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Title: Gerald Fitzgerald - The Chevalier
Author: Lever, Charles James, 1806-1872
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Gerald Fitzgerald - The Chevalier" ***

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GERALD FITZGERALD

THE CHEVALIER


By Charles Lever

Author of 'Haury Lorrequer' Etc.

With A Frontispiece By A. D. M'Cormick

London Downey And Co., Limited

12 York Street, Covent Garden 1899



PUBLISHERS' NOTE

The Publishers feel that some explanation is necessary concerning
the tardy publication in book form of this story. _Gerald Fitzgerald_
appeared as a serial in the _Dublin University Magazine_. The Magazine
at the time was changing hands, Lever's old friend and publisher, James
M'Glashan, having just died. Lever was always eager to avoid trouble,
and ever readier to undertake new work than to concern himself about
work already done; and possibly--for there is not sufficient evidence to
speak with certainty--owing to some trouble with the new proprietors
of the _Dublin University Magazine_, he decided to put aside _Gerald
Fitzgerald_. When he was rearranging his novels for a fresh issue,
shortly before his death, he omitted a few of his stories from the
collection, but for no adequate reason which can be discovered. He was
assisted in the preparation of this collected edition by his daughter,
Mrs. Nevill, who died last year. Mrs. Nevill could not account, for
the omission of _Gerald Fitzgerald_, and left it to the judgment of the
present publishers whether the work should be issued or not. After very
careful consideration, and with full respect for Lever's memory and
reputation, they have decided that the novel should be issued as a
substantive work. It is evident that Lever spent much pains upon
the story; and though it is not to be expected that it will rival
in popularity his earlier and more boisterous performances, yet the
publishers believe it will not in any way damage his reputation as a
story-teller.

London, March 1899.



GERALD FITZGERALD



BOOK THE FIRST



CHAPTER I. THE THIEVES' CORNER

At the foot of the hill on which stands the Campidoglio at Rome, and
close beneath the ruins that now encumber the Tarpeian rock, runs a
mean-looking alley, called the Viccolo D'Orsi, but better known to the
police as the 'Viccolo dei Ladri,' or 'Thieves' Corner'--the epithet
being, it is said, conferred in a spirit the very reverse of calumnious.

Long and straggling, and too narrow to admit of any but foot-passengers,
its dwellings are marked by a degree of poverty and destitution even
greater than such quarters usually exhibit. Rudely constructed of
fragments taken from ancient temples and monuments, richly carved
architraves and finely cut friezes are to be seen embedded amid
masses of crumbling masonry, and all the evidences of a cultivated and
enlightened age mingled up with the squalor and misery of present want.

Not less suggestive than the homes themselves are the population of this
dreary district; and despite rags, and dirt, and debasement, there they
are--the true descendants of those who once, with such terrible truth,
called themselves 'Masters of the World.' Well set-on heads of massive
mould, bold and prominent features, finely fashioned jaws, and lips
full of vigour and sensual meaning, are but the base counterfeits of
the traits that meet the eye in the Vatican. No effort of imagination
is needed to trace the kindred. In every gesture, in their gait, even in
the careless ease of their ragged drapery, you can mark the traditionary
signs of the once haughty citizen.

With a remnant of their ancient pride, these people reject all hired
occupation, and would scorn, as an act of slavery, the idea of labour;
and, as neither trade nor calling prevails among them, their existence
would seem an inscrutable problem, save on the hypothesis which dictated
the popular title of this district. But without calling to our aid this
explanation, it must be remembered how easily life is supported by those
satisfied with its meanest requirements, and especially in a land so
teeming with abundance. A few roots, a handful of chestnuts, a piece
of black bread, a cup of wine, scarcely more costly than so much water,
these are enough to maintain existence; and in their gaunt and famished
faces you can see that little beyond this is accomplished.

About the middle of the alley, and over a doorway of sculptured marble,
stands a small statue of Vesta, which, by the aid of a little paint, a
crown of gilt paper, and a candle, some pious hands had transformed into
a Madonna. A little beneath this, and on a black board, scrawled with
letters of unequal size, is the word 'Trattoria' or eating-house.

Nothing, indeed, can be well further from the ordinary aspect of a
tavern than the huge vaulted chamber, almost destitute of furniture,
and dimly lighted by the flame of a single lamp; a few loaves of coarse
black bread, some wicker-bound flasks of common wine, and a wooden bowl
containing salad, laid out upon a table, constituting all that the place
affords for entertainment. Some benches are ranged on either side of the
table, and two or three more are gathered around a little iron tripod,
supporting a pan of lighted charcoal, over which now two figures are
to be seen cowering down to the weak flame, while they converse in low
whispers together.

It is a cold and dreary night in December; the snow has fallen not only
on the higher Apennines, but lies thickly over Albano, and is even seen
in drifts along the Campagna. The wailing wind sighs mournfully through
the arches of the Colosseum and among the columns of the old Forum,
while at intervals, with stronger gusts, it sweeps along the narrow
alley, wafting on high the heavy curtain that closes the doorway of the
Trattoria, and leaving its occupants for the time in total darkness.

Twice had this mischance occurred; and now the massive table is drawn
over to the door, to aid in forming a barricade against the storm.

''Tis better not to do it, Fra Luke,' said a woman's voice, as the stout
friar arranged his breastwork. 'You know what happened the last time
there was a door in the same place.'

'Never mind, Mrs. Mary,' replied the other; they 're not so ready with
their knives as they used to be, and, moreover, there's few of them will
be out to-night.'

Both spoke in English, and with an accent which told of an Irish origin;
and now, as they reseated themselves beside the brazier, we have time
to observe them. The woman is scarcely above forty years of age, but
she looks older from the effects of sorrow: her regular features and
deeply-set eyes bear traces of former beauty. Two braids of rich brown
hair have escaped beneath her humble widow's cap and fallen partly over
her cheeks, and, as she tries to arrange them, her taper and delicately
formed fingers proclaim her of gentle blood: her dress is of the
coarsest woollen stuff worn by the peasantry, but little cuffs of crape
show how, in all her poverty, she had endeavoured to maintain some
semblance to a garb of mourning. The man, whose age might be fifty-seven
or eight, is tall, powerfully built, and although encumbered by the long
dress of a friar, shows in every motion that he is still possessed
of considerable strength and activity. The closely cut hair over his
forehead and temples gives something of coarseness to the character of
his round full head; but his eyes are mild and gentle-looking, and there
is an unmistakable good-nature in his large and thick-lipped mouth.

If there is an air of deference to his companion in the way he seats
himself a little distance from the 'brazier,' there is, more markedly
still, a degree of tender pity in the look that he bestows on her.

'I want to read you the petition, Mrs. Mary,' said he, drawing a small
scroll of paper from his pocket, and unfolding it before the light.
''Tis right you'd hear it, and see if there's anything you 'd like
different--anything mispleasing you, or that you 'd wish left out.' She
sighed heavily, but made no answer. He waited for a second or two,
and then resumed: ''Tisn't the like of me--a poor friar, ignorant as I
am--knows well how to write a thing of the kind, and, moreover, to one
like _him_; but maybe the time's coming when you 'll have grander and
better friends.'

'Oh, no! no!' cried she passionately; 'not better, Fra Luke--not better;
that they can never be.'

'Well, well, better able to serve you,' said he, as though ashamed that
any question of himself should have intruded into the discussion; 'and
that they may easily be. But here's the writing; and listen to it now,
for it must be all copied out to-night, and ready for to-morrow morning.
The cardinal goes to him at eleven. There's to be some grandees from
Spain, and maybe Portugal, at twelve. The Scottish lords come after
that; and then Kelly tells me he 'll see any that likes, and that has
letters or petitions to give him. That's the time for us, then; for ye
see, Kelly doesn't like to give it himself: he doesn't know what the
Prince would say, and how he 'd take it; and, natural enough, he 'd not
wish to lose the favour he's in by any mistake. That's the word he said,
and sure enough it sounded a strange one for helping a friend and a
countrywoman; so that I must contrive to go myself, and God's my judge,
if I wouldn't rather face a drove of the wild cattle out there on the
Campagna, than stand up before all them grand people!' The very thought
of such an ordeal seemed too much for the poor friar, for he wiped his
forehead with the loose cuff of his robe, and for some minutes appeared
to be totally lost in reflection.

With a low sigh he at last resumed: 'Here it is, now; and I made it
short, for Kelly said, "if it's more than one side of a sheet he 'll
never look at it, but just say 'Another time, my good friend, another
time. This is an affair that requires consideration; I 'll direct
Monsignore to attend to it.' When he says that, it's all over with you,"
says Kelly. Monsignore Bargalli hates every one of us--Scotch, English,
and Irish alike, and is always belying and calumniating us; but if he
reads it himself, there's always a chance that he may do something, and
that's the reason I made it as short as I could.'

With this preface, he flattened out the somewhat crumpled piece of
paper, and read aloud:

'"To His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the true-born descendant
of the House of Stuart, and rightful heir to the Crown of England, the
humble and dutiful petition of Mary Fitzgerald, of Cappa-Glyn, in the
County Kildare, Ireland------"

'Eh, what?' cried he suddenly; for a scarcely audible murmur proclaimed
something like dissent or correction.

'I was thinking, Fra Luke,' said she mildly, 'if it wouldn't be better
not to say "of Cappa-Glyn." 'Tis gone away from us now for ever,
and--and----'

'What matter--it was yours once. Your ancestors owned it for hundreds
and hundreds of years; and if you're not there now, neither is he
himself where he ought to be.'

The explanation seemed conclusive, and he went on:

'"County Kildare, Ireland. Ay! May it please your illustrious Royal
Highness--The only sister of Grace Géraldine, now in glory with the
saints, implores your royal favour for the orphan boy that survives her.
Come from a long way off, in great distress of mind and body, she has no
friend but your highness and the Virgin Mary--that was well known never
deserted nor forsook them that stood true to your royal cause--and
being in want, and having no shelter or refuge, and seeing that Gerald
himself, with the blood in his veins that he has, and worthy of being
what your Royal Highness knows he is--"

'That's mighty delicately expressed, ye see, not to give offence,' said
the friar, with a most complacent smile at his dexterity--

'"----hasn't as much as a rag of clothes under his student's gown, nor a
pair of shoes, barring the boots that the sub-rector lent him; without a
shirt to his back, or a cross in his pocket; may at a minute's warning
be sent away from the college by reason of his great distress--having no
home to go to, nor any way to live, but to starve and die in nakedness,
bringing everlasting disgrace on your royal house, and more misery to
her who subscribes herself in every humility and contrite submission,
your Royal Highness's most dutiful, devoted, and till death release her
from sorrows, ever attached servant, Mary Fitzgerald."

'I didn't put any address,' said the Fra, 'for, you see, this isn't one
of the genteelest quarters of the town. Here they are, Mrs. Mary--here
they are!' cried he suddenly, and while he spoke, the hasty tramp of
many feet and the discordant voices of many people talking noisily was
heard from without.

'Sangue dei Santi!' shouted a rude voice, 'is this a fortress we have
here, or a public tavern?' and at the same instant a strong hand seized
the table in the doorway and flung it on the floor.

The fellow who thus made good his entrance was tall and muscular, his
stature seeming even greater from the uncouth covering of goat-skins,
which in every conceivable fashion he wore around him, while in his hand
he carried a long lance, terminating with a goad, such as are used by
the cattle-drivers of the Campagna.

'A hearty reception, truly, Signora Maria, you give your customers.'
cried he, as he strode into the middle of the chamber.

'It was a barrier against the storm, not against our friends------'

'Ha! you there, Fra Luke!' shouted the other, interrupting him, while he
burst out into a fit of coarse laughter.

'Who could doubt it, though?--wherever there's a brazier, a wine-shop,
and a pretty woman, there you will find a Frate! But come in, lads,'
added he, turning once more toward the doorway; 'here are only
friends--neither spies nor Swiss among them.'

A ragged group of half-starved wretches now came forward, from one
of whom the first speaker took a small leathern portmanteau that he
carried, and threw it on the table.

'A poor night's work, lads,' said he, unstrapping the leather fastenings
around it; 'but these travellers have grown so wary nowadays, it's rare
to pick up anything on the Campagna; and what with chains, bolts, and
padlocks around their luggage, you might as well strive to burst open
the door of the old Mamertine Prison yonder. There's no money here,
boys--not a baiocco--nor even clothes, nothing but papers. Cursed be
those who ever taught the art of writing!--it serves for nothing but to
send brave men to the galleys.'

'I knew he was a courier,' said a small decrepit-looking man, with a
long stiletto stuck in his garter, 'and that he could have nothing of
any use to us.'

'Away with the trunk, then! throw it over the parapet into the ditch,
and make a jolly blaze with the papers. Ah, Signora Maria, time was when
a guidatore of the Campagna seldom came back at night without his purse
filled with sequins. Many a gay silk kerchief have I given a sweetheart,
ay, and many a gold trinket too, in those days. Cattle-driving would be
but a poor trade if the Appian Way didn't traverse the plain.' While he
spoke he continued to feed the flame with the papers, which he tore and
threw on the burning charcoal. 'Heap them on the fire, Fra, and don't
lose time spelling out their meaning. You get such a taste for learning
people's secrets at the confessional, you can't restrain the passion.'

'If I mistake not,' said Fra Luke, 'these papers are worth more than
double their weight in gold. They treat of very great matters, and are
in the writing of great people.'

'Per Bacco! they shall never bring me to the galleys, that I'll swear,'
cried the herdsman. 'Popes and princes would fret little about me when
they gained their ends. There, on with them, Fra. If I see you steal one
of them inside those loose robes of yours, by the blood of the martyrs,
I 'll pin it to your side with my poniard.'

'You mangy, starved hound of a goatherd!' cried Fra Luke, seizing the
massive iron tongs beside him; 'do you think it's one of yourselves
I am, or that I have the same cowardly heart that can be frightened
because you wear a knife in your sleeve? May I never see glory, if I
wouldn't clear the place of you all with these ould tongs, ay, and hunt
every mother's son of you down the alley.' The sudden spring forward as
he said this, seeming to denote an intention of action, so appalled his
hearers that they rushed simultaneously to the door, and, in all the
confusion of terror, fled into the street, the herdsman making use of
all his strength to cleave his way through the rest.

'Think of the Vendetta, Fra Luke! They never forgive!' tried the woman,
in a voice of anguish.

'Faix, it's more of the police I 'm thinking, Mrs. Mary,' said the
friar. 'You'll see, them fellows will be off now to bring the Swiss
guard. Burn the papers as fast as you can; God knows what mischief we
're doing, but we can't help it. Oh dear! isn't it a sin and a shame?
Here's a letter, signed Alberoni, the great Cardinal in Spain. Here's
two in English, and what's the name--Watson, is it? No; Wharton, the
Duke of Wharton, as I live! There, fan the coals; quick, there's no
time to lose. Oh dear, what's this about Ireland! I must read this, Mrs.
Mary, come what may. "Cromarty says that the P------regrets he didn't
try Ireland in the place of Scotland. Kelly persuades him that the
Irish would never have abandoned his cause for any consideration for
themselves or their estates." That's true, anyhow,' cried the Fra. '"And
that as long as he only wanted rebellion, and did not care to make them
loyal subjects, the Irish would stand to him to the last." Faix, Kelly's
right!' murmured the Fra. '"The Scotch, besides, grow weary of civil
war, and desire to have peace and order; while the others think fighting
a government the best diversion of all, and would ask for nothing better
than its continuance. For these reasons, and another that is more of
a secret, the Prince is sorry for the choice he made. As to the secret
one: there was a certain lady of good family, one of the best in the
Island, they say, called Grace Fitzgerald------'"

A shriek from the woman arrested the Fra at this instant, and with a
spring forward she tore the paper from his hand to read the name.

'What of her--what of Grace?' cried she, in a voice of heartrending
anxiety.

'Be calm, and I 'll read it all, Mrs. Mary. It was God's will, may be,
put this into our hands to-night. There, now, don't sob and agitate
yourself, but listen. "She followed him to France,"' continued he,
reading.

''She did--she did!' burst out the other, in a passion of tears.

--'"To France, where they lived in retirement at the Château de Marne,
in Brittany. Kelly says they were married, and that the priest who
solemnised the marriage was a nephew of Cardinal Tencin, called
Danneton, or Banneton, but well known as Father Ignatius, at the
Seminary of Soissons. To his own dishonour and disgrace, and perhaps to
his ruin also, this happy union did not long continue. He was jealous
at first; at last he neglected her. Be this as it may, Godfrey Moore and
O'Sullivan broke with him for ever on her account; and Ruttledge tore
his patent of Baron to pieces, and swore, to his face, that one
who could be so false to his love could be little relied on in his
friendship."'

'Who writes this, Fra Luke? Who knew these things so well?' cried the
woman.

'It is signed "E. W.," and dated from Ancona, something more than ten
years back. The remainder treats of money matters, and of names that are
new to us. Here is the postscript: "You are right in your estimate of
him--too right; still I am inclined to think that Kelly's influence has
worked more ill than all his misfortunes. They drink together all day,
and even his brother cannot see him without permission; and if you but
saw the man--coarse, low-minded, and ill-educated as he is--so unlikely
in every way to have gained this ascendency over one of cultivated taste
and refinement; but Kinloch said truly, 'What have your Royal
Highness's ancestors done, that God should have cursed you with such
companionship!' To what end, then, this new plan--this last attempt to
avert failure? I 'll go, if I must, but it will be only to expose myself
to the same impertinences as before."

'I wish I could make out his name, or even to whom it was addressed;
but it is only inscribed "G. H., care of Thomas Foster." Is that any one
coming, Mrs. Mary?''

'No, it's only the wind; it often sounds like voices moaning through
those old corridors,' said the woman sorrowfully. 'You'll keep that
letter safe, Fra Luke:'

'That I will, Mrs. Mary. I 'll put it now with the rest, in that old
iron box in the wall behind the chimney.'

'But if we should have to leave this?'

'Never fear, I 'll take care to have it where we can come at it.' He
paused for a second or so, and then said, 'Yes, you can't stay here any
longer; you must go at once too.'

'Let it be, then, to some spot where I can see him,' cried she eagerly.
'I 've borne the misery of this gloomy spot for years back, just because
that each day he passes near my door. Down the Capitoline, to the
old Forum, is their walk; and how my heart beats as I see the dark
procession winding slowly down the hill, till my eyes rest on him--my
own dear Gerald. How proudly he steps in all his poverty!--how sorrowful
in his youth! What would I not suffer to speak to him--to tell him that
I am the sister of his mother--that he is not all forgotten or forsaken,
but that through long days and nights I sit to think on him!'

'But you know this cannot be, as yet.'

'I know it--I know it I' cried she bitterly. 'It is not to a home of
crime and infamy--to such pollution as this--I would bring him. Nor need
this any longer be endured. The slavery is now unrecompensed. I can earn
nothing. It is four months since I last sent him a few pauls.'

'Come, come, do not give way thus; to-morrow may be the turn to better
fortune. Ask of the Virgin to aid us--pray fervently to those who see
our need, and hope--ay, hope, Mrs. Mary, for hope is faith.'

'My heart grows too cold for hope,' said she with a faint shudder; and
then, with a low 'good-night,' she lighted the little lamp that stood
beside her, and ascended the narrow stairs to her room, while the Fra
proceeded to gather up the papers that lay scattered about: having
accomplished this task, he listened for a while, to ascertain that all
was quiet without, and then, drawing his cowl over his head, set out for
his humble home--a small convent behind the Quirinal.



CHAPTER II. THE LEVEE

For many a year after the failure of the Jacobite expedition--long after
all apprehension from that quarter had ceased to disturb the mind of
England--the adherents of Charles Edward abroad continued to plot,
and scheme, and plan, carrying on intrigues with nearly every court of
Europe, and maintaining secret intercourse with all the disaffected
at home. It would, at first sight, seem strange that partisans should
maintain a cause which its chief had virtually abandoned as hopeless;
but a little consideration will show us that the sympathy felt by
foreign Governments for the Stuarts was less based on attachment to
their house, than a devotion to the religious principles of which they
were the assertors. To Catholicise England was the great object at
heart--to crush that heresy, whose right of private judgment was
as dangerous to despotism as to bigotry--this was a cause far too
portentous and important to be forsaken for any casual check or
momentary discouragement. Hence, for years after the hopes of the
'Pretender's' friends had died out in Scotland, his foreign followers
traversed the Continent on secret missions in every direction, exerting
at times no slight influence even in the cabinets which England believed
to be best affected toward her.

There was, it is true, nothing in the state of Europe generally, nor of
England itself, to revive the hopes of that party. Of the adherents to
the Stuart cause, the staunchest and the best had paid the penalty
of their devotion: some were exiles, and some, like Lord Lovatt, had
purchased safety by dishonour, but scarcely one was to be found ready
to peril life and fortune once more in so barren an enterprise. None,
indeed, expected that 'the king should have his own again,' but many
thought that the claim of a disputed succession might be used as a
terrible agency for disturbance, and the cause of a dethroned monarch
be made an admirable rallying-point for Catholic Europe. These intrigues
were carried on in every court of the Continent, but more especially at
Rome and Madrid, between which two capitals the emissaries of the Prince
maintained a close and frequent intercourse.

With all the subtlety of such crafty counsellors, every question of
real moment was transacted in the strictest secrecy, but all trivial and
unimportant affairs were blazoned forth to the world with a degree of
display that seemed to court publicity. In this way, for instance, every
eventful era of the Stuart family was singled out for observance, and
the ceremonies of the Church were employed to give the epochs a due
solemnity. It is to an occasion of this kind we would now invite our
reader's presence--no less a one than the birthday of Charles Edward.

From an early hour on the morning of the 20th December 178--, the
courtyard of the Altieri Palace was a scene of unusual stir and
movement. Country carts, loaded with orange-trees and rare plants from
the conservatories of the princely villas around Rome, great baskets
of flowers--bouquets which had cost a twelvemonth's care to bring to
perfection--were unpacking on every side, while delicious fruits and
wines of extreme rarity were among the offerings of the auspicious
day. Servants in the well-known livery of every noble house passed and
repassed, and the lodge of the porter was besieged by crowds who were
desirous of testifying their respect for the exiled majesty of England,
even though their rank did not entitle them to be presented. The street
front of the palace was decorated with gorgeous hangings from all the
windows, some emblazoned with the armorial insignia of royalty, some
with the emblems of different orders of knighthood, and some simply with
the fleur-de-lis or the cross of St. Andrew. A guard of honour of the
Pope's Swiss stood at the gate, and two trumpeters, with two heralds in
full costume, were mounted on white chargers within the arched entrance,
ready, when the clock struck eleven, to proclaim the birthday of the
king of England.

For years back the occasion had been merely marked by a levee, at
which the Prince's personal friends and followers were joined by a few
cardinals and one or two of the elders among the noble families; but
now, for some unexplained reason, a greater display was made, and an
unusual degree of splendour and preparation betokened that the event
was intended to be singled out for peculiar honour. Pickets of dragoons,
stationed at intervals through the neighbouring streets, also showed
that measures were taken to secure public tranquillity, and prevent the
inconvenience which might arise from overcrowded thoroughfares. That
such precautions were not unneeded, the dense mass of people that now
crowded the streets already showed.

Few, indeed, of the assembled multitude knew the meaning of the
ceremonial before them. To most, the name of England was like that of
some fabulous dream-land. Others clearly saw some vassalage to the Pope
in this temporary display of royalty; a yet smaller number looked on
with compassionate sorrow at this solemn mockery of a state so unreal
and unsubstantial. Meanwhile, a certain cautious reserve, a degree of
respectful quiet, pervaded all the arrangements within the palace. The
windows of the apartments occupied by the Prince were still closed, and
the noiseless tread of the servants, as they passed in that direction,
showed the fear of disturbing him. For above a year back Charles Edward
had been suffering severely from ill health. Two attacks of apoplexy,
one following quickly on the other, had left him weak and debilitated,
while from the abandonment of his habits of dissipation, enforced by his
physician, there ensued that low and nervous condition, the invariable
penalty exacted from debauchery.

He had lived of late years much secluded from society, passing his time
in the company of a few intimates whose character and station were,
indeed, but ill-adapted to his rank. Of these the chief was a certain
Kelly, an Irishman, and a friar of the order of Cordeliers, with whom
the Prince had become acquainted in his wanderings in Spain, and by
whose influence he first grew attached to habits of low dissipation.
Kelly's recommendations to favour were great personal courage, high
animal spirits, and a certain dashing recklessness, that even to his
latest hour had a fascination for the mind of Charles Edward. Perhaps,
however, there was nothing in Kelly's character which so much disposed
the Prince toward him as the confidence--real or pretended--with which
he looked forward to the restoration of the exiled family, and the
return of the Stuarts to the throne of England. The prophecies of
Nostradamus and the predictions of Kelly fostered hopes that survived
every discomfiture, and survived when there was really not even a chance
for their accomplishment. This friar had become, in fact, though not
formally, the head of the Prince's household, of which he affected to
regulate the expenditure and watch over the conduct. The reckless waste,
however, that prevailed; the insubordination of the servants; and the
utter disorganisation of everything, were far from being complimentary
to his administrative powers.

The income of the Prince was small and precarious. The sums contributed
by Spain came irregularly. The French contingent was scarcely better
paid. The Roman portion alone could be relied upon to maintain the cost
of a household which, for its ill-management and profusion, was
the scandal of the city. There were many rumours current of Kelly's
financial resources--traits of pecuniary strategy which might have
shamed a Chancellor of the Exchequer; but these, of course, were
difficult to prove, and only natural to prevail on such a subject.
Although there is abundant evidence of the man's debasement and
immorality, it is equally well known that he amassed no wealth in the
service of the Prince. We have been somewhat prolix in this reference
to one who is not a chief figure in our picture, but without whom any
sketch of the Stuart household would be defective. The Fra Laurentio,
as he was called, was indeed a person of importance, nor was any name so
often uttered as his on the eventful morning we have referred to.

Soon after ten o'clock, a certain movement in the streets, and the
appearance of the dragoons waving back the populace, showed that
the visitors were about to arrive; and at last a stately old coach,
containing some officials of the Pope's household, drove into the
courtyard. This was quickly followed by the judges of the superior
courts and the secretaries of the tribunals, to whom succeeded a long
line of Roman nobles, their sombre equipages broken occasionally to the
eye by the scarlet panels of a cardinal or the emblazoned hammercloth
of a foreign ambassador. Despite the crowd, the movement, the glitter
of uniform and the gorgeous glare of costume, there was an air of
indescribable gloom in the whole procession. There was none of that
gorgeous courtesy, that look of pleasure, so associated with the
trace of a royal birthday; on the contrary, there was an appearance of
depression--almost of shame--in the faces of the principal persons, many
seeming to shrink from the public gaze and to feel abashed at the chance
mention of their names by the people in the street, as they passed.

Among those who watched the proceedings with a more than common interest
was a large burly man, in the brown robe of a Carthusian, whose bald,
bare head overtopped the surrounders. Closely stationed near the gate,
he had formed an acquaintance with a stranger who seemed familiar with
almost every face that came by. The friar was our friend Fra Luke; and
truly his bluff, honest features, his clear blue eye, and frank brow,
were no unpleasing contrast to the treacherous expressions and gaunt,
sallow cheeks on either side of him. Few of the names were familiar to
the honest Carthusian; and it is but truth to say that he heard of the
great Spanish diplomatist, Guadalaraxa, the wily Cardinal Acquavesia,
and the intriguing envoy, Count Boyer, without a particle of interest in
them; but when his informant whispered, 'There goes the Earl of Dunbar,
that sallow-faced man in deep mourning; that yonder is the Irish
chieftain, O'Sullivan,' then the friar's eyes brightened, and his
whole countenance gleamed with animation and excitement. This faithful
adherent to the Stuart cause was now in his eighty-seventh year, but
still carried himself erect, and walked with the measured step of an
old soldier; his three-cornered hat, trimmed with ostrich feathers, and
wide-skirted blue coat, turned up with red, recalling the time of Louis
xiv., of whose court he had once been a distinguished ornament. Soon
after him came MacNiel of Barra, a tall, hard-visaged man, but whose
muscular figure and well-knit limbs were seen to great advantage in the
full dress of a Highland chieftain. He was preceded by the piper of his
clan, and a henchman, with a pistol on full cock in his hand, walked
after him. A few of lesser note, many of whom exhibited unmistakable
signs of narrow fortune, came after these. It was a group which had gone
on diminishing each year, and now, by the casualties of death, sickness,
and exile, had dwindled down at last to scarcely a dozen; and even of
these few, it was plain to see, some were offering the last homage they
were ever like to render on earth. Equipage after equipage rolled into
the court; and although a vast number had now arrived, the rumour ran
that the windows of the Prince's apartment were still closed, nor was
there any sign of preparation in that part of the palace. The vague
doubts and surmises which prevailed among the crowd without were shared
in by the guests assembled within doors. Gathered in knots, or walking
slowly along through the vast salons, they conversed in low whispers
together--now stopping to listen for anything that might indicate
the approach of the Prince, and then relapsing into the same muttered
conversation as before. So estranged had Charles Edward lived latterly
from all his former associates, that it was in vain to ask for any
explanation from those whose titles implied the duties of his household;
and Keith, Murray, MacNiel, and Upton frankly avowed that they were as
great strangers within those walls as any of those who now came to offer
their formal compliments. Kelly alone, it would seem, by the frequent
mention of his name, could account for the Prince's absence; and yet
Kelly was not to be found.

Ill-regulated and ill-ordered as were all the arrangements of that
household, there seemed something beyond all bounds in this neglect of
fitting courtesy; and many did not scruple to say aloud how deeply they
felt the insult. At one moment they half resolved on deputing a message
to the chamber of the Prince; at another they discussed the propriety of
departing in a body. Various opinions were given as to the most fitting
course to follow; in the midst of which their debate was interrupted
by the hoarse flourish of trumpets without, and the loud-voiced
proclamation by the heralds, 'That his Majesty of England had entered
into his fifty-second year.' A faint cheer--the tribute of the careless
crowd in the street--and a salvo of cannon from the Quirinal, closed the
ceremony, and all was still--so still that for some seconds not a word
was heard in those thronged and crowded salons.

'_Ma foi!_' cried Count Boyer at last, I suppose we may go home again.
Not ours the fault if our duty has not been offered with sufficient
respect.'

'My master,' said the Spanish envoy haughtily, 'will probably think my
patience but little deserving of his praise.'

'And I,' said a German baron, all covered with decorations, 'have
brought this letter of gratulation from the Margrave of Baden, and, for
aught I see, am like to carry it back to his Serene Highness.'

'As for me,' said Count Bjosterna, the Swedish minister, 'I serve a
master who never brooked an insult; and lest this should become such, I
'll take my leave.'

'Not so, messieurs,' cried O'Sullivan, stepping forward, and placing
himself in front of the door. 'You have come here to pay my master, the
king of England, certain marks of your respect. It is for him to choose
the time he will accept of them. By heaven! not a man of you shall leave
this till his good pleasure in that matter be known.'

'Well said, O'Sullivan!' said General Upton, grasping the old man's
hand; while MacNiel and some other chieftains pushed forward and ranged
themselves before the door in solemn silence.

'Nay, nay, gentlemen,' interposed the cardinal-secretary, Gualtieri--a
man whose venerable appearance commanded universal respect; 'this would
be most unseemly on every hand. We are all here animated by one feeling
of sincere deference and attachment to a great prince. There may be good
and sufficient reasons why he has not received our homage. It would ill
become us to inquire into these. Not enough for us that our intentions
are those of respectful duty; we must mark, by our conduct, that we
appreciate the rank of him to whom we offer them.'To these words,
uttered aloud, he added something in a whisper to the principal persons
at either side; and, seeming to yield to his instances, they fell back,
while O'Sullivan, bowing respectfully to the cardinal, in token of
acquiescence, moved slowly away, followed by the chieftains.

This little incident, as may be supposed, contributed nothing to remove
the constraint of the scene; and an almost unbroken stillness now
prevailed, when at length a carriage was seen to drive from the
courtyard.

'There goes Monsignore Alberti,' said Count Boyer. 'Where the secretary
of the Pope gives the initiative, it is surely safe to follow. My duty
is paid.' And so saying, and with a deep obeisance to all at either side
of him, he passed out. The Spanish minister followed; and now the whole
assemblage gradually moved away, so that in less than an hour the salons
were deserted, and none remained of all that crowded mass which so
late had filled them, except O'Sullivan, MacNiel, and a few Highland
chieftains of lesser note.

'One might be tempted to say that there was a curse upon this cause,'
said MacNiel sternly, as he threw himself down into a seat. Who ever saw
a morning break with brighter hopes; and see already, scarcely an hour
past the noon, and they are all gone--wafted to the winds.'

'No, no, MacNiel,' said O'Sullivan gravely; 'you are wrong, believe me.
These butterflies knew well that it was only a gleam of sunshine, not a
summer. The hopes of the Stuarts are gone for ever.'

'Why are you here, then, if you think so?' cried the other impetuously.

'For that very reason, sir. I feel, as you and all these gentlemen here
do, that fidelity is a contract made for life.'

'They were the luckiest that closed that account first,' muttered one of
the lairds, half aloud. 'By my saul, Culloden wasn't colder lying than
the Campagna.'

'Come along, we may as well follow the rest,' said MacNiel, rising.
'Will you dine with us, O'Sullivan? Mac-Allister and Brane are coming.'

'No, MacNiel. I have made this anniversary a day of fasting for many a
year back. I took a vow never to taste meat or wine on this festival,
till I should do so beneath the king's roof, in his own land.'

'Ye 're like to keep a black Lent o' it, then,' muttered the old laird,
with a dry laugh, and shuffled along after his chieftain, as he led the
way toward the door.

O'Sullivan waited till they had gone; and then, with a sad glance around
him, as if like a leave-taking, left the palace and turned homeward.



CHAPTER III. THE ALTIERI PALACE

In a large and splendid chamber, whose only light was a small lamp
within a globe of alabaster, Charles Edward lay, full-dressed, upon his
bed. His eyes were closed, but his features did not betoken sleep: on
the contrary, his flushed cheek told of intemperance, and the table,
covered with wine-decanters and glasses, beside him, confirmed the
impression. His breathing was thick and laboured, and occasionally
broken by a dry, short cough. There was, indeed, little to remind one of
the handsome chevalier in the bloated face, the heavy, hanging jaws, and
the ungainly figure of him who, looking far older than his real age,
now lay there. Though dressed with peculiar care, and covered with the
insignia of several orders, his embroidered vest was unbuttoned, and
showed the rich lace of his jabot, stained and discoloured by wine. A
splendidly ornamented sword lay beside him, on which one hand rested,
the fingers tremulously touching the richly embossed hilt. Near the foot
of the bed, on a low, well-cushioned chair, sat another figure, whose
easy air of jocularity and good-humoured, sensual countenance presented
a strong contrast to the careworn expression of the Prince's face.
Dressed in a long loose robe of white cloth, which he wore not
ungracefully, his well-rounded legs crossed negligently in front of him,
and his hands clasped with an air of quiet and happy composure, the man
was a perfect picture of a jolly friar, well-to-do and contented. This
was George Kelly, the very type of happy, self-satisfied sensuality. If
a phrenologist would have augured favourably from the noble development
of forehead and temples, the massive back-head and widely spreading
occiput would have quickly shown that nature had alloyed every good gift
with a counterpoise of low tastes and bad passions, more than enough to
destroy the balance of character.

'Who 's there? Who 's in waiting?' muttered the Prince, half aloud, as
if suddenly arousing himself.

'Kelly--only Kelly,' answered the friar. 'Then the wine is not finished,
George, eh? that's certain; the decanters are not empty. What hour is
it?' 'As well as I can see, it wants a few minutes of five.'

'Of five! of five! Night or morning, which?'

'Five in the evening. I believe one might venture to call it night, for
they're lighting the lamps in the streets already.'

'What's this here for, George,' said the Prince, lifting up the sword.
'We're not going to Bannockburn, are we? Egad! if we be, I trust they
'll give me a better weapon. What nonsense of yours is all this?'

'Don't you remember it was your Majesty's birthday, and that you dressed
to receive the ministers?'

'To be sure I do; and we did receive them, George, didn't we? Have I not
been drinking loyal toasts to every monarchy of Europe, and wishing
well to those who need it not? Fifty-one, or fifty-two, which are we,
George?'

'Faith, I forget,' said Kelly carelessly; 'but, like this Burgundy,
quite old enough to be better.'

'The reproach comes well from _you_, you old reprobate! Whose counsels
have made me what I am? Bolingbroke warned me against you many a
long year back. Atterbury knew you too, and told me what you were. By
Heaven!' cried he, with a wilder energy, 'it was that very spirit of
dictation, that habit of prescribing to me whom to know, where to
lean, what to say, and what to leave unsaid, has made me so rash and
headstrong through life. A fellow of your caste had otherwise obtained
no hold upon me; a lowbred, illiterate drunkard----'

A hearty burst of laughter from Kelly here stopped the speaker, who
seemed actually overwhelmed by the cool insolence of the friar.

'Leave me, sir; leave the room!' cried Charles Edward haughtily. 'Let
Lord Nairn--no, not him; let Murray of Blair, or Kinloch, attend me.'

Kelly never stirred nor uttered a word, but sat calm and motionless,
while Charles, breathing heavily from his recent outburst of passion,
lay back, half-exhausted, on the bed. After a few minutes he stretched
out his hand and caught his wine-glass; it was empty, and Kelly filled
it.

'I say, George,' cried he, after a pause, 'it must be growing late.
Shall we not have these people coming to our levee soon?'

'They 've come and gone, sire, six hours ago. I would not permit your
Majesty to be disturbed for such a pack of falsehearted sycophants; the
more that they sent such insolent messages, demanding as a right to be
received, and asking how long they were to wait your royal pleasure.'

'Did they so, George? Is this true?'

'True as Gospel. That Spaniard, with the red-brown beard, came even to
your Majesty's antechamber, and spoke so loud I thought he'd have awoke
you'; nor was Count Boyor much better-mannered----'

'Come and gone!' broke in Charles. 'What falsehoods will grow out of
this! You should have told me, Kelly. Health, ease, happiness--I 'd have
sacrificed all to duty. Ay, George, kings have duties like other men.
Were there many here?'

'I never saw one-half the number. The carriages filled the Corso to the
Piazza del Popolo. There was not a minister absent.'

'And of our own people?'

'They were all here. O'Sullivan, Barra, Clangavin----'

'Where was Tullybardine?--Ah! I forgot,' broke in Charles, with a deep
sigh. '"Here's to them that are gone," George, as the old song says. Did
they seem dissatisfied at my absence?--how did you explain it?'

'I said your Majesty was indisposed; that State affairs had occupied
you all the preceding night, and that you had at last fallen into a
slumber.'

'Was Glengariff among them?'

'You forget, sire. We buried him six weeks ago.'

'To be sure we did. Show me that glass, George--no, the looking-glass,
man--and light those tapers yonder.'

Kelly obeyed, but with an evident reluctance, occupying time, so as to
withdraw the other's attention from his project. This stratagem did not
succeed, and Charles waited patiently till his orders were fulfilled,
when, taking the mirror in his hand, he stared long and steadfastly at
the reflection of his features. It was several minutes before he spoke,
and when he did, the voice was tremulous and full of deep feeling.

'George, I am sadly changed; there is but little of the handsome
Chevalier here. I didn't think to look like this these fifteen years to
come.'

'Faith! for one who has gone through all that you have, I see no
such signs of wear and tear,' said Kelly. 'Had you been a Pope or a
Cardinal--had you lived like an Elector of Hanover, with no other perils
than a bare head in a procession, or the gouty twinges of forty years'
"sauer kraut----"'

'Keep your coarse ribaldry for your equals, sirrah. Let there be some,
at least, above the mark of your foul slander,' cried Charles angrily;
and then, throwing the looking-glass from him, he fell back upon his bed
like one utterly exhausted. Kelly (who knew him too well to continue an
irritating topic, his habit being to leave quietly alone the spirit that
forgot more rapidly than it resented) sipped his wine in silence for
some minutes. 'This day, sixteen years ago, I breakfasted in Carlisle,
at the house of a certain Widow Branards. It's strange how I remember a
name I have never heard since,' said Charles, in a voice totally altered
from its late tone of excitement. 'Do you know, Kelly, that it was on
the turn of a straw the fate of England hung that morning? Keppoch
had cut his hand with the hilt of his claymore, and instead of
counselling--as he ever did--a forward movement, he joined those who
advised retreat. Had we gone on, George, the game was our own. There is
now no doubt on the matter.'

'I have always heard the same,' said Kelly; 'and that your Majesty
yielded with a profound conviction that the counsel was ruinous. Is it
true, sire, that O'Sullivan agreed with your Majesty?'

'Quite true, George; and the poor fellow shed tears--perhaps for the
only time in his life--when he heard that the decision was given against
us. Stuart of Appin and Kerr were of the same mind; but _Dits aliter
visum_, George. We turned our back on Fortune that morning, and she
never showed us her face after.'

'You are not forgetting Falkirk, surely?' said Kelly, who never lost an
opportunity of any flattering allusion to the Prince's campaigns.

'Falkirk was but half what it ought to have been. The chieftains got
to quarrel among themselves, and left Hawley to pursue his retreat
unmolested; as the old song says,

     '"The turnkey spat in the jailer's face,
     While the prisoner ran away!"

And now they are all gone, George--gone where you and I must meet them
some day--not a far-off one, maybe.'

'O'Sullivan was here to-day, sire, to wish your Majesty long life and
happiness; and the old fellow looked as hearty and high-spirited as
ever. I saw him as he passed out of the courtyard, and you 'd have
guessed, by his air and step, that he was a man of forty.'

'He's nigh to eighty-five, then, or I mistake me.' 'Life's strong in
an Irishman--there's no doubt of it,' cried Kelly enthusiastically;
'there's no man takes more out of prosperity, nor gives way less to bad
fortune.' 'What's that song of yours, George, about Paddy O'Flynn--isn't
that the name?' said the Prince, laughing. 'Let 's have it, man.'

'You mean Terry O'Flynn, sire,' said Kelly; 'and, faith, 'twould puzzle
me to call to mind one verse of the same song.'

'Do you even remember the night you made it, George, in the little
wayside shrine, eight miles from Avignon? I'll never forget the
astonished faces of the two friars that peeped in and saw you, glass in
hand, before the fire, chanting that pleasant melody.'

'The Lord forgive you! 'tis many a bad thing you led me into,' said
Kelly with affected sorrow, as he arose and walked to the window.
Meanwhile the Prince, in a low kind of murmuring voice, tried to recall
some words of the song. 'Talking of friars,' said Kelly, 'there's a
thumping big one outside, with his great face shining like the dial of a
clock. I 'm much mistaken if he's not a countryman of my own!'

'Can he sing, George? Has he the gift of minstrelsy, man?'

'If your Royal Highness would like to hear the canticles, I'm sure
he'd oblige you. Faith, I was right; it's poor Luke MacManus--a simple,
kind-hearted creature as ever lived. I remember now that he asked me
when it was possible to see your Royal Highness; and I told him that he
must put down into writing whatever he wanted to say, and come here with
it on the 20th; and sure enough, there he is now.'

'And why did you tell him any such thing, sir?' said the Prince angrily.
'What are these petitions but demands for aid that we have not to
bestow--entreaties we cannot satisfy? Are we not pensioners ourselves?
ay, by the Lord Harry, are we, and beggarly enough in our treatment too.
None knows this better than yourself, Master Kelly. It is not ten days
since you pawned my George. Ay, and, by the way, you never brought me
the money. What do you say to that?'

'I received twenty-four thousand francs, sire,' said Kelly calmly;
'eighteen of which I paid, by your Royal Highness's order, to the
Countess.'

'I never gave such an order--where is it?'

'Spoken, sire, in the words of a prince; and heard by one who never
betrayed him,' said the friar quickly--'the Countess herself----'

'No more of this, sir. We are not before a court of justice. And now let
me tell you, Kelly, that the town is full of the malversation of this
household; and that however proverbial Irish economy and good management
be in its own country, climate and change of air would seem to have
impaired its excellence. My brother tells me that our waste and
extravagance are public town talk.'

'So much the better, sire--so much the better!'

'What do you mean by that, sirrah?' cried the Prince angrily.

'Your Royal Highness has heard of Alcibiades, and why he cut the tail
off his dog! Well, isn't it a comfort to think that they never say worse
of us here than that we spend freely what's given grudgingly; and
that the penury of others never contaminated the spirit of your Royal
Highness?'

'Have a care, sir,' said the Prince, with more dignity than he had shown
before: 'there will come a day, perhaps, when we may grow weary of this
buffoonery.'

'I'm sorry for it, then,' replied Kelly unabashed; 'for when it does,
your Royal Highness will just be as little pleased with wisdom.'

It was thus alternately flattering and outraging Charles Edward--now
insinuating the existence of qualities that he had not;--now disparaging
gifts which he really possessed--that this man maintained an influence
which others in vain tried to obtain over the Prince. It was a relief,
too, to find one whose pliancy suited all his humours, and whose
character had none of that high-souled independence which animated his
Scottish followers. Lastly, Kelly never asked favours for himself or
for others. Enough for him the privilege of the intimacy he enjoyed.
He neither sought nor cared for more. Perhaps, of all his traits, none
weighed more heavily in his favour than this one. It was, then, in a
kind of acknowledgment of this single-mindedness that the Prince, after
a pause, said:

'Let your countryman come up here, George. I see he 's the only courtier
that remains to us.'

Kelly rose without a word, and left the room to obey the command.

Little as those in waiting on the Prince were ever disposed to
resist Kelly in any proceeding, they were carried very nearly to
insubordination, as they saw him conducting through the long line of
salons the humbly-clad, barefooted friar, who, with his arms reverently
crossed on his breast, threw stealthy glances, as he passed, at the
unwonted splendour around him.

'I hope, sir,' said Fra Luke respectfully, 'that your kindness to a
poor countryman won't harm yourself; but if ever you were to run the
risk, 'tis an occasion like this might excuse it.'

'What do you mean?' said Kelly hastily, and staring him full in the
face.

'Why, that the petition I hold here is about one that has the best blood
of Ireland in his veins; but maybe, for all that, if you knew what was
in it, you mightn't like to give it.'

Kelly paused for a few seconds, and then, as if having formed his
resolution, said:

'If that be the case, Luke, it is better that I should not see it.
There's no knowing when my favour here may come to an end. There's not
a morning breaks, nor an evening closes, that I don't expect to hear I'm
discarded, thrown off, abandoned. Maybe it would bring me luck if I was
to do one, just _one_, good action, by way of a change, before I go.'

'I hope you've done many such afore now,' said Luke piously.

Kelly did not reply, but a sudden change in his features told how
acutely the words sank into his heart.

'Wait for me here a minute,' said he; and motioning to Luke to be
seated, he passed noiselessly into the chamber of the Prince.



CHAPTER IV. THE PRINCE'S CHAMBER

Brief as Kelly's absence had been, it was enough to have obliterated
from the Prince's mind all the reasons for his going. No sooner was he
alone than he drank away, muttering to himself, as he filled his glass,
snatches of old Jacobite songs--words of hope and encouragement; or
at times, with sad and broken utterance, phrases of the very deepest
despondency.

It was in this half-dreamy state that Kelly found him as he entered.
Scotland--Rome--the court of France--the château at St. Germains--the
shelling where he sought refuge in Skye--the deck of the French
privateer that landed him at Brest--were, by turns, the scenes of his
imagination; and it was easy to mark how, through all the windings of
his fancy, an overweening sense of his own adventurous character upheld
and sustained him. If he called up at times traits of generous devotion
and loyalty--glorious instances wherein his followers rose to the height
of heroes--by some artful self-complacency he was ever sure to ascribe
these to the great cause they fought for; or, oftener still, to his own
commanding influence and the fascination of his presence. In the midst
of all, however, would break forth some traits that bespoke a nobler
nature. In one of these was it that he alluded to the proposition of
Cardinal Tencin, to make the cession of Ireland the price of the French
adhesion to his cause. 'No, no, Monsieur le Cardinal,' cried he several
times energetically; '_tout ou rien!_ _tout ou rien!_... Must not my
cause have been a poor one, when he dared to make me such an offer? Ay,
Kelly, and I swear to you he did so!'

These last words were the first that showed a consciousness of the
other's presence.

'The Dutchman was better than that, George, eh?--a partition of the
kingdom!--never, never. Ireland, too! The very men who stood truest to
me--the very men who never counselled retreat. Think of Lovatt, George.
If you had but seen him that day! He could not bide the time I took to
eat a morsel of breakfast, so eager was he to be rid of me. I laughed
outright at his impatience, and said that he remembered but the worst
half of the old Highland adage which tells you "to speed the parting
guest." He never offered me a change of linen, George, and I had worn
the same clothes from the day before Culloden. "Wae's me for Prince
Charlie!"'

'It's a proud thing for me to hear how you speak of my countrymen,
sire,' said Kelly.

'Glorious fellows they were, every man of them!' cried the Prince with
enthusiasm. 'Light-hearted and buoyant, when all others looked sad and
downcast; always counselling the bold course, and readier to do than say
it! I never met--if I ever heard of--but one Irishman who was not a man
of honour. _He_ was enough, perhaps, to leaven a whole nation--a low,
mean sycophant, cowardly, false, and foul-tongued; a fellow to belie you
and betray you--to track you into evil that others might stare at you
there. I never thought ill of mankind till I knew him. Do you know whom
I mean--eh, George?'

'Faith, if the portrait be not intended for myself, I am at a loss to
guess,' said Kelly good-humouredly.

'So it is, you arch-scoundrel; and, shameless though you be, does it
never occur to you how you will go down to posterity? The corrupter of a
Prince; the fellow who debauched and degraded him!'

'Isn't it something that posterity will ever hear of me at all?' said
Kelly. 'Is it not fame, at any rate? If there should be any records of
our life together, who knows but a clever commentator will find out
that but for me and my influence the Prince of Wales would have been a
downright beast?--"that Kelly humanised your Royal Highness, kept you
from all the contamination of cardinals and scheming Monsignori, rallied
your low spirits, comforted your dark hours, and enjoyed your bright
ones."'

'For what--for what? what was his price?' cried Charles eagerly.

'Because he felt in his heart that, sooner or later, you 'd be back,
King of England and Ireland, and George Kelly wouldn't be forgotten. No,
faith; Archbishop of Westminster; and devil a less I'd be--that's the
price, if you wish to hear it!'

The Prince laughed heartily, as he ever did when the friar gave way to
his impertinent humour, and then, sitting up in his bed, told Kelly
to order coffee. To his last hour, coffee seemed to exercise the most
powerful effect on him, clearing his faculties after hours of debauch,
and enabling him to apply himself to business when he appeared to be
utterly exhausted. Kelly, who well knew how to adapt himself to
each passing shade of temperament, followed the Prince into a small
dressing-room in silence, and remained standing at a short distance
behind his chair.

'Tell Conway,' said he, pointing to a mass of papers on the table, 'that
these must wait. I 'll go down to Albano tomorrow or next day for
a change of air. I 'll not hear of anything till I return. Cardinal
Altieri knows better than I do what Sir Horace Mann writes home to
England. This court is in perfect understanding with St. James's. As to
the Countess, Kelly, let it not be spoken of again; you hear me? What
paper is that in your hand?'

'A petition, I believe, sire; at least, the quarter it comes from would
so bespeak it.'

'Throw it on the fire, then. Is it not enough to live thus, but that I
must be reminded thirty, forty times a day of my poverty and incapacity?
Am I to be flouted with my fallen fortune? On the fire with it, at
once!'

'Poor Luke's prayers were offered at an untimely moment,' said Kelly,
untying the scroll, as if preparing to obey. 'Maybe, after all, he is
asking for a new rosary, or a pair of sandals. Shall I read it, sire?'

The Prince made no reply, and Kelly, who thoroughly understood his
humour, made no further effort to obtain a hearing for his friend; but,
tearing the long scroll in two, he muttered the first line that caught
his eye:

'"Petition of Mary Fitzgerald."'

'What--of--whom? Fitzgerald! what Fitzgerald?' cried Charles, catching
the other's wrist with a sudden grasp.

'"Sister of Grace Géraldine."'

The words were not well uttered when Charles snatched the paper from
Kelly's hand, and drew near to the lamp.

'Leave me; wait in the room without, Kelly!' said he; and the tone of
his voice implied a command not to be gainsaid. The Prince now flattened
out the crumpled document before him, holding the fragments close
together; but, although he bent over them attentively for several
minutes, he made little progress in their contents, for drop by drop the
hot tears rose to his eyes, and fell heavily on the paper. Gradually,
too, his head declined, till at last it fell forward on the table, where
he lay, sobbing deeply. It was a long time before he arose from this
attitude; and then his furrowed cheeks and glazed eyes told of intense
sorrow. 'What ruin have I brought everywhere!' was the exclamation that
broke from him, in a voice tremulous with agony. 'Kinloch said truly:
"We must have sinned heavily, to be so heavily cursed!"' Again and again
did he bend over the paper, and, few as were the lines, it was long
before he could read them through, such was the gush of emotion they
excited. 'Was there ever a cause so hallowed by misfortune?' cried he,
in an accent of anguish. 'Oh! Grace, had you been spared to me, I might
have been other than this. But, if it were to be--if it were indeed
fated that I should become the thing I am, thank God you have not lived
to see it! George,' cried he suddenly, 'who brought this paper?'

Kelly came at once at his call, and replied that the bearer was a poor
friar, by name MacManus.

'Let me see him alone,' said the Prince; and the next moment Fra Luke
entered the chamber, and, with a low and deferential gesture, stooped
down to kiss his hand. 'You are an Irishman.' said Charles, speaking
with a thick but rapid utterance; 'from none of your countrymen have
I met with anything but loyalty and affection. Tell me, then, frankly,
what you know of this paper--who wrote it?'

'I did, myself, your Royal Highness,' said Luke, trembling all over with
fear.

'Its contents are all true--strictly true?'

'As the words of this holy Book.' said Luke, placing his hand on his
breviary.

'Why were they not made known to me before--answer me that?' cried
Charles angrily.

'I'll tell your Royal Highness why,' replied Luke, who gained courage
as he was put upon the defensive. 'She that 's gone--the Heavens be her
bed!--made her sister promise, in her last hour, never to ask nor look
for favour or benefit from your Royal Highness.'

'I will not believe this,' broke in Charles indignantly; 'you are more
than bold, sir, to dare to tell me so.'

''Tis true as Gospel,' replied the friar. 'Her words were: "Let there be
one that went down to the grave with the thought that loving him was its
best reward! and leave me to think that I live in his memory as I used
in his heart."'

The Prince turned away, and drew his hand across his eyes.

'How came she here--since when?' asked he suddenly.

'Four years back; we came together. I bore her company all the way from
Ireland, and on foot too, just to put the child into the college here.'

'And she has been in poverty all this while?'

'Poverty! faith, you might call it distress!--keeping a little trattoria
in the Viccolo d'Orso, taking sewing, washing--whatever she could;
slaving and starving, just to get shoes and the like for the boy.'

'How comes it, then, that she has yielded at last to write me this?'
said Charles, who, in proportion as his self-accusings grew more
poignant, sought to turn reproach on any other quarter.

'She didn't, nor wouldn't,' said the Fra; ''twas I did it myself. I told
her that she might ease her conscience, by never accepting anything;
that I'd write the petition and go up with it, and that all I 'd ask was
a trifle for the child.'

'She loves him, then,' said Charles tenderly. The friar nodded his head
slowly twice, and muttered, 'God knows she does.'

'And does he repay her affection?'

'How can he? Sure he doesn't know her; he never sees her. When we were
on the way here, he always thought it was his nurse she was; and from
that hour to this he never set eyes on her.'

'What motive was there for all this?'

'Just to save him the shame among the rest, that they couldn't say his
mother's sister was in rags and wretchedness, without a meal to eat.'

'She never sees him, then?'

'Only when he walks out with the class, every Friday; they come down the
hill from the Capitol, and then she's there, watching to get a look at
him.'

'And he--what is he like?'

The friar stepped back, and gazed at the Prince from head to foot in
silence, and then at length said: 'He's like a Prince, sorrow less! The
black serge gown, the coarse shoes, the square cap, ugly as they are,
can't disfigure him; and though they cut off his beautiful hair, that
curled half-way down his back, they couldn't spoil him. He has the great
dark blue eyes of his mother, and the long lashes, almost girlish to
look at.'

'He's mild and gentle, then?' said Charles pensively.

'Indeed and I won't tell you a lie,' said Luke, half mournfully, 'but
that 's just what I believe he isn't. The sub-rector says there's
nothing he couldn't learn, either in the sciences or the humanities.
He can write some of the ancient and three of the modern tongues. His
disputations got him the medal; but somehow----'

'Well--go on. Somehow----'

'He's wild--wild,' said the friar, and as if he was glad to have found
the exact word he wanted; 'he 'd rather go out on the Campagna there
and ride one of the driver's ponies all day, than he 'd walk in full
procession with all the cardinals. He 'd like to be fighting the
shepherds' dogs, wicked as they are, or goading their mad cattle till
they turn on him. Many a day they 've caught him at that sport; and, if
I 'm not mistaken, he's in punishment now, though Mrs. Mary doesn't know
it, for putting a ram inside the railings of a fountain, so that the
neighbours durstn't go near to draw water. 'Tis diversions like these
has made him as ragged and tattered as he is.'

'Bad stuff for the cloister,' said Charles, with a faint smile.

'Who knows? Sure Cardinal Guidotti was at every mischief when a boy; and
there's Gardoni, the secretary of the Quirinal, wasn't he the terror of
the city with his pranks?'

'Can I see this boy--I mean, could he be brought here without his
knowing or suspecting to whom he was presented?'

'Sure, if Kelly was to----'

'Ay, ay, I know as well as you do.' broke in the Prince, 'George Kelly
has craft and cunning enough for more than that; but supposing, my
worthy Fra, that I did not care to intrust Kelly with this office:
supposing that, for reasons known to myself, I wished this matter a
secret, can you hit upon the means of bringing the lad here, that I
might see and speak with him?'

'It should be after dark, your Royal Highness, or he would know the
palace again, and then find out who lived in it.'

'Well, be it so.'

'Then there's the rules of the college; without a special leave a
student cannot leave the house, and even then he must have a professor
with him.'

'A cardinal's order would, of course, be sufficient,' said the Prince.

'To be sure it would, sir,' said the friar, with a gesture that showed
how implicitly his confidence was given to such a conjuncture.

'The matter shall be done then, and thus: on Tuesday next Kelly goes to
Albano, and will not return till Wednesday or Thursday evening. At seven
o'clock on Tuesday evening you will present yourself at the college, and
ask for the president: you will only have to say that you are come for
the youth Fitzgerald. He will be at once given into your charge; drive
then at once to the Corso, where you can leave the carriage, and proceed
hither on foot. When you arrive here, you shall be admitted at once.
One only caution I have to give you, friar, and it is this: upon your
reserve and discretion it depends whether I ever befriend this boy,
or cast him off for ever. Should one syllable of this interview
transpire--should I ever discover that, under any pretence or from
any accident, you have divulged what has passed between us here--and
discover it I must, if it be so--from that instant I cease to take
interest in him. I know your cloth well; you can be secret if you will:
let this be an occasion for the virtue. I need not tell you more; nor
will I add one threat to enforce my caution. The boy's own fortune in
life is on the issue; that will be enough.'

'Is Mrs. Mary to be intrusted with the secret?' said the Fra timidly.

'No; not now at least.' The Prince sat down, and leaned his forehead on
his hand in thought. At length he said: 'The boy will ask you, in all
likelihood, whither you are leading him. You must say that a countryman
of his own, a man of some influence, and who knew his friends, desires
to see and speak with him. That he is one with whom he may be frank
and open-hearted; free to tell whatever he feels; whether he likes his
present life or seeks to change it. He is to address me as the Count,
and be careful yourself to give me no higher title. I believe I have
said all.'

'If Kelly asks me what was my business with your Royal Highness?'

'Ay; well thought of. Say it was a matter of charity; and take these few
crowns, that you may show him as you pass out.'

'Well, did you succeed?' asked Kelly, as the poor friar, flushed and
excited from the emotion of his interview, entered the antechamber.

'I did indeed; and may the saints in heaven stand to _you_ for the same!
It 's a good work you done, and you 'll have your reward!'

'Egad,' cried Kelly, in a tone of levity, 'if I had any friends among
the saints, I must have tried their patience pretty hard these last
eight or nine years; but who is this Mary Fitzgerald--I just caught the
name on the paper?'

'She's--she's--she's--a countrywoman of our own,' stammered out Fra
Luke, while he moved uneasily from foot to foot, and fumbled with his
hands up the sleeves of his robe.

'It was lucky for you, then, we were just talking about Ireland before
you went in. He was saying how true and staunch the Irish always showed
themselves.'

'And does he talk of them times?' asked the Fra in astonishment.

'Ay, by the hour. Sometimes it's breaking day before I go to bed, he
telling me about all his escapes and adventures. I could fill a book
with stories of his.'

'Musha! but I'd like to hear them,' cried Luke with honest enthusiasm.

'Come up here, then--let me see what evening--it mustn't be Tuesday--nor
Wednesday--maybe, indeed, I won't be back before Friday. Oh, there's the
bell now; that's for _me,_' cried he; and before he could fix the time
he hurried off to the Prince's chamber.



CHAPTER V. AFTER DARK

It was a long and weary day to the poor friar, watching for that Tuesday
evening when he should appear at the gate of the Jesuits' College and
ask for the young Fitzgerald. He felt, too, as though some amount of
responsibility had been imposed on him to which he was unequal. It
seemed to his simple intelligence as if it were a case that required
skill and dexterity. The rector might possibly ask this, or wish to know
that; and then, how was he to respect the secrecy he had pledged to the
Prince? or was he to dare to deceive the great president of the college?
Supposing, too, all these difficulties over, what of the youth himself?
How should he answer the inquiries he was certain to make--whither
he was going---with what object--and to whom? Greater than all these
personal cares was his anxiety that the boy should please his Royal
Highness; that the impression he made should be favourable; that
his look and bearing might interest the Prince and ensure his future
advancement. Let us own that Fra Luke had his grave misgivings on this
score. From all he could pick up through the servitors of the convent,
Gerald was a wild, headstrong youth, constantly 'in punishment,' and
regarded by the superiors as the great instigator of every infraction
to the discipline of the college. 'What will a prince think of such
an unruly subject?' was the sad question the simple-hearted friar ever
posed to himself. 'And if the rector only send a report of him, he'll
have no chance at all.' With this sorrowful thought he brought
his reflections to a close; and, taking out his beads, set himself
vigorously to implore the intercession of the saints in a cause
intrusted to hands so weak and unskilful as his own.

The grim old gate of the college, flanked with its two low towers,
looked gloomy enough as the evening closed in. The little aperture, too,
through which questions were asked or answered, was now shut up for the
night, and all intercourse with the world without suspended. The Fra had
yet a full hour to wait, and he was fain to walk briskly to and fro, to
warm his blood, chilled by the cold wind that came over the Campagna.
For a while the twinkling of a stray light, high up in the building,
set him a-thinking where the cell of the boy might be; gradually these
lights disappeared, and all was wrapped in gloom and darkness, when
suddenly the chapel became illuminated, and the rich, full swell of an
organ toned out its solemn sounds on the still night. The brief prelude
over, there followed one of those glorious old chants of the church
which combine a strain of intense devotion with a highly exalted poetic
feeling. In a perfect flood of harmony the sounds blended, until the
very air seemed to hold them suspended. They ceased; and then, like
the softest melody of a flute, a young voice arose alone, and, soaring
upward, uttered a passage of seraphic sweetness. It was as though the
song of some angelic spirit, telling of hope and peace; and, as a long,
thrilling shake concluded the strain, the loud thunder of the organ and
the full swell of the choir closed the service. The moment after, all
was silent and in darkness.

Bell after bell, from the great city beneath, tolled out seven o'clock;
and Fra Luke knocked modestly at the gate of the college. His visit
appeared to have been expected, for he was admitted at once and
conducted to the large hall, which formed the waiting-room of the
college. The friar had not long to wait; for scarcely had he taken his
seat when the door opened, and young Fitzgerald appeared. Advancing with
an easy air, and a degree of gracefulness that contrasted strangely with
his poverty-struck dress, the boy said, 'I am told you wish to speak to
me, father.'

'Are you Gerald Fitzgerald, my son?' asked Fra Luke softly.

'Yes; that's my name.'

The Fra looked at the beaming face and the bright blue eyes, soft in
their expression as a girl's, and the dimpled cheek, over which a slight
flush was mantling, and wondered to himself could this be the wild,
reckless youth they called him?--had they not been calumniating that
fine and simple nature? So deeply was the Fra impressed with this
sentiment that he forgot to continue the interrogatory, and stood gazing
with admiration on him.

'Well, said the boy, smiling good-humouredly, 'what is your business
with me, for it is nigh bed-time, and I must be going?'

'It was _your_ voice I heard in the solo a few minutes ago,' cried the
Fra eagerly; 'I know it was. It was _you_ who sang the

'Virgo virginum præclara, Mihi jam non sis amara?'

'Yes, yes,' said the youth, reddening. 'But what of that? You never came
here to-night to ask me this question.'

'True enough,' said the Fra, sighing painfully--less, indeed at the
rebuke than the hot-tempered tone of the boy as he spoke it. 'I came
here to-night to fetch you along with me, to see one who was a friend of
your family long, long ago; he has heard of you here, and wishes to see
and speak with you. He is a person of great rank and high station, so
that you will show him every deference, and demean yourself toward
him respectfully and modestly; for he means you well, Gerald; he will
befriend you.'

'But what need have I of his friendship or his good offices?' said the
youth, growing deadly pale as he spoke. 'Look at this serge gown--see
this cap--they can tell you what I am destined for. I shall be a
priest one of these days, Fra; and what has a priest to do with ties of
affection or friendship?'

'Oh! for the blessed Joseph's sake,' whispered the Fra, 'be careful
what you say. These are terrible words to speak--and to speak them here,
too,' added he, as he threw his eyes over the walls of the room.

'Is this man a cardinal?'

'No,' said the Fra; 'he is a layman, and a count.'

'Better that; had he been a cardinal, I 'd not have gone. Whenever the
old cardinal, Caraffa, comes here, I'm sure to have a week's punishment;
and I hate the whole red-stockinged race----'

'There, there--let us away at once,' whispered the Fra. 'Such discourse
as this will bring misfortune upon us both.'

'Have you the superior's permission for my going out with you?' asked
Gerald.

'Yes; I have his leave till eleven o'clock--we shall be back here before
that time.'

'I'm sorry for it,' said the boy sternly. 'I'd like to think I was
crossing that old courtyard there for the last time.'

'You will be cold, my poor boy,' said the friar, 'with no other covering
but that light frock; but we shall find a carriage as we go along.'

'No, no, no,' cried the boy eagerly. 'Let us walk, Fra; let us walk, and
see everything. It's like one of the old fairy tales nurse used to tell
me long ago--to see the city all alight thus, and the troops of people
moving on, and all these bright shops with the rich wares so temptingly
displayed. Ah! how happy must they be who can wander at will among all
these--exchanging words and greetings, and making brotherhood with their
fellows! See, Fra--see!' cried he, 'what is it comes yonder, with all
the torches, and the men in white?'

'It is some great man's funeral, my child. Let us say a _Pax eterna_,'
and he fumbled for his beads as he spoke.

'Let us follow them,' said the boy; 'they are bearing the catafalque
into that small church--how grand and solemn it all is!' and now,
attaching himself to the long line of acolytes, the boy walked step for
step with the procession, mingling his clear and liquid notes in the
litany they were chanting. While he sang with all the force of intense
expression, it was strange to mark how freely his gaze wandered over
all the details of the scene--his keen eyes scrutinised everything--the
costumes, the looks, the gestures of all; the half tawdry splendour
below--the dim and solemn grandeur of the Gothic roof overhead. If there
was nothing of levity, as little was there anything of reverence in his
features. The sad scene, with all its trappings of woe, was a spectacle,
and no more, to him; and, as he turned away to leave the spot, his face
betrayed the desire he felt for some new object of interest. Nor had he
long to search for such; for, just as they entered the Piazza di
Spagna, they found a dense crowd gathered around a group of those humble
musicians from Calabria--the Pifferari, they call them--stunted in form,
and miserably clad: these poor creatures, whose rude figures recall
old pictures of the ancient Pan, have a wonderful attraction for
the populace. They were singing some wild, rude air of their native
mountains, accompanying the refrain with a sort of dance, while their
uncouth gestures shook the crowd with laughter.

'Oh! I love these fellows, but I never have a chance of seeing them,'
cried the boy; so bursting away, he dashed into the thick of the
assembled throng. It was not without a heartfelt sense of shame that the
poor friar found himself obliged to follow his charge, whom he now began
to fear might be lost to him.

'Per Bacco! cried one of the crowd, 'here's a Frate can't resist the
charms of profane melody, and is elbowing his way, like any sinner,
among us.'

'It's the cachuca he wants to see,' exclaimed another; 'come, Marietta,
here's a connoisseur worth showing your pretty ankles to.'

'By the holy rosary!' cried a third, 'she is determined on the
conquest.'

This outburst was caused by the sudden appearance of a young girl, who,
though scarcely more than a child, bore in her assured look and flashing
eyes all the appearances of more advanced years. She was a deep brunette
in complexion, to which the scarlet cloth that hung from her black hair
gave additional brilliancy. Her jupe, of the same colour, recrossed and
interlaced with tawdry gold tinsel, came only to the knee, below which
appeared limbs that many a Roman statuary had modelled, so perfect were
they in every detail of symmetry and beauty. Her whole air was redolent
of that _beauté du diable_, as the French happily express it, which
seems never to appeal in vain to the sympathies of the populace. It
was girlhood, almost childlike girlhood, but dashed with a conscious
effrontery that had braved many a libertine stare--many a look
significant in coarseness.

With one wild spring she bounded into the open space, and there she
stood now on tiptoe, her arms extended straight above her head, while
with clasped hands she remained motionless, so that every line and
lineament of her faultless figure might be surveyed in unbroken
symmetry.

'Ah carina--che bellezza! come e graziosa!' broke from those who,
corrupt, debased, and degraded in a hundred ways as they were, yet
inherited that ancient love of symmetry in form which the games and the
statues of antique Rome had fostered. With a graceful ease no ballarina
of the grand opera could have surpassed, she glided into those slow and
sliding movements which precede the dance--movements meant to display
the graces of form, without the intervention of action. Gradually,
however, the time of the music grew quicker, and now her heightened
colour and more flashing eye bespoke how her mind lent itself to the
measure. The dance was intended to represent the coy retirings of a
rustic beauty from the advances of an imaginary lover; and, though
she was alone, so perfectly did she convey the storied interest of the
scene, that the enraptured audience could trace every sentiment of the
action. At one moment her gestures depicted the proudest insolence and
disdain; at the next a half-yielding tenderness--now, it was passion to
the very verge of madness--now, it was a soul-subduing softness, that
thrilled through every heart around her. Incapable, as it seemed, of
longer resisting the solicitations of love, her wearied steps grew
heavier, her languid head drooped, and a look of voluptuous waywardness
appeared to steal over her. Wherever her eye turned a murmured sigh
acknowledged how thoroughly the captivation held enthralled every bosom
around, when suddenly, with a gesture that seemed like a cry--so full of
piercing agony it seemed--she dashed her hands across her forehead
and stared with aching eye-balls into vacancy,--it was jealousy: the
terrible pang had shot through her heart, and she was wild. The horrible
transitions from doubt to doubt, until full conviction forced itself
upon her, were given with extraordinary power. Over her features, in
turn, passed every expression of passion. The heartrending tenderness of
love--the clinging to a lost affection--the straining effort to recall
him who had deserted her--the black bitterness of despair--and then,
with a wild spring, like the bound of a tiger, she counterfeited a leap
over a precipice to death!

She fell upon the ground, and as the mingled sobs and cries rose through
the troubled crowd, a boy tore his way through the dense mass, and
fighting with all the energy of infuriated strength, gained the open
space where she lay. Dropping on his knees, he bent over, and clasping
her hand kissed it wildly over and over, crying out in a voice of broken
agony, 'Oh! Marietta, Marietta mia, come back to us--come back, we will
love you and cherish you.'

A great roar of laughter--the revulsion to that intensity of feeling so
lately diffused among them--now shook the mob. Revenging, as it were,
the illusion that had so enthralled themselves, they now turned all
their ridicule upon the poor boy.

'Santissima Virginia! if he isn't a scholar of the Holy Order!' shouted
one.

'Ecco! a real Jesuit!' said another; 'had he been a little older,
though, he 'd have done it more secretly.'

'The little priest is offering the consolation of his order,' cried a
third; and there rained upon him, from every side, words of mockery and
sarcasm.

'Don't you see that he is a mere boy--have you no shame that you can
mock a simple-hearted child like this?' said the burly Fra, as he pushed
the crowd right and left, and forced a passage through the mob. 'Come
along, Gerald, come along. They are a cowardly pack, and if they were
not fifty to one, they 'd think twice ere they 'd insult us.' This
speech he delivered in Italian, with a daring emphasis of look and
gesture that made the craven listeners tremble. They opened a little
path for the friar and his charge to retire; nor was it until they had
nearly gained the corner of the Piazza that they dared to yell forth a
cry of insult and derision.

The boy grasped the Fra's hand as he heard it, and looked up in his face
with an expression there was no mistaking, so full was it of wild and
daring courage.

'No, no, Gerald,' said he, 'there are too many of them, and what should
we get by it after all? See, too, how they have torn your soutane all
to pieces. I almost suspect we ought to go back again to the college, my
boy. I scarcely like to present you in such a state as this.'

Well indeed might the Fra have come to this doubtful issue, for the
youth's gown hung in ribbons around him, and his cap was flattened to
his head.

'I wish I knew what was best to be done, Gerald,' said he, wiping the
sweat from his brawny face. 'What do you advise yourself?'

'I'd say, go on,' cried the youth. 'Will a great signor think whether my
poor and threadbare frock be torn or whole?--he 'll not know if I be in
rags or in purple. Tell him, if you like, that we met with rough usage
in the streets. Tell him, that in passing through the crowd they left me
thus. Say nothing about Marietta, Fra; you need not speak of her.'

The boy's voice, as he uttered the last words, became little louder than
a mere whisper.

'Come along then; and, with the help of the saints, we 'll go through
with what we 've begun.'

And with this vigorous resolve the stout friar strode along down the
Corso.



CHAPTER VI. THE INTERVIEW

It was full an hour after the time appointed when the friar, accompanied
by young Gerald, entered the arched gate of the Altieri Palace.

'You have been asked for twice, Frate,' said the porter; 'and I doubt
if you will be admitted now. It is the time his Royal Highness takes his
siesta.'

'I must only hope for the best,' sighed out the Fra, as he ascended the
wide stairs of white marble, with a sinking heart.

'Let us go a little slower, Fra Luke,' whispered the boy; 'I 'd like to
have a look at these statues. See what a fine fellow that is strangling
the serpent; and, oh! is she not beautiful, crouching in that large
shell?'

'Heathen vanities, all of them,' muttered the Fra; 'what are they
compared to the pure face of our blessed Lady?'

The youth felt rebuked, and was silent. While the friar, however, was
communicating with the servant in waiting, the boy had time to stroll
down the long gallery, admiring as he went the various works of art it
contained. Stands of weapons, too, and spoils of the chase abounded,
and these he examined with a wistful curiosity, reading from short
inscriptions attached to the cases, which told him how this wolf had
been killed by his Royal Highness on such a day of such a year, and how
that boar had received his death-wound from the Prince's hand at such
another time.

It almost required force from the friar to tear him away from objects
so full of interest, nor did he succeed without a promise that he should
see them all some other day. Passing through a long suite of rooms,
magnificently furnished, but whose splendour was dimmed and faded
by years, they reached an octagonal chamber of small but beautiful
proportions; and here the friar was told the youth was to wait, while he
himself was admitted to the Prince.

Charles Edward had just dined--and, as was his wont, dined freely--when
the Fra was announced. 'You can retire,' said the Prince to the servants
in waiting, but never turning his head toward where the friar was
standing. The servants retreated noiselessly, and all was now still in
the chamber. The Prince had drawn his chair toward the fire, and sat
gazing at the burning logs in deep reverie. Apparently he followed his
thoughts so far as to forget that the poor friar was yet in waiting; for
it was only as a low, faint sigh escaped him that the Prince suddenly
turning his head, cried out, 'Ah! our Frate. I had half forgotten you.
You are somewhat late, are you not?'

In a voice tremulous with fear and deference Fra Luke narrated how
they had been delayed by a misadventure in the Piazza, contriving
to interweave in his story an apology for the torn dress and ragged
habiliments the boy was to appear in. 'He is not in a state to be seen
by your Royal Highness at all. If it wasn't that your Royal Highness
will think little of the shell where the kernel is sound----'

'And who is to warrant me that, sir?' said the Prince angrily. 'Is it
your guarantee I 'm to take for it?'

The poor friar almost felt as if he were about to faint at the stern
speech, nor did he dare to utter a word of reply. So far, this was in
his favour, since, when unprovoked by anything like rejoinder, Charles
Edward was usually disposed to turn from any unpleasant theme, and
address his thoughts elsewhere.

'I 'm half relenting, my good friar,' said he, in a calmer tone, 'that I
should have brought you here on this errand. How am _I_ to burden myself
with the care of this boy? I am but a pensioner myself, weighed down
already with a mass of followers. So long as hope remained to us we
struggled on manfully enough. Present privation was to have had its
recompense--at least we thought so.' He stopped suddenly, and then, as
if ashamed of speaking thus confidentially to one he had seen only once
before, his voice assumed a harsher, sterner accent as he said: 'These
are not your concerns. What is it you propose I should do? Have you a
plan? What is it?'

Had Fra Luke been required to project another scheme of invasion, he
could not have been more dumbfounded and confused, and he stood the very
picture of hopeless incapacity.

Charles Edward's temper was in that state when he invariably sought to
turn upon others the reproaches his own conscience addressed to him, and
he angrily said: 'It is by this same train of beggarly followers that my
fortunes are rendered irretrievable. I am worried and harassed by
their importunities; they attach the plague-spot of their poverty to me
wherever I go. I should have freed myself from this thraldom many a year
ago; and if I had, where and what might I not have been to-day? You, and
others of your stamp, look upon me as an almoner, not more nor less.'
His passion had now spent itself, and he sat moodily gazing at the fire.

'Is the lad here?' asked he, after a long pause.

'Yes, your Royal Highness,' said the friar, while he made a motion
toward the door.

Charles Edward stopped him quickly as he said, 'No matter, there is not
any need that I should see him. He and his aunt--she is his aunt, you
said--must return to Ireland; this is no place for them. I will see
Kelly about it to-morrow, and they shall have something to pay their
journey. This arrangement does not please you, Frate, eh? Speak out,
man. You think it cold, unnatural, and unkind--is it not so?'

'If your gracious Highness would just condescend to say a word to
him--one word, that he might carry away in his heart for the rest of his
days.'

'Better have no memory of me,' sighed the Prince drearily. 'Oh, don't
say so, your Royal Highness; think what pride it will be to him yet, God
knows in what far-away country, to remember that he saw you once, that
he stood in your presence, and heard you speak to him.'

'It shall be as you wish, Frate; but I charge you once more to be sure
that he may not know with whom he is speaking.'

'By this holy Book,' said the Fra, with a gesture implying a vow of
secrecy.

'Go now; send him hither, and wait without till I send for you.'

The door had scarcely closed behind the friar when it opened again
to admit the entrance of the youth. The Prince turned his head, and,
whether it was the extreme poverty of the lad's appearance, more
striking from the ragged and torn condition of his dress, or that
something in Gerald's air and look impressed him painfully, he passed
his hand across his eyes and averted his glance from him.

'Come forward, my boy,' said he at last. 'How are you called?'

'Gerald Fitzgerald, Signor Conte,' said he, firmly but respectfully.

'You are Irish by birth?' said the Prince, in a voice slightly
tremulous.

'Yes, Signor Conte,' replied he, while he drew himself up with an air
that almost savoured of haughtiness.

'And your friends have destined you for the priesthood, it seems.'

'I never knew I had friends,' said the boy; 'I thought myself a sort of
castaway.'

'Why, you have just told me of your Irish blood--how knew you of that?'

'So long as I can remember I have heard that I was a Géraldine, and they
call me Irish in the college.'

There was a frank boldness in his manner, totally removed from the
slightest trace of rudeness or presumption, that already interested the
Prince, who now gazed long and steadily on him.

'Do I remind you of any one you ever saw or cared for, Signor Conte?'
asked the boy, with an accent of touching gentleness.

'That you do, child,' said he, laying his hand on the youth's shoulder,
while he passed the other across his eyes.

'I hope it was of none who ever gave you sorrow,' said the boy, who saw
the quivering motion of the lip that indicates deep grief.

Charles Edward now removed his hand, and turned away his head for some
seconds.

At last he arose suddenly from his chair, and with an effort that seemed
to show he was struggling for the mastery over his own emotions, said,
'Is it your own choice to be a priest, Gerald?'

'No; far from it. I 'd rather be a herd on the Campagna! You surely know
little of the life of the convent, Signor Conte, or you had not asked me
that question.'

Far from taking offence at the boy's boldness, the Prince smiled
good-naturedly at the energy of his reply.

'Is it the stillness, the seclusion that you dislike?' asked he,
evidently wanting the youth to speak of himself and of his temperament.

'No, it is not that,' said Gerald thoughtfully. 'The quiet, peaceful
hours, when we are left to what they call meditation, are the best of
it. Then one is free to range where he will, in fancy. I 've had as many
adventures, thus, as any fortune-seeker of the Arabian Nights. What
lands have I not visited! what bold things have I not achieved! ay, and
day after day, taken up the same dream where I had left it last,
carrying on its fortunes, till the actual work of life seemed the
illusion, and this, the dream-world, the true one.'

'So that, after all, this same existence has its pleasures, Gerald?'

'The pleasures are in forgetting it! ignoring that your whole life is a
falsehood! They make me kneel at confession to tell my thoughts, while
well I know that, for the least blamable of them, I shall be scourged.
They oblige me to say that I hate everything that gives a charm to life,
and cherish as blessings all that can darken and sadden it. Well,
I swear the lie, and they are satisfied! And why are they
satisfied?--because out of this corrupt heart, debased by years of
treachery and falsehood, they have created the being that they want to
serve them.'

'What has led you to think thus hardly of the priesthood?'

'One of themselves, Signor Conte. He told me all that I have repeated
to you now, and he counselled me, if I had a friend--one friend on
earth--to beseech him to rescue me ere it was too late, ere I was like
him.'

'And he--what became of him?'

'He died, as all die who offend the Order, of a wasting fever. His hair
was white as snow, though he was under thirty, and his coffin was light
as a child's. Look here, Signor Conte,' cried he, as a smile of half
incredulity, half pity, curled the Prince's lip, 'look here. You are a
great man and a rich: you never knew what it was in life to suffer any,
the commonest of those privations poor men pass their days in----'

'Who can dare to say that of me?' cried Charles Edward passionately.
'There's not a toil I have not tasted, there's not a peril I have not
braved, there's not a sorrow nor a suffering that have not been my
portion; ay, and, God wot, with heavier stake upon the board than ever
man played for!'

'Forgive me, Signor Conte,' stammered out the boy, as his eyes filled
up at the sight of the emotion he had caused, 'I knew not what I was
saying.'

The Prince took little heed of the words, for his aroused thoughts bore
him sadly to the mist-clad mountain and the heathery gorges far away;
and he strode the room in deep emotion. At last his glance fell upon
the youth as, pale and terror-stricken, he stood watching him, and he
quickly said: 'I'm not angry with you, Gerald; do not grieve, my poor
boy. You will learn, one of these days, that sorrow has its place at
fine tables, just as at humbler boards. It helps the rich man to don his
robe of purple, just as it aids the beggar to put on his rags. It's a
stern conscription that calls on all to serve. But to yourself: you will
not be a priest, you say? What, then, would you like--what say you to
the life of a soldier?'

'But in what service, Signor Conte?'

'That of your own country, I suppose.'

'They tell me that the king is a usurper, who has no right to be king;
and shall I swear faith and loyalty to him?'

'Others have done so, and are doing it every day, boy. It was but
yesterday, Lord Blantyre made what they call his submission; and he was
the bosom friend of--the Pretender'; and the last words were uttered in
a half-scornful laugh.

'I will not hear him called by that name, Signor Conte. So long as I
remember anything, I was taught not to endure it.'

'Was that your mother's teaching, Gerald?' said the Prince tenderly.

'It was, sir. I was a very little child; but I can never forget the last
prayer I made each night before bed: it was for God's protection to the
true Prince; and when I arose I was to say, "Confusion to all who call
him the Pretender!"'

'He is not even _that_ now,' muttered Charles Edward, as he leaned his
head on the mantelpiece.

'I hope, Signor Conte,' said the boy timidly, 'that you never were for
the Elector.'

'I have done little for the cause of the Stuarts,' said Charles, with a
deep sigh.

'I wish I may live to serve them,' cried the youth, with energy.

The Prince looked long and steadfastly at the boy, and, in a tone that
bespoke deep thought, said:

'I want to befriend you, Gerald, if I but knew how. It is clear you have
no vocation for the church, and we are here in a land where there is
little other career. Were we in France something might be done. I
have some friends, however, in that country, and I will see about
communicating with them. Send the Frate hither.'

The boy left the room, and speedily returned with Fra Luke, whose
anxious glances were turned from the Prince to the youth, in eager
curiosity to learn how their interview had gone off.

'Gerald has no ambition to be a monsignore, Frate,' said the Prince
laughingly, 'and we mustn't constrain him. They who serve the church
should have their hearts in the calling. Do you know of any honest
family with whom he might be domesticated for a short time--not in Rome,
of course, but in the country; it will only be for a month or two at
farthest?'

'There is a worthy family at Orvieto, if it were not too far----'

'Nothing of the kind; Orvieto will suit admirably. Who are these
people?'

'The father is the steward of Cardinal Caraffa; but it is a villa
that his eminence never visits, and so they live there as in their own
palace; and the mountain air is so wholesome there, sick people used
to seek the place; and so Tonino, as they call him, takes a boarder, or
even two----'

'That is everything we want,' said the Prince, cutting short what he
feared might be a long history. 'Let the boy go back now to the college,
and do you yourself come here on Saturday morning, and Kelly will
arrange all with you.'

'I wish I knew why you are so good to me, Signor Conte,' said the boy,
as his eyes filled up with tears.

'I was a friend of your family, Gerald,' said Charles, as he fixed his
eyes on the friar, to enforce his former caution.

'And am I never to see you again, signor,' cried he eagerly.

'Yes, to be sure, you shall come here; but I will settle all that
another time--on Saturday, Fra; and now, good-bye.

The boy grasped the hand with which the Prince waved his farewell, and
kissed it rapturously; and Charles, overcome at length by feelings
he had repressed till then, threw his arms around the boy's neck, and
pressed him to his bosom.

Fra Luke, terrified how such a moment might end, hurried the youth from
the room, and retired.



CHAPTER VII. THE VILLA AT ORVIETO

If the villa life of Italy might prove a severe trial of temper and
spirits to most persons, to young Gerald, trained in all the asceticism
of a convent, it was a perfect paradise. The wild and far-spreading
landscape imparted a glorious sense of liberty, which grew with each
day's enjoyment of it. It was a land of mountain and forest--those deep,
dark woods of chestnut-trees traversed with the clear and rapid rivulets
so common in the Roman States, with here and there, at rare intervals,
the solitary hut of a charcoal-burner. In these vast solitudes, silent
as the great savannahs of the South, he passed his days--now roaming in
search of game, now dreamily lying, book in hand, beside a river's bank,
or strolling listlessly along, tasting, in the very waywardness of
an untrammelled will, an ecstasy only known to those who have felt
captivity.

Though there were several young people in the family of the Intendente,
Gerald had no companionship with any of them: the boys were boorish,
uneducated, and coarse-minded, and the girls, with one exception, were
little better. Ninetta, it is true, was gentler; her voice was soft,
and her silky hair and soft, dark eyes had a strange, subduing influence
about them; but even she was far from that ideal his imagination had
pictured, nor could he, by all his persuasions, induce her to share his
raptures for Ariosto, or the still more passionate delight that Petrarch
gave him. He was just opening that period of youth when the heart yearns
for some object of affection--some centre around which its own hopes and
fears, its wishes and aspirations, may revolve. It is wonderful how much
imagination contributes in such cases, supplying graces and attractions
where nature has been a niggard, and giving to the veriest commonplace
character traits of distinctive charm.

Ninetta was quite pretty enough for all this, but she was no more.
Without a particle of education, she had never raised her mind beyond
the commonest daily cares; and what with the vines, the olives, the
chestnuts, the festivals of the church, and little family gatherings,
her life had its sphere of duties so full as to leave no time for the
love-sick wanderings of an idle boy.

If she was disposed to admire him when, in fits of wild energy, he would
pass nights and days in chase of the wild boar, or follow the track of
a wolf, with the steadfast tenacity of a hound, she cared little for
his intervals of dreamy fancy, nor lent any sympathy to joys or sorrows
which had no basis in reality; and when her indifference had gone so far
as to offend him, she would gently smile and say, 'Never mind, Gerald;
the Contessina will come one of these days, and she'll be charmed with
all these "moonings."' Whether piqued by the tone of this commiseration,
or careless as to its meaning, he never thought of asking who the
Contessina might be, until one morning a showily-dressed courier arrived
at the villa to announce that, ere the end of the week, the Cardinal's
niece and her governante were to arrive, and remain for, probably,
several weeks there.

It was two years since her last visit, and great was the commotion to
prepare a suitable reception for her. Saloons that had been carefully
closed till now were immediately opened, and all the costly furniture
uncovered. Within doors and without the work of preparation went briskly
on. Troops of labourers were employed in the grounds and the gardens.
Fresh parterres of flowers were planted beneath the windows; fountains
long dried up were taught to play, and jets of many a fantastic kind
threw their sportive showers on the grass.

Gerald took immense interest in all these details, to which his natural
taste imparted many a happy suggestion. By his advice the statues were
arranged in suitable spots, and a hundred little devices of ingenuity
came from his quick intelligence. 'The Contessina will be delighted with
this! How she will love that!' were exclamations that rewarded him for
every fresh exertion; and, doubtless, he had fashioned to his own heart
a Contessina, for he never asked a question, nor made one single
inquiry about her, the real one. As little was he prepared for the great
_cortège_ which preceded her coming--troops of servants, saddle-horses,
fourgons of luggage, even furniture kept pouring in, until the villa,
so tranquil and deserted in its appearance, became like some vast
and popular hotel. There was something almost regal in the state and
preparation that went forward; and when, at the close of a long
summer day, two mounted couriers dashed up to the door, all heated and
dust-covered, quickly followed by two heavy coaches with scarlet panels,
Gerald's curiosity at length got the upper hand, and he stole to a
window to watch the descent of her for whom all these cares had been
provided. What was his astonishment to see a little girl, apparently
younger than himself, spring lightly to the ground, and, after a brief
gesture of acknowledgment to the welcome tendered her, pass into
the house. He had seen enough, however, to remark that her long and
beautiful hair was almost golden in tint, and that her eyes, whatever
their colour, were large and lustrous. He would have dwelt with more
pleasure on her beauty had he not marked, in the haughty gestures
she vouchsafed and the proud carriage of her head, a bearing he,
not unfairly, ascribed to a character imperious and exacting--almost
insolent, indeed, in its requirement of respect.

Guglia Ridolfi was, however, the greatest heiress in the Roman States:
she was the niece of a cardinal, the granddaughter of a grandee of
Spain, and, more than all, had been taught to reflect on these facts
from the earliest years of her girlhood. It had been for years the
policy of the Cardinal to increase the _prestige_ of her position by
every means in his power; and they who knew the ambitious nature of the
man could easily see how, in the great game he played, his own future
aggrandisement was as much included as was her elevation. Left without
a father or mother when a mere infant, she had been confided to the care
of her uncle. Surrounded with teachers of every kind, she only learned
what and when she pleased, her education being, in fact, the result of
certain impulses which swayed her from time to time. As she was gifted
with great quickness, however, and a remarkable memory, she seemed to
make the most astonishing progress, and her fame as a linguist and her
reputation for accomplishments were the talk of Rome.

She had all the waywardness, caprice, and instability such a discipline
might be supposed to produce, and so completely sated with amusement and
pleasure was she that now, as a mere child, or little more, she actually
pined away from sheer _ennui_ of life. A momentary change of place
afforded her a slight passing satisfaction, and so she had come down to
Orvieto to stay some time, and persuade herself, if she could, that she
enjoyed it. Strangely enough, nothing in either her general appearance
or her gestures betrayed this weariness of the world: her eyes were
bright, her look animated, her step active. It was only when watching
her closely that one could see how estranged her thoughts were from what
seemed to fill them; and how, at times, a low, faint sigh would escape
her, even when she was apparently occupied and interested.

It was rumoured that these very traits of her disposition were what had
attached her uncle so fondly to her, and that he recognised in them the
indications of a blood and a race which had always made their way in
life, subjecting others to their rule, and using them as mere tools for
their own advancement. One thing was certain: he curbed her in nothing;
every wild weed of her heart grew up in all its own luxuriance, and she
was the ideal of imperiousness and self-will.

Either from caprice or settled purpose--it were hard to say which--the
Cardinal affected to submit his own plans to her, and he consulted her
about many things which were clearly beyond the sphere of either her
years or her knowledge, but to which her replies gave him the sort of
guidance that gamblers are wont to accept for the accidents of play; and
often had 'Da Guglia's' counsels decided him when his mind was wavering
between two resolves. Whether from perceiving the ascendency she thus
obtained over her uncle's mind, or that really, to her pleasure-sick
heart, these sterner themes gave her a gleam of interest, but gradually
she turned her thoughts to the great events of the day, and listened
with eagerness only to subjects of State craft and intrigue.

Such was she to whose morning levee Gerald was summoned on the day after
her arrival, when, in a sort of vassalage, the Intendente, followed by
his family and the villagers, were admitted to pay their homage. It was
not without a certain compulsion Gerald yielded to this customary act
of deference; nor was his compliance more gracefully accorded when he
learned that he was supposed to be a member of the steward's family, as,
if he were known to be a stranger, it was almost certain the Contessina
would not suffer him to remain there.

It solved much of his difficulty to be told that in all likelihood she
would never notice nor remark him. She rarely did more than listen to
the few words of routine gratulation the Intendente spoke, and with a
slight nod of her head intimate that they might retire. 'Then, why am I
needed at all? Why can't this ceremony go on without me?' cried he half
peevishly.

'Because, if she were afterwards to see you about the grounds, she is
quite capable of remembering that you had not presented yourself on her
arrival. She forgets nothing.'

'That's true,' broke in the Intendente. 'It was but the last time she
came here she remarked that the lace border of my hat was torn, and said
to me, "Signor Maurizio, you must have lazy daughters, for I saw that
piece of gold braid torn, as it is now, on the last two visits I made
here."'

Gerald turned away in ill-humour, for he was vexed that any act of
servitude should be required of him.

There is a strange mystery in that atmosphere of deference which arises
from the united submission of many to one whom they would honour and
reverence. The most stubborn asserter of equality has not failed to own
this, as he has stood among the crowd before a throne. The sentiment
of homage is quickly contagious, and few there are who can steel their
hearts against the feelings of that homage which fills every breast
about him. Gerald experienced this as he found himself moving slowly
along in the procession toward the chamber where the Contessina held
her court. The splendid suite of rooms, filled with objects of art, the
massive candelabra of gilded bronze, the costly tables of malachite
and agate, all obtained their full share of admiration from the simple
villagers, whose whispered words almost savoured of worship, until,
awe-stricken, they found themselves in a magnificent chamber, hung with
pictures from floor to ceiling. In a deep window recess, from which a
vast view opened over mountain and forest, the Contessina was standing,
book in hand, gazing listlessly on the landscape, and never noticing in
the slightest that dense throng which now gathered in the lower part of
the room.

'Maurizio and the peasants have come to pay their duty, whispered a
thin, elderly lady, who acted as governante to the young countess.

'Well, be it so,' said she languidly. And now a very meanly-clad priest,
poor and wretched in appearance, came crouchingly forward to kiss her
hand. She gave it with averted head, and in a way that indicated little
of courtesy, while he bent tremblingly over it, as beseemed one whose
lips touched the fingers of a great cardinal's niece. Maurizio followed,
and then the other members of his household. When it came to Gerald's
turn to advance, 'You must, you must; it is your duty,' whispered the
steward, as, rebel-like, the youth wished to pass on without the act of
deference.

'Is this Tonino?' asked the Contessina, suddenly turning her head, for
her quick ears had caught the words of remonstrance. 'Is this Tonino?'

'No, Eccelenza; Tonino was drawn in the conscription, muttered the
steward, in confusion. 'He knew your Excellency would have got him off,
if you were here, but----'

'Which is this, then--your second son, or your third?'

'Neither, Eccelenza, neither; he is a sort of connection----''

'Nothing of the kind,' broke in Gerald. 'I'm of the blood of the
Geraldines.'

'Native princes,' said the Contessina quickly. 'Irish, too! How came you
here?'

'He has been living with us, Eccelenza, for some months back,' chimed in
the steward; 'an honest Frate, one----'

'Let himself answer me,' said the Contessina.

'They took, me from the Jesuit college and placed me here,' said the
boy.

'Who do you mean by they?' asked she.

'The Frate, and the Count; perhaps, indeed, I owe the change more to
him.'

'What is his name?'

'I never heard it. I only saw him once, and then for a short time.'

'How old are you?'

'I think, fifteen.'

'Indeed. I should have thought you younger than I am,' said she, half
musingly.

'Oh, no; I look much, much older,' said Gerald, as he gazed at her
bright and beautiful features.

'Don Cesare,' said she, turning to a pale old man beside her, 'you must
write to the rector of the college, and let us learn about this boy--how
he came there, and why he left. And so,' said she, addressing Gerald,
'you think it beneath your quality to kiss a lady's hand?'

'No, no!' cried he rapturously, as he knelt down and pressed her hand to
his lips.

'It is not so you should do it, boy,' broke in the governante. 'Yours
has been ill training, wherever you have got it.'

'Alas! I have had little or none,' said Gerald sorrowfully.

'Pass on, boy; move on,' said the governante, and Gerald's head drooped
as his heavy footsteps stole along. He never dared to look up as he
went. Had he done so, what a thrill might his heart have felt to know
that the Contessina's eyes had followed him to the very door.

'There, you have done for me and yourself too, with your stupid pride
about your blood,' cried the Intendente, when they gained the courtyard.
'The next thing will be an order to send me to Rome, to explain why I
have taken you to live here.'

'Well, I suppose you can give your reasons for it,' said Gerald gravely.

'Except that it was my evil fortune, I know of none other/ broke out the
other angrily, and turned away. From each, in turn, of the family did
he meet with some words of sarcasm and reproof; and though Ninetta said
nothing, her tearful eyes and sorrow-stricken features were the hardest
of all the reproaches he endured.

'What am I, that I should bring shame and sorrow to those who befriend
me!' cried he, as with an almost bursting heart he threw himself upon
his bed; and sobbed there till he fell asleep. When the first gleam of
sunlight broke upon him he awoke, and as suddenly remembered all his
griefs of the day before, and he sat down upon his bed to think over
what he should do.

'If I could but find out the Conte at Rome, or even the Fra Luke,'
thought he; but alas! he had no clue to either. 'I know it; I have it,'
exclaimed he at last. 'There is a life which I can live without fearing
reproach from those about me. I'll go and be a charcoal-burner in the
Maremma. The Carbonari will not refuse to have me, and I'll set out for
the forest at once.'

When Gerald had uttered this resolve it was in the bitterness of despair
that he spoke, since of all the varied modes by which men earned
a livelihood, none was in such universal disrepute as that of a
charcoal-burner; and when the humblest creature of the streets said 'I
'd as soon be a charcoal-burner,' he expressed the direst aspect of his
misery.

It was not, indeed, that either the life or the labour had anything
degrading in itself, but, generally, they who followed it were outcasts
and vagabonds--the irreclaimable sweepings of towns, or the incorrigible
youth of country districts, who sought in the wild and wandering
existence a freedom from all ties of civilisation; the life of the
forest in all its savagery, but in all its independence. The chief
resort of these men was a certain district in those low-lying lands
along the coast, called Maremmas, and where, from the undrained
character of the soil and rapid decomposition of vegetable matter ever
going on, disease of the most deadly form existed--ague and fever
being the daily condition of all who dwelt there. Nothing but habits of
wildest excess, and an utter indifference to life, could make men brave
such an existence; but their recompense was, that this district was
a species of sanctuary where the law never entered. Beyond certain
well-known limits the hardiest carbineer never crossed; and it was well
known that he who crossed that frontier came as fugitive, and not as
foe. Many, it is true, of those who sojourned here were attainted
with the deepest crimes--men for whom no hope of return to the world
remained, outcasts branded with undying infamy; but others there
were, mere victims of dissipation and folly--rash youths, who had so
irretrievably compromised their fair fame that they had nothing left but
to seek oblivion.

The terrible stories Gerald had heard of these outcasts from his
school-fellows, the horror in which they were held by all honest
villagers, inspired him with a strange interest to see them with his
own eyes. It savoured, too, of courage; it smacked, to his heart, like
bravery, to throw himself among such reckless and daredevil associates,
and he felt a sort of hero to himself when he had determined on it.
'Ay,' said he, 'they have been taunting me here for some time back, that
my friends take little trouble about me--that they half forget me, and
so on. Let us see if I cannot make a path for myself, and spare them all
future trouble.'



CHAPTER VIII. THE TANA IN THE MAREMMA

Simply turning his steps westward, in the direction where he knew the
Maremma lay, Gerald set out on his lonely journey. It was nothing new
in his habits to be absent the entire day, and even night, so that no
attention was drawn to his departure till late the following day; nor,
perhaps, would it have been noticed then, if a summons had not come from
the Contessina that she desired to speak with him. A search was at once
made, inquiries instituted on every side, and soon the startling fact
acknowledged, that he had gone away, none knew whither or why.

The Contessina at once ordered a pursuit; he was to be overtaken and
brought back. Mounted couriers set off on every side, scouring the
high-roads, interrogating hotel-keepers, giving descriptions of the
fugitive at passport stations--taking, in short, all the palpable and
evident means of discovery; while he--for whose benefit this solicitude
was intended--was already deep among the dreary valleys to the west of
the Lake of Bolseno. The country through which he journeyed was, indeed,
sad-coloured as his own thoughts. Hills, not large enough to be called
mountains, succeeded each other in unbroken succession, their sides
covered with a poor and burned-up herbage, interspersed with masses of
rock or long patches of shingle; no wood, no cultivation on any side. A
few starved and wretched sheep, watched by one even more wretched still,
were all that represented life; while in the valleys, a stray hut or
two, generally on the borders of a swampy lake, offered the only thing
in the shape of a village. After he had crossed the great post-road from
Sienna to Rome, Gerald entered a tract of almost perfect desolation.

He bought two loaves of rye-bread and some apples at a small house on
the road, and with this humble provision slung in a handkerchief at his
side, set out once more. At first it was rather a relief to him to be
utterly alone; his own thoughts were his best companions, and he would
have shrunk from the questionings his appearance was certain to elicit;
but as the time wore on, and the noon of the second day was passed, he
felt the dreariness of the solitude creeping over him, and would gladly
have met with one with whom he could have interchanged even a few words
of greeting. Not a human trace, however, was now to be seen; for he had
gained that low-lying district which, stretching beneath the mountain of
Bolseno, extends, in patches of alternate lake and land, to the verge
of the Maremma. This tract is not even a sheep-walk, and although in
mid-winter the sportsman may venture in pursuit of the wild duck or the
mallard, the pestilential atmosphere produced by summer heat makes the
spot a desert. Gerald was not long a stranger to the sickly influences
of the place: a strange sense of dizziness would now and then come over
him--something less than sickness, but usually leaving him confused and
half stunned; great weariness, too, beset him; a desire to lie down and
sleep, so strong as almost to be irresistible, seized him, but a dread
of wild beasts--not unfrequent in these places--enabled him to conquer
this tendency. The sun bore down with all its noonday force upon him,
while an offensive odour from the stagnant waters oppressed him almost
to choking.

He walked on, however, on and on, but almost like one in a dream.
Thoughts of the past superseded all sensations of the present in his
mind, and he fancied he was back once more in the old college of the
Jesuit fathers. He heard the bell that summoned him to the schoolroom,
and he hastened to put himself in his place, marching with crossed arms
and bent-down head, in accustomed fashion. Then he heard his name called
aloud, and one of the fathers told him to stand aside, for he was 'up'
for punishment; and Fra Luke was there, wishing to speak to him, but not
admitted; and then--how, he knew not--but he was gazing on grizzly bears
and white-tusked boars, in great cages; and there they stood spell-bound
and savage, but unable to spring out, though it was but glass confined
them; and through all these scenes the wild strains of the tarantella
sounded, and the light gestures and wistful looks of Marietta, whose
hair, however, was no longer dark, but golden and bright, like the
Contes-sina's. And as suddenly all changed, and there stood the
Contessina herself, with one hand pressed to her eyes, and she was
weeping, and Gerald felt--but how he did not know--he had offended her;
and he trembled at his fault and hated himself, and, stooping down, he
fell at last at her feet, and sobbed for pardon.

And there he lay, and there night found him sleeping--the long sleep
that awakes to fever. Damp mists arose, charged with all the deadly
vapours of the spot; foul airs steamed from the hot earth, to mingle
with his blood, and thicken and corrupt it. Though the sky was
freckled with stars, their light was dimmed by the dull atmosphere that
prevailed, for the place was pestilential and deadly.

When day broke racking pains tortured him in every limb, and his head
felt as though splitting with every throb of its arteries. A dreadful
thirst, almost maddening in its craving, was on him, and though a
rivulet rippled close by, he could not crawl to it; and now the hot
sun beamed down upon him, and the piercing rays darted into his brain,
penetrating it in all directions--sending wild fancies, horrible and
ghastly visions, through his mind. And combats with wild beasts, and
wounds, and suffering, and long days of agony and suspense, all came
pouring in upon him, as vial after vial of misery bathed his poor,
distracted intellect.

Three days of this half-conscious state--like so many long years of
suffering they were--and then he sank into the low torpor that forms the
last stage of the fever. It was thus, insensible and dying, a traveller
found him, as the third evening was falling. The stranger stooped down
to examine the almost lifeless figure, and it was long before he could
convince himself that vitality yet lingered there: from the dried and
livid lips no breath seemed to issue; the limbs fell heavily to
either side as they were moved; and it was only after a most careful
examination that he could detect a faint fluttering motion of the heart.

Whether it was that the case presented so little of hope, or that he was
one not much given to movements of charity, but the traveller, after all
these investigations, turned again to pursue his path. He had not gone
far, however, when, gaining the rise of a hill, he cast his eyes back
over the dreary landscape, and again they fell upon that small mound of
human clay beside the lake. Moved by an impulse that, even to himself,
was unaccountable, he returned to the spot and stood for some minutes
contemplating Gerald. It might be that in the growing shades of the
evening the gloomy desolation spoke more touchingly to his heart; it
might be that a feeling of compassionate pity stirred him; as likely as
either was it a mere caprice, as, stooping down, he raised the wasted
form, and threw it loosely over one shoulder, and then strode out upon
his way once more.

The stranger was a man of great size and personal strength, and though
heavily framed, possessed considerable activity. His burden seemed
little to impede his movements, and almost as little to engage his
thoughts, and as he breasted the wild mountain, or waded the many
streams that crossed his path, he went along without appearing to think
more of him he was rescuing. It was a long road, too, and it was deep
into the night ere he reached a solitary house, in a little slip of
land between two lakes, and over whose door a withered bough denoted a
cabaret.

'What, in the name of all the saints, have you brought us here?' said an
old man who quickly responded to his knock at the door.

'I found him as you see beside the Lagoscuro,' said the other, laying
down his burden. 'How he came there I can't tell you, and I don't
suspect you'll ever get the report from himself.'

'He's not a contadino,' said the old man, as he examined the boy's
features, and then gazed upon the palms of his hands.

'No; nor is he a Roman, I take it: he's of German or English blood. That
fair skin and blonde hair came from the north.'

'One of the Cavalrista, belike!'

'Just as likely one of the circus people; but why they should leave
him there to die seems strange, except that strangers deem this Maremma
fever a sort of plague, and, perhaps, when he was struck down they only
thought of saving themselves from the contagion.'

'That wouldn't be human, Master Gabriel----'

'Wouldn't it, though!' cried Gerald's rescuer, with a bitter laugh.
'That's exactly the name for it, caro Pippo. It is the beasts of
prey--the tiger and lion--that defend their young; it is the mild rabbit
and the tender woman that destroy theirs.' The innkeeper shook his head,
as though the controversy were too subtle for him, and, bending down to
examine the boy more closely, 'What's this, Master Gabriel,' said he,
taking a peculiar medal that hung suspended round his neck.

'He was a colleger of some sort certainly,' cried Gabriel. 'It's clear,
therefore, he wasn't, as we suspected, one of the Cavalrista. I'll tell
you, Pippo; I have it: this lad has made his escape from some of the
seminaries at Rome, and in his wanderings has been struck down by the
fever. The worthy Frati have, ere this, told his parents that he died in
all the hopes of the church, and is an angel already----'

'There, there,' interposed Pippo rebukingly; 'no luck ever came of
mocking a priest. Let's try if we can do anything for the lad. Tina
will be up presently, and look to him'; and with this he spread out some
leaves beside the wall, and covering them with a cloak, laid the sick
boy gently on them.

'There, see; his lips are moving--he has swallowed some of the
water--he'll get about--I'll swear to it!' cried the other. 'A fellow
that begins life in that fashion has always his mission for after years.
At all events, Pippo, don't disturb me for the next twelve hours, for
I mean to sleep so long; and let me tell you, too, I have taken my last
journey to Bon Convento. The letters may lie in the post-office till
doomsday, ere I go in seach of them.'

'Well, well, have your sleep out, and then----'

'And then?' cried Gabriel, turning suddenly round, as he was about to
quit the room. 'I wish to Heaven you could tell me, what then!'

Old Pippo shook his head mournfully, heaved a heavy sigh, and turned
away.

Tina, a peasant girl, pale and sickly, but with that energy of soul
that belongs to the Roman race, soon made her appearance, and at once
addressed herself to nurse the sick boy. 'I ought to know this Maremma
fever well,' said she, with a faint sigh; 'it struck me down when a
child, and has never left my blood since.' Making a polenta with some
strong red wine, she gave him a spoonful from time to time, and by
covering him up warmly induced perspiration, the first crisis of the
disease. 'There,' cried she, after some hours of assiduous care; 'there,
he is safe; and God knows if he 'll bless me for this night's work after
all! It is a sad, dreary life, even to the luckiest!'

While Gerald lay thus--and it was his fate in this fashion to pass
some six long weeks, ere he had strength to sit up or move about the
house--let us say a few words of those to whose kindness he owed his
life. Old Pippo Baldi had kept the little inn of Borghetto all his
life. It was his father's and grandfather's before him. Situated in
this dreary, unwholesome tract, with a mere mountain bridle-path--not
a road--leading to it, there seemed no reason why a house of
entertainment--even the humblest--could be wanted in such a spot; and,
indeed, the lack of all comfort and accommodation bespoke how little
trade it drove. The 'Tana,' however, as it was called, had a brisk
business in the long dark nights of winter, since it was here that the
smugglers from the Tuscan frontier resorted, to dispose of their wares
to the up-country dealers; and bargains for many a thousand scudi went
on in that dreary old kitchen, while bands of armed contrabandieri
scoured the country. To keep off the Pope's carbineers--in case that
redoubtable corps could persuade themselves to adventure so
far--the Maremma fever, a malady that few ever eradicated from their
constitution, was the best protection the smugglers possessed; and the
Tana was thus a sanctuary as safe as the rocky islands that lay off St.
Stephano. A disputed question of boundary also added to the safety
of the spot, and continual litigation went on between the courts of
Florence and Rome as to which the territory belonged--contests the
scandal-mongering world implied might long since have been terminated,
had not the cardinal-secretary Manini been suspected of being in secret
league with the smugglers. The Tana was, therefore, a sort of refuge;
and more than one, gravely compromised by crime, had sought out that
humble hostel, as his last place of security. To the refugee from the
north of Italy it was easily available, lying only a few miles beyond
the Tuscan frontier, while it was no less open to those who gained any
port of the shore near St. Stephano.

In a wild and melancholy waste, with two dark and motionless lakes girt
in by low mountains, the Tana stood, the very ideal of desolation. The
strip of land on which it was built was little wider than a mere bridge,
between the lakes, and had evidently been selected as a position
capable of defence against the assault of a strong force, and two rude
breastworks of stone yet bore witness that a military eye had scanned
the place, and improved its advantages. Within, a stray loop-hole for
musketry still showed that defence had occupied the spirits of those who
held it, while a low, flat-bottomed boat, moored at a stake before the
door, provided for escape in the last extremity. The great curiosity
of the place, however, was a kind of large hall or chamber, where the
smugglers transacted business with their customers, and the walls of
which had been decorated with huge frescoes, in charcoal, by no less a
hand than Franzoni himself, whose fate it had once been to pass months
here. Taking for his subjects the lives of the various refugees who had
sojourned in the Tana, he had illustrated them in a series of bold and
vigorous sketches, and assuredly every breach of the Decalogue had here
its portraiture, with some accompanying legend beneath to show in whose
honour the picture had been painted. Pippo, who had supplied from
memory all the incidents thus communicated, regarded these as
perfect treasures, and was wont to show them with all the pride of a
connoisseur. 'The maestro '--so he ever called Franzoni--'the maestro,'
said he, 'never saw Cimballi, who strangled the Countess of Soissons,
and yet, just from my description, he has made a likeness his brother
would swear to. And there, look at that fellow asking alms of the
Cardinal Frescobaldi--that 's Fornari. He 's merely there to see the
cardinal, and he's sure he can recognise him; for he is engaged to stab
him on his way to the Quirinal, the day of his election for Pope. The
little fellow yonder with the hump is the Piombino, who poisoned his
mother. He was drowned in the lake out there. I don't think it was quite
fair of the maestro to paint him in that fashion'; and here he would
point to a little humped-backed creature rowing in a boat, with the
devil steering, the flashing eyes of the fiend seeming to feast on the
tortures of fear depicted in the other's face.

Several there were of a humorous kind. Here, a group of murderous
ruffians were kneeling to receive a pontifical blessing. There, a party
of Papal carbineers were in full flight from the pursuit of a single
horseman armed with a bottle; while, in an excess of profanity that
Pippo shuddered to contemplate, there was a portrait of himself, as a
saint, offering the safeguard of the Tana to all persecuted sinners; and
what an ill-favoured assemblage were they who thus congregated at his
shrine!

Poor Gerald had lain for days gazing on the singular groupings and
strange scenes these walls presented. At first, to his disordered
intellect, they were but shapes of horror, wild and incongruous. The
savage faces that scowled on him in paint sat, in his dreams, beside his
pillow. The terrible countenances and frantic gestures were carried into
his sleeping thoughts, and often did he awake, with a cry of agony,
at some fearful scene of crime thus suggested. As his mind acquired
strength, however, they became a source of endless amusement.
Innumerable stories grew out of them: romances, whose adventures
embraced every land and sea; and his excited imagination revelled in
inventing trials and miseries for some, while for others he sought out
every possible escape from disaster. His solitude had no need of either
companionship or books; his mind, stimulated by these sketches, could
invent unweariedly, so that, at last, he really lived in an ideal world,
peopled with daring adventurers, and abounding in accidents by flood and
field.

One day, as Gerald lay musing on his bed of chestnut-leaves, the door of
his room was opened quietly, and a large, powerfully-built man entered.
He walked with noiseless steps forward, placed a chair in front of
Gerald, and sat down. The boy gazed steadfastly at him, and so they
remained a considerable time, each staring fixedly at the other. To one
who, like Gerald, had passed weeks in weaving histories from the looks
and expressions of the faces around him, the features on which he now
gazed might well excite interest. Never was there, perhaps, a face in
which adverse and conflicting passions were more palpably depicted. A
noble and massive head, covered with a profusion of black hair, rose
from temples of exquisite symmetry, greatly indented at either side, and
forming the walls of two orbits of singular depth. His eyes were large,
dark, and lustrous, the expression usually sad. Here, however, ended all
that indicated good in the face. The nose was short, with wide expanded
nostrils, and the mouth large, coarse, and sensual; but the lower jaw,
which was of enormous breadth, and projected forward, gave a character
of actual ferocity that recalled the image of a wild boar. The whole
meaning of the face was power--power and indomitable will. Whatever he
meditated of good or evil, you could easily predict that nothing could
divert him from attempting; and there was in the carriage of his head,
all his gestures, and his air, the calm self-possession of one that
seemed to say to the world, 'I defy you.'

As Gerald gazed in a sort of fascination at these strange features, he
was almost startled by the tone of a voice so utterly unlike what he
was prepared for. The stranger spoke in a low, deep strain of exquisite
modulation, and with that peculiar mellowness of accent that seems to
leave its echo in the heart after it. He had merely asked him how he
felt, and then, seeing the difficulty with which the boy replied, he
went on to tell how he himself had discovered him on the side of the
Lagoscuro at nightfall, and carried him all the way to the Tana. 'The
luck was,' said he, 'that _you_ happened to be light, and _I_ strong.'

'Say, rather, that _you_ were kind-hearted and _I_ in trouble,' muttered
the boy, as his eyes filled up.

'And who knows, boy, but you may be right!' cried he, as though a sudden
thought had crossed him; 'your judgment has just as much grounds as
that of the great world!' As he spoke, his voice rose out of its tone
of former gentleness and swelled into a roll of deep, sonorous meaning;
then changing again, he asked--'By what accident was it that you came
there?'

Gerald drew a long sigh, as though recalling a sorrowful dream; and
then, with many a faltering word, and many an effort to recall events as
they occurred, told all that he remembered of his own history.

'A scholar of the Jesuit college; without father or mother; befriended
by a great man, whose name he has never heard,' muttered the other to
himself. 'No bad start in life for such a world as we have now before
us. And your name?'

'Gerald Fitzgerald. I am Irish by birth.'

The stranger seemed to ponder long over these words, and then said: 'The
Irish have a nationality of their own--a race--a language--traditions.
Why have they suffered themselves to be ruled by England?'

'I suppose they couldn't help it,' said Gerald, half smiling.

'Which of us can say that? who has ever divined where the strength lay
till the day of struggle called it forth? Chance, chance--she is the
great goddess!'

'I'd be sorry to think so,' said Gerald resolutely.

'Indeed, boy!' cried the other, turning his large, full eyes upon the
youth, and staring steadfastly at him; then passing his hand over his
brow, he added, in a tone of much feeling: 'And yet it is as I have
said. Look at the portraits around us on these walls. There they are,
great or infamous, as accident has made them. That fellow yonder, with
that noble forehead and generous look, he stabbed the confessor who gave
the last rites to his father, just because the priest had heard
some tales to his disadvantage; a scrupulous sense of delicacy moved
him--there was a woman's name in it--and he preferred a murder to a
scandal! There, too, there's Marocchi, who poisoned his mother the day
of her second marriage. Ask old Pippo if he ever saw a gentler-hearted
creature: he lived here two years, and died of the Maremma fever, that
he caught from a peasant whom he was nursing. And there again, that
wild-looking fellow with the scarlet cap--he it was who stole the
Medici jewels out of the Pitti to give his mistress, and killed himself
afterwards when she deserted him. Weigh the good and evil of these men's
hearts, boy, and you have subtle weights if you can strike the balance
for or against them. We are all but what good or evil fortune makes us,
just as a landscape catches its tone from light; and what is glorious
in sunshine is bleak and desolate and dreary beneath a leaden sky and
lowering atmosphere!'

'I'll not believe it,' said the boy boldly. 'I have read of fellows
that never showed the great stuff they were made of until adversity had
called it forth. They were truly great!'

'Truly great!' repeated the other, with an intense mockery. 'The truly
great we never hear of. They die in workhouses or garrets--poor, dreary
optimists, working out of their finespun fancies hopeful destinies for
those who sneer at them.

The idols men call great are but the types of Force--mere Force. One day
it is courage; another, it is money; another day, political craft is the
object of worship. Come, boy,' said he, in a lighter vein, 'what have
these worthy Jesuits taught you?'

'Very different lessons from yours,' said the youth stoutly. 'They
taught me to honour and reverence those set in authority over me.'

'Good; and then----'

'They taught me the principles of my faith; the creed of the Church.'

'What Church?'

'What but the one Church--the Catholic!'

'Why, there are fifty, child, and each with five hundred controversies
within it. Popes denying Councils; Councils rejecting Popes; Synods
against Bishops; Bishops against Presbyters. What a mockery is it all!'
cried he passionately. 'We who, in our imperfect forms of language,
have not even names for separate odours, but say, "this smells like the
violet," and "that like the rose," presume to talk of eternity and that
vast universe around us, as though our paltry vocabulary could compass
such themes! But to come back: were you happy there?'

'No; I could not bear the life, nor did I wish to be a priest.'

'What would you be, then?'

'I wish I knew,' said the boy fervently.

'I'm a bad counsellor,' said the other, with a bitter smile; 'I have
tried several things, and failed in all.'

'I never could have thought that you could fail,' said Gerald slowly, as
in calm composure he gazed on the massive features before him.

'I have done with failure now,' said the other; 'I mean to achieve
success next. It is something to have learned a great truth, and this is
one, boy--our world is a huge hunting-ground, and it is better to play
wolf than lamb. Don't turn your eyes to those walls, as if the fellows
depicted there could gainsay me--they were but sorry scoundrels, the bad
ones; the best were but weakly good.'

'You do but pain me when you speak thus,' said Gerald; 'you make me
think that you are one who, having done some great crime, waits to
avenge the penalty he has suffered on the world that inflicted it.'

'What if you were partly right, boy! Not but I would protest against the
word crime, or even fault, as applied to me; still you are near enough
to make your guess a good one. I have a debt to pay, and I mean to pay
it.'

'I wish I had never quitted the college.' said the boy, and the tears
rolled heavily down his cheeks.

'It is not too late to retrace your steps. The cell and the scourge--the
fathers know the use of both--will soon condone your offence; and when
they have sapped the last drop of manhood out of your nature, you will
be all the fitter for your calling.'

With these harsh words, uttered in tones as cruel, the stranger left the
room; while Gerald, covering his face with both hands, sobbed as though
his heart were breaking.

'Ah! Gabriel has been talking to him. I knew how it would be,' muttered
old Pippo, as he cast a glance within the room. 'Poor child! better for
him had he left him to die in the Maremma.'



CHAPTER IX. THE 'COUR' OF THE ALTIERI

A LONG autumn day was drawing to its close in Rome, and gradually here
and there might be seen a few figures stealing listlessly along, or
seated in melancholy mood before the shop-doors, trying to catch a
momentary breath of air ere the hour of sunset should fall. All the
great and noble of the capital had left a month before for the sea-side,
or for Albano, or the shady valleys above Lucca. You might walk for days
and never meet a carriage. It was a city in complete desolation. The
grass sprang up between the stones, and troops of seared leaves, carried
from the gardens, littered the empty streets. The palaces were barred
up and fastened, the massive doors looking as if they had not opened for
centuries. In one alone, throughout the entire city, did any signs of
habitation linger, and here a single lamp threw its faint light over a
wide courtyard, giving a ghost-like air to the vaulted corridors and dim
distances around. All was still and silent within the walls; not a light
gleamed from a window, not a sound issued. A solitary figure walked with
weary footsteps up and down, stopping at times to listen, as if he heard
the noise of one approaching, and then resuming his dreary round again.

As night closed in, a second stranger made his appearance, and timidly
halting at the porter's lodge, asked leave to enter; but the porter had
gone to refresh himself at a neighbouring café, and the visitor passed
in of his own accord. He was in a friar's robe, and by his dusty
dress and tired look showed that he had had a long journey; indeed, so
overcome was he with fatigue that he sat down at once on a stone bench,
depositing his heavy bag beside him. The oppressive heat, the fatigue,
the silence of the lonesome spot, all combined, composed him to sleep;
and poor Fra Luke, for it was he, crossed his arms before him, and
snored away manfully.

Astonished by the deep-drawn breathing, the other stranger drew nigh,
and, as well as the imperfect light permitted, examined him. He himself
was a man of immense stature, and, though bowed and doubled by age,
showed the remnant of a powerful frame: his dress was worn and shabby,
but in its cut and in the fashion he wore it, bespoke the gentleman. He
gazed long and attentively at the sleeping friar, and then approaching,
he took up the bag that lay on the bench. It was weighty, and contained
money--a considerable sum, too, as the stranger remarked, while he
replaced it. The heavy bang of a door at this moment, and the sound of
feet, however, recalled him from this contemplation, and at the same
time a low whistle was heard, and a voice, in a subdued tone, called
out, 'O'Sullivan!'

'Here!' cried the stranger, who was quickly joined by another.

'I am sorry to have kept you so long, chief,' said the latter; 'but he
detained me, watching me so closely, too, that I feared to leave the
room.'

'And how is he--better?'

'Far from it; he seems to be sinking every hour. His irritability is
intense; eternally asking who have called to inquire after him--if Boyer
had been to ask, if the Cardinal Caraffa had come. In fact, so eagerly
set is his mind on these things, I have been obliged to make the
coachman drive repeatedly into the courtyard, and by a loud uproar
without convey the notion of a press of visitors.'

'Has he asked after Barra or myself?' said the chieftain, after a pause.

'Yes; he said twice, "We must have our old followers up here--to-morrow
or the next day." But his mind is scarcely settled, for he talked of
Florence and the duchess, and then went off about the insult of that
arrest in France, which preys upon him incessantly.'

'And why should it not, Kelly? Was there ever such baseness as that of
Louis? Take my word for it, there's a heavy day of reckoning to come to
that house yet for this iniquity. It's a sore trouble to me to think it
will not be in my time, but it is not far off.'

'Everything is possible now,' said Kelly. 'Heaven knows what's in store
for any of us! Men are talking in a way I never heard before. Boyer
told me, two days ago, that the garrison of Paris was to be doubled, and
Vincennes placed in a perfect state of defence.'

A bitter laugh from the old chieftain showed how he relished these
symptoms of terror.

'It will be no laughing matter when it comes,' said Kelly gravely.

'But who _have_ called here? Tell me their names,' said O'Sullivan
sternly.

'Not one, not one--stay, I am wrong. The cripple who sells the
water-melons at the corner of the Babuino, he has been here; and
Giacchino, the strolling actor, comes every morning and says, "Give my
duty to his Royal Highness."'

A muttered curse broke from O'Sullivan, and Kelly went on: 'It was on
Wednesday last he wished to have a mass in the chapel here, and I went
to the Quirinal to say so. They should, of course, have sent a cardinal;
but who came?--the Vicar of Santa Maria maggiore. I shut the door in his
face, and told him that the highest of his masters might have been proud
to come in his stead.'

'They are tired of us all, Kelly,' sighed the chieftain. 'I have walked
every day of the eight long years I have passed here in the Vatican
gardens, and it was only yesterday a guard stopped me to ask if I were
noble?--ay, by Heaven, if I were noble! I gulped down my passion and
answered, "I am a gentleman in the service of his Royal Highness of
England"; and he said, "That may well be, and yet give you no right to
enter here." The old Cardinal Balfi was passing, so I just said to his
Eminence, "Give me your arm, for you are my junior by three good years."
Ay, and he did it too, and I passed in; but I'll go there no more! no
more!' muttered he sadly. 'Insults are hard to bear when one's arm is
too feeble to resent them.'

Kelly sighed too; and neither spoke for some seconds. 'What heavy
breathings are those I hear?' cried Kelly suddenly; 'some one has
overheard us.'

'Have no fear of that,' replied the other; 'it is a stout friar, taking
his evening nap, on the stone bench yonder.'

Kelly hastened to the spot, and by the struggling gleam of the lamp
could just recognise Fra Luke as he lay sleeping, snoring heavily.

'You know him, then?' asked O'Sullivan.

'That do I: he is a countryman of ours, and as honest a soul as lives;
but yet I'd just as soon not see him here Fra Luke,' said he, shaking
the sleeper's shoulder, 'Fra Luke. By St. Joseph! they must have hard
mattresses up there at the convent, or he 'd not sleep so soundly here.'

The burly friar at last stirred, and shook himself like some great
water-dog, and then turning his eyes on Kelly, gradually recalled where
he was. 'Would he see me, Laurence? would he just let me say one word to
him?' muttered he in Kelly's ear.

'Impossible, Fra Luke; he is on a bed of sickness. God alone knows if he
is ever to rise up from it!'

The Fra bent his head, and for some minutes continued to pray with great
fervour, then turning to Kelly, said: * If it's dying he is, there's no
good in disturbing his last moments; but if he was to get well enough to
hear it, Laurence, will you promise to let me have two or three minutes
beside his bed? Will you, at least* ask him if he 'd see Fra Luke? He
'll know why himself.'

'My poor fellow,' said Kelly kindly, 'like all the world, you fancy that
the things which touch yourself must be nearest to the hearts of others.
I don't want to learn your secret, Luke--Heaven knows I have more than I
wish for in my keeping already!--but take my word for it, the Prince has
cares enough on his mind without your asking him to hear yours.'

'Will you give him this, then,' said the Fra, handing him the bag with
the money; 'there's a hundred crowns in it just as he gave it to me,
Monday was a fortnight. Tell him that--'here he stopped and wiped his
forehead, in confusion of thought; 'tell him that it 's not wanting any
more for--for what he knows; that it's all over now; not that he's dead,
though--God be praised!--but what am I saying? Oh dear! oh dear! after
my swearing never to speak of him!'

'You are safe with me, Luke, depend on that. Only, as to the money, take
my advice, and just keep it. He 'll never want to hear more of it.
Many a hundred crowns have left this on a worse errand, whatever be its
fate.'

'I wouldn't, to save my life! I wouldn't, if it was to keep me from the
galleys!'

'Have your own way, then,' said Kelly sharply; 'I must not loiter here';
and so saying, took the bag from the friar's hand, and moved over toward
where O'Sullivan was standing.

'Come along home with me, friar,' said O'Sullivan, as Kelly wished them
good-night; 'I'll give you a glass of Vermouth, and we 'll have a talk
about the old country.'



CHAPTER X. GABRIEL DE------

'I wish I knew how I could ever repay you, Pippo, for all your kindness
to me,' said Gerald, as he sat one fine evening with the old man at the
door; 'but when I tell you that I am as poor and as friendless in the
world as on that same night when Signor Gabriel found me beside the
lake----'

'Not a whit poorer or more alone in the world than the rest of us,' said
Pippo good-naturedly. 'We have all a rough journey before us in life,
and the least we can do is to help one another.'

The youth grasped the old man's hand and pressed it to his heart.

'Besides,' continued Pippo, 'all your gratitude is owing to Signor
Gabriel himself. Any little comforts you have had here have been of his
procuring. He it was fetched that doctor from Bolseno, and his own hands
carried the little jar of honey from St. Stephano.'

'What a kind heart he has!' cried Gerald eagerly.

'Well,' said Pippo, with a dry, odd smile, 'that's not exactly what
people say of him; not but he can do a kind thing too, just as he can do
anything.'

'Is he so clever, then?' asked Gerald curiously.

'Is he not!' exclaimed Pippo; 'where has he not travelled, what has he
not seen! And then the books he has written--scores of them, they
tell me: he's always writing still--whole nights through; after which,
instead of going to his bed like any one else, he is off for a plunge in
the lake there, though I've told him over and over, that the water that
kills fish can never be healthy for a human being!'

'What a strange nature his must be! And what brings him here?'

'That's _his_ secret, and it would be _mine_ too, if I knew it; for, I
promise you, he 's not one it's over safe to talk about.'

'Where does he come from?'

'He 's French, and that's all I can tell you.'

'It can't be for the _chasse_ he comes here,' said Gerald musingly.
'There's no game in these mountains. It can scarcely be for seclusion,
for he's always rambling away to some village or town near. It's now
more than a week since we have seen him. I wish I could make out who or
what he is!'

'Would you indeed?' cried a deep voice, as a large, heavy hand fell upon
his shoulder; 'and what would the knowledge benefit you, boy?' Gerald
looked up, and there stood Gabriel. He was dressed in a loose peasant's
frock, and seemed by his mien as if he had come off a long day's march.

'Go in, Pippo, and make me a good salad. Grill me that old hen yonder,
and I'll give you a share of a flask of Orvieto that was in the bishop's
cellar last night.'

He threw off his knapsack as he spoke, and removing his hat, wiped his
heated forehead, and then turning to the youth at his side, he said:
'So, boy, I am a sort of mystery to you, it seems--mayhap others share
in that same sentiment--at least I have heard as much. But whence this
curiosity on your part? You were a stranger to me, and you are so still.
What can it signify to either of us what has happened before we met and
knew each other? Life is not a river running in one bed, but a series
of streams that follow fifty channels--some pure and limpid, some,
perchance, turbid and foul enough. What you have been gives no guarantee
to what you may be, remember that!'

He spoke with a tone of sternness that made his words sound like
reproof, and the youth held down his head abashed.

'Don't suppose I am angry with you,' continued the other, but in the
self-same tone as before; 'nor that I regard this curious desire of
yours as ingratitude. You owe me nothing, or next to nothing, and you
're a rare instance of such in life, if within the next ten years the
wish will not occur to you at least twenty times, that I had left you to
die beside the dark shores of Bolseno!'

'I can well believe it may be so,' said Gerald with a sigh.

'Not that this is my own philosophy,' said the other, in a voice of
powerful meaning. 'I soon made the discovery that life was not a garden,
but a hunting-ground, and that the wolves had the best of it! Ay, boy,'
cried he, with a kind of savage exultation, 'there's the experience of
one whose boast it is to know something of his fellows!'

Gerald was silent, and for some time Gabriel also did not speak. At
last, looking steadfastly at the youth, he said: 'I have been up to
Rome these last three days. My errand there was to learn something about
_you_.'

'About _me_?' said Gerald, blushing deeply.

'Yes. It was a whim--(I am the slave of such caprices)--seized me to
learn how you came among the Jesuit brothers, and why you left them.'

'I thought I had told you why myself,' said the youth proudly.

'So you had; but I am one of those who can only build on the foundation
their own hands have laid, and so I went myself to learn your history.'

'And has the journey rewarded your exertions?' said the boy, half
mockingly.

A sudden start, and a look of almost savage ferocity on Gabriel's
features, made Gerald tremble for his own rashness; and then, with a
measured voice, he repeated the boy's words:

'The journey _has_ rewarded my exertions.'

'May I venture to ask what you have discovered?' said Gerald timidly.

'I went to satisfy my own curiosity, not yours, boy. What I have learned
may suffice for the one, and not for the other. Here comes Pippo with
pleasanter tidings than all this gossip,' said he, rising, and entering
the house.

'Won't you come in and have a bit of supper with us, Gerald?' asked
Pippo kindly.

'No, I cannot eat,' said the boy, as he wiped the tears from his eyes.

'Come and taste a glass of the generous Orvieto, however.'

'No, Pippo; I could not swallow it,' said he, in a half-choking voice.

'Ah!' muttered the old man with a sigh, 'Signor Gabriel's talk rarely
makes one relish the meal they wait for,' and with bent-down head he
re-entered the house.

The feeling Gerald had long experienced toward Gabriel was one of fear,
almost verging upon terror. There was about the man's look, his voice,
his manner, something that portended danger. Do what he would, the boy
never could make his sense of gratitude rise superior to his fear. He
tried, over and over again, to think of him only as one who had saved
his life, and to whom he owed all the present comforts he enjoyed; but
above these thoughts there triumphed a terrible dread of the man, and a
strange, mysterious belief that he possessed a sort of control over his
destiny.

'If it were indeed so,' muttered he to himself, 'and that his shadow
were to be over me through life, I 'd curse the day he carried me from
the shore of the Lagoscuro!'

Night was rapidly closing in, and the dreary landscape was every moment
growing sadder and drearier. As the sun sank beneath the hills the heavy
exhalations began to well up from the damp earth, till a bluish haze of
vapour rested over the plains and even partly up the mountain side.
An odour, oppressive and sickening, accompanied this mist, which
embarrassed the respiration, and made the senses dull and weary; and yet
there sat Gerald, drinking in these noxious influences, careless of his
fate, and half triumphing in his own indifference as to life. A drowsy
stupor was rapidly gaining on him, when he felt his arm violently
shaken, and, looking up, saw Gabriel at his side. In a gruff, rude
voice, he chided him for his imprudence, and told him to go in.

'Isn't my life, at least, my own?' said Gerald boldly.

'That it is not,' said the other. 'Your priestly teachers might have
told you that you hold it in trust for Him who gave it. I, and men like
me, would say that each of us here has his allotted task to do in life;
and that he is but a coward, or as bad as a coward, who skulks his share
of it. Go in, I say, boy.'

Gerald obeyed without a word; and now a slavish sense of fear came over
him, and he felt that this man swayed and controlled him as he pleased.

'There, Gerald, drink that,' said Gabriel, filling him out a goblet of
red wine. 'That's the liquor inspires the pious sentiments of the
Bishop of Orvieto. From that generous grape-juice spring his Christian
charities and his heavenly precepts. Let us see what miracles it can
work upon two such sinful mortals as you and me. Well done, boy; drain
off another,' and he refilled his glass as he spoke.

Old Pippo had retired and left them alone together. The moon was slowly
rising beyond the lake, and threw a long yellow stream upon the floor,
the only light in the chamber where they sat, thus giving a sort of
solemnity to a moment when each felt too deeply sunk in his own thoughts
for much conversation.

'Do you remark how that streak of moonlight seems to separate us,
Gerald?' said Gabriel. 'A superstitious mind would find food for
speculation there, and trace some mysterious meaning--perhaps a
warning--from it. Are you superstitious?'

'I can scarcely say I am not,' said the boy diffidently.

'None of us are,' said the other boldly. 'If we affect to despise
spirits we are just as eager slaves of our own presentiments. What
we dignify by the name of reason is just as often a mere prompting of
instinct. It amuses us to believe that we steer the bark of our destiny;
but the truth comes upon us at last, that the tiller was lashed when the
voyage began.' After a long silence on both sides, Gabriel said: 'I have
told you, Gerald, that I made a journey to Rome on your account. I have
been to the Jesuit College; conversed with the superior; saw your
cell, your torn school-books, your little table carved over with
your pen-knife; and, by a date scratched on a window-pane, was led to
discover where you had passed the evening of the fifth of January.'

'And did you go _there_ also?' asked Gerald eagerly.

'Ay, boy. I gave an afternoon to the Altieri and the café in front of
it.'

'You saw the Count, then?'

'No, I have not seen him,' said Gabriel dryly. 'He was away from Rome
at a villa, I believe; but I have learned that, indignant at your flight
from the Cardinal's villa, he absolves himself of all further interest
in you.'

'Have you seen Fra Luke?' asked the boy, who now talked as if the other
had known every incident of his life.

'No; he too was away. In fact, Gerald, there was little to learn, and I
came back very nearly as I went. I only know that you are about as much
alone in the world as myself. We are meet companions. You said, a while
ago, you were curious to know who and what I was. You shall hear. I
am of a good Provençal family, originally derived from Italy. We are
counts, from a date before the Medici; so much for blood. As to fortune,
my grandfather was rich, and my own father enjoyed a reasonable
fortune. I was, however, brought up to believe all men my brothers; all
interested alike in serving and aiding each other: helping in the cause
of that excellent thing we are pleased to call Humanity; and as a creed
firmly believing that, bating a chance yielding to temptation, a little
backsliding now and then on the score of an evil passion, men and women
were wonderfully good, and were on the road to be better. We were most
ingenious in our devices to build up this belief. My father wrote books
and delivered lectures to prove it. He did more: he squandered all his
patrimony in support of his theory, and he trained me up to be--what I
am.' And the last words were uttered in a voice of intense solemnity.

'I am not going to give you a story of my life,' said he, after some
time; 'I mean only to let you hear its moral. Till I was eighteen I
was taught to believe that men were honest, truthful, brave, and
affectionate; and that women were pure-hearted, gentle, forgiving, and
trustful. Before I was nineteen I knew men to be scoundrels; it took me
about a year more to think worse of the others. Then began my real
life. I ceased to be a dupe, and felt a man. I am a quick learner, and
I acquired their vices rapidly, all but one, that is still my
stumbling-block--hypocrisy. All that I have done,' said he, in half
soliloquy, 'might have passed harmlessly had I known but how to
shroud it. Slander, theft, and seduction must not walk naked in this
well-dressed world; but, with fine clothes on, they make very good
company. I was curious to see if other lands were the same slaves of
conventionalities, and I travelled. I went to Holland and to England;
I found both as bad--nay worse--than France. If I obtained a momentary
success in life I was certain to be robbed of it by some allegation
foreign to the question. My book was clever; but I had deserted my
wife. My treatise was admirable; but I had seduced the daughter of my
protector. My views were just, right-minded, and true; but I had robbed
my father. Thus, with a subtlety the stupidest possess, they were
able to detract from my genius by charging it with the defects of my
character, as if it behoved one to pay the debts of the other. I went on
insisting that it was my opinions alone were before the world; they as
steadily persisted in dragging myself there. At last they have had their
will, and I wish them joy of the victory.' There was a savage triumph
in his eyes as he spoke this that made Gerald tremble while he looked at
him.

'If you care for my story, boy,' resumed he, 'old Pippo there will
give it to you for a flask of Monte Pulciano. He 'll tell you of all my
cruelties in my first campaign in Corsica; how I won my wife by first
blasting her reputation; how I left her; how I was imprisoned and fined,
and how escaped from both by a seduction. If he forget the name, you may
remind him of Sophie De Mounier. They beheaded me in effigy for this
at Dole. But why go on with vulgar incidents which have happened to
so many! It is the moral of it all I would impress, boy, which is
this--take nothing from the world but solid gifts. Laugh at its praises,
and drink deep of its indulgences! Those born great are able to do this
by prerogative; you and I may succeed to it by skill. Remember, too,
that my theory is a wide, a most catholic one; and to follow it you
need assume no special discipline, but be priest, soldier, statesman,
scholar, just as you will. I have been all these in turn, and may be so
again; but whether I wear a cassock or a cuirass, my knowledge of men
will guide me to but one mode of dealing with them.'

'There is nothing in what you have told me of your life to make me
revere your principles,' said Gerald, with a courageous boldness.

'Because I have told you how I fell, and not how I was tempted; because
I have stooped to say of myself that which none dare say to my face;
because whatever I have been to the world it was that same world
fashioned me to. What would it avail me that I made out a case of
undeserving hardships and injustice, proved myself an injured, martyred
saint: would your wondering sympathy heal any the least of those wounds
that fester here, boy? Every man's course in life is but one swing of
the pendulum. I have vowed that with mine I shall cleave the dense mob
and scatter the vile multitude. As to you,' said he, suddenly turning
his glaring eyes upon the youth, 'you are free to leave this to-morrow.
I'll take care that you are safely restored to those you came from, if
you wish to return. If you prefer it, you may remain here for a month or
two; by that time I shall return.'

'Are you going, then, from this?' asked Gerald.

'Yes. I am on my trial at Aix, for cruelty and desertion of my wife.
They have spread a report that I have no intention to appear; that,
having fled France, I mean never to return to it. Ere the week's over
they shall learn their mistake. I shall be there before them; and, if
instances from the uses of court and courtiers are admissible, show,
that when they prove me guilty, they must be ready to include Versailles
in the next prosecution. Watch this case, boy; I'll send you the
newspapers daily. Watch it closely, and you 'll see that the file is at
work noiselessly now, but still at work on those old fetters that have
bound mankind so long. But first say if you desire to stay here.'

Gerald held down his head and muttered a half audible 'Yes.'

'To-night, then, I will jot down the names of certain books you ought
to read. I shall leave you many others too, and take your choice among
them. Read and think, and, if you are able, write too: I care not on
what theme, so the thoughts be your own.'

Gerald wished to thank him, but even gratitude could not surmount the
dread he felt for him. Gabriel saw the struggle that was engaged in the
boy's heart, and, smiling half sadly, said, 'To our next meeting, lad!'



CHAPTER XI. LAST DAYS AT THE TANA

If Gerald breathed more freely the next morning, on hearing that Signor
Gabriel had departed, it is, perhaps, no great wonder. The Tana was not
a very agreeable abode. Dreariness within doors and without, a poverty
unredeemed by that graceful content which so often sheds its influence
over humble fortune, a wearisome round of life--these were the
characteristics of a spot which, in a manner, was associated in his mind
with all the sufferings of a sickbed. Yet no sooner had he learned that
Gabriel was gone, than he felt as if a load were removed from his heart,
and that even by the shores of that gloomy lake, or on the sides of
those barren hills, he might now indulge his own teeming fancies, and
live in a world of his own thoughts.

It was no common terror that possessed him; his studies as a child had
stored his memory with many a dreadful story of satanic temptation. One
in particular he remembered well, of St. Francis, who, accompanied by a
chance traveller, had made a journey of several days; but whenever the
saint, passing some holy shrine or sacred spot, would kneel to pray, the
most terrible blasphemies would issue from his lips instead of prayer;
for his fellow-traveller was the Evil One himself. What if Gabriel had
some horrible mission of this kind? There was enough in his look, his
manner, and his conversation to warrant the belief. He half laughed
when the thought first crossed his mind, but it came up again and
again, gaining strength and consistency at each recurrence; nor was the
melancholy desolation of the scene itself ill suited to aid the dreary
conjecture. Though Gabriel had confided to him the key of his chamber
where all his books were kept, Gerald passed days before he could summon
resolution to enter it. A vague terror--a dread to which he could not
give shape or form--arrested his steps, and he would turn away from
the door and creep noiselessly down the stairs, as though afraid of
confessing, even to himself, what his errand had been.

At last, ashamed of yielding to this childish fear, he took a moment
when old Pippo and his niece were at work in the garden, to explore
the long-dreaded chamber. The room was very different from what he had
anticipated, and presented a degree of comfort singularly in contrast to
the rest of the Tana. Maps and book-shelves covered the walls, with
here and there prints, mostly portraits of celebrated actresses. A large
table was littered with letters and papers, left just as Gabriel had
quitted the spot. Great piles of manuscript, too, showed what laborious
hours had been spent there, while books of reference were strewn about,
the pages marked by pencil-notes and interlineations. All indicated a
life of study and labour. One trait alone gave another and different
impression; it was a long rapier that hung over the fire-place, around
whose blade, at about a foot from the point, was tied a small bow of
sky-blue ribbon. As, curious to divine the meaning of this, Gerald
examined the weapon closely, he perceived that the steel was stained
with blood up to the place where the ribbon was attached. What strange,
wild fancies did not the boy weave as he gazed on this curious relic!
Some fatal encounter there had been. Doubtless the unwiped blood upon
that blade had once welled in a human heart. Some murderous hand had
grasped that strong hilt, and some silk tresses had once been fastened
with that blue band which now marked where the blade had ceased to
penetrate. 'A sad tale, surely, would it be to hear,' said he, as he sat
down in deep thought.

Tired of these musings, he turned to the objects on the table. The
writings that were scattered about showed that almost every species of
composition had engaged his pen. Essays on education, a history of the
Illuminati, love-songs, a sketch of Cagliostroa, a paper on the commerce
of the Scheldt, a life of Frederic, with portions of an unfinished
novel, all indicated the habits of a daily labourer of literature;
while passages selected from classic authorities, with great care and
research, evinced that much pains had been expended in cultivating that
rich intelligence.

The last work which had occupied his hand--it still lay open, with
an unfinished sentence in the pen--was a memoir of the Pretender's
expedition in '45. The name of Charles Edward was like a spell to
Gerald's heart. From the earliest day he could remember he was taught
to call him his own Prince, and among the prayers his infant lips had
syllabled, none were uttered with more intense devotion than for the
return of that true and rightful sovereign to the land of his
fathers. And now, how his eyes filled up, and his heart swelled, as
a long-forgotten verse arose to his mind! He had learned it when its
meaning was all mystery, but the clink of the rhythm had left it stored
in his memory:

        'Though for a time we see Whitehall
             With cobwebs hanging on the wall,
         Instead of gold and silver bright,
             That glanced with splendour day and night,
         With rich perfume
             In every room,
         That did delight that princely train,
             These again shall be,
         When the time we see,
             That the king shall enjoy his own again.'

Heavy and hot were the tears that rolled down the youth's cheeks, for
he was thinking of home and long ago--of that far-away home where loving
hearts had clustered round him. He could recall, too, the little room,
the little bed he slept in, and he pondered over his strange, forlorn
destiny. And yet, thought he suddenly, 'What is there in my fate equal
to that poor Prince's? I am a Géraldine, they say, but I have none to
own or acknowledge me. Who knows in what condition of shame I came into
the world, since none will call me theirs? This noble name is little
better than a scoff upon me.' The boy's heart felt bursting at this sad
retrospect of his lot. 'Would that I had never left the college!' cried
he in his misery. 'Another year or two had, doubtless, calmed down the
rebellious longings of my heart for a life of action, and then I should
have followed my calling humbly, calmly, perhaps contentedly.'

Partly to divert his thoughts from this theme, he turned to the memoir
of the Prince's expedition, and soon became so deeply interested in its
details as to forget himself and his own sorrows. Brief and sketchy as
the narrative was, it displayed in all the warm colouring of a
romance that glorious outburst of national chivalry which gathered
the chieftains around their sovereign--all the graces, too, of his own
captivating manner, his handsome person, his courtly address, were dwelt
upon, exerting as they did an almost magical influence upon every
one who came before him. The short and bloody struggle which began at
Preston and ended at Culloden was before his eyes, with all its errors
exposed, all its mistakes displayed; every fault of strategy dwelt upon,
and every miscalculation criticised. All the train of events which might
have occurred had this or that policy been adopted was set forth in most
persuasive form; till, when the youth arose from the perusal, such a
conviction was forced upon him that rashness alone had defeated the
enterprise, that he sprang to his feet, and paced the room in passionate
indignation. As he thought over the noble devotion of Charles Edward's
followers, he felt as if such a cause could not die. 'The right is
there,' muttered he, 'and there must yet be brave men who think so. It
cannot, surely, be possible that for one defeat so great a claim could
be abandoned for ever! Where is the Prince now? how is he occupied? who
are his adherents and counsellors?' were the questions which quickly
succeeded each other in his mind. 'Would I were a soldier, that I could
lay my services at his feet, or that I had skill or ability to aid his
cause in any way!'

He turned eagerly again to the memoir, whose concluding words were, 'He
landed once more in France, on the 20th of September.' 'And that is
now many a year ago,' said he, and with a dreary sigh; 'mayhap, of his
wrecked fortune, not a plank now remains. Who could guide me in this
matter--who advise me? 'He knew of but one, and yet he shuddered at the
idea of seeking counsel from Gabriel. The more Gerald reflected on it,
the more was he assured that if he could obtain access to the Prince,
his Royal Highness would remember his name. 'It is impossible,' thought
he, 'but that some of my family must have been engaged in his cause, or
why should I, as a mere child, have been taught to pray each night for
his success, and ask for a blessing on his head?' Yearning as his heart
was for some high purpose in life, it sent a thrill of intense delight
through him to think of such a destiny.

It was a part of the training in the Jesuit College, to induce the youth
to select some saintly model for imitation in life, and while some chose
St. Francis Xavier, or St. Vincent de Paul, others took St. Anthony
of Padua, St. Francis d'Assisi, or any other illustrious martyr of the
faith; each votary being from the hour of his selection a most strenuous
upholder of the patron he assumed. Indeed, of the enthusiasm in this
respect some strange and almost incredible stories ran, showing how, in
their zeal, many had actually submitted to most painful self-tortures,
to resemble the idols of their ambition. How easy was it now for
Gerald to replace any of these grim saints and martyrs by an image
that actually filled his whole heart--one who possessed every graceful
attribute and every attractive quality. The seed of hero-worship thus
sown in his nature ripened to a harvest very different from that it
was intended to bear, and Charles Edward occupied the shrine some pious
martyr should have held. He little knew, indeed, how easily affections,
nurtured for one class of objects, are transferred to others totally
unlike them, and how often are the temples we rear and mean to dedicate
to our highest and holiest aspirations made homes for most worldly
passions! And what a strange chaos did that poor boy's mind soon become!
for now he read whole days, and almost whole nights long, hurrying from
his meals back to that lonely chamber, where he loved to be. With
the insatiable thirst for new acquirement he tasted of all about him:
dramatists, historians, essay-writers, theologians; the wildest theories
of the rights of man, the most uncompromising asserters of divine
authority for royalty, the sufferings and sorrows of noble-hearted
missionaries, the licentious lives of courtly debauchees--all poured in
like a strong flood over the soil of his mind, enriching, corrupting,
ennobling, and debasing it by turns. Like some great edifice reared
without plan, his mind displayed the strangest and most opposite
combinations, and thus the noble eloquence of Massillon, the wit of
Molière, the epigrammatic pungency of Pascal, blended themselves with
the caustic severity of Voltaire, the touching pathos of Rousseau, and
the knowledge of life so eminently the gift of Le Sage. To see that
world of which these great men presented such a picture, became now his
all-absorbing passion. To mingle with his fellow-men as actor, and not
spectator. To be one of that immense _dramatis persono_ who moved about
the stage of life, seemed enough for all ambition. The strong spirit of
adventure lay deeply in his heart, and he felt a kind of pride to think
that if any future success was to greet him, he could recall the days
at the Tana, and say, there never was one who started in life poorer or
more friendless.

There was no exaggeration in this. His clothes were rags, his shoes
barely held together, and the only covering he had for his head was the
little skullcap he used to wear in school hours. Even old Pippo began
to scoff at his miserable appearance, and hinted a hope, that before the
season of the contraband begun Gerald would have taken his departure, or
be able to make a more respectable figure. As Gabriel had now been gone
many weeks, and no tidings whatever come of him, the old man's reserve
and deference daily decreased. He grumbled at Gerald's habits of study,
profitless and idle as they seemed to him, while there was many a thing
to be done about the house and the garden. He was not weak or sickly
now: he could help to chop the wood for winter firing; he could raise
those heavy water-buckets that swung over the deep well in the garden;
he could draw the net in the little stream behind the house, or trench
about the few stunted olives that struggled for life on the hillside.
Gerald would willingly have done any or all of these, if the idea had
occurred to himself. He was not indolent by nature, and liked the very
fact of active occupation. As a task, however, he rejected the notion at
once. It savoured of servitude to his mind, and who was this same Pippo
who aspired to be his master?

The more the boy's mind became stored with knowledge, the fuller his
intelligence grew of great examples and noble instances--the more
indignantly did he repulse the advances of Pippo's companionship.
'What!' he would mutter to himself, 'leave Bossuet and his divine
teachings for his coarse converse! Quit the sarcastic intensity of
Voltaire's ridicule for the vulgar jests of this illiterate boor!
Exchange the glorious company of wits and sages, and poets and
moralists, for a life of daily drudgery, with a mean peasant to talk
to! Besides, I am not his guest, nor a burden upon his charity. It is to
Gabriel I owe my shelter here.'

When driven by many a sarcasm to assume this position, Pippo gravely
remarked: 'True enough, boy, so long as he was here; but he is gone now,
and who 'll tell us will he ever come back? He may have been sentenced
by the tribunal. At the hour we are talking here he may be in prison--at
the galleys, for aught we know; and I promise you one thing, there's
many a better man there.'

'And I, too, promise one thing,' replied Gerald angrily, 'if he ever do
come, he shall hear how you have dared to speak of him.'

Old Pippo started at the words, and his face became lividly pale, and
muttering a few words beneath his breath, he left the spot. Nothing was
further from Gerald's mind than any defence of Gabriel, for whom, do
what he might, he could feel neither affection nor gratitude. In what
he had said he merely yielded to a momentary impatience to sting the
old man by an angry reply. For the remainder of that day not a word was
exchanged between them. They met and parted without saluting; they sat
silently opposite each other at their meals. The following day opened
with the same cold distance between them, the old man barely eyeing
Gerald, when the youth was not observing him, and casting toward him
glances of doubtful meaning. Too deeply engaged in his books to pay
much attention to these signs of displeasure, Gerald passed his hours as
usual in Gabriel's room.

He was seated, reading, when the door opened gently, and the old man's
niece entered: her step was so noiseless, that she was nearly beside
Gerald's chair before he noticed her.

'What is it, Tina,' said he, starting; 'what makes you look so
frightened?'

She placed her finger on her lip, a sign of caution, and looked
anxiously around her.

'He has not been cruel or angry with you, poor girl?' asked the boy;
'tell me this.'

'No, Gerald,' said she, in a low and broken voice; 'but there is danger
over you--ay, and near too, if you can't escape it. He sent me last
night over to St. Stephano, twelve weary miles across the mountain,
after nightfall, to fetch the Gobbino----'

'The Gobbino--who is he?'

'The hunch-back, that was at the galleys in Messina,' said the girl,
trembling all over; and then went on, 'and to tell him to come over to
the Tana, for he wanted him.'

'Well, and then----'

'And then,' muttered the girl, 'and then,' and she made a pantomimic
gesture of drawing a knife suddenly across the throat. 'It is so with
him, they say; he 'd think no more of it than do I of killing a hen!'

'No, no, Tina,' said the boy, smiling at her fears. 'You wrong old Pippo
and the Gobbo too. Take my word for it, there is something else he
wants him for; besides, why should he dislike _me_? What have I done to
provoke such a vengeance?'

'Haven't you threatened him?' said the girl eagerly. 'Have you not said
that when Signor Gabriel comes back you will tell him something Pippo
said of him?' Is that not enough? Is the Signor Gabriel one who ever
forgives an injury?'

'I 'll not believe, I can't believe it,' said Gerald musingly.

'But I tell you it is true; I tell you I know it,' cried the girl
passionately.

'But what am I to do, then? How can I defend myself,'' 'Fly--leave
this--get over to Bolseno, or cross the frontier; neither of them can
follow you into Tuscany.'

'Remember, Tina, I have no money. I am almost naked. I know no one.'

'What matters all that if you have life?' said she boldly.

'Well said, girl!' cried he, warmed by the same daring spirit that
prompted her words. A slight noise in the garden underneath the window
startled Tina, and she stepped quietly from the room and closed the
door.

It was some time before Gerald could thoroughly take in the full force
of the emergency that threatened him. He knew well that in the Italian
nature the sentiment of vengeance occupies no low nor ignominious
place, but is classed among high and generous qualities; and that he who
submits tamely to an injury is infinitely meaner than the man who, at
any cost of treachery, exacts his revenge for it.

That a terrible vengeance was often exacted for some casual slight, even
a random word, the youth well knew. These were the points of honour in
that strange national character of which, even to this hour, we know
less than of any people's in Europe; and certainly, no crime could
promise an easier accomplishment or less chance of discovery. 'Who is
ever to _know_ if I sunk under the Maremma fever,' said he, 'and who to
_care_?'

He gazed out upon the lonesome waste of mountain and the black and
stagnant lake at its foot, and thought the spot, at least, was well
chosen for such an incident. If there were moments in which the dread
of a terrible fate chilled his blood and made his heart cold with fear,
there were others in which the sense of peril rallied and excited him.
The stirring incidents of his readings were full of suchlike adventures,
and he felt a sort of heroism in seeing himself thus summoned to meet an
emergency. 'With this good rapier,' said he, taking down Gabriel's sword
from its place, 'methinks I might offer a stout resistance. That blade,
if I mistake not, already knows the way to a man's heart,' and he
flourished the weapon so as to throw himself into an attitude of
defence. Too much excited to read, except by snatches, he imagined to
his own mind every possible species of attack that might be made upon
him. He knew that a fair fight would never enter into _their_ thoughts;
that even before the fate reserved for him would come the plan for their
own security; and so he pictured the various ways in which he might be
taken unawares and disposed of without even a chance of reprisal. As
night drew near his anxieties increased. The book in which from time
to time he had been reading was the _Life of Benvenuto Cellini_, an
autobiography filled with the wildest incidents of personal encounter,
and well suited to call up ideas of conflict and peril. Not less,
however, was it calculated to suggest notions of daring and defiance;
for in every perilous strait and hair-breadth emergency the great
Florentine displayed the noblest traits of calm and reasoning courage.
'They shall not do it without cost,' said Gerald, as he stole up
noiselessly to his room, never appearing at the supper-table, but
retiring to concert his future steps. Gerald's first care on entering
his room was to search it thoroughly, though there was not a corner nor
a cupboard capable of concealing a child. He went through the process of
investigation with all the diligence his readings prompted. He sounded
the walls for secret panels, and the floor for trapdoors; but all was
so far safe. He next proceeded to barricade his door with chairs; not,
indeed, to prevent an entrance, but arrayed so skilfully that they must
topple down at the least touch, and thus apprise him of his peril if
sleeping. He then trimmed and replenished his lamp, and with his trusty
rapier at his side, lay down, all dressed as he was, to await what might
happen.

He who has experienced in life what it is to lie watching for the dawn
of a day full of Heaven-knows-what fatalities, patiently expecting the
sun to rise upon what may prove his saddest, his last hour of existence,
even he, however, will fall short of imagining the intense anxiety of
one who with aching ears watches for the slightest sound, the lightest
footfall, or the lowest word that may betoken the approach of danger.
With the intensity of the emotion the senses become preternaturally
acute, and the brain, overcharged with thought, suggests the wildest
and strangest combinations. Through Gerald's mind, too, Cellini's daring
adventures were passing. The dark and narrow streets of old Florence;
the muffled 'sbirri' crowding in the dim doorways; the stealthy
footsteps heard and lost again; the sudden clash of swords and the cries
of combat; the shouts for succour, and the heavy plash into the dark
waters of the Arno, all filled his waking, ay, and his dreamy thoughts,
for he fell asleep at last and slept soundly. The day was just breaking,
a grey, half-pinkish light faintly struggling through his window, when
Gerald started up from his sleep. He had surely heard a sound. It was
his name was called. Was it a human voice that uttered it? or was the
warning from a more solemn world? He bent down his head to listen again;
and now he distinctly heard a low, creaking sound, and as distinctly saw
that the door was slightly moved, and then the words 'Gerald, Gerald,'
whispered. He arose at once, and quickly recognising Tina's voice, drew
nigh the door.

'You have no time to lose, Gerald,' said she rapidly. 'Pippo has taken
the boat and is rowing across the lake; and even by this half light
I can see a figure standing on the rock at the foot of the mountain
waiting for him, just where the pathway from St. Stephano comes down to
the water.'

'The Gobbo, I suppose,' said Gerald, half mockingly, as he showed the
rapier he still held in his hand.

'And if it be he, boy, there is no need to laugh,' said Tina,
shuddering. 'The dark waters of that lake there, that cover some of his
handiwork, if they could speak, would tell you so.'

'Then what am I to do, Tina?'' said he, throwing open the door. 'You
'd not have me meet them on the shore there and begin the attack, would
you?'

If Gerald threw out this suggestion as impracticable, it was yet
precisely the course he was longing himself to follow, and most eager
that she should assent to.

'The Blessed Virgin forbid it!' cried she, crossing herself. 'There is
but one road to take, and that is yonder,' and she pointed to a little
rugged footpath that wound its way over the mountain, which joined the
frontier with Tuscany.

'And am I in meet condition to travel, Tina?' said he jestingly, as he
showed his ragged dress and pulled out the lining of his empty pockets.

'There is Signor Gabriel's cape,' said she; 'it is almost as good as a
cloak: he left it with me, but I have no need of it; and there is the
crown-piece you gave me yourself when you were ill of the fever, and I
want it just as little.'

The boy struggled hard to refuse both, but the sorrow Tina felt for
the rejection at last overcame him, and, half in shame and half in
pleasure--for the sense of exacting sacrifice is pleasure, deny it how
we may--he yielded, and accepted her gift.

'Oh, Tina, will there ever come a day when I can repay this kindness?'
said he. 'I almost think there will.'

'To be sure, Gerald, and you 'll not forget me even if there should not.
You who were taught by the pious Frati how to pray will surely say a
good word in your devotions for a poor girl like Tina.'

The boy's heart overflowed with emotion at the trait of simple piety,
and he kissed her twice with all the affection of a fond brother.
'Good-bye, Tina,' said he, sobbing; 'I feel stronger and stouter in
heart, now that I know your kind wishes are going along with me--they
are better to me, love, than a purse full of money.'

'Do not take that sword, Gerald,' said she, trying to take the weapon
from him. 'If you enter a village with a rapier at your side, they 'll
call you a brigand, and give you up to the carabinieri.'

'I'll not quit the good blade so long as I can wear it,' said he
resolutely; and then added to himself, 'I am nobly born, and have a
right to a sword. "Cinctus gladio," says the old statute of knighthood;
and if I be a Géraldine, I am noble!'

And with these words the boy bade his last farewell, and issued from the
house.



CHAPTER XII. A FOREST SCENE

Once more did Gerald find himself alone and penniless upon the world. He
was not, however, as when first he issued forth, timid, depressed, and
diffident. Short as had been the interval since that time, his mind had
made a considerable progress. His various readings had taught him much;
and he had already learned that in the Mutual Assurance Company we call
Life men are ever more or less dependent on their fellows. 'There must,
then,' said he to himself, 'be surely some craft or calling to which I
can bring skill or aptitude, and some one or other will certainly accept
of services that only require the very humblest recognition.' He walked
for hours without seeing a living thing: the barren mountain had not
even a sheep-walk; and save the path worn by the track of smugglers,
there was nothing to show that the foot of man had ever traversed its
dreary solitudes. At last he gained the summit of the ridge, and could
see the long line of coast to the westward, jagged and indented with
many a bay and promontory. There lay St. Stephano: he could recognise it
by the light cloud of pale blue smoke that floated over the valley, and
marked where the town stood; and, beyond, he could catch the masts and
yards of a few small craft that were sheltering in the offing. Beyond
these again stretched the wide blue sea, marked at the horizon by some
far-away sails. The whole was wrapped in that solemn calm, so striking
in the noon of an Italian summer's day. Not a cloud moved, not a leaf
was stirring; a faint foam-line on the beach told that there the waves
crept softly in, but, except this, all nature was at rest.

In the dead stillness of night our thoughts turn inward, and we mingle
memories with our present reveries; but in the stillness of noonday,
when great shadows lie motionless on the hillside, and all is hushed
save the low murmur of the laden bee, our minds take the wide range of
the world--visiting many lands--mingling with strange people. Action,
rather than reflection, engages us; and we combine, and change, and
fashion the mighty elements before us as we will. We people the
plains with armed hosts; we fill the towns with busy multitudes--gay
processions throng the squares, and banners wave from steeple and tower;
over the blue sea proud fleets are seen to move, and thundering echoes
send back their dread cannonading: and through these sights and sounds
we have our especial part--lending our sympathies here, bearing our
warmest wishes there. If we dream, it is of the real, the actual, and
the true; and thus dreaming, we are but foreshadowing to ourselves
the incidents and accidents of life, and garnering up the resources
wherewith to meet them.

Stored as was his mind with recent reading, Gerald's fancy supplied him
with innumerable incidents, in every one of which he displayed the
same heroic traits, the same aptitude to meet emergency, and the same
high-hearted courage he had admired in others. Vain-gloriousness may be
forgiven when it springs, as his did, out of thorough ignorance of the
world. It is, indeed, but the warm outpouring of a generous temperament,
where self-esteem predominates. The youth ardently desired that the good
should prosper and the bad be punished: his only mistake was, that he
claimed the chief place in effecting both one and the other.

Eagerly bent upon adventure, no matter where, how, or with whom, he
stood on the mountain's peak, gazing at the scene beneath him. A waving
tract of country, traversed by small streams, stretched away toward
Tuscany, but where the boundary lay between the states he could not
detect. No town or village could be descried; and, so far as he could
see, miles and miles of journey yet lay before him ere he could arrive
at a human dwelling. This was indeed the less matter, since Tina had
fastened up in his handkerchief sufficient food for the day; and even
were night to overtake him, there was no great hardship in passing it
beneath that starry sky.

'Many there must be,' thought he, 'campaigning at this very hour, in
far-away lands, mayhap amid the sand deserts of the East, or crouching
beneath the shelter of the drifted snows in the North; and even here are
troops of gypsies, who never know what means the comfort of a roof over
them.' Just as he said these words to himself, his eyes chanced to rest
upon a thin line of pale blue smoke that arose from a group of alders
beside a stream in the valley. Faint and thin at first, it gradually
grew darker and fuller, till it rose into the clear air, and was wafted
slowly along toward the sea.

'Just as if I had conjured them up,' cried Gerald, 'there are the
gypsies; and if there be a Strega in the company, she shall have this
crown for telling me my fortune! What marvels will she not invent for
this broad piece--what dragons shall I not slay--what princesses not
marry; not but in reality they do possess some wondrous insight into the
future! Signor Gabriel sneered at it, as he sneered at everything-; but
there's no denying they read destiny, as the sailor reads the coming
storm in signs unseen by others. There is something fine, too, in their
clanship; how, poor and houseless, despised as they are, they cling
together, hoarding up their ancient rites and traditions--their only
wealth--and wandering through the world, pilgrims of centuries old.'

As he descended the mountain path he continued thus to exalt the gypsies
in his estimation, and with that unfailing resource in similar cases,
that what he was unable to praise he at least found picturesque. The
path led through a wood of stunted chestnut-trees, on issuing from whose
shade he could no longer detect the spot he was in search of; the fire
had gone out, and the smoke ceased to linger over the place.

'Doubtless the encampment has broken up; they are trudging along toward
the coast, where the villages lie,' thought he, 'and I may come up with
them to-morrow or next day,' and he stepped out briskly on his way.

The day was intensely hot, and Gerald would gladly have availed himself
of any shade, to lie down and enjoy the 'siesta' hours in true Italian
fashion. The only spot, however, he could procure likely to offer such
shelter was a little copse of olives, at a bend of the river, about a
mile away. A solitary rock, with a few ruined walls upon it, rose above
the trees, and marked the place as one once inhabited. Following the
winding of the stream, he at length drew nigh, and quickly noticed that
the grass was greener and deeper, with here and there a daffodil or a
wild-flower, signs of a soil which, in some past time, had been cared
for and cultivated. The river, too, as it swept around the base of the
rock, deepened into a clear, calm pool, the very sight of which was
intensely grateful and refreshing. As the youth stood in admiring
contemplation of this fair bath, and inwardly vowing to himself the
luxury of a plunge into it, a low rustling noise startled him, and a
sound like the sharp stamp of a beast's foot. He quickly turned, and,
tracing the noise, saw a very diminutive ass, who, tethered to an
olive-tree, was busily munching a meal of thistles, and as busily
stamping off the stray forest flies that settled on him. Two panniers,
covered over with some tarnished scarlet cloth, and a drum of
considerable size and very gaudy colouring, lay on the grass, with three
or four painted poles, a roll of carpet, and a bright brass basin, such
as conjurers use for their trade. There was also a curiously-shaped box,
painted in checkers, doubtless some mysteriously gifted 'property.'

Curious to discover the owners of these interesting relics, Gerald
advanced into the copse, when his quick hearing was arrested by the
long-drawn breathings of several people fast asleep--so, at least, they
seemed, by the full-toned chorus of their snorings; though the next
moment showed him that they consisted of but three persons, an old,
stunted, and very emaciated man; an equally old woman, immensely fat
and misshapen, to which her tawdry finery gave something indescribably
ludicrous in effect; and a young girl, whose face was buried in the bend
of her arms, but whose form, as she lay in the graceful abandonment of
sleep, was finely and beautifully proportioned. A coarse dress of brown
stuff was her only covering, leaving her arms bare, while her legs, but
for the sandals of some tawdry tinsel, were naked to the knees and as
brown as the skin of an Indian, yet in shape and symmetry they might
have vied with the most faultless statue of the antique--indeed, to
a sleeping nymph in the gallery of the Altieri Palace was Gerald now
comparing her, as he stood gazing on her. The richly floating hair,
which, as a protection against the zanzari, she had let fall over her
neck and shoulders, only partially defended her, and so she stirred at
times, each motion displaying some new charm, some fresh grace of form.
At last, perhaps startled by a thought of her dreams, she gave a sudden
cry, and sprang up to a sitting posture, her eyes widely staring and her
half-opened lips turned to where Gerald stood. As for him, the amazement
that seized him overcame him--for she was no other than the tarantella
dancer of the Piazza di Spagna, the Marietta who had so fascinated him
on the night he left the convent.

'Babbo! Babbo!' screamed she, in terror, as she caught sight of the
naked rapier at the youth's side; and in a moment both the old man and
the woman were on their legs.

'We are poor, miserably poor, Signore!' cried the old man piteously;
'mere "vagabonds," and no more.'

'We have not a Bajocclo among us, Signore mio,' blubbered out the old
woman.

An honest burst of laughter from Gerald, far more reassuring than words,
soon satisfied them that their fears were needless.

'Who are you, then?' cried the girl, as she darted her piercing black
eyes toward him; 'and why are you here?'

'The world is wide, and open to all of us, _cara mia_,' said the youth
good-humouredly. 'Don't be angry with me because I 'm not a brigand.'

'He says truly,' said the old man.

'_Sangue dei Santi_, but you have given me a hearty fright, boy, what
ever brought you here!' said the fat old woman, as she wiped the hot
drops from her steaming face.

There is some marvellous freemasonry in poverty--some subtle sympathy
links poor men together--for scarcely had Gerald told that he was
destitute and penniless as themselves, than these poor outcasts bade him
a frank welcome among them, and invited him to a share of their little
scanty supper.

'I 'll warrant me that you have drawn a low number in the conscription,
boy; and that's the reason you have fled from home,' said the old woman;
and Gerald laughed good-humouredly, as though accepting the suggestion
as a happy guess; nor was he sorry to be spared the necessity of
recounting his story.

'But why not be a soldier?' broke in Marietta.

'Because it's a dog's life,' retorted the hag savagely.

'I don't think so,' said Gerald. 'When I saw the noble guard of his
Holiness prancing into the Piazza del Popolo, I longed to be one of
them. They were all glittering with gold and polished steel, and their
horses bounded and caracoled as if impatient for a charge.'

'Ah!' sighed the old man drearily, 'there's only one happy road in this
life.'

'And what may that be, Babbo?' said Gerald, addressing him by the
familiar title the girl had given him.

'A Frate's, boy, a Frate's. I don't care whether he be a Dominican or an
Ignorantine. Though, myself, I like the Ignorantines. Theirs is truly
a blessed existence: no wants--no cares--no thoughts for the morrow! I
never watched one of them stepping along, with firm foot and sack on
his arm, that I didn't say to myself, "There's freedom--there's
light-heartedness."'

'I should have called your own a pleasanter life.'

'Mine!' groaned he.

'Ay, Babbo, and so is it,' burst in the girl, in an excited tone. 'Show
me the Frate has such a time as we have! Whenever the friar comes, men
shuffle away to escape giving him their "quattrini." They know well
there's no such sturdy beggar as he who asks no alms, but shows you the
mouth of his long empty sack; but where we appear the crowds gather,
mothers snatch up their babies and hurry out to greet us; hard-worked
men cease their toil; children desert their games; all press round
eagerly at the first roll of Gaetana's drum, and of poor Chico's fife,
when he was with us,' added she, dropping her head, while a heavy tear
rolled down her swarthy cheek.

'_Maladizione a Chico!_' screamed out the old man, lifting up both his
clenched hands in passion.

'What was it he did?' asked Gerald of the old man.

'He fancied himself a patriot, boy, and he stabbed a spy of the police
at the St. Lucia one evening; and they have him now at the galleys, and
they 'll keep him there for life!

'Ah! if you saw him on the two poles,' cried the girl, 'only strapped
so, over his instep, and he could spring from here to the tree yonder;
and then he 'd unfasten one, and holding it on his forehead, balance
Babbo's basin on the top, all the while playing the tambourine! And who
could play it like him? It was a drum with cymbals in his hands.'

'Was he handsome, too?' asked Gerald, with a half-sly glance toward her;
but she only hung her head in silence.

'He handsome!' cried the old woman, catching at the words. 'Brutto!
brutto! he had a hare-lip, with a dog's jaw!'

'No, truly,' muttered Babbo; 'he was not handsome, though he could do
many a thing well-favoured ones couldn't attempt. He was a sore loss to
us,' said he, with a deep sigh.

'There wasn't a beast of the field nor a bird that flies he couldn't
imitate,' broke in Marietta; 'and with some wondrous cunning, too, he
could blend the sounds together, and you 'd hear the cattle lowing and
the rooks cawing all at the same time.'

'The owl was good; that was his best,' said Babbo.

'Oh, was it not fine!--the wild shriek of the owl, while the tide was
breaking on the shore, and the waves came in plash, plash, in the still
night.'

'May his toil be hard and his chains heavy!' exclaimed the hag; 'we have
had nothing but misery and distress since the day he was taken.'

'Poor fellow,' said Gerald, 'his lot is harder still.' The girl's dark
eyes turned fully upon him, with a look of grateful meaning, that well
repaid his compassionate speech.

'So may it be,' chimed in the hag; 'and so with all who ill-treat those
whose bread they've eaten,' and she turned a glance of fiery anger on
the girl. 'What art doing there, old fool!' cried she to the Babbo,
who, having turned his back to the company, was telling over his beads
busily. He made no reply, and she went on: 'That's all he's good for
now. There was a time he could sing Punch's carnival from beginning to
end, keep four dancing on the stage, and two talking out of windows; but
now he's ever at the litanies: he'd rather talk to you about St. Francis
than of the Tombola, he would!'

As the old hag, with bitter words and savage energy, inveighed against
her old associate, Gerald had sense to mark that, small as the company
was, it yet consisted of ingredients that bore little resemblance, and
were attached by the slenderest sympathies to each other. He was young
and inexperienced enough in life to imagine that they who amuse the
world by their gifts, whatever they be, carry with them to their homes
the pleasant qualities which delight the audiences. He fancied that,
through all their poverty, the light-hearted gaiety that marked them in
public would abide with them when alone, and that the quips and jests
they bandied were but the outpourings of a ready wit always in exercise.

The Babbo had been a servitor of a convent in the Abruzzi, and,
dismissed for some misdemeanour, had wandered about the world in
vagabondage till he became a conjurer, some talent or long-neglected
gift of slight-of-hand coming to the rescue of his fortune. The woman,
Donna Gaetana, had passed through all the stages of 'Street Ballet,'
from the prodigy of six years old, with a wreath of violets on her
brow, to the besotted old beldame, whose specialty was the drum. As for
Marietta, where she came from, of what parentage, or even of what
land, I know not. The Babbo called her his niece--his grandchild--his
'figliuola' at times, but she was none of these. In the wayward turns
of their fortune these street performers are wont to join occasionally
together in the larger capitals, that by their number they may attract
more favourable audiences; and so, when Gerald first saw them at Rome,
they were united with some Pifferari from Sicily; but the same destiny
that decides more pretentious coalitions had separated theirs, and the
three were now trudging northward in some vague hope that the land of
promise lay in that direction. It is needless to say how Gerald felt
attracted by the strange adventurous life of which they spoke. The
Babbo, mingling his old convent traditions, his scraps of monkish Latin,
his little fragments of a pious training, with the descriptions of his
subtle craft, was a study the youth delighted in, while from his own
early teaching, it was also a character he could thoroughly appreciate.
Donna Gaetana, indeed, offered little in the way of interest, but did
not Marietta alone compensate for more than this? The wild and fearless
grace of this young girl, daring to the very verge of shamelessness, and
yet with a strange instinctive sense of womanly delicacy about her, that
lifted her, in her raggedness, to a sphere where deference was her due;
her matchless symmetry, her easy motion, a mingled expression of energy
and languor about her, all met happily in one who but needed culture
to have become a great artiste. She possessed, besides, a voice of
exquisite richness, one of those deep-toned organs whose thrilling
expression seems to attain at once the highest triumph of musical art
in the power of exciting the sensibilities: such was that poor neglected
child, as she hovered over the brink where vice and wretchedness and
crime run deep and fast below!

When the meal was over, and the little vessels used in preparing it were
all duly washed and packed, old Gaetana lighted her pipe, and once in
full puff proceeded to drag from a portentous-looking bag a mass of
strange rags, dirty and particoloured, the slashed sleeves and spangled
skirts proclaiming them as 'properties.'

'Clap that velvet cap on thy head, boy, and let's see what thou lookest
like,' cried she, handing Gerald a velvet hat, looped up in front, and
ornamented with an ostrich feather.

'What for?' cried he rudely; 'I am no mountebank.' And then, as he
caught Marietta's eyes, a deep blush burned all over his face, and he
said, in a voice of shame, 'To be sure! Anything you like. I'll wear
this too,' and he snatched up a tawdry mantle and threw it over his
shoulders.

'_Come e bellino!_' said Marietta, as she clasped her hands across her
bosom, and gazed on him in a sort of rapture. 'He's like Paolo in the
Francesca,' muttered she.

'He'll never be Chico,' growled out the hag. 'Birbante that he was, who
'll ever jump through nine hoops with A lighted taper in his hand? Oh,
_Assassino!_ it won't serve you now!'

'Do you know Paolo's speech?' whispered Marietta.

'No,' said he, blushing, half angry, half ashamed.

'Then I 'll teach it to you.'

'Thou shouldst have been an acolyte at San Giovanni di Laterano when the
Pope says the high mass, boy,' cried Babbo enthusiastically. 'Thy figure
and face would well become the beauteous spectacle.'

'Does not that suit him?' cried the girl, as she replaced the hat by a
round cap, such as pages wear, with a single eagle's feather. 'Does not
that become him?'

'Who cares for looks?' muttered the hag. 'Chico was ugly enough to bring
bad luck; and when shall we see his like again?'

'Who knows! who knows?' said Babbo slowly. 'This lad may, if he join us,
have many a good gift we suspect not. Canst sing?'

'Yes; at least the litanies.'

'Ah, bravo, Giovane!' cried the old man. 'Thou It bring a blessing upon
us.'

'Canst play the fife, the tambourine, the flute?' asked Gaetana.

'None of them.'

'Thou canst recite, I'm sure,' said Marietta. 'Thou knowest Tasso and
Petrarch, surely, and Guarini?'

'Yes; and Dante by heart, if that be of any service to me,' said Gerald.

'Ah! I know nothing of him,' said she sorrowfully; 'but I could repeat
the Orlando from beginning to end.'

'How art thou on the stilts or the slack-rope?' asked the old woman;
'for these other things never gave bread to any one.'

'If I must depend upon the slack-rope, then,' said Gerald,
good-humouredly, 'I run a good chance of going supperless to bed.'

'How they neglect them when they're young, and their bones soft and
pliant!' said Gaetana sternly. 'What parents are about nowadays I can't
imagine. I used to crouch into a flower-pot when I was five years old;
ay, and spring out of it too when the Fairy Queen touched the flower!'

Gerald could with great difficulty restrain the burst of laughter this
anecdote of her early life provoked.

'Oh, come with us; stay with us,' whispered Marietta in his ear.

'If thou hast been taught the offices, boy,' said Babbo, 'thou deservest
an honester life than ours. Leave us, then; go thy ways, and walk in
better company.'

'_Corpo del diavolo!_' screamed out the hag. 'It's always so with him.
He has nothing but hard words for the trade he lives by.'

'Stay with us; stay with us,' whispered the girl, more faintly.

'Thou mightst have a worse offer, lad; for who can tell what's in thee?
I warrant me, thou 'It never be great at jumping tricks,' said Babbo.

'Wilt stay?' said Marietta, as her eyes swam in tears.

'I will,' said Gerald, with a glance that made her cheek crimson.



CHAPTER XIII. A CONTRACT

I am not certain that a great 'Impressario' of Paris or London would
have deemed the document which bound Gerald to his new master a very
formal instrument. But there was a document. It was written on a
fly-leaf of old Babbo's Breviary, and set forth duly that for certain
services to be afterward detailed, '_un certo Gherardi_'--so was he
called--was to eat, and drink, and be clothed; always providing that
there was meat, and drink, and wearables to give him; with certain
benefices--small contingent remainders--to accrue when times were
prosperous and patrons generous, and all this for the term of a
twelvemonth. Donna Gaetana stoutly fought for five years, then three,
and then two: but she was beaten in all her amendments, though she
argued her case ably. She showed, with a force derived from great
experience, that theirs was a profession wherein there was much to
learn; that the initial stages developed very few of those gifts which
won popular applause; that, consequently, the neophyte was anything but
a profitable colleague; and it was only when his education was perfected
that he could be expected to repay the cost of his early instruction.
'At the end of a year,' to borrow her own forcible language, 'he 'll
have smashed a dozen basins and broken twenty poles, and he 'll just be
as stiff in the back as you see him today.'

'He 'll have had enough of a weary life ere that,' muttered the Babbo.

'What have _you_ to complain of, I 'd like to know?' asked she fiercely;
'you that sit there all day like a prince on a throne, never so much as
giving a blast of a horn or a beat on the drum; but pulling a few cords
for your puppets, and making them patter about the stage while you tell
over the self-same story I heard forty years ago. Ah, if it was Pierno!
that was something indeed to hear! He came out with something new every
evening--droll fellow that he was--and could make the people laugh till
the Piazza rung again.'

'Well, well,' sighed Babbo, 'his drollery has cost him something. He cut
a jest upon the Cardinal Balfi, and they sent him to Molo di Gaeta, to
work at the galleys. My pulcinello may be stupid, but will not make me
finish my days in chains.'

Whether Marietta feared the effect these domestic discussions might
produce upon Gerald, newly come as he was among them, or that she
desired to talk with him more at her ease, she strolled away into the
wood, giving one lingering glance as she left the place to bid him
follow. The youth was not loth to accept the hint, and soon overtook
her.

'And so,' said she, taking his hand between both her own, 'you _will_
stay?'

'I have promised it,' replied Gerald.

'All for me, all for me, as the little song says.'

'I never heard it. Will you sing it, Marietta?' said he, placing his arm
around her waist.

'I 'll go and fetch my guitar, then,' said she, and bounding away, was
soon once more beside him, sweeping her fingers over the cords as she
came.

'It's nothing of a song, either words or music; but I picked it up at
Capri, and it reminds me of that sweet spot.' So saying, and after a
little prelude, she sang the canzonette, of which the following words
are a rude version:

     'I know a bark on a moonlit sea,
            Pescator! Pescator!
      There's one in that bark a-thinking of me,
            Oh, Pescator!
      And while his light boat steals along,
            Pescator! Pescator!
      He murmurs my name in his evening song,
            Oh, Pescator!
      He prays the Madonna above my head,
            Pescator! Pescator!
      To bring sweet dreams around my bed,
            Oh, Pescator!
      And when the morning breaks on shore,
      I'll kneel and pray for my Pescator,
      Who ventures alone on the stormy sea,
           All for me! all for me!'!!!!

Simple as were the words, the wild beauty of the little air thrilled
through Gerald's heart, and twice did he make her repeat it.

'Oh, if you like barcarolles,' said she, 'I'll sing you hundreds of
them, and teach you, besides, to sing them with me. We shall be so
happy, _Gherardi mio_, living thus together.

'And not regret Chico?' said Gerald gravely.

'Chico was very clever, but he was cruel. He would beat me when I would
not learn quickly; and my life was very sad when he was with us. See,'
said she, drawing down her sleeve from her shoulder, 'these stripes were
of his giving.'

'_Briccone!_' muttered Gerald, 'if I had him here.'

'Ah, he was so treacherous! He 'd have stabbed you at the altar-foot
rather than let a vengeance escape him. He was a Corsican.'

'And are they so treacherous always?'

'Are they?' cried she. '_Per Dio_, I believe they are.'

'Well, let's talk of him no more. I only mentioned his name because I
feared you loved him, Marietta.'

'And if I had!' asked she, with a half-malicious drollery in her dark
eyes.

'Then I 'd have hated him all the more--hated _you_, perhaps, too.'

'_Poverino!_' said she, with a sigh which ended in a laugh.

And now they walked along, side by side, while she told Gerald all about
her life, her companions, their humours, their habits, and their ways.
She liked Babbo. He was kind-hearted and affectionate; but Donna Gaetana
was all that was cruel and unfeeling. Chico, indeed, had always resisted
her tyranny, and she counselled Gerald to do the same. 'As for me,'
added she sorrowfully, 'I am but a girl, and must bear with her.'

'But I'll stand by you, Marietta,' cried Gerald boldly. 'We 'll see if
the world won't go better with each of us as we meet it thus,' and he
drew her arm around his waist, while he clasped hers with his own.

And what a happy hour was that as thus they rambled along under the
leafy shade, no sound but the wild wood-pigeon's cry to break the
silence! for often they were silent with thoughts deeper than words
could render. She, full of that future where Gerald was to be the
companion of all her games; he, too, ranging in fancy over adventures
wherein, as her protector and defender, he confronted perils
unceasingly. Then he bethought him how strangely destiny should have
thus brought them together, two forsaken, friendless creatures.

One falls in love at eighteen, at eight-and-twenty, and at
eight-and-forty, with very different reasons for the process. Silky
hair, and long eye-lashes, and pearly teeth get jostled as we go on
through life, with thoughts of good connections and the three per
cents., and a strange compromise is effected between inclination and
self-interest. To know, however, the true ecstasy of the passion, to
feel it in all its impulsive force, and in the full strength of its
irresponsibility, be very young and very poor--young enough to doubt of
nothing, not even yourself; poor enough to despise riches most heartily.

Gerald was young and poor. His mind, charged with deep stores of
sentiment, was eagerly seeking where to invest its wealth. The tender
pathos of St. Pierre, the more dangerous promptings of Rousseau, were in
his heart, and he yearned for one to whom he could speak of the feelings
that struggled within him. As for Marietta, to listen to him was
ecstasy. The glowing language of poetry, its brilliant imagery, its
melting softness, came upon her like refreshing rain upon some arid
soil, scorched and sun-stricken: her spirit, half-crushed beneath daily
hardships, rose at once to the magic touch of ennobling sentiment. Oh!
what a new world was that which now opened before them: how beautiful,
how bright, how full of tenderness, how rich in generous emotions!

'Only think,' said she, looking into his eyes, 'but this very morning
we had not known each other, and now we are bound together for ever and
ever. Is it not so, _Gherardi mio?_'

'So swear I!' cried Gerald, as he pressed her to his heart; and then,
in the full current of his warm eloquence, he poured forth a hundred
schemes for their future career. They would seek out some sweet spot of
earth, far away and secluded, like that wherein they rambled then, only
more beautiful in verdure, and more picturesque, and build themselves a
hut; there they would live together a life of bliss.

It was only by earnest persuasion she could turn him from at once
putting the project into execution. 'Why not now?' cried he. 'Here we
are free, beyond the wood; you cross a little stream, and we are in
Tuscany. I saw the frontier from the mountain-top this morning.'

'And then,' said the girl, 'how are we to live?' We shall neither have
the Babbo nor Donna Gaetana; I cannot dance without her music, nor have
you learned anything as yet to do. _Mio Gherardi_, we must wait and
study hard; you must learn to be Paolo, and to declaim "Antonio," too.
I'll teach you these; besides, the Babbo has a volume full of things
would suit you. Our songs, too, we have not practised them together;
and in the towns where we are going, the public, they say, are harder to
please than in these mountain villages.' And then she pictured forth
a life of artistic triumph--success dear to her humble heart, the very
memory of which brought tears of joy to her eyes. These she was longing
to display before him, and to make him share in. Thus talking, they
returned to the encampment, where, as the heat was past, the Babbo was
now preparing to set out on his journey.



CHAPTER XIV. THE ACCIDENTS OF 'ARTIST' LIFE

An autumnal night, in all its mellow softness, was just closing in upon
the Lungo l'Arno of Florence. Toward the east and south the graceful
outlines of San Miniato, with its tall cypresses, might be seen against
the sky, while all the city, which lay between, was wrapped in deepest
shadow. It was the season of the Ville-giatura, when the great nobles
are leading country lives; still the various bridges, and the quays at
either side of the river, were densely crowded with people. The denizens
of the close and narrow streets came forth to catch the faint breath
of air that floated along the Arno. Seated on benches and chairs, or
gathered in little knots and groups, the citizens seemed to enjoy this
hour _al fresco_ with a zest only known to those who have basked in the
still and heated atmosphere of a southern climate. Truly, no splendid
salon, in all the gorgeous splendour of its gildings, ever presented a
spot so luxurious as that river-side, while the fresh breeze came,
borne along the water's track from the snow clad heights of Vallombrosa,
gathering perfume as it came. No loud voices, no boisterous mirth
disturbed the delicious calm of the enjoyment, but a low murmur of human
sounds, attuned as it were to the gentle ripple of the passing stream,
and here and there a light and joyous laugh, were only heard. At
the Pont St. Trinita and immediately below it the crowd was densest,
attracted, not impossibly, by the lights and movement that went on in a
great palace close by, the only one of all those on the Arno that showed
signs of habitation. Of the others the owners were absent; but here,
through the open windows, might be seen figures passing and repassing,
and at times the sounds of music heard from within. With that strange
sympathy--for it is not all curiosity--that attracts people to watch
the concourse of some gay company, the ebb and flow of intercourse,
the crowd gazed eagerly up at the windows, commenting on this or that
personage as they passed, and discussing together what they fancied
might form the charm of such society.

The faint tinkling of a guitar in the street beneath, and the motion
of the crowd, showed that some sort of street performance had attracted
attention; and soon the balcony of the palace was thronged with the gay
company, not sorry, as it seemed, to have this pretext for loitering
in the free night air. To the brief prelude of the guitar a roll of the
drum succeeded, and then, when silence had been obtained, might be
heard the voice of an old, infirm man, announcing a programme of the
entertainment. First of all--and by 'torch-light, if the respectable
public would vouchsafe the expense'--The adventures of Don Callemaoho
among the Moors of Barbary; his capture, imprisonment, and escape; his
rescue of the Princess of Cordova, with their shipwreck afterward on
the island of Ithica: the whole illustrated with panoramic scenery,
accompanied by music, and expressed by appropriate dialogue and dancing.
The declamation to be delivered by a youth of consummate genius--the
action to be enunciated by a Signorina of esteemed merit. 'I do not
draw attention to myself, nor to the gifts of that excellent lady who
presides over the drum,' continued he. 'Enough that Naples has seen,
Venice praised, Rome applauded us.

We have gathered laurels at Milan; wreathed flowers have fallen on us
at Mantua; our pleasant jests have awoke laughter in the wild valleys
of Calabria; our pathos has dimmed many an eye in the gorgeous halls of
Genoa; princes and contadini alike have shared in the enjoyment of
our talents; and so, with your favour, may each of you, _Gentilissimi
Signori_.'

Whether, however, the 'intelligent public' was not as affluent as it was
gifted, or that, to apply the ancient adage, 'Le jeu ne valait pas la
chandelle,' but so was it, that the old man had twice made the tour of
the circle without obtaining a single quatrino.

'At Bologna, _O Signori_, they deemed this representation worthy of
wax-light. We gave it in the Piazza before two thousand spectators, who,
if less great or beautiful than those we see here, were yet bountiful in
their generosity! Sound the drum, _comare mia_ said he, addressing the
old woman, 'and let the spirit-rousing roll inspire heroic longings.
A blast of the tromb, _figlio mio_ will set these noble hearts
high-beating for a tale of chivalry.' The deafening clamour of drum and
trumpet resounded through the air, and came back in many an echo from
across the Arno; but, alas! they awoke no responsive sympathies in the
audience, who probably having deemed that the spectacle might be partly
gratuitous, showed already signs of thinning away. 'Are you going,
_Illustrissimi Signori_, cried he, more energetically, 'going without
one view, one passing glance at the castle on the Guadalquivir, with
its court of fountains, all playing and splashing like real water; going
without a look at the high-pooped galleon, as she sailed forth at morn,
with the banner of the house of Callemacho waving from the mast, while
the signal guns are firing a salute, the high cliffs of Carthagena
reverberating with the sound? 'A loud 'bom' from the drum gave testimony
to the life-like reality of the description. 'Going,' screamed he, more
eagerly still, 'without witnessing the palace of the Moorish king, lit
up at night--ten thousand lanterns glittering along its marble terraces,
while strains of soft music fill the air? A gentle melody, _figlio mio_,
whispered he to the boy beside him.

'Let them go, in the devil's name!' broke out the old woman, whose harsh
accents at once proclaimed our old acquaintance Donna Gaetana.

'What says she--what says the Donna?' cried three or four of the crowd
in a breath.

'She says that we 'll come back in the daylight, Signori,' broke in the
old man, in terror, 'and sing our native songs of Calabria, and show
our native dances. We know well, O gentle public, that poor ignorant
creatures like ourselves are but too rash to appear before you great
Florentines, citizens of Michel Angelo, dwellers with Benvenuto,
companions of Boccaccio!'

'And not a quatrino among ye!' yelled out the old hag, with a laugh of
scorn.

A wild cry of anger burst from the crowd, who, breaking the circle, now
rushed in upon the strollers.

In vain the Babbo protested, explained, begged, and entreated. He
declared the company to be the highest, the greatest, the richest, he
had ever addressed; himself and his companions the vilest and least
worthy of humanity. He asseverated in frantic tones his belief, that
from the hour when he should lose their favour no fortune would ever
attend on him, either in this world or the next.

But of what avail was it that he employed every eloquence at his
command, while the Donna, with words of insult, and gestures more
offensive still, reviled the 'base rabble,' and with all the virulence
of her coarse nature hurled their poverty in their teeth?

'Famished curs!' cried she. 'How would ye have a _soldo_, when your
nobles dine on parched beans, and drink the little sour wine of
Ponteseive?'

A kick from a strong foot, that sent it through the parchment of the
drum with a loud report, answered this insolent taunt, and gave the
signal for a general attack. Down went the little wooden edifice, which
embodied the life and fortunes of the Don and the fair Princess
of Cordova; down went the Babbo himself over it, amid a crash of
properties, that created a yell of laughter in the mob. All the varied
insignia of the cunning craft, basins and bladders, juggling sticks,
hoops, and baskets, flew right and left, in wild confusion. Up to this
time Gerald had witnessed the wreck unmoved, his whole care being to
keep the crowd from pressing too rudely upon Marietta, who clung to him
for protection. Indeed, the frantic struggles of old Gaetana, as she
laid about her with her drum-sticks, had already provoked the youth's
laughter, when, at a cry from the girl, he turned quickly around.

'Here's the Princess herself, I 'll be sworn,' said a coarse-looking
fellow, as, seizing Marietta's arm, he tried to drag her forward.

With a blow of his clenched fist Gerald sent him reeling back, and then,
drawing the short scimitar which he wore as part of his costume, he
swept the space in front of him, while he grasped the girl with his
other arm. So unlooked-for a defiance seemed for an instant to unman
the mob, but the next moment a shower of missiles, the fragments of old
Babbo's fortune, were showered upon them. Had he been assailed by wild
beasts, Gerald's assault could not have been more wildly daring: he
cut on every side, hurling back those that rushed in upon him, and even
trampling them beneath his feet.

Bleeding and bruised, half-blinded, too, by the blood that flowed from
a wound on his forehead, the youth still held his ground, not a word
escaping him, not a cry; while the reviling of the mob filled the air
around. At last, shamed at the miserable odds that had so long resisted
them, the rabble, with a wild yell of vengeance, rushed forward in a
mass, and though some of the foremost fell covered with blood, the youth
was dashed to the ground, all eagerly pressing to trample on and crush
him.

'Over the parapet with him! Into the Arno with them both!' cried the
mob.

'Stand back, ye cowardly crew!' shouted a loud, strong voice, and a
powerful man, with a heavy bludgeon in his hand, burst through the
crowd, felling all that opposed him; a throng of livery servants armed
in the same fashion followed; and the mob, far more in number though
they were, shrank back abashed from the sight of one whose rank and
station might exact a heavy vengeance.

'It is the Principe. It is the Conte himself,' muttered one or two, as
they stole off, leaving in a few moments the space cleared of all, save
the wounded and those who had come to the rescue. If the grief of Donna
Gaetana was loudest, the injuries of poor Gerald were the gravest there.
A deep cut had laid open his forehead, another had cleft his shoulder,
while a terrible blow of a stone in the side made his respiration
painful in the extreme.

'Safe, _Marietta mia_; art safe?' whispered he, as she assisted him to
rise. 'My poor boy,' said the Count compassionately; 'she is safe, and
owes it all to you. You behaved nobly, lad. The Don himself, with all
his Castitian blood, could not show a more courageous front.'

Gerald looked at the speaker, and whether at the tone of his voice, or
that the words seemed to convey an unseemly jest at such a moment, he
flushed till his cheek was crimson, and drawing himself up said: 'And
who are you? or by what right do you pronounce upon _my_ blood?'

'_Gherardi mio, caro fratellino_,' whispered the girl. 'It was he that
saved us, and he is a Prince!'

'For the first, I thank him,' said the youth. 'As to his rank, it is his
own affair and not mine.'

'Well spoken, faith!' said the noble. 'I tell thee, Giorgio,' added he
to a friend at his side, 'poets may well feel proud, when they see how
the very utterance of their noble sentiments engenders noble thoughts.
Look at that tatterdemalion, and think how came he by such notions.'

The abject expression of Babbo's gratitude, and the far more
demonstrative enunciations of old Gaetana's misery, here interrupted the
colloquy. In glowing terms she pictured the calamity that had befallen
them--a disaster irreparable for evermore. Never again would human
ingenuity construct such mechanism as that which illustrated Don
Callemacho's life. The conjuring tools, too, were masterpieces, not
to be replaced; and as to the drum, no contrivance of mere wood and
ram-skin ever would give forth such sounds again.

'Who knows, worthy Donna?' said the Count, with a grave half-smile.
'Your own art might teach you, that even the great drama of antiquity
has its imitators--some say superiors--in our day.

'I 'd say so for one!' cried Gerald, wiping the blood from his face.

'Would you so, indeed!' asked the Count.

'That would I, so long as glorious Alfieri lives,' said Gerald
resolutely.

'What hast thou read of thy favourite poet, boy?' asked the Count.

'What have I not?--the Saul, the Agamemnon, Oreste, Maria Stuart.'

'Ah, Signor Principe, you should hear him in Oreste,' broke in Gaetana;
'and he plays a solo on the trombone after the second act: he sets
every ass in the Campagna a-braying, when he comes to one part. Do it,
_Gherardi mio_; do it for his Highness. _Oh me!_ we have no trombone
left us,' and she burst out into a torrent of grief.

'Take these people to the inn at the Porta Rossa,' said the Count to one
of his servants. 'Let them be well cared for and attended to. Fetch
a surgeon to see this boy. _Adio_, my friends. I 'll come and see you
to-morrow, when you are well rested and refreshed.'

In a boisterous profusion of thanks, old Babbo and the Donna uttered
their gratitude, while Gerald and Marietta kissed their benefactor's
hand, and moved on.

'He's a noble Signor,' muttered old Gaetana; 'and I'd swear by the
accent of his words he is no Florentine.'

'Thou art right for once, old lady,' said the servant, as he led the
way; 'he's of the north, and the best blood of Piedmont.'



CHAPTER XV. A TUSCAN POLICE COURT

Long before their generous patron had awoke the following morning, the
little company of Babbo were standing as prisoners in the dread presence
of the Prefetto. Conducted by a detachment of the carabinieri, and
secured with manacles enough to have graced the limbs of galley-slaves,
the _vagabonds_ as they were politely called, were led along through the
streets, amid the jokes and mockeries of a very unsympathising public.

Tuscan justice, we are informed by competent authority, has not made,
either in its essence or externals, any remarkable progress since the
time we are now speaking of. The same ruinous old edifice stands the
Temple of Justice; the same dirt and squalor disgraces its avenues and
approaches; the same filthy mob beset the doors--a ragged mob, in whose
repulsive features a smashed decalogue is marked, amid whom, in hot and
eager haste, are seen some others, a shadow better in dress, but more
degraded still in look--the low advocates of these courts, 'Cavallochi,'
as they are styled--a class whose lives of ignominy and subornation
would comprise almost every known species of rascality. By these men are
others goaded on and stimulated to prefer claims against the well-to-do
and respectable; by them are charges devised, circumstances invented,
perjuries provided, at the shortest notice. They have their company
of false witnesses ready for any accusation--no impugnment upon their
credit being the fact that they live by perjury, and have no other
subsistence.

Meet president of such a court was the scowling, ill-dressed, and
ill-favoured fellow who, with two squalid clerks at his side, sat judge
of the tribunal. A few swaggering carabinieri, with their carbines on
their arms, moved in and out of the court, buffeting the crowd with
rude gestures, and deporting themselves like masters of the ignoble
herd around them. By these, as it seemed--for all was mere conjecture
here--were the cases chosen for adjudication, the selection of the
particular charges being their especial province. Elbowing their
way through the filthy corridors, where accusers and accused were
inextricably mingled--the prisoner, and the plaintiff, and the witness
all jammed up together, and not unfrequently discussing the vexed
question to be tried with all the virulence of partisans--the
carabiniere makes his choice among these, aided, not impossibly, by
a stimulant, which in Italy has its agency throughout all ranks and
gradations of men.

In this vile assemblage of all that was degrading and wretched our poor
strollers were now standing, their foreign aspect and their title
of vagabonds obtaining for them a degree of notice the reverse of
flattering. Sarcastic remarks upon their looks, their means of life,
and, stranger still, their poverty, abounded; and these from a mob whose
gaunt and famished faces and tattered rags bespoke the last stage of
destitution.

The Babbo, indeed, was a picture of abject misery; bankrupt was written
on every line of his poor old face, through which the paint of forty
years blended with the sickly hues of hunger and fear. He turned upon
the bystanders a glance of mild entreaty, however, that in a less
cruel company could not have failed to meet some success. Not so Donna
Gaetana: _her_ stare was an open defiance, and even through her bleared
eyes there shot sparks of fiery passion that seemed only in search of a
fitting object for their attack.

As for Gerald--his head bound up in a bloody rag, his arm in a sling,
and his face pale as death--he might have disarmed the malice of
sarcasm, had it not been that he held his arm clasped close round
Marietta's waist, and even thus, in all his misery, seemed to assert
that he was her protector and defender. This was alone sufficient
to afford scope for mockery and derision, the fairer portion of the
audience distinguishing themselves by the pungent sharpness of their
criticisms; and Marietta's swarthy skin, her tinsel ragged-ness, and her
wild, bold eyes, came in for their share of bitter commentary.

'What a brazen-faced minx it is!' cried one.

'What a young creature to have come to such wickedness!' exclaimed
another.

'Look at the roundness of her shape, and you 'll see she is not so very
young neither,' whispered a third.

'That's her gypsy blood,' broke in another. 'There was one here t'other
day, of thirteen, with an infant at her breast; and, more by token, she
had just put a stiletto into its father.'

'The ragazza yonder looks quite equal to the same deed,' observed the
former speaker, 'if _I_ know anything about what an eye means.'

'Vincenzio Bombici--where is Vincenzio Bombici?' cried a surly-looking
brigadier, whose large cooked-hat, set squarely on, increased the
apparent breadth of an immensely wide face.

'_Ecco mi, Eccelenza!_' whimpered out a wretched-looking object, who,
with his face bound up, and himself all swathed like Lazarus from the
tomb, came, helped forward by two assistants.

'Pass in, Vincenzio, and narrate your case,' said the brigadier, as he
opened a door into the dread chamber of justice.

While public sympathy followed the Signor Bombici into the hall
of justice, fresh expressions of anger were vented on the unhappy
strollers. Any one conversant with Italy is aware that so divided is
the peninsula by national jealousies--feuds that date from centuries
back--the most opprobrious epithet that hate or passion can employ
against any one is to stigmatise him as the native of some other town
or city. And now the mob broke into such gibes as, 'Accursed Calabrians!
Ah, vile assassins from Capri'--from Corsica, from the Abruzzi; from
anywhere, in short, save the favoured land they stood in. Donna Gaetana
was not one who suffered herself to be arraigned without reply, nor was
she remarkable for moderation in the style and manner of her
rejoinders. With a voluble ribaldry for which her nation enjoys a proud
pre-eminence, she assailed her opponents, one and all. She ridiculed
their pretensions, mocked their poverty, jeered at their cowardice,
and--last insult of all--derided their personal appearance.

Passion fed her eloquence, and the old dame vented upon them insult
after insult with a volubility that was astounding. There is no need to
record the vindictive and indecorous epithets she scattered broadcast
around her; and even as her enemies skulked craven from the field, her
wrathful indignation tracked them as they went, sending words of outrage
to bear them company. The mere numerical odds was strong against her,
and the clamour that arose was deafening, drawing crowds to the doors
and the street in front, and at last gaining such a height as to invade
the sacred precincts of justice, overbearing the trembling accents
of Bombici as lie narrated his tale of woe. Out rushed the valiant
carabinieri with the air of men hurrying to a storm, cleaving their way
through the crowd--striking, buffeting, trampling all before them. At
sight of the governmental power the crowd quailed at once, all save one,
the Donna. Standing to her guns to the last, she now turned her sarcasms
upon the gendarmes, overwhelming them with a perfect torrent of abuse,
and with such success that the mob, so lately the mark of her virulence,
actually shook with laughter at the new victims to her passion. For a
moment discipline seemed like to yield to anger. The warriors appeared
to waver in their impassive valour; but suddenly, with a gleam of wiser
counsel, they formed a semi-circle behind the accused, and marched them
bodily into the presence of the judge.

Justice was apparently accustomed to similar interruptions; at least,
it neither seemed shocked nor disconcerted, but continued to listen with
unbroken interest to Vincenzio Bombici's sorrows--not, indeed, that he
had arrived at the incident of the night before. Far from it. He was
merely preluding in that fashion which the exactitude of the Tuscan law
requires, and replying to the interesting interrogatories regarding
his former life, so essential to a due understanding of his present
complaint.

'You are, then, the son of Matteo Friuli Bombici, by his wife
Fiammetta?' read out the prefect solemnly, from the notes he was taking.

'No, Eccelenza. She was my father's second wife. My mother's name was
Pacifica.'

'Pacifica,' wrote the prefect. 'Daughter of whom?'

'Of Felice Corsari, tin-worker in the Borgo St. Apostoli.'

'Not so fast, not so fast,' interposed the judge, as he took down the
words, and then muttered to himself, 'in the Borgo St. Apostoli.'

'My mother was one of eight--three sons and five daughters. The eldest
boy, Onofrio----'

'Irrelevant, irrelevant; or, if necessary, to be recorded hereafter,'
said the prefect. 'You were bred and brought up in the Catholic faith!'

'Yes, Eccelenza. The Prête of San Gaetano has confessed me since I
was eleven years old. I have taken out more than two hundred pauls in
private masses, and paid for three novenas and a plenary, as the Prête
will vouch.'

'I will note your character in this respect, Vincenzio,' said the judge
approvingly.

'They will probably bring up before your worship the story against my
father, that he stole the cloak of the Cancelliere Martelli, when he was
performing the part of Pontius Pilate in the holy mysteries at Sienna;
but we have the documents at home----'

'Are they registered?'

'I believe not, Eccelenza.'

'Are they stamped?'

'I 'm afraid not, Eccelenza. The Cavallochio that defended my father
couldn't write himself, and it was one Leonardo Capprini----'

'The sausage-maker,' broke in the judge, with a smack of his lips.

'The same, Eccelenza; you knew him, perhaps?'

'Knew him well, and liked his hog's puddings much.' Justice seemed half
ashamed at this confession of a weakness, and in a more stern tone, told
him to 'Go on.'

It was not very easy for honest Vincenzio to know at what part of his
history he was to take up the thread; so he shuffled from foot to foot,
and sighed despondingly.

'I said "go on,"' said the judge, more peremptorily than before.

'I was talking of my father, Eccelenza,' said he modestly.

'No, of your good mother Fiammetta,' said the judge, rather proud of the
accuracy with which he retained the family history.

'She was my step-mother,' interposed Vincenzio humbly.

'Blockheads all!' broke in old Gaetana, with a hearty laugh.

'Silence!' cried the gendarmes, as, with their muskets dropped to the
ground, they made the chamber ring again, while the judge, turning a
glance of darkening anger on the speaker, said: 'Who is this old woman?'

'Let _me_ tell him. Let myself speak,' cried Gaetana, pressing forward,
while the gendarmes, with their instinct as to coming peril, prudently
held her back.

'So then,' said the judge, in reply to a whisper of one of his
assistants, 'she is the principal delinquent'; and referring to the
written charge before him, read out: 'An infuriated woman, who presided
over the drum.'

'They smashed it, the thieves!' cried Gaetana; 'they smashed my drum;
but, _per Dio_, I beat a roll on their own skulls that astonished them!
They 'll not deny that I gave them an ear for music' And the old hag
laughed loud at her savage jest.

Again was silence commanded, and after some trouble obtained; and
the judge, whose perceptions were evidently disturbed by these
interruptions, betook himself to the pages of the indictment, to refresh
his mind on the case. Muttering to himself the lines, he came to the
words, 'and with a formidable weapon, of solid wood, with the use of
which long habit had rendered her familiar, and in this wise dangerous,
she, the aforesaid Gaetana, struck, beat, battered, and belaboured----'

'Didn't I!' broke in the hag.

What consequences might have ensued from this last interruption must be
left to mere guess, for the door of the chamber was now opened to its
widest to admit a gentleman, who came forward with the air of one in a
certain authority. He was no other than the Count of the night before,
who had so generously thrown his protection over the strollers.
Advancing to where the Prefetto sat, he leaned one arm on the table,
while he spoke to him in a low voice.

The judge listened with deference and attention, his manner being
suddenly converted into the very lowest sycophancy. When it came to his
turn to speak, 'Certainly, Signor Conte; unquestionable,' muttered
he. 'It is enough that your Excellency deigns to express a wish on the
subject,' and, with many a bow, he accompanied him to the door. A brief
nod to the youth Gerald was the only sign of recognition he gave, and
the Count withdrew.

'This case is prorogued,' said the Prefetto solemnly. 'The Court will
inform itself upon its merits, and convoke the parties on some future
day.' And now the gendarmes proceeded to clear the hall, huddling out
together plaintiffs and prisoners and witnesses, all loudly inveighing,
protesting, denouncing, and explaining what nobody listened to or cared
for.

'_Eh viva!_' exclaimed old Gaetana, as she reached the open air,
'there's more justice here than I looked for.'



CHAPTER XVI. THE POET'S HOUSE

It was late on the evening of the same day that Gerald received a
message to say the Count desired to see him. No little jealousy was
occasioned among his companions by this invitation. The Babbo deemed
that, as 'Impressario' of the company, he ought himself to have been
selected. Donna Gaetana was indignant that a mere Giovane was to occupy
the responsible station of representing their dramatic guild; and even
Marietta felt her eyes to swim, as she thought over this mere passing
separation, and in her heart foreboded some ill to come of it. She,
however, did her very best to master these unworthy fears. She washed
the bloody stains carefully off his forehead. She combed and oiled his
long silky hair. She aided him to dress in the one only suit that now
remained of all his wardrobe--a page's dress of light blue, with
a little scarlet mantle, embroidered in silver, and a small bonnet
surmounted by an ostrich feather. Nor was it without deep shame, and
something very like open rebellion, that Gerald donned these motley
habiliments.

'The Count has not said that he wants me to exhibit before him--why am I
to masquerade in this fashion?'

'There is no choice for you between this "tinsel bravery" and the
tattered rags, all blood-stained and torn, you wore last night.' There
they were, scattered about, the crushed and crumpled hat, the doublet
torn to ribbons, the rapier smashed--all a wreck. 'No, no, you could
not appear in such a presence in rags like these.' Still was Gerald
irritated and angry: a sudden sense of shame shot through him as he saw
himself thus alone, which, had the others been joined with him, he had
doubtless never felt; and for the first time his station suggested the
idea of humiliation.

'I will not go, Marietta,' said he at last, as he flung himself upon a
chair, and threw his cap to the end of the room. 'So long as thou wert
with me, sustaining the interest of the scene, replying to my words,
answering every emotion of my heart, I loved Art--I cherished it as the
fairest expression of what I felt, but could not speak. Now, alone and
without thee, it is a mere mockery--it is more, it is a degradation!'

She knelt down beside him and took his hands in hers. She turned her
full, moist eyes toward him, and in broken words besought him not to
speak slightingly of that which bound them to each other, for, 'If the
day comes, _Gherardi mio_, that thou thinkest meanly of our art, so
surely will come another when thou wilt be ashamed of _me_,' and she hid
her face on his knees and sobbed bitterly. With what an honest-hearted
sincerity did he swear that such a day could never come, or if it did,
that he prayed it might be his last! And then he ran over, in eager
tones, all that he owed to her teachings. How, but for her, he had not
known the true tenderness of Metastasio, the fervour of Petrarch, or the
chivalry of Ariosto. 'How much have we found out together we had never
discovered if alone!'

And then they dried their tears; and he kissed her, and set out on his
way.

It was with a look of haughty meaning, almost defiant, that Gerald
ascended the marble stairs and passed between two lines of liveried
servants, who smiled pitifully on the strolling player, nor put the
slightest restraint upon this show of their contempt Fortunately for
him and them he had no time to mark it, for the folding doors suddenly
opening, he found himself in a large chamber, brilliantly lighted, and
with a numerous company assembled. Before the youth had well crossed the
door-sill the Count was at his side, and having kindly taken him by the
hand, expressed a hope that he no longer felt any bad effects of his
late ill-treatment.

Gerald stammered out his acknowledgments, and tried to make some excuses
for his costume, which ended, at last, by the blunt avowal, 'It was this
or nothing, sir.'

'The mishap is not without its advantage,' said the Count, in that calm
voice which, but for a peculiar expression on his mouth when he spoke,
had something almost severe about it. 'It was the resemblance you bear
to a certain portrait was the reason of my sending for you to-night:
your dress assists the likeness, for, strangely enough, it is of the
very same style and colour as that of the picture. Come forward, and I
will present you to a lady who is curious to see you.'

'Madame la Duchesse, this is the youth,' said the Count, as he bowed
before a lady, who was seated in a deep chair, at either side of which
some ladies and gentlemen were standing. She closed her fan and leaned
forward, and Gerald beheld a countenance which, if not beautiful, was
striking enough to be remembered for years after. She was a blonde of
the purest type, with full blue eyes, and masses of light hair, which
in long ringlets descended to her very shoulders; the features
were youthful, though she herself was no longer young; and the same
contradiction existed in their expression, for they were calm, without
softness, and had a fixity almost to sternness, while their colouring
and tint were actually girlish in freshness. There was in her air
and demeanour, too, a similar discordance, for, though with a look of
dignity, her gestures were abrupt, and her manner of speaking hurried.

'He _is_ like,' said she, scanning him through her eye-glass. 'Come
nearer, boy. Yes, strangely like,' said she, with a smile, rather
indicating sarcasm than courtesy. 'Let us compare him with the
portrait,' and she gave her hand languidly, as she spoke, to be assisted
to rise. The Count aided her with every show of deference, respectfully
offering his arm to conduct her; but she declined the attention with a
slight motion of the head, and moved slowly on. As she went, the various
persons who were seated arose, and they who stood in groups talking,
hushed their voices, and stood in a respectful attitude as she passed.
None followed her but the Count and Gerald, who at a signal walked
slowly behind.

After traversing three rooms, whose costly furniture amazed the youth,
they reached a small chamber, where two narrow windows opened upon a
little terrace. A single picture occupied the wall in front of these, to
either side of whose frame two small lamps were attached, with shades so
ingeniously contrived as to throw the light at will on any part of the
painting. The Duchess had seated herself immediately on entering, with
the air of one wearied and exhausted, and the Count occupied himself in
disposing the lamps to most advantage.

'Stand yonder, boy, and hold your cap in your hand, as you see it in
the portrait,' and Gerald turned his eyes to the picture, and actually
started at the marvellous resemblance to himself. The figure was that
of a youth somewhat older, perhaps, than himself, dressed in a suit of
velvet, with a deep lace collar and hanging ruffles; the long ringlets,
which fell in profusion on his neck, the expression of the eyes, a look
of sadness not unmixed with something stern, and a haughty gathering of
the lower lip, were all that a painter might have given to Gerald, if
endeavouring to impart to his likeness some few additional traits of
vigour and determination.

'It is wonderful!' said the Duchess, after a long pause.

'So, indeed, it strikes me,' said the Count. 'Mark, even to the
flattening of the upper lip, how the resemblance holds.'

'What age are you--are you a Roman--what is your name?' asked the
Duchess, in a hurried but careless manner.

'My name is Fitzgerald. They call me here Gherardi, for some of the race
took that name in Italy.'

'So that you talk of blood and lineage, boy?' asked she haughtily.

'I am of the Geraldines, lady, and they were princes!' said the boy, as
proudly.

'Came they from Scotland?' she asked eagerly. 'No, madam, they were
Irish.'

'Irish! Irish!' muttered she twice or thrice, below her breath; then,
as her eyes caught sight of his features suddenly, she started and
exclaimed: 'It is nigh incredible! And how came you to Italy?'

With that brevity which distinguished Gerald when speaking of himself,
he told of his having been a scholar with the Jesuits, where some--he
knew not exactly which--of his relatives had placed him.

'And you left them; how, and wherefore?' inquired the Duchess.

'I know not by what right, madam, I am thus questioned. Is it because I
wear such tinsel rags as these?'

'Bethink you in whose presence you stand, boy?' said the Count sternly;
'that lady is one before whom the haughtiest noble is proud to lay his
homage.'

'Nay, nay,' broke she in gently, 'he will tell me all I ask in kindness,
not in fear.'

'Not in fear, I promise you,' said he proudly, and he drew himself up to
his highest.

'Was not that like him!' exclaimed the Duchess eagerly. 'It was his
own voice! And what good Italian you speak, boy,' said she, addressing
Gerald, with a pleasant smile. 'The Jesuit Fathers have given you the
best Roman accent. Tell me, what were their teachings--what have you
read?'

'Nothing regularly--nothing in actual study, madam; but, passingly, I
have read, in French, some memoirs, plays, sermons, poems, romances,
and suchlike; in English, very little; and in Italian, a few of the very
good?'

'Which do you call the very good?' 'I call Dante.'

'So do I.

'Sometimes I call Tasso, always Ariosto, so.'

She nodded an assent, and told him to continue.

'Then there is Metastasio.'

'What say you of him!' asked the Count.

'I like him: his rhymes flow gracefully, and the music of his verse
floats sweetly in one's ear; but then, there is not that sentiment,
that vigorous dash that stirs the heart, like a trumpet-call, such as we
find, for instance, in Alfieri.'

The Duchess smiled assuringly, and a faint, very faint tinge of red
coloured her pale cheek. 'It appears, then, he is your favourite of them
all?' said she gently. 'Can you remember any of his verses!'

'That can I. I knew him, at one time, off by heart, but somehow, in this
ignoble life of mine, I almost felt ashamed to recite his noble lines
to those who heard me. To think, for example, of the great poet of the
Oreste declaimed before a vile mob, impatient for some buffoonery, eager
for the moment when the jugglery would begin!'

'But you forget, boy, this is true fame! It is little to the great poet
that he is read and admired by those to whose natures he can appeal by
all the emotions which are common to each--lasting sympathies, whose
dwelling-places he knows; the great triumph is, to have softened the
hearts seared by dusty toil--to have smitten the rock whose water is
tears of joy and thankfulness. Is not Ariosto prouder as his verses
float along the dark canals of Venice, than when they are recited under
gilded ceilings!'

'You may be right,' said the boy thoughtfully, as he hung his head; 'am
I not, myself, a proof of what the bright images of poetry have cheered
and gladdened, out of depths of gloom and wretchedness? Not that I
complain of this life of mine!' cried he suddenly.

'Tell us about it, boy; it must present strange scenes and events,' said
the Count, and, taking Gerald's arm, he pressed him to a seat beside
him. The Duchess, too, bent on him one of her kindest smiles, so that he
felt encouraged in a moment.

And now Gerald talked away, as only the young can talk about themselves
and their fortunes. Their happy gift it is to have a softly tempered
tint over even their egotism, making it often not ungraceful. He
sketched a picturesque description of the stroller's life: its freedom
compensating for the hardships; its careless ease recompensing many a
passing mishap; the strange blending of study with little quaint and
commonplace preparation; the mind now charged with bright fancies, now
busy in all the intricacies of costume; the ever-watchful attention to
the taste of that strange public that formed their patron, and who, not
unfrequently wearying of Tasso and Guarini, called loudly for Punch and
his ribaldries. The boy's account of the Babbo and Donna Gaetana was not
devoid of humour, and he painted cleverly the simple old devotee
giving every spare hour he could snatch to penances for the life he was
leading; while the Donna took the world by storm, and started each
day to the combat, like a soldier mounting a breach. Lastly he came to
Marietta, and then his voice changed, his cheek grew red and white by
turns, and his chest heaved full and short, like one oppressed. He did
not mark the looks of intelligence that passed between the Duchess
and the Count: he never saw how each turned to listen to him with the
self-same expression on their features; he was too full of his theme to
note these things, and yet he could not dilate upon it as he had about
Babbo and the Donna.

'I saw her,' said the Count, as Gerald came to a pause. 'I noticed her
at the court, and she was, indeed, very handsome. Something Egyptian in
the cast of features.'

'But not a gypsy!' broke in the boy quickly.

'No, perhaps not. The eyes and brow resembled the Moorish race--the same
character of fixity in expression. Eyes, that carry--

"'I tesori d'amore e i suoi nasconde."'

There was a sly malice in the way the Count led the boy on, opening the
path, as it were, to his enthusiasm, and so artfully, that Gerald never
suspected it.

No longer restrained by fear or chilled by shame, he launched out into
praises of her beauty, her gracefulness, and her genius. He told
the Count that it was sufficient to read for her once over a poem of
Petrarch, and she could repeat it word for word. With the same facility
could she compose music for words that struck her fancy. The silvery
sweetness of her voice--her light and graceful step--the power of
expression she possessed by gesture, look, and mien--he went over all
these with a rapture that actually warmed into eloquence, and they who
listened heard him with pleasure, and encouraged him to continue.

'We must see your Marietta,' said the Duchess at last. 'You shall bring
her here.'

Gerald's cheek flushed, but whether with shame, or pride, or
displeasure, or all three commingled, it were hard to say. In truth,
many a hard conflict went on within him, when, out of his dream of
art and its triumphs, he would suddenly awake, and bethink him in
what humble estimation men held such as he was; how closely the world
insisted on associating poverty with meanness; and how hopeless were the
task of him who would try to make himself respected in rags.

As these thoughts arose in his mind, he lifted his eyes once more to
the portrait, and in bitterness of heart he felt how little resemblance
there was in the condition of the youth there represented and himself.

'I see what you are thinking of,' said the Duchess mildly. 'Shall I show
you another picture? It is of one you profess to admire greatly--your
favourite poet.'

'I pray you do, madam. I long to know his features. It is a face I have
painted in fancy often and often.'

'Tell me, then, how you would portray him,' said she, smiling.

'Not regularly handsome; but noble-looking, with the traits of one who
had such vigour of life and mind within, that he lived more for his own
thoughts than the world, and thus would seem proud to sternness. A high,
bold forehead, narrow and indented at the temples, and a deep brow over
two fierce eyes. O! what wildly flashing eyes should Alfieri's be when
stirred by passion and excitement!'

'And should you find him different from all this--a man of milder mould,
more commonplace and less vigorous--will you still maintain that faith
in his genius that now you profess?' said the Count, with slow and quiet
utterance.

'That will I. How could I, in my presumption, doubt the power that has
moved the hearts of thousands?'

'Come, then, and look at him,' said the Duchess, and she arose, and
moved into a room fitted up as a library. Over the chimney was a large
picture, covered by a silk curtain. To this Gerald eagerly turned his
eyes, for he already marked that the gilded eagle that surmounted the
frame held in his beak a wreath of flowers, interwoven with laurel
leaves.

'One whose enthusiasm equals your own, boy, placed the wreath there, on
the 17th of January last. It was the festa of Vittorio Alfieri,' said
the Duchess, as she gently pulled the cord that drew back the curtain.

Gerald moved eagerly forward--gazed--passed his hand across his eyes,
as if to dispel a fancy--gazed again and again--and then, turning round,
stood steadfastly staring at the Count himself. A faint, sad smile was
on the calm and haughty face; but, as it passed away, the boy
dropped down upon his knees, and seizing the other's hand, kissed it
rapturously, as he cried--

'Oh! that I should have ever known a moment like this! Tell me, I
beseech thee, Signor Conte, is my brain wandering, or are you Alfieri?'

'Yes, boy,' said he, with a slight sigh, while he raised him from the
ground, laying one hand gently on his shoulder.

'It is with reason, boy, you are proud of this event in your life,' said
the Duchess. 'The truly great are few in this world of ours; and you now
stand before one whose memory will be treasured when we are all dust.'

The poet did not seem to heed or hear these words, but stood calmly
watching the boy, who continued to turn his eyes alternately from the
picture to the original.

'I suspect, boy,' said he, with a smile, 'that your mind-drawn picture
satisfied you better--is it not so?'

'O! you who can so read hearts, why will you not interpret mine?' cried
Gerald, in rapture; for now to his memory in quick succession were
rising the brilliant fancies, the splendid images, the heart-moving
words of one whose genius had been a sort of worship to him.

'This, too, is fame!' said the poet, turning to the Duchess.

'But we are keeping you too long from your guests, madam; and Gherardi
and I will have many an opportunity of meeting. Come up here
to-morrow in the forenoon, and let me talk with you. The youth is more
complimentary to me than was the cardinal yesterday.'

'What was it that he said?' asked she.

'He wondered I should have written the tragedy of "Saul," since we had
it already in the Bible! To-morrow, Gherardi, about eleven, or even
earlier--_a rivederlo!_'

As with slow steps, half in a dream, and scarce daring to credit
his senses, Gerald moved down the stairs, the poet overtook him, and
pressing a purse into his hand, said--

'You must have some more suitable dress than this, and remember
to-morrow.'



CHAPTER XVII. A LOVER'S QUARREL

When Gerald found himself once more in his little room at the Porta
Rosa, it was past midnight. He opened his window and sat down at it to
gaze out upon the starry sky and drink in the refreshing night air, but,
more than even these, to calm down the excitement of his feelings, and
endeavour to persuade himself that what he had passed through was not a
dream. It is not easy for those who have access to every grade they wish
in life--who, perhaps, confer honour where they go--to fashion to their
minds the strange, wild conflict that raged within the youth's heart at
this moment. Little as he had seen of the great poet, he could not help
comparing him with Gabriel, his acquaintance at the Tana. They were
both proud, cold, stern men--strong in conscious power, self-reliant and
daring. Are all men of genius of that stamp, thought Gerald. Are they
who diffuse through existence its most elevating influences, its most
softening emotions--are they hard of mould and stern in character?
Does the force with which they move the world require this impulse of
temperament, as rivers that traverse great continents come down, at
first, from lofty mountains? And if it be so, is not this a heavy price
for which to buy even fame? Then, again, he bethought him, what a noble
gift to bestow must be the affection of such men--how proud must be
they who owned their love or shared their friendship! While he was thus
musing a round, warm arm clasped his neck, and Marietta sat down beside
him. She had waited hours for his return, and now stole gently to his
room to meet him.

'I could not sleep till I had seen you, _caro_,' said she fondly. 'It
seemed as if in these few hours years had separated us.'

'And if they had, Marietta, they could scarcely have brought about
anything stranger. Guess where I have been--with whom I have passed this
entire evening?'

'How can I? Was he a prince?'

'Greater than any prince.'

'That must mean a king, then.'

'Kings die, and a few lines chronicle them; but I speak of one whose
memory will be graven in his language, and whose noble sentiments will
be texts to future generations. What think you of Alfieri?'

'Alfieri!'

'Himself. He was the Count who rescued us from the mob, and with him
I have passed the hours since I saw you. Not that I ever knew nor
suspected it, Marietta: if I had, I had never dared to speak as I did
about ourselves and our wayward lives in such a presence. I had felt
these themes ignoble.'

'How so?' cried she eagerly. 'You have ever told me that art was an
ennobling and a glorious thing; that after those whose genius embodied
grand conceptions, came he who gave them utterance. How often have you
said, the poet lives but half in men's hearts whose verses have not
found some meet interpreter; with words like these have you stimulated
me to study, and now----'

'And now,' said he, sighing drearily, 'I wake to feel what a mere
mockery it is:

     '"Tra l'ombra è bella L'istessa stella
      Che in faccia del sole Non si mirô."

Ah, _Marietta mia_, he who creates is alone an artist!'

The girl bent her head upon her bosom, and while her long waving curls
fell loosely over him, she sobbed bitterly. Gerald clasped her closer to
his heart, but never spoke a syllable.

'I ever thought it would be so,' murmured she at last: 'I felt that
in this sense of birth and blood you boasted of, would one day come a
feeling of shame to be the companion of such as me. It is not from art
itself you turn away, it is the company of the strolling actor that you
shun.'

'And who or what am I that I should do so?' said Gerald boldly. 'When,
or where, have I known such happiness as with you, Marietta? Bethink you
of the hours we have passed together, poring over these dear old books
there, enriching our hearts with noble thoughts, and making the poet the
interpreter between us? Telling, too, in the fervour we spoke his lines,
how tenderly we felt them; as Metastasio says:

     '"And as we lisped the verse along,
      Learning to love."'

'And now it is over,' said she, with a sigh of deep despondency.

'Why so? Shall I, in learning to know the great and the illustrious--to
feel how their own high thoughts sway and rule them--be less worthy of
your love? The poet told me, to-night, that I declaimed his lines well;
but who taught me to feel them, _Marietta mia!_' And he kissed her
cheek, bathed as it was and seamed with, hot tears. Again he tried to
bring back the dream of the past, and their oft-projected scheme
of life; but he urged the theme no longer as of old; and even when
describing the world they were about to fly from, his words trembled
with the emotion that swelled in his heart. In the midst of all these
would he break off suddenly with some recollection of Alfieri, who
filled every avenue of his thoughts: his proud but graceful demeanour,
his low, deep-toned voice, his smile so kind and yet so sad withal; a
gentleness, too, in his manner that invited confidence, seemed to dwell
in Gerald's memory, and shed, as it were, a soft and pleasing light over
all that had passed.

'And I am to see him again to-morrow, Marietta,' continued he proudly;
'he is to take me with him to the Galleries. I am to see the Pitti and
the Offizzi, where in the Tribune the great triumphs of Raffael are
placed, and the statue of Venus, too: he is to show me these, and the
portraits of all the illustrious men who have made Italy glorious.
How eager I am to know how they looked in life, and if their features
revealed the consciousness of the fame they were to inherit! And when I
come back at night to thee, Marietta, how full shall I be of all these,
and how overjoyed if I can pour into your heart the pleasures that swell
in my own! Is it not good, dearest, that I should go forth thus to bring
back to you the glad tidings of so many beautiful things--will you not
be happier for _yourself_, prouder in _me_? Will it not be better to
have the love of one whose mind is daily expanding, straining to greater
efforts, growing in knowledge and gaining in cultivation? Shall I not be
more worthy of _you_ if I win praise from others? And I am resolved to
do this, Marietta. I will not be satisfied to be ever the mean, ignoble
thing I now am.'

'Our life did not seem so unworthy in your eyes a day or two ago,'
said she sighing. 'You told me, as we came up the Val d'Arno, that our
wandering, wayward existence had a poetry of its own that you loved
dearly. That to you ambition could never offer a path equal to that
wayside rambling life, over whose little accidents the softening
influences of divine verse shed their mild light, so that the ideal
world dominated the actual.'

'All these will I realise, but in a higher sphere, Marietta. The great
Alfieri himself told me that a life without labour is an ignominy and a
shame. That he who strains his faculties to attain a goal is nobler far
than one whose higher gifts lie rusting in disuse. Man lives not for
himself, but for his fellows, said he, nor is there such incarnate
selfishness as indolence.'

'And where, and how, and when is this wondrous life of exertion to be
begun?' said she half-scornfully. 'Can the great poet pour into your
heart out of the fulness of his own, and make you as he is? Or are you
suddenly become rich and great, like _him_?'

The youth started, and an angry flush covered his face, and even his
forehead, as he arose and walked the room.

'I see well what is working within you,' said the girl. 'The contrast
from that splendour to this misery--these poor bleak walls, where no
pictures are hanging, no gilding glitters--is too great for you. It is
the same shock to your nature as from the beautiful princess in whose
presence you stood to that humble bench beside _me_.'

'No, by Heaven! Marietta,' cried he passionately, 'I have not an
ambition in my heart wherein your share is not allotted. It is that you
may walk with me to the goal----'

A scornful gesture of disbelief, one of those movements which, with
Italians, have a significance no words ever convey, interrupted his
protestation.

'This is too bad!' he cried; 'nor had you ever conceived such distrust
of me if your own heart did not give the prompting. There, there,' cried
he, as he pointed his finger at her, while her eyes flashed and sparkled
with a wild and lustrous expression, 'your very looks betray you.'

'Betray me! this is no betrayal,' said she haughtily. 'I have no shame
in declaring that I too covet fame, even as you do. Were some mighty
patron to condescend to favour _me_--to fancy that _I_ resembled, I know
not what great personage--to imagine that in _my_ traits of look and
voice theirs were reflected, it is just as likely I should thank fortune
for the accident, and bid adieu to _you_, as you intend, to-morrow or
next day, to take leave of _me_.'

She spoke boldly and defiantly, her large, full eyes gazing at his with
a steadfast and unflinching look, while Gerald held down his head in
sorrow and in shame.

Nor was it alone with himself that Gerald was at war, for Marietta had
shocked and startled him by qualities he had never suspected in her.
In her passion she had declared that her heart was set upon ambitions
daring as his own; and, even granting that much of what she said was
prompted by wounded pride, there was in her wildly excited glances
and her trembling lips the sign of a temperament that knew little
of forgiveness. If he was then amazed by discovering Marietta to be
different from all he had ever seen her, he was more in love with her
than ever.

She had opened the window, and, with her face between her hands, gazed
out upon the silent street. Gerald took his place at her side, and thus
they remained for some time without a word. A low, faint sigh at last
came from the girl, and, placing his arm around her, Gerald drew her
gently to him, murmuring softly in her ear:

     'L'onda che mormora,
     Tra sponda e sponda;
     L'aura che tremola,
     Tra fronda e fronda.
     E meno instabile,
     Del vostro cor.'

She never spoke, but, averting her head still farther from him, screened
herself from his view. At last a low, soft murmuring broke from her
lips, and she sang, in accents scarcely above her breath, one of those
little native songs she was so fond of. It was a wild but plaintive air,
sounding like the wayward cadences of one who left her fancy free to
give music to the verse, each stanza ending with the words:

    'Non ho più remi,
     Non ho più vele,
     E al silo talento
     Mi porta il mar.'

With a touching tenderness that thrilled through Gerald's heart she
sung, with many a faltering accent, and in a tremulous tone, the simple
words:

    'In a lone, frail hark, forsaken,
     I float on a nameless sea,
     Nor care to what morrow I waken;
     I drift where the waves bear me.

    'I look not up to the starry sky,
     For I have no course to run,
     Nor eagerly wait, as the dawn draws nigh,
     To watch for the rising sun.

    'For noon is drear as the night to me,
     To-day is as dark as to-morrow:
     Forsaken, I float on the nameless sea,
     To think and weep over my sorrow.*

'Oh, Marietta, if thou wouldst not wring my heart, do not sing that sad
air,' cried Gerald, pressing her tenderly to him. 'I bore it ill in our
happiest hours, when all went well and hopefully with us.'

'It bettor suits the present, then,' said she calmly; then added, with a
sudden energy--'at all events, it suits my humour!'

'Thou wouldst break with me, then, Marietta?' said Gerald, relaxing his
hold on her, and turning his eyes fully upon her face.

'Look down there,' cried she, pointing with her finger: 'that street
beneath us is narrow enough, but it has two exits: why shouldn't _you_
take one road, and _I_ the other?'

'Agreed: so be it, then!' said Gerald passionately, 'only remember,
this project never came from _me_.'

'If there be blame for it, I accept it all,' said she calmly. 'These
things come ever of caprice, and they go as they come. As your own poet
has it:

     '"Si sente che diletta Ma non si sa perché."'

And with a cold smile and a light motion of the hand, as in adieu, she
turned away and left the room. Gerald buried his face between his
hands and sobbed as though his heart was breaking. Alternately accusing
Marietta and himself of cruelty and injustice, his mind was racked by a
conflict, to which nothing offered consolation.

He tried to compose himself to sleep: he lay down on his bed, and
endeavoured in many ways to induce that calm spirit which leads to
slumber; he even murmured to himself the long-forgotten litanies he had
learned, as a student, in the college; but the fever that raged within
defied all these attempts, and, foiled in his efforts, he arose and left
the house. The day was just dawning, and a pinkish streak of sky could
be seen over the mountains of Vail' Ombrosa, while all the vale of the
Arno and Florence itself lay in deep shadow, the great 'Duomo' and the
tall tower at its side not yet catching the first gleam of the rising
sun.

Gerald left the gates of the city, and strode on manfully till he gained
the crest of the 'Bello Sguardo,' whence the view of the city and its
environs is peculiarly fine. Here he sat down to gaze on the scene
beneath him; that wondrous map, whose history contains records of
mingled greatness, crime, genius, noble patriotism, and of treachery so
base that all Europe cannot show its equal; and thus gazing, and thus
musing, he sank into deep sleep.



CHAPTER XVIII. THE DROP

The morning was already far advanced and the sun high when Gerald awoke.
The heavy dews had penetrated his frail clothing and chilled him, while
the hot gleam of the sun glowed fiercely on his face and temples. He was
so confused besides, by his dream and by the objects about him, that he
sat vainly endeavouring to remember how and why he had come there.

One by one, like stragglers falling into line, his wandering faculties
came back, and he bethought him of the poet's house, Alfieri himself,
the Duchess, and lastly, of his quarrel with Marietta--an incident
which, do what he might, seemed utterly unaccountable to him. If he felt
persuaded that he was in the right throughout, the persuasion gave him
no pleasure--far from it. It had been infinitely easier for him now, if
he had wronged her, to seek her forgiveness, than forgive himself for
having offended her. She, so devoted to him! She, who had taken such
pains to teach him all the excellences of the poets she loved; who had
stored his mind with Petrarch, and filled his imagination with Ariosto;
who taught him to recognise in himself feelings, and thoughts, and
hopes akin to those their heroes felt, and thus elevated him in his own
esteem. And what a genius was hers!--how easily she adapted herself to
each passing mood, and was gay or sorrowful, volatile or passionate, as
fancy inclined her. How instinctively her beautiful features caught up
the expression of each passion; how wild the transports of her joy; how
terrible the agonies of her hatred!

With what fine subtlety, too, she interpreted all she read, discovering
hidden meanings, and eliciting springs of action from words apparently
insignificant; and then her memory, was it not inexhaustible? An image,
a passing simile from a poet she loved, was enough to bring up before
her whole cantos; and thus, stored with rich gems of thought, her
conversation acquired a grace and a charm that were actual fascination.
And was he now to tear himself away from charms like these, and for
ever, too? But why was she displeased with him? how had he offended
her? Surely it was not the notice of the great poet had awakened her
jealousy; and yet, when she thought over her own great gifts, the many
attractions she herself possessed--claims to notice far greater than
his could ever be--Gerald felt that she might well have resented this
neglect.

'And how much of this is my own fault?' cried he aloud. 'Why did I not
tell the poet of her great genius? Why not stimulate his curiosity
to see and hear her? How soon would _he_ have recognised the noble
qualities of her nature!'

Angry with himself, and eager to repair the injustice he had done, he
arose and set out for the city, resolved to see Alfieri, and proclaim
all Marietta's accomplishments and talents.

'He praised _me_ last night,' muttered he, as he went along; 'but what
will he say of _her_? She shall recite for him the "Didone," the lines
beginning,

     '"No! sdegnata non sono!"

If his heart does not thrill as he listens, he is more or less than man!
He shall hear, too, his own "Cleopatra" uttered in accents that he never
dreamed of. And then she shall vary her mood, and sing him one of ter
Sicilian barcarolles, or dance the Tiranna. Ah, Signor Poeta,' said he
aloud, * even thy lofty imagination shall gain by gazing upon one gifted
and beautiful as she is.'

When Gerald reached the Roman gate he found a large cavalcade making its
exit through the deep archway, and the crowd, falling back, made way for
the mounted party. Upward of twenty cavaliers and ladies rode past, each
mounted and followed by a numerous suite, whose equipment proclaimed
the party to be of rank and consideration. As Gerald stood aside to make
place for them to pass, a pair of dark eyes were darted keenly toward
him, and a deep voice called out:

'There's my Cerretano, that I was telling you about! Gherardi, boy, what
brings thee here?'

Gerald looked up and saw it was the poet who addressed him; but before
he could summon courage to answer, Alfieri said:

'Thou didst promise to be with me this morning early, and hast forgotten
it all, not to say that thou wert to equip thyself in something more
suitable than this motley. Never mind, come along with us. Cesare, give
him your pony; he is quiet and easy to ride. Fair ladies all,' added he,
addressing the party, 'this youth declaims the verse of Alfieri as such
a great poet merits. _Gherardi mio_, this is a public worthy of thy best
efforts to please. Get into the saddle; it's the surest, not to say the
pleasantest, way to jog toward Parnassus!'

Gerald was not exactly in the mood to like this bantering; he was ill at
ease with himself, and not over well satisfied with the world at large,
and he had half turned to decline the poet's invitation, when a gentle
voice addressed him, saying:

'Pray be my cavalier, Signorino; you see I have none.'

'Not ours the fault, Madame la Marquise,' quickly retorted Alfieri;
'you rejected us each in turn. Felice was too dull, Adriano too lively,
Giorgio was vain, and I--I forget what I was.'

'Worst of all, a great genius in the full blaze of his glory. No; I 'll
take Signor Gherardi--that is, if he will permit me.'

Gerald took off his cap and bowed deeply in reply; as he lifted his head
he beheld for the first time the features of her who addressed him. She
was a lady no longer young, past even the prime of life, but retaining
still something more than the traces of what had once been great beauty:
fair brown hair, and blue eyes shaded by long dark lashes, preserved to
her face a semblance of youthfulness; and there was a coquetry in her
riding-dress--the hat looped up with a richly jewelled band, and the
front of her habit embroidered in gold--which showed that she maintained
pretensions to be noticed and honoured.

As Gerald rode along at her side, she drew him gradually and easily into
conversation, with the consummate art of one who had brought the gift to
high perfection. She knew how to lead a timid talker on, to induce him
to venture on opinions, and even try and sustain them. She understood
well, besides, when and how, and how far, to offer a dissent, and at
what moments to appear to yield convictions to another. She possessed
all that graceful tact which supplies to mere chit-chat that much
of epigram that elevates, without pedantry; a degree of point that
stimulates, yet never wounds.

'The resemblance is marvellous!' whispered she to Alfieri, as he chanced
to ride up beside her; 'and not only in look, but actually in voice, and
in many a trick of gesture.'

'I knew you 'll see it!' cried the poet triumphantly.

'And can nothing be known about his history? Surely we could trace him.'

'I like the episode better as it is,' said he carelessly. 'Some vulgar
fact might, like a rude blow, demolish the whole edifice one's fancy had
nigh completed. There he stands now, handsome, gifted, and a mystery.
What could add to the combination?'

'The secret of an illustrious birth,' whispered the Marquise.

'I lean to the other view. I 'd rather fancy nature had some subtle
design of her own, some deep-wrought scheme to work out by this strange
counterfeit.'

'Yes, Gherardi,' as the youth looked suddenly around; 'yes, Gherardi,'
said she, 'we were talking of you, and of your likeness to one with whom
we were both acquainted.'

'If it be to that prince whose picture I saw last night,' replied he,
'I suspect the resemblance goes no further than externals. There can be,
indeed, little less like a princely station than mine.'

'Ah, boy!' broke in the poet, 'there will never be in all your history
as sad a fate as has befallen him.'

'I envy one whose fortune admits of reverses!' said Gerald peevishly.
'Better be storm-tossed than never launched.'

'I declare,' whispered the Marquise, 'as he spoke there, I could have
believed it was Monsieur de Saint George himself I was listening to.
Those little wayward bursts of temper----'

'Summer lightnings,' broke in Alfieri.

'Just so: they mean nothing, they herald nothing:

     '"They flash like anger o'er the sky,
      And then dissolve in tears."'

'True,' said the poet; 'but, harmless as these elemental changes seem,
we forget how they affect others--what blights they often leave in their
track:

     '"The sport the gods delight in
      Makes mortals grieve below."'

'It was Fabri wrote that line,' said Gerald, catching at the quotation.

'Yes, Madame la Marquise,' said Alfieri, answering the quickly darted
glances of the lady's eyes, 'this youth has read all sorts of authors.
A certain Signor Gabriel, with whom he sojourned months long in the
Maremma, introduced him to Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau: his own
discursive tastes added others to the list.'

'Gabriel! Gabriel! It could not be that it was----' and here she bent
over and whispered a word in Alfieri's ear.

A sudden start and an exclamation of surprise burst from the poet.

'Tell us what your friend Gabriel was like.'

'I can tell you how he described himself,' said Gerald. 'He said he was:

    "Un sanglier marqué de petite vérole."'

'Oh, then, it was he!' exclaimed the Marquise. 'Tell us, I pray you, how
fortune came to play you so heartless a trick as to make you this man's
friend?'

Half reluctantly, almost resentfully, Gerald replied to this question by
relating the incidents that had befallen him in the Maremma, and how
he had subsequently lived for months the companion of this strange
associate.

'What marvellous lessons of evil, boy, has he not instilled into
you! Tell me frankly, has he not made you suspectful of every
one--distrusting all friendship, disowning all obligations, making
affection seem a mockery, and woman a cheat?'

'I have heard good and bad from his lips. If he spoke hastily of the
world at times, mayhap it had not treated him with too much kindness.
Indeed he said as much to me, and that it was not his fault that he
thought so meanly of mankind.'

'What poison this to pour into a young heart!' broke in Alfieri. 'The
cattle upon the thousand hills eat not of noxious herbage; their better
instincts protect them, even where seductive fruits and flowers woo
their tastes. It is man alone is beguiled by false appearances, and this
out of the very subtlety of his own nature. The plague-spot of the heart
is distrust!'

'These are better teachings, boy, than Signor Gabriel's,' said the lady.

'You know him, then?' asked Gerald.

'I have little doubt that we are speaking of the same person; and if so,
not I alone, but all Europe knows him.'

Gerald burned to inquire further, to know who and what this mysterious
man was, how he had earned the terrible reputation that attended him,
and what charges were alleged against him. He could not dare, however,
to put questions in such a presence, and he sat moodily thinking over
the issue.

Diverging from the high-road, they now entered a pathway which led
through the vineyards and the olive groves, and, being narrow, Gerald
found himself side by side with the Marquise, without any other near.
Here, at length, his curiosity mastered all reserve, and plucking up
courage for the effort, he said--

'If my presumption were not too bold, madame, I would deem it a great
favour to be permitted to ask you something of this Signor Gabriel. I
know and feel that, do what I will, reason how I may, reject what I can,
yet still his words have eaten down deep into my heart; and if I cannot
put some antidote there against their influence, that they will sway me
even against myself,'

'First, let me hear how he represented himself to you. Was he as a good
man grossly tricked and cheated by the world, his candour imposed on,
his generosity betrayed? Did he picture a noble nature basely trifled
with?'

'No, no,' broke in Gerald; 'he said, indeed, at first he felt disposed
to like his fellow-men, but that the impulse was unprofitable; that the
true philosophy was unbelief. Still he avowed that he devoted himself to
every indulgence; that happiness meant pleasure, pleasure excess;
that out of the convulsive throes of the wildest debauchery, great and
glorious sensations, ennobling thoughts spring--just as the volcano in
full eruption throws up gold amid the lava: and he bade me, if I would
know myself, to taste of this same existence.'

'Poor boy, these were trying temptations,'

'Not so,' broke in Gerald proudly; 'I wanted to be something better and
greater than this,'

'And what would you be?' asked the Marquise, as she turned a look of
interest on him.

'Oh, if a heart's yearning could do it,' cried Gerald warmly, 'I would
be like him who rides yonder; I would be one whose words would give
voice to many an unspoken emotion--who could make sad men hopeful, and
throw over the dreariest waste of existence the soft, mild light of
ideal happiness.'

She shook her head, half-sorrowfully, and said, 'Genius is the gift
of one, or two, or three, in a whole century!' 'Then I would be a
soldier,' cried the boy; 'I would shed my blood for a good cause. A
stout heart and a strong arm are not rare gifts, but they often win rare
honours.'

'Count Alfieri has been thinking about you,' said she, in a tone half
confidential. 'He told me that, if you showed a disposition for it, he
would place you at the University of Sienna, where you could follow your
studies until such time as a career should present itself.'

'To what do I owe this gracious interest in my fate, lady?' asked he
eagerly. 'Is it my casual resemblance to the prince he was so fond of?'

'So fond!' exclaimed she; then, as quickly correcting herself, she
added: 'No, not altogether that--though, perhaps, the likeness may have
served you,'

'How kind and good of him to think of one so friendless!' muttered
Gerald, half aloud.

'Is the proposal one you would like to close with? Tell me frankly,
Gherardi, for we are speaking now in all frankness!'

'Perhaps I may only lose another friend if I say no!' said he timidly;
and then, with bolder accents, added: 'Let me own it, madame, I have no
taste for study--at least such studies as these. My heart is set upon
the world of action: I would like to win a name, no matter how brief the
time left me to enjoy it.'

'Shall I tell you _my_ plan--'

'_Yours!_' broke he in. 'Surely you too have not deigned to remember me?'

'Yes; the Count interested me strongly in you. This morning we talked
of little else at breakfast, and up to the moment we overtook you at the
gate. His generous ardour in your behalf filled me with a like zeal, and
we discussed together many a plan for your future; and mine was, that
you should enter the service of the King----'

'What King?'

'What other than the King of France, boy, the heir of St. Louis?'

'He befriended the cause of Charles Edward, did he not?' asked Gerald
eagerly.

'Yes,' said she, smiling at the ardour with which he asked the question.
'Do you feel deep interest in the fortunes of that Prince?'

The youth clasped his hands together and pressed them to his heart,
without a word.

'Your family, perhaps, supported that cause?'

'They did, lady. When I was an infant, I prayed for its success; as I
grew older, I learned to sorrow for its failure.'

There was something so true and so natural in the youth's expression as
he spoke, that the Marquise was touched by it, and turned away her head
to conceal her emotion.

'The game is not played out yet, boy,' said she at last; 'there are
great men, and wise ones too, who say that the condition of Europe, the
peace of the world, requires the recognition of rights so just as those
of the Stuarts. They see, too, that in the denial of these claims the
Church is wounded, and the triumph of a dangerous heresy proclaimed. Who
can say at what moment it may be the policy of the Continent to renew
the struggle?'

'Oh, speak on, lady: tell me more of what fills my heart with highest
hope,' exclaimed he rapturously. 'Do not, I beseech you, look on me as
the poor stroller, the thing of tinsel and spangles, but as one in whose
veins generous blood is running. I am a Géraldine, and the Geraldines
are all noble.'

The sudden change in the youth's aspect, the rich, full tones of his
voice, as, gaining courage with each word, he asserted his claim to
consideration, seemed to have produced an effect upon the Marquise, who
pondered for some time without speaking.

'Mayhap, lady, I have offended you by this rash presumption,' said
Gerald, as he watched her downcast eyes and steadfast expression; 'but
forgive me, as one so little skilled in life, that he mistakes gentle
forbearance for an interest in his fortunes.'

'But I _am_ interested in you, Gherardi; I _do_ wish to befriend you.
Let me hear about your kith. Who are these Geraldines you speak of?'

'I know not, lady,' said he, abashed; 'but from my childhood I was
ever taught to believe that, wherever my name was spoken, men would
acknowledge me as noble.'

'And from whom can we learn these things more accurately? have you
friends or relations to whom we could write?'

Just as she spoke, the head of the cavalcade passed beneath a deep
gateway into the court of an ancient palace, and the echoing sounds
of the horses' feet soon drowned the voices of the speakers. 'This is
"Camerotto," an old villa of the Medici,' whispered the Marquise.
'We have come to see the frescoes; they are by Perugino, and of great
repute.'

The party descended, and entering the villa, wandered away in groups
through the rooms. It was one of those spacious edifices which were
types of mediaeval life, lofty, splendid, but comfortless. Dropping
behind the well-dressed train as they passed on, Gerald strayed alone
and at will through the palace, and at last found himself in a small
chamber, whose one window looked out on a deep and lonely valley. The
hills which formed the boundaries were arid, stony, and treeless,
but tinted with those gorgeous colours which, in Italian landscape,
compensate in some sort for the hues of verdure, and every angle and
eminence on them were marked out with that peculiar distinctness which
objects assume in this pure atmosphere. The full blaze of a noonday sun
lit up the scene, where not a trace of human habitation nor a track of
man's culture could be seen for miles.

'My own road in life should lie along that glen,' said Gerald dreamily,
as he leaned out of the window and gazed on the silent landscape, and
soon dropped into a deep reverie, when past, present, and future were
all blended together. The unbroken stillness of the spot, the calm
tranquillity of the scene, steeped his spirit in a sort of dreamy
lethargy, scarcely beyond the verge of sleep itself. To his half-waking
state his restless night contributed, and hour by hour went over
unconsciously: now muttering verses of his old convent hymns, now
snatches of wild peasant legends, his mind lost itself in close-woven
fancies.

Whether the solitary tract of country before him was a reality or a mere
dreamland, he knew not. It needed an effort to resume consciousness, and
that effort he could not make; long fasting, too, lent its influence to
increase this state, and his brain balanced between fact and imagination
weariedly and hopelessly. At moments he fancied himself in some palace
of his ancestors, dwelling in a high but solitary state; then would
he suddenly imagine that he was a prisoner, confined for some great
treason--he had taken arms against his country--he had adhered to a
cause, he knew not what or whose, but it was adjudged treasonable. Then,
again, it was a monastery, and he was a novice, waiting and studying
to assume his vows; and his heart struggled between a vague craving
for active life and a strange longing for the deathlike quiet of the
cloister.

From these warring fancies he started suddenly, and, passing his hand
across his forehead, tried to recall himself to reason. 'Where am
I?' exclaimed he, and the very sound of his own voice, echoed by the
deep-vaulted room, almost affrighted him. 'How came I here?' muttered
he, hoping to extricate himself from the realm of fancy by the utterance
of the words. He hastened to the door, but the handle was broken and
would not turn; he tried to burst it open, but it was strong and firm as
the deep wall at either side of it; he shouted aloud, he beat loudly on
the oaken panels, but though the deep-arched ceiling made the noise seem
like thunder, no answer was returned to his call. He next turned to the
window, and saw to his dismay that it was at a great height from the
ground, which was a flagged terrace beneath. He yelled and cried at
the very top of his voice; he waved his cap, hoping that some one at a
distance might catch the signal; but all in vain. Wearied at last by all
his attempts to attract notice, he sat moodily down to think over his
position and devise what was to be done. Wild thoughts flashed at times
across him--that this was some deep-laid scheme to entrap him; that
he had been enticed here that he might meet his death without marks of
violence; that, somehow, his was a life of consequence enough to provoke
a crime. The Prince that he resembled had some share in it--or Marietta
had vowed a vengeance--or the Jesuit Fathers had sent an emissary to
despatch him. What were not the wild and terrible fancies that filled
his mind: all that he had read of cruel torturings, years' long
suffering, lives passed in dreary dungeons, floated mistily before
him, till reason at last gave way, and he lost himself in these sad
imaginings.

The ringing of a church bell, faint and far away as it sounded, recalled
him from his dreamings, and he remembered it was the 'Angelus,' when
long ago he used to fall into line, and walk along to the chapel of the
college. 'That, too, was imprisonment,' thought he, but how gladly would
he have welcomed it now! He leaned from the window to try and make out
whence the sounds came, but he could not find the spot. He fancied he
could detect something moving up the hillside, but a low olive scrub
shaded the path, and it was only as the branches stirred that he
conjectured some one was passing underneath. The copse, however,
extended but a short way, and Gerald gazed wistfully to see if anything
should emerge from where it finished. His anxiety was intense as he
waited; a feverish impatience thrilled through him, and he strained his
eyes until they ached.

At last a long shadow was projected-on the road; it was broken,
irregular, and straggling. It must be more than one--several--a
procession, perhaps, and yet not that--there was no uniformity in it. He
leaned out as far as he could venture. It was coming. Yes, there it was!
A donkey with heavy panniers at his side, driven by an old man; a woman
followed, and after her a girl's figure. Yes, he knew them and her now!
It was the Babbo! and there was Marietta herself, with bent-down head,
creeping sadly along, her arms crossed upon her breast, her whole air
unspeakably sad and melancholy. With a wild scream Gerald called to them
to turn back, that he, their companion, their comrade, was a captive. He
shouted till his hoarse throat grew raw with straining, but they heard
him not.

A deep, narrow gorge lay between them, with a brawling rivulet far
below, and though the boy shouted with all his might, the voice never
reached them. There they walked along up the steep path, whither to,
he knew not. That they meant to desert him was, however, clear enough.
Already in that far-away land to which they journeyed no part was
assigned him. And Marietta!--she to whom he had given his heart, she
whom he bound up with all his future fortunes--she to leave him thus
without a word of farewell, without one wish to meet again, without one
prayer for his welfare! Half-maddened with grief and rage--for in his
heart now each sentiment had a share--he sprang wildly to the window,
and gazed downward at the terrace. Heaven knows what terrible thoughts
ebbed and flowed within him as he looked! Life had little to attract
him to it; his heart was well-nigh broken; a reckless indifference was
momentarily gaining on him; and he crept farther and farther out upon
the window-sill, till he seemed almost to hang over the depth beneath
him. He wanted to remember a prayer, to recall some words of a litany
he had often recited, but in his troubled brain, where confusion reigned
supreme, no memory could prevail; thoughts came and went, clashing,
mingling, conflicting, like the storm-tossed sea in a dark night, and
already a stupid and fatalist indifference dulled his senses, and one
only desire struggled with him--a wish for rest!

Once more, with an effort, he raised his eyes toward the mountain side.
The little procession was still ascending, and nigh the top. At a short
distance behind, however, he could see Marietta standing and looking
apparently toward Florence. Was it that she was thus taking a last
farewell of him, muttering, among some broken words of affection, some
blessing upon him! A sudden thrill of joy--it was hope--darted through
him as he gazed; and now bending over, he perceived that the steep wall
beneath the window was broken by many a projection and architrave, the
massive pediment of a large window projecting far, about six feet from
where he sat. Could he gain this he might descend by the column which
supported it, and reach a great belt of stonework that ran about fifteen
feet from the ground, and whence he might safely venture to drop. If
there was peril to life in every step of this dangerous exploit, there
was, in the event of success, a meeting once more with Marietta--a
meeting never to part again. Whatever the reasons for having deserted
him he was determined to overbear. Some one must have calumniated him:
he would meet the slander. Marietta herself would do him justice; he
would soon show her that the passing vision of ambition had no hold upon
his heart, that he only cared for her, wished for nothing beyond their
own wayward life. As he thus reasoned, he tore his mantle into long
strips, which he twisted and knotted together, testing its strength till
assured that it would bear his weight. He then fastened one end to
the window-bars, and grasping the cord in both hands, he prepared to
descend. Could he but gain the pediment in this wise, the rest of the
descent would not be difficult.

With one fervent prayer to Her whose protection he had learned to
implore from very infancy, he glided softly from the window-sill and
began the descent. For a second or two did he grasp the stone ledge with
both hands, as if fearing to loose his hold, but at length, freeing one
hand and then the other, he gave himself up to the cord. Scarcely had
his full weight straightened the rope than the frail texture began to
give way; a low sound, as of the fibres tearing, met his ear, and just
as his feet touched the pediment the rope snapped in two, and the shock
throwing him off his balance, he swayed forward. One inch more and his
fate was certain; but his body recovered its equipoise, and he came
back to the wall, where he stood motionless, and almost paralysed with
terror. The ledge on which he stood, something less than two feet in
width, was slightly sloped from the wall, and about forty feet from
the ground. To crouch down upon this now and reach the column which
supported it» was his next task, nor was it till after a long struggle
with himself that he could once again peril life by such an attempt.

By immense caution he succeeded in so bending down that he at last
gained a sitting position on the ledge, and then, with his face to
the wall, he glided over the pediment and grasped one of the columns.
Slipping along this, he arrived at the window-sill, from which the drop
to the ground was all that now remained. Strange was it that this latter
and easier part of all the danger affrighted him more than all he had
gone through. It was as if his overtasked courage was exhausted; as
though the daring energy had no more supplies to draw upon; for there
he sat, hopelessly gazing at the ground beneath, unable to summon
resolution to attempt it.

The brief season between day and dark, the flickering moments of
half-light passed away, and a night calm and starlit spread over the
scene. Except the wild and plaintive cry of an owl from an ivy-clad
turret above him, not a sound broke the stillness, and there Gerald sat,
stunned and scarce conscious. As darkness closed round him, and he could
no longer measure the distance to the ground beneath, the peril of his
position became more appalling, and he felt like one who must await the
moment of an inevitable and dreadful fate. Already a sense of weariness
warned him that at the slightest stir he might lose his balance, and
then what a fate--mutilation perhaps, worse than any death! If he could
maintain his present position till day broke, it was certain he must be
rescued. Solitary as was the spot, some one would surely pass and see
him, but then, if overcome by fatigue, sleep should seize him--even now
a dreary lassitude swept over him: oftentimes his eyes would close, and
fancies flit across him, that boded the approach of slumber! Tortured
beyond endurance by this long conflict with his fears, he resolved, come
what might, to try his fate, and, with a shrill cry for mercy upon his
soul, he dropped from the ledge.

When the day broke he was there beneath the window, his forehead
bleeding and his ankle broken. He had tried to move, but could not,
and he waited calmly what fate might befall him. He was now calm and
self-confident. The season of struggle was over; the period of sound
thought and reflection had begun.



CHAPTER XIX. THE PLAN

When one looks back upon the story of his life, he is sure to be struck
by the reflection, that its uneventful periods, its seasons of seeming
repose, were precisely those which tended most to confirm his character.
It is in solitude--in the long watches of a voyage at sea--in those
watches more painful still, of a sick-bed, that we make up our account
with ourselves, own to our short-comings, and sorrow over our faults.
The mental culture that at such seasons we pursue, is equally certain
to exercise a powerful influence on us. Out of the busy contest of
life--removed, for the moment, from its struggles and ambitions--the
soil of our hearts is, as it were, fresh turned, and rapidly matures
the new-sown seed we throw upon it. How many date the habits of
concentration, by which they have won success in after-life, to the
thoughtful hours of a convalescence. It is not merely that isolation
and quiet have aided their minds; there is much more in the fact that at
such times the heart and the brain work together. Every appeal to reason
must be confirmed by a judgment in the higher court of the affections,
and out of our emotions as much as out of our convictions do we bend
ourselves to believe.

How fresh and invigorated do we come forth from these intervals of
peace! less confident, it may be, of ourselves, but far more trustful of
others--better pleased with life, and more sanguine of our fellow-men.
And no matter how often we may be deceived or disappointed, no matter
how frequently our warmest affections have met no requital, let us
cherish this hopeful spirit to the last--let us guard ourselves against
doubting! There is no such bankruptcy of the heart as distrust.

Gerald was for weeks long a sufferer on a sick-bed. In a small room of
the villa, kindly cared for, all his wants supplied by the directions of
his wealthy friends, there he lay, pondering over the wayward accident
of his life, and insensibly feeding his heart with the conviction that
Fate, which had never failed to befriend him in difficulty, had yet some
worthy destiny in store for him. He read unceasingly, and of everything.
The Marquise constantly sent him her books, and what now interested him
no less, the newspapers and pamphlets of the time. It was the first real
glimpse he had obtained of the actual world about him; and with avidity
he read of the ambitions and rivalries which disturbed Europe--the
pretensions of this State, the fears and jealousies of that. Stored as
his mind was with poetic images, imbued with a rapturous love for the
glowing pictures thus presented, he yet hesitated to decide whether the
life of action was not a higher and nobler ambition than the wondrous
dreamland of imagination.

In the convent Gerald's mind had received its first lessons of religion
and morality. His sojourn at the Tana had imparted his earliest advances
into the world of knowledge through books, and now his captivity at
the 'Camerotto' opened to him a glance of the real world, its stirring
scenes, its deep intrigues, and all the incidents of that stormy sea
on which men charter the vessels of their hope. Was it that he forgot
Marietta? Had pain and suffering effaced her image; had ambition
obliterated it? No; she was ever in his thoughts--the most beautiful and
most gifted creature he had ever seen. If he read, it was always with
the thought, what would she have said of it? If he sank into a reverie,
she was the centre round which his dreams revolved. Her large, mild
eyes, her glowing cheek, her full lips, tremulous with feeling, were
ever before him; and what would he not have given to be her companion
again, wandering the world; blending all that was fascinating in poetic
description with scenes wayward enough to have been conjured up by
fancy! Why had they deserted him? he asked himself over and over. Had
the passing dispute with Marietta determined her to meet him no more?
And if so, what influence could she have exercised over the others to
induce them to take this step? There was but one of whom he could hope
to gain this knowledge--Alfieri himself, whose generosity had succoured
them, and in the few and brief moments of the poet's visit to the villa
he had not courage to venture on the question.

The Marquise came frequently to see him, and seemed pleased to talk
with him, and lighten the hours of his solitude by engaging him in
conversation. Dare he ask her? Could he presume to inquire, from one
so high-born and so great what had befallen his humble comrades of the
road? How entreat her to trace their steps, or to learn their plans? Had
she, indeed, seen Marietta, there would have been no difficulty in the
inquiry. Who could have beheld her without feeling an interest in her
fate? Brief, however, as had been his intercourse with great people, he
had already marked the tone of indolent condescension with which they
treated the lives of the very poor. The pity they gave them cost no
emotion: if they sorrowed, it was with a grief that had no pang. Their
very generosity had more reference to their own sensations than to the
feelings of those they befriended. Already, young as he was, did he
catch a glimpse of that deep gulf that divides affluence from misery,
and in the bitterness of his grief for her who had left him, he
exaggerated the callousness of the rich and the sufferings of the poor.

Every comfort was supplied to him, all that care could bestow, or
kindness remember, was around him; and yet, why was it his gratitude
flowed not in a pure, unsullied stream, but came with uncertain gushes,
fitfully, unequally; now sluggish, now turbid; clogged with many a foul
weed, eddying with many an uncertain current!

The poison Gabriel had instilled into his heart, if insufficient to kill
its nobler influences, was yet enough to render them unsound. The great
lesson of that tempter was to 'distrust,' never to accept a benefit
in life without inquiring what subtle design had prompted it, what
deep-laid scheme it might denote. 'None but a fool bestows without
an object,' was a maxim he had often heard from his lips. Not all the
generosity of the youth's nature--and it was a noble one--could lessen
the foul venom of this teaching! To reject it seemed like decrying the
wisdom of one who knew life in all its aspects. How could he, a mere
boy, ignorant, untravelled, unlettered, place his knowledge of mankind
in competition with that of one so universally accomplished as Gabriel?
His precepts, too, were uttered so calmly, so dispassionately--a tone
of regret even softened them at times, as though he had far rather have
spoken well and kindly of the world, if truth would have suffered him.
And then he would insidiously add: 'Don't accept these opinions, but go
out and test them for yourself. The laboratory is before you, experiment
at your will.' As if he had not already put corruption in the crucible,
and defiled the vessel wherein the ore should be assayed!

For some days Gerald had seen neither the Count nor the Marquise. A
brief note, a few lines, from the latter, once came to say that they
continued to take an interest in his welfare, and hoped soon to see him
able to move about and leave his room; but that the arrival of a young
relative from Rome would probably prevent her being able to visit the
Camerotto for some time.

'They have grown weary of the pleasure of benevolence,' thought Gerald
peevishly; 'they want some other and more rewarding excitement. The
season of the Carnival is drawing nigh, and doubtless fêtes and theatres
will be more gratifying resources than the patronage of such as I.'

It was in a spirit resentful and rebellious that he arose and dressed
himself. The very clothes he had to wear were given him--the stick he
leaned on was an alms; and his indignation scoffed at his mendicancy, as
though it were a wrong against himself.

'After all,' said he mockingly, 'if it were not that I chanced to
resemble some dear prince or other, they had left me to starve. I wonder
who my prototype may be: what would he say if I proposed to change
coats with him? Should I have more difficulty in performing the part of
prince, or he that of vagabond?'

In resentful reflections like this he showed how the seeds of Gabriel's
teaching matured and ripened in his heart, darkening hope, stifling even
gratitude. To impute to mere caprice, a passing whim, the benevolence of
the rich was a favourite theory of Gabriel; and if, when Gerald listened
first to such maxims, they made little or no impression upon him, now,
in the long silent hours of his solitude, they came up to agitate and
excite him. One startling illustration Gabriel had employed, that would
occur again and again to the boy's mind, in spite of himself.

'These benefactors,' said he, 'are like men who help a drowning swimmer
to sustain himself a little longer: they never carry him to the shore.
Their mission is not rescue, it is only to prolong a struggle, to
protract a fate.'

The snow lay on the Apennines, and even on the lower hills around
Florence, ere Gerald was sufficiently recovered to move about his room.
The great dreary house, silent and tenantless, was a dominion over which
he wandered at will, sitting hours long in contemplation of frescoed
walls and ceilings, richly carved architraves, and finely chiselled
traceries over door and window. Had they who reared such glorious
edifices left no heirs nor successors behind them? Why were such
splendours left to rot and decay? Why were patches of damp and mildew
suffered to injure these marvellous designs? Why were the floors
littered with carved and golden fretwork? What new civilisation
had usurped the place of the old one, that men preferred lowly
dwellings--tasteless, vulgar, and inconvenient--to those noble abodes,
elegant and spacious 'Could it possibly be that the change in men's
minds, the growing assertion of equality, had tended to suppress
whatever too boldly indicated superiority of station? Already
distinctions of dress were fading away. The embroidered jabot, the rich
falling ruffle, the ample peruke, and the slashed and braided coat, were
less and less often seen abroad. A simpler and more uniform taste in
costume began to prevail, the insignia of rank were seldom paraded in
public, and even the liveries of the rich displayed less of costliness
and show than in times past. Over and over had Gabriel directed
the youth's attention to these signs, saying, with his own stern
significance--

'You will see, boy, that men will not any longer wait for equality till
the churchyard.'

Was the struggle, then, really approaching?--were the real armies,
indeed, marshalling their forces for the fight? And if so, with which
should he claim brotherhood? His birth and blood inclined him to the
noble, but his want and destitution gave him common cause with the
miserable.

It was a dreary day of December, a low, leaden sky, heavily charged
with rain or snow, stretched over a landscape inexpressibly sad and
wretched-looking. The very character of Italian husbandry is one to add
greatly to the rueful aspect of a day in winter: dreary fields of
maize left to rot on the tall stalks; scrubby olive-trees, in all
the deformity of their leafless existence; straggling vine branches,
stretching from tree to tree, or hanging carelessly about--all these
damp and dripping, in a scene desolate as a desert, with no inhabitants,
and no cattle to be seen.

Such was the landscape that Gerald gazed on from a window, and, weary
with reading now, stood long to contemplate.

'How little great folk care for those seasons of gloom!' thought he.
'Their indoor life has its thousand resources of luxury and enjoyment:
their palaces stored with every appliance of comfort for them--pictures,
books, music--all that can charm in converse, all that can elevate by
taste about them. What do they know of the trials of those who plod
heavily along through mire and rain, weary, footsore, and famishing?'
And Marietta rose to his mind, and he pictured her toiling drearily
along, her dress draggled, her garments dripping. He thought he could
mark how her proud look seemed to fire with indignation at an unworthy
fate, and that a feverish spot on her cheek glowed passionately at the
slavery she suffered. 'And why am I not there to share with her these
hardships?' cried he aloud. 'Is not this a coward's part in me to sit
here in indolence, and worse again, in mere dependence? I am able to
travel: I can, at least, crawl along a few miles a day; strength will
come by the effort to regain it. I will seek her through the wide
world till I find her. In her companionship alone has my heart ever met
response, and my nature been understood.'

A low, soft laugh interrupted these words. He turned, and it was the
Abbé Girardon, a friend of the Marquise de Bauffremont's, who always
accompanied her, and acted as a sort of secretary in her household.
There was a certain half-mocking subtlety, a sort of fine raillery in
the manner of the polished Abbé which Gerald always hated; and never
was he less in the humour to enjoy the society of one whom even friends
called 'malin.'

'I believed I was alone, sir,' said Gerald, half haughtily, as the other
continued to show his whole teeth in ridicule of the youth's speech.

'It was chance gave me the honour of overhearing you,' replied the Abbé,
smiling. 'I opened this door by mere accident, and without expecting to
find you here.'

Gerald's cheek grew crimson. The exceeding courtesy of the other's
manner seemed to him a studied impertinence, and he stared steadfastly
at him, without knowing how to reply.

'And yet,' resumed the Abbé, 'it was in search of you I came out from
Florence this dreary day. I had no other object, I assure you.'

'Too much honour, Monsieur,' said Gerald, with a haughty bend of the
head; for the raillery, as he deemed it, was becoming insupportable.

'Not but the tidings I bear would reward me for even a rougher journey,'
said the Abbé courteously. 'You are aware of the deep interest the
Marquise de Bauffremont has ever taken in your fortunes. To her care and
kindness you owe, indeed, all the attentions your long illness stood in
need of. Well, her only difficulty in obtaining a career for you was
her inability to learn to what rank in life to ascribe you. You believed
yourself noble, and she was most willing to accept the belief. Now, a
mere accident has tended to confirm this assumption.'

'Let me hear what you call this accident, Monsieur l'Abbé,' broke in
Gerald anxiously.

'It was an observation made yesterday at dinner by Sir Horace Mann.
In speaking of the Geraldines, and addressing Count Gherardini for
confirmation, he said: "The earldom of Desmond, which is held by a
branch of the family, is yet the youngest title of the house." And the
Count answered quickly: "Your Excellency is right; we date from a long
time back. There 's an insolent proverb in our house that says, '_Meglio
un Gherardini bastardo che un Corsini ben nato_.'" Madame de Bauffremont
caught at the phrase, and made him repeat it. In a word, Monsieur, she
was but too happy to avail herself of what aided a foregone conclusion.
She wished you to be noble, and you were so.'

'But I am noble!' cried Gerald boldly. 'I want no hazards like these
to establish my station. Let them inquire how I am enrolled in the
college.'

'Of what college do you speak?' asked the Abbé quickly.

'It matters not,' stammered out Gerald, in confusion at thus having
betrayed himself into a reference to his past. 'None have the right to
question me on these things.'

'A student enrolled with his due title,' suggested the wily Abbé,
'would at once stand independent of all generous interpretation.'

'You will learn no more from _me_, Monsieur l'Abbé,' said the youth
disdainfully. 'I shall not seek to prove a rank from which I ask to
derive no advantage. They called me t'other day, at the tribunal, a
"vagabond": that is the only title the law of Tuscany gives me.'

The Abbé, with a tact skilled to overcome far greater difficulties,
strove to allay the youth's irritation, and smooth down the asperity
which recent illness, as well as temperament, excited, and at last
succeeded so far that Gerald seated himself at his side, and listened
calmly to the plan which the Marquise had formed for his future life. At
some length, and with a degree of address that deprived the subject
of anything that could alarm the jealous susceptibility of the boy's
nature, the Abbé related that a custom prevailed in certain great houses
(whose alliances with royalty favoured the privilege) of attaching to
their household young cadets of noble families, who served in a capacity
similar to that of courtier to the person of the king. They were
'gentlemen of the presence,' pages or equerries, as their age or
pretensions decided; and, in fact, from the followers of such houses
as the De Rohan, the Noailles, the Tavannes, and the Bauffre-mont, did
royalty itself recruit its personal attendants. Monsieur de Girardon was
too shrewd a reader of character not to perceive that any description
of the splendours and fascinations of a life of voluptuous ease would
be less captivating to such a youth than a picture of a career full of
incident and adventure, and so he dwelt almost exclusively on all that
such a career could offer of high ambition, the army being chiefly
officered by the private influence of the great families of France.

'You will thus,' said he, at the close of a clever description; 'you
will thus, at the very threshold of life, enjoy what the luckiest rarely
attain till later on--the choice of what road you will take. If the
splendour of a court life attract you, you can be a courtier; if the
ambitions of statesmanship engross your mind, you are sure of office; if
you aspire to military glory, here is your shortest road to it; or if,'
said he, with a graceful melancholy, 'you can submit yourself to be a
mere guest at the banquet of life, and never a host--one whose place
at the table is assigned him, not taken by right--such, in a word, as
I am--why, then, the Abbé's frock is an easy dress, and a safe passport
besides.'

With a sort of unintentional carelessness, that seemed frankness itself,
the Abbé glided into a little narrative of his own early life, and how,
with a wide choice of a career before him, he had, half in indolence,
half in self-indulgence, adopted the gown.

'Stern thinkers call men like me mere idlers in the vineyard, drones
in the great human hive: but we are not; we have our uses just as every
other luxury. We are to society what the bouquet is to the desert; our
influence on mankind is not the less real, that its exercise attracts
little notice.'

'And what am I to be, what to do?' asked Gerald proudly.

'Imagine the Marquise de Bauffremont to be Royalty, and you are
a courtier; you are of her household, in attendance on her great
receptions; you accompany her on visits of ceremony--your rank securing
you all the deference that is accorded to birth, and admission to the
first circles in Paris.'

'Is not this service menial?' asked he quickly.

'It is not thus the world regards it. The Melcours, the Frontignards,
the Montrouilles are to be found at this moment in these ranks.'

'But they are recognised by these very names,' cried Gerald; 'but who
knows _me_, or what title do _I_ bear?'

'You will be the Chevalier de Fitzgerald; the Marquise has influence
enough at court to have the title confirmed. Believe me,' added he,
smiling blandly, 'everything has been provided for--all forethought
taken already.'

'But shall I be free to abandon this--servitude' (the word would out,
though he hesitated to utter it)--'if I find it onerous or unpleasant?
Am I under no obligation or pledge?'

'None; you are the arbiter of your own fortune at any moment you wish.'

'You smile, sir, and naturally enough, that one poor and friendless as
I am should make such conditions; but remember, my liberty is all my
wealth--so long as I have that, so long am I master of myself: free to
come and go, I am not lost to self-esteem. I accept,' and so saying, he
gave his hand to the Abbé, who pressed it cordially, in ratification of
the compact.

'You will return with me to Florence, Monsieur le Chevalier,' said the
Abbé, rising, and assuming a degree of courteous respect which Gerald at
once saw was to be his right for the future.



BOOK THE SECOND



CHAPTER I. THE 'SALLE DES GARDES'

In a large salon of the palace at Versailles, opening upon a terrace,
and with a view of the vast forest beneath it, were assembled a number
of officers, whose splendid uniforms and costly equipments proclaimed
them to be of the bodyguard of the king. They had just risen from table,
and were either enjoying their coffee in easy indolence, gathered in
little knots for conversation, or arranging themselves into parties for
play.

The most casual glance at them would have shown what it is but fair
to confess they never sought to conceal--that they were the pampered
favourites of their master. It was not alone the richness of their
embroidered dress, the boundless extravagance that all around them
displayed, but, more than even these, a certain air of haughty
pretension, the carriage and bearing of a privileged class, proclaimed
that they took their rank from the high charge that assigned them the
guard of the person of the sovereign.

When the power and sway of the monarchy suffered no check--so long as
the nation was content to be grateful for the virtues of royalty,
and indulgent to its faults--while yet the prestige of past reigns of
splendour prevailed, the 'Garde du Corps' were great favourites with
the public: their handsome appearance, the grace of their horsemanship,
their personal elegance, even their very waste and extravagance had its
meed of praise from those who felt a reflected pride from the glittering
display of the court. Already, however, signs of an approaching
change evidenced themselves: a graver tone of reprehension was used
in discussing the abandoned habits of the nobility; painfully drawn
pictures of the poor were contrasted with the boundless waste of
princely households; the flatteries that once followed every new caprice
of royal extravagance, and which imparted to the festivities of the
Trianon the gorgeous colours of a romance, were now exchanged for bare
recitals, wherein splendour had a cold and chilling lustre. If the
cloud were no bigger than a man's hand, it was charged with deadliest
lightning.

The lack of that deference which they had so long regarded as their
due, made these haughty satraps but haughtier and more insolent in their
manner toward the citizens. Every day saw the breach widen between them;
and what formerly had been oppression on one side and yielding on the
other, were now occasions of actual collision, wherein the proud soldier
was not always the victor. If the newspapers were strong on one side,
the language of society was less measured on the other. The whole tone
of conversation caught its temper from the times; and 'the bourgeois'
was ridiculed and laughed at unceasingly. The witty talker sought no
other theme; the courtly epigrammatist selected no other subject; and
even royalty itself was made to laugh at the stage exhibitions of those
whose loyalty had once, at least, been the bulwark of the monarchy.

In the spacious apartment already mentioned, and at a small table before
an open window, sat a party of three, over their wine. One was a tall,
spare, dark-complexioned man, with something Spanish in his look, the
Duc de Bourguignon, a captain in the Garde; the second was a handsome
but over-conceited-looking youth, of about twenty-two or three, the
Marquis de Maurepas. The third was Gerald, or as he was then and there
called, Le Chevalier de Fitzgerald. Though the two latter were simple
soldiers, all their equipment was as costly as that of the officer
at their side. As little was there any difference in their manner of
addressing him. Maurepas, indeed, seemed rather disposed to take the
lead in conversation, and assumed a sort of authority in all he said, to
which the Duke gave the kind of assent usually accorded to the 'talkers
by privilege.' The young Marquis had all the easy flippancy of a
practised narrator, and talked like one who rarely fell upon an
unwilling audience.

'It needs but this, Duke,' said he, after a very energetic burst of
eloquence; 'it needs but this, and our corps will be like a regiment of
the line.'

'_Parbleu!_' said the Duke, as he stroked his chin with the puzzled
air of a man who saw a difficulty, but could not imagine any means of
escape.

'I should like to know what your father or mine would have said to such
pretension,' resumed the Marquis. 'You remember what the great monarch
said to Colonna, when he asked a place for his son?--"You must ask
Honoré if he has a vacancy in the kitchen!" And right, too. Are we to be
all mixed up together! Are the employments of the State to be filled by
men whose fathers were lackeys! Is France going to reject the traditions
that have guided her for centuries?'

'To what is all this apropos, Gaston!' asked Fitzgerald calmly.

'Haven't you heard that M. Lescour has made interest with the king to
have his son appointed to the Garde?'

'And who is M. Lescour?'

'I 'll tell you what he is, which is more to the purpose: he himself
would be puzzled to say who. M. Lescour is a fermier-general--very rich,
doubtless, but of an origin the lowest.'

'And his son?'

'His son! What do I know about his son? I conclude he resembles his
father: at all events, he cannot be one of us.'

'Pardon me if I am not able to see why,' said Gerald calmly. 'There is
nothing in the station of a fermier-general that should not have opened
to his son the approach to the very highest order of education, all that
liberal means could bestow----'

'But, _mon cher_, what do we care for all that? We want good blood and
good names among our comrades; we want to know that our friendships and
our intimacies are with those whose fathers were the associates of our
fathers. Ask the Duke here, how he would fancy companionship with the
descendants of the rabble. Ask yourself, is it from such a class you
would select your bosom friends?'

'Grant all you say to be correct: is not the king himself a good judge
of those to whom he would intrust the guardianship of his person?'
interposed Gerald. 'The annals of the world have shown that loyalty and
courage are not peculiar to a class.'

'A'nt they--_parbleu!_' cried Maurepas. 'Why, those sentiments are
worthy of the Rue Montmartre. Messieurs,' added he, rising, and
addressing the others, scattered in groups through the room,
'congratulate yourselves that the enlightened opinions of the age have
penetrated the darkness of our benighted corps. Here is the Chevalier de
Fitzgerald enunciating opinions that the most advanced democracy would
be proud of.'

The company thus addressed rose from their several places and came
crowding around the table where the three were seated. Gerald knew not
very accurately the words he had just uttered, and turned from one
face to the other of those around to catch something like sympathy
or encouragement in this moment of trial, but none such was there.
Astonishment and surprise were, perhaps, the most favourable among the
expressions of those who now regarded him.

'I was telling the Duc de Bourguignon of the danger that impended
our corps,' began Maurepas, addressing the company generally. 'I was
alluding to what rumour has been threatening us with some time back,
the introduction into the Garde of men of ignoble birth. I mentioned
specifically one case, which, if carried through, dissolves for ever the
prestige of that bond that has always united us, when our comrade here
interposes and tells me that the person of his Majesty will be as safe
in the guardianship of the vile "Koturier" as in that of our best and
purest blood. I will not for an instant dispute with him as to
knowledge of the class whose merits he upholds.' A faint murmur, half
astonishment, half reproof, arose throughout the room at these words;
but Gerald never moved a muscle, but sat calm and still awaiting the
conclusion of the speech.

'I say this without offence, resumed Maurepas, who quickly saw that
he had not the sympathy of his hearers in his last sally; 'without
the slightest offence, for, in good truth, I have no acquaintanceship
outside the world of my equals. Our comrade's views are doubtless,
therefore, wider and broader; but I will also say that these used not to
be the traditions of our corps, and that not only our duty, but our very
existence, was involved in the idea that we were a noble guard.'

'Well said!' 'True!' 'Maurepas is right!' resounded through the room.

'We are, then, agreed in this,' resumed Maurepas, following up his
success with vigour; 'and there is only one among us who deems that the
blood of the plebeian is wanting to lend us chivalry and devotion.'

'Shame! shame!' cried several together, and looks of disapprobation were
now turned on Fitzgerald.

'If I have unintentionally misrepresented the Chevalier,' resumed
Maurepas, 'he is here to correct me.'

Gerald arose, his face crimson, the flush spreading over his forehead
and his temples. There was a wild energy in his glance that showed the
passion that worked within him; but though his chest heaved with high
indignation and his heart swelled, his tongue could not utter a word,
and he stood there mute and confounded.

'There, there--enough of it!' exclaimed an old officer, whose venerable
appearance imparted authority to his words. 'The Chevalier retracts, and
there is an end to it.'

'I do not. I withdraw nothing--not a syllable of what I said,' cried
Gerald wildly.

'It is far better thus, then,' cried Maurepas; 'let the corps decide
between us.'

'Decide what,' exclaimed Gerald passionately. 'Monsieur de Maurepas
would limit the courage and bravery of France to the number of those who
wear our uniform. I am disposed to believe that there are some hundreds
of thousands just as valiant and just as loyal who carry less lace on
their coats, and some even----' here he stopped confused and abashed,
when a deep voice called out--

'And some even who have no coats at all. Is it not so you would say,
Chevalier?'

'I accept the words as my own, though I did not use them,' cried Gerald
boldly.

'There is but one explanation of such opinions as these,' broke in
Maurepas; 'the Chevalier de Fitzgerald has been keeping other company
than ours of late.'

Gerald rose angrily to reply, but ere he could utter a word an arm was
slipped within his own, and a deep voice said--

'Come away from this--come to my quarters, Gerald, and let us talk over
the matter.' It was Count Dillon, the oldest captain of the corps, who
spoke, and Gerald obeyed him without a word of remonstrance.

'Don't you perceive, boy,' said the Count, as soon as they reached the
open air, 'that we Irish are in a position of no common difficulty here?
They expect us to stand by an order of nobility that we do not belong
to. To the king and the royal family you and I will be as loyal and true
as the best among them; but what do we care--what can we care--for the
feuds between noble and bourgeois? If this breach grows wider every day,
it was none of our making; as little does it concern us how to repair
it.'

'I never sought for admission into this corps,' said Gerald angrily.
'Madame de Bauffremont promised me my grade in the dragoons, and then
I should have seen service. Two squadrons of the very regiment I should
have joined are already off to America, and instead of that, I am here
to lounge away my life, less a soldier than a lackey!'

'Say nothing to disparage the Garde, young fellow, or I shall forget
we are countrymen,' said Dillon sternly; and then, as if sorry for the
severity of the rebuke, added, 'Have only a little patience, and you can
effect an exchange. It is what I have long desired myself.'

'You too, Count?' cried Gerald eagerly.

'Ay, boy. This costly life just suits my pocket as ill as its indolence
agrees with my taste. As soldiers, we can be as good men as they,
but neither you nor I have three hundred thousand livres a year, like
Maurepas or Noailles. We cannot lose ten rouleaux of Louis every evening
at ombre, and sleep soundly after; our valets do not drink Pomard at
dinner, nor leave our service rich with two years of robbery.'

'I never play,' said Gerald gravely.

'So I remarked,' continued Dillon; 'you lived like one whose means did
not warrant waste, nor whose principles permitted debt.'

By this time they had reached a small pavilion in the wood, at the door
of which a sentry was stationed.

'Here we are,' cried Dillon; 'this is my quarter: come up and see how
luxuriously a Chef d'Escadron is lodged.'

Nothing, indeed, could be more simple or less pretentious than the
apartment into which Gerald was now ushered. The furniture was of a dark
nut-wood, and the articles few and inexpensive.

'I know you are astonished at this humble home. You have heard many a
story of the luxury and splendour of the superior officers of our corps,
how they walk on Persian carpets and lounge on ottomans covered with
Oriental silks. Well, it's all true, Gerald; the only exception is this
poor quarter before you. I, too, might do like them. I might tell the
royal commissary to furnish these rooms as luxuriously as I pleased. The
civil list never questions or cavils--it only pays. Perhaps, were I a
Frenchman born, I should have little scruple about this; but, like you,
Fitzgerald, I am an alien--only a guest, no more.'

The Count, without summoning a servant, produced a bottle and glasses
from a small cupboard in the wall, and drawing a table to the window,
whence a view extended over the forest, motioned to Gerald to be seated.

'This is not the first time words have passed between you and Maurepas,'
said Dillon, after they had filled and emptied their glasses.

'It happens too frequently,' said Gerald, with warmth. 'From the day I
bought that Limousin horse of his we have never been true friends.'

'I heard as much. He thought him unrideable, and you mounted him on
parade, and that within a week.'

'But I offered to let him have the animal back when I subdued him. I
knew what ailed the horse; he wanted courage--all his supposed vice was
only fear.'

'You only made bad worse by reflecting on Maurepas's riding,' said
Dillon, smiling.

'_Par Dieu!_ I never thought of that,' broke in Fitzgerald.

'Then there was something occurred at court, wasn't there?'

'Oh, a mere trifle. He could not dance the second figure in the minuet
with the Princesse de Clèves, and the Queen called me to take his
place.'

'Worse than the affair of the horse, far worse,' muttered Dillon;
'Maurepas cannot forgive you either.'

'I shall assuredly not ask him, sir,' was the prompt rejoinder.

'And then you laughed at his Italian, didn't you? The "Nonce" said that
you caught him up in a line he had misquoted.'

'He asked me himself if he were right, and I told him he was not; but I
never laughed at his mistake.'

'They said you did, and that the Princesse de Lamballe made you repeat
the story. No matter, it was still another item in the score he owes
you.'

'I am led by these remarks of yours to suppose that you have latterly
bestowed some interest in what has befallen me, Count: am I justified in
this belief?'

'You have guessed aright, Fitzgerald. Thirty-eight years and seven
months ago I entered this service, knowing less of the world than you
do now. So little aware was I what was meant by a provocation, that I
attributed to my own deficiency in the language and my ignorance of life
what were intended as direct insults. They read me differently, and went
so far as to deliberate whether I ought not to be called on to leave
the corps. This at last aroused my indolence. I fought four of them one
morning, and three the next--two fell fatally wounded. I never got but
this--and he showed a deep scar on the wrist of his sword-arm. 'From
that time I have had no trouble.'

'And this is an ordeal I must pass also, said Gerald calmly.

'I scarcely know how it is to be avoided, nor yet complied with. The
king has declared so positively against duelling, that he who sends a
challenge must consent to forgo his career in the service.'

'But, surely, not he who only accepts a provocation?'

'That is a difficulty none seems to have answered. Many think that all
will be treated alike--the challenger and the challenged, and even the
seconds. My own opinion is different.'

'It is not impossible, then, that M. de Maurepas desired to push me to
demand satisfaction,' said Gerald slowly, for the light was beginning to
break upon his mind.

Dillon nodded in silence.

'And _you_ saw this, Count?'

Another nod was the reply.

'And, doubtless, the rest also?'

'Doubtless!' said Dillon slowly.

Fitzgerald leaned his head on his hand, and sat in deep reflection for
some time.

'This is a puzzle,' said he at last. 'I must be frank with you, Count
Dillon. Madame de Bauffremont cautioned me, on my entrance into the
corps, against whatever might involve me in any quarrel. There are
circumstances, family circumstances, which might provoke publicity, and
be painful--so, at least, she said--to others, whose fame and happiness
should be dearer to me than my own. Now, I know nothing of these. I only
know that there are no ties nor obligations which impose the necessity
of bearing insult. If you tell me, then, that Maurepas seeks a quarrel
with me, that he has been carrying a grudge against me for weeks back,
I will ask of you--and, as my countryman, you 'll not refuse me--to call
on him for satisfaction.'

'It can't be helped,' said Dillon, speaking to himself.

'Why should it be helped?' rejoined Gerald, overhearing him.

'And then, Maurepas is the very man to do it,' muttered the Count again.
Then lifting his head suddenly, he said: 'The Marquise de Bauffremont
is at Paris, I believe. I 'll set off there to-night; meanwhile do you
remain where you are. Promise me this; for it is above all essential
that you should take no step till I return.'



CHAPTER II. A NIGHT ON DUTY

Scarcely had the Count set out for Paris when Gerald remembered that it
was his night for duty, he was _de service_ in the antechamber of the
king, and had but time to hasten to his quarters and equip himself in
full uniform. When he reached the foot of the grand staircase he found
several dismounted dragoons, splashed and travel-stained, the centres of
little groups, all eagerly questioning and listening to them. They had
arrived in hot haste from Paris, where a tremendous revolt had broken
out. Some said the Prince of Lambesi's regiment, the 'Royal Allemand,'
were cut to pieces; others, that the military were capitulating
everywhere; and one averred that when he passed the barrier the Bastille
had just fallen. While the veterans of the Swiss Guard and the household
troops conversed in low and anxious whispers together, exchanging
gloomy forebodings of what was to come, the two or three courtiers whom
curiosity had attracted to the spot spoke in tones of contempt and scorn
of the mob.

'They are shedding their blood freely, though, I assure you,' said a
young sous-lieutenant, whose arm was in a sling. 'The fellow who smashed
my wrist had his face laid open by a sabre-cut, but seemed never to heed
it in the least.'

'Have you despatches, Monsieur de Serrans?' asked a very
daintily-dressed and soft-voiced gentleman, with a wand of office as
chamberlain.

'No, Monsieur le Marquis. I have a verbal message for his Majesty from
the Duc de Bassompierre, and I crave an early audience.'

'His Majesty is going to supper,' replied the chamberlain. 'I will try
and obtain admission for you to-morrow.'

'The Duc's orders were very pressing, Monsieur le Marquis. He was
retiring for want of reinforcements, but would still hold his ground if
his Majesty ordered it.'

'I regret it infinitely, but what is to be done, Monsieur?' said the
other, with a slight shrug of the shoulders.

'At the hazard of spoiling his Majesty's appetite, I 'd like to see him
at once, Monsieur de Brezé,' said the officer boldly.

The polished courtier turned a look of half astonishment, half rebuke,
on the soldier, and tripped up the stairs without a word.

'I am _de service_, sir,' whispered Gerald to the young officer. 'Could
I possibly be of any use to you?'

'I am afraid not,' replied the other courteously. 'I have a message to
be delivered to his Majesty's own ear, and the answer to which I was to
carry to my general. What I have just mentioned to M. de Brezé was not
of the importance of that with which I am charged.'

'And will it be too late to-morrow?'

'To-morrow! I ought to have been half-way back toward Paris already.
You don't know that a battle is raging there, and fifty thousand men are
engaged in deadly conflict.'

'The king _must_ hear of it,' said Gerald, as he mounted the stairs.

Very different was the scene in the splendid salons from that which
presented itself below. Groups of richly attired ladies and followers
of the court were conversing in all the easy gaiety their pleasant lives
suggested. Of the rumours from the capital they made matter of jest and
raillery; they ridiculed the absurd pretensions of the popular leaders,
and treated the rising as something too contemptible for grave remark.
As Gerald drew nigh, he saw, or fancied he saw, a sort of coldness in
the manner of those around. The conversation changed from its tone of
light flippancy to one of more guarded and more commonplace meaning. It
was no longer doubtful to him that the story of his late altercation
had got abroad, with, not impossibly, very exaggerated accounts of the
opinions he professed. Indeed, the remark of an old Maréchal du Palais
caught his ear as he passed, while the sidelong glances of the hearers
told that it was intended for himself--'It is too bad to find the
sentiments of the Breton Club from the lips of a Garde du Corps.'

It was all that Gerald could do to restrain the impulse that urged him
to confront the speaker, and ask him directly if the words were applied
to _him_, The decorous etiquette of the spot, the rigid observance of
all that respect that surrounds the vicinity of a king, checked his
purpose, and, having satisfied himself that he should know the speaker
again, he moved on. It was on the stroke of ten, the hour that he was
to relieve the soldier on guard, a duty which, in the etiquette of the
Garde du Corps, was always performed by the relief appearing at the
proper moment, without the usual military ceremony of a guard.

Alone at last, in that vast chamber where he had passed many an hour of
sentinel's watch, Gerald had time to compose his thoughts, and calm down
the passionate impulses that swayed him. He walked for above an hour his
weary round, stopping at times to gaze on the splendid tapestries which,
on the walls, represented certain incidents of the _Æneid_. The faint,
far-away sounds of the band, which performed during the supper of the
king, occasionally met his ear, and he could not help contrasting the
scene which they accompanied with the wild and terrible incidents then
going forward at Paris. His mind ever balanced and vacillated between
two opinions. Were they right who maintained the supremacy of the royal
cause, and the inviolability of that princely state whose splendours
were such a shock to misery! Or had the grievances of the people a real
ground--were there great wrongs to be redressed, cruel inequalities to
be at least compromised? How much had he listened to on either side?
What instincts and prejudices were urged for this! what strength of
argument enlisted to support that! And he himself, what a position
was his!--one of a corps whose very boast it was to reject all save of
ancient lineage! What could he adduce as his claim to high descent? If
they questioned him to-morrow, how should he reply? What meant his title
of Chevalier? might he not be arraigned as a pretender, a mere impostor
for assuming it? If the Count Dillon decided that he should challenge
Maurepas, might not his claim to gentle blood be litigated? And what a
history should he give if asked for the story of his life! From these
thoughts he rambled on to others, scarcely less depressing: the cause of
the king, of the very monarchy itself. Bold as the pretensions, high
as the language was of those about the court, the members of the royal
family exhibited the most intense anxiety. Within view of the palace
windows, in that same week, tumultuous assemblages had taken place,
and thousands of men passed in solemn procession to the place where the
'States General' had appointed for their meeting. The menacing gestures,
the wild and passionate words, all so unlike what formerly had marked
such demonstrations, were terribly significant of the change that had
come over public opinion. Over and over had Gabriel predicted all this
to him. Again and again had he impressed upon him that a time was coming
when the hard evils of poverty would arouse men to ask the terrible
question, Why are we in wretchedness while others revel in excess?' On
that day, and coming it is,' said he, 'all the brain-spun theories of
statecraft will be thrown aside like rubbish, and they alone will be
listened to who are men of action.' Was this dark prophecy now drawing
nigh to accomplishment? were these the signs of that dread consummation?
Gabriel had told him that the insane folly and confidence of those about
the court would be the greatest peril of the monarchy. 'Mark my words,'
said he, 'it will be all insolence and contempt at first, abject terror
and mean concession after.' Was not the conduct of De Brezé a very type
of the former? he had not even a word of passing courtesy for the brave
fellow who wounded and exhausted, stood there waiting like a lackey.

Gerald was startled by the sudden opening of a door; and, as he turned,
he saw a figure which he speedily recognised as the brother of the king,
or, as he was called in court phrase, 'Monsieur.'

'Are you Maurice de Courcel' asked he, addressing Gerald hastily.

'No, Monseigneur; I am Fitzgerald.'

'Where is De Courcel, can you tell me?'

'He went on leave this morning, Monseigneur, to shoot in the forest
of Soissons.'

'_Peste!_' muttered he angrily. 'Methinks you gentlemen of the Garde du
Corps have little other idea of duty than in plotting how to evade it.
It was De Courcel's night of duty, was it not?'

'Yes, sir; I took it in his place.'

'Who relieves you?'

'The Chevalier de Monteroue, sir.'

'You are l'Écossais--at least they call you so, eh?'

'Yes, Monseigneur, they call me so,' said Gerald, flushing.

The Prince hesitated, turned to speak, and then moved away again. It
was evident that he laboured under some irresolution that he could not
master.

Resolved not to lose an opportunity so little likely to recur, Gerald
advanced toward him, and, with an air of deep respect, said: 'If I might
dare to approach your Royal Highness on such a pretext, I would say
that some tidings of deepest moment have been brought this evening by an
officer from Paris, charged to deliver them to the king; and that he yet
waits unable to see his Majesty.'

'How--what--why has he not sent up his despatches?'

'He had none, sir; he was the bearer of a verbal message from the Duc de
Bassompierre.'

'Impossible, sir; none could have dared to assume this responsibility.
Who told you this story?'

'I was present, sir, when the officer arrived--spoke with him--and heard
M. de Brezé say, "You can, perhaps, have an audience to-morrow."'

'He deserves the Bastille for this!'

'He would have deserved it, sir, yesterday.' 'How do you mean, sir?'

'That there is no Bastille to-day. The officer I mentioned saw it
carried by the populace as he left Paris: the garrison are all cut to
pieces.'

With something like a cry of agony, half-smothered by an effort, the
Prince hurried from the room.

While the clock was yet striking, the sentinel in relief arrived, and
Gerald was released from duty. As he wended his way along through room
after room, he was struck by the air of silence and desertion around;
nowhere were to be seen the groups of lounging courtiers and 'officiers
de service.' A few inferior members of the household rose and saluted
him, and even they wore something ominous and sad in their look, as
though evil tidings were abroad.

A light, soft rain was falling as Gerald left the palace toward the
pavilion, where Count Dillon's quarters were established. He knew it
was impossible that the Count could yet have returned from Paris, but
somehow he found himself repairing to the spot without well knowing why.

As he drew nigh he perceived a light in the little salon, and could
distinguish the figure of a man writing at the table. Curious to learn
if the Count had unexpectedly turned back, Gerald opened the door and
entered. The person at the table turned quickly about, and to his utter
confusion Gerald saw it was Monsieur.

'Come in, come in; you will, perhaps, spare me some writing.' cried
he, in an easy, familiar tone: 'you may indeed read what I have just
written.' and so saying he handed him a paper with these lines:

'Dear Count Dillon,--Give me the earliest and fullest information with
respect to a young countryman of yours, Fitzgerald, called "L'Écossais."
May we employ him on a mission of secrecy and importance? It is of
consequence--that is, it were far better--that the person intrusted with
our commands were not a Frenchman----'

The Prince had but written so much as Gerald entered, and he now sat
calmly watching the effect produced upon the young soldier as he read
it.

'Am I to answer for myself, 'Monseigneur,' said he modestly.

'It is exactly what I intended,' was the calm reply.

'I can pledge for my fidelity and devotion, sir, but not for any skill
or ability to execute your orders.'

'They will require little beyond speed and exactitude. You know Paris
well?'

'Perfectly, sir.'

'At the Rue de Turenne there is a small street called l'Avenue aux
Abois--do you know it?--well, the second or third house, I am not sure
which, is inhabited by a gentleman called the Count Mirabeau.'

'He who spoke so lately at the Assembly?'

'The same. You will see him, and induce him to repair with you to St.
Cloud. Haste is everything. If your mission speed well, you can be at
St. Cloud by noon to-morrow. It is possible that the Count may distrust
your authority to make this appointment, for I dare not give you
anything in writing; you will then show him this ring, which he will
recognise as mine. Spare no entreaties to accomplish the object, nor, so
far as you are able, permit anything to thwart it. Let nothing that you
see or hear divert you from your purpose. Pay no attention to the events
at Paris, whatever they be. You have one object--only one--that Count
Mirabeau reach the Château de St. Cloud by the earliest moment possible,
and in secrecy. Remember that, sir--in secrecy.'

'I cannot wear my uniform,' began Gerald.

'Of course not, nor suffer any trace of powder to remain in your hair.
I will send you clothes which will disguise you perfectly; and, if
questioned, you can call yourself a peasant on the estate of the
Mirabeaus, come up from Provence to see the Count. You must stain your
hands, and be particular about every detail of your behaviour. There is
but one thing more,' said he, after a moment's reflection; 'if Monsieur
de Mirabeau refuse, if he even seek to defer the interview I seek
for--but he will not, he dare not.'

'Still, Monseigneur, let me be provided for every emergency
possible--what if he should refuse?'

'You will be armed, you will have your pistols--but no, no, under
no circumstances,' muttered he below his breath. 'There will be then
nothing for you to do, but to hasten back to me with the tidings.'
Monsieur arose as he said these words, and stood in apparently deep
thought. 'I believe,' said he at last, 'that I have not forgotten
anything. Ah, it were well to take one of the remount horses that are
not branded--I will look to that.'

'If the Count should be from home, am I to seek for him elsewhere, sir?'

'That will depend upon your own address; if you are satisfied that you
can defy detection. I leave all to yourself, Chevalier. It is a great
and a holy cause you serve, and no words of mine can add to what your
own heart will teach you. Only remember, that hours are like weeks, and
time is everything.'

Gerald kissed the hand that Monsieur extended to him; and lighting him
down the little stairs, saw him take his way across the park.



CHAPTER III. THE MISSION

The day had not yet dawned when Gerald, admirably disguised as a
Provençal peasant, arrived at the Avenue aux Abois. The night had been
hot and sultry, and many of the windows of the houses were left open;
but from none save one were any lights seen to gleam. This one was
brilliant with the glare of wax-lights; and the sounds of merriment from
within showed it was the scene of some festivity. Light muslin curtains
filled the spaces of the open casements, through which at moments the
shadowy traces of figures could be detected.

While Gerald stood watching, with some curiosity, this strange contrast
to the unbroken silence around, a rich deep voice caught his ear, and
seemed to awaken within him some singular memory. Where, and when, and
how he had heard it before, he knew not; but every accent and every tone
struck him as well known.

'No, no, Mirabeau,' broke in another; 'when men throw down their houses,
it is not to rebuild them with the old material.'

'I did not speak of throwing down,' interposed the same deep voice; 'I
suggested some safe and easy alteration. I would have the doors larger,
for easy access; the windows wider, for more light.'

'And more wood, generally, in the construction, for easy burning, I
hope,' chimed in a third.

'Make your best provisions for stability: destruction will always be a
simple task,' cried the deep voice. 'You talk of burning,' cried he,
in a louder tone; 'what do you mean to do when your fire goes out?
materials must fail you at last. What then? You will have heaped many
a good and useful thing upon that pile you will live to regret the loss
of. What will you do, besides, with those you have taught to dance round
these bonfires?'

'Langeac says it is an experiment we are trying,' replied another; 'and,
for my part, I am satisfied to accept it as such.'

'Nay, nay,' interposed a soft, low voice; 'I said that untried elements
in government are an experiment only warrantable in extreme cases;
just as the physician essays even a dangerous remedy, when he deems his
patient hopeless.'

'But it's your own quackeries here have made all the mischief,' broke
in the deep voice. 'If the sick man sink, it is yourselves have been the
cause.'

'Was there ever a royal cause that had not its own fatal influences?'
said another.

'There is an absurd reliance on prestige, a trust in that phantom called
Divine right, that blinds men against their better reason. This holiday
faith is but a sorry creed in times of trouble.'

'Far from this being the case,' said the deep voice, 'you will not
concede to kings what you would freely grant to your equals. You reject
their word, you distrust their oath, you prejudge their intentions, and
suspect their honour.'

'Why, Mirabeau, you ought to be at Versailles,' said another, laughing.
'The pavilion of the Queen is more your place than the table of the
Tiers-État.'

'So thinks he himself,' broke in the low voice. 'He expects to pilot the
wreck after we have gone off on the raft.'

'Four o'clock,' exclaimed another, pushing his chair hastily back as he
arose; 'and here is D'Entraigues fast asleep these two hours.'

'No, _parbleu!_ muttered a drowsy voice. 'I closed my eyes when the
Bordeaux was finished, and began to reflect on Lafayette's breakfast.
Isn't this the day?'

'To be sure. You are coming, Mirabeau?'

'Of course, we will all be there.'

'I must be at St. Frotin by seven o'clock,' said one.

'And I have to see Marigni at the mill of Montmorency, by the same
hour.'

'A duel?'

'Yes; they are both Vendéans, and may kill each other without damage to
the State.'

'He was going to say Republic!' cried another, laughing.

'Who talks of a Republic?' interposed a rough voice angrily.

'Be calm, messieurs--all religions are to be respected,'

'True, Mirabeau; but this is to proclaim none.'

'Who knows? They never excavate near Rome but they discover some
long-forgotten deity! Can you or I venture to say what new faith may not
arise out of these ashes?'

'Let it but repudiate the law of debt and discountenance marriage,' said
another, 'and I am its first convert.'

'Good-bye, Mirabeau, adieu,' cried several together, and they were now
heard descending the stairs. Meanwhile, Mirabeau drew back the curtain
and looked out upon the street.

'Whom have we got here?' said the first who issued forth from the door,
and saw Gerald standing before him.

'What is it? who does he want?' cried Mirabeau, as he saw them in
conversation.

'One of your peasants, Mirabeau, with, doubtless, a Provencal cheese and
some olives for you.'

'Or a letter of loving tidings from that dear uncle,' cried another;
'the only one who ever knew the real goodness of your nature.'

'Let him come up,' said Mirabeau, as he closed the window.

When Gerald reached the top of the stair, he saw in front of him a
large, powerfully-built man, who, standing with his back to the light,
had his features in deep shadow.

'You are the Count de Mirabeau?' began Gerald.

'And you--who are you?' responded he quickly.

'That you shall know, when I am certain of whom I am addressing/

'Come in,' said the Count, and walked before him into the room. He
turned about just as the door closed, and Gerald, fixing his eyes upon
him, cried out, 'Good heavens! is it possible? Signor Gabriel!'

'Now for your own name, my friend,' said Mirabeau calmly.

'Don't you know me, then? don't you remember the boy you saved years ago
from death in the Roman Maremma--Fitzgerald?'

'What!' said Mirabeau, in the same calm voice, 'you Fitzgerald? I should
never have recognised you.'

'And are you really the Count de Mirabeau?'

'Gabriel Riquetti, Count de Mirabeau, is my name,' replied he slowly.
'How did you find me out? What chance led you here?'

'No chance, nor accident. I have come expressly to see and speak with
you. I am a Garde du Corps, and have assumed this disguise to gain
access to you unremarked.'

'A Garde du Corps!' said the Count, in some surprise.

'Yes, Signor Gabriel. My life has had its turns of good and ill fortune
since we parted--the best being that I serve a great prince and a kind
master.'

'Well said, but not over-prudent words to utter in the Faubourg St.
Antoine,' rejoined the Count, smiling. 'Go on.'

'I have come with a message from Monsieur, to desire you will hasten
immediately to St. Cloud, where he will meet you. Secrecy and speed are
both essential, for which reasons he intrusted me with a mere verbal
message, but to secure me your confidence he gave me this ring.'

Mirabeau smiled, and with such a scoffing significance that Gerald
stopped, unable to proceed further.

'And then?' said Mirabeau.

'I have no more to add, Monsieur,' said Gerald haughtily. 'My commission
is fulfilled already.'

'Take some wine; you are heated with your long ride,' said the Count,
filling out a large goblet, while he motioned to Gerald to be seated.

'Nay, sir; it is not of _me_ there is time to think now. Pray, let me
have your answer to my message, for Monsieur told me, if I either failed
to find you, or from any casualty you were unable to repair to St.
Cloud, that I should come back with all speed to apprise him, my not
returning being the sign that all went well.'

'All went well,' muttered Mirabeau to himself. 'How could it go worse?'

Gerald sat gazing in wonderment at the massive, stern features before
him, calling up all that he could remember of their first meeting,
and scarcely able, even yet to persuade himself that he had been the
companion of that great Count de Mirabeau whose fame filled all France.

'In the event of my compliance, you were then to accompany me to St.
Cloud?' said the Count, in a tone of inquiry.

'Yes, sir; so I understood my orders.'

'There is mention in history of a certain Duc de Guise----'

He stopped short, and walked to and fro for some time in silence; then,
turning abruptly around, he asked: 'How came it that you stood so high
in Monsieur's confidence that he selected you for this mission?'

'By mere accident,' said Gerald, and he recounted how the incident had
occurred.

'And your horse--what has become of him?' asked the Count.

'He is fastened to the ring of the large _porte cochère_--the third
house from this.'

Mirabeau leaned out of the window as if to satisfy himself that this
statement was true.

'Supposing, then, that I agree to your request, what means have you to
convey me to St. Cloud?--what preparations are made?'

'None, sir. There was no time for preparation. It was, as I have told
you, late last night when Monsieur gave me this order. It was in the
briefest of words.'

'"Tell Monsieur de Mirabeau that his Majesty would speak with him,"'
said the Count, suggesting to Gerald's memory the tenor of his message.

'No, sir. "Tell Monsieur de Mirabeau to hasten to St. Cloud, where I
will meet him."'

'How did you become a noble guard?' asked he quickly. 'They say abroad
that the difficulties to admission are great?'

'I owe my admission to the favour of Madame de Bauflremont, sir.'

'A great patron, none more so. She would have befriended me once,' added
he, with an insolent sneer, 'but that my ugliness displeased the Queen.
Since that time, however, her Majesty has condescended to accustom
herself to these harsh features, and even smiles benignly on them. There
is little time to criticise the visage of your pilot, while the breakers
are before and the rocks beside you. I will go, Gerald. Give me that
ring.'

Gerald hesitated for a second; the Prince had not bestowed the ring on
him, but only confided it to his care.

'I will not compromise you, young man,' said Mirabeau gravely: 'I will
simply enclose that ring in a letter which you shall see, when I have
written it,' and he immediately sat down to a table, and in a rapid hand
dashed off some lines, which he threw across to Gerald to read. They ran
thus:

'Dear Friend and Nephew,--I am summoned to a meeting at St. Cloud, by
the owner of the ring which I enclose. If I do not return to Paris by
noon on Saturday, it is because ill has befallen yours,

'Gabriel Riquetti, Count de Mirabeau.

'To Mons. du Saillant, Rue d'Ascour, 170. 'Friday, 3 a.m,'

'There is the ring,' said Gerald, as he took it from his finger.

Mirabeau sealed the note, enclosing it in a strong envelope, and placing
it on the table among other letters, ready sealed and addressed.

'You will carry this letter to its address, Gerald, and you will remain
there till--till my return.'

'I understand,' said Gerald; 'I am a hostage.'

'_You_ a hostage for _me_!' cried the other haughtily. 'Do you fancy,
young man, that the whole corps you belong to could requite the loss
of Gabriel Riquetti? Would the Court--would the Assembly--would France
accept such a price? Go, sir, and tell Monsieur du Saillant that if any
evil befall his uncle, he is to make use of you as the clue to trace it,
and be sure that you discharge this trust well.'

'And if I refuse this mission?'

'If you refuse, you shall bear back to Monseigneur the reasons for which
I have not obeyed his commands,' said Mirabeau coldly. 'Methought you
remembered me better. I had fancied you knew me as one who had such
confidence in himself, that he believed his own counsels the wisest, and
who never turned from them. There is the letter--yes or no?'

'Yes--I will take it.'

'I will, with your leave, avail myself of your horse till I pass the
barrier. You can meanwhile take some rest here. You will be early enough
with Du Saillant by eight o'clock,' and with this the Count withdrew
into a room adjoining to complete his preparations for the road. While
thus occupied, he left the door partly open, and continued to converse
with Gerald, asking him various questions as to what had befallen him
after having quitted the Tana, and eagerly entering into the strange
vicissitudes of his life as a stroller.

'I met your poet, I think it was at Milan. We were rivals at the time,
and I the victor. A double insult to him, since he hated France and
Frenchmen,' said the Count carelessly. 'There was a story of his having
cut the fingers of his right hand to the bone with a razor, to prevent
his assassinating me. What strange stuff your men of imagination are
made of--ordinary good sense had reserved the razor for the enemy!'

'His is a great and noble nature,' exclaimed Gerald enthusiastically.

'So much the better, then, is it exercised upon fiction: real events and
real men are sore tests to such temperaments. There, I am ready now; one
glass to our next meeting, and good-bye.'

With a hearty shake-hands they parted, and as Gerald looked from the
window, he saw the Count ride slowly down the street. Closing the
window, he threw himself upon a couch and slept soundly.



CHAPTER IV. A SALON UNDER THE MONARCHY

Long after the events which heralded the great Revolution in France had
assumed proportions of ominous magnitude, after even great reverses to
the cause of monarchy, the nobles, whether from motives of hardihood
or from downright ignorance of the peril, continued to display in their
equipages, their mode of living, and their costly retinues, an amount of
splendour terribly in contrast with the privations of the people.

Many of the old families deemed it a point of honour to abate nothing of
the haughty pretensions they had exhibited for centuries; and treating
the widespread discontent as a mere passing irritation, they scoffed
at the fears of those who would regard it as of any moment. Indeed, to
their eyes, the only danger lay in the weak, submissive policy of the
court--a line of action based on the gentle and tender qualities of the
king's own nature, which made him prefer an injury to his own influence,
to even the slightest attack on those who assailed him. Truthfully
or not, it is somewhat hard to say, a certain section of the nobles
asserted that the Queen was very differently minded; that she not only
took a just measure of the difficulty, but saw how it was to be met and
combated. Far from any paltering with the men of the movement, it was
alleged that she would at once have counselled force, and, throwing the
weight of the royal cause upon the loyalty of the army, have risked the
issue without a fear. Around Marie Antoinette were, therefore, grouped
those who took the highest ground in the cause of monarchy, and who
resisted almost the bare thought of what savoured of compromise or
concession.

Among those who were conspicuous for adherence to these opinions,
was the Marquise de Bauffremont. To high rank, a large fortune, no
inconsiderable share of court favour, she added a passion for everything
like political intrigue. She was one of a school--of which some
disciples have been seen in our own day--who deem that there are
questions of statecraft too fine and too delicate for the rough handling
of men, and where the finer touch of woman is essentially needed. So far
as matters of policy are moulded by the tempers of those who treat
them, and so far as it is of moment to appreciate finer traits
of character--to trace their origin, their leanings and their
sympathies--there is no doubt that the quicker and more subtle instincts
of a woman have an immense advantage over the less painstaking and less
minute habits of a manly mind. If the Marquise did not inaugurate this
school, she gave a great development to its principles, and, assuredly,
she practised her art at a period when its resources were to be
submitted to the severest of all tests. Her spacious 'hotel' in the
Place Louis Quinze was the centre of all those who assumed to be
the last bulwark of the monarchy, and there might be found the
Rochejaquelins, the Noailles, the Tavannes, the Valmys, and a host of
others not less distinguished, while the ministers and envoys of various
foreign courts resorted to these salons as the most authentic source of
news to be transmitted to their governments. Partly from predilection,
partly from that policy which affected to despise popular dictation,
these receptions were conducted with considerable display and
ostentation, and all that costly luxury and expense could impart lent
its aid to give them an air of almost princely state. For a while there
was a pretence of treating the passing events as incidents too slight
and too vulgar for notice, but after a time this affectation gave way to
another scarcely less absurd: of alluding to them in a tone of scoff
and derision, ridiculing those who were their chief actors, and actually
making them subjects of witty pasquinade and caricature. As each new
actor on the popular scene appeared, he was certain to be the mark of
their insulting comments; and traits of low origin, and vulgarity of
manner, were dwelt on with a significance that showed how contemptuously
they regarded all whose condition was beneath their own. How little
did they suspect, as they mocked Rabaut St. Etienne, Petion, and
Robespierre, that this 'ill-dressed and ill-mannered crew'--these 'noisy
screamers of vapid nonsense'--these 'men of sinister aspect and ignoble
look,' would one day become the scourge of their order, and the masters
of France! So far was this thought from all their speculation, that
their indignation knew no bounds in discussing those who admitted this
_canaille_ to anything like consideration; and thus the Bishop of Autun
and Lafayette were the constant subjects of sarcasm and attack.

'What do they want, Madame la Marquise!' exclaimed the old Marquis de
Ribaupierre, as he stood, one evening, the centre of a group eagerly
discussing the views and objects of these innovators. 'I ask, what do
they want? It cannot be the destruction of the _noblesse_, for they are
noble. It cannot be the extinction of property, for they are rich. It
cannot be--surely it cannot be--that they believe the monarchy would be
more faithfully guarded by a rabble than by the best chivalry of France.
If Monseigneur Maurice Talleyrand were here now, I would simply ask
him----'

The door opened as he uttered these words, and a servant, in a loud
voice, announced, 'Monseigneur the Bishop of Autun.'

Small of stature and lame, there was yet in the massive head, the broad
full brow, and the large orbits of the eyes, a certain command and
dignity that marked him for no ordinary man; and, though the suddenness
of his entrance at this moment had created a sensation, half painful,
half ludicrous, there was a calm self-possession in his manner, as he
advanced to kiss the hand of the Marquise, that quickly changed the
feeling for one of deference and respect.

'I was fortunate enough to be the subject of discussion as I came into
the room--will my esteemed friend the Marquis de Ribaupierre inform me
to what I owe this honour?'

'Rather let me become the interpreter,' broke in the Marquise, who saw
the speechless misery that now covered the old Marquis's countenance.
'Distressed at the length of time that had elapsed since we saw you
among us here--grieved at what we could not but imagine a desertion of
us--pained, above all, Monseigneur, by indications that you had
sought and found friends in other ranks than those of your own high
station----'

'A bishop, Madame la Marquise--forgive my interruption--a bishop only
knows mankind as his brethren.' There was a malignant twinkle in his eye
as he spoke, that deprived the sentiment of all its charitable meaning.

'Fortune has been very unkind to you in certain members of your family,
Monseigneur,' said the Count de Noailles tartly.

'Younger branches, somewhat ill-cared-for and neglected,' said
Talleyrand dryly.

'Nay, Monseigneur, your Christian charity goes too far and too fast,'
said De Noailles. 'Our lackeys were never called our _frères cadets_
before.'

'What a charming dress, Madame de Langeac!' said the bishop, touching
a fold of the rich silk with a veneration he might have bestowed on a
sacred relic.

'The favourite colour of the Queen, Monseigneur,' said she pointedly.

'Lilac is the emblem of hope; her Majesty is right to adopt it,' was the
quick response.

'Is that like Monsieur de Mirabeau, Monseigneur?' said the Duc de Valmy,
as he handed a coarse engraving to the bishop.

'There is a certain resemblance, unquestionably. It is about as like
him--as--as--what shall I say--as the general estimate of the man is to
the vast resources of his immense intelligence!'

'Immense intelligence!' exclaimed the Marquise de Bauf-fremont. 'I could
more readily believe in his immense profligacy.'

'You might assent to both, Madame, and yet make no great mistake, save
only that the one is passing away, the other coming,' said Talleyrand
courteously.

'Which is the rising, which the setting sun, Monseigneur?' said De
Valmy.

'I sincerely trust it may not shock this distinguished company if I say
that it is the dawn of intellect, and the last night of incapacity,
we are now witnessing. You have heard that this gentleman has seen the
king?'

'Mirabeau been received by his Majesty!' 'Mirabeau admitted to the
presence!' exclaimed three or four, in tones of utter incredulity.

'I can be positive as to the fact,' resumed the bishop. 'I can be even
more--I can tell this honourable company what passed at the interview.
It was, then, last night--(thank you, Monsieur le Duc, I accept your
chair, since it allows me a more convenient spot to speak from)--it was
last night, at a late hour, that a messenger arrived at the Avenue
aux Abois with an order--I suppose it is etiquette I should call it
order--for Monsieur de Mirabeau to hasten to St. Cloud, where the king
desired to confer with him.'

'I 'll never believe it!' cried the Marquis de Ribaupierre impetuously.

'If I had the happiness of being confessor to the Marquis, I would
enjoin an extension of faith--particularly in the times we live in, said
Talleyrand, with a dry humour in his look. 'At all events, it is as
I have the honour to acquaint you. Monsieur de Mirabeau received this
message and obeyed it.'

'Par St. Louis, I can believe he obeyed it!' exclaimed the Duc de Valmy.

'And yet, Monsieur,' said the bishop, 'it was not till after very
grave reflection the Count de Mirabeau determined to accept that same
invitation.'

'Ah, Monseigneur, you would presume upon our credulity,' broke in De
Valmy.

'Far from it, Duc; I cherish every crumb of faith that falls from a
table so scantily dressed; but once more I repeat, the Count de Mirabeau
weighed well the perils on either side, and then decided on accepting
those which attached to the court.'

'The perils which attached to the court!' cried the Marquis de Langeac
scoflingly. 'Monseigneur doubtless alludes to all the seductive
temptations that would assail the cold, impassive temperament of his
friend.'

'My friend! I accept the phrase, and wish it might be mutually
acknowledged. My friend has little to boast of on the score of
impassiveness, nor would the quality stand him in great stead just now.
What the king wants he has got, however.'

'And pray what may that be, Monseigneur?'

'I will tell you, Monsieur: great promptitude, great eloquence, great
foresight, and, better than all these, great contempt for a pretentious
class, whose vanity would lead them to believe that a wound to
themselves must be the death-blow to the monarchy. Now, sir, Monsieur
de Mirabeau has these gifts, and by their influence he has persuaded the
king to accept his services----'

'Oh, Monseigneur, if any one has dared to make you the subject of a
mystification!'

'I have been the subject of many, my dear Marquis, and may live to
be the subject of more,' said the bishop, with great suavity and
good-humour; 'but I see I must not presume upon my credit with this
honourable company.' Then, changing his tone quickly, he added: 'Can
any one give me information about a young Garde du Corps called
Fitzgerald--Gerald Fitzgerald?'

'I believe I am the only one he is known to,' said Madame de
Bauffremont.

'As, next to the honour of offering you my homage, Madame la Marquise,
that was the reason of my coming here this evening, may I trespass upon
you to give me a few minutes alone?'

Madame de Bauffremont arose, and, taking the bishop's arm, retired into
a small room adjoining, and closed the door.

'Who is this Chevalier de Fitzgerald, Madame?' said he abruptly.

'I can give you very little insight into his history,' replied the
Marquise; 'but dare I presume to ask how are you interested about him?'

'You shall hear, Madame la Marquise. About six or eight months back, the
Queen's almoner, l'Abbé Jostinard, forwarded, of course by order of her
Majesty, certain names of individuals in the royal household to Rome,
imploring on their behalf the benediction of the Holy Father--a
very laudable measure, not unfrequent in former reigns, but somehow
lamentably fallen into disuse.' There was a strange, quaint expression
in his eye as he uttered these last words, which did not escape the
attention of the Marquise. 'Among these,' resumed he, 'there was
included the Chevalier de Fitzgerald. Now, Madame, you are well aware
that His Holiness takes especial pains to know that the recipients of
the holy favour are persons worthy, by their lives and habits, of
this precious blessing: while, therefore, for each of the others so
recommended there were friends and relatives in abundance to vouch--the
Rochemards, the Guesclins, the Tresignés can always find sufficient
bail--this poor Chevalier stood friendless and alone, none to answer
for, none to acknowledge him. Now, Madame, this might seem bad enough,
but it was not all, for, not satisfied with excluding him from the
sacred benediction, the consulta began speculating who and what he might
be, whence he came, and so on. The most absurd conjectures, the wildest
speculations, grew out of these researches: some tracing him to this,
others to that origin, but all agreeing that he belonged to that
marvellous order whom people are pleased to call adventurers. In the
midst of this controversy distinguished names became entangled, some one
would have said too high for the breath of scandal to attain--your own,
Madame la Marquise----'

'Mine! how mine?' cried she eagerly.

'A romantic story of a sojourn in a remote villa in the Apennines--a
tale positively interesting of a youth rescued from brigands or
Bohemians, I forget which--pray assist me.'

'Continue, sir,' said the Marquise, whose compressed lips and sparkling
eyes denoted the anger she could barely control.

'I am a most inadequate narrator, Madame--in fact, I am not sure that I
should have lent much attention to this story at all if the Queen's name
and your own had not been interwoven with it.'

'And how the Queen's, sir _I_?' cried she haughtily.

'Ah, Madame la Marquise, ask yourself how, in this terrible time in
which we live, the purest and the best are sullied by the stain of that
calumny the world sows broadcast! Is it not a feature of our age that
none can claim privilege nor immunity? Popular orators have no more
fertile theme than when showing that station, rank, high duties, even
holy cares are all maintained by creatures of mere flesh and blood,
inheritors of human frailties, heirs of mortal weakness. Cardinals have
lived whose hearts have known ambition--empresses have felt even love.'

'Monseigneur, this is enough,' said the Marquise, rising, and darting at
him a look of haughty indignation.

'Not altogether, Madame,' said he calmly, motioning her to be reseated.
'To-morrow, or next day, this scandal--for it is a scandal--will be the
talk of Paris. Whence came this youth? who is he? how came he by his
title of Chevalier? will be asked in every salon, in every café, at
every corner. Madame de Bauffremont's name, and one even yet higher,
will figure in these recitals. Some will suppose this, others suggest
that, and the world--the world, Madame la Marquise--will believe all!'

'My Lord Bishop,' she began, but passion so overwhelmed her that she
could not continue. Meanwhile he resumed--

'The vulgar herd, who know nothing, nor can know anything, of the
emotions, noble and generous, that sway highborn natures, who must needs
measure the highest in station by the paltry standards that apply to
their own class, will easily credit that even a Marquise may have
been interested for a youth to whom, certainly, rumour attributes
considerable merit. One word more, Madame; for as this youth, educated,
some say by no less gifted a tutor than Jean Jacques Rousseau--others
pretend by the watchful care of Count Mirabeau himself----'

'Whence, have you derived this most ingenious tissue of falsehood,
Monseigneur?' cried she passionately.

'Nay, Madame, I speak "from book" now. The Chevalier is intimately known
to Monsieur de Mirabeau--lived at one time in close companionship with
him--and is, indeed, deeply indebted to his kindness.'

'How glad I am, Monseigneur,' said she quickly, 'at length to undeceive
you!'

A knock at the door here interrupted the Marquise. It was a servant with
a letter from Versailles that demanded immediate attention.

'Here is more of it, Monseigneur,' cried she passionately. 'Her
Majesty's ears have been outraged by these base calumnies, and I am
summoned to her presence in all haste.'

'I foresaw it, Madame,' said the Bishop, as he arose to withdraw. 'I
wish you a most pleasant journey, Madame la Marquise, and all that can
render the conclusion of it agreeable.



CHAPTER V. A SUDDEN REVERSE

'What is it?--what has happened?' cried Gerald, as he awoke suddenly
from a deep sleep, the first he had enjoyed after some nights of pain.
'Oh, it is you, Count Dillon,' and he tried to smile an apology for his
abruptness.

'Lie down again, my lad, and listen to me, patiently too, if you can,
for I have tidings that might try your patience.'

'I see you _have_ bad news for me,' said Gerald calmly; 'out with it at
once.'

The other made no reply, but turned toward him a look of compassionate
tenderness.

'Come, Count, uncertainty is the worst of penalties--what are your
tidings?'

'Tell me, first of all, Gerald, is it true that you supped on Friday
last at Paris with a party, at the house of a certain Monsieur du
Saillant, and there met Desmoulins, Rivarol, and several others of that
party?'

'Yes, quite true.'

'And they drank patriotic toasts--which means that they pledged bumpers
in insult to the court?'

'They made an attempt to do so, which I resisted. I said that I would
not sit there and hear one word to disparage my sovereign or his cause,
on which one of them cried out, "And who are you who dares to prescribe
to us how we are to speak, or what to toast?" "He is _my_ friend," said
Du Saillant, "and that is enough." "Nay," broke in the others, "it is
not enough. We have placed our necks in a halter, if this youth should
turn out a spy of the court, or a Garde du Corps." "And I am a Garde du
Corps," said I. "_Parbleu!_" said one, "I know him well now; he is the
fellow they call the Ecossais--the Queen's minion." With that I struck
him across the face--the others fell upon me, and pressed me toward the
window, I believe, to throw me out; at all events there was a severe
struggle, from which I escaped, roughly handled and bruised, into an
adjoining room. Here they followed and arranged that meeting of which
you have heard.'

'You ran him through?'

'Yes, a bad wound, I fear; but it was no time to measure consequences;
besides, three others claimed to fight me.'

'And did they?'

'No, the affair stands over; for Carcassone--that's his name--they
thought was dying, and all their care was turned to him. Meanwhile I was
bleeding tremendously, for he had cut a blood-vessel in my arm.'

'Well, and then----'

'Then I can't well tell you what happened. I found myself in the street,
with my cravat bound round my arm, and one man, they called Boulet,
beside me. He said all he could to cheer me, bade me be of good heart,
and that if I liked to make my fortune he would show me the way. "Come
with me," said he, "to the 'Trois Étoiles,' declare yourself for us: you
are well known in Paris--every one has heard how the Queen likes you."
I tried to strike him, but I only tore off the bandage by my effort, and
fell all bathed in blood on the pavement.'

'And it was in that state you were found underneath the Queen's window?'

'I know no more,' said Gerald drearily, as he lay back, and crossed
his eyes with his hand. 'I have a hundred confused memories of what
followed, but can trust none of them. I can recall something of a
calèche driven furiously along, while I lay half-fainting within;
something of wine or brandy poured down my throat; something of
being carried in men's arms, but through all these are drifting other
thoughts, vague, incoherent, almost impossible.'

'Is it true that the Queen, with one of her ladies, found you still
lying in the garden when day broke?'

'It may have been the Queen--I did not know her,' said he despondently.
'Now, then, for your tidings.'

'You remember, of course, the events which have occurred since your
illness, that you have been examined by a military commission, in
presence of two persons deputed by the "States-General?"

'Yes--yes, I have had two weary days of it; ten minutes might have
sufficed for all I was going to tell them.'

'So you really did refuse to answer the questions asked of you?'

'I refused to speak of what was intrusted to my honour to preserve
secret.'

'Or even to tell by whom you were so intrusted?'

'Of course.'

'And you thus encountered the far worse peril of involving in an
infamous slander the highest and purest name in France.'

'I do not understand you,' cried Gerald wildly.

'Surely you know the drift of all this inquiry--you cannot be ignorant
that it was to assail her Majesty with a base scandal that you were
placed beneath her window, and so discovered in the morning, at the very
moment of her finding you there. Are you not aware that no falsehood is
too gross nor too barefaced not to meet credence if she be its object?
Do not all they who plan the downfall of the monarchy despair of success
while her graceful virtues adorn her high station? Is not every effort
of the vile faction directed solely against her? Have you not witnessed
how, one by one, have been abandoned all the innocent pleasures to which
scandal attached a blame. The Trianon deserted--the graceful amusements
she loved so well--all given up. Unable to meet slander face to face,
she has tried to make it impossible, as if one yet could obliterate the
venomous poison of this rancorous hate!'

'And now,' said Gerald, drawing a long breath, 'and now for my part in
this infernal web of falsehood.'

'If you refused to state where you had passed the evening--why you wore
a disguise, how you came by your wound--you must allow you furnished
matter for whatever suspicion they desired to attach to you.'

'They are free to believe of me what they may.' 'Ay, but not to include
others in the imputation.'

'I never so much as dreamed of that!' said Gerald, with a weary sigh.

'Well, boy, it is just what has happened; not that there lives one base
enough to believe this slander, though ten thousand are ready to repeat
it. There, see how the _Gazette de Paris_ treats it, a journal that once
held a high place in public favour. Read that.'

Gerald bent over the paper, and read, half aloud, the following
paragraph:--

'The young officer of the Garde du Corps examined by the Special
Commission as to the extraordinary circumstances under which he was
lately discovered in the garden of her Majesty, having refused all
explanation either as to his disguise, his recent wound, or any reason
for his presence there, has been adjudged guilty under the following
heads: First, breach of military duty in absence from the Garde without
leave; secondly, infraction of discipline in exchanging his uniform.'

'Well, well!' cried Gerald, 'what is the end of all this?'

'You are dismissed the service, boy!' said Dillon sternly.

'Dismissed the service!' echoed he, in a broken voice.

'Your comrades bore you no goodwill, Gerald; even that last scene in the
Salle des Gardes had its unhappy influence on your lot. It was to the
comment of the journalist, however, I had directed your attention. See
there!'

And Gerald read:--

'France will not, we assert, accept the degradation of this young
officer as a sufficient expiation for what, if it means anything at all,
implies a grave insult to the Majesty of the realm. In the name of an
outraged public, we demand more than this. We insist on knowing how this
youth, so devoid of friends, family, and fortune, became a soldier of
the Garde--whence his title--who his patrons. To these questions, if
not satisfactorily answered within a week, we purpose to append such
explanations as mere rumour affords; and we dare promise our readers, if
not all the rigid accuracy of an attested document, some compensation
in what may fairly claim the interest of a very romantic story. Not ours
the blame if our narrative comprise names of more exalted station than
that of this fortunate adventurer.'

'Fortunate adventurer! I am well called by such a title,' exclaimed he
bitterly. 'And so I am dismissed the service!'

'The sentence was pronounced yesterday, but they thought you too ill to
hear it. I have, however, appealed against it. I have promised that if
re-examined----'

'Promise nothing for me, Count; I should reject the boon if they
reinstated me to-morrow,' said Gerald haughtily.

'But remember, too, you must have other thoughts here than for
yourself.'

'I will leave France; I will seek my fortune elsewhere; I cannot live
in a network of intrigue; I have no head for plots, no heart for
subtleties. Leave me, therefore, Count, to my fate.'

In broken, unconnected sentences the youth declined all aid or counsel.
There are moments of such misery that all the offices of friendship
bring less comfort to the heart than a stern self-reliance. A
rugged sense of independence supplies at such times both energy and
determination. Mayhap it is in moments like these more of real character
is formed than even years accomplish in the slower accidents of fortune.

'This journalist, at least, shall render me satisfaction for his
words,' thought he to himself. 'I cannot meet the whole array of these
slanderers, but upon this one I will fix.'

'By what mischance, Gerald, have you made Monsieur your enemy?' asked
the Count.

'Monsieur my enemy!' repeated Gerald, in utter amazement.

'Yes. The rumour goes that when the commission returned their report
to the King, his Majesty was mercifully inclined, and might have felt
disposed to inflict a mere reprimand, or some slight arrest, when
Monsieur's persuasions prevailed on him to take a severer course.'

'I cannot bring myself to credit this!' cried Fitzgerald.

'It is generally believed, nay, it is doubted by none, and all are
speculating how you came to incur this dislike.'

'It is hard to say,' muttered Gerald bitterly.

'This is for you, Fitzgerald,' said a sergeant of the Corps, entering
the room hastily. 'You are to appear on the parade to-morrow, and hear
it read at the head of your company,' and with these words he threw an
open paper on the table and withdrew.

'Open shame and insult--this is too much,' said Gerald. 'You must
appeal, Gerald; I insist upon it,' cried Dillon.

'No, sir. I have done with princes and royal guards. I could not put on
their livery again with the sense of loyalty that once stirred my heart.
Leave me, I pray, an hour or two to collect my thoughts and grow calm
again. Good-bye for a short while.



CHAPTER VI. A WANDERER

After many vicissitudes and hazards, Fitzgerald succeeded in making his
escape from France, and reaching Coblentz, where a small knot of
devoted Royalists lived, sharing their little resources in common,
and generously contributing every aid in their power to their poorer
brethren. This life, if one of painful and unceasing anxiety, was yet
singularly devoid of incident. To watch the terrible course of that
torrent that now devastated their native country; to see how in that
resistless deluge all was submerged--throne, villa, home, and family; to
sit motionless on the shore, as it were, and survey the shipwreck, was
their sad fate.

According to the various temperaments they possessed did men bear this
season of probation. To some it was like a dreary nightmare, a long half
sleep of suffering and oppression, leaving them devoid of all energy,
or all will for exertion. Others felt stimulated to be up and doing, to
write and plot, and intrigue with their fellow-exiles in Italy and the
north of Germany. The very transmission of the sad tidings which came
from Paris became an accustomed task; while some few, half resigned to a
ruin whose widespread limits seemed to menace the whole of Europe, began
to weave plans for emigrating to a new world beyond the seas.

Gerald halted, and deliberated to which of these two latter he would
attach himself. If the idea of a new colony and a new existence, where
each should stamp his fate with his own impress, had its attractions,
there was also much that fascinated in the heroism that bound men to a
losing cause, and held them faithful and true where so many fell off
in defection. Perhaps it was the personal character of the men
who professed these opinions ultimately decided his choice; for
D'Allonville, Caumartin, and Lessieux, who then lived at Coblentz, gave
to these sentiments all the glowing ardour of a high and noble chivalry.
Nor was it without a certain charm for a young mind to see himself, as
it were, a participator and agent in the cause of great events. By
zeal to encounter any difficulty, readiness to go anywhere, or dare any
peril, Fitzgerald had won the esteem and confidence of men high in the
exiled Prince's favour. They grew to talk with him and confide in him,
showing him private letters from exalted personages, and even at times
to take his counsel in affairs which required prompt action. Young,
active, able to endure fatigue without inconvenience, he offered himself
for every charge where such qualities might be available; and thus he
traversed Europe, from Hamburg to Italy, from the Rhine to the Vistula,
bearing despatches, or as often himself charged with some special
communication too delicate to commit to writing, and wherein his tact
was intrusted with the details.

At last it was deemed essential to have a number of agents in France
itself--men capable of watching and recording the changes of public
opinion, who might note the rising discontents of the popular mind,
and observe where they had their source. It was a rooted faith in the
Royalist party that sooner or later the nation would react against the
terrible doctrines of the anarchists, and welcome back to France the men
whose very names and titles were part of her glory: the mistake was in
supposing that the time for this reaction was at hand, and in believing
that every passing shadow was its herald.

Gerald's personal courage, his adroitness in the use of disguise, his
unfailing resources in every difficulty, pointed him out as one well
adapted for this employ; and he was constantly intrusted with secret
missions to this or that part of France, occasions on which he as
invariably distinguished himself by his capacity. The very isolation in
which he stood, without family or connections, favoured him, removing
him from the sphere of those jealousies which oftentimes marred and
defeated the wisest plans of the Royalists. He was not a Rohan nor a
Courcelles--a Grammont nor a Tavanne--whose family influence was one
day or other to be dreaded. Let him win what fame he might, gain what
credit, attract what notice, he carried with him no train of followers
to profit by his success and bar up the avenues of promotion; for so
was it--strange and scarce credible though it seems--men were already
quarrelling over the spoils ere the victory was won; ere, indeed, the
battle was engaged, or the enemy encountered.



BOOK THE THIRD



CHAPTER I. A CARDINAL'S CHAMBER

We must ask of our reader to pass over both time and space, and
accompany us, as night is falling, to a small chamber in the house of
the Cardinal Caraffa at Rome, where his Eminence is now closeted in
secret converse with a tall, sickly, but still handsome man, in a long
robe of black serge, buttoned almost to his feet, and wearing on his
head a low square cap, of the same coarse material; he is the Père
Massoni, superior of the College of Jesuits.

The Cardinal had but just returned from a conclave, and had not taken
time to change a dress, whose splendour formed a strong contrast with
the simple attire of his guest.

'It is, happily, the last council for the season,' said his Eminence, as
he seated himself in a deep easy-chair. 'His Holiness leaves for Gaeta
to-morrow, the Cardinal Secretary Piombino retires to Albano during the
hot weather, and I am free to confer with my esteemed friend the Père
Massoni, and discuss deeper themes than the medallions in the nave of
San Giovanni di Laterano. There were to have been fourteen on either
side last Tuesday; on Friday, we came down to twelve; to-day, we deemed
eleven enough; in fact, Massoni, we are less speculative as to the
future, and have left but four spaces to be filled up; but enough of
this,--have your letters arrived?'

'Yes, your Eminence, the Priest Carroll from Ireland has brought me
several, and much information besides of events in England.'

'It is of France I want to hear,' broke in the Cardinal impatiently. 'It
is of the man in the throes of death I would learn tidings, not of him
lingering in the long stages of a chronic malady. Did this priest pass
through Paris?'

'He did, your Eminence; he was two days there. The fever of blood
still rages. 'Twas but Monday week, thirty-two nobles of La Vendée were
guillotined, and, worse still, eight priests, old and venerable men,
curés of the several parishes. They met their death as became true sons
of the holy Church, declaring with their last breath that the sacrifice
would bring a blessing on the faith.'

'So it will--they are right--truth must triumph at last, Massoni,' said
the Cardinal hurriedly; 'but we are passing through a fiery ordeal;
sparks of the same fire have been seen among ourselves too. Grave fears
exist that all is not well at Viterbo.'

'The flame must be trodden out quickly and completely, your Eminence;
deal with traitors with speed, and you can treat true men with justice.
The Abbé Guescard, whose book on private judgments you have seen, was
buried this morning.'

'I had not heard that he was ill.'

'It was a sudden seizure, your Eminence, but the convulsions resisted
all treatment, and death closed his sufferings about midnight. The
doctrines of Diderot and Jean Jacques form but sorry homilies. They who
preach them go to a heavy reckoning hereafter.'

'And meet with sudden deaths besides,' said the Cardinal, with a glance
in which there was fully as much jollity as gloom.

The Jesuit Father's pale face remained calm and passionless as before,
nor did a syllable escape from him in reply. At length the Cardinal
said, 'All accounts agree in one thing, the pestilence is spreading,
At Aranguez, in Spain, a secret society has been discovered in
correspondence with Des-moulins. At Leipsic a record for future
proscription throughout Germany has been found, exactly fashioned after
the true Paris model; and even in sluggish England the mutter-ings of
discontent are heard, but with them we have less sympathy--or rather we
might say, God speed the hand that would pull down the heretic Church!'
'Carroll tells me that Ireland is ripe, though for what, it is yet hard
to pronounce. The cry of "Liberty" in France has awakened her to the
memory of all her hatred to England. Men of great ability and daring are
eagerly feeding the flame; the difficulty will be to direct its ravages
when once it breaks out. If the principles of France sway them, the
torrent that will overwhelm the heretic will also sweep away the faith.'

'Much will depend upon the men who direct the movement.'

'No, no,' said the Jesuit, 'next to nothing. Each in his turn will be
the victim of the event he seems to control. It is not the riven tree
carried along by the current that directs the stream. It is to human
passions and their working we must look, to see the issue out of
these troubles. Once men emerge out of the storm-tossed ocean of
their excesses, they strain their eyes to catch some haven--some
resting-place. Some find it in religion; some in ambition, which is the
religion of this world. The crime of France has been that no such goal
has ever existed. In their lust to destroy, they have forfeited the
power to rebuild. As well endeavour to reanimate the cold corpses
beneath the guillotine as revive that glorious monarchy. For men like
these there is no hope--no hereafter. Have no trust in them.'

'But you yourself told me,' cried the Cardinal, 'how vain it were to
pledge men to the cause of the Church.'

'And truly did I say so. Men will serve no cause but that which secures
them a safe recompense. In France they have that recompense--there
is vengeance and there is pillage; but both will be exhausted after a
time--there will be satiety for one and starvation for the other, and
then woe to those who spirited them on to this pursuit. The convulsion
in Ireland, if it should come, need not have this peril; there, there is
a race to expel and a heresy to exterminate; in both the prospect of the
future is implied. Let us aid this project.'

'Ah! it is your old project lurs there,' cried the Cardinal; 'I see
a glimpse of it already; but what a dream is the restoration of that
house!'

'Nor do I mean it should be more; the phantom of a Stuart in the
procession is all I ask for. By that dynasty the Church is typified.
Instead of encountering the thousand enemies of a faith, we rally to us
the adherents of a monarchy. If we build up this throne, he who sits on
it is our viceroy; we have made, and can unmake him.'

'And how can the Cardinal York serve these plans?'

'I never intended that he should; his gown alone would exempt him, even
had he--which he has not--personal qualities for such a cause.'

'Yet with him the race is extinct.'

'Of that I am not so certain, and it is precisely the point on which I
want to confer with you.' So saying, the Père drew a packet of papers
from the breast of his robe, and placed it on the table. 'I have there
beneath my hand, said he, 'the copy of a marriage certificate between
Charles Edward, Prince of Wales, and Grace Géraldine, of Cappa Glyn,
County Kildare, Ireland. It is formally drawn up, dated, signed, and
witnessed with due accuracy. The Father Ignatius, in whose hand the
document is, is dead; but there are many alive who could recognise his
writing. One of the witnesses, too, is believed still to be living in
a remote part of Ireland; I have his name and can trace him; but even
better than this, the Cardinal York admits the fact, and owns that he
retains in his possession a last legacy of the Prince for the child born
of this marriage.

'Your Eminence smiles incredulously; but what will you say when I add
that the same child was inscribed in our College under the name of
Gerald Fitzgerald; was well known to my predecessor, the present Bishop
of Orvieto; quitted the College to acquire the protection of the
Prince, from which he most unaccountably strayed or was withdrawn, and
ultimately reached France.'

'Where he has, doubtless, been guillotined for his royal blood,' broke
in the Cardinal.

'No, your Eminence; he lives, and I have traced him. Nay, more, I have
found that he is one in every way adapted for such an enterprise as I
speak of; possessed of the most heroic courage, with a character fertile
in resources; all the winning graces of his father are united in him,
with a steadfast energy that few of the Stuarts could ever have laid
claim to. In a life of struggle and adversity--for he has never known
his rank, nor has the slightest suspicion of his birth--he has never
once descended to a single act that could impugn the highest station.
In a word, to declare him a Prince to-morrow needs not that we should
obliterate his past life or conceal its vicissitudes.'

'Be it so as you say. Is it such pretensions you would oppose to the
recognised and established monarchy of England? A youth of at least
highly questionable legitimacy, friendless and penniless; and this, too,
in an age when thrones propped up by all that can aid their prestige are
tottering to their fall!'

'We want him but as the banner to rally around; we need him as the
standard which will draw Scotland to the side of Ireland, and both for
one cause--the Church. A Prince of the House of Stuart is the emblem of
all that defies the heresy when the day of trouble comes. It is vital
that Ireland should not follow in the steps of France, and Christian
blood be shed to establish the reign of the infidel! If the pestilence
that now rages in France extend through Europe, as many wise heads
predict it will, the day will come that the last resting-place of our
faith will be that small island in the west. Think, then, how important
it is that we should give to the struggle that is approaching a guidance
and direction. If the Irish insurrection be capable of a royalist
colouring, we can take advantage of that feature to awaken the dormant
chivalry of those who would risk nothing in the cause of a Republic. The
old Catholic families of England, the Scottish chiefs, men who can bring
into the field the fiercest partisans and the most intrepid followers;
all Ireland, save that small garrison which assumes to subject it to
English rule, will rally round a Stuart: and that Stuart will be in our
hands to deal with--to elevate to a throne on the claim of his birth;
or, if need be, to proclaim an illegitimate pretender!'

The soft, mild eyes of the Jesuit grew darker and deeper in colour,
and his pale cheeks flushed, while the last words came from him with an
utterance thick and almost guttural from passion. Nor was the Cardinal
unmoved: partly in sympathy with the emotion of the speaker, partly
stimulated by the great proportions of the scheme displayed before him,
he sat, with hurried, breathing and a heated brow, gazing steadfastly at
the other.

'There are immense difficulties, Father,' he began.

'I know them all,' broke in Massoni. 'For some I have provided, for
many more I am still reflecting; but still remember, that to launch the
project is our great care. When the rock is riven from its base, no
man can tell by what course it will descend the mountain, over what
precipice gain new force, or in what hollow lie spent and motionless.
Let us be satisfied if we start the game, and leave to destiny the
pursuit!'

'Much money will be needed----'

'The great families of England are rich. It will not require deep
calculation to satisfy them that the cost of supporting a loyalist cause
will be little in comparison with the consequences of a revolution to
end in a republic; a loan is ever lighter than confiscation!'

'There is much in that if the alternative be well put and well
understood.'

'From what I learn,' continued the Père, 'men of influence and fortune
will grasp eagerly at what offers any issue to the coming trouble, save
to follow in the footsteps of France. The Terror there has done us good
service, and the lesson may be still further improved. They who would
imitate Marat and Robespierre will have a short reign.'

'Better they should have none!'

'There must be the baptism of blood,' said the Père, in a low but firm
voice.

'And who is to prepare the plan of this great campaign, to gather
together the leaders, to applot the several duties, to arrange
details, conciliate interests, and reconcile rivalries? He must be one,
doubtless, of commanding ability and vast resources.'

Massoni bowed a deep and reverential assent.

'A man of station sufficient to make his influence felt without
dispute--one whose counsel none dare gainsay.'

Again did a humble bow give acquiescence.

'Nor,' continued the speaker, 'must it be from his exalted station alone
that men yield deference to him. He must needs be one well versed
in human nature; who can read the heart in its mood of strength or
weakness; a master of all the secret springs that sway motives; in a
word, he ought to combine the wide views and grand conceptions of the
politician with the deep and subtle knowledge of a churchman--where will
you find such?

'He can be found, was the calm reply. 'I know of one who answers to each
demand of your description.

'You are mistaken, Père Massoni,' said the Cardinal in a voice slightly
tremulous with agitation. 'I know his Eminence of York well, and he is
ill fitted for a charge so vast and momentous.'

'I never thought of him, sir,' was the prompt answer. 'My eyes were
fixed upon one scarcely his inferior in high descent, infinitely above
him in all the qualities of mind and intellect, one whose name in the
cause would half ensure success, and whose vast resources of thought
would be a more precious mine than the wealth of Peru.

'And he--who is this great and transcendent genius?' asked the Cardinal,
half angrily.

'His Eminence the Cardinal Leo Gonzales Caraffa!' said the Père, as he
dropped on his knees and pressed his lips fervently to the other's hand.

The Cardinal's florid features flushed till they were crimson; and
though he tried to speak, no sound came from his lips. A sense of
overwhelming astonishment, even more than gratified vanity, had mastered
him, and, with a gesture of modest dissent, he raised the priest from
the ground.

'No, no, Massoni,' said he, in a soft, low tone; 'these are the
promptings of your own affectionate regard for me, not the fruit of that
calm reason with which you know so well how to judge your fellow-men.'

'Read these letters, then, sir,' said Massoni, placing a packet on the
table, 'and see if my sentiments are not as strong in the hearts of
others.'

The Cardinal hesitated to open the documents before him; there was
a sort of modest reluctance in his manner which Massoni seemed to
understand; for, taking up one of the letters himself, he glanced his
eyes along the lines till he came to a particular passage, pointing out
which with his finger, he read: '"You have among the Cardinals, however,
one fully equal to this great task, the Cardinal Caraffa, a man whose
political sagacity is not surpassed in Europe, and who, by a good
fortune, rare among churchmen, possesses a mind capable of comprehending
and directing great military measures. I am informed that he served in
Spain."'

'Who writes this?' broke in the Cardinal.

'The writer is Prince Charles of Hesse.'

'A brave soldier and an honest man,' said the Cardinal, with evident
pleasure in the words.

'This is from the Viscount de Noe,' resumed Massoni, opening another
letter and reading: '"It is essentially the cause of the Church, and
demands a churchman at its head. Who, then, so fit as he who may, one
day or other, occupy the throne of St. Peter!"' Here he paused as if
having concluded.

'The expression is vague, nor has it any the least application to me,'
said Caraffa, reddening.

'Then hear what follows,' cried Massoni. '"Even if there were personal
peril, which there is not, the Cardinal Caraffa would not refuse us his
aid, nor must he remain the only man in Europe unconscious of the great
qualities which stamp him as our leader." This,' continued the priest,
with increased rapidity, 'this is from Sir Godefry Wharton, an English
Catholic noble of great wealth and influence. "From all that I can
learn it must be Caraffa, not York, to lead us in this enterprise; all
agree in representing him as a man of resolute action, gifted with every
quality of statesmanship." Troverini writes thus from Venice: "When the
day of restoration"--it is of the Church he speaks--"when the day of
restoration arrives, we shall need a man equal to the great task of
reconstructing society, without employing too ostentatiously the old
materials. I am assured that Caraffa is such a man; tell me your opinion
of him." This,' resumed Massoni, holding up a large letter in a strange,
rough, and irregular hand, 'this is from the Marquis d'Allonville,
secretary to the Count d'Artois. "We all feel that if it be our fate to
return, it must be as following in the procession of the Church. Nothing
but the faith can successfully combat this infidelity baptized in crime.
To give, therefore, the impulse of religion to any of these movements,
no matter among what people, must be the first care of those who look
forward to better things. Legitimacy is the doctrine of the Gospel."...
This is what I was in search of. "Ireland is well adapted for the
experiment. A people of believers under the sway of a nation they detest
will eagerly grasp at what will alike establish the Church they
revere and the nationality they covet. If you really have a legitimate
descendant of the Stuarts, and if he be one equal to the demands of the
crisis, it signifies little in what quarter of Europe the first essay be
made, and we will throw all our efforts into the scale with you, always
provided that you can show us some great political head, some man of
foresight and reflection, among your party concurring in this view--such
a one, for example, as the Cardinal Caraffa. We have money, men of
action and daring, only longing for occasions to employ them, but we are
sadly in want of such capacities as Caraffa represents; so at least the
Prince tells us, for I have no personal knowledge of the Cardinal."'

'I am flattered by his Royal Highness's remembrance of me,' said Caraffa
proudly.

'And this,' said Massoni, showing a few lines on a simple slip of paper,
'this came enclosed within D'Allonville's letter.

"I am willing to open direct relations with his Eminence the Cardinal
Caraffa on the subjects herein discussed.--D'Artois."

Are these enough, sir?'

'More than enough to gratify a loftier pride than mine,' said Caraffa,
with a flushed cheek; 'but let us turn to a worthier theme. What is it
that is proposed?'

'The project, in one word, is this--to make the rising now about to
take place in Ireland a royalist, and not a revolutionary movement;
to overbear the men of destruction by the influence of wiser and safer
guides; to direct the wild energies of revolt into the salutary channels
of a restoration; and to build up once more, in all its plenitude, the
power of the Church.'

'Remember, Massoni, what Mirabeau said; and though I do not love the
authority, the words are those of wisdom: "Revolutions are not the work
of men--they make themselves."'

'It is from men's hands, however, they receive their first impulses. It
is also by a secret and firm alliance of men--steady to one purpose, and
constant to one idea--that revolutions catch their tone and colour. None
of us could expect that, in a great national struggle, there will not be
many acts to deplore--grievous crimes committed gratuitously--vain and
useless cruelties. To every great vicissitude in this world there is an
amount of power applied totally dis-proportioned to the effect produced.
To wreck one solitary ship, a whole ocean is convulsed, and desolate
shores in faraway lands are storm-lashed for days. So is it in
revolutions The unchained winds of men's passions sweep over a larger
space than is needed. This must be borne. Let us remember, too, that
the blood thus, to all seeming, gratuitously shed has also its profit.
Terror is a great agency of revolt. Many must be intimidated. It is when
people are paralysed by fear that they who are to reconstruct society
have time to mature their plans, just as the surgeon awaits the moments
of his patient's insensibility to commence his operation. But, above
all, your Eminence, bear in mind that where the object is good and
great, a blessing goes with those who sustain it.'

If the Cardinal bowed a submissive assent to this devout assertion,
there was something like a half motion of impatience in his manner as he
said--

'And the men who are to lead this movement?'

'The details are somewhat lengthy, your Eminence, but I have them here,'
said Massoni, as he laid his hand on the papers before him.

'And this is Ireland?' said Caraffa, as he bent over a map and gazed on
the small spot which represented the island. 'How small it looks, and
how far away!'



CHAPTER II. A DEATH-BED

It was at the close of a sultry day that a sick man, wan, pale, and
almost voiceless, sat propped up by pillows, and seeming to drink in
with a sort of effort the faint breeze that entered by an open window.
A large bouquet of fresh flowers stood in a vase beside him, and on
the bed itself moss-roses and carnations were scattered, their gorgeous
tints terribly in contrast to the sickly pallor of that visage on which
death had already placed its stamp. It would have puzzled the wiliest
physiognomist to have read that strange and strongly-marked face;
for while the massive head and strong brow, the yet brilliant eye and
contracted eyebrow, denoted energy and daring, there was a faint smile,
inexpressibly sad and weary-looking, on the mouth, that seemed to
bespeak a heart that had experienced many an emotion, and ended by
finding 'all barren.'

A long, low sigh escaped him as he lay, and in his utter weariness his
hands dropped listlessly, one falling over the side of the bed. The
watchful nurse, who, in the dress of her order as a Sister of Charity,
sat nigh, arose and leaned over to regard him.

'No, Constance, not yet,' said he, smiling faintly, and answering
the unspoken thought that was passing in her mind; 'not yet; but very
near--very near indeed. What hour is it?'

'St. Roch has just chimed half-past seven,' replied she calmly.

'Open the window wider; there is a little air stirring.'

'No; the evening is very still, but it will be fresher by and by.'

'I shall not need it,' said he, more faintly, though with perfect calm.
'Before midnight, Constance--before midnight it will be the same to
me if it breathed a zephyr or blew a gale: where I am going it will do
neither.'

'Oh, Citizen, can I not persuade you to see the Père Dulaque or the Curé
of St. Roch? Your minutes are few here now, and I implore you not to
waste them.'

''Tis so that I intend, my worthy friend,' said he calmly. 'Had either
of these excellent men you mention made the voyage I am now going, I
would speak to them willingly; but remember, Constance, it is a sea
without a chart.'

'Say not so in the face of that blessed Book----'

'Nay, nay, do not disturb my few moments of calm. How sweet those
flowers are! How balmy that little air that now stirs the leaves! Oh,
what a fair world it is, or rather it might be! Do not sigh so heavily,
Constance; remember what I told you yesterday; our belief is like our
loyalty--it is independent of us.'

'Let some holy man at least speak to you.'

'Why should I shock his honest faith? Why should he disturb my peace.
Know, woman,' added he, more energetically, 'that I have striven harder
to attain this same faith than ever you have done to resist a heresy.
I needed it a thousand times more than you; I 'd have done more to gain
it--clung closer to it when won too.'

'What did you do?' asked she boldly.

'I read, reflected, pondered years long--disputed, discussed, read
more--inquired wherever I hoped to meet enlightenment.'

'You never prayed,' said she meekly.

'Prayed! How should I--not knowing for what, or to whom?'

An exclamation--almost a cry--escaped the woman, and her lips were seen
to move rapidly, as if in prayer. The sick man seemed to respect the
sentiment of devotion that he could not bring himself to feel, and was
silent. At last he said, in a voice of much sweetness, 'Your patient
care and kindness are not the less dear to me that I ascribe them to a
source your humility would reject. I believe in human nature, my good
Constance, though of a verity it has given me strong lessons not to be
over-sanguine.'

'Who has had more friends?' began she; but he stopped her short at once
by a contemptuous gesture with his hand, while he said--

'Men are your friends in life as they are your companions on a
journey--so long as your road lies in the same direction they will
travel with you. To bear with your infirmities, to take count of your
trials, and make allowance for your hardships; to find out what of good
there is in you, and teach you to fertilise it for yourself; to discern
the soil of your nature, expel its weeds, and still to be hopeful--this
is friendship. But it never comes from a brother man; it is a woman
alone can render it. Who is it that knocks there?' asked he quickly.

She went to the door and speedily returned with the answer--

'It is the same youth who was here yesterday, and refused to give his
name. He is still most urgent in his demand to see you.'

'Does he know what he asks--that I am on the eve of a long journey, and
must needs have my thoughts engaged about the road before me?'

'I told him you were very ill--very ill indeed; that even your dearest
friends only saw you for a few minutes at a time; but he persisted in
asserting that if you knew he was there, you would surely see him.'

'Let his perseverance have its reward. Tell him to come in.'

The sister returned to the door, and after a whispered word to the
stranger, enforcing caution in his interview, admitted him, and pointing
to the bed where the sick man lay, she retired.

If the features and gestures of the stranger, as he moved silently
across the room, denoted the delicacy of a certain refinement, his dress
bespoke great poverty; his clothes were ragged, his shoes in tatters,
and even the red woollen cap which he had just removed from his head was
patched in several places.

The sick man motioned to him to stand where the light would fall upon
him strongly; and then, having stared steadfastly at him for several
minutes, he sighed drearily, and said, 'What have you with me?'

'Don't you remember me, then, Signor Gabriel?' asked the young man, in a
tone of deep agitation. 'Don't you remember Fitzgerald?'

'The boy of the Maremma--the Garde du Corps--the favourite of
the Queen--the postilion on the flight to Va-rennes--the secret
letter-carrier to the Temple----'

'Speak lower, Monsieur! speak lower, I beseech you,' interposed the
other. 'If I were betrayed, my life is not worth an hour's purchase.'

'And is it worth preserving in such a garb as that? I thought you had
been an apter scholar, Gerald, and that ere this you had found your way
to fortune. The Prince de Condé wrote me that you were his trustiest
agent.'

'And it is on a mission from him that I am here this day. I have been
waiting for weeks long to see and speak with you. I knew that you were
ill, and could find no means to approach you.'

'You come too late, my friend--too late,' said Mirabeau, sighing:
'Royalist, Girondin, Bourbon, or the Mountain, they are all illusions
now!'

'The great principles of justice are not an illusion, sir; the idea of
Right is immutable and immortal!'

'I know of nothing that does not change and die,' said Mirabeau gravely;
then added, 'But what would you with me?'

'I have not courage to disturb your suffering sick-bed with cares you
can no longer feel. I had not imagined I should have found you so ill as
this.'

'Sick unto death--if you can tell me what death means,' said the other
with a strange smile.

'They who sent me,' resumed Gerald, not heeding his last remark,
'believed you in all the vigour of health as of intellect. They have
watched with almost breathless interest the glorious conflict you have
long maintained against the men of anarchy and the guillotine; they
have recognised in you the one sole man, of all the nation, who can save
France----'

The sick man smiled sadly, and laying his wasted fingers on Gerald's
arm, said, 'It is not to be done!'

'Do you mean, sir, that it is the will of the great Providence who
rules us that this mighty people should sink under the tyranny of a few
bloodthirsty wretches?'

'I spoke not of France; I spoke of the Monarchy, said Mirabeau. 'Look
at those flowers there: in a few hours hence they will have lost their
odour and their colour. Now, all your memory--be it ever so good--will
not replace these to your senses. Go tell your master that his hour
has struck. Monarchy was once a Faith; it will henceforth be but a
Superstition.'

'And is a just right like this to be abandoned?'

'No. The stranger may place them on the throne they have lost; and if
they be wise enough to repay the service with ingratitude, a few more
years of this mock rule may be eked out.'

'Would that I had power to tell you all our plans, and you the strength
to listen to me!' cried Gerald: 'you would see that what they purpose is
no puny enterprise; nor what they aim at, a selfish conquest.'

'You came to me once before--I remember the incident well; I was living
in the Avenue aux Abois when you summoned me to a meeting at St. Cloud.
The Monarchy might have been saved even then. It was late, but not too
late. I advised a ministry of such materials as the people might trust
and the court corrupt--men of low origin, violent, exacting, but venal.
Six months of such rule would have sent France back to all her ancient
traditions, and the king been more popular than ever. But they would not
hear me: they talked of walking in the high path of duty; and it has
led some to the scaffold, and the rest to exile! But what concern have
I with these things? Do you know, young man, that all your king could
promise, all the mighty people themselves could bestow upon me as I lie
here, could not equal the pleasure that moss-rose yields me, nor the
ecstasy of delight I feel when a gentle wind blows fresh upon my cheek.
Say it out, sir; say out what that supercilious smile implies,' cried
he, his eyes lighting up with all their ancient fire. 'Tell me at once
it was Mirabeau the voluptuary that spoke there! Ay, and I 'll not
gainsay you! If to exult in the perfection of the senses nature has
given me; to drink in with ecstasy what others imbibe in apathy; to feel
a godlike enjoyment where less keenly gifted temperaments had scarcely
known a pleasure--if this is to be a voluptuary, I am one.'

'But why, with powers like yours, limit your enjoyment to mere sensual
pleasures? Why not taste the higher and purer delight of succouring
misfortune and defending the powerless?'

'I _did_ try it,' said the sick man, sighing. 'I essayed to discover
the pleasures of what you would call morality. I was generous; I forgave
injuries; I pardoned ingratitude; I aided struggling misery; but the
reward was not forthcoming;--these things gave me no happiness.'

'No happiness!'

'None. I tried to forget I was a dupe; I did my best to believe myself
a benefactor of my species; I stopped my ear against any praises from
those I had befriended; but nothing in my heart responded to their
joy. I was not happier. Remember, boy,' cried he, 'that even your own
moralists only promise the recompense for virtue in another world. I
looked for smaller profits and prompter payment. The mockery of his
smile, as he spoke, seemed to wound Gerald; for, as he turned away his
head, a deep flush covered his face. 'Forgive me,' said the sick man; 'I
ought to have remembered that your early training was derived from those
worthy men, the Jesuit Fathers; and if I cannot participate in your
consolations, I would not insult your convictions, Then, raising himself
on one arm, he added, with a stronger effort: 'Your mission to me is a
failure, Fitzgerald. I cannot aid your cause: he whose trembling hand
cannot carry the glass of water to his lips can scarce replace a fallen
dynasty. I will not even deceive you by saying what, if health and
strength were mine, I might do--perhaps I do not know it myself. Go
back and tell your Prince that he and his must wait--wait like wise
physicians--till nature bring the crisis of the malady; that all they
could do now would but hurt the cause they mean to serve. When France
needs her princes, she will seek them even out of exile. Let them beware
how they destroy the prestige of their high estate by accepting equality
meanwhile. They are the priests of a religion, and can never descend to
the charges of the laity. As for you, yourself, it is well that I have
seen you; I have long desired to speak to you of your own fortunes. I
had written to Alfieri about you, and his answer--to _you_ an important
document--is in that box. You will find the key yonder on the ring.'

As Gerald rose to obey this direction, Mirabeau fell back exhausted on
the bed, a clammy sweat breaking out over his cheeks and forehead. The
cry which unconsciously escaped the youth, quickly summoned the 'sister'
to the bedside.

'This is death,' said she, in the calm, solemn voice of one long inured
to such scenes. She tried to make him swallow a teaspoonful of some
restorative, but the liquid dropped over his lips, and fell upon his
chin. 'Death--and what a death!' muttered the sister, half to herself.

'See--see--he is coming back to himself,' whispered Gerald; 'his eyes
are opening, and his lips move,' while a faint effort of the muscles
around the mouth seemed to essay a smile.

Again she moistened his lips with the cordial, and this time he was able
to swallow some drops of it. He made a slight attempt to speak, and as
the sister bent her ear to his lips, he whispered faintly, 'Tell him to
come back--tomorrow--to-morrow!'

She repeated the words to Gerald, who, feeling that his presence any
longer there might be hurtful, slowly and silently stepped from the
room, and descended to the street.

Late as it was, a considerable crowd was assembled before the door in
front of the house; their attitude of silent and respectful anxiety
showed the deep interest felt in the sick man's state; and although no
name was spoken, the frequent recurrence of the words 'he' and 'his'
evinced how absorbingly all thoughts were concentrated upon one
individual. Nor was it only of one class in society the crowd was
composed. Mirabeau's admirers and followers were of every rank and
every section of politicians; and, strangely enough, men whose public
animosities had set them widely apart from each other were here seen
exchanging their last tidings of the sick-room, and alternating and
balancing their hopes and fears of his condition.

'Jostinard calls the malady cerebral absorption,' said one, 'as though
intense application had produced an organic change.'

'Lessieux holds that the disease was produced by those mercurial baths
he used to take to stimulate him on occasions of great public display,'
said another.

'There is reason to believe it a family complaint of some sort,' broke
in--a third; 'the Bailli de Mirabeau sank under pure exhaustion, as if
the machine had actually worn out.'

'_Pardie!_' cried out a rough-looking man in a working dress; 'it is
hard that we cannot repair him with the strong materials the useless
fellows are made of; there are full fifty in the Assembly we could give
for one like _him_.'

'You talk of maladies,' broke in a loud, full voice, 'and I tell you
that the Citizen Riquetti is dying of poison--ay, start, or murmur if
you will--I repeat it, of poison. Do we not all know how his power is
feared, and his eloquence dreaded? Are we strangers to those who hate
this great and good man?'

'Great and good he is,' murmured another; 'when shall we see his equal?'

'See, here is one who has been lately with him; let us learn his news.'

This speech was uttered by a poorly-clad man, with a red cap on his
head, as Gerald was endeavouring to pierce the crowd.

'Who is the citizen who has this privilege of speaking with Gabriel
Riquetti?' said Cabrot, an over-dressed man, who stood the centre of a
group of talkers.

Without paying any attention to this summons, Gerald tried to pursue his
way and pass on; but several already barred the passage, and seemed to
insist, as on a right, to hear the last account of the sick man. For a
moment a haughty impulse to refuse all information thus demanded seemed
to sway Gerald; then, suddenly changing his resolution, he calmly
answered that Mirabeau appeared to him so ill as to preclude all hope of
recovery, and that his state portended but few hours of life.

'Ask him who he himself is?'--'Why and how he came there?'--'What
medicine is Riquetti taking?'--'Who administers it?'--'Let this man give
an account of himself!' Such, and such like, were the cries that now
resounded on all sides, and Gerald saw himself at once surrounded by a
mob, whose demands were uttered in no doubtful tone.

'The Citizen Riquetti is one whose life is dear to the Republic,' broke
in Cabrot; 'all Frenchmen have a right to investigate whatever affects
that life. Some aver that he is the victim of assassination----'

'I say, and will maintain it, broke in the man who had made this
assertion before; 'they have given him some stuff that causes a gradual
decay.'

'Let this man declare himself. Who are you, Citizen, and whence?'
asked another, confronting Fitzgerald. 'What business came you here to
transact with the Citizen Riquetti?'

'Have I asked _you_, or _you_ or _you_,' said Gerald, turning proudly
from one to the other of those around him, 'of your private affairs?
Have I dared to interrogate _you_ as to who you are, whence you came,
whither you go? and by what presumption do you take this liberty with
_me_?'

'By that which a care of the public safety imposes,' said Cabrot. 'As
Commissary of the fifth "arrondissement," I demand this citizen's name.'

'You are right to be boastful of your liberty!' said Gerald insolently,
'when a man cannot walk the streets, nor even visit a dying friend,
without submitting himself to the treatment of a criminal.'

'He a friend of Gabriel Riquetti!' burst in Cabrot. 'Look, I beseech
you, at the appearance of the man who gives himself this title.'

'So, then, it is to my humble dress you object. Citizens, this speaks
well for your fraternity and equality.'

'You shall not evade a reckoning with us in this wise, said Cabrot. 'Let
us take him to the Corps du Garde, citizens.'

'Ay! away with him to the Corps du Garde!' cried several together.

Gerald became suddenly struck by the rashness of his momentary loss of
temper, and quietly said, 'I'll not give you such trouble, citizens.
What is it you wish to hear?'

'Your compliance comes too late,' said Cabrot; 'we will do the thing in
order; off with us to the Corps du Garde!'

'I appeal to you all, why am I to be subjected to this insult?' asked
Gerald, addressing the crowd. 'You deliver me to the Commissary, not
for any crime or for any accusation of one; you compel me to speak about
matters purely personal--circumstances which I could have no right to
extort from any of _you_. Is this fair--is it just--is it decent?'

While he thus pleaded, the crowd was obliged to separate suddenly,
and make way for a handsome equipage, which came up at full trot, and
stopped before the door of Mirabeau's house; and a murmur ran quickly
around, 'It is The Gabrielle come to ask after Riquetti'; and Cabrot,
forgetting his part of public prosecutor, now approached the window of
the carriage with an almost servile affectation of courtesy. Had Gerald
been so disposed, nothing would have been easier for him than to make
his escape in the diversion caused by this new incident, so eager was
the crowd to press around and catch a glimpse of her whose gloved hand
now rested on the door of the carriage.

'She is Riquetti's mistress,' cried one; 'is not she?'

'Not a bit of it. Riquetti declared he would have no other mistress than
France; and though she yonder changed her name to Gabrielle to flatter
him, though she has sought and followed him for more than a year, it
avails her nothing.'

'Less than nothing I'd call it,' said another, 'since she pays for all
those flowers that come up from the banks of the Var--the rarest roses
and orange buds--just to please him.'

'More than that too; she has paid all his debts--in Paris some six
hundred thousand livres--all for a man who will not look at her.'

'"That is to be a 'veritable' woman!"' said a foppish-looking man, who
was for some time endeavouring to attract the attention of the fair
occupant of the carriage.

Meanwhile, Gerald had pressed his way through the crowd, curious to
catch one look of her whose devotion seemed so romantic.

'You see me in despair--in utter despair, Belle Gabrielle. There was no
place to be had at the Français last night, and I missed your glorious
"Phèdre."'

Her reply was inaudible, but the other went on--

'Of course, the effort must have cost you deeply, yet even in that
counterfeit of another's sorrow who knows if you did not interpolate
some portion of your own grief!'

'Is he better? Can I not see the Sister Constance,' asked she, in a low
and liquid voice.

'He is no better; I believe he is far worse than yesterday. There was a
young man here this moment who saw him, and whose interview, by the way,
gave rise to grave speculation. There he is yonder--a strange-looking
figure to call himself the friend of Gabriel Riquetti.'

'Who or what is he?' asked she eagerly.

'It is what none of us know, though, indeed, at the moment you came up,
we had some thoughts of compelling him to declare. Need I tell you that
there is grave suspicion of foul play here; many are minded to believe
that Mirabeau has been poisoned. See how that fellow continues to stare
at you, Gabrielle. Do you know him?'

Step by step, slowly, but with eyes riveted upon the object before him,
Gerald had now approached the carriage, and stood within a few yards of
it, his eyeballs staring wildly, his lips apart, and every line of his
face betraying the most intense astonishment. Nor was Gabrielle less
moved: with her head protruded beyond the carriage-window, and her hair
pushed suddenly back by some passing impulse, she gazed wildly at the
stranger.

'_Gherardi, Gherardi mio!_' cried she at last. 'Speak, and tell me if
it be you.'

'Marietta, oh, Marietta!' said he, with a sigh, whose heartfelt cadence
seemed eloquent in sorrow.

'Come with me. Come home with me, and you shall hear all, said she, in
Italian, answering as it were the accents of his words.

The young man shook his head mournfully in reply, but never spoke.

'I tell you,' cried she, more passionately, 'that you shall hear all. It
is more than I have said to a confessor. Come, come,' and she flung open
the door as she spoke.

'If you but knew how I have longed to see you, Marietta!' whispered he,
in broken accents; 'but not thus, oh, not thus!'

'How, then, do you dare to judge me?' cried she, with flashing eyes;
'how presume to scoff at _my_ affluence, while _I_ have not dared to
reflect upon _your_ poverty? Once, and for the last time, I say, come
with me!'

Without another word he sprang to her side, the door was closed, and the
carriage drove rapidly away, ere the staring crowd could express their
amazement at what they had witnessed.



CHAPTER III. 'LA GABRIELLE'

By one of those inconsistencies which sway the popular mind in times of
trouble, the gorgeous splendour and wasteful extravagance which were not
permitted to an ancient nobility were willingly conceded to those who
now ministered to public amusement, and the costly magnificence which
aided the downfall of a monarchy was deemed pardonable in one whose
early years had been passed in misery and in want.

It was in the ancient hotel of the Duc de Noailles that Gabrielle was
lodged, and all the splendour of that princely residence remained as
in the time of its former owners; even to the portraits of the haughty
ancestry upon the walls, and the proud emblazonry of armorial bearings
over doors and chimneys, nothing was changed; the embroidered crests
upon chairs and tablecovers, the gilded coronets that ornamented every
architrave and cornice, stood forth in testimony of those in whose
honour those insignia were fashioned.

Preceding Gerald, and walking at a rapid pace, Gabrielle passed through
several splendid rooms, till she came to one whose walls, hung in
purple velvet with a deep gold fringe, had an air of almost sombre
magnificence, the furniture being all of the same grave tint, and even
the solitary lamp which lighted the apartment having a glass shade of a
deep purple colour.

'This is my chamber of study, Gherardi,' said she, as they entered.
'None ever come to disturb me when here. Here, therefore, we are alone
to question and to reply to each other--to render account of the past
and speculate on the future--and, first of all, tell me, am I changed?'

As she spoke she tossed aside her bonnet, and loosening her long hair
from its bands, suffered it to fall upon her neck and shoulders in the
wild masses it assumed in girlhood. She crossed her arms, too, upon her
breast in imitation of a gesture familiar to her, and stood motionless
before him.

Long and steadfastly did Gerald continue to stare at her.. It was like
the look of one who would read if he might every trait and lineament
before him, and satisfy his mind what characters had time written upon a
nature he had once known so well.

'You do not answer me,' said she at last; 'am I then changed?'

A faint low sigh escaped him, but he uttered no word.

'Be frank with me as a brother ought; tell me wherein is this change?
You thought me handsome once; am I less so?'

'Oh! no, no! not that, not that!' cried he passionately; 'you are more
beautiful than ever.'

'Is there in my expression aught that gives you grief? has the world
written boldness upon my brow? or do you fancy that you can trace the
cost of all the splendour around us in some faint lines of shame and
sorrow? Speak, sir, and be honest with me.'

'I have no right to call you to such a reckoning, Marietta,' said he,
half proudly.

'I know it, and would have resented had you dared to do it of a right;
but I stand here as one equal to such questioning. It will be your own
turn soon,' added she, smiling, 'and it will be well if you can stand
the test so bravely.'

'I accept the challenge,' cried Gerald eagerly; 'I take you at your
word. Some years back, Marietta, I left you poor, friendless, and a
wayworn wanderer through the world. Our fortunes were alike in those
days, and I can remember when we deemed the day a lucky one that did not
send us supperless to bed. We had sore trials, and we felt them, though
we bore them bravely. When we parted, our lot was misery, and now, what
do I see? I find you in the splendour of a princely house; your dress
that which might become the highest rank; the very jewels on your wrist
and on your fingers a fortune. I know well,' added he, bitterly, 'that
in this brief interval of time destiny has changed many a lot; great
and glorious men have fallen; and mean, ignoble, and unworthy ones have
taken their places. You, however, as a woman, could have taken no share
in these convulsions. How is it, then, that I see you thus?'

'Say on, sir,' said she, with a disdainful gesture; 'these words mean
nothing, or more than they ought.'

He did not speak, but he bent his eyes upon her in reproachful silence.

'You lack the courage to say the word. Well, I 'll say it for you: Whose
mistress are you to be thus splendidly attired? What generous patron has
purchased this princely house--given you equipage, servants, diamonds?
Against how much have you bartered your heart? Who has paid the price?
Ay, confess it, these were the generous thoughts that filled your
mind--these the delicate questions your timidity could not master. Well,
as I have spoken, so will I answer them. Only remember this,' added she
solemnly, 'when I have made this explanation, when all is told, there is
an end for ever between us of that old tie that once bound us: we trust
each other no more. It is for you to say if you accept this contract.'

Gerald was silent; if he could not master the suspicions that impressed
him, as little could he resolve to forget for ever his hold upon
Marietta. That she was one to keep her word he well knew; and if she
decided to part, he felt that the separation was final. She watched him
calmly, as he sat in this conflict with himself; so far from showing
any sense of impatience at the struggle, she seemed rather to enjoy the
painful difficulty of his position.

'Well, have you made your choice?' cried she at length, as with a slight
smile she stood in front of him.

'It would be a treachery to my own heart, and to you, too, were I to say
that all this magnificence I see here suggested no thought of evil. We
were poor even to misery once, Marietta--I am still so; and well I know
that in such wretchedness as ours temptation is triply dangerous. To
tell me that you have yielded is, then, no more than to confess you were
like others.'

'Of what, then, do you accuse me? Is it that I am Mirabeau's mistress?
Would that I were!' cried she passionately; 'would that by my devotion
I could share his love and give him all my own! You would cry shame
upon me for this avowal. You think more highly of your own petty
contrivances, your miserable attempts to sustain a mock morality--your
boasted tie of marriage--than of the emotions that are born with you,
that move your infancy, sway your manhood, and temper your old age. You
hold that by such small cheats you supply the insatiable longings of the
human heart. But the age of priestcraft is over; throne, altar, purple,
sceptre, incense and all, have fled; and in the stead of man's mummeries
we have installed Man himself, in the might of his intellect, the
glorious grandeur of his great conceptions, and the noble breadth of his
philanthropy; and who is the type of these, if not Gabriel Riquetti? His
mistress! what have I not done to win the proud name? Have I not striven
hard for it? These triumphs, as they call them, my great successes, had
no other promptings. If my fame as an actress stands highest in Europe,
it was gained but in his cause. Your great Alfieri himself has taught me
no emotions I have not learned in my own deep love; and how shadowy and
weak the poet's words beside the throbbing ecstasies of one true heart!
You ask for a confession: you shall have one. But why do you go? Would
you leave me?'

'Would that we had never met again!' said Gerald sadly. 'Through many a
dark and sad hour have I looked back upon our life, when, as little more
than children, we journeyed days long together. I pictured to myself
how the same teachings that nerved my own heart in trouble must have
supported and sustained yours. If you knew how I used to dwell upon the
memory of that time; its very privations were hallowed in my memory,
telling how through all our little cares and sorrows our love sufficed
us!'

'Our love,' broke she in scoffingly. 'What a mockery! The poor offspring
of some weak sentimentality, the sickly cant of some dreamy sonneteer.
These men never knew what love was, or they had not dared to profane
it by their tawdry sentiments. Is it in nature,' cried she wildly, 'to
declare trumpet-tongued to the world the secrets on which the heart
feeds to live, the precious thoughts that to the dearest could not be
revealed? These are your poets! Over and over have I wished for you to
tell you this--to tear out of your memory that wretched heresy we then
believed a faith.'

'You have done your work well,' said he sorrowfully. 'Good-bye for
ever!'

'I wish you would not go, Gherardi,' said she, laying her hand on his
arm, and gazing at him with a look of the deepest meaning. 'To me,
alone and orphaned, you represent a family and kindred. The old ties are
tender ones.'

'Why will you thus trifle with me?' said he, half angrily.

'Is it to rekindle the flame you would extinguish afterward?'

'And why not return to that ancient faith? You were happier when you
loved me--when I learned my verses by your side, and sang the wild songs
of my own wild land. Do you remember this one; it was a favourite once
with you?' And, turning to the piano, she struck a few chords, and in
a voice of liquid melody sang a little Calabrese peasant song, whose
refrain ended with the words--

     'Ti am' ancor, ti am' ancor.'

'After the avowal you have made me, Marietta, it were base in me to be
beguiled thus,' said he, moving away. 'You love another: be it so. Live
in that love, and be happy.'

'This, too, Gherardi, we used to sing together,' said she, beginning
another air. 'Let us see if your memory, of which you boast so much,
equals mine. Come, this is your verse,' said she caressingly. 'Ah,
fratello mio, how much more lovable you were long ago! I remember a
certain evening, that glided into a long night, when we leaned together,
with arms around each other's necks, out of a little window; it was a
poor, melancholy street beneath, but to us it was like an alley between
cedar-trees. Well, on that same night, you swore to me a vow of eternal
love; you told me a miraculous story: that, though poor and friendless,
you were of birth and blood; and that birth and blood meant rank and
fortune in some long hereafter, for which neither of us was impatient.
It was on that same night you drew a picture to my mind of our life of
happiness--a bright and gorgeous picture it was too--ay, and I believed
it all; and yet, and yet--on the very day after you deserted me.' As she
uttered the last words, her head fell upon his shoulder, and her long
hair in waving masses dropped down over his chest and on his arm; a
violent sobbing seemed to choke her utterance, and her frame shook with
a strong tremor.

Gerald sank into a chair, and pressed her gently to his heart. Oh,
what a wild conflict raged within him; what hopes and fears, wishes and
dreads, warred there with each other! At one moment all his former love
came back, and she was the same Marietta he had wandered with through
the chestnut groves, reciting in boyish ardour the verses he had learned
to master; at the next, a shuddering shame reminded him that she had
just confessed she loved another, making a very mockery of the memory
of their former passion. What, too, was she--what her life--that she did
not dare to reveal it?

'And you,' cried she, suddenly springing up, 'what do you know of
Riquetti? How came you to be with him?'

'I have known him long, Marietta. Would that I had never known him!
Without him and his teachings I had thought better of the world--been
less prone to suspect--less ready to distrust. You may remember how,
long ago, I told you of a certain Gabriel----'

'It was he, then, who befriended you in the Maremma? Oh, the noble
nature that can do generous things, yet seem to think them weakness! How
widely different from your poets this--your men of high sentiment and
sordid action--your coiners of fine phrases, hollow-hearted and empty!'

'True enough,' said Gerald bitterly; 'Gabriel de Mirabeau is at least
consistent; his sentiments are all in harmony with his life--he is no
hypocrite.'

It was with a quick gesture, like a tigress about to spring, that she
now turned on him, her eyeballs staring wildly, and her fingers closely
clutched. 'Is it,' cried she in passion, 'is it given to creatures like
you or me to judge of a man like this? Do you imagine that by any strain
of your fancy you can conceive the trials, the doubts, the difficulties,
which beset him? To intellects like his what we call excess may give
that repose which to sluggish natures comes of mere apathy. I, too,'
said she, drawing herself proudly up, 'I, too, have been his pupil; he
saw me in the Cleopatra; he told me how I had misconceived the poet--or
rather, how the poet had mistaken the character--for he loves not your
Alfieri.'

'How should he? Whence could he draw upon the noble fund of emotions
that fill that great heart?'

A smile of proud, ineffable scorn was all her reply.

'Tell me rather of yourself, Marietta mia,' said he, taking her hand,
and placing her at his side. 'I long to hear how you became great and
distinguished, as I see you.'

'The human heart throbs alike beneath rags or purple. When I could make
tears course down the rude cheeks that were gaunt with famine, the task
was easy to move those whose natures yielded to lighter impulse. For a
whole winter--it was the first after we parted--I was the actress of
a little theatre in the cité. We dramatised the events of the day; and
they whose hard toil estranged them from the world of active life, could
see at evening the sorrows and sufferings of the nobility they hated
on "the scène." The sack of chateau and the guillotine were favourite
themes; and mine was to portray some woman of the people, seduced,
wronged, deserted, but avenged! A chance--a caprice of the
moment--brought Riquetti one night to our theatre. He came behind the
scenes and talked with me. My accent betrayed my birth, and we talked
Italian. He questioned me closely, how and where I had learned to
declaim. I spoke of you, though not by name. "Ah!" cried he, "a lover
already!" The look which he gave me at the words was like a stab; I felt
it here, in my heart. It was the careless scoff of one who deemed that
to such as me no sense of delicacy need be observed. He might think
and say as he pleased, my station was too ignoble to suggest respect. I
hated him, and turned away, vowing, if occasion served, to be
revenged upon him. He came a few nights after, accompanied by several
others--there were ladies too, handsome and splendidly dressed. This
splendour shocked the meanness of our misery, and even outraged
the meanly clad audience around. I saw this, and seized it as the
opportunity of my vengeance. Our piece was, as usual, the story of our
daily life; I represented a seduced peasant girl, left to starve in a
chateau, from which the owners had gone to enjoy the delights of Paris.
I had wandered on foot to the capital, and was supposed to be in search
of my seducer through the streets. I sat famished and shivering upon a
door-sill, watching with half-listless gaze the rich tide of humanity
that swept past. I heeded not the proud display of equipages; the gay
groups; the gorgeous procession of life before me; till suddenly, as if
on a balcony, I beheld him I sought, the centre of a knot of beautiful
women, who, leaning over the balustrade, seemed to criticise the world
below. Addressing myself at once to where Riquetti sat, I made him part
of the scene. I knew nothing of him, nor of his history; but in blind
chance I actually invented some of the chief incidents of his life. I
made him a profligate, a duellist, and a seducer. I represented how he
had won the affections of his friend's wife, eloped with, and deserted
her; and yet, covered with crime, debased by every iniquity, and
degraded by every vice, there he sat, successful, triumphant, and
esteemed.

'What was my amazement, as the curtain fell, to see him at my side. "I
have come," said he, in that rich, deep voice of his--"I have come
to make you my compliments; you have your country's gift, and can
'improvise' well!" I blushed deeply, and could not answer him; but he
went on: "These, however, are not wise themes to dwell upon. Popular
passions are dangerous seas, and will often shipwreck even those whose
breath has stirred them; besides, this is not art"; and with these
words he launched forth into a grand description of what really should
constitute the artist's realm, to what his teachings might extend, where
should be their limits. He showed how the strict imitation of nature was
an essential, yet, that the true criterion of success in art lay in
the combination of such ingredients as best suited the impression to be
conveyed; no mean or petty detail, however truthful or accurate, being
suffered to detract from the whole conception. He then warned me against
exaggeration, the prime fault of all inexperienced minds. "Even this
very moment," said he, "you marred a fine effect when you spoke of me
as one capable of parricide." "Of you," said I, blushing, and trying to
disown the personality. "Yes," said he, "of me. Your biography was often
very accurate--to any but myself it might seem painfully accurate: I
have done all that you ascribe to me, and more!"--"But I never knew it,"
cried I; "I never heard it; my improvisation was pure chance. I owed
you a vendetta for some cruel words you had spoken to me."--"I remember
them," said he, smiling; "you may live to believe that such phrases are
a flattery! But to yourself, come to me to-morrow; bring your books
with you, that you may read me something I will select. I can and may
befriend you!" And he did befriend me.

'There was with him a tall, dark man, of sombre aspect, and a deep
voice, who questioned me long and closely as to my early studies, and
who undertook from that hour to teach me. This was Talma.

'And now a life of glorious labour opened upon me. I worked unceasingly,
with such ardour, indeed, as to affect my health, which at last gave
way, and I was obliged to retire into the country, on the Loire, to
recruit. Riquetti came to see me once there; he was coming up from the
south, and happened to stop at Tours. His visit was scarcely an hour,
but it left me with memories that endured for months. But why should
I weary you with a recital which can only interest when all its daily
chances and changes are duly weighed? I came out at the "Français" as
Zaire; my success was a triumph! Roxane followed, and was even a greater
success. You do not care to hear by what flatteries I was surrounded,
what temptations assailed me, what wealth laid at my feet, what
protestations of devotion, what offers of splendour met me. We were in a
world that, repudiating all its old traditions, had sworn allegiance to
a new code! Nobility, birth, title, were as nothing; genius alone could
sway men's minds. Eloquence was deemed the grand exponent of intellect;
and next after the splendid oratory of the Constituent came the
declamation of the drama. You must know France in its aspect of generous
youth--in this, its brightest hour of destiny--to understand how much of
influence is wielded by those who once were deemed the mere creatures
of a pampered civilisation. The artist is now a "puissance," as is every
power that can move the passions, influence the motives, and direct the
actions of mankind. The choice of the piece we played at night was in
accordance with the political exigency of the day; and often has it
been my lot to complete by some grand declamation the eloquent appeal by
which Mirabeau had moved the Assembly. Oh, what a glorious life it
was to feel no longer the mere mouthpiece of mock passion, but a real,
actual, living influence on men's hearts; what a triumph was it then to
hear that wild outburst of applause, that seemed to say: "Here are we,
ready at your call; speak but the word and the blade shall flash and the
brand flare; denounce the treason, and leave the traitors to us!" It
was in this life, as in an orgie, I have lived. If you fancy that I
exaggerate this power, or overrate its extent, listen to one fact.

'I was one night at Mirabeau's--at one of those small, select receptions
which none but his most intimate friends frequented. D'Entraiques was
there, Lavastocque, Maurice de Talleyrand, De Noe, and a few more. We
were talking of the fall of the Monarchy, and discussing whether there
was in the story anything that future dramatists might successfully
avail themselves of. The majority thought not, and gave their reasons.
I was not able to controvert by argument such subtle critics, but I
replied by improvising a scene in the Temple of Marie Antoinette writing
a last letter to her children. There was no incident to give story, no
accessory of scenery to suggest a picture; but I felt that the theme
had its own pathetic power, and I was right. D'Entraiques shed tears;
Charles de Noe sobbed aloud. "She must never repeat this," muttered
Riquetti.--"Not for a while at least," said Talleyrand, smiling, as he
took a pinch of snuff. From that hour I felt what it was to stir men's
hearts. Then, success became real; for it was certain and assured.



CHAPTER IV. SOME OF TIME'S CHANGES

Resisting all Marietta's entreaties to stay and sup with her--resisting
blandishments that might have subjugated sterner moralists--Gerald
quitted her to seek out his humble lodging in the 'Rue de Marais.' Like
all men who have gained a victory over themselves, he was proud of his
triumph, and almost boastfully contrasted his tattered dress and lowly
condition with the splendour he had just left behind him.

'I suppose,' muttered he, 'I too might win success if I could stifle all
sense of conscience within me, and be the slave of the vile thing they
call the world. It is what men would call my own fault if I be poor and
friendless--so, assuredly, Mirabeau would say.'

'Mirabeau will not say so any more then,' said a voice close beside him
in the dark street.

'Why so?' asked Gerald fiercely.

'Simply because that great moralist is dead.'

Not noticing the half sarcasm of the epithet, Gerald eagerly asked when
the event occurred.

'I can tell you almost to a minute,' said the other. 'We were just
coming to the close of the third act of the piece "L'Amour le veut,"
where I was playing Jostard, when the news came; and the public at once
called out, "Drop the curtain."'

As the speaker had just concluded these words, the light of a street
lamp fell full upon his figure, and Gerald beheld a meanly clad but
good-looking man of about eight-and-twenty, whose features were not
unfamiliar to him.

'We have met before, sir,' said he.

'It was because I recognised your voice I ventured to address you; you
were a Garde du Corps once?'

'And you?'

'I was once upon a time the Viscount Alfred de Noe,' said the other
lightly. 'It was a part my ancestors performed for some seven or eight
centuries. Now I change my _rôle_ every night.'

Through all the levity of this remark there was also what savoured
of courage, that bold defiance of the turns of fortune which sounded
haughtily.

'I, too, have had my reverses; but not so great as yours,' said Gerald
modestly.

'When a man is killed by a fall, what signifies it if the drop has been
fifty feet or five hundred! _Mon cher_,' said the other, 'you and I were
once gentlemen--we talked, ate, drank, and dressed as such; we have now
the _canaille_ life, and the past is scarcely even a dream.'

'It is the present I would call a dream,' said Gerald.

'I 'd do so too if its cursed reality would let me,' said De Noe,
laughing, 'or if I could throw off the cast of shop for one brief hour,
and feel myself the man I once was.'

'What are you counting? Have you lost anything?' asked Gerald, as the
other turned over some pieces of money in his hand, and then hastily
searched pocket after pocket.

'No; I was just seeing if I had wherewithal to ask you to sup with me,
and I find that I have.'

'Rather, come and share mine--I live here,' said Gerald, as he pushed
a door which lay ajar. 'It's a very humble meal I invite you to partake
of; but we 'll drink to the good time coming.'

'I accept frankly,' said the other, as he followed Gerald up the dark
and narrow stairs.

'A bed and a looking-glass, as I live!' exclaimed De Noe, as he entered
the room. 'What a sybarite! Why, my friend, you outrage the noble
precepts of our glorious Revolution by these luxurious pretensions--you
insult equality and fraternity together.'

'Let me at least conciliate liberty then,' said Gerald gaily, 'and ask
you to feel yourself at home.'

'How am I to call thee, _mon cher?_' said De Noe, assuming the familiar
second person, which I beg the reader to supply in the remainder of the
interview.

'Gerald Fitzgerald is my name.'

'Le Chevalier Fitzgerald was just becoming a celebrity when they changed
the spectacle. Ah, what a splendid engagement we all had, if we only
knew how to keep it!'

'The fault was not entirely ours,' protested Gerald.

'Perhaps not. The good public were growing tired of being always
spectators; they wanted, besides, to see what was behind the scenes; and
they found the whole machinery even more a sham than they expected, and
so they smashed the stage and scattered the actors.'

Gerald had now covered the table with the materials of his frugal meal,
and brought forth his last two bottles of Bordeaux, long reserved to
celebrate the first piece of good fortune that might betide him.

'It is easy to see,' cried De Noe, 'that you serve a Prince; your fare
is worthy of Royalty, my dear Fitzgerald. If you had supped with me,
your meal had been a mess of _haricot_, washed down with the light wines
of the "Pays Latin.'"

'And why, or how, do you suspect in whose service I am?' asked Gerald
eagerly.

'My dear friend, every man of the emigration is known to the police, and
I am one of its agents. I am frank with you, just to show you that you
may be as candid with me. Like you, I came to Paris as a secret agent of
"the family." I plotted, and schemed, and intrigued to obtain access
to information. All my reports, however, were discouraging. I had no
tidings to tell but such as boded ill. I saw the game was up; and I was
honest enough or foolish enough to say so. The orgies of the Revolution
were only beginning, and no one wished to come back to the rigid decency
and decorous propriety of the Monarchy. These were not pleasant things
to write back; they were less pleasant, too, to read; besides that, a
man who spent some three thousand francs a month ought, surely, to have
had something more agreeable to report, and they intimated as much to
me. Well, I endeavoured to obey. I frequented certain coteries at the
Abbé Clery's; I went of an evening to D'Allonville's; and I even used
to pass a Sunday at St. Germains with old Madame de St. Leon. I
familiarised my mind with all the favourite expressions, and filled my
letters with the same glowing fallacies that they ever repeated to each
other. This finished me; they called me a knave, and dismissed me. I
had then to choose between becoming a secret agent of the police, or
throwing myself into the Seine. I took the humbler part, and became a
spy. They assigned me the theatres, the small, low "spectacles" of the
populace, and for this I had to become an actor. It was a vow of poverty
I took, my dear Chevalier; but I always hoped I was to rise to a higher
order, which did not enjoin fasts nor disclaim clean linen. Seventeen
long months has this slavery now endured, and during this time have I
had seventeen hundred temptations to pitch my career to the devil,
who invented it, and take the consequences, whatever they were; but
somehow--shall I own it?--the chances and changes of this strange time
have grown to assume to my mind the vicissitudes of a game. Even from
the humble place I occupied have I seen those that seemed fortune's
first favourites ruined, and many a one as poor and needy and friendless
as--as you or myself--rise to eminence, wealth, and power. This thought
has given such an interest to events that I am reluctant to quit the
table. What depressed me was that I was alone. Our old friends looked
coldly on me, for I was no longer "of them." Among the others, I knew
not whom to trust, for in my heart of hearts I have no faith in the
Revolution. Now I have watched you for months back. I knew your purpose,
the places you frequented, the themes that interested you; and I often
said to myself, that man "Gerard"--for so we called you in the police
roll--would suit me. He was a Royalist, like me; his sympathies are like
my own, so are his present necessities. I could, besides, give him much
information of value to his party. In a word, I wanted you, Fitzgerald,
and I felt that if I could not make _my own_ fortune, I could certainly
aid _yours_.'

There are men whose influence upon certain others is like a charm;
without any seeming effort--without apparently a care on the
subject--the words sink deep into the heart and carry persuasion with
them. Of these was De Noe. Poor and miserable as he was, the stamp of
gentleman was indelibly on him; and as Gerald sat and listened, the
other's opinions and views stole gradually into his mind with a power
scarcely conceivable.

The ranges of his knowledge, too, seemed marvellous. He knew not only
the theory of each pretender to popular favour, but the names and plans
of their opponents. His firm conviction was that Mirabeau not only
could, but would have saved the monarchy.

'And now?' cried Gerald, eager to hear what he had to predict.

'And now the cards are shuffling for a new deal, Gerald, but the
game will be a stormy one. The men who have convulsed France have not
received their wages; they are growing hourly more and more impatient,
and the end will be they 'll murder the paymasters.'

By a long but not wearisome line of argument he went on to show that the
Revolution would consume itself. Out of anarchy and blood men would seek
the deliverance of a dictator, and the real hope of the monarchists was
in making terms with him.

'You will meet no acceptance for those opinions from your friends; they
are too lukewarm for sanguine loyalty; they are, besides, to be the work
of time. But think and ponder them, Fitzgerald. Go out to-morrow
into the streets, and count how many heads must fall before men will
condescend to reason; the gaunt and famished faces you will meet are
scarcely the guarantees of a long tranquillity. If the Monarchy is ever
to come back to France, it is the mob must restore it.'

'These are Mirabeau's words,' said Gerald quickly.

'It was a craftier than Mirabeau explained them, though,' broke in De
Noe, 'the shrewd and subtle Maurice de Talleyrand! But let us turn
to ourselves and our own fortunes. What are we to do that France may
benefit by our valuable services? How are our grand intelligences to
redound to the advantage of the nation?'

'I confess I have no plans. I grow weary of this inglorious life I lead.
If there was an army in whose ranks I could fight, I 'd turn a soldier,
and care little in what cause.'

'I guess the secret of your recklessness, Gerald; I read it in every
word you speak.'

'How so? What do you mean?'

'You are in love, _mon cher_. These are the promptings of a hopeless
passion.'

'You were never more wrong in your life,' said Gerald, blushing till his
face and forehead were crimson.

'Would you try to deceive a man trained to the subtleties of such a life
as mine? Do you fancy that a "mouchard" cannot read the thoughts that
men have scarcely confessed to themselves? It is not their privilege to
win confidences, but to extort them; and so, I tell you again, Gerald,
you are in love.'

'And again I say, you are mistaken; I have but to remind you of the
life I lead--its cares and duties--to show you how unlikely, if not
impossible, is such an event.'

'Bah!' said the other scoffingly. 'You stand at the door of the opera.
As the crowd pours out, a shawled and muffled figure hastily passes to
her carriage; she speaks a word or two, and the tones are in your heart
for years after. The diligence drives at daybreak through some country
village; a curtain is hastily withdrawn, and a pair of eyes meet yours,
in which there is no expression save a pleased surprise; and yet you
think of them in far-away lands, and across seas, as dear remembrances.
Something more than these, an impression a little stronger, will
oftentimes give the motive to a whole life. You doubt it; well, listen
to a confession of my own.

'When I first took service under my present masters, they assigned to
me, as the sphere of duty, a small and miserable theatre in the cité.
When I tell you that the entrance was four sous, you have the measure
of its pretensions. What singular destiny brought our strange corps
together I cannot think; we were of every class and condition of life,
and of every shade of temperament and character. There was a Catalonian
condemned for life to the galleys in Spain; a Swiss, who had poisoned a
whole family; a monk, whose convent had been burned, and he himself the
only one escaped; a court lady, who had been betrothed to an ambassador;
and a gipsy girl, who had exhibited her native dances through all the
towns of Italy. These were but a few of our incongruous elements, and
it is with the last of them only I have to deal--the gipsy. Whence she
came, or with whom, I never could learn. I only know that one evening,
from some illness of our first actress, we were driven upon our own
resources to amuse the public. Each, after his fashion, delivered
some specimen of his talents, by repeating some well-known part, some
oft-recited speech or song. When it came to her turn to appear, she
evinced no fear or trepidation; she did not even ask a question of
advice or counsel, but walked boldly on, stood for a second or two
contemplating the dense crowd before her, and then began a strange, wild
rhapsody, illustrating the events of the time. She told of the nobles
living in splendour, ignoring the sorrows of the poor, forgetting their
very existence. She described their life of luxury and pleasure, how
they beguiled their leisure hours with enjoyments. She counterfeited
their polished intercourse. She was a duchess; her ragged, tattered
shawl swept the ground as a train, and she curtsied with a grace and
dignity the highest might have envied. She presented her daughter to
some great noble: the young girl was asked to sing; and then, taking
her guitar, she sang a troubadour melody, and with a touching tenderness
that brought tears over cheeks seared and sorrow-worn. Her aim was
evidently to throw over the haughty existence of a hated class the
softened light of a home; to show that among that proud order the same
sympathies lived and reigned, the same affections grew, the same joys
and griefs prevailed. Therein lay the power of vengeance. "They despise
and reject you!" cried she; "they hold themselves apart from you, as
beings of another destiny; of all this fair world contains they will not
share with you, save in the air and sunlight; and yet their passions are
your passions--their hates, loves, and jealousies are all your own. All
their wealth teaches no new affection, all their civilisation can stifle
no old pang. If you be like them, then, in all these, why not resemble
them in their cruelties? Down with them! down with them!" she cried,
"for the brand to burn, and the axe to cleave." She shrieked the wild
scream of an incensed populace. The chateau was attacked on every
side--but why do I continue? The terrible roar of the famished crowd
before her is still in my ears, as she sank dying on the stage, the
martyred girl of the people, pouring out her blood for her brethren.

'As the curtain fell I rushed forward to raise her; she was fainting.
The emotion was not all unreal. I had seen her a hundred times before;
we used to salute each other as we met, and perhaps exchange a word or
two; and though struck by her uncommon beauty, I only deemed her one of
those unhappy shreds that hang on the draggled robe of humanity, without
intellect or mind--of those who are unfortunate without pity; but now
as I lifted her up, and carried her to a seat, I saw before me the
marvellous artist--one whose genius could conceive the highest flights
of passion, and who had powers also to portray it. It was some time
before she came to herself; her faculties seemed to wander in a sort of
dreamy vagueness. She dropped words of Italian too, and muttered strange
rhymes to herself. I tried to soothe her and calm her. I told her of the
immense success she had achieved, and that even in that rude audience
there reigned a fervour of enthusiasm that would have carried them to
any excesses. "Poor wretches," muttered she, "who are insensible to real
wrongs, and can yet be moved by a mockery of woe."

This was all she said, and turned from me with a gesture of aversion.
Half stung by the insult of her manner, half wounded in the instincts
of my class--for it is hard to forget that one was born noble--I stooped
down and whispered in her ear some bitter words of reproach. She started
like one bitten by a serpent, and stared at me with wide eyeballs and
half-opened mouth. I saw my advantage, and used it. I told her that
those she insulted were incomparably above the base herd she dared to
place above them; that in self-devotion, courage, and single-heartedness
the world had never yet displayed their equals. The perils that others
encountered in pursuit of vengeance or plunder were dared by them in the
assertion of a noble cause and to avenge a glorious martyrdom. With a
fierce look she scanned my features for above a minute, and then said,
"I know it, and hate them for it." You might imagine that such a speech
so uttered had made her odious to my eyes for ever; and yet, Gerald,
from that very moment my heart was all her own. Some would explain this
by saying we live in times when every human sentiment is inverted; when,
having confounded right and wrong, made peace seem death, and anarchy a
blessing, that men are fascinated by what should repel, and deterred
by what should attract them. There may be truth in this manner of
reconciling the strange caprices which seem to urge us even to what we
have hitherto shown repugnance. I have neither taste nor patience for
the inquiry; enough for me the fact that I loved her, with an ardour
intense as it was sudden.

'I will not weary you with any story of my passion. It was the old
narrative of a hopeless love, affection unreturned, a whole heart's
devotion given without the shadow of requital. There was not an artifice
I did not practise to cure myself of this baleful infatuation. I
reasoned, I pondered, I even prayed against it. I tried to invest
her with all the "traits" of that "canaille" multitude I hated. I
endeavoured to believe her the very type of that base herd who exulted
over our ruin and downfall; but no sooner did I see her, and hear
her voice, than I forgot all my self-deceptions, and loved her more
ardently, ay, more abjectly than ever. We live in strange times,
Gerald,' said he, with a deep sigh, 'and we learn hard lessons. That
this poor and friendless girl of the people should despise a Count de
Noe tells to what depths we have fallen.'

Gerald listened with deep interest to this story. He never doubted
in his own mind that this girl was Marietta, nor did he wonder at
the fascination she exercised; still was he careful to conceal this
knowledge from De Noe, and affecting a mere curiosity in the adventure,
asked him to continue.

'I have little more to tell you,' said the other. 'I know not if my
attentions persecuted her, or that the promptings of a higher ambition
moved her, but she left us, some said, to become the mistress of
Mirabeau; others declared that Collot d'Herbois was her lover. The truth
was soon apparent when she appeared at the Français under the name of
Gabrielle. Ay, Gerald, the great genius of the French stage, the gifted
pupil of Talma, the marvellous artiste whose triumphs are trumpeted
through Europe, was the other day but the gipsy actress of the Trou de
Taupe, as our little stage was politely named.'

De Noe described with enthusiasm the fervour of admiration La Gabrielle
had excited; how the foremost men of the time had offered to share
fortune with her; that she had but to choose throughout France the man
who would be her protector--from Dumourier to Tinaille, there is not one
would not make her his wife to-morrow.

'I see,' added he, 'that you account all this exaggeration on my part.
Well, there is happily a way to test the faithfulness of my report.'

'How so?'

'To-morrow evening is Madame Roland's night of reception. You have heard
of her as the great leader of the advanced reformers--they who would
strip the nation of everything to clothe it in rags of their own
pattern. Come with me there; I will present you as a young friend from
the provinces, or better still, an exile fled from Italian tyranny. You
will meet the most distinguished men of that extreme party; you will
hear their sentiments and their hopes. A stray phrase about despotism,
a passing word of execration on kingly rule, will be enough to make you
free of the guild, and you will not fail to glean information from them.
At all events, there is a great chance that you may see "Gabrielle;" she
rarely misses one of these evenings, and you will see her in the sphere
she loves best to move in, and where her influence is unbounded. It may
be she will give me leave to present you.'

'I will not ask so much,' said Gerald, with an affected humility.

'You cannot say so till you have seen her,' cried the other. 'I tell
you, Gerald, that the men whose pride would scorn the notice of royalty
would kneel with devotion to do her homage. She is not one of those
whose eminence is a recognised conventionality, but one whose sway is
an indisputable influence, greater as she is in real life than when
depicting imaginary sorrows; and then that wondrous gift, the heritage
of her gipsy blood, perhaps heightens the power she possesses to
something almost terrible.'

'Of what do you speak?' asked Gerald eagerly.

'I scarcely know how or what to call it. It savours of the old Egyptian
art called "fate-reading." I am sceptical enough on most things; and had
I not seen with my eyes, and heard with my ears, I had scouted the very
thought of such revelations.'

'And what have you seen?'

De Noe paused for a few seconds, and in a voice slightly tremulous for
agitation, said: 'I will tell you what I myself witnessed. It was
one night late at Madame Roland's: the company had all gone, save the
Gabrielle, Brissot, Guidet, and myself, and we only waited for carriages
to fetch us away, as the rain was falling in torrents. The Gabrielle,
shawled and muffled, ready to depart, seated herself in the antechamber;
and refusing all entreaties to return to the salon, remained in a sort
of reverie, with closed eyes and clasped hands--the attitude bespeaking
one who would not be disturbed. Madame Roland said it was an "extase,"
and would not suffer any one to speak. After a long pause, during which
her countenance was perfectly motionless, she slowly raised her arm and
pointed with her finger toward one corner of the room. 'There, there,'
whispered she, in a low voice, 'what a number of them! There are more
than fifty; and see, they are saddling more! The black one will not let
himself be bridled. Ah! he has kicked the groom; poor fellow! they are
carrying him away. Hush! take care, take care, or the secret will be
out. Silly man,' said she, with a mocking smile, 'he would paint out
the arms, as if any one could be deceived by such a cavalcade.' At this,
Brissot whispered in my ear: 'It is the royal stable that she sees. I
will soon test the truth of this vision'; and he stepped unnoticed from
the room. He had not gone many minutes, when with a long-drawn sigh
she opened her eyes and looked about her. "How late my carriage is
to-night," said she to Madame Roland, "and how ashamed am I to keep
you up to such an hour!" While Madame Roland answered her in tones of
kindness and affection, I watched the Gabrielle closely. There was not a
line in that pale face that indicated the slightest emotion; perhaps the
most marked expression was a look of weariness and exhaustion. At length
the carriage arrived, and she drove away. We, however, all remained, for
Brissot had promised me to return, and I told them whither he had gone.
It was past two when he came back, pale as death, and covered with
a cold perspiration. "It is as she said," cried he, in terror: "two
commissaries have brought the news to Bailly that the king was about to
fly to De Bouilly's camp; and all the horses at Versailles were ready
for the start. Two hundred mounted royalists were in the Cour when
the commissaries arrived." I could tell you of other and more striking
scenes than this,' said De Noe; 'some are yet unaccomplished; but I
believe in them as I believe in my own existence.'

Gerald sat without uttering a word for some time. At last he said, 'You
have given me a great curiosity to see your priestess, if I could but do
so unobserved.'

'Nothing is easier. Come early to-morrow evening; and I will take care,
after your presentation to the hostess, to secrete you where none will
remark you.'

'I agree, then, and will ask you to come and fetch me at the proper
hour.'

'Remember, Gerald, that in your dress you must adopt the mode of the
Jacobins.'

'Marat himself could not be more accurate in costume than you will find
me,' said Gerald, as he squeezed his friend's hand to say adieu.



CHAPTER V. A RECEPTION AT MADAME ROLAND'S

If it be matter of wonderment that at such a time as we now speak of
De Noe should have opened his heart thus freely to one he had never
met before, the simple explanation lies in the fact that periods of
"espionage" are precisely those when men make the rashest confederacies.
Wearied and worn out, as it were, by everlasting chicanery and trick,
they seize with avidity on the first occasion that presents itself to
relieve the weight of an overburdened heart. To feel a sense of trust
is sufficient to make them reveal their most secret feelings; and it was
thus that De Noe no sooner found himself alone with Gerald than he told
him the whole story of his love.

Gerald not only read his motives aright, but saw also something of
the man himself. He perceived in him a type of a class by no means
unfrequent at the time--royalists by birth and instinct, and yet so
stripped of all the prestige of their once condition, and so destitute
of hope, that they really lived on the contingency of each day, not
knowing by what stratagem the morrow was to be met, nor to what straits
future fate might subject them. Besides this, he saw how the supporters
of the 'cause' had gradually degenerated from the great names and nobles
of France to men of ruined hopes and blasted fortunes, whose intrigues
were conceived in the lowest places, and carried on by the meanest
associates. The more he reflected on these things, the more was he
convinced that Mirabeau was right when he said the 'Revolution was a
fire that must burn out.'

'And how long will the flames last,' cried he to himself; 'they will not
assuredly be extinguished in my time. The great convulsions of nations
will bear proportion to the vast materials they deal with. France will
not rally from this shock for half a century to come; and ere that I
shall have passed away.'

When doubt or despondency weighed upon his mind, all the crafty
reasoning of Mirabeau and all the sensual teachings of Rousseau
came freshly to his memory. They told him of a world of conflict and
struggle, but also a world of voluptuous pleasure and abandonment. They
sneered at the ideal pretexts men called loyalty and fidelity, and they
counselled the enjoyment of the present as the only true philosophy.
'Tell me you are sure of being alone to-morrow,' said Diderot, 'and I
will listen to how you mean to spend it.' like evil spirits that love
the night, these dark thoughts were sure to seek him in his hours of
gloomy depression.

There was, with all this, a sense of pique as he compared his own
position with that which Marietta had already won for herself. 'We
started together in the race, thought he, 'and see where she has
distanced me! That poor friendless girl is already a social influence
and a power, while I am a mere hanger-on of men, who use me in dangers
that show how little they regard me. What rare abilities must she
possess! What a marvellous insight into the human heart and all its
varied workings! How ingeniously, too, has she contrived to interweave
with her dramatic power the stranger and more mysterious workings of a
supernatural influence! How far is she the dupe of her own deceptions?'
This was a thought not easily solved, knowing her well as he did, and
knowing how often she was the slave of her own passionate impulses. 'I
will see her to-night with my own eyes, and mayhap be able to read her
aright.'

The receptions of Madame Roland were among the 'events' of the day. They
were the rendezvous of all that was most advanced and extravagant in
republicanism. Thoroughly true-hearted and single-minded herself, she
was rapidly attracted to those men who declaimed against courts and
courtly vices, and sincerely believed that virtue only resided beneath
lowly roofs and among narrow fortunes. Her sincere enthusiasm--the
genuine ardour of a character that had no duplicity in it--added to
considerable personal charms, gave her a vast influence in the society
wherein she moved. She was not strictly handsome, but her features were
of extreme delicacy, and capable of expression the most refined and
captivating; but her voice was the spell which, it is said, never failed
to fascinate those who heard it.

In the management of this marvellous instrument of captivation was,
perhaps, the solitary evidence of anything like study or artifice about
her. She knew how to attune and modulate it to perfection; and even
they who pronounced her conversational powers as inferior to Madame
de Stael's, were ready to confess that the melody and softness of her
utterance gave her an unquestionable advantage. Married to a man more
than double her age, she exercised a complete independence in all the
arrangements of her household, inviting whom she pleased, bringing
together in her salons ingredients the most dissimilar, and
representatives of classes the widest apart.

Gerald had more than once heard of these receptions, and was curious
to witness them; he wished, besides, to see some of the men whom the
popular will declared to be the great leaders of party, and whose
legislative ability was regarded as the hope of France.

'Do not flatter yourself that you are about to be struck by any
intellectual display,' whispered De Noe, as he led him up the stairs.
'For the most part, you will hear nothing but violent tirades against
royalty, and coarse abuse of a society of which the speaker knows
nothing.'

The salons, which were small, were crammed with company, so that for
some time Gerald had little other occupation than to scrutinise the
appearance of the guests, and the strange extravagances of that costume
which they had come to assume distinctively.

'Look yonder,' whispered De Noe, 'at the tall, dark man, like a
Spaniard, with his long hair combed back and falling on his neck. That
is Lanthenas, _l'ami de la maison_; he lives here. Were she any one
else, people would call him her lover; but "La Manon," as they style
her, has no heart to bestow on such emotion; she is with her whole soul
in politics, and only cares for humanity when counted by millions.'

'Who is the pert-looking, conceited fellow he is talking to?' asked
Gerald.

'That is Louvet, the great literary hero of the day. Seven editions of
an indecent novel, sold in as many weeks, have made him rich as well as
famous; and the author of _Faublas_ is now courted and sought after on
all sides.'

As the crowd thickened, De Noe could but just tell the names of the
more remarkable characters without time for more. There was Pelleport, a
marquis by birth, but now a spy, and libelist of the lowest class,
side by side with Condorcet, the optimist philosopher, and Brissot, the
wildest enunciator of republicanism. Carsu, with a dozen penal sentences
over his head, was talking familiarly with old Monsieur Roland himself,
a simple-hearted old egotist, vain, harmless, and conceited. Yonder,
entertaining a group of ladies by the last scandals of the day, told as
none but himself could tell them, was Gaudet, a young lawyer from Lyons,
his dress the exaggeration of all that constituted the republican
mode; while looking on, and with air at once rebuking and amused, stood
Dumont, his staid features and simple attire the modest contrast to the
other's finery.

'A young friend of mine, just come from Italy, Madame, said De Noe,
suddenly perceiving Madame Roland's eyes fixed on Fitzgerald.

'And "of us"?' said she significantly.

'Assuredly, Madame, or I had not dared to present him,' said De Noe,
bowing.

'You must not say so, sir. Do you know,' said she, addressing Gerald,
'that it was only last week he brought a bishop here, Monseigneur de
Blois.'

'Ah! but be just, Madame; he had been degraded for immorality,' broke in
De Noe, laughing.

'You should have shared his penalty, Monsieur De Noe,' said she, half
coldly, and moved on.

'Come, Gerald, let me present you to some of my illustrious friends.
Whom will you know? That choleric old lady there, a dismissed court
lady, and the sworn enemy of the queen; or her daughter, the pretty
widow, playing trictrac with Fabre d'Êglantine? Or shall I introduce you
to that dark-eyed beauty, whose foot you are not the first man that ever
admired? She is, or was, La Comtesse de Ratignolles, but calls herself
Julie Servan on her books.

'Why don't you answer me? What are you thinking of? Ah, parbleu! I see
well enough. It is the Gabrielle; and the tall, pale man she leans upon
is Talma. Is not that enough of homage, _mon cher_? See how they rise
to let her pass. We have been courtiers in our day, Gerald, but did you
ever see a more queenly presence than that?'

It was truly, as De Noe described, like the passage of royalty. Marietta
swept by, bowing slightly to either side, and by an easy gesture of her
hand seeming half to decline, half accept, the honours that were paid
her. Refusing with a sort of haughty indifference the seat prepared for
her at the end of the room, she moved on toward a small boudoir, and
was lost to Gerald's view. Indeed, his attention was rapidly directed
elsewhere, as a small, dark-eyed man in the centre of the room proceeded
to entertain the company with an account of Mirabeau's last moments. It
was the Doctor Cabanis, who had tended his sickbed with such devotional
affection, and whose real attachment had soothed the last sufferings
of his patient. If there was something in Gerald's estimation more than
questionable in this exposure of all that might be deemed most sacred
and private, the narrative was full of little details that interested
him.

The dreadful mockery by which Mirabeau endeavoured to cheat death of his
terrors, as, dressed, perfumed, and essenced, he lay upon his last
bed, all surrounded with flowers, was told with a thrilling minuteness.
Through all the assumed calm, through all the acted philosophy,
there crept out the agonising eagerness for life, that even _his_
dissimulation could not smother. His incessant questioning as to this
symptom or that, whether it indicated good or evil; the intense anxiety
with which he scrutinised the faces around his bed, to read the thoughts
their words belied, were all related; and, strangely enough, assumed to
imply that they were the last desires of a patriot who only longed
for life to serve his country. Of those who listened, many doubted the
honesty and good faith of his character; some thought him a royalist in
disguise; some deemed him a lukewarm patriot; some even regarded him as
so destitute of principle, that his professions were good for nothing;
and yet amid all these disparaging estimates, they regarded this
deathbed, where no consolations of religion were breathed, where no
murmur of prayer was heard, nor one supplication for mercy raised, as
a glorious triumph! It was to _their_ eyes the dawning of that
transcendent brightness which was to succeed the long night of
priestcraft and superstition; and however ready to cavil at his
doctrines or dispute his theories, there was but one voice--to honour
_him_ who with his last breath had defied the Church.

'_Ah, que c'est beau!' 'Ah que c'est magnifique!_' were the mutterings
on every side. One only circumstance detracted in any way from the
effect of these revelations; it was, that he who made them momentarily
gave vent to his feelings and shed tears. This homage to human frailty
jarred upon the classic instincts of the assembly. It was an ignoble
weakness, unworthy of such a theme; and in a tone of stern rebuke, Fabre
d'Églantine interrupted the speaker, and said--

'Your grief is unbecoming, sir; such sorrow insults the memory you
mean to hallow! If you would learn how the death of Mirabeau should be
accepted, go yonder, and you will see.' He pointed as he spoke toward
the boudoir, and thither with a common impulse the crowd now moved.

A warning gesture from Talma, as he stood in the doorway, and with
uplifted hand motioned silence, arrested their steps, and, awestruck by
the imposing attitude of one whose slightest gesture was eloquent, they
halted. Mixed in the throng, Gerald could barely catch a glimpse of the
scene beyond. He could, however, perceive that Marietta was lying in a
sort of trance; a crown of 'immortelles' that she had been weaving had
fallen from her hand, and lay at her feet; her hair, too, had burst
its bands, and fell in large waving masses over her neck and arms; the
faintest trace of colour marked her cheeks, and sufficed to show that
she had not fainted.

Lanthenas laid his finger softly on her wrist, and in a cautious whisper
said, 'The pulse is intermittent, the "accès" will be brief.'

'We were talking of the death of Cæsar,' said Talma, 'when the attack
came on. She would not have it that Brutus was a patriot. She tried to
show that in such natures--stern, cold, and self-denying--patriotism can
no more take root than love. I asked her then if Gabriel Riquetti were
such a man----'

'Hush! she is about to speak,' broke in Madame Roland.

A few soft murmuring sounds escaped Marietta's lips, and her fingers
moved convulsively.

'What is it she says,' cried Louvet, 'of crime and poison?'

'Hush! listen.'

'Examine Comps,' muttered she; 'he knows all.'

'It is Mirabeau's secretary she speaks of,' said Louvet, 'he committed
suicide last night.'

'No; he is not dead, though his wound may prove fatal,' said Cabanis.

'He will live,' said Marietta solemnly, and then seemed to sink into a
deep stupor.

'Yes, trust me, I will tell him,' cried she suddenly, with a voice as
assured and an accent as firm as though awake. 'Come here and let me
whisper it.'

One after another bent down beside the couch, but she repulsed them
sharply, and with a half-angry gesture motioned them away.

Madame Roland knelt down and took her hand, but with the same abrupt
movement the other pushed her away, muttering, 'No, not you--not you.'

Again and again did they who knew her best present themselves, but with
the same ill success. Some she drove rudely back, to others she made a
sign to retire.

'Mayhap the person is not present that you wish for,' said Madame Roland
softly.

'He is here,' said she gently.

Name after name of those around did Madame Roland whisper, but all
without avail. At last, as Langrés presented himself, Marietta turned
with a sort of aversion from him and said--

'I am in search of a prince, and you bring me a butcher.'

This insulting speech was not heard without a smile by some who knew
this man's origin, and detested the coarse ruffianism of his address.

'_Parbleau_, Madame! if you want princes you must go and seek them at
the Français,' said Langrés angrily, as he dropped back into the crowd.

Meanwhile, impelled by a strong desire to test the reality of her
vision, Gerald made his way through the throng, and dropping on one
knee, took her hand in his own.

A start and a faint exclamation--half surprise, half joy--broke from her
as she felt his touch. She passed her hand over his face, and through
his long hair, and then bending down kissed him on the forehead. She
whispered a few words rapidly in his ear, and sank back exhausted.

'She has fainted! Bring water quickly,' cried Lanthenas.

For a few minutes every attention was directed toward her; and it was
only as she showed signs of recovery, some one asked--

'What has become of De Noe and his friend?'

They were gone.



CHAPTER VI. 'LA GRUE'

When Gerald gained the street, it was to find it crammed with a dense
mob, whose wild cries and screams filled the air. No sooner was he
perceived by some of the multitude than a hundred yells saluted him,
with shouts of 'Down with the aristocrat; down with the tyrant, who
insults the friend of the people.' It was a mob who, in fervour of
enthusiasm for Mirabeau's memory, had closed each of the theatres in
succession, dispersed all meetings of public festivity, and even invaded
the precincts of private houses, to dictate a more becoming observance
toward the illustrious dead. Few men could bear such prescription less
patiently than Fitzgerald. The very thought of being ruled and directed
by the 'canaille' was insupportably offensive, and he drove back those
who rudely pressed upon him, and answered with contempt their words of
insult and outrage.

'Who is it that insults the majesty of the people?' cried one; 'let us
hear his name.'

'It is Louvet'--'It is Plessard'--'It is Lestocq'--'It is that miserable
Custine '--shouted several together.

'You are all wrong. I am a stranger, whose name not one of you has ever
heard----'

'A spy! an emissary of Pitt and Cobourg!'

'I am a foreigner, with whose sentiments you have no concern. I do not
obtrude my opinions upon you.'

'What do we care for that?' shouted a deep voice. 'You have dared to
offend the most sacred sentiments of a nation, and to riot in a festive
orgie while we weep over the deathbed of a patriot.'

'_A la Grue! à la Grue!_' screamed the wild mass in a yell of passion.

Now the Grue was an immense crane--used in some repairs of the Pont
Neuf--which still held its place at the approach to the bridge. It was
here that a sort of public tribunal held its nightly sittings by the
light of a gigantic lantern, suspended from the crane; and which, report
alleged, had more than once given way to a very different pendant. It
is certain that two men, taken in the act of robbery, had been hanged by
the sentence of this self-constituted tribunal, which, in open defiance
of the authorities, continued to assemble there. The cry, '_A la Grue!
à la Grue!_' had, therefore, a dreadful significance; and there was
a terrible import in the savage roar of the mob as they ratified the
proposal.

'We will try him fairly. He shall be judged deliberately, and be allowed
to speak in his own defence,' said several, who believed that their
words were those of moderation and equity:

Powerless against the overwhelming mass, and too indignant to proffer
one single word of palliation, Gerald was hurried along towards the
quay.

There was something singularly solemn in the measured tread of that vast
multitude, as, in a mockery of justice, they marched along. At first not
a word was spoken; but suddenly a deep voice in the front rank began one
of the popular chants of the day, the whole dense mass joining in the
refrain. Nothing could be ruder than the verses, save the accents that
intoned them; but there was in the very roar and resonance a depth that
imparted a sense of force and power.

We offer a rough version of the unpolished chant--

     'The Cour Royale has a princely hall,
     And many come there to sue;
     But I love the sight of a stilly night,
     And the crowd beneath the Grue.

     No lawyer clown, with his cap and gown,
     Has complex work to do;
     For the horny hand and the face that's tanned
     Are the judges beneath the Grue.

     At best, this life is a fleeting strife,
     For me as well as for you;
     But our work is brief with a rogue or thief
     When he stands beneath the Grue.

     No bribes resort to our humble court,
     All is open and plain to view;
     And the people's voice and the people's choice
     Are the law beneath the Grue.

     The Grue! the Grue! the Grue!
     I ween there are but few
     Who have hearts for hope as they see the rope
     That dangles beneath the Grue.'

As they sang a number of voices in front of them took up the strain,
till the crowd seemed to make the very air ring with their hoarse chant.
In this way they reached the Seine, over whose dark and rapid flood the
fatal crane seemed to droop sadly. Several hundred people were assembled
here, a confused murmur showing that they were engaged in conversing
rather than in that judicial function it was their pride to discharge.

'A rebel against the majesty of the people and the fame of its greatest
martyr,' said a deep voice, as he announced the crime of Fitzgerald,
and pushed him forward to the place reserved for the accused. 'While a
nation humbles itself in sorrow, this man chooses the hour for riotous
dissipation and excess. We met him as he issued forth from the woman
Roland's house, so that he cannot deny the charge.'

'Accused, stand forward,' said a coarse-looking man, in a mechanic's
dress, but whose manner was not devoid of a certain dignity. 'You are
here before the French people, who will judge you fairly.'

'Were I even conscious of a crime, I would deny your right to try me.'

'Young man, you do but injury to yourself in insulting us, was the grave
rebuke, delivered with a calm decorum which seemed to have its influence
on Fitzgerald.

'Who accuses him?' asked the judge aloud.

'I'--'and I '--'and I'--'all of us,' shouted a number together, followed
by a burst of, 'Let Lamarc do it; let Lamarc speak'; and a pale, very
young man, of gentle look and slight figure, came forward at the call.

With the ease of one thoroughly accustomed to address public assemblies,
and with an eloquence evidently cultivated in very different spheres,
the young man pronounced a glowing panegyric on Mirabeau. It was really
a fine and scarce exaggerated appreciation of that great man. Haughtily
disclaiming the right of any less illustrious than Riquetti himself to
sit in judgment upon the excesses of his turbulent youth, the
orator even declared that it was in the passionate commotion of such
temperaments that grand ideas were fostered, just as preternatural
fertility is the gift of countries where earthquakes and volcanoes have
convulsed them.

'Deplore, if you will,' cried he, 'his faults, for his own sake; sorrow
over the terrible necessities of a nature whose excitements must be
sought for even in crime; mourn over one whose mysterious being demanded
for mere sustenance the poisoned draughts of intemperance; but for
yourselves and for your own sakes, rejoice that the age has given you
Gabriel Riquetti de Mirabeau.'

'Who is it dares to say such words as these, cried a hoarse, discordant
voice, as forcing his way through the dense mass, a small, misshapen
figure stood forward. Though bespeaking in his appearance a condition
considerably above those around him, his dress was disordered, his
cravat awry, and his features trembling with recent excitement. As
the strong light fell upon him, Gerald could mark a countenance whose
features once seen were never forgotten. The forehead was high, but
retreating, and the eyes so sunk within their sockets that their
colour could not be known, and their only expression a look of wolfish
ferocity; to this, too, a haggard cheek and long, lean jaw contributed.
All these signs of a harsh and cruel nature were greatly heightened by
his mode of speaking, for his mouth opened wide, exposing two immense
rows of teeth, a display which they who knew him well said he was
inordinately vain of.

'Is it to men and Frenchmen that any dares to speak thus?' yelled he, in
a voice that overtopped the others, and was heard far and wide through
the crowd. 'Listen to me, people,' screamed he again, as, ascending
the sort of bench on which the judge was seated, he waved his hand to
enforce silence. 'Kneel down and thank the gods that your direst enemy
is dead!'

A low murmur--it was almost like the growl of a wild beast--ran through
the assembly; but such was the courage of the speaker that he waited
till it had subsided, and then in accents shriller than before repeated
the same words. The hum of the multitude was now reduced to a mere
murmuring sound, and he went on. It was soon evident how inferior the
polished eloquence of the other must prove before such an audience to
the stormy passion of this man's speech. Like the voice of a destroying
angel scattering ruin and destruction, he poured out over the memory
of Mirabeau the flood of his invective. He reproduced the vices of his
youth to account for the crimes of his age, and saw the treason to his
party explained in his falsehood to his friends. There was in his words
and in all he said the force of a mad mountain torrent, bounding wildly
from crag to crag, sweeping all before it as it went, and yet ever
pouring its flood deeper, fuller, and stronger. From a narrative of
Riquetti's early life, with every incident of which he was familiar, he
turned suddenly to show how such a man must, in the very nature of his
being, be an enemy to the people. A noble by birth, an aristocrat in all
his instincts, he could never have frankly lent himself to the cause of
liberty. It was only a traitor he was, then, within their camp; he was
there to learn their strength and their weakness, to delude them by
mock concessions. It was, as he expressed it, by the heat of their own
passions that he welded the fetters for their own limbs.

'If you ask who should mourn this man, the answer is, His own order; and
it is they, and they alone, who sorrow over the lost leader. Not you,
nor I, nor that youth yonder, whom you pretend to arraign; but whom you
should honour with words of praise and encouragement. Is it not brave of
him, in this hour of bastard grief, that he should stand forth to tell
you how mean and dastardly ye are! I tell you, once more, that he who
dares to stem the false sentiments of misguided enthusiasm has a courage
grander than his who storms a breach. My friendship is his own from this
hour,' and as he said, he descended from the bench, and flung his arms
around Fitzgerald.

Shouts of 'Well done, Marat, bravely spoken!' rent the air, and a
hundred voices told how the current of public favour had changed its
course.

'Let us not tarry here, young man,' said Marat. 'Come along with me;
there is much to be done yet.'

While Gerald was not sorry to be relieved from a position of difficulty
and danger, he was also eager to undeceive his new ally, and avow that
he had no sympathy with the opinions attributed to him. It was no time,
however, for explanations, nor was the temper of the mob to be long
trusted. He therefore suffered himself to be led along by the friends
of Marat, who, speedily making way for their chief, issued into the open
street.

'Whither now!' cried one aloud.

'To the Bureau--to the Bureau!' said another.

'Be it so,' said Marat. 'The _Ami du Peuple_--so was his journal
called--' must render an account of this night to its readers. I have
addressed seven assemblies since eleven o'clock, and save that one in
the Rue de Grenelle, all successfully. By the way, who is our friend?
What is he called? Fitzgerald--a foreign name--all the better; we can
turn this incident to good account. Are Frenchmen to be taught the
path to liberty by a stranger, eh, Favart? That's the keynote for your
overture!'

'The article is written--it is half-printed already,' said Favart. 'It
begins better--"The impostor is dead: the juggler who gathered your
liberties into a bundle and gave them back to you as fetters, is no
more! "'

'_Ah, que c'est beau_, that phrase!' cried two or three together.

'I will not have it,' said Marat impetuously; 'these are not moments
for grotesque imagery. Open thus: "Who are the men that have constituted
themselves the judges of immortality? Who are these, clad in shame and
cloaked in ignominy, who assume to dispense the glory of a nation? Are
these mean tricksters--these fawners on a corrupted court--these
slaves of the basest tyranny that ever defaced a nation's image, to be
guardians at the gate of civic honours?"

'Ah! there it is. It was Marat himself spoke there,' said one.

'That was the clink of the true metal,' said Chaptal.

And now, in the wildest vein of rhapsody, Marat continued to pour forth
a strange confused flood of savage invective. For the most part the
language was coarse and ill-chosen and the reasoning faulty in the
expression, but here and there would pierce through a phrase or an image
so graphic or so true as actually to startle and amaze. It was these
improvisations, caught up and reproduced by his followers, which
constituted the leading articles of his journal. Too much immersed in
the active career of his demagogue life to spare time for writing, he
gave himself the habit of this high-flown and exaggerated style, which
wore, so to say, a mock air of composition.

Pointing to the immense quantity of this sort of matter which his
journal contained, Marat would boast to the people of his unceasing
labours in their cause, his days of hard toil, his nights of unbroken
exertion. He artfully contrasted a life thus spent with the luxurious
existence of the pampered 'rich.' Such were the first steps of one who
journeyed afterward far in crime--such the initial teachings of one who
subsequently helped mainly to corrupt a whole people.

A strange impulse of curiosity to see something of these men of whom he
had heard so much, influenced Gerald, while he was also in part swayed
by the marvellous force of that torrent which never ceased to flow from
Marat's lips. It was a sort of fascination, not the less strong that it
imparted a sense of pain.

'I will see this night's adventure to the end,' said he to himself, and
he went along with them.



CHAPTER VII. A SUPPER WITH THE 'FRIENDS OF THE PEOPLE'

There is a strange similarity between the moral and the physical evils
of life, which extends even to the modes by which they are propagated.
We talk of the infection of a fever, but we often forget that prejudices
are infinitely more infectious. The poor man, ill-fed, ill-housed,
ill-clad, destitute, heart-sick, and weary, falls victim to the first
epidemic that crosses his path. So with the youth of unfixed faith
and unsettled pursuits: he adopts any creed of thought or opinion warm
enough to stimulate his imagination and fix his ambition. How few are
they in life who have chosen for themselves their political convictions;
what a vast majority is it that has adopted the impressions that float
around them!

Gerald Fitzgerald supped with Marat at the Rue de Moulins: he sat down
with Fauchet, Etienne, Chaptal, Favart and the rest--all writers for the
_Ami du Peuple_--all henchmen of the one great and terrible leader.

Gerald had often taken his part in the wild excesses of a youthful
origin; he had borne a share in those scenes where passion stimulated
by debauch becomes madness, and where a frantic impetuosity usurps the
place of all reason and judgment; but it was new to him to witness a
scene where the excesses were those of minds worked up by the wildest
nights of political ambition, the frantic denunciations of political
adversaries, and the maddest anticipations of a dreadful vengeance. They
talked before him with a freedom which, in that time, was rarely heard.
They never scrupled to discuss all the chances of their party, and the
casualties of that eventful future that lay before them.

How the monarchy must fall--how the whole social edifice of France must
be overthrown--how nobility was to be annihilated, and a new code of
distinction created, were discussed with a seriousness, mingled with the
wildest levity. That the road to these changes lay through blood, never
for a moment seemed to check the torrent of their speculations. Some
amused themselves by imaginary lists of proscriptions, giving the
names and titles of those they would recommend for the honours of the
guillotine.

'Every thing,' cried Guadet, 'everything that calls itself Duke,
Marquis, or Count.'

'Do not include the Barons, Henri, for my cook is of that degree, and I
could not spare him,' cried Viennet.

'Down with the aristocrat,' said several; 'he stands by his order, even
in his kitchen.'

'Nay,' broke in Viennet, 'I am the first of you all to reduce these
people to their becoming station.'

'Do not say so,' said Gensonné: 'the Marquis de Trillac has been a
gamekeeper on my property this year back.'

'Your property!' said Marat contemptuously. 'Your paternal estate was
a vegetable stall in the Marché aux Bois; and your ancestral chateau, a
room in the Pays Latin, five stories high.'

'You lived at the same house, in the cellar, Marat; and, by your own
account, it was I that descended to know you!'

'If he talks of property, I'll put him in _my_ list,' said Laroche. 'He
whose existence is secure is unworthy to live.'

'A grand sentiment that,' said another; 'let us drink it!' and they
arose and drained their glasses to the toast.

'The Duc de Dampierre, has any one got him down?' asked Guadet.

'I have '--' and I '--' and I,' said several together.

'I demand a reprieve for the Duke,' said another. 'I was at college with
him at Nantes, and he is a good fellow, and kind-hearted.'

'Miserable patriot,' said Guadet, laughing, 'that can place his personal
sympathies against the interests of the State.'

'_Parbleu!_' cried Laroche, looking over his neighbour's arm. 'Gensonné
has got Robespierre's name down!'

'And why not? I detest him. Menard was right when he called him a "_Loup
en toilette de bal!_"'

'What a list Menard has here!' said Guadet, holding it up, as he read
aloud. 'All who have served the court, or whose families have, for
the last three generations--all who employ court tailors, barbers,
shoemakers, or armourers----'

'Pray add, all whose names can be traced to baptismal registries, or who
are alleged to have been born in wedlock,' said Lescour. 'Let us efface
the vile aristocracy effectually!'

'Your sneer is a weak sarcasm,' said Marat savagely. 'Menard is right:
it is not man by man, but in platoons, that our vengeance must be
executed.'

'I have an uncle and five cousins, whom, from motives of delicacy, I
have not denounced. Will any one do me the favour to write the Count de
Rochegarde and his sons?'

'I adopt them with pleasure. I wanted a count or two among my barons.'

'I drink to all patriots,' said Marat, draining his glass, and turning a
full look on Fitzgerald.

'I accept the toast,' said Gerald, drinking.

'And I too,' cried Louvet, 'though I do not understand it.'

'By patriot, I mean one who adores liberty,' said Marat

'And hates the tyrant,' cried another.

'For the liberty to send my enemy to the guillotine, I am ready to fight
to-morrow,' said Guadet.

'For whom, let me ask, are we to make ourselves hangmen and headsmen?'
cried a pale, sickly youth, whose voice trembled as he spoke. 'The
furious populace will not thank you that you have usurped their
hunting-grounds. If you run down _their_ game, they will one day turn
and rend you!'

'Ah, Brissot, are you there, with your bland notions stolen from Plato!'
cried Guadet. 'It is pleasant even to hear your flute-stop in the wild
concert of our hoarse voices!'

'As to liberty, who can define it!' exclaimed Brissot.

'I can,' cried Lescour. 'The right to guillotine one's neighbour!'

'Who ever understood the meaning of equality?' continued Brissot,
unheeding him. 'Procrustes was the inventor of it!'

'And for fraternity: what is it--who has ever practised it?'

'Cain is the only instance that occurs to me,' said Guadet gravely.

'I drink to America,' said Marat. 'May the infant republic live by the
death of the mother that bore her!'

A wild hurrah followed the toast, which was welcomed with mad
enthusiasm.

'The beacon of liberty we are lighting here,' continued he, 'will be
soon answered from every hill-top and mountain throughout Europe--from
the snow-peaks of Norway to the olive-crowned heights of the
Apennines--from the bleak cliffs of Scotland to the rocky summits of the
Carpathians.'

In a strain bombastic and turgid, but marked at times by flashes of real
eloquence, he launched out into one of those rhapsodies which formed the
staple of his popular addresses. The glorious picture of a people free,
happy, and prosperous was so mingled with a scene of vengeance and
retribution, that the work of the guillotine was made to seem the chief
agent of civilisation. The social condition of the nation was described,
in the state of a man whose life could only be preserved at the cost of
a terrible amputation. The operation once over, the body would recover
its functions of health and stability. This was the image daily
reproduced, till the public mind grew to regard it as a truism. The
noblesse represented the diseased and rotten limb, whose removal was so
imperative, and there were but too many circumstances which served to
favour the comparison.

Gerald was of an age when fervour and daring exercised a deeper
influence than calm conviction. The men of warm and glowing impulses,
of passionate words and desperate achievements, are sure to exercise a
powerful sway over the young, especially when they themselves are from
the accident of fortune in the position of adventurers. The language
he now heard was bold and definite: there was nothing of subterfuge or
concealment about it. The men who spoke were ready to pledge their lives
to their words; they were even more willing to fight than preach. There
was, besides, a splendid assertion of self-devotion in their plans;
personal advancement had no place in their speculations. All was for
France and Frenchmen: nothing for a party; nothing for a class. Their
aspirations were the highest too; the liberty they contended for was to
be the birthright of every man. Brissot, beside whom Gerald sat, was one
well adapted to captivate his youthful admiration. His long fair hair,
his soft blue eyes, an almost girlish gentleness of look, contrasting
with the intense fervour with which he uttered his convictions, imparted
an amount of interest to him that Gerald was not slow to appreciate. He
spoke, besides, with--what never fails in its effect--the force of an
intense conviction. That they were to regenerate France; that the
nation long enslaved, corrupted and degraded was to be emancipated,
enlightened, and elevated by _them_, was his heartfelt belief. The
material advantages of a great revolution to those who should effect it,
he would not stop to consider. In his own phrase: 'It was not to a mere
land flowing with milk and honey Moses led the Israelites, but to a land
promised to their forefathers, to be a heritage to their children!'

It is true his companions regarded him as a wild and dreamy enthusiast,
impracticable in his notions, and too hopeful of humanity; but they
wisely saw how useful such an element of 'optimism' was in flavouring
the mass of their dangerous doctrines, and how the sentiments of such a
man served to exalt the tone of their opinions. While the conversation
went on around the table, the speakers, warming with the themes, growing
each moment more bold and more animated, Brissot turned his attentions
entirely to Fitzgerald. He not only sketched off to him the men around
the board, but, in a few light touches, characterised their opinions and
views.

At the conclusion of a description in which he had spoken with the most
unguarded frankness, Gerald could not help asking him how it was that
he could venture to declare so openly his opinions to a perfect stranger
like himself.

Brissot only smiled, but did not answer.

'For, after all,' continued Gerald, 'I am here in the camp of the enemy!
I _was_ a Royalist; I am so still.'

'But there are none left, _mon cher_; the King himself is not one.'

'Ready to die for the throne------'

'There is no throne; there is an old arm-chair, with the gilding rubbed
away!'

'At all events there was a right to defend------'

'The right to live has an earlier date than the right to rule,' said
Brissot gravely; and seeing that he had caught the other's attention, he
launched forth into the favourite theme of his party, the wrongs of the
people. Unlike the generality of his friends, Brissot did not dwell on
the vices and corruptions of the nobles. It was the evils of poverty
he pictured; the hopeless condition of those whose misery made them
friendless.

'If you but knew the suffering patience of the poor,' said he, 'the
stubbornness of their devotion to those above them in station; the tacit
submission with which they accept hardship as their birthright, you
would despair of humanity--infinitely more from men's humility than
from their cruelty! We cannot stir them; we cannot move them,' cried he.
'"They are no worse off than their fathers were," that is their reply.
If the hour come, however, that they rise up of themselves----'

Once more did Gerald revert to the hardihood of such confessions to a
stranger, when the other broke in----

'Does the shipwrecked sailor on the raft hesitate to stretch out his
hand to the sinking swimmer beside him. Come home with me from this,
and let me speak to you. You will learn nothing from these men. There
is Marat again! he has but one note in his voice, and it is to utter the
cry of Blood!'

While the stormy speaker revelled wildly in the chaos of his incoherent
thoughts, conjuring up scenes of massacre and destruction, the others
madly applauding him, Brissot stole away, and beckoned Gerald to follow
him.

It was daybreak ere they separated, and as Gerald gained his chambers he
tore the white cockade he had long treasured as a souvenir of his days
of Garde du Corps in pieces, and scattered the fragments from his window
to the winds.



CHAPTER VIII. THE DÉPÔT DE LA PRÉFECTURE

Gerald had scarcely fallen asleep when he was aroused by a rude crash at
his door, and looking up, saw the room filled with _gendarmerie_ in full
uniform. A man in plain black meanwhile approached the bed where he lay,
and asked if he were called Gerald Fitzgerald.

'A _ci-devant_ Garde du Corps and a refugee too?' said the questioner,
who was the substitute of the Procureur du Roi. 'This is the order to
arrest you, Monsieur,' said he.

'On what charge, may I ask?' said Gerald indolently.

'It is a grave one,' said the other in a solemn voice, while he pointed
to certain words in the warrant.

Gerald started as he read them, and, with a smile of scornful meaning,
said--

'Is it alleged that I poisoned the Count de Mirabeau?'

'You are included among those suspected of that crime.'

'And was he poisoned, then?'

'The report of the surgeons who have examined the body is not
conclusive. There are, however, sufficient grounds for investigation
and inquiry. You will see, sir, that I have told you as much as I
may--perhaps more than I ought.'

Left alone in his chamber that he might dress, Gerald proceeded to make
his preparations with becoming speed. The order committed him to St.
Pélagie, a prison then reserved for those accused of great crimes
against the state. Weighty as such a charge was, he felt in the fact of
an unjust accusation a degree of courageous energy that he had not
known for many a previous day. In the midst of one's self-accusings and
misgivings, an ill-founded allegation brings a certain sense of relief:
if this be the extent of my culpability, I may be proud of my conduct,
is such satisfactory judgment to address to one's own heart. He would
have felt more comfort, it is true, in the reflection, if he did not
remember that it was a frequent artifice of the day to accuse men of
crimes of which they were innocent, to afford time and opportunity to
involve them in some more grounded charge. Many were sent to Vincennes
who were never afterwards heard of; and what easier, if needed, than to
dispose of one like himself, without family or friends?

Though nominally committed to St. Pélagie, such was the crowded
condition of that prison that Gerald was conducted to the 'Dépôt de
la Préfecture,' a horrible den, into which murderers, malefactors,
political offenders, and thieves were indiscriminately huddled, until
time offered the opportunity to sift and divide them. It was a long
hall, supported on two ranges of stone pillars, with wooden guard-beds
on each side, and between them a space technically called 'the street.'
Four narrow windows, close to the roof, admitted a scanty light into
this dreary abyss, where upward of eighty prisoners were already
confined. By a sort of understanding among themselves, for no other
direction existed, the prisoners had divided themselves into three
distinct classes, each of which maintained itself apart from the others.
Such as had committed capital offences or were accused of them, held the
first rank, and exercised a species of general sway over all. The place
occupied by them was called 'Le Nid'; they themselves were styled the
'Birds of Passage.' The political criminals gathered in a corner named
'L'Opinion '; the rest, a large majority, were known as 'Les Âmes de
boue.'

Gerald had but crossed the threshold of this darksome dungeon when the
door closed behind him, leaving him almost in total obscurity. The heavy
breathing of a number of people asleep, and the low mutterings of others
suddenly awakened, showed him that the place was crowded, although as
yet he could distinguish nothing. Not venturing to stir from the spot
he occupied, he waited patiently till by the cold grey light of breaking
day he could look at the scene before him. He was not suffered to
indulge this contemplation long, for as the sleepers awoke and beheld
him, a general cry was raised to pass him on to the Prévôt to be
classed. Gerald obeyed the order, moving slowly up the narrow 'street'
to the end of the hall, where sat or rather lay an old man, whose
imprisonment dated upward of forty years back. He was perfectly blind,
and so crippled by age and rheumatism as to be utterly helpless; but
notwithstanding his infirmities his voice was loud and commanding, and
its tones resounded throughout the length and breadth of the prison.
After a brief routine address, informing the new arrival that for
the due administration of that discipline which all societies of men
demanded, he must pledge obedience to the laws of the place, and after
duly promising the same, and swearing it by placing a handful of straw
upon his head, Gerald was told to be seated while he was interrogated.

'Not know where you were born,' said the Prévôt, 'and yet you call
yourself noble! Be it so; and now your charge--what is it?'

'They accuse me of having poisoned Mirabeau.'

'And would that be called a crime?' said one.

'Against whom, I would like to know, could that be an offence?' said
another. 'Not against the King, whom he had deserted, nor against the
people whom he betrayed.'

'Silence!--silence in the court!' said the Prévôt; then, addressing
Gerald, he went on: 'with what object did you kill him?'

'I did not poison him--I am innocent,' said Gerald calmly.

'So are we all,' said the Prévôt devoutly--'spotless as the snowdrift.
Who was she that persuaded you to act?--tell us her name.'

'There was no act, and could have been no suggester.'

'Young man,' said the Prévôt solemnly, 'we know of but one capital crime
here, that is, concealment. Be frank, therefore, and fearless.'

'I cannot be sure, if I had done this crime, that I would have confessed
it here, but as I have not even imagined it, I repeat to you once more I
know nothing of it.'

With an acuteness perfectly wonderful at his age, and with an intellect
that retained much of its former subtlety--for the Prévôt had been the
first lawyer at the Lyons bar--he questioned Gerald as to what had
led to the accusation. Partly to display his own powers of
cross-examination, and partly that the youth's answers imparted an
interest to his story, he prolonged the inquiry considerably. Nor was
Gerald indisposed to speak openly about himself; it was a species of
relief out of the dreary isolation in which he had recently passed his
days.

To one point the old man would, however, continue to recur without
success--had some womanly influence not swayed him? Whether his heart
had not been touched, and some secret spring of love had given the
impulse to his character, remained a mystery.

'No man,' said the Prévôt, 'ever lived as you allege. He who reads
Jean Jacques lives like Rousseau; he who pores over Diderot acts the
fatalist.'

'Enough of this,' cried a rough, rude voice. 'Is he of us or not?'

It was a 'Bird of Passage' that spoke, impatient for the moment when the
new-comer should pay his entrance fee.

'He is not of you, be assured of that,' said the Prévôt, 'and for the
present his place shall be "L'Opinion."'

By chance--a mere chance--a death on the day before had left a
vacancy in that section, and thither Gerald was now with due solemnity
conducted.

If his present associates were the 'best of the bad' around him, they
were still far from being to his taste. They were the lowest emissaries
of every party--the agents employed for all purposes of espionage and
corruption. They affected a sort of fidelity to the cause they served
while sober, but once filled with wine, avowed their utter indifference
to every party, as they avowed that they took bribes from each in turn.
Many, it is true, had moved in the better classes of society, were
well-mannered and educated; but even through these there ran the same
vein of profligacy, a tone of utter distrust, and a scepticism as to all
good here and hereafter.

One or two of these remembered to have seen Gerald in his days of Garde
du Corps, and were more than disposed to connect him with the scandals
circulated about the Queen; others inclined to regard him as a
revolutionist in the garb of the court party; none trusted him, and he
lived in a kind of haughty estrangement from all. The Prévôt, indeed,
liked him, and would talk with him for hours long; and to the old man
himself the companionship seemed a boon. He now learned for the first
time a true account of the great changes 'without,' as he called the
world, and heard with an approach to accuracy the condition in which
France then stood.

The sense of indignation at a groundless charge, the cruelty of
an imprisonment upon mere suspicion, had long ceased to weigh upon
Fitzgerald, and a dreamy apathy, the true lethargy of the prison, stole
over him. To lie half sleeping on his hard bed, to sit crouched down,
gazing listlessly at the small patch of sky seen through the window, to
spell over the names scratched by former prisoners on the plaster, to
count for the thousandth time the fissures in the damp walls--these
filled his days. His nights were drearier still, tormented with
distressing dreams, to be dispelled only by the gloom of awaking in a
dungeon.

At intervals of a week or two, orders would come for this or that
prisoner to be delivered to the care of the Marshal of the Temple--none
knew for what, though all surmised the worst, since not one was seen to
return; and so time sped on, month after month, death and removal doing
their work, till at last Gerald was the oldest _détenu_ in the section
of 'L'Opinion.'

The fatuous vacuity of his mind was such that though he heard the voices
around him, and even tried at times to follow what they said, he could
collect nothing of it: sometimes the sounds would simply seem to weary
and fatigue him--they acted as some deep monotonous noise might have
done on a tired brain; sometimes they would cause the most intense
irritation, exciting him to a sense of anger he could with difficulty
control; and at others, again, they would overcome him so thoroughly
with sorrow, that he would weep for hours. How time passed, what he had
himself been in former years, where and how and with whom he lived, only
recurred to him in short fitful passages, like the scenes of some moving
panorama, present for a moment and then lost to view. He would fancy,
too, that he had many distinct and separate existences, as many deaths;
and then marvel to himself in which of these states he was at that
moment.

His wild talk; his absurd answers when questioned; the incoherent things
he would say, stamped him among his fellow-prisoners as one bereft of
reason; nor was there, to all seeming, much injustice in the suspicion.
If the chance mention of some name he once knew would start and arouse
him, his very observations would appear those of a wandering intellect,
since he seemed to have been acquainted with persons the most
opposite and incongruous; and it even became a jest--a sort of prison
'plaisanterie'--to ask him whether he was not intimate with this man or
that, mentioning persons the least likely for him ever to have met.

'There goes another of your friends, Maître,' said one to him: 'they
have guillotined Brissot this morning; you surely knew him, he edited
the _Droit du Peuple_.'

'Yes, I knew him. Poor Brissot!' said Gerald, with a sigh.

'What was he like, Maître? was he short and thick, with a beard like
mine?'

'No, he was fair and gentle-looking.'

'_Parbleu!_ that was a good guess: so he was.'

'And kind-hearted as he looked,' muttered Gerald.

'He died with Gaudet, Gensonné, Louvet, and four other Maratists. You
have seen most of them, I 'm sure.'

'Yes. Gaudet and Gensonné I remember; I forget Louvet. Had he a scar on
his temple?'

'That he had; it was a sabre-cut in a duel,' cried one, who added in a
whisper, 'he's not the mad fool you take him for.'

'You used to be Gabriel Riquetti in times past?' asked another gravely.

'No--that is--not I; but--I forget how it was--we were--I'll remember it
by and by.'

'Why, you told me a few days back that you were Mirabeau.'

'No, no,' said another, 'he said he was Alfieri; I was present.'

'Mirabeau's hair was long and wiry. It was not soft like mine,' said
Gerald. 'When he shook it back, he used to say, "I'll show them the
boar's head."'

'Yes. He's right, that was a favourite saying of Mirabeau's,' whispered
another.

'And they are all gone now,' said Gerald with a deep sigh.

'Ay, Maître, every man of them. All the Girondins; all the friends of
liberty; all the kind spirits who loved men as their brothers; and the
guillotine better than the men.'

'And Vergniaud and Fonfréde, you surely knew them?'

Gerald shook his head.

'It was your friend Robespierre sent them to the knife.' Gerald started,
and tried to understand what was said.

'Ask him about La Gabrielle,' whispered another. 'What of La Gabrielle?
she was Marietta,' cried Gerald wildly.

'She might have been. We only knew her as she figured before our own
eyes. In November last she was the Goddess of Reason.'

'No, no; I deny it,' cried another; 'La Gabrielle had fled from France
before.'

'She was the Goddess of Reason, I repeat,' said the other. 'She that
used to blush scarlet, when they led her out, after the scene, to
receive the plaudits of the audience, stood shameless before the mob on
the steps of the Pantheon.'

'And I tell you her name was Maillard; it was easy enough to mistake her
for La Gabrielle, for she had the same long, waving, light-brown hair.'

'Marietta's hair was black as night,' muttered Gerald; 'her complexion,
too, was the deep olive of the far south, and of her own peculiar race,
_I_ ought to know,' added he aloud; 'we wandered many a pleasant mile
together through the valleys of the Apennines.'

The glance of compassionate pity they turned upon him showed how they
read these remembrances of the past.

'Which of you has dared to speak ill of her?' cried he suddenly, as a
gleam of intelligence shot through his reverie. 'Was it you? or you? or
you?'

'Far be it from _me_,' said Courtel, a young debauchee of the Jacobin
party; 'I admire her much. She has limbs for a statuary to match; and
though this poor picture gives but a sorry idea of such perfections, it
is not all unlike!'

As he spoke, he drew forth a coarse print of the Goddess of Reason, as
she stood unveiled, almost unclad, before the populace.

Gerald caught but one glance at the ribald portrait, and then with a
spring he seized and tore it into atoms. The action seemed to arouse in
him all the dormant passion of his nature; for in an instant he clutched
Courtel by the throat, and tried to strangle him. It was not without
a severe struggle that he was rescued by the others, and Gerald thrown
back, bruised and beaten, on his bed.

From this unlucky hour forth Gerald's comrades held themselves all aloof
from him. He was no longer in their eyes the poor and harmless object
they had believed, but a wild and dangerous maniac. His life henceforth
was one unbroken solitude; not a word of kindness or sympathy met his
ear. The little fragments of cheering tidings others interchanged, none
shared with him, and he sank into a state of almost sleep. Nor was it a
small privilege to sleep, while millions around him were keeping their
orgie of blood; when the cries of the dying and the shouts of vengeance
were mingled in one long, loud strain, and the monotonous stroke of the
guillotine never ceased its beat. Sleep was, indeed, a boon, when the
wakeful ear and eye had nought but sounds and sights of horror before
them. What a blessing not to watch the street as it trembled before
the fatal car, groaning under its crowd of victims. To see them, with
drooped heads and hanging arms, swaying as the rude plank shook them,
not lifting an eye upon that cruel mob, whose ribald cries assailed
them, and who had words of welcome but for _him_ who followed on a low,
red-coloured cart, pale, stern, and still--the headsman. The thirsty
earth was so drunk with carnage that, in the words of one of the
Convention, it was said: 'We shall soon fear to drink the water of the
wells, lest it be mixed with the blood of our brothers!'

Out of this deep slumber, in which no measure of time was kept, a loud
and deafening shock aroused him. It was the force of the mob, who had
broken-in the prison-doors, and proclaimed liberty to the captives.
Robespierre had been guillotined that morning; the 'Terror' was over,
and all Paris, in a frenzy of delight, awoke from its terrible orgie of
blood, and dared to breathe with freedom. The burst of joy that broke
forth was like the wild cry of delight uttered by a reprieved criminal.

Few in that vast multitude had less sympathy with that joy than Gerald
Fitzgerald. Of the prisoners there was not one except himself who had
not either home or friends to welcome him. Many were met as they issued
forth, and clasped in the arms of loving relatives. Mothers and wives,
sisters and brothers were there; children sprang wildly to their
fathers' breasts, and words of love and blessing were heard on every
side.

'Who is that yonder: the poor, sickly youth, that creeps along by
himself, with his head down?' whispered a happy girl at her brother's
side.

'That is the "Maître Fou!"' said he carelessly; 'I think he scarcely
knows whither he is going.'



CHAPTER IX. THE PÈRE MASSONI IN HIS CELL

Let us now return to Rome. The Père Massoni sat alone in his small
study; a single lamp, covered with a shade, stood beside him, throwing
its light only on his thin, attenuated figure, dressed in the long robe
of black serge, and buttoned to the very feet. One wasted, blue-veined
hand rested on his knee, the other was in the breast of his robe. It was
a wild and stormy night without: long, swooping dashes of rain came from
time to time against the windows, with blasts of strong wind borne
over the wide expanse of the Campagna. The blue lightning, too, flashed
through the half-darkened room, while the thunder rolled unceasingly
amid the stupendous ruins of old Rome. For a long time had the Père sat
thus motionless, and to all seeming, in expectancy. Some books and an
open map lay on the table beside him, but he never turned to them, but
remained in this selfsame attitude; only changing when he bent his head
to listen more attentively to the noises without. At length he arose,
and passing into a small octagonal tower that opened from the corner of
his chamber, closed the door behind him. For a second or two he stood
in perfect darkness, but suddenly a wide flash of lightning lit up the
whole air, displaying the bleak Campagna for miles and miles, while it
depicted every detail of the little tower around him. Taking advantage
of the light, he advanced and opened the windows, carefully fastening
them to the walls as he did so. He now seated himself by the open
casement, gathering his robe well about him, and drawing the hood over
his face. The storm increased as the night went on. Many an ancient
pillar rocked to its base; many a stern old ruin shook, as in distinct
blasts, like the report of cannon, the wind hurled all its force upon
them. In the same fitful gusts the rain dashed down, seething across the
wide plain, where it hissed with a sound like a breaking sea borne
away on the wild blast. The sound of the bells through the city was not
heard: all except St. Peter's were dissipated and lost. The great bell
of the mighty dome, however, rose proudly above the crash of elements,
and struck three, and as the Père counted the strokes, he sighed
drearily. For the last hour the lightning had been less and less
frequent; and instead of that wide-spreading scene of open Campagna,
dotted with villages, and traversed by roads, suddenly flashing upon him
with a clearness more marked than at noonday, all was now wrapped in an
impenetrable darkness, only broken at rare intervals, and by weak and
uncertain gleams.

Why does he peer so earnestly through the gloom, why in every lull of
the gale, does he bend his ear to listen, and why, in the lightning
flashes, are his eyes ever turned to the winding road that leads to
Viterbo? For him, surely, no ties of kindred, no affections of the heart
are the motives which hold him thus spell-bound: nor wife nor child are
his, for whose coming he watches thus eagerly. What can it be, then,
that has awakened this feverish anxiety within him, that with every
swell of the storm he starts and listens with more intense eagerness?

'He will not come to-night,' muttered he at length to himself; he will
not come to-night, and to-morrow it will be too late. On Wednesday they
leave this for Gaeta, and ere they return it may be weeks, ay, months.
So is it ever: we strive, and plot, and plan; and yet it is a mere
question of seconds whether the mine explode at the right instant. The
delay is inexplicable,' said he, after a pause. 'They left Sienna on
Sunday last; and, even granting that they must travel slowly, they
should have been here yesterday morning. What misfortune is this? I left
the Cardinal last night, at length--and after how much labour--persuaded
and convinced. He agreed to all and every thing. Had the youth arrived
to-night, therefore, his Eminence must have pledged himself to the
enterprise; indeed he rarely changes his mind under two days!' He paused
for a while, and then in a voice of deeper emotion, said: 'If we needed
to be taught how small is all our wisdom--how poor, and weak, and
powerless we are--we can read the lesson in the fact that minutes decide
destinies, while whole lives of watching cannot control the smallest
event!' A brilliant flash of lightning at this instant illuminated the
entire plain, showing every object in the wide expanse for miles. The
Père started, and leaned eagerly upon the window, his eyes fixed on
the Viterbo road. Another minute, ay, a second more, had been enough to
assure him if he had seen aright; but already it was dark again, and
the dense thunder-clouds seemed to descend to the very earth. As the low
growling sounds died away at last, the air seemed somewhat thinner, and
now the Père could make out a faintly twinkling light that flickered
through the gloom, appearing and disappearing at intervals, as the
ground rose or fell: he quickly recognised it for a carriage-lamp, and
with a fervently uttered entreaty to Heaven, that it might prove the
herald of those he watched for, he closed the window and returned to his
study.

If the law that condemns the priest to a life of isolation and
estrangement from all human affections be severe and pitiless, there
is what many would deem a proud compensation in the immensity of that
ambition offered to men thus separated from their fellows. Soaring above
the cares and anxieties, whose very egotism renders them little, these
men fix their contemplation upon the great events of the world, and,
in a spirit that embraces ages yet unborn, uninfluenced by the emotions
that sway others, untouched by the yearnings that control them, they
alone of all mankind can address themselves to the objects of their
ambition without selfish interests. The aggrandisement of the Church,
the spread and pre-eminence of the Catholic faith, formed a cause which
for centuries engaged the greatest intellects and the most devoted
hearts of her followers. Among these were many of more eminence, in
point of station, than Massoni; many more learned, many more eloquent,
many whose influence extended further and wider, but not one who threw
more steadfast devotion into the cause, nor who was readier to peril
all--even to life itself--in its support. He had been for years employed
by the Papal Government as a secret agent at the different courts
of Europe. He had been in Spain, in Austria, in France, and the Low
Countries; he had travelled through England, and passed nearly a year
in Ireland. Well versed in modern languages, and equally acquainted with
the various forms of European government, he was one whose opinion had a
great weight upon every question of political bearing. Far too crafty to
employ this knowledge in self-advancement, where, at the very utmost,
it might have led to some inferior dignity at home, or some small
'Nunciate' abroad, he devoted himself to the service of the Cardinal
Çaraffa, a man of immense wealth, high family, overweening pretensions,
but of an intellect the very weakest, and so assailable by flattery, as
to be the slave of those who had access to him. His Eminence saw all the
advantages to be derived from such a connection. Whatever the point that
occupied the Consulta, he was sure to be thoroughly informed upon it
by his secret adviser; and so faithfully and so adroitly was he served,
that the mystery of their intimacy was unfathomed by his brother
cardinals. Caraffa spoke of Massoni as a person of whom 'he had heard,
indeed'; a man trustworthy, and of some attainments, but that was all;
'he had seen him, too, and spoken with him occasionally!'

As for the Père, the name of his Eminence never passed his lips, except
in company with those of other cardinals. In fact, he knew few great
people; their ways and habits little suited his humble mode of life, and
he never frequented the grand receptions of the princes of the Church,
nor showed himself at their salons. Such, in brief, was the Jesuit
father, who now walked up and down the little study, in a state of
feverish impatience it was rarely his lot to suffer. At last the
heavy roll of a carriage resounded in the court beneath, the clank of
descending steps was heard, and soon after the sound of approaching feet
along the corridor.

'Are they come? is it Carrol?' cried the Père, flinging wide the door of
his chamber.

'Yes, most reverend rector,' said a full, rich voice; and a short,
rosy-faced little man, in the prime of life, entered and obsequiously
kissed Massoni's extended hand.

'What an anxious time you have given me, Carrol!' said the Père hastily.
'Have you brought him? Is he with you?

'Yes; he's in the carriage below at this moment, but so wearied and
exhausted that it were better you should not see him to-night.' Massoni
paused to reflect, and after a moment said--'We have no time, not even
an hour, to throw away, Carrol; the sooner I see this youth, the better
prepared shall I be to speak of him to his Eminence. A few words to
welcome him will be enough for me. Yes, let him come; it is for the
best.'

Carrol left the room, and after some delay, was heard returning, his
slow steps being accompanied by the wearied foot-falls of one who walked
with difficulty. Massoni threw the door wide, and as the light
streamed out he almost started at the figure before him. Pale, wan, and
worn-looking as the stranger appeared, the resemblance to Charles Edward
was positively startling. The same lustrous gleam of the deep blue
eyes: the same refinement of brow; the same almost womanly softness of
expression in the mouth; and stronger than all these, the mode in which
he carried his head somewhat back, and with the chin slightly elevated,
were all marks of the Prince.

Massoni welcomed him with a courteous and respectful tone, and conducted
him to a seat.

'This is a meeting I have long and ardently desired, sir,' said the
Père, in the voice of one to whom the arts of the courtier were not
unknown; 'nor am I the only one here who has cherished this wish.'

A faint smile, half gracious half surprised, acknowledged this speech,
and Carrol watched with a painful anxiety even this mark of recognition.

'The Chevalier is fatigued to-night, reverend father,' said he;
'his endeavours to fulfil our wishes have cost him much exertion and
weariness. We have journeyed day and night from Geneva.'

'In this ardour he has only given us a deeper pledge of his high
deservings. May I offer you some refreshments, sir?' said he, hastily,
struck by the weak pallor of the young man's countenance.

A gentle gesture of refusal declined the offer.

'Shall I show you to your room, then?' said the Père, rising and opening
a door into a small chamber adjoining; 'my servant will attend you.'

'No,' said the youth faintly. 'Let us proceed with our journey; I will
not rest till I reach Rome.'

'But you are at Rome, sir; we are at our journey's end,' said Carrol.

The young man heard the words without emotion--the same sad smile upon
his lips.

'He must have rest and care,' whispered Massoni to Carrol; and then
turning to the youth, he took him by the hand and led him away.

Having consigned him to the care of a faithful servant, the Père
re-entered the room, his face flushed, and his dark eyes flashing.

'What miserable deception is this?' cried he. 'Is this the daring,
headlong spirit I have been hearing of? Are these the parts to confront
an enterprise of peril?'

'He is----'

'He is dying,' broke in the Père passionately.

'Confess, at least, he is a Stuart, in every line and lineament.'

'Ay, Carrol, even to the word failure, written in capitals on his brow.'

'But you see him wasted by fever and long suffering; he rose from a
sick-bed to undertake this wearisome journey.'

'Better had he kept his bed till death released him. I tell you it is
not of such stuff as this adventurers are made. His very appearance
would dash men with discouragement.'

'Bethink you what he has gone through, Père; the sights and scenes
of horror that have met his eyes--the daily carnage amid which he
lived--himself, twice rescued from the scaffold, by what seems like
a miracle--his days and nights of suffering in friendless misery too.
Remember, also, how little of hope there was to cheer him through all
this. If ever there was one forlorn and destitute, it was he.'

'I think not of _him_, but of the cause he should have served,' said the
Père; 'and once more I say, this youth is unequal to "the event." His
father had faults enough to have wrecked a dozen enterprises: he was
rash, reckless, and unstable; but his rashness took the form of courage,
and his very fickleness had a false air of versatility. Men regarded it
as an element full of resources; but this sickly boy only recalls in his
features every weakness of his race. What can we do with _him_?'

'Men have fought valiantly for royalties that offered less to their
regard,' said Carrol.

'Ay, Carrol, when the throne is fixed, men will rally to maintain it,
even though he who wears the crown be little worthy of their reverence;
but when the question is to reestablish a fallen dynasty--to replace
one branch by another, the individual becomes of immense importance;
personal qualities assume then all the proportions of claims, and men
calculate on the future by the promises of the present. Tell me frankly
what could you augur for a cause of which this youth was to be the
champion?'

Carrol did not break silence for some time; at length he said--

'You told me once, and I have never forgotten it, a remarkable story of
Monsignor Saffi, the Bishop of Volterra-----'

'I know what you allude to--how the simple-minded bishop became the
craftiest of cardinals. Ay, elevation will now and then work such
miracles; but it is because they are miracles we are not to calculate on
their recurrence.'

'I would not say that this is not the case to hope for a similar
transformation. They who knew Fitzgerald in his better, stronger days,
describe him as one capable of the most daring exploits, full of heroism
and of a boundless ambition, fed by some mysterious sentiment that
whispers within him that he was destined for high achievement. These are
inspirations that usually only die with ourselves.

'When I look at him,' said the Père sadly, 'I distrust them all.'

'You are not wont to be so easily discouraged.' 'Easily
discouraged--easily discouraged! It is a strange reproach to bring
against me,' said the Père, with a calm collectedness; 'nor is that the
character all Rome would give me. But why am I steadfast of purpose and
firm of plan? Because, ere I engage in an enterprise, I weigh well the
means of success, and canvass all its agencies. The smallest stream that
ever dashed down a mountain has strength in the impulse of its course,
while if it meandered through a plain it had been a rivulet. This is a
lesson we may reap profit from.'

Carrol did not answer, and Massoni, covering his face with his hands,
seemed lost in deep thought; at last he said--

'What was your pretext to induce him to come back here?'

'To hear tidings of his family and kindred.'

'Did you intimate to him that they were of rank and station?'

'Yes, of the very highest.'

'How did the news affect him?'

'It was hard at first to convince him that they could be true. He had,
besides, been so often tricked and deceived by false intelligence,
and made the sport of craftier heads, that it was difficult to win his
confidence; nor did I succeed until I told him certain facts about his
early life, whose correctness he acknowledged.'

'I had imagined him most unlike what I see. If Charles Edward had left a
daughter she might have resembled this.'

'Still that very resemblance is of great value.'

'What signifies that a thing may look like gold, when at the first touch
of the chemist's test it blackens and betrays itself?'

'He may be more of a Stuart even than he looks. It is too rash to judge
of him as we see him now.'

'Be it so,' said the Père, with a sort of resignation; 'but if I have
not lost my skill in reading temperament, this youth is not to our
purpose. At all events,' resumed he, more rapidly, 'his Eminence need
not see him yet. Enough when I say that the fatigues of the road have
brought on some fever, and that he is confined to bed. Within a week, or
even less, I shall be able to pronounce if we may employ him. I have no
mind to hear your news to-night; this disappointment has unmanned me;
but to-morrow, Carrol, to-morrow the day will be all our own, and I all
myself. And so good-night, and good rest.'



CHAPTER X. THE CARDINAL AT HIS DEVOTIONS

If the night which followed the interview of the Père Massoni with
Carrol was one of deep anxiety, the morning did not bring any relief
to his cares. His first duty was to ask after Fitzgerald. The youth had
slept little, but lay tranquil and uncomplaining, and to all seeming
indifferent either as to the strange place or the strange faces around
him. The keen-eyed servant, Giacomo, himself an humble member of the
order, quickly detected that he was suffering under some mental shock,
and that the case was one where the mere physician could afford but
little benefit.

'He lies there quiet as a child,' said he, 'never speaking nor moving,
his eyelids half drooped over his eyes, and save that now and then, at
long intervals, he breathes a low, faint sigh, you would scarce believe
he was alive.'

'I will see him,' said the Père, as he gently opened the door, and stole
noiselessly across the room. A faint streak of light peering between
the drawn window-curtains, fell directly on the youth's face, showing
it pale and emotionless, as Giacomo described it. As the Père seated
himself by the bedside, he purposely made a slight noise, to attract
the other's attention, but Gerald did not notice him, not even turning
a look toward him. Massoni laid his finger on the pulse, the action
was weak but regular; nothing to denote fever or excitement, only the
evidence of great exhaustion or debility.

'I have come to hear how you have rested,' said the Père, in an accent
he could render soft as a woman's, 'and to welcome you to Rome.'

A faint, very faint, smile was all the reply to this speech.

'I am aware that you have gone through much suffering and peril,'
continued the Père, 'but with rest and kind care you will soon be well
again. You are among friends, who are devoted to you.'

A gentle movement of the brows, as if in assent, replied.

'It may be that speaking would distress you; perhaps even my own words
fatigue you. If so I will be satisfied to come and sit silently beside
you, till you are stronger and better.'

'Si--si,' muttered Gerald faintly, and at the same time he essayed to
smile as it were in recognition.

A quick convulsive twitch of impatience passed across the Père's pale
face, but so rapidly that it seemed a spasm, and the features were the
next moment calm as before; and now Massoni sat silently gazing on
the tranquil lineaments before him. Among the various studies of his
laborious life medicine had not been neglected, and now he addressed
himself to examine the condition and study the symptoms of the youth.
The case was not of much bodily ailment, at least save in the exhaustion
which previous illness had left. There was nothing like malady, but
there were signs of a mischief far deeper, more subtle, and less
curable than mere physical ills. The look of vacancy--the half-meaning
smile--the dull languor, not alone in feature but in the way he lay--all
presented matter for grave and weighty fears. The very presence of these
signs, unaccompanied by ailment, gave a gloomier aspect to the case,
and led the Père to reflect whether such traits had any connection
with descent. The strong resemblance which the young man bore to the
Stuarts--and there were few families where the distinctive traits were
more marked--induced Massoni to consider the question with reference to
_them_. They are indeed a race whose wayward impulses and rash resolves
took oftentimes but little guidance of reason; but these were mere signs
of eccentricity and not insanity. But might not the one be precursor
to the other; might not the frail judgment, which sufficed for the
every-day cares of life, utterly give way in seasons of greater trial?
Thus reasoning and communing with himself he sat till the hour struck
which apprised him of his audience with the Cardinal.

It was not yet the season when Rome was filled by its higher classes,
and Massoni could repair to the palace of the Cardinal without any of
the secrecy observable at other periods. Still he deemed it more in
accordance with the humility he affected to seek admission by a small
garden gate, which opened on the Pincian hill. The little portal
admitted him into a garden such as only Italy possesses. The gardens of
England are unrivalled for their peculiar excellence, for the exquisite
flavour of their fruit, and in their perfection of order and neatness
they stand unequalled in the world; the trim quaintness of the Dutch
taste has also its special beauty, and nowhere can be seen such gorgeous
colouring in flower-pots, such splendour of tulip and ranunculus: but
there is in Italy a rich blending of culture and wildness--a mingled
splendour and simplicity, just as in the great halls of the marble
palace on the Neva, where the haughtiest noble in his diamond pelisse,
stands side by side with the simple Boyard in his furs: so in the *
golden land,' the cactus and the mimosa, the orange and the pear-tree,
the cedar of Lebanon and the stone-pine of the north, are commingled
and interleaved; all signs of a soil which can supply nourishment to the
rarest and most delicate, as well as to the hardiest of plants.

In this lovely wilderness, with many a group in marble, many a
beautifully-carved fountain, many an ornamental shrine, half hidden in
its leafy recesses, the Père now walked, screening his steps as he went,
from that great range of windows which opened on a grand terrace--a
precaution rather the result of habit than called for by the
circumstance of the time. A fish-pond of some extent, with a small
island> occupied the centre of the garden; the island itself being
ornamented by a beautiful little shrine dedicated to our Lady of Rimini,
the birth-place of the Cardinal. To this sacred spot his Eminence was
accustomed to repair for secret worship each morning of his life. As a
measure of respectful reverence for the great man's devotions, the
place was studiously secluded from all intrusion, and even
strangers--admitted, as at rare intervals they were, to visit the
gardens--were never suffered to invade the sacred precincts of the
island.

A strangely contrived piece of mechanism appended to the little wicket
that formed the entrance always sufficed to show if his Eminence
was engaged in prayer, and consequently removed from all pretext of
interruption. This was an apparatus, by which the face of a beautifully
painted Madonna became suddenly covered by a veil, a signal that none
of the Cardinal's nearest of blood would have dared to violate. It was,
indeed, to the hours of daily seclusion thus piously passed the Cardinal
owed that character for sanctity which eminently distinguished him in
the Church. A day never went over in which he did not devote at the
least an hour to this sacred duty, and the air of absorption, as he
repaired to the shrine, and the look of intense pre-occupation he
brought away, vouched for the depth of his pious musings.

As Massoni arrived at the narrow causeway which led over to the
island, he perceived that the veil of the Madonna was lowered. He
knew, therefore, at once that the Cardinal was there, and he stopped to
consider what course he should adopt, whether to loiter about the garden
till his Eminence should appear, or repair to the palace and await him.
The Père knew that the Cardinal was to leave Rome by midday, to reach
Albano to dinner, and he mused over the shortness of the time their
interview must last.

'This is no common emergency,' thought he at last; 'here is a case
fraught with the most tremendous consequences. If this scheme be engaged
in, the whole of Europe may soon be in arms--the greatest convulsion
that ever shook the Continent may result; and out of the struggle who is
to foresee what principles may be the victors!

'I will go to him at once,' said he resolutely. 'Events succeed each
other too rapidly nowadays for more delay. The "Terror" in France has
once more turned men's minds to the peaceful security of a monarchy. Let
us profit by the moment'; and with this he traversed the narrow bridge
and reached the island.

A thick copse of ornamental planting screened the front of the little
shrine. Hastily passing through this, he stood within a few yards of the
building, when his steps were quickly arrested by the sound of a voice
whose accents could not be mistaken for the Cardinal's. There was
besides something distinctively foreign in the pronunciation that
marked the speaker for a stranger. Curious to ascertain who might be the
intruder in a spot so sacred, Massoni stepped noiselessly through the
brushwood, and gained a little loop-holed aperture beside the altar,
from which the whole interior of the shrine could be seen. Seated on
one of the marble steps below the altar was the Cardinal, a loose
dressing-gown of rich fur wrapped round him, and a cap of the same
material on his head. Directly in front of him, and also seated on
the pedestal of a column, was a man in a Carthusian robe, patched and
discoloured, and showing many signs of age and poverty. The wearer,
however, was rubicund and jovial-looking, though the angles of the mouth
were somewhat dragged, and the wrinkles at the eyes were deep-worn. The
general expression, however, was that of one whose nature accepted the
struggles of life manfully and cheerfully. It was not till after some
minutes of close scrutiny that Massoni could recall the features, but at
length he remembered that it was the well-known Carthusian friar, George
Kelly, the former companion of Prince Charles Edward. If their positions
in life were widely different, Kelly did not suffer the disparity to
influence his manner, but talked with all the ease and familiarity of an
equal.

Whatever interest the scene might have had for Massoni was speedily
increased by the first words which met his ears. It was the Cardinal who
said--

'I own to you, Kelly, until what you have told me I had put little faith
in the whole story of this youth; and there is then really such?'

'There is, or at least there was, your Eminence. I remember as well as
if it was yesterday the evening he came to the palace to see the Prince.
A poor countryman of my own, a Carthusian, brought him, and took
him back again to the college. The boy was afterward sent to a villa
somewhere near Orvieto.'

'Was the youth acknowledged by his Royal Highness as his son?' asked the
Cardinal.

'The Prince never spoke of him to me till the day before his death. He
then said, "Can you find out that Carthusian for me, Kelly?--I should
like to speak with him." I told him that he had long since left Rome
and even Italy. The last tidings of him came from Ireland, where he was
living as a dependant on some reduced family.

'"There is no time to fetch him from Ireland," said his Highness; "and
yet, Kelly, I 'd give a thousand pounds that he were here." He then
asked me if I remembered a certain boy, dressed like a colleger of
the Jesuits, who came one night long ago to the palace with this same
Carthusian.

'I said, yes; that though his Royal Highness believed that I was away
from Rome that night, I came back post-haste from Albano; and finding
myself in one of the corridors, I waited till Fra Luke came out from his
interview, with the boy beside him.

'"True, true, Kelly; I meant you to have known nothing of this visit. So
then you saw the boy? What thought you of him?"

'"I saw and marked him well, for his fair hair and skin were so
distinctively English, they made a deep impression upon me."

'"He had the mouth, too, Kelly--a little pouting and over full-lipped.
Did you mark that?"

'"No, sire; I did not observe him so closely."

'"How poor and ragged the child was! his very shoes were broken. Did you
see his shoes?--and that frail bit of serge was all his covering against
the keen blast. O George," cried he, as his lip shook with emotion,
"what would you say if that poor boy, all wretched and wayworn as
you saw him, were the true heir of a throne, and that the proudest in
Europe? What a lesson for human greatness that! It was a scurvy trick
you played me that night, sir," said he, quickly changing, for his
moods were ever thus, and you never could guess how long any theme would
engage him--"a scurvy trick, sir, to pry into what your master desired
you should not know. I had my own good reasons for what I did, and
it ill became you to contravene them; but it was like your cloth--ay,
sirrah, it was the trick of all your kind."

'Out of this he fell a-weeping over the fallen fortunes of his house,
asking again and again if history contained anything its equal;
and saying that other dynasties had fallen through their crimes and
cruelties, but that his house had been ruined by trustfulness and
generosity; and so he forgot the boy and all about him.'

'And think you it was to this youth that his Royal Highness bequeathed
the sum mentioned in his will, together with his George, the Grand Cross
of Malta, and the St. John of Jerusalem, for so the Cardinal York tells
me the bequest runs?'

'As to that I can say nothing,' Kelly replied.

'I have heard,' said the Cardinal again, 'that in a sealed letter to
his brother York the Prince acknowledges this boy as his son, born in
wedlock, his mother being of an ancient and noble house.' Then quickly
changing his tone, he asked, 'How are we to find him, Kelly? Do you
believe that he still lives?'

'I have no means of knowing; but if I wished to trace a man, not merely
in Europe, but through the globe itself, I am aware of but one police to
trust to.'

'And that?'

'The Jesuits: they are everywhere; and everywhere cautious, painstaking,
and trustworthy; they are well skilled in pursuits like these; and even
when they fail--and they seldom fail--they never compromise those who
employ them.'

'Well,' said the Cardinal, 'they have failed here. They have been on the
track of this young fellow for years back; and when I tell you that the
craftiest of them all, Massoni, has not been able to find a clue to him,
what will you say?'

'Why, that he must be dead and buried, your Eminence,' broke in Kelly.

'To that conclusion have I come myself, Fra Kelly. Had he been alive
he had come long since to claim this costly inheritance. Seven hundred
thousand Roman scudi, the Palazzo Albuquerque, at Albano, with all its
splendid pictures and jewels, worth double the whole----'

'Egad, I had come out of my grave to assert my right to such a bequest,'
said Kelly, laughing. 'Has the Cardinal York made search for him, your
Eminence?' said he, hastily correcting his levity.

'The Cardinal York is not likely to disturb himself with such cares;
and as the legacy lapses, in default of claimant, to the convent of St.
Lazarus of Medina, he probably deems that it will be as well bestowed.'

'Lazarus will have fallen upon some savory crumbs this time,' muttered
Kelly, whose disposition to jest seemed beyond all his self-control.

'It was this very day Massoni hoped to have brought me some tidings of
the youth, said the Cardinal, rising, 'and he has not appeared. It must
be as you have said, Kelly; the grave has closed over him. There is now,
therefore, a great danger to guard against: substitution of some other
for him--not by Massoni; he is a man of probity and honour; but he may
be imposed on by others. It is a fraud which would well repay all its
trouble.'

'There is but one could detect the trick--that Luke M'Manus, the
Carthusian I have mentioned to your Eminence. He knew the boy well, and
was intrusted by the Prince to take charge of him; but he is away in
Ireland.'

'But could be fetched, if necessary,' said Caraffa, half musing, as he
moved toward the door.

Massoni did not wait to hear more, but stealthily threading his way
through the copse, he gained the garden, and retracing his steps,
returned to the convent. Ascending to his chamber by a private stair,
he gave his servant orders to say that he was indisposed, and could not
receive any one.

'So, then, your Eminence,' said he bitterly, as he sank into a chair,
'you would underplot me here. Let us see who can play his cards best.'



CHAPTER XI. AN AUDIENCE

Within less than half an hour after his arrival at home, Massini
received an order from the Cardinal to repair to the palace. It was
a verbal message, and couched in terms to make the communication seem
scarcely important.

Massoni smiled as he prepared to obey; it amused him to think, that in a
game of craft and subtlety his Eminence should dare to confront him, and
yet this was evidently his policy.

The Cardinal's carriage stood ready horsed in the courtyard as the Père
passed through, and a certain air of impatience in the servants showed
that the time of departure had been inconveniently delayed.

'That thunder-storm will break over us before we are half way across the
Campagna,' cried one.

'We were ordered for one, and it is now past three, and though the
horses were taken from their feed to get in readiness, here we are
still.'

'And all because a Jesuit is at his devotions!'

The look of haughty rebuke Massoni turned upon them as he caught these
words, made them shrink back abashed and terrified; and none knew when
nor in what shape might come the punishment for this insolence.

'You have forgotten an appointment, Père Massoni,' said the Cardinal as
the other entered his chamber, with a deep and respectful reverence, 'an
appointment too, of your own making. There is an opinion abroad, that we
Cardinals are men of leisure, whose idle hours are at the discretion of
all; I had hoped, that to this novel theory the Père Massoni would not
have been a convert.'

'Nor am I, your Eminence. It would ill become one who wears such a frock
as this to deny the rights of discipline and the benefits of obedience.'

'But you are late, sir?'

'If I am so, your Eminence will pardon me when I give the reason. The
entire of last night was passed by me in watching for the arrival of a
certain youth, who did not come till nigh daybreak, and even then, so
ill, so worn out and exhausted, that I have been in constant care of him
ever since.'

'And he is come--he is actually here,' cried the Cardinal eagerly.

'He is, at this moment, in the college.'

'How have you been able to authenticate his identity,--the rumour goes
that he died years ago?'

'It is a somewhat entangled skein, your Eminence, but will stand the
test of unravelment. Intervals there are, indeed, in his story, unfilled
up; lapses of time, in which I am left to mere conjecture, but his
career is traceable throughout; and I can track him from the days in
which he stood an acolyte beside our altars to the hour we now talk in.'

'It is to your sanguine hopes you have been listening rather than cold
reason, Père.'

'Look at me, Eminence--scan me well, and say, do I look like those who
are slaves to their own enthusiasm?'

'The strongest currents are often calm on the surface.'

The Père sighed heavily, but did not answer.

'The youth himself, too, may have aided the delusion: he is, probably,
one well suited to inspire interest: in a varied and adventurous life,
men of this stamp acquire, amid their other worldly gifts, a marvellous
power of persuasiveness.'

The Père smiled half sadly.

'You would tell me, by that smile, Père Massoni, that you are not to be
the victim of such seductions; that you understand mankind in a spirit
that excludes such error.'

'Far be it from me to indulge such boastfulness,' said the other meekly.

'At all events,' said the Cardinal, half peevishly, 'he who has courage
and ambition enough to play this game is, doubtless, a fellow of
infinite resource and readiness, and will have, at least, plausibility
on his side.'

'Would that it were so!' exclaimed Massoni eagerly.

'What do you mean by that?'

'Would that he were one who could boldly assert his own proud cause,
and vindicate his own high claims; would that he had come through the
terrible years of his suffering life with a spirit hardened by trials,
and a courage matured by exercise; would, above all, that he had not
come from the conflict broken in health, shattered and down-stricken!
Ay, sir, this youth of bold pretensions, of winning manners, and
persuasive gifts is a poor fellow so stunned by calamity as to be
helpless!'

'Is he dying?' cried the Cardinal with intense anxiety.

'It were as well to die as live what he now is!' said the Père solemnly.

'Have the doctors seen him?--has Fabrichette been with him?'

'No, sir. It is no case for their assistance, my own poor skill can
teach me so much. His is the malady of the wounded spirit and the
injured mind.'

'Is his reason affected?' asked Caraffa quickly.

'I trust not; but it is a case where time and care can be the only
physicians.'

'And so, therefore, falls to the ground the grand edifice you have so
long been rearing. The great foundation itself is rotten.'

'He may recover, sir,' said Massoni slowly.

'To what end, I ask you, to what end?'

'At least to claim a princely heritage,' said Massoni boldly.

'Who says so?--of what heritage do you speak? You are surely too wise to
put faith in the idle stories men repeat of this or that legacy left by
the late Prince.'

'I know enough, sir, to be sure that I speak on good authority; and I
repeat that when this youth can prove his descent, he is the rightful
heir to a royal fortune. It may be, that he will have higher and nobler
ambitions: he may feel that a great cause is ever worthy a great effort;
that the son of a prince cannot accept life on the same humble terms as
other men. In short, sir, it may chance that the dream of a poor Jesuit
father should become a grand reality.'

'If all be but as real as the heritage, Massoni,' said the Cardinal
scoffingly, 'you called it by its true name, when you said "dream."'

'Have you, then, not heard of this legacy?'

'Heard of it! Yes: all Rome heard of it; and, for that matter, his Royal
Highness may have left him St. James's and the royal forest of Windsor.'

'Your Eminence, then, doubts that there was anything to bequeath?'

'There is no need to canvass what I _doubt_. I 'll tell you what I
_know_. The rent of the Altieri for the last two years is still unpaid;
the servants at Albano have not received their wages, and the royal
plate is at this moment pledged in the hands of the Jew Alcaico.'

The Père was silent. The sole effect these stunning tidings had on him
was to speculate to what end and with what object the Cardinal said all
this. It was not the language he had used a short hour ago with Kelly.
Whence, therefore, this change of tone? Why did he now disparage the
prospects he had then upheld so highly? These were questions not easily
solved in a moment, and Massoni pondered them deeply. The Cardinal
had begun with hinting doubts of the youth's identity, and then he had
scoffed at the prospect of his inheritance. Was it that by these he
meant to discourage the scheme of which he should have been the head, or
was it that some deeper and more subtle plan occupied his mind? And if
so, what could it be?

'I see how I have grieved and disappointed you, Père Massoni,' said
his Eminence, 'and I regret it. Life is little else than a tale of such
reverses.'

The Jesuit's dark eyes glanced forth a gleam of intense intelligence.
It was the light of a sudden thought that flashed across his brain. He
remembered that when the Cardinal moralised he meant a treachery, and
now he stood on his guard.

'I had many things to tell your Eminence of Ireland,' he began in a
calm, subdued voice. 'The priest Carrol has just come from thence, and
can speak of events as he has witnessed them. The hatred to England
and English rule increases every day, and the great peril is that this
animosity may burst forth without guidance or direction. The utmost
efforts of the leaders are required to hold the people back.'

'They never can wish for a fitter moment. England has her hands full,
and can scarcely spare a man to repress rebellion in Ireland.'

'The Irish have not any organisation among them. Remember, your
Eminence, that they have been held like a people in slavery: the gentry
discredited, the priests insulted. The first efforts of such a race
cannot have the force of union or combination. They must needs be
desultory and partisan, and if they cannot obtain aid from others, they
will speedily be repressed.'

'What sort of aid?'

'Arms and money; they have neither. Of men there is no want. Men of
military knowledge and skill will also be required; but more even than
these, they need the force that foreign sympathy would impart to their
cause. Carrol, who knows the country well, says that the bare assurance
that Rome looked on the coming struggle with interest would be better
than ten thousand soldiers in their ranks. Divided, as they are, by
seas from all the world, they need the encouragement of this sympathy to
assure them of success.'

'They are brave, are they not?'

'Their courage has never been surpassed.'

'And true and faithful to each other?' 'A fidelity that cannot be
shaken.'

'Have they no jealousies or petty rivalries to divide them?'

'None--or next to none. The deadly hatred to the Saxon buries all
discords between them.'

'What want they more than this, then, to achieve independence? Surely no
army that England can spare could meet a people thus united?'

'The struggle is far from an equal one between a regular force and a
mere multitude. But let us suppose that they should conquer: who is to
say to what end the success may be directed? There are fatal examples
abroad. Is it to establish the infidelity of France men should thus
sell their lives? Is it standing here as we do now, in the city and
stronghold of the Church, that we can calmly contemplate a conflict that
may end in worse than a heresy?'

'There cannot be worse than some heresies,' broke in the Cardinal.

'Be it so; but here might be the cradle of many. The sympathy long
entertained toward France would flood the land with all her doctrines;
and this island, where the banner of faith should be unfurled, may
become a fastness of the infidel.'

'_Magna est Veritas et prevalebit?_ exclaimed the Cardinal
sententiously.

'Anything will "prevail" if you have grape and canister to enforce it.
Falsehood as well as truth only needs force to make it victorious.'

'For a while--for a short while--holy father.'

'What is human life but a short while? But to our theme. Are we to aid
these men or not? It is for our flag they are fighting now. Shall we
suffer them to transfer their allegiance?'

'The storm is about to break, your Eminence,' said the Cardinal's
major-domo, as he presented himself suddenly. 'Shall I order the
carriages back to the stables?'

'No; I am ready. I shall set out at once. You shall hear from me
to-morrow or next day, Massoni,' said he, in a low whisper; 'or, better
still, if you could come out to Albano to see me.'

The Père bowed deeply without speaking.

'These are not matters to be disposed of in a day or an hour; we must
have time.'

The Père bowed again and withdrew. As he turned his steps homeward his
thoughts had but one subject. 'What was the game his Eminence was bent
on? What scheme was he then revolving in his mind?'

Once more beside the sick-bed of young Gerald, all Massoni's fears for
the future came back. What stuff was there in that poor, broken-spirited
youth, whose meaningless stare now met him, of which to make the leader
in a perilous enterprise? Every look, every gesture, but indicated a
temperament soft, gentle, and compliant; and if by chance he uttered a
stray word, it was spoken timidly and distrustfully, like one who feared
to give trouble. Never did there seem a case where the material was less
suited for the purpose for which it was meant; and the Père gazed
down at him as he lay in deep and utter despondency. In the immense
difficulty of the case all its interest reposed; and he felt what a
triumph it would be could he only resuscitate that dying youth, and make
him the head of a great achievement. It was a task that might try all
his resources, and he resolved to attempt it.

We will not weary our reader with the uneventful story of that recovery:
the progress so painfully slow that its steps were imperceptible, and
the change which gradually converted the state of fatuity to one
of speculation, and finally brought the youth out of sickness and
suffering, and made him--weak and delicate, of course--able to feel
enjoyment in life and eager for its pleasures. If Gerald could never
fathom the mystery of all the care bestowed upon him, nor guess why he
was thus tended and watched, as little could the Père Massoni comprehend
the strange features of that intellect which each day's experience
continued to reveal to him. Through all the womanly tenderness of
his character there ran a vein of romantic aspiration, undirected and
unguided, it is true, but which gave promise of an ambitious spirit.
That some great enterprise had been the dream of his early youth--some
adventurous career--seemed a fixed notion with himself; and why, and
how, and wherefore its accomplishment had been interrupted, was the
difficulty that often occupied his thoughts for hours. In his vain
endeavours to trace back events, snatches of his early life would rise
to his memory: his sick-bed at the Tana; his wanderings in the Maremma;
the simple songs of Marietta; the spirit-stirring verses of Alfieri;
and through these, as dark clouds lowering over a sunny landscape, the
bitter lessons of Gabriel Riquetti--his cold sarcasm and his disbelief.
For all vicissitudes of the youth's life the Père was prepared, but not
for that strange discursive reading of which his memory was filled; and
it was not easy to understand by what accident his mind had been stored
with snatches of Jacobite songs, passages from Pascal, dreary reveries
of Jean Jacques, and heroic scenes of Alfieri.

Led on to study the singular character of the youth's mind, Massoni
conceived for him at length a strong affection; but though recognising
how much of good and amiable there was in his disposition, he saw, too,
that the intellect had been terribly disturbed, and that the dreadful
scenes he had gone through had left indelible traces upon him.

Scarcely a day passed that the Père did not change his mind about him.
At one moment he would feel confident that Gerald was the very stuff
they needed--bold, highhearted, and daring; at the next, he would sink
in despondency over the youth's childlike waywardness, his uncertainty,
and his capriciousness. There was really no fixity of character about
him; and even in his most serious moods, droll and absurd images would
present themselves to his mind, and turn at once all the current of his
thoughts. While weeks rolled over thus, the Père continued to assure
the Cardinal that the young man was gradually gaining in health and
strength, and that even his weakly, convalescent state gave evidence of
traits that offered noble promise of a great future.

Knowing all the importance of the first impression the youth should make
on his Eminence, the Père continued by various pretexts to defer the day
of the meeting; and the Cardinal, though anxious to see Gerald, feared
to precipitate matters.



CHAPTER XII. A JESUIT'S STROKE OF POLICY

Although Massoni desired greatly to inform his young guest on all the
circumstances of his parentage and his supposed rights, he perceived
all the importance of letting that communication come from the Cardinal
Caraffa. It was not merely that the youth would himself be more
impressed by the tidings, but that the Cardinal would be so much the
more pledged to the cause in which he had so far interested himself.

To accomplish this project, the Jesuit had recourse to all his address,
since his Eminence continued to maintain a policy of strict reserve,
pledging himself to nothing, and simply saying: 'When I have seen him,
and spoken with him, it will be time enough to give an opinion as to the
future.'

To this Massoni objected, by alluding to the evil effect of such want of
confidence.

'He will be a prince with royal rights and belongings one of these days;
and he will not forget the cold reserve of all this policy; whereas, on
the other hand, he would never cease to remember with gratitude him from
whose lips he first learned his good fortune.'

He urged these and similar arguments with all his zeal, but yet
unsuccessfully; and it was only at last, when he said that he would
appeal to the Cardinal York, that Caraffa yielded, and agreed to concede
to his wishes.

The Père had procured copies of various documents which established the
marriage of Prince Charles Edward with Grace Fitzgerald of Cappa Glynn;
a record of the baptism of Gerald, who was born at Marne, in Brittany;
several letters in the handwriting of the Prince, acknowledging his
marriage, and speaking of his child as one some day or other to enjoy a
princely state; and a fragment of a letter from Grace herself, in which
she speaks of the cruelty of asking her to surrender the proofs of her
marriage, and pleads in the name of her boy for its recognition. Another
letter from her, evidently in answer to one from the Cardinal York,
whose intercession she had entreated, gave some most touching details of
her life of poverty and privation, and the straits by which she avoided
the discovery of a secret which to herself would have been the source of
greatness and high station. Numerous letters in the handwriting of
the Cardinal Gualterio also showed the unavailing efforts made by the
Prince's family to induce her to give a formal denial to the reputed
marriage: in these, frequent mention was made of the splendid
compensation that would be made to Grace Fitzgerald if she relinquished
her claim, and the total inutility of persisting to sustain it.

All these documents had been obtained by Carrol, either original or
copied, from the Fitzgeralds of Cappa Glynn. Most of these had been in
Grace's own possession, and some had been brought from Rome by Fra Luke,
when he left that city for Ireland. A list of these papers, with their
contents, had been furnished to the Cardinal Caraffa, accompanied by a
short paper drawn up by Massoni himself. In this 'memoir,' the Père
had distinctly shown that the question of the youth's legitimacy was
indisputable, and that even if his Eminence demurred to the project of
making him the head of a great political movement, his right as heir to
the Prince could not be invalidated.

The Cardinal bestowed fully three weeks over these records before
he gave any reply to Massoni, and then he answered in a tone of
half-careless and discouraging meaning, 'that the papers were
curious--interesting too--from the high station of many of the writers,
but evidently deficient as proofs of a matter so pregnant with great
results.' He hinted also, that from the wayward, adventurous kind of
life Charles Edward led, a charge of this nature would not be difficult
to make, and even support by every plausible evidence of its truth;
and lastly, he assured the Père that the will of his Royal Highness
contained no allusion to such an heir, nor any provision for him.

'You seem to make a point of my seeing the youth, to which I do not
perceive there is any objection, but that you couple it with the
condition of my making him the momentous communication of his birth and
rank. Surely, you cannot mean that on the vague evidence now before
me, I am to pledge myself to these facts, and indorse documents so
unsubstantiated as these are? As to your opening any communication with
the Cardinal York, I cannot listen to it. His Eminence is in the most
precarious state of health, and his nervous irritability so intense,
that any such step on your part would be highly indiscreet. If,
therefore, it be your determination to take this course, mine is as
firmly adopted, to withdraw altogether from any interest in the affair.
The earlier I learn from you which line you intend to pursue, the more
agreeable it will be to--Your very true friend,

Caraffa, Cardinal.'


Massoni returned no reply to this letter. The crafty father saw that the
threat of addressing the Cardinal York had so far affrighted Caraffa,
that he was sure to come to any terms that might avoid this contingency.
To leave this menace to work slowly, gradually, and powerfully into his
mind, Massoni at once decided.

When, therefore, after a week's silence, the Cardinal sent him a few
lines to intimate that his former letter remained unanswered, the Père
simply said, that his Eminence's letter was one which, in his humility,
he could only reflect over, and not answer.

The day after he had despatched this, a plain carriage, without arms,
and the servants in dark grey liveries, drove into the college, and the
Cardinal Caraflfa got out of it, and asked to see the Elector.

With a cheek slightly flushed, and a haughty step, Caraflfa entered the
little library, where the Père was seated at study, and though Massoni's
reception was marked by every observance of respectful humility, his
Eminence sharply said--

'You carry your head high, Père Massoni. You have a haughty spirit. Is
it that your familiarity with Royalty has taught you to treat Cardinals
thus cavalierly?'

'I am the humblest slave and servant of your Eminence,' was the
submissive answer, as with arms crossed upon his breast and head bent
forward, Massoni stood before him.

'I should be sorry to have a whole household of such material,' said
the Cardinal with a supercilious smile; then, after a moment, and in an
easier, lighter tone of banter he said: 'And his Royal Highness, Père,
how is he?'

'The Prince is better, your Eminence: he is able to walk about the
garden, where he is at this moment.'

'The cares of his estate have not, I trust, interfered with his
recovery,' said Caraflfa in the same accent of mockery.

'If he does not yet know them,' said Massoni gravely, 'it is because
in my deference to your Eminence I have waited for yourself to make the
communication.'

'Are you still decided, then, that he must be of royal race?'

'I see no reason why he should be robbed of his birthright.'

'Would you make him the heir of Charles Edward?'

'He is so.'

'King of England, too?'

'If legitimacy mean anything, he is that also.'

'Arnulph tells us, that when a delusion gets hold of a strong intellect,
it grows there like an oak that has its roots in a rock: its progress
slow, its development difficult, but its tenacity ineradicable.'

'Your Eminence's logic would be excellent in its application, but that
you have assumed the whole question at issue! Are you so perfectly sure
that this is a delusion?'

'Let us talk like men of the world, Père Massoni,' said Carafla bluntly.
'If this tale be all true, what interest has it for you or me?'

'Its truth, your Eminence,' said the Père, with a gesture of deep
humility, as though by a show of respect to cover the bold rebuke of his
words.

'So far, of course, it claims our sympathy and our support,' said
Carafla, reddening; 'but my question was addressed rather to what would
carry a more worldly signification. I meant, in short, to what object
could it contribute for which we are interested?'

'I have already, and at great length, explained to your Eminence,
the importance of connecting the great convulsion of the day, with a
movement in favour of monarchy and the Church. When men wandered from
the one, they deserted the other. Let us see if the beacon that lights
to the throne should not show the path to the shrine also.'

'You would assuredly accept a very humble instrument to begin your work
with.'

'A fisherman and a tent-maker sustained a grander cause against a whole
world!'

The Cardinal started. He was not, for a second or two, quite satisfied
that the reply was devoid of profanity. The calm seriousness of
Massoni's face, however, showed that the speech was not uttered in a
spirit of levity.

'Père Massoni,' said the Cardinal seriously, 'let us bethink ourselves
well ere we are committed to the cause of this youth. Are we so sure
that it is a charge will repay us?'

'I have given the matter the best and maturest reflection,' said the
Père; 'I have tested it in all ways as a question of right, of justice,
and of expediency; I have weighed its influence on the present, and its
consequences on the future; and I see no obstacles or difficulties, save
such as present themselves where a great work is to be achieved.'

'Had you lived in as close intimacy with the followers of the Stuarts
as I have, Massoni, you would pause ere you linked the fortunes of an
enterprise with a family so unlucky. Do you know,' added he earnestly,
'there was scarcely a mishap of the last expedition not directly
traceable to the Prince.'

The Père shook his head in dissent.

'You have not then heard, as I have, of his rashness, his levity, his
fickleness, and worse than all these, his obstinacy.'

'There is not one of these qualities without another name,' said the
Père, with a sad smile; 'and they would read as truthfully if called
bravery, high-heartedness, versatility, and resolution; but were it all
as your Eminence says, it matters not. Here is an enterprise totally
different. The cause of the Stuarts appealed to the chivalry of a
people, and what a mere fragment of a nation accepts or recognises such
a sympathy! The cause of the Church will appeal to all that calls itself
Catholic. The great element of failure in the Jacobite cause was that it
never was a religious struggle: it was the assertion of legitimacy, the
rights of a dynasty; and the question of the Faith was only an incident
of the conflict. Here,' he added proudly, 'it will be otherwise, and the
greatest banner in the fight will be inscribed with a cross!'

'Prince Charles Edward failed, with all the aid of France to back him;
and how is his son--if he be his son--to succeed, who has no ally, no
wealth, and no prestige?'

'And do you not know that it was France and French treachery that
wrecked the cause of the Stuarts? Did not the Cardinal Gualterio detect
the secret correspondence between the Tuileries and St. James's? Is it
not on record that the expedition was delayed three days in sailing, to
give time to transmit intelligence to the English government?'

'These are idle stories, Massoni; Gualterio only dreamed them.'

'Mayhap it was also a dream that the Prince was ordered to quit Paris in
twenty-four hours, and the soil of France within a week, at the express
demand of England?'

'What you now speak of was a later policy, ignoble and mean, I admit.'

'But why waste time on the past? Has your Eminence read the memoir I
sent you?'

'I have.'

'Have you well and duly weighed the importance attached to the different
character of the present scheme from all that has preceded it, and how
much that character is likely to derive support from the peculiarity of
the Irish temperament?'

'Yes. It is a people eminently religious: steadfast in the faith.'

'Have you well considered that if this cause be not made our own it
will be turned against us; that the agents of Irish independence--Tone,
Teeling, Jackson, and other--are in close communication with the French
government, and earnestly entreating them to despatch an expedition to
Ireland?'

'This would be indeed fatal to us,' said Caraflfa despondingly.

'And yet it is what will assuredly happen if we do not intervene.'

'But can we prevent it?'

'I believe we can. I believe there is even yet time to make the struggle
our own. But if there is not--if it be too late--we shall have a great
game to play. A Protestant rising must never have our support! Better
far for us to turn to the government and by this ostentatious show of
our allegiance, lay foundation for future demands and concessions.'

The Cardinal bent his head twice in approval.

'All these things, however, combine to show that we must be up and
stirring. Many who would be with us, if they were sure of our going
forward, will take service with Tone and his party, if we delay. Carrol
himself was pledged to report in person to the secret committee at
Waterford by the eighth of the month, and we are now at the seventeenth.
These delays are serious! This letter from Hussey, which only reached me
last night, will show your Eminence how eagerly our answer is awaited.'

The Cardinal made a gesture of impatience, as he declined the proffered
letter.

'It is not,' said he, 'by such considerations we are to be swayed,
Massoni.'

'Hussey insists on knowing whether or not your Eminence is with them,'
said the Père boldly, 'and if you have recognised the young Prince.'

'So, then, he knows of your secret,' said the Cardinal with a sly
malice.

'He knew of this youth's birth and station ere I did myself: he was the
confessor of the Fitzgerald family, and attended Grace on her deathbed.'

'Hussey, then, believes this story?'

'He would swear to its truth, your Eminence.'

'He is a crafty fellow, and one not easily to be deceived,' said
Caraffa, musing. 'Let me see his letter.'

He took the letter from the Père, and perused it carefully.

'I see little in this,' said he, handing it back, 'that you have not
already told me.'

'I have endeavoured to make your Eminence acquainted with everything
that occurred,' said Massoni with downcast eyes, but yet contriving to
watch the countenance of the other attentively.

'Monsignor Hussey, then, recommends in case of any backwardness--such is
his phrase--that you yourself should reveal to this youth the story of
his descent. Have you thought over this counsel?'

'I have, your Eminence.'

'Well, and to what conclusion has it led you?'

'That there was no other course open to me,' said Massoni firmly.

The Cardinal's brow darkened, and he turned upon the Père a look of
insolent defiance.

'So, then, Père Massoni, this is to be a trial of skill between us; but
I will not accept the challenge, sir. It is without shame that I confess
myself unequal to a Jesuit in craftiness.'

The Père never spoke, but stood with arms crossed and bent-down head as
if in thought.

'It must be owned, sir,' continued Caraffa scoffingly, 'that you have no
craven spirit. Most men, situated as you are, would have hesitated ere
they selected for their adversary a Prince of the Church.'

Still was Massoni silent.

'While, as to your _protégé_, with one word of mine to the Minister
of Police, he would be driven out of Rome--out of the States of the
Church--as a vagabond.'

The word had scarcely been uttered, when the door opened, and Gerald
stood before them. For an instant he hesitated, abashed at his
intrusion; but Massoni stepped hastily forward, and taking his hand,
said--

'Your Eminence, this is the Chevalier!'

Caraffa, who had known Charles Edward in his early life, stood
actually like one thunderstruck before the youth, so exactly was he his
counterpart. His full and soft blue eyes, the long silky hair of a rich
brown colour, falling heavily on his neck, the mouth, half pouting and
half proud, and the full chin, roundly moulded as a woman's, were all
there; while in his air and mien a resemblance no less striking was
apparent. By artful thoughtfulness of the Jesuit father, the youth's
dress was made to assist the schemes, for it was a suit of black velvet,
such as Charles Edward used to wear when a young man; a blue silk
under-vest, barely appearing, gave the impression that it was the ribbon
of the garter, which the young Prince rarely laid aside.

Not all the eloquence and all the subtlety of Massoni could have
accomplished the result which was in a moment effected by that
apparition; and as Gerald stood half timidly, half haughtily there,
Caraffa bowed low, and with all the deference he would have accorded to
superior rank. For a second the dark eyes of the Jesuit flashed a gleam
of triumph, but the next moment his look was calm and composed. The
crafty Père saw that the battle was won if the struggle could be
but concluded at once, and so, addressing Gerald in a tone of marked
deference, he said--

'I have long wished for the day when I should see this meeting; that its
confidence may be unbroken and undisturbed, I will withdraw,' and with a
separate reverence to each, the Père backed to the door and retired.

Whatever suspicions might have occurred to the Cardinal's mind had he
but time for reflection, there was now no opportunity to indulge. All
had happened so rapidly, and above all there was still the spell over
him of that resemblance, which seemed every moment to increase; such
indeed was its influence, that it at once routed all the considerations
of his prudent reserve, and made him forget everything save that he
stood in the presence of a Stuart.

'If I am confused, sir, and agitated,' began he, 'at this our first
meeting, lay it to the account of the marvellous resemblance by which
you recall my recollection of the Prince, your father. I knew him when
he was about your own age, and when he graciously distinguished me by
many marks of his favour.'

'My father!' said Gerald, over whose face a deep crimson blush first
spread, and then a pallor equally great succeeded--'did you say my
father?'

'Yes, sir. It was my fortune to be associated closely with his Royal
Highness at St. Germains and afterward in Auvergne.'

Overcome by his feeling of amazement at what he heard, and yet unable
to summon calmness to inquire further, Gerald sank into a chair, vainly
trying to collect his faculties. Meanwhile Caraffa continued--

'As an old man and a priest I may be forgiven for yielding slowly to
convictions, and for what almost would seem a reluctance to accept
as fact the evidence of your birth and station; but your presence,
sir--your features as you sit there, the image of your father--appeal
to something more subtle than my reason, and I feel that I am in the
presence of a Stuart. Let me, then, be the first to offer the homage
that is, or at least one day will be, your right'; and so saying, the
Cardinal took Gerald's hand and pressed it to his lips.

'Is this a dream?' muttered Gerald, half aloud--'is my brain wandering?'

'No, sir, you are awake; the past has been the dream--the long years of
sorrow and poverty--the trials and perils of your life of accident and
adventure--this has been the dream; but you are now awake to learn
that you are the true-born descendant of a Royal House--a Prince of the
Stuarts--the legitimate heir to a great throne!'

'I beseech you, sir,' cried Gerald, in a voice broken by emotion, while
the tears filled his eyes, 'I beseech you, sir, not to trifle with the
feelings of one whose heart has been so long the sport of fortune, that
any, even the slightest shock, may prove too powerful for his strength.'

'You are, sir, all that I have said. My age and the dress I wear may be
my guarantees that I do not speak idly nor rashly.'

A long-drawn sigh burst from the youth, and with it he fainted.



CHAPTER XIII. THE PÈRE MASSONI'S MISGIVINGS

It was late at night, and all quiet and still in the Eternal City, as
the Père Massoni sat in his little study intent upon a large map which
occupied the whole table before him. Strange blotches of colour marked
in various places, patches of blue and deep red, with outlines the most
irregular appeared here and there, leaving very little of the surface
without some tint. It was a map of Ireland, on which the successive
confiscations were marked, and the various changes of proprietorship
indicated by different colours; a curious document, carefully drawn up,
and which had cost the labour of some years. Massoni studied it with
such deep intensity that he had not noticed the entrance of a servant,
who now stood waiting to deliver a letter which he held in his hand.
At last he perceived the man, and, hastily snatching the note, read to
himself the following few lines--

'She will come to-morrow at noon. Give orders to admit her at once to
him; but do not yourself be there.'

This was signed 'D' and carefully folded and sealed.

'That will do; you need not wait, said the Père, and again he was alone.
For several minutes he continued to ponder over the scenes before him,
and then, throwing them on the table, exclaimed aloud, 'And this is the
boasted science of medicine! Here is the most learned physician of all
Rome--the trusted of Popes and Cardinals--confessing that there are
phases of human malady to which, while his art gives no clue--a certain
mysterious agency--a something compounded of imposture and fanaticism,
can read and decipher. What an ignoble avowal is this, and what a
sarcasm upon all intellect and its labours! And what will be said of
me,' cried he, in a louder voice, 'if it be known that I have lent my
credence to such a doctrine; that I, the head and leader of a great
association, should stoop to take counsel from those who, if they be not
cheats and impostors, must needs be worse! And, if worse, what then?'
muttered he, as he drew his hand across his brow as though to clear
away some difficult and distressing thought. 'Ay, what then? Are there
really diabolic agencies at work in those ministrations? Are these
miraculous revelations that we hear of ascribable to evil influences?
What if it were not trick and legerdemain? What if Satan had really
seized upon these passers of base money to mingle his own coinage with
theirs? If every imposture be his work, why should he not act through
those who have contrived it? Oh, if we could but know what are the
truthful suggestions of inspirations, and what the crafty devices of an
erring brain! If, for instance, I could now see how far the great
cause to which my life is devoted should be served or thwarted by the
enterprise.'

He walked the room for nigh an hour in deep and silent meditation.

'I will see her myself,' cried he at length. 'All her stage tricks and
cunning will avail her little with _me_; and if she really have high
powers, why should they not be turned to our use? When Satan piled evil
upon evil to show his strength, St. Francis made of the mass an altar?
Well, now, Giacomo, what is it?' asked he suddenly, as his servant
entered.

'He has fallen asleep at last, reverend father,' answered he, 'and
is breathing softly as a child. He cannot fail to be better for this
repose, for it is now five days and nights since he has closed an eye.'

'Never since the night of the reception at Cardinal Abbezi's.'

'That was a fatal experiment, I much fear,' muttered Giacomo.

'It may have been so. Who knows--who ever did or could know with
certainty the one true path out of difficulty?'

'When he came back on that night,' continued Giacomo, 'he would not
suffer me to undress him, but threw himself down on the bed as he was,
saying, "Leave me to myself; I would be alone."

'I offered to take off his sword and the golden collar of his order, but
he bade me angrily to desist, and said--

'"These are all that remind me of what I am, and you would rob me of
them.'"

'True enough; the pageantry was a brief dream! And what said he next?'

'He talked wildly about his cruel fortunes, and the false friends who
had misguided him in his youth, saying--

'"These things never came of blind chance; the destinies of princes are
written in letters of gold, and not traced in the sands of the sea. They
who betrayed my father have misled _me_."'

'How like his house,' exclaimed the Père; 'arrogant in the very hour of
their destitution!'

'He then went on to rave about the Scottish wars, speaking of places
and people I had never before heard of. After lamenting the duplicity
of Spain, and declaring that French treachery had been their ruin, "and
now," cried he, "the game is to be played over again, as though it
were in the day of general demolition men would struggle to restore a
worn-out dynasty."'

'Did he speak thus?' cried Massoni eagerly.

'Yes, he said the words over and over, adding, "I am but the 'figurino,'
to be laid aside when the procession is over," and he wept bitterly.'

'The Stuarts could always find comfort in tears; they could draw upon
their own sympathies unfailingly. What said he of _me_?' asked he, with
sudden eagerness.

Giacomo was silent, and folding his arms within his robe of serge, cast
his eyes downward.

'Speak out, and frankly--what said he?' repeated the Père.

'That you were ambitious--one whose heart yearned after worldly
elevation and power.'

'Power--yes!' muttered the Père.

'That once engaged in a cause, your energies would be wholly with it, so
long as you directed and guided it; that he had known men of your
stamp in France during the Revolution, and that the strength of their
convictions was more often a source of weakness than of power.'

'It was from Gabriel Riquetti that he stole the remark. It was even thus
Mirabeau spoke of our order.'

'You must be right, reverend father, for he continued to talk much of
this same Riquetti, saying that he alone, of all Europe, could have
restored the Stuarts to England. "Had we one such man as that," said he,
"I now had been lying in Holy rood Palace."'

'He was mistaken there,' muttered Massoni half aloud. 'The men who are
without faith raise no lasting edifices. How strange,' added he aloud,
'that the Prince should have spoken in this wise. When I have been with
him he was ever wandering, uncertain, incoherent.'

'And into this state he gradually lapsed, singing snatches of peasant
songs to himself, and mingling Scottish rhymes with Alfieri's verses;
sometimes fancying himself in all the wild conflict of a street-fight in
Paris, and then thinking that he was strolling along a river's bank with
some one that he loved.'

'Has he then loved?' asked Massoni in a low, distinct voice.

'From chance words that have escaped him in his wanderings I have
gathered as much, though who she was and whence, or what her station in
life, I cannot guess.'

'She will tell us this,' muttered the Père to himself; and then turning
to Giacomo said, 'To-morrow, at noon, that woman they call the Egyptian
Princess is to be here; she is to come in secret to see him. The Prince
of Piombino has arranged it all, and says that her marvellous gift is
never in fault, all hearts being open to her as a printed page, and
men's inmost thoughts as legible as their features.'

'Is it an evil possession?' asked Giacomo tremblingly.

'Who can dare to say so? Let us wait and watch. Take care that the small
door that opens from the garden upon the Pincian be left ajar, as she
will come by that way; and let there be none to observe or note her
coming. You will yourself meet her at the gate, and conduct her to his
chamber--where leave her.'

'If Rome should hear that we have accepted such aid----'

A gesture of haughty contempt from the Père interrupted the speech, and
Massoni said--

'Are not they with troubled consciences frequent visitors at our
shrines? Might not this woman come, as thousands have come, to have
a doubt removed; a case of conscience satisfied; a heresy arrested?
Besides, she is a Pagan,' added he suddenly; 'may she not be one eager
to seek the truth?' The cold derision of his look, as he spoke, awed the
simple servitor, who, meekly bending his head, retired.



CHAPTER XIV. THE EGYPTIAN

Our reader is already fully aware of the reasons which influenced the
Père Massoni to adopt the cause of young Fitzgerald. It was not any
romantic attachment to an ancient and illustrious house; as little was
it any conviction of a right. It was simply an expedient which seemed to
promise largely for the one cause which the Jesuit father deemed worthy
of a man's life-long devotion--the Church. To impart to the terrible
struggle which in turn ravaged every country in Europe a royalist
feature, seemed, to his thoughtful mind, the one sole issue of present
calamity. His theory was: after the homage to the throne will come back
reverence to the altar.

For a while the Père suffered himself to indulge in the most sanguine
hopes of success. Throughout Europe generally men were wearied of
that chaotic condition which the French Revolution had introduced, and
already longed for the reconstruction of society in some shape or other.
By the influence of able agents, the Church had contrived to make her
interest in the cause of order perceptible, and artfully suggested the
pleasant contrast of a society based on peace and harmony, with the
violence and excess of a revolutionary struggle.

Had the personal character of young Gerald been equal, in Massoni's
estimation, to the emergency, the enterprise might have been deemed
most hopeful. If the youth had been daring, venturous, and enthusiastic,
heedless of consequences and an implicit follower of the Church, much
might have been made of him; out of his sentiment of religious devotion
would have sprung a deference and a trustfulness which would have
rendered him manageable. But, though he was all these, at times, he was
fifty other things as well.

There was not a mood of the human mind that did not visit him in
turns, and while one day would see him grave, earnest, and thoughtful,
dignified in manner, and graceful in address, on the next he would
appear reckless and indifferent, a scoffer, and a sceptic. The old
poisons of his life at the Tana still lingered in his system and
corrupted his blood; and if, for a moment, some high-hearted ambition
would move him--some chivalrous desire for great things--so surely would
come back the terrible lesson of Mirabeau to his mind, and distrust
darken, with its ill-omened frown, all that had seemed bright and
glorious.

After the first burst of proud elation on discovering his birth and
lineage, he became thoughtful and serious, and at times sad. He dwelt
frequently and painfully upon the injustice with which his early
youth was treated, and seemed fully to feel that, if some political
necessity--of what kind he could not guess--had not rendered the
acknowledgment convenient, his claims might still have slept on,
unrecognised and unknown. Among his first lessons in life Mirabeau had
instilled into him a haughty defiance of all who would endeavour to use
him as a tool.

'Remember,' he would say, 'that the men who achieve success in life the
oftenest, are they who trade upon the faculties of others. Beware of
these men; for their friendship is nothing less than a servitude.'

'To what end, for what object, am I now withdrawn from obscurity?' were
his constant questions to himself. The priest and his craft were objects
of his greatest suspicion, and the thought of being a mere instrument to
their ends was a downright outrage. In this way, Massoni was regarded
by him with intense distrust; nor could even his gratitude surmount the
dread he felt for the Jesuit father. These sentiments deepened, as he
lay, hours long, awake at night till, at length, a low fever seized him,
and long intervals of dreary incoherency would break the tenor of his
sounder thoughts. It had been deemed expedient by the Cardinal York and
his other friends that young Gerald should continue to reside at the
Jesuit College till some definite steps were taken to declare his rank
to the world, and the very delay in this announcement was another reason
of suspicion.

'If I be the prince you call me, why am I detained in this imprisonment?
Why am I not among my equals; why not confronted with some future that
I can look boldly in the face? Would they make a priest of me, as they
have done with my uncle? Where are the noble-hearted followers who
rallied around my father? Where the brave adherents who never deserted
even his exile? Are they all gone, or have they died, and, if so, is not
the cause itself dead?'

These and suchlike were the harassing doubts that troubled him, until
eventually his mind balanced between a morbid irritability and an
intense apathy. The most learned physicians of Rome had been called to
see him, but, though in a great measure agreeing in the nature of his
case, none succeeded in suggesting any remedy for it. Some advised
society, travelling, amusement, and so on. Others were disposed to
recommend rest and quietude; others, again, deemed that he should be
engaged in some scheme or enterprise likely to awaken his ambition;
but all these plans had soon to give place to immediate cares for his
condition, for his strength was perceived to be daily declining, and
his energy of body as well as of mind giving way. For some days back
the Père had debated with himself whether he would not unfold to him the
grand enterprise which he meditated; point out to the youth the glorious
opportunity of future distinction, and the splendid prize which should
reward success. He would have revealed the whole plot long before had
he not been under a pledge to the Cardinal Caraffa not to divulge it
without his sanction, and in his presence; and now came the question
of Gerald's life, and whether he would survive till the return of his
Eminence from Paris, whither he had gone to fetch back his niece. Such
was the state of things when Doctor Danizetti declared that medicine had
exhausted its resources in the youth's behalf, and suggested, as a last
resource, that a certain Egyptian lady, whose marvellous powers had
attracted all the attention of Rome, should be called in to see him, and
declare what she thought of his case.

This Egyptian Princess, as report called her, had taken up her abode
at a small deserted convent near Albano, living a life of strict
retirement, and known only to the peasants of the neighbourhood by the
extraordinary cures she had performed, and the wonderful recoveries
which her instrumentality had effected. The secrecy of her mode of life,
and the impossibility of learning any details of her history, added to
the fact that no one had yet seen her unveiled, gave a romantic interest
to her which soon spread into a sort of fame. Besides these, the most
astonishing tales were told of epileptic cases cured, deaf and dumb men
restored to hearing and speech, even instances of insanity successfully
treated, so that, at length, the little shrines of patron saints, once
so devoutly sought after by worshipping believers, praying that St.
Agatha or St. Nasala might intercede on their behalf, were now
forsaken, and crowds gathered in the little court of the convent eagerly
entreating the Princess to look favourably on their sufferings. These
facts--at first only whispered--at length gained the ears of Rome, and
priests and cardinals began to feel that out of this trifling incident
grave consequences might arise, and counsel was held among them whether
this dangerous foreigner should not be summarily sent out of the State.

The decision would, doubtless, have been quickly come to had it not been
that at the very moment an infant child of the Prince Altieri owed its
life to a suggestion made by the Egyptian, to whom a mere lock of the
child's hair was given. Sorcery or not, here was a service that could
not be overlooked; and, as the Prince Altieri was one whose influence
spread widely, the thought of banishment was abandoned.

The Père Massoni, who paid at first but little attention to the stories
of her wondrous powers, was at length astonished on hearing from the
Professor Danizetti some striking instances of her skill, which seemed,
however, less that of a consummate physician than of one who had studied
the mysterious influences of the moral oyer the material part of our
nature. It was in estimating how far the mind swayed and controlled the
nervous system, whether they acted in harmony or discordance, seemed
her great gift; and to such a degree of perfection had she brought her
powers in this respect, that the tones of a voice, the expression of an
eye, and the texture of the hair, appeared often sufficient to intimate
the fate of the sick man. Danizetti confessed, that, though long a
sceptic as to her powers, he could no longer resist the force of what he
witnessed, and owned that in her art were secrets unrevealed to science.

He had made great efforts to see and to know her, but in vain; indeed
she did not scruple to confess, that for medicine and its regular
followers, she had slight respect. She deemed them as walkers in the
dark, and utterly lost to the only lights which could elucidate disease.
Through the Prince Altieri's intervention, for he had met her in the
East, she consented to visit the Jesuit College, somewhat proud, it must
be owned, to storm, as it were, the very stronghold of that incredulity
which priestcraft professed for her abilities. For this reason was it
she insisted that her visit should be paid in open day--at noon. 'I will
see none but the sick man.' said she, 'and yet all shall mark my coming,
and perceive that even these great and learned fathers have condescended
to ask for my presence and my aid. I would that the world should see how
even these holy men can worship an unknown God!'

Nor did the Père Massoni resent this pride; on the contrary, he felt
disposed to respect it. It was a bold assumption that well pleased him.

As the hour of her visit drew nigh, Massoni having given all the
directions necessary to ensure secrecy, repaired himself to the little
tower from which a view extended over the vast campagna. A solitary
carriage traversed it on the road from Albano, and this he watched with
unbroken anxiety, till he saw it enter the gate of Rome, and gradually
ascend the Pincian hill.

'The Egyptian has come to her time,' said he to Giacomo: 'yonder is her
carriage at the gate; and the youth, is he still sleeping?'

'Yes, he has not stirred for hours; he breathes so lightly that he
scarcely seems alive, and his cheeks are colourless as death.'

'There, yonder she comes; she walks like one in the prime of life. She
is evidently not old, Giacomo.'

From the window where they stood, they could mark a tall, commanding
figure moving slowly along the garden walk, and stopping at moments to
gather flowers. A thick black veil concealed in some degree her form,
but could not altogether hide the graceful motion with which she
advanced.



CHAPTER XV. THE PÈRE AND THE PRINCESS

Gerald was lying on a couch in his habitual mood of half dreamy
consciousness, when the Egyptian entered. Her tall and stately figure,
veiled to the very feet, moving with a proud but graceful step, seemed
scarcely to arrest his notice for a moment, and his eyes fell again upon
a few wild-flowers that lay beside him.

Making a sign to the servant that she would be alone, the Egyptian drew
nigh the couch, and stood silently regarding him. After a while, she
raised one arm till the hand was extended over his head, and held it
thus some minutes. He lifted up his eyes toward her, and then, with a
sort of wearied motion, dropped them again, heaved a heavy sigh, and
seemed to sink into a sleep.

Touching the centre of his forehead with her forefinger, she stood for
some minutes motionless; and then slowly passed her hand over his face,
and laid it gently on his heart; a slight, scarcely perceptible shudder
shook the youth's frame at this instant, and then he was still; so still
and so motionless, that he appeared like one dead. She now breathed
strongly two or three times over his face, making with her hands a
motion, as though sprinkling a fluid over him. As she did so, the
youth's lips slightly opened, and something like a faint smile seemed to
settle on his features. Bending down she laid her ear close to his lips,
like one listening: she waited a few seconds, and then, in a voice that
slightly trembled, with a thrill of joyous emotion, she whispered out--

'You have not, then, forgotten, _Gherardi mio_; those happy hours still
live within your memory.'

The sleeper's mouth moved without a sound, but she seemed to gather the
meaning of the motion: as, after a brief pause, she said: 'And the well
under the old myrtle-tree at San Domino: hast forgotten _that_? True
enough,' added she, as if replying; 'it seems like an age since we
walked that mountain road together; but we will stroll there again, dear
brother: nay, start not, thou knowest well why I call thee so. And
we will wander along the little stream under the old walls of Massa,
beneath the orange-trees; and listen to the cicala in the hot noon, and
catch glimpses of the blue sea through the olives. Happier days! that
they were. No, no, child,' cried she eagerly; 'thou art not of a mould
for such an enterprise; besides, they would but entrap thee--there is no
honesty in these men. He that we have lost--he that has left us--might
have guided you in this difficult path; but there is not another like
him. There are plants that only flower once in a whole century, and so
with humanity; great genius only visits the earth after long intervals
of years. What is it?' broke she in hurriedly; 'thou seest something;
tell me of it?' With an intense eagerness she now seemed to drink in
something that his silent lips revealed, a sort of impatient anxiety
urging her, as she said, 'And then, and then; yes! a wild dreary waste
without a tree; but thou knowest not where--and a light in an old tower
high up--yes! watching for thee; they have expected thee; go on. Ah!
thou hast arrived there at last; with what honour they receive thee;
they fill the hall. No, no, do not let him kneel; thou art right, he is
an old, old man. That was a mild cheer, and see how the tears run down
his cheeks; they are, indeed, glad to see thee, then. What now,' cried
she hurriedly; 'thou wilt not go on, and why? Tell me, then, why,
_Gherardi mio_ cried she, in an accent of deep feeling; _is it that
peril scares thee? Thou a Prince, and not willing to pay for thy
heritage by danger? Ah! true,' broke she in despondingly; _they have
made thee but a tool, and they would now make thee a sacrifice. A long
pause now ensued, and she sat with his hand pressed between both her own
in silence. At length a slight noise startled her; she turned her head,
and beheld the Père Massoni standing close beside her. She arose at
once, and drew the folds of her veil more closely across her features.

'Is your visit over? If so, I would speak with you,' said the Père.

She bowed her head in assent, and followed him from the room. Massoni
now led the way to the little tower which formed his study; entering
which, he motioned her to a seat, and having locked the door, took a
place in front of her.

'What say you of this young man?' said he, coldly and sternly. 'Will he
live?'

'He will live,' said she, in a low, soft voice.

'For that you pledge yourself; I mean, your skill and craft!'

'I have none, holy father--I have but that insight into human nature
which is open to all; but I can promise, that of his present malady he
will not die.'

'How call you his disease?'

'Some would name it atrophy; some low fever; some would say that an old
hereditary taint was slowly working its poisonous path through a once
vigorous frame.'

'How mean you by that; would you imply madness in his race?'

'There are many disordered in mind whom affluence presents as but
capricious,' said she, with a half supercilious accent.

'Be frank with me,' said he boldly, 'and say if you suspect derangement
here.'

'Holy father,' replied she, in the calm voice of one appealing to a
mature judgment, 'you, who read men's natures, as others do a printed
page, well know, that he who is animated strongly by some single
sentiment, which infuses itself into every thought, and every action,
pervading each moment of his daily life, so as to seem a centre around
which all events revolve--that such a man, in the world's esteem, is of
less sane mind than he who gives to fortune but a passing thought, and
makes life a mere game of accident. Between these two opposing states
this young man's mind now balances.'

'But cannot balance long,' muttered the Père to himself, reflecting on
her words. 'Will his intellect bear the struggle?' asked he hastily.

'Ay, if not overtaxed.'

'I know your meaning; you have told himself that he is not equal to the
task before him; I heard and saw what passed between you; I know, too,
that you have met before in life; tell me, then, where and how.' There
was a frank, intrepid openness in the way he spoke, that seemed to say,
'We must deal freely with each other.'

'Of _me_ you need not to know anything,' said she proudly, as she arose.

'Not if you had not penetrated a great secret of mine,' said Massoni
sternly; 'you cannot deny it--you know who this youth is!'

'I know whom you would make him,' said she, in the same haughty tone.

'What birth and lineage have made him,--not any will of mine.'

'There are miracles too great for even priestcraft, holy father--this
is one of them. Nay, I speak not of his birth, it is of the destiny you
purpose for him. Is it now, in the midst of the glorious outburst
of universal freedom, when men are but awakening out of the long and
lethargic dream of slavery, that you would make them to return to
it; would you call them to welcome back a race whose badge has been
oppression? No, no, your Church is too wise, too far-sighted for such
an error; the age of monarchies is over; take counsel from the past, and
learn that, henceforth, you must side with the people.'

'So have we ever,' cried the Père enthusiastically; 'yes, I maintain and
will prove it. Stay, you must not part with me so easily. You shall
tell me who you are. This weak pretence of Egyptian origin deceives not
_me_.'

'You shall know nothing of me,' was the brief reply.

'The Sacred Consulta will not accept this answer.'

'They will get none other, father.'

'Such acts as yours are forbidden by the canon law; be careful how you
push me to denounce them.'

'Does the Inquisition still live, then?' asked she superciliously.

'Sorcery is a crime, on the word of Holy Writ, woman; and again I say,
beware!'

'This is scarcely grateful, holy father; I came here to render you a
service.'

'And you are carrying away a secret, woman,' said the priest angrily.
'This must not be.'

'How would it advantage you, I ask,' said she calmly, 'were I to reveal
the whole story of my past life? it would give you no guarantee for the
future.'

'It is for _me_ to think of that. I only say, that I must and will know
it.'

'These are words of passion, holy father, not of that wise forethought
for which the world knows and reveres your name. Farewell.'

She waved her hand haughtily, and moved toward the door; but it was
locked, and resisted her hand. As she turned to remonstrate, Massoni was
gone! How, and by what exit, she could not guess, since every side of
the small tower was covered with books and shelves, that rose from the
floor to the ceiling, and except the one by which she entered, no
door to be seen. Not a word nor an exclamation escaped her, as she saw
herself thus imprisoned; her first care was to examine the windows,
which readily opened, but whose great height from the ground made
escape impossible. She again tried the lock in various ways, but without
success; and then recommenced a close scrutiny of the sides of the
tower, through which she was aware there must be some means of exit. So
cunningly, however, was this devised, that it evaded all her search, and
she sat down at length baffled and weary.

The bright noon faded away into the mellower richness of later day,
and the long shadows of solitary trees or broken columns, stretched far
across the Campagna, showing that the sun was low. While she yet sat
silent and watchful in that lonely tower, her eyes had ranged over the
garden beneath, till she knew every bed and pathway. She had watched the
Campagna too, till her sight ached with the weary toil; but, except far,
far away, long out of reach, no succour appeared in view; and it seemed
to her, at times, as though there was something like destiny in this
dreary desolation. On that very morning, as she drove from Albano, the
fields were filled with labourers, and herds of cattle roved over the
great plains, with large troops of mounted followers. What had become
then of these? The sudden outburst of a hundred bells, pealing in almost
wild confusion now, broke upon the stillness, and seemed to make the
very walls vibrate with their din. Louder and louder this grand chorus
swelled out, till the sound seemed to rise from earth to heaven, filling
space with their solemn music; and, at length, there pealed out through
these the glorious cadences of a rich orchestra, coming nearer and
nearer as she listened. A grand procession soon made its appearance,
issuing out of one of the city gates, and holding its way across the
Campagna. There were banners and gorgeous canopies, splendidly attired
figures walked beneath, and the smoke of incense rose around them in
the still calm of a summer's evening. It was, then, some festival of the
Church, and to this was doubtless owing the silence and desertion which
reigned over the Campagna.

With a haughty and disdainful motion of her head, the Egyptian turned
away from the sight, and seated herself with her back to the window. The
greyish tinge of half light that foretells the coming night, was fast
falling, as a slight noise startled her. She turned, and beheld two
venerable monks, whose brown hoods and frocks denoted Franciscans,
standing beside her.

'You are given into our charge, noble lady,' said one with a tone of
deepest respect. 'Our orders are to give you a safe-conduct.'

'Whither to, venerable brother?' said she calmly.

'To the convent of St. Ursula, beyond the Tiber.'

'It is the prison of the Inquisition?' said she, questioning.

'There is no Inquisition; there are no prisons,' muttered the other
monk. 'They who once met chastisement are won back now with love and
gentleness.'

'You will be well cared for, and with kindness, noble lady,' said the
other.

'It is alike to me; I am ready,' said she, rising, and preparing to
follow them.



CHAPTER XVI. INTRIGUE

The life of a man has been aptly compared to the course of a stream: now
clear, now troubled, now careering merrily onward in joyous freedom, now
forcing its turbid course amid shoals and rocks; but in no circumstance
does the comparison more truthfully apply than in those still intervals
when, the impulse of force spent, the waveless pool succeeds to
the rapid river. There are few men, even among the most active and
energetic, who have not known such periods in life. With some these are
seasons of concentration--times profitably passed in devising plans for
the future. Others chafe under the wearisome littleness of the hour, and
long for the days of activity and toil; and some there are to whom these
intervals have all the charm of a happy dream, and who love to indulge
themselves in a bliss such as in the busy world can never be their
fortune to enjoy.

Among these last, a true disciple of the school who take refuge in the
ideal and the imaginative as the sole remedy against the ills of actual
life, was Gerald Fitzgerald. When he arose from his sick-bed, it was
with a sort of dreamy, indistinct consciousness that he was of high rank
and station; one whose claims, however in abeyance now, must be admitted
hereafter; that for the great part he was yet to fill, time alone was
wanting. As to the past, it was a dream-land wherein he ventured with
fear. It was in vain he asked himself, how much of it was true or false?
Had this event really occurred? Had that man ever lived? The broken
incidents of a fevered head, mingled with the terrible realities he had
gone through; and there were many of his mere fancies that engaged
his credulity more powerfully than some of the actual events of his
chequered life.

His convalescence was passed at the Cardinal's villa of Orvieto; and if
anything could have added to the strange confusion which oppressed him,
it was the curious indistinct impression his mind preserved of the place
itself. The gardens, fountains, statues, were all familiar. How had they
been so revealed to him? As he strolled through the great rooms, objects
struck him as well known; and yet, the Père Massoni had said to
him: 'Orvieto will interest you; you have never been there'; and his
Eminence, in his invitation, suggested the same thought. Day after day
he pondered over this difficulty, and he continually turned over in his
mind this question: 'Is there some inner picture in my being of all that
I am to meet with in life? Has existence only to unroll a tableau, every
detail of which is graven on my heart? Have other men these conflicts
within their minds? Is it that by some morbid condition of memory _I_ am
thus tortured? and must I seek relief by trying to forget?' The struggle
thus suggested, rendered him daily more taciturn and thoughtful. He
would sit for hours long without a word; and time glided on absolutely
as though in a sleep.

If Gerald's life was passed in this inactivity, the Père Massoni's days
were fully occupied. From Ireland the tidings had long been of the most
discouraging kind. The great cause which should have been confided to
the guidance of the Church, and such as the Church could have trusted,
had been shamefully betrayed into the hands of a party deeply imbued
with all the principles of the French Revolution; men taught in the
infamous doctrines of Voltaire and Volney, and who openly professed to
hate a church even more than a monarchy. How the North of Ireland had
taken the lead in insurrection--how the Presbyterians, sworn enemies
as they were to Catholicism, had enrolled themselves in the cause of
revolt--how all the ready, active and zealous leaders were among that
class and creed, the Priest Carrol had not failed to write him word; nor
did it need the priest's suggestive comments to make the clever
Jesuit aware of all the peril that this portended. Was it too late to
counteract these evils? by what means could men be brought back from the
fatal infatuation of those terrible doctrines? how was the banner of
the Faith to be brought to the van of the movement? were the thoughts
unceasingly in his mind. The French were willing to aid the Irish, so
also were the Dutch; but the intervention would only damage the cause
the Père cared for. Nor did he dare to confide these doubts to the
Cardinal and ask his counsel on them, since, to his Eminence he had
continually represented the case of Ireland in a totally different
light. He had taught him to believe the people all jealous for the
Faith, cruelly oppressed by England, hating the dynasty that ruled them,
and eagerly watching for the return of the Stuarts, if haply there yet
lived one to renew the traditions of that illustrious house. By dint
of instances, and no small persuasive power, he at last had so far
succeeded as to enlist the sympathies of his Eminence in the youth
personally, and was now plotting by what means he could consummate that
interest by a marriage between Gerald and the beautiful Guglia Ridolfi.

This was a project which, if often indistinctly hinted at between them,
had never yet been seriously treated, and Massoni well knew that with
Caraffa success was a mere accident, and that what he would reject one
day with scorn he would accept the next with eagerness and joy. Besides,
the gloomy tidings he constantly received from Ireland indisposed the
Père to incur any needless hazards. If the Chevalier was not destined to
play a great part in life, the Cardinal would never forgive an alliance
that conferred neither wealth nor station. The barren honour of calling
a prince of the House of Stuart his nephew would ill requite him
for maintaining a mere pensioner and a dependant. Against these
considerations there was the calculation how far the cause of Fitzgerald
might profit by the aid such a man as Caraffa could contribute, when
once pledged to success by everything personally near and dear to
himself. Might not the great churchman, then, be led to make the cause
the main object of all his wishes?

The Cardinal was one of those men, and they are large enough to form a
class, who imagine that they owe every success they obtain in life, in
some way or other, to their own admirable skill and forethought; their
egotism blinding them against all the aid the suggestions of others have
afforded, they arrive at a self-reliance which is actually marvellous.
To turn to good account this peculiarity of disposition, Massoni now
addressed himself zealously and actively. He well knew that if the
Cardinal only fancied that the alliance of his niece with the Chevalier
was a scheme devised by himself--one of which none but a man of his deep
subtlety and sagacity could ever have thought--the plot would have an
irresistible attraction for him. The wily Jesuit meditated long over
this plan, and, at last, hit upon an expedient that seemed hopeful.
Among the many agents whom he employed over Europe, was one calling
himself the Count Delia Rocca, a fellow of infinite craft and
effrontery, and who, though of the very humblest origin and most
questionable morals, had actually gained a footing among the very
highest and most exclusive of the French royalists. He had been
frequently intrusted with confidential messages between the Courts of
France and Spain, and acquired a sort of courtier-like air and breeding,
which lost nothing by any diffidence or modesty on his part.

Massoni's plan was to pretend to the Cardinal that Delia Rocca had been
sent out to Rome by the Count D'Artois, with the decoration of St.
Louis for the Chevalier, and a secret mission to sound the young Stuart
Prince, as to his willingness to ally himself with the House of Bourbon,
by marriage. For such a pretended mission the Count was well suited;
sufficiently acquainted with the habits of great people to represent
their conversation correctly, and well versed in that half ambiguous
tone, affected by diplomatists of inferior grade, he was admirably
calculated to play the part assigned him.

To give a greater credence to the mission, it was necessary that the
Cardinal York should be also included in the deception; but nothing
was ever easier than to make a dupe of his Royal Highness. A number of
well-turned compliments from his dear cousins of 'France' some little
allusions to the 'long ago' at St. Germains, when the exiled Stuarts
lived there, and a note, cleverly imitated, in the Count D'Artois' hand,
were quite enough to win the old man's confidence. The next step was
to communicate Delia Rocca's arrival to the Cardinal Caraffa, and this
Massoni did with all due secrecy, intimating that the event was one upon
which he desired to take the pleasure of his Eminence.

Partly from offended pride, on not being himself sought for by the
envoy, and partly to disguise from Massoni the jealousy he always felt
on the score of Cardinal York's superior rank, Caraffa protested that
the tidings had no interest for him whatever; that any sentiments he
entertained for the young Chevalier were simply such as a sincere pity
suggested; that he never heard of a cause so utterly hopeless; that even
if powerful allies were willing and ready to sustain his pretensions,
the young man's own defects of character would defeat their views; that,
from all he could hear--for of himself he owned to know nothing--Gerald
was the last man in Europe to lead an enterprise which required great
daring and continual resources, and, in fact, none could be his partisan
save from a sense of deep compassion.

The elaborate pains he took to impress all this upon Massoni convinced
the Père that it was not the real sentiment of his Eminence, and he was
not much surprised at a hasty summons to the Cardinal's palace on the
evening of the day he had first communicated the news.

'The first mine has been sprung!' muttered Massoni, as he read the
order and prepared to obey it.

The Cardinal was in his study when the Père arrived, and, continued to
pace up and down the room, briefly addressing a few words as Massoni
entered and saluted him.

'The old Cardinal Monga had a saying, that if some work were not found
out to employ the Jesuits, they were certain to set all Europe in a
flame. Was there not some truth in the remark, Père Massoni? Answer me
frankly and fairly, for you know the body well!' Such was the speech by
which he addressed him.

'Had his Eminence reckoned the times in which Jesuit zeal and wisdom had
rescued the world from peril, it would have been a fitter theme for his
wisdom.'

'It is not to be denied that they are meddlers, sir,' said the Cardinal
haughtily.

'So are the sailors in a storm-tossed vessel. The good Samaritan
troubled himself with what, others might have said, had no concern for
him.'

'I will not discuss it,' said his Eminence abruptly. 'The world has
formed its own vulgar estimate of your order, and I, at least, agree
with the majority. He paused for a second or two, and then, with a tone
of some irritation, said, 'What is this story Rome is full of, about
some Egyptian woman, or a Greek, arrested and confined by a warrant of
the Holy Office; they have mingled your name with it, somehow?'

'A grave charge, your Eminence; Satanic possession and witchcraft----'

'Massoni,' broke in Caraffa, with a malicious twinkle of his dark eye,
'remember, I beseech you, that we are alone. What do you mean, then, by
witchcraft?'

'Were I to say to your Eminence that, after a certain interview with
you, I had come away, assuring myself that other sentiments were in your
heart than those you had avowed to me; that you had but half revealed
this, totally ignored that, affected credulity here, disbelief there,
my subtlety, whether right or wrong, would resolve itself into a mere
common gift--the practised habit of one skilled to decipher motives; but
if, while in your presence, standing as I now do here, I could, with an
effort of argument or abstraction, open your whole heart before me,
and read there as in a book, and, while doing this, place you in
circumstances where your most secret emotions must find vent, so that
not a corner nor a nook of your nature should be strange to me, by what
name would you call such an influence?'

'What you describe now has never existed, Massoni. Tricksters and
mountebanks have pretended to such power in every age, but they have had
no other dupes than the unlettered multitude.'

'How say you, then, if I be a believer here? What say you, if I have
tested this woman's power, and proved it? What say you, if all she has
predicted has uniformly come to pass; not a day, nor a date, nor an
hour mistaken! I will give an instance. Of Delia Rocca's mission and its
objects here, I had not the very faintest anticipation. That the exiled
family of France cherished hope enough to speculate on some remote
future, I did not dream of suspecting; and yet, through her foretelling,
I learned the day he would arrive at Rome, the very hotel he would put
up at, the steps he would adopt to obtain an audience of the Chevalier,
the attempts he would make to keep his mission a secret from me; nay,
to the very dress in which he would present himself, I knew and was
prepared for all.'

'All this might be concerted; what more easy than to plan any
circumstance you have detailed, and by imposing on your credulity secure
your co-operation?'

'Let me finish, sir. I asked what success would attend his plan, and
learned that destiny had yet left this doubtful--that all was yet
dependent on the will of one whose mind was still unresolved. I pressed
eagerly to learn his name, she refused to tell me, openly avowing that
she would thwart his influence, if in her power. I grew angry and even
scoffed at her pretended powers, declaring, as you have just suggested,
that all she had told me might be nothing beyond a well-arranged scheme.
"For once, then, you shall have a proof," said she, "and never shall it
be repeated; fold that sheet of paper there, as a letter, and seal it
carefully and well. The name I have alluded to is written within," said
she. I started, for the paper contained no writing--not a word, not
a syllable--I had scanned it carefully ere I folded it. Of this I can
pledge my solemn and sacred word.'

'Well, when you broke the seal,' burst in the Cardinal.

'I have not yet done so,' said the Père calmly, 'there is the letter,
just as I folded and sealed it; from that moment to this it has never
quitted my possession. It may be, that, as you would suspect, even this
might be sleight-of-hand. It may be, sir, that the paper contains no
writing.'

'Let us see,' cried the Cardinal, taking the letter and breaking it
open. 'Madonna!' exclaimed he suddenly. 'Look here'; and his finger then
tremblingly pointed to the word, 'Caraffa,' traced in small letters and
with a very faint ink in the middle of the page.

'And to this you swear, on your soul's safety,' cried Caraffa eagerly.

He bent forward till his lips touched the large golden cross which, as a
pectoral, the Cardinal wore, and muttered, 'By this emblem, I swear it.'

'Such influence is demoniacal, none can doubt it; who is this woman, and
whence came she?'

'So much of her story as I know is briefly told,' said Massoni, who
related all that he had heard of the Egyptian, concluding with the steps
by which he had her arrested and confined in the convent of St. Maria
Maggiore, on the Tiber.

'There was an age when such a woman had been sent to the stake,' said
Caraffa fiercely. 'Is it a wiser policy that pardons her?'

'Yes; if by her means a good end can be served,' interrupted the Père;
'if through what she can reveal, errors may be avoided, perils averted,
and successes gained; if, in short, Satan can be used as slave, not
master.'

'And wherefore should she be opposed to _me_? broke in Caraffa, whose
thoughts reverted to what concerned himself personally.

'As a true and faithful priest, as an honoured prince of the Church, you
must be her enemy,' said the Père; and, though the words were spoken in
all seeming sincerity, the Cardinal's dark eyes scanned the speaker's
face keenly and severely. As if failing, however, to detect any
equivocation in his manner, Caraffa addressed himself to another course
of thought and said--

'Have you questioned her, then, as to this young man's chances?'

'She will not speak of them,' was the abrupt reply.

'Have they met?'

'Once, and only once; and of the meeting his memory preserves no trace
whatever, since it was during his fever, and when his mind was wandering
and incoherent.'

'Could I see her, without being known? could I speak with her myself?'

Massoni shook his head doubtingly, 'No disguise would avail against her
craft.'

Caraffa pondered long over his thoughts, and at last said--'I have a
strong desire to see her, even though I should not speak to her. What
say you, Massoni?'

'It shall be as pleases your Eminence,' was the meek answer.

'So much I know, sir; but it is your counsel that I am now asking; what
would you advise?'

'So far as I can guess,' answered the Père cautiously, 'it is her
marvellous gift to exert influence over those with whom she comes in
contact--a direct palpable sway. Even I, cold, impassive, as I am,
unused to feel, and long beyond the reach of such fascination--even _I_
have known what it is to confront a nature thus strangely endowed,'

'These are mere fancies, Massoni.'

'Fancies that have the force of convictions. For my own part, depositary
as I am of much that the world need not, should not, know, I would not
willingly expose my heart to one like her.'

'Were it even as you say, Massoni, of what could the knowledge avail
her? Bethink you for a moment of what strange mysteries of the human
heart every village curate is the keeper; how he has probed recesses,
dived into secret clefts, of which, till revealed by strict search, the
very possessor knew not the existence; and yet how valueless, how inert,
how inoperative in the great game of life does not this knowledge prove.
If this were power, the men who possessed it would sway the universe.'

'And so they might,' burst in Massoni, 'if they would adapt to the
great events of life the knowledge which they now dissipate in the small
circle of family existence. If they would apply to statecraft the same
springs by which they now awaken jealousies, kindle passions, lull
just suspicions, and excite distrusts! With powder enough to blow up
a fortress, they are contented to spend it in fireworks! The order of
which I am an unworthy member alone conceived a different estimate of
the duty.'

'The world gives credit to your zeal,' said the Cardinal slyly.

'The world is an ungrateful taskmaster. It would have its work done, and
be free to disparage those who have laboured for it.'

A certain tone of defiance in this speech left an awkward pause for
several minutes. At last Caraffa said carelessly--

'Of what were we speaking a while ago? Let us return to it.'

'It was of the Count Delia Rocca and his mission, your Eminence.'

'True. You said that he wished to see the Chevalier, to present his
letters. There can be no objection to that. The road to Orvieto is an
excellent one, and my poor house there is quite capable of affording
hospitality for even a visitor so distinguished.' With all his efforts
to appear tranquil, the Cardinal spoke in a broken, abrupt way, that
betrayed a mind very ill at ease.

'I am not aware, Massoni,' resumed he, 'that the affair concerns _me_,
nor is there occasion to consult me upon it.' This address provoked no
reply from the Père, who continued patiently to scan the speaker, and
mark the agitation that more and more disturbed him.

'I conclude, of course,' said the Cardinal again, 'that the Chevalier's
health is so firmly re-established this interview cannot be hurtful to
him; that he is fully equal to discuss questions touching his gravest
interests. You who hear frequently from him can give me assurance on
this point.'

'I am in almost daily correspondence----''

'I know it,' broke in Caraffa.

'I am in almost daily correspondence with the Chevalier, and can answer
for it that he is in the enjoyment of perfect health and spirits.'

'They who speculated on his being inferior to his destiny will perhaps
feel disappointed!' said Caraffa, in a low, searching accent.

'They acknowledge as much already, your Eminence. In the very last
despatches Sir Horace Mann sent home there is a gloomy prediction of
what trouble a youth so gifted and so ambitious may one day occasion
them in England.'

'Your friend the Marchesa Balbi, then, still wields her influence at the
British legation?' said Caraffa, smiling cunningly; 'or you had never
known these sentiments of the Minister.'

'Your Eminence reads all secrets,' was the submissive reply, as the Père
bowed his head.

'Has she also told you what they think of the youth in England?'

'No further than that there is a great anxiety to see him, and assure
themselves that he resembles the House of Stuart.'

'Of that there is no doubt,' broke in Caraffa; 'there is not a look,
a gesture, a trait of manner, or a tone of the voice, he has not
inherited.'

'These may seem trifles in the days of exile and adversity, but they are
title-deeds fortune never fails to adduce when better times come round.'

'And do you really still believe in such, Massoni? Tell me, in the
sincerity of man to man, without disguise, and, if you can, without
prejudice--do you continue to cherish hopes of this youth's fortune?'

'I have never doubted of them for a moment, sir,' said the Père
confidently. 'So long as I saw him weak and broken, with weary looks and
jaded spirits, I felt the time to be distant; but when I beheld him
in the full vigour of his manly strength, I knew that his hour was
approaching; it needed but the call, the man was ready.'

'Ah! Massoni, if I had thought so--if I but thought so,' burst out
the Cardinal, as he leaned his head on his hand, and lapsed into deep
reflection.

The wily Père never ventured to break in upon a course of thought, every
motive of which contributed to his own secret purpose. He watched him
therefore, closely, but in silence. At last Caraffa, lifting up his
head, said--

'I have been thinking over this mission of Delia Rocca, Massoni, and it
were perhaps as well--at least it will look kindly--were I to go over
to Orvieto myself, and speak with the Chevalier before he receives him.
Detain the Count, therefore, till you hear from me; I shall start in the
morning.' The Père bowed, and after a few moments withdrew.



CHAPTER XVII. THE GARDEN AT ORVIETO

Soon after daybreak on the following morning the Cardinal's courier
arrived at Orvieto with tidings that his Eminence might be expected the
same evening. It was a rare event, indeed, which honoured the villa with
a visit from its princely owner; and great was the bustle and stir of
preparation to receive him. The same activity prevailed within doors and
without. Troops of men were employed in the gardens, on the terraces,
and the various pleasure-grounds; while splendid suites of rooms, never
opened but on such great occasions, were now speedily got in readiness
and order.

Gerald wandered about amid this exciting turmoil, puzzled and confused.
How was it that he fancied he had once seen something of the very same
sort, exactly in the self-same place? Was this, then, another rush of
that imagination which so persisted in tormenting him, making life a
mere circle of the same events? As he moved from place to place, the
conviction grew only stronger and stronger: this seemed the very statue
he had helped to replace on its pedestal; here the very fountain he
had cleared from weeds and fallen leaves; the flowers he had grouped
in certain beds; the walks he had trimly raked; the rustic seats he had
disposed beneath shady trees; all rose to his mind and distracted him
by the difficulty of explaining them. As he walked up the great marble
stairs and entered the spacious hall of audience, a whole scene of the
past seemed to fill the space. The lovely girl--a mere child as she was,
with golden hair and deep blue eyes--rose again before his memory, and
his heart sank as he bethought him that the whole vision must have had
no reality.

The rapid tramp of horses' feet suddenly led him to the window, and
he now saw the outriders, as they dashed up at speed, followed quickly
after by three travelling carriages, each drawn by six horses, and
escorted by mounted dragoons. Gerald did not wait to see his Eminence
descend, but hastened to his room to dress, and compose his thoughts for
the approaching interview.

The Chevalier had grown to be somewhat vain of his personal appearance.
It was a Stuart trait, and sat not ungracefully upon him; and he now
costumed himself with more than ordinary care. His dress was of a dark
maroon velvet, over which he wore a scarf of his own tartan; the collar
and decoration presented by the Cardinal York ornamenting the front
of the dress, as well as the splendidly embossed dagger which once had
graced the belt of the Prince Charles Edward. Though his toilet occupied
him a considerable time, no summons came from his Eminence, either to
announce his arrival or request a meeting; and Gerald, half pained by
the neglect, and half puzzled lest the fault might possibly be ascribed
to some defect of observance on his own part, at length took his hat and
left the house for a stroll through the gardens.

As he wandered along listlessly, he at last gained a little grassy
eminence, from which a wide view extended over a vast olive plain,
traversed by a tiny stream. It was the very wood through which, years
before, he had journeyed when he had fled from the villa to seek his
fortune. Some indistinct, flitting thoughts of the event, the zigzag
path along the river, the far-away mountains of the Maremma, were yet
puzzling him, when he heard a light step on the gravel-walk near. He
turned, and saw a young girl coming toward him, smiling, and with an
extended hand. One glance showed him that she was singularly beautiful,
and of a demeanour that announced high station.

'Which of us is to say, "welcome here," Chevalier? at all events, let
one of us have the courage to speak it. I am your guest, or your host,
whichever it please you best.'

'The Contessa Ridolfi,' said Gerald, as he kissed her hand respectfully.

'I perceive,' said she, laughing, 'you have heard of my boldness,
and guess my name at once; but, remember, that if I had waited to be
presented to you by my uncle, I should have been debarred from thus
clearing all formality at a bound, and asking you, as I now do, to
imagine me one you have known long and well.'

'I am unable to say whether the honour you confer on me or the
happiness, be greater,' said Gerald warmly.

'Let it be the happiness, since the honour must surely come from your
side,' said she, in the same light, half-careless tone. 'Give me your
arm, and guide me through these gardens; you know them well, I presume.'

'I have been your guest these four months and more, Contessa,' said he,
bowing.

'So that this poor villa of ours may have its place in history, and men
remember it as the spot where the young Prince sojourned. Nay, do not
blush, Chevalier, or I shall think that the shame is for _my_ boldness.
When you know me better you will learn that I am one so trained to the
licence of free speech that none are offended at my frankness.'

'You shall never hear me complain of it,' said Gerald quickly.

'Come, then, and tell me freely, has this solitude grown intolerable; is
your patience well-nigh worn out with those interminable delays of what
are called "your friends"?'

'I know not what you allude to. I came here to recover after a long
illness, weak and exhausted. My fever had left me so low in energy, that
I only asked rest and quietness: I found both at the villa. The calm
monotony that might have wearied another, soothed and comforted _me_.
Of what was real in my past life--what mere dreamland--I never could
succeed in defining. If at one moment I seemed to any one's eyes of
princely blood and station, at the next I could not but see myself a
mere adventurer, without friends, family, or home. I would have given
the world for one kind friend to steady the wavering fabric of my mind,
to bring back its wandering fancies, and tell me when my reason was
aright.'

'Will you take me for such a friend?' said Guglia, in a soft, low voice.

'Oh, do not ask me, if you mean it not in serious earnest,' he urged
rapidly. 'I can bear up against the unbroken gloom of my future; I could
not endure the changeful light of a delusive hope.'

'But it need not be such. It is for you to decide whether you will
accept of such a counsellor. First of all,' added she hastily, and ere
leaving him time to reply, 'I am more deeply versed in your interests
than you are perhaps aware. Intrusted by my uncle, the Cardinal, to deal
with questions not usually committed to a young girl's hands, I have
seen most parts of the correspondence which concerns you; nay, more,
I can and will show you copies of it. You shall see for yourself,
what they have never yet left you to judge, whether it is for your own
interest to await an eventuality that may never come, or boldly try to
create the crisis others would bid you wait for; or lastly, there is
another part to take, the boldest, perhaps, of all.'

'And what may that be?' broke in Gerald, with eagerness, for his
interest was now most warmly engaged.

'This must be for another time,' said she quickly; 'here comes his
Eminence to meet us.'

And as she spoke, the Cardinal came forward, and with a mingled
affection and respect embraced Gerald and kissed him on both cheeks.



CHAPTER XVIII. HOW THE TIME PASSED AT ORVIETO

Orvieto was a true villa palace (which only Italians understand how
to build), and the grounds were on a scale of extent that suited the
mansion. Ornamental terraces and gardens on every side, with tasteful
alleys of trellised vines to give noon-day shade, and farther off again
a dense pine forest, traversed by long alleys of grass, which even in
the heat of summer were cool and shaded. These narrow roads, barely
wide enough for two horsemen abreast, crossed and recrossed in the
dark forest, ever leading between walls of the same dusky foliage, with
scanty glimpses of a blue sky through the arched branches overhead.

If Guglia rode there for hours long with Gerald; if they strayed--often
silently--not even a foot-fall heard on the smooth turf, you perhaps,
know why; and if you do not, how am I, unskilled in such descriptions,
to make you wiser? Well, it was even as you suspect: the petted child of
fortune, the lovely niece of the great Cardinal, the beautiful Guglia,
whose hand was the greatest prize of Rome, had conceived such an
interest in Gerald, his fortunes and his fate, that she could not leave
Orvieto.

In vain came pressing invitations from Albano and Terni, where she had
promised to pass part of her autumn. In vain the lively descriptions of
friends full of all the delights of Castellamare or Sorrento: the story
of festivities and pleasures seemed poor and even vulgar with the life
she led. Talk of illusions as you will, that of being in love is the
only one that moulds the nature or elevates the heart! Out of its
promptings come the heroism of the least venturesome or the poetry of
the least romantic! Insensibly stealing into the affections of another,
we have to descend into our own hearts for the secrets that win success;
and how resolutely we combat all that is mean or unworthy in our nature,
simply that we may offer a more pure sacrifice on the altar we kneel to!

And there and thus she lived, the flattered beauty--the young girl, to
whom an atmosphere of homage and admiration seemed indispensable--whose
presence was courted in the society of the great world, and whose very
caprices had grown to become fashions--a sort of strange, half-real
existence, each day so like another that time had no measure how it
passed.

The library of the villa supplied them with ample material to study the
history of the Stuarts; and in these pursuits they passed the mornings,
carefully noting down the strange eventualities which determined their
fate, and canvassing together in talk the traits which so often had
involved them in misfortune. Gerald, now restored to full health, was
a perfect type of the illustrious race he had sprung from: and not
only was the resemblance in face and figure, but all the mannerisms
of Charles Edward were reproduced in the son. The same easy, gentle,
yielding disposition, dashed by impulses of the wildest daring, and
darkened occasionally by moods of obstinacy; miserable under the thought
of having offended, and almost more wretched when the notion of being
forgiven imparted a sense of his own inferiority; he was one of those
men whose minds are so many-sided that they seem to have no fixed
character. Even now, though awakened to the thought of the great destiny
that might one day befall him--assured as he felt of his birth and
lineage--there were intervals in which no sense of ambition stirred him,
when he would willingly accept the humblest lot in life should it only
promise peace and tranquillity.

Strangely enough it was by these vacillations and changes of temperament
that Guglia had attached herself so decisively to his fortunes. The very
want which she supplied to his nature made the tie between them. The
theory in her own heart was, that when called on for effort, whenever
the occasion should demand the great personal qualities of courage and
daring, Gerald would be pre-eminently distinguished, and show himself to
the world a true Stuart.

While thus they lived a life of happiness, the Père Massoni was actively
engaged in maturing plans for the future. For a considerable time back
he had been watching the condition of Ireland with an intense feeling
of anxiety. So far from the resistance to England having assumed the
character of a struggle in favour of Catholicism, it had grown more and
more to resemble the great convulsion in France which promised to ingulf
all religions and all creeds. Though in a measure prepared for this
in the beginning of the conflict, Massoni steadfastly trusted that the
influence of the priests would as certainly bring the people back to the
standards of the Church, and that eventually the contest would be purely
between Rome and the Reformation. His last news from Ireland grievously
damped the ardour of such hopes. The Presbyterians of the North--men
called enemies of the 'Church '--were now the most trusted leaders of
the movement; and how was he to expect that such men as these would
accept a Stuart for their king?

For days, and even weeks did the crafty Père ponder over this difficult
problem, and try to solve it in ways the most opposite. Why might not
these Northerns, who must always be a mere minority, be employed at the
outset of the struggle, and then, as the rebellion declared itself, be
abandoned and thrown over? Why not make them the forlorn hope of the
campaign, and so get rid of them entirely? Why should not the Chevalier
boldly try his personal influence among them, promise future rewards and
favours, ay, even more still? Why might he not adroitly have it hinted
that he was, at heart, less a Romanist than was generally believed:
that French opinions had taken a deep root in his nature, and the early
teachings of Mirabeau born their true fruit? There was much in Gerald's
training and habit of mind which would favour this supposition, could he
but be induced to play the game as he was directed. There was among
the Stuart papers in Cardinal York's keeping a curious memorandum of
a project once entertained by the Pretender with respect to Charles
Edward. It was a scheme to marry him to a natural daughter of Sir Robert
Walpole, and thus conciliate the favour and even the support of that
Minister--the strongest friend and ally of the Hanoverian cause. The
Jesuit father had seen and read this remarkable paper, and deemed it
a conception of the finest and most adroit diplomacy. It had even
stimulated his own ardour to rival it in acuteness; to impose Gerald
upon the Presbyterian party, as one covertly cherishing views similar
to their own; to make them, a minority as they were, imagine that the
future destinies of the country were in their keeping; to urge them on,
in fact, to the van of the battle, that so they might stand between two
fires, was his great conception, the only difficulty to which was how to
prepare the young Chevalier for the part he was to play, and reconcile
him to its duplicity!

To this end he addressed himself zealously and vigorously, feeding
Gerald's mind with ideas of the grandeur of his house, the princely
inheritance that they had possessed, and their high rank in Europe. All
that could contribute to stimulate the youth's ardour, and gratify
his pride of birth, was studiously provided. Day by day he advanced
stealthily upon the road, gradually enhancing Gerald's own standard to
himself, and giving him, by a sort of fictitious occupation, an amount
of importance in his own eyes. Massoni maintained a wide correspondence
throughout Europe; there was not a petty court where he had not some
trusted agent. To impart to this correspondence a peculiar tone and
colouring was easy enough. At a signal from him the hint was sure to
be adopted; and now as letters poured in from Spain, and Portugal, and
Naples, and Vienna, they all bore upon the one theme, and seemed filled
with but one thought--that of the young Stuart and his fortunes. All
these were duly forwarded by Massoni to Gerald by special couriers, who
arrived with a haste and speed that seemed to imply the last importance.
With an ingenuity all his own, the Père invested this correspondence
with all the characteristics of a vast political machinery, and by
calling upon Gerald's personal intervention, he elevated the young man
to imagine himself the centre of a great enterprise.

Well aided and seconded as he was by Guglia Ridolfi, to whom also this
labour was a delightful occupation, the day was often too short for the
amount of business before them; and instead of the long rides in the
pine forest, or strolling rambles through the garden, a brisk gallop
before dinner, taken with all the zest of a holiday, was often the only
recreation they permitted themselves. There was a fascination in this
existence that made all their previous life, happy as it had been, seem
tame and worthless in comparison. If real power have an irresistible
charm for those who have once enjoyed its prerogatives, even the
semblance and panoply of it have a marvellous fascination.

That _égoïsme-à-deux_, as a witty French writer has called love, was
also heightened in its attraction by the notion of an influence and
sway wielded in concert. As one of the invariable results of the
great passion is to elevate people to themselves, so did this seeming
importance they thus acquired minister to their love for each other. In
the air-built castles of their mind one was a royal palace, surrounded
with all the pomp and splendour of majesty; who shall say that here was
not a theme for a 'thousand-and-one nights,' of imagination?

Must we make the ungraceful confession that Gerald was not very much in
love! though he felt that the life he was leading was a very delightful
one. Guglia possessed great--the very greatest--attractions. She was
very beautiful; her figure the perfection of grace and symmetry; her
carriage, voice and air all that the most fastidious could wish for.
She was eminently gifted in many ways, and with an apprehension of
astonishing quickness; and yet, somehow, though he liked and admired
her, was always happy in her society, and charmed by her companionship,
she never made the subject of his solitary musings as he strolled
by himself; she was not the theme of the sonnets that fell half
unconsciously from his lips as he rambled alone in the pine wood. Was
the want then in _her_ to inspire a deeper passion, or had the holiest
spot in _his_ heart been already occupied, or was it that some ideal
conception had made all reality unequal and inferior?

We smile at the simplicity of those poor savages, who having carved
out their own deity, fashioned, and shaped, and clothed, then fall down
before their own handiwork in an abject devotion and worship. We cannot
reconcile to ourselves the mental process by which this self-deception
is practised, and yet it is happening in another form, and every day
too, under our own eyes. The most violent passions are very often
the result of a certain suggestiveness in an object much admired; the
qualities which awaken in ourselves nobler sentiments, higher ambitions,
and more delightful dreams of a future soon attach us to the passion,
and unconsciously we create an image of which the living type is but
a skeleton. Perhaps it was the towering ambition of Guglia's mind that
impaired, to a great degree, the womanly tenderness of her nature, and
not impossibly too he felt, as men of uncertain purpose often feel, a
certain pique at the more determined and resolute character of a
woman's mind. Again and again did he wish for some little trait of mere
affection, something that should betoken, if not an indifference, a
passing forgetfulness of the great world and all its splendours. But no;
all her thoughts soared upward to the high station she had set her heart
on. Of what they should be one day was the great dream of her life--for
they were already betrothed by the Cardinal's consent--and of the
splendid path that lay before them.

The better to carry out his own views Massoni had always kept up a
special correspondence with Guglia, in which he expressed his hopes of
success far more warmly than he had ever done to Gerald. Her temperament
was also more sanguine and impassioned, she met difficulties in a more
daring spirit, and could more easily persuade herself to whatever she
ardently desired. The Père had only pointed out to her some of the
obstacles to success, and even these he had accompanied by such
explanations as to how they might be met and combated that they seemed
less formidable; and the great question between them was rather when
than how the grand enterprise was to be begun.

'Though I am told,' wrote he, 'that the discontent with the House of
Hanover grows daily more suspicious in England, and many of its once
staunch adherents regret the policy which bound them to these usurpers,
yet it is essentially to Ireland we must look for, at least, the opening
of our enterprise; there is not a mere murmur of dissatisfaction--it is
the deep thunder-roll of rebellion. Two delegates from that country are
now with me--men of note and station--who, having learnt for the first
time that a Prince of the Stuart family yet survives, are most eager to
pay their homage to his Royal Highness. Of course, this, if done at all,
must be with such secrecy as shall prevent it reaching Florence and
the ears of Sir Horace Mann; and, at the same time, not altogether
so unceremoniously as to deprive the interview of its character of
audience. It is to the "pregiatissima Contessa Guglia" that I leave the
charge of this negotiation, and the responsibility of saying "yes" or
"no" to this request.

'Of the delegates, one is a baronet, by name Sir Capel Crosbie, a man
of old family and good fortune. The other is a Mr. Simon Purcell, who
formerly served in the English army, and was wounded in some action with
the French in Canada. They have not, either of them, much affection for
England--a very pardonable disloyalty when you hear their story. The
imminent question, however, now is--can you see them; which means--can
they have this audience?

'You will all the better understand any caution I employ on this
occasion, when I tell you that, on the only instance of a similar kind
having occurred, I had great reason to deplore my activity in promoting
it. It was at the presentation of the Bishop of Clare to his Royal
Highness, when the Prince took the opportunity of declaring the strong
conviction he entertained of the security of the Hanoverian succession;
and, worse again, how ineffectual all priestly intrigues must ever
prove, when the contest lay between armies. I have no need to say what
injury such indiscretion produces, nor how essential it is that it may
not be repeated. If you assent to my request, I beg to leave to your
own judgment the fitting time, and, what is still more important,
the precise character of the reception--that is, as to how far its
significance as an audience should be blended with the more graceful
familiarity of a friendly meeting. The distinguished Contessa has on
such themes no need of counsel from the humblest of her servants, and
most devoted follower,

'Paul Massoni.'

What reply she returned to his note may easily be gathered from the
following few words which passed between Gerald and herself a few
mornings afterward.

They were seated in the library at their daily task, surrounded by
letters, maps, and books, when Guglia said hastily, 'Oh, here is a note
from the Père Massoni to be replied to. He writes to ask when it may
be the pleasure of his Royal Highness to receive the visit of two
distinguished gentlemen from Ireland, who ardently entreat the honour of
kissing his Royal Highness's hand, and of carrying back with them such
assurances as he might vouchsafe to utter of his feeling for those who
have never ceased to deem themselves his subjects.'

'_Che seccatura!_' burst he out, as he rose impatiently from the table
and paced the room; 'if there be a mockery which I cannot endure, it is
one of these audiences. I can sit here and fool myself all day long by
poring over records of a has-been, or even tracing out the limits of
what my ancestors possessed; but to play Prince at a mock levée--no, no,
Guglia, you must not ask me this.'

There were days when this humour was strong on him, and she said no
more.



CHAPTER XIX. TWO VISITORS

A FEW days after, and just as evening was falling, a travelling-carriage
halted at the park gate of the Cardinal's villa. Some slight injury to
the harness occasioned a brief delay, and the travellers descended and
proceeded leisurely at a walk towards the house. One was a very large,
heavily-built man, far advanced in life, with immense bushy eyebrows
of a brindled grey, giving to his face a darksome and almost forbidding
expression, though the mouth was well rounded, and of a character that
bespoke gentleness. He was much bent in the shoulders, and moved with
considerable difficulty; but there was yet in his whole figure and air
a certain dignity that announced the man of condition. Such, indeed, was
Sir Capel Crosbie, once a beau and ornament of the French court in the
days of the Regency. The other was a spare, thin, but yet wiry-looking
man of about sixty-five or six, deeply pitted with small-pox, and
disfigured by a strong squint, which, as the motions of his face were
quick, imparted a character of restless activity and impatience to his
appearance, that his nature, indeed, could not contradict. He was known
as--that is, his passport called him--Mr. Simon Purcell; but he had
many passports, and was frequently a grandee of Spain, a French abbé, a
cabinet courier of Russia, and a travelling monk, these travesties being
all easy to one who spoke fluently every dialect of every continental
language and seemed to enjoy the necessity of a deception. You could
mark at once in his gestures and his tone as he came forward the stamp
of one who talked much and well. There was ready self-possession, that
jaunty cheerfulness dashed with a certain earnest force, that bespoke
the man who had achieved conversational success, and felt his influence
in it.

The accident to the harness had seemingly interrupted an earnest
conversation, for no sooner was he on the ground than Purcell resumed:
'Take _my_ word for it, baronet; it is always a bad game that does not
admit of being played in two ways---the towns to which only one road
leads are never worth visiting.'

The other shook his head; but it was difficult to say whether in doubt
of the meaning or dissent from the doctrine.

'Yes,' resumed the other, 'the great question is what will you do
with your Prince if you fail to make him a king? He will always be a
puissance; it remains to be seen in whose hands and for what objects.'

The baronet sighed, and looked a picture of hopeless dullness.

'Come, I will tell you a story, not for the sake of the incident, but
for the illustration; though even as a story it has its point. You knew
Gustave de Marsay, I think?'

'_Le beau Gustave_? to be sure I did. Ah! it was upwards of forty years
ago,' sighed he sorrowfully.

'It could not be less. He has been living in a little Styrian village
about that long, seeing and being seen by none. His adventure was this:
He was violently enamoured of a very pretty woman whom he met by chance
in the street, and discovered afterward to be the wife of a "dyer," in
the Rue de Marais. Whether she was disposed to favour his addresses or
acted in concert with her husband to punish him, is not very easy to
say; the result would recline to the latter supposition. At all
events, she gave him a rendezvous at which he was surprised by the dyer
himself--a fellow strong as a Hercules and of an ungovernable temper. He
rushed wildly on De Marsay, who defended himself for some time with his
rapier; a false thrust, however, broke the weapon at the hilt, and the
dyer springing forward, caught poor Gustave round the body, and actually
carried him off over his head, and plunged him neck and heels into an
enormous tank filled with dye-stuff. How he escaped drowning--how he
issued from the house and ever reached his home he never was able to
tell. It is more than probable the consequences of the calamity absorbed
and obliterated all else; for when he awoke next day he discovered that
he was totally changed--his skin from head to foot being dyed a deep
blue! It was in vain that he washed and washed, boiled himself in hot
baths, or essayed a hundred cleansing remedies, nothing availed in the
least--in fact, many thought that he came out only bluer than before.
The most learned of the faculty were consulted, the most distinguished
chemists--all in vain. At last a dyer was sent for, who in an instant
recognised the peculiar tint, and said, "Ah! there is but one man in
Paris has the secret of this colour, and he lives in the Rue de Marais."

'Here was a terrible blow to all hope, and in the discouragement it
inflicted three long months were passed, De Marsay growing thin and
wretched from fretting, and by his despondency occasioning his friends
the deepest solicitude. At length, one of his relatives resolved on a
bold step. He went direct to the Rue de Marais and demanded to speak
with the dyer. It is not very easy to say how he opened a negotiation of
such delicacy; that he did so with consummate tact and skill there can
be no doubt, for he so worked oh the dyer's compassion by the picture
of a poor young fellow utterly ruined in his career, unable to face
the world, to meet his regiment, even to appear before the enemy, being
blue! that the dyer at last confessed his pity, but at the same time
cried out, "What can I do? there is no getting it off again!"

'"No getting it off again! do you really tell me that?" exclaimed the
wretched negotiator.

'"Impossible! that's the patent," said the other with an ill-dissembled
pride. "I have spent seven years in the invention. I only hit upon it
last October. Its grand merit is that it resists all attempts to efface
it."

'"And do you tell me," cries the friend, in terror, "that this poor
fellow must go down to his grave in that odious--well, I mean no
offence--in that unholy tint?"

'"There is but one thing in my power, sir."

'"Well, what is it, in the name of mercy? Out with it, and name your
price."

'"I can make him a very charming green! _un beau vert_, monsieur."'

When the baronet had ceased to laugh at the anecdote, Purcell resumed:
'And now for the application. It is always a good thing in life to be
able to become _un beau vert_, even though the colour should not quite
suit you. I say this, because for the present project I can augur no
success. The world has lived wonderfully fast, Sir Capel, since you and
I were boys. That same Revolution in France that has cut off so many
heads, has left those that still remain on men's shoulders very much
wiser than they used to be. Now nobody in Europe wants this family
again; they have done their part; and they are as much bygones as
chain-armour or a battle-axe.'

'The rightful and the legitimate are never bygone--never obsolete,' said
the other resolutely.

'A'n't they, faith! The guillotine and the lantern are the answers to
that. I do not mean to say it must be always this way. There may, though
I see no signs of it, come a reaction yet; but for the present men have
taken a practical turn, and they accept nothing, esteem nothing, employ
nothing that is not practical. Mirabeau's last effort was to give this
colour to the Bourbons, and _he_ failed. Do not tell me, then, that
where Gabriel Riquetti broke down, a Jesuit father will succeed!'

The other shook his head in dissent, but without speaking.

'Remember, baronet, these convictions of mine are all opposed to my
interest. I should be delighted to see your fairy palace made habitable,
and valued for the municipal taxes. Nothing could better please me
than to behold your Excellency Master of the Horse except to see
myself Chancellor of the Exchequer. But here we are, and a fine
princely-looking pile it is!'

They both stopped suddenly, and gazed with wondering admiration at one
noble façade of the palace right in front of them. A wide terrace of
white marble, ornamented with groups or single figures in statuary,
stretched the entire length of the building, beneath which a vast
orangery extended, the trees loaded with fruit or blossom, gave but
slight glimpses of the rockwork grottoes and quaint fountains within.

'This is not the Cardinal's property,' said Purcell. 'Nay, I know well
what I am saying; this belongs, with the entire estate, down to San
Remo, yonder, to the young Countess Ridolfi. Nay more, she is at this
very moment in bargain with Cæsare Piombino for the sale of it. Her
price is five hundred thousand Roman scudi, which she means to invest in
this bold scheme.'

'She, at least, has faith in a Stuart,' exclaimed the baronet eagerly.

'What would you have? The girl's in love with your Prince. She has paid
seventy thousand piastres of Albizzi's debts that have hung around his
neck these ten or twelve years back, all to win him over to the cause,
just because his brother-in-law is Spanish Envoy here. She destined some
eight thousand more as a present to Our Lady of Ravenna, who, it would
seem, has a sort of taste for bold enterprises; but Massoni stopped her
zeal, and suggested that instead of candles she should lay it out in
muskets.'

'You scoff unseasonably, sir,' said the baronet, indignant at the tone
he spoke in.

'Nor is that all,' continued Purcell, totally heedless of the rebuke;
'her very jewels, the famous Ridolfi gems, the rubies that once were
among the show objects of Rome, are all packed up and ready to be sent
to Venice, where a company of Jews have contracted to buy them. Is not
this girl's devotion enough to put all your patriotism to the blush?'

A slight stir now moved the leaves of the orange-trees near where
they were standing. The evening was perfectly still and calm: Purcell,
however, did not notice this, but went on--

'And she is right. If there were a means of success, that means would
be money. But it is growing late, and this, I take it, is the chief
entrance. Let us present ourselves, if so be that we are to be honoured
with an audience.'

Though the baronet had not failed to remark the sarcastic tone of
this speech, he made no reply but slowly ascended the steps toward the
terrace.

Already the night was closing in, and as the strangers reached the
door they did not perceive that a figure had issued from the orangery
beneath, and mounted the steps after them. This was the Chevalier, who
usually passed the last few moments of each day wandering among the
orange-trees. He had thus, without intending it, heard more than was
meant for his ears.

The travellers had but to appear to receive the most courteous reception
from a household already prepared to do them honour. They were conducted
to apartments specially made ready for them; and being told that the
Countess hoped to have their company at nine o'clock, when she supped,
were left to repose after their journey.



CHAPTER XX. A WAYWORN ADVENTURER

It was by this chance alone that Gerald knew of the sacrifices Guglia
had made and was making for his cause. In all their intercourse, marked
by so many traits of mutual confidence, nothing of this had transpired.
By the like accident, too, did he learn how some men, at least, spoke
and thought of his fortunes; and what a world of speculation did these
two facts suggest! They were as types of the two opposing forces that
ever swayed him in life. Here, was the noble devotion that gave all;
there, the cold distrust that believed nothing. Delightful as it had
been for him to dwell on the steadfast attachment of Guglia Ridolfi, and
think over the generous trustfulness of that noble nature, he could
not turn his thoughts from what had fallen from Purcell; the ill-omened
words rankled in his heart, and left no room for other reflections.

All that he had read of late, all the letters that were laid before
him, were filled with the reiterated tales of Highland devotion and
attachment. The most touching little episodes of his father's life
were those in which this generous sentiment figured, and Gerald had by
reading and re-reading them got to believe that this loyalty was but
sleeping, and ready to be aroused to life and activity at the first
flutter of a Stuart tartan on the hills, or the first wild strains of a
pibroch in the gorse-clad valleys.

And yet Purcell said--he had heard him say--the world has no further
need of this family; the pageant they moved in has passed by for
ever. The mere chance mention, too, of Mirabeau's name--that
terrible intelligence which had subjugated Gerald's mind from very
boyhood--imparted additional force to this judgment. 'Perhaps it is even
as he says,' muttered Gerald; 'perhaps the old fire has died out on the
altars, and men want us not any more.'

Whenever in history he had chanced upon the mention of men who, once
great by family and pretension, had fallen into low esteem and humble
fortunes, he always wondered why they had not broken with the old world
and its traditions at once, and sought in some new and far-off quarter
of the globe a life untrammelled by the past. 'Some would call this
faint-heartedness; some would say that it is a craven part to turn from
danger; but it is not the danger I turn from; it is not the peril that
appalls me; it is the sting of that sarcasm that says, Who is he that
comes on the pretext of a name, to trouble the world's peace, unfix
men's minds and unhinge their loyalty? What does he bring us in exchange
for this earthquake of opinion? Is he wiser, better, braver, more
skilled in the arts of war or peace than those he would overthrow?'

As he waged conflict with these thoughts, came the summons to announce
that the Countess was waiting supper for him.

'I cannot come to-night. I am ill--fatigued. Say that I am in want of
rest, and have lain down upon my bed.' Such was the answer he gave,
uttered in the broken, interrupted tone of one ill at ease with himself.

The Cardinal's physician was speedily at his door, to offer his
services, but Gerald declined them abruptly and begged to be left alone.
At length a heavy step was heard in the corridor, and the Cardinal
himself demanded admission.

In the hurried excuses that Gerald poured forth, the wily churchman
quickly saw that the real cause of his absence was untouched.

'Come, Prince,' said he good-humouredly, 'tell me frankly, you are not
satisfied with Guglia and myself for having permitted this man to come
here; but I own that I yielded only to Massoni's earnest desire.'

'And why should Massoni have so insisted,' asked Gerald.

'For this good reason, that they are both devoted adherents of your
house; men ready to hazard all for your cause.'

Gerald smiled superciliously, and the Cardinal seeing it, said--

'Nay, Prince, distrust was no feature of your race, and, from what the
Père Massoni says, these gentlemen do not deserve it.' He paused to
let Gerald reply, but, as he did not speak, the Cardinal went on: 'The
younger of the two, who speaks out his mind more freely, is a very
zealous partisan of your cause. He has worn a miniature of your father
next his heart since the memorable day at Preston, when he acted as
aide-de-camp to his Royal Highness; and when he had shown it to us he
kissed it with a devotion that none could dare to doubt.'

'This is he that is called Purcell,' asked Gerald.

'The same. He held the rank of colonel in the Scottish army, and was
rewarded with a patent of nobility, too, of which, however, he has not
availed himself.'

Again there flashed across Gerald's mind the words he had overhead from
the orangery, and the same cold smile again settled on his features,
which the Cardinal noticed and said--

'If it were for nothing else than the close relation which once bound
him to his Royal Highness, methinks you might have wished to see and
speak with him.'

'And so I mean to do, sir; but not to-night.'

'Chevalier,' said the Cardinal resolutely, 'it is a time when followers
must be conciliated, not repulsed; flattered instead of offended.
Reflect, then, I entreat you, ere you afford even a causeless impression
of distance or estrangement. On Monday last, an old Highland chief, the
lord of Barra, I think they called him, was refused admittance here,
on the plea that it was a day reserved for affairs of importance. On
Wednesday, the Count D'Arigny was told that you only received envoys,
and not mere Chargés d'Affaires; and even yesterday, I am informed, the
Duc de Terracina was sent away because he was a few minutes behind the
time specified for his audience. Now these are trifles, but they leave
memories which are often disastrous.'

'If I _had_ to render an account of my actions, sir,' said Gerald
haughtily, 'a humiliation which has not yet reached me--I might be able
to give sufficient explanation for all you have just mentioned.'

'I did but speak of the policy of these things,' said the Cardinal, with
an air of humility.

'It is for _me_ to regard them in another light,' said Gerald hastily.
He paused, and, after a few minutes, resumed in a voice whose accents
were full and well weighed: 'When men have agreed together to support
the cause of one they call a Pretender, they ever seem to me to make a
sort of compromise with themselves, and insist that he who is to be a
royalty to all others, invested with every right and due of majesty,
must be to them a plaything and a toy; and then they gather around him
with fears, and threats, and hopes, and flatteries--now menacing, now
bribing--forgetting the while that if fortune should ever destine such
a man to have a throne, they will have so corrupted and debased his
nature, while waiting for it, that not one fitting quality, not one
rightful trait would remain to him. If history has not taught me
wrongly, even usurpers have shown more kingly conduct than restored
monarchs.'

'What would you, Prince?' said the Cardinal sorrowfully. 'We must accept
the world as we find it.'

'Say, rather, as we make it.'

The Cardinal rose to take his leave, but evidently wishing that Gerald
might say something to detain him. He was very reluctant to leave the
young man to ponder in solitude such sentiments as he had avowed.

'Good-night, sir, good-night. Your Eminence will explain my absence, and
say that I will receive these gentlemen tomorrow. What are the papers
you hold in your hand--are they for _me_?'

'They are some mere routine matters, which your Royal Highness may look
over at leisure--appointments to certain benefices, on which it has been
the custom to take the pleasure of the Prince your father; but they are
not pressing; another time will do equally well.'

There was an adroitness in this that showed how closely his Eminence
had studied the Stuart nature, and marked that no flattery was ever
so successful with that house as that which implied their readiness to
sacrifice time, pleasure, inclination, even health itself to the cares
and duties of station. To this blandishment they were never averse or
inaccessible, and Gerald inherited the trait in all its strength.

'Let me see them, sir,' said Gerald, seating himself at the table, while
he gave a deep sigh--fitting testimony of his sense of sacrifice.

'This is the nomination of John Decloraine Hackett to the see of Elphin;
an excellent priest, and a sound politician. He has ever contrived to
impress the world so powerfully with his religious devotion, that there
are not twelve men in Europe know him to be the craftiest statesman of
his time.'

'It is, then, a good appointment,' said Gerald, taking the pen. 'But
what is this? The Cardinal York has already signed this.'

In Caraffa's eagerness to play out his game he had forgotten this fact,
and that the Irish bishops had always been submitted to the approval of
his Royal Highness.

'I say, sir,' reiterated Gerald, 'here is the signature of my uncle.
What means this, or who really is it that makes these appointments?'

The Cardinal began with a sort of mumbled apology about a divided
authority and an ecclesiastical function; but Gerald stopped him
abruptly--

'If we are to play this farce out, let our parts be assigned us; and let
none assume that which is not his own. Take my word for it, Cardinal,
that if the day comes when the English will carry me to the scaffold,
at Smithfield or Tyburn, or wherever it be, you will not find any one so
ready to be my substitute. There, sir, take your papers, and henceforth
let there be no more mockeries of office. I will myself speak of this to
my uncle.'

The Cardinal bowed submissively and moved toward the door.

'You will receive these gentlemen to-morrow?' said he interrogatively.

'To-morrow,' said Gerald, as he turned away.

The Cardinal bowed deeply, and retired. Scarcely, however, had his
footsteps died out of hearing, when Gerald rang for his valet, and
said--

'When these visitors retire for the night, follow the Signor Purcell to
his room, and desire him to come here to me; do it secretly, and so that
none may remark you.'

The valet bowed, and Gerald was once more alone.

It was near midnight when the door again opened, and Mr. Purcell was
introduced. Making a low and deep obeisance, but without any other
demonstration of deference for Gerald's rank, he stood patiently
awaiting to be addressed.

'We have met before, sir,' said Gerald, flushing deeply.

'So I perceive, sir,' was the quiet reply given with all the ease of one
not easily abashed, 'and the last time was at a pleasant supper-table,
of which we are the only survivors.'

'Indeed!' sighed Gerald sadly, and with some astonishment.

'Yes, sir; the "Mountain" devoured the Girondists, and the reaction
devoured the "Mountain." If the present people have not sent the
_reactionnaires_ to the guillotine, it is because they prefer to make
soldiers of them.'

'And how did you escape the perils of the time?' asked Gerald eagerly.

'Like Monsieur de Talleyrand sir, I always treated the party in disgrace
as if their misfortune were but a passing shadow, and that the day of
their triumph was assured. For even this much of consideration men in
adversity are grateful.'

'How heartily you must despise humanity!' burst out Gerald, more struck
by the cold cynicism of the other's look than even by his words.

'Not so,' replied he, in a half careless tone; 'Jean Jacques expected
too much; Diderot thought too little of men. The truth lies midway, and
they are neither as good nor as bad as we deem them.'

'And now, what is your pursuit? what career do you follow?' asked Gerald
abruptly.

'I have none, sir; the attraction that binds the ruined gambler to sit
at the table and watch the game at which others are staking heavily,
ties me to any enterprise wherein men are willing to risk much. I have
seen so much high play in life, I cannot stand by petty ventures. They
told me at Venice of the plot that was maturing here, and I agreed with
old Sir Capel Crosbie to come over and hear about it.'

'You little suspected, perhaps, who was the hero of the adventure?' said
Gerald half doubtingly.

'Nay, sir, I saw your picture, and recognised you at once.

'I never knew there had been a portrait of me!' cried Gerald, in
astonishment.

'It was taken, I fancy, during your illness; but the resemblance is
still complete, and recalls to those who knew the Prince, your father,
every trait and lineament of his face.'

'You yourself knew him?' said Gerald feelingly.

A deep, cold bow was the only acknowledgment of this question.

'They told me you were one of his trusted and truest friends?'

'We wore each other's miniature for many a year; our happiness was to
talk of what might have chanced to be our destiny had he won back the
throne that was his right, and I succeeded to what my father's gold
should have purchased. I see I am alluding to what you never heard of.
You see before you one who might have been a King of Poland.'

Gerald stared in half-credulous astonishment, and the other went on--

'You have heard of the Mississippi scheme, and of Law, its founder?'

'Yes.'

'My grandfather was Law's friend and confidant. By their united talents
and zeal the great plot was first conceived and matured. Law was at
first but an indifferent French scholar, and even a worse courtier. My
grandfather was an adept in both, and knew, besides, the Duke of Orleans
well. They were as much companions as the distance of their stations
could make them; and by my grandfather's influence the Duke was induced
to listen to the scheme. On what mere accident the great events of life
depend! It was a party of quinze decided the fate of Europe. The Duke
lost a hundred and seventy thousand livres to my grandfather, and could
not pay him. While he was making excuses for the delay, my grandfather
thought of Law, and said--"Let me present to your Royal Highness
to-morrow morning a clever friend of mine, and it will never be your
fortune again to own that you have not money to any extent at your
disposal." Law appeared at the Duke's levée the next morning. It is not
necessary to tell the rest, only that among the deepest gamblers in that
memorable scheme, and the largest winners, my grandfather held the first
place. Such was the splendour of his retinue one day at Versailles that
the rumour ran it was some sovereign of Southern Europe had suddenly
arrived at Paris, and the troops turned out to render royal honours to
him. When the Duke heard the story he laughed heartily, and said, "Eh
bien, c'est un Gage du succès "--a _mot_ upon our family name, which was
Gage, my uncle being afterward a viscount by that title.

'Within a very short time after that incident--which, some say, had so
captivated my grandfather's ambition that he became feverish and restless
for greatness--he offered three millions sterling for the crown of
Poland. You may remember Pope's allusion to it:

    "The Crown of Poland, venal twice an age,
    To just three millions stinted modest Gage."

'The contract was broken off by my grandfather's refusal to marry a
certain Countess Boratynski, a natural daughter of the king. He then
made a bidding for the throne of Sardinia; but, while the negotiation
was yet pending, the great edifice of Law began to tremble; and within
three short weeks my grandfather, from the owner of six millions
sterling, was reduced to actual beggary.

'He attained a more lasting prosperity later on, and died a grandee of
Spain of the first class, having highly distinguished himself in council
and the field.

'It is not in any vaingloriousness, sir, I have related this story. Of
all the greatness that once adorned my house, these threadbare clothes
are sorry relics. We were talking of life's reverses, however, and
probably my case is not without its moral.'

Gerald sat silently gazing with a sort of admiration at one who could
with such seeming calm discuss the most calamitous accident of fortune.

'How thoroughly you must know the world!' exclaimed he at last.

'Ay, sir; in the popular acceptation of the phrase I _do_ know it.
Plenty of good and plenty of bad is there in it, and so mingled and
blended that there is nothing rarer in life than to find any nature
either all lovable or all detestable. There are dark stains in the
fairest marble, so are there in natures the world deems utterly depraved
touches of human sentiment whose tenderness no poet ever dreamed of. And
if I were to give you a lesson, it would be--never be over-sanguine, but
never despair of humanity!'

'As you drew nigh the villa this evening,' said Gerald slowly, and with
all the deliberation of one approaching a theme of interest, 'I chanced
to be in the orangery beneath the terrace. You were speaking to your
companion in confidence, and I heard you say what augured but badly for
the success of my cause. Your words made so deep an impression on me
that I have asked to see and speak with you. Tell me, therefore, in all
frankness, what you know, and in equal candour what you think about this
enterprise.'

'What claim have I upon your forbearance if I say what may be
ungracious? How shall I hope to be forgiven if I tell you what is not
pleasant to hear?'

'The word of one who is well weary of delusions shall be your
guarantee.'

'I accept the pledge.'

He walked three or four times up and down the room, to all seeming in
deep deliberation with himself, and then facing full round in front of
Gerald, said--

'You were educated at the convent of the Jesuits--are you a member of
the order?'

'No.'

'Have they made no advances to you to become such?'

'None.'

'It is as I suspected,' muttered he to himself; then added aloud: 'They
mean to employ _you_ as the French king did your father. You are to be
the menace in times of trouble, and the sacrifice in the day of terms
and accommodations. Be neither!'

With this he waved his hand in farewell, and hastily left the room.



CHAPTER XXI. A FOREST RIDE

Gerald passed a restless, disturbed night. Purcell's words, ever ringing
in his ears, foreboded nothing but failure and disaster, while there
seemed something almost sarcastic in the comparison he drew between the
Prince Charles Edward's rashness and his own waiting, delaying policy.

'Is it fair or just,' thought he, 'to taunt me with this? I was not bred
up to know my station and my claims. None told me I was of royal blood
and had a throne for a heritage. These tidings break on me as I am
worn down by misfortune and broken by illness, so that my shattered
intellects scarcely credit them. Even now, on what, or on whom, do I
rely? Has not disease undermined my strength and distrust my judgment,
so that I believe in nothing, nor in anybody? Ah, Riquetti, _your_
poisons never leave the blood till it has ceased to circulate.'

There were days when the whole plan and scheme of his life seemed to him
such a mockery and a deception that he felt a sort of scorn for himself
in believing it. It was like childhood or dotage to his mind this dream
of a greatness so far off, so impossible, and he burned for some real
actual existence with truthful incidents and interests. Gloomy doubts
would also cross him, whether he might be nothing but a mere tool in the
hands of certain crafty men like Massoni, who having used him for their
purpose to-day would cast him off as worthless to-morrow. These thoughts
became at times almost insupportable, and his only relief against them
was in great bodily fatigue. It was his habit, when in this mood,
to mount his horse and ride into the forest. The deep pine-wood was
traversed in various directions by long grassy alleys, miles in extent;
and here, save at the very rarest intervals, no one was to be met with.
It is not easy to conceive anything more solemn and gloomy than one of
these forests, where the only sound is a low, sighing cadence as the
wind stirs in the pine-tops. A solitary blackbird, perchance, may warble
his mellow song in the stillness, or, as evening closes, the wailing cry
of the owl be heard; otherwise the stillness is deathlike.

Whole days had Gerald often passed in these leafy solitudes, till at
length he grew to recognise even in that apparent uniformity certain
spots and certain trees by which he could calculate his distance from
home. Two or three little clearings there were also where trees had been
felled and small piles of brushwood were formed; these were his most
remote wanderings and marked the place whence he turned his steps
homeward.

On the morning we now speak of he rode at such reckless speed that in
less than two hours he had left these familiar places far behind and
penetrated deeper into the dense wood. Toward noon he dismounted to
relieve his somewhat wearied horse, and walked along for hours, a
strange feeling of pleasure stirring his heart at the thought of his
utter loneliness; for there is something in the mind of youth that
attaches itself eagerly to anything that seems to savour of the
adventurous. And the mere presence of a new object or a new situation
will often suffice for this. Gradually, as he went onward, his mind
calmed down, the fever of his brain abated; passages of the poets he
best loved rose to his memory, and he repeated verses to himself as
he strolled along, his mind unconsciously drinking in the soothing
influences that come of solitude and reverie.

Meanwhile the day declined, and although no sense of fatigue oppressed
himself, he was warned by the blood-red nostrils of his horse and his
drawn-up flanks that the beast needed both food and water.

It was a rare occurrence to chance upon the tiniest stream in these
tracts, so that he had nothing for it but to push forward and trust that
after an hour or so he might issue beyond the bounds of the wood. Again
in the saddle, his mettled horse carried him gallantly along without
any show of distress; but although he rode at a sharp pace there seemed
little prospect of emerging from the wood; tall avenues of dark stems
still lined the way, and the dusky foliage spread itself above his head.
If he had but preserved a direct line he was well aware that he must
be able to traverse the forest in its very widest part within a day, so
that he now urged his horse more briskly to gain the open country before
nightfall. For the first time, however, the animal showed signs of
fatigue, and Gerald was fain to get down and lead him. Half dreamily
lost in his own thoughts he moved unconsciously along, when suddenly a
blaze of golden light startled him, and looking up he saw he had left
the wood behind him and was standing on the crest of a grassy hill,
from which he could see miles of open country at his feet, backed by the
Maremma Mountains, behind which the sun was fast sinking. It was that
true Italian landscape which to eyes only accustomed to the scenery
north of the Alps has always a character of hardness, and even
bleakness; but as by time and frequency this impression dies away, such
scenes possess an attractiveness unequalled by all other lands. There
was the vast plain, traversed by its winding rivulet, its course only
traceable by the pollard willows that marked the banks; while forests
of olives alternated with mulberry plantations, around and between
which the straggling vines were trellised. On the hot earth, half hid by
flowers of many a gorgeous hue, lay great yellow gourds and pumpkins, as
though thrown to the surface in a flood of rich abundance; and far away
in the distance the mountains closed in the view, their summit capped
with villages, or, perchance, some rugged castellated ruin, centuries
old.

How was it that Gerald stood and gazed at all these like one
spell-bound? Why was that scene not altogether new to his eyes? Why did
he follow out that little road, now emerging from the olives and now
lost again, till it gained the stream, which was spanned by a rude
wooden bridge? How is it that the humble mill yonder, whose laggard
wheel scarce stirs the water, seems to him like some old familiar thing.
And why does he strain his sight in vain to see the zigzag road up the
steep mountain-side? It was because a flood of old memories were rushing
full upon his mind, bringing up boyhood and 'long ago.' That was the
very path by which he set out to seek his fortune, when scarcely more
than a child he fled from the villa; there was the wide plain through
which he had toiled weary and foot-sore; in that little copse of
fruit-trees, beside the stream, had he slept at night; there, where a
little cross marks a shrine, had he stopped to eat his breakfast; around
the head of that little lake had he wended his way toward the mountains.

If at first these memories arose faintly, like the mere outlines of a
dream, they grew by degrees bolder and stronger. His boyish life at the
Tana then rose before him; the little room in which he used to sit,
and read, and ponder; then the narrow stair by which he would creep
noiselessly down to stroll out at night and wander all alone beside
the dark lake; and then the dusky pine-wood, through whose leafy shades
Gabriel would saunter as the evening closed in.

'I will see them all once more, cried he aloud; 'I will go back over
that scene, calling up all that I can remember of the past; I will try
if my heart has kept the promise of its boyish hopes, and see if I have
wandered away from the path I once destined for myself.' There was
a marvellous fascination in the reality of all he saw and all the
recollections it evoked, after that life of fictitious station and mock
greatness in which he had been living of late.

He who has not tried the experiment for himself cannot believe the
extent of that view obtained into his own nature from simply revisiting
the scenes of boyhood. Till we have gone back to the places themselves,
we can never realise the life we led there; how we felt in that long
ago; what we thought of, what we ambitioned.

Wonderful messengers of conscience are these same old memories! the
little garden we used to dig; the narrow bed we slept in; our old bench
at school, deep graven on the heart, with all its thrilling incidents of
boyish life; the pathway through the flowery meadow down to the stream,
where we used to bathe; the little summer-house under the honeysuckles,
where we heard or invented such marvellous stories. Rely upon it, there
is not one of these unassociated with some high hopes, some generous
notion, some noble ambition; something, in short, which we meant to be,
but never realised; some path we intended to follow, but strayed from in
that wild and tumultuous conflict we call life.

Guided by the little river, on which the setting sun was now shedding
its last lustre, Gerald walked along beside his horse, and just as the
night was falling reached the mill. To his great surprise did he learn
that he was full fifty miles from Orvieto, for though he had parsed an
entire day, from earliest dawn, on the way, he had never contemplated
the distance he had travelled. As it was no unusual occurrence for
special couriers with despatches to pass by this route toward the Tuscan
frontier, his appearance caused little remark, and he was invited to sit
down at the miller's table when the household assembled for supper.

'You are bound for St. Stephano, I 'll warrant,' said the miller, as he
stood looking at Gerald, who bedded down his tired beast.

Gerald assented with a nod, and went on with his work.

'If I were you, then, I 'd not take the low road by the Lago Scuro at
this season.'

'And why so?'

'Just for this reason: they have got malaria fever up in the mountains,
and the refugees who live up there, for safety against the carabinieri,
are obliged to come down into the plains, and they troop the roads
here in gangs of twenty and thirty, making the country insecure after
nightfall.'

'They are brigands, then?' asked Gerald.

'Every man, ay, and every woman of them! They respect neither priest
nor prefect. What think you they did three weeks ago at Somarra? A
travelling company of players coming through the town obtained leave
from the Delegato to give a representation. The theatre was crammed, as
you may well believe, such a pleasure not being an everyday one. Well,
the orchestra had finished the symphony and up drew the curtain, when,
instead of a village fête with peasants dancing, the stage was crowded
with savage-looking fellows armed to the teeth, every one of whom held
a blunderbuss levelled at the audience. Meanwhile the doors of the boxes
were opened, and the people inside politely requested to hand out their
money, watches, jewels, in fact, all that they had of value about
them, the pit being treated exactly in the same fashion, for none could
escape, as all the doors were held by the bandits. They carried away
forty-seven thousand francs' worth for the night's work. Indeed, the
Delegato has never risen from his bed since it happened, and expects
every day to be summoned to Rome, or sent off to prison at Viterbo.'

'And why does the Pope's government not take some steps against these
fellows? Why are they suffered to ravage the whole country at their
will?'

'You must ask your master, the Cardinal, that question,' said the
miller, laughing. 'It would be easy enough to hunt them down, now that
they 've got the fever in the mountains, if any one cared to do it;
but the "Pastore," as they call their captain, pays handsomely for his
patent to rob, and he never kills where it can be avoided.'

'And who is this Pastore--what was he?'

'He was a friar. Some say he was once a monsignore; and he might have
been, from his manners and language.'

'You have seen him, then?'

'Seen him! _per Bacco!_ that have I, and to my cost! He comes himself to
take up his "due de Pasqua," as he calls his Easter-dues, which are not
the lighter that he assesses them all before he sits down to supper.'

'Do you mean to tell me that he would sit down to table with you?'

'Ay, and be the merriest at the board too. So full of pleasant stories
and good songs was he one night that one of my boys could not resist
the fascination of his company, but started off the next morning to join
him, and has never returned.'

If Gerald's curiosity was excited to learn many particulars of this
celebrated bandit chief, the miller was only too happy to be questioned
on a theme he loved so well. In his apprehension the Pastore was
no ordinary robber, but a sort of agent, partly political, partly
financial, of certain great people of Rome. This was a theory he
was somewhat vain of having propounded, and he supported it with
considerable ingenuity.

The Pastore himself was described as a happy-looking, well-to-do man,
past the prime of life, but still hale and vigorous; and, if not very
active in body, with considerable acuteness and a ready wit. He stood
well in the estimation of the peasantry, who were always ready to render
him little services, and to whom in return he would show his gratitude
by little presents at the fête-days or scenes of family rejoicing. 'And
as for the Curé,' said the miller, 'only ask him who sent the handsomest
chaplet for the head of the Madonna, or who gave the silver lamp that
burns at the shrine of St. Nicomède?'

This strange blending of devotional observance with utter
lawlessness--this singular union of _bon homme_ with open violence,
were features that in all his intercourse with life Gerald had never
met with; and he was not a little curious to see one who could combine
qualities so incompatible.

'I should certainly like to see him,' said he, after a pause.

'Only ride that black mare through the pass of the "Capri," to-morrow;
let him see how she brushes her way through the tall fern and never
slips a foot over the rocky ledges, and I'll lay my life on't you 'll
see him, and hear him too.'

'You mean to say that he 'd soon replace me in the saddle,' said Gerald
half angrily.

'I mean to say that the horse would change owners, and you be never the
richer of the compact.'

'A bullet will overtake a man, let him ride ever so fast,' said Gerald
calmly; 'and your Pastore has only to lie in ambush till he has covered
me, to make me a very harmless foe; but I was thinking of a fair
meeting--man to man----'

A gesture of scornful meaning by the miller here arrested Gerald's
words, and the young man grew crimson with shame and anger together.

'It is easy enough to say these things, and hard to disprove them; but
if I were certain to meet this fellow alone and without his followers, I
'd take the road you speak of to-morrow without so much as asking where
it leads to.'

An insolent laugh from the miller, as he arose from his seat, almost
made the young man's passion boil over.

'You asked about the "Capri" pass--that's a picture of it,' said he,
as he pointed to a rude representation of a deep mountain gorge, along
which a foaming torrent was wildly dashing. Stunted pine-trees lined the
crags, and fantastically-shaped rocks broke the leafy outline, on one of
which the artist had drawn the figure of a brigand, as with gun in hand
he peered down into the dark glen.

'That is a spot,' said the miller half laughingly, 'the Carabinieri of
the Holy Father have never fancied; they tried it once--I forget how
many years ago--and left eleven of their comrades behind them, and since
that it has been as sacred for them as St. John of Lateran.'

'But I see no road; it seems to be a mere cleft between the mountains,'
said Gerald.

'Ay, but there is a road--a sort of bridlepath; it rises from the valley
and creeps along up yonder where you see a little railing of wood,
and then gains that peak which, winding around it, reaches a wide
table-land. I have not been there myself; but they tell me how from that
you can see over the whole Maremma, and in fine weather the sea beyond
it, and the port of St. Stephano and the islands.'

The miller was now launched upon a favourite theme, and went on to
describe how the smugglers, who paid a sort of blackmail for the
privilege, usually took this route from the coast into the interior. It
saved miles and miles of road, and was besides perfectly safe against
all molestation. As it led direct to the Tuscan frontier, it was also
selected by all who made their escape from Roman prisons. 'To be sure,'
added he, 'it is less frequented now that the Pastore is likely to be
met with; for as it is all chance what humour he may have on him, none
like to risk their lives in such company.'

Though Gerald was aware that 'brigandage' was a Roman institution--a
regularly covenanted service of the State, by which no inconsiderable
revenue reached the hands of some very exalted individuals--he had never
before heard that these outlaws were occasionally employed as actual
agents of the Government to arrest and detain travellers against whom
suspicion rested, to rifle foreign couriers of the despatches they
carried to the Ministers; now and then it was even alleged that they had
broken into strong places to destroy documents by which guilt could be
proved or innocence established--all of these services being of a nature
little likely to reward men for the peril, had they not acted under
orders from above! There might possibly have been much exaggeration
in the account the miller gave of these men's lives and functions, but
there was that blending of incident and fact with his theorisings that
certainly amazed Gerald and interested him deeply. It was, to be sure,
no small aid to the force of the narrative that the yellow moonlight
was now streaming full upon one side of the very scene where these
characters acted, and that from the little window where he sat he could
look out upon their mountain-home.

'See,' said the miller, pointing toward a high peak, 'where you see the
fire yonder there is an encampment of some of them! You can judge now
how little these fellows fear being surprised. As Gerald continued to
gaze, a second and then a third flame shot up from the summits of other
hills farther off, suggesting to the miller that these were certainly
signals of some kind or other.

'There! rely on it, they have work on their hands up yonder to-night,
said the miller; and having pointed out his room to Gerald, he arose to
retire. 'It will, maybe, cost many a penance, many a pater, to wipe off
what will be done 'twixt this and daybreak '; and with this pious speech
he left the room.



CHAPTER XXII. 'IL PASTORE'

After the first few moments of astonishment which followed Gerald's
awaking to see himself in a strange place, with strange and novel
objects around him, his first thought was to return to Orvieto. He
pictured to himself all the alarm his absence must have occasioned,
and imagined how each in turn would have treated the event. The angry
astonishment of the Cardinal, ready to adopt any solution of the mystery
that implied intrigue and plot: the haughty indignation of the Contessa,
that he had dared to take any step unauthorised by herself: the hundred
rumours in the household: the questionings as to who had saddled and
prepared his horse, what road he had taken, and so on.

There are natures--there are even families--in which a strong
predominating trait exists to do or say whatever creates astonishment
or attracts wonder. It is a distinct form of egotism, and was remarkably
conspicuous in the House of Stuart. They all liked much to be objects of
marvel and surprise; to have men lost in wonderment over their words
or their motives, or speculating with ingenuity as to their secret
intentions.

To Gerald himself this taste was a perfect passion, and he loved to
see couriers arriving and departing in hot haste, while groups of eager
loungers questioned and guessed at what it all might mean. He liked to
fancy the important place he thus occupied in men's thoughts, and would
any day have been willing to encounter an actual danger could he
only have assured himself of it being widely discussed. This dramatic
tendency was strongly marked in the character of Charles Edward;
still the actual events of his life were in themselves sufficiently
adventurous to display it less prominently; but he ever delighted in
these stage effects which strike by situation or a picturesque costume.
Gerald inherited this trait, and experienced intense delight in its
exercise. He fancied his Eminence the Cardinal, balancing between fear
and anger, sending out emissaries on every side, asking counsels here,
rejecting suggestions there, while Guglia, too haughty to confess
astonishment, would be lost in conjecturing what had become of him.

If it should be wondered at that Gerald felt no more tender sentiment
toward the lovely Countess with whom he had been closely domesticated,
and who enjoyed so fully all the confidence of his fortunes, let us own
frankly that it was not his fault; he did his very best to be in love
with her, and for that very reason, perhaps, he failed! Not all the
desire in the world will enable a man to catch a contagious malady, nor
all his precautions suffice to escape it; so is it with love. Gerald saw
in her one who would have adorned the highest station: she was eminently
beautiful, and with a grace that was a fascination; she possessed to
perfection those arts which charm in society, and had that blending of
readiness in repartee with a sort of southern languor that makes a rare
element of captivation; and yet with all this he did not fall in love.
And the reason was this: Guglia had none of those sudden caprices, those
moods of exorbitant hope or dark despondency, those violent alternations
of temperament which suggest quick resolve, or quicker action. She
was calm--too calm; reflective--too reflective--and, as _he_ thought,
infinitely too much occupied in preparing for eventualities either to
enjoy the present or boldly to dare the future.

These traits of hers, too, wounded his self-love; they made him feel
inferior to her; and he smarted under counsels and advice which came
with the authority of dictations. A casual wound to his pride also aided
this impression; it was an accidental word he had once overheard, as
she was walking one evening with the Cardinal in an alley of the garden
adjoining one in which he was standing. They had been discussing his
fortunes and his character; and she remarked, with a certain bitterness
in her tone, as if contradicting some hopeful anticipation of her uncle.
'_Non, caro zio non, E piu capace de farsi Prête_.' 'No, my dear uncle:
more likely is he to turn priest!' Strange and significant words from
one who held that order in depreciation, and could even dare to avow
this estimate to one of themselves.

These words never left Gerald's mind; they flashed across him as he
awoke of a morning; they broke upon him as he lay thinking in his bed;
they mingled with his speculations on the future; and, more fatally
still, came to his memory at moments when, seated at his side, she
inspired hopes of a glorious destiny. Again and again did he ask
himself, how was it that esteeming him thus she was willing to join
her fate to his? And the only answer was one still more wounding to his
self-love.

What if she should have totally misconstrued this weak, uncertain
nature? What if she should have misinterpreted this character so full of
indecision? How, if this would-be priest were to turn out one reckless
in daring, and indifferent to all consequences? How, if the next tidings
she were to hear of him were from some far-away country: some scene that
might show how cheaply he held the tinsel decoration of a mock station,
the miserable pretension to a rank he was never to enjoy! 'At all
events,' said he, 'they shall have matter for their speculations,
and shall not see me for some days to come!' And with this
determination--rather like the resolve of a pettish child than of a
grown man--he sauntered into the mill, where the miller was now busily
engaged.

'Your master's despatches have nothing very pressing in them, I see,'
said the miller; I scarcely thought to have met you this morning.'

'I have ample time at my disposal,' said Gerald; 'so that I can reach
St. Stephano some day within the coming week I shall be soon enough;
insomuch that I have half a mind to gratify the curiosity you have
excited in me and make a short ramble through the mountains yonder.'

'Nay, nay, leave that track to your left hand; follow the road by the
head of Lago Scuro, and don't run your neck into peril for nothing.'

'But you told me last night this Pastore was never cruel when it served
no purpose: that he was far readier to help a poor man than to rifle
him. What should I fear then?'

'That he might look into the palm of your hand and see that it was one
not much used to daily labour. If he but thought you a spy, _per Bacco!_
I 'd not be in your shoes for all the jewels in the Vatican!'

'Couldn't you manage to disguise me as one of your own people, and give
me some sort of a letter for him?'

'By the way, there is a letter for him these four days back,' said the
miller suddenly;' and I have had no opportunity of sending it on.'

'There, then, is the very thing we want,' broke in Gerald.

'Here's the letter here,' said the miller, taking the document from the
leaves of a book. 'It comes from the Ursuline Convent, on the other side
of the Tiber. Strange enough that the Pastore should have correspondence
with the holy ladies of St. Ursula. It was a monk, too, that fetched it
here, and his courage failed him to go any farther. Indeed, I believe
that picture of the Capri pass decided him on turning back.'

'The greater fool he! He ought to have known that the Pastore was not
likely to requite a good office with cruelty,' said Gerald.

'As to that, it would depend on what humour he was in at the moment.'
Then, after a pause, he added, 'If you like to risk the chance of
finding him in a good temper, you have only to borrow a coat and cap
from one of my boys, and take that letter. You will tell him that it was
I sent you on with it, and he 'll ask no further question.'

'And these hands of mine that you said would betray me,' said Gerald,
'what shall I do to disguise them?'

* Some fresh walnuts will soon colour them, and your face too; and
now let me direct you as to the road you 'll take.' And so the miller,
drawing Gerald to the window, began to describe the route, pointing out
various prominent objects as landmarks.

Having acquainted himself, so far as he could, with all the details of
the way, Gerald proceeded to costume himself for the expedition, and so
completely had the dye on his skin and the change of dress metamorphosed
him, that for a second or two the miller did not recognise him.

With a touch of humour that he rarely gave way to, Gerald saluted him
in rustic fashion, while in a strong peasant accent he asked if his
honour had no further commands for him.

The miller laughed good-humouredly, and shook his hand in adieu. 'I more
than suspect the black mare will be mine,' muttered he, as he looked
after Gerald till he disappeared in the distance.

For miles and miles Gerald walked on without paying any attention to
the scene around him; the spirit of adventure occupied his mind to the
exclusion of all else, and he not only imagined every possible issue to
the present adventure, but fancied what his sensations might have been
were it his fortune to have been launched upon the great enterprise to
which his hopes so long had tended. 'Oh, if this were but Scotland or
Ireland,' thought he; 'if my foot now only trod the soil that I could
call my own; if I could but realise to myself once, even once, the
glorious sense of being recognised as one of that race that once ruled
there as sovereigns; if I could but taste the intoxication of that
generous devotion that through all his calamities once cheered my
father, I 'd think the moment had repaid me for all the cares of life!
And now it has all passed away like a dream. As Purcell said, "They want
us no longer!" "We belong to the past, and have no significance in the
present! Strange, sad, mysterious destiny!" There was a humiliation in
that feeling that gave him intense pain; it was the sense of being
cut off from all sympathy, estranged from the wishes, the hopes, the
ambition of his fellow-men. Out of an isolation like _that_ it was that
Gabriel Riquetti had taught him to believe men achieve their greatest
successes. You must first of all feel yourself alone, all alone in life,
ere you can experience that liberty that ensures free action.

This was one of his axioms which he loved to repeat; and whether
suggested by the scene where he had first met that wonderful man, or
merely induced by the course of reflection, many of Mirabeau's early
teachings and precepts rose to his memory as he journeyed along.

For some time he had been unconsciously ascending a somewhat steep
mountain-path, so deeply imbedded between two lines of thick brushwood
as to intercept all view at either side, when suddenly the way emerged
from the dense copse and took the mountain side, disappearing at a
jutting promontory of rock around which it seemed to pass. As his eye
followed the track thus far he saw the flutter of what seemed a scarlet
banner; but on looking longer discovered it was the gay saddle-cloth of
a mule, from which the rider had apparently dismounted. He had but just
time to mark this much ere the object disappeared beyond the rock.

Cheered to fancy that some other traveller might chance to be on the
same road with himself, he now hastened his steps. The way, however, was
longer than he had supposed, and on gaining the promontory he descried
the mule fully two miles away, stealing carefully along over the rugged
bridle-path on the mountain. The object became now a pursuit, and he
strained his eyes to see if by some by-path he could not succeed
in gaining on the chase. While thus looking he saw that two figures
followed the mule at a little distance, but what they were he could not
ascertain.

It was very unlikely that any of the "Pasture's" followers would have
adopted a gear so striking and so easily seen as this bright trapping,
and so Gerald at once set the travellers down as some peasants returning
to their homes in the Maremma, or on a pilgrimage to some religious
shrine.

With no small exertion he so far gained upon them as to be able to
note their appearance, and discover that one was a friar in the dusky
olive-coloured frock of the Franciscan, and the other a woman, dressed
in some conventual costume which he did not recognise. He could also see
that the mule carried a somewhat cumbrous pack, and an amount of baggage
rarely the accompaniment of a travelling friar.

Who has not felt his curiosity stimulated by some mere trifling
circumstance when occurring in a remote spot, which had it happened on
the world's crowded highway would have passed unnoticed. It was this
strange attendant on these wayfarers that urged Gerald to press on to
overtake them. Forgetting the peasant costume which he wore and the part
it thus behoved him to pursue, he called out in a tone of half command
for them to stop till he came up.

'Halt,' cried he, 'and tell me if this be the way to the Capri Pass!'

The friar turned hastily, and stood until Gerald approached.

'You speak like one accustomed to give his orders on these mountains, my
son,' said he, in a tone of stern reproof; 'so that even a poor follower
of St. Francis is surprised to be thus accosted.'

By this time Gerald had so far recovered his self-possession as to see
how he had compromised his assumed character, and in a voice of deep
submission, and with a peasant accent he answered--

I ask pardon, worthy Fra, but travelling all alone in this wild region
has so overcome me that I scarcely know what I say, or understand what I
hear.'

'Whence do you come?' asked the friar rudely. 'From the Mill at
Orto-Molino.'

'And whither are you going?'

'To St. Stephano after I have delivered a letter that I have here.'

'To whom is your letter addressed, my son?' said the Fra, in a more
gentle voice.

With difficulty did Gerald repress the sharp reply that was on his lips,
and say--

'It is for one that neither you nor I know much of--Il Pastore.'

'I know him well,' said the friar boldly; 'and say it without fear of
contradiction, I am the only one he makes a shrift to--ay, that does
he, ill as you think of him,' added he, as if answering the
half-contemptuous smile on Gerald's face. 'Let's see your letter.'

With an awkward reluctance Gerald drew forth the letter and showed it.

'Ah!' cried the Fra eagerly, 'he had been looking for that letter this
many a day back; but it comes too late now.'

As he said this he pressed eagerly forward and whispered to the nun who
was walking at the side of the mule. She looked back hurriedly for an
instant, and then as rapidly turned her head again. They continued now
to converse eagerly for some time, and seemed totally to have forgotten
Gerald, as he walked on after them; when the Fra turned suddenly round
and said--

'I 'll take charge of your letter, my son, while you guide our sister
down to Cheatstone, a little cluster of houses you 'll see at the foot
of the mountain; and if there be an answer I 'll fetch it to-morrow, ere
daybreak.'

'Nay, Fra, I promised that I would deliver this with my own hands, and
I mean to be no worse than my word.' 'You 'll have to be at least less
than your word,' said the friar, 'for the Pastore would not see you.
These are his days of penance and mortification, and I am the only one
who dares to approach him.'

'I am pledged to deliver this into his own hand,' said Gerald calmly.

'You may have said many a rash thing in your life, but never a rasher
than that,' said the Fra sternly. 'I tell you again, he 'll not see you.
At all events, you 'll have to find the road by your own good wits, and
it is a path that has puzzled shrewder heads.'

With this rude speech, uttered in the rudest way, the Fra moved hastily
on till he overtook his companion, leaving Gerald to follow how he
pleased.

For some time he continued on after the others, vainly straining his
eyes on every side for any signs of a. pathway upward. The way which he
had trod before, with hope to cheer him, became now wearisome and sad.
He was sick of his adventure, out of temper with his want of success,
and dissatisfied with himself. He at last resolved that he would go no
farther on his track than a certain little olive copse which nestled in
a cleft of the mountain, reaching which he would repose for a while, and
then retrace his steps.

The sun was strong and the heat oppressive, insomuch that when at length
he gained the copse, he was well pleased to throw himself down beneath
the shade and take his rest. He had already forgotten the Franciscan and
his fellow-traveller, and was deeply musing over his own fortunes, when
suddenly he heard their voices, and, creeping noiselessly to the edge
of the cliff, he saw them seated at a little well, beside which their
breakfast was spread out. The woman had thrown back her hood and showed
now a beautiful head, whose long black hair fell heavily on either
shoulder, while her taper fingers, covered with many a splendid ring,
plainly showed that her conventual dress was only a disguise. Nor was
this the only sign that surprised him, for now he saw that a short brass
blunderbuss, the regular weapon of the brigand, lay close to the friar's
hand.

'It is the Pastore himself,' thought Gerald, as he gazed down at the
brawny limbs and well-knit proportions of the stranger. 'How could
I ever have mistaken him for a friar?' The more he thought over the
friar's manner--his eagerness to get the letter, and the careless
indifference afterward with which he suffered Gerald to leave him--the
more he felt assured that this was no other than the celebrated chief
himself.

'At least, I have succeeded in seeing him, thought he; 'and why should
I not go boldly forward and speak to him? 'The resolve was no sooner
formed than he proceeded to execute it. In a moment after he had
descended the cliff, and, making his way through the brushwood, stood
before them.

'So, then, you _will_ track me, youngster,' said the friar angrily.
'Once--twice--to-day the road was open to you to seek your own way, and
you would not take it. How bent you must be to do yourself an ill turn!'

'You are "II Pastore,"' said Gerald boldly.

'And thou art _Gherardi mio!'_ cried the woman, as she rushed wildly
toward him and clasped him in her arms. It was Marietta herself who
spoke.

How tell the glorious outburst of Gerald's joy, as he overpowered
her with questions--whence she came, whither going, how and why, and
wherefore there? Was she really and truly the Egyptian who had visited
him on his sick-bed, and not a mere vision?

'And was it from thy lips, then,' cried he, 'that I learned that all
this ambition was but a snare--that I was destined to be only the tool
of crafty men, deep in their own designss? At times the revelation
seemed to come from thee, and at times a burst of heart-felt conviction.
Which was it, Marietta _mia_?'

'Who is he?' cried the Fra eagerly. 'This surely cannot be--ay, but
it is the Prince--the son of my old lord and master!' and he knelt and
kissed Gerald's hands over and over again. 'He knows me not--at least as
I once was--the friend, the boon companion of a king's son,' continued
he passionately.

'Were you, then, one of his old Scottish followers--one of those
faithful men who clung so devotedly to his cause?'

'No, no; but I was one that he loved better than them all.'

'And you, Marietta, dearest, how is it that I see you here?' cried
Gerald, again turning to her.

'I came many a weary mile after you, _mio caro_,' said she. 'I knew of
these men's designs long, long ago, and I determined to save you from
them. I believed I could have secured Massoni as your friend; but I was
wrong--the Jesuit was stronger in him than the man. I remained at St.
Ursula months after I might have left it, just to see the Père--to watch
his game--and, if possible, attach him to me; but I failed--utterly
failed. He was true to his cause, and would not accept my love. More
fortunate, however, was I with the Cardinal--even, perhaps, that I
wished or cared for--His Eminence was my slave. There was not a secret
of the Vatican I did not learn. I read the correspondence with the
Spanish minister, Arazara; I suggested the replies; I heard the whole
plan for your expedition--how you were to be secretly married to the
Countess Ridolfi, and the marriage only avowed when your success was
assured.'

She paused, and the Fra broke in--'Tell all--everything--the mine has
exploded now, and none are the worse for it Go on with your confession.'

'It is of the other alternative he speaks,' said she, dropping her voice
to a faint whisper. 'Had you failed----'

'And then--what then, Marietta?'

'You were in that case to have been betrayed into the hands of the
English, or poisoned! The scheme to accomplish the first was already
planned. I have here the letters which are to accredit me to see and
converse with Sir Horace Mann, at Florence; and which I mean to deliver
too. I am resolved to trace out to the very last who are the accomplices
in this guilt. The world is well edified by tales of mob violence and
bloodshed. Even genius seeks its inspiration in inveighing against
popular excesses. It is time to show that crimes lurk under purple
as well as rags, and that the deadliest vengeances are often devised
beneath gilded ceilings. We knew of one once, Gherardi, who could have
told men these truths--one who carried from this world with him the
"funeral trappings of the monarchy" and the wail of the people.

'Of whom did she speak?' asked the friar.

'Of Gabriel Riquetti, whom she loved,' and the last words were whispered
by Gerald in her ear.

Marietta held down her head, and as she covered her face with her hands
muttered--'But who loved not her!'

'Gabriel Riquetti,' broke in the friar, 'had more of good and bad in him
than all the saints and all the devils that ever warred. He had the best
of principles and the worst of practices, and never did a wicked thing
but he could show you a virtuous reason for it.'

Struck by the contemptuous glance of Marietta, Gerald followed the look
she gave, and saw that the friar's eyes were bloodshot, and his face
purple with excess.



CHAPTER XXIII. THE END

From Marietta Gerald heard how, with that strange fatality of
inconsistency which ever seemed to accompany the fortunes of the
Stuarts, none proved faithful followers save those whose lives of excess
or debauchery rendered them valueless; and thus the drunken Fra, whose
wild snatches of song and ribaldry now broke in upon the colloquy, was
no other than the Carmelite, Kelly, the once associate and corrupter of
his father.

In a half-mad enthusiasm to engage men in the cause of his Prince he had
begun a sort of recruitment of a legion who were to land in Scotland or
Ireland. The means by which he at first operated were somewhat liberally
contributed to him by a secret emissary of the family, whom Kelly at
length discovered to be the private secretary of Miss Walsingham, the
former mistress of Charles Edward. Later on, however, he found out that
this lady herself was actually a pensioner of the English government,
and in secret correspondence with Mr. Pitt, who, through her
instrumentality, was in possession of every plan of the Pretender, and
knew of his daily movements. This treacherous intercourse had begun
several years before the death of Charles Edward, and lasted for some
years after that event.

Stung by the consciousness of being duped, as well as maddened by having
been rendered an enemy to the cause he sought to serve, Kelly disbanded
his followers, and took to the mountains as a brigand. With years he had
grown only more abandoned to excess of every kind. All his experiences
of life had shown little beyond baseness and corruption, and he had
grown to care for nothing beyond the enjoyment of the passing hour,
except when the possibility of a vengeance on those who had betrayed him
might momentarily awake his passion, and excite him to some effort of
vindictive anger.

In his hours of mad debauchery he would rave about landing in England,
and a plan he had conceived for assassinating the king; then it was his
scheme to murder Mr. Pitt, and sometimes all these were abandoned for
the desire to make Miss Walsingham herself pay the penalty of her base
and unwomanly treachery.

'He came to our convent gate in his garb of a friar to beg,' said
Marietta. 'I saw him but for an instant, and I knew him at once. He was
one of those who, in the "red days" of the Revolution, mocked the order
he belonged to by wearing a rosary of playing-dice! and he recognised
me as one who had even more shamelessly exposed herself.' A deep crimson
flush covered her face and neck as she spoke, and as quickly fled, to
leave her as pale as a corpse. 'Oh, _mio caro_,' cried she, 'there are
intoxications more maddening to the senses than those of drinking; there
are wild fevers of the mind, when degradation seems a sort of martyrdom;
and in the very depth of our infamy and shame we appear to ourselves to
have attained to something superhuman in self-denial. It was my fate
to live with one who inspired these sentiments.' She paused for a few
seconds, and then, trembling on every accent, she said: 'To win his
love, to conquer the heart that would not yield to me, I dared more than
ever woman, far more than ever man, dared.'

'Here's to the king's buffoon, and a bumper toast it shall be,' burst
in the friar, with a drunken ribaldry; 'and if there are any will not
drink it, let him drink to the Minister's mistress!'

To the sudden gesture which Gerald's anger evoked, Marietta quickly
interposed her hand, and, in a low, soft voice, besought him to remain
quiet.

     'If the cause were up, or the cause were down,
     What matter to you or to me;
     For though the Prince had played his crown,
     _Our_ stake was a bare bawbee!'

sang out Kelly lustily. 'Who'll deny it? Who'll say there wasn't sound
reason and philosophy in that sentiment? None knew it better than Prince
Charlie himself.'

'And was this man the companion of a Prince?' whispered Gerald in her
ear.

'Even so; fallen fortunes bring degraded followers,' said Marietta. 'I
have heard it said that many of his father's associates were of this
stamp.'

'And how could men hope to restore a cause thus contaminated and
stained?' cried he, somewhat louder.

'That's what Kinloch said,' burst in Kelly; 'you remember the song--

    'The Prince he swore, on his broad claymore,
     That he 'd sit in his father's chair,
     But there wasn't a man, outside his clan,
     That wanted to see him there, boys,
     That wanted to see him there.'

'A black falsehood, as black as ever a traitor uttered!' cried Gerald,
whose passion burst all bounds.

'Here's to the traitors--hip, hip! To the traitors, for it was--

    'The traitors all in St. Cannes's hall,
     They feasted merrily there,
     While the wearied men sought the bleak, wild glen,
     And tasted but sorry fare, boys,
     Tasted but sorry fare.

    'Oh, if I 'd a voice, and could have my choice,
     I know with whom I 'd be,
     Not the hungry lads, with their threadbare plaids,
     But the lords of high degree, boys,
     The lords of high degree.'

'And so thought the Prince too, cried he out fiercely, and in a tone
meant for an insolent taunt. 'He liked the easy life and the soft couch
of St. Germains far better than the long march and the heather-bed in
the Highlands.'

'How long must I endure this fellow's insolence?' whispered Gerald to
Marietta, in a voice trembling with passion.

'For my sake, Gherardi,' she began; but the Fra overheard the words, and
with a drunken laugh broke in--

'If you have a drop of Stuart blood in you, you 'll yield to the woman,
whatever it is she asks.'

Stung beyond control of reason, Gerald sprang to his feet; but before
he could even approach Kelly, the stout friar had grasped his short
blunderbuss and cocked it.

'Another step--one step more, and if you were the anointed King himself,
instead of his bastard, I 'll send you to your reckoning!'

With a spring like the bound of a tiger, Gerald dashed at him; but the
Fra was prepared, and, raising the weapon to his side, he fired. A wild,
mad cry, blended with the loud report echoed in many a mountain gorge,
and the youth fell dead on the sward.

Marietta threw herself down upon the corpse, kissing the lifeless lips,
and clasping her arms around the motionless body. With every endearing
word she tried to call him back to life, even for a momentary
consciousness of her devotion. The love she had so long denied him, she
now offered; she would be his and his only. With the wild eloquence of a
mind on fire, she pictured forth a future, now brightened with all that
successful ambition could confer, now blessed with the tranquil joys
of some secluded existence. Alas! he was beyond the reach of either
fortune. The last of the Stuarts lay still and stark on the cold earth,
his blue eyes staring without a blink at the strong sun.

When some peasants passed on the following day they found Marietta
seated beside the dead body, the cold hand clasped within both her own,
and her eyes riveted upon the features; her mind was gone, and, save a
few broken, indistinct mutterings, she never spoke again.

As for Kelly, none ever could trace him. Some allege that he dashed over
the precipice and was killed; others aver that he sailed that same
night from St. Stephano for America, where he was afterwards seen and
recognised by many.

The little cypress tree in the mountains which once marked the grave of
the last of the Stuarts has long since withered.

THE END



APPENDIX



NOTE I

There is a fragment of a letter from Sir Conway Seymour to Horace
Walpole, written from Rome, where the writer had gone for reasons of
health, and in which the passing news and gossip of the day are narrated
in all the careless freedom of friendly confidence. Much, by far the
greater part, of the epistle is filled up by artistic discussion about
pictures and statues, with little histories of the frauds and rogueries
to which connoisseurship was exposed; there is also a sprinkling of
scandal, a light and flippant sketch of Roman moralities, which really
might have been written in our own day; some passing allusions to
political events there are also; and lastly, there comes the part which
more peculiarly concerns my story. After a little flourish of trumpets
about his own social success, and the cordial intimacy with which he was
admitted into the best houses of Rome, he says, 'Atterbury's letters of
course opened many a door that would have been closed against me as
an Englishman, and gave me facilities rarely extended to one of our
country. To this happy circumstance am I indebted for a scene which I
can never cease to remember, as one of the strangest of my life. You are
aware that though at the great levées of the cardinals large crowds are
assembled, many presenting themselves who have no personal acquaintance
with the host, at the smaller receptions an exclusiveness prevails
unknown in any other land. To such an excess has this been carried, that
to certain houses, such as the Abbezi and the Piombino, few out of the
rank of royalty are ever invited. To the former of these great families
it was my fortune to be invited last Wednesday, and although my gout
entered a bold protest against dress shoes and buckles, I determined to
go.

'It was not without surprise I found that, although there were scarcely
above a dozen carriages in waiting, the great Abbezi Palace was lighted
throughout its whole extent, the whole _cour_ being illuminated with the
blaze. I was aware that etiquette debarred his Holiness from ever being
present at these occasions. And yet there was an amount of preparation
and splendour now displayed that might well have indicated such an event
The servants' coats were, I am told, white; but they were so
plastered with gold that the original colour was concealed. As for the
magnificence of the Palace itself, I will spare you all description, the
more as I know your heart still yearns after that beautiful Guercino of
the "two angels," and the small Salvator of "St. John," for which the
Duke of Strozzi gave his castle at San Marcello; neither will I torment
your curious soul by any allusion to those great vases of Sèvres, with
landscapes painted by both. With more equanimity will you hear of the
beautiful Marquesa d'Arco, in her diamond stomacher, and the Duchessa
de Forti, with a coronet of brilliants that might buy a province, not
to tell of the Colonna herself, whose heavy train, all studded over with
jewels, turned many an eye from her noble countenance to gaze upon the
floor. There were not above forty guests assembled when I arrived, nor
at any time were there more than sixty present, but all apparelled with
a magnificence that shamed the undecorated plainness of my humble court
suit. After paying my homage to his Eminence, I turned to seek out those
of my most intimate acquaintance present; but I soon discovered
that, from some mysterious cause, none were disposed to engage in
conversation--nay, they did but converse in whispers, and with an
abruptness that bespoke expectancy of something to come.

'To while away the time pleasantly, I strolled through the rooms, all
filled as they were with objects to win attention, and having made the
tour of the quadrangle was returning to the great gallery, when, passing
the ante-chamber, I perceived that Cardinal York's servants were all
ranged there, dressed in their fine scarlet liveries, a sight quite new
to see. Nor was this the less remarkable, from the fact that his Royal
Highness is distinguished for the utter absence of all that denotes
ostentation or display. I entered the great gallery, therefore, with
something of curiosity, to know what this might betoken. The company was
all ranged in a great circle, at one part of which a little group was
gathered, in which I had no difficulty in detecting the thin, sickly
face of the Cardinal York, looking fully twenty years beyond his
age, his frail figure bent nearly double. I could mark, besides, that
presentations were being made, as different persons came up, made their
reverence and were detained, some more, some less time in conversation,
who then retired, backing out as from a royal presence. While I stood
thus in wonderment, Don Cæsare, the brother of the Cardinal Abbezi, came
up, and taking me by the arm, led me forward, saying--

'"Caro Natzio," so he now calls me, "you must not be the last to make
your homage here."

'"And to whom am I to offer it?" asked I eagerly.

'"To whom but to him it is best due. To the Prince who ought to be
King."

'"I am but a sorry expounder of riddles, Don Caesare," said I, somewhat
hurt,' as you can well imagine, by a speech so offensive to my loyalty.

'"There is less question here," replied he, "of partisanship than of the
courteous deference which every gentleman ungrudgingly accords to those
of royal birth. This is the Prince of Wales, at least till he be called
the King. He is the son of Charles Edward, and the last of the Stuarts."

'Ere I had rallied from the astonishment of this strange announcement,
the crowd separated in front of me, and I found myself in the presence
of a tall and sickly-looking youth, whose marvellous resemblance to the
Pretender actually overcame me. Nor was any artifice of costume omitted
that could help out the likeness, for he wore a sash of Stuart tartan
over his suit of maroon velvet, and a curiously elaborate claymore hung
by his side. Mistaking me for the Prince D'Arco, he said, in the low,
soft voice of his race--

'"How have you left the Princess; or is she at Rome?"

'"This is the Chevalier de Seymour, may it please your Royal Highness,"
whispered the Cardinal Gualterio, "a gentleman of good and honourable
name, though allied with a cause that is not ours."

'"Methinks all Englishmen might be friends of mine," said the Prince,
smiling sadly; "at all events they need not be my enemies." He held out
his hand as he spoke: and so much of dignity was there in his air, so
much of regal condescension in his look, that I knelt and kissed it.

'Amid a low, murmuring comment on his princely presence, yet not so low
but that he himself could hear it, I moved forward to give place to the
next presentation. And so did the tide flow on for above an hour. Well
knowing what a gloss men would put upon all this, I hastened home, and
wrote it all to Sir Horace Mann at Florence, assuring him that my loyal
attachment to the house of Hanover was unbroken, and that his Majesty
had no more faithful subject or adherent than myself. His reply is now
before me as I write.

'"We know all about this youth," says he. "Lord Chatham has had his
portrait taken; and if he come to England we shall take measures in his
behalf. As to yourself, you are no greater fool than were the Duke of
Beaufort and Lord Westmoreland with the lad's father."

'Strange and significant words, and in no way denying the youth's birth
and parentage.

'At all events, the circumstance is curious; and all Rome talks of it
and nothing else, since the Walkinshaw, who always took her airings in
the Cardinal York's carriage, and was treated as of royal rank, is now
no more seen; and "the Prince," as he is styled, has taken her place,
and even sits in the post of honour, with the Cardinal on his left hand.
Are they enough minded of these things at home; or do they laugh at
danger so for off as Italy? For my own part, I say it, he is one to give
trouble, and make of a bad cause a serious case of disaffection, in so
much the more, that men say he is a fatalist, and believes it will be
his destiny to sit as king in England.'

I would fain make a longer extract from this letter, were I not afraid
that I have already trespassed too far upon my reader's indulgence. It
is said that in the unpublished correspondence of Sir Horace Mann--a
most important contribution to the history of the time, if only given
to the world in its entirety--would be found frequent allusion to the
Chevalier de Fitzgerald, and the views entertained in his behalf. With
all the professional craft of diplomacy, the acute envoy detected
the various degrees of credence that were accorded to the youth's
legitimacy; and saw how many there were who were satisfied to take all
the benefit of his great name for the purpose of intrigue, without ever
sincerely interesting themselves in his cause.



NOTE II

In the correspondence to which I have already alluded there is a letter
to the British Envoy at Florence, in which a reference is thus made
to an incident in my story. Shall I own that without this historic
allusion, I would scarcely have detained my reader by what is, after
all, a mere episodical passage in the tale? Seymour writes--'So far as
I can learn, the woman arrested under this charge of sorcery is not
a British subject at all, as I at first informed you, although great
reason exists to believe her to be a spy in the Jacobite cause. All
my efforts to obtain a sight of her have also failed; nor can I even
ascertain where it is they have confined her. The common story goes,
that she has bewitched the young Chevalier of whom they want to make a
Prince of the House of Stewart, and thus entirely spoiled the game
the Jesuits were plotting. Vulgar rumour adds the enormous rewards
she demands for disenchanting him and so forth; but more trustworthy
accounts suggest that all her especial subtlety will be needed to effect
her own escape. That she possesses boundless wealth, and is of peerless
beauty, a miracle of learning and accomplishment, you are, of course,
prepared to hear. Would that I were enabled to add my own humble
testimony on any of these points. Neither Alberoni nor Casali have seen
her, so that you may easily imagine how hopeless are my chances.

'It is very hard to believe these things in our age; but so they are,
and this morning I was told that the "Prince," pardon me the title, has
been so much advantaged by her visit, that he has thrown off all his old
melancholy, and goes about gay and happy. Of this I cannot pronounce,
for his Royal Highness has gone down to Caraffa's villa at Orvieto, by
way of recovering his health completely, and lives there in the very
strictest seclusion.

'The affair has so many aspects, that in some one or other of them it
has occupied all Rome during the last five or six weeks, and we go about
asking each other will the Prince marry Guglia Ridolfi, Caraffa's niece?
Will he ever be King of England? When will they crown _him_? When will
they burn the witch? Of the latter event, if it show signs of occurring,
I am to give due tidings beforehand to our friend Horatio, who, gout
permitting, would come out from England to see the ceremony.

'It is my belief that Mr. Pitt would put this female to more profitable
use than by making a fagot of her, if she had but half what the world
alleges in craft and acuteness. Priests, however, tolerate no rivals,
and permit no legerdemain but their own. Poor creature! is it not just
possible that she may be more enthusiast than cheat?

'About the Chevalier himself I have nothing to add. I saw him on
Thursday a-horseback, and I must own he sat his beast gracefully and
well; he is of right manly presence, and recalls the features of his
family, if they be his family, most pleasingly. He dismounted near
Trajan's column to receive the benediction of the Holy Father, who was
there blessing oxen, it being the festival of St. Martin, who protects
these animals; and as he knelt down and rose up again, and then saluted
the noble guard, who presented arms, there was a dignity and elegance
in his deportment which struck all observers; nor did I marvel as
Atterbury's nephew whispered into my ear--the "Dutchman could never have
done it like that."'

C. L.





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