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CHAPTER IV.

I adhered firmly to this resolution as time advanced; but the consideration of it was begun the first night of my captivity. Towards morning the excess of my grief had grown calmer, and I was even astonished at the change. On recalling the idea of my parents and others whom I loved, I ceased to despair of their strength of mind, and the recollection of those virtues which I knew they had long possessed gave me real consolation. Why had I before felt such great dismay on thinking of them, and now so much confidence in their strength of mind? Was this happy change miraculous, or the natural effect of my renewed belief in God? What avails the distinction, while the genuine sublime benefits of religion remain the same.

At midnight two secondini (the under jailers are so termed) had paid me a visit, and found me in a very ill mood; in the morning they returned, and were surprised to see me so calm, and even cheerful.

"Last night, sir, you had the face of a basilisk," said Tirola; "now you are quite another thing; I rejoice at it, if, indeed, it be a sign, forgive me the expression, that you are not a scoundrel. Your scoundrels (for I am an old hand at the trade, and my observations are worth something) are always more enraged the second day after their arrest than the first. Do you want some snuff?"

"I do not take it, but will not refuse your offer. If I have not a gorgon-face this morning, it must surely be a proof of my utter insensibility, or easy belief of soon regaining my freedom."

"I should doubt that, even though you were not in durance for state matters. At this time of day they are not so easily got over as you might think; you are not so raw as to imagine such a thing. Pardon me, but you will know more by and by."

"Tell me, how come you to have so pleasant a look, living only, as you do, among the unfortunate?"

"Why, sir, you will attribute it to indifference to others' sufferings; of a truth, I know not how it is; yet, I assure you, it often gives me pain to see the prisoners weep. Truly, I sometimes pretend to be merry to bring a smile upon their faces."

"A thought has just struck me, my friend, which I never had before; it is, that a jailer may be made of very congenial clay."

"Well, the trade has nothing to do with that, sir. Beyond that huge vault you see there, without the court-yard, is another court, and other prisons, all prepared for women. They are, sir, women of a certain class; yet are there some angels among them, as to a good heart. And if you were in my place, sir--"

"I?" and I laughed out heartily.

Tirola was quite disconcerted, and said no more. Perhaps he meant to imply that had I been a secondino, it would have been difficult not to become attached to some one or other of these unfortunates.

He now inquired what I wished to take for breakfast, left me, and soon returned with my coffee. I looked hard at him, with a sort of malicious smile, as much as to say, "Would you carry me a bit of a note to an unhappy friend--to my friend Piero?" {1} He understood it, and answered with another: "No sir; and if you do not take heed how you ask any of my comrades, they will betray you."

Whether or not we understood each other, it is certain I was ten times upon the point of asking him for a sheet of paper, &c.; but there was a something in his eye which seemed to warn me not to confide in any one about me, and still less to others than himself.