"A Tragic Incident At Ravenna"
By Lord Byron.
In a Letter to Letter to Thomas Moore:
Ravenna: December 9, 1820.
I OPEN my letter to tell you a fact, which will show the state of this country better than I can. The commandant of the troops is now lying dead in my house. He was shot at a little past eight o'clock, about two hundred paces from my door. I was putting on my great-coat to visit Madame la Contessa G. when I heard the shot. On coming into the hall, I found all my servants on the balcony, exclaiming that a man was murdered. I immediately ran down, calling on Tita (the bravest of them) to follow me. The rest wanted to hinder us from going, as it is the custom for everybody here, it seems, to run away from 'the stricken deer'.
However, down we ran, and found him lying on his back, almost, if not quite, dead with five wounds; one in the heart, two in the stomach, one in the finger, and the other in the arm. Some soldiers cocked their guns, and wanted to hinder me from passing. However we passed, and I found Diego, the adjutant, crying over him like a child -- a surgeon, who said nothing of his profession -- a priest, sobbing a frightened prayer -- and the commandant, all this time, on his back, on the hard, cold pavement, without light or assistance, or anything around him but confusion and dismay.
As nobody could, or would, do anything but howl and pray, and as no one would stir a finger to move him, for fear of consequences, I lost my patience -- made my servant and a couple of the mob take up the body -- sent off two soldiers to the guard -- despatched Diego to the Cardinal with the news, and had the commandant carried upstairs into my own quarter. But it was too late, he was gone -- not at all disfigured -- bled inwardly -- not above an ounce or two came out.
I had him partly stripped -- made the surgeon examine him, and examined him myself. He had been shot by cut balls, or slugs. I felt one of the slugs, which had gone through him, all but the skin. Everybody conjectures why he was killed, but no one knows how. The gun was found close by him -- an old gun, half filed down.
He only said, '0 Dio!' and 'Gesu!' two or three times, and appeared to have suffered very little. Poor fellow ! he was a brave officer, but had made himself much disliked by the people. I knew him personally, and had met with him often at conversazioni and elsewhere. My house is full of soldiers, dragoons, doctors, priests, and all kinds of persons -- though I have now cleared it, and clapt sentinels at the doors. To-morrow the body is to be moved. The town is in the greatest confusion, as you may suppose.
You are to know that, if I had not had the body moved, they would have left him there till morning in the street, for fear of consequences. I would not choose to let even a dog die in such a manner, without succour:-- and, as for consequences, I care for none in a duty.
P.S. The lieutenant on duty by the body is smoking his pipe with great composure. -- A queer people this.
--Lord Byron (1788-1824).
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