Chapter 28

Beatrice in the Inquisition at Lucca.—Freed by Castruccio, at the Intercession of Euthanasia.

While Euthanasia yet remained at Lucca in this uncertain manner, a circumstance occurred which caused her to suspend the preparations for her journey. Late one night (it was nearly twelve o’clock), the visit of a stranger was announced; a man, they said, so wrapt up in his capuchin, that his physiognomy could not be distinguished. Why did Euthanasia’s heart beat fast, and the colour desert her warm lips? What could she hope or fear? The man was admitted, and one glance sufficed to satisfy her curiosity, and to quiet her trembling expectation. He was one of the meaner class; and, when he threw back his cloak, Euthanasia perceived that he was an entire stranger to her; but there was a kindness, a rough sensibility in his face, that pleased her, and she gently enquired what he had to say to her.

‘Noble countess, I come on a work of charity, which would ruin me for ever if my superiors were to discover it. I am the jailor of the Lucchese prison; and this morning the Dominican inquisitors put under my custody a Paterin woman1, whom it would move any soul but theirs to behold. She had touched me with the greatest pity by her tears and heart-breaking intreaties: she denies her heresy, and says that you can prove her faith; but she must see you first; and I, at peril of all that I am worth, am come to conduct you to her dungeon, for I can admit you only by night. Surely you will come; poor thing, she is very young and fearful, and is now lying on the floor of her prison panting with terror and expectation.’

‘Unfortunate creature! Did she tell you her name?’

‘She says that you do not know it; but she intreats you to remember a pilgrim girl, whom you once received at your castle, and whom you pitied; a sun-burnt, way-worn creature who said that she was on the way to Rome.’

‘I do not recollect; but if she is unhappy, and desires to see me, it is enough, I follow you.’

Euthanasia wrapt her capuchin around her, and followed the man through the dark, wet streets of Lucca: the thaw had not yet completed its work; the snow was deep and miry under their feet; while the melting collections of several days dripped, or rather streamed from the house-roofs on their heads: the Libeccio blew a warm, cloud-bringing wind, that made the night so black, that they could not avoid the standing pools that interspersed the streets. At length they arrived at the prison; the jailor entered by a small, low door which he carefully closed after them, and then struck a light. He led Euthanasia through the bare and mildewed vaults, sometimes unlocking a massy gate, drawing back the harsh bolts which grated with rust and damp; sometimes they emerged into a passage open to the sky, but narrow, with tall black walls about it, which dropt their melted snow with a continual and sullen splash upon the pavement: small, glassless, grated windows looked into these strait passages; these were the holes that admitted light into the dungeons. At length they ascended a small, broken, staircase of wood; and, opening a door at the head of it, and consigning his lamp to the countess, the jailor said: ‘She is here; comfort her; in two hours I shall come to conduct you back.’

Euthanasia entered the prison-chamber, awe-stricken and trembling; for the good ever feel humiliated at the sight of misfortune in others: the poor prisoner was seated crouched in a corner; she looked wildly towards the door; and, seeing Euthanasia, she leaped up, and, throwing herself at her feet, clinging to her knees, and clasping them with convulsive strength, she cried, ‘Save me! You alone on earth can save me.’

Poor Euthanasia was moved to tears; she raised the sufferer, and, taking her in her arms, tried to soothe her: the prisoner only sobbed, leaning her head upon Euthanasia’s hand: ‘Fear not, you shall be saved; poor sufferer, calm yourself; speak, what would you with me? fear not, no harm shall reach you; I will be your friend.’

‘Will you indeed–indeed—be my friend? and go to him, and bid him save me? He alone can do it.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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