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Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli, Vol. II by Margaret Fuller Ossoli

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might justly have complained, that, when they were confiding to me
all their affairs, and doing much to serve me, I had observed absolute
silence to them. Others might, for more than one reason, be displeased
at the choice I made. All have acted in the kindliest and most refined
manner. An Italian lady, with whom I was intimate,--who might be
qualified in the Court Journal, as one of the highest rank, sustained
by the most scrupulous decorum,--when I wrote, "Dear friend, I am
married; I have a child. There are particulars, as to my reasons for
keeping this secret, I do not wish to tell. This is rather an odd
affair; will it make any difference in our relations?"--answered,
"What difference can it make, except that I shall love you more, now
that we can sympathize as mothers?" Her first visit here was to me:
she adopted at once Ossoli and the child to her love.

---- wrote me that ---- was a little hurt, at first, that I did not
tell him, even in the trying days of Rome, but left him to hear it, as
he unluckily did, at the _table d'hote_ in Venice; but his second
and prevailing thought was regret that he had not known it, so as to
soothe and aid me,--to visit Ossoli at his post,--to go to the child
in the country. Wholly in that spirit was the fine letter he wrote
me, one of my treasures. The little American society have been most
cordial and attentive; one lady, who has been most intimate with me,
dropped a tear over the difficulties before me, but she said, "Since
you have seen fit to take the step, all your friends have to do, now,
is to make it as easy for you as they can."


I am glad to have people favorably impressed, because I feel lazy and
weak, unequal to the trouble of friction, or the pain of conquest.
Still, I feel a good deal of contempt for those so easily disconcerted
or reaessured. I was not a child; I had lived in the midst of that New
England society, in a way that entitled me to esteem, and a favorable
interpretation, where there was doubt about my motives or actions. I
pity those who are inclined to think ill, when they might as well have
inclined the other way. However, let them go; there are many in the
world who stand the test, enough to keep us from shivering to death. I
am, on the whole, fortunate in friends whom I can truly esteem, and
in whom I know the kernel and substance of their being too well to be
misled by seemings.


I had a letter from my mother, last summer, speaking of the fact, that
she had never been present at the marriage of one of her children. A
pang of remorse came as I read it, and I thought, if Angelino dies,[A]
I will not give her the pain of knowing that I have kept this secret
from her;--she shall hear of this connection, as if it were something
new. When I found he would live, I wrote to her and others. It half
killed me to write those few letters, and yet, I know, many are
wondering that I did not write more, and more particularly. My mother
received my communication in the highest spirit. She said, she was
sure a first object with me had been, now and always, to save her
pain. She blessed us. She rejoiced that she should not die feeling
there was no one left to love me with the devotion she thought I
needed. She expressed no regret at our poverty, but offered her feeble
means. Her letter was a noble crown to her life of disinterested,
purifying love.

[Footnote A: This was when Margaret found Nino so ill at Rieti.]


The following notes respecting Margaret's residence in Florence were
furnished to the editors by Mr. W.H. Hurlbut.

I passed about six weeks in the city of Florence, during the months of
March and April, 1850. During the whole of that time Madame Ossoli was
residing in a house at the corner of the Via della Misericordia and
the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. This house is one of those large, well
built modern houses that show strangely in the streets of the stately
Tuscan city. But if her rooms were less characteristically Italian,
they were the more comfortable, and, though small, had a quiet,
home-like air. Her windows opened upon a fine view of the beautiful
Piazza; for such was their position, that while the card-board facade
of the church of Sta. Maria Novella could only be seen at an angle,
the exquisite Campanile rose fair and full against the sky. She
enjoyed this most graceful tower very much, and, I think, preferred it
even to Giotto's noble work. Its quiet religious grace was grateful to
her spirit, which seemed to be yearning for peace from the cares that
had so vexed and heated the world about her for a year past.

I saw her frequently at these rooms, where, surrounded by her books
and papers, she used to devote her mornings to her literary labors.
Once or twice I called in the morning, and found her quite immersed
in manuscripts and journals. Her evenings were passed usually in
the society of her friends, at her own rooms, or at theirs. With the
pleasant circle of Americans, then living in Florence, she was on the
best terms, and though she seemed always to bring with her her own
most intimate society, and never to be quite free from the company of
busy thoughts, and the cares to which her life had introduced her,
she was always cheerful, and her remarkable powers of conversation
subserved on all occasions the kindliest, purposes of good-will in
social intercourse.

The friends with whom she seemed to be on the terms of most sympathy,
were an Italian lady, the Marchesa Arconati Visconti,[A]--the
exquisite sweetness of whose voice interpreted, even to those who knew
her only as a transient acquaintance, the harmony of her nature,--and
some English residents in Florence, among whom I need only name Mr.
and Mrs. Browning, to satisfy the most anxious friends of Madame
Ossoli that the last months of her Italian life were cheered by all
the light that communion with gifted and noble natures could afford.

The Marchesa Arconati used to persuade Madame Ossoli to occasional
excursions with her into the environs of Florence, and she passed some
days of the beautiful spring weather at the villa of that lady.

Her delight in nature seemed to be a source of great comfort and
strength to her. I shall not easily forget the account she gave me, on
the evening of one delicious Sunday in April, of a walk which she had
taken with her husband in the afternoon of that day, to the hill of
San Miniato. The amethystine beauty of the Apennines,--the
cypress trees that sentinel the way up to the ancient and deserted
church,--the church itself, standing high and lonely on its hill,
begirt with the vine-clad, crumbling walls of Michel Angelo,--the
repose of the dome-crowned city in the vale below,--seemed to have
wrought their impression with peculiar force upon her mind that
afternoon. On their way home, they had entered the conventual church
that stands half way up the hill, just as the vesper service was
beginning, and she spoke of the simple spirit of devotion that filled
the place, and of the gentle wonder with which, to use her own words,
the "peasant women turned their glances, the soft dark glances of
the Tuscan peasant's eyes," upon the strangers, with a singular
enthusiasm. She was in the habit of taking such walks with her
husband, and she never returned from one of them, I believe, without
some new impression of beauty and of lasting truth. While her
judgment, intense in its sincerity, tested, like an _aqua regia_, the
value of all facts that came within her notice, her sympathies
seemed, by an instinctive and unerring action, to transmute all her
experiences instantly into permanent treasures.

The economy of the house in which she lived afforded me occasions
for observing the decisive power, both of control and of consolation,
which she could exert over others. Her maid,--an impetuous girl of
Rieti, a town which rivals Tivoli as a hot-bed of homicide,--was
constantly involved in disputes with a young Jewess, who occupied the
floor above Madame Ossoli. On one occasion, this Jewess offered the
maid a deliberate and unprovoked insult. The girl of Rieti, snatching
up a knife, ran up stairs to revenge herself after her national
fashion. The porter's little daughter followed her and, running
into Madame Ossoli's rooms, besought her interference. Madame Ossoli
reached the apartment of the Jewess, just in time to interpose between
that beetle-browed lady and her infuriated assailant. Those who
know the insane license of spirit which distinguishes the Roman
mountaineers, will understand that this was a position of no slight
hazard. The Jewess aggravated the danger of the offence by the
obstinate maliciousness of her aspect and words. Such, however, was
Madame Ossoli's entire self-possession and forbearance, that she was
able to hold her ground, and to remonstrate with this difficult pair
of antagonists so effectually, as to bring the maid to penitent tears,
and the Jewess to a confession of her injustice, and a promise of
future good behavior.

The porter of the house, who lived in a dark cavernous hole on the
first floor, was slowly dying of a consumption, the sufferings of
which were imbittered by the chill dampness of his abode. His hollow
voice and hacking cough, however, could not veil the grateful accent
with which he uttered any allusion to Madame Ossoli. He was so close
a prisoner to his narrow, windowless chamber, that when I inquired for
Madame Ossoli he was often obliged to call his little daughter, before
he could tell me whether Madame was at home, or not; and he always
tempered the official uniformity of the question with some word
of tenderness. Indeed, he rarely pronounced her name; sufficiently
indicating to the child whom it was that I was seeking, by the
affectionate epithet he used, "_Lita! e la cara Signora in casa_?"

The composure and force of Madame Ossoli's character would, indeed,
have given her a strong influence for good over any person with whom
she was brought into contact; but this influence must have been even
extraordinary over the impulsive and ill-disciplined children of
passion and of sorrow, among whom she was thrown in Italy.

Her husband related to me once, with a most reverent enthusiasm, some
stories of the good she had done in Rieti, during her residence there.
The Spanish troops were quartered in that town, and the dissipated
habits of the officers, as well as the excesses of the soldiery, kept
the place in a constant irritation. Though overwhelmed with cares and
anxieties, Madame Ossoli found time and collectedness of mind enough
to interest herself in the distresses of the towns-people, and to pour
the soothing oil of a wise sympathy upon their wounded and indignant
feelings. On one occasion, as the Marchese told me, she undoubtedly
saved the lives of a family in Rieti, by inducing them to pass over
in silence an insult offered to one of them by an intoxicated Spanish
soldier,--and, on another, she interfered between two brothers,
maddened by passion, and threatening to stain the family hearth with
the guilt of fratricide.[B]

Such incidents, and the calm tenor of Madame Ossoli's confident
hopes.--the assured faith and unshaken bravery, with which she met and
turned aside the complicated troubles, rising sometimes into absolute
perils, of their last year in Italy,--seemed to have inspired her
husband with a feeling of respect for her, amounting to reverence.
This feeling, modifying the manifest tenderness with which he hung
upon her every word and look, and sought to anticipate her simplest
wishes, was luminously visible in the air and manner of his
affectionate devotion to her.

The frank and simple recognition of his wife's singular nobleness,
which he always displayed, was the best evidence that his own nature
was of a fine and noble strain. And those who knew him best, are, I
believe, unanimous in testifying that his character did in no respect
belie the evidence borne by his manly and truthful countenance, to
its warmth and its sincerity. He seemed quite absorbed in his wife and
child. I cannot remember ever to have found Madame Ossoli alone, on
those evenings when she remained at home. Her husband was always with
her. The picture of their room rises clearly on my memory. A small
square room, sparingly, yet sufficiently furnished, with polished
floor and frescoed ceiling,--and, drawn up closely before the cheerful
fire, an oval table, on which stood a monkish lamp of brass, with
depending chains that support quaint classic cups for the olive
oil. There, seated beside his wife, I was sure to find the Marchese,
reading from some patriotic book, and dressed in the dark brown,
red-corded coat of the Guardia Civica, which it was his melancholy
pleasure to wear at home. So long as the conversation could be carried
on in Italian, he used to remain, though he rarely joined in it to any
considerable degree; but if a number of English and American visitors
came in, he used to take his leave and go to the Cafe d'Italia,
being very unwilling, as Madame Ossoli told me, to impose any seeming
restraint, by his presence, upon her friends, with whom he was unable
to converse. For the same reason, he rarely remained with her at
the houses of her English or American friends, though he always
accompanied her thither, and returned to escort her home.

I conversed with him so little that I can hardly venture to make any
remarks on the impression which I received from his conversation,
with regard to the character of his mind. Notwithstanding his general
reserve and curtness of speech, on two or three occasions he showed
himself to possess quite a quick and vivid fancy, and even a certain
share of humor. I have heard him tell stories remarkably well. One
tale, especially, which related to a dream he had in early life, about
a treasure concealed in his father's house, which was thrice repeated,
and made so strong an impression on his mind as to induce him to
batter a certain panel in the library almost to pieces, in vain, but
which received something like a confirmation from the fact, that a
Roman attorney, who rented that and other rooms from the family, after
his father's death, grew suddenly and unaccountably rich,--I remember
as being told with great felicity and vivacity of expression.

His recollections of the trouble and the dangers through which he
had passed with his wife seemed to be overpoweringly painful. On one
occasion, he began to tell me a story of their stay in the mountains:
He had gone out to walk, and had unconsciously crossed the
Neapolitan frontier. Suddenly meeting with a party of the Neapolitan
_gendarmerie_, he was called to account for his trespass, and being
unable to produce any papers testifying to his loyalty, or
the legality of his existence, he was carried off, despite his
protestations, and lodged for the night in a miserable guard-house,
whence he-was taken, next morning, to the head-quarters of the officer
commanding in the neighborhood. Here, matters might have gone badly
with him, but for the accident that he had upon his person a business
letter directed to himself as the Marchese Ossoli. A certain abbe, the
regimental chaplain, having once spent some time in Rome, recognized
the name as that of an officer in the Pope's Guardia Nobile,[C]
whereupon, the Neapolitan officers not only ordered him to be
released, but sent him back, with many apologies, in a carriage, and
under an armed escort, to the Roman territory. When he reached this
part of his story, and came to his meeting with Madame Ossoli,
the remembrance of her terrible distress during the period of his
detention so overcame him, that he was quite unable to go on.

Towards their child he manifested an overflowing tenderness, and most
affectionate care.

Notwithstanding the intense contempt and hatred which Signore Ossoli,
in common with all the Italian liberals, cherished towards the
ecclesiastical body, he seemed to be a very devout Catholic. He used
to attend regularly the vesper service, in some of the older and
quieter churches of Florence; and, though I presume Madame Ossoli
never accepted in any degree the Roman Catholic forms of faith, she
frequently accompanied him on these occasions. And I know that she
enjoyed the devotional influences of the church ritual, as performed
in the cathedral, and at Santa Croce, especially during the

Though condemned by her somewhat uncertain position at Florence,[D]
as well as by the state of things in Tuscany at that time, to a
comparative inaction, Madame Ossoli never seemed to lose in the least
the warmth of her interest in the affairs of Italy, nor did she bate
one jot of heart or hope for the future of that country. She was much
depressed, however, I think, by the apparent apathy and prostration
of the Liberals in Tuscany; and the presence of the Austrian troops in
Florence was as painful and annoying to her, as it could have been
to any Florentine patriot. When it was understood that Prince
Lichtenstein had requested the Grand Duke to order a general
illumination in honor of the anniversary of the battle of Novara,
Madame Ossoli, I recollect, was more moved, than I remember on
any other occasion to have seen her. And she used to speak very
regretfully of the change which had come over the spirit of Florence,
since her former residence there. Then all was gayety and hope. Bodies
of artisans, gathering recruits as they passed along, used to form
themselves into choral bands, as they returned from their work at the
close of the day, and filled the air with the chants of liberty. Now,
all was a sombre and desolate silence.

Her own various cares so occupied Madame Ossoli that she seemed to be
very much withdrawn from the world of art. During the whole time of my
stay in Florence, I do not think she once visited either of the Grand
Ducal Galleries, and the only studio in which she seemed to feel any
very strong interest, was that of Mademoiselle Favand, a lady whose
independence of character, self-reliance, and courageous genius, could
hardly have failed to attract her congenial sympathies.

But among all my remembrances of Madame Ossoli, there are none more
beautiful or more enduring than those which recall to me another
person, a young stranger, alone and in feeble health, who found, in
her society, her sympathy, and her counsels, a constant atmosphere of
comfort and of peace. Every morning, wild-flowers, freshly gathered,
were laid upon her table by the grateful hands of this young man;
every evening, beside her seat in her little room, his mild, pure face
was to be seen, bright with a quiet happiness, that must have bound
his heart by no weak ties to her with whose fate his own was so
closely to be linked.

And the recollection of such benign and holy influences breathed upon
the human hearts of those who came within her sphere, will not, I
trust, be valueless to those friends, in whose love her memory is
enshrined with more immortal honors than the world can give or take

[Footnote A: Just before I left Florence, Madame Ossoli showed me a
small marble figure of a child, playing among flowers or vine leaves,
which, she said, was a portrait of the child of Madame Arconati,
presented to her by that lady. I mention this circumstance, because I
have understood that a figure answering this description was recovered
from the wreck of the Elizabeth.]

[Footnote B: The circumstances of this story, perhaps, deserve to
be recorded. The brothers were two young men, the sons and the
chief supports of Madame Ossoli's landlord at Rieti. They were both
married,--the younger one to a beautiful girl, who had brought him no
dowry, and who, in the opinion of her husband's family, had not shown
a proper disposition to bear her share of the domestic burdens and
duties. The bickerings and disputes which resulted from this state
of affairs, on one unlucky day, took the form of an open and violent
quarrel. The younger son, who was absent from home when the conflict
began, returned to find it at its height, and was received by his wife
with passionate tears, and by his relations with sharp recriminations.
His brother, especially, took it upon himself to upbraid him, in the
name of all his family, for bringing into their home-circle such a
firebrand of discord. Charges and counter charges followed in rapid
succession, and hasty words soon led to blows. From blows the appeal
to the knife was swiftly made, and when Madame Ossoli, attracted by
the unusual clamor, entered upon the scene of action, she found that
blood had been already drawn, and that the younger brother was only
restrained from following up the first assault by the united force of
all the females, who hung about him, while the older brother, grasping
a heavy billet of wood, and pale with rage, stood awaiting his
antagonist. Passing through the group of weeping and terrified women,
Madame Ossoli made her way up to the younger brother and, laying her
hand upon his shoulder, asked him to put down his weapon and listen to
her. It was in vain that he attempted to ignore her presence. Before
the spell of her calm, firm, well-known voice, his fury melted away.
She spoke to him again, and besought him to show himself a man, and
to master his foolish and wicked rage. With a sudden impulse, he flung
his knife upon the ground, turned to Madame Ossoli, clasped and kissed
her hand, and then running towards his brother, the two met in a
fraternal embrace, which brought the threatened tragedy to a joyful

[Footnote C: It will be understood, that this officer was the
Marchese's older brother, who still adheres to the Papal cause.]

[Footnote D: She believed herself to be, and I suppose really
was, under the surveillance of the police during her residence in



* * * * *

Last, having thus revealed all I could love
And having received all love bestowed on it,
I would die: so preserving through my course
God full on me, as I was full on men:
And He would grant my prayer--"I have gone through
All loveliness of life; make more for me,
If not for men,--or take me to Thyself,
Eternal, Infinite Love!"


Till another open for me
In God's Eden-land unknown,
With an angel at the doorway,
White with gazing at His Throne;
And a saint's voice in the palm-trees, singing,--"ALL IS LOST, and _won_."


La ne venimmo: e lo scaglion primaio
Bianco marmo era si pulito e terso,
Ch'io mi specchiava in esso, qual io paio.
Era 'l secondo tinto, piu che perso,
D'una petrina ruvida ed arsiccia,
Crepata per lo lungo e per traverso.
Lo terzo, che di sopra s'ammassiccia,
Porfido mi parea si fiammegiante,
Come sangue che fuor di vena spiccia.
Sopra questa teneva ambo le piante
L' angel di Dio, sedendo in su la soglia,
Che mi sembiava pietra di diamante.
Per li tre gradi su di buona voglia
Mi trasse 'l daca mio, dicendo, chiodi
Umilmente che 'l serrame scioglia.


Che luce e questa, e qual nuova beltate?
Dicean tra lor; perch' abito si adorno
Dal mondo errante a quest 'alto soggiorno
Non sail mai in tutta questa etate.
Ella contenta aver cangiato albergo,
Si paragona pur coi piu perfetti.





Spring, bright prophet of God's eternal youth, herald forever
eloquent of heaven's undying joy, has once more wrought its miracle of
resurrection on the vineyards and olive-groves of Tuscany, and touched
with gently-wakening fingers the myrtle and the orange in the gardens
of Florence. The Apennines have put aside their snowy winding-sheet,
and their untroubled faces salute with rosy gleams of promise the new
day, while flowers smile upward to the serene sky amid the grass and
grain fields, and fruit is swelling beneath the blossoms along the
plains of Arno. "The Italian spring," writes Margaret, "is as good as
Paradise. Days come of glorious sunshine and gently-flowing airs, that
expand the heart and uplift the whole nature. The birds are twittering
their first notes of love; the ground is enamelled with anemones,
cowslips, and crocuses; every old wall and ruin puts on its festoon
and garland; and the heavens stoop daily nearer, till the earth is
folded in an embrace of light, and her every pulse beats music."

"This world is indeed a sad place, despite its sunshine, birds, and
crocuses. But I never felt as happy as now, when I always find the
glad eyes of my little boy to welcome me. I feel the tie between him
and me so real and deep-rooted, that even death shall not part us. So
sweet is this unimpassioned love, it knows no dark reactions, it
does not idealize, and cannot be daunted by the faults of its object.
Nothing but a child can take the worst bitterness out of life, and
break the spell of loneliness. I shall not be alone in other worlds,
whenever Eternity may call me."

And now her face is turned homeward. "I am homesick," she had written
years before, "but where is that HOME?"


"My heart is very tired,--my strength is low,--
My hands are full of blossoms plucked before,
Held dead within them till myself shall die."


Many motives drew Margaret to her native land: heart-weariness at the
reaction in Europe; desire of publishing to best advantage the book
whereby she hoped at once to do justice to great principles and brave
men, and to earn bread for her dear ones and herself; and, above all,
yearning to be again among her family and earliest associates. "I
go back," she writes, "prepared for difficulties; but it will be a
consolation to be with my mother, brothers, sister, and old friends,
and I find it imperatively necessary to be in the United States, for
a while at least, to make such arrangements with the printers as may
free me from immediate care. I did think, at one time, of coming alone
with Angelino, and then writing for Ossoli to come later, or returning
to Italy; knowing that it will be painful for him to go, and that
there he must have many lonely hours. But he is separated from his old
employments and natural companions, while no career is open for him at
present. Then, I would not take his child away for several months; for
his heart is fixed upon him as fervently as mine. And, again, it would
not only be very strange and sad to be so long without his love
and care, but I should be continually solicitous about his welfare.
Ossoli, indeed, cannot but feel solitary at first, and I am much more
anxious about his happiness than my own. Still, he will have our boy,
and the love of my family, especially of my mother, to cheer him, and
quiet communings with nature give him pleasure so simple and profound,
that I hope he will make a new life for himself, in our unknown
country, till changes favor our return to his own. I trust, that we
shall find the means to come together, and to remain together."

Considerations of economy determined them, spite of many misgivings,
to take passage in a merchantman from Leghorn. "I am suffering," she
writes, "as never before, from the horrors of indecision. Happy
the fowls of the air, who do not have to think so much about their
arrangements! The barque _Elizabeth_ will take us, and is said to be
an uncommonly good vessel, nearly new, and well kept. We may be two
months at sea, but to go by way of France would more than double the
expense. Yet, now that I am on the point of deciding to come in her,
people daily dissuade me, saying that I have no conception of what
a voyage of sixty or seventy days will be in point of fatigue
and suffering; that the insecurity, compared with packet-ships or
steamers, is great; that the cabin, being on deck, will be terribly
exposed, in case of a gale, &c., &c. I am well aware of the proneness
of volunteer counsellors to frighten and excite one, and have
generally disregarded them. But this time I feel a trembling
solicitude on account of my child, and am doubtful, harassed, almost
ill." And again, under date of April 21, she says: "I had intended,
if I went by way of France, to take the packet-ship _'Argo_,' from
Havre; and I had requested Mrs. ---- to procure and forward to me some
of my effects left at Paris, in charge of Miss F----, when, taking
up _Galignani_, my eye fell on these words: 'Died, 4th of April, Miss
F----; 'and, turning the page, I read, 'The wreck of the _Argo_,'--a
somewhat singular combination! There were notices, also, of the loss
of the fine English steamer _Adelaide_, and of the American packet
_John Skiddy._ Safety is not to be secured, then, by the wisest
foresight. I shall embark more composedly in our merchant-ship,
praying fervently, indeed, that it may not be my lot to lose my boy
at sea, either by unsolaced illness, or amid the howling waves; or, if
so, that Ossoli, Angelo, and I may go together, and that the anguish
may be brief."

Their state-rooms were taken, their trunks packed, their preparations
finished, they were just leaving Florence, when letters came, which,
had they reached her a week earlier, would probably have induced them
to remain in Italy. But Margaret had already by letter appointed a
rendezvous for the scattered members of her family in July; and she
would not break her engagements with the commander of the barque. It
was destined that they were to sail,--to sail in the _Elizabeth_, to
sail then. And, even in the hour of parting, clouds, whose tops were
golden in the sunshine, whose base was gloomy on the waters, beckoned
them onward. "Beware of the sea," had been a singular prophecy, given
to Ossoli when a boy, by a fortune-teller, and this was the first ship
he had ever set his foot on. More than ordinary apprehensions of risk,
too, hovered before Margaret. "I am absurdly fearful," she writes,
"and various omens have combined to give me a dark feeling. I am
become indeed a miserable coward, for the sake of Angelino. I fear
heat and cold, fear the voyage, fear biting poverty. I hope I shall
not be forced to be as brave for him, as I have been for myself, and
that, if I succeed to rear him, he will be neither a weak nor a bad
man. But I love him too much! In case of mishap, however, I shall
perish with my husband and my child, and we may be transferred to
some happier state." And again: "I feel perfectly willing to stay my
threescore years and ten, if it be thought I need so much tuition from
this planet; but it seems to me that my future upon earth will soon
close. It may be terribly trying, but it will not be so very long,
now. God will transplant the root, if he wills to rear it into
fruit-bearing." And, finally: "I have a vague expectation of some
crisis,--I know not what. But it has long seemed, that, in the year
1850, I should stand on a plateau in the ascent of life, where I
should be allowed to pause for a while, and take more clear and
commanding views than ever before. Yet my life proceeds as regularly
as the fates of a Greek tragedy, and I can but accept the pages as
they turn." * *

* * * * *

These were her parting words:--

"_Florence, May 14, 1850._--I will believe, I shall be welcome
with my treasures,--my husband and child. For me, I long so much
to see you! Should anything hinder our meeting upon earth, think
of your daughter, as one who always wished, at least, to do her
duty, and who always cherished you, according as her mind opened
to discover excellence.

"Give dear love, too, to my brothers; and first to my eldest,
faithful friend! Eugene; a sister's love to Ellen; love to my kind
and good aunts, and to my dear cousin. E.,--God bless them!

"I hope we shall be able to pass some time together yet, in this
world. But, if God decrees otherwise,--here and HEREAFTER,--my
dearest mother,

"Your loving child, MARGARET."


The seventeenth of May, the day of sailing, came, and the _Elizabeth_
lay waiting for her company. Yet, even then, dark presentiments
so overshadowed Margaret, that she passed one anxious hour more in
hesitation, before she could resolve to go on board. But Captain Hasty
was so fine a model of the New England seaman, strong-minded, prompt,
calm, decided, courteous; Mrs. Hasty was so refined, gentle, and
hospitable; both had already formed so warm an attachment for the
little family, in their few interviews at Florence and Leghorn;
Celeste Paolini, a young Italian girl, who had engaged to render
kindly services to Angelino, was so lady-like and pleasing; their only
other fellow-passenger, Mr. Horace Sumner, of Boston, was so obliging
and agreeable a friend; and the good ship herself looked so trim,
substantial, and cheery, that it seemed weak and wrong to turn back.
They embarked; and, for the first few days, all went prosperously,
till fear was forgotten. Soft breezes sweep them tranquilly over the
smooth bosom of the Mediterranean; Angelino sits among his heaps of
toys, or listens to the seraphine, or leans his head with fondling
hands upon the white goat, who is now to be his foster-parent, or in
the captain's arms moves to and fro, gazing curiously at spars and
rigging, or watches with delight the swelling canvass; while, under
the constant stars, above the unresting sea, Margaret and Ossoli
pace the deck of their small ocean-home, and think of storms left
behind,--perhaps of coming tempests.

But now Captain Hasty fell ill with fever, could hardly drag himself
from his state-room to give necessary orders, and lay upon the bed or
sofa, in fast-increased distress, though glad to bid Nino good-day, to
kiss his cheek, and pat his hand. Still, the strong man grew weaker,
till he could no longer draw from beneath the pillow his daily friend,
the Bible, though his mind was yet clear to follow his wife's voice,
as she read aloud the morning and evening chapter. But alas for the
brave, stout seaman! alas for the young wife, on almost her first
voyage! alas for crew! alas for company! alas for the friends of
Margaret! The fever proved to be confluent small-pox, in the most
malignant form. The good commander had received his release from
earthly duty. The _Elizabeth_ must lose her guardian. With calm
con-[Transcriber's note: A word appears to be missing here.]
authorities refused permission for any one to land, and directed that
the burial should be made at sea. As the news spread through the port,
the ships dropped their flags half-mast, and at sunset, towed by the
boat of a neighboring frigate, the crew of the _Elizabeth_ bore the
body of their late chief, wrapped in the flag of his nation, to its
rest in deep water. Golden twilight flooded the western sky, and
shadows of high-piled clouds lay purple on the broad Atlantic. In that
calm, summer sunset funeral, what eye foresaw the morning of horror,
of which it was the sad forerunner?

At Gibraltar, they were detained a week by adverse winds, but, on the
9th of June, set sail again. The second day after, Angelino sickened
with the dreadful malady, and soon became so ill, that his life was
despaired of. His eyes were closed, his head and face swollen out of
shape, his body covered with eruption. Though inexperienced in the
disease, the parents wisely treated their boy with cooling drinks, and
wet applications to the skin; under their incessant care, the fever
abated, and, to their unspeakable joy, he rapidly recovered. Sobered
and saddened, they could again hope, and enjoy the beauty of the calm
sky and sea. Once more Nino laughs, as he splashes in his morning
bath, and playfully prolongs the meal, which the careful father has
prepared with his own hand, or, if he has been angered, rests his head
upon his mother's breast, while his palm is pressed against her cheek,
as, bending down, she sings to him; once more, he sits among his toys,
or fondles and plays with the white-haired goat, or walks up and down
in the arms of the steward, who has a boy of just his age, at home,
now waiting to embrace him; or among the sailors, with whom he is a
universal favorite, prattles in baby dialect as he tries to imitate
their cry, to work the pumps, and pull the ropes. Ossoli and Sumner,
meanwhile, exchange alternate lessons in Italian and English. And
Margaret, among her papers, gives the last touches to her book on
Italy, or with words of hope and love comforts like a mother the
heart-broken widow. Slowly, yet peacefully, pass the long summer days,
the mellow moonlit nights; slowly, and with even flight, the good
Elizabeth, under gentle airs from the tropics, bears them safely
onward. Four thousand miles of ocean lie behind; they are nearly home.


"There are blind ways provided, the foredone
Heart-weary player in this pageant world
Drops out by, letting the main masque defile
By the conspicuous portal:--I am through,
Just through."


On Thursday, July 18th, at noon, the Elizabeth was off the Jersey
coast, somewhere between Cape May and Barnegat; and, as the weather
was thick, with a fresh breeze blowing from the east of south,
the officer in command, desirous to secure a good offing, stood
east-north-east. His purpose was, when daylight showed the highlands
of Neversink, to take a pilot, and run before the wind past Sandy
Hook. So confident, indeed, was he of safety, that he promised his
passengers to land them early in the morning at New York. With this
hope, their trunks were packed, the preparations made to greet their
friends, the last good-night was spoken, and with grateful hearts
Margaret and Ossoli put Nino to rest, for the last time, as they
thought, on ship-board,--for the last time, as it was to be, on earth!

By nine o'clock, the breeze rose to a gale, which every hour increased
in violence, till at midnight it became a hurricane. Yet, as the
Elizabeth was new and strong, and as the commander, trusting to an
occasional cast of the lead, assured them that they were not nearing
the Jersey coast,--which alone he dreaded,--the passengers remained in
their state-rooms, and caught such uneasy sleep as the howling storm
and tossing ship permitted. Utterly unconscious, they were, even then,
amidst perils, whence only by promptest energy was it possible to
escape. Though under close-reefed sails, their vessel was making way
far more swiftly than any one on board had dreamed of; and for hours,
with the combined force of currents and the tempest, had been driving
headlong towards the sand-bars of Long Island. About four o'clock, on
Friday morning, July 19th, she struck,--first draggingly, then hard
and harder,--on Fire Island beach.

The main and mizzen masts were at once cut away; but the heavy marble
in her hold had broken through her bottom, and she bilged. Her bow
held fast, her stern swung round, she careened inland, her broadside
was bared to the shock of the billows, and the waves made a clear
breach over her with every swell. The doom of the poor Elizabeth was
sealed now, and no human power could save her. She lay at the mercy of
the maddened ocean.

At the first jar, the passengers, knowing but too well its fatal
import, sprang from their berths. Then came the cry of "Cut away,"
followed by the crash of falling timbers, and the thunder of the seas,
as they broke across the deck. In a moment more, the cabin skylight
was dashed in pieces by the breakers, and the spray, pouring down like
a cataract, put out the lights, while the cabin door was wrenched from
its fastenings, and the waves swept in and out. One scream, one only,
was heard from Margaret's state-room; and Sumner and Mrs. Hasty,
meeting in the cabin, clasped hands, with these few but touching
words: "We must die." "Let us die calmly, then." "I hope so, Mrs.
Hasty." It was in the gray dusk, and amid the awful tumult, that the
companions in misfortune met. The side of the cabin to the leeward had
already settled under water; and furniture, trunks, and fragments of
the skylight were floating to and fro; while the inclined position of
the floor made it difficult to stand; and every sea, as it broke
over the bulwarks, splashed in through the open roof. The windward
cabin-walls, however, still yielded partial shelter, and against it,
seated side by side, half leaning backwards, with feet braced upon
the long table, they awaited what next should come. At first. Nino,
alarmed at the uproar, the darkness, and the rushing water, while
shivering with the wet, cried passionately; but soon his mother,
wrapping him in such garments as were at hand and folding him to her
bosom, sang him to sleep. Celeste too was in an agony of terror, till
Ossoli, with soothing words and a long and fervent prayer, restored
her to self-control and trust. Then calmly they rested, side by side,
exchanging kindly partings and sending messages to friends, if any
should survive to be their bearer. Meanwhile, the boats having been
swamped or carried away, and the carpenter's tools washed overboard,
the crew had retreated to the top-gallant forecastle; but, as the
passengers saw and heard nothing of them, they supposed that the
officers and crew had deserted the ship, and that they were left
alone. Thus passed three hours.

At length, about seven, as there were signs that the cabin would soon
break up, and any death seemed preferable to that of being crushed
among the ruins, Mrs. Hasty made her way to the door, and, looking
out at intervals between the seas as they swept across the vessel
amidships, saw some one standing by the foremast. His face was toward
the shore. She screamed and beckoned, but her voice was lost amid the
roar of the wind and breakers, and her gestures were unnoticed. Soon,
however, Davis, the mate, through the door of the forecastle caught
sight of her, and, at once comprehending the danger, summoned the men
to go to the rescue. At first none dared to risk with him the perilous
attempt; but, cool and resolute, he set forth by himself, and now
holding to the bulwarks, now stooping as the waves combed over,
he succeeded in reaching the cabin. Two sailors, emboldened by his
example, followed. Preparations were instantly made to conduct the
passengers to the forecastle, which, as being more strongly built and
lying further up the sands, was the least exposed part of the ship.
Mrs. Hasty volunteered to go the first. With one hand clasped by
Davis, while with the other each grasped the rail, they started, a
sailor moving close behind. But hardly had they taken three steps,
when a sea broke loose her hold, and swept her into the hatch-way.
"Let me go," she cried, "your life is important to all on board."
But cheerily, and with a smile,[B] he answered, "Not quite yet;" and,
seizing in his teeth her long hair, as it floated past him, he caught
with both hands at some near support, and, aided by the seaman, set
her once again upon her feet. A few moments more of struggle brought
them safely through. In turn, each of the passengers was helped thus
laboriously across the deck, though, as the broken rail and cordage
had at one place fallen in the way, the passage was dangerous and
difficult in the extreme. Angelino was borne in a canvas bag,
slung round the neck of a sailor. Within the forecastle, which was
comparatively dry and sheltered, they now seated themselves, and,
wrapped in the loose overcoats of the seamen, regained some warmth.
Three times more, however, the mate made his way to the cabin; once,
to save her late husband's watch, for Mrs. Hasty; again for some
doubloons, money-drafts, and rings in Margaret's desk; and, finally,
to procure a bottle of wine and a drum of figs for their refreshment.
It was after his last return, that Margaret said to Mrs. Hasty,
"There still remains what, if I live, will be of more value to me than
anything," referring, probably, to her manuscript on Italy; but it
seemed too selfish to ask their brave preserver to run the risk again.

There was opportunity now to learn their situation, and to discuss
the chances of escape. At the distance of only a few hundred yards,
appeared the shore,--a lonely waste of sand-hills, so far as could
be seen through the spray and driving rain. But men had been early
observed, gazing at the wreck, and, later, a wagon had been drawn
upon the beach. There was no sign of a life-boat, however, or of any
attempt at rescue; and, about nine o'clock, it was determined that
some one should try to land by swimming, and, if possible, get help.
Though it seemed almost sure death to trust one's self to the surf, a
sailor, with a life-preserver, jumped overboard, and, notwithstanding
a current drifting him to leeward, was seen to reach the shore.
A second, with the aid of a spar, followed in safety; and Sumner,
encouraged by their success, sprang over also; but, either struck by
some piece of the wreck, or unable to combat with the waves, he sank.
Another hour or more passed by; but though persons were busy gathering
into carts whatever spoil was stranded, no life-boat yet appeared;
and, after much deliberation, the plan was proposed,--and, as it was
then understood, agreed to,--that the passengers should attempt to
land, each seated upon a plank, and grasping handles of rope, while
a sailor swam behind. Here, too, Mrs. Hasty was the first to venture,
under the guard of Davis. Once and again, during their passage, the
plank was rolled wholly over, and once and again was righted, with its
bearer, by the dauntless steersman; and when, at length, tossed by
the surf upon the sands, the half-drowned woman still holding, as in
a death-struggle, to the ropes, was about to be swept back by the
undertow, he caught her in his arms, and, with the assistance of a
bystander, placed her high upon the beach. Thus twice in one day had
he perilled his own life to save that of the widow of his captain,
and even over that dismal tragedy his devotedness casts one gleam of

Now came Margaret's turn. But she steadily refused to be separated
from Ossoli and Angelo. On a raft with them, she would have boldly
encountered the surf, but alone she would not go. Probably, she had
appeared to assent to the plan for escaping upon planks, with the view
of inducing Mrs. Hasty to trust herself to the care of the best man on
board; very possibly, also, she had never learned the result of their
attempt, as, seated within the forecastle, she could not see the
beach. She knew, too, that if a life-boat could be sent, Davis was one
who would neglect no effort to expedite its coming. While she was
yet declining all persuasions, word was given from the deck, that
the life-boat had finally appeared. For a moment, the news lighted up
again the flickering fire of hope. They might yet be saved,--be saved
together! Alas! to the experienced eyes of the sailors it too soon
became evident that there was no attempt to launch or man her. The
last chance of aid from shore, then, was gone utterly. They must rely
on their own strength, or perish. And if ever they were to escape,
the time had come; for, at noon, the storm had somewhat lulled; but
already the tide had turned, and it was plain that the wreck could not
hold together through another flood. In this emergency, the commanding
officer, who until now had remained at his post, once more appealed
to Margaret to try to escape,--urging that the ship would inevitably
break up soon; that it was mere suicide to remain longer; that he did
not feel free to sacrifice the lives of the crew, or to throw away
his own; finally, that he would himself take Angelo, and that sailors
should go with Celeste, Ossoli, and herself. But, as before, Margaret
decisively declared that she would not be parted from her husband or
her child. The order was then given to "save themselves," and all
but four of the crew jumped over, several of whom, together with the
commander, reached shore alive, though severely bruised and wounded by
the drifting fragments. There is a sad consolation in believing that,
if Margaret judged it to be impossible that the _three_ should escape,
she in all probability was right. It required a most rare, combination
of courage, promptness and persistency, to do what Davis had done
for Mrs. Hasty. We may not conjecture the crowd of thoughts which
influenced the lovers, the parents, in this awful crisis; but
doubtless one wish was ever uppermost,--that, God willing, the last
hour might come for ALL, if it must come for _one_.

It was now past three o'clock, and as, with the rising tide, the gale
swelled once more to its former violence, the remnants of the barque
fast yielded to the resistless waves. The cabin went by the board, the
after-parts broke up, and the stem settled out of sight. Soon, too,
the forecastle was filled with water, and the helpless little band
were driven to the deck, where they clustered round the foremast.
Presently, even this frail support was loosened from the hull, and
rose and fell with every billow. It was plain to all that the final
moment drew swiftly nigh. Of the four seamen who still stood by the
passengers, three were as efficient as any among the crew of the
Elizabeth. These were the steward, carpenter, and cook. The fourth was
an old sailor, who, broken down by hardships and sickness, was going
home to die. These men were once again persuading Margaret, Ossoli
and Celeste to try the planks, which they held ready in the lee of
the ship, and the steward, by whom Nino was so much beloved, had just
taken the little fellow in his arms, with the pledge that he would
save him or die, when a sea struck the forecastle, and the foremast
fell, carrying with it the deck, and all upon it. The steward and
Angelino were washed upon the beach, both dead, though warm, some
twenty minutes after. The cook and carpenter were thrown far upon the
foremast, and saved themselves by swimming. Celeste and Ossoli caught
for a moment by the rigging, but the next wave swallowed them up.
Margaret sank at once. When last seen, she had been seated at the foot
of the foremast, still clad in her white night-dress, with her hair
fallen loose upon her shoulders. It was over,--that twelve hours'
communion, face to face, with Death! It was over! and the prayer was
granted, "that Ossoli, Angelo, and I, may go together, and that the
anguish may be brief!"

* * * * *

A passage from the journal of a friend of Margaret, whom the news
of the wreck drew at once to the scene, shall close this mournful

"The hull of the Elizabeth, with the foremast still bound to
it by cordage, lies so near the shore, that it seems as if
a dozen oar-strokes would carry a boat alongside. And as one
looks at it glittering in the sunshine, and rocking gently in
the swell, it is hard to feel reconciled to our loss. Seven
resolute men might have saved every soul on board. I know how
different was the prospect on that awful morning, when the
most violent gale that had visited our coast for years, drove
the billows up to the very foot of the sand-hills, and when
the sea in foaming torrents swept across the beach into the
bay behind. Yet I cannot but reluctantly declare my judgment,
that this terrible tragedy is to be attributed, so far
as human agency is looked at, to our wretched system, or
_no-system_, of life-boats. The life-boat at Fire Island
light-house, three miles distant only, was not brought to the
beach till between twelve and one o'clock, more than eight
hours after the Elizabeth was stranded, and more than six
hours after the wreck could easily have been seen. When
the life-boat did finally come, the beachmen could not be
persuaded to launch or man her. And even the mortar, by which
a rope could and should have been thrown on board, was not
once fired. A single lesson like this might certainly suffice
to teach the government, insurance companies, and humane
societies, the urgent need, that to every life-boat should
be attached ORGANIZED CREWS, stimulated to do their work
faithfully, by ample pay for actual service, generous
salvage-fees for cargoes and persons, and a pension to
surviving friends where life is lost. * * *

"No trace has yet been found of Margaret's manuscript on
Italy, though the denials of the wreckers as to having seen
it, are not in the least to be depended on. For, greedy
after richer spoil, they might well have overlooked a mass of
written paper; and, even had they kept it, they would be slow
to give up what would so clearly prove their participation
in the heartless robbery, that is now exciting such universal
horror and indignation. Possibly it was washed away before
reaching the shore, as several of the trunks, it is said, were
open and empty, when thrown upon the beach. But it is sad to
think, that very possibly the brutal hands of pirates may have
tossed to the winds, or scattered on the sands, pages so rich
with experience and life. The only papers of value saved, were
the love-letters of Margaret and Ossoli.[C]

"It is a touching coincidence, that the only one of Margaret's
treasures which reached the shore, was the lifeless form of
Angelino. When the body, stripped of every rag by the waves,
was rescued from the surf, a sailor took it reverently in
his arms, and, wrapping it in his neckcloth, bore it to the
nearest house. There, when washed, and dressed in a child's
frock, found in Margaret's trunk, it was laid upon a bed; and
as the rescued seamen gathered round their late playfellow and
pet, there were few dry eyes in the circle. Several of them
mourned for Nino, as if he had been their own; and even the
callous wreckers were softened, for the moment, by a sight
so full of pathetic beauty. The next day, borne upon their
shoulders in a chest, which one of the sailors gave for a
coffin, it was buried in a hollow among the sand heaps. As I
stood beside the lonely little mound, it seemed that never
was seen a more affecting type of orphanage. Around, wiry
and stiff, were scanty spires of beach-grass; near by,
dwarf-cedars, blown flat by wintry winds, stood like grim
guardians; only at the grave-head a stunted wild-rose, wilted
and scraggy, was struggling for existence. Thoughts came
of the desolate childhood of many a little one in this hard
world; and there was joy in the assurance, that Angelo was
neither motherless nor fatherless, and that Margaret and
her husband were not childless in that New World, which so
suddenly they had entered together.

"To-morrow, Margaret's mother, sister, and brothers will
remove Nino's body to New England."

* * * * *

Was this, then, thy welcome home? A howling hurricane, the pitiless
sea, wreck on a sand-bar, an idle life-boat, beach-pirates, and not
one friend! In those twelve hours of agony, did the last scene appear
but as the fitting close for a life of storms, where no safe haven
was ever in reach; where thy richest treasures were so often stranded;
where even the dearest and nearest seemed always too far off, or just
too late, to help.

Ah, no! not so. The clouds were gloomy on the waters, truly; but their
tops were golden in the sun. It was in the Father's House that welcome
awaited thee.

"Glory to God! to God! he saith,
Knowledge by suffering entereth,
And Life is perfected by Death."

[Footnote A: The following account is as accurate, even in minute
details, as conversation with several of the survivors enabled me to
make it.--W.H.C.]

[Footnote B: Mrs. Hasty's own words while describing the incident.]

[Footnote C: The letters from which extracts were quoted in the
previous chapter.]

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