The Elopement by Anonymous

The Cavalier Nimagri Revescio, a descendant of a noble Venetian family, whose name it is immaterial to mention, more particularly as the fact happened only some fifty years ago, being on his way to Rome, passed through Caserta, and wanting a servant, his valet having been taken dangerously ill on the road, enquired of the host, where he alighted, whether he could recommend him such a one? The host said he would enquire, and towards the evening brought a man up, who he said wanted a place. The host having retired, the Cavalier Nimagri asked the man what he could do? To which Gasparo, the servant, answered, "nothing, sir."

"Nothing," said the cavalier, "can you dress hair, shave, &c.?"

"No, sir, but have good will, and will learn any thing."

"But what has been your employment?"

"A very bad one," said Gasparo, "but I am heartily sick of it, and am determined to get my bread honestly and live in the fear of God."

"But what are you; where do you come from?"

"Oh, sir," he continued, "I am a Sicilian, Gasparo is my name; take pity on a poor repentant sinner! hitherto I have been only a thief and a murderer, who for a ducat or two would have murdered any man." Don Nimagri was astonished at the singularity of the case, and not a little staggered at the horrible countenance before him, wherein his former trade was strikingly depicted; but being a young man of uncommon courage, and altogether struck with the candour and simplicity of the fellow's tale, as well as the unaffected repentance he showed, he hired him, and he has often been heard to say, in his life he never met with a more trusty or faithful servant.

The next day the cavalier pursued his intended journey to Rome; on the second evening, having stopped at one of the best inns at Mecerra, while Don Nimagri was at supper, the host came in, and having apologized for the intrusion, said, "Signor Cavalier, there is a very noble youth below, just arrived, who, upon hearing I had but one gentleman traveller in the house, has begged I would ask your excellency, whether you would allow him the pleasure of your society: I assure you, sir," said the host, "he is a very handsome young man, and, I dare say, the son of some nobleman of the first rank, who has been playing some thoughtless pranks; run away from college, or some such trick." Don Nimagri, who was naturally of a kind disposition, desired the host to give his compliments to the gentleman, and say, he should be very happy in his company. In a few minutes the host introduced the guest, a very elegant youth, seemingly about eighteen, whose genteel and prepossessing appearance bespoke him of high birth; he was in stature rather short, delicate, but well proportioned, of a fair complexion, with beautiful and animated eyes'; after the usual compliments on such occasions, an addition was ordered to the supper. Don Nimagri's curiosity was a good deal excited by the manners and conversation of his guest; it was sensible, but reserved. Don Nimagri was too well bred to pry into his guest's affairs, but there was a visible uneasiness about the youth that distressed him; he endeavoured to rouse him by every means in his power, but the stranger answered but little; scarcely eat any thing; sighed deeply; and, upon the whole, seemed to be greatly agitated. Don Nimagri, however, imagining be might have some affair of honour on his hands, generously offered the stranger every assistance in his power. Supper being ended, the youth got up, paced awhile along the room, and, at last, addressing the cavalier, said in a hurried tone, "noble signor, I have a favour to ask you: will you allow me, if the host can accommodate us with a double-bedded room, to sleep in the same apartment?" Don Nimagri hesitated not an instant, but rang for the host, and enquired for a room with two beds; the host answered, that he was sorry to say he had no such thing in the inn. Don Nimagri perceiving the host's answer very much encreased the youth's inquietude, though he could not rightly guess at the cause, said, "well, signor, we must do as well as we can, the night is very hot; for my part I only mean to take off my coat and boots, slip on my dressing gown, and lay on the bed, for I propose starting very early, and to travel in the cool of the morning;" and, as Gasparo came in to receive orders, he desired his horse to be ready by five o'clock. These matters being settled, they retired to rest. Don Nimagri would have been glad to have had a few hours sleep, but our youth was so restless as he lay on the bed, that it seemed impossible. Sleep, however, had at last over-powered the signor cavaliero; he had scarcely slept two hours, when he was roused by a tremendous noise, as if the whole inn was in arms; he listened, and the noise still increasing, he jumped up; scarcely was he on his feet, when a loud rap was heard at the room door, and two voices demanded admittance. The youth, at the sound of the voices, ran to Don Nimagri, and hardly able to articulate a word, caught hold of his arm and cried, "Oh, save me, signor! I am an unfortunate young woman!" and fell at his feet. The cavalier had not a moment to think, for they threatened to break open the door; upon which Don Nimagri called to them, and said if they dared to force the door, without a proper order from the magistrate, he would blow their brains out, and that he was well prepared to encounter a host of them; to which they replied they had. "If you have," said the cavalier, "thrust it under the door, and if it is a true one, I will open the door;" but that was not the case, they were not in possession of any such a thing. After many useless threats, they said they would fetch a police officer, and retired. Meanwhile Gasparo, on the first hearing of the bustle, had equipped himself with two large pistols in his belt, a poignard, a huge sword which he always wore, and came in to his master: what was to be done with the lady was the first question; the host was called, and a purse of ducats put into his hand, (the best pleaders for protection); the state of the case being told him, he proposed, while they were gone, to procure an order, which he had no doubt they would obtain, as the magistrate of the place was by no means invulnerable against the attack of a full purse; that the lady should be hidden in the hay-loft under some trusses, properly arranged for the purpose. This being done, the cavalier threw himself carelessly on the bed, and waited in great anxiety to hear of the lady's safety, till Gasparo ran in, and cried out, "II Diavolo istesso non la troverebbe,"—the devil himself could not find her out, she is so well concealed. It was but a short time after every thing was settled, that the two gentlemen returned, accompanied by an officer, who was desired to thrust the warrant under the door, if he really had one. Don Nimagri finding that it was a magistrate's order, and knowing the lady was safe, ordered Gasparo to open the door; the strangers judging by the appearance of Don Nimagri, and Gasparo's terrible figure, that the one was a person of some consequence, and well protected, began to apologize, stating that they were in search of a sister who had run away from home to avoid an union with a nobleman of her father's choice, and whom they were determined to secure.

They searched every where, and as one of the brothers was looking under the bed, Qasparo, who was perhaps seized with an itching after his old habits, was winking and blinking at his master, with a piteous, imploring face, to let him have a pop or two at them; and it was with difficulty he was able, by threatening looks, and a grasp of his arm, to prevent him from discharging both his pieces at them. Being disappointed in their search, the three men withdrew. As soon as Don Nimagri thought they were safe, Gasparo and himself went to release the affrighted lady, who was more dead than alive; some refreshments being brought in, Donna Colomba, having recovered a little, related her story to her protector, informing him that her cruel father, for the sake of interest, insisted she should marry an old dotard, who was old enough to be her grandfather, and whose vices and character she abhorred. "But what do you intend to do?" said our young champion. "Signor," added she, with a bewitching grace, and tears glistening in her fine eyes, "I am under your protection; the interest you have shown for my safety, repels every idea of fear in me, and I have no hesitation in entrusting my life and my honor in your hands, if you will but escort me with your servant as far as Benevento; I have, at a short distance from thence, an aunt, an abbess, under whose sacred care I shall be safe, and where I mean to take the veil: do but this, and I will ever be grateful to you." Don Nimagri was too much of a man and a cavalier to withstand the entreaties of a distressed fair one; he immediately gave orders for a carriage to be got ready, desired Gasparo to saddle their horses, look to the pistols in both saddles, and be quick. Gasparo flew; the chaise being ready, the host liberally paid, the better to seal his lips, Donna Colomba and Don Nimagri leaped into the vehicle, and drove off full gallop. Whether the brothers had had scent by some stable-boy or other, that a lady had been at the inn is not certain; but they had laid watch, the which was easy enough, as there was but one road; but being afraid, they placed themselves in ambush and suffered them to pass, and followed behind at a small distance, expecting to overtake them at the rising of the hill, which was about three miles off, when the horses would be tired. By the time they got within a quarter of a mile from the hill, Gasparo who was following, leading his master's steed, hearing a trampling of horses, looked back, saw them, and instantly gave the alarm, crying as loud as he could, "here they are, here they are, we shall have fine sport." Don Nimagri looked out of the window, stopped the carriage, got out, mounted his horse, ordered the postillion to drive as fast as he could out of reach, the which he had no occasion to repeat, for he was gone before Don Nimagri could well turn his horse to face the enemy. The sbirro darting forward, pistol in hand, ordered them to stand. Gasparo, who was more expert at this work than his master, fired his pistol, but missing his aim, only shot the horse; down fell the sbirro. Gasparo dismounted in an instant; put his horse's bridle into his master's hand, ran up to the sbirro, and with his stiletto most charitably put him out of misery, for the poor devil had broken his arm in the fall. Don Nimagri meanwhile fired at the brothers who had advanced upon him. Gasparo seeing the danger of his master in this unequal match, fired his other pistol so successfully, that whether one alone, or both were wounded, was never heard, for both set spurs to their horses, like the valiant knight who ran away, to live and fight another day.

Don Nimagri finding that the enemy were fled, did not think it necessary to follow them, but turned his attention to the lady. They rode up to the carriage as fast as they could, and found the lady in the greatest terror; she eagerly enquired whether her brothers were safe, for cruel as they were, she could not but feel as a sister. Don Nimagri assured her they had both run away safe and sound. There being no time to be lost, lest they might have run off under the idea of getting assistance, he ordered the postillion to proceed to the next post, where they rested some time, the lady being overcome by the fright, fatigue, and distress of mind. As soon as she was recovered they set off, and arrived safe at Benevento, but although it was in the middle of the night, no entreaty or remonstrance could prevail on the lady to remain there till morning; she was so alarmed at the idea of being surprised, and carried away by her brothers, whom she had reason to fear were still pursuing, or perhaps some more powerful dread in the breast of a virtuous female, now she was discovered, that with tears she entreated Don Nimagri to proceed to the convent she had mentioned, to which he reluctantly agreed, apprehending the consternation and fright such an arrival, and at such an hour, would create. The sisterhood of the convent, as he conjectured, when they arrived, had just retired again to rest after their midnight prayer, and were scarcely fallen into a doze, when they were terrified by the violent ringing of the great convent bell. What could be the matter? was the general cry. The alarm spread like wild-fire; some fell on their marrow-bones, praying to St. Jenajo; some ran with half their garments into the chapel; some concealed themselves in the vaults, while the poor ab-bess lay trembling in her bed, counting her beads. At last the porteress came to the gate and through the little grating enquired what was the matter. Don Nimagri said Donna Colomba, the abbess's relation, was pursued, and begged protection. While the good nun went up to deliver the message, the gates were opened, and the chaise drove in. But poor Gasparo was shut out, and thereby exposed to his fate, had there been any one at their heels; but luckily for him, they had been too much terrified to venture a second attack. Shortly after the fugitives were introduced into the chapel, for the abbess seeing the girls running helter-skelter in every direction, did not dare to introduce a man into any room, lest some of them might have sought refuge there. Therefore, into the chapel they went; two or three of those innocent creatures, who had run into it in their fright, now scampered away as fast as they could, at sight of a man, and at that time of the morning. When the abbess had heard Donna Colomba's account, she thanked Don Nimagri for his very kind and humane attention, expressed great regret at not being able to allow him to stay the night, but offered to send to a neighbouring farm, and obtain accommodation for him and his servant; entreated him to come in the morning that they might have an opportunity of giving him some testimony of the gratitude they felt for his kind protection to her relation. Don Nimagri, highly pleased at his success in saving the lady, departed. Receiving a message from the abbess in the morning, he attended her, and was presented to the whole sisterhood as the saviour of Donna Colomba's life and honor, and much gratified with the blessings and thanks of all these pretty creatures, who vied with each other in little presents of relics, sweet-meats,&c. The lady abbess presented him with a very handsome crucifix set in diamonds. Donna Colomba could not find words to express herself, but requested his acceptance of a beautiful diamond ring in remembrance of her; and loaded him with blessings. Gasparo, I must say, was not neglected by the inferior nuns. Although not a very prepossessing parsonage, the account he gave of his glorious exploits so delighted them, for ladies are fond of valour, that he did not lack wine, cakes, and the good things usually met with in convents. After a few hours Don Nimagri took leave of the ladies and sisterhood, and arrived safe and sound at Rome.