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List Of Contents | Contents of Nisida, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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fantastical student and an out-at-elbows poet, he fell upon his knees
and shouted a thanksgiving to the planet Venus; then, addressing the
young girl, he added, in a calmer voice, that he was going to write
immediately to his own father, who in a week's time would come to
make his formal proposal; until then, he begged, as a favour, that he
might not present himself to Solomon nor to any person at all in the
island, and assigned as a pretext a certain degree of shame which he
felt on account of his old clothes, assuring his beloved that his
father would bring him a complete outfit for the wedding-day.

While the ill-starred girl was thus walking in terrifying security at
the edge of the precipice, Trespolo, following his master's wishes,
had established himself in the island as a pilgrim from Jerusalem.
Playing his part and sprinkling his conversation with biblical
phrases, which came to him readily, in his character of ex-sacristan,
he distributed abundance of charms, wood of the true Cross and milk
of the Blessed Virgin, and all those other inexhaustible treasures on
which the eager devotion of worthy people daily feeds.  His relics
were the more evidently authentic in that he did not sell any of
them, and, bearing his poverty in a holy manner, thanked the faithful
and declined their alms.  Only, out of regard for the established
virtue of Solomon, he had consented to break bread with the
fisherman, and went to take meals with him with the regularity of a
cenobite.  His abstinence aroused universal surprise: a crust dipped
in water, a few nuts or figs sufficed to keep this holy man alive--to
prevent him, that is to say, from dying.  Furthermore, he entertained
Nisida by his tales of his travels and by his mysterious predictions.
Unfortunately, he only appeared towards evening; for he spent the
rest of the day in austerities and in prayers--in other words, in
drinking like a Turk and snoring like a buffalo.

On the morning of the seventh day, after the promise given by the
prince to the fisherman's daughter, Brancaleone came into his
servant's room, and, shaking hint roughly, cried in his ear, "Up,
odious marmot!"

Trespolo, awakened suddenly, rubbed his eyes in alarm.  The dead,
sleeping peacefully at the bottom of their coffins, will be less
annoyed at the last day when the trump of Judgment comes to drag them
from their slumbers.  Fear having, however, immediately dispersed the
dark clouds that overspread his countenance, he sat up, and asked
with an appearance of bewilderment--

"What is the matter, your excellency?"

"The matter is that I will have you flayed alive a little if you do
not leave off that execrable habit of sleeping twenty hours in the
day."

"I was not asleep, prince!" cried the servant boldly, as he sprang
out of bed; "I was reflecting---"

"Listen to me," said the prince in a severe tone; "you were once
employed, I believe, in a chemist's shop?"

"Yes, my lord, and I left because my employer had the scandalous
barbarity to make me pound drugs, which tired my arms horribly."

"Here is a phial containing a solution of opium."

"Mercy!" cried Trespolo, falling on his knees.

"Get up, idiot, and pay great attention to what I am going to say to
you.  This little fool of a Nisida persists in wanting me to speak to
her father.  I made her believe that I was going away this evening to
fetch my papers.  There is no time to lose.  They know you very well
at the fisherman's.  You will pour this liquid into their wine; your
life will answer for your not giving them a larger dose than enough
to produce a deep sleep.  You will take care to prepare me a good
ladder for to-night; after which you will go and wait for me in my
boat, where you will find Numa and Bonaroux.  They have my orders.
I shall not want you in scaling the fortress; I have my Campo Basso
dagger."

"But, my lord---" stammered Trespolo, astounded.

"No difficulties!" cried the prince, stamping his foot furiously,
"or, by my father's death, I will cure you, once for all, of your
scruples."  And he turned on his heel with the air of a man who is
certain that people will be very careful not to disobey his orders.

The unhappy Trespolo fulfilled his master's injunctions punctually.
With him fear was the guiding principle.  That evening the
fisherman's supper table was hopelessly dull, and the sham pilgrim
tried in vain to enliven it by factitious cheerfulness.  Nisida was
preoccupied by her lover's departure, and Solomon, sharing
unconsciously in his daughter's grief, swallowed but a drop or two of
wine, to avoid resisting the repeated urgency of his guest.  Gabriel
had set out in the morning for Sorrento and was not to return for two
or three days; his absence tended to increase the old man's
melancholy.  As soon as Trespolo had retired, the fisherman yielded
to his fatigue.  Nisida, with her arms hanging by her sides, her head
heavy and her heart oppressed by a sad presentiment, had scarcely
strength to go up to her room, and after having mechanically trimmed
the lamp, sank on her bed as pale and stiff as a corpse.

The storm was breaking out with violence; one of those terrible
storms seen only in the South, when the congregated clouds, parting
suddenly, shed torrents of rain and of hail, and threaten another
deluge.  The roar of the thunder drew nearer and was like the noise
of a cannonade.  The gulf, lately so calm and smooth that the island
was reflected as in a mirror, had suddenly darkened; the furiously
leaping waves flung themselves together like wild horses; the island
quaked, shaken by terrible shocks.  Even the boldest fishermen had
drawn their boats ashore, and, shut within their cabins, encouraged
as best they could their frightened wives and children.

Amid the deep darkness that overspread the sea Nisida's lamp could be
seen gleaming clear and limpid, as it burned before the Madonna.  Two
boats, without rudders, sails, or oars, tossed by the waves, beaten
by the winds, were whirling above the abyss; two men were in these
two boats, their muscles tense, their breasts bare, their hair
flying.  They gazed haughtily on the sea, and braved the tempest.

"Once more, I beg you," cried one of these men, "fear not for me,
Gabriel; I promise you that with my two broken oars and a little
perseverance I shall get to Torre before daybreak."

"You are mad, Bastiano; we have not been able ever since the morning
to get near Vico, and have been obliged to keep tacking about; your
skill and strength have been able to do nothing against this
frightful hurricane which has driven us back to this point."

"It is the first time you have ever refused to go with me," remarked
the young man.

"Well, yes, my dear Bastiano, I do not know how it is, but to-night I
feel drawn to the island by an irresistible power.  The winds have
been unchained to bring me back to it in spite of myself, and I will
own to you, even though it should make me seem like a madman in your
eyes, that this simple and ordinary event appears to me like an order
from heaven.  Do you see that lamp shining over there?"

"I know it," answered Bastiano, suppressing a sigh.

"It was lighted before the Virgin one the day when my sister was
born, and for eighteen year it has never ceased to burn, night and
day.  It was my mother's vow.  You do not know, my dear Bastiano, you
cannot know how many torturing thoughts that vow recalls to me.  My
poor mother called me to her deathbed and told me a frightful tale, a
horrible secret, which weighs on my soul like a cloak of lead, and of
which I can only relieve myself by confiding it to a friend.  When
her painful story was ended she asked to see and to embrace my
sister, who was just born; then with her trembling hand, already
chilled by the approach of death, she desired to light the lamp
herself.  'Remember,' these were her last words, 'remember, Gabriel,
that your sister is vowed to the Madonna.  As long as this light
shines before the blessed image of the Virgin, your sister will be in
no danger.'  You can understand now why, at night, when we are
crossing the gulf, my eyes are always fixed on that lamp.  I have a
belief that nothing could shake, which is that on the day that light
goes out my sister's soul will have taken flight to heaven."

"Well," cried Bastiano in an abrupt tone that betrayed the emotion of
his heart, "if you prefer to stay, I will go alone."

"Farewell," said Gabriel, without turning aside his eyes from the
window towards which he felt himself drawn by a fascination for which
he could not account.  Bastiano disappeared, and Nisida's brother,
assisted by the waves, was drawing nearer and nearer to the shore,
when, at all once, he uttered a terrible cry which sounded above the
noise of the tempest.

The star had just been extinguished; the lamp had been blown out.

"My sister is dead!" cried Gabriel and, leaping into the sea, he
cleft the waves with the rapidity of lightning.

The storm had redoubled its intensity; long lines of lightning,
rending the sides of the clouds, bathed everything in their tawny and
intermittent light.  The fisherman perceived a ladder leaning against
the front of his home, seized it with a convulsive hand, and in three
bounds flung himself into the room.  The prince felt himself
strangely moved on making his way into this pure and silent retreat.
The calm and gentle gaze of the Virgin who seemed to be protecting
the rest of the sleeping girl, that perfume of innocence shed around
the maidenly couch, that lamp, open-eyed amid the shadows, like a
soul in prayer, had inspired the seducer with an unknown distress.
Irritated by what he called an absurd cowardice, he had extinguished
the obtrusive light, and was advancing towards the bed, and
addressing unspoken reproaches to himself, when Gabriel swooped upon
him with a wounded tiger's fierce gnashing of the teeth.

Brancaleone, by a bold and rapid movement that showed no common
degree of skill and bravery, while struggling in the grasp of his
powerful adversary, drew forth in his right hand a long dagger with a

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