List Of Contents | Contents of Alvira- The Heroine of Vesuvius
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must tell of the enormous furnace raging in the bowels of the earth,
of which Vesuvius is but its chimney.

Strange, Charles longed to see Vesuvius when but a tender girl in Paris.
She little thought the extraordinary course of human events would
bring her, not only under the shadow of the terrible mountain itself,
but send her through a most thrilling scene on its barren slopes.
Let us hasten on to the course of events that rendered the extraordinary
life of this girl so romantic.

Chapter XXI.
Engagement with Brigands.

Arrived in Naples, our heroines were quartered in the Molo.  This is
an old fortress still used as a barrack in Naples.  Its massive,
quadrangular walls were erected in the middle ages, and have withstood
many a desperate siege in the civil wars of Italy.

The detachment from the Messina garrison found the city in a state of
disturbance and confusion.  Armed troops paraded the streets, houses
were burning on every side, and bands of revolutionists were running
frantically to and fro through the streets, yelling in the most
unearthly tones their whoops of political antagonism to the Government;
yet it was evident the Government had the upper hand, and the mob
was gradually dispersing; they fled from the city, and order was
restored.  In the meantime word was received in Naples that a large
body of these ruffians had settled themselves on the sides of Vesuvius,
and supported themselves by the wholesale plunder and pillage of the
farms and villages on the slopes of the hill.  An order was immediately
given that two hundred men should march to the mountain to destroy
this band of brigands.  The company selected was that belonging to
Charles and Henry.

The next day found our young heroines on the road to the field of
battle.  We can fancy the position and thoughts of those tender,
delicate girls, marching side by side with the rough, bearded soldiers
of Italy--the one rejoicing in the wild dream of her foolish ambition;
the other trembling in her timid heart, and dragged into scenes she
loathed by the irresistible chain of affection which bound her to her

No wonder the tender frame of girlhood yielded to the severity of the
march--for amongst those who were first to fail was the amiable Henry;
yet there were amongst the troops men whose consititutions were
shattered by the excesses of their youth, and Henry became less
remarkable as a young officer when stalwart men who had felt ere then
the fatigues of war were falling at her side.  Charles hired a loose
horse in one of the villages they passed through, and thus arrived
fresh and strong at the place of encampment, a few miles from the
stronghold of the brigands.  Henry came up in the afternoon, accompanied
by about thirty men who, like herself, failed under the fatigues of
the march.

Rest under the circumstances was impossible.  The brigands were all
around and no one could tell the moment of attack.  Some men were sent
on as scouts to explore the hillside; they never returned.  This was
sufficient indication of an ambuscade and the captain bravely determined
to march his whole force at once into their hiding-place, knowing,
when they were once surprised, they had no shelter afterwards.

Those who have been to Mount Vesuvius, and who have had the hardihood
to seek the exquisite Lacryma produced on the southwester slopes of
the hill, will remember a peculiar ravine running for nearly a mile
from the sandy part of the cone, and covered with a stunted green
bush of fern-like leaves.  It is the nearest green spot to the calcined
cone.  It assumes a gentle declivity towards the sea, and is then lost
in the beautiful vineyards and gardens that cover the slopes of the
mountain down to the houses of Torre del Greco.  The view from this
spot is magnificent.  On the left is the beautiful town of Sorento,
with houses as white as snow, running in detached villas along the
sea-shore up to the smoky and roofless walls of Pompeii, whose unsightly
ruins lend contrast to the scene around.  The azure bay seems to borrow
more of the blue of heaven as it stretches far away to the horizon;
the little steamers and innumerable yachts that ply between the islands
give the scene animation and variety.  Around to the right we have the
classic hills of Baia, the Campo Santo in its fantastic architecture,
and then the green and leafy plains of the Campo Felice; beneath, the
great city with its four hundred thousand souls, its red tiles and
irregular masses of brick-work, contrasting with the gilded domes of
the superb churches; and above, the terrible cone, vomiting forth its
sulfurous smoke and darkening the sky with clouds of its own creation.

The view that can be had from this place, and the interesting history
of every inch of the country around, render it one of the most romantic
spots in the world.  But, alas! it is now, as it was two hundred years
ago, the home and retreat of those desperate Italian robbers known
as brigands.  Woe betide the incautious traveller whom curiosity leads
through the vineyards of that lonely scene!  The deeds of its outlawed
and daring inhabitants would fill volumes.  It was here, too, as far
as we can learn, our heroines found their field of battle.

The troops had scarcely entered this ravine when a sharp, shrill whistle
rang from one side of the mountain to the other.  Immediately human
voices were heard on all sides, repeating in every pitch of tone, from
bass to soprano, the word "Rione."  For several minutes the mountain
echoed with the weird sound of the brigand war-cry; the troops were
ordered to stand in readiness, and timid hearts like Henry's quailed
at the awful moment.

The earth rumbled under their feet, and dark, bluish columns of smoke
curled in the air from the terrible cone; the sun was setting over the
beautiful Bay of Naples in the color of blood, and the air was
impregnated with the fumes of sulphur.  The wilderness of the spot,
and nature's terrors convulsing the elements around, made, indeed,
the moment before battle a dreadful moment for the delicate children
of the French banker.

A few minutes, and the battle was at its height.  A long and dreadful
contest ensued.  The numbers were about equal on both sides. 
Fortunately, the brigands had not time to muster all at once, and the
royalist troops met them in small but desperate bands.  No sooner was
one defeated than another and another poured down from the sides of
the mountain and disputed every inch of the way.  The brigands fought
bravely, but were outnumbered, and towards midnight the bloodshed
ceased.  All sounds had died away save the groans of the wounded and
dying, and now and then a solitary whoop of a brigand chief from the
distant hills, calling together the few straggling and scattered bands
of rebels.

The moment the heat of the combat was over the first thought that struck
Charles was to look for Henry.  They were separated in the confusion
of the fight.  She ran through the men, but could not find her.  Here
and there she could discern in the pale light of a clouded moon some
knot of soldiers binding up their wounds and recounting their escapes
and their triumphs.  She hurriedly ran through them, enquiring for her
brother-officer, but none knew anything of her.  She scanned every
feature, she called her in every group, but in vain--no Henry was
there.  The awful thought struck her--and her heart nearly broke under
its pang--perhaps she is killed!  She flew across the bloody path they
had passed; her mournful and shrill cry of "Enrico!" rolled over the
bodies of the slain, and was echoed again and again with plaintive
intensity from the surrounding hills.  Sometimes she even fancied the
dying echo of her own shrill cry was the feeble answer of her wounded
sister; and when she would pause to listen again, the valley around
was wrapt in the stillness of death.  At length she came to the spot
where the battle first commenced, and there, with a shriek that was
heard in the distant encampment, she found among the first victims of
that bloody night the lifeless corpse of her sister.

Chapter XXII.
The Morning After the Battle.

The morning sun rose dimly in a bank of clouds.  It found Charles
still clinging to the remains of poor Aloysia, and bathing with kisses
and tears the stiffened features of her beloved sister.  With a silken
kerchief she had bandaged the fatal gash on her neck, believing she
might be only in a swoon and might recover.  Hope, which is the last
comfort to abandon man in his most desperate condition, scarcely
retarded for Charles the awful reality of her bereavement.

The pale moon that has rolled over so many generations, and lent its
dim, silvery light to so many thrilling vicissitudes, never looked
down on a sadder scene.  Death has no pang equal to the blow it give
true affection.  No language could describe what the heart feels on
occasions like this.  There sat the delicate French girl, alone in the
dark night, on the side of Vesuvius, in the midst of the bleeding
victims of the bloody fight, and clasping to her heart the cold,
lifeless body of her ill-fated sister.

Her sudden and awful end, swept, perhaps, into eternity without a
moment's notice, to be buried in the ashes of the volcano, amidst the
dishonored remains of outlaws and murderers--does not the thought
strike ust that this sad fate was more the due of Alvira than the
innocent and harmless Aloysia?

Alvira felt it, and her repentant heart was almost broke.

"O Aloysia!" hear her moan over the angelic form, "you innocent and I
guilty; you slain, judged, and I free to heap greater ingratitude on
the Being who has saved me.  Aloysia, forgive!  Thou wert dragged up
unwillingly to these desperate scenes of bloodshed by my infatuation.
O God! strike me.  I am the wretch; let this angel live to honor thee
in the angelic simplicity of innocence!"

Never was a fairer flower blasted by the lightning of Heaven.  Neither
Charles nor Henry knew what was before them in their march to Vesuvius.
To surround and capture a few runaways was perhaps the most they
expected; and Henry, in the confiding affection of her heart, clung
to Charles, determined to bear fatigue and hardship rather than be
separated from her.

It must be a painful picture that fancy will paint of the last hour
of this lovely child.  The anguish of her heart must have been keener
than the deep wound that sent the life-streams to mingle with the lava
of the mountain:  no one to minister a drop of water to her parched
lips; no friendly voice to console her; the moans and imprecations of
the wounded brigands grating on her ears; the thought that her sister,
too, was perhaps lying in pain, and sinking from her wounds; and, above
all--that which, perhaps, sent the last blush to her cheek--the fear
of the discovery of her sex, and the rough gaze of a brutal soldiery.
But Heaven's sympathizing spirits were gathered around this child of
misfortune, and doubtless with her last sigh he breathed her pure
soul into their hands, and the last wish was answered--for she was
good and innocent before God.

When the sun had fully risen, Charles was approached by a sergeant
of the troops, who announced to her that the captain had died during
the night from his wounds, and, as she was the senior officer, they
waited her orders.  Dissembling her grief, Charles rose to her feet
and gave directions that the bodies of the captain and her brother
should be buried in their clothes and wrapped in the flag of the
country.  The hardy veterans raised the delicate frame of Henry, and
carried it on a rude bier to the hut where the remains of the captain
were prepared for interment.  Silent and solemn was the funeral cortege.
No drum, not a funeral note, was heard.  Every eye was wet, and the
breast of Charles was not the only one that heaved the farewell sigh
over the young and beautiful officer.

Charles stood by to see the last of her sister.  The dark, black sand
was poured down on her lovely face, and silently and quickly her
mountain grave was filled by the blood-stained hands of her companions
in arms.

Chapter XXIII.
Return--A Triumph.

Charles had dreamt a golden dream.  Ambition's cup is full, but its
draught is bitter.  On the march to Naples, in triumph, commanding
the royal troops, who had completely beaten the brigands, were glories
Charles never thought she was one day to obtain.  With her return to
the city the war was ended, and the people were rejoicing in the
restoration of peace.  The young captain who had returned so victorious
from Vesuvius was the lion of the day.  The city gave her an ovation
far beyond her most sanguine hopes.  Illuminations were instituted in
her honor, her name was shouted in the streets, and the nobles and
great ones of the state gathered around her as if the safety of the
kingdom had depended on her own personal efforts.  For some time crowds
of lazzaroli gathered around the entrance of the Molo to see the young
and beautiful captain who had achieved such wonders; and we can fancy
how sweetly would ring on the ears of our ambitious heroine the shout
of the enthusiastic crowd sending far and wide the "Erira Carlo
Pimontel!"  The King confirmed her position of captain, and sent her
the iron and golden crosses of honor, only given to the bravest of the
brave in those days of strife and warfare.

But vanity of vanities, and all is vanity!  Let us raise the veil of
deception that shrouds the emptiness of human joy.  Alvira has now
gratified her heart's desires in everything she could have under the
sun.  She had beauty, wealth, and fame, but she was like the pretty
moth that hovers around the flame of the candle, and finds its ruin
in the touch of the splendor it loves.  Poor Alvira was another child
of Solomon that sighed over the emptiness of human joy; for bitter
disappointment is the sad tale ever told in the realization of misguided
hope.  Often, at midnight, when the unknown captain would return from
the theatre or some festive entertainment given in her honor, she would
sit at her table, wearied and disgusted, and weep bitterly.  The
unnatural restraint necessary to preserve her disguise, the separation
from all the comforts and sympathies common to her sex, and the painful
reminiscences of the past wrung tears of misery from her aching heart.
The dreams of Messina haunted her still, but increased in anguish
and terror, as her thoughts could now fly from the lonely cave on the
Alps to the battle-field on the side of Vesuvius.  Again the pangs
of remorse poisoned every joy; again the angry countenance and clenched
hand of her murdered father would bend over her restless couch; and
again the scream of terror in the dark, silent midnight would summon
her friends around her.  Deep and fervent the prayer that was poured
forth from that sad and breaking heart that some providential
circumstance would enable her to make the change she had no long
premeditated.  That change is at hand.  Her mother's prayer is still
pleading for her before the throne of God; he who cast an eye of mercy

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