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Title: Romance of Roman Villas - (The Renaissance)
Author: Champney, Elizabeth W. (Elizabeth Williams), 1850-1922
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ROMANCE OF ROMAN VILLAS

[Illustration]

[Illustration: Pope Julius II. Viewing the Newly-found Statue of the
Apollo Belvedere

From the painting by Carl Becker. Permission of the Berlin Photographic
Co.]

(The Renaissance)

by

ELIZABETH W. CHAMPNEY

Author of "Romance of the Italian Villas," "Romance of the
Feudal Châteaux," "Romance of the French Abbeys," Etc.

Illustrated



G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press
1908



INTRODUCTION

    In came the cardinal, grave and coldly wise,
    His scarlet gown and robes of cobweb lace
    Trailed on the marble floor; with convex glass
    He bent o'er Guido's shoulder.

            WALTER THORNBURY.


Still unrivalled, after the lapse of four centuries the villas of the
great cardinals of the Renaissance retain their supremacy over their
Italian sisters, not, as once, by reason of their prodigal magnificence
but in the appealing charm of their picturesque decay.

The centuries have bestowed a certain pathetic beauty, they have also
taken away much, and the sympathy which these ruined pleasure palaces
evoke whets our curiosity to know what they were like in their heyday of
joyous revelling.

If we run down the list of the nobler villas of Rome we will find that,
with few exceptions, they were built by princes of the purple, and that
the names they bear are not Roman but those of the ruling families of
other Italian cities.

That the sixteenth century should have produced the most palatial
residences ever inhabited by prelates was but a natural outcome of the
conditions then existing. The society of Rome was a hierarchical
aristocracy made up of the younger sons of every powerful and ambitious
family of Italy, and the red hat was so greatly desired not for the
honour or emoluments of the cardinalcy _per se_ but because it was a
step to the papacy.

"To an Italian," says Alfred Austin, "it must seem a reproach never to
have had a pope in the family, and you will with difficulty find a villa
of any pretension, certainly not in Frascati, where memorial tassels and
tiara carven in stone over porch and doorway do not attest pontifical
kinship."

The young cardinal's first move in the game which he was to play was at
all expense to create an impression, and if, as in the case of Ippolito
d'Este, he had no benevolent uncle in St. Peter's chair to guide his
career, the parental coffers were drawn upon recklessly and the cadet of
the great house led a more extravagant life in his Roman villa than the
duke his elder brother in his provincial court. The object of his
ambition once attained the new Pope unscrupulously enriched his family,
and endeavoured to make his office hereditary by elevating his favourite
nephew to the cardinalcy, and endowing this future candidate for the
papacy with means from the revenues of the Church to purchase the votes
of his rivals. This is the constantly reiterated history of the builders
of the palaces and villas of Rome.

Sixtus IV. made the fortunes of his numerous de la Rovere and Riario
nephews,--one of whom, Pietro, Cardinal of San Sisto, for whom Bramante
built the Cancellaria Palace, set the pace for his comrades of the
Sacred College by squandering in two years the enormous sum of
$2,800,000. Cardinal Raphael Riario of the next generation began the
most beautiful of all villas, Lante, which three other cardinals
subsequently perfected.

Leo X. after his election as pope, proved to be a greater spendthrift
than Sixtus IV., for he not only repaired the broken fortunes of the
Medici but eclipsed his father as a patron of art, making the erection
of monumental buildings and the collection of objects of art a mania
among all men of wealth and culture. Cardinal Giulio (afterwards
Clement VII.) in the Villa Madama, and Cardinal Ferdinando in the Villa
Medici sustained the family tradition, but Cardinal Alexander Farnese
(Pope Paul III.) outrivalled them both, by filling the Farnese palace
with the most valuable collections ever amassed by a private
individual.[1]

Immediately succeeding Alexander Farnese Julius III. built the noble
Villa di Papa Giulio, and Pius IV. the charming Villa Pia; but nepotism
did not scandalously reassert itself until the last quarter of the
century, when the immense Villa Aldobrandini was erected by a nephew of
Clement VIII.

Pope Paul V. in his turn bestowed more than a million dollars upon his
Borghese nephews, to one of whom, Cardinal Scipione, we owe the
delightful Villa Borghese, just outside the Porta del Popolo.

Early in the next century the evil attained greater proportions. Olimpia
Pamphili, whose name and memory are perpetuated in the villa built by
her son, received from Pope Innocent X. more than two millions. But
Innocent seems to have a fair claim to his name when compared with his
immediate predecessor Urban VIII. who conferred upon his nephews, the
brothers Barberini, sums amounting to one hundred and five millions!

An architecture of pompous ostentation and riotous overloading of
ornament, the Baroque, now took the place of the classical beauty of the
Renaissance and art degraded became the slave of wealth, until the great
Cardinal Albani erected his villa to serve as her temple.

We are ready to expect great results in the villas and palaces of the
millionaires of the earlier half of the sixteenth century when we
reflect that they were executed by Bramante, Peruzzi, San Gallo, Michael
Angelo, and Raphael with a host of lesser men who would have been great
in any other age, and that the ruins of imperial Rome furnished them
with models for their designs and an inexhaustible quarry of statues,
columns, mosaics, and other materials.

The point of view of the present volume is the life rather than the art
of these villas, but it is not possible to ignore the stimulus which the
daily discovery of the masterpieces of ancient art afforded to the
artists of the day, and the connoisseurship imposed upon the rivalling
patrons and collectors.

In the chapters entitled: "The Finding of Apollo" and "The Lure of Old
Rome" I have striven to depict the influence of these discoveries upon
such sensitive souls as those of Raphael and Ligorio, and the gradual
education of the financier Chigi and Cardinal Ippolito d'Este in the
refinements of dilettantism.

But the Fornarina left a more potent impression on Raphael's art than
the Apollo Belvedere, and her memory and that of Imperia still haunt the
villa of the Farnesina indissolubly united with that of the master of
art and the master of revels.

In the noble Colonna palace the personality most vividly present to-day
is that of Vittoria Colonna, making good the boast of Michael Angelo's
sonnet,--

    "So I can give long life to both of us
    In either way by colour or by stone,
    Making the semblance of thy face and mine,
    Centuries hence when both are buried thus
    Thy beauty and my sadness shall be shown
    And men shall say, 'For her 't was right to pine.'"

But if Michael Angelo carved or painted Vittoria the portrait is lost;
and it is to his love, not to his art that she owes her immortality. So
from the history of these beautiful dwellings I have chosen as the focal
point of each of the following chapters, the half-forgotten face of some
woman, and were it not that the story of Vittoria Colonna is so well
known that noble woman might well have led the procession. For the same
reason, and because her castle of Spoleto could not be classed under my
topic, I have laid aside a study of Lucrezia Borgia and of another
Lucrezia who may have resided within its walls.

But from the succession of beauties who kissed their lovers beneath the
rose-trellises of Rome, I have stolen secrets enough to overfill these
pages, secrets which few of the gentle shades would forbid my telling,
since for the most part they are sweet and innocent and true. For the
others, daughters of disorder, may their sufferings bespeak your pity.

The difficulty in arriving at just estimates has only made the attempt
the more engrossing, as those will attest who have tracked through the
mass of conflicting histories the story of the elusive lady who gave the
name of Madama to the exquisite villa which Raphael designed for Clement
VII.

The Villa Aldobrandini recalls an ancient legend preserved in more than
one of the Italian novelli; and reading between the lines of the
Amyntas we may trace Tasso's love for Leonora which blossomed in the
terraced garden of the Villa d'Este.

The villas Borghese and Mondragone are still instinct with the
personality of a romantic little lady of a later period, the bewildering
Pauline Bonaparte. It is impossible while enthralled by her portrait
statue to remember any other princess of that noble house; but as we
wander through the portrait gallery of the Colonna palace it is equally
difficult to choose a favourite from its brilliant gallery. My apologies
are due to many another in fixing upon Giulia Gonzaga, wife of Vespasian
Colonna as my heroine, though such was the fame of her beauty that the
Sultan of Turkey despatched a fleet for her capture.

In the last decade of the century, Marie de' Medici looked down upon
Rome from the villa of her uncle, Cardinal Ferdinando, and wandered
among that wonderful array of statues which now form the glory of the
Pitti Palace.

This was the time, if ever, that Shakespeare visited Italy, and I have
attempted to give a true picture of the life and scenes which he may
have viewed.

To my last chapter is left the confession that the supreme charm of
Rome of the Renaissance lies not in itself, but in the fact that it is
the bridge which unites modernity to the Rome of antiquity.

Each statue unearthed in the cardinal's garden, as it reassumed its
place upon the familiar terrace, must have whispered to its marble
companions: "They call this the Villa d'Este! We know better, it is
Hadrian's. Their learned men have labelled you, 'By an Unknown
Sculptor,' little suspecting that your lips were arched by Praxiteles.
They have christened our friend in the garden of Lucullus, the 'Venus
de' Medici,' ignorant of the prouder name she bore, and they call the
relief in that new villa, 'The Antinous of Cardinal Albani,' not knowing
that the portrait and its original were alike, Faustina's."

Shall we, indulgent reader, on some fair, future day, led by the lure of
_old_ Rome, together revisit our loved villas and win the confidences of
these marble men and women who smile on us so inscrutably, and yet with
such all-compelling fascination?

    Dear Italy, the sound of thy soft name
      Soothes me with balm of Memory and of Hope.
      Mine for the moment height and steep and slope
    That once were mine. Supreme is still the aim
      To flee the cold and grey
      Of our December day,
    And rest where thy clear spirit burns with unconsuming flame.

    Fount of _Romance_ whereat our Shakespeare drank!
      Through him the loves of all are linked to thee,
      By Romeo's ardour, Juliet's constancy
    He sets the peasant in the royal rank,
      Shows, under mask and paint,
      Kinship of knave and saint
    And plays on stolid man with Prospero's wand and Ariel's prank.

    Then take these lines and add to them the lay
      All inarticulate, I to thee indite;
      The sudden longing on the sunniest day,
    The happy sighing in the stormiest night,
      The tears of love that creep
      From eyes unwont to weep,
    Full with remembrance, blind with joy and with devotion deep.[2]



CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

I.--THE EYES OF A BASILISK
(Vatican, Villa of the Belvedere)

II.--THE FINDING OF APOLLO
(Villa Farnesina)

III.--A CELLINI CASKET
(Villa Madama)

IV.--FLOWER O' THE PEACH
(Villa Aldobrandini)

V.--WITH TASSO AT VILLA D'ESTE
(Villa d'Este)

VI.--MONDRAGONE
(Villas Borghese and Mondragone)

VII.--THE ADVENTURE OF THE KNIGHT OF THE
BRANDISHED LANCE
(Villa Medici)

VIII.--THE LADIES OF PALLIANO
(Colonna Palace and Castle of Palliano)

IX.--THE LURE OF OLD ROME
(Hadrian's Villa. Villas d'Este and Albani)

[Illustration]



ILLUSTRATIONS

IN PHOTOGRAVURE


_Pope Julius II. Viewing the Newly-found
Statue of the Apollo Belvedere_         _Frontispiece_

_From the painting by Carl Becker. Permission of
the Berlin Photographic Co._

_The Borgias_

_From a painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. (Pope
Alexander VI. regards the dancing children, Lucrezia
plays the viol, Cesar beats time with his stiletto
on the stem of a wine glass.) Permission of George
Bell & Sons._

_Pope Leo X. at Raphael's Bier_

_From the painting by Pietro Michis. Permission of
Franz Hanfstaengl._

_Face of Young Girl in the Coronation of the
Virgin_

_By Fra Filippo Lippi. Permission of Alinari._

_The Floral Games_

_From the painting by Jacques Wagrez. Permission
of Braun, Clement & Co._

_In the Garden of Villa d'Este_

_From a photograph by Mr. Charles A. Platt._

_Choosing the Casket_

_From the painting by F. Barth. Permission of the
Berlin Photographic Co._

_Antinous as Bacchus, in the Museum of the
Vatican_

_Permission of Alinari._

[Illustration]



ILLUSTRATIONS

OTHER THAN PHOTOGRAVURE


*_Cæsar Borgia_

*_Caterina Sforza. Castle of Forlì in Background_
_By Palmezzani._

*_Unknown Lady_ (_probably Imperia_)
_By Sebastian del Piombo. Uffizi._

*_Virgin and Child_
_By Sodoma. Pinacoteca, Milan._

*_Raphael and Sodoma_
_Fragment of School of Athens, in the Vatican--Raphael._

*_Villa Farnesina, Rome_

*_Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, called Sodoma_
_From the portrait by himself in the Abbey of Monte
Oliveto Maggiore._

*_By permission of Messrs. Alinari._

*_Margherita_ (_La Fornarina_)
_Attributed to Raphael. Pitti Gallery, Florence._

*_Pope Leo X., Giulio de Medici_ (_afterward Pope
Clement VII._), _and Luigi de Rossi_
_By Raphael.   Pitti Gallery._

_Villa Madama_

_Detail of Vault in Villa Madama_
_Stucchi by Giovanni da Udine._

_Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Parma, 1586_
_From an old engraving._

_Stucchi by Giovanni da Udine_
_Villa Madama._

_Villa Madama--Interior_

*_Villa Aldobrandini, Frascati. The Grand
Cascade and Fountain of Atlas_

*_Upper Cascade, Villa Aldobrandini_

*_Villa d'Este, at Tivoli--Present State_

_Hydraulic Organ, Villa d'Este_

_Villa d'Este in 1740_
_From an etching by Piranesi._

*_Villa d'Este--Terrace Staircase_
*_By permission of Messrs. Alinari._

_*Fountain in Gardens of the Villa Borghese_

_*Pauline Bonaparte, Princess Borghese_
_Portrait statue by Canova at Villa Borghese._

_Henri IV. Receiving the Portrait of Marie de Medici_
_Painted at her order by Rubens._

_View from the Garden of the Villa Medici_

_Colonna Palace, Rome_--_The Grand Salon_

_Garden of the Colonna Palace, Rome_
_With permission of Charles A. Platt._

_Castle of Vittoria Colonna at Ischia_

_The Cascade_
_Villa Conti Torlonia, Frascati._

_The Haunted Pool_
_Villa Conti Torlonia, Frascati._

_Vittoria Colonna_
_From a portrait in the Colonna Gallery._

___Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna_
_From a portrait in later life by Netscher._

_Court of the Massimi Palace_

_Marie Mancini Colonna, Principessa di Palliano_
_By Mignard.    Photographische Gesellschaft, Berlin._

_*By permission of Messrs. Alinari._

_Antinous_
_Bas-relief found at Hadrian's Villa, now in the Villa
Albani._

_Ruins of a Gallery of Statues in Hadrian's Villa_
_From an etching by Piranesi._

*_Villa Pia in Garden of the Vatican_
_Pirro Ligorio, architect._

*_Villa Pia, Vatican_
_The rotondo--Pirro Ligorio, architect._

_Eros Bending the Bow_
_Capitoline Museum._

_Faun of Praxiteles_
_Capitoline Museum._

_Villa Albani_

*_Casino, Villa Albani_

*_Candelabra from Hadrian's Villa_
_Museum of the Vatican._

*_Urania_

_Museum of the Vatican._

_View through the Key-hole of the Gate of the Villa
of the Knights of Malta_

*_By permission of Messrs. Alinari._



ROMANCE OF ROMAN VILLAS

[Illustration]



CHAPTER I

THE EYES OF A BASILISK

(AN EPISODE OF THE FRENCH WARS IN ITALY, FROM THE MEMOIRS OF THE GOOD
KNIGHT YVES D'ALLEGRE)


I

     There is not one that looketh upon her eyes but he dieth presently.
     The like property has the basilisk. A white spot or star she
     carrieth on her head and setteth it out like a diadem. If she but
     hiss no other serpent dare come near.--PLINY.

A strange story is mine, not of love but of hatred, the slow coiling of
a human serpent about its prey, with something more than human in the
sudden deliverance which came from so unexpected a quarter when all hope
had gone and struggle ceased.

Certes, I am not one of your practised romancers thus to reveal my plot
at the beginning, and yet, with all I have told, you will never guess in
what mysterious guise, yet so subtly that it seemed a breath of wind had
but fluttered a leaf of paper, the enemy we feared was struck with such
opportune paralysis.

Let those who doubt the truth of this tale or the existence of the
basilisk question Cesare Borgia, for we saw the creature at the same
time as we rode together near Imola in northern Italy. It was the
beginning of that campaign in which I, much against my will, was in
command of the French troops, which his Majesty Louis XII. had sent to
aid his ally in the conquest of Romagna. I would far liefer have gone
with my brother knights deputed to sustain Louis's right to the
Milanese, for it is one thing to fight honourably for France and
another, as I soon discovered, to aid a villain in the massacre of his
own countrymen, and all for aims in which I had no interest. But it was
only by degrees that I was enlightened concerning the character of
Borgia. He was brave beyond doubt, and courage had for me great
fascination. I never saw him flinch but once, and that before a thing
which seemed so trivial that I counted it but a matter of physical
repulsion.

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Cæsar Borgia]

We were riding thus side by side in advance of our men, when a small
snake darted from the thicket and hissed its puny defiance. I stooped
from my saddle, impaled it on my sword, and waved it writhing in the
air. But Cesare, to my astonishment, turned deadly pale and galloped
incontinently in the opposite direction.

When I rejoined him after throwing the reptile into the underbrush he
explained the seizure. The astrologer, Ormes, had predicted that he
would meet his death neither from natural sickness nor from poison, nor
yet by the sword or cord, but from the eye of a basilisk.

"And what manner of creature may that be?" I asked, wonderingly.

"It is a serpent," he replied, "but one so rare in Italy that not once
in a century is it met with. The monster is gifted with the evil eye,
killing whomsoever it looks upon. It bears a star-shaped spot upon its
head, and when you whirled yon reptile in the air methought I discerned
its baleful flash."

"And so you did," I replied, "but you need have no apprehension, the
creature is blind."

"Blind!" he repeated incredulously.

"Of a verity. Its eyes have long since been removed, for the flesh has
grown over the empty sockets."

"Then," said Cesare, "some wizard must have extracted them to serve him
in his black art, and has let the serpent go free knowing that it is
only by the eye of a living basilisk that this prodigy can be wrought.
Fortunately you have killed it and there is no longer any danger."

"Nay," I replied, "I but wounded the creature. It crawled away when it
fell."

"Then he who holds its eyes holdeth my life and by his hand I shall
die," he stammered with white lips. Little thought I then that Cesare's
inhuman cruelty and perfidy would cause me to thank God for his belief
in the creature's malignancy and that the basilisk was to aid in the one
episode which was in some measure to take the evil taste of this
campaign from my mouth.

Only a few weeks later, on the first of January, 1500, our combined
forces began in earnest the assault of the citadel of Forlì, which we
had held in siege throughout the previous month. Little stomach had I
for the business, since to my shame I was making war upon a woman.
Imola which had already surrendered to us, was also her fief, but had
she commanded its forces in person we would not have taken it so easily.
For fighting blood ran in the veins of the Lady of Forlì, she being the
grand-daughter of the great condottiere Francesco Sforza. And this was
not the first time that she had fought for her castle.

She had come to it first as the bride of Girolamo Riario, but the
townspeople had refused to recognise his authority and had stabbed him
to death, throwing his naked, mutilated body into the moat before her
windows.

The young widow instantly trained the guns of the citadel upon the town,
and when it surrendered caused the murderers and their families to be
hacked in pieces; and this was but one of many instances reported of her
dauntless and vindictive character. She had remarried, but her second
husband, Giovanni de' Medici, had recently died, and Caterina Sforza
Riario de' Medici, in spite of her noble birth and connexions, had none
to help her.

If Cesare Borgia had not already married perchance the opportunity would
have been offered her to add another great name to those she already
bore, for he recognised in this tigerish woman a fitting mate. He hated
her indeed, but one does not hate one's inferiors, one despises or pets
them, and Cesare hated the Lady of Forlì because he knew that he could
never master her.

Therefore on New Year's Day, we having, as I have said, drawn our forces
so closely about the citadel that for weeks past not a mouse could
escape, Cesare before ordering the assault sent me to its lady with
sealed conditions of capitulation.

I thought, as I rode across the draw-bridge with the white truce pennon
fluttering from my lance, how at that other siege when summoned to
surrender on pain of having her children put to death before her walls,
this unnatural mother had replied coldly: "Children are more easily
replaced than castles," and I was unprepared for the vision which
greeted me in the gloomy hall.

For Caterina was no repulsive termagant, but a woman of marvellous
charm. This fascination was something quite different from ordinary
beauty. Its seat was in her eyes, which many thought not at all
beautiful, for they were like those gems called aquamarine, of a
puzzling tint varying from blue to green, lustrous and lapping the
beholder with their gentle lambency, except when passion moved her,
when I have seen them glow with a menacing light as though they might
shoot forth green flames. But now she was all loveliness. The
vicissitudes of her tragic life had left no trace except the slight
scowl, which might be due to defective vision, for from the curiously
linked chatelaine there depended a lorgnon with which she had a nervous
trick of trifling.

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Catenna Sforza

Castle of Forlì in Background

By Palmezzani]

She leaned forward as I entered, her lips a little apart and her cheeks
glowing with excitement.

"You have brought me a message from your commander?" she asked, and I
presented the letter.

But as she read her colour flamed to deeper crimson and her small hands
tore the missive in fragments. "And these are the terms proposed by a
belted knight, companion of Bayard _sans reproche_; this your fufilment
of your sworn devoir to women in distress? Then here is my answer," and
she dashed the bits of paper in my face, "for my garrison will prefer
annihilation rather than permit me to submit to such indignity."

"Believe me," I protested, "that, far from assisting in the framing of
those terms, I am in utter ignorance of their purport. Believe also that
though what I have hitherto heard has not prepossessed me in your
favour, I now count those charges as lying slanders, knowing that no
evil soul could inhabit so lovely a person."

Her lip curled scornfully. "I have listened to lovers' flatteries ere
this," she answered, "and know how little they are worth."

"By your pardon," I retorted, "I am a lover indeed, but none of yours.
It is because I love my good wife in Auvergne that I honour all women."

She had lifted her eyeglass as though to scan my face the more keenly to
know if I spoke the truth; but apparently my words alone convinced her,
and, feeling the discourtesy of such an act, she looked about the room
irresolutely and let the lorgnon fall without meeting my eyes.

"Good," she said at length, "I like you better for that word. 'Tis a
pity we must be enemies. Tell your master that I shall defend my
fortress to the last extremity. If I am so unfortunate as to be
conquered, demand that he appoint you my jailer, for to no one else will
I submit myself alive."

I have taken part in many sieges but never saw I a more gallant defence
than the one made by that doomed citadel. Its besiegers were quartered
within the town, fattening on the supplies which flowed in from the
country and sleeping warm at night, while the garrison of the castle
burned its carved wainscotings for fuel and daily buried some
famine-stricken sentry. Twice with blazing missiles Caterina's archers
set fire to the houses within range of her guns, striving by destroying
the homes of her own people to drive us from our shelter, and once in
the dead of night she made sortie and strove to cut her way through only
to be beaten back. She seemed more a deluding spirit of evil leading us
on to our own destruction than an ordinary mortal, and when Cesare gave
orders to bombard the castle it made our flesh creep to see her seated
nonchalantly upon the ramparts scanning the artillerymen through her
lorgnon, laughing when their shots went wild, and clapping her hands
when they tore off fragments of the parapet on which she leaned as
though she were but applauding a play. That very night an epidemic so
deadly broke out among the cannoneers that some foolishly superstitious
declared she had bewitched them with the evil eye, and others as falsely
that the springs in the hills above the castle which supplied the
fountains of the town were poisoned at her command.

But the inevitable day came when the Lady of Forlì announced that she
was ready to surrender. Even then she demanded lenient and honourable
terms as though mistress of the situation.

There must be neither bloodshed nor pillage. The allegiance of her
subjects should be transferred indeed to Cesare as Duke of Romagna, and
she offered herself and her children as hostages for their loyalty, but
not to Cesare. They would trust themselves only to the watch-care of the
Pope, and she stipulated that the French troops should be their
body-guard to Rome.

Cesare laughed maliciously. "She is as safe in my care as in that of his
Holiness," he said, "and it is to my interest that the boy alone should
die. It was the great statesman Machiavelli who counselled that when a
city was captured every male heir to its former lord should be slain, to
guard against uprisings in the future. I will take her son into my own
safe-conduct, but you may escort his sisters and mother in welcome, for
I have no wish to come within the range of her quizzing glasses."

When I reported this to Caterina she shuddered slightly and answered
questioningly, "From Cesare's so great personal solicitude I gather
that the health of the young duke might suffer at the Borgia's table?"

To these alarms I could not reply reassuringly, but the lady presently
laughed gleefully. "This is not a recent thought of mine," she said.
"The idea occurred to me when Cesare first laid claim to our estates.
Tell him that I cannot take advantage of his kind offer for I sent my
son before the siege to join his cousin and godfather, Cardinal de'
Medici, in his exile. The Cardinal's family feeling extends even to his
most distant relatives and the boy could have no better guardian."

"Surely it is fortunate that you were so wise," I replied, and even
Cesare had no doubt that she spoke truly.

It was the twelfth of January, the very day of the surrender, that I set
out with my captives for the Eternal City. Caterina was conveyed in her
litter with her elder daughter, but the younger insisted on riding on
horseback at my side. She was an ugly little hoyden of five years, this
Giovanna, who, squat of stature and swarthy as a gypsy, bestrode her
little pony like a man; but, though by nature stubborn and subject to
fits of anger in which she bit and scratched like a wildcat, to me she
had taken a fancy as intense as it was inexplicable.

When I upbraided her manners as ill befitting a little maid, and
marvelled at her unlikeness to her mother, she made answer: "Nay, but
mamma can scratch also. You should have seen the face of the messenger
who told us that the town of Forlì had opened its gates to the
besiegers. I am like my father in looks, but I have my mother's spirit.
Cardinal de' Medici said that if my father had worn the petticoat and my
mother had been the man, the Medici would be ruling now in Florence."

"Would you like to rule, little princess?" I asked.

"Nay, I would rather fight. When I am grown I will be a great
condottiere like you, Sir Knight."

"Tush!" I reproved her. "A girl a condottiere--who ever heard of such a
prodigy?"

The child smiled mysteriously. "I have a mind to tell you a secret," she
said.

"Giovanna, Giovanna!" her mother called, beckoning from her litter, but
the little maid had fast hold of my stirrup leather, and pulled me close
while she confided: "I am not Giovanna, I am not a girl at all. I am
Giovanni de' Medici, Duke of Forlì, and one of these days I will cut
off that Borgia man's head. But fear not; I will be good to you if only
you do not tell."

[Illustration]

[Illustration: The Borgias

From a painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. (Pope Alexander VI. regards
the dancing children, Lucrezia plays the viol, Cesar beats time with his
stiletto on the stem of a wine glass.) Permission of George Bell & Sons]

I had no mind to tell, and though I let the Duchess know that her little
son had betrayed his disguise, and reproached her for bringing him into
the wolf's jaws, I swore to her that the secret should be safe in my
keeping.


II

                  The bob of gold
    Which a pomander ball doth hold,
    This to her side she doth attach
    With gold crochet or French pennache.

    Then raises to her eyes of blue
    Her lorgnon, as she looks at you.

Arrived at Rome, the Pope assigned the captives to the Villa of the
Belvedere, so named from a graceful tower which shot high above the
encircling walls, and commanded a delightful prospect. A charming garden
connected the villa with the Vatican, but it was none the less a prison
whose only approach or egress was through the corridors of the papal
palace. The Lady of Forlì had been received with hypocritical cordiality
by the family of the Pope at one of those intimate gatherings in the
Borgia apartments which, devoted to song, dance, and feasting were
greatly enjoyed by Alexander and his children, and so shamelessly
disgraced the residence consecrated to the head of the Church.

Cesare upon his return would find in them an opportunity for meeting his
prisoner, and, if she denied him further familiarity, he held the power
of executing swift vengeance. It behooved us therefore to act quickly
and before the arrival of my superior. The only hope which seemed to me
at all reasonable was of French interference.

Cardinal d'Amboise was in Milan, having recently arrived from the French
Court, and acting upon my advice the Lady of Forlì appealed through him
to the King of France, I urging her petition with every conceivable
argument.

While anxiously awaiting his reply I took advantage of my authority as
her body-guard to station a French sentinel at her door, relinquishing
my own cook to protect her from poisoning, and my faithful valet as
groom and guardian of the children.

But all these precautions were swept away by Cesare on his arrival in
the middle of February. For he sent me at that time a curt note stating
that after we had taken part in the triumph granted him by the Pope in
recognition of his victories in Romagna, he would have no further need
either of my troops or myself; and we would be at liberty to report
ourselves at Milan to the commander of the French army.

The "triumph" to which he referred consisted of a procession with
allegorical floats and every description of gala costume. The houses
along its course were hung with brilliant draperies; flags and pennons
should wave, martial music bray, and salvos of artillery were to be
fired at frequent intervals.

But the principal feature of the demonstration and the one on which the
Pope counted to raise popular enthusiasm to the point of delirium was to
be the parade of the captives.

Cesare, in emulation of the celebration of the conquest of Palmyra by
the Emperor Aurelian, had conceived the brilliant idea of compelling
Caterina to walk in the procession bound like Zenobia with golden
chains.

Hitherto Caterina and I had discussed with each other every plan of
action, but now unfortunately we had no opportunity of taking counsel
with one another. Still she had been accustomed too long to
self-reliance to hesitate for that reason, and divining by a flash of
woman's intuition how this spectacle might be converted into an
opportunity of escape, she consented gracefully to Cesare's plans,
requesting only that the French troops should march as her guard.

To this arrangement Cesare gave his ready acquiescence, promising also
of his own accord that I should ride directly behind her and beside her
children. It was well thought out, for she had counted not alone upon my
assistance, but had determined to use every detail of the programme
which Cesare had devised to rouse the populace of Rome to aid in her
rescue.

She robed herself therefore in most becoming though sable garments,
allowing her veil of thinnest gauze to flutter artfully and display her
beautiful face while the long velvet sleeves open to the shoulder showed
the double manacles at the wrist and above the elbow, made purposely too
tight and cutting into the lovely rounded arm.

Growls of indignation from the men and cries of sympathy from the women
rose as they marked her fatigue, and how ruthlessly the men-at-arms who
led her dragged her on, and the demonstration was a triumph to Caterina
rather than to Cesare. As the float representing the dismantled citadel
of Forlì tottered by with her little girls upon the battlements,
waving, the one the bull-blazoned ensign of the Borgias and the other
the reversed and degraded arms of the Medici, shouts of "Shame, shame!"
were heard, and the riotous crowd surged so close to the float that it
was impossible for it to proceed. We had reached at this critical
juncture the Porta del Popolo and through its open gates the via
Flaminia stretching straight to the north across the free Campagna was
discernible. With that sight I comprehended Caterina's intention and at
the same instant the boy-girl Giovanni let fall the Borgia emblem, which
was instantly trampled in the mire by the mob, and snatching the banner
bearing the Medici balls from his sister's hand he waved it triumphantly
in its proper position, crying "Palle, palle! Rescue, rescue!"

Then it was that Caterina had counted on my trusty Frenchmen to sweep
her and her children on to liberty while the mob hindered pursuit. But
alas! Cesare had suspected some such plot, and had interposed between
the prisoners and my brave troopers his own corps of veteran pikemen.
For an instant they wavered, for Caterina had sprung upon the float and
was gazing at them through her lorgnon. They remembered what had
happened to the gunners at Forlì, and shuddered, but the mob attacking
them with paving stones interposed a screen between them and the danger
they dreaded and roused their mettle. With their old war cry their first
battalion charged the rioters while their second division, halting, kept
back my men.

As the full signification of this lost opportunity overwhelmed me, I
could not in my mortification meet Caterina's reproachful eyes. Her last
gallant stroke for liberty had failed through my lack of co-operation.
Cesare's pikemen enclosed her with a wall of bristling spears; the
populace slunk into side alleys, the gates of the Porta del Popolo had
been closed during the tumult, and the procession resumed its line of
march in the direction of the castle of St. Angelo. As I cursed my
stupidity, Cesare, purple with rage, rode back to me with Giovanni
struggling wildly in his arms.

"Take this brat of a girl to the Belvedere," he commanded, "and beat her
soundly."

But as I lifted the child before me he ceased not to shriek to Cesare:
"Beat me if you dare. I am no girl-brat. I am Giovanni de' Medici, Duke
of Forlì!"

There was a chance that Cesare had not rightly understood him, for I
had held my hand over the boy's mouth. I would not save him and desert
his mother, so I rode with him to the Belvedere; but I paused on the way
to obtain a rope-ladder, and to conceal it in a basket of fruit which I
bade Giovanni give to his mother. I dared not write a letter had there
been time to I do so, but the child was intelligent and I made him
repeat my message again and again.

With the help of the ladder they must descend at midnight into the
garden of the Belvedere, and climb by the rose espalier to the top of
the garden wall. I would be on horseback on the other side and would
receive them in my arms. Then with forged passports I would take them to
Milan.

A light in the window of the tower at eleven would signify her
acquiescence in this plan.

But at the time appointed I saw no light, and though my men waited in
the lofts of the stable where their horses stood ready saddled, and I
paced the lane on the hither side of the garden wall until dawn, no
fugitives joined me.

When I returned to my lodgings at daybreak I found a summons from the
Pope awaiting me which bade me attend him at the Vatican at his morning
levee. Presently, too, a man in Cesare's livery brought me the basket
of fruit and the rope-ladder which I had sent to Caterina.

"My master bade me return this to you," said the lackey, "as you may
find it useful for your own needs in future."

I understood the cold sarcasm of the message. I was to be imprisoned,
and I did not flatter myself that any opportunity for use of a
rope-ladder would be left me. But in that supreme moment it was not my
own doom that I thought upon but that of the unfortunate Lady of Forlì.

As I prepared to obey the papal summons my landlady brought me a letter
which had arrived during my absence, the long-expected instructions from
Cardinal d'Amboise. They called me and my troop to Milan--the Pope would
not dare controvert that command; and as my eye sought eagerly for an
answer to my appeal for Caterina it caught at the bottom of the page
this line:

     "As for Caterina Sforza Riario de' Medici and her children----"

Trembling with excitement I turned the leaf but my hopes died within me
as I read on:

     "----that belligerent and unwomanly woman hath but received her
     just deserts. We are to be congratulated that her fortresses and
     her army fell into the power of our ally before it was possible for
     her to aid her uncle Lodovico Sforza, usurper of Milan, at present
     our prisoner.

     "Our fortunes are now so assured either by conquest or alliance
     that all the leading families of northern Italy are on our side.
     Even the Medici are with us. Sooner or later"----

Here I turned a page again.

     "They must be returned to Florence, as the King desires the good
     will of the Medici."

There was more to the effect that the Cardinal desired me to kiss for
him the hands of his Holiness, and to assure both him and Cesare
that--if their promise to the King of France were carried out--they
would ever find in the French army a sure defence. But all this seemed
of little moment to me since the letter contained no hope for Caterina.
I thrust it in my pouch and pursued my way to the Vatican, cudgelling my
brains for some other means by which to save her.

Was there, I questioned, no motive within the complicated mechanism of
Cesare's mind upon which I could play? Was there nothing which he held
sacred, no terror in earth or hell which could daunt his inexorable
will?

Then suddenly I remembered the flaw in his armour, and that he who
could neither be persuaded by friendship nor coerced by authority
trembled before a baseless superstition--the dread of the evil eye.

I had still a card to play, and would continue the game resolutely to
the end. It might be that I could arm his captive with the one weapon
which he feared.

With this thought in my mind I came upon Cesare suddenly, in the
ante-room of the Pope's audience chamber.

"Ah," he exclaimed maliciously, "you thought to anticipate me in gaining
my father's ear. I confess I had the same intention. Well, since chance
will have it so, we will go in together."

"One moment," I replied; "I am glad to have met you thus opportunely,
for I have a word of warning for you."

"Of warning?" he questioned.

"Yes," I replied, "in return for that you so kindly sent me with the
rope-ladder this morning. You may need mine first. Let me beg you to
pursue the Lady of Forlì no further. If you do not instantly let her go
free she may work you a terrible mischief--the only one you dread."

The scornful smile which had curled his lip died out, and though he
asked my meaning I knew he already had an inkling of it.

"You remember the eyeless basilisk which we found near Imola?" He nodded
and caught my hand. "She has the eyes?" he asked. "Nay, you need not
answer, I know where she keeps them,--in the pomander that hangs always
at her chatelaine." "That is no pomander," I replied, "but a lorgnon.
She is near-sighted; have you not noted, as she looks from her window of
the Belvedere how she scans the objects in the garden through its
lenses?"

"She was looking for me," he chattered insanely, "she was looking for me
through the eyes of the basilisk; but I am not so dull as you think. I
have long suspected this, and when she glared at my men as they charged
the rioters I struck the diabolical things from her hand with the flat
of my sword. I know not where they fell but she has them no longer."

"Be not so sure of that," I ventured with a grimace, which I strove to
make a smile. "I found the lorgnon in the street and carried it back to
the Belvedere. Be warned and anger her no more."

"It was a thoughtful and friendly act," he sneered exultantly, "but
useless, dear fellow, quite useless. _Mal vedere_ should that falsely
named villa be called; but neither for good nor for evil will she
evermore gaze forth from any casement. She and the son whom she thought
to palm off as a girl lie at this moment in a windowless dungeon in the
vaults of the castle of St. Angelo. I had thought for a moment to give
you guest-room beside her, but you have warned me of her designs, and my
father argues that we must not anger the French King in any fashion. Had
he demanded my prisoners I might even have lost this dear revenge, but
now I shall give orders to their gaoler that he waste no good money on
their nourishment. In less than a week's time their career and my danger
will be over."

I would have strangled him as he stood there but at that instant the
doors of the audience-chamber flew open and the Pope, attended by his
guards, stood between us.

He extended his left hand, which Cesare kissed, and he gave me his
benediction with the other.

"I have sent for you, my friend," he said, "to bid you farewell, for I
have just received word from Cardinal d'Amboise that you and your good
fellows are needed in the Milanese. The Cardinal informs me that he has
written you by the same post. May I read the letter? Perchance I may
gain from it a clearer understanding concerning his desires and how we
may forward them."

"I will go and fetch it," I stammered, for the request was a demand, and
the thought came to me that I might cut out all reference to the Lady of
Forlì from the letter.

"I think we shall not need to trouble you to do so," cried the lynx-eyed
Cesare. "Your pouch is open, and if I mistake not that is the
handwriting of the Cardinal."

He had snatched the letter, and it was in his father's hand before he
had said half these words. I am not a man given to prayer, but from the
bitterness of my despair my soul cried silently in that instant, "O God,
save her, for vain is the help of man!"

The Pope ran his eye quickly along the lines without speaking until he
came to the name of the Lady of Forlì.

"As to Caterina Sforza Riario de' Medici and her children"--he read
aloud with illy suppressed excitement, and then in his eagerness to know
more he turned two pages at once, without perceiving that the one which
should have followed next adhered to that which he had just read--"As to
Caterina Sforza Riario de' Medici and her children," he repeated, "they
must be returned to Florence, as the King desires the good will of the
Medici."

In utter stupefaction, I could not at first understand how this
misreading had chanced.

"Hem, hem!" grunted the Pope--"but she is only the widow of a member of
the cadet branch, a person of no importance. I see not why the King of
France should concern himself with her fate. Nevertheless, since our
prisoners have his patronage, they shall be detained no longer. I will
write to the Florentine signory commending the lady and her children to
their loving watch-care, and as you, Sir Yves, have been their conductor
hither, so shall you escort them to their destination."

Cesare could not gainsay his father's command. An hour later the gates
of St. Angelo opened for the departure of the Lady of Forlì and her
children. I waited not for any chance of fate to turn backward the wheel
of fortune, and as my faithful troop galloped into line about her
litter, I gave the triumphant order--

"To Florence."

She dwells there even as I write these chronicles, in the Medicean
villa of Castello, and as at first she dared not keep her little son
with her (the men of the Medici being banished from Florence), she
confided him, still habited in girlish disguise, to the care of a
community of nuns, who kept a seminary for the daughters of noble
families. But at length, on the restoration of the Medici, he issued
from that retreat, and is now being bred to the profession of arms, in
the which he bids fair to realise the ambitions confided to me as we
rode from Forlì, what time I deemed him the most unmannerly little
princess which it had been my lot to meet.



CHAPTER II

THE FINDING OF APOLLO

(AN ESCAPADE OF BAZZI'S)


I

_Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (called Sodoma) to Giulio Romano, painter
and architect at Mantua._

_Good Friend and sometime Pot-Comrade:_

By the which epithet I would signify that comradeship at Chigi's villa
at Rome in orgies of paint pots and brushes, flesh pots and flagons,
feasts of reason and of unreason, wherein we were alike insatiable until
the light of our revels went out in the death of our adored Raphael.

You write me that in the intervals of your labour you are piecing
together memoirs of those glorious Roman days in order to leave to the
world some record of the more intimate private life of our friend, and
you ask me for any anecdotes or remembered conversations which may fill
out this sheaf of tribute.

Faith, you, who have a whole garden of such souvenirs from which to
cull, in that you shared his labours, his home, his confidence and his
largess, have come to a wild and barren pasture for such sweet flowers;
and yet there was love between us, love which ever radiated from him as
it were sunshine and caused many a briar-rose to blossom in the thorny
tangle of my life. I knew him also before you, in the summer of 1503, at
Siena; and it is of certain pranks in that early comradeship that I will
now write. Raphael was then a youth of scarce twenty years. He had come
fresh from his apprenticeship to that old pietist Perugino, to assist in
the decoration of the cathedral library. I was twenty-four, but older
far in world-knowledge, and exulting in my first success as a painter,
for though the spoiled favourite of the town I stood _facile princeps_
among the Sienese of my craft.

We met first at Cetinale, the villa of our patron, Agostino Chigi. From
the first Raphael's honest admiration of my work warmed me to
friendship and I strove to enlighten his ignorance. Chigi had placed at
our joint disposition a loft in his stables which we fitted up as a
studio and bed-chamber, and hither we resorted for work or play as
opportunity and inclination moved us.

It was oftener play for me, for I was more interested in my host's
horses in those days than in my art. Chigi and I were both amateurs of
the race-track and though he spent enormous sums on his stud I had once
beaten him at the _palio_. In spite of this we were good friends. I had
the run of his stables and many a reckless ride have we enjoyed
together. I was fond of all sports which were spiced with danger, and
particularly of hunting. But there was no sport I loved so well as a
practical joke, no game that for me had so delicious a flavour as the
teasing of my friends and especially the more serious and
dignified--though such pranks have frequently cost me dear. From the
multitude of which I have been guilty I recall one which had different
consequences from those I had foreseen.

I was hunting in the neighbourhood of Siena late one afternoon in the
summer of which I speak. Chigi was detained at his villa in the
expectation of guests, and I was alone save for the company of my ape,
Ciacco, which I had purchased of some strolling Bohemians. I was
training the creature to retrieve my game, in which service he was
extremely zealous and clever.

We had ridden far and were both parched with thirst, when I paused to
rest in the shadow of a ruined tower which crowned a hill and commanded
the road to Siena. Two sumpter mules, guarded by armed men, had just
passed on in the direction of the city, and following at some distance
in the rear two travellers, an elderly man and a young girl, were
approaching the tower where at that moment I chanced to be stationed.

In spite of the fact that their horses were jaded they were pushing them
to the utmost, anxious, doubtless, to rejoin their convoy and to gain
Siena before the closing of the gates.

I doubt not, that, armed as I was, and with wind-disordered hair, I
presented in front of that grim barbican a sufficiently sinister
appearance. Certain it is they took me for a bandit and their faces
blanched. The man retained some vestiges of self-possession, however,
and, doffing his hat, craved permission to pass.

Apprehending the situation, the spirit of mischief with which I am at
all times possessed moved me to personate the character for which he
took me, and I gruffly bade him stand and deliver toll of the valuables
he carried.

"My property has preceded me," he replied unsteadily, "but I will blow
this whistle and bid the knaves unload it for your worship's choice."

"Nay," I replied, "my merry men are dealing with your servants. I am a
robber-knight, it is true, but one not altogether devoid of courtesy. I
therefore ask but a kiss from your pretty daughter, and that small melon
which dangles in the netted pouch at her saddle-bow, for which my
thirsty ape is gibbering."

If the traveller had been pale hitherto he was livid now.

"Not that, not that," he cried; "hold me in ransom if you will, but let
my niece pass on unmolested. She will send back whatever sum you demand,
for we have wealthy friends in Siena."

"Is it so?" I replied; "then I will forego the kiss, which is doubtless
reserved for a wealthier suitor, but the fruit you will not deny, for I
have ridden far to-day, and have the thirst of the evil one." The man's
only reply was to cut the girl's horse so savagely across the flanks
that the frightened creature dashed past while his own horse blocked my
pursuit.

But Ciacco, perceiving that the coveted fruit was about to be lost, in
three flying leaps overtook the fugitive and clambering up the lady's
draperies seized on the swaying pouch, which his sharp teeth managed to
unravel, and presently came hopping back, man-like upon his hind feet,
the melon clasped within his hairy arms.

My prisoner uttered a wail of anguish. One would have thought the ape's
trifling booty an inestimable treasure, for he rode so furiously toward
Ciacco that the ape dropped the melon and scampered up a neighbouring
tree. But my blood was up. I was not to be defrauded of my prey, and as
the traveller was on the point of dismounting, I fired my arquebus in
the air, and so terrified his horse that it galloped after the fleeing
maiden. Its rider was also well frightened, for, though he drew rein
uncertainly when he saw me possess myself of his luncheon, when I fired
again (though purposely wide of the mark) both travellers resumed their
flight, nor paused until they had gained Siena.

I laughed to myself at the success of my prank, thinking of the added
mirth I should enjoy in telling the tale that evening. Meantime I
hastened to rescue the melon from my pet, but his strong hands had
already rent it asunder, and to my astonishment there rolled from its
interior and broke open upon the flinty road a little casket for which
the rind had been but the concealing envelope.

I was in very truth a highwayman, for unaware I had stolen the
travellers' treasure. The melon had hidden a quantity of jewels, which
now besprinkled the dust; rubies, emeralds, pearls, sapphires, beryls,
as well as semi-precious stones such as jacinths, onyx, and sardonyx,
rendered more costly than their brilliant fellows by the skill with
which they had been cut into cameos and intaglios. It needed but a
glance at an amethyst incised with a scene from the history of Cupid,
and Psyche, and at another larger stone bearing a marvellous Apollo and
Marsyas, to realise that they were antiques of inestimable value, the
collection of some great prince. I gathered up the gems by handfuls and
stuffed them into my wallet. I was sobered by the realisation of the
enormity of my crime, for I had possessed myself, _vi et armis_, of
jewels worth a king's ransom; and I had no clue by which I could safely
return them.

I sifted the dust with my fingers, explored Ciacco's mouth, and gathered
up the fragments of the melon-rind that no stray gem should escape me;
but it was with sincere repentance and the gravest apprehensions that I
took my way to Villa Cetinale.

Repairing to the stables, I put up my horse and climbed with my booty to
my loft. Raphael was not there, and tying Ciacco to my bed-post I again
examined the gems, gloating over their beauty and yet wishing with all
my heart that they had never come into my possession. I compared them
with a list in the box, found none missing, and returning them to the
little casket carefully corded and sealed the same, and sat for a long
time racking my brains for some issue from the dilemma. I was awakened
from my dreams by a servant who announced that dinner was served, and
that his master awaited my coming to present me to his guests. While
hastily dressing, I resolved at the first opportunity to confide frankly
in Chigi and to take his advice in the matter. Having thus lightly
shifted the responsibility from my mind, and not being able to think of
any better method of concealment, I once more placed the casket within
the melon with the intention of returning for it in the course of the
evening, and so hastened to my friend's table.

Here what was my astonishment at being presented to the very persons who
had figured in my adventure, and who proved to be Messer Bernardo
Dovizio, Chancellor of his Eminence Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, and
his niece Maria, whose beauty was somewhat lessened by weariness and the
traces of recent tears. The Chancellor, also,--who to my relief did not
recognise me,--was by no means in good form, nor did he regale us with
any of those witty stories for which he is so justly famed, but sighed
and groaned between every mouthful. His misfortune had so afflicted him
that he could not keep silence, and disregarding my presence, which
indeed he hardly noticed, he poured forth the cause of his woe. The gems
which he had lost were a part of the famous collection of Lorenzo de'
Medici, which his son, the Cardinal Giovanni, had carried with him in
his flight from Florence, and was now secretly sending by his Chancellor
in the expectation of pledging them to Chigi, in return for bills of
exchange which would serve him in good stead during his exile in France.

The faithful Dovizio, devoted to the Cardinal's service, as he had been
to that of his father, was in an agony of despair. "I will bring this
highwayman to the gallows," he continually repeated. "I will move heaven
and earth to discover the villain."

"Have you any guess as to whom he may be?" I asked, for the humour of
the matter grew apace upon me.

"Certainly not of his name," replied Chigi, "but the description given
by my friend is so exact that he cannot fail to be discovered."

"A man of gigantic stature," repeated the Chancellor, "with eyes of
green fire gleaming from under his matted hair, a raucous voice which I
could not fail to recognise; and on his croup an enormous baboon, as
dangerous and malignant a beast as his master, trained also to like acts
of brigandage, for it attacked my niece and robbed her while I held the
bandit in play with my sword."

"The baboon will bring him to justice," said Chigi, for it so happened
that he had never seen Ciacco; "there is no such creature in Siena. This
description shall be sent to every town in the vicinity and the
miscreant will be easily identified."

I could scarcely conceal my amusement, but turning to the Signorina I
asked her if she could recognise their assailant.

"Of a surety," she rejoined "though I cannot corroborate my uncle's
description. The brigand's eyes were not green, for I marked them well,
and they were black and merry as your own, nor was his voice harsh, but
sweetly cadenced. Indeed now I bethink me you resemble him in other
particulars."

"You resemble that villain not at all, young man," interrupted her
uncle. "He was twice your weight and bulk. I would know him anywhere and
at our next meeting he shall not escape me."

"Truly," I said, "a most lamentable mischance, and to think that you
lost not only the jewels but your fruit as well. However, since you have
a fondness for melons I may be able to furnish this repast with a desert
of your liking, and if our host will excuse my absence I will fetch it."

I ran to my loft bubbling over with appreciation of the exceeding
wittiness of my own joke, but on opening my door a cry of dismay escaped
me. My window was broken, the cord which had tied Ciacco gnawed through,
and both the ape and the casket had disappeared.

Nemesis had now loaded me with a despair identical with that of Bernardo
Dovizio's. Like him, I foresaw myself suspected of having stolen the
jewels. The amusing joke had assumed the proportions of a dangerous
situation, and since I could not restore my ill-gotten gains I rashly
determined to make no confession. I reflected that though the Signorina
Dovizio might have shrewd suspicions she could bring forward no proofs.
Ciacco, my compromising partner in crime, had fled. No one at the villa
knew that I had ever owned such a pet. Even Raphael had not seen him,
for he had been busy in Siena for a fortnight, and the Bohemians from
whom I had bought Ciacco had passed by a week before. In an evil hour I
determined to hold my peace for the present, hoping that some happy
chance would lead to the discovery of the lost jewels, for which indeed
I sought continually with every means at my command.

Chigi too had instituted such search as was possible without putting the
matter in the hands of the authorities, which would have brought about
awkward complications with the signory of Florence. In the meantime he
had invited the Dovizios to remain at the villa as his guests, an
invitation which was accepted with much content. The Chancellor gave
himself up to the delay with such resignation that I presently perceived
that he had business of his own at Cetinale other than procuring funds
for his patron, that in fact he had brought his niece in the hope of
securing for her husband the banker Chigi, a good match even then in
point of fortune. There was in Maria Dovizio such dewy freshness and
sweetness, such absolute simplicity and purity as could not fail to
appeal to any man with eyes to see; but Chigi was blind, being enamoured
of another woman and she of a very different type, the improvisatrice
Imperia, accounted the most talented singer in all Italy.

While the Dovizios lingered in this unavailing quest, of which the
gentle Maria was in utter ignorance, Raphael returned to the villa, and
Love, who is always sharpening his arrows for the unwary, was not idle.
It was the lady whom he first wounded, though we suspected it not at the
time. Later, in Rome, the Signora Giovanna de Rovere gave me a letter
written her by Maria Dovizio when at Cetinale, because forsooth I was
mentioned therein, though in no complimentary a wise; and as this letter
showeth forth the trend of affairs better than could any words of mine,
I enclose it with this memorial.

[Illustration: _Alinari_ Unknown Lady (probably Imperia), by Sebastian
del Piombo Uffizi]

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Virgin and Child, by Sodoma

Pinacoteca, Milan]

     _Maria Dovizio to the Lady Giovanna Feltra de Rovere (Sister of the
     Duke of Urbino), Duchess of Sora and Prefectissa of Rome at
     Urbino._

     "SIENA, October, 1504.

     "_Most magnificent, most beloved, and most sweet Lady_:

     "For whom my heart longs with true devotion. Truly Madam, since we
     parted in Urbino most strange adventures have befallen me which I
     will now relate. On our way to Siena we fell in with a bandit who
     robbed us, and though my uncle is tarrying here in the hope of the
     recovery of his property the matter is not altogether simple but
     presents more complications than I can explain or indeed
     understand.

     "While we are thus delayed we are the guests of the banker Agostino
     Chigi at his villa of Cetinale. With the exception of our host and
     of two young painters, also his guests, we see no one, so, for lack
     of other material, I will describe these young men. The elder is a
     conceited prankish fop, if no worse, called Giovanni Bazzi, and why
     his comrade, Raphael Santi, should hold him in affection I can by
     no means understand, unless the vulgar saying be indeed true that
     love goes by contraries. In presenting Raphael to us our host
     assured my uncle that though as a painter he is as yet unknown he
     is destined to make for himself a great career. But to these
     eulogies of Chigi's I scarcely listened, my attention being held by
     the charm of the artist's personality. Though he said but little,
     his eyes were eloquent, and a smile of heavenly sweetness lighted
     from time to time the gravity of his thoughtful face.

     "At our host's insistence Bazzi showed one of his paintings--a
     Madonna and Child--which I scarce regarded until Raphael praised
     its excellencies, boldly defending the painting from my uncle's
     strictures.

     "While he spoke so eloquently I made a feint of examining the
     picture and was indeed moved by the love which overflowed it, the
     Madonna caressing her babe and he in turn petting a little lamb;
     but my uncle pished and poohed, saying that this sentimentality was
     but a feeble reflection of his master Da Vinci; and our host cut
     the discussion short by demanding that Raphael should show his own
     work. This he could not be persuaded to do, modestly persisting
     that he had naught worthy of our consideration, though he promised
     later to show us a Sposalizio upon which he was engaged but which
     was not then finished.

     "With all this, I have not related the circumstance which at once
     put us upon the familiar footing of old acquaintanceship. It was
     Chigi's chance remark that Raphael was a native of Urbino, where he
     had been a favourite with all those choice spirits who make your
     brother's court the most brilliant in Italy.

     "And when I demanded of Raphael if he knew you and he told me of
     your goodness to him, and how you were held in love and admiration
     of all, then it was that our common affection for your ladyship
     made us to feel that we had known each other from the time that we
     first knew you.

     "It is true that he did not boast as he might well have done that
     you had kindly written a letter in his behalf to the Gonfalonier of
     Florence, whither he intends later to journey. But my uncle
     learning of this later was duly impressed thereby, and pronounced
     him a young man of engaging manners who doubtless deserved such
     distinguished favour.

     "Even with this warrant our acquaintance has made no such rapid
     strides. I meet him rarely except at our host's table where there
     are often other guests and always that pest Giovanni Bazzi, whom I
     can in no wise abide, and concerning whose honesty I have of late
     entertained very grave suspicions. So serious indeed are they that
     I will not at present divulge them but shall continue to watch the
     rogue, knowing that the guilty sooner or later accuse themselves. I
     think he dreads me for he leaves me always to converse with
     Raphael, with whom my topic is ever Florence, which I knew as a
     child before the banishment of the Medici.

     "He tells me that he longs to see the city on account of the
     artists there assembled and chiefly the painter Frate, formerly
     known as Baccio della Porta, who turned monk under the preaching of
     Savonarola.

     "'And truly,' said he, 'I think that art and a monastic life wed
     well together, and I would willingly retire to some cloistered
     garden afar from the world if I might carry my box of colours with
     me, and might sometimes see as in a vision a face like thine to
     paint from.' Then was I seized with a foolish timidity so that I
     could in no wise answer--nay, nor so much as lift up my head--but
     my heart said, 'And why afar from the world? Why not in it making
     all better and happier?'

     "And while I sat thus silent, abashed, he, continuing to gaze upon
     me, cried: 'Nay, but I _must_ paint thee: for thou art the very
     embodiment of the ideal which I am striving to shadow forth in my
     picture. I wish to depict the Virgin at the time of her betrothal
     to St. Joseph, And to show a soul as pure as any of Fra Angelico's
     angels shining through a body that shall have all the perfection
     and charm of Da Vinci's women. It is what my master, Perugino,
     strove for but never attained. How could he when he had only his
     beautiful but soulless wife Chiara Fancelli to paint from?'

     "'And do I look thus to thee?' I asked in wonder. 'Then, indeed, I
     would that I might pose for thy painting; but, alas! I fear that to
     this my uncle would in no wise consent.'

     "And so, indeed, it proved. For later, when my uncle fancied that
     he perceived some likeness to myself in the Sposalizio, though I
     had given Raphael no sittings, he was vehement in his denunciation
     of the presumption of all artists.

     "My uncle might not have been so vexed but for the ill-timed
     jesting of this same Bazzi. We had been asked to inspect the
     picture before it should be sent to the monks for whom it was
     painted, and while I stood entranced with its exceeding loveliness
     and my uncle himself was astonished by the skill displayed, the
     Signor Chigi explained the details of the composition.

     "'It is a tradition,' he said, 'that the blessed Virgin was sought
     in marriage by so many young men that her parents besought the
     high-priest to aid them in their choice of her husband. He
     accordingly demanded that her suitors should give their staves into
     his keeping, to be placed over night before the altar, with the
     understanding, in which Mary herself meekly acquiesced, that he
     whose staff budded should become her husband. On the morrow
     Joseph's staff was found to have put forth blossoms. This legend,
     as you see, our artist has followed in his painting, for not only
     is Joseph's staff tipped by a cluster of small flowers, but the
     young men who accompany him, the disappointed suitors, bear
     flowerless staves, and one of the rejected is breaking his across
     his knee in token of his vexation.'

     "Of this incident I would make no account, had it not been the
     occasion for Bazzi's unmannerly trick. For that graceless fellow
     chancing to spy leaning against his easel, the rod upon which
     Raphael was wont to rest his hand while painting, he very slyly
     made fast to it a nosegay of orange blossoms which the Signor Chigi
     had presented to me on my entrance and which I had carelessly let
     fall.

     "You cannot imagine the coil which this trick occasioned, for its
     author speedily called our host's attention to the decorated rod,
     and the signification of its adornment was at once apprehended to
     be my own approval of the painter.

     "Raphael alone retained his senses, for he at once divined that the
     perpetrator of the jest was his scapegrace friend and extorted from
     him full confession of his prank, asserting that it was
     inconceivable that I could have had any part in it.

     "My confusion was such that I accepted the explanation with
     gratitude as an escape from the bantering of the Signor Chigi and
     the displeasure of my uncle. But as days passed by and Raphael held
     himself aloof, giving me no opportunity to thank him for his
     tactful defence, I perceived that it was not so much the meaning of
     the token which had been imputed to me at which my heart revolted,
     as the shameless and public way in which it had been thrust upon my
     friend. In this plight I still remain and turn to you for sympathy
     in my trouble, to you sweet lady who cannot fail to think me sadly
     love-sick and bold, but I pray you chide me not, seeing the matter
     can go no further, for I learn that Raphael has been recalled to
     Urbino by your ladyship's brother to execute certain commissions.
     So that your ladyship will soon see him and will have an
     opportunity of learning from him whether he at all regrets leaving
     Siena, though I beg that you will ascertain this without so much as
     suffering him to suspect that I have in any way signified that I
     have met him. For it is perchance best that he is going, for were I
     to see him often I do fear me that my heart might become so pitched
     and set upon him, that I should in time most rashly and
     inconsiderately fall in love, which were a bold and unmaidenly
     thing to do, and I mind that you once said that no virtuous woman
     would allow her affections to conduct themselves thus
     insubordinately until the Church had by the sacrament of marriage
     given her good and sufficient license thereto.

     "And so Madam, praying Maria Sanctissima and Maria, the sister of
     Lazarus, my patroness, to keep me constant in this mind, I rest
     your ladyship's loving friend and devoted servitor

"MARIA DOVIZIO."

It must be understood that this letter came not to my knowledge until
long after its writing. I knew not then either the deep affection of the
writer for Raphael, or her aversion for myself. By an irony of fate we
had begun our acquaintance by loving at cross purposes. The "prankish
fop" and "graceless fellow"--whose affection had indeed been hitherto
no great compliment to a woman, being lightly caught and as lightly
lost--was to his own surprise falling very honestly in love. So
accustomed was I to the attraction of false lights that I said to myself
often in the earlier stages of the malady, "This will pass like the
others," not realising that I was entering upon the one great passion of
my life, which all my later experience would but deepen, and death
itself, if the soul be immortal, will have no power to quench.


II

APOLLO PROMISES


  Little we see of Nature that is ours.

  * * *

  It moves us not,--Great God! I'd rather be
  A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn,
  So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
  Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
  Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
  Or hear old Triton blow his wreathéd horn.

  W. WORDSWORTH.

Raphael, at the period of which I write, had but one mistress,--his
art,--and after finishing the Sposalizio he withdrew from the society of
the Dovizios, painting most assiduously. I remember that his model was
a pretty maid of seven years, named Margherita, the child of one of
Chigi's servants, as playful and as ignorant as a little fawn. The
startled look in her eyes, when spoken to by any one but Raphael,
reminded me of some wild creature of the woods. But with him she was
never shy,--singing and prattling the livelong day with the most
charming and naïve affection. While Raphael painted, Bernardo Dovizio,
who apparently regretted having wounded him, came from time to time to
lend him books, much deploring that one so gifted by nature should be
unread in the classics.

His daughter watched them from a distance, and when Raphael left his
easel would steal near and study the picture or chat with me and with
the little Margherita. On such occasions the child, usually merry and
loving, would sulk and scowl unhandsomely, and though Maria Dovizio was
sweet and generous to her, she showed an unreasoning prejudice amounting
to discourtesy, for which at first I was at a loss to account. I mind me
that she was present when I tied the bunch of orange blossoms to
Raphael's mahl stick, and after the visitors had left the studio the
child, believing that the flowers were the gift of the Signorina
Dovizio, tore them from the rod and trampled them beneath her feet.

When I chid her for such savage behaviour Margherita burst into tears
and cried out passionately that Raphael was her friend, and that the
strange lady had no business to try to steal him from her. Seeing her so
unreasoningly jealous at such a tender age I was mightily amused, having
no premonition that these two would one day be rivals in good earnest
for Raphael's love.

But Margherita's jealousy woke in me a curiosity as to how far it was
well-founded, and bantering Raphael thereon I came to the conclusion
that he loved Maria Dovizio, but that he had so modest an estimate of
his own talent and prospects that he would never tell her of his
affection. The knowledge that I had a rival enlivened mightily my own
passion, and determined me to lay the matter plainly before the lady and
demand that she should choose between us.

Finding my opportunity I argued my friend's cause, as it seemed to me
with great magnanimity, but at the same time I neglected not to set
forth how superior were my own advantages. To my immense surprise she
refused me in such terms as to leave me with no ground for
hope,--persisting at the same time that I was mistaken in regard to
Raphael's feelings.

In sheer contrariety and because her refusal had temporarily taken away
my senses, I maintained that I knew whereof I spoke.

"Would that I had known this before," she said turning from me.

"You would not then have disclaimed sending the message implied by the
flowers which I attached to his mahl stick?" I persisted rudely.

"Nay, nay," she cried all of a tremble, "it is best as it is," and she
made me swear that I would tell nothing of all this. The oath sat
lightly on my conscience, and when my pride had somewhat recovered from
the wound which it had received, my better nature asserted itself for I
reflected that here were two young creatures whom nature intended for
one another and I determined to give these bashful lovers another
opportunity in which to understand each other.

Though I prided myself not a little on the rare nobility of soul which I
manifested by such unusual procedure, it was not so disinterested as
might at first appear. For, I reasoned in my heart, when all comes to be
known Maria Dovizio will give me credit for great self-sacrifice and
delicacy of feeling, while Raphael cannot fail to be touched by my
magnanimity. Back of all this self-laudation there was an ulterior
motive hardly confessed to myself. By springing the mine prematurely I
would either cement their union or drive them permanently apart, thus
clearing my path of a dangerous rival while removing any imputation of
underhand dealing upon my part. I dared the risk for I was nearing that
point of desperation where uncertainty is worse than the knowledge of
absolute defeat.

While I sought for some promising way in which to execute my scheme,
Raphael read the translations of the pagan writers which Dovizio had
lent him, and this plunge into a bath of the old literature, so new to
him, had a tremendous effect upon his susceptible mind. He regretted
deeply that Pico della Mirandola, who strove to harmonise Greek
mythology with the Christian religion, had been snatched away by death
before he could have had the opportunity to converse with him. He read
his writings with avidity and listened to what Dovizio remembered of his
arguments that the religion of the Greeks was as truly a revelation from
God as our own, and he could readily believe the assertion of certain of
the humanist's friends that at Pico's death-bed the Virgin and Venus
had met, and comforting his dying gaze with their presence, had together
borne away his soul to the regions of the blest.

Without being any less Christian, Raphael's soul expanded in the
sunshine of these influences, absorbing all that was joyous and
beautiful in pagan ideas. Chigi lent him his favourite manuscript, the
Myth of Psyche, translated from Apuleius, which he declared Raphael must
one day paint for him. But of all the gods of antiquity the one which
roused our young enthusiast to deepest admiration was Apollo, whose
avatar was the sun, but whose spiritual significance was infinitely
more, the light of the soul, the god of music, art, and poetry and all
that elevates the spirit of man.

"Listen Giovanni," he said to me one day, "I could pray to such a deity.
Think you that it would be sin to utter a prayer like this of Socrates:
'Beloved Pan, and all ye gods who haunt this place, give me beauty of
the inward soul, and may the outward and the inward man be at one'?"

Seeing sport in the idea I assured him that such adoration was
commendable and would doubtless meet with a response. I had my own idea
of what form that response should take. Chigi held revel that night to
celebrate a visit from the improvisatrice Imperia, who was on her way to
Rome. Raphael could not be induced to join the company, preferring to
spend the night devouring some books lately come from Venice. He had
striven to tell me of a mysterious experience. A stone bearing the image
of Apollo had fallen before him as he read, and he had accepted it as a
propitious omen. I laughed rudely and he shrank from me offended.

"I would have shown it to you," he said, "but now you shall not see it."

I repeated this hallucination to Chigi and Imperia, and they also found
it amusing.

"He is as drunk with poesy," I insisted, "as ever I have been with wine.
If the Signorina would graciously sing some old Greek chant yonder in
the garden he would believe that he heard the voice of the gods."

Imperia's eyes sparkled with mischief. "Let us humour this young
enthusiast to his bent," she said. "I will hide in the laurel copse at
the foot of the garden if Bazzi here will bring him out upon the
terrace."

"He could never be content to hear your divine voice," Chigi objected,
"without seeking you out, and then--"

"And then, my friend, you would imply that the disillusion would be too
cruel. No, I am too evidently a part of this solid earth to pass as a
nymph of Apollo."

I remained silent but I looked meaningly at Maria Dovizio, who stood
near the window, her slight figure outlined against its darkness.
Imperia followed my glance.

"Ah! there is a girl, graceful and ethereal enough to satisfy an
artist's ideal."

"What a pity," Chigi said, "that she has not your voice."

"Nay, if the Signora will but deign to sing as she suggested," I
persisted, "we will robe the Signorina Dovizio in Greek draperies and
pose her in the little pillared temple in front of the laurel thicket
and Raphael will not doubt that the voice is hers."

Thus, at last, my scheme was carried out, though we had much difficulty
in persuading Maria Dovizio to lend herself to it. Only when Chigi
explained that it was an ovation to Raphael, in which she was to crown
him with a wreath of laurel and foretell him a glorious future, did she
consent. Even then she had no suspicion that I had any ulterior motive
in suggesting the little tableau.

It was late at night, or rather early in the morning, when all our
arrangements were completed and, returning to the studio, I dragged
Raphael from his books on pretence that we both had need to cool our
brains.

The view from the terrace was a favourite one with each of us. In the
mysterious morning twilight there seemed something supernaturally
sentient in the atmosphere, as though it quivered in expectation of the
dawn. A soft trill, faint with rapture, filtered through the foliage of
the neighbouring wood. It was a solitary nightingale calling his mate;
and presently he was answered by flute-like notes which soared above the
soft murmur of a viol still strumming in the villa as a skylark cuts the
mists. It was not another nightingale as I at first thought, but
Imperia's voice from the laurel thicket mocking the melody. As she sang
there appeared within the circle of the tiny temple's columns a
white-robed figure, outlined against the pale green and lemon yellow of
the dawn. It might have been a statue save that as the song of the
improvisatrice, a rhapsody to Apollo, thrilled the air with passionate
sweetness, it raised its perfect arms in invocation. As though in
response to the gesture the clouds flushed through delicate rose to
crimson, while the radiance beneath their exquisite arch burned like
molten gold, with ever-increasing intensity, until the sun itself
blinded our eyes with its intolerable white fire.

Though this was exactly the event which I had planned, I was not
prepared for such phenomenal success, and I stole nearer the temple
spellbound by my own artifice.

The effect upon Raphael in his exalted mood may readily be imagined. To
him my little comedy was a supernatural vision, and kneeling before
Maria Dovizio he exclaimed: "Beautiful priestess, beseech Apollo to
grant me the power to make the world more beautiful."

Mechanically the Signorina repeated the lines which I had assigned her:
"To you it is decreed to find Apollo and to bring back the Golden Age."

Then, as she bent to crown him with the wreath of laurel, the perfume
and warmth of her person intoxicating his senses, her bared arms
encircling his neck, her soul in her eyes, Raphael awoke to the
consciousness that this was no phantom but a woman pulsing with life and
love, and that woman Maria Dovizio.

He might have revolted at the trick and have thrust her from him; but
look you--it is always the unforeseen which happens. His arms were
around her and he drew her to him unresisting till for an instant her
lips touched his forehead and his face was buried in her bosom. Then she
withdrew herself, pushing him from her very gently and steadying herself
tremblingly with her hands upon his shoulders.

"And shall I not find you again, O my beloved?" he cried, springing to
his feet.

"Surely," she answered, "surely, when you have found Apollo."

She had turned from him and was hurrying toward the villa, but he
followed her, calling her name.

"Claim me not now, not now!" she cried, as he caught her hand.

"When you will," he answered, closing her fingers over some small
object, "this is my pledge that when you call me I will keep the tryst."

He passed me a moment later, but so great was his preoccupation that he
did not see me. I knew by the exalted look upon his face that I had
played and lost. Raphael had awakened from his dreams to love. That
instant of mutual enlightenment for two such natures was not alone an
ineffaceable memory but a sacred though wordless betrothal.

Through my pain I vaguely heard Chigi calling and returned to the villa.
Neither he nor his friends had understood the full significance of what
had just happened, and Bernardo Dovizio was demanding of his niece an
explanation of the scene.

"He thought me one of the muses," she said, "and begged me to beseech
for him the favour of Apollo."

"But he gave you something," said Dovizio. "Show it to me," and he
wrenched open his niece's fingers.

For one instant he gazed wonder-stricken at the token, and as I pressed
close with the others I also recognised the famous Apollo intaglio, the
gem of the collection of Lorenzo the Magnificent, of which for a few
hours I had been the unlawful possessor.

Exclamations of wonder and admiration arose on all sides. But Dovizio,
recovering his power of speech, seized Chigi by the arm, exclaiming: "We
have the thief! Look you Agostino, I have had my suspicions all along.
It was Raphael who played the bandit, and robbed me of my jewels. I
demand that you arrest the villain."

Maria's look of anguish cut me to the heart. "Nay, listen to me," I
cried; "it was not Raphael but I who stole your gems. You shall not
burst in upon him and kill him with the shock of your accusations.
Listen while I confess the truth." And then and there I did confess it,
to the wonder but not to the satisfaction of Dovizio.

"But where are the other gems?" he insisted. "You are a pair of rogues,
the two of you. Come with me to your confederate and disgorge your
booty."

"Give o'er, my good Dovizio," said Chigi. "I will sift this matter; come
with me but keep silence, for I believe in my soul that Bazzi speaks the
truth. I will hear Raphael's version of how he came by this intaglio;
since a portion of your lost property has been returned, perchance the
remainder is on the way."

And so indeed it proved. Raphael had not returned to the studio, but as
we opened the door we heard a scampering and chattering, and caught a
glimpse of Ciacco leaping to the top of a high cabinet and thence to a
rafter where he perched whimpering in fear of punishment.

"Come down, you rogue," I cried, "come down and retrieve your game."

The creature understood and climbing into the hay loft, which joined
the studio, returned, hugging to his breast the lost casket.

Dovizio, nearly fainting with excitement, counted his treasures, and
compared them with the list. All were there, excepting the Apollo
intaglio, which Ciacco, driven by hunger, had that evening restored to
Raphael.

As it came so pat with the matter of his reading, it is no wonder that
he imagined it had fallen from the skies, and this view of the case even
the placated Dovizio took upon reflection.

"It were a pity to rob him of his illusions if they are an inspiration
to him," he mused. "Let him think himself favoured by Apollo; and as for
my niece, since our business here is now accomplished and we shall leave
Siena on the morrow, he will probably never see her again, and it is as
well that he should not connect her with his visions."

Thus ended our adventures at the villa of Cetinale for Raphael also
presently left us for Urbino and Florence and all things seemed as they
had been before our meeting together. But I knew that the day would
surely come when he would claim his beloved, and that in the spinning of
their fates so slight a thing as the pranking of a fool had twisted
itself into the very fibre of their lives, never to be unravelled until
the shears of Atropos should cut the cords asunder.


III

APOLLO FULFILS HIS PROMISE

_Federigo de Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, gives his views of Raphael_


  Then why too will he try so many things,
    Instead of sticking to one single art;
  He must be studying music, twanging strings,
    And writing sonnets with their "heart and dart,"
  Lately he's setting up for architect,
    And planning palaces, and, as I learn,
    Has made a statue--every art in turn.

  W. W. STORY.

Raphael, as I have said, betook himself to Florence, that centre of the
arts, and for a matter of four years I saw him not, nor can I, my
Giulio, give you any record of his Florentine experiences, vital as they
were to the flowering of his character and genius. I saw only the
change; he left me a youth, naïve, ignorant, but filled with a divine
enthusiasm, inspired as it were by the very spirit of God. In those
four years he became instructed, absorbing all that was best from
ancient and modern art, but still a mystic, a young archangel in
knowledge and power.

He studied first with Fra Bartolommeo in the cloister of San Marco, and
the painter-monk yearned over him, as the child of his soul. But he
divined also from the mere beholding of Da Vinci's pictures what I had
been able to learn only by painful study, the secret of the master's
charm.

At the same time the strong undercurrent of the Greek spirit rife in
Florence was bearing him irresistibly on to his mission as leader of all
that is beautiful, joyous, and noble in classical art. Fra Bartolommeo
could not fail to be distressed by these tendencies in his disciple.
Raphael came to him one day saying, "Beloved Master, his holiness the
Pope has called me to Rome; and I go with joy, for it has been revealed
to me that there I shall find Apollo."

"Ah! my son," the pious painter replied in anguished warning, "beware,
for whoso findeth Apollo loseth Christ."

And now I come to our Roman life and especially to that familiar
intercourse at the Villa Chigi where Raphael and I were nearer of one
spirit, for all your opportunities, than were you and he, my Giulio. In
Rome, as in Siena, I preceded him, and had the better chance for
fortune's favours, which I wilfully threw away. For early in his
pontificate, Pope Julius II. made Agostino Chigi his banker and farmer
of the alum mines whose yearly revenue was estimated at $100,000. Nor
did Chigi with this elevation forget old friends, for in the spring of
1507 he came to Siena to fetch me as a personal favour to Rome, but on
our arrival he introduced me to the Pope, and obtained from him my
commission to decorate the Stanza della Segnatura. But, fool that I was,
I fancied my luck could not desert me, and painted only when it pleased
me, ran my horses at all the races in Italy, and played the dandy, the
spendthrift, and the roistering spark, until his Holiness in disgust
turned me from the Vatican, and called Raphael to take my place, bidding
him erase the little work I had done upon the ceiling.

This, however, Raphael refused to do. On the contrary he did me the
honour to paint my portrait beside his own, where you may see both of
them to-day in that glorious fresco of the _School of Athens_, the
serious inspired face of the young maestro cheek by cheek with the
coarser features of his laughing, devil-may-care friend; and I prize
more highly that testimony of his esteem than all the other honours of
my life.

I lingered on aimlessly at Rome, watching him at his work, fascinated by
the superb conceptions with which he glorified the walls of the Vatican,
and admiring the daring which enthroned Apollo and his attendant muses
there in the very sanctuary of Christendom.

It was his homage to the old worship, his endeavour to bring back
Apollo, and that he thought then of Maria Dovizio's promise that he
should find her when this was accomplished I had one day convincing
proof; for, turning over his sketches, I found scribbled upon the back
of a study for the _Disputa_ this sonnet:

             "LOVE'S BONDAGE"

    "Love, thou hast bound me with a cruel force,
     The light of her two tender starry eyes,
     A face like snow flushed rose 'neath sunset skies,
     With gentle bearing and with chaste discourse.
     But I would make no plaint, so great my bliss.
     The more I love, I long to love again.
     How light the yoke, how sweet the circling chain
     Of her arms round my neck! And 'neath her kiss
     Leaps forth the embodied soul in ecstacy.
     Unloosed those bonds I suffer ceaseless pain,
     For great joy kills whom it doth wholly move.
     Though throbbing still with tender thought of thee,
     My heart is heavy and I speak in vain,
     But be my silence eloquent of love."[3]

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Raphael and Sodoma

Fragment of School of Athens, in the Vatican--Raphael]

I knew that the poem was addressed to Maria, for it was at this time
that Bernardo Dovizio, dazzled by the change in Raphael's fortunes and
repenting of his hasty action at Cetinale, offered my friend the hand of
his niece.

Raphael had told me of this, begging my congratulations. "She is at
Urbino," he said, "but has written me confirming our betrothal. She
tells me, too, that she has loved me all these years. Such constancy is
miraculous, and I am the happiest of men."

It was with a sore heart that I wished my friend joy. He knew not of my
trouble, or I think it would have poisoned his happiness, for he
sympathised so deeply with all his friends that their sorrows were his
own. I mind me that we met Agostino Chigi that day, and that he told us
of his prosperity; how he was sole owner of five score banking houses
outrivalling those of the Medici and, indeed, every other firm in the
world; how he monopolised not alone the alum, but also the wheat and
salt industries; how his lakes alone supplied Rome with fish and his
stock farms its markets; that his fleet numbered upwards of an hundred
merchant vessels, while thousands of men did him service; that, in
short, his fortune was now past computation, and his income beyond his
power of spending.

He explained all this not in a spirit of boastfulness, but, with an arm
about each of us, told how he desired that we should share in his glory.
He had determined to build a villa in Lungara upon the Tiber which
should excel all of the Roman palaces, and while Peruzzi was his chosen
architect, Raphael and I should divide its decoration. "For if I have
become a prince of finance," he ended, "you, dear friends, are princes
of art, and we will all three join in making this villa a worthy
dwelling-place for one whom you knew and admired at Cetinale."

Thinking for the instant that he referred to Imperia, who was now in
Rome, Raphael congratulated him warmly and confided his own betrothal to
Maria Dovizio. But at that news a sudden transformation was wrought in
the demeanour of our old friend. His face became purple and swollen
and his arms fell to his sides. Not a word spake he for a full minute,
but he drew his breath hard, flinging out at length a bitter sarcasm on
the faithlessness of women, and bidding Raphael trust not too much to
their promises, he abruptly left us.

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Villa Farnesina, Rome]

There was only one construction to be put upon his conduct. Maria's
loveliness had apparently made no impression upon him at Cetinale, but
the memory of it had lingered in his heart, and when he met her after a
lapse of years and saw how her beauty had matured, an affection, of
which he himself may not have been conscious, flowered suddenly, just as
a rose-tree set in ungrateful soil and long accounted dead may in the
fulness of time come to unlooked-for efflorescence.

Sharing his envy, I could only mark it with a laugh, but Raphael said,
kindly, "Poor fellow, with all his wealth, I am many times richer than
he."

In my heart I knew that of her three lovers Maria had chosen wisely, and
Chigi's disappointment would not have added to my own affliction, but
for the reflection that in the present turn of affairs he would not be
likely to hasten the building of his villa, and my last hope of
employment in Rome was fading like a cruel mirage. But Raphael could
well afford to waive Chigi's patronage, for him it was but another step
in the golden staircase of success which now mounted invitingly before
him. The Pope not only overwhelmed him with projects for the decoration
of the Vatican but made him curator of all antiques which might be
discovered near Rome, with full power to direct excavations.

Returning to the Vatican from the walk during which we had encountered
Chigi, Raphael found awaiting him a letter from the Pope, announcing
that certain ancient statues had been discovered in the gardens of the
villa of Nero at Antium, (now Porto d'Anzio), and desiring him to
examine them and arrange for the transportation of the more remarkable
to Rome.

"Come with me," Raphael cried, "since you have nothing better to
do--pardon me, my friend--since such an excursion is exactly what you
would enjoy. We will ride to-morrow morning to Ostia and charter some
fishing craft there for the sail to Porto d'Anzio."

I accepted the invitation, glad to visit this favourite seaside resort
of the Roman emperors. Even before we landed we could see the ruins of
their villas deep in the clear waters of the bay, fish gliding through
arches and the seaweed waving its pennons from the walls. The cliff at
the back of the town presented a most impressive appearance, being
pierced by great arched openings like the portals of a Roman bath. And
such, indeed, they were, for on the promontory above had been the
gardens of the imperial villa, and from them staircases carven in the
rock descended to this subterranean chamber, which at full-tide the sea,
rushing through a long canal, once converted into a swimming-pool. The
great cavern had been dry for centuries, for the tides had piled their
own sandy dykes before it, and the vaulting had fallen bringing with it
a portion of the garden of the imperial villa and burying its statues
beneath the debris. It was here that excavations had been begun, and as
we entered the cave from the beach, our way was bordered by the
fragments of many a column and capital, by broken vases and by headless
statues.

But none of these attracted us, for in the centre of the chamber,
perfectly illumined by a shaft of light which fell upon it slantwise
from the chasm in the roof, was the most superb statue which our eyes,
nay, which any human vision had ever beheld.

Apollo's very self stood there, god-like in superhuman majesty, as
though he were an archangel who had alighted from his flaming chariot to
lift a threatening hand against the workers of iniquity.

I cannot describe the profound impression which this discovery made upon
Raphael. He was raised to the seventh heaven, as on that memorable night
at Siena, and while he gazed at the statue a mysterious voice, clear but
freighted with intense emotion, chanted the _Hymn to Apollo_ to which we
had listened at Chigi's villa.

At first we could not tell from whence it came but looked about in
startled surprise. Presently, however, a branch of laurel fell through
the opening in the roof, the song ended in a peal of laughter, and we
knew that some one was looking down upon us from the old Roman garden.
No one but Imperia could sing like that, and when Raphael exclaimed. "It
is the same song, the same singer that we heard at Cetinale." I cried
out. "The same, the same. She is celebrating the discovery of Apollo."

"She promised to come to me when I had found Apollo," he said, and
bounded up the rude stairway. Even then I did not realise that though
Raphael had recognised the voice he still supposed that it was Maria
Dovizio who had sung on that evening, and that it was she whom he now
believed he was about to meet.

There was no one in the ruined villa. A goatherd at a little distance,
of whom I inquired, pointed to the shore, and we saw some
pleasure-seekers embarking in a small sailboat.

"It is Chigi's yacht," said Raphael, "that is his pennon which flaps
from the mast, and Chigi himself is standing at the stern waving his cap
to us. There is a lady with him. He is steadying her with his arm. Your
eyes are better than mine, is it she?"

"It is indeed," I replied, "I would know her anywhere. His arm is around
her waist and she is clinging to him as of old. The unsteadiness of the
vessel is but an excuse. Many times at Cetinale have I seen them
standing thus. What else could you expect of such a woman? He is the
richest man in Italy."


IV

       AN ORGY AT CHIGI'S VILLA

  And Chigi made a joyous feast; I never
  Sat at a costlier; for all round his hall
  From column on to column, as in a wood,
  Great garlands swung and blossomed, and beneath
  Heirlooms and ancient miracles of Art
  Chalice and salver, wines that Heaven knows when
  Had sucked the fire of some forgotten sun
  And kept it through a hundred years of gloom,
  Yet glowing in a heart of ruby, cups
  Where nymph and god ran ever round in gold,
  Others with glass as costly, some with gems
  Movable and resetable at will,
  And trebling all the rest in value.
         Ah! heavens!
  Why need I tell you all? Suffice! to say
  That whatsoever boundless wealth like his,
  And genius high, can compass, rare or fair,
  Was brought before the guest.

              TENNYSON:--Altered.

So I found Raphael and so I left him, successful and apparently happy.
Had I comprehended what the incident which I have just related meant to
him,--had I even suspected his misconception of the situation,--I might
have made him understand that neither at Cetinale nor at Porto d'Anzio
had Maria Dovizio sung the _Hymn to Apollo_, that in both places it was
Imperia who had chanted, Imperia who had responded to Chigi's caresses,
and so this woful misunderstanding might never have divided these young
lovers. Maria, far from being Chigi's guest at the moment of the
discovery of the _Apollo_, was in Urbino, awaiting in ever-increasing
wonder and dismay some word of affection from her betrothed. Failing to
receive it she came to Rome, but Raphael held himself aloof, pleading
the Pope's demands upon his time. He thought that she would understand
the cause of his neglect, and herself sunder the engagement, for he
would not shame her by any accusation.

One ineffaceable picture of my friend I carried with me into my exile,
for going to the Vatican to bid Raphael farewell, I was told that he was
in the Pope's villa of the Belvedere superintending the placing of the
_Apollo_, which had just arrived. The guards barred my entrance to the
loggia, and indeed I cared not to intrude, for I saw that the Pope was
there, gazing at the statue with a grim delight, as though he believed
that the god had descended to earth to expel as of old the barbarian
Gauls.

Raphael stood entranced, unmindful of the presence of Maria Dovizio, who
sat a little apart, heart-sick and bewildered, unable to grope her way
through the thick fog of misconception which had drifted between herself
and her beloved.

And over all the white form of _Apollo_ gleamed in heartless gladness,
untouched by any feeling for his votary's sins of ignorance for which he
would cry in vain repentance, "Had I but known, had I but known!"

It was impossible for me to tarry longer in Rome without employment, and
I bethought me of the monks of Oliveto, and how they had asked for a
series of paintings for their cloister. To this refuge, therefore, I
repaired, completing, in two years, thirty-one great frescoes for little
more than my sustenance. Yea; and for my belly's sake I might have
accepted the life of a cowled monk, had not Chigi in the nick of time
drawn me from that slough with the announcement that Peruzzi had
completed the building of his villa, and that it was now ready for
decoration.

Here accordingly, while painting in the upper rooms, I enjoyed the
comradeship of that brotherhood of choice spirits--Giovanni da Udine,
Francesco Penni, and the rest--who with thee, my Giulio, wrought so
lovingly under Raphael's direction, illuminating the lower loggia with
the legend of _Cupid and Psyche_.

It is true that to my surprise and sorrow Raphael himself came not, but
I knew that he was overwhelmed with commissions, and to their demands
upon his time I attributed his avoidance of the villa. In the meantime I
delayed not to seek him out, and to express my surprise that I found him
still a bachelor. But at my first probing of that old wound he winced so
perceptibly that I perceived that it was by no means cured, and I made
no demand upon his confidence for an explanation of his delay in
demanding the consummation of an engagement which had not been publicly
dissolved.

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, called Sodoma

From the portrait of himself in the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore]

The world gossiped as to the cause of Raphael's neglect of his
affianced. The most part declared him cold, absorbed only in love of his
art, and some whispered that the Pope who was insatiable in his demands
for his work, feared that marriage would lessen his enthusiasm for art,
and had put off indefinitely the wedding-day, promising Raphael the
Cardinal's hat if he remained a celibate.

While I could not believe that this was the true explanation of the
estrangement between the lovers, I was far from suspecting the truth.
Though I called upon Maria Dovizio I got no enlightenment in that
quarter, nay, nor encouragement for my own passion, for when I put forth
some timid essays, they were promptly crushed by a look of such
reproach that I called myself brute as well as fool for my persistency.

Longing to do her service, I determined to haunt my friend until he
should voluntarily confide the secret of the trouble, and if it were
possible bring them together.

With this end in view, in all my leisure hours I frequented Raphael's
studio, where he was painting the most glorious of his Madonnas for the
monks of San Sisto. And here, posing for that divine work, I found again
our child-model of Cetinale, the little Margherita.

She was no longer a child, for the years which had elapsed had
transformed her into a woman; but she had retained her old
characteristics of shyness, simplicity, and a worshipful love of
Raphael. She had followed him to Rome, so he told me, like some
faithful, dumb animal which could not live away from its master, and
moved by her great affection he had given her lodging and employment as
his model. There lacked not malicious tongues who called her his
mistress; but so modest yet unabashed was her demeanour that I can well
believe that she deserved to the end the honour which he paid in
choosing her face as his ideal of all that is noblest in woman.

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Margherita (La Fornarina), Attributed to Raphael

Pitti Gallery, Florence]

While I worked at Chigi's villa my patron gave me much of his
company; for though the decorations were unfinished he had established
his residence here. Imperia was his guest at this time, and as we sat at
table one evening Chigi complained in her presence that Raphael slighted
his engagements and avoided his company.

"Have I not heard," Imperia hazarded boldly, "that he is to marry the
Maria Dovizio whom I met at Cetinale?"

"If her uncle speaks true," Chigi replied, "Raphael is but a
recalcitrant lover, continually putting off the date of the marriage.
Bernardo Dovizio admitted to me that his niece's patience is at an end,
and that she could be persuaded to accept a more ardent suitor."

Imperia darted a keen look at Chigi, but replied calmly, "It is plain
that Raphael has been entangled by some other woman," and she demanded
of me suddenly if it were not so.

"It may be," I admitted reluctantly, for this possibility had of late
occurred to me, and I told them of Margherita.

Chigi was delighted. "If Maria Dovizio but knew of that liaison," he
cried, "she would send her betrothed about his business."

"Have a care, Agostino," Imperia exclaimed. "Let the news reach her
through any one but you. She would hardly regard with kindness the man
who brought her proof of Raphael's faithlessness."

Chigi looked at me significantly. "_You_ knew her," he said. "It is in
your power to serve us both."

"God knows I would give my life to serve her," I cried unguardedly.

Imperia laughed. "You have more than one rival, my Agostino," she said.
"Bazzi is a good fellow, but not to be trusted with your love affairs."

"I deny the accusation that I am your honour's rival," I cried hotly. "I
had never any hope in that quarter."

Chigi nodded thoughtfully and pressed my hand. "Do not torment yourself,
Imperia," he said after a moment, as he left us. "We have neither of us
any chance with Maria Dovizio; and you shall be mistress of this villa
and of its master so long as you care for your kingdom."

But Imperia was not deceived though she feigned to believe Agostino's
protestations. Chigi's information that Maria's hand had been
practically offered him by her uncle had wakened the most intense alarm
for her own position, and she instantly determined to effect a
reconciliation between Maria and Raphael.

"Look you, Bazzi," she said when we were alone, "that hussy, Margherita,
must leave our friend's house at once. I can see that you love Maria
Dovizio so disinterestedly that you prefer her happiness to your own.
Now it is certain that Raphael and Maria love each other; and we must
not allow any foolishness to part them. Let us work in concert to bring
them together."

I remember that when I heard Imperia say this it struck me as an
instance of an angel being served by the machinations of an evil spirit.
But I hesitated not to make her my fellow-conspirator, nor did I revolt
that Margherita must suffer, nay, that I myself must relinquish any
lingering hope of winning my idol's heart if so be that her happiness
could be secured.

"I am with you in that business," I assured Imperia, "but how can we
effect it?"

"Very easily," Imperia replied. "Margherita is the daughter of Chigi's
pastry-cook at Cetinale. Send for him--I will give you money. He shall
exercise a father's authority to compel his daughter to return to her
home. His mistress once beyond his reach, Raphael will forget her, and
imagine that he has never loved any one but his betrothed. I know you
men--the nearest is ever the dearest."

Imperia's plot was but partially successful. She brought Margherita's
father indeed from Siena and established him as a baker near the villa;
but no commands, threats, or bribe of his could induce his daughter to
renounce Raphael's protection.

Imperia again took counsel with me. "The fool loves him," she said; "we
must act through her love, not against it."

"And how shall we do that?" I asked.

"We must make her understand that her lover, intoxicated by his delight
in her company, is disregarding his own advantage in neglecting Chigi's
commissions, and that she must reside here in order to induce Raphael to
follow her."

The scheme seemed to me likely to succeed, and one morning, when I
shrewdly suspected that Raphael would be busied at the Vatican, I took
Imperia with me to his studio to try her powers of persuasion upon
Margherita.

Even then she could not have succeeded but for my help, for Margherita,
trusting in my friendship for Raphael, appealed to me. "It is for his
good," I assured her.

"Then I will not refuse," she replied, "but will go with you at once. So
write for me to my master that if he wishes to paint from me, he will
find me when he is prepared to fulfil his promises to his patron."

Thus, without giving her time to reflect, we carried Margherita in
Imperia's carriage to Chigi's villa. I guessed that she had no intention
of sending the girl's message to her lover; that she planned to keep
Margherita hidden until Raphael, believing her false or losing all hope
of finding her, would return to his allegiance to Maria.

But there were other forces at work on which I had not counted, and the
first of these was Chigi.

Something like the same chain of reasoning had been started in his mind
by my mention of Margherita, but he had reached the conclusion that
Raphael's infatuation for his pretty model must be encouraged. He
therefore privately requested me to induce her, by exactly the same
arguments which we had already employed, to do precisely what she had
already done.

The humour of the situation was so great that I burst into an
uncontrollable fit of laughter.

This so angered the unsuspecting man that I managed to ejaculate between
my paroxysms: "Margherita in this villa! And what pray you would the
Signora Imperia say to that?"

At this question Chigi whistled. "I had forgotten Imperia," he admitted,
and then to my utter confusion that lady entered the room with her arm
about the waist of Margherita.

Never before had I seen Imperia unable to give a plausible account of a
situation, but while she hesitated, Margherita did her good service by
telling the simple truth. She thanked Chigi warmly for his patronage of
Raphael, and explained how Imperia and she had plotted to induce him to
complete the frescoes.

"And you did this to give me pleasure?" Chigi asked, regarding Imperia
with wonder and admiration. She felt her advantage and found her tongue.
"You little know your Imperia," she said, sweetly; and true though the
words were he understood them falsely, as she meant he should, and the
recording angel gave her credit for a lie.

"I am more grateful than I can express," cried Chigi, "for I have great
need of Raphael at this moment, and you, dearest Imperia, shall never
regret this kindness."

"We have played into the hands of the enemy," Imperia said to me in a
low voice as Chigi darted away to write to Raphael; "nevertheless the
game is not yet lost. I know my dear Agostino's cards, and though they
are good ones I have some which he recks not of and he shall never wed
the fair Maria."

A wonderful woman was this Imperia, as I was beginning to realise,
though I had not yet sounded the depths of that strange nature.

Chigi's letter to Raphael was a masterpiece of duplicity. He confided to
him as the most sacred secret the information that his engagement to a
certain mutual acquaintance of Cetinale days would soon be announced,
and he begged his friend, for the sake of the lady, to give his personal
and inimitable touch to the frescoes of _Cupid and Psyche_, and to other
decorations in the villa which he was preparing for his bride. Although
he also confessed the stratagem by which he had secured the presence of
Margherita, it was the news of Chigi's approaching marriage which
determined Raphael to accede to his request. Though Agostino had worded
his allusions to his betrothed so skilfully that they applied with equal
fitness to either Imperia or Maria Dovizio, Raphael never doubted that
he referred to the latter. The news simply confirmed the suspicions
which he had long entertained, and with characteristic magnanimity, he
determined to leave Maria the highest masterpiece of which his hand was
capable.

He came at once, and Imperia sat smiling at his side while he painted
Margherita as the principal figure in the glorious _Triumph of Galatea_,
Chigi, marking Margherita's look of rapt devotion, drew me aside in
ecstacy. "It is plain that they love each other," he said. "When the
picture is nearly finished I will invite Bernardo Dovizio and his niece
to see it. They will understand the relations of this artist and model.
He is cutting his own throat with every stroke of his facile brush, for
Maria Dovizio will brook no divided affection."

But when in alarm I reported this conversation to Imperia--"Children!"
she cried scornfully; "what children you men are! Can you not see,
Giovanni, that, though Margherita worships her painter as a god, he
cares for her only as a piece of stuff, a marble column, or a jewel,
beautiful truly and therefore serviceable to paint from, but nothing
more. Let Agostino bring Maria Dovizio here. I desire nothing more
warmly than to compass her meeting with Raphael. But give me a moment
with her to prepare her for that meeting, and one in which to withdraw
Margherita and all others from the scene, and think you that in the joy
of their reconciliation either he or she will give a thought to his
picture or to the models who posed for it?"

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Pope Leo X,

Giulio de Medici (afterward Pope Clement VII), and

Luigi De Rossi, by Raphael

Pitti Gallery]

Chigi did not at once carry out his intention of inviting the Dovizios
to his villa, for another project for the moment eclipsed that design
and demands a temporary digression from my story; for if he was to be
reckoned with as a lover, in a review of the hidden causes which brought
about the catastrophe, he is still less to be neglected in his proper
rôle of financier.

Pope Leo X. was to discover this as his predecessor Julius had done, and
with more reason, for Leo was the greater borrower, all of his family
and the adherents of the Medici descending upon him on his accession to
the papacy like a flock of buzzards. Julius had left the papal coffers
well filled, but Leo had not only emptied them, but he had anticipated
his own revenues and those of his successor. Truly was it said after
his death, that upon his family and the building of Saint Peter's he had
spent the income of three pontificates. Chigi was not distressed that
there was no likelihood that the Pope would ever repay what he owed, for
he had not only received ample security through Dovizio at Cetinale, but
there were richer spoils in view which made that transaction seem of
trifling account. Agostino desired to become the sole manager of the
papal finances; and he did indeed inaugurate that system of loans by
which the Pope's entire revenue was not sufficient to meet the interest
on his debts.

As a means of impressing Leo not only with his friendship but with his
boundless wealth, he determined to entertain his Holiness with
hospitality so lavish that it would put to shame the very feasts of
Lucullus. Leo was in a certain way to blame for this foolish display,
for Cardinal Riario was building his palace at this time, and his
Holiness piqued Chigi by insinuating that the residence of Riario would
rival the one which he was erecting. To this slur Chigi retorted hotly
that Riario's palace would not be able to compare with his own stables.

It was no empty boast, but in order to realise it our patron
immediately put a stop to the work upon the main villa and, as you, my
Giulio, will well remember, set us all to the task of transforming the
larger building upon the river bank (originally planned to house his
stud of horses) into an immense banqueting-hall. The stalls of inlaid
woods were concealed by the Medici tapestries; and by means of stucco,
paint, lavish gilding, and innumerable sparkling lights, depending in
crystal lustres and silver lamps, we achieved an effect of magnificence
unsurpassed by the imaginary creations of oriental enchanters.

In this gorgeous apartment, carpeted by rugs given Chigi by eastern
princes and crowded with the costliest works of art, was served a feast
for whose menu the scholars of the city ransacked the records of the
orgies of the Roman emperors. The cardinals and foreign ambassadors
invited were surprised by dainties and wines peculiar to their own
countries, timed to arrive in Rome from many distant lands on the very
eve of the banquet. Golden beakers richly ornamented in _repoussé_ with
bacchanalian subjects, and engraved with the coat of arms of the guest
before whom they were placed, were provided with every different wine,
and the convives were begged to accept the entire set as trifling
mementos. To prove that the plates of solid gold on which the many
courses were served were not used twice, they were when changed
ostentatiously cast through the open windows into the Tiber.

But here I had contrived to secure my friend the reputation of
prodigality without its penalty, for we caused nets to be stretched in
the river under the windows so that the service was presently hauled
safely in by Chigi's servants, who patrolled the river in small boats.

I was responsible also for another feature, which was in a manner too
successful. When the fruit was served I placed before Bernardo Dovizio
(now Cardinal Bibbiena) a melon, which upon cutting open he found filled
with what he took to be the very gems lost and found at Cetinale in so
remarkable a manner, and which he had left in pawn with Chigi. As with
trembling fingers he was attempting to transfer them to his pocket, I
set free my ape Ciacco, who, previously coached to this performance,
descended a rope which depended over the table, seized the melon, and
climbing again beyond Dovizio's reach pelted the company with the
jewels.

Great was the indignation of the Cardinal as he saw them scrambled for
and pocketed as souvenirs by the guests, until our host presented Leo
with the casket containing the original intaglios of which the ones
placed before Dovizio were but imitations.

The banquet being now concluded, the tapestries concealing the stalls
were drawn aside, and a hundred pages, each habited like a prince, led
in as many superb horses caparisoned in cloth of gold, and fastened them
with silver chains to feeding-racks of the same metal.

Chigi then apologised for having received his Holiness in a stable,
saying that he would not have dared to do so had not the great Head of
the Church accepted such humble hospitality for his birthplace. Leo
graciously admitted that his host had fulfilled his boast, for Riario,
with all his extravagance, had never attempted a scene like this.

The tapestries were sent to the Vatican on the morrow, but, in
displaying them and returning publicly the Medici jewels, we had
over-shot the mark, for the Pope's self-love was wounded by the
exposition of the straits to which he must have been reduced, to have
accounted for their having been even temporarily in Chigi's possession,
and another banker received the patronage which our friend had coveted.

On Bernardo Dovizio, however, this feast made an immense impression, and
when Chigi invited him to bring his niece to dine more intimately at his
villa, he accepted the invitation with an alacrity which gave color to
Agostino's hopes.

Chigi had no intention that Imperia should either preside on this
occasion or suspect what he was planning. He had asked a sister-in-law
to do the honours of his villa for the day, and had requested me to
escort Imperia to the Pope's villa of Magliana, where he had secured her
an invitation to sing for a party of sport-loving cardinals whom Leo had
asked to enjoy his favourite pastime of hunting.

"And see to it, my dear Bazzi," Agostino had said to me, "that you on no
account bring her back until late at night, for Maria Dovizio must not
know that Imperia is an inmate of my house."

As in duty bound I secretly took counsel with Imperia, discussing, as we
fancied, every phase of the situation.

Chigi, over-confident in the superiority of his own attractions, had not
at first deemed it necessary to send Raphael away. It is possible that
he even thought that Maria would be shocked at seeing her betrothed
apparently domiciled under the same roof with Margherita, and
glorifying her charms with such over-appreciation, while Raphael,
surprised by Maria's sudden appearance as a willing and familiar guest,
would accept the desired construction as to her relations with his
patron, and that thus the estrangement between these unhappy lovers
would become irremediable.

Imperia admitted that if neither of them were previously warned, and, if
no opportunity were afforded them to converse together alone,
appearances would be much against Raphael, and Chigi's plot would have a
fair chance of succeeding. "Especially," she added, "if Maria Dovizio
has any conversation with Margherita will Raphael's chance of placating
her be lost, for a woman who loves can not fail to recognise the same
affection in another, and Margherita's infatuation is so evident that
the blind might see it."

"Then," said I, "our first concern must be to spirit Margherita away,
else Maria in her injured pride may accept Agostino."

"'Tis the first step," Imperia replied. "Leave it to me; think you I
have not long since foreseen and provided for such an emergency?"

As she spoke there was a look in her set face which frightened me. "I
will ask Margherita's father to send for her for the day," I said,
uneasy, I knew not why.

"Leave her to me, I tell you," Imperia commanded hastily. "If Raphael
and Maria Dovizio are to be reconciled Margherita must drop out of his
life--not for one day but for ever."

I liked this still less, though I laughed and reminded her how she
herself had said that, when they once understood each other, Margherita
would be no more to either of them than a lay-figure on which to hang
draperies.

Imperia smiled bitterly. "I may have thought so once, I know better
now."

"There is another way to foil Agostino," I suggested. "He will show the
Dovizios my painting of the _Marriage of Alexander and Roxana_, in his
own room. Leave such of your jewels on his dressing-case as will prove
to Maria that you have recently occupied the apartment--that necklace
which she admired so greatly at Cetinale. She would recognise it at
once."

Imperia shook her head contemptuously. "Agostino would gather up all
such equivocal objects before he showed her the room," she said.

"Then, since we cannot hinder Maria Dovizio from accepting this
invitation, would you dare to return earlier than you are expected, and
converse with her before she leaves? We might explain to Chigi afterward
that we had miscalculated the time, or that our appearance was in some
other way unpremeditated."

"He would never forgive me," she said slowly; "nevertheless, if I do not
succeed in removing Margherita, I shall return in time to pull the
strings of my puppets, for Agostino shall never marry another woman."

I well remember the last evening which we spent together. The air was
sultry, and through the arches of the loggia occasional flashes of
lightning made fiery crevices in the black heavens. Imperia paced
uneasily to and fro.

"We shall have a storm," she said. "I have a mind not to go to
Magliana."

Chigi turned pale and rose and walked beside her. He even attempted to
put his arm about her waist, but she repulsed him with a savage scowl.

"Do not pretend that you care for me, Agostino," she said angrily; "I
will believe it only on one condition, that you accompany me to
Magliana."

"I have told you it is impossible, Imperia. Bazzi is an amusing
fellow, a hundred times more entertaining than I."

"I am tired of Bazzi. He is an insufferable idiot. I will not go unless
you escort me, Agostino."

"Then Raphael shall take you. His Holiness will be delighted to welcome
him, as he desires him to plan some decorations for the villa; and you
cannot, my Imperia, call Raphael an idiot."

It was Imperia's turn to blanch as Raphael came forward and courteously
asked the honour of her company.

But she quickly recovered herself, "Raphael is too charming," she said
guilefully, "and were it not that his heart is given to the beautiful
Margherita I might be tempted to angle for it."

"Ah!" exclaimed Chigi, well pleased, "that is good news. Margherita is a
rare prize, and I am glad to know that the unimpressionable Raphael at
last really loves."

The eyes of Imperia and Chigi were intently fixed on Raphael's face,
striving to read his true feelings. He felt and resented the scrutiny.

"I doubt if the man lives who has not loved," he said, flushing.
"Perhaps it is because I love so deeply that I cannot speak of it."

Imperia softened for an instant, and, taking a lute, sang, _Quant'e
bella giovinezza_.[4] But the pent-up passion that possessed her this
evening woke again in the line, _Che si fugge tuttavia_, and she ended
suddenly with a dry choking sob.

An embarrassing silence fell upon us all, broken finally by Imperia. "A
little honesty might clear the atmosphere," she said to Raphael;
"besides what need is there of such secrecy when we have all guessed the
truth. No, you shall not escort me to Magliana. I will be no man's
second choice, not even yours, Agostino," and so saying she ungraciously
departed from us.

"She is in a devil of a humour," Chigi said to me, uneasily, when
Raphael had bidden us good-night. "What can have angered her? Is it
possible that she suspects that her reign is over?"

"She suspects nothing," I assured him, truthfully; in my heart I added,
"but she knows everything."

"But will she go?" Chigi asked, anxiously; "that is the immediate
question. I cannot put her out by force."

"You will never have to do that," I replied. "She will go, never fear.
Leave her to herself, her mood will have changed by morning. There is
only one thing to be relied upon in women, and that is their
inconstancy, not alone to men but to any fixed idea."

In spite of the flippancy with which I had striven to beguile Chigi, I
was vaguely but none the less genuinely troubled. Unable to sleep, I
strolled toward dawn in the garden. A lamp burned in the tiny room
assigned to Margherita, and to my surprise there flitted across the
window the shadow of Imperia. What business could she have there at such
an hour? Certain expressions, to which I had given no weight at the time
of their utterance, came back to me with sinister significance, and
especially her declaration that Margherita must disappear, "not for one
day, but for ever." I continued my watch until a gust of rain drove me
into the house, and I fell asleep to dream that an oubliette lined with
the blades of scythes (such as I knew existed in certain old Roman
houses) had at Imperia's touch yawned beneath the couch of Margherita;
and that the innocent barrier to Raphael's reconciliation with Maria had
indeed "dropped from his life."

But I awoke at Chigi's cheery halloo to find that the storms of the
previous evening had cleared. Imperia had expressed her readiness to
spend the day at Magliana, and my host desired me to select horses for
the excursion.

I never saw her gayer than on that day, and when I looked askance as she
jested with his Holiness and flirted with Riario, daring him to give a
supper in her honour in his new palace, she pressed my foot beneath the
table and looked me smilingly in the face, as though striving to assure
me that all was well.

But she would not comply with Leo's request for his father's canzone,
_Quant e bella_, which she had sung with such effect the previous
evening. She left the gay company while they were all clamoring for
more, and insisted that I should urge the horses to the utmost as we
dashed back to Rome.

Our common anxiety to know the outcome of Maria Dovizio's visit to
Chigi's villa, together with her great longing for sympathy in this
crisis of her life, so wrought with the favouring opportunity of that
wild drive that Imperia granted me such a revelation of her inmost soul
as I believe no other man can boast, and I knew her that night as God
knew her.

She had sought Margherita the night before a criminal at heart, for she
had determined to sacrifice the girl. Imperia possessed a house in Rome.
It was on her lips to tell Margherita that Raphael, who had met with an
accident, was lying there at the point of death, and had sent for her to
come to him. She had already instructed her servants, and had Margherita
once entered that house its doors would never again have been opened for
her.

But Imperia's guardian angel was kind. Before the words could be uttered
Margherita had poured out her heart in gratitude to the woman whom she
believed to be her benefactress. While the girl spoke, Imperia strove to
steel herself, repeating mentally the round of cruel reasoning which had
been the Ixion's wheel on which her tortured brain had unceasingly
revolved:

"If Margherita speaks to Maria Dovizio, Maria will never be reconciled
with Raphael. Unless Maria weds Raphael she will surely marry Chigi.
Either Margherita or I must perish. Which shall it be?"

But gradually this fiend's chatter grew less insistent and Imperia heard
instead Margherita's impassioned protestations. She was happy,
blissfully happy, and owed it all to the disinterested kindness of her
patroness; for though Raphael had always loved her he had been bound by
a hateful engagement to a cold, proud woman, who had cast him aside for
a wealthier suitor. Her memory had rankled in the mind of both,
poisoning their happiness, for Margherita well realised that she was
herself but a peasant, not to be compared in birth and breeding to this
high lady. Until lately she had not deemed herself worthy to mate with
so exalted a personage as her lover. But since she had known Imperia she
had comprehended how such a miracle might be. "For," said she, "you are
just like me, and all of the Signor Chigi's wealth and glory does not
crush or humiliate you, because when two people really love each other
it makes them equal, and neither genius nor riches nor anything else in
all the world is worthy of being compared to the love of a true woman."

That shaft went home. The thought of being classed with this
single-hearted girl who had sacrificed everything to a great love so
humiliated and touched the heart of the venal courtesan that in spite of
all she had at stake, she could not prevail upon herself to do
Margherita this great wrong. So, finding that she knew not who the great
lady was to whom Raphael was betrothed, Imperia told her of Maria
Dovizio's expected visit, as of that of an old friend who had been
interested in her as a child at Cetinale, and bade her if opportunity
offered repeat to Maria the story exactly as she had just told it, for
it would surely be to her advantage to do so.

When Imperia told me this I cried out, "But it will kill Maria, and you
forget that Raphael is there and will not permit her thus to speak."

"Nay, my friend," Imperia answered. "Raphael is not there, for Agostino,
on reflection, wisely decided not to risk the meeting, and gave him a
holiday this morning to work in his own house. Never fear that Chigi
will not leave Maria Dovizio alone with Margherita, or that her
revelations will have any such deadly effect. Agostino is an adept in
consolation, and Maria must long since have divined the truth."

My heart beat in a tumult of conflicting emotions. For an instant a
wild, unreasoning hope overpowered all the rest. "Imperia," I
exclaimed, "you shall not lose Agostino. I will surrender my chances
with Maria to no man but Raphael. If in truth he has ceased to love
her,--then, for all you think me mad in saying so, we may both, may all
be happy yet."

[Illustration: Villa Madama]

But such joyous ending to lovers' woes is found only in the fictions of
romancers. Certes I have often thought I could design a fairer web than
that the fates weave for us.

Even as I spoke Imperia caught my arm and I drew rein, for we were
nearing the gateway of Chigi's villa. A carriage was leaving the
grounds, and as it passed us we saw Maria Dovizio lying in a swoon in
her uncle's arms. Chigi was not with them, for she had left his house
apparently indifferent to all that she had seen or heard within it, and
had succumbed only when beyond his view.

"Poor child," said Imperia, "you are not wounded so deeply as you fancy.
No, do not drive in, Giovanni, I have learned all I wished to know. In
spite of her present despair Maria will enter those gates ere long a
happy bride; but I shall never knock at them again. The end would have
come soon in any event, for Agostino had ceased to love me, but he shall
never boast that he cast me out."

I took her to her own house, and when Chigi learned that she had not
returned with me he but shrugged his shoulders, for she had rightly
divined his heart. I never saw her again, but I heard much, for Rome
still rings with wild tales of her notoriously evil life. A nature hers
that had much of good in it I bear witness, though sadly she mistook her
way. She mistook it even when she tried to do a kindness to Margherita.
Shame and heart-break was the guerdon which that poor child received in
return for her great devotion.

As for me, the glimpse I had caught of Maria's death-struck face so
rankled in my soul through the long watches of that sleepless night that
on the morrow, in anguished contrition, I confessed all that miserable
story to Raphael.

When he knew how cruelly he had misjudged her he was smitten with such
remorse that he could never forgive himself or take joy in life. For
though he went to her at once and she forgave him freely, nay, strove to
comfort him by protesting there was naught to forgive, she had suffered
overmuch to endure the great joy of their reconciliation. Prattling of
love and happiness and smiling still when she no longer had strength
to utter his name, she peacefully died within his arms.

[Illustration: Pope Leo X. at Raphael's Bier

From the painting by Pietro Michis. Permission of Franz Hanfstaengl]

It was Raphael's grief rather than, as reported, a fever taken in
superintending archæological excavations which truly caused his death on
his thirty-seventh birthday, upon that Good Friday which neither you nor
I, my Giulio, can ever forget.

Margherita told me that in his delirium he knew her not, but kissed her
hands, calling her "Maria" and begging her forgiveness. To the poor girl
he left by will ample support; but, by the same testament, he was buried
by the side of Maria Dovizio, beneath whose name he caused to be
chiselled the inscription, "The affianced wife of Raphael Santi, whom
death deprived of a happy marriage."



CHAPTER III

A CELLINI CASKET

INTERLUDE


  The trellis that once shut the forest trees
  From the fair flowers, all torn and broken is,
  Though still the lily's scent is on the breeze,
  And the rose clasps the broken images.

             WILLIAM MORRIS.

Neglected but not ruinous, its marbles mossy, its once unrivalled garden
invaded by sweet wild-flower banditti which run riot among the gentle
roses, its fountains dry, their cracks and crannies the homes of basking
lizards, its charming loggia trodden only by enthusiasts for whom every
spot touched by the genius of Raphael is a shrine of pilgrimage--the
Villa Madama, though appealing in its desertion, is not a melancholy
solitude.

[Illustration: Detail of Vault in Villa Madama--Stucchi by Giovanni da
Udine]

The imagination is intoxicated as by some heady wine as one gazes
outward upon the dazzling panorama which originally determined the site
of the loggia; and when, fatigued by the flashing sunlight, our eyes
turn to the interior they are soothed by the subtler beauties of the
half-effaced frescoes, the floral arabesques which Giovanni da Udine
lavished upon the spandrils, the pouting _putti_ in Giulio Romano's
frieze of cherub faces, carrying out a scheme of decoration which could
have been designed by no other than Raphael. We are certain as we
recognise in a more delicate line, or exquisite touch recalling the
arabesques of the Vatican loggia, that just here the great impresario
must have caught palette and brushes from the hand of his pupil with,
"_Me perdone Giovanino mio_, let me frolic a while with these fairy
creatures and show them to you as I saw them in my childhood dancing in
the swaying vines that garlanded the pergolas of Urbino." And so they
revel here, myths of the childhood of the race, monstrous creatures,
half beast, half human; centaurs, fauns, tritons, mermaids, sphinxes,
lamias, their grotesquerie no longer repulsive, for it is a foil to the
utmost elegance and sumptuousness of Renaissance art, their multiplicity
never wearying, because they are marshalled by the greatest master in
decorative design that the world has known. They lurk in the
convolutions of exquisite _rinceaux_, uncoiling themselves from the
scrolls of acanthus foliage, where sport also more delicate hybrid
flowers;--women, whose beautiful bodies rise like anthers from the
calices of impossible blossoms, whose arms are coiling tendrils and
whose limbs melt into the curves of exuberant leafage unknown to the
botanist.

But the charm which holds the visitor who penetrates this delicious
solitude is due not alone to the sense of sight. A haunting
suggestiveness breathes from these surroundings, like the perfume
exhaled when one unlocks a long-closed sandal-wood casket, once the
depository of dainty feminine trifles. It needs not the name of the
villa to tell us that a lady, sitting in this loggia, once duplicated Da
Udine's traceries in her embroidery, gathered roses in the garden, and
looked longingly toward Rome while awaiting the coming of her princely
lover, and many a visitor has been piqued by the ignorance of the
custodian of the villa to search history for this mysterious Madama.

[Illustration: Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Parma, 1586

From an old engraving]

Margaret of Austria, daughter of an Emperor, wife of the reputed son of
one Pope and of the grandson of another, Grand Duchess of Tuscany,
and Duchess of Parma, quartered the imperial eagle upon the balls of the
Medici and the lilies of the Farnese. That the bar sinister was
conspicuous upon her escutcheon mattered little in the age in which she
lived, for the Emperor Charles V. acknowledged and advanced the
interests of his illegitimate daughter with the same lack of
embarrassment shown by the popes in the favouritism of their "nephews."

A doubtful advantage this, but one with far-reaching consequences, for
when Margaret was twelve years of age, Charles conquered Rome and the
child's connection with Italy and the Villa Madama had its beginning.

The villa had been built by Raphael for Pope Clement VII., while he was
yet only Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, as a pleasure casino to which he
could retreat from the cares imposed upon him by his cousin, Pope Leo X.
Later when as successor to the tiara he found that not the least burden
in the heavy legacy bequeathed him was that of the guardianship of the
Medici family, it became the resort of his Florentine relatives on their
quieter visits to Rome and the home of a mysterious child, Alessandro,
of whom the Pope announced himself the guardian.

When Lorenzo II., (grandson of the Magnificent) died, leaving but one
legitimate child, Catherine de' Medici, the future Queen of France,
Clement imposed Alessandro upon Florence as the natural son of Duke
Lorenzo.

There lacked not shrugging of shoulders at this imputed parentage and
Florence revolted against receiving a bastard and a mulatto as its
sovereign.

But trouble was brewing both for Florence and the Pope. Charles V. had
determined to make himself master of Italy; his forces closed around
Rome, and Clement, fleeing through the underground passage from the
Vatican, shut himself up in the castle of St. Angelo, and from it beheld
the horrors of the sack of the city.

From its parapets, too, he witnessed the occupation of his cherished
villa by Bourbon's savage soldiery.

Benvenuto Cellini relates (with his characteristic self-laudation) his
prowess in killing the Constable de Bourbon and in defending the castle
of St. Angelo, and although his perspective is slightly forced from his
habit of placing his own colossal figure in the foreground, no
chronicle gives a more vivid account of these stirring events.

[Illustration: Stucchi by Giovanni da Udine

Villa Madama]

What a picture he might have painted for us of the meeting of the Pope
and the Emperor after the pacification; when Clement crowned his late
adversary and Charles, reinstating Duke Alessandro over Florence,
betrothed his beautiful daughter Margaret to that base-born reprobate!

Cellini might also have told us much of the after-life of the Duchess,
for he knew her well, and mentions her with admiration in his
autobiography. He served Alessandro too in Florence, and boasts of the
intimacy which he enjoyed in the ducal household.

There was no one living at that period so well qualified as he to relate
the inner history of that tragical marriage and of the romance which
effaced its memory and lingers still like an elusive perfume in her
exquisite villa.

Judge, lenient reader, if Cellini had told that last story, would not
its main _facts_ have corresponded with those embodied in the following
pages, though the tamer phrasing and more conventional attitude of the
writer compared with the audacity of his racier chronicle

    "Are as moonlight unto sunlight,
    And as water unto wine."



THE ADVENTURE OF THE CASKET

BEING CERTAIN PAGES NOT INCLUDED IN THE AUTO-BIOGRAPHY OF ITS MAKER


I

It will be remembered by those who have read my published memoirs that
in the year 1535, while I was in Florence in the service of Duke
Alessandro de' Medici, I received orders from his excellency to execute
a little _coffre_ in gold to hold his own portrait, a medallion which I
had previously modelled from life and cast in relievo.

That I dismissed so lightly masterpieces of which I had such reason to
be proud was due to the fact that certain personages of exalted station
and of choleric temper, quick and able to revenge any imputation upon
their honour were concerned in the adventures of the casket, so that I
deemed it prudent during their lifetime to withhold a recital which I
trust my present reader may find of a diverting nature.

This casket was conceded by all connoisseurs in such matters to be the
most admirable work of its kind hitherto produced. It was crowned by a
statuette of Hercules, with other most exquisite figurines at the
four corners, set upon feet of crouching sphinxes, half women and half
panthers, and was further enriched by reliefs of laughing boys holding
garlands, by grotesque masks and foliages of the most graceful and
ingenious design that could possibly be conceived.

[Illustration: Villa Madama--Interior]

I had been to infinite pains, as was but fitting since the Duke proposed
to present it to his betrothed, Margaret Duchess of Parma, daughter of
the Emperor Charles the Fifth, to whom he was to be married at Naples on
the return of her father from his glorious expedition against the
Turkish Corsairs. This marriage had been arranged for his "nephew" by
Pope Clement VII. on his pacification with the Emperor after the taking
of Rome, but its consummation had been hitherto delayed on account of
the tender age of the bride. Now, however, she was upon her way to meet
her father. Therefore the Duke requested me to serve as his messenger in
presenting these gifts, whose excellencies I of any person in the world
was most competent to explain and extol.

Instructed that the Duchess Margaret would rest upon her journey at the
villa which Raphael had built for the Pope upon the slopes of Monte
Mario, and which Clement had bestowed upon her as a part of her dowry, I
repaired thither before entering the gates of Rome.

I had been told by the Duke to ask upon my arrival not for the Duchess
but for Monna Afra, who had been installed as housekeeper of the villa
by the Pope when he was as yet only young Cardinal Giulio de' Medici,
and his personal affairs were not submitted to the glare which surrounds
the tiara.

Whatever these may have been, Monna Afra, though once a Moorish slave,
and of dark complexion and uncertain temper, was not without a certain
savage beauty, or would have been but for the marks of tattooing between
her eyes, and, though well advanced in years, carried herself erect with
a dignity worthy of royal descent.

She was dressed in the Moorish fashion, with a profusion of necklaces of
linked sequins of uncut precious stones and of large turquoises, some of
them I could judge of great value, though clumsily set. These necklaces
depended from beneath her gaily striped head-cloth upon her forehead and
also covered her bosom. Her dark blue robe was girdled by a golden belt
of curious workmanship, and she wore bangles upon her ankles with
bracelets of cheap blue glass upon her arms. Her hair, braided in a
multitude of fine plaits, was jet black and heavily perfumed. She wore
but one ear-ring, a hoop of gold in which twinkled a great diamond.

I had a letter for her from the Duke, and as it has never been my
practice to deliver a missive of whose contents I am ignorant, lest I
might be deputed to give orders for my own execution, I had taken the
precaution to open it (having first made an impression of the seal so
that I could reseal it beyond possibility of detection), but all to no
avail for this letter was written in Arabic, of which language I have no
knowledge. I was in twenty minds to destroy it, professing that I had
lost it _en route_, but having calculated that honesty was the more
gainful part to play, I put my trust in my patron saint and boldly
presented it. By so doing I came into possession of an important secret,
for on reading the letter Monna Afra exclaimed: "My son informs me that
you are an unprincipled rogue whose life he holds in his hands, on
account of certain murders which you have committed, and that therefore
I need not fear to trust you with our private affairs."

The opening words of this ungracious speech caused my spirit to leap
within me, for Duke Alessandro far from confiding to me or to any one
else the secret that he was the child of a mulattress, and in all
probability the bastard of the Pope, had persistently maintained that he
was the legitimatised son and rightful heir of the last Duke of
Florence, and his mother a princess whose name would in time be
divulged, and this notwithstanding that his dark complexion proclaimed
him of Oriental race.

I dissimulated my exultation, swore loyalty to my patron's honoured
mother, and showed her the portrait of her son, with which she was
greatly pleased.

"You shall give this to the Duchess, later," she declared, taking the
casket from me, "but first I desire you to copy the medallion for me,
and to say nothing of this commission."

The wish to possess the likeness of her son seemed so natural to a
mother and so flattering to me that I readily consented to oblige her,
being the more content to do so that I found myself extremely well
lodged and nourished in one of the dependencies of the villa, with the
suite of noble attendants appointed to wait upon the Duchess.

Among these I have cause to remember with the utmost vividness a
beautiful page, the grandson of Cardinal Farnese, who waited upon
Margaret as her train-bearer. This boy's name was Ottavio, and I was
drawn to him from the first for his character matched the exceeding
loveliness of his lineaments.

Monna Afra from some strange whim had desired me to copy the Duke's
portrait upon glass, and thinking possibly that I might break the slip,
had given me two of precisely the same size. On one of these I was
impelled to paint for myself the miniature of this adorable child in the
court costume of white satin doublet and white silk hose which he was to
wear at the wedding of the Duchess. To this circumstance was due a
mischance, which while it seemed to work me ill at the time was in the
end productive of good.

Though but a child in years the soul of the page, Ottavio Farnese, was
well-nigh ravished from his body with love for the Duchess, who but six
years older than himself was still but a slip of a girl. Often as I saw
these two children pelting each other with roses and playing many
childish games I wished that by some enchantment I might keep them thus
forever, for my heart revolted at the thought that this exquisite
creature was soon to be sacrificed to a brutal profligate twice her own
age.

"Certes," I said one day to Ottavio, "it is a great pity that you are
not some ten years older, then would I devote myself to your service and
it should go hard ere the daughter of Charles V. should wed with that
swine of an Alessandro de' Medici."

"Is he indeed a hog?" cried the boy, "then will I slay him, for I would
gladly give my life for her."

Seeing that so precocious and so pure an affection was beyond the
conception of our comrades (though not of the ancients since they
figured the love of the boy Cupid for Psyche), I protected Ottavio from
their ribaldry, declaring that I would punish with my sword any who made
a jest of a devotion which might have drawn tears from the angels.

While the Duchess Margaret was in her way equally charming, she was not
of such a heavenly gravity as her little comrade. On the contrary, at
this time her spirits overflowed in a bewitching and mischievous
wilfulness, which made her the more irresistible. She was conscious that
she was soon to be wedded, and this knowledge gave her a sense of
importance together with mysterious heart throbbings and perturbations,
a wild curiosity to know what manner of man her future husband might
be--the coquettishness natural to woman which at times made her rebel at
being thus fettered, all the more that it was without her consent, and
at others built up an ideal in her imagination which she was ready to
fall down and worship.

Seeing her thus curious, Monna Afra had promised Margaret that a
necromancer should show her the presentment of her future husband; and
upon a certain morning this designing woman sent for me, saying that the
slave who ordinarily assisted this magician had suddenly died, and that
she desired me to aid him in his magic rites.

She neglected not at the same time to remind me again that I was
completely in her power and that if I did not perform all that was
demanded of me she would denounce me to the authorities as a murderer.
Thus admonished, and believing also that the necromancer was able to
work me a mischief, I put my trust in St. Michael, confounder of Satan,
and faithfully performed all that I was bidden to do.

Hurrying me into a musician's gallery, which overlooked the chamber in
which the incantations were about to take place, the sorcerer showed me
a strange instrument, compounded of lenses set in a black box in which
burned a small lamp. "Fear not, Benvenuto," he whispered, seeing that I
hesitated, "but manipulate this machine as I will now show you, placing
from time to time these slips of painted glass in front of the lamp, and
when I shall call upon the name of the arch fiend Beelzebub, be careful
to introduce the copy of the portrait of the Duke which you have just
made for Monna Afra." He then made some cabalistic signs upon my
forehead and bidding me be of stout heart descended to the main floor of
the room, which was but dimly lighted by the flames of a brazier.

I could see, however, that around the light were grouped the Duchess
Margaret, Monna Afra and Ottavio, who suspecting some design against his
mistress, had insisted on accompanying her. Around these three the
necromancer now traced upon the floor a magic circle; entering it and
directing Margaret to keep her eyes fixed on the wall opposite to the
little gallery where I stood, he invoked with a loud voice the demons
Soracil, Sathiel, and Ammon dwellers in the moon, bidding them appear
with all their legions.

As I had previously witnessed a similar conjuration by which another
necromancer had filled the tiers of the Colosseum with innumerable
legions of devils, the horrible fear which I had experienced on that
occasion returned in so lively a manner that my hands trembled so that I
could scarcely perform the rites assigned to me. I had hardly introduced
the first slip of glass when Ottavio cried out that the house was on
fire and endeavoured to drag the Duchess from the circle, but the
necromancer held him firmly and commanded him on his life not to stir as
the demons were gathering in force.

Having placed the next slip of glass in its place I myself perceived
them, horrid creatures of gigantic stature clutching at their victims.
Thus the ceremony proceeded, the enchanter uttering strange sentences in
the Hebrew language, while Monna Afra shrieked and howled in
blood-curdling tones.

Ottavio also was well-nigh bereft of his senses with fear, and flinging
his arms about the Duchess cried to the fiends to take him to hell, but
to spare his beloved lady.

At this point, Margaret, who was strangely unafraid, repeated after the
necromancer these words: "I conjure thee, Beelzebub, Prince of Darkness,
to reveal to me the likeness of my lord and husband, and renouncing all
others I promise to be true to him throughout all eternity."

This was my cue, but fumbling in the casket for the portrait of Duke
Alessandro I inadvertently introduced into the throat of the infernal
machine not that bit of glass but the one on which I had painted the
likeness of Ottavio.

Seeing the beautiful face of the lad gleaming like that of an angel
between the rifts of the smoke of hell, there was not one of us who for
the instant doubted that the apparition was miraculous.

Monna Afra ceased her diabolical bellowing, the necromancer was
speechless with surprise, only Ottavio found his voice, and crying, "It
is I, it is I!" fainted from stress of emotion.

Comprehending immediately that I would be held responsible for the
miscarriage of the prodigy I hastily made my escape from the villa, nor
did I, until long thereafter, meet with any of the parties concerned in
this adventure. The augury in which I had assisted seemed false for the
marriage of Margaret to Duke Alessandro took place, as had been planned,
on the arrival of the Emperor at Naples. Though Charles was greeted with
acclamations as the champion of the Church against the infidel, he
having put to flight Hayraddin, admiral of the Sultan, and taken the
city of Tunis, thus liberating thousands of Christian captives,--yet in
the midst of the festivities there lacked not those who saw a certain
inconsistency in the wedding of his sweet daughter to a man notorious
for his wickedness and of the very race which he professed to hold in
such abhorrence.

Duke Alessandro after his marriage refrained not one whit from his evil
ways, but rather exceeded his former profligacy, so that all Florence
was scandalised thereby and pitied his gentle Duchess. I mind me now,
however, that to my astonishment there was one who took another view of
the matter, for Lorenzino de' Medici affirmed that Margaret was
possessed of that dauntless courage which one sees sometimes in the
tamers of lions and other savage beasts; that Alessandro was a
mean-spirited creature cowed by his child wife; and that one had but to
note the haughty poise of her head and the hang-dog sullenness which he
maintained in her presence to guess the truth. Though I abhorred the
Duke, yet as he had made me master of the mint it was necessary that I
should have commerce with him, and on the first occasion upon which I
presented myself being made to wait in an ante-chamber, I overheard a
remarkable conversation which caused me to credit the opinion of
Lorenzino. The door was ajar between the room in which I sat and the
next in which the Duke and Duchess had just risen from breakfast.

What he had said to her I know not, but his face was one malignity as he
leaned toward her across the small table. She faced his snake's eyes,
her own dark with an intensity which should have warned him, and half
beneath her breath, as though she told him of some danger with which she
had nothing to do, as one might have said, "Provoke not that dog, or you
will inevitably be bitten,"--she very quietly uttered these words:

"Lay so much as your finger upon me and I will kill you."

"And what is to hinder my killing you first, my little tigress?" he
hissed.

I had gripped my sword in answer to that question, but there was no
need, for she blazed forth at him, the very daughter of her father.

"The Emperor!" she cried triumphantly, and there she had him; for though
Charles had sold her like a slave and lifted no finger to avenge the
indignity which she suffered, yet Alessandro well knew that he would be
answerable for her life. As she left the room the Duke turned upon his
heel, and catching sight of me cried out angrily that I was well come,
for he was on the point of arresting me for feloniously making away with
the casket and portrait which he had bidden me take to his consort.

I told him truly that I had left the casket in the possession of his
mother. With that he flew into a rage, demanding who had dared to say
that this vile hag was in anyway related to him.

I made answer that Monna Afra had herself told me that this was the
fact, whereupon he swore that he would kill her for spreading such a
rumour, and offered me a large sum to undertake her execution for him.
When I respectfully declined this office he replied: "As you please, but
if you hold not your tongue concerning this matter I will find effectual
means to silence you."

Then reflecting doubtless that I was not a man to be governed by threats
but more likely to be moved to generous deeds by appreciation of my
talents, he admitted that his wife had indeed had the casket in her
possession after I left Villa Madama, and had not missed it until her
chests were unpacked at Naples, and that his true reason for choosing
me to regain and restore it to her was that I was the best fitted of all
his courtiers for so difficult an undertaking.

I replied that the opportunity to serve the Duchess would be the
greatest favour and honour which he could confer upon me,--and with that
he showed me the key of the casket which until now had never quitted
Margaret's chatelaine, desiring me to duplicate it for him, with this
difference that the handle was to be ornamented by a crown of thorns.

When I objected that the metal points would inevitably pierce the hand
of the Duchess when she attempted to unlock the casket, he replied that
he did not design the key for his wife, and bade me obey orders without
foolish comment.

As I am an expert in forging metals I soon made a little key with which
the Duke was delighted. Taking it into his cabinet he returned presently
with a little box on which were inscribed certain Arabic characters.

"This box," said he, "contains the key which you have just fabricated
with an order to Monna Afra to deliver the casket into your hands."

"Since I am to bring away the casket," I replied, "for what purpose do
you send this key? Is it, perchance, that Monna Afra may retain for
herself any of the contents of the _coffre_?"

"I have already reproached you"--the Duke answered with a most malignant
expression--"for giving vent to vain imaginings. If you cannot refrain
from thinking, at least keep silence, and implicitly carry out my
instructions.

"After delivering this package wait a little, while Monna Afra goes to
fetch the casket; should she tarry follow her and, no matter what you
may see or surmise, make no outcry but hasten from the villa failing not
to bring the casket with you. The Duchess tells me that while at the
villa she kept it in a hiding-place constructed by the Pope for his
jewels, which opens by pressing a certain ball upon one of the Medicean
shields with which the villa is so profusely ornamented. But, on
reflection, I see no reason for giving you access to our family
treasure-chest. Monna Afra will not have placed the casket there, since
she herself showed the Duchess the secret receptacle, and it would be
the first place in which she would search for it; and if, indeed, it is
hidden there it is perfectly safe."

Thus commissioned I betook myself again to Rome; but being welcomed by
old acquaintances, and finding an accumulation of important orders
awaiting my attention, I naturally thought that the Duke's business
might wait upon my own, and indeed might have clean forgotten it but for
the following circumstance.

I had gone fowling one day with a friend in the marshes near the villa
of Magliana, in the neighbourhood of Ostia. Toward nightfall (as I have
elsewhere related), happening from a little hill to look in the
direction of Florence, I saw an extraordinary phenomenon, namely, a
heavenly body in the shape of a Turkish scimitar, its blade directed
toward the city. Whereat I exclaimed loudly, "We shall certainly hear
that some great event has occurred at Florence."

Even as I spoke a stranger wrapped in a long cloak who at a little
distance from us was attentively observing this appearance, asked me
what I supposed the portent might signify.

"Nothing less," I replied confidently, giving vent to the first thought
which came into my mind, "than the assassination of Duke Alessandro."
With that he uttered an exclamation in Arabic, and hurried in the
direction of the Tiber. We had ridden but a short distance when some
peasants rushed toward us with frantic gestures, crying out that a ship
rigged after the manner of the Turkish corsairs was moored in the river.

This gave us such a fright that we clapped spurs to our horses and rode
with the utmost speed to Rome. But our fears having somewhat abated, we
made no report of the alarm upon our arrival, realising that we had cut
no great figure in the adventure.

The next day, my thoughts being still upon the Duke, I resolved to
execute his orders and so rode out to the Villa Madama. As I approached
what was my surprise to see descending its terraces the same man who had
accosted me near Magliana.

Monna Afra stood in the loggia watching him, her hand, lifted to her
eyes to protect them from the rays of the setting sun. I told her that I
had come from the Duke and on what errand, and presented the packet
which he had given me.

She read it attentively, and without making any objection or inquiry,
instantly brought the casket. But as she was about to unlock it
something awoke her suspicions, and examining the key more attentively
she thrust it before my eyes exclaiming, "Dog of a Christian, you have
attempted to poison me!"

It needed but a glance to show her fears well founded, for the handle of
the key once of shining copper was corroded to a virulent green, so that
it resembled a bit of antique bronze, and I comprehended that her
villain of a son had dipped the sharp-pointed crown of thorns in some
deadly acid, hoping that in exercising some force in turning the lock
she would lacerate her hand, and that he would thus compass her death.

As I remained speechless she took my condition as an evidence of guilt,
and seizing a torch which hung in a metal _torchère_, rushed upon the
terrace waving it to and fro like a fury. Though I lacked not the wit to
perceive that this was a signal of some sort, yet remembering the Duke's
orders by all means to secure the casket, I did not immediately address
myself to flight, but strove to wrest it from her by force. She,
however, opposed me in this design with all her strength, and throwing
it aside fell upon me with a most ungentle embrace, throttling me and
burying her nails in my neck.

While we struggled thus I was aware of trampling feet and saw the loggia
suddenly filled by a horde of barbarous pirates, refugee Moorish
cut-throats, who had conceived the daring design of making a descent
upon the outskirts of Rome to plunder its rich villas, and first that of
Chigi, in revenge for the chastisement received at the hands of the
Emperor.

For the moment my only thought was one of thankfulness for my release
from this hell-cat, but as I stood with my arms pinioned Monna Afra
brought forward a large sack and, as I understood from her expressive
gestures, demanded that I should be sewn up therein and cast into the
Tiber.

Though he had thrown aside the cloak in which he had previously
disguised, I recognised the man whom I had already twice seen in the
gaudily accoutred officer whom Afra now addressed as Hayraddin.

He spoke to her very earnestly, and I could see that what he said caused
her the greatest consternation, for she tore her hair, howled and
scratched her own face as vehemently as she had formerly maltreated
mine.

Shaking her by the arm he continued to admonish her, until picking up
the casket she retired into the interior of the villa. Then turning to
me he addressed me in good Italian in these words:

"Most noble Signor: You cannot fail to have understood that my sister
desired me to kill you, and that I could readily have done so; but I
have explained to her that you are a great astrologer, for from the
appearance of the heavens you announced to me yesterday the
assassination of her son which news has not yet reached Rome--and has
but this moment been told to me by a party of my men who intercepted the
messenger at the Ponte Molle.

"In deference to your supernatural knowledge I spare your life, and
shall leave you here bound and gagged, where in good time you will
doubtless be discovered. This news of the death of my nephew has
effected more than all my arguments and entreaties, for my sister has no
further desire to remain in this accursed land, but will return with me
to Africa."

Scarcely had he concluded when Monna Afra entered, heavily veiled and
carrying an immense bundle. This one of the pirates took from her, and
supported by two others she followed her brother and I saw her no more.

It was two full days, during which I neither ate nor drank, before I was
released from my miserable plight, but even so I counted myself
fortunate to have escaped with my life.


II

  "Ye mariners of Spain
    Bend stoutly to your oars
  And bring my love again,
    For he lies among the Moors."

  _Old Spanish Song._

Foreseeing after the death of Duke Alessandro that Florence would long
remain in a disordered condition, I deemed it a proper season to accept
the overtures of his majesty, Francis I., King of the French, to enter
into his service in France.

This patronage I owed solely to my own fame and not, as has been
asserted, to the favour of his daughter-in-law, Catherine de' Medici,
for that princess had no love for her supposed half-brother Alessandro,
or for his Florentine familiars.

Though I could never have been accessory to such vile work as to stab an
unarmed and unsuspecting man, yet often as I thought of Alessandro's
satyr leer, and the loathing bravely coupled with defiance which I had
seen leap in answer to it in the face of his child Duchess, I thanked
God that Lorenzino had no such squeamish conscience.

And yet,--as in the virgin purity of the orange-blossom, the voluptuous
perfume yearningly foretells the luscious, perfect fruit, and the blush
of the peach-bloom shows the flower coyly but triumphantly conscious
that it will one day ripen into mouth-watering deliciousness,--so even
then there were hints and prophecies in Margaret's budding womanliness
that the time was approaching when she would not only awaken love but
would herself know the joy of loving.

The time and the man were nearer than I thought.

It was a matter of but six years subsequent to our first meeting that,
chancing to be again in Rome, I next encountered Ottavio Farnese.

He was no longer the pretty page who had served the Duchess at the Villa
Madama, but had grown into a tall, handsome youth, with the first down
of manhood upon his lip. Though much lighter in weight than myself and
his rapier as slender as a child's toy, he had been well taught in
fencing, as I learned when meeting him by chance in front of St. Peter's
church, he, to my utter surprise, fell upon me crying out that I was a
scurvy knave unfit to live.

As I am not the man to swallow insults of this sort we slashed at one
another without further ceremony until the Papal guards, rushing from
the Vatican, separated us. Recognising Ottavio as the grandson of the
Pope (for Cardinal Farnese had on the death of Clement VI. succeeded to
the tiara), they demanded why we fought. I replied that I had not the
least idea, but Ottavio declared that it was to force me to confess what
I had done with the casket which I had been commissioned to bring to the
Duchess Margaret at Florence.

Laughing a little at his own zeal, but with all due deference I told him
how the casket had been carried away by the Moors, on the evening when I
repaired to Villa Madama to fetch it, and I had the happiness to
convince him of the truth of my statement.

Dismissing the guards he strolled with me in the most amicable manner,
informing me of many events which had happened during my absence in
France.

The first in importance to himself was the fact that he was more madly
than ever in love with the Duchess, and that she having experienced the
brutality of one husband had no mind to venture another, and had
announced her firm intention to remain a widow for the rest of her
life.

In spite of this he had told her of his love, but she had treated him as
a child and made sport of his passion.

"I shall die of her disdain," he said to me, "for my love is beyond my
power to conquer."

Taking him by the hand and perceiving that he was in a fever, and that
unless some hope was extended to him he must lose either his life or his
reason, I counselled him to keep a stout heart. "For," said I, "though
you are young it is a fault which will lessen as years go by, and the
Emperor surely will not look upon his daughter's repugnance to marriage
with approval. Rumour hath it that he is on his way to punish, for a
second time, the Moorish pirates who are back in their old nest at
Tunis. When he visits Rome you should persuade the Pope to intercede
with him in your behalf."

"As if I had not already thought of that!" Ottavio replied. "I have
freely opened my heart to my grandfather, and he has negotiated with the
Emperor, who is as favourable to an alliance with a Farnese Pope as he
was to a similar compact with the Medici. Charles could force his
daughter to accept me, as he compelled her to marry Alessandro; but I
will not win her in that way, and she despises me, doubtless, for what
she considers my pusillanimity.

"When I pleaded with her but yesterday bidding her set me any task to
accomplish as a proof of my love--she laughed scornfully, saying that
she had no lack of pages to fetch and carry unless it were to demand of
Benvenuto Cellini the casket which he had forgotten to return to her.

"Then, though I knew that you, Benvenuto, were accounted a desperate
man, I swore to her that I would not enter her presence again until I
had fulfilled her behest. Yea, and I will fulfil it, for I will sail
with the Emperor on this expedition to Tunis and will find the hag Afra
and wrest it from her."

"Your determination," I replied, "is a good one, and, as the adventure
appeals to me, I will go with you. I have already met Hayraddin,
commander of the Corsairs and brother of Monna Afra, who should know the
whereabouts of the casket, and I may be able to aid you in obtaining
it."

As the affair turned out, though Ottavio did indeed sail for Africa with
the Emperor, I was not allowed to accompany him, for his father,
feigning to believe that the casket, together with certain valuable
jewels stolen from Pope Clement, was in my possession, or at least
hidden in some spot nearer to Rome than Tunis, caused me to be
imprisoned in the castle of St. Angelo, until such time as I should make
restitution.

He did this, moreover, without informing his son of my arrest, so that
Ottavio departed believing that I had wilfully failed of my promise to
go with him. But I was not alone in misfortune, for the Emperor far from
achieving victories similar to those which crowned his previous
expedition, met with terrible storms which scattered the ships of his
fleet and wrecked many of them upon the coast of Africa, where the
savage barbarians, descending upon the drowning mariners, massacred them
in cold blood.

Word was brought back to Rome that this was the fate both of the Emperor
and of Ottavio Farnese, and though this proved but an unfounded rumour,
the heart of the gentle Margaret was filled with remorse as well as
grief, for having driven so chivalrous a youth and one who loved her so
devotedly to his death.

She mourned him most sincerely, wearing widow's weeds in his honour as
though she had in reality been his bride. Such is the strange
contrariety of a woman's heart that he who living had been the object of
her scorn, was now loved with the most vehement passion.

When at last it was known that the Emperor and Ottavio had indeed been
rescued and were returning to Italy, but that the latter was dangerously
ill, her transports of alternate joy and foreboding were most piteous to
behold.

I was a witness to them, for at this time by twisting my sheets into a
rope I had most marvellously escaped from the battlements of St. Angelo.

As I deemed it prudent to remain for a time in hiding and knew that the
Villa Madama was unoccupied, I had repaired thither under cover of the
night, and without undressing had slept soundly upon the floor, the
house being denuded of furniture.

But in the morning I was awakened by a great clatter of trampling horses
and sumpter mules, and springing to my feet and finding myself
confronted by the Duchess I gave myself up for lost. This was, however,
the most fortunate circumstance which could have happened to me, for on
hearing my story she promised me her protection and her intercession
with the Pope. She told me also that she had come with all this train of
servants and household stuff to put the villa in order for the reception
of her betrothed husband, Ottavio Farnese, as a more salubrious
residence than her palace at Rome, and more conducive to his rapid
recovery.

And hither, shortly after, he was borne in a litter and I beheld their
rapturous meeting, and certes the spectacle of so great joy went far
toward repaying me for all the misfortunes which I had suffered.

The young Duke, though very weak, extended his hand to me with a smile,
saying that I was ever Benvenuto (welcome), and reminding me how in that
very spot I had assisted at incantations which had foretold that he
would one day be the husband of the Duchess, which prognostication was
now so miraculously fulfilled. "I have," he added, "but one
regret--that I come to her forsworn, for I promised ere claiming her
as my wife to recover the casket."

"That promise, my Lord," I made haste to reply, "you shall keep, for I
have been more fortunate in my quest than your excellency."

I then showed him the secret hiding-place constructed by Pope Clement
in the wall; for, while prowling in the villa, I had remembered what
Duke Alessandro had said of it, and had not failed to press each one of
the Medici balls, so frequently employed in the decoration of the villa,
until I lighted upon the ingenious spring which disclosed the recess,
and within it a package marked with the name of the Duchess.

The wrapper had mouldered away with dampness and discovered the casket
with the poisoned key still in the lock, having been so left by that
wicked Afra with the express design of revenging herself upon the
innocent Margaret for the death of her abominable son, and perhaps also
upon Margaret's father for the misfortunes which he had occasioned her
race.

The Duchess being called, evinced the greatest joy and would have fallen
into the trap and have unlocked the casket at once, had I not first
discovered the key and sent for a pair of pincers with which I turned
it. While waiting the arrival of the pincers she asked her consort if he
had any idea why she set such store upon the casket.

"Doubtless," he replied with a frown, "because it contains the portrait
of your husband, who, with all his faults, was at least a brave man."

"You have rightly guessed," she answered, "the bravest of the brave and
the only man whom I have ever loved."

I marvelled to hear her thus speak, until the lid being opened, we
discovered, not my medal of Alessandro de' Medici, for that Margaret had
long ago given to his mother as an inconsiderate trifle; but the
likeness of the pretty page, Ottavio, which I had painted at their first
acquaintance; and which, in despite all contrariety of womanly
coquetry, had remained as ineffaceably imprinted upon her heart.



CHAPTER IV

FLOWER O' THE PEACH


        Now for a tale illustrative
  That shall delight my passion for romance,
  Embodying hints authentic of some theme

  * * *

  Or incident that to my knowledge came
  When sojourning abroad, the background true;
  Like to some faded tapestry retouched
  With the seductive broidery-work of fancy.

  ANON--altered.


I

Let the trovere ease her conscience at the outset--the tale about to be
recorded is _over_ true.

Even as there was more truth than called for in the testimony of that
ingenious witness who, being adjured by the judge to speak the truth,
replied: "Of a surety, your honor, that will I, the truth, the whole
truth, and--a little more."

But the little more which I shall give you is peradventure the truest
part of my tale; for, though you will find it not in the chronicles of
such historiographers as give their quills solely to statecraft and
wars, yet it lies like a pressed flower between the musty leaves of the
_novellini_ of Franco Sacchetti and of Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, who
relate with great particularity the artifice by which the head of the
house of the Aldobrandini won his bride.

Let who will carp that in combining matter from various sources I have
followed the example of those unscrupulous antiquaries who, discovering
an antique statue, straightway replace its missing parts by others lying
near at hand, or, more criminal still, complete it according to the
whims of their own fancy.

To that accusation needs must that I plead at the outset _mea culpa_,
advancing only that the original torso as well as the legs and arms
which I have made free to assemble are still preserved, properly
ticketed, in the museum of history, while for him who cavils with the
authenticity of this "restoration" the buried palaces of the ancient
world patiently await exhumation to yield to each body its own
particular members, and to each excavator his own treasure trove.

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Villa Aldobrandini, Frascati. The Grand Cascade and Fountain of Atlas]

Let thus much suffice for apology--now to our legend.

In the Court of the Cascade of that most magnificent of the Frascati
villas, namely that of the Aldobrandini, whoso lists may see to-day two
fountains; the greater, figuring the demigod Atlas, well-nigh crushed
under the weight of our terrestrial globe, is niched conspicuously to
the fore of the grand terrace; but the other is in a hidden pleasance,
and is but a lop-sided vase, considered to have settled thus awry from
the natural subsidence of the soil rather than to have been so placed by
design. Nevertheless, our legend will have this to have been done a
purpose; and there are no acts in all the annals of that illustrious
house more chivalrous or magnanimous than those supposed to be
commemorated by this fountain of Atlas and its fellow of the Spilling
Cup.

And first of Atlas Aldobrandino, lord of that fair estate and many
others in that dim time centuries before the building of the villa.
Atlas was he named not at his baptism, but half in admiration, half in
derision by his mates, for his burliness of body and his inordinate
greediness of all kinds, for he coveted, say they, the entire earth,
clutched at a mighty part thereof, and what he seized upheld manfully.

Beside his Italian possessions he was lord of the whole of Venisi in
Southern France adjoining fair Provence, and though a bachelor of
upwards of seventy-one winters found himself mightily distraught with
love for the fair daughter of his neighbour, the figures of whose age
exactly reversed his own.

Many lords, counts, and barons were sighing suitors for her regard, and
when Aldobrandino, prefacing his request with lavish gifts of steeds,
falcons, and hounds, besought her hand of the great Count of Provence,
her father, the latter, not wishing to offend him, replied:

"I would willingly give her to you, were it not that it might seem
strange to the multitude of young knights eighteen to twenty years of
age now in pursuit of her, lords of Baux, of Toulouse, of Perpignan, and
vavasours of the great Emperor beyond the Rhone, who might all join
together and fall upon me. It is my one desire to live at peace with my
neighbours and to this end I have had to fight many hard battles.
Moreover, the girl herself may have her eye set upon some one of those
fresher sparks who are continually fluttering about her."

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Upper Cascade, Villa Aldobrandini]

"Friend," returned Aldobrandino, "be not anxious as to the event, for I
will devise a method of arranging the affair amicably with our young
friends."

We are informed that the enamoured Aldobrandino slept not a wink that
night, but concocted a wileful scheme which he confided to his friend.

"Do you announce a tournament at which whoever desires the honour of
your daughter's hand, and is of a rank and wealth sufficient to warrant
such pretension, shall have cordial welcome to fight, and in God's name
let her be the prize of the victor."

This proposition appealed to the lord of Provence, for it seemed a fair
one to which none of his warlike neighbours could object. Moreover, it
was even generous, coming as it did from Aldobrandino, who, though he
had been a doughty knight in his day, could now scarcely sit his saddle
for corpulency or aim a straight lance-thrust with his shaking arm.

The lists were made ready at Arles, heralds sent into all countries near
and far, and the tournament given out for the first of May following.

But Aldobrandino was more wily than appeared. He had no over-confidence
in his own prowess, and he sent immediately to the King of France, with
whom he was closely allied, begging him to lend him to act as his
champion for this occasion his most doughty knight, the most invincible
that could be met with in all feats of arms. In consideration of his
esteem for Aldobrandino the King sent him his favourite cavalier
Ricciardo (of whom much more hereafter), who, arriving at the castle of
the aged lover thus reported himself:

"I am sent," quoth he, "by my royal master to act in whatever capacity
may be most agreeable to you. Give your orders, therefore; it is my
devoir to execute them manfully."

"Then hear me," explained Aldobrandino. "It is my wish that you should
carry all before you at this tournament until I ride into the field,
when I will engage you, and you must suffer yourself to be vanquished,
so that I may remain the victor of the day."

Thus far have we followed with exact circumstantiality the relation of
the Italian writers before mentioned, to which also we shall later
return; but let us, for the sake of novelty in the telling of an old
story, for a little space change our view-point and give the play as it
was acted before the eyes of the fair lady who was herself its heroine.

Sancie was her name, or, if you will, Sanchia, third of the four fair
daughters of Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, who had the singular
fortune to marry each of the four to a king.

Perilous seemed this honour to this future father-in-law of monarchs, as
he admitted to his friend, Romeo de Villeneuve, what time he ceded to
St. Louis of France the strong castle of Tarascon as the dowry of his
daughter Marguerite. But Villeneuve very shrewdly consoled him. "For,"
quoth he, "let not this great expense trouble you. If you marry your
eldest high the mere consideration of that alliance will get the others
husbands at less cost."

The event approved his sagacity and also the prediction of a soothsayer,
to whom the four sisters had applied to know the rank of their future
husbands, for, requested to draw at venture from a pack of cards,
Marguerite straightway drew the king of swords, Eleanor the king of
money, Sancie the king of goblets, and Beatrice the king of clubs.[5]

The witch expounded this to mean that Marguerite should wed the
knightliest king in all the world and in all ages (which indeed came to
pass in the person of St. Louis); that Eleanor should in her king of
coins gain the monarch of the wealthiest of all realms, namely, England;
that Beatrice should have the misfortune to mate with a hard-hitting
savage, but still a king--a forecast fulfilled in Charles of Anjou,
brother of St. Louis, who won his kingdom of the two Sicilies by as hard
and as cruel fighting as ever dinted the armour or soiled the fame of a
knight; and that, finally, Sancie, the third in order of birth, but last
to find a lover, should of her own free will choose for her husband a
king of good fellows, whose kingdom was but that of cups.

This prophecy, I say, had been more than half fulfilled. The two elder
daughters were queens; the youngest was besought and contracted, when
their father, fearing perchance that the prediction would be carried out
in the case of his third and best-loved, set himself against fate and
called a halt in its proceedings.

It was unfitting, he declared, that Beatrice should be married before
her elder sister Sancie, and Charles of Anjou must perforce hold his
amorous desires in leash until his prospective sister-in-law was
disposed of.

This at first sight seemed no such difficult matter, for while the
others had each been meted one lover, on Sancie fortune had bestowed a
full half dozen. But though their numbers flattered the vanity and
pleased the coquetry of the lady, the quality of no one of them was
satisfactory to the father.

He had now an appetite for kings. Counts, barons, princes even would not
suit his palate, and as no monarch or scion of royalty had as yet
applied for Sancie's hand it struck his humour that a tournament such as
Aldobrandino proposed, well advertised in every court of Europe, might
draw some king, or at least an adventurous princeling, to the lists, as
indeed was proved by the sequel.

The queenly sisters of Sancie took up the project with great enthusiasm.
Queen Eleanor, consort of Henry III. of England, was visiting her sister
of France, and together they arranged every detail of the tournament, of
which King Louis was to be the judge.

The hopes of Beatrice jumped also with this plan as one which would
remove Sancie from her own path to true love, and of all the four
daughters of Raymond, Sancie was the only one who looked upon the
scheme with any dubiety.

But her older sisters, on their arrival at their father's capital city
of Arles, reassured her, explaining that though there would be a great
show of fair dealing yet they had plotted so cleverly that Sancie would
take her own pick from this rich strawberry plot of lovers.

"It is my husband's privilege," expounded Queen Marguerite, "before ever
the fighting begins, to bar out any knight as the procession files
before him in the grand entrée of the lists. You shall sit beside him
and indicate any whom you wish disallowed. Moreover, you can at any
moment whisper in Louis's ear and he will throw every advantage possible
in the way of your champion."

"Nevertheless," continued Queen Eleanor, "since it is possible that the
knight you favour may be notoriously inept in arms, you shall have
resource to another trial of skill--namely that of minstrelsy. Here
(like my predecessor of the same name, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine) I
will be judge.

"From the knights who have previously taken part in the tournament you
yourself shall winnow out a half dozen, and shall tell me secretly to
which of these I am to award the prize. Now confess, can anything be
fairer? Is there a possibility of your true love failing, if so be he
but enter the contest?"

But Sancie hung her head. "I have no true love," she said, "I am
absolutely heart-free."

"So much the better," cried the Queen of France, "and this shall be
announced at the outset. The tournament also shall be delayed a week
after the time set, to give you an opportunity to meet the contestants
and to know your own mind."

But the Queen of England caught Sancie's cheeks between her two hands.

"Listen little sister," she said softly, "I have brought with me from
England the very prince for you, my husband's brother, Richard, Earl of
Cornwall[6]; well worthy he to bear the name of his great uncle, Coeur
de Lion. 'King of Good Fellows' he is dubbed by his friends, for he is
loved by all who know him."

"King of Good Fellows," repeated Sancie softly; "tell me more of him,
sweet sister. Is he as valiant in arms as he is lovable, as fortunate as
he is deserving?"

"Accomplished is he in all that becomes a knight," replied Eleanor, "but
fortunate so far is he not. Always when he stands on the verge of
success he yields his advantage to another, holding that love, even that
of an adversary, is the dearest prize of all."

"Would he so yield me, think you?" questioned Sancie.

"Nay, not if he knew you," replied Queen Eleanor; "therefore to your
instant acquaintance, I have bidden him this afternoon to a game of ball
in the pleasance of the castle."

King Louis heard this conversation and it irked him, for though he had
assured the sisters that Richard would take part in the tournament, he
had not confided to them that he would do so in behalf of Prince
Aldobrandino. The pretensions of this aged lover had greatly amused the
ladies. They counted so surely on his discomfiture that even Sancie, who
abhorred him, had not thought it worth while to ask King Louis to bar
him from the contest.

Richard also had given his word to play but the part of an understudy in
this drama before he had seen Sancie, else never would he have consented
to the compact. King Louis had indeed explained it to him before sending
him to Aldobrandino, and Richard had demanded carelessly: "Of what sort
is the maiden?" The King had answered: "All of the daughters of Raymond
Berenger are fair, and Sancie is next to my Marguerite, who is fairest
fair."

Then Richard smiled, for he remembered that when he had questioned his
brother Henry, of England, what time he went to claim his bride, of her
beauty, he had answered: "All of the daughters of Raymond Berenger are
fair, but my Eleanor is fairest, and the next in beauty is Sancie."

"Where such difference of opinion exists," thought Richard, "it were
well to leave the matter to an umpire," and he straightway submitted the
question to Charles of Anjou.

"Nay, they are both wrong," confidently declared that prince; "my
Beatrice is fairest, but Sancie is not far beneath her."

Then Richard laughed to himself: "Truly if the girl ranks but second
when compared with each of these her sisters, whose beauty I esteem not
at all, she is not worth the winning on my own behalf; and I am safe in
adventuring for the joy of the mere adventure."

But when Aldobrandino spake to him of her it was in other wise.
"Consider well," he said, "ere you undertake this business, for should
the beauty of Sancie drive you to such madness as to play me false then
of a surety I will kill you. Not in vain am I dubbed Atlas, for all
things upon earth which I desire I bear away upon my shoulders, and I
have sworn by the five wounds of God that she and she alone shall sit as
princess in my palace."

"'Tis a great oath," said Richard, "but you shall not be forsworn by me,
and verily I marvel that you have set your heart upon her if the opinion
of her brothers-in-law be credible." And with that he told the several
answers given to his questions.

Aldobrandino glowered upon him and grunted this reply: "You mind me of a
_stornello_ sung by our peasants:

    "'Flower o' the peach,
    Flowers for all fancies, his own love for each.'

"And verily," he added, "it is well that it is so, else should I have
had for rivals Louis and Henry and Charles, and perchance you also. The
flower o' the peach suits her well; she is but a homely little bloom o'
the kitchen garden beside her statelier rose and lily sisters. But, look
you, what use have I for such useless ornaments as your waxy-pale
lilies, your flaunting and fragile roses? What fruit bear they, I ask?
Why, pips and briars. Whereas the peach is a stocky tree, prolific and
profitable to its owner, for to its unadmired and modest blossom
succeedeth a toothsome fruitage. Therefore say I the flower o' the peach
for me. For, hist, Ricciardo, I am past the age when one goes maying for
flowers only. Women have had no great power over me, and a bachelor I
should die but that I have regard for what shall happen after me, and a
natural desire for the continuance of my race upon their old estates. It
is not so much a wife that I seek as a mother for my children. I would
see many and goodly sons about me, strong of body, lusty in fight, such
as only a wholesome and sturdy woman can bear and rear. If she have wit
enough to rule them it is enough for me; and as for beauty, the less the
better in the eyes of other men for her whom my descendants shall claim
with pride as mother of the Aldobrandini."


II

THE ORDEAL

  One maiden trimly girt
  Bore in her gleaming upheld skirt
  Fair silken balls sewed round with gold;
  Which when the others did behold
  Men cast their mantles unto earth,
  And maids within their raiment's girth
  Drew up their gown skirts, loosening here
  Some button on their bosoms dear
  Or slender wrists, then making tight
  The laces round their ankles light;
  For folk were wont within that land
  To cast the ball from hand to hand,
  Dancing meanwhile full orderly.
  Lovely to look on was the sway
  Of the slim maidens neath the ball
  As they swung back to note its fall
  With dainty balanced feet; and fair
  The bright out-flowing, golden hair,
  As swiftly yet in measured wise
  One maid ran forth to gain the prize;
  Eyes glittered and young cheeks glowed bright
  And gold-shod feet, round limb and light,
  Gleamed from beneath the girded gown
  That, unrebuked, untouched was thrown
  Hither and thither by the breeze;
  Shrill laughter smote the thick-leaved trees,
  Till they, for very breathlessness,
  With rest the trodden daisies bless.

  WILLIAM MORRIS.

Cold and calculating, nay coarse also seemed the motives of Aldobrandino
to Richard as he pondered them. "Not so," thought he, "would I set about
the choosing of my wife--as it were the purchase of a brood-mare." Still
more his soul revolted at this low animalism when that afternoon he for
the first time beheld sweet Sancie playing at ball with her sisters in
the pleasance of the palace of Aries.

The game was set to music, the measured beating of a tambour with the
light chiming of silver bells. Some said that Marguerite was most regal;
so stately she moved to the rhythm of the dance, that one might have
fancied that the glorious statue of the Venus of Arles had descended
from her ancient shrine to tread a measure with her maidens. But Eleanor
danced with more vivacity and passion. You would have thought her of
Spanish blood as she leapt and whirled, catching the ball with the lithe
ferocity of a panther. For Beatrice, Richard had no eyes, for as he
watched Sancie, he knew what her three kingly brothers-in-law had meant
when each could name only his own heart's dearest as her superior. He
saw, too, why Aldobrandino had likened her to a peach-blossom, for her
complexion had that even delicate flush, not white and red in spots, but
roseate everywhere, like the heart of a conch shell or the breast of a
pink curlew.

Abounding health spake in her buoyant step, but she was fine as well as
strong. The rounded contours of her cheeks and shoulders were soft as
those of a babe, and Richard had seen naught in all his life so
exquisite as her dimpling smile. Would you know with more particularity
how she appeared to him, look you straightway at the sweet maid in the
foreground of that _Coronation of the Virgin_ which Fra Lippo Lippi
painted; and from the framing of wayward little curls that make their
escape from a veil of silver tissue, a tangle withal to mesh a man's
heart in, from that face, I say (though the painter-monk had ne'er the
felicity to see her), Sancie's round eyes will search your soul and will
remain in your memory for evermore.

You will not wonder then that Richard blessed God in his heart for
making a thing so fair, and stood as one in amaze until the ball with
which she was playing fell at his feet.

Needs must then that he return it to her and join in the game, for this
was the custom when one of the players dropped out, as had Beatrice from
weariness.

So he played, but he saw not the ball, only her who sped it, and making
many faults the game was adjudged to her.

[Illustration: Face of Young Girl in the Coronation of

the Virgin

By Fra Filippo Lippi Permission of Alinari]

Then they walked together, others of the company following in twos and
threes at a discreet distance, in that _allée_ which still retains its
ancient name, Les Alyscamps (Champs Elysées--Elysian Fields), where
'neath the taller trees the oleanders shot in long curves bursting in
pink fire, like rockets, above their heads. Here, seated upon one of
those carven tombs which now make benches for lovers in that enchanting
spot, she told him old legends of St. Trophime, how he and his fellows
sculptured about the portal of his abbey descend from their niches and
keep here the eve of Toussaint. "You will see them," she said, "when you
go to hang your shield in the cloister, where it must be displayed, if
so be you fight in this foolish joust. Truly sorry and shamed am I that
so many gallant knights must run the risk of wounds and death for little
me."

"'Tis a small venture for so great a prize," said Richard.

"Then, as you fight, let it be your best, for--" but here she paused and
ended her sentence differently from her first intention--"for I would
not have you hurt," and her face grew yet rosier.

Richard cursed his fate that he might not fight his best, but his
cursing was in his heart, what he said was: "The fortunes of such a
joust are very fickle and it must needs happen that many a good knight
will fight his doughtiest and yet not succeed. If I am among that
number, sweet lady, I pray you set not my mischance down to lack of
will, for in no tournament that I have ever entered had I so great
desire to win."

She looked no higher than the Plantagenet leopards gold-embroidered upon
the breast of his doublet. "Since, to spare the knights the
mortification of public discomfiture, my father hath decreed that they
fight incognito (their true names being known only to the _roi d'armes_
who passes upon their qualifications), will you not tell me the device
which you have chosen?"

"Choose my device for me," he said, "and I will cause it to be blazoned
on my shield and embroidered on my pennant."

"It has been foretold," she answered pensively, "that I shall wed the
King of Cups. Therefore, if you honestly desire to win choose that
emblem."

"My cup runneth over," he murmured--and their lips met.

Ere they parted there was heard a sound of laughter, as it were the
crackling of light flame, for there was no mirth in the sound, and
Aldobrandino stood before them regarding the pair with a derisive leer.
"There is an old proverb which it were well you should both remember,"
he said. "If I mistake not it runneth in this wise, 'There is many a
slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.' It were meet that the cup you blazon
should be a spilling one."

"Better spilling than swilling," cried Richard, his eyes aflame, and
Sancie affrighted ran away.

"I forgive you those stolen sweets for this once," said Aldobrandino,
"for you had great provocation. Said I not rightly a peach-blossom? Nay,
a peach rather, ripe and luscious. Watered not your mouth in that game
of ball when the strain of her deep breathing and the violent turning
and twisting of her lithe body burst the lacing of her corsage and half
her fair bosom broke covert? What a pillow was that for a bridegroom,
eh, Ricciardo?"

"Nay," retorted Richard, "while she repaired that accident I lifted not
my eyes above the hem of her robe, that so her rare modesty might take
no offence."

"And had you kept them there throughout the game you would have seen
much to admire," continued Aldobrandino. "Ah! the pretty little feet,
the shapely ankles! But marked you those of her sisters? Cranes and
ostriches! storks and sandpipers! And they call themselves not
water-fowl but women!"

"Swine!" said Richard to himself, "hog, not another word or I shall
burst. And what unspeakable villainy is this that I should have taken
service to deliver so pure and precious a maiden into the power of such
a beast!"

This feeling grew upon him in the short space of time before the
tournament, for he met her daily, and as he marked her,--the flicker of
her eyelashes upon her cheeks and the quick in-drawing of breath through
her sensitive nostrils when the tales of the trouvères and jests of the
jongleurs offended her exquisite modesty--his heart swelled with pain
intolerable that so pure a flower should be set up as a prize for the
hardest fighter to snuff at. Not so, he made bold to express his mind to
Aldobrandino, should such a maid be won.

"How then," snorted the other in astonishment. "What method were fairer,
I ask you?"

"What than to appeal to her own heart," Richard made answer, "and that
by gentle observance, delicate attentions, and such refinements of
self-sacrifice as in their practice might elevate a lover to some
worthiness of the honour he courts?"

Aldobrandino sniffed his scorn. "Appeal to her heart in the last resort
I grant you, but only thus: Lady, will you have me? An she will _not_,
what would your servility gain? An she _will_, it is needless. In either
case it is ridiculous. Trust me, a woman sets more store by the man who
compels her admiration than by him who sues for it. If he breaks the
bones of other men to win her, that is compliment enough and mark you
well, Ricciardo, it is all that I demand of you in my service."

So the week sped before the tournament; and Richard loved Sancie more
and more, and ever Aldobrandino was at his side taunting him until he
burst forth into many a torrent of indignation, whereat the other but
laughed and leered, so that Richard loathed and hated him to the death.

At last came the great day, and among the pennons of the challenging
knights, which made gay the ancient amphitheatre of Arles where the
lists were staked, there fluttered one bearing the device of a golden
cup from which ran a stream of silver water. Also when Richard, with
visor drawn and all in mail of shining steel, caracoled in the field, he
was hailed Knight of the Spilling Cup, and Sancie's hand at that sign
trembled so that had it held a beaker her robe would have been well
besprinkled.

As the prize of this joust was a peculiar one, so was the manner of its
contention. King René had not then formulated his rules for the conduct
of a tourney, and the public tournaments at this time were of so savage
a character that King Louis held them in reprehension and was determined
that this trial of arms, which was but a friendly joust, should be a
model of chivalric self-restraint and courtesy. There was much grumbling
when the rules were published by the heralds that there was to be no
fighting to the death with weapons of war, no sharp steel points to the
lances, nor hacking with battle-axes, and though the mace was allowed
this bludgeon was shorn of its iron knobs and points.

But when it was known that the King had stricken out the mêlée, or
pitched battle of the second day, when all comers gentle and simple were
by ancient custom allowed to range themselves in two parties under the
banners of the victorious knight and him who stood second, all were of
one opinion, namely that Louis had so emasculated the sport of all its
zest that now was neither opportunity for young and unknown knights to
distinguish themselves or a spectacle sufficiently diverting to keep the
ladies from yawning.

Nevertheless the King would not budge from his ruling, and the
descendants of the very barbarians for whom Cæsar had built the
amphitheatre in order that their savage instincts might be sated came
sulkily to their seats ready to deride this gentle passage at arms. But
certes they had more thrilling sensations than they had counted upon,
more of tingling along the spine and lifting of the hair as knight after
knight went down and esquires dragged their masters from the tawny dust
clouds that hid the plunging chaos. Tender maids, noble ladies, yea, and
strong men felt their hearts stop and their stomachs turn as these pale,
blood-bedabbled contestants were carried away, their heads wagging from
limp necks, to the pavilion where the leeches provided by Raymond
Berenger awaited them. But I do anticipate the order of my relation.

Eight noble knights, lords of neighbouring provinces and some as well of
foreign countries, all sumptuously accoutred and mounted on gaily
caparisoned steeds, entered the arena in procession, and, having saluted
the King and the ladies, took their positions in two companies at either
extremity of the lists. For in this wise had it been ordered--that they
should tilt in single combat, their adversaries having been previously
determined by lot, one couple succeeding another until each knight had
fought once.

And after these four trial courses had been run, the four knights
adjudged to have won therein the greatest glory must be matched again in
two other duels, whereof the two victors might contest in the final
combat for the great prize of the tourney.

Hautboys and trumpets sounded shrilly the onset, and the first pair of
knights, laying their lances in rest, rushed to the encounter.

It may well be understood that in this series of preliminary single
combats, Sancie had eyes alone for that in which Richard figured. Easy
was his victory, for charging against young Raymond of Toulouse (seventh
of that name) so violent was the shock of his spear against his
opponent's shield that both Raymond and his steed rolled upon the
ground. Fortunate was that knight to have broken only his thigh, a
mischance which Richard strove to mitigate by most assiduous tendance
during Raymond's convalescence. But now for the glory of the feat he was
apportioned a weightier warrior, Barral des Baux, who had won like
renown in the trial contest, having thrust his antagonist out of his
saddle in such wise that he dinted the field with the back of his head,
and to such effect that thereafter he had no memory either for good or
ill, no, not so much as of this astounding adventure or of his
sweetheart's face. When Richard met the redoutable Des Baux their
lance-heads were planted squarely each upon the shield of the other, but
the polished curving surface offering no purchase both lances slipped,
and Barral's splintering and glancing downward was thrust into the
haunch of Richard's horse. The creature uttered a piteous, human-like
cry which was echoed by Sancie, and Richard hearing that wail and
feeling himself sinking so that his feet touched the ground, believed
that he had lost the day. But even then a roar echoed around the concave
of the amphitheatre: "The cup hath it, the cup! the cup!" and he saw the
Lord of Les Baux lying at a little distance with blood trickling upon
the sand from the bars of his helmet. For Richard's lance had slipped
upward and penetrating between gorget and helmet had pierced and
dislocated Barral's jaw. This alone was enough to give Richard his
second victory, but there were three added points of humiliation for the
Knight of Les Baux, namely: his lance had been broken, he had been
unhorsed, and, with maladroitness worthy of the merest tyro, had injured
a horse when he had aimed at its rider.

On the other hand Richard was untouched in person, his arms also in good
condition, and he could not be said even to have quit his saddle since
he remained astride his steed with his feet still in the stirrups.

But Alphonso of Aragon, had also won laurels for the second time, for
though his lance had slipped on the shield of his opponent precisely as
Richard's had done, it had wrought far greater damage, for, tearing away
the visor from the helmet of his antagonist it had blinded and
disfigured him for life.

Therefore honours remained equal between these two champions who must
now run the final and deciding course.

But Richard's good horse was cruelly maimed and could scarce be gotten
from the arena, nor had he thought to have another ready outside the
lists. Raymond Berenger sent a page to his own stables for his best
horse, but ere he returned the loss was repaired by another, and Richard
entered upon a powerful coal black stallion, tricked with scarlet
housings. A noise of clapping greeted his entrance for the favourite
horse of Aldobrandino had been recognised and it was supposed (though in
this they much mistook their man), that by this courtesy he signified
his renunciation of any intention to compete.

The heralds also made proclamation that if the knights chose they might
fight this last passage at arms with swords or maces, and swords being
chosen each spurred toward the other, their good blades flashing in the
sunshine and Richard with a sweep of his arm sheared the plume from his
adversary's crest. But Alphonso, who missed his proper stroke, dealt him
a dirty thrust in the side as he was passing. It pricked through
Richard's armour but scratched him only and roused him to such energy
that he swung around, clasped Alphonso in his arms, and all on horseback
as they were, wrestled with him till he threw him over his charger's
crupper to the earth.

Then the King asked Sancie loudly: "Are you content to give your hand to
the winner of this contest?" and the herald shouted her answer so that
all heard it: "The high and puissant Lady, Sancie, willingly grants her
hand as prize to the victor."

But even as he cried, all were aware that the end was not yet, for the
_roi d'armes_ pricked to the King's balcony and again the herald blew
his trumpet and announced that another challenger, delayed from
appearing at the first, contested this decision. Having been bidden
enter, a burly knight mounted upon a giant percheron rode into the
lists, all cased in sable armour and carrying a shield which displayed
Atlas supporting the globe.

Then Charles of Anjou, who fought not, but sat by the side of his
betrothed, scoffed, "Ho, mountain of flesh, globe of blubber, and
colossus of conceit, here is a whale indeed among fishes, a
world-bearing monster, who fancieth that all the affairs of this earth
rest upon his shoulders. 'Tis a cup which our gallant knight will soon
spill for him. Hold fast, fair ladies, for the globe is about to topple
from its foundations!"

But, to the astonishment of the speaker and of all present, the knight
of Atlas riding full tilt against him of the Spilling Cup, drove him
backward, as it seemed, by his sheer weight, so that the barrier crashed
behind his horse's haunches, and the rider, letting fall his lance
acknowledged himself vanquished.

Only Richard himself knew what that submission cost him. For while their
spears were crossed, the head of Aldobrandino's tapping his opponent's
shield, it was with a weak and wavering touch; while Richard's had found
a joint in the armour of the knight of Atlas, and had he not generously
and dexterously withdrawn his lance, Aldobrandino by the very force of
his onset, would have transpierced himself upon it.

For the moment he had his adversary in his power, and even as he
withheld the spear he cried to Aldobrandino, "What hinders me from
rolling you in the dust and myself winning that prize inestimable?"

Aldobrandino, knowing well in what emergency he stood, replied calmly,
"But one thing hinders--your word as a belted knight," and at that
answer Richard's head drooped and he sank to earth as one sore wounded.

But the spectators knew naught of this byplay. Hearing not the words,
they put their own construction on the pantomime. Judge then what was
their surprise, what the vexation of the two Queens and the despair of
the fair Sancie, when the knight of Atlas, raising his visor, displayed
the features of Aldobrandino.

King Louis announced him victor, though it was noted that he had never
done anything with so ill a grace, and indeed the good King's
conscience smote him so sorely, knowing himself a partner in the trick,
that he could never have made the ruling but that he hoped it would be
reversed in the poetical contest yet to come.


III

THE "FLORAL GAMES"

  O for a draught of vintage that hath been
  Cool'd a long age in the deep delved earth,
  Tasting of Flora and the country green,
  Dance and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth.

  KEATS.

The tournament of wits seemed to give, Richard one more chance to win
the prize he coveted; for this purpose it was originally instituted, and
it seemed to the luckless knight himself that here at last he had fair
play, since he was under no obligation to Aldobrandino to defer to him
in this contention, nor did he believe that Aldobrandino's talents were
superior to his own. The only other knight who had registered for this
contest was Barral des Baux, and this in despite of his bandaged visage,
for though his hurt permitted him not either to sing or to speak, yet by
good fortune he could write, having been instructed by the monks of
Mont Majour, and being violently in love with the fair Sancie, he would
bate no effort to win her. So though all the nine who had taken part in
the passage-at-arms were eligible, there were but three competitors, for
five had been so desperately wounded that they could not stand, and
Alphonso of Aragon so shamed and furious that he refused to take part.

But when his friends congratulated Richard that this was so, and
especially that Raymond of Toulouse was out of the reckoning (for he of
all the nine was the only troubadour of repute and the one likely to be
a formidable antagonist) though Richard's heart at first leapt at their
news, he liked it the less as he gave it more consideration. For he had
it on his conscience that he was responsible for Raymond's
incapacitation, and he wished not to win a victory on such terms.
Therefore he went to his wounded rival, tended and encouraged him, and
in the end brought him to the contest in a litter, thereby gravely
jeopardising his own chance of success. Richard, never at any time a
glib jingler of rhymes, was in sorry case, for now that he had most need
of his wits, his passion instead of sharpening them seemed to have
removed them utterly. If he had but known it, he had a good friend in
Queen Eleanor, who was determined that he should win, and she fancied
that she had hit upon a scheme which would aid him.

Angry was she that such an accomplished poet as Raymond of Toulouse must
be admitted to the contest. "But, at all events," she told her sisters,
"that renowned minstrel shall bring no polished work of long study to
match against the untutored outpourings of my favourite's heart. Already
have I ordained, with my assistant judges, that since some one of the
contestants may be tempted to present a poem not his own, plagiarism
shall be counted the one unpardonable crime, and, to guard against it,
we demand that no verses of any sort be brought to the games, but that
the competitors improvise on the instant upon one and the same theme to
be given out after their assembling."

This proposal pleased her three sisters. "They shall recite or sing to
us, 'poesies on the flowers we wear,'" said Queen Marguerite, "and shall
thus rank and compare our own qualifications for esteem. Clever will he
be who can do this without offending any of us. But let us each beware
of imparting to any one this information."

Even while she thus spoke Marguerite's right eyelid, the one nearest to
Queen Eleanor, quivered ever so slightly, and her foot pressed Sancie's.
The kindly plotter counted that the girl would straightway convey this
news to Richard, and she, poor child, was sorely tempted to do so. But
she knew instinctively that he would refuse to profit by such advantage,
therefore she told him not so much as the flower which she would herself
wear, though she had chosen a spray of blossoming peach because he had
once said it was his favourite, and because in her heart of hearts she
hoped that rhymes concerning these sweet blooms might be already in his
mind. But Richard, suspecting nothing of this, came to the Floral Games
empty headed and as ignorant as the others as to the programme; and when
he saw the brilliant and distinguished company waiting to pass verdict
upon his poor verse he was filled with confusion. At the right of Queen
Eleanor, sat the troubadour Sordello, the friend of Charles of Anjou who
might easily have vanquished all present in the framing of _coblas_,
_sirenas_, _sirventes_ and all kinds of poems, as well as in the ruder
feats which may become a knight; but he for love of his fair Cunizza
had disdained the prize of the present contest, and had come solely to
assist the Queen in her decision. Also in the raised arbour by the side
of Eleanor sat her uncle Boniface of Savoy, whom the King of England had
made Archbishop of Canterbury. His grace was said to have no little
skill in the framing of love sonnets, though chants and canticles would
have better beseemed a churchman.

The pleasance was all abloom with flowers, for the month was May, but
the ladies in their gauzy robes of delicate rainbow hues were lovelier
far than the favourites of Flora.

Eleanor having announced the terms of the contest, she and her three
sisters displayed the flowers which they had chosen as themes for the
controversy, and the challengers drew lots for order of precedence, with
the result that Barral des Baux came first, Aldobrandino second, Raymond
of Toulouse third, and Richard last.

Barral had composed and committed to memory a _sirvente_ or song of
battle which he proposed to write out, paper and quill being permitted
him in deference to his broken jaw. Great was his discomfiture to find
that it fitted not to the theme prescribed, but he cut his cloth to the
new pattern to the best of his ability. He retained the most effective
portions of his poem, its high-sounding phrases, and picturesque
descriptions of marshalling knights, the very category of whose arms,
plumed helms, hauberks, blazoned shields, flaunting pennons, inlaid
gauntlets, cross-hiked swords, golden spurs, and caparisoned steeds was
in itself a pageant. True he gave these champions as a motive for their
deeds of high emprise the demonstration of the supremacy of the
differing and rival charms of the four sisters as typified by the
flowers they affected; but he implied too plainly that those of the
peach-bloom were alone worthy of such contention. Himself he figured as
her accepted knight, hacking, slaying, scaling fortresses, pillaging,
burning, putting to torture or ransoming prisoners, and scorning with
brutal insults her sisters' flowers. This _sirvente_ which was
apparently composed during a brief interval during which the jongleurs
amused the company, was read in a sonorous voice by Archbishop Boniface.
But had Barral's desire been to antagonise all the daughters of Raymond
Berenger he could not better have succeeded, and when the Archbishop
took his seat a glance at the face of Queen Eleanor told des Baux that
he had lost the prize.

Aldobrandino was no more fortunate. He cast his poem in the form of a
_serena_ or night song, and spoke sadly and sentimentally of the evening
of old age, dusky and drear, and of that night of death which he saw
approaching. Strangely enough, he made no plea for present happiness,
but begged the flowers, or their ladies, to drop tears upon his grave
when he declared that he would sleep content.

Though chanted in all earnestness this grave-yard ditty chimed not in
with the joyous temper of the company. There was sly nudging and
smiling, a snicker from an ill-mannered page, and the only sighs were
those of relief when he ended.

It was now the opportunity of Raymond of Toulouse. Besides being an
accomplished technician in all forms of writing he was a man of shrewd
and lively apprehension, and his wound had by no means injured his wits.
As he lay upon the litter engaging the sympathy of the ladies and the
leniency of the judges he had divined rightly the reason of the
discomforture of each of his rivals. He saw that Aldobrandino had made
shipwreck by reason of his indifference to the charms of all, and des
Baux on account of his zeal for one at the expense of the others, for
not a single protestation of esteem, not a compliment even had any one
of Sancie's sisters received, and this in face of the well known fact
that all were beautiful and eager for appreciation.

In avoiding the conspicuous lapses of his predecessors Raymond with all
his guile fell into another pitfall. He lauded the Rose, the Daisy, the
Garland of Vine Leaves worn by Eleanor, Marguerite, and Beatrice in
three canzonets so perfect in form, so exquisite in diction that they
rivalled the ditties of Thibault of Champagne, who was hitherto
accounted as having written "the most delightful and most melodious
canzonets that at any time were heard."

But in doing this he exhausted all terms of endearment and admiration
which he could command, and when he attempted to celebrate the Peach
Blossom he could only repeat utterances already made, so that his
conclusion was an anticlimax, bad in art and unfortunately giving the
impression that he was more enamoured of Sancie's sisters than of
herself.

The insincerity of his graceful verse was apparent to all. Sordello and
Boniface who had nodded their appreciation at the conclusion of the
first, second, and third canzonets, scowled and coughed at the fourth,
and though there was applause sufficient to gratify this poet's vanity
it misled him as to the impression which he had made upon his judges.

Richard knew not that Raymond had over-shot his mark; it seemed to him
that he had surely won, and that it was useless for him to offer his
halting verses, save as a tribute of genuine feeling. Such they were,
and honesty even in literature and courtship is some whiles best policy.
But one thought had sunk itself in his distracted brain since noting
what flower his beloved carried, how that Sancie was Flower o' the Peach
and be the others what they might she was the flower of all flowers to
him. He had no knowledge of the complicated metres with which Provençal
troubadours played so deftly, but he had been in Italy and had marked
how the peasants bandied back and forth their bright _stornelli_ as
though the quick play were that of ball, the thought striking the fancy
and deftly handled as it leapt from one to the other of the players.

Therefore he modestly announced that he would strive to imitate in the
_langue d'oc_ certain of these _stornelli a fiore_ trusting that their
rudeness and brevity might be forgiven.[7]

Queen Eleanor was crowned with roses and was throned beneath a canopy of
those royal flowers. To her Richard, accompanying himself upon the lute,
addressed his first _stornello_:

      "Flower o' the Briar--
    Though high on her trellis the Rose o' the Briar,
    Sits supreme o'er the garden my heart clambers higher."

"How may that be," laughed Eleanor, "if I am 'supreme o'er the garden?'
'Tis enough for me; but I see not how you can o'ertop that compliment.
Let me hear what you have to say to my sister of France."

Marguerite, as befitting her name, wore daisies, and squaring his
shoulders Richard sang lustily,

    "Flower o' the Marguerite;
    Queen of the garden, fair Reine Marguerite,
    If my heart were not captive 't would lie at your feet."

"'Tis Beatrice then who holds your heart in thrall?" bantered the
queen, for she was malicious enough to plunge him in further difficulty.
Here also was a coil for Beatrice was jealous of Sancie's beauty, and
her lover, Charles of Anjou, sat beside her quick to resent any
aspersion upon his mistress.

Beatrice, like a bacchante, had bound her brows with vine leaves one of
which Charles now broke off and handed to the competing minstrel. With a
gallant bow and a smile which atoned for the quizzical reservation,
Richard sang,

    "Flower o' the Vine;
    For you, merry Charles, the chaplet of vine
    'T is a guerdon all envy, so pray grant me mine."

Laughter resounded from every side of the pleasance mingled with cries,
"Your flower! Name your favourite flower."

Then Richard knelt before Sancie, who hid her face behind the blossoms
which so well matched her blushes, and sang from his heart:

    "Flower o' the Peach,
    Flower o' the Peach, dearest Flower o' the Peach,
    A flower for each fancy--his own love for each."

Brief was the consultation between the judges. Queen Eleanor descended
from her throne and amid clappings and bravoes gave Richard the stalk
of lilies which had served her for sceptre and was now his palm of
victory.

[Illustration: The Floral Games

From the painting by Jacques Wagrez. Permission of Braun,

Clement & Co.]

Ere he could take it from her hand, however, with a snort and bellow
like that of a bull, my lord Aldobrandino faced the Queen.

"Gramercy," he cried, "shall so fair a prize be won foully by false
plagiarism?"

"What charge is this you make," demanded Queen Eleanor.

"That yon traitor stole from me that songlet of the peach, and though he
has trussed it out of countenance with gawds of his own invention still
the root of the matter is mine."

"What answer you to this accusation, Richard?" asked the Queen.

"That he speaks truly," Richard replied, "mine is indeed a spilling
cup."

The queen was loth to give judgment against her favourite and there was
wrangling between her advisors as to what amount of theft were
admissible in literature, but their opinion was stricter than I pray
yours may be, most gentle reader, and they gave their verdict, "The
prize is to Prince Aldobrandino."

At that verdict Sancie fainted in the arms of Queen Marguerite, and
Richard hid his face in his hands, crying, "I cannot bear it."

Then Prince Aldobrandino spoke and they saw how they had misjudged the
man.

"You cannot bear this disappointment, say you, Ricciardo? Look you at
the device upon my shield, Atlas, and the motto, _Sustino omnes_. I can
bear all things, even such loss as this, and, since I see well that the
lady loves me not, of my own motive yield I the prize to you, Ricciardo,
who well deserve what you have truly won."

"Nay," cried Richard, for admiration of so great magnanimity fired his
emulation, and he would not be outdone. "Nay, my lord, the judgment of
this court cannot be thus lightly set aside. 'The prize' it has decreed,
'must be to Prince Aldobrandino.' Thy oath also that the Lady Sancie
shall be mother of the Aldobrandini is registered in heaven."

"I would forfeit neither prize nor oath," replied Aldobrandino, "but
there is a scripture on which I have pondered much of late--'Who
knoweth,' quoth the wise man, 'who shall reign after thee, and whether
thy son shall be a fool?' So might he well be if he resembled me, and
against such ill-chancing will I now be assured. A son after my own
heart do I find in thee, Ricciardo, for I have probed and proved thee,
taking the measure of thy mind until I know thee clean of soul as thou
art strong of body. I go in fulfilment of a secret vow, neither recently
nor lightly made, to end my days with the brotherhood of St. Benedict,
but first I do adopt thee son, and heir to all my estates. Let the
judgment of this court stand and the prize be to Prince Aldobrandino for
henceforth that is thy name and title."

The good man could not be swerved from this resolution. The lawyers drew
up the act of relinquishment, Archbishop Boniface blessed the happy
pair, who spent their honeymoon in their villa at Frascati, and from
thence was Richard called by election to be King of the Romans. It was
an honour which he held not long, nor did children of his continue the
line of the Aldobrandini. Too careless was he of his own advantage when
it ran counter to the desires of another; but in the magnificent
Frascati villa, where he made such short tarrying, you may still find
Richard's fountain not far from that of Atlas.

To his estates in Cornwall he shortly returned; and testimony to his
character corroborative of this story, and as credible as that of the
Italian authorities we have quoted (Sacchetti and Ser Giovanni), you
may read in the ballad of

      ERL RICHARD, KING OF GOOD FELLOWS.

    "His wine was for others' sipping,
      For lightly he gave it up,
    There's slipping 'twixt pouring and lipping
      And his was a spilling cup.

    "But ne'er for the lost good liquor
      Was Richard heard to sigh.
    'I shall not bicker so friends grow thicker,
      And the cup of love hold I.'

    "So in praise of that loser willing
      They carved his cup awry,--
    Spilling----but aye re-filling
      To witness if I lie!"

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Villa d'Este, at Tivoli--Present State]



CHAPTER V

WITH TASSO AT VILLA D'ESTE


  His weary heart awhile to soothe
  He wove all into verses smooth.

  * * *

                     for soothly he
  Was deemed a craft-master to be
  In those most noble days of old,
  Whose lays were e'en as kingly gold
  To our thin brass or drossy lead;
  Well, e'en so all the tale is said
  How twain grew one and came to bliss?
  Woe's me, an idle dream it is!

  WILLIAM MORRIS.

Supreme above all the enchanted gardens of Italy, both in the
bewildering beauty of its sensuous charm and in the potency of its
appeal to the imagination, stands the Villa d'Este at Tivoli.

It is a hillside villa, a succession of terraces forming a stairway of
flowers between the palace and the lower garden, where

  "Cypress and fig tree and orange in tier upon tier still repeated,
  Rose-garden on garden upheaved in balconies step to the sky."

But it is also a superb water-staircase, for the river Anio, turned from
its course by a gigantic feat of engineering, leaps in a magnificent
cascade, laughs in the spray of a thousand fountain jets, and makes the
bosquets which shadow the regal staircase a haunt of the water nymphs as
well as of the Dryads. You fancy, as your unwary foot presses the
concealed springs that it is the white hands of mischievous Naiads which
dash the water in your face, a pensive melancholy settles upon you with
the mysterious dusk, and you are startled by Undine's "short, quick
sobs," and are loth to believe that the plaintive sounds with which the
air pulses are but the dropping of rills in and out of the shadowy
pools.

The pompous hydraulic organ no longer thunders its "full-mouthed
diapason," but the nightingales fill the long summer nights with their
surges of wild rhapsodies. Both the eye and the ear of the artist
receive refreshment and stimulus here. The garden is a bath of
verdancy and coolness even upon the most torrid day. The very light
which filters through the dense foliage is tinged with green. The
marbles are velvety and moist with moss, and the maidenhair fern drips
lush and dank. Here Liszt drew inspiration from the harmonies of water
notes blended with the chiming of distant bells, and Watteau showed in
the many studies which he made in the garden how potent was its
influence in investing his _fêtes champêtres_ with the grace of the
idyl.

[Illustration: In the Garden of Villa d'Este

From a photograph by Mr. Charles S. Platt]

That its appeal was no less powerful to a poet, the "craft-master" of
his day, it is our purpose later to show.

Many minor poets also have felt and, with more or less success, have
interpreted its wondrous charm--Story perhaps best of all.

    "What peace and quiet in this villa sleep!
    Here let us pause nor chase for pleasure on,
    Nothing can be more exquisite than this.
    See how the old house lifts its face of light
    Against the pallid olives that between
    Throng up the hill. Look down this vista's shade
    Of dark square-shaven ilexes where sports
    The fountain's, thin white thread and blows away.
    And mark! along the terraced balustrade
    Two contadini stopping in the shade
    With copper vases poised upon their heads,
    How their red jackets tell against the green!
    Old, all is old,--what charm there is in age!
    Do you believe this villa when 'twas new
    Was half so beautiful as now it seems?
    Look at these balustrades of travertine--
    Had they the charm when fresh and shapely carved
    As now that they are stained and graved with time
    And mossed with lichens, every grim old mask
    That grins upon their pillars bearded o'er
    With waving sprays of slender maidenhair?
    Ah, no! I cannot think it; things of art
    Snatch nature's graces from the hand of Time."

But it is the view afforded by the double arcade of loggias and by every
window of the palace façade which was the crowning glory of the villa.
The amethystine Sabine Hills and the immense Campagna encircle the
Eternal City, from whose mists the dome of Saint Peter's seems to rise a
buoyant, iridescent bubble.

It was Pirro Ligorio (architect also of the exquisite Villa Pia) who in
1545 accomplished the miracle of converting the savage cliff into a
staircase of enchantment. Nature had given the villa its marvellous site
and genius availed itself of all the resources of art and wealth to
effect the wonder.

Cardinal Ippolito's orders to Ligorio were: "Surpass the work of Vignola
in the villas of Caprarola and Lante. Restore the glory of Tivoli in the
Augustan age."

[Illustration: Hydraulic Organ, Villa d'Este.]

Excavations in the neighbourhood were daily bringing to light
masterpieces of classical sculpture, and for the "statues which whiten
the shadow" of Villa d'Este, Ligorio was given carte blanche to despoil
the gardens of Hadrian's palace. To-day only a long procession of broken
pedestals bears witness to statues of emperors, gods, and goddesses long
since removed to different museums.

The exodus began immediately upon the succession of Ippolito's nephew,
Cardinal Luigi d'Este, who came to his inheritance deeply in debt; but
that spendthrift prelate retained sixty statues, some of which are seen
in the etching made by Piranesi, and it was not until 1745 that these
were purchased by Cardinal Albani.

The creator of this paradise, Cardinal Ippolito d'Este II., son of
Lucrezia Borgia, was, like his villa, a refined product of the later
Renaissance and must not be confounded with his uncle, Cardinal Ippolito
d'Este I.

This first Cardinal Ippolito was a man of very different fibre, as may
be seen from a single incident. Sent to Rome as his brother's envoy, on
the occasion of Duke Alphonso's marriage, he fell in love with a pretty
cousin of Lucrezia Borgia who accompanied the bride on her wedding
journey to Ferrara.

Unfortunately the coquettish girl praised the beautiful eyes of Giulio
d'Este, the Cardinal's younger brother, whereupon this prince of the
Church hired assassins who waylaid his brother and tore out his
offending eyes.

The Duke banished Ippolito temporarily, but Giulio brooded over the
injury and conspired to depose Alphonso and place another brother, Don
Ferrante, on the throne. For this act both Ferrante and Giulio were
condemned to be imprisoned for life. Ferrante died in confinement but
Giulio, after fifty-three years spent in a dungeon of the castle, was
finally released.

It might have been expected that the blending of d'Este brutality with
the unscrupulous Borgia craft would have given as a result only a more
refined cruelty; but if this was the case Cardinal Ippolito II.
completely deceived his contemporaries and has left the reputation
(through the pen of his panegyrist Mureto) of the utmost affable
condescension and magnificent patronage of men of genius. He was himself
a dilettante; and it was his ambition to pose as the most cultured and
brilliant of the great cardinals of his day. Ippolito I. had been a boon
companion of Leo X. in his hunting parties at the Villa La
Magliana, but it was not as a "_cacciator signorile_" or "sporting
gentleman" that Ippolito II. wished to eclipse the then illustrious
representative of the house of Medici, Cardinal Ferdinando, who was
attempting to rival him in his magnificent villa on the Pincian hill.

[Illustration: Villa d'Este in 1740

From an etching by Piranesi]

It does not seem to have occurred to Mureto that both of these men were
looking forward to the papacy, and desired to emulate in their own
pontificates that of Leo X. Each piece of sculpture acquired for their
villas, every literary man attached to their service was a step toward
that end. Ippolito II. was as keen a hunter of genius as his uncle had
been of deer or boar; and having once bagged his game, as capable of
availing himself without scruple of his trophies as Ippolito I. of
tearing the antlers from a dying stag.

The princely Cardinal entertained on one occasion a house party of two
hundred and fifty guests in his palatial villa, and established here a
veritable court. The grandiose frescoes of Zuccari, Tempesta, Muziano,
and Vasari still celebrate the glories of his family under the guise of
the heroes of mythology garlanded by troops and bevies of cupids, "_una
copiosa quantita di Amorini_." But the gods and demigods banquet all
alone on the ceiling of the great hall where they once looked down upon
the revels of the Cardinal's convives--noble or distinguished men all of
them in their day, although the one name that comes to us of all who
shared Ippolito's lavish hospitality and that sheds most glory upon his
proud house is that of a poet, by turns patronised as a dependent,
ungratefully neglected, and cruelly wronged.

The visitor is shown with pride the room so whimsically decorated with
singing birds, where Tasso wrote his _Amyntas_, and the Fountain of
Nature in the lower garden where the pastoral was presented with musical
accompaniment before a distinguished audience.

That Leonora d'Este was among those who listened, and indeed had been
her uncle's guest and Tasso's good and evil fate during the months which
he spent at Villa d'Este, is the only conclusion possible for the
thoughtful reader of the poem; and the idyl composed under such
circumstances leads inevitably to the tragedy (enacted at that other
villa) of Belriguardo, of which Goethe has given us so truthful and so
masterly a transcription.

Cardinal Ippolito, as his portraits make him known to us, has none of
the sensuality which stamped the face of his grandfather Pope
Alexander Borgia, or the heaviness of jaw expressing the stubborness and
brutality of the earlier D'Estes; on the contrary, every line of the
slight figure is expressive of refinement, the delicate red-stockinged
feet are as shapely as a woman's, the expressive, almost transparent
hands might be those of an artist as they finger caressingly his
collection of intaglios and luxuriate in the smoothness of jades and
ivory carvings. His excessive pallor and thinness would give an
expression of asceticism, almost of spirituality to the intellectual
face were it not in a measure contradicted by the craft in the
close-set, slanting eyes, which with the pointed, fulvous beard suggest
a possibility of foxy cunning, and inspire in the beholder an
uncomfortable, haunting feeling of distrust even when the Cardinal's
manner is most condescending and cajoling.

So, robed in filmy lace over rosy velvet, we may see him in imagination
tripping daintily down his monumental staircase, his train islanding his
figure as in some ensanguined pool and slipping after him adown the
steps like the drip of some trail of blood which strangely leaves no
stain upon the white marble.

But his face is wreathed with smiles, for he genuinely loves his two
beautiful nieces, Lucrezia, Duchess of Urbino, and the gentle Leonora,
who are his guests, and he loves his villa, whose beauties he is
pointing out to them.

"You do not see the garden at its best," he cavils. "Wait till the roses
garland the balustrades. It is too early yet to enjoy Tivoli; the frost
may have left the ground but it lingers still in the pavements of this
great palace. The halls are damp as vaults; we would have done well, my
nieces, to have remained another month in Rome. Not till the middle of
May will society desert the city for its _villeggiatura_. What do you
say, Leonora, shall we confess that we have made a mistake and return?"

"Dear uncle, as you say, it is only the palace which, in spite of its
braziers, retains the winter chill. Here in the garden the air is balmy,
and the Judas trees are all a crimson mist. See how the green is
creeping, like an inundation through the russets of last year's grasses.
In another fortnight all this magical change will have been wrought, and
those who come later will have missed the fairy spectacle."

"Spectacle! ah! that reminds me," replied the Cardinal; "while Nature is
shifting the scenes we must prepare the _scenario_. Confess that I have
provided a worthy theatre, one which should suggest to a poet a worthy
theme. There, alas! is my great lack--I have no poet. How wastefully on
those who need them not are the most precious gifts bestowed! My uncle
and godfather, Cardinal Ippolito--the saints rest his soul!--was a
dull-brained barbarian and yet he had attached to his service that pearl
of poets Ariosto, whom he had neither the intelligence to appreciate nor
the justice to reward. What think you was Ariosto's meed for dedicating
to his patron the _Orlando Furioso_? He was made governor of that nest
of bandits, the mountain district of Garfagnana, and it in open
insurrection against the Duke of Ferrara. A pretty post for a scholar
and a poet! But to it he went, and conquered the brigands, proving
himself as expert in the use of the sword as in that of the pen.

"We produce no such men now. Bernardo Tasso, to whom I gave employment
when he was exiled from Naples, and who wandered freely in this garden,
felt not its charm, for he was but a third-rate poet, and even he is
dead. Who in our day can interpret the poetry which I feel here but
cannot express? And with but so little more of endowment I might have
done it, for after all is not the inner ear, the second sight, the major
part of genius?

"Listen, and tell me what you hear. Only the musical plash of the
fountains and the sonorous undertone of the organ, like the distant roar
of surf upon the beach? Ah, me! ah, me! how materialistic you are, my
children. Your old uncle hears in these myriad-voiced fountains the
musical instruments which Boccaccio gave to the Satyrs; 'cymbals, pipes,
and whistling reeds,' and the song of the nymphs. Did you note that
startled cry? It is the Oread Arethusa flying from the river-god
Alpheus. He is imprisoned in the organ, where he is mightily bellowing,
and whence he will presently burst forth. But Arethusa will slip away
(coquette that she is), under ground and under sea to her Sicilian home;
for fable and stream sing eternally the same story, _Mulier hominis
confusio est_.

"Tell me, my niece, have we in all Italy a poet who can voice such a
theme?"

"Yes, uncle," the Duchess of Urbino interposed, "Bernardo Tasso's little
son heard and understood the song of the fountains when he played here
in his childhood. He told me that he believed a _folletto_ or tricksy
spirit talked with him here and promised him that if he came again he
would find here both love and fame. He can interpret your songs for you,
for he has grown a man, and is a greater poet than his father."

"And meantime," added Leonora, "he has absorbed all that the
universities of Bologna and Padua can give him, and has written a
romantic poem, the _Rinaldo_, on the exploits of one of our ancestors,
that mythical old peer of Charlemagne, which he has dedicated to our
house. It is in recognition of this tribute that our brother Luigi has
made him his secretary."

"And Luigi is at the French Court intriguing with the Queen Mother,
Catherine de' Medici. Torquato is doubtless with him," replied the
Cardinal. "I ask you of what good to tantalise me with impossible
suggestions? He had the eyes of a poet, that lad, and he might have
served my turn."

"He may still serve you, Uncle Ippolito, for he has quarrelled with
Luigi, and is in Rome."

"And wherefore in Rome? To curry favour with Cardinal de' Medici?"

"Possibly, for Tasso is writing a great epic on the taking of
Jerusalem by Godfrey of Bouillon and his crusaders."

"'Tis no epic that I wish, but a pastoral--a mere trifle. Yet not so
fast. A poem such as you describe, if it were indeed a work of genius,
might rouse Christendom to another crusade, a life-work worthy of the
next Pope. Lucrezia, the boy must not submit his poem to Cardinal de'
Medici. Can you summon him to me, and will he come instantly?"

"If Leonora calls him," the Duchess replied, "he will come."

Cardinal Ippolito lifted his eyebrows almost imperceptibly and darted a
keen, sidelong glance at Leonora. She had not heard her sister's last
remark, the name of Torquato Tasso had obliterated the present and she
was gazing dreamily at the rainbow-tinted dome of St. Peter's.

"Leonora," the Cardinal said softly, "have you heard what Lucrezia was
saying, that this young poet has written an epic? If I could see it I
might be able to help him in his career, perhaps give him fame."

"O Uncle, will you? How good you are! I will write him at once."

"My dear, I am not good, or disinterested. I am a selfish, an ambitious
old man. This festival, given ostensibly for the entertainment of my
friends and to introduce my charming nieces, is a part of my deep,
ulterior motives. Come, I will confess the machinations of my wicked old
heart. Why not, since my ambitions are for you as well as for myself?
Nay, Leonora, never flush and tremble, I have no wish to buy my own
advancement by selling you to some degenerate prince. Matchmaking is not
my kind of diplomacy. I have seen enough in our own family of
magnificence won through the martyrdom of women. Your mother, Renée of
France, though a king's daughter, brought with her a dowry of
unhappiness. My own mother, innocent though she was, bequeathed to us
the shameful legacy of the Borgias' deeds and instincts. You may be
happy, Lucrezia, with your Duke of Urbino. I ask no confidences, but I
am glad that I am not responsible for your marriage.

"You, at least, Leonora, shall live your own life wedded or unwedded as
you like. I shall be so great that I can ennoble whom I will, and you,
beloved child, shall be the power behind the throne to advise me on whom
to shower my benefits."

Lucrezia clapped her hands softly. "Bravo, dear Uncle, I have guessed
this ambition, have I not? Cardinal de' Medici is already spoken of as
the Pope's successor. But the Medici balls have been carved too often
over St. Peter's chair, and you are minded to blazon in their place the
d'Este eagle. You need not answer for I know that I am right."

The Cardinal smiled mysteriously. "Too shrewd, my niece, too shrewd by
half. How your woman's intuition leaps over intervening obstacles. Never
a whisper of this guess at my aims. Remember, it is but your own surmise
and that I have never breathed such an aspiration. The immediate object
of my solicitude is to secure a charming play worthy of the setting of
Villa d'Este breathing the spirit of Ovid and Anacreon, one which will
make the old Greek gods live again in these delicious haunts and will
redound to the reputation of your uncle's taste in literature."

"How magnanimous you are," cried Leonora, "to disclaim your principal
motive, that of helping Tasso! He shall come, and he will give you the
most beautiful idyl that was ever written."

* * *

And who shall say that Tasso did not make good the promise of his
patroness? In the _Amyntas_ we have the development of a theme which is
the inevitable product of such a temperament in such a situation, and to
the poem itself we will now look for a record of what transpired at
Villa d'Este during the writing and the presentation of the pastoral.

To us it is true that the archaic quality, the pseudo-classicism of this
pastoral seems at first artificial. "It has only so much of rustic
nature as suits a graceful urban fancy." Arcadia is a no man's land, so
far from our desires that we cannot picture it even in imagination; but
to one who knows how sincere was the enthusiasm of the Renaissance for
Greek ideals as well as for modes of expression, how classicism had come
to be understood as a synonym for perfection in form whether in
literature or the plastic arts,--all the pretty imagery of the Golden
Age and its demigods becomes as natural a poetic rendering of sincere
feeling as the equally formal restrictions of the measure of the sonnet
or the rules which govern the composition of a concerto. Having once
learned its technique genius and passion were unconscious of their
limitations, but flowed with as true and spontaneous an impulse within
these formal bounds as waters in their marble fountains and conduits.

     "All the melodies that had been growing through two centuries in
     Italy [says Symonds] are concentrated in the songs of the _Amyntas_
     and the _Pastor Fido_. The idyllic voluptuousness which permeated
     literature and art steeps their pictures in a golden glow. While we
     recognise in both these poems--the one perfumed and delicate like
     flowers of spring, the other sculptured in pure forms of classic
     grace--evident signs of a civilisation sinking to decay, we are
     bound to confess that to this goal the Italian genius had been
     steadily advancing. They complete and close the Renaissance."

But the living quality in the _Amyntas_ which makes it a thousand-fold
more real to us than the Elizabethan masques is not its perfectness of
form but the stamp which it bears of being the expression of personal
experience and longing but thinly veiled in poetic imagery. Reading the
poem at Villa d'Este we read between the lines and recognise the _scena_
of the pastoral and the love which inspired its plot.

In spite of the changes wrought by time we discover the origin of each
descriptive passage. This rocky reservoir whose shadowy surface seems to
mirror reflections of mysterious faces is surely--

                      "Dian's pool
  Where the great plane's cool shade to cooler waves
  Invites the huntress nymphs."

Its encircling laurel thickets might mask to-day strange woodland
deities like the Satyr of the play who while Sylvia bathed

    "Crouched lynx-eyed among the thick-set shrubs."

The description of the tumultuous pursuit of this Satyr calls up so
vividly the Polyphemus in the _Triumph of Galatea_ that we are convinced
that Tasso must have been influenced by Raphael's great painting in the
Farnesina.

          "Not all am I
    A despicable thing,..."

He makes the Satyr say;

    "This ruddy russet front, these shoulders huge,
    These nervy bull-thewed arms, this silky breast,
    And these my velvet thighs are manhood's mould robust.
    Ill favoured I? Not so!"

As one listens to the delirious nightingales in the dim, green-arched
_allées_, one forgets the trysting trees in other Italian gardens and is
sure that only here could Daphne have drawn her argument for love from
their caresses.

    "_Daphne:_

    The gentle, jocund spring,
    Smiling and wantoning,
    Makes all things amorous.
          Thou only thus,
    Untamed wild creature, wilder than the rest,
    Deniest love the harbourage of thy breast.
    List to yon nightingale
    Singing within the vale
       'I love, love, love.'
    With what renewed embracement vine clasps vine,
    Fir blends its boughs with fir, and pine with pine.
    Beneath the rugged bark
    May'st thou mute inward sighings mark,
    And wilt thou graceless be
    Less than a vine or tree--
    To keep thyself unloving, loverless?
    Bend, bend thy stubborn heart
    Fool that thou art."

But the physical peculiarity which actually identifies Villa d'Este as
the locale of the poem is its cliff, the "sheer crag" from whence
Amyntas leaps in his despair.

    "Now did he lead me where the cloven steep
    Among the rocks and solitary crags
    Looms pathless and breaks sheer above a vale.
    There paused we, and I, peering far below,
    Shuddered, drew from the brink.

  * * *

  'Sylvia, I come, I follow!' So he cried:
  Then headlong leaped,--and left me turned to stone."

There are other poems of Tasso's which refer to his residence at Villa
d'Este, and infer Leonora's presence at that time. We may cite in
particular the canzone to Leonora at her uncle's villa, beginning "_Al
nobil colle ove in antichi marmi_":

    "To the romantic hills where free
    To thine enchanted eyes
    Works of Greek art in statuary
       Of antique marbles rise,
    My thought, fair Leonora, roves,
    And with it to their gloomy groves
    Fast bears me as it flies.
    For far from thee, in crowds unblest,
    My fluttering heart but ill can rest.

    "There to the rock, cascade, and grove,
    On mosses dropt with dew,
    Like one who thinks and sighs of love
    The livelong summer through,
    Oft would I dictate glorious things
    Of heroes to the Tuscan strings
    On my sweet lyre anew,
    And to the brooks and trees around
    Ippolito's high name resound."

This poem would seem to imply that a part of the _Jerusalem_ was written
here, possibly the episode of Sophronia and Olindo, so dear to Tasso
himself that though it was not an integral part of the epic he dared the
Inquisition rather than comply with the demands of the censor that it
should be stricken out. The description of Sophronia is admitted to have
been intended to denote Leonora:

    "Amongst them in the city lived a maid
    The flower of virgins in her perfect prime,
    Supremely beautiful! but that she made
    Never her care, or beauty only weighed
    In worth with virtue; and her worth acquired
    A deeper charm from blooming in the shade,
    Lovers she shunned, nor loved to be admired,
    But from their praises turned to live a life retired."

Equally applicable to Tasso is that of Olindo, the lover who--

    "Feared much, hoped little, and in nought presumed.
    He could not or he durst not speak, but doomed
    To voiceless thought his passion."

But during those "livelong summer days" the poet's passion was not
utterly voiceless. The _Amyntas_ is throughout a continual and
unequivocal expression, and he daringly in the very prelude makes the
god of love, who explains the scheme of the play, declare--

    "For wheresoe'er I am, there I am Love,
    No less in shepherds' than in heroes' hearts,
    The _unequal lot grows equal_ at my will,
    My chiefest vaunt, my miracle is this."

Openly and repeatedly Tasso asserts that while he is not indifferent to
literary distinction it is not the chief end which he has in view in
writing the _Amyntas._

    "Deem not" (he says) "that all Love's bliss
      At last is but a breath
      Of fame that followeth.

    Love's meed is love, it wooeth, _winneth_ this.
    Nathless the lover steadfast to his end
    Hath laud ofttimes and maketh Fame his friend."

Goethe makes Tasso confide this double aim to Leonora and her reply
shows that he did indeed win the meed he sought. "For what" the poet
asks her "is more deserving to survive and silently to last for
centuries than the confession of a noble love, confided modestly to
gentle song?"

We follow step by step that wooing, finding it in the exquisite
apostrophe to the golden age--which concludes:

    "Then let us live as erst kind Nature's thralls
    And let us love--since hearts
    No truce of time may know, and youth departs:
    Ay! let us love: suns sink but sink to soar--
    On us, our brief day o'er,
    Night falls and sleep descends for evermore."

Here again Goethe discovers the personal note, transcribing the poem
unscrupulously from its setting in the _Amyntas_ and making Leonora
reply with didactic coldness to Tasso's appeal--

    "_Tasso:_

    The golden age, ah! whither is it flown,
    For which in secret every heart repines?
    When every bird winging the limpid air
    And every living thing o'er hill and dale
    Proclaimed to man, What pleases is allowed.

    "_Princess_:

    My friend, the golden age hath passed away.
    Shall I confess to thee my secret thoughts?
    The golden age, wherewith the bard is wont
    Our spirits to beguile, that lovely prime,
    Existed in the past no more than now;
    Still meet congenial spirits and enhance
    Each other's pleasures in this beauteous world;
    But in the motto change one single word
    And say my friend,--What's fitting is allowed."

Perhaps Leonora did speak thus in the open discussion which followed the
reading of the poem as in that at the Court of Urbino when Cardinal
Bembo, distraught by his own rhapsody on love, stood silent as one
transported, and the lady Emilia to recall him to himself shook him
playfully, crying, "Have a care, Pietro, lest in this mood your soul
should be separated from your body."

And the gay Cardinal replied: "Madam, this would not be the first
miracle which Love hath wrought in me."

Certainly, Tasso's wooing, even at Villa d'Este, was not always a happy
one. In the following stanzas he tells of temporary despairs, but he
hints also of a great hope at his darkest moment:

    "By what dim ways at last Love leadeth man
    Unto his joy and sets him 'mid the bliss
    Of his heart's heaven of love--then when he most
    Thinketh him sunk in an abyss of bale;
    O blest Amyntas--from thy fate
    I augur for mine own, that so may she,
    That fair untender maid, who in a smile
    Of pity sheaths the steel of heartlessness,
    So may she with true pity heal the hurt
    Wherewith feigned pity pierced me to the heart."

In another beautiful passage it is not hope which he sings but rapture:

    "Let him who serveth Love
    Divine it in his heart, though scarce may he
    Divine or give it voice."

What was the boon which gave Tasso so much bliss? Perchance no greater
than the one he celebrates in the exquisite lines:

    _Stava Madonna ad un balcon soletta._

    "My lady at a balcony alone
    One day was standing, when I chanced to stretch
    My arm on hers; pardon I begged, if so
    I had offended her; she sweetly answered,
    'Not by the placing of thy arm hast thou
    Displeased me aught, but by withdrawing it
    Do I remain offended!' O fond words!
    Dear little love words, short but sweet, and courteous!
    Courteous as sweet, affectionate as courteous!
    If it were true and certain what I heard,
    I shall be always seeking not to offend thee,
    Repeating the great bliss: but my sweet life,
    By all my eagerness therein remember--
    Where there is no offence, there must be
    No visiting of vengeance!"

It must have been early in their acquaintance that such gratitude was
poured forth for so slight a favour. There are balconies at Villa
d'Este, balustraded terraces where now the contorted stems of giant
vines wrestle with the carved pillarets and rend them relentlessly from
their copings where at intervals the bayonet-leaved aloes keep sentinel
like the bravi of Cardinal Ippolito I., their long green knives
unsheathed and ready for any deed of horror. Here, unconscious of spying
eyes, Leonora may have leant apparently absorbed in that glorious view,
and Tasso's hand have stolen furtively to her own.

But was there no other guerdon for his long service than this shy
avowal--no other bliss before that long horror of imprisonment and real
or imputed madness which ended only after Leonora's death? Only the Duke
Alphonso and those who so basely read the poet's private papers can
reply.

Cardinal Ippolito must have guessed to what end the pastoral of Villa
d'Este was tending; but whether his sympathy was real or feigned for his
own uses we cannot know.

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Villa d'Este--Terrace Staircase]

He never attained his ambition, for death suddenly claimed him before
the aged Pope whom he had hoped to succeed. Tasso's tragedy culminated,
as Goethe tells us, at another villa, that of Belriguardo. The pastoral
of Villa d'Este ends in a chorus or envoy expressive of that tremulous
hope which flutters so deliciously in every line of the exquisite poem:

    "I know not if the bitterness
      That, serving long, long yearning, one hath borne
      In tears and all forlorn,
      May wholly turn to sweet, and Love requite
      All sorrows with delight.
      But if this be and pain
      That bringeth joy enricheth often gain;
      I ask thee not, O Love,
      To give me gain thy common gains above.

    * * *

      If gentle dear disdains
      And dulcet coy defeats
      And strifes fond lovers use
      To fire their hearts--but close with love's long truce."

     NOTE.--The selections from the _Amyntas_ quoted in this article
     have been selected from the admirable metrical translation of Mr.
     R. Whitmore.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER VI

MONDRAGONE


"'Tis a grave responsibility to play the dragon to a pretty woman."

This was the assertion with which Celio Benvoglio, private secretary of
her Highness, Princess Pauline Bonaparte Borghese, invariably prefaced
the following story, and had I a like knack in telling it, you would
admit the demonstration of that proposition. By dragon you will
understand that his Excellency, Prince Camillo Borghese, signified a
guardian and protector. To constitute Celio Malespini a spy and reporter
was no more in the thought of the Prince than it could have been in
Celio's performance. He was young, and as chivalric an admirer of the
Princess as he was loyal in his devotion to her husband. Had he
discovered anything equivocal in her conduct, wild horses could not have
torn her secret from him, and it is possible that the Prince counted
upon this when he said:

"Celio, the Princess is very young and impulsive; that she is a
foreigner and therefore inexperienced in our strict etiquette will not
excuse her slightest mistake in the eyes of our severe Roman dames, who
would be prejudiced against the sister of Napoleon were she as
circumspect as the Madonna. Her beauty has already made them envious,
her wit and light-heartedness is considered levity. They will delight in
wagging their tongues maliciously on the least shadow of suspicion. In
appointing you secretary to the Princess I place you in a position where
you will be able to guard her from the appearance of evil. Understand
well that I have no fear of its reality, but where there are windows
overlooking one's garden the neighbours may see more than the owner,
more even than actually occurs."

"Have no fear, my lord," the young secretary rashly promised. "You know
the Tuscan proverb in regard to avoiding the suspicion of fruit
stealing. Ah, well, no visitor shall be allowed to tie his shoestrings
among your strawberries or to use his handkerchief under your plum
tree."

So the Prince went away to Florence and Celio found that he had more
than he had bargained for. Not that Pauline Bonaparte committed actual
indiscretions; but she was wild for admiration, loved dress, and knew
how to dress well, setting off her marvellous beauty with that
combination of style and taste that the French call _chic_, which the
heavier intellects of the Roman modistes with all their pretence to
fashion can never attain, and which the imperious Roman matrons could
never forgive.

One of these, hoping to rob this audacious rival of the advantage of
Parisian modishness, gave a fête in which the guests were requested to
appear in classical costume, whose severe simplicity she fancied would
be more becoming to the plenitude of her own Juno-like charms than to
the slight figure of the French girl. But the Princess vanquished her
hostess for she came as a Bacchante in a robe of her own designing,
bordered with vine leaves embroidered in gold and belted beneath the
breasts with a golden girdle. A mantle of panther's fur swept from her
shoulders, her arms and her bust were laden with heavy necklaces and
bracelets taken from some Etruscan tomb, and she waved a golden thyrsus.
Her entrance illuminated the ball-room and the character which she
represented gave her authority for giving free vent to her natural
vivacity and dancing with the utmost grace and abandon. Her victory over
the male part of the assembly was complete for they saw no one else that
evening.

They were wrong who supposed that her beauty was enhanced by dress; on
the contrary it was limited by the clothing which it adorned. The
sculptor Canova proved this in his portrait statue of her as Venus
Victorious, and then her detractors, affecting to be greatly
scandalised, changed their tune and declared that it was false that the
Princess was too fond of dress, that on the contrary a greater regard
for it would have been more decent.

The young secretary was not a little troubled by the caprice of his
patroness to thus display her beauty to the world. "But why not, my
Celio?" she had argued. "The Prince, my husband, has bestowed upon me a
great title for which I feel my obligation to his noble family, and I
shall pay it with interest, for I shall leave the Borgheses this
incomparable statue, and the glory of having possessed one Princess
whose beauty cannot be denied or equalled."

Why Prince Borghese should have deputed this dragon service to another
instead of undertaking it himself, is a question which I cannot answer.
Some misunderstanding doubtless there was, or two people who loved each
other would never have agreed that it was better to live apart, but the
Prince carried a sore and longing heart with him to Florence, and it may
be that the Princess was no happier, though she had more bravado.

"I will come when you send for me and not before," her husband said to
her, "and I trust you understand the motives which underlie my
self-banishment."

"I am grateful to them at least," was her equivocal retort. "Has your
Highness any preference as to my residence during your absence?"

"None," he replied sadly, "but I shall be happier if you do not make
choice of your Neapolitan villa."

She flashed at him indignantly, "You wish to estrange me from my family,
from my sister Caroline."

"I have only the highest respect for her Majesty, the Queen of Naples,"
he replied; "her devotion to her husband is undoubted. I could wish--"
and here the Prince paused.

"That I were more like her," the Princess finished his sentence.

"I never said so, Pauline," he said impulsively, "or wished that you
were like any other than yourself."

His last words should have softened her, but, pained and indignant at
his desertion, she hardly heeded them; how was she to know that Camillo
Borghese was, under his cold exterior, very honestly in love with his
wife and just now cruelly tortured with jealousy of her brother-in-law,
the dare-devil Murat? For the latter was as unscrupulous as he was
handsome, as Napoleon was to find to his cost, though in recognition of
his services as a dashing leader of cavalry he had rewarded him with the
hand of his sister Caroline and the crown of Naples.

Hitherto the Princess had not even remarked the bold admiration of her
brother-in-law, and after the departure of her husband she wept and
sulked for days, when suddenly an event of great political importance,
which was also of deep personal interest to herself, threw into the
background every other consideration.

Napoleon's abdication and the treaty of Fontainebleau came upon his
friends with the shock of an earthquake. Especially to his sister
Pauline it was as though the foundations of the earth were tottering.
He had been the Providence of all his family, dividing the nations
between them; but Pauline had been his favourite, he had loved her
sincerely, and she had responded with the utmost devotion.

"I will go to him in his trouble," she declared, and though her
secretary could not see how her presence could aid the deposed Emperor,
he could not but approve her generous impulse.

She met her brother at Hyères near the frontier of France, from which
point he embarked for the Island of Elba. The allies had granted him the
lordship of the island, with an income to support a pseudo court; but
the framers of that treaty, and Napoleon himself, knew well that its
terms were a farce and his kingdom in reality a prison.

What transpired between the Princess and her brother in that brief
interview Celio did not know. Each passed from it calmed and cheerful.
There was a kindlier look in the Emperor's face, a more assured
elasticity in his step as the English sailors who transported him to his
exile shouted their, "Better luck next time"; and sparks were lighted in
the eyes of the Princess which every one who saw her noted, though
none guessed what hidden fires of resolve fed their flashes.

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Fountain in Gardens of the Villa Borghese]

They called her that season the Firefly, and many misinterpreted her
illy suppressed excitement and the scrutiny of those lambent eyes
sending out their flame signals in search of answering lights. Even her
secretary did not know that the dark shadows which ringed them were not
due to the balls and other frivolities in which she was so conspicuous;
but to complicated and dangerous schemes which robbed her of sleep at
night, and were never forgotten as she danced and chatted and coquetted
while the most astute diplomats laid their hearts and their secrets at
her feet.

She received strange visitors too at the magnificent Villa Borghese,
just outside the Porta del Popolo, wild-eyed agitators and suspects who
had never before been permitted to enter those aristocratic gates. The
first had come disguised in a marble-cutter's blouse as an assistant of
Canova; but he had dropped a word which the noble model understood, and
the fire signals had flashed between them. After the sculptor had left
the casino his assistant tarried, and Celio, dismissed by his mistress
but lingering at the threshold, heard fragments of the man's talk:
"Liberty, united Italy, and death to the Austrians."

Later, when he attempted to warn the Princess that if the man were not a
maniac he was more dangerous, she asked him bluntly if her husband had
constituted him her dragon, and thereafter in half contemptuous banter
she gave him the nickname of "Mondragone."

It was the name also of another villa belonging to the Borghese, the
most sightly of all the boldly seated summer resorts of the nobility at
beautiful Frascati. Not one of these commands a view comparable to the
one from its terrace of the Pope's Chimneys, so named from the strange
monumental constructions which are so conspicuous that, with a glass,
they are plainly visible from Rome.

So when the Princess announced, "I love Mondragone," her secretary did
not flatter himself that the equivocal utterance bore any reference to
himself. Had he also had the wit to perceive that if she indeed cared
for the villa or for any other object at this time, it was only for some
service which it might render her brother, his duties as dragon would
have occasioned him far less of mental anguish.

Celio was writing one day in a room adjoining the apartment which
Canova had used as his studio in the casino of Villa Borghese, when he
was startled by a heavy step in the room which he had supposed
unoccupied. Throwing aside the portière he instantly recognised from
report the imposing figure which confronted him. On a lesser man so
gorgeous a costume as the one which now dazzled the astonished eyes of
the secretary would have suggested the mountebank; but there was
something regal as well as Oriental in Joachim Murat's appearance, and
the barbarous colour extravagances of his dress became him like those of
a sultan.

His curling hair, black and long, fell upon a green velvet cloak heavily
embroidered with gold which hung from his shoulders displaying a
sky-blue frogged tunic, whose breast was covered with jewelled crosses
and beribboned decorations. The crimson breeches which met the high
boots of yellow morocco were braided with gold in the Polish fashion and
fitted closely his shapely thighs, but the tarnished and battered
cavalry sabre clanking at his side occasioned him no inconvenience, and
it needed but a glance at the broken plumes of the ruby-clasped aigrette
which decorated a shabby wide-brimmed hat to convince the beholder that
this was no gala costume but the habitual garb of a soldier. He was
spurred and played nonchalantly with his riding-whip as he returned
Celio's questioning glance with a smile, half arrogant, half familiar.
Wheeling upon his heel without deigning any explanation of his presence,
he returned to his contemplation of the portrait statue of the Princess,
and the young secretary's blood boiled as he saw that the expression of
contemptuous familiarity on the sensual face had been elicited not by
his insignificant self but by the masterpiece of Canova.

"A fair portrait doubtless," he said indifferently, "for I recognise
certain points of resemblance to her sister, whose perfections, however,
the Princess Borghese cannot hope to emulate."

"Pardon me, sir," stammered the secretary in tones which he vainly
strove to render icy,--"but this is the Villa Borghese and not a public
museum."

The intruder looked down with amused bonhommie. "I am an acquaintance of
the Prince," he vouchsafed, "and have been invited by him to view his
art collections."

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Pauline Bonaparte, Princess Borghese

Portrait statue by Canova at Villa Borghese]

Celio bridled with increased importance. "Prince Borghese's specimens of
antique sculpture are in the palazzo where, if the Signor will
announce himself, he will doubtless be accorded the privilege of seeing
them. This palazzita is the private boudoir of the Princess."

"So much the better," the other laughed. "But when she commanded that
statue she doubtless contemplated the possibility of its being admired
by other eyes than her own. No insult is intended, my young popinjay. It
is all in the family. Restrain your indignation and inform the Princess
that the King of Naples is waiting here in obedience to her
appointment."

The secretary was not pleased with this message, and he liked still less
the manner in which it was received, for the Princess hurried to meet
her brother-in-law and allowed him to salute her gallantly upon both
cheeks, and to address her as "Paulette."

Celio, excused from attendance, had no opportunity, though he stood
sentinel in the loggia, to overhear their conversation. Finally the
Princess summoned him. "Order my carriage," she commanded, "and the
caleche, and ask the attendance of my first lady-in-waiting. Tell
Maurice to arrange a lunch-hamper quickly. His Majesty insists he must
set out this afternoon for Naples. We will accompany him as far as
Mondragone and picnic there."

So they dashed away on the road to Frascati, the Princess lolling alone
in her open carriage, for Murat had declined the seat beside her, though
he kept his horse recklessly near her wheels, Celio following with the
maid of honour and the lunch basket in the caleche, and one of Murat's
orderlies (the other had been dispatched to order his suite to meet him
at Mondragone) bringing up the rear.

At the wildest and steepest part of the road the party halted, and the
Princess alighting announced her intention of taking a short cut across
the hills while the carriages followed the more circuitous driveway.
Murat threw his reins to his orderly, and Celio, true to his
self-constituted duties as dragon, left the maid of honour dozing in the
caleche and followed his mistress. She had brought a tall staff, knotted
with a tri-colour ribbon, which she used as an alpenstock, springing
lightly over the steep boulders, while the athletic Murat kept pace with
the easy swinging stride of a mountaineer. Suddenly Celio saw him catch
the Princess by the arm and both stood as though instantaneously frozen.
Then, as the secretary came panting up, Murat handed the Princess to
him, and taking a few steps forward and apparently addressing the
landscape, for Celio saw no one said in a voice of calm but inflexible
authority: "Lay down your gun, and come from behind that rock."

To Celio's astonishment a villainous appearing brigand advanced and
knelt at Murat's feet.

"Why did you not shoot me when I was at the lower turn of the road, my
friend?" Murat demanded; "you had the better opportunity then, for I had
not discovered you, and I was for several minutes within your range."

"True, your Majesty," replied the bandit, "but I said to myself, 'that
is too magnificent a figure of a man to kill, even though he is a
king.'"

Murat laughed. "I will return the compliment," he said, writing rapidly
on a card. "You have too much discrimination and obey orders too well to
be a brigand. I wonder now if you have heard of a secret organisation
called the Carbonari? I thought so" (replying by an almost imperceptible
gesture to a signal made by the bandit); "you see you have made a
mistake, for I also am a member of the order. All in time, my good
fellow, and you shall use your rifle against the Austrians. Take this to
the recruiting office of the Neapolitan army at Castel di Rocca. Never
fear, it is no trap. This young man will read it for you." And the
secretary read: "Give this brave fellow a place in the Corps of
Calabrian Sharpshooters, and assure Captain Castiglione that he can be
relied upon for expert guerilla service. Giacomo Rè."

The man went away trembling with emotion but Murat called to him: "Come
back, you have forgotten your gun," and stood carelessly regarding the
view with his back turned while the would-be assassin regained
possession of his weapon.

The Princess clapped her hands. "I understand now," she said, "why you
bore a charmed life when you came dashing out of the smoke of the
battle-field, sweeping within a few feet of the muzzles of the enemy's
guns. It needed not the command of the Czar that you were not to be
fired upon,--the gunners could no more have done so than this poor
outlaw. I comprehend also how you have managed to augment the roll of
your army, which on your accession included but fifty thousand names, to
its present list of seventy-five thousand, and at the same time have so
marvellously reduced the number of brigands in your kingdom."

"Partly in this way," he acknowledged, lightly, "but the Austrian
officers would be surprised to know how many of my best disciplined
soldiers have had the advantage of their drilling."

"Deserters?" the Princess asked.

"And whole companies in Northern Italy waiting for the first symptoms of
a war with Italy to desert en masse."

When the party reached Mondragone the custodian, surprised at their
coming (for the villa had been long unoccupied), unbarred the shutters
and let the light into the dusty salons.

"It is roomy enough for a barracks," Murat remarked as he wandered
through suite after suite of the great tenantless rooms.

"I forbid you so to use it," the Princess jested, "though you may occupy
Mondragone yourself when you lay siege to Rome."

"It would not be a bad headquarters," he said as they came out upon the
terrace. "Imagine a semaphore in the place of those monstrous and absurd
columns--what are they, by the way? One could waft signals from Rome to
Calabria and from the Adriatic to the Tirrenian."

That was an exaggeration, of course, but Mondragone would have been a
good station in such a signal service.

"Those absurd columns," the Princess replied, "might themselves serve
as semaphores. They are chimneys, colossal enough to serve a foundry,
though they do duty to simple kitchens, those which prepared the
excellent dinners with which Pope Paul V. entertained his guests. When
the smoke rises from that one I can see the cloudy column from my
windows at Rome."

"And I could see it far on the road from Naples," he mused, and then the
two wandered away from their watching dragon and leaning on the
balustrade with their faces toward the magnificent view earnestly
discussed projects which had nothing to do with that unrivalled
panorama.

Celio was in torment. What was Murat saying in that low, guarded voice,
while his hand clenched and crushed the roses that swarmed over the
balustrade and scattered their petals to the wind? Why did the
Princess's colour come and go as she listened, her cheek much too near
his passionate lips?

Since there was no way of overhearing this equivocal conversation, it
must at all hazards be interrupted, and Celio prematurely announced the
_al fresco_ supper. Here, while he fluttered behind them in a pretence
of service, he heard both too much for his peace of mind and too little
for his complete enlightenment.

At first the talk was of family matters, chiefly of Napoleon at Elba,
with whom Pauline begged her brother-in-law to be reconciled, for this
was in the summer of 1814, when Murat, foreseeing that Napoleon's star
had set, had signed a treaty with the allies.

"One would think I had done enough for your brother," he said, moodily.
"I left my kingdom to lead the cavalry of the _grande armée_ in the
Russian campaign. I gained his victories and I commanded the _escadron
sacrée_ which protected his person in the retreat, and what is my
reward?"

"What is your present position?" the Princess asked.

"I am your brother-in-law," Murat replied, "but, as I wrote Napoleon, I
conferred as much honour as I received when I married your sister, and,
as for my kingship, the Emperor wished only a devoted servant whom he
could command, and he has discovered his mistake."

The eyes of Pauline Bonaparte shot fire while the other spoke. "You are
very stupid to talk in this way to me, Joachim," she said, commanding
herself in time. "You needed Napoleon--you need him now, for your
scheme will never succeed unless he supports you. It is your good
fortune that he needs you enough to forgive your defection. The family
stands or falls together, _mon ami_."

"Evidently your mother does not think so," Murat replied, with pique. "I
have just brought Madame Mère a present of eight fine carriage-horses.
She declined them with thanks, and would not see me when I called on her
in Rome. As for my loving brother-in-law, your noble husband----"

"Why should you mind Camillo's sulks since I do not? He and Madame Mère
have such amusing ideas. It was not so much Caroline's correspondence
with your 'dear Metternich' which offended them and my brother, too.
They have never forgotten that little affair of the silver lemon
squeezer. Ah, _mon ami_! you had had too much champagne when you brewed
that bowl of punch at the officers' dinner."

"I never said that it was the Empress who taught me the recipe and gave
me the lemon squeezer," he retorted, flushing.

"Oh! no; nor told you that oranges and not lemons were used with Jamaica
rum in the islands; nor why pretty creoles were like lemons."

"Do you mean to provoke me?" Murat exclaimed, rising quickly.

"No, _mon ami_, though I shared in that suspicion, too, for they called
me a creole on my return from San Domingo."

Murat's jaw fell. "Do you mean that your husband thought I meant _you_?"
he asked.

"Prince Borghese is too polite a man to voice such a suspicion, and I am
too clever a woman to show that I have guessed it, but that is reason
enough why I cannot accept my sister's invitation to take possession of
the entrancing Neapolitan villa which you so kindly offer me."

"You are like your mother. You refuse my peace-offerings; you will not
visit us?"

"Peace-offerings, yes; but make me some offerings of war, that fine
army, for instance; and, by the way, if you will give me a yacht instead
of the villa I may consent to be your guest. Meantime we understand each
other. I will give immediate orders to my people that no fire is on any
account to be lighted in the Pope's kitchens, as the chimneys are
unsafe. Should I perceive a column of smoke rising from them I shall
know that you are here, and I will come to you. If, on the other hand, I
hear that you are in this vicinity on the business of which we spoke, I
shall make Mondragone my residence; and should you perceive my smoke
signal----"

"Then," he interrupted, speaking very low, but so distinctly that
Celio's heart froze as he listened--"then, Paulette, be the danger what
it may, heaven nor hell shall keep me from you."

They parted in the most commonplace manner, the Princess returning to
Rome after the conclusion of the repast, but, though she appeared to
sleep all the way, Celio marked when she alighted that her face,
illuminated by the strong glare that blazed from the open door of the
villa, was haggard as from long vigils.

Deeply distressed, the poor dragon spent a sleepless night, but towards
morning an inspiration came to him. He saw his way to saving his lady
without arousing the suspicions of her husband. She had forbidden the
use of the Pope's chimneys to the guardian of the villa, plainly that
they should serve solely as signals between herself and Murat. But the
reason which she had given for their disuse, that they were unsafe,
furnished the secretary with his pretext, and he wrote his master urging
that they should be taken down.

Before the Prince had time to reply the event which he had dreaded took
place. The Princess, in direct opposition to her husband's parting
request, announced her determination to visit her sister at Naples. It
was not in her secretary's province to remonstrate, and he was soon to
gain a point of view from which the inexplicable behaviour of his
mistress presented a very different aspect.

Arrived at Naples the Princess and her suite were met by Queen Caroline
and installed in a charming villa near the city, and on the succeeding
day the entire household were taken by the King and Queen for a short
cruise in the royal yacht.

Outside the island of Ischia the party landed, and climbing to a ruined
tower which commanded an extensive prospect, they plainly discerned in a
hidden cove a little craft flying a flag unfamiliar at that time to
Celio Benvoglio, a striped red and white pennon studded with golden
bees. It was the ensign chosen by Napoleon while lord of Elba, and
displayed by the six swift sailing pinnaces which made up the Emperor's
little navy.

Pauline now informed her suite that she was about to pay a visit to her
brother, which for important reasons must not for the present be
suspected. Her maids of honour must therefore return to her Neapolitan
villa, and, to keep up the fiction of her presence, announce on the
morrow that the Princess had succumbed to an attack of fever. The Court
physician would pay daily visits as would the King and Queen, but no
others would be admitted to the secret.

With feminine fondness for intrigue the three maids of honour entered
into the plan, while Celio, relieved from his tormenting suspicions
accompanied his mistress to Elba.

Here, admitted to her conferences with her brother as he fulfilled new
and arduous duties in the transcription of dispatches, he comprehended
that the secret alliance between the Princess and Murat had been purely
political, and with what tact she had won him to reconciliation and
co-operation with Napoleon.

The Emperor's plans were more audacious and far-reaching than ever. In
their scope the movement for the independence and unification of Italy
was but a subordinate detail. Pauline knew that her brother was
developing a great _coup d'état_, that he would presently escape from
Elba and seize again the reins of power, and it was she who had first
perceived and who now explained to him how the undercurrent of events
in Italy might become a factor in his scheme.

Agitators had been busy in every part of the peninsula firing patriot
hearts to throw off the domination of the three foreign powers which
held them enslaved. The King of Naples by naturalising himself as an
Italian, and compelling his French soldiers to do so, had been permitted
to take part in the plot. It is possible that the revolutionists, who
saw the immense advantage of the services of so able a general as Murat,
intended to repudiate him after they had gained their ends. But at that
time they flattered him with the hope of becoming the king as well as
the deliverer of all Italy.

As Celio Benvoglio toiled over his papers he was amazed at the
imagination of his mistress which had first discerned the possibility of
making the cause of Italian liberty serve her brother's ambitious
imperialism, and the marvellous finesse with which she had vanquished
Murat's gascon envy and resentment and made him once more a tool in the
hand of the Emperor. Still more he admired Napoleon's acumen and
resource as he saw order coming out of chaos and all things working
together for the success of his stupendous undertaking. The Emperor had
planned to first secure Paris, and then, proclaiming the independence of
Italy, to make common cause with her against Austria and at the head of
the united French and Italian armies, one hundred thousand strong, march
by way of the Julian Alps upon Vienna.

As the impressionable secretary traced the burning proclamation which
Napoleon dictated to his old soldiers, he doubted not that it would fire
the heart of every veteran and the great enterprise seemed infallible.

"Take again the eagles you followed at Ulm, Austerlitz, Jena, and
Montmirail," pleaded their adored commander. "Range yourselves under the
banners of your old chief. Victory shall march with every step. In your
old age you shall say with pride, I also was one of that great army
which twice entered the walls of Vienna, took Rome, Berlin, Madrid, and
Moscow, and which delivered Paris from domestic treason and the
occupation of strangers."

What wonder that, carried away by the immensity and daring of the
conquest of the continent, the happiness of one longing heart should
have seemed a very insignificant thing, and that Celio should have quite
forgotten that his master, Camillo Borghese, was waiting for some
reassuring word from him, that he had heard of the Princess's reckless
removal to Naples, and was distracted between anger at her flagrant
disregard of his wishes, suspicion of what such heartlessness might
mean, and acute distress on learning of her illness? The Prince could
not, on account of personal reasons, present himself at the Court of the
King of Naples, but he had written repeatedly to Celio Benvoglio and
these letters the first maid of honour, finding no opportunity to
forward to Elba, had judged best to retain at Naples unopened until the
return of the secretary.

So the days flew for the Princess and dragged for her husband, until at
midnight on the twenty-seventh of February, 1815, Napoleon with his
handful of devoted soldiers embarked for France, and his sister returned
to Naples with instructions for Murat. Then the Neapolitan villa was
suddenly vacated and the seven carriages of the Princess took up their
line of march for Rome.

She had found awaiting her at Naples letters in which her husband
passionately besought her to return; and, while her face flushed as she
realised the motives which he attributed to Murat, her heart swelled
with triumph that he believed in her in spite of all.

"He loves me!" she murmured to herself unguardedly, in the presence of
her secretary.

"Then give me leave to write him," the young man cried, impulsively,
"that I may relieve his anxiety. Let me bid him join you at Rome. Think,
dearest madam, what he must suffer."

But at that word the Princess frowned. "And do you think I have not
suffered?" she cried. "I am glad that he is jealous, since it proves
that he can love. Nevertheless I would gladly summon him if I could. But
do you not see, Celio, that he must not be implicated in our plots? If
we fail, he must be known to have had no letters from me. I forbid you
to communicate with him until I give you permission. Camillo is too
honest to make a good conspirator. If I can wait, cannot you? The game
may not be worth the candle, but I will play it to the end."

The little cavalcade paused at Mondragone, for the Princess had decided
to spend a few weeks at her Frascati villa. Here, to her indignation,
she found engineers preparing to take down the Pope's chimneys.

"On whose authority do you presume to do a thing so outrageous?" she
demanded, and they showed her the order of Prince Borghese.

"Delay the execution of these instructions until such time as they are
repeated," she commanded. "I have decided to take up my residence here
for the present, and cannot be disturbed by repairs and alterations."

When the men were gone she faced her secretary in consternation. "Who
can have incited Camillo to such a resolution?" she demanded, and the
consciousness of guilt in his face was a sufficient answer.

"It was you, dear lady, who put the idea into my head," he stammered;
"you said the chimneys were cracked and might set fire to the villa."

"Spy and traitor," she hissed, "you tried to make it impossible for me
to communicate with Murat. It is your idiotic suspicions that have
roused Camillo's jealousy."

"You have said that you were glad of that jealousy," Celio ventured; and
the Princess laughed bitterly, then softening, said: "I do believe you
thought yourself acting for my good, oh, foolish little dragon. Confess,
my poor boy, that Pauline Borghese has the wit to take care of herself."

Very humbly Celio confessed that this was evident, but his troubles were
by no means over. A fortnight later Italy was electrified by the
startling rumour that the King of Naples had declared war with Austria
and was marching toward Lombardy.

The Princess was struck with consternation, for she knew that Napoleon
could not so soon have perfected his arrangements for making a junction
with Murat. Though she entertained no one it was noticed by her
neighbours that the Pope's chimneys smoked continually, as though the
most elaborate banquets were in preparation and one night the expected
guest arrived.

Murat had intended to give Rome a wide berth, stealing around it by the
Abruzzi. But his left wing had scouts on the western slopes of the
Sabine Mountains and were instructed to keep a lookout for the smoke
signal from Mondragone, and he had ridden across the mountains for a day
and half a night to answer her summons.

She gave him food and a fresh horse, but she sent him back to the
Castello Borghese at Monte Compatri for his lodging, with many
reproaches and gloomy prophecies for his mad precipitation in
anticipating the _mot d'ordre_ of Napoleon.

Theirs was no loving tryst, but a stormy altercation, for Murat defended
his act and refused her entreaties, which were rather in the nature of
commands, to go back to Naples and wait for advice from his general.

"Why should I put myself under his orders?" he demanded. "Austria has
taken alarm and is pouring its forces into Lombardy. If I do not secure
Milan at once it will be too late and the opportunity will be lost. Who
knows when Napoleon will think of us? They say he is at Paris preparing
to meet the allies in Belgium. Our little rendezvous for the excursion
to Vienna is apparently forgotten. He has other matters to attend to.
Well, so have I. I am weary of governing for him. When I am King of
Italy I will rule according to the ideas of Joachim Murat."

"You would never have been a King in name but for him," she replied
hotly, "you are not fit to rule. You are a good soldier, Joachim, but
you need your master."

So they parted in bitterness, and Celio, who was present at their
interview, rejoiced that such was the manner of their parting, and
prayed that they might never meet again, but that prayer was not to be
answered.

The Princess returned to Rome and soon received information of the
fulfilment of her prophecy. For a few days Murat held Bologna, then the
Austrians swooped down upon him and he met them gallantly, but
disastrously, near Modena. Reverse followed reverse and at Tolentino his
mad campaign of six weeks ended in total defeat. His army fled in all
directions, and a refugee brought word that Murat, scorning surrender,
had fallen sabring desperately to the last.

Pauline received the news, pale but unshaken. "My poor sister," she
said, and then quickly, "but she knows her refuge; by this time
doubtless she is on her way to Napoleon." Then a great light illumined
her face. "The revolution has failed, my work is done. I can now write
to Camillo."

She was writing when a messenger entered with a letter from her husband.
"He is coming, Celio," she cried joyfully. "He will be here in an hour.
He writes that in disaster and grief his place is at my side, and he
could not wait my summons. Oh, Celio, was there ever such magnanimity?"

As she rang to give orders for her husband's reception, her third maid
of honour, Pippa Serbonella, a waspish, deceitful creature whom Celio
had never liked, flung wide the curtain of the window and cried:
"Eccellentissima, look,--the chimneys of Mondragone!"

It was true, from one of them rose a thin waving scarf of smoke,
fluttering and beckoning in the light wind. The Princess caught the arm
of her secretary. "Joachim is not dead!" she cried; "he is there and I
must go to him."

"Not now, not now, dearest lady," pleaded the young man. "Your husband
is coming. Think what that means."

"Yes, yes, I know," she gasped, wringing her hands, "but I cannot desert
my brother-in-law in his extremity. I led him into this, Celio. I
promised to come when he called. I must keep my promise. Stay you, and
say what you will to Camillo. I will be back this evening."

With many a misgiving the wretched dragon saw her drive away, and a
little later confronted the eager face of Prince Borghese.

"My wife?" he questioned, and Celio could only stammer, "She has gone
out for a drive; she will be back presently."

"Did she not receive my letter?" and the Prince had his answer, for it
lay with broken seal upon her escritoire.

"Did she go to meet me? Have we missed each other?" he asked.

"Not so, your Highness," Pippa Serbonella interpolated, "the Princess
had another appointment," and again with significant finger and hateful
smile she pointed to the smoke signal. The Prince stood transfixed, and
Celio understood from their two faces that the girl had given
unsolicited full reports of that correspondence written in the air. "Oh!
you women, you women!" he groaned, and "I will strangle you, traitress,"
he whispered as she passed him.

But the Prince had other occupation for him at that moment. "Now tell
the whole truth," he commanded sternly, and the secretary told it,
exulting that against her will the malicious maid-of-honour must confirm
his statement that while the Princess had been supposed to be at Naples
she was really with Napoleon at Elba.

A look of relief smoothed Borghese's forehead for an instant. "I never
doubted my wife," he declared proudly, "nevertheless the King of Naples
has certain explanations to make to me. Celio there was in that cabinet
a case of pistols which the Emperor gave me."

"The Princess took them with her this morning," Pippa vouchsafed
officiously.

"Ah!" the Prince drew in his breath. "It is of no consequence," he
added. "General Murat will require but one and will doubtless lend me
the other. Quick, Celio, our horses. The Princess has only an hour the
start of us. We will overtake them at Mondragone."

They passed her in fact at Frascati where they saw her carriage standing
unharnessed before the inn. "She is resting," said the Prince, "we will
not disturb her until after our business at Mondragone is finished."

At the gate an astonished servant took their horses, and as the Prince
walked through the shady cypress avenue his brain cooled and he formed a
resolution differing from the one that had brought him to the villa.
Upon the fountain terrace they saw the man they had come to seek. Not
the galliard of his last visit, but a hunted refugee, his gaudy hussar
uniform soiled and torn, the ballas ruby which had buckled his aigrette
shot from his hat, and a tiny rill of blood trickling from his matted
hair upon the golden bees that ornamented the sky-blue velvet tunic.
Stretched prone upon a marble bench, sleeping the sleep of utter
exhaustion, his sword-arm beneath his head, the other trailing relaxed
upon the ground, he was entirely at the mercy of the man who looked down
upon his haggard face.

The Prince studied it for a moment in silence, then, with finger on lip,
drew Celio into the loggia. "Let him rest," he whispered, "time enough
when he awakes."

Ere that happened footsteps were heard and the voice of the Princess
calling, "Joachim, where are you?"

Murat sprang up instantly.

"Paulette, is it you?"

"It is I. O mon Dieu; how you have changed! but we heard you were
killed. Thank God, that is not true."

"I am beaten, which is worse," he said bitterly. "You were right, you
see, quite right, all is lost--why do you not say 'I told you so'?"

"No," she exclaimed, "all is not lost. Go at once to Napoleon, confess
your error, and atone for it."

"He will never forgive me," Murat replied; "and why should he, with his
army of three hundred thousand men and an Imperial Guard of forty
thousand chosen veterans? What have I to offer him? My troops have
deserted me. I have nothing to fight with and nothing for which to
fight."

"My brother needs you," the Princess insisted. "He may have soldiers
enough, but he knows there is no such leader of cavalry in all the world
as you, and he is about to engage in a crucial struggle with Wellington.
You have your marvellous leadership to offer. You say you have nothing
to fight for. Think of your honour, and of Caroline."

"Ah! I had forgotten her, poor child. I will do as you say, Paulette.
You have the brains of your family in your little head. Perhaps that is
the reason the good God made Caroline more attractive. Well, one more
fight for her sake, and she shall thank you for it. I shall get to
Naples in some way, then by sea to Marseilles, and then to Napoleon."

"Good!" cried the Princess. "Did you find your horse in the stables? I
gave orders to have him well cared for until you claimed him. I have
brought a disguise and arms and money. Now, off with you, for I can
waste no more time. Ah! how much we have already wasted, Joachim, in
this mad pursuit of ambition, when only love was worth the while. My
sister will rejoice to retire with you to private life and to know of
my happiness, for Camillo is waiting for me at Rome, and all the cruel
misunderstanding is over!"

Thus ended Celio Benvoglio's dragon-service, for the Prince, forced
either to overhear or interrupt the foregoing conversation, had
fortunately chosen the former alternative. And here, perchance, should
the story end, for the after-history of Joachim Murat is a tragical
addendum to that happy dénouement.

Pauline overestimated her brother's magnanimity, Napoleon coldly refused
the profferred services of his brother-in-law, confessing afterwards
that this implacability lost him the battle of Waterloo, for Ney could
not equal Murat in his skilful manoeuvring of horse.

Murat, desperate, took refuge in Corsica, where he raised a little band
of two hundred and fifty men, and landed near Naples, believing that his
old troops would rally to his standard. Indifferent, or perhaps unable
to help him, they abandoned him to his fate.

He faced his executioners with unbandaged eyes and himself gave the
order to fire.

According to the account of an eye-witness, he first kissed the
miniature of his wife, which he carried within the case of his watch,
and with the request, "Spare my face," directed the aim of the soldiers
to his breast.

Their firmness did not equal his own, and he was obliged to twice give
the command before it was obeyed.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER VII

THE ADVENTURE OF THE KNIGHT OF THE BRANDISHED LANCE

I

THE QUEST


Robert Devreux, Earl of Essex, was in one of his worst moods as he
strode the deck of his flag-ship in Cadiz Bay on a certain June morning
in 1596.

And yet this favourite of Fortune stood then at the summit of his
career, having by a brilliant assault taken the city for England, while
a letter whose seal he had just broken assured him of the doting
infatuation of England's Queen.

It was precisely this letter, as he now explained to his friend, which
occasioned his dissatisfaction.

"You will not refuse me, Will," he pleaded, "since I can not undertake
the quest, you must go in my stead. These papers contain negotiations
of such delicacy that Henry of Navarre dared not send them overland
through France, and my word is pledged to him to deliver them personally
into the hands of the Grand Duke Ferdinando de' Medici, at his villa in
Rome.

"When I met the King at Boulogne, on our first night out, this seemed an
easy thing to do, for I had reason to believe that our cruise would
extend to Italy. But now in the hour of my victory, when I have sacked
Cadiz, I open the Queen's letter (which was not to be read until the
accomplishment of that task), and find that, instead of being permitted
to proceed, I must first sail at once for England; and all forsooth
because of her love and impatience to reward the valour of her
favourite! Can such a summons be disregarded? Assuredly not; but my
honour and the fate of the Protestant cause in France hang upon your
decision.

"Since it means so much," replied the other, "assuredly I will not fail
you. But why may I not do this under my own name, as your authorised
messenger?"

"Because the Grand Duke expects the Earl of Essex, the accredited deputy
of the King of France. The deputy of a deputy would have no prestige
with him, and would not even be admitted as guest at the villa. And it
is with its lady, mark you, that your true errand lies.

"These negotiations have to do with the marriage of Henry of Navarre to
the Grand Duke's niece Marie de' Medici. Ferdinando will make and break
treaties as suits his advantage. The lady's heart must be gained, she
must be made so ardently to desire this marriage that she will refuse
all other suitors. In short you must woo and win her for the King of
France. For such a task you have every qualification. You possess a
knowledge of the Italian language and the understanding of its
temperament and character which comes from sympathy. The Italians will
not need to know that you bear the name of Brandilancia to recognise
that you are the embodiment of the type of chivalry dreamed of by their
poets. Beware, however, of receiving or giving too much love, for report
hath it that the heiress of the Medici is surpassingly beautiful."

Brandilancia smiled somewhat bitterly. "You should know," he said, "that
my heart is in England and though my love should remain forever
unrequited, it can never be given to another."

"An excellent safeguard, in the present business," the Earl replied
cheerily, "so here are all objections overcome, and may you have many a
merry experience to recount when next we meet in England."

Hand met hand upon that compact, and while one Earl of Essex pursued his
homeward course another in a swift sailing pinnace flew eastward bound
upon adventures of which the archives of the English Admiralty preserve
no record.

As the young adventurer Brandilancia, who was to play the part of the
true Essex, rode up the hill crowned by the Villa Medici he was struck
by the resemblance of the massive retaining walls to those of some
medieval fortress. As such they had served in ancient days, holding the
villa safe in their protecting embrace from any uprising of the populace
of Rome, while on the side toward the Campagna they had withstood more
than one siege of the Goths. But high aloft, near the summit of this
cliff of natural rock and hewn stone the inhospitable windowless expanse
was broken by a row of arched openings, and silhouetted against the dark
void of one of these he caught a glimpse of a face framed in golden
hair.

Though so far above him the lady, who had been gazing down the road from
sheer ennui, had noticed the graceful figure of the cavalier, and had
watched his approach until he halted with upturned face beneath her
window. At that instant a little fan opening as it fell, dropped from
her hand and fluttered in the light breeze, like a bird with a broken
wing, beyond the road and into the ravine at its side.

Instantly Brandilancia sprang from his horse and, vaulting over the low
embankment, clambered down the incline. A smiling contadina, who was
beating out her linen on the margin of a basin of water, assisted him in
his search, but having found the fan she was so curious in regard to its
donor that Brandilancia endeavoured to divert her attention by plying
her with questions concerning the locality. From her replies he learned
that the washing pool was fed from an old aqueduct which passed under
the Villa Medici on its way to supply the fountains of Rome.

"See, Signor," she said, pointing out a nail-studded oaken door
concealed in the angle of a huge abutment, "they say that if that door
were not bolted on the inside one might enter the tunnel which brings
the water through the hill from its source miles away. There is a
legend, too, that a Roman princess who lived up yonder, centuries ago,
betrayed the secret to the barbarians, who came through the tunnel and
sacked Rome."

Brandilancia paid little heed to this information, not dreaming that he
would one day be indebted to it for escape from the villa which he was
now so blithely entering. Climbing back to the roadway he waved the fan
above his head and was greeted by a light clapping of hands from the
lofty window. Who could the lady be? He would ascertain in time, and
until he did so it was pleasant to reflect that some one within the
villa was interested in his coming and had wafted him this welcome.

He had need of hospitality for he was faint from the ride from Ostia in
the heat of an Italian June. The beautiful gardens glowed in dazzling
sunshine which the scintillating jets of the fountains reflected and
intensified. The statues seemed to shrink from the blinding light into
their niches in the great square-cut hedges, and the tessellated
pavement was hot beneath his tread.

Every detail of the antique relievi which the façade of the palace had
been designed to display was brought out by the intense illumination. In
its lavish ornamentation and elegant proportions the building suggested
a carved ivory cabinet, but one rifled of its jewels, for except for the
keeper of the gate-lodge, to whom he had tossed his bridle, he had met
no guards. The great doorway stood invitingly open, but Brandilancia
hesitated to enter and looked about for some means of announcing his
presence.

"Is the villa under some enchantment?" he asked himself. "If so some imp
or sprite should lurk hereabouts and now make its appearance."

As if in answer to this mental question a peal of elfish laughter
greeted his ear,--a mirthless, falsetto cackle, like that of a parrot,
and half hidden behind one of the great marble lions in the shade of the
loggia he discerned a grotesque little creature, with the figure of a
child and a woman's face, old in its expression of slyness and
malignity.

Brandilancia started, although he knew that it was the custom of Italian
princes to maintain dwarfs in their households. This woman, probably a
dependent, was dressed like a princess. Her dress though soiled was of
stiff brocade embroidered with gold thread, and the high lace ruff,
which made her swarthy complexion darker by contrast with its whiteness,
was edged with seed pearls.

"Come in, my lord," she croaked. "The Grand Duke regretted that, obliged
to be temporarily in Florence, he could not receive you, but awaiting
his return the villa is at your service, and the Grand Duchess and the
Signorina will endeavour to make the time pass pleasantly."

He followed her, wondering as to her position. "How did you know me?" he
asked. "You are expected," she replied, "and no one but an Englishman
would have called at the hour of the siesta. Shall I show your worship
to your own room, or will you await the ladies in the library?" His hand
was on the little fan, and he was striving to frame some question whose
answer would enlighten him as to the giver, but the dwarf's last word
caught his ear, and acted like the scent of spirits upon a man thirsting
for drink.

"To the library, by all means," he replied eagerly, and, as the heavy
portières were drawn aside, the tiny creature at his side and even the
golden-haired woman who had greeted his coming so graciously were for
the moment clean forgotten, for he comprehended that one of his dearest
hopes, long thwarted but never entirely relinquished, the hidden
personal motive which had been the determining factor in his acceptance
of this mission, was now about to be realised. The immense room from
floor to cornice was walled with books: the writings of the fathers of
the church--huge folios hasped in brass and ornamented with priceless
illuminations--side by side with pagan literature, Greek manuscripts,
and volumes of the Roman classics, while all the new harvest of the
Italian Renaissance, in every department then known, had been carefully
garnered. But high above the marshalled works of the poets, which his
fingers lingeringly caressed as he passed them by, Brandilancia had
detected a row of small volumes, and a thrill of triumphant delight shot
through his frame as he climbed the step-ladder and with eager fingers
plucked them from their niches.

For here were the novelli of Boccaccio, Masaccio, and Bandello, of
Giraldi Cinthio and Ser Giovanni Fiorentino and of many another writer
of romantic tales of whimsical gaiety, of intrigue, or of tragedy, and
Brandilancia was a playwright gifted with a most exceptional genius for
adaptation. He had read a few of these tales and had realised that they
contained admirable material for dramatisation, but now by a turn of the
wheel of Fortune the entire inexhaustible mine of absorbing plot of
piquant situation and contrasting characters, slightly sketched but
waiting only the touch of genius to spring into life, lay open before
him.

With a sigh of supreme satisfaction he sank into the nearest chair and
read like one under the influence of some hypnotic spell.

The secretary of the Grand Duke entered the library, shuffled about
noisily, coughed, and even addressed him, but the reader was unconscious
of his presence.

Curious as to what so enthralled the stranger the man of the ink-horn
tiptoed behind him, read the title over his shoulder, and laughed aloud.
Brandilancia surprised, laid down the volume and demanded the cause of
this demonstration.

"Pardon me, Signor," replied the secretary, "but I could not refrain,
your absorption pays me a great compliment for I am the author of that
book."

"You, sir?" exclaimed the half incredulous reader.

"I, Celio Malespini, Secretary to his Excellency, the Grand Duke, a man
of letters who has tried his quill in sundry other fields, as well."

"Then, Signor Malespini, accept my congratulations, for this story of
the company of the Calza of Venice is one of the merriest I have ever
read, and makes me eager to see their festival. Have you written other
books as entertaining?"

"I have as yet written no others," replied Celio, flattered and wholly
won by the stranger's praise, "but since you care for my poor efforts I
can lay before your worship those of other authors more worthy of your
attention."

From inconspicuous nooks and corners he dragged them forth and piled
them before the appreciative Brandilancia, who forgot all else until a
servant announced that his hostesses would receive him in the grand
salon a half hour before the hour of dining.

Even then he would have turned again to the fascinating volumes had not
the valet's added information that the luggage of the Signor was in his
room reminded him that dinner in such a house was a function and not
simply an opportunity for absorbing the provender necessary to sustain
life.

Fortunately, Brandilancia was an accomplished actor as well as writer,
and his theatrical experience had taught him to make quick changes not
only of costume, but of mental points of view and characteristics, and
Essex's wardrobe became him no more than the grace and manner of the
gallant young nobleman which he assumed with equal ease.

The transformation effected within the next hour was even deeper than
this, for as his eyes met those of Marie de' Medici he knew that here,
either for good or evil, was a woman destined to exert a compelling
influence upon his life.

It was not love, he told himself, for he was on his guard against that
passion. She did not impress him as beautiful. Her eyes were overbold
and searching but cold; but her bearing arrogant at first, softened as
the days went by into a frank comradeship, and he discovered that she
possessed a cultured and an appreciative mind.

Hitherto Brandilancia had hidden a sensitive heart craving the sympathy
that no woman had ever given him, under a gay and sportive exterior
which made him a prince of good fellows, a man's man, and a loyal lover
of his comrades, though they were far from appreciating his genius and
his aims. But every serious conversation held with his young hostess
confirmed him in his delusion that he had found a friend capable of
understanding him. That she did not as yet wholly do so was the fault of
his cursed disguise, which confused her perceptions of his real
character with preconceived ideas of Essex. He longed to reveal himself
to her, and did so to a greater degree than he realised.

Especially was this the case upon one memorable morning when, piqued
that he should spend so much time in the library, she had followed him
to that retreat.

She had found him absorbed in Luigi da Porto's novel _La Giulietta_, "a
pitiable history that occurred at Verona in the time of Bartolommeo
Scala," and she watched him slyly for some minutes amused by his
preoccupation before interrupting his feast.

"Ah!" she exclaimed at length in pleased surprise, "you have chanced
upon my favourite of all the books in my uncle's library. How many tears
have I shed for these poor lovers but chiefly because I knew no Romeo so
brave and noble and handsome to tempt me to die for him, or so devoted
as to die for me. That was when I was a child of ten, my lord. I have
learned since that such love exists only in novels, and have ceased to
cry for it."

"You are very cynical, sweet lady," he replied, "and unkind to the
novelists, whom I hold in worshipful esteem."

"And I also esteem them. It is precisely because the life they tell of
is so different from my own, in which nothing ever happens, that a
book-cover is for me a magic door by whose opening I escape out of the
unendurable present. Even more than the novels do I love the plays, and
to see them acted is better than to read them, best of all it must be to
act in one. Ah! that would indeed be like living another life."

"True, dear lady," he answered eagerly, "but there is a form of
diversion which to my mind is the most fascinating of all, and that is
the writing of a drama, for in so doing we create a little world of our
own, and control the destinies of the men and women whom we bring into
being."

She shrugged her shoulders. "But I care only to be the author of my own
rôle."

"And what," he asked, "would you choose that rôle to be?"

"I would be a Princess beloved by the King of the greatest nation in the
world. Beloved, mark you, not bargained for, but sought out personally
by the King who should love me for myself alone, a manifestly impossible
plot even for a play."

"On the contrary, 't is a good one. Let us collaborate now in the
planning of such a scheme. Let us suppose that for political reasons the
King could not come in his proper person, but having learned to love you
from report, were to seek you out incognito. Let us also imagine him so
happy as to win your love. Would you be capable of the devotion which
you demand of him?"

"Would I wed such a King whom I had learned to love, though in disguise?
Most certainly."

"Ah! dear lady, you wilfully disregard the point I make. Would you wed
this true lover, not knowing that he was a King? Let me put it still
more strongly. Would you give yourself to the _man_ you loved knowing
that he was not of royal birth?"

"Ah! that is a different question; but I answer yes, for I am certain
that my intuitions are so true that I could never love a man who was not
in every sense a King."

He smiled indulgently. "So be it, we will write such a drama and show
the world how true love pierces all disguise, and knowing its own,
challenges all dangers."

She listened eagerly, but she attributed an interpretation which he had
not intended to his perfectly simple suggestion. Placing her own
personality out of the question was impossible for one so absorbed in
self as this egoistic young creature. If Henry of Navarre were but like
his Ambassador how easy it would be to love him! and suddenly it flashed
through her mind that they were indeed one and the same. What other
signification could be placed upon this supposititious drama which they
were to evolve together?

Intrigue ran in her blood and distorted her perceptions. Transparent
frankness was incomprehensible to her, and it appealed to her romantic
imagination that the King of France should come like the hero of some
wonder-tale disguised as his own envoy extraordinary to see and woo his
princess.

Had she confided this wild idea to the experienced Malespini or to her
companion, the dwarf Leonora, whose shrewd intellect was out of all
proportion to her stunted body, she might easily have been disabused of
her error; but with an overweening confidence in the accuracy of her own
judgment she determined to weigh every sentence uttered by the man who
purported to be the Earl of Essex and draw her own conclusions as to his
identity.

To a mind preconvinced, proofs were not wanting. Brandilancia, fancying
that the little fan had fallen from the hand of Marie de' Medici by
accident, naively offered to return it. Her face clouded. "Then you do
not care to keep my first gift?" she pouted.

"Your gift? _May_ I then keep it?" he asked delighted.

"In exchange for the ring you wear," she replied, and he laid it in her
hand.

She examined with curiosity the device engraved upon the seal, a
gauntleted hand holding a lance in rest.

"Essex gave me that ring," he said thoughtlessly, for he was too excited
to measure his own words. "I value it, not because I have a right to the
arms it bears, but because he thought me a true knight errant eager for
any enterprise of honour and gallantry."

"Essex gave it. Then you are not Essex?" she asked smiling.

"'T was but a slip of the tongue," he replied confusedly. "It was the
King of France who presented it to me when I joined him with the English
auxiliaries at the siege of Rouen. We were much in each other's company,
not only in the main business of fighting, but in hawking and hunting in
the neighbourhood. It was the enemy's country, and this gave zest to our
escapades." He spoke rapidly but he could not distract her attention
from his inadvertent admission.

"Yes," she commented thoughtfully, "I have heard that you were friends
and comrades in many a wild adventure. Tell me more of the King, since
you of all others should know him best."

[Illustration: _Neurdein_

Henri IV. receiving the portrait of Marie de Medici

P. P. Rubens

From the series of paintings ordered by her for the Palace of the
Luxembourg]

"I know, dear lady, that he loves you."

"How can that be since he has never seen me?"

"Love enters the heart through many strange portals, and Henry of
Navarre knows you better than you suspect. Your portrait sent him by
your uncle is engraved upon his heart. Love gives a mysterious power of
second sight, and I doubt not that the King of France sees you at this
moment even as I do, and that Marie de' Medici is for him as for me the
embodiment of all womanly perfection."

"The Grand Duchess is approaching," she said in a low voice, "and Henry
of Navarre is a forbidden topic--talk of anything else--talk of art."

The subject was apropos, for they were in the garden and Ferdinando's
collection of masterpieces was all about them, but the Grand Duchess had
caught his closing phrase.

"Who is it," she asked drily, "who has the honour of being the
embodiment of the Earl of Essex's ideal of womanly perfection?"

"The Medicean Venus," Brandilancia replied unhesitatingly, with a wave
of the hand which took in that famous statue and also the lady at his
side.

The Grand Duchess sniffed, she was silenced but not deceived, and she
remained at her niece's side through the remainder of the afternoon.

As several guests joined them and discussed with great connoisseurship
the merits of the sculpture Brandilancia's thoughts wandered to his
host. "What manner of man was this Ferdinando de' Medici who had
converted his garden pleasance into a museum?"

Mentally reviewing what he had heard of the Grand Duke it seemed that
all that was most admirable in the race must focus in its present
representative. But Marie de' Medici had let fall a disquieting remark
which pointed to another side to his character. "See, your grace," she
had said to Brandilancia, "here is a favourite play of mine, _Il Moro di
Venezia_, a sad tragedy but it stirs one's blood to read it. Perhaps it
stirs mine because it is not long since tragedies like that have been
enacted in my own family. Love and jealousy and revenge are a part of
our heritage, and at times I long to come into my birthright, for such
existence as I now lead is not life."

This half-revelation so impressed Brandilancia that he could not expel
it from his mind, and when next alone with the secretary, Malespini, he
begged for an explanation.

"Tell me something," he begged, "of the character of the Grand Duke. I
do not ask you to divulge private matters, but only such as are public
property and with which I would be acquainted were I not so newly
arrived in Italy."

Malespini gave him a compassionate glance. "I thought that all the world
knew that my master was a child of Satan," he replied coolly. "The
Signorina told you truly. He caused the death of his two sisters-in-law,
and was responsible for the murder of his own sister, goading her
husband the Duke of Bracciano to the act. It is commonly reported also
that the Signorina's father, the former Grand Duke of Tuscany, together
with his wife, Bianca Capello, were poisoned by Ferdinando, though he
made the act appear to be that of the murdered Duchess."

"And what," asked the horrified Brandilancia, "was the motive of this
crime?"

"Is it not apparent? Ferdinando de Medici, then a cardinal, had just
failed in his candidacy for the pontificate (outwitted by that fox
Montalto). If he could not be pope it suited him as well to be Grand
Duke of Tuscany."

"If this is true is the Signorina safe in his power?"

"So long as their interests are the same, Signor. And you who are the
friend of Henry of Navarre should know that the Grand Duke is anxious to
place his niece upon the throne of France. Should she set her will
against her uncle's ambition he would scruple at no perfidity or crime.
You wonder why I, who am in his service, should tell you this. It is
because I am strangely drawn to you. From the moment I saw that you
appreciated what I had written, that we spoke the same language, strove
after the same ideals, I was yours heart and soul. They talk of love at
first sight, a foolish matter between man and woman, but when two men
recognise that they are congenial spirits it is the most natural and
inevitable thing in all the world. And so I tell you again, be on your
guard for your personal safety. If, however unjustly, any distrust of
you should be awakened in the mind of the Grand Duke, if he imagined
that the Signorina had learned to care for you, then your life, and hers
as well, would not be worth one soldo."

This conversation occasioned the guest of the villa serious thought. It
obtruded itself in the very tales of intrigue, passion, and murder which
he read to drive it from his mind, those fascinating novelli with their
records of bloody hereditary vendettas, of innocent or guilty lovers
alike done to death by indiscriminating cruelty.

"Truly," he thought, "in Italy a woman's kiss and that of a poniard go
often in such close company that the sweet woman's mouth which lets love
in almost touches the red mouth of the wound which lets life out."

Though not so definitely explained, he had felt the presence of danger
before; but so long as it threatened himself alone it added a spice of
excitement to the adventure; now, however, that he realised what grave
consequences the least indiscretion on his part might bring upon Marie
de' Medici herself, he determined to be doubly circumspect.

With this intention he held himself aloof from the superb mundane life
of the villa, and, retiring to the library, occupied himself in
translating and rearranging old plays. But all day as he wrote, though
half unconsciously, his thoughts were with his fair hostess, and always
at the hour of the siesta of the Grand Duchess Marie de' Medici was with
him in person. It was on the second morning of his seclusion that she
had tapped at the door and offered her aid in his work; thus converting
the very means by which he sought to avoid her into a stratagem for the
uninterrupted enjoyment of her society.

Had Brandilancia been more sophisticated, it might have struck him as
exceptional that a princess who been brought up in the strictest
conventionality should have granted the privilege of such intimate
association even to so exalted a personage as the Earl of Essex. He
believed her confidence due to girlish innocence, and was more than ever
determined to protect her from himself. Leonora was always on guard in
the ante-room, and joined them whenever she heard the sound of
approaching footsteps. It surprised this world-wise little sentinel that
on none of these occasions had the young man appeared to have taken any
advantage of his opportunity, and she was irritated by the amused
condescension with which he treated her. He could never realise that
this grotesque and tiny creature was not an uncanny child, and he had
nicknamed her good-humouredly The Owlet, on account of her large round
eyes.

"I had not thought the Earl of Essex so blind," she said to him one day
when they chanced to be alone.

"My eyes are not fashioned to see in the dark like yours, Owlet," he
replied. "Tell me what it is you see."

"Many things, but the plainest of all to me is that whoever you may be
you are not the Earl of Essex."

He was off his guard, and his expression confirmed her suspicions. She
laughed maliciously, and her face, always sly and old beyond her years,
was absolutely repulsive now as it reflected her gloating sense of her
advantage.

"Put your mind at rest, my lord," she said, mockingly. "Your secret is
safe in my keeping. I do not know your aims, but if you will take me
into your confidence you are sure of success. I am only dangerous when I
am angered. Why should you not succeed? The Signorina is completely
infatuated with you. If we make her believe that you have assumed the
character of the Earl of Essex from love of her she will readily forgive
you that deceit. Together we can accomplish anything and everything, for
you have a winning way with women, and I have brains--yes, more than you
give me credit for--and this doll-faced girl shall make our fortunes.
When we have sucked the coffers of the Medici dry, take me with you to
your own country, and I will be your faithful accomplice there also,
for, misshapen and hideous as I am, I love you, my beautiful adventurer;
yes, with a devotion of which my mistress is not capable, for she is
vain and shallow and selfish. Oh, why did God give her the form of an
angel and put my soul in the body of a demon?"

Brandilancia, up to this point speechless with astonishment, had not
been able to interrupt her, and the dwarf had climbed to the table,
where, perched at his elbow, she had poured her confidences into his
ear; but as she drew his face to hers with her small claw-like hands he
forgot all considerations of policy in an unconquerable repulsion, and
wrenched himself rudely from her.

"Imp!" he exclaimed, "your soul matches your body. You are hideous
through and through."

The look which she gave him was full of malignity. "You shall live to
learn that the good-will of a devil is better than her ill-will," she
said, as she slipped from the table and left the room.

Brandilancia's uneasy compunction which immediately followed his hasty
exclamation was soon effaced by the dwarf's apparent forgiveness. "We
were both indiscreet," she said to him the following day; "let us forget
and be friends."

But Leonora would not forget, and the young man had lost his
opportunity of making her his friend.

She immediately carried her doubts to her mistress. "The man is not the
Earl of Essex," she asserted. "He is some base impostor, I know not
whom, but I will make him declare himself ere long."

Marie de' Medici was silent, but her thoughts were voluble. Since it had
pleased her royal lover to come incognito she would betray him to no one
nor even allow him to suspect that she had penetrated his disguise, but
would flatter the King by feigning that she loved him for himself alone,
and would exert every endeavour to make him sincerely her lover.

In spite of the injunction of the Grand Duchess, they often spoke of
Henry of Navarre, and Brandilancia in the desire to forward the mission
upon which he had been sent, told of Henry's unhappy wedded life,
expressing with great frankness his own detestation of the craft and
cruelty of Catherine de' Medici and the levity of her daughter
Marguerite of Valois.

"You forget," Marie de' Medici had replied, "that they are my
kinswomen."

"I forget many things in your presence which I should remember," he had
replied. "Sometimes even that I, too, am a married man and, knowing you
as I do, I can not blame the King of France that he is seeking, through
divorce, freedom from a marriage into which he was half tricked, half
forced, and that he is willing to risk salvation for the hope of your
love."

That answer pleased her well. She had no doubt now that he loved her,
and did not hesitate to assure him in many covert ways that the feeling
was reciprocated. Brandilancia would have been blind indeed not to have
recognised her admiration, but he believed it merely appreciation of his
genius, whereas her mind was too limited to comprehend it. She was in
love with the possibility of being a queen upon such easy terms,
delighted to find that the necessary husband was no uncouth tyrant but a
man of winsome personality whose delicate assiduities were ever present
and yet never over passed the restraints of deference.

It would have been difficult for two persons to have more utterly
misunderstood each other. Brandilancia had reached the full maturity of
his mental powers. His genius had created many charming women, but the
ideal for which his lonely heart yearned had only gradually taken shape
in his mind, and the heroine which he now gave to literature marked an
epoch in his career.

He had found the plot of his drama sketched in part in one of the
novelli of Ser Giovanni; but the conception of an aristocratic yet
gracious lady gifted with all perfection, with which he replaced the
siren of Belmont, was not, as he supposed, a portrait from life of Marie
de' Medici. The character sprang directly from his own intense longing,
and by some unreasoning reflex action, his mind endowed the woman who
happened to be near him with qualities which he created and which she
unhappily did not possess.

The idol which he worshipped was absolutely the work of his own hands,
for it was not until his imagination had cheated his eyes, and he had
begun to look at Marie de' Medici through its flattering lenses that he
thought her beautiful. And yet at the age of twenty she possessed very
real attractions: a southern blond, not milky-veined, like the pale
maidens of the north, but with all the gold of the hot sunshine in her
hair, and the rich blood glowing through her fair skin like flame in an
alabaster lamp. Superbly modelled, but lithe and tall, she carried
regally the sumptuous opulence with which nature had endowed her, and
the soft curve of her shoulders, throat, and bosom had not as yet
blossomed into the plethora which Rubens depicted with so gloating a
brush. Nor was she precisely the same as when Brandilancia had looked
upon these charms unmoved. All arrogance and self-confidence were gone
or lay buried under the most appealing of coquetry, a shy tenderness
apparently born of irresistible impulse showing itself in little wilful
sallies, a glance or touch, seemingly instantly regretted, and followed
by alternations of reticence. He admitted her bewitching but had no idea
that he was himself bewitched. His was a literary passion. He was a
student of life as well as of books, and he had never before had the
opportunity of studying such glorious examples of both at close range.

He completed his portrait of his ideal heroine Portia, the noblest that
he ever depicted, and found to his surprise that quite another type of
woman was forming itself in his mind. Powerful outside influences
mingled their impressions with the long-stifled hunger in his heart. He
was not in love with his hostess, but he was starving for love, and each
book that he read, every object of art that he looked upon, and nature
itself was steeped with the charm and passion of Italy. If he tossed
aside Boccaccio and his too suggestive _confrères_ to seek refreshment
in the garden it was only to find himself face to face with the famous
statue of the most seductive of all women, she who made Cæsar her slave
and Antony her "floor-cloth."

She obtruded herself upon him everywhere, for his very bed

                     was hanged
    With tapestry of silk and silver,
                     the story
    Proud Cleopatra when she met her Roman.

He had read with Marie de' Medici the history of the Egyptian Queen, and
had brooded over it until against his will something of the fascination
of the "Serpent of Old Nile" invested his comrade, and the name of
Antony ever after called up in her memory also the inspired face of her
fellow-student in the dangerous science of love.

Realising vaguely the influence which like some mephitic perfume, an
opiate of the soul, emanated from the purely literary reconstruction of
such a character, he laid it aside for the heart-breaking story of
Giulietta, whose very innocence moved him still more profoundly.

It was midsummer, the quivering July heat brought out the pungent scent
of the freshly clipped box-hedges, and set the mad flood stirring as in
the brief action of the play. During the day the white glare drove the
guests of the garden festivals into the shadiest recesses of the cypress
labyrinths. The flowers themselves seemed to have vanished from the
parterres, or, like the Cereus, bloomed only at night, plainly visible
under the luminous sky, when the nightingales vied with the viols of the
serenaders.

On such a night as this Brandilancia, who had been reading late, closed
his book and, after the departure of the last reveller, stepped upon the
terrace to cool his brain heated by inspiration. A kindred restlessness
brought Marie de' Medici to her balcony and he recklessly sprang upon a
marble bench which almost enabled him to touch her hand.

"Listen, dearest lady," he said, "it is your favourite story, which I
have re-written with my own heart's blood."

Enthralled, though only half comprehending, Marie de' Medici listened as
he poured forth in impassioned improvisation lines which from that day
to this no one who has ever loved has heard untouched. The actor's
training gave to the burning words of the poet artistic expression
worthy of the most finished theatrical production, and as such they
lacked not their due appreciation and applause though from a most
undesired audience. A low chuckling and a clapping of hands greeted the
close of the recital, and the two successful impersonators of Romeo and
Juliet saw to their confusion that the scene had been witnessed by a
burly man-at-arms, who now stalked from the shadow of a group of
cypresses.

"Bravo!" he cried, "da Groto himself did not act that play so well, when
I saw him years since in the Farnese theatre at Parma. But you have
taken liberties with the lines and, per Bacco! have improved them.
Whoever you may be you are too good an actor for such paltry
assistance."

"And I know no one better qualified to pronounce upon a play than
Captain Radicofani," replied Marie de' Medici, reappearing from the
interior of her chamber whither she had retreated on the appearance of
the intruder. "It is odd that you should have chanced so opportunely
upon us as we were rehearsing our little comedy. My lord of Essex,
permit me to present Captain Tuzio Radicofani, as brave a soldier as
ever wielded sword, and one loyally attached to my uncle's service. What
news do you bring from the Grand Duke, Captain? Will he soon return to
us?"

"The Earl of Essex?" the other repeated in surprise disregarding for
the moment Marie de' Medici's questions. "It is rare indeed to find one
of Fortune's favourites so variously talented. His Excellency the Grand
Duke, though he enumerated both your physical and mental accomplishments
with great particularity spoke not of play-acting."

Brandilancia did not relish the shrewd look in the half-closed eyes, nor
did he fancy the bullet-shaped close-cropped head with its overweight of
occiput and bull-dog jaw, but he replied courteously, "such trifling
diversion on the part of an idle man is surely less remarkable than its
appreciation by one of action like yourself."

"The Grand Duke would also have been surprised," the soldier continued,
"could he have assisted at this little scene. Your highness does himself
discredit in referring to the performance as trifling, for, by the
Blood, I never saw so accomplished an actor. The Signorina's talent
likewise astonished me, though it was confined to mere pantomime, one
might have thought it the languishing of a love-sick girl. By your
favour, Signorina, there are indeed certain letters in my saddle-bags
which my groom has in charge, but the varlet has gone to his supper in
the servants' hall. I, too, am hungry and will seek the steward. The
letters, with your Highness's permission, shall be presented on the
morrow, which indeed is almost here."

They entered the villa together in apparent friendliness, but it was
with a sense of impending evil that Brandilancia retired to his room.

Was it simply that the man had interrupted them at a moment when in
spite of Marie de' Medici's tactful greeting no audience was desired, or
was there something sinister in his coming? The more Brandilancia
reflected the less he liked the familiarity which amounted to an
assumption of authority. Radicofani's voice had not rung true. "The
fellow suspects me. Nay, he knows that I am not the Earl of Essex,"
groaned the young man, as he tossed upon his bed; "and if his creature
knows, then the Grand Duke knows also, and who can guess on what errand
this villain comes? He pretended to believe that we were rehearsing a
comedy, but he doubtless places the worst possible construction upon the
scene which he has just witnessed. Was it a comedy, or am I in earnest?
Ah! I have deliberately fallen into the trap against which Malespini
warned me. I have lingered too long in this fool's paradise. Love and
its penalty have stricken me in the same instant. Thank Heaven! no
thought of this madness of mine can have entered the pure mind of my
lady. Until this night I have breathed no word that could have betrayed
it, and even now she doubtless thinks my ravings those of a poet. I will
leave the villa to-morrow, lest my further presence here should bring
trouble upon her."

Even as he formed the resolution a slight sound caught his ear, the
cautious opening and closing of the door which led from the ante-chamber
of his bedroom into the outer hall, the only means of communication
between his own room and other parts of the villa. A light shone between
the folds of the portière, and there were sounds of some one moving
about softly in the ante-room. Springing from his bed, Brandilancia
seized his sword.

"Who is there?" he demanded.

"'T is I, Radicofani," and the tapestries parted, disclosing the form of
the Captain, towering beyond a camp-bed which had been spread across the
doorway.

"I should have informed your worship," he apologised smugly, "that I
sleep here to-night. Put up your sword, and rest assured that no one
shall pass this room without my license."

"And could they give you no better lodging than that?" asked
Brandilancia.

"Room in plenty," the Captain replied, "but it is on the Grand Duke's
orders that I act as your body-guard, and I enter upon my duties at
once, for I am responsible for your safety."

The prisoner inquired no further, but letting fall the portière, threw
himself upon his bed confounded. His resolution to leave the villa had
been made too late.

But the morning brought a fresh access of hope, as Brandilancia noticed
between the widely-drawn curtains that the obstructing truckle-bed had
been set against the wall and that his guard had left his post.

The dwarf Leonora, who was the only occupant of the dining hall when he
descended, stole to his side and bade him await the Signorina in the
belvedere in the upper garden.

Here Marie de' Medici presently joined him.

"My lord," she said, between her quick panting, for she was out of
breath with running, "I shame to tell you, but you must leave us at
once, indeed you should have done so long since."

"It is what I had upon my mind to say to you, sweet lady," he replied.
"I have an appointment to meet at Venice ten days hence, and must leave
my papers for the Grand Duke and proceed upon my journey, much as it
irks me to tear myself from your company."

"Then you know not that my uncle has sent Radicofani to take you to
Florence?"

"The Grand Duke does me honour, and under other circumstances I would
gladly accept his further hospitality; but his Highness will understand
that Robert Devreux is not free to follow his own inclinations."

"No, you are not free," she answered hastily. "Read this letter which
Radicofani gave to my aunt this morning and which I purloined from her
writing-cabinet. Nay, hesitate not but read, for it concerns you
vitally." At her command he read:

     "_To the Grand Duchess Christina de' Medici._

     "MOST HONOURED AND DEAR SPOUSE:

     "Your letter informing me of the arrival at the villa of a person
     purporting to be the Earl of Essex has occasioned me great concern
     inasmuch as the fellow is undoubtedly an impostor.

     "His Eminence, Don Jerome Osorio, Bishop of Algarve, who arrived in
     this city some five days since, asserts positively that on the date
     upon which this rascal presented himself at the Villa Medici the
     Earl of Essex personally conducted the sack of the town of Faro in
     southern Portugal, and, having feloniously carried the bishop's
     library on board the English flag-ship, he forth-with set sail for
     the open ocean, evidently upon his return voyage for England.

     "Imagine, therefore, my anxiety on learning that you have given
     harbourage to some rascal, who having by base practises learned
     that the Earl had an errand with me, now usurps his name and
     credit. I send this letter by my trusty servitor, Radicofani, whom
     I have charged to bring the villain with all speed to me that I may
     examine him by the question and learn his motives in assuming this
     disguise. If he has brought with him any papers (some of which he
     may easily have stolen from the Earl of Essex) see to it that
     Radicofani obtains possession of them before the rascal's
     suspicions are aroused. I tremble when I think how he may have
     practised upon your unsuspicious nature, and what villainies he may
     already have accomplished, or rather I would thus tremble did I not
     know that you inherit the resolution of the race of Lorraine,
     which, even when a mistake has been committed, knows how to wring
     success from disaster. Confiding thus in your courage and your
     woman's wit, I remain,

"Your loving husband,

"FERDINANDO.

     "P.S. For the better furtherance of my desires confide my
     suspicions to no one not even to my niece, but take leave of this
     caitiff with all ceremony as though he were indeed him whom he
     represents."

Brandilancia paled slightly, but not at the danger in which he stood.
"The Grand Duke is correct in his suspicions," he said, "I have lied to
you, I am not the Earl of Essex."

She smiled enigmatically. "You have known it all along?" he exclaimed.
"Then I am a poorer actor than I thought."

"Nay, you acted your part well, but early in our acquaintance I knew you
for a nobler man than the Earl of Essex. I have no guess as to the
station to which you may have been born, but you are fitted to play a
knightly part, on a far different stage from this, my King among men."

"And when I have won my crown," he replied, "the world shall know that
it was your faith in me which nerved me to the effort, for I shall lay
it at your feet, my Queen, the only woman who has ever really understood
or cared for me." His arms were about her and she was sobbing in the
excitement of her triumph. "Yes, yes," she cried, "you will come again,
but now you must fly. What am I that I should hold you thus when you
stand in danger of your life?"

"Have no fear for me dear lady," he replied. "The Grand Duke is
fair-minded, and will not fail to credit my assertions when I explain
why I undertook this adventure."

"My uncle believes nothing without absolute proof. Such chivalrous
motives as yours would seem to him incredible. If you fail to convince
him of your identity he will execute you as a common rogue. If you prove
it he will use every inch of his advantage ere you escape his clutches.
You must fly, but how? On learning an hour since, that Radicofani had
descended to the city, I ordered our horses for a ride only to learn
that he had left strict orders at the stables and at the gates of the
villa that you were not to be allowed to leave the grounds. My friend,
you are a close prisoner. Think fast. What can you do?"

"Nothing, dear lady, but trust that since I have committed no crime I
shall not receive the treatment of a criminal."

"What loss of time is this?" exclaimed Leonora as she suddenly made her
appearance from behind the hedge. "Here I have stood on guard for half
an hour by the sun-dial and you have wasted it in idle chatter. I tell
you, Signor, my mistress is right, you are as good as a dead man if you
trust to the Grand Duke; but take the advice of the Owlet and we will
foil him nicely."

For an instant a suspicion flashed across his mind that her apparent
friendliness was untrustworthy. It was she, he suspected, who had
ushered Radicofani into the garden on the previous evening, or at least
had failed to give warning of his approach. But he dismissed these
thoughts as unworthy.

"What expedient do you suggest Leonora?" he asked.

"Do you not recognise that contadina," the dwarf replied, "the one
standing between the fountain and the parapet yonder? She is a friend of
yours and will help me save you."

"A friend of mine!" Brandilancia repeated wonderingly.

Leonora laughed maliciously. "Have you forgotten possessing yourself of
a little fan which my mistress dropped, quite by accident, from a window
on the day of your arrival, and that you were assisted in finding it by
the laundress of the villa? The artful jade has a better memory. She
does not fail to remind me of the incident and to inquire for you
whenever she calls for the linen. I have been obliged to stop her mouth
with more than one coin to keep her from blabbing to the Grand Duchess.
However that incident proves to have been all for the best. Her cart is
at the kitchen door, she is waiting there at my orders. Summon her to
your room, purchase and don the costume which she now wears. With her
kerchief shading your face no one will recognise you, and you will drive
away in triumph throned upon her hampers, until well beyond the city
when you can turn the donkey loose and catch the Venetian post."

[Illustration: View from the Garden of the Villa Medici]

His laugh rang out boyishly. "The adventure of Bucciolo, which I read to
the Signorina, from the tales of Ser Giovanni suggested that expedient,"
he said. "It were a good motive for a roaring farce, but I must consider
the dignity of the name I bear."

"Nay speak it not," entreated Marie de' Medici in a whisper, throwing
her arms about his neck. "I heard a step upon the gravel."

He regarded her wonderingly, "Let who will hear," he persisted. "It
shall never be said that the Earl of Essex slunk from danger in a
wench's petticoats."

"Well spoken, I like you the better for that," laughed a loud voice, and
Captain Radicofani parting the shrubbery suddenly appeared,
interrupting, for the second time, their confidences. "How
unsuspectingly you children fell into my trap," he sneered. "I knew that
the Signorina would warn you. You were acting a tableau I presume just
now as you held her in your embrace. A pretty scene, i' faith, but one
of which the Grand Duke will not be amused to hear. I had hoped to learn
still more of the libretto of this little play, but you know more of
mine. We will make no further pretence, and lest I lose you by further
shilly-shallying, we will start upon our journey at once.

"Until we are well upon our way, Signorina, may I beg you, and Leonora
also, to remain in your own suite of apartments and to attempt to hold
no communication with this gentleman?"

Marie de' Medici bowed haughtily. "I shall employ the time in writing my
uncle how unwarrantably Captain Radicofani exceeds his orders," she
replied as she swept angrily from the belvedere.

Seeing that the indignation of her mistress merely amused the
condottiere the dwarf took a cajoling tone. "At least your highness will
remain to luncheon," she said insinuatingly.

"That invitation I am powerless to refuse," replied the Captain, "but
you may order it served in this gentleman's chamber, whither I will now
conduct him."

With a disconcerting chuckle Radicofani suited his action to the word,
and busied himself with preparations for the journey, taking care,
however, as he strode from ante-room to bed-chamber to keep his prisoner
constantly in sight. The latter's hope of escape had reached a low ebb
when Malespini knocked timidly. He had brought certain papers which the
Signor had left in the library. Captain Radicofani received the
secretary distrustfully and bestowed the papers among his own effects.
"I will look them over," he commented, "and if innocent pass them on to
our friend before we arrive in Florence."

Malespini retreated deferentially, but, once outside the door he
executed a silent war-dance as an outlet for his rage. In its eccentric
evolutions he hurtled against a servant bringing the luncheon, and fully
half of the viands poured like an avalanche down the stairs. While the
man strove to gather up the broken crockery the secretary snatched the
tray and with ill-concealed triumph re-entered the apartment.

"Is this all you have brought?" grumbled the disappointed Captain.

"Truly," replied the wily Malespini, "this light collation was intended
solely for his highness the Earl of Essex, who I hear must keep his
room. For your lordship dinner awaits in the banquet-room, where the
Grand Duchess has ordered a boar's-head, stuffed with sage and onions,
together with a pasty of pheasants, and where she will serve you with
her own hands a stirrup-cup of the Grand Duke's oldest vintage."

Captain Radicofani sprang up with alacrity, but noticing that Malespini
was edging nearer to his friend, ordered the secretary gruffly to pass
out before him.

"Behind the bed," said Malespini in a low voice to the prisoner, as he
lighted one of the tapers in the mantel candelabra, "and take all of
these candles, _all_ or you are lost."

"Idiot," shouted the Captain; "it is not yet noon. What need of lights?
Play me no tricks, but leave the room."

Springing from his chair as soon as the door had closed behind
Radicofani, Brandilancia examined the huge state-bedstead, and with a
little exertion trundled it forward. Behind its tapestry hangings a
secret door, suspected only by a crack in the wainscotting, opened
beneath his prying fingers, and revealed a spiral staircase leading
downward into pitchy darkness. Comprehending Malespini's admonition, he
hastily appropriated the candles, and, drawing the bedstead into its
place behind him, descended the dizzily circling steps. Eighty-seven he
counted, twisting round and round within the turret, and then he paused,
for he distinctly heard the sound of rushing water. The air had become
moist as well as cool, and the steps were green and slippery with moss.
Advancing with more caution, he presently found himself in a vaulted
passage a little higher than his head, where a narrow pathway followed a
conduit of dark water, which reflected the flame of his candle in a
thousand glancing sparkles.


II

IN WHICH IT IS DEMONSTRATED THAT IT IS SOMETIMES EASIER TO SET OUT UPON
A QUEST THAN TO RETURN THEREFROM

It was the Aqua Virgo, the old subterranean aqueduct built by the
Emperor Claudius, that pierced the hill beneath the Villa Medici, in
which Brandilancia now found himself. If he turned to the left he knew
he would soon find egress through the doorway to which the chance
fluttering of Marie de' Medici's fan had led him. But this would be to
appear upon the streets of Rome in open day, and to run the risk of
seizure by Radicofani's guards. Moreover, Malespini's advice to provide
himself with so many candles was significant, and Brandilancia
unhesitatingly chose the longer way, not doubting that it would finally
lead him into the open country.

The stream at his side was of considerable volume and flowed with great
swiftness, while the shelf upon which he was advancing was hardly more
than ten inches broad. Both it and the wall were slimy with dampness,
giving no secure hold to hand or foot. The pathway mounted steadily, and
apparently pursued a straight course, but no opening showed itself in
the distance, and the light of his taper penetrated but a little way
into the blackness. As he glanced backward his shadow loomed in a
gigantic and almost unrecognisable form, following him waveringly like a
malevolent spirit. His footsteps woke hollow reverberations; the water
gurgled and sobbed, and an odor suggestive of the tomb added to the
impression that he was wandering in some unexplored catacomb. He could
proceed but slowly, and the low temperature chilled him to the bone, but
he pushed on resolutely as it seemed to him for interminable hours. "I
shall go mad," he thought, "if there is no change in this deadly
monotony," and at that instant the vault echoed with the beat of
hurrying footsteps.

Brandilancia could see the distant flare of torches, and he knew that
his candle was as plainly visible to his pursuers. He dared not
extinguish it, but quickened his pace to a run, slipping, almost falling
into the water as he dashed recklessly forward. Suddenly, but not an
instant too soon, he halted before a void. The pathway had disappeared;
another step and he would have plunged into a reservoir of unknown depth
which yawned without a barrier before him.

As he lifted his candle and peered across the wide expanse he saw that
the tunnel was closed directly opposite him by a wall of solid masonry,
and in his dismay almost a minute elapsed before he discovered to the
left an open archway which indicated that the tunnel here turned at an
angle. But how should he cross to this doorway? The coping which
separated the cistern from the canal in the centre of the tunnel was too
narrow and the water poured over it noisily. He was about to attempt
swimming when he noticed that he was standing upon a plank, evidently
placed here to be used as a bridge. He retreated a few steps and pushed
it cautiously forward. It reached across the cistern and rested upon the
sill of the arched doorway.

In the brief interval thus consumed the footsteps had gained upon him
and in the light of the approaching torches he plainly recognised
Radicofani, who shouted to him to surrender. Thus beset he ventured the
crossing, but the plank was rotten and broke under his weight, falling
with him into the reservoir. He struck out in the direction in which he
imagined the archway to be, by good fortune found it by feeling along
the wall, and clambered upon the ledge which ran along the side of the
conduit as in the first tunnel.

He had suffered no other harm than the thorough wetting and the loss of
his candles, and the torches of his pursuers, who had now reached the
opposite side of the cistern, showed that the tunnel was slightly wider
than its opening, and that by hugging the wall he was not visible to
Radicofani. The latter had heard the splash and regarded the water
dubiously.

"Have you gone to the bottom?" he shouted, but Brandilancia was wisely
silent. "If not," cried the Captain, "and you are hiding yonder within
hearing, let me tell you that you will die like a rat in a sewer unless
you give yourself up at the entrance to that tunnel, where you will find
me waiting for you."

Drenched to the skin Brandilancia's teeth chattered with the physical
cold, and fear numbed his heart. "What if Radicofani spoke the truth?"

But to carry out his threat the Captain must retrace his steps and ride
to the spot where the aqueduct entered the hill. How far he had
proceeded Brandilancia could not guess, possibly half or three-fourths
of the way. If so there was hope of reaching the opening before
Radicofani, and he hurried on with what speed he could consistent with
groping his way with hands and feet in the total darkness. The exertion
stirred his blood but the tunnel seemed to have no end. His hands were
worn and bleeding with clinging to the rough wall, and a great lassitude
was stealing over him when he caught a faint glimmer of light like that
of a star, not the lurid glow of a candle or torch but the blessed white
light of day. It was the longed-for opening, though still far away. He
thought that he had out-distanced Radicofani and stumbled on, exultation
giving him new strength when a sudden eclipse of this star of hope made
him crouch motionless, grovelling close to the earth. A man's head and
shoulders were silhouetted blackly against the brightness. The man
peered cautiously into the tunnel, and listened; but neither hearing nor
seeing anything, presently withdrew.

Was it Radicofani? Were workmen preparing to wall up the exit? Ought he
to make a sudden rush for life and liberty?

Every instinct prompted him to this resolution, and he crawled
cautiously forward to within a few feet of the opening. Again the man
appeared, with a sudden bound Brandilancia was upon him and both rolled
in a life-and-death struggle upon the ground.

So dazed was he by the glare of the full light of day, so nearly crazed
with desperation that he did not recognise the voice that implored him
to cease his blows, or realise that his supposed antagonist was the
friendly Malespini, who, on the instant that Radicofani had discovered
and descended the secret staircase, had slipped his guards and ridden to
Brandilancia's succour on the swiftest horse obtainable in Rome.

Hastily exchanging his own mire-besmirched garments for the secretary's
unobtrusive suit, Brandilancia, with many apologies for his onslaught,
listened to Malespini's explanations of a circuitous route by which he
could avoid Radicofani, ride to Orte, and, leaving the horse at the inn
stables, take the diligence on the following day for Venice. Malespini's
suggestions, acceptable in themselves, were gratifyingly supplemented by
a tender letter from Marie de' Medici and a purse well filled with gold.

"Of the money I have fortunately no need," Brandilancia replied, "but
the care of your mistress for my safety and your own pains in my behalf
command my eternal gratitude. You shall both hear from me from Venice,
and so farewell."

Malespini's scheme seemed at first likely to be crowned with success,
and having secured his seat in the Venetian post, Brandilancia naturally
imagined his troubles at an end; but shortly after leaving Orte, where
the road turns to the eastward for its climb over the Apennines, the
lumbering vehicle came to a sudden halt. Shouts and oaths without, the
shrieks of a woman at his side, and the opening of the door by a masked
man, formidably armed, sufficiently explained the situation.

The passengers on dismounting were relieved of their purses by the
bandits, but, with the exception of Brandilancia, were allowed to
proceed upon their journey. No explanation was offered for this
discrimination, but there was something familiar in the figure of the
leader, who, after pointing out Brandilancia, had ridden rapidly on in
advance of his men, and the captive wondered at the excellent
accoutrements of the band and the good quality of the horse which he was
compelled to mount.

They struck at once into a wild mountain gorge, avoiding villages and
farms, and when at noon the brigands halted for refreshments in a
little wood, and removed their masks, Brandilancia recognised no
familiar faces.

Remounting, the brigands pursued their way up a steep bridle path, their
destination a strong castle, perched high on a spur of the mountain. The
prisoner's heart sank as he noted its isolation and strength, for here a
captive might remain for years and finally die undiscovered.

But Brandilancia had not reckoned on the cupidity of his host. His
capture had been planned not by hatred, but in the hope of ransom, as
was explained to him by the brigand chief, into whose presence he was
led upon his arrival at the stronghold.

The man still wore his mask, but at the first word which he uttered
Brandilancia to his astonishment recognised the condottiere Radicofani.
Accosted by name, the Captain removed his mask, and coolly confronted
his prisoner.

"It is as well," he said, "that you should understand the situation.
Your flight and apparent escape remove my accountability to the Grand
Duke for your person. I should not have troubled myself further about
you, were it not that upon my empty-handed return to the villa the
Signorina Marie de' Medici very indiscreetly taunted me with having
allowed a far more important personage than the Earl of Essex to slip
unrecognised through my fingers. Just who you are she did not see fit to
divulge; but I gathered that you are of sufficient consequence for your
friends to be willing to pay handsomely for your release. You may
therefore write to them, and I will see that your letters reach their
destination on condition that you advise the fulfilment of my demands."

"The Signorina has unwittingly misled you," Brandilancia replied. "The
Grand Duke was right in his belief that the Earl of Essex had sailed for
England, but though I am his accredited representative, as I hope to
prove to your master if you will convey me to him, I am a man of no
wealth and one whom the world will not miss."

"Tush! my fine fellow; it is useless to attempt to deceive me, and it is
against your own interest; for you can make better terms with me than
with the Grand Duke, who is by far a greater brigand than your present
host."

Thus admonished Brandilancia resigned himself to the inevitable, and
wrote two letters; the first to the Earl of Essex, expressing his regret
that he had not been able to personally present to Ferdinando de'
Medici the papers entrusted to him instead of sending them by the hand
of Radicofani. While reporting his captive condition, he begged his
friend to be at no expense or trouble for his redemption, beyond an
explanation to the Grand Duke that he had undertaken the mission upon
proper authority and should be allowed to return.

Having dashed off this missive at fever heat Brandilancia paused, pen in
hand, moodily regarding the blank sheet before him until gruffly
reminded by Radicofani that he must either write or give over the
attempt.

He started at the command, for in imagination he had been far away in a
thatch-roofed cottage behind hawthorne hedges, where Anne, faithful
Anne, had so often welcomed her wild lover. Their wills had clashed
after their marriage. She had objected unreasonably when his career led
him to London, had been sceptical as to his success, and even, so it
seemed to him, as to his genius. There had been angry reproaches and
bitter recriminations, but at heart he had never doubted her affection
and had always intended to convince her of his own when he could also
prove that in following the call of his talent he had acted for her best
interest. His stay at the Villa Medici and its very hostess seemed to
him now a hallucination whose passing left no trace upon his sober
senses, but could Anne understand this? If she believed him erring was
the high-spirited wife capable of forgiveness? He saw himself condemned
and shame-stricken before the tribunal of her unswerving rectitude but
none the less he ventured his plea in lines that had been forming
themselves, as always when he was under the stress of emotion, with the
clarity and perfection of a crystal born from the drip and ooze of some
dark cavern.

It is of all his sonnets the one which rings most true, ending with its
appeal for reconciliation after long estrangement.

                          "Your heart
    My home of love; if I have ranged,
    Like him that travels, I return again!"

He was not certain that he would be permitted to rejoin her, but he
would not sadden Anne by his foreboding. His heart had returned to its
allegiance; this was the important thing, and this she should know.

"I leave you now," said Radicofani as Brandilancia handed him the
letters, "for I must make speed to wait upon the Grand Duke at Florence.
Regard yourself as my guest rather than as a prisoner. I leave only a
few old servants charged to make you as comfortable as the ruinous
condition of this old castle of my ancestors will permit. The length of
your stay is conditioned only upon the promptitude of your friends in
complying with my conditions. I see that your letters are written in
English. No matter, I have no desire to pry into your private affairs
and shall send them by the earliest opportunity."

Brandilancia bowed ceremoniously, but sank exhausted into his chair. He
was shivering in a violent chill, the first stages of Roman fever,
brought on by his experiences in the subterranean aqueduct. For weeks he
tossed upon his pallet alternately freezing and burning, much of the
time delirious--now wandering with Anne through English meadows with
"daisies pied" and "babbling of green fields"--and anon scorching the
wings of his soul in the flame of Italian beauty and passion.

With the passing of the fever he eagerly demanded an interview with
Radicofani but was informed that the Captain was still at Florence. He
had written that no response of any kind had been received from either
of the letters sent to England, though ample time had elapsed for their
arrival. Brandilancia was not, however, to be set at liberty on this
account, and days lengthened to weeks and weeks to months and he was
still a prisoner.

The lofty situation of the castle far above the malaria of the valleys,
swept by every wind of heaven, had completed his cure, and as he paced
the sightly platform he found himself hungering for liberty and action.
In this reflux of returning health and energy, on one exhilarating
morning in early spring, when all nature seemed calling to him to
escape, Brandilancia hailed with gratitude the arrival of the secretary
Malespini bringing the almost despaired of tidings that his prison doors
were open and he was at last free to depart.

"The Grand Duke has commanded this," Brandilancia asked, "through the
intervention of my faithful friend the Earl of Essex?"

"Not so," Malespini responded drily. "You may thank friends nearer at
hand, for the Grand Duke knows as little of your existence as your
English friends apparently care for it."

"Then it is the Signorina who has effected my deliverance?"

Malespini shook his head. "The Signorina believes, as we all did until
recently, that you made your escape to your own country. She is entirely
absorbed at present with her approaching marriage, for your embassy was
successful. Your papers, which Radicofani carried to the Grand Duke,
initiated negotiations that have been carried to a successful
termination. The Duke of Nevers, who is a Gonzaga, and a cousin of the
Marquis of Mantua has come to Italy, as proxy of the French king, to
betroth the Signorina."

"May she have all happiness," Brandilancia exclaimed fervently, "but to
whom then do I owe my release?"

"Partly to the friend now before you, but in great measure also to one
whom you will hardly guess, that little package of ruse and malice
Leonora Dosi."

"Not the Owlet!"

"My friend you might have rotted in this mountain dungeon but for her
cleverness, and Radicofani's stupidity. The Grand Duke sent him a
fortnight since to escort us all from the Villa Medici to Mantua, where
the Marchioness Eleonora de' Medici Gonzaga is preparing a brilliant
fête in honour of her sister's approaching marriage. On the way
Radicofani, who is loquacious in his cups, bragged to Leonora of how
neatly he had captured you. The Owlet took counsel with me, and together
we so intimidated the Captain with threats to report him to the Grand
Duke, convincing him at the same time of your utter insignificance (for
Leonora declares that you confessed to her mistress in her presence that
you were not the Earl of Essex), that he consented to your release.

"By good luck I am commissioned to present a comedy in the palace and am
now supposed to be travelling in search of artists to assist in the
performance. You shall return with me in that capacity. Though the
Signorina knows not as yet of your presence in Italy she will be
rejoiced to see you again and will speed you on your homeward
journey,--for Mantua is on your way to Venice whence you told me you
would take ship."

"I would be overjoyed to carry out your plan, my good friend," replied
Brandilancia, "but shall I be safe? I have found such difficulty in
tearing myself away from the hospitalities of Italy that I am wary of
accepting further entertainment."

"I wonder not at your reluctance, but with the Gonzagas at Mantua you
will be beyond the power of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who though he is
indeed expected to attend the festivities, will never suspect that you
played another rôle at his Roman villa. The play is to be acted in part
by noble amateurs, and the Signorina herself will take the principal
part. It is the comedy which you dramatised from Ser Giovanni's story of
the heiress of Belmont, for nothing else would suit the Signorina. You
shall impersonate the successful lover. There have been many aspirants
for that rôle but I have held it for you. Can you resist my lord?"

"No, Malespini, I cannot resist, for I am indeed what you would have me
seem, a simple player. I will go with you since you need my service, and
will bid your mistress and the Owlet also a grateful farewell."

Thus, though he had thought never again to see the woman who had so
powerfully influenced his imagination and because he honestly believed
her influence at an end, Brandilancia ventured himself again within its
domain.

Tranquil, lily-starred lakes, blue as the heavens they mirror, lapped
with caressing ripples the foundations of the immense Gonzaga palace and
gave it the same enchanting environment on the morning of his arrival as
to-day. Its rosy walls glowed in the morning light like a cluster of
pink lotus-blossoms, while, a little apart from the main group of
buildings, a slender tower shot into the air, and suspended from its
summit, like some bell-shaped flower which droops its head, an iron
cage was sharply etched against the glowing sky.

"Is that a beacon?" asked Brandilancia. "If so, though unlighted, I
accept it as a good omen, as it were a signal hung out for my welcome."

"Heaven forfend that it should have aught to do with you, my lord, or
you with it," replied Malespini. "The flame of many a poor fellow's life
has gone out in that sinister cresset; but think not of it, for my lady
awaits you within the palace. You are to learn how the Medici love, not
how they hate."

Through interminable apartments regal with paintings and statues,
collected earlier in the century by Isabella d'Este Gonzaga, the
secretary led Brandilancia to the small writing-room of the Marchesa.

Marie de' Medici was standing alone at the window gazing at the
darkening lake. She turned as he entered, and her cry, "At last you have
returned, at last, O my beloved!" broken by sobs and wild caresses, made
good Malespini's promise.

She believed that the King of France, instead of sending the promised
proxy, had himself returned to betroth her at the approaching festival,
when he would doubtless declare himself publicly. Since it pleased him,
to make further proof of her affection, she accepted his confession that
he was only a poor comedian with apparent faith and with protestations
of unshaken love. She told him of the despair with which she faced her
brilliant future, of the loathing which overcame her at the thought of
any husband but himself; and she begged him to rescue her from so
hideous a fate.

How could he brutally tell so adorable a creature that the burning
words, which he had spoken on the night before his flight from the Villa
Medici, were but a poetic rhapsody, inspired by a frenzy which had
passed with the glamour that evoked it? He strove instead to recall her
to a sense of her own position, and he urged every consideration of
honour and of interest, apparently with some success; for she became
calmer, and promised to do whatever he desired, if he would but remain
and sustain her through the ordeal of her betrothal.

He believed himself abandoned by the woman whom he had loved, but his
heart was cold. He told himself that he would live henceforth without
love, but would endeavour in purest friendship to save this woman who
leaned on him for strength from making shipwreck of her life. They met
constantly in the intimacy of rehearsals, and as these proceeded
personal sentiments were occasionally introduced into the lines.

[Illustration: Choosing the Casket

From the painting by F. Barth. Permission of the Berlin Photographic Co.]

"Ah, me! this word choose," Marie de' Medici exclaimed on one occasion.
"I may neither choose whom I would nor refuse whom I dislike. So is the
will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father."

On the evening of the final presentation of the play she startled
Brandilancia by laying her hand in his as she interpolated the
declaration: "My spirit commits itself to yours to be directed, as by
her lord, her governor, and king."

The play ended, she led him to a portico overlooking the lake.

"I have only a moment," she said, "while I am supposed to be dressing
for the dance which follows. You doubtless recognised in the small dark
man seated at my uncle's side the Duke of Nevers, and you have probably
informed him of your presence here; but my uncle little suspects that we
have anticipated their negotiation. Now surely is the proper time to
announce yourself. Wait in the ante-room of the Marquis, it adjoins the
library, and after the Grand Duke has set his signature to the
settlement, and the Duke of Nevers is about to sign for the King of
France, enter, take the pen from his hand, and sign for yourself. If you
wish I will accompany you, and we will confess that we are already
affianced. Why do you hesitate? Surely this is now the only thing to
do."

He gazed at her in uncomprehending astonishment. "Nay, dearest lady," he
protested, "put this wild fancy from your mind. Your uncle would never
accept me as your suitor; you would gain only dishonour by such a
course. Bid me farewell, and forget me in the glory of your new life;
and God help us both."

"Nay, I can not, I can not give you up," she cried passionately her arms
about his neck, "you have made me love you. I shall die if you leave
me."

"If this is true," he stammered, "if by some miracle you do indeed love
me beyond all earthly considerations, and your heart is great enough to
sacrifice all for the devotion of a heart that will at least be loyal,
then fly with me from this world of shame and cruelty, to some paradise
beyond the power of all who know us."

"Fly," she repeated in bewilderment, "and leave your kingdom, your
crown?"

"Oh! what is fame, what is honour," he cried, "to love like yours?
Listen, it is perfectly feasible. When I parted with my friends at Cadiz
Essex told me he would return with the fleet as soon as he could refit,
and cruise about the Azores, hoping to intercept the Spanish
treasure-fleet. He should be there at this time, and Raleigh with him.
But Raleigh purposed after aiding his friend in his enterprise to
continue his voyage to the new world, where he has planted a colony. In
Venice we can take passage with some merchant-man and join Raleigh at
Flores. Come with me, my Queen to the new world, where we will found a
new dynasty, for I can wait for my kingdom. I can write my plays and my
poems there, in some lodge in the forest, and years hence, when cities
have sprung up in that wilderness great actors will give them
presentation before men who can appreciate them, who will honour our
memory and glory that we were Americans."

She regarded him with eyes widening with alarm. "Surely you are mad,"
she said, "to throw away the Crown of France for which you have fought
so bravely."

"The crown of bay and laurel for which I am fighting has no root in
France, sweetheart, but in English soil," he replied wonderingly.

"Good God!" she cried, "then you are not--not Henry of Navarre?"

"Nay, how could that be possible? I am, as I long since told you, only a
simple English playwright who, much against his will, came hither on the
business of his friend the Earl of Essex. If you love me not I would to
God that I had never so come, since, by some strange delusion, I have
troubled your pure heart and have brought upon myself grief, and
dishonour.

"But forgive me, sweet lady, this madness shall be as though it had not
been, soon forgotten by you and safely hidden in the deepest chamber of
my heart."

For a moment she gazed at him astounded, for her mind refused to credit
the truth. In despite of his words she believed that he was putting her
disinterestedness to a supreme test which she must not fail. She clung
to him convulsively. "I love you, you alone," she declared, "and I will
go to El Dorado. I will meet you to-morrow at this hour at the
water-gate of the palace. I will come in the Gonzaga barge, and we will
flee together to Venice, and thence whither you will."

As she spoke the door leading into the palace was flung open, and the
Grand Duke followed by courtiers and ladies came toward them.

"Ah! here are our actors," he exclaimed, "bring the laurel crowns. This
for my niece and this for the gifted artist who has honoured our
festival. Come forward Brandilancia and receive the token of our
appreciation." But as the wreath was presented the Grand Duchess caught
her husband's arm, exclaiming: "Ferdinando, this is the false Earl of
Essex who deceived us all in Rome. Ask Radicofani, ask your niece, she
cannot have failed to recognise him."

"Nay, ask the French envoy," replied Marie de' Medici, "his Highness the
Duke of Nevers will tell you whom we have the honour to entertain as our
guest."

"I, Mademoiselle," exclaimed the representative of the French King,
"truly, I have never before looked upon his face."

"Declare yourself Sire, I beseech of you," Marie de' Medici implored,
and Brandilancia answered calmly:

"I am the authorised representative of the Earl of Essex. Brandilancia
is the Italian equivalent of my name, which in English is plain Will
Shakespeare. That I am an actor and playwright you have graciously
conceded, and that is the only distinction which I have ever claimed."

His words carried overwhelming conviction to the brain of the deluded
girl, and she sank fainting into the arms of the man whom she had so
misunderstood and who was still far from comprehending the cause of her
emotion.

"Leave my niece to the care of her women," the Grand Duke commanded
sternly. "Radicofani, is this indeed the rogue who slipped from your
clutches?"

"It is, my lord," replied that worthy, as he grasped the actor's arm.

"Then consign him to the hospitalities of our sky-parlour. In the cage
suspended from that tower, young man, you may await my investigation of
your case."

From his lofty outlook in the iron cage, dizzily suspended between earth
and heaven, our adventurer obtained a new and wider view. The palace and
its life dwindled to a speck. Far away to the north he could discern the
white summits of the mountains that cradle the blue lake of Garda, while
at his feet the Mincio flowed peacefully toward the Adriatic, where a
good ship (on which, but for his folly in pausing at Mantua, he might on
the morrow be voyaging homeward) was impatiently tugging at her
moorings. Fool that he was, he had made his bed and must lie on it. It
was a very uncomfortable bed at the present moment, for he could
neither stretch himself at full length nor stand erect, but sat with his
hands clasping his knees and his head bowed upon them. How long must he
retain this cramped position? Malespini's words came to him with
sinister emphasis. Would he be left here until starvation released him
from agony and his bones bleached in the sun? The Angelus chimed from
the belfries, the only structures which reached his plane, and gave him
a sense of human companionship, but the tones of the bells sounded thin
in the empty air, and his loneliness increased with their cessation. The
sun climbed the heavens and beat unmercifully upon his unprotected head,
but just as his thirst became intolerable and he groaned in agony, a
low, chuckling laugh replied from a window in the tower near his cage,
and turning his head he saw the malicious face of the dwarf Leonora
Dosi. Repugnant as she was to him he greeted her appearance now, for it
flashed through his mind that she might have brought him some message
from Marie de' Medici.

"It is good of you, Signorina," he said, "to think of me in my trouble;
or is it perchance your mistress who has sent you?"

He could not have asked a question which would have angered her more.
"My mistress may not have clean forgotten her singing-bird," she
replied, "but she has forgotten to order that his cage should be
supplied with water and seed cups, and I cajoled Radicofani till he let
me supply this neglect."

As she spoke she held aloft a flask of water whose crystal clearness
seemed to Brandilancia's blood-shot eyes the most desirable thing in all
the world.

"Ah! Signorina how can I ever thank you? and how can you get it to me?"

"Oh! I have thought of that. See I have brought a pole long enough to
reach your cage, and the bottle is so slender that it will pass between
the bars."

She attached the flask to one end of the pole with tantalising
deliberation, pausing after it was fastened to pour and drink a glass of
the water with expressive gusto. The gurgle of the liquid was more than
the tortured man could bear. "Dear Signorina for the love of Heaven be
quick. I die of thirst."

"Oh! no, Signor, one does not die so soon, or with so little suffering.
Men in your predicament have been known to live three days before they
went mad, and four more before they died."

"You hell cat!" he cried, "have you come to gloat over and increase my
agony?"

"That is not a pretty name," she said slowly, "I like better the 'dear
Signorina' with which you honoured me just now. You are too hasty,
Signor Brandilancia, too hasty in your conclusions, and in speaking them
forth. It might strike a wiser man in your situation that it would be
worth while not to antagonise a friend who has come to serve you. In
proof that you have misunderstood my motives I now pass you the water.
It was good? You would like more? Presently. It is not well to drink too
much when one is as thirsty as you are, besides I want to talk with you.
Do you realise that you are in a very serious position?"

"Have I been condemned to death?"

"Not so. There will be no trial, no execution. You will simply be
forgotten, left here to die. The Grand Duke believes you to be the lover
of his niece. That fact would not in the least distress him, were it not
for her approaching marriage, which he fears may be interrupted by some
rash act on your part."

"Tell the Grand Duke, if you come from him, and the Signorina also to
have no fear, that madness is past. If I am released I will repair to
England and never trouble her again."

Scorn curled the dwarf's lips. "Think you, the Duke would trust your
promise? And as for the Signorina she desires nothing of the sort, for
she loves you passionately."

"Poor lady," he groaned. "But for me she might have reconciled herself
to her destiny, wretch that I am to break the heart of one who loves me.
Tell her from me, that if she desires me to do so, and God in His mercy
delivers me from this bed of death I will keep my promise to snatch her
from the fate she dreads, and we will begin the new life in the new
world of which we dreamed."

The face of the dwarf was contorted with merriment which made it the
more hideous.

"Is the life of a savage in the wilderness a fit one for a daughter of
the Medici?" she demanded. "You need neither of you die or forego a
single luxury which your hearts desire, if you will gather your wits
together and listen to me.

"Possibly you think that I have no influence with the Grand Duke, but if
so you greatly mistake. I know the secret of my parentage, and have so
disposed matters that my death would bring it to light. Ferdinando de'
Medici will grant any request of mine. I am to go to Paris, not as the
servant but as the Lady in Waiting of the Queen of France. Will it
please you to join her train as Manager of her Royal Theatre and
Purveyor of Sports to the French Court? You could then enjoy the society
of the Queen without scandal."

His heart was hot with indignation but he restrained his anger. "If
indeed," he said, "there is no escape from this loathed marriage for
that sweet lady, I shall pray that no memory of me may ever intrude upon
her happiness. Surely what you suggest is as impossible as it is
infamous. The Grand Duke would never allow me to follow his niece to
Paris."

"The Grand Duke cares not one whit what his niece may choose to do after
she is once securely married. What I suggest is perfectly possible. I
have taken a fancy to you, Brandilancia. If I ask the Grand Duke to give
you to me as my husband he will not refuse me; on the contrary it will
be a welcome solution of the problem before him. If perchance any
inconvenient inquiries should in future be made by England concerning
your welfare he will be spared all responsibility. His niece will have
the plaything she desired, and will no longer mope. He will have secured
my gratitude and can trust me to preserve the conventionalities; and as
for you, my popinjay, your fortune is made. Do not fancy that you will
remain a mere montebank. You shall exchange your cap and bells for a
ducal coronet, châteaux jewels, honours, wealth in what form you will
shall be yours. You will be King in everything but name. Henry of
Navarre shall in reality be nothing but your condottiere, and I will not
be _exigeante_. I know that I am misshapen, hideous. I ask only a little
gratitude."

That word stopped his mouth, for he was about to curse her as a minister
of Satan, but a touch of pity softened his anger and contempt.

"You know not what you ask," he said. "She would despise me, and I would
abhor myself. Let me die without forfeiting her respect."

"_She!_" the dwarf sneered, and was suddenly silent. Her keen insight
told her that if she betrayed to this strangely constituted man that the
scheme had originated with her mistress he would loathe where he now
pitied and every chance of success be lost.

"What were you about to say?" he asked.

"Only that you little know the love you slight. She would forgive you
anything but desertion. Yours is a strange code of honour, that can win
the affection of a noble lady and then throw it lightly away. I am going
now. Once for all I ask, will you accept my offer?"

"And tempt that innocent soul to a life of perfidy and shame?--God send
me death quickly and spare me such villainy as that."

"Your prayer will not be answered," she sneered. "Death will come, but
not quickly,--unless you beat your brains out against the bars of your
cage, and before that you will shriek and call for me, but I will not
come. You have known how the women of the Medici love. Learn now how
they hate."

Her footsteps died away and despair settled upon his heart. How long,
how long, he asked himself, must he endure this agony before death would
come to his release.

The dwarf had left food and water on the window-sill in plain sight but
beyond his reach. He closed his eyes but the odour of the viands reached
him and increased his faintness. The hours lagged on, and toward evening
a light breeze sprang up and he fell into a troubled sleep which
somewhat dulled his suffering. From this he was rudely awakened by the
swaying and jolting of his cage, and he realised that it was being
hauled hastily and not too gently into the tower.

Men dragged him from it, a physician gave him a reviving draught and
assisted him down the staircase at whose foot he fell into the arms of
the faithful Malespini.

"Is it she, who has rescued me?" he asked as the secretary seated him in
a row-boat which shot toward the palace.

"Nay, you are released by the Grand Duke's orders," Malespini replied.
"I bring you great news, Signor. A gentleman has arrived from England
who demands your safe return in the Queen's name. Even the Medici could
not gainsay a summons signed 'Elizabeth' and emphasised by one of her
Majesty's ships of war. Say naught of the hospitality just accorded you,
I beseech you, until well out of Italy, else you may excite the English
admiral who is the bearer of the Queen's message to some rash act, for
he seems to me a man of short temper, and it were well that the Grand
Duke in his chagrin were not tried too far."

"The English Admiral!" repeated the astonished Brandilancia,--"sent for
me by Queen Elizabeth. It is not possible!" But, as the torchlight fell
upon the gallant figure impatiently pacing the landing which they were
approaching, he cried "Miracle of God! it is indeed Essex!"

"It is I, Will, of a surety," replied the other. "Did you think I would
suffer you to die in the trap into which you had ventured for love of
me? I have been consumed with anxiety, especially after the Grand Duke
in answer to my importunity assured me that you left the Villa Medici
months since and that he was ignorant of your whereabouts. I had
quarrelled with the Queen when that news arrived, and she had ordered me
to the Azores. I asked for an audience, but she would not receive me,
and I left England determined to push on to Italy without her knowledge
and rescue you _vi et armis_."

"You should not have done that, my good friend. Elizabeth has beheaded
men for slighter disregard of her authority."

"I outran not my orders, Will, for I had scarcely left England when a
swift sailing packet overtook me with letters from the Queen, one for
the Grand Duke desiring your immediate return, the other my instructions
to use all despatch in securing your person."

"But if you received no letter from me and had no speech with the Queen,
I do not understand how her Majesty learned of my predicament."

"Through your wife, Will. When I returned to England from my expedition
to Cadiz she sought me out, and demanded why I had not brought you.
Then, as the time passed by at which I had told her she might expect
you, it seems she grew wild with anxiety, and, journeying to London,
laid the matter before the Queen, who admires your talent as a
playwright and has herself some ambition in that direction. Anne, the
artful wench, very tactfully persuaded her Majesty that, with you for a
collaborator, she might write a comedy which would redound to her
eternal fame. Therefore, our royal mistress bids you think of some plot
which shall bring again upon the boards that arch-rogue, John Falstaff.
I am to bring you to Windsor Castle, where you are to prepare this
masterpiece, at the Queen's dictation (Heaven save the mark!), in time
for its presentation before the Court during the Twelfth Night
festivities."

"And Anne, whom I thought so indifferent to my career, to my very
existence, did this for me?"

"Yes, Will, 't is a good girl and a handsome, and one you have not
treated overly well, as it seems to me; but you will make it all up over
your Christmas pudding."

As he spoke the great clock of the palace slowly clanged midnight, and
Brandilancia turned white and caught Essex's arm for support. "Would to
God that I might go with you," he groaned; "would that I had never come
to Italy upon your cursed business. I stand here a doubly perjured man.
How, I scarcely know (for I swear I set not about it cold-bloodedly), I
have won the love of the peerless Marie de' Medici. For me she has
discarded the King of France, and has promised to meet me at this spot
and at this very hour and fly with me to El Dorado. I left her stricken
to the heart by my misfortunes. If I desert her now her death will be
upon my head. See you not the Gonzaga barge is approaching in which she
promised to forsake the world with me."

"Make yourself easy on the score of my mistress," exclaimed Malespini.
"You have kept your appointment, but when she made hers she had no
intention of keeping it with a man of your quality. Under a strange
hallucination she has fancied all along that you were the King of
France, and her fainting fit was occasioned by her dismay and
humiliation on discovering that you were only the king of poets. I will
not say that she did not find you agreeable. She was pleased when she
learned that your friend had arrived in time to rescue you, and ere she
left for Florence this afternoon bade me wish you _bon voyage_, and to
thank you for much merry entertainment."

The Earl of Essex whistled softly, and an expression of infinite relief
relaxed the contorted features of Brandilancia. "I have learned how the
women of the Medici love," he murmured. "Thank God, our English women
love in a different fashion."

[Illustration: COLONNA]



CHAPTER VIII

THE LADIES OF PALLIANO

(BEING A RELATION BY THE CONDOTTIERE LUIGI RODOMONTE GONZAGA OF CERTAIN
OF HIS ADVENTURES DURING THE CAMPAIGNS OF 1525 TO 1528)


I

THE NEST OF THE PHOENIX

'Tis an incredible fable that of the phoenix, the crimson wonder-bird,
which springs in immortal youth from the flames which destroy its eyrie.
But it is not more strange than one which I could tell of how I found
Fenice, and snatched the joy and glory of my life from the conflagration
of her ancestral town and castle, in which, but for my efforts, her pure
soul would have vanished from the earth.

Fenice, flame-bird, radiant and peerless, I had named her at our first
meeting, long before the tragic burning of Palliano, for it seemed to me
that in her vivacity and brilliancy she resembled a little dancing
flame. I well remember also how at that time the longing came to me to
warm my numbed heart forever in her presence.

I am no poet, but a plain man of war, and this phantasy of the phoenix
came into my head in a very natural and simple way, for Fenice when
first I saw her was sending up little fire-balloons from the garden of
the Colonna palace. It was an unusual and a dangerous pastime for a
young girl, but the sudden flashing from the gloom of those flickering
lights, that illumined for an instant the beautiful face which the
darkness as quickly obliterated, gave an additional zest to my enjoyment
of the vision.

I strode to her side and affected great interest in her occupation. The
balloons were ingeniously constructed to represent birds with spread
wings, and it was the alchemist of the family who dwelt at Palliano who
had invented them. "It is his conceit," she explained, "that rising from
the flames they resemble the phoenix, a bird peerless in beauty and
song, which appears upon earth but twice in a thousand years."

"Then that shall be my name for you," I said, for we were alone for the
instant; "but will you as tranquilly soar away from me, leaving the
world the darker for your passing?"

Though she gave me not at that time the answer I coveted, I liked none
the less the modesty which made her winning difficult. There were also
other matters of importance to the world at large, which I must now
digress to explain, that at first hindered, but in the end abetted that
winning.

It was in the spring of the eventful year of 1525 that my cousin,
Federigo Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, requested me to escort his mother,
the worshipful Marchesa Isabella d'Este Gonzaga, upon her journey to
Rome. This demand was the more reasonable in that the Marchesa was a
most loving and munificent patroness of my sister Giulia, for whose
orphaned condition the great lady had shown the most tender sympathy,
removing her from our lonely ancestral castle, and bringing the girl up
in her own brilliant court. Giulia was now at the height of the
attractiveness which was soon to be so extravagantly sung, many still
maintaining her the most beautiful woman of our time.

From that estimate her brother must be allowed to differ. A superbly
regal creature she certainly was, but too grandly made for my ideals.
Let the question rest, for her heart was ever as great as her body, and
I deny her supremacy to but one other. At this time I loved her better
than any woman in the world, and as she was to accompany the Marchesa, I
was the more willing to lend my protection to the cortège.

It was an inauspicious season for ladies to choose for a pleasure jaunt,
for their Majesties the Emperor Charles V. and Francis I. had entered
upon their struggle for the possession of Italy. The French had already
entered Lombardy, and the Imperial forces under the Viceroy of Naples,
Pescara and Bourbon were marching to meet them, but the Marchesa was of
an adventurous and fearless disposition, and was moreover bent in her
present expedition upon something more than pleasure. Never have I known
man or woman of such marvellous finesse as well as courage, and she
desired above all things to obtain the cardinal's hat for Ercole, her
second son. Therefore it seemed good to her, while the actual fighting
was still confined to the north of Italy, to hasten to Rome, and obtain
this coveted prize, before the Emperor should succeed in deposing Pope
Clement and possibly set up another pontiff less friendly to the House
of Gonzaga.

[Illustration: Colonna Palace, Rome--The Grand Salon]

At the same time, that Charles V. might have no cause to complain of her
lack of loyalty, she sent her third son, Ferrante, to Spain to assure
the Emperor of her entire sympathy with his cause and to ask for a
command in the Imperial army. Rome at this time was a place where there
were wheels within wheels. While on the surface all was gay and
peaceful, and old enemies hobnobbed with one another, daggers lurked
under the olive branches, old feuds were not forgotten, plots were
hatched, and secrets were wormed from comrades over the wine-cup. While
I could not emulate the consummate ruse with which the Marchesa trimmed
her sails to every possible wind I had my own little surprise to spring
at the auspicious moment.

I believed that the firm hand of the Emperor alone could give peace to
Italy. I had lost faith in the Medicean popes, and especially in this
weak and crafty cousin of Leo X. As a condottiere by profession I could
have sold my services to the French but I preferred to offer them to
Charles V., and I had a secret commission in my pocket from his
representative, the Marquis of Pescara, then near Pavia, authorising me
to raise and command the Italian contingent to the Imperial army. The
Marquis desired me to take counsel with his wife's kindred, the
Colonnas, who were always inimical to the Pope, as to the best means of
effecting a junction with their troops in case an attack upon Rome
should be decided upon the coming year. When I add that the head of the
house, Vespasian Colonna, had offered the hospitalities of his palace to
the Marchesa Isabella d'Este Gonzaga, it will be understood how
marvellously this lady's visit to Rome fell in with my schemes.

As we made our entry into that most beautiful room of all the world, the
_sala de gala_ of the Colonna palace, my sister clutched my arm tightly.
A glimpse of the glories of heaven could not in sooth have been more
transporting to the rapt gaze of an anchorite, for Giulia was
essentially of this world and a superb mundane life was her highest
ambition.

She had profited by her tutelage at the court of the Marchesa, the most
cultured in the north of Italy, but this dazzling room surpassed any in
the Mantuan palace as far as her own beauty outshone that of her
protectress. So as her foolish little heart cried out "Oh! that I might
reign here as Queen," she looked up into the admiring eyes of
Vespasian Colonna and heard the echo of her unuttered cry--"Reign here
as Queen."

[Illustration: Garden of the Colonna Palace, Rome

With permission of Mr. Charles A. Platt]

For Vespasian was a widower, and the snows of age had not cooled the
volcanic fires of his heart. He offered his arm to the Marchesa, and
together they made the rounds of the regal apartments. But ever as we
paused before a portrait and he explained that this was some fair
ancestress his backward glance at Giulia told that in his estimation she
surpassed them all.

The interior of the palace inspected we passed over a bridge, which
spanned a side street, to the terraced garden crowned by the ruins of
the old Roman Temple of the Sun. Here were also statues and fountains,
square-cut hedges, and sun-warmed, marble seats, and the air was heavy
with the perfume of roses and jasmine. But the glory of the garden, as
Colonna told us, was its outlook over Rome. This we could not now fully
appreciate for dusk was falling and the city was in a purple haze, which
deepened as we looked. Soon coloured lights glimmered forth in the dark
_allées_, and suddenly from the summit of the ruin there rose slowly a
fire balloon and twinkling far away into the blue seemed to seek its
companion stars.

"It is the conceit of my daughter Isabella," Vespasian explained, "a
fête of fire-works in honour of your coming."

I delayed to hear no more, but drawn by some mysterious attraction
sought and found the Signorina Colonna. The flame signals flashed in her
cheeks as her eyes met mine, for my glance seemed to her doubtless
overbold, though it held naught of disrespect God wot.

And then she explained the mechanism of her fire balloon which was
simple enough though it had been invented by a Moorish alchemist, who
still practised the black art in a tower of the family castle in the
Campagna. "If you ever come to Palliano we will greet you with a still
more brilliant illumination," she promised, little realising how well
she would keep that pledge.

It was then as I have already said that I bestowed upon her the name of
Fenice, making what improvement I could of my scant opportunities. These
were suddenly cut short, for Ippolito de' Medici, the Pope's handsome
and dissipated nephew, presently joined us and bore Fenice away with the
air of a proprietor. Such indeed he had a right to regard himself, as I
ascertained on the next day during a conference with Vespasian Colonna
and his nephew the Cardinal Pompeo.

[Illustration: Castle of Vittoria Colonna at Ischia.]

I had arrived at the understanding desired by their kinsman the Marquis
of Pescara, for they very willingly agreed that whenever desired all the
clansmen of the Colonna would be ready to combine with the Imperial
forces in the siege of Rome. Pompeo, the most truculent of the race in
spite of the fact that he was a churchman, would take command, but
Ascanio Colonna who was now in Naples with his sister Vittoria, the
Marchesa di Pescara, might be counted upon with his sturdy vassals from
the Abruzzi. We were jubilant, for news had just arrived that the
Emperor's troops had won the battle of Pavia and that Francis I. was a
prisoner. The Pope was reported nearly crazed with fear, and our plot of
taking Rome for Charles V. seemed perfectly feasible.

"In any event," said Vespasian, "our compact of friendship stands, and I
hold you and your family in such high esteem that I desire to make our
alliance not merely that of comrades-in-arms but a much closer
relationship. I wish to propose a marriage, which Pompeo here shall
celebrate, in our ancestral home before you leave us."

My hopes rose high for I thought he had perceived my love for Fenice and
I sank upon one knee in a transport of gratitude.

"Nay, rise my brother," he continued, "I count myself honoured in your
acceptance of that relation. Your sister's beauty will confer undying
lustre upon our house. Believe me she runs no danger as my wife, for
even should the chances of war reverse the present position of King and
Emperor, I have assured myself with the Pope, since my daughter is
betrothed to his nephew Ippolito. He will not break with me for she will
be one of the richest heiresses in Italy, well able to aid her husband
in his ambition to become the Grand Duke of Tuscany."

My heart, which had been so hot, was like ice. So wretched was I that I
got no comfort from the thought of the brilliant future opening before
my sister. I terminated my interview with Vespasian in all haste, and
strode into the garden, pacing its walks like a madman.

Here, as my good fortune willed, I came upon Ippolito de' Medici, seated
with all the familiarity of an accepted lover by the side of Fenice. It
was true that the young couple were chaperoned by my sister, and that
Ippolito, who was holding a skein which she was winding, was leaning
forward in rapt attention listening to some merry story which Giulia was
relating; but, instead of congratulating myself that Fenice had now a
protectress who was devoted to my interest, I was filled with rage to
see Ippolito thus received into the intimacy of the family.

My sister by a light gesture indicated that there was room for me on the
marble bench near Fenice, and the girl, to give me room, moved a trifle
nearer to her betrothed. This angered me, and, instead of seating
myself, I glowered at a little distance until Giulia, having finished
her winding and her story, came toward me, leaving Ippolito free to
address himself to Fenice. To my surprise he did not avail himself of
the opportunity, but, springing up, begged my sister to walk with him to
another part of the garden. Delighted by this unexpected turn of
affairs, I seated myself by the side of Fenice and rallied her upon her
lover's neglect.

"He could not have pleased me more," she replied. "The Signorina Gonzaga
would be my good angel if she could rid me of him forever."

This admission was like the striking of a spark in the darkness. It was
not only illuminating as to Fenice's feeling toward her fiancé, but it
fired the mine of passion stored in my heart. How I told her I know
not; the words exploded from me with such violence that I fear I
frightened her, and yet--and yet she was not displeased, for when Giulia
returned to us she found Fenice striving to cool my hot cheeks with her
small hands, but succeeding only in inflaming them the more by her
gentle caresses. My sister paused before us with her arms akimbo.

"Here is a coil," she said, "and I beg you to tell me how I am to
explain it to the Signor Ippolito de' Medici."

"Ah! dearest lady, can you think of no way of persuading the Signor
Ippolito to renounce his suit?" cried Fenice.

"Very easily," Giulia replied, "since he has just besought me to pray
you to release him from his engagement that he may be free to marry me;
but upon reflection I am not sure that this expedient would please your
honoured father."

With that we all fell a-laughing, though the situation was serious
enough. It grew rapidly more so, for my sister, apparently forgetting
her new vows, manifested the utmost pleasure in Ippolito's society, and
drove me wild with her coquetry. I remonstrated with her, telling her
plainly that I could not understand her behaviour.

"Have you no sense of decency," I cried, "to contract yourself to a
noble gentleman, who, though he is no longer young, is still
distinguished in appearance and possessed of many attractions--one whose
fortune and rank immeasurably surpass your own, and who, moreover, loves
you beyond your desert? Are you not ashamed, I insist, to accept all
this and then to treat your affianced husband with such indignity? If
you must take a lover, wait at least till your honeymoon is over, and
then choose one who will contrast less unfavourably with the man whom
you so dishonour."

She laughed at me when I began, but as I waxed more imprudent in my
chiding her cheek flamed and she retorted "Truly, since you
misunderstand me thus, I scorn to explain my conduct." Nor did she deign
to amend it, and so anxious was I, that (a temporary peace delaying any
warlike demonstration), I lingered on in Rome to protect her against
herself, and to see her safely married. The wedding took place in
midsummer, but the aged bridegroom was in no happy frame of mind, for
Giulia had led him a lively dance during their short engagement, and had
so practised upon Ippolito de' Medici by her wiles that the infatuated
young man had broken his compact with the Colonnas. Suspecting that my
sister had caused this defection Vespasian hastened his marriage and
retired with his bride and his daughter to Palliano the strongest of his
castles.

Nor was I invited to accompany the party for, having dared to ask her
father for the hand of Fenice, I met with an angry refusal and was
accused of having by my attentions given Ippolito an excuse for breaking
his word.

But Fenice promised with many tears to be true to me, and with her
pledge to await my coming I was forced to be content.

Rome having now no further attraction for me I returned to Lombardy,
leaving the Marchesa, who still awaited her son's cardinalate, in the
security of a peace which at that time promised to be lasting.

No sooner, however, was Francis I. released from his Spanish captivity
than the Pope began again to intrigue with him, and the Emperor,
learning that Clement had broken faith, ordered the attack upon Rome.

Then, at last, the Pope, realising how much he needed the friendship of
the Gonzagas, sent the Marchesa Ercole's red hat.

That triumph achieved she would gladly have returned to Mantua but it
was now too late, for Bourbon had arrived before the city. The siege
had begun, and neither man nor woman might leave Rome.

At the Pope's own villa upon Mount Mario (the Villa Madama), without the
walls, I met Cardinal Pompeo Colonna and heard the news that his uncle
Vespasian had died, and that Giulia and Fenice were still at Palliano,
where I vowed soon to join them.

Of the sack of Rome which intervened I shall say nothing. Would God that
I could as easily dismiss its memory from my mind. I entered the city
with the youngest son of the Marchesa Isabella d'Este, Ferrante Gonzaga,
who commanded a division of Spaniards, and we made our way at once to
the Colonna palace which refuge the Marchesa had packed with her
friends. Their lives we saved and the palace from burning and
plundering. Cardinal Pompeo himself paid the ransoms of many of its
guests, and rescued from the Spanish soldiery upwards of five hundred
nuns. Far be it from me to extenuate the life of that profligate
prelate, but his brave and generous acts at this fearful time must be
counted to his credit.

After that horror of cruelty and wanton destruction abated I counted on
being free to seek Fenice and my sister, but greatly to my disgust, I
was constituted the warden of the Pope, who was confined a close
prisoner in the castle of St. Angelo.

Though this seemed to me at the time a great hardship it proved in the
end the best that could have happened, for so I came to know Clement
most intimately and even to feel a pity for one so beset. I well
remember his dismay when Ippolito de' Medici came to him with the
alarming news that the Orsini, who, under cover of their devotion to the
Pope embraced every opportunity to fight the Colonnas, had refused to
recognise that the war was ended and were now burning and pillaging the
castles of their rivals throughout the Campagna.

Ippolito reported that Fenice and my sister were for the present safe,
having fortified themselves in Palliano, but he desired the Pope to send
him with orders to Napoleone Orsini to restrain his wild clansmen, and
also to grant him a far greater favour. This was no less than absolution
from clerical vows, which he had taken at the time of my sister's
marriage, and permission, since she was now a widow, to ask for her
hand.

But Clement knew that Ippolito's next move would be to use my sister's
wealth to secure the government of Florence, which his Holiness desired
for his more favoured nephew Alessandro. He therefore refused to release
Ippolito from his vows as a churchman, salving the wound by creating him
a cardinal and promising that he should one day succeed to the tiara.
Then, imagining that he had thus disposed forever of so slight a thing
as a young man's passion, he bade him make all speed to the pacifying of
the truculent Orsini, for he well knew that unless this were instantly
done the Emperor would call him in question for their unruliness.

I had been present during this interview, as was my duty, and the Pope
now turned to me and bade me assist Ippolito by all means in my power,
and we went forth together to prepare for the expedition.

But Ippolito's face was all aflame, and he could at first speak of
nothing but his disappointment.

"By the Blood!" he cried, "his Holiness shall rue his interference in my
love affairs, for I will balk him yet."

"Have you forgotten," I asked, "that you have just been made a
cardinal?"

"And what of that? Is not Pompeo Colonna a cardinal? He can find no
fault with me if I follow his example. I tell you that I love your
sister and that she loves me. Is there any power that can divide us?"

"Yea," I answered "that of God, and there is also my power with which it
seems you have forgotten to reckon."

He looked at me and laughed. "That for _your_ power," he scoffed,
snapping his fingers.

We had planned to ride to Nemi to find Napoleone Orsini but at Frascati
we were met by a messenger who gave Ippolito a letter. On reading it he
told me excitedly that Pompeo Colonna was besieged in his monastery of
Subiaco by a rabble of the Orsini.

"Go, and hold them in play," he commanded, "and I will hasten on to Nemi
and fetch Napoleone with me, to command his clansmen to raise the
siege."

The plan commended itself to my reason and, suspecting no treachery, I
galloped off with my troop for the relief of Pompeo. Ippolito shouted to
me to await his coming at Subiaco, and I might have remained there until
this day had I obeyed him. But at the monastery to my surprise I found
all quiet nor had there been any fighting since the previous year, when
the papal troops had been beaten by the monks and left their banner
behind them. Both Cardinal Pompeo and I were puzzled by the false news
which had brought me in such haste, but, being where we were, we
accepted the hospitality of the monastery and rested and refreshed
ourselves for three hours and no more. For, at the expiration of that
time, came an aged man clad in Oriental garments, who had escaped from
Palliano that morning while Napoleone Orsini was sacking the town. The
castle on the summit of the cliff was unstormed when he left, but its
fall was inevitable unless help should speedily arrive. Then I knew how
Ippolito de' Medici had tricked me, for he desired not my company at
Palliano, where he wished to pose as the sole rescuer of its ladies.

The messenger whom my sister had sent to Subiaco was the Moorish
alchemist who had taught Fenice to make the fire balloons, and I was at
first encouraged by his assurance that the fortress was well munitioned,
and that he had manufactured great quantities of gunpowder which was
stored in its donjon. But I reflected that this circumstance was but an
added danger as the assailants were endeavouring to fire the castle.

With this news the Cardinal ordered his bravi to horse, and the monks
girded up their gowns for the march. As fighting men the latter
suffered no disparagement when matched with my soldiery save in their
weapons, for, as their vows forbade them to take the sword, they were
forced to content themselves with battle-axes.

Wearied as were our horses my troop took the lead, and all night by
toilsome ways over the mountains we rode toward Palliano, in the vain
hope of arriving there before Ippolito in spite of the long detour which
he had foisted upon us; and I felt no fatigue, for I rode for my
sister's honour and the life of her I loved.

But, in the grey dawn, at the little town of Genazzano, some six miles
from the Colonna stronghold, I met Ippolito and his escort returning
from Palliano, for he, too, had ridden hard. His face was drawn and
white, but he faced me unflinchingly.

"You need not have come," he said, "for I have given Napoleone Orsini
the mandate of his Holiness. He will draw off his men. They will leave
the castle of Palliano unattacked. I was too late to save the town."

"And my sister?" for Fenice's name stuck in my throat.

"Your sister is capable of taking care of herself," he answered
bitterly; "at least that was the reply she gave me when I offered to
remain for her defence. Nay, look not so black for I am not the villain
that my mad words of yesterday stamped me. Let me right myself in your
estimation. I offered her no insult, but honourable marriage, for I have
not yet been consecrated, and I would have repudiated the cardinalcy and
every other bribe of the devil, if she could have loved me. But she told
me plainly that she had never done so, that she had but coquetted with
me in the old days to prove me fickle and false to my betrothed, and
thus leave Fenice free to wed with you; and that this Vespasian Colonna
understood and left you his blessing ere he died."

"Say you so! Ippolito," I cried. "Then I have not made this journey in
vain, and you are a better man than I thought. I will plead your cause
with my sister. You shall win her yet."

But he shook his head though he wrung my hand for he knew her mind
better than I. So I rode on with my men, and it was well that I did so,
for Orsini after the departure of Ippolito had returned to the attack of
Palliano, and as we came in sight of the promontory on which it stands,
the sky was crimson, not with sunrise, but with the reflection of
burning houses.

The citadel towered gaunt and black above the ruined town like the
phoenix in its flaming nest, and I acknowledged that my darling had
kept her promise to greet my coming with a festival of fire.

I wondered if from one of those dark windows she were looking forth
anxiously for succour, and I called the alchemist to my side and bade
him send up a fire balloon as a signal that help was at hand.

"It will notify the enemy of our approach," he protested, but I replied
that I cared not, and from the silken guidon of my troop he fashioned
the balloon so that as it soared aloft the device of the Gonzagas was
displayed to all onlookers.

Then, with hardly an interval, there shot from the platform of the great
tower of the castle in quick succession a flight of answering flame
signals--one, two, three, a half-dozen; I counted them as they rose and
drifted away on the light morning breeze. There flashed forth lights
also below in the camp of the Orsini which ringed the town, for the
sentries had sounded the alarm, and when we came up with their outposts
the army had formed in battle array.

I was glad of this, for it has never been my practice to fall upon and
massacre sleeping men. My trumpeter sounded a parley and with a white
handkerchief on the staff from which I had stripped my ensign I rode out
to meet Napoleone.

I told him that I came as messenger from the Pope to bid him keep the
peace, for the war was over.

He replied that he had already received that news from Ippolito de'
Medici, who on the previous evening had come and gone; but that it was
not easy to pacify such men as the Orsini when their blood was up.

"Then I will pacify them," I cried, "for peace I will have, though I
fight for it."

"That is the peace for me," he replied, and at it we went.

I banged them well, and the monks of Subiaco coming up in good time when
we were nearly spent, joined in the fray with their war-cry of "The Holy
Column!" and "Christ for Colonna!" My sister's vassals also made a sally
from the castle but were driven back, certain of Orsini's men following
them closely and throwing firebrands upon them as they dashed through
the postern gate. That was the great disaster and tragedy of the day,
for the tower in which the fugitives had sought shelter was the
powder-magazine and a spark from the fiery missile thrown, guided by the
evil one, found its way to a little trail of the devil's dust, which had
been scattered on the stairs, and so fired the mine in that pent-up
hell.

With a noise as of the rending of mountains the tower belched a volcano
of flame and the battle-field was as Sodom and Gomorrah when the heavens
rained brimstone.

By good fortune the occupants of the castle were chiefly in a tower upon
the other side of the court, at whose foot the main battle was now
raging, so that the loss of life was not so great as it might otherwise
have been. As it was we were all so terrified that we ceased from our
fighting, Orsini's men fleeing in hot haste, nor did our troops pursue,
but busied themselves in giving help to the wounded. At the same time
those within the castle, seeing that the battle was over, opened its
gates, and to my unutterable joy I beheld Fenice and my sister standing
unharmed within its portal.

So it was that we pacified the wild Orsini, and later a new castle was
born phoenix-like from the ashes of the old. But for a while it was
deserted, for Cardinal Pompeo would no longer risk the lives of his
relatives at Palliano, but leaving the wounded in the care of the
monks we escorted the ladies to the Colonna palace at Rome which was
thereafter my sister's residence.

[Illustration: Villa Madama--Interior]

By all the canons of romance-writing my story should end here at its
climax, but this is not the way of real life, which goes on spinning new
threads, and intertwining them so with the old that there is no coming
to the end until the shears of death cut the skein.

My duty as the Pope's body-guard kept me at his side, and my cousin
Ferrante Gonzaga having less to do, was constantly at the Colonna
palace, where he incontinently fell in love with Fenice. This had indeed
been planned out long before by his mother, for the Marchesa had lived
long enough in the Colonna palace to fall under its spell and she had
marked the Colonna heiress as a suitable parti for Ferrante.

Therefore at the great reconciliation between the Emperor and the Pope
which took place at Bologna, where Clement crowned Charles, and they
parcelled out to their favourites the dignities of Italy, Ferrante
Gonzaga besought the hand of Fenice in recognition of the services of
his house. To this request both the Emperor and the Pope agreed, but
when the parties to be contracted were called into their presence,
Cardinal Pompeo Colonna and I came with them and forbade the banns.
Being asked why we thus defied the will of the greatest powers of
Christendom, I confessed how in the crimson dawn of the peace of
Palliano, being determined that no power in heaven or earth or hell
should henceforth jeopardise our happiness, Fenice and I had been
secretly but soundly married by the Cardinal, deferring only the public
festivities of the wedding to a merrier morn.

With that the Emperor declared the jest a good one, and that one Gonzaga
was as good as another. "And better," whispered his Holiness in my ear,
as I knelt before him for his blessing.


II

OTHER BIRDS OF THE FLAMING NEST

  Centuries ago--here the Colonna came,
  Vittoria with them, Angelo himself
  Gazing upon her as she gravely moved,
  And sighing for her, while Fabrizio's sword
  Clanged on the gravel--here the d'Este came
  From Tivoli, where o'er dark cypresses
  Their villa looks above the billowy land
  Of the Campagna.

  WILLIAM WETMORE STORY.

It was with the Villa Conti-Torlonia at Frascati that Story rightly
associated the men and women of the Colonna in the lines which I have
quoted.

[Illustration: The Haunted Pool

Villa Conti Torlonia, Frascati]

Hither certainly came the ladies of Palliano[8] from their castle in the
neighbouring hills, for the Conti were cousins of the Colonna, and fond
of entertaining their kindred on the terraces of their ancestral villa.

Here Giulia Gonzaga must have met another renowned woman of the family,
Giovanna of Aragon, the wife of Ascanio Colonna, with their little son
Marcantonio, from the Castle of Marino, hardly three miles away. This
boy was to become the most renowned man of his race, and was to form a
link between the lives of two women of Palliano, to whom brief reference
must be made, for the pity and horror of their fate are not surpassed in
all the annals of tragedy.

At first glance it may seem strange that the Colonnas possessed no
suburban villa which could rival that of the Conti. Castles in plenty
were theirs, Marino, Palliano, Palestrina, and a score of others, but
though these sheltered comfortless, so-called palaces within their
strong walls, there was never an attempt made here to indulge in such a
feat of landscape-gardening as the Conti's

                "fountain stairs,
    Down which the sheeted water leaps alive."

The reason of this lack of the amenities of life is not far to seek. The
magnificent Colonna palace at Rome, with its beautiful garden, answered
every purpose of an elaborate villa. Here they flaunted in seasons of
prosperity, retiring to their mountain fastnesses in times of trouble.

For five hundred years succeeding generations have added to the
sumptuousness and charm of the Roman palace, and the portraits of the
fair ladies who once gave those regal rooms their chief attraction still
look down upon us from their walls. They hold us still with an
all-compelling fascination: the noble Vittoria Colonna, whom Michael
Angelo worshipped; that Duchessa Lucrezia, whom Van Dyck painted in her
velvet robe and jewelled ruff; Felice Orsini and her children; and the
bewitching Marie Mancini, as Mignard makes her known in her arch and
innocent girlhood, and again with world-weary disillusion betraying
itself through Netscher's pomp and opulence.

[Illustration: Vittoria Colonna

From a portrait in the Colonna Gallery]

[Illustration: Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna

From a portrait in later life by Netscher]

It is the women who interest us most, for the men of the race, masterful
and brave, heroic even in certain great crisis, have often shown
themselves brutally cruel.

The ceilings of the Colonna palace blaze with the victory of Lepanto
whose hero Marcantonio Colonna is the glory of his family; but you will
find no portrait of his murdered mistress Eufrosina, or of the most
famous of all the duchesses of Palliano, whose ghost might well haunt
that gloomy castle.

Violante de Cardona was, in the latter part of the sixteenth century,
the most charming woman in Naples. Her wonderful eyes alone rendered her
irresistible to most men, and she added to remarkable beauty the
fascinations of wit and culture. All of the young bloods of Naples were
captives at her chariot wheels, all but young Marcantonio Colonna, who
must have known her for he dwelt at this time at the Castle of Ischia
inherited from his aunt Vittoria Colonna.

Violante made choice among her adorers of Giovanni Caraffa, nephew of
Pope Paul IV. whom Marcantonio had cause to hate, for Paul had despoiled
him of Palliano, under pretext of his mother's heretical opinions, and
had given the fief to this very Giovanni.

Thus Violante to her great misfortune became the usurping Duchess of
Palliano, for her husband made her life a martyrdom and was ultimately
responsible for her death. He was not so utterly depraved as his brother
Cardinal Carlo Caraffa but his maniacal jealousy was more dangerous than
the Cardinal's vices, and he made himself rich by the maladministration
of the papal revenues.

The Pope though bigoted and fanatical was sternly upright, and
discovering the crimes of his nephews visited unsparing retribution upon
them. Cardinal Carlo's offences were most flagrant. He had quarrelled
openly with a young gallant, Marcello Capecce, for the favours of
Martuccia one of the most notorious courtesans of Rome, drawing his
sword upon Capecce at a banquet where he had denied the Cardinal's right
to appear as Martuccia's escort. Though the Pope had banished the
brothers from Rome they might have lived in peace and obscurity but for
Carlo's attempt to revenge himself upon Capecce.

It happened most opportunely for the Cardinal's purpose that Capecce had
long cherished a hopeless passion for the Duchess of Palliano.

The Cardinal fanned this flame and Marcello, believing himself
encouraged followed Violante to her villa. Here the Cardinal managed to
bring the Duke at the very moment of the compromising visit.

Why Carlo Caraffa should thus have endangered the life and reputation of
his sister-in-law as well as that of his enemy is not definitely stated.
Perhaps he counted on the Duke's love for his wife and intended simply
to enrage his brother against a presuming but unfavoured lover. Whatever
the accusation the jealous husband was not at first absolutely
convinced, and he placed the matter for investigation in the hands of
his wife's brother the Count Aliffe, who spied upon Capecce and reported
that he was undoubtedly in love with the Duchess of Palliano for his
desk was filled with poems in her honour.

De Stendhal tells us vividly how Capecce was arrested on the charge of
having attempted to poison the Duke, who, "to avoid public scandal
stabbed him to death in prison." He also murdered the Duchess's
lady-in-waiting, but seems not to have had the heart to kill his wife
with his own hands. Nevertheless he believed it incumbent upon him as a
wronged husband to exercise justice upon her, and he deputed the deed to
her brother, who was nothing loth to wipe out the stain upon his family
honour.

On the night of the twenty-fifth of August, 1559, the Count Aliffe, with
his friend Leonardo del Cardine, a friar, and some soldiers, appeared at
the villa and told his sister his errand. She received her sentence with
the haughtiest disdain. Never had she been so thoroughly a duchess.

When urged to confess she protested her innocence, and assisted her
brother in bandaging her own eyes. He hesitated for a moment; perhaps if
she had appealed to his affection his heart might have given way; but
she raised the handkerchief and coolly asked: "Well, what are we about,
then?"

Thus taunted he turned the wand in the noose about her neck, and so
strangled her.

The Pope seems to have approved the act or to have been indifferent to
it; but it created a thrill of horror even at that time, for the
beautiful Duchess had been greatly loved and was believed to be
innocent.

Strange to say, the man who was to avenge her fate was he whose heritage
she had usurped. Marcantonio Colonna had used all his influence at the
Court of Spain until Philip declared war upon Pope Paul IV., and
deputed the Duke of Alva and the Spanish Army to wage the famous war of
the Campagna. Thus Marcantonio came to his own again, and the Pope, who
was near his end, in bitterness of soul signed the capitulation which
saved Rome from a second sack by the Spaniards.

News that the Pope was dying ran through Rome, and the populace
liberated the prisoners of the Inquisition and burned the building. They
howled for the Dominican monks, the guardians of the tribunal, that they
might burn them also, but at the entrance to the monastery they were
stopped by five mounted knights keeping guard over the doomed monks.
They were all of them nobles, and all had suffered from the Pope, and
they were led by Marcantonio Colonna, whose father and mother had been
persecuted by the Inquisition. They had ridden in haste to Rome when
they heard that Paul was dying to preserve order in the city.

"And at the sight of those calm knights," says Marion Crawford, "sitting
their horses without armour and with sheathed swords, the people drew
back while Colonna spoke; and because he also had suffered much at
Paul's hands they listened to him, and the great monastery was saved
from fire and the monks from death."

But though Revenge was restrained, Justice claimed the murderers of the
Duchess of Palliano. Their trial was deliberate, but in the end Cardinal
Carlo Caraffa met the same death which she had suffered, while her
husband, her brother, and their accomplice were beheaded in the Torre di
Nona.

The first use made by Colonna of his revenues was to equip the
battleship which he commanded at Lepanto, where he won the title of
Champion of Christendom.

The pitiful story of Eufrosina, who for a brief period was mistress of
Palliano, is a sad blot upon the Champion's otherwise honourable career.
Some authorities maintain that she was of good family, and that
Marcantonio had killed her husband for love of her; others that she was
a slave girl whom he had brought back from the Orient. All agree that
she was beautiful, but Colonna had not made her his duchess. Strangely
enough he offered the tiara of the murdered Violante to Felice Orsini,
daughter of the very man who had striven in vain to win Palliano by
force of arms. It was a tempting marriage, for it united the two great
rival houses of Rome, and Eufrosina was heartlessly cast aside. Her
after-history is a tragedy beside which the story just related pales to
an idyl.

[Illustration: Court of the Massimi Palace]

That she was a woman of extraordinary powers of fascination is proved by
the fact that, though it was notorious that she had been abandoned by
Marcantonio, Lelio Massimi, then the representative of one of the
proudest patrician families of Rome, did not hesitate to make her his
wife. Massimi was an old man and a widower, whose first wife, Gerolema
Savelli, had given him six sons, notable for their herculean strength
and arrogance and their father's remarriage to such a woman was an
insult to their mother's memory which they could not condone.

They entered Massimi's apartment upon his wedding night and shot his
bride to death in his arms. The old man cursed his sons excepting only
the youngest, Pompeo, who had taken no part in the assassination, and
shortly afterward died broken-hearted, foretelling that Pompeo alone
would continue the line as all of his brothers would die violent
deaths.[9]

The record of the hearts of flame which have burned themselves out in
the old nest of the phoenix might be indefinitely prolonged, for
though battered by many sieges Palliano was never totally destroyed, and
formed the background of many a sinister drama. Marie Mancini Colonna,
Principessa di Palliano, writes that fear of imprisonment in the dungeon
of her titular castle was the principal motive of her flight from her
husband in 1672. She had been threatened with such a fate and the threat
was not without precedent.

As a prison the Castle of Palliano exists at the present day. Has its
symbol of the phoenix attained a new meaning, and is it possible that
erring souls issue from its gates, their stains burned clean by
purgatorial flame?

[Illustration: Marie Mancini Colonna, Principessa di Palliano, by
Mignard

Photographische Gesellschaft, Berlin]

[Illustration]



CHAPTER IX

THE LURE OF OLD ROME

ANTINOUS


        Brother, 't is vain to hide
    That thou dost know of things mysterious,
    Immortal, starry; such alone could thus
    Weigh down thy nature. Hast thou sinned in aught
    Offensive to the heavenly powers? Caught
    A Paphian dove upon a message sent?
    Thy doubtful bow against some deer herd bent
    Sacred to Dian? Haply thou hast seen
    Her naked limbs among the alders green
    And that, alas is death.

    KEATS.

It is impossible to saunter even so aimlessly as we have done through
the villas of the cardinals of the Renaissance and not feel the potency
of the charm by which their builders were enthralled, "the glamour of
the world antique."

We may struggle against the spell, telling ourselves that the scope and
limits of the present volume will not permit of a glance at the villas
of ancient Rome, but they insidiously steal upon us through those of the
Renaissance. Particularly is this true of the Villa d'Este and the Villa
Albani, magic gateways both leading directly into that earlier, and only
real, Rome.

For, though separated by the gulf of many centuries from the villa of
the Emperor Hadrian at Tivoli, they are virtually ante-chambers to that
once magnificent palace.

We might turn from the attractive vista which they reveal but for an
alluring phantom which can never be disassociated from those imperial
ruins, a face whose beauty and pathos draws us on irresistibly to solve
the mystery of its gentle sadness.

Who, that has stood before the matchless relief of Antinous in the villa
Albani, does not agree with the assertion, that "it is no shadow of sin
which gives the pure brow its gravity, and that whatever may be the
burden which bows the beautiful head, he bears it with a noble
resignation which proves him superior to his suffering and unsullied by
his doom."

[Illustration: Antinous

Bas-relief found at Hadrian's Villa, now in the Villa Albani]

In the general resurrection of ancient masterpieces which took place
during the Renaissance only one, the Apollo Belvedere, commanded wider
admiration as a type of manly beauty. But the Apollo is a theatrical
manifestation of the popular conception of god-like perfection, while
Antinous makes appeals directly to the heart through his very humanity.

One hundred and thirty-six of his portrait statues, busts, and reliefs
have come down to us, and as many engraved gems and coins bearing
varying interpretations of his familiar and unmistakable personality; so
that it is common to speak of the Antinous type as the last ideal
creation of ancient art. And yet we are assured on the highest authority
that Antinous really lived, and that there is historical foundation for
the authenticity of these portraits.

"He has a distinct individuality always recognisable," says Gregorovius.
"In every case we see a face bowed down, full of melancholy beauty, with
deep-set eyes, slightly arched eyebrows, and abundant curls falling over
the forehead. It is the beautiful expression of a nature which combined
the Greek and the Asiatic characteristics only slightly idealised. We
read the fate of Antinous in this sorrowful figure, for the artists knew
of the death of sacrifice to which he dedicated himself, and this
mysterious sadness would attract the observer even if he could not give
the name to the statue."

But history only whets our curiosity, for ancient writers are neglectful
or tantalisingly bald in their allusions to Antinous. We are told only
that he was the favourite of Hadrian, the most magnificent and
enlightened of all the Roman emperors, who loved the gentle Bithynian
youth so extravagantly that he made him his inseparable companion and
even contemplated him as his successor; that during the fateful Egyptian
journey an oracle announced that the Emperor must shortly die unless a
voluntary victim could be found to take upon himself the doom with which
he was threatened; and that Antinous unhesitatingly laid down his life
for his patron. "Greater love hath no man than this," and Hadrian's
ostentatious lamentation, and even his deification of his friend, seems
puerile in comparison with the devotion of Antinous.

No modern author has developed this alluring theme in a satisfactory
manner. Ebers in his novel _The Emperor_, is inadequate. He laboriously
loads its pages with his carefully verified material, but his
imagination is wingless, the result far from convincing.

[Illustration: Ruins of a Gallery of Statues in Hadrian's Villa

From an etching by Piranesi]

One poet there was, he whose lines head this chapter, endowed with the
inspiration to divine, and the power to worthily reveal the secret of
the sadness in that haunting face, to which sculptors alone have done
full justice. There are hints scattered through his poems that
startlingly supplement the vague clues which now tantalise and baffle as
we trace the story of Antinous in Hadrian's villa.

For where history and literature fail us archæology supplies its
circumstantial evidence, and if we scan, through the crystal lenses of
uncoloured truth, the stage where the drama which we seek was enacted we
shall see the sculptured semblances of the vanished actors, and be able
to surmise in part the lost book of the play.

The ruins of the great pleasure-palace, where the Emperor and his
favourite resided during the opening scenes of their history, now lie
bleak and bare, exposed to the burning sun and the wandering winds,
despoiled even of the vines and flowers with which nature has striven to
hide the ravages of man. We must go back to their excavation in the
early part of the sixteenth century if we would study the tell-tale
_mise-en-scène_.

It was Pirro Ligorio who in 1538 made for Cardinal Ippolito d'Este II.
the first systematic exploration and authoritative map of Hadrian's
villa. A Neapolitan by birth, but called to Rome by his friend Pope Paul
IV. (Caraffa), Ligorio, upon his arrival was associated with the aged
Michael Angelo in the building of St. Peter's.

With the arrogance of youth he quarrelled with the great master and did
not hesitate to speak of him openly as a dotard who had outlived his
usefulness and should yield his place to a younger genius. Paul IV. had
the wisdom to retain Michael Angelo in his important post, and the tact
to take the sting from Ligorio's removal by giving him the commission
for the casino in the Vatican Gardens which (as it was not finished
until the pontificate of Pius IV.) was destined to bear the name of the
Villa Pia.

Learned authorities have endeavoured to find the original of Ligorio's
masterpiece in some ancient building, whereas the perfect adaptability
of its plan to new requirements proves that it could never have been
produced earlier than the Renaissance. It has been well epitomised as
the "day-dream of an artist who has saturated his mind with the past."

[Illustration: Antinous as Bacchus, in the Museum of the Vatican
Permission of Alinari.]

In the profusion of joyous mythological deities which give the façade of
the Casino the richness of decoration of a jewel-casket, nymphs and
graces dance, Pan flutes, and marine monsters frolic with all the
abandon of classical feeling, and it is in the ornamental details, not
in the conception of the ensemble, that we detect the influence of the
Villa of Hadrian. When the papal villa was approaching completion,
Ligorio attracted the attention of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este II. (the
patron of Tasso) a connoisseur and dilettante in all the arts, who
wisely entrusted to the young architect the construction of his famous
villa at Tivoli.

The Cardinal had the right to quarry materials from the neighbouring
ruins, and among the first of the great discoveries which Ligorio
records is that of a statue of Antinous. It depicted the youth under the
attributes of Bacchus, and was possibly a replica of the beautiful
statue found later at Præneste and now in the Sala Rotonda of the
Vatican.

From the hour that it was carried in triumph to the terraces of Villa
d'Este, Ligorio and his patron as well, were taken captive by a new
enthusiasm, for a lucky chance had guided the excavators to the most
richly ornamented of all the apartments in the Emperor's wonderful
palace--the heavy-folded curtain of Time had rolled upward disclosing
the scene of the happiest hours in the short life of Antinous.

An exquisite circular palazzita lay before them, islanded by a
marble-lined canal five metres broad from an encircling portico, whose
roof was supported by forty Corinthian columns of precious _giallo
antico_. Noting the important part played by water in this construction,
the canal fed by fountains, whose pipes and mechanism plainly showed
within the statues which ornamented the rotunda, Ligorio hastily
concluded that this was the Emperor's natatorium or swimming pool. But
the feminine elegance of the fairy-like suite of apartments, to which
the canal served as a moat; the presence of drawbridges worked from the
centre, thus cutting off or affording communication with the colonnade
at the will of the occupant, and evidences that the canal itself was a
_nympheum_ or aquatic garden, among whose rose-coloured lotus blossoms
white swans glided, flamingoes darted, and tall clusters of papyrus
screened the porticoes from the gaze of passers, favoured the conclusion
that this pavilion of all delight was designed for some beautiful woman
royally beloved. The frieze of loves, mounted upon hippocampi
imitating the games of the circus, which Ligorio copied in the vestibule
of the Villa Pia formed a part of the decoration lavished here.

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Villa Pia in the Garden of the Vatican

Pirro Ligorio, architect]

The conspicuous situation of the palazzita between the basilica and the
imperial apartments, to which its encircling colonnade served as a
corridor of communication, indicated that the lady was not a favourite
of low degree, to be hidden away in some Rosalind's bower of the immense
labyrinthine palace, while the most valuable statues in the entire
villa, such as the replica of the Cnidian Venus by Praxiteles, the Eros
bending the bow, by the same master, made this temple of love and Venus
a fitting pavilion for an empress. Such it may well have been, for here
was found the sculptured portrait of Faustina, the wife of Antoninus
Pius, Hadrian's successor, who resided in the villa both before and
after the death of Antinous.

She was the beautiful mother of a more beautiful daughter of the same
name, an empress in her turn, and both branded by a historian of the
time as infamous.

Swinburne's apostrophe in _Ave Faustina Imperatrix_ applies equally to
the portrait bust of mother or daughter:

                    "Your throat,
    Strong, heavy, throwing out the face,
      And hard, bright chin
    And shameful, scornful lips that grace
      Their shame, Faustine."

But it is possible that Swinburne was too hasty in accepting ancient
gossip, and that both the Faustinas were maligned. "Modern scholarship,"
says Monsieur Victor Duruy, "argues for their rehabilitation, and
chiefly because the husbands of each, good and wise men both, have left
such unequivocal testimony of their respect."

"To the gods," wrote Marcus Aurelius of the younger Faustina, "I am
indebted that I have such a wife, so obedient, so affectionate, and so
simple."

And after the death of his wife (Faustina the elder) Antoninus Pius
cried in his grief: "O God, I would rather live with her in a desert
than without her in this palace."

In this enchanting palazzita the younger Faustina may have passed her
childhood, while the scholarly boy, Marcus Aurelius, her cousin,
listened to the disquisitions of the philosophers as they discussed
great problems with the Emperor.

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Villa Pia, Vatican

The Rotondo--Pirro Ligorio, architect]

Hadrian loved the lad, and for his absolute truthfulness nicknamed him
Verissimus, making him a knight at the age of six. He was the comrade of
Antinous, and as they passed to and fro together through colonnaded
rotonda they must have often noted the young mother (she was sixteen
when married) and her bewitching child, waving white hands from across
the lily-padded moat.

Here, then, are certain of the actors, as well as our _mise-en-scène_,
and Marcus Aurelius, in his _Meditations_, has himself given us a hint
as to the drama. "Forget not," he writes, "that in times gone by
everything has already happened just as it is happening. Place before
thine eyes whole dramas with the same endings, the same scenes, just as
thou knowest them by thine own experience, or from earlier
history--such, for example, as the whole Court of Hadrian."

If with these instructions we remember Marcus Aurelius's still more
significant words, "Even in a palace life may be well led," each of us
can according to his own fancy divine the secret which Antinous kept so
well.

Had Ligorio given to literature the sympathetic imagination which he
displayed in his art it might have been worthily revealed. For ten years
he explored with the most intense enthusiasm the interminable
apartments which were to prove an inexhaustible mine of art for modern
museums, and whose bibliography would fill a library. Then in 1572 his
munificent patron died, and the work suddenly came to an end.

For two centuries the Villa of Hadrian lay neglected until new
discoveries revived popular interest, and a young German scholar was
called to superintend the building and installation of the last of the
great villas erected in Rome by a member of its hierarchical
aristocracy.

There exists such striking parallelism in the history of the Villa
d'Este and the Villa Albani, and on such identical lines was the work
carried on that it would almost seem that, the duration of human life
not being sufficient to complete it, Cardinal Ippolito and Pirro Ligorio
were granted reincarnation for another fifty years in Cardinal Albani
and his friend Winckelmann.

[Illustration: Eros Bending the Bow

Capitoline Museum]

[Illustration: Faun of Praxiteles

Capitoline Museum]

Notwithstanding the many masterpieces secured by Cardinal d'Este it was
known from ancient records that the greatest treasures of the Villa
Hadriana had escaped his eager search, having been so securely hidden on
the invasion of the Goths, that they evaded as well all other
plunderers. But early in the eighteenth century Gavin Hamilton,
commissioned to secure antiques for the British Museum, drained an
extensive marsh called the Pantello and found it to be the depository in
which Belisarius had secreted the missing statues on the approach of
Totila.[10] From this hiding-place there emerged between 1730 and 1780,
the _Antinous_ of the museum of the Capitol and the relief of the Villa
Albani together with the _Resting Faun_ of Praxiteles which so
captivated the imagination of Hawthorne, and many another famous work of
art now the glory of some far distant museum.

Fortunately for Italy, England found a contesting bidder in Cardinal
Albani, and the majority of the statues found in the Pantello were
purchased by him. At the same time the magnificent collection of
Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, was offered at public sale by the degenerate
spendthrift who inherited it, and sixty of the finest statues were
secured for Villa Albani and rejoined their old companions.

Winckelmann gloated over their beauty, for he united the artist's
appreciation to the connoisseurship of the archæologist. What solicitude
for its appropriate setting, only surpassed by that of Hadrian himself,
did he bestow on the placing of each individual statue, and with what
exultation he records its arrival.

"The Cardinal has brought from Tivoli on a _carro_ drawn by sixteen
bullocks a female river deity of colossal size well preserved" (and
still to be seen reclining on the margin of a reservoir). To the relief
of _Antinous_ Winckelmann gave the place of honour which it now
occupies. Let us read his own record of the esteem in which he held it.

"The glory and the crown of sculpture in this age _as well as in all
ages_" he does not hesitate to assert, "are two likenesses of Antinous."
One of them, in the Albani villa, is in relief, the other is a colossal
head in the Mondragone villa.

"The former disinterred from Hadrian's villa is," says Winckelmann,
"only a fragment of an entire figure which probably stood on a chariot.
For the right hand, which is empty, is in a position that leads me to
conclude that it must have held the reins. In this work therefore would
have been represented the deification of Antinous as we know that
figures so honoured were placed upon cars to signify their translation
to the gods.

[Illustration: Villa Albani]

[Illustration: Casino, Villa Albani

_Alinari_]

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Candelabrum from Hadrian's Villa

Museum of the Vatican]

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Candelabrum from Hadrian's Villa

Museum of the Vatican]

"The colossal head in the Mondragone villa (now in the Louvre) I
hold it no heresy to say is, next to the Vatican Apollo and the Laocoon,
the most beautiful work which has come down to us."

The two friends lived a charmed life more in the past than in the Rome
of their own day until the spree was rudely broken by Winckelmann's
tragic death at the hands of a vulgar robber, and the grey-haired
cardinal wandered alone among his cherished marbles. Many of these he
donated to the Capitoline Museum and to the Vatican, but the relief of
Antinous he held among his most cherished possessions. It would have
broken the good man's heart to have known that these statues were doomed
to wander far from the home which he had provided for them. The French
took possession of Italy, and the masterpieces of the Villa Albani
formed only a fraction of the wholesale robberies which for a time
enriched the museum of the Louvre.

On the fall of Napoleon the Pope chose the sculptor Canova as his envoy
to negotiate with the allies for the return of the art treasures of
Italy. Canova was successful, for he pleaded from a full heart; but
although he secured the restitution of the two hundred and ninety-four
statues which Napoleon had taken from the Villa Albani, Cardinal
Giuseppe Albani, an unworthy successor of the great collector, sold all
but one in order to avoid the cost of their return transportation. The
poor peripatetic philosophers, emperors, empresses, gods, and goddesses
trooped on like uneasy ghosts, not a few of them finding shelter in the
Glyptothek at Munich.

The one piece of sculpture reserved from this fate of expatriation, and
reinstated in triumph in its old position in the salon at the left of
the main gallery of the villa, it is hardly necessary to state, was the
relief of _Antinous_. Here it remains and lures us, according to our
bent, to study or to dream of the life which its original so
passionately lived, and instinctively we search for some statue of a
woman of equal charm to link with it in our dreams.

Ebers thought he had found it in the loveliest of the nine muses which
Ligorio discovered in the theatre of Hadrian's villa. In 1689 Velasquez
was sent to Rome to acquire them for Philip V. Eight of them may still
be seen in the Museum of Madrid, but the ninth muse, Urania, from which
the d'Estes could not then be induced to part, is now in the Sala delle
Muse of the Vatican. This is the Urania which Ebers imagines to have
been carved by the young Alexandrine sculptor, Pollux, from the Selene
whom we are told Antinous vainly loved.

The face is very winsome and the romance might satisfy us, but for a
portrait-statue of a genuine Selene, found by Ligorio near the palazzita
and now in the casino of the Villa Albani.

[Illustration: _Alinari_

Urania

Museum of the Vatican]

It is catalogued as _Iris Descending_, but mistakenly, says Monsieur
Guzman, for Iris was invariably represented with wings, and this
graceful figure is wingless, a torch in hand, and floating downward so
gently that her motion scarcely agitates her soft drapery. Authorities
are now agreed that the lovely figure represents Selene, the
moon-goddess, who, enamoured with Endymion, kept tryst with him in his
dreams, and a beautiful "Sleeping Youth" was actually discovered beneath
the descending Selene, thus completing the composition and verifying the
assumption as to its subject. That the recumbent youth was not at once
recognised as intended to represent Endymion is due to the inability of
the scientific mind to grasp more than one idea at a time, for the
features bore so marked a resemblance to those of Antoninus Pius that
it was rightly considered a portrait of that Emperor in his youth. Only
recently have archæologists accepted the title, _Antoninus Pius as
Endymion_ and it seems probable that the Selene of Villa Albani
portrayed the Empress Faustina, and that this group was a tribute of the
Emperor's to his beautiful wife, his "Diva Faustina," who stooped to him
like the moon-goddess from the sky. Is it not equally possible that he
caused the symbols of Selene to be cut upon her signet that she might
use it in her intimate correspondence, that the charm of this wonderful
woman was associated in his mind with the magic of moonlight, gentle,
love-compelling, and pure? Such a testimonial does in fact exist in a
medal struck by the command of Antoninus Pius after the death of the
Empress, representing Faustina bearing two torches, but returning to
heaven, and depriving him of the light which had illumined their wedded
life; and lest there should be any doubt that the deity typified in this
apotheosis is Selene the Emperor caused the words _Luna lucifera_ to be
engraved beneath the name of Faustina.

The myth of the love of the lady-moon has nowhere been so exquisitely
rendered as in the _Endymion_ of Keats, and his description of the
descent of Selene applies well to the moon-maiden of the Villa Albani:

                            "I raised
    My sight right upward, but it was quite daz'd
    By a bright something sailing down apace,
    Making me quickly veil my eyes and face.
    . . . . . . .
    Her locks were simply gordianed up and braided
    Leaving in naked comeliness unshaded
    Her pearl round ears, white neck, and orbed brow.
                . . . I see her hovering feet
    More bluely veined, more whitely sweet
    Than those of sea-born Venus when she rose
    From out her cradle shell. The wind out-blows
    Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion,
    'Tis blue and over-spangled with a million
    Of little eyes, as though thou wert to shed
    Over the darkest lushest blue-bell bed
    Handfuls of daisies."[11]

Faustina may have known Antinous before her marriage, while Hadrian
still hoped to make him his successor, ere the clamours of the people
forced him to make the wiser choice. Had Antinous been so favoured, is
there any doubt whether Faustina would not have inclined to him instead
of to the good man with the serious, anxious face, who was more than
twice her age when he became her husband?

The statues of Antinous fully realise Keats's ideal of Endymion.

                        "His youth was fully blown
    Shining like Ganymede to manhood grown,
    A smile was on his countenance; he seemed
    To common lookers-on like one who dreamed
    Of idleness in groves Elysian
    But there were some who feelingly could scan
    A lurking trouble in his nether lip.
    Then would they sigh, 'Ah! well-a-day
    Why should our young Endymion pine away?'"

We know not on what authority Ebers links the name of Antinous,
Endymion-like, with that of Selene. Was there some missive sealed by a
moon-beam torch, or addressed to the lady moon which went astray and set
the gossip of the Court crackling like a flame in dry grass? Or was it
merely his aspiration for the throne of the Cæsars which was signified
by the common expression, "he longed for the moon," and not a love
hopeless, but beyond his power to conquer for the unattainable Selene,
which saddened his young life so deeply, and determined him to throw it
away when the occasion seemed to demand the sacrifice.

Both research and fancy will lead you far, for it was in Egypt that the
most dramatic part of the story was enacted, and that Antinous,
believing that in so doing he saved Hadrian's life, launched forth upon
the Nile during a terrific tempest, and standing erect in the unguided
canoe sought a voluntary death in the storm-lashed waters.

The Emperor's grief was wildly extravagant. He gave the beautiful body a
king's burial in a tomb flanked by obelisks and guarded by a sphinx; and
he built about it a magnificent city which he called Antinopolis, a city
which exists to this day though no man lives within its desolate
columned streets.

But the deserted city has been identified in the ruins called by the
Egyptians, Antinoe. Its hippodrome, and theatres, and temple tomb have
all been mapped by archæologists, and its Arch of Triumph, of Roman
bricks faced with white marble, its long colonnades of Corinthian
columns, and its melancholy waving palms have been photographed by
troops of unreflecting tourists.

While erecting memorials to his friend, Hadrian was not unmindful of his
own sepulchral monument, the present castle of St. Angelo. It served as
a mausoleum for the imperial family. The ashes of Faustina (to whose
memory her husband erected the beautiful temple bearing her name) were
placed here, their urn guarded by two bronze peacocks, the emblems of an
empress.

These peacocks with the pineapple, which crowned the summit of the tomb,
now ornament the Court of the Belvedere of the Vatican, in whose
galleries may be found some of the statues with which Hadrian decorated
the upper colonnade of the mausoleum, and which were wrenched from their
pedestals and toppled upon the heads of the Goths when Totila besieged
Rome.

Gregorovius in his scholarly biography of Hadrian thus sums up his
achievements and estimates his character:

"He ruled the empire like a noble Roman, with prudence and strength. He
enjoyed life with the joy of the ancients. He travelled throughout the
world and found it worth the trouble. He restored it and embellished it
with new beauty. He was lavish on a great scale."

We certainly do not know what he thought of his whole life at the end of
it. He might have agreed with the estimate of Marcus Aurelius: "All that
belongs to the soul is a dream and a delusion; life is a struggle and a
wandering among strangers, and fame after death is forgetfulness."

That he had some vague belief in the immortality of the soul the
well-known poem written shortly before his death certainly shows:

    "Animula, vagula, blandula;
    Hospes, comesque corporis,
    Quæ nunc abibis in loca;
    Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
    Nec ut soles dabis jocos?"

"Celestial spirit, evanescent fay,
  Supernal guest and sharer of my might,
Wherefore and whither dost thou fly away,
  Exquisite phantom, nude and ghostly white,
Never with me again to flit and play,
Never with me to play?"

Reluctantly, after all our search, we find that archæology, while it
tells us much of Hadrian, leaves Antinous still a mystery.

The forsaken pleasure palace is silent and empty save for ghosts of the
imagination. We see the imperial barges glide up the Nile as in a
pageant, but it is all a wordless pantomime, though the beautiful
immortal figure stands.

    "Still there where he a thousand years hath stood
    And watched, with gaze intent, the ages' flood
    His graceful limbs reflecting, then as now
    His lotus crown the sadness on his brow,
    And races new in line unending glide
    Along in shells upon the flowing tide;
    But aye as they approach and look on him
    Athwart their joy there falls a sorrow dim,
    The citherns cease that rang as they drew nigh,
    On glowing lips the jests and kisses die.
    And, lo! the heart is seized by infinite woe,
    With arms outstretched they gaze as on they go--
    'O waken, boy! O waken from thy dream!
    Say what thou seest below the ages stream,
    Tell us, is life's enigma known to thee?
    Give us thy own fair immortality!'
    But ere he from his revery wakens they
    Have with the river drifted far away."

[Illustration: View through the Key-hole of the Gate of the Villa of the
Knights of Malta]

[Illustration]

L'ENVOI

    A keyhole glimpse at Rome they show
    'Twixt cypresses, a stately row,
    Where all who pass are free to see
    The villa of the Priory.
    Here belted knights, with cross on breast,
    In days of old were wont to rest,
    And 'neath the ilex hedges tall
    Oft paced the subtle Cardinal,
    His robe upon the pavement cool
    Mantling like some ensanguined pool.

    St. Peter's keys, traditions tell,
    Open the gates of Heaven and Hell.
    O'er many a villa gate they 're shown,
    With triple crown carved deep in stone.
    If, then, you crave a fuller view
    Than keyhole glimpses give to you,
    Unlock and enter. You shall know
    A Heaven of art, a Hell of woe.

THE END


FOOTNOTES:

[1] His magnificent villa of Caprarola and the still more entrancing
villa of Lante are linked with legends of Giulio Farnese and Vittoria
Accoramboni in the author's _Romance of Italian Villas_, which with the
_Romance of the Renaissance Châteaux_ will be found supplementary to the
present volume.

[2] From _The Italian Rhapsody_, by permission of Mr. Robert Underwood
Johnson.

[3] Translated by E. Frère Champney.

[4] A song composed by Lorenzo de' Medici. "How lovely is our youth, and
yet how fast it flies! Those who wish for joy must snatch it now. Trust
not to to-morrow; seize it now, seize it now!"

[5] The earliest cards were not inscribed with hearts, diamonds, clubs,
and spades, but with swords, money, clubs, and cups. The same emblems
are still used on the Spanish playing-cards.

[6] The French historians call him Richart de Cornouailles, the Italians
Ricciardo.

[7] A _stornello a fiore_ consists generally of a couplet beginning with
an invocation to a flower, as:

    Fior di limone!
    Limone è agro e non si puoi mangiare
    Ma son più agre le pene d'amore.

    Fior di granato!
    Se li sospiri mie fossere fuocco,
    Tutto il mondo sarebbe buciato.

See also the _stornelli_ in Browning's _Fra Lippo Lippi_ of two of which
Richard's are variants.

[8] Palliano or Pagliano, for the name is variously spelled.

[9] John Addington Symonds further relates in what strange ways fate
fulfilled this prediction. "Disaster fell on each of the five brothers.
The first of them, Ottavio, was killed by a cannon-ball at sea in
honorable combat with the Turk. Another, Girolamo, who sought refuge in
France, was shot down in an ambuscade while pursuing his amours with a
gentle lady. A third, Alessandro, died under arms before Paris in the
troops of General Farnese. A fourth, Luca, was imprisoned at Rome for
his share of the step-mother's murder, but was released on the plea that
he had avenged the wounded honour of his race. He died, however,
poisoned by his own brother Marcantoni in 1599. Marcantoni was arrested
on suspicion and imprisoned in Torre di Nona, where he confessed his
guilt. He was shortly afterward beheaded on the little square before the
bridge of St. Angelo."

[10] Hamilton was aided in his work by Piranesi whose engravings record
the state of the ruins at this time.

[11] The same figure is depicted in the frescoes of Pompeii, and here
the deep blue of an Italian night glittering with stars gives the added
touch of colour.





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