The Sleeping Draught by Anonymous

There was in Siena, not many years ago, a young man, the son of respectable parents, named Marriotto Mignelli, who fell violently in love with a young lady by name Gianozza, the daughter of one of the most respectable and worthy citizens, descended from the family of the Saraceni; in the course of time his assiduity and constancy were returned by the lady with equal ardour. They, for some time, remained satisfied with the joys of reciprocal protestations, and the sight of each other alone was a blessing beyond their most ardent wishes,—but this lasted but a short time; in what manner they should proceed to complete their views of happiness they could not devise, knowing the repulse they should meet from the parents of the lady. At last Gianozza, who was as prudent as she was handsome, resolved on secretly being married to him, and thus, should they be detected, to sanction their secret intrigue under the cloak of a marriage. In order to accomplish this object, they bribed an Augustin friar, by whose means they were united. Having, for a time, enjoyed the fruits of this sly, and partly unlawful marriage, it happened that fortune, contrary to their expectations, turned all their joys to bitter sorrow. Marriotto one day coming to high words with a respectable citizen, blows ensued, and Marriotto unfortunately struck the man a severe blow with his stick on the head, of which the unhappy man died a few days after: Marriotto, therefore, carefully concealed himself. As the sbirri, who were sent in quest of him, could not find him, he was outlawed by the magistrates, and condemned to die if found within their jurisdiction.

What were the sorrows of the loving pair, may more easily be conceived than described; the bitter tears that were shed at their parting, under the impression they never should meet again, would have melted a heart of stone; and, in their last embrace, they both seemed expiring in each other's arms. At length Marriotto tried to comfort his mournful bride, by intimating a hope that, by some fortunate event, he might return to his country. He, at last, determined not only to absent himself from Tuscany, but to fly from Italy altogether, and go over to Alexandria to an uncle, named Mignanelli, he had there, a great merchant. After settling with his wife on the best means of carrying on a correspondence between them, the unhappy couple parted in tears. The distracted Marriotto made his way to the nearest port, to set sail for Alexandria, after leaving a letter for his brother, to inform him of the whole secret. He most pressingly entreated him carefully to watch over the safety of his dear Gianozza, and to protect her. In due time he arrived at Alexandria, was kindly received by his uncle, and related his misfortunes to him; Mignanelli was much grieved, not so much at the murder of the man, as on account of the offence given to the relations of the lady by this secret union, and whose power was much to be dreaded; but thinking it was useless to reproach him for things past, they endeavoured to quiet each other's minds. The uncle initiated him in trade, and having every month letters constantly from his beloved Gianozza, and now and then seeing his brother, he was comparatively happy. In the interim, the father of Gianozza being solicited and importuned by many to marry his daughter, she continually objected to one, then to another; being at last pressed by her father to choose a husband, and, in such a manner, that it would have been needless to resist, she became almost distracted; to tell the truth would have but added fuel to fire. In this dreadful situation, a thought struck her, not only dangerous and cruel, but, perhaps, never yet heard of. She told her father she was ready to obey his commands, and immediately went to the friar Augustin, who had favoured their scheme, and cautiously imparted to him her project, and entreated his assistance; upon which he assumed that modest caution and timidity natural to the cloth, and, by some, highly admired; and humm'd and hah'd, but the enchanting powers of a well lined purse soon emboldened him, and he manfully entered into the scheme. He hastened home and made up (for he was an adept in the science) a draught, that not only would send a person to sleep for three days, but would give the real appearance of a corpse; having made up this draught, he sent it to the lady, with proper directions. Gianozza wrote a letter to Marriotto, to inform him of every particular the friar had done by her express command; then swallowed the draught, which, in a short time, threw her into a stupor, and she fell as if dead amidst her women; their cries soon brought her father and all the family into the room; the distracted old man sent for medical assistance, but nothing could avail; she was to all appearance dead, and the doctors were of opinion it was from the gout that had seized the chest.

The next day, and the succeeding one, she was carefully watched, to see if any signs of life appeared, but none being visible, to the great grief of her aged parent, and amidst the tears and lamentations of friends and relations, she was buried in the church of St. Augustin. About midnight the friar, assisted by one of his trusty brethren, took her out of the coffin into his room, and at the hour when the operation of the draught must be nearly over, they, by friction and other means, restored her to life. Being completely revived to sense and feeling in a few days, dressed in a friar's garment, she set forth with the Augustin friar to port Pisano, where they found the galley Aquamorta, that was to touch at Alexandria in her voyage. Having taken their passage, they embarked forthwith, but as navigation is very precarious, and merchant vessels are often detained by landing, or freighting goods, contrary winds, and other casualties, they did not arrive till some months later than they expected.

The unfortunate Marriotto had, however, received, by several merchants, letters from Gargano his brother, who anxious to keep up the correspondence he had promised, had written to him every particular of the melancholy event, adding, that the afflicted and broken-hearted old father had died with grief. On the other hand, the vessel by which Gianozza's letter had been sent was carrying corn to Alexandria, and was taken by pirates. Having no other information than his brother's, he concluded it was all as stated in his letters. Reader, if thou hast a heart, thou wilt easily picture to thyself the distraction of Marriotto; so overpowering were his sorrows, that he determined not to outlive his misfortune, and in spite of his uncle's entreaties, he resolved to return to Siena, to conceal himself in disguise, and there, where he thought his dear Gianozza lay, to bathe her tomb with his tears, and die. He embarked in a Venetian galley that was sailing to Naples; being arrived there, he went by land into Tuscany, entered Siena unknown, in a pilgrim's dress, and without going to any of his relations, went to the church of St. Augustin, where his beloved had been buried; there he wept and lamented, and would fain have buried himself with her in the tomb.

The following evening he provided himself with an iron tool and wrench, and had nearly succeeded in opening the tomb, when the sexton, who was come to ring the bell for midnight prayers, hearing a noise, hastened to the place, and found the unfortunate Marriotto hard at his work; taking him to be a robber of the tombs, he halloed lustily, "stop thief, stop thief!" that all the fraternity were soon down into the church, some in their night-caps, others in their shirts; and although he was in tatters, he was immediately recognised to be Marriotto Mignelli. Here he was kept fast till the morning. It was soon divulged in Siena, and reaching the ears of the magistrates, they instantly sent the sbirri to seize him. They brought him before the judge, and he had scarcely felt the first torture, when he confessed, rather than endure more torments, the cause of his desperate resolution to return home. Although he was universally pitied, and more particularly by the fair sex, who looked upon him as a phenomenon of true love, and wept bitterly for his fate, yet the magistrate ordered that on the first execution day he should be hung. Thus, the interposition of his friends being unavailing, he submitted to his fate. After some months had elapsed, Gianozza, and her conductor arrived, after great sufferings, at Alexandria, enquired for Niccolo Mignanelli, and having found him made herself known to him, and told him all her misfortunes, and the purpose of her voyage. The good uncle was petrified with amazement, and grieved to the heart. After he had made her take her usual woman's garments, and kindly treated the friar, he then related to the distressed Gianozza how Marriotto, led away by despair, had left him, and had gone back, without giving him the least intimation, fully determined to die, and how much he had grieved at his departure, knowing that such was his fixed resolve. Reader, you will surely conceive that this last misfortune outweighed every past suffering, and almost overwhelmed the unfortunate widow. After the bitterness of her sorrow was alleviated by scorching tears, Niccolo advised that they should both immediately take shipping, go to Siena, and find out Marriotto, dead or alive, and use every means to clear the honour of the lady. Having settled some little business, he made her take men's clothes, embarked her, and after a prosperous voyage they arrived at Leghorn, and went from thence as speedily as they could to a little estate near Siena, which Niccolo possessed. Having enquired into many particulars, they were informed, to their very great grief, that Marriotto had three days before been executed. This fatal news was, indeed, a last stroke of cruel fortune. This was too much; tears could no longer flow; death and despair were indelibly traced in her countenance. Niccolo tried to comfort her, and at last determined, as secretly as possible, to place her in a convent, where, without making her known to the abbess, she might be taken care of. In this he succeeded; but intense grief, which totally deprived her of sleep and food, in a few days relieved her from all her sorrows, and she expired calling on her beloved Marriotto.