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Chapter 31

"Speak, oh, speak!
And take me from the rack."


It will be remembered that three days were passed in the convent in that
interval which occurred between the arrival of the travellers and those of
the châtelain and the bailiff. The determination of admitting the claims
of Sigismund, so frankly announced by Adelheid in the preceding chapter,
was taken during this time. Separated from the world, and amid that
magnificent solitude where the passions and the vulgar interests of life
sank into corresponding insignificance as the majesty of God became hourly
more visible, the baron had been gradually won upon to consent. Love for
his child, aided by the fine moral and personal qualities of the young man
himself, which here stood out in strong relief, like one of the stern
piles of those Alps that now appeared to his eyes so much superior, in
their eternal beds, to all the vine-clad hills and teeming valleys of the
lower world, had been the immediate and efficient agents in producing this
decision. It is not pretended that the Bernese made an easy conquest over
his prejudices, which was in truth no other than a conquest over himself,
he being, morally considered, little other than a collection of the narrow
opinions and exclusive doctrines which it was then the fashion to believe
necessary to high civilization. On the contrary, the struggle had been
severe; nor is it probable that the gentle blandishments of Adelheid, the
eloquent but silent appeals to his reason that were constantly made by
Sigismund in his deportment, or the arguments of his old comrade, the
Signor Grimaldi, who, with a philosophy that is more often made apparent
in our friendships than in our own practice, dilated copiously on the
wisdom of sacrificing a few worthless and antiquated opinions to the
happiness of an only child, would have prevailed, had the Baron been in a
situation less abstracted from the ordinary circumstances of his rank and
habits, than that in which he had been so accidentally thrown. The pious
clavier, too, who had obtained some claims to the confidence of the guests
of the convent by his services, and by the risks he had run in their
company, came to swell the number of Sigismund's friends. Of humble origin
himself, and attached to the young man not only by his general merits, but
by his conduct on the lake, he neglected no good occasion to work upon
Melchior's mind, after he himself had become acquainted with the nature of
the young man's hopes. As they paced the brown and naked rocks together,
in the vicinity of the convent, the Augustine discoursed on the perishable
nature of human hopes, and on the frailty of human opinions. He dwelt with
pious fervor on the usefulness of recalling the thoughts from the turmoil
of daily and contracted interests, to a wider view of the truths of
existence. Pointing to the wild scene around them, he likened the confused
masses of the mountains, their sterility, and their ruthless tempests, to
the world with its want of happy fruits, its disorders, and its violence.
Then directing the attention of his companion to the azure vault above
them, which, seen at that elevation and in that pure atmosphere,
resembled a benign canopy of the softest tints and colors, he made glowing
appeals to the eternal and holy tranquillity of the state of being to
which they were both fast hastening, and which had its type in the
mysterious and imposing calm of that tranquil and inimitable void. He drew
his moral in favor of a measured enjoyment of our advantages here, as well
as of rendering love and justice to all who merited our esteem, and to the
disadvantage of those iron prejudices which confine the best sentiments in
the fetters of opinions founded in the ordinances and provisions of the
violent and selfish.

It was after one of these interesting dialogues that Melchior de
Willading, his heart softened and his soul touched with the hopes of
heaven, listened with a more indulgent ear to the firm declaration of
Adelheid, that unless she became the wife of Sigismund, her self-respect,
no less than her affections, must compel her to pass her life unmarried.
We shall not say that the maiden herself philosophized on premises as
sublime as those of the good monk, for with her the warm impulses of the
heart lay at the bottom of her resolution; but even she had the
respectable support of reason to sustain her cause. The baron had that
innate desire to perpetuate his own existence in that of his descendants,
which appears to be a property of nature. Alarmed at a declaration which
threatened annihilation to his line, while at the same time he was more
than usually under the influence of his better feelings, he promised that
if the charge of murder could be removed from Balthazar, he would no
longer oppose the union. We should be giving the reader an opinion a
little too favorable of the Herr von Willading, were we, to say that he
did not repent having made this promise soon after it was uttered. He was
in a state of mind that resembled the vanes of his own towers, which
changed their direction with every fresh current of air, but he was by
far, too honorable to think seriously of violating a faith that he had
once fairly plighted. He had moments of unpleasant misgivings as to the
wisdom and propriety of his promise, but they were of that species of
regret, which is known to attend an unavoidable evil. If he had any
expectations of being released from his pledge, they were bottomed on
certain vague impressions that Balthazar would be found guilty; though the
constant and earnest asseverations of Sigismund in favor of his father had
greatly succeeded in shaking his faith on this point. Adelheid had
stronger hopes than either; the fears of the young man himself preventing
him from fully participating in her confidence, while her father shared
her expectations on that tormenting principle, which causes us to dread
the worst. When, therefore, the jewelry of Jacques Colis was found in the
possession of Maso, and Balthazar was unanimously acquitted, not only from
this circumstance, which went so conclusively to criminate another, but
from the want of any other evidence against him than the fact of his being
found in the bone-house instead of the Refuge, an accident that might well
have happened to any other traveller in the storm, the baron resolutely
prepared himself to redeem his pledge. It is scarcely necessary to add how
much this honorable sentiment was strengthened by the unexpected
declaration of the headsman concerning the birth of Sigismund.
Notwithstanding the asseveration of Maso that the whole was an invention
conceived to fervor the son of Balthazar, it was supported by proofs so
substantial and palpable, to say nothing of the natural and veracious
manner in which the tale was related, as to create a strong probability
in the minds of the witnesses, that it might be true. Although it remained
to be discovered who were the real parents of Sigismund, few now believed
that he owed his existence to the headsman.

A short summary of the facts may aid the reader in better understanding,
the circumstances on which so much dénouement depends.

It has been revealed in the course of the narrative that the Signor
Grimaldi had wedded a lady younger than himself, whose affections were
already in the possession of one that, in moral qualities, was unworthy of
her love, but who in other respects was perhaps better suited to become
her husband, than the powerful noble to whom her family had given her
hand. The birth of their son was soon followed by the death of the mother,
and the abduction of the child. Years had passed, when the Signor Grimaldi
was first apprized of the existence of the latter. He had received this

important information at a moment when the authorities of Genoa were most
active in pursuing those who had long and desperately trifled with the
laws, and the avowed motive for the revelation was an appeal to his
natural affection in behalf of a son, who was likely to become the victim
of his practices. The recovery of a child under such circumstances was a
blow severer than his loss, and it will readily be supposed that the truth
of the pretension of Maso, who then went by the name of Bartolomeo
Contini, was admitted with the greatest caution. Reference had been made
by the friends of the smuggler to a dying monk, whose character was above
suspicion, and who corroborated, with his latest breath, the statement of
Maso, by affirming before God and the saints that he knew him, so far as
man could know a fact like this, to be the son of the Signer Grimaldi;
This grave testimony, given under circumstances of such solemnity, and
supported by the production of important papers that had been stolen with
the child, removed the suspicions of the Doge. He secretly interposed his
interest to save the criminal, though, after a fruitless attempt to effect
a reformation of his habits by means of confidential agents, he had never
consented to see him.

Such then was the nature of the conflicting statements. While hope and the
pure delight of finding himself the father of a son like Sigismund, caused
the aged prince to cling to the claims of the young soldier with fond
pertinacity, his cooler and more deliberate judgment had already been
formed in favor of another. In the long private examination which
succeeded the scene in the chapel, Maso had gradually drawn more into
himself, becoming vague and mysterious, until he succeeded in exciting a
most painful state of doubt and expectation in all who witnessed his
deportment. Profiting by this advantage, he suddenly changed his tactics.
He promised revelations of importance, on the condition that he should
first be placed in security within the frontiers of Piedmont. The prudent
châtelain soon saw that the case was getting to be one in which Justice
was expected to be blind in the more politic signification of the term.
He, therefore, drew off his loquacious coadjutor, the bailiff, in a way to
leave the settlement of the affair to the feelings and wishes of the Doge.
The latter, by the aid of Melchior and Sigismund, soon effected an
understanding, in which the conditions of the mariner were admitted; when
the party separated for the night. Il Maledetto, on whom weighed the
entire load of Jacques Colis' murder, was again committed to his temporary
prison, while Balthazar, Pippo, and Conrad, were permitted to go at large,
as having successfully passed the ordeal of examination.

Day dawned upon the Col long ere the shades of night had deserted the
valley of the Rhone. All in the convent were in motion before the
appearance of the sun, it being generally understood that the event which
had so much disturbed the order of its peaceful inmates' lives, was to be
brought finally to a close, and that their duties were about to return
into the customary channels. Orisons are constantly ascending to heaven
from the pass of St. Bernard, but, on the present occasion, the stir in
and about the chapel, the manner in which the good canons hurried to and
fro through the long corridors, and the general air of excitement,
proclaimed that the offices of the matins possessed more than the usual
interest of the regular daily devotion.

The hour was still early when all on the pass assembled in the place of
worship. The body of Jacques Colis had been removed to a side chapel,
where, covered with a pall, it awaited the mass for the dead. Two large
church candles stood lighted on the steps of the great altar, and the
spectators, including Pierre and the muleteers, the servants of the
convent, and others of every rank and age, were drawn up in double files
in its front. Among the silent spectators appeared Balthazar and his wife,
Maso, in truth a prisoner, but with the air of a liberated man, the
pilgrim, and Pippo. The good prior was present in his robes, with all of
his community. During the moments of suspense which preceded the rites, he
discoursed civilly with the châtelain and the bailiff, both of whom
returned his courtesies with interest, and in the manner in which it
becomes the dignified and honored to respect appearances in the presence
of their inferiors. Still the demeanor of most was feverish and excited,
as if the occasion were one of compelled gaiety, into which unwelcome and
extraordinary circumstances of alloy had thrust themselves unbidden.

On the opening of the door a little procession entered, headed by the
clavier. Melchior de Willading led his daughter, Sigismund came next,
followed by Marguerite and Christine, and the venerable Doge brought up
the rear. Simple as was this wedding train, it was imposing from the
dignity of the principal actors, and from the evidences of deep feeling
with which all in it advanced to the altar. Sigismund was firm and
self-possessed. Still his carriage was lofty and proud, as if he felt that
a cloud still hung over that portion of his history to which the world
attached so much importance, and he had fallen back on his character and
principles for support. Adelheid had lately been so much the subject of
strong emotions, that she presented herself before the priest with less
trepidation than was usual for a maiden; but the fixed regard, the
colorless cheek, and an air of profound reverence, announced the depth and
solemn character of the feelings with which she was prepared to take the

The marriage rites were celebrated by the good clavier, who, not content
with persuading the baron to make this sacrifice of his prejudices, had
asked permission to finish the work he had so happily commenced, by
pronouncing the nuptial benediction. Melchior de Willading listened to the
short ceremony with silent self-approval. He felt disposed at that instant
to believe he had wisely sacrificed the interests of the world to the
right, a sentiment that was a little quickened by the uncertainty which
still hung over the origin of his new son, who might yet prove to be all
that he could hope, as well as by the momentary satisfaction he found in
manifesting his independence by bestowing the hand of his daughter upon
one whose merit was so much better ascertained than his birth. In this
manner do the best deceive themselves, yielding frequently to motives that
would not support investigation when they believe themselves the strongest
in the right. The good-natured clavier had observed the wavering and
uncertain character of the baron's decision, and he had been induced to
urge his particular request to be the officiating priest by a secret
apprehension that, descended again into the scenes of the world, the
relenting father might become, like most other parents of these nether
regions, more disposed to consult the temporal advancement than the true
happiness of his child.

As one of the parties was a Protestant, no mass was said, an omission,
however, that in no degree impaired the legal character of the engagement.
Adelheid plighted her unvarying love and fidelity with maiden modesty, but
with the steadiness of a woman whose affections and principles were
superior to the little weaknesses which, on such occasions, are most apt
to unsettle those who have the least of either of these great distinctive
essentials of the sex. The vows to cherish and protect were uttered by
Sigismund in deep manly sincerity, for, at that moment, he felt as if a
life of devotion to her happiness would scarcely requite her
single-minded, feminine, and unvarying truth.

"May God bless thee, dearest," murmured old Melchior, as, bending over his
kneeling child, he struggled to keep down a heart which appeared disposed
to mount into his throat, in spite of its master's inclinations; "bless
thee--bless thee, love, now and for ever. Providence has dealt sternly
with thy brothers and sisters, but in leaving thee it has still left me
rich in offspring. Here is our good friend, Gaetano, too--his fortune has
been still harder--but we will hope--we will hope. And thou, Sigismund,
now that Balthazar hath disowned thee, thou must accept such a father as
Heaven sends. All accidents of early life are forgotten, and Willading,
like my old heart, hath gotten a new owner and a new lord!"

The young man exchanged embraces with the baron, whose character he knew
to be kind in the main, and for whom he felt the regard which was natural
to his present situation. He then turned, with a hesitating eye, to the
Signor Grimaldi. The Doge succeeded his friend in paying the compliments
of affection to the bride, and had just released Adelheid with a warm
paternal kiss.

"I pray Maria and her holy Son in thy behalf!" said the venerable Prince
with dignity. "Thou enterest on new and serious duties, child, but the
spirit and purity of an angel, a meekness that does not depress, and a
character whose force rather relieves than injures the softness of thy
sex, can temper the ills of this fickle world, and thou may'st justly hope
to see a fair portion of that felicity which thy young imagination
pictures in such golden colors. And thou," he added, turning to meet the
embrace of Sigismund, "whoever thou art by the first disposition of
Providence, thou art now rightfully dear to me. The husband of Melchior de
Willading's daughter would ever have a claim upon his most ancient and
dearest friend, but we are united by a tie that has the interest of a
singular and solemn mystery. My reason tells me that I am punished for
much early and wanton pride and wilfulness, in being the parent of a child
that few men in any condition of life could wish to claim, while my heart
would fain flatter me with being the father of a son of whom an emperor
alight be proud! Thou art, and thou art not, of my blood. Without these
proofs of Maso's, and the testimony of the dying monk, I should proclaim
thee to be the latter without hesitation; but be thou what thou may'st by
birth, thou art entirely and without alloy of my love. Be tender of this
fragile flower that Providence hath put under thy protection, Sigismund;
cherish it as thou valuest thine own soul; the generous and confiding love
of a virtuous woman is always a support, frequently a triumphant stay, to
the tottering principles of man. Oh! had it pleased God earlier to have
given me Angiolina, how different might have been our lives! This dark
uncertainty would not now hang over the most precious of human affections,
and my closing hour would be blessed. Heaven and its saints preserve ye
both, my children, and preserve ye long in your present innocence and

The venerable Doge ceased. The effort which had enabled him to speak gave
way, and he turned aside that he might weep in the decent reserve that
became his station and years.

Until now Marguerite had been silent, watching the countenances, and
drinking in with avidity the words, of the different speakers. It was now
her turn. Sigismund knelt at her feet, pressing her hands to his lips in a
manner to show that her high, though stern character, had left deep traces
in his recollection. Releasing herself from his convulsed grasp, for just
then the young man felt intensely the violence of severing those early
ties which, in his case, had perhaps something of wild romance from their
secret nature, she parted the curls on his ample brow, and stood gazing
long at his face, studying each lineament to its minutest shade.

"No," she said mournfully shaking her head, "truly thou art not of us, and
God hath dealt mercifully in taking away the innocent little creature
whose place thou hast so long innocently usurped. Thou wert dear to me,
Sigismund--very dear--for I thought thee under the curse of my race; do
not hate me, if I say my heart is now in the grave of--"

"Mother!" exclaimed the young man reproachfully.

"Well I am still thy mother," answered Marguerite, smiling, though
painfully; "thou art a noble boy, and no change of fortune can ever alter
thy soul. 'Tis a cruel parting, Balthazar and I know not, after all, that
thou didst well to deceive me; for I have had as much grief as joy in the
youth--grief, bitter grief, that one like him should be condemned to live
under the curse of our race--but it is ended now--he is not of us--no, he
is no longer of us!"

This was uttered so plaintively that Sigismund bent his face to his hands
and sobbed aloud.

"Now that the happy and proud weep, 'tis time that the wretched dried
their tears," added the wife of Balthazar, looking about her with a sad
mixture of agony and pride struggling in her countenance: for, in spite of
her professions, it was plain that she yielded her claim on the noble
youth with deep yearnings and an intense agony of spirit. "We have one
consolation, at least, Christine--all that are not of our blood will not
despise us now! Am I right, Sigismund--thou too wilt not torn upon us with
the world, and hate those whom thou once loved?"

"Mother, mother, for the sake of the Holy Virgin, do not harrow my soul!"

"I will not distrust thee, dear; thou didst not drink at my breast, but
thou hast taken in too many lessons of the truth from my lips to despise
us--and yet thou art not of us; thou mayest possibly prove a Prince's
son, and the world so hardens the heart--and they who have been sorely
pressed upon become suspicious--"

"For the love of God, cease, mother, or thou wilt break my heart!"

"Come hither, Christine. Sigismund, this maiden goes with thy wife: we
have the greatest confidence in the truth and principles of her thou hast
wedded, for she has been tried and not found wanting. Be tender to the
child; she was once thy sister, and then thou used to love her."

"Mother--thou wilt make me curse the hour I was born!"

Marguerite, while she could not overcome the cold distrust which habit had
interwoven with all her opinions, felt that she was cruel, and she said no
more. Stooping, she kissed the cold forehead of the young man, gave a warm
embrace to her daughter, over whom she prayed fervently for a minute, and
then placed the insensible girl into the open arms of Adelheid. The awful
workings of nature were subdued by a superhuman will, and she turned
slowly towards the silent, respectful crowd, who had scarcely breathed
during this exhibition of her noble character.

"Doth any here," she sternly asked, "suspect the innocence of Balthazar?"

"None, good woman, none!" returned the bailiff, wiping his eyes; "go in
peace to thy home, o' Heaven's sake, and God be with thee!"

"He stands acquitted before God and man!" added the more dignified

Marguerite motioned for Balthazar to precede her, and she prepared to quit
the chapel. On the threshold she turned and cast a lingering look at
Sigismund and Christine. The two latter were weeping in each other's arms,
and the soul of Marguerite yearned to mingle her tears with those she
loved so well. But, stern in her resolutions, she stayed the torrent of
feeling which would have been so terrible in its violence had it broken
loose, and followed her husband, with a dry and glowing eye. They
descended the mountain with a vacuum in their hearts which taught even
this persecuted pair, that there are griefs in nature that surpass all the
artificial woes of life.

The scene just related did not fail to disturb the spectators. Maso dashed
his hand across his eyes, and seemed touched with a stronger working of
sympathy than it accorded with his present policy to show, while both
Conrad and Pippo did credit to their humanity, by fairly shedding tears.
The latter, indeed, showed manifestations of a sensibility that is not
altogether incompatible with ordinary recklessness and looseness of
principle. He even begged leave to kiss the hand of the bride, wishing her
joy with fervor, as one who had gone through great danger in her company.
The whole party then separated with an exchange of cordial good feeling
which proves that, however much men may be disposed to jostle and
discompose their fellows in the great highway of life, nature has infused
into their composition some great redeeming qualities to make us regret
the abuses by which they have been so much perverted.

On quitting the chapel, the whole of the travellers made their
dispositions to depart. The bailiff and the châtelain went down towards
the Rhone, as well satisfied with themselves as if they had discharged
their trust with fidelity by committing Maso to prison, and discoursing as
they rode along on the singular chances which had brought a son of the
Doge of Genoa before them, in a condition so questionable. The good
Augustines helped the travellers who were destined for the other descent
into their saddles, and acquitted themselves of the last act of
hospitality by following the footsteps of the mules, with wishes for their
safe arrival at Aoste.

The path across the Col has been already described. It winds along the
margin of the little lake, passing the site of the ancient temple of
Jupiter at the distance of a few hundred yards from the convent. Sweeping
past the northern extremity of the little basin, where it crosses the
frontiers of Piedmont, it cuts the ragged wall of rock, and, after winding
_en corniche_ for a short distance by the edge of a fearful ravine, it
plunges at once towards the plains of Italy.

As there was a desire to have no unnecessary witnesses of Maso's promised
revelations, Conrad and Pippo had been advised to quit the mountain before
the rest of the party, and the muleteers were requested to keep a little
in the rear. At the point where the path leaves the lake, the whole
dismounted, Pierre going ahead with the beasts, with a view to make the
first precipitous pitch from the Col on foot. Maso now took the lead. When
he reached the spot where the convent is last in view, he stopped and
turned to gaze at the venerable and storm-beaten pile.

"Thou hesitated," observed the Baron de Willading, who suspected an
intention to escape.

"Signore; the look at even a stone is a melancholy office, when it is
known to be the last. I have often climbed to the Col, but I shall never
dare do it again; for, though the honorable and worthy châtelain, and the
most worthy bailiff, are willing to pay their homage to a Doge of Genoa in
his own person, they may be less tender of his honor when he is absent.
Addio, caro San Bernardo! Like me, thou art solitary and weather-beaten,
and like me, though rude of aspect, thou hast thy uses. We are both
beacons--thou to tell the traveller where to seek safety, and I to warn
him where danger is to be avoided."

There is a dignity in manly suffering, that commands our sympathies. All
who heard this apostrophe to the abode of the Augustines were struck with
its simplicity and its moral. They followed the speaker in silence,
however, to the point where the path makes its first sudden descent. The
spot was favorable to the purpose of Il Maledetto. Though still on the
level of the lake, the convent, the Col, and all it contained, with the
exception of a short line of its stony path, were shut from their view, by
the barrier of intervening rock. The ravine lay beneath, ragged,
ferruginous, and riven into a hundred faces by the eternal action of the
seasons. All above, beneath, and around, was naked, and chaotic as the
elements of the globe before they received the order-giving touch of the
Creator. The imagination could scarce picture a scene of greater solitude
and desolation.

"Signore," said Maso, respectfully raising his cap, and speaking with
calmness, "this confusion of nature resembles my own character. Here
everything is torn, sterile, and wild; but patience, charity, and generous
love, have been able to change even this rocky height into an abode for
those who live for the good of others. There is none so worthless that use
may not be made of him. We are types of the earth our mother; useless, and
savage, or repaying the labor, that we receive, as we are treated like
men, or hunted like beasts. If the great, and the powerful, and the
honored, would become the friends and monitors of the weak and ignorant,
instead of remaining so many watch-dogs to snarl at and bite all that they
fear may encroach on their privileges, raising the cry of the wolf each
time that they hear the wail of the timid and bleating lamb, the fairest
works of God would not be so often defaced. I have lived, and it is
probable that I shall die an outlaw; but the severest pangs I ever know
come from the the mockery which accuses my nature of abuses that are the
fruits of your own injustice. That stone," kicking a bit of rock from the
path into the ravine beneath, "is as much master of its direction after my
foot has set its mass in motion, as the poor untaught being who is thrown
upon the world, despised, unaided, suspected, and condemned even before he
has sinned, has the command of his own course. My mother was fain and
good. She wanted only the power to withstand the arts of one, who, honored
in the opinions of all around her, undermined her virtue. He was great,
noble, and powerful; while she hath little beside her beauty and her
weakness. Signori,--the odds against her were too much. I was the
punishment of her fault. I came into a world then, in which every man
despised me before I had done any act to deserve its scorn,"

"Nay, this is pushing opinions to extremes!" interrupted the Signor
Grimaldi, who had scarce breathed, in his eagerness to catch the syllables
as they came from the other's tongue.

"We began, Signori, as we have ended; distrustful, and struggling to see
which could do the other the most harm. A reverend and holy monk, who knew
my history, would have filled a soul with heaven that the wrongs of the
world had already driven to, the verge of hell. The experiment failed.
Homily and precept," Maso smiled bitterly as he continued, "are but
indifferent weapons to fight with against hourly wrongs; instead of
becoming a cardinal and the counsellor of the head of the church, I am the
man ye see. Signor Grimaldi, the monk who gave me his care was Father
Girolamo. He told the truth to thy secretary, for I am the son of poor
Annunziata Altieri, who was once thought worthy to attract thy passing
notice. The deception of calling myself another of thy children was
practised for my own security. The means were offered by an accidental
confederacy with one of the instruments of thy formidable enemy and
cousin, who furnished the papers that had been taken with the little
Gaetano. The truth of what I say shall be delivered to you at Genoa. As
for the Signor Sigismondo, it is time we ceased to be rivals. We are
brothers, with this difference in our fortunes, that he comes of wedlock,
and I of an unexpiated, and almost an unrepented, crime!"

A common cry, in which regret, joy, and surprise were wildly mingled,
interrupted the speaker. Adelheid threw herself into her husband's arms,
and the pale and conscience-stricken Doge stood with extended arms, an
image of contrition, delight, and shame. His friends pressed around him
with consolation on their tongues, and the blandishments of affection in
their manner, for the regrets of the great rarely pass away unheeded, like
the moans of the low.

"Let me have air!" exclaimed the prince; "give me air or I suffocate!
Where is the child of Annunziata?--I will at least atone to him for the
wrong done his mother!"

It was too late. The victim of another's fault had cast himself over the
edge of the precipice with reckless hardihood, and he was already beyond
the reach of the voice, in his swift descent, by a shorter but dangerous
path, toward Aoste. Nettuno was at his heels. It was evident that he
endeavored to outstrip Pippo and Conrad, who were trudging ahead by the
more beaten road. In a few minutes he turned the brow of a beetling rock,
and was lost to view.

This was the last that was known of Il Maledetto. At Genoa, the Doge
secretly received the confirmation of all that he had heard, and Sigismund
was legally placed in possession of his birth-right. The latter made many
generous but useless efforts to discover and to reclaim his brother. With
a delicacy that could hardly be expected, the outlaw had withdrawn from a
scene which he now felt to be unsuited to his habits, and he never
permitted the veil to be withdrawn from the place of his retreat.

The only consolation that his relatives ever obtained, arose from an event
which brought Pippo under the condemnation of the law. Before his
execution, the buffoon confessed that Jacques Colis fell by the hands of
Conrad and himself, and that, ignorant of Maso's expedient on his own
account, they had made use of Nettuno to convey the plundered jewelry
undetected across the frontiers of Piedmont.

The End.

James Fenimore Cooper