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TRAVELLERS AND ITALIAN BANDITTI.
the masseria. They date from the period when the incursions of the Turks and pirates were apprehended, and when the country people shut themselves up in their strongholds with their cattle and most valuable effects, in order to secure themselves from attack. A square wall of inclosure, sufficiently high and solid, generally surrounds the dwelling-house, built against one side, and containing three or four large habitable rooms, and sometimes a small chapel. The vast stables, granaries, and out-houses, within the walls, form a right angle with this dwellinghouse, but without touching it. In the midst of the inclosure, at some distance from the surrounding wall, rises a round or square tower of two stories, standing quite alone. The ascent to the upper story is either by stone steps, inserted in the tower, by a drawbridge, or by a ladder easily drawn up into the tower. This description will enable the reader to understand how Don Ciro could make so long a resistance in the masseria of Scaserba.
He had arrived at this lonely place with some of his comrades, worn out with fatigue, and had thought he could venture to repose himself there for a few hours. It was said that he had previously provided Scaserba and many other lonely masserie of the district with arms, ammunition, and some provisions. He was surprised at the sudden and hostile apparition of the militia of San Marzano, but not at all alarmed, making sure he could cut his way through them whenever he chose. Had he rushed out at once he might have done so. He coolly staid where he was, and let them form before the gate of the masseria. So strong was his spell on the minds of these men, that
for a long time they hesitated to approach within range of his never-erring musket—the first that did so, he shot dead from the outer walls. This delay, however, cost him dear. The militia of San Marzano, though not brave, were this time in earnest, and having sent information to Lieutenant Fonsmorte, stationed at the Castelli, a position between Grottaglie and Francavilla, that officer hastened to the spot, with forty men of regular troops. As this force came in sight on the edge of the plain, Don Ciro bit his thumb until it bled, for he understood that a vigorous attack was to be made, and retreat was now hopeless. He soon, however, recovered his presence of mind, and locking up the poor people of the masseria in the straw-magazine, and putting the key in his pocket, he retired with his desperate followers to the tower. Having ascended to the upper story, they drew in the ladder after them, and proceeded to load all their guns, of which they had a good number.
It was now evening; the darkness of night soon succeeded the brief twilight of the south. That night must have been a sleepless one for Don Ciro, though no attempt was made at storming his stronghold. The morning dawn, however, afforded him no comfort, for Captain Corsi had arrived from Francavilla with a detachment of gens-d'armes, and soon after Major Bianchi came to the field with other reinforcements !
The siege of Scaserba was now formed by one hundred and thirty-two soldiers; the militia, on whom little dependence was placed, being stationed in the second line, and at some distance.
TRAVELLERS AND ITALIAN BANDITTI.
Don Ciro vigorously defended the outer walls and the approaches to his tower from sun-rise to sun-set. In the night he attempted to escape, but the neighing of horses made him suspect that some cavalry had arrived, whose pursuit it would be impossible to elude, and he saw piquets all round the masseria. He therefore retired, after having killed, with a pistol-shot, a voltigeur stationed under the wall he had attempted to scale. He again shut himself up in his tower, and employed himself all night in making cartridges. An afternoon, two nights, and a whole day had been spent and Don Ciro was still master of the whole inclosure, and the outer walls of the masseria! At day-break, the besiegers tried to burst open the strong wooden gate of the outer wall: Ciro and his men creeping from the tower and under the wall by the gate, repulsed the assailants, killing five and wounding fourteen of the soldiers. A barrel of oil was then rolled to the gate, in order to burn it. The first man who set fire to it was shot through the heart. But its flames communicated to the door, which was soon accessible, and Don Ciro was obliged to retreat to his tower. How long he might have kept Major Bianchi at bay, had not a piece of artillery arrived, and had he not forgotten an important part of the provision for a siege, is uncertain; but as the day advanced a four-pounder was brought to the spot, and pointed against the roof of the tower. This little piece produced great effect. The tiles and bricks which fell, drove Don Ciro from the upper to the lower story of the tower. The assailants, satisfied with the effects produced by the four-pounder, would not approach the tower; he had nothing to do in the way of