List Of Contents | Contents of Alvira- The Heroine of Vesuvius
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to see large groups of men in deep conversation.  Their excited and
animated manner showed at once something strange had happened.  Men
of strange dress appeared also in the crowd.  Charles enquired what
was the matter, and was informed that word had just come that
Charles II. of Spain had declared war with Naples, and, as the state
of Milan was subsidiary to the kingdom of the latter, he had sent
officers to cause an enrolment of troops.  Large inducements were
offered to all who would join, and numbers of the youth of the city
had already given their names.

Charles scarcely hesitated in coming to a conclusion.  The reduced
state of their circumstances, the perfection of her disguise, and
the still unconquered ambition of her heart made the circumstance
a change of golden hope in the sinking prospects of her career.  One
thought alone deterred her.  Could the delicate frame and soul of
her little sister bear the hardships of a soldier's life?  She breathed
her thoughts to Henry.  The latter cried and trembled.  The one and
only scene of blood she had witnessed still haunted her soul with
horror--'twas in the ravine near Chamounix.  But Charles still urged
on the necessity of some desperate movement, and persuaded her, if
they succeeded in joining this new service as officers, their position
would be much the same as that they had passed through during the last
two years.  Poor Henry had but one tie to live for in the world; she
preferred death to separation from her sister, and in the bravery of
sisterly affection, she told Charles she would swim by her side in
the river of blood she might cause to flow.

The next morning found them enrolled as officers in the army of the
King of Naples.

Chapter XIX.

They call'd her cold and proud,
  Because her lip and brow
Amid the mirthful crowd
  No kindred mirth avowed;
Alas! nor look nor language e'er reveal
How much the sad can love, the lonely feel.

The peopled earth appears
  A dreary desert wide;
Her gloominess and tears
  The stern and gay deride.
O God! life's heartless mockeries who can bear
When grief is dumb and deep thought brings despair?

During the terrible storm that passed over the Church at the
commencement of the third century, we have a thrilling incident which
shows the terror and remorse of the pagan emperors when they returned
to their golden house after witnessing the execution of their martyred

Diocletian, being enraged with Adrian, the governor of Aninoe--who,
from being an ardent persecutor of the Church, had become a fervent
follower of Christ--caused him to be dragged to Nicomedia, where,
seized with implacable rage a the sight of the constancy of the martyr,
who had once been his friend and confidant, he ordered him to be thrown
chained hand and foot, at the decline of day, into a deep pit, which
was filled with earth and stones before the emperor's eyes.  When
the last cry of the victim had been stifled under the accumulated earth,
the emperor stamped on it with his feet and cried out in a tone of
defiance: "Now, Adrian, if thy Christ loves thee, let him show it."

He then quitted the field of punishment, but felt himself so overpowered
by such an extraordinary feeling that he knew not whether it was the
termination of his passion or the commencement of his remorse.  His
Thessalian courtiers bore him rapidly away from the accursed spot. 
Night fell; Diocletian, agitated and restless, prepared to retire to
rest, for his head was burning.  He entered his chamber, which was
hung around with purple, but the walls of which now seemed to distil
blood.  He advanced a few steps, when, lo! a corpse appeared to rise
slowly on his golden couch; his bed was occupied by a spectre, and
near the costly lamp, which shed a pale light round the chamber, the
chains of the martyr seemed to descend from the ceiling.  Diocletian
uttered a cry that might have penetrated the grave.  His guards ran
in, but instantly grew pale, drew back, and, pointing to the object
which caused an icy sweat to cover the imperial brow, they said with
horror to each other: "It is the Christian."

Thus a guilty conscience summons imaginary terrors around it.  Cain
fled when no one pursued.  Nero heard invisible trumpets ringing his
death-knell around the tomb of his mother.  How often has the mountain
bandit, whose hand trembled not at murder, shuddered with fear, as
he hastened through the forest, at the sound of a branch waving in
the wind, or felt his hair stand erect with terror on beholding a
distant bush fantastically enlightened by the moon!  Conscience has
made cowards of the most sanguinary freebooters and the most shameless
oppressors.  The dreadful "worm that dieth not," and banishes every
cheerful thought from the guilty soul, is not inaptly compared to the
wretch we read of in the annals of Eastern crime, condemned to carry
about with him the dead and decomposing body of his murdered victim.

It is not to be expected that Charles escaped the agonies of a guilty
conscience.  From the moment she left the church in Milan the usual
and dreadful struggle between shame and grace, humility and pride,
commenced in her heart.  Although now and then forgotten in the
excitement of the extraordinary disguise she had assumed, nevertheless
the feeling of remorse dampened every pleasure, and added to the
disguise of her person another disguise of false joy to her countenance.
This reaction caused an important feature in the life of Alvira during
her stay in the beautiful town of Messina, whither we must ask our
reader to follow our heroines to commence in their military career
the most interesting part of his historical romance.

The Milanese recruits were busily engaged in going through military
instruction, when orders were received that the division should
sail immediately for Messina.  There are few acquainted with the
military life who do not know how disagreeable are orders to move.
The bustle, the packing, the breaking up of associations, and the
inevitable want of comfort in the military march try the courage of
the brave man more than the din of battle, and robs the military
career of much of its boasted enthusiasm.  The stalwart son of Mars,
who forgets there are such things as danger and fatigue in the exciting
hour of battle, will grumble his discontent at the inconveniences of
the hour of peace.  We will leave it to the imagination of the reader
to conceive the feelings, the regrets and misgivings, of our young
heroines as their little vessel set sail from the town of Spezzia for
the fortress of Messina.  Although their biographers say nothing of
their voyage, we cannot but imagine it was an unpleasant one. 
Although the blue headlands of the Italian coast, and the snow-capped
Apennines in the distance, supplied the place of the compass, and their
calls at the different ports deprived their journey of the painful
monotony of a long sea-voyage, yet the associations, the cloud that
hung over their thoughts, embittered every source of pleasure.

Arrived at Messina, Charles and Henry were quartered in the old
fortress.  It was an antiquated, quadrangular edifice, perched high
up on the side of the hill, looking down on beautiful white houses
built one over the other, and descending in terraces to the sea.
Its old walls were dilapidated and discovered by the touch of time,
and threatened every minute, as it afterwards did in the earthquake
of 1769, to commence the awful avalanche of destruction that swept
this fair city into the sea.

The first glimpse of their barracks did not rouse in Henry any
ejaculations of gladness.  The old Castello, as the people called it,
ill-agreed with the noble edifices she was wont to call castles in
her earlier days--no lofty battlements crested with clouds; no
drawbridges swung on ponderous chains;  no mysterious keeps haunted
with traditionary horrors; no myriads of archers in gold and blue to
rend the heavens with a mighty shout of welcome.  Alvira's dream of
military glory was a veritable castle in the air in the presence of
the ruinous, ill-kept, and dilapidated fortress they had come to

Everything around seemed to increase the gloom that hung over Charles's
heart.  The ill-clad and poverty-stricken people, squatting in idleness
and dirt in the streets; the miserable shops; the doce far niente so
conspicuously characteristic of Italian towns, were contrasted with
the beautiful and busy capitals Charles and Henry had come from.  But
nowhere was this contrast so keen as in their domestic arrangements.
The bleak apartments, the campbed, the iron washstand, and the rough
cuisine contrasted sadly with the magnificence of their father's
splendid mansion in Paris.  No wonder our young heroines wept when
alone over the memories of the past.

Charles and Henry kept together; they avoided all society; they loved
to ramble along the beautiful beach that ran for some miles on the
north side of the town, and there, in floods of tears, seek relief
for their broken hearts.  Oh! how memory will on these occasions
wake up the happy past lost and gone, and the wicked past yet to be
atoned for.  What heart weighted with the agony of remorse will not
feel the sting of guilt more keen in the rememberance of the blissful
days of innocence and childhood?  Many a blue wave has wrapt in its
icy shroud the child of misfortune who was unable to bear the shame
and reproof of her own conscience.  It was in the recollection of
virtuous childhood that Charles and Henry felt their greatest sorrows.
Every tender admonition of their dying mother; the instruction of the
aged abbe who prepared them for their first confession and communiun;
and the piety and noble example of their little brother, Louis Marie,
who had fled in his childhood from the world they now hated, were
subjects often brought up in their lonely rambles.

At night Charles would often awake with frightful dreams.  The cold,
bloodstained face of her murdered father would come in awful proximity
to her.  Her screams would bring her fellow-officers to her assistance,
but they knew not the cause of her terror.  The young officers had
the sympathy of the whole garrison; even the people who saw them
return from their evening walk remarked them to be lonely and sad,
and their eyes often red from crying.

Three long and miserable months were thus passed by our heroines at
Messina.  They were now as skilful in their military exercises as
they were in their disguise.  But wearied of the military life, and
longing to return to the society of their sex, they had determined
to leave, to declare who they were, and endeavor, by some means, to
get back to France.  Whilst deliberating on this movement an incident
occurred which changed their plans and cast them again into an
extraordinary circle of vicissitudes.

Chapter XX.

Whilst Charles and Henry were one evening walking along the beautiful
beach they saw a ship nearing the land.  A strong breeze was blowing
at the time, and whilst they paused to admire the noble bark, all
sails set, ploughing the crested billows, and floating over them like
an enormous sea-gull, she came nearer and nearer to the young officers.
Another minute the sails were lowered and anchor was cast.  A small
boat was dispatched from the ship, and made for the beach just where
Charles and Henry were standing.  They formed a thousand conjectures
of the meaning of this movement.  When the boat came near the land,
a tall young man, dressed in the uniform of the Neapolitan service,
leaped on shore and advanced towards the young officers.

A few words of recognition passed.  He was a lieutenant in the
Neopolitan army, sent with despatches for the commandant of the garrison
of Messina to send two or three companies of the newly-enrolled troops
to the capital.

On the way to the garrison he informed Charles and Henry that the war
was nearly at an end, but there was a great deal of disturbance and
sedition in the city of Naples, and that the garrison there had to be
doubled.  The object in anchoring the ship on the coast was for fear
the garrison of Messina might have been surprised and taken by the
Carlists.  Having assured himself all was safe, he entered the citadel
with the young officers, and was presented to the captain, to whom he
handed his despatches from headquarters.

The next evening found Henry and Charles, with two hundred men, on
board the ship that had anchored on the coast the day before.  The
The excitement and bustle of departure had silenced for a while all
feelings of remorse, and the old passions that reigned in the soul of
Charles rose again from their dormant state.  Her eye flashed with
life and her lips quivered with joy; there was still within her grasp
the chance of fame.  Ambition fanned the dying embers of decaying
hope, and every pious resolve was thrown aside until the course of
events would realize or blast her new dream of greatness.

A few days brought them in sight of the beautiful capital of the
south of Italy.  The modern aphorism, "See Naples and then die," was
said in other words in old times, when the Caesars and Senators of
the empire enriched its beautiful shores with superb villas.  There
is not in Europe a bluer sky and, true in its refection of the azure
firmament, a bluer sea than around Naples.  The coast undulates to
the sea in verdant slopes, which in autumn have a rich golden hue
from the yellow tinge of the vine-leaf.  Its classic fame casts a halo
around its charms; its history in the far past, its terrible mountain
and periodical convulsions from the burning womb of the earth, render
it an object of attraction to all classes.

Charles and Henry were quite alive to the impressions felt by tourists
when, whirled along by the panting steam-horse through the luxuriant
Campo Flice, they see for the first time the column of murky smoke
that rises to the clouds over the terrible Vesuvius.  The old mountain
was then, as it is now, the terror and the attraction of tourists.
The catastrophes it has caused, the cities it has swallowed up in molten
ashes, the thunder of its roar when roused from its sleep, and the
unhealthy, sulphurous vapors ever vomited from its cone, render it a
veritable giant that the human race loves to see at a distance.

Our heroines were already acquainted with the "Light-house of the
Mediterranean," and from afar the lofty and ever-blazing, active Etna;
hence Vesuvius was not so attractive as a volcano as in the halo of
classic lore that hung around it.  At a distance the mountain seems
to be harmless, the blue outline of the lofty cone terminating in a
dense bank of smoke, like stormclouds gathering around the snowy peaks
of the distant Apennines; but when the adventurous tourist wishes to
approach nearer to its blazing crater, and toils up its torn and
blackened sides, he will see in the immense chasms and rents traces
of might convulsions.  Deep rivers of molten lava that take twenty
and thirty years to cool; the quantity of ashes and cinders that could
change the whole face of a country and bury five cities in a few hours,

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