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VINCENZIO THE VENETIAN. *
You ask for a story-I can tell one which nobody else knows, and which is a very true one, too, though it may well, perhaps, produce a shudder. It relates events long ago, very long ago, past-when none of us had yet seen the light. The source from which I have derived it leaves me no uncertainty about its authen. ticity, and while in Venice I have visited the very spot which was the theatre of its principal occurrences.
It was at Venice, on a carnival night, in the year Around the gigantic columns of the Buondelmonte palace were crowding a multitude of gondolas, whose sombre hue contrasted strikingly with the brilliant illumination of the peristyle. From all these gondolas sprang a stream of joyous guests, who gaily ascended the flight of marble steps; while the interior of the palace was resplendent with light and magnificence.
Within, without, all was enchantment. All that Venice contained of noble, joyous, and lovely, was collected in that assembly, where the eye was charmed with the lustrous hues of the richest silks, and the air was deliciously loaded with the most exquisite perfumes. Here, a splendidly served table extended its invitations ; there, the harmonies of music and the sounds of the dance were heard in the distance. And the women !-beaming with that beauty which the pencil of Titian can alone portray, the women displayed throughout the scene the most elegant attires. Every century had contributed to their costumes. Glittering with diamonds, graceful and light in every movement as the silk that enrobed them, inspired with the triumph of their charms, they completed the brilliancy of this festal scene. Through the midst of an atmosphere of light, the crowd circulated slowly from room to room, terminating in a retired saloon which must particularly engage our attention.
This magnificent apartment was consecrated exclusively to play. The sound of the shuffling of cards was mingled with that of the dice, which were rolled from the boxes upon tables of porphyry
* This exccedingly clever tale is translated from the French, from LE PALAMEDE, a Monthly Magazine devoted to the subject of Chess, published at Paris by M. de la Bourdonnais, the most eminent known chess player of the age. It is from the pen of Mr. G. Walker, a distinguished English player. The ingenious manner in which a number of beautiful positions in Chess (of which the solutions will be given hereafter,) are interwoven with the story, will give it a peculiar interest to all the votaries of that noble game-if we may not be permitted to call it a science ; while its interest for miscellancous readers is quite independent of that circumstance
VOL. V. NO. XIV,-FEBRUARY, 1839.
and agate, bending under the weight of the gold and jewels collected in heaps. The silence was only broken by the loud and lengthened sound of the sequins which attentive pages threw down by the handful, or which they gathered up in massive piles, to drop them into the velvet bags from which they were soon again to come forth. Such were the confusion and disorder of these riches, that Satan himself might have paused to enjoy that spectacle; and such, in a word, was the profusion spread out before the eye, would imagine himself transported into one of the caverns of Aladdin, or at least among the hidden treasures of some Sultan of Ind. We are votaries of Chess ;-entirely devoted to that noble game, our attention ought to direct itself chiefly to one table. There, on that magnificent pedestal, inlaid with silver and ebony, upon that table of ivory and jasper, are marshalled in battlearray the silent warriors of the field. The two rival chiefs who direct the combat deserve a special examination. Let us give them a moment's attention.
That young man of twenty, who has the Black, saw the light at Venice, and his birth makes him the equal of the noblest families of the city. His name is Vincenzio di Guadagnaro. As remarkable for his elegance of mien and his careless extravagance, as for the impetuosity of his passions, he is also possessed with a desire to render himself distinguished in the science of elegant Epicureanism, gallantry, and Chess. At the present sitting, he has already lost, to the adversary with whom he is at this moment engaged, his treasures, his jewels, and his palaces. Having nothing left to stake -reduced to play on his word alone—it is his honor that he is defending; for if he has the ill fortune to lose, he will be bound tomorrow to pay a greater amount of gold than he has yet lost—and he has nothing left! If he fail to redeem that pledge, farewell for him to life and its pleasures !-and from the paleness of his brow, it is easy to guess that he is revolving the sole alternative that remains to him. Let him lose this last game, and the first ray of to-morrow's sun will not find him a living man.
But who is that mask that is playing against him? It is a woman, -a being of adorable loveliness, to judge from her arm and hand, from her rounded shoulders and her neck of ivory. Yes, it is indeed an enchanting woman, the princess Buondelmonte, the giver of the festival-in a word, the queen of fashion and of beauty. One would suppose her made but for love and tenderness, but at this moment it is with neither of these sentiments that her heart is throbbing. An impassioned thirst for vengeance, the rage of an inveterate hatred, the swelling pride of a splendid triumph-such are the emotions that are convulsing her soul, and which cause her such an agitation that her fingers can with difficulty remove the pieces from the chess-board. On both sides the sentiments are the
same, and either player would drink, drop by drop, all the heart's blood of the other, with that intensity of enjoyment that an Italian alone can appreciate and understand.
The spectators, in profound silence and breathless attention, are grouped around the players. In the midst of the circle stands a tall figure, bearing all the appearance of a man; a mask conceals his face. This strange being, with his arms folded across his breast, and leaning against a column, follows attentively the march of the princess's game. This figure is a Gnome. It is not Satan in person, but a demon of an inferior rank, like the demon of the Hartz Forest, only younger, and therefore less experienced. Mocking spirit, of the Mephistopheles order, he had recently left the infernal abodes to make the tour of Europe ; and having stopped at Venice to witness the festivals of its carnival, he found himself so charmed with all that he saw, that for a moment he fancied that he had missed his way and had got into heaven.
The farther the game proceeded, the more poignant were the emotions of the players. Vincenzio made the most desperate efforts to conceal his convulsive anxiety; but a sweat of icy coldness bathed his forehead, and his pallid countenance was of the whiteness of marble. However, he retained still the strength to concentrate all his faculties upon the game, and so well mastered his agitation that he played with consummate skill a long series of moves, and proved himself worthy of engaging in combat with her who at Chess knew no rival.
The princess Buondelmonte was not without uneasiness about the fate of the game. Her adversary's pawns presented a formidable front, and his Queen, after taking a Knight, threatened her with a check-by-discovery. She had the Whites, and it was her turn to play. Her eyes fixed on the board, she reflected long, and despair seized her heart as she believed that she was lost beyond remedy, and that Vincenzio had once again escaped her snares and baffled all her wiles. Such was the position of the game:
White.-King at Queen's third square; Queen at King's second; Pawn at King's Bishop's sixth.
BLACK.-King at King's Knight's square; Queen at King's Knight's sixth; Bishop at King's sixth; Pawns at the following squares: King's Rook's secondKing's Knight's third-King's fourth—Queen's fifth,
Suddenly, the supernatural being approached the princess, and, as was afterwards suspected, murmured a few words in her ear. and, springing up on her seat, she was near fainting with joy, when, by a skilful countermarch, in ten moves she gave checkmate.
Vincenzio did not utter a word, but rushed from the apartment. The beautiful Buondelmonte turned to thank the stranger. He was no longer there, although no one had perceived his departure !
Two hours later, on that same night, Vincenzio was walking alone on the Rialto, with all the fires of hell in his heart. To die, he felt as nothing,--but to die without vengeance! Was he not reduced to beggary? This woman, had she not ruined him? Alas, when their mutual passion had expired.-after Vincenzio had, to please her, drunk deeply of the cup of crime,-when for her he had done every thing—this woman, had she not betrayed, despised, forgotten him ?. Was it not she who had conducted his father to the scaffold, and caused his brother to be imprisoned in the dungeons of the State ? Himself, had it not been a struggle of hatred between her and him during the last two years? Had not his abhorrence of this woman led him to the point of longing to plunge his poniard in her heart? Oh, how fearful a struggle was raging in his soul, when a stranger touched his arm.
"Away!” cried the impetuous young man-when at a glance he recognized in the person before him the officious friend of his ad. versary; and then, as if his fury had found an issue of escape, Vincenzio, swift as thought, bared the blade of his stiletto, and inflicted with it a terrible blow upon the man whom he deemed his foe. A burst of laughter replied to this attack; and Vincenzio, stupefied and bewildered, remained lost in astonishment. But soon shaking off this trance, and retiring against one of the pillars that supported the balustrade, he exclaimed: “Who are you?"
“Men give me the name of Astaroth,” replied the stranger. “But what harm had I done you, that you should give me so rough a reception? It was not I that won your gold this night. But I confess your loss is cruel-a very cruel one! Life and vengeance were the stakes of the game, and you have lost!-But perhaps you have some resources left?"
“Alas, no-all is lost!" replied Vincenzio, with a groan of anguish; “even honor !"
“Honor! a pretty word on your lips ! And where was your honor, when, but an instant ago, your poniard sought the life of an unarmed friend ?"
“Such is the reception that a Guadagnaro has always for impertinent intruders. But you call yourself my friend—by what title? What can you do for me, you whom nothing can daunt? Answer, mysterious man, whom all bespeaks of a nature different from my own !”
“I intend to save you,” replied Astaroth.
“To save me -it is too late! You cannot undo the past, and for the future I care little !"
“I offer you the accomplishment of all your wishes. Do you wish to avenge yourself, Vincenzio ?”
“To avenge myself! You offer me vengeance! To avenge myself on the Buondelmonte! Oh, give me her flesh to devour ! Give me her blood to drain drop by drop! Say-speak! Oh, whoever thou art, answer me!”
“What then has become of your passion for her? You once worshipped her, that woman,--and to-day -"
“Silence, phantom! Answer, or begone! Dost thou promise me vengeance ?"
“ Yes; but listen with patience. I will give you all that you can desire. Your vengeance shall even surpass your utmost hope. Thine health, riches-thine a brilliant life-thine every thing !but on one condition-do you wish to know it?"
“No, by my soul, I do not. Not a syllable more! Thou hast been able by a word to soften the recollection of my misfortunes; bring me not back again, then, to the earth! Oh, if thou wert indeed a supernatural being -Well, then "
“ And if indeed I were a being superior to mortals, would you accept my offers on these conditions ?”-and Astaroth murmured some words in Vincenzio's ear in a low voice.
Vincenzio did not quiver an eye-lid; for a single instant only his countenance grew pale; but presently, making a violent effort, he answered with a firm voice:
“I swear! And so help me Heaven and St. Ignacio !—I consent to every thing. But once more-vengeance! vengeance!'
“Your resolution charms me,” replied Astaroth. “All the time that is assigned to me to fulfil my missiou on the earth shall be consecrated to you. To-morrow, young man, you shall see the accomplishment of my promises. Now, retire to your palace, and may your sleep be brightened by dreams of happiness."
“What, Astaroth, you leave me already !"
" Adieu, Vincenzio, adieu for ten years. Continue to adore the bewitching Buondelmonte; and in remembrance of our interview, permit me to throw over your neck this trifling pledge of my affection.”
Vincenzio then felt something like a heavy chain fall upon his shoulders. It was a necklace of superb sapphires. He raised his eyes-he stood alone on the Rialto.
Slowly he regained his palace; and this night, eventful as it was, deep were his slumbers, delicious were his dreams.
Vincenzio awoke with the dawn of day, and with his awaking came the recollection of the preceding night. His first motion was to look for that chain which Astaroth had thrown over his shoulders, and which had remained there, when, exhausted by so many various emotions, he had sunk down upon his couch. The chain of sapphires had disappeared, and it was with horror that he observed around his neck the deep impress of a circular band. This band showed red and black upon the whiteness of his skin, as if it