« PreviousContinue »
els; of all of which, as well as of the cash, ho made the Grand-Constable keep a register in a book that was docketed "Prestite Volontarie," or Voluntary Loans, the use of which the real King Ferdinand had actually introduced at Naples, where he forced the nobility to lend him their plate, and whence, a few months before, he ran away with all the money in the national bank. In the hands of the Corsicans a little red ribbon was of more value than bankers' drafts. They made it up into red cockades—the distinctive mark of the royalists—and they gave it to fellows to hang to their button-holes as orders of knighthood. Some of these scenes and exchanges were very pathetic. "O mieifeddi, you behold before you the son of your beloved King Don Ferdinando, the descendant of many kings, the prince appointed by Providence to reign over you all some day, but who now, save for your generous succour, would not have the means of asserting his rights—nay, would not know where to lay his head!" And then Corbara gave away a pennyworth of ribbon with one hand, held out his other palm for rings and watches, and turned aside his head to conceal his— royal tears. At the same time, to keep up the courage and hopes of the faithful, Boccheciampe, as brother of the King of Spain, would say, " Verrk il bel tempo! his Most Catholic Majesty is arming for his beloved brother the King of Naples;" and De Cesare, as Duke of Saxony, would say, " and the Emperor and all Germany are arming, and the English are coming with their fleets, and a hundred thousand Russians;" and Colonna, as GrandConstable, would add, "and his holiness the Pope has excommunicated all these dogs of Frenchmen and republicans, and the Grand Signor is going to send an army to impale them all;" and then there would be a general chorus of "Si, si, verrk il bel tempo; Ferdinando nostra avra il suo: viva il Re e la santa Fede!" (Yes! yes, the good time will come; our Ferdinand will have his own again; long live the King, and the holy faith !)
"In due course of time," says General Colletta, "these successful impostors took the road to the city of Taranto, where they had scarcely arrived when a ship of war, w ith the Bourbon flag, cast anchor in the roadstead. On board of this ship were the old princesses of the French branch of the Bourbons, who, after being driven out of their own country by one revolution, were now fugitives from Naples on account of another. This unexpected arrival was awkward. It was scarcely possible they should deceive these old women. What was to be done? The audacious Corsicans did not lose their presence of mind, and, preceded by a formal deputation, which revealed to those women the marvellous fact of the popular credulity, Corbara went with royal pomp and the confidence of a near relation to visit the princesses; and they, on their side, though haughty and proud of their royal Bourbon blood, in order to be of service to the cause of King Ferdinand, received as their nephew this abject, vile man, giving him the title of highness, and prodigalizing their demonstrations of reverence and affection.
"Thus, more than ever confirmed in their delusion and devotion, the people everywhere took up arms; bands of royalists assembled; and, as even the incredulous and those convinced of the imposture availed themselves of the circumstance, and joined the insurgents, the three provinces of Apulia were soon in open rebellion against the republic.
"Having effected all this, his highness Corbara naturally became desirous of putting the riches he had acquired in a place of safety; and, accordingly, he issued a royal proclamation, stating, that he was going over to Corfu to bring back a powerful reinforcement of Russian troops; that he should take the Grand-Constable, Colonna, with him, but leave behind him, as his lord-lieutenants and generals of the kingdom, their highnesses the brother of the King of Spain and the Duke of Saxony. The two friends, chuckling at their good fortune and the stupidity of the Pugliesi, embarked and set sail: but here their luck ended. They had scarcely got out of the gulf, when they were attacked by pirates, and Corbara lost, not only his riches, but his life. Colonna, it appears, was not killed; but his name was never more heard of."
Of the two remaining Corsicans who still honoured Apulia with their presence, Boccheciampe, the artilleryman, shortly after threw himself into the castle of Brindisi, which was attacked by a French ship-of-the-line, and he was killed during the bombardment, while courageously working a gun. The other, t. e. De Cesare, the livery-servant, ossia, the Duke of Saxony, had a longer and more brilliant career: he became the fortunate commander-in-chief of numerous bands. He took the large and strong cities of Trani, Molfetta, Andria, and Martina; he joined the royalists of Apulia to the Calabrians conducted by Cardinal Ruffo, who had been chiefly encouraged to undertake his famous expedition by the easy exploits of the Corsicans; and, after some nine months, he saw the restoration of the legitimate Bourbon, Don Ferdinando. What became of him then, we know not. The royal house of Naples was not very grateful, nor likely to have much affection for a footman who could so ably represent royalty. It may be hoped, however, that he made hay while the sun shone; but even if be did not, provided only that the Bourbons spared him the gallows, so clever a fellow as De Cesare was not likely to starve in a credulous world like this.
XII. SECRET POISONING.
Beckman has an interesting article on this subject in his 'History of Inventions.' He observes, that the ancients were acquainted with secret poisoning, as appears from the testimony of Plutarch, Quintilian, and other respectable authors. The former tells us, that a slow poison, which occasioned heat, a cough, spitting of blood, and a weakness of intellect, was administered to Aratus of Sicyon; and Quintilian, in his Declamations, speaks of this poison in such terms as prove that it must have been well known at the time. Theophrastus again mentions a poison which could be moderated in such a manner as to take effect at the end of two or three months, or one or two years; and he remarks, that the death, the more lingering it was, the more miserable it became.
Some persons have obtained an infamous notoriety in the pages of history for their real or supposed dexterity in secret poisoning. Thus Locusta, who had been condemned to death for her crimes, but pardoned, that she might be employed as a state-engine, was ordered to despatch Claudius and Britannicus. In the latter case, Sir H. Halford thinks that the poison employed was laurel-water (See 'On the Deaths of some Illustrious Persons of Antiquity'). Far from being a secret or slow poison, however, it destroyed Britannicus almost as soon as he had tasted it.
Tophana, or Toffana, a woman who resided first at Palermo and afterwards at Naples, acquired a kind of celebrity by this dark art. The poison she employed was known under the name of aqua Tophana, acquetta di Napoli, or simply acquetta: it seems to have been a solution of arsenic, which she distributed by way of charity to wives who were tired of their husbands. Her life had a fitting catastrophe—she was strangled.
A woman called Spara, who preceded Tophana, had, like her, used her poisons for the benefit of impatient wives, and like her expiated her crimes with her life.
Madame Brinvilliers is another of these portents. She was the wife of the Marquis de Brinvilliers, who, during his campaigns, became acquainted with one Godin de Sainte Croix, a young man of small means but high family. The Marquis died, and the intimacy of Sainte Croix with the widow gave so much uneasiness to her father, that he procured a lettre de cachet, and had Sainte Croix thrown into the Bastille. Sainte Croix there became acquainted with an Italian, named Esili, who was skilled in the art of preparing poison. After their liberation, which took place in a year, Sainte Croix kept Esili with him until he became a perfect master of the art; and he then instructed the Marchioness in it, that it might be practised for their common benefit. They carried on their exterminating trade for some time, so that the Parisians satirically said, that no young physician, while introducing himself to practice, had ever so speedily filled a churchyard as Madame Brinvilliers.
Their villanies were terminated in the following manner. Sainte Croix, when preparing poison, was accustomed to wear a glass mask; but one day it happened to drop off by accident, and he was found suffocated in his laboratory. As he had no family, his effects were examined by order of government. Among them was found a small box, with the following written request affixed to it:—
"I humbly beg that those into whose hands this box may fall, will do me the favour to deliver it into the hands only of the Marchioness de Brinvilliers, who resides in the street Neuve St. Paul, as everything it contains concerns her, and belongs to her alone; and as, besides, there is nothing in it that can be of use to any person except her; and in case she shall be dead before me, to burn it, and everything it contains, without opening or altering anything; and, in order that no one may plead ignorance, I swear by the God whom I adore, and by all that is most sacred, that I advance nothing but what is true. And if my intentions, just and reasonable as they are, be thwarted in this point, I charge their consciences with it, both in this world and the next, in order that I may unload mine, protesting that this is my last will.
"Done at Paris, this 25th of May, in the afternoon, 1672. "Die Stb. Croix."
This most singular and incredible petition of course produced the immediate opening of the box, which was found to contain a great abundance of poisons of every kind, with labels, on which their effects were marked, as proved by experiments on animals.
La Chaussee, the servant of Sainte Croix, and the accomplice in his crimes, laid claim to his property, but was imprisoned; and, having confessed more acts of villany than were even suspected, was broken alive upon the wheel in 1673.
The Marchioness endeavoured to get possession of the box; but, failing to do this, she fled first to England, and afterwards to Liege, where she took refuge in a convent. She was decoyed from this asylum by Desgrais,