Arcos, nor of being paid to catch rats by that ex-viceroy.

The plan Basilo suggested to Masaniello was plain and practical. The Marquis of Châtillon had already summoned the Duchess and Marie Arcos from Spain; they would, in all probability, arrive that evening, when, instead of being conducted to Castel Nuovo, they would be secured by the Marquis. Now Masaniello might, if he pleased, adopt and supercede the plans of that distinguished nobleman himself. With these ladies as his prisoners, he might the more successfully treat for the restoration of his own wife. Doubtless, the ex-viceroy would be glad to conclude the arrangement.

The plan was so far feasible that Masaniello attempted to carry it out. The vessel arrived that evening; a felucca containing the marquis and a few followers put off to board her and seize the prize; a corvette, under revolutionary colours, bore down on both—the duchess and her daughter were secured by Masaniello and conducted to St. Lorenzo, where they were held in captivity while proposals of exchange of prisoners were sent on to Castel Nuovo, in the following terms :

“Child for wife-monseigneur—if you hold one hostage I hold two, and their heads shall answer for the Puzzolian-two humble fisherwomen for a vice-queen."

In the evening the wife and daughter of the ex-viceroy, clothed in the ordinary costume of fisherwomen, were promenaded through the city, and thus exposed to the ridicule of the people, as the wife of Masaniello, in robes of State, had been exposed to the insults of the Spaniards.

While this was going on, a stranger three times approached Masaniello and in mystic language invited him to accept a royal crown. Masaniello answered that he was unambitious of any crown but such as heaven would bestow. He suspected a French plot, and his suspicion was not unfounded; when, how, or by whom, is unknown, but it was soon the common talk of Naples that foreign assistance had been offered against the Spaniards, that the great Guise, the mighty Mazarin, the lordly Louis, were ready to support the independence of the Neapolitans.

But the people, and especially the leaders of the people, were doubtful, as they well might be, of the disinterested affection of King Louis. And when some of his secret partisans set up his portrait in place of the portraits of the King and Queen of Spain, under a canopy in the market, the painting was immediately removed and death denounced against any who should venture to paint the image or the superscription of the Gallic Cæsar. A few fellows of the lower class—lazzaroni of the lazzaroniwho raised a cheer for King Louis, were dealt with summarily. A beam for a block, a woodcutter's axe for a hatchet, and their lifeless trunks were thrown into a felon's grave. The Marquis of Châtillon, who was unacquainted with what had really taken place after the Duchess of Arcos and her daughter had been captured by the fishermen, relied on the statements of his friend the rat catcher—for Giuseppe Basilo was everybody's friend—that the French expedition must be successful, and that Masaniello himself had readily fallen into the trap. By the advice of Basilo he determined on seeking the peasant king, and felt confident that his subtle art of persuasion would be all potent with one so little accustomed to the flatteries of court. But to approach the new viceroy was even more difficult than to obtain andience of his predecessor in office. His guards and his chamberlain were infidels in the creed of Versailles ; they had no respect for the beaux Watteau loved to paint; scented and beruffled exquisites with faces delicately daubed with pink and white appeared contemptible in the eyes of these fisher folk—with no more sentiment in them than Dutch herrings; so he strove in vain to gain admission, and moreover had the bitter mortification of seeing the woman he loved exposed to the ridicule of a vulgar mob. But Basilo was his comforter; he told him where and how to seek the viceroy, and following the instructions he received the interview was accorded.

It took place in a half-empty room-grimy, dusky, and unsavouryon the basement story of the house occupied by Masaniello. There was an ostentatious display of squalid poverty. The viceroy with a blue and white shirt, open at the neck, a pair of canvas breeches, thick soled boots, and a red cap, sat on a truss of straw, his belt garnished with knife and pistols, and a sword and gun within reach. The only person with him was Luzzaro, a skilful limner and lieutenant of the Band of Death. They

« AnteriorContinuar »