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Title: Gambara
Author: Balzac, Honoré de
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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By Honore de Balzac

Translated by Clara Bell and James Waring


  To Monsieur le Marquis de Belloy

  It was sitting by the fire, in a mysterious and magnificent
  retreat,--now a thing of the past but surviving in our memory,
  --whence our eyes commanded a view of Paris from the heights of
  Belleville to those of Belleville, from Montmartre to the
  triumphal Arc de l’Etoile, that one morning, refreshed by tea,
  amid the myriad suggestions that shoot up and die like rockets
  from your sparkling flow of talk, lavish of ideas, you tossed to
  my pen a figure worthy of Hoffmann,--that casket of unrecognized
  gems, that pilgrim seated at the gate of Paradise with ears to
  hear the songs of the angels but no longer a tongue to repeat
  them, playing on the ivory keys with fingers crippled by the
  stress of divine inspiration, believing that he is expressing
  celestial music to his bewildered listeners.

  It was you who created GAMBARA; I have only clothed him. Let me
  render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, regretting only
  that you do not yourself take up the pen at a time when gentlemen
  ought to wield it as well as the sword, if they are to save their
  country. You may neglect yourself, but you owe your talents to us.


New Year’s Day of 1831 was pouring out its packets of sugared almonds,
four o’clock was striking, there was a mob in the Palais-Royal, and the
eating-houses were beginning to fill. At this moment a coupe drew up at
the _perron_ and a young man stepped out; a man of haughty appearance,
and no doubt a foreigner; otherwise he would not have displayed the
aristocratic _chasseur_ who attended him in a plumed hat, nor the coat
of arms which the heroes of July still attacked.

This gentleman went into the Palais-Royal, and followed the crowd round
the galleries, unamazed at the slowness to which the throng of loungers
reduced his pace; he seemed accustomed to the stately step which is
ironically nicknamed the ambassador’s strut; still, his dignity had a
touch of the theatrical. Though his features were handsome and imposing,
his hat, from beneath which thick black curls stood out, was perhaps
tilted a little too much over the right ear, and belied his gravity by
a too rakish effect. His eyes, inattentive and half closed, looked down
disdainfully on the crowd.

“There goes a remarkably good-looking young man,” said a girl in a low
voice, as she made way for him to pass.

“And who is only too well aware of it!” replied her companion aloud--who
was very plain.

After walking all round the arcades, the young man looked by turns at
the sky and at his watch, and with a shrug of impatience went into a
tobacconist’s shop, lighted a cigar, and placed himself in front of a
looking-glass to glance at his costume, which was rather more ornate
than the rules of French taste allow. He pulled down his collar and his
black velvet waistcoat, over which hung many festoons of the thick gold
chain that is made at Venice; then, having arranged the folds of his
cloak by a single jerk of his left shoulder, draping it gracefully so
as to show the velvet lining, he started again on parade, indifferent to
the glances of the vulgar.

As soon as the shops were lighted up and the dusk seemed to him black
enough, he went out into the square in front of the Palais-Royal, but as
a man anxious not to be recognized; for he kept close under the houses
as far as the fountain, screened by the hackney-cab stand, till he
reached the Rue Froid-Manteau, a dirty, poky, disreputable street--a
sort of sewer tolerated by the police close to the purified purlieus of
the Palais-Royal, as an Italian major-domo allows a careless servant to
leave the sweepings of the rooms in a corner of the staircase.

The young man hesitated. He might have been a bedizened citizen’s wife
craning her neck over a gutter swollen by the rain. But the hour was not
unpropitious for the indulgence of some discreditable whim. Earlier, he
might have been detected; later, he might find himself cut out. Tempted
by a glance which is encouraging without being inviting, to have
followed a young and pretty woman for an hour, or perhaps for a day,
thinking of her as a divinity and excusing her light conduct by a
thousand reasons to her advantage; to have allowed oneself to believe
in a sudden and irresistible affinity; to have pictured, under the
promptings of transient excitement, a love-adventure in an age when
romances are written precisely because they never happen; to have
dreamed of balconies, guitars, stratagems, and bolts, enwrapped in
Almaviva’s cloak; and, after inditing a poem in fancy, to stop at the
door of a house of ill-fame, and, crowning all, to discern in Rosina’s
bashfulness a reticence imposed by the police--is not all this, I say,
an experience familiar to many a man who would not own it?

The most natural feelings are those we are least willing to confess,
and among them is fatuity. When the lesson is carried no further, the
Parisian profits by it, or forgets it, and no great harm is done. But
this would hardly be the case with this foreigner, who was beginning to
think he might pay too dearly for his Paris education.

This personage was a Milanese of good family, exiled from his native
country, where some “liberal” pranks had made him an object of suspicion
to the Austrian Government. Count Andrea Marcosini had been welcomed in
Paris with the cordiality, essentially French, that a man always finds
there, when he has a pleasant wit, a sounding name, two hundred thousand
francs a year, and a prepossessing person. To such a man banishment
could but be a pleasure tour; his property was simply sequestrated, and
his friends let him know that after an absence of two years he might
return to his native land without danger.

After rhyming _crudeli affanni_ with _i miei tiranni_ in a dozen or so
of sonnets, and maintaining as many hapless Italian refugees out of his
own purse, Count Andrea, who was so unlucky as to be a poet, thought
himself released from patriotic obligations. So, ever since his arrival,
he had given himself up recklessly to the pleasures of every kind which
Paris offers _gratis_ to those who can pay for them. His talents and his
handsome person won him success among women, whom he adored collectively
as beseemed his years, but among whom he had not as yet distinguished a
chosen one. And indeed this taste was, in him, subordinate to those
for music and poetry which he had cultivated from his childhood; and
he thought success in these both more difficult and more glorious to
achieve than in affairs of gallantry, since nature had not inflicted on
him the obstacles men take most pride in defying.

A man, like many another, of complex nature, he was easily fascinated by
the comfort of luxury, without which he could hardly have lived; and, in
the same way, he clung to the social distinctions which his principles
contemned. Thus his theories as an artist, a thinker, and a poet were in
frequent antagonism with his tastes, his feelings, and his habits as a
man of rank and wealth; but he comforted himself for his inconsistencies
by recognizing them in many Parisians, like himself liberal by policy
and aristocrats by nature.

Hence it was not without some uneasiness that he found himself, on
December 31, 1830, under a Paris thaw, following at the heels of a woman
whose dress betrayed the most abject, inveterate, and long-accustomed
poverty, who was no handsomer than a hundred others to be seen any
evening at the play, at the opera, in the world of fashion, and who
was certainly not so young as Madame de Manerville, from whom he had
obtained an assignation for that very day, and who was perhaps waiting
for him at that very hour.

But in the glance at once tender and wild, swift and deep, which that
woman’s black eyes had shot at him by stealth, there was such a world of
buried sorrows and promised joys! And she had colored so fiercely when,
on coming out of a shop where she had lingered a quarter of an hour, her
look frankly met the Count’s, who had been waiting for her hard by! In
fact, there were so many _buts_ and _ifs_, that, possessed by one of
those mad temptations for which there is no word in any language, not
even in that of the orgy, he had set out in pursuit of this woman,
hunting her down like a hardened Parisian.

On the way, whether he kept behind or ahead of this damsel, he studied
every detail of her person and her dress, hoping to dislodge the insane
and ridiculous fancy that had taken up an abode in his brain; but he
presently found in his examination a keener pleasure than he had felt
only the day before in gazing at the perfect shape of a woman he loved,
as she took her bath. Now and again, the unknown fair, bending her head,
gave him a look like that of a kid tethered with its head to the ground,
and finding herself still the object of his pursuit, she hurried on as
if to fly. Nevertheless, each time that a block of carriages, or any
other delay, brought Andrea to her side, he saw her turn away from
his gaze without any signs of annoyance. These signals of restrained
feelings spurred the frenzied dreams that had run away with him, and he
gave them the rein as far as the Rue Froid-Manteau, down which, after
many windings, the damsel vanished, thinking she had thus spoilt the
scent of her pursuer, who was, in fact, startled by this move.

It was now quite dark. Two women, tattooed with rouge, who were drinking
black-currant liqueur at a grocer’s counter, saw the young woman and
called her. She paused at the door of the shop, replied in a few soft
words to the cordial greeting offered her, and went on her way. Andrea,
who was behind her, saw her turn into one of the darkest yards out of
this street, of which he did not know the name. The repulsive appearance
of the house where the heroine of his romance had been swallowed up
made him feel sick. He drew back a step to study the neighborhood, and
finding an ill-looking man at his elbow, he asked him for information.
The man, who held a knotted stick in his right hand, placed the left on
his hip and replied in a single word:


But on looking at the Italian, who stood in the light of a street-lamp,
he assumed a servile expression.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said he, suddenly changing his tone. “There
is a restaurant near this, a sort of table-d’hote, where the cooking is
pretty bad and they serve cheese in the soup. Monsieur is in search
of the place, perhaps, for it is easy to see that he is an
Italian--Italians are fond of velvet and of cheese. But if monsieur
would like to know of a better eating-house, an aunt of mine, who lives
a few steps off, is very fond of foreigners.”

Andrea raised his cloak as high as his moustache, and fled from the
street, spurred by the disgust he felt at this foul person, whose
clothes and manner were in harmony with the squalid house into which
the fair unknown had vanished. He returned with rapture to the thousand
luxuries of his own rooms, and spent the evening at the Marquise
d’Espard’s to cleanse himself, if possible, of the smirch left by the
fancy that had driven him so relentlessly during the day.

And yet, when he was in bed, the vision came back to him, but clearer
and brighter than the reality. The girl was walking in front of him;
now and again as she stepped across a gutter her skirts revealed a round
calf; her shapely hips swayed as she walked. Again Andrea longed to
speak to her--and he dared not, he, Marcosini, a Milanese nobleman!
Then he saw her turn into the dark passage where she had eluded him, and
blamed himself for not having followed her.

“For, after all,” said he to himself, “if she really wished to avoid me
and put me off her track, it is because she loves me. With women of that
stamp, coyness is a proof of love. Well, if I had carried the adventure
any further, it would, perhaps, have ended in disgust. I will sleep in

The Count was in the habit of analyzing his keenest sensations, as men
do involuntarily when they have as much brains as heart, and he was
surprised when he saw the strange damsel of the Rue Froid-Manteau once
more, not in the pictured splendor of his dream but in the bare reality
of dreary fact. And, in spite of it all, if fancy had stripped the woman
of her livery of misery, it would have spoilt her for him; for he wanted
her, he longed for her, he loved her--with her muddy stockings, her
slipshod feet, her straw bonnet! He wanted her in the very house where
he had seen her go in.

“Am I bewitched by vice, then?” he asked himself in dismay. “Nay, I
have not yet reached that point. I am but three-and-twenty, and there is
nothing of the senile fop about me.”

The very vehemence of the whim that held possession of him to some
extent reassured him. This strange struggle, these reflections, and this
love in pursuit may perhaps puzzle some persons who are accustomed
to the ways of Paris life; but they may be reminded that Count Andrea
Marcosini was not a Frenchman.

Brought up by two abbes, who, in obedience to a very pious father, had
rarely let him out of their sight, Andrea had not fallen in love with a
cousin at the age of eleven, or seduced his mother’s maid by the time
he was twelve; he had not studied at school, where a lad does not learn
only, or best, the subjects prescribed by the State; he had lived in
Paris but a few years, and he was still open to those sudden but deep
impressions against which French education and manners are so strong a
protection. In southern lands a great passion is often born of a
glance. A gentleman of Gascony who had tempered strong feelings by much
reflection had fortified himself by many little recipes against sudden
apoplexies of taste and heart, and he advised the Count to indulge at
least once a month in a wild orgy to avert those storms of the soul
which, but for such precautions, are apt to break out at inappropriate
moments. Andrea now remembered this advice.

“Well,” thought he, “I will begin to-morrow, January 1st.”

This explains why Count Andrea Marcosini hovered so shyly before turning
down the Rue Froid-Manteau. The man of fashion hampered the lover, and
he hesitated for some time; but after a final appeal to his courage
he went on with a firm step as far as the house, which he recognized
without difficulty.

There he stopped once more. Was the woman really what he fancied her?
Was he not on the verge of some false move?

At this juncture he remembered the Italian table d’hote, and at once
jumped at the middle course, which would serve the ends alike of his
curiosity and of his reputation. He went in to dine, and made his way
down the passage; at the bottom, after feeling about for some time,
he found a staircase with damp, slippery steps, such as to an Italian
nobleman could only seem a ladder.

Invited to the first floor by the glimmer of a lamp and a strong smell
of cooking, he pushed a door which stood ajar and saw a room dingy with
dirt and smoke, where a wench was busy laying a table for about twenty
customers. None of the guests had yet arrived.

After looking round the dimly lighted room where the paper was dropping
in rags from the walls, the gentleman seated himself by a stove which
was roaring and smoking in the corner.

Attracted by the noise the Count made in coming in and disposing of his
cloak, the major-domo presently appeared. Picture to yourself a lean,
dried-up cook, very tall, with a nose of extravagant dimensions, casting
about him from time to time, with feverish keenness, a glance that
he meant to be cautious. On seeing Andrea, whose attire bespoke
considerable affluence, Signor Giardini bowed respectfully.

The Count expressed his intention of taking his meals as a rule in
the society of some of his fellow-countrymen; he paid in advance for
a certain number of tickets, and ingenuously gave the conversation a
familiar bent to enable him to achieve his purpose quickly.

Hardly had he mentioned the woman he was seeking when Signor Giardini,
with a grotesque shrug, looked knowingly at his customer, a bland smile
on his lips.

“_Basta_!” he exclaimed. “_Capisco_. Your Excellency has come spurred by
two appetites. La Signora Gambara will not have wasted her time if she
has gained the interest of a gentleman so generous as you appear to be.
I can tell you in a few words all we know of the woman, who is really to
be pitied.

“The husband is, I believe, a native of Cremona and has just come here
from Germany. He was hoping to get the Tedeschi to try some new music
and some new instruments. Isn’t it pitiable?” said Giardini, shrugging
his shoulders. “Signor Gambara, who thinks himself a great composer,
does not seem to me very clever in other ways. An excellent fellow with
some sense and wit, and sometimes very agreeable, especially when he
has had a few glasses of wine--which does not often happen, for he is
desperately poor; night and day he toils at imaginary symphonies and
operas instead of trying to earn an honest living. His poor wife is
reduced to working for all sorts of people--the women on the streets!
What is to be said? She loves her husband like a father, and takes care
of him like a child.

“Many a young man has dined here to pay his court to madame; but not one
has succeeded,” said he, emphasizing the word. “La Signora Marianna is
an honest woman, monsieur, much too honest, worse luck for her! Men give
nothing for nothing nowadays. So the poor soul will die in harness.

“And do you suppose that her husband rewards her for her devotion? Pooh,
my lord never gives her a smile! And all their cooking is done at the
baker’s; for not only does the wretched man never earn a sou; he spends
all his wife can make on instruments which he carves, and lengthens, and
shortens, and sets up and takes to pieces again till they produce sounds
that will scare a cat; then he is happy. And yet you will find him the
mildest, the gentlest of men. And, he is not idle; he is always at it.
What is to be said? He is crazy and does not know his business. I have
seen him, monsieur, filing and forging his instruments and eating black
bread with an appetite that I envied him--I, who have the best table in

“Yes, Excellenza, in a quarter of an hour you shall know the man I am. I
have introduced certain refinements into Italian cookery that will amaze
you! Excellenza, I am a Neapolitan--that is to say, a born cook. But of
what use is instinct without knowledge? Knowledge! I have spent thirty
years in acquiring it, and you see where it has left me. My history is
that of every man of talent. My attempts, my experiments, have ruined
three restaurants in succession at Naples, Parma, and Rome. To this day,
when I am reduced to make a trade of my art, I more often than not give
way to my ruling passion. I give these poor refugees some of my choicest
dishes. I ruin myself! Folly! you will say? I know it; but how can I
help it? Genius carries me away, and I cannot resist concocting a dish
which smiles on my fancy.

“And they always know it, the rascals! They know, I can promise
you, whether I or my wife has stood over the fire. And what is the
consequence? Of sixty-odd customers whom I used to see at my table every
day when I first started in this wretched place, I now see twenty on an
average, and give them credit for the most part. The Piedmontese, the
Savoyards, have deserted, but the connoisseurs, the true Italians,
remain. And there is no sacrifice that I would not make for them. I
often give them a dinner for five and twenty sous which has cost me

Signore Giardini’s speech had such a full flavor of Neapolitan cunning
that the Count was delighted, and could have fancied himself at

“Since that is the case, my good friend,” said he familiarly to the
cook, “and since chance and your confidence have let me into the secret
of your daily sacrifices, allow me to pay double.”

As he spoke Andrea spun a forty-franc piece on the stove, out of which
Giardini solemnly gave him two francs and fifty centimes in change, not
without a certain ceremonious mystery that amused him hugely.

“In a few minutes now,” the man added, “you will see your _donnina_.
I will seat you next the husband, and if you wish to stand in his good
graces, talk about music. I have invited every one for the evening, poor
things. Being New Year’s Day, I am treating the company to a dish in
which I believe I have surpassed myself.”

Signor Giardini’s voice was drowned by the noisy greetings of the
guests, who streamed in two and two, or one at a time, after the manner
of tables-d’hote. Giardini stayed by the Count, playing the showman by
telling him who the company were. He tried by his witticisms to bring
a smile to the lips of a man who, as his Neapolitan instinct told him,
might be a wealthy patron to turn to good account.

“This one,” said he, “is a poor composer who would like to rise
from song-writing to opera, and cannot. He blames the managers,
music-sellers,--everybody, in fact, but himself, and he has no worse
enemy. You can see--what a florid complexion, what self-conceit, how
little firmness in his features! he is made to write ballads. The
man who is with him and looks like a match-hawker, is a great music
celebrity--Gigelmi, the greatest Italian conductor known; but he has
gone deaf, and is ending his days in penury, deprived of all that made
it tolerable. Ah! here comes our great Ottoboni, the most guileless old
fellow on earth; but he is suspected of being the most vindictive of all
who are plotting for the regeneration of Italy. I cannot think how they
can bear to banish such a good man.”

And here Giardini looked narrowly at the Count, who, feeling himself
under inquisition as to his politics, entrenched himself in Italian

“A man whose business it is to cook for all comers can have no political
opinions, Excellenza,” Giardini went on. “But to see that worthy man,
who looks more like a lamb than a lion, everybody would say what I say,
were it before the Austrian ambassador himself. Besides, in these times
liberty is no longer proscribed; it is going its rounds again. At least,
so these good people think,” said he, leaning over to speak in the
Count’s ear, “and why should I thwart their hopes? I, for my part, do
not hate an absolute government. Excellenza, every man of talent is for

“Well, though full of genius, Ottoboni takes no end of pains to educate
Italy; he writes little books to enlighten the intelligence of the
children and the common people, and he smuggles them very cleverly
into Italy. He takes immense trouble to reform the moral sense of our
luckless country, which, after all, prefers pleasure to freedom,--and
perhaps it is right.”

The Count preserved such an impenetrable attitude that the cook could
discover nothing of his political views.

“Ottoboni,” he ran on, “is a saint; very kind-hearted; all the refugees
are fond of him; for, Excellenza, a liberal may have his virtues. Oho!
Here comes a journalist,” said Giardini, as a man came in dressed in the
absurd way which used to be attributed to a poet in a garret; his
coat was threadbare, his boots split, his hat shiny, and his overcoat
deplorably ancient. “Excellenza, that poor man is full of talent, and
incorruptibly honest. He was born into the wrong times, for he tells the
truth to everybody; no one can endure him. He writes theatrical articles
for two small papers, though he is clever enough to work for the great
dailies. Poor fellow!

“The rest are not worth mentioning, and Your Excellency will find them
out,” he concluded, seeing that on the entrance of the musician’s wife
the Count had ceased to listen to him.

On seeing Andrea here, Signora Marianna started visibly and a bright
flush tinged her cheeks.

“Here he is!” said Giardini, in an undertone, clutching the Count’s arm
and nodding to a tall man. “How pale and grave he is poor man! His hobby
has not trotted to his mind to-day, I fancy.”

Andrea’s prepossession for Marianna was crossed by the captivating charm
which Gambara could not fail to exert over every genuine artist. The
composer was now forty; but although his high brow was bald and lined
with a few parallel, but not deep, wrinkles; in spite, too, of hollow
temples where the blue veins showed through the smooth, transparent
skin, and of the deep sockets in which his black eyes were sunk, with
their large lids and light lashes, the lower part of his face made him
still look young, so calm was its outline, so soft the modeling. It
could be seen at a glance that in this man passion had been curbed to
the advantage of the intellect; that the brain alone had grown old in
some great struggle.

Andrea shot a swift look at Marianna, who was watching him. And he noted
the beautiful Italian head, the exquisite proportion and rich coloring
that revealed one of those organizations in which every human power is
harmoniously balanced, he sounded the gulf that divided this couple,
brought together by fate. Well content with the promise he inferred from
this dissimilarity between the husband and wife, he made no attempt to
control a liking which ought to have raised a barrier between the fair
Marianna and himself. He was already conscious of feeling a sort of
respectful pity for this man, whose only joy she was, as he understood
the dignified and serene acceptance of ill fortune that was expressed in
Gambara’s mild and melancholy gaze.

After expecting to see one of the grotesque figures so often set before
us by German novelists and writers of _libretti_, he beheld a simple,
unpretentious man, whose manners and demeanor were in nothing strange
and did not lack dignity. Without the faintest trace of luxury, his
dress was more decent than might have been expected from his extreme
poverty, and his linen bore witness to the tender care which watched
over every detail of his existence. Andrea looked at Marianna with
moistened eyes; and she did not color, but half smiled, in a way that
betrayed, perhaps, some pride at this speechless homage. The Count, too
thoroughly fascinated to miss the smallest indication of complaisance,
fancied that she must love him, since she understood him so well.

From this moment he set himself to conquer the husband rather than the
wife, turning all his batteries against the poor Gambara, who quite
guilelessly went on eating Signor Giardini’s _bocconi_, without thinking
of their flavor.

The Count opened the conversation on some trivial subject, but at the
first words he perceived that this brain, supposed to be infatuated on
one point, was remarkably clear on all others, and saw that it would be
far more important to enter into this very clever man’s ideas than to
flatter his conceits.

The rest of the company, a hungry crew whose brain only responded to the
sight of a more or less good meal, showed much animosity to the luckless
Gambara, and waited only till the end of the first course, to give free
vent to their satire. A refugee, whose frequent leer betrayed ambitious
schemes on Marianna, and who fancied he could establish himself in her
good graces by trying to make her husband ridiculous, opened fire to
show the newcomer how the land lay at the table-d’hote.

“It is a very long time since we have heard anything about the opera on
‘Mahomet’!” cried he, with a smile at Marianna. “Can it be that Paolo
Gambara, wholly given up to domestic cares, absorbed by the charms of
the chimney-corner, is neglecting his superhuman genius, leaving his
talents to get cold and his imagination to go flat?”

Gambara knew all the company; he dwelt in a sphere so far above them all
that he no longer cared to repel an attack. He made no reply.

“It is not given to everybody,” said the journalist, “to have an
intellect that can understand Monsieur Gambara’s musical efforts, and
that, no doubt, is why our divine maestro hesitates to come before the
worthy Parisian public.”

“And yet,” said the ballad-monger, who had not opened his mouth but
to swallow everything that came within his reach, “I know some men of
talent who think highly of the judgments of Parisian critics. I myself
have a pretty reputation as a musician,” he went on, with an air of
diffidence. “I owe it solely to my little songs in _vaudevilles_, and
the success of my dance music in drawing-rooms; but I propose ere long
to bring out a mass composed for the anniversary of Beethoven’s death,
and I expect to be better appreciated in Paris than anywhere else. You
will perhaps do me the honor of hearing it?” he said, turning to Andrea.

“Thank you,” said the Count. “But I do not conceive that I am gifted
with the organs needful for the appreciation of French music. If you
were dead, monsieur, and Beethoven had composed the mass, I would not
have failed to attend the performance.”

This retort put an end to the tactics of those who wanted to set
Gambara off on his high horse to amuse the new guest. Andrea was already
conscious of an unwillingness to expose so noble and pathetic a mania
as a spectacle for so much vulgar shrewdness. It was with no base
reservation that he kept up a desultory conversation, in the course of
which Signor Giardini’s nose not infrequently interposed between
two remarks. Whenever Gambara uttered some elegant repartee or some
paradoxical aphorism, the cook put his head forward, to glance with pity
at the musician and with meaning at the Count, muttering in his ear, “_E

Then came a moment when the _chef_ interrupted the flow of his judicial
observations to devote himself to the second course, which he considered
highly important. During his absence, which was brief, Gambara leaned
across to address Andrea.

“Our worthy host,” said he, in an undertone, “threatens to regale us
to-day with a dish of his own concocting, which I recommend you to
avoid, though his wife has had an eye on him. The good man has a mania
for innovations. He ruined himself by experiments, the last of which
compelled him to fly from Rome without a passport--a circumstance
he does not talk about. After purchasing the good-will of a popular
restaurant he was trusted to prepare a banquet given by a lately made
Cardinal, whose household was not yet complete. Giardini fancied he had
an opportunity for distinguishing himself--and he succeeded! for that
same evening he was accused of trying to poison the whole conclave, and
was obliged to leave Rome and Italy without waiting to pack up. This
disaster was the last straw. Now,” and Gambara put his finger to his
forehead and shook his head.

“He is a good fellow, all the same,” he added. “My wife will tell you
that we owe him many a good turn.”

Giardini now came in carefully bearing a dish which he set in the middle
of the table, and he then modestly resumed his seat next to Andrea, whom
he served first. As soon as he had tasted the mess, the Count felt that
an impassable gulf divided the second mouthful from the first. He
was much embarrassed, and very anxious not to annoy the cook, who was
watching him narrowly. Though a French _restaurateur_ may care little
about seeing a dish scorned if he is sure of being paid for it, it is
not so with an Italian, who is not often satiated with praises.

To gain time, Andrea complimented Giardini enthusiastically, but he
leaned over to whisper in his ear, and slipping a gold piece into his
hand under the table, begged him to go out and buy a few bottles of
champagne, leaving him free to take all the credit of the treat.

When the Italian returned, every plate was cleared, and the room rang
with praises of the master-cook. The champagne soon mounted these
southern brains, and the conversation, till now subdued in the
stranger’s presence, overleaped the limits of suspicious reserve to
wander far over the wide fields of political and artistic opinions.

Andrea, to whom no form of intoxication was known but those of love and
poetry, had soon gained the attention of the company and skilfully led
it to a discussion of matters musical.

“Will you tell me, monsieur,” said he to the composer of dance-music,
“how it is that the Napoleon of these tunes can condescend to usurp the
place of Palestrina, Pergolesi, and Mozart,--poor creatures who must
pack and vanish at the advent of that tremendous Mass for the Dead?”

“Well, monsieur,” replied the composer, “a musician always finds it
difficult to reply when the answer needs the cooperation of a hundred
skilled executants. Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, without an orchestra
would be of no great account.”

“Of no great account!” said Marcosini. “Why, all the world knows that
the immortal author of _Don Giovanni_ and the _Requiem_ was named
Mozart; and I am so unhappy as not to know the name of the inexhaustible
writer of quadrilles which are so popular in our drawing-rooms----”

“Music exists independently of execution,” said the retired conductor,
who, in spite of his deafness, had caught a few words of the
conversation. “As he looks through the C-minor symphony by Beethoven, a
musician is transported to the world of fancy on the golden wings of the
subject in G-natural repeated by the horns in E. He sees a whole realm,
by turns glorious in dazzling shafts of light, gloomy under clouds of
melancholy, and cheered by heavenly strains.”

“The new school has left Beethoven far behind,” said the ballad-writer,

“Beethoven is not yet understood,” said the Count. “How can he be

Gambara drank a large glass of champagne, accompanying the draught by a
covert smile of approval.

“Beethoven,” the Count went on, “extended the limits of instrumental
music, and no one followed in his track.”

Gambara assented with a nod.

“His work is especially noteworthy for simplicity of construction
and for the way the scheme is worked out,” the Count went on. “Most
composers make use of the orchestral parts in a vague, incoherent way,
combining them for a merely temporary effect; they do not persistently
contribute to the whole mass of the movement by their steady and regular
progress. Beethoven assigns its part to each tone-quality from the
first. Like the various companies which, by their disciplined movements,
contribute to winning a battle, the orchestral parts of a symphony
by Beethoven obey the plan ordered for the interest of all, and are
subordinate to an admirably conceived scheme.

“In this he may be compared to a genius of a different type. In Walter
Scott’s splendid historical novels, some personage, who seems to have
least to do with the action of the story, intervenes at a given moment
and leads up to the climax by some thread woven into the plot.”

“_E vero_!” remarked Gambara, to whom common sense seemed to return in
inverse proportion to sobriety.

Andrea, eager to carry the test further, for a moment forgot all his
predilections; he proceeded to attack the European fame of Rossini,
disputing the position which the Italian school has taken by storm,
night after night for more than thirty years, on a hundred stages in
Europe. He had undertaken a hard task. The first words he spoke raised
a strong murmur of disapproval; but neither the repeated interruptions,
nor exclamations, nor frowns, nor contemptuous looks, could check this
determined advocate of Beethoven.

“Compare,” said he, “that sublime composer’s works with what by common
consent is called Italian music. What feebleness of ideas, what limpness
of style! That monotony of form, those commonplace cadenzas, those
endless bravura passages introduced at haphazard irrespective of the
dramatic situation, that recurrent _crescendo_ that Rossini brought
into vogue, are now an integral part of every composition; those vocal
fireworks result in a sort of babbling, chattering, vaporous mucic,
of which the sole merit depends on the greater or less fluency of the
singer and his rapidity of vocalization.

“The Italian school has lost sight of the high mission of art. Instead
of elevating the crowd, it has condescended to the crowd; it has won its
success only by accepting the suffrages of all comers, and appealing to
the vulgar minds which constitute the majority. Such a success is mere
street juggling.

“In short, the compositions of Rossini, in whom this music is
personified, with those of the writers who are more or less of his
school, to me seem worthy at best to collect a crowd in the street round
a grinding organ, as an accompaniment to the capers of a puppet show.
I even prefer French music, and I can say no more. Long live German
music!” cried he, “when it is tuneful,” he added to a low voice.

This sally was the upshot of a long preliminary discussion, in which,
for more than a quarter of an hour, Andrea had divagated in the upper
sphere of metaphysics, with the ease of a somnambulist walking over the

Gambara, keenly interested in all this transcendentalism, had not lost a
word; he took up his parable as soon as Andrea seemed to have ended, and
a little stir of revived attention was evident among the guests, of whom
several had been about to leave.

“You attack the Italian school with much vigor,” said Gambara, somewhat
warmed to his work by the champagne, “and, for my part, you are very
welcome. I, thank God, stand outside this more or less melodic frippery.
Still, as a man of the world, you are too ungrateful to the classic
land whence Germany and France derived their first teaching. While the
compositions of Carissimi, Cavalli, Scarlatti, and Rossi were being
played throughout Italy, the violin players of the Paris opera house
enjoyed the singular privilege of being allowed to play in gloves.
Lulli, who extended the realm of harmony, and was the first to classify
discords, on arriving in France found but two men--a cook and a
mason--whose voice and intelligence were equal to performing his music;
he made a tenor of the former, and transformed the latter into a bass.
At that time Germany had no musician excepting Sebastian Bach.--But you,
monsieur, though you are so young,” Gambara added, in the humble tone of
a man who expects to find his remarks received with scorn or ill-nature,
“must have given much time to the study of these high matters of art;
you could not otherwise explain them so clearly.”

This word made many of the hearers smile, for they had understood
nothing of the fine distinctions drawn by Andrea. Giardini, indeed,
convinced that the Count had been talking mere rhodomontade, nudged
him with a laugh in his sleeve, as at a good joke in which he flattered
himself that he was a partner.

“There is a great deal that strikes me as very true in all you have
said,” Gambara went on; “but be careful. Your argument, while reflecting
on Italian sensuality, seems to me to lean towards German idealism,
which is no less fatal heresy. If men of imagination and good sense,
like you, desert one camp only to join the other; if they cannot keep to
the happy medium between two forms of extravagance, we shall always
be exposed to the satire of the sophists, who deny all progress, who
compare the genius of man to this tablecloth, which, being too short to
cover the whole of Signor Giardini’s table, decks one end at the expense
of the other.”

Giardini bounded in his seat as if he had been stung by a horse-fly, but
swift reflections restored him to his dignity as a host; he looked up to
heaven and again nudged the Count, who was beginning to think the cook
more crazy than Gambara.

This serious and pious way of speaking of art interested the Milanese
extremely. Seated between these two distracted brains, one so noble
and the other so common, and making game of each other to the great
entertainment of the crowd, there was a moment when the Count found
himself wavering between the sublime and its parody, the farcical
extremes of human life. Ignoring the chain of incredible events which
had brought them to this smoky den, he believed himself to be the
plaything of some strange hallucination, and thought of Gambara and
Giardini as two abstractions.

Meanwhile, after a last piece of buffoonery from the deaf conductor in
reply to Gambara, the company had broken up laughing loudly. Giardini
went off to make coffee, which he begged the select few to accept, and
his wife cleared the table. The Count, sitting near the stove between
Marianna and Gambara, was in the very position which the mad musician
thought most desirable, with sensuousness on one side and idealism on
the other. Gambara finding himself for the first time in the society
of a man who did not laugh at him to his face, soon diverged from
generalities to talk of himself, of his life, his work, and the musical
regeneration of which he believed himself to be the Messiah.

“Listen,” said he, “you who so far have not insulted me. I will tell you
the story of my life; not to make a boast of my perseverance, which
is no virtue of mine, but to the greater glory of Him who has given me
strength. You seem kind and pious; if you do not believe in me at least
you will pity me. Pity is human; faith comes from God.”

Andrea turned and drew back under his chair the foot that had been
seeking that of the fair Marianna, fixing his eyes on her while
listening to Gambara.

“I was born at Cremona, the son of an instrument maker, a fairly good
performer and an even better composer,” the musician began. “Thus at an
early age I had mastered the laws of musical construction in its twofold
aspects, the material and the spiritual; and as an inquisitive child
I observed many things which subsequently recurred to the mind of the
full-grown man.

“The French turned us out of our own home--my father and me. We were
ruined by the war. Thus, at the age of ten I entered on the wandering
life to which most men have been condemned whose brains were busy
with innovations, whether in art, science, or politics. Fate, or the
instincts of their mind which cannot fit into the compartments where the
trading class sit, providentially guides them to the spots where they
may find teaching. Led by my passion for music I wandered throughout
Italy from theatre to theatre, living on very little, as men can live
there. Sometimes I played the bass in an orchestra, sometimes I was on
the boards in the chorus, sometimes under them with the carpenters.
Thus I learned every kind of musical effect, studying the tones of
instruments and of the human voice, wherein they differed and how they
harmonized, listening to the score and applying the rules taught me by
my father.

“It was hungry work, in a land where the sun always shines, where art is
all pervading, but where there is no pay for the artist, since Rome
is but nominally the Sovereign of the Christian world. Sometimes made
welcome, sometimes scouted for my poverty, I never lost courage. I heard
a voice within me promising me fame.

“Music seemed to me in its infancy, and I think so still. All that is
left to us of musical effort before the seventeenth century, proves to
me that early musicians knew melody only; they were ignorant of harmony
and its immense resources. Music is at once a science and an art. It is
rooted in physics and mathematics, hence it is a science; inspiration
makes it an art, unconsciously utilizing the theorems of science. It is
founded in physics by the very nature of the matter it works on. Sound
is air in motion. The air is formed of constituents which, in us, no
doubt, meet with analogous elements that respond to them, sympathize,
and magnify them by the power of the mind. Thus the air must include a
vast variety of molecules of various degrees of elasticity, and capable
of vibrating in as many different periods as there are tones from all
kinds of sonorous bodies; and these molecules, set in motion by the
musician and falling on our ear, answer to our ideas, according to
each man’s temperament. I myself believe that sound is identical in its
nature with light. Sound is light, perceived under another form;
each acts through vibrations to which man is sensitive and which he
transforms, in the nervous centres, into ideas.

“Music, like painting, makes use of materials which have the property
of liberating this or that property from the surrounding medium and
so suggesting an image. The instruments in music perform this part, as
color does in painting. And whereas each sound produced by a sonorous
body is invariably allied with its major third and fifth, whereas
it acts on grains of fine sand lying on stretched parchment so as
to distribute them in geometrical figures that are always the same,
according to the pitch,--quite regular when the combination is a true
chord, and indefinite when the sounds are dissonant,--I say that music
is an art conceived in the very bowels of nature.

“Music is subject to physical and mathematical laws. Physical laws are
but little known, mathematics are well understood; and it is since their
relations have been studied, that the harmony has been created to
which we owe the works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Rossini, grand
geniuses, whose music is undoubtedly nearer to perfection than that of
their precursors, though their genius, too, is unquestionable. The
old masters could sing, but they had not art and science at their
command,--a noble alliance which enables us to merge into one the finest
melody and the power of harmony.

“Now, if a knowledge of mathematical laws gave us these four great
musicians, what may we not attain to if we can discover the physical
laws in virtue of which--grasp this clearly--we may collect, in larger
or smaller quantities, according to the proportions we may require, an
ethereal substance diffused in the atmosphere which is the medium alike
of music and of light, of the phenomena of vegetation and of animal
life! Do you follow me? Those new laws would arm the composer with new
powers by supplying him with instruments superior of those now in use,
and perhaps with a potency of harmony immense as compared with that now
at his command. If every modified shade of sound answers to a force,
that must be known to enable us to combine all these forces in
accordance with their true laws.

“Composers work with substances of which they know nothing. Why should
a brass and a wooden instrument--a bassoon and horn--have so little
identity of tone, when they act on the same matter, the constituent
gases of the air? Their differences proceed from some displacement of
those constituents, from the way they act on the elements which are
their affinity and which they return, modified by some occult and
unknown process. If we knew what the process was, science and art would
both be gainers. Whatever extends science enhances art.

“Well, these are the discoveries I have guessed and made. Yes,” said
Gambara, with increasing vehemence, “hitherto men have noted effects
rather than causes. If they could but master the causes, music would be
the greatest of the arts. Is it not the one which strikes deepest to the
soul? You see in painting no more than it shows you; in poetry you have
only what the poet says; music goes far beyond this. Does it not form
your taste, and rouse dormant memories? In a concert-room there may be a
thousand souls; a strain is flung out from Pasta’s throat, the execution
worthily answering to the ideas that flashed through Rossini’s mind
as he wrote the air. That phrase of Rossini’s, transmitted to those
attentive souls, is worked out in so many different poems. To one it
presents a woman long dreamed of; to another, some distant shore where
he wandered long ago. It rises up before him with its drooping willows,
its clear waters, and the hopes that then played under its leafy arbors.
One woman is reminded of the myriad feelings that tortured her during
an hour of jealousy, while another thinks of the unsatisfied cravings of
her heart, and paints in the glowing hues of a dream an ideal lover,
to whom she abandons herself with the rapture of the woman in the Roman
mosaic who embraces a chimera; yet a third is thinking that this very
evening some hoped-for joy is to be hers, and rushes by anticipation
into the tide of happiness, its dashing waves breaking against her
burning bosom. Music alone has this power of throwing us back
on ourselves; the other arts give us infinite pleasure. But I am

“These were my first ideas, vague indeed; for an inventor at the
beginning only catches glimpses of the dawn, as it were. So I kept these
glorious ideas at the bottom of my knapsack, and they gave me spirit to
eat the dry crust I often dipped in the water of a spring. I worked, I
composed airs, and, after playing them on any instrument that came to
hand, I went off again on foot across Italy. Finally, at the age of
two-and-twenty, I settled in Venice, where for the first time I
enjoyed rest and found myself in a decent position. I there made the
acquaintance of a Venetian nobleman who liked my ideas, who encouraged
me in my investigations, and who got me employment at the Venice

“Living was cheap, lodging inexpensive. I had a room in that Capello
palace from which the famous Bianca came forth one evening to become a
Grand Duchess of Tuscany. And I would dream that my unrecognized fame
would also emerge from thence one day to be crowned.

“I spent my evenings at the theatre and my days in work. Then came
disaster. The performance of an opera in which I had experimented,
trying my music, was a failure. No one understood my score for the
_Martiri_. Set Beethoven before the Italians and they are out of their
depth. No one had patience enough to wait for the effect to be produced
by the different motives given out by each instrument, which were all at
last to combine in a grand _ensemble_.

“I had built some hopes on the success of the _Martiri_, for we votaries
of the blue divinity Hope always discount results. When a man believes
himself destined to do great things, it is hard not to fancy them
achieved; the bushel always has some cracks through which the light

“My wife’s family lodged in the same house, and the hope of winning
Marianna, who often smiled at me from her window, had done much to
encourage my efforts. I now fell into the deepest melancholy as I
sounded the depths of a life of poverty, a perpetual struggle in which
love must die. Marianna acted as genius does; she jumped across every
obstacle, both feet at once. I will not speak of the little happiness
which shed its gilding on the beginning of my misfortunes. Dismayed at
my failure, I decided that Italy was not intelligent enough and too much
sunk in the dull round of routine to accept the innovations I conceived
of; so I thought of going to Germany.

“I traveled thither by way of Hungary, listening to the myriad voices
of nature, and trying to reproduce that sublime harmony by the help
of instruments which I constructed or altered for the purpose. These
experiments involved me in vast expenses which had soon exhausted
my savings. And yet those were our golden days. In Germany I was
appreciated. There has been nothing in my life more glorious than that
time. I can think of nothing to compare with the vehement joys I found
by the side of Marianna, whose beauty was then of really heavenly
radiance and splendor. In short, I was happy.

“During that period of weakness I more than once expressed my passion in
the language of earthly harmony. I even wrote some of those airs, just
like geometrical patterns, which are so much admired in the world of
fashion that you move in. But as soon as I made a little way I met
with insuperable obstacles raised by my rivals, all hypercritical or

“I had heard of France as being a country where novelties were favorably
received, and I wanted to get there; my wife had a little money and we
came to Paris. Till then no one had actually laughed in my face; but in
this dreadful city I had to endure that new form of torture, to which
abject poverty ere long added its bitter sufferings. Reduced to lodging
in this mephitic quarter, for many months we have lived exclusively on
Marianna’s sewing, she having found employment for her needle in working
for the unhappy prostitutes who make this street their hunting ground.
Marianna assures me that among those poor creatures she has met with
such consideration and generosity as I, for my part, ascribe to the
ascendency of virtue so pure that even vice is compelled to respect it.”

“Hope on,” said Andrea. “Perhaps you have reached the end of your
trials. And while waiting for the time when my endeavor, seconding
yours, shall set your labors in a true light, allow me, as a
fellow-countryman and an artist like yourself, to offer you some little
advances on the undoubted success of your score.”

“All that has to do with matters of material existence I leave to
my wife,” replied Gambara. “She will decide as to what we may accept
without a blush from so thorough a gentleman as you seem to be. For my
part,--and it is long since I have allowed myself to indulge such full
confidences,--I must now ask you to allow me to leave you. I see
a melody beckoning to me, dancing and floating before me, bare and
quivering, like a girl entreating her lover for her clothes which he
has hidden. Good-night. I must go and dress my mistress. My wife I leave
with you.”

He hurried away, as a man who blames himself for the loss of valuable
time; and Marianna, somewhat embarrassed, prepared to follow him.

Andrea dared not detain her.

Giardini came to the rescue.

“But you heard, signora,” said he. “Your husband has left you to settle
some little matters with the Signor Conte.”

Marianna sat down again, but without raising her eyes to Andrea, who
hesitated before speaking.

“And will not Signor Gambara’s confidence entitle me to his wife’s?”
 he said in agitated tones. “Can the fair Marianna refuse to tell me the
story of her life?”

“My life!” said Marianna. “It is the life of the ivy. If you wish to
know the story of my heart, you must suppose me equally destitute of
pride and of modesty if you can ask me to tell it after what you have
just heard.”

“Of whom, then, can I ask it?” cried the Count, in whom passion was
blinding his wits.

“Of yourself,” replied Marianna. “Either you understand me by this time,
or you never will. Try to ask yourself.”

“I will, but you must listen. And this hand, which I am holding, is to
lie in mine as long as my narrative is truthful.”

“I am listening,” said Marianna.

“A woman’s life begins with her first passion,” said Andrea. “And my
dear Marianna began to live only on the day when she first saw Paolo
Gambara. She needed some deep passion to feed upon, and, above all, some
interesting weakness to shelter and uphold. The beautiful woman’s nature
with which she is endowed is perhaps not so truly passion as maternal

“You sigh, Marianna? I have touched one of the aching wounds in your
heart. It was a noble part for you to play, so young as you were,--that
of protectress to a noble but wandering intellect. You said to yourself:
‘Paolo will be my genius; I shall be his common sense; between us we
shall be that almost divine being called an angel,--the sublime creature
that enjoys and understands, reason never stifling love.’

“And then, in the first impetus of youth, you heard the thousand voices
of nature which the poet longed to reproduce. Enthusiasm clutched you
when Paolo spread before you the treasures of poetry, while seeking to
embody them in the sublime but restricted language of music; you admired
him when delirious rapture carried him up and away from you, for you
liked to believe that all this devious energy would at last come down
and alight as love. But you knew not the tyrannous and jealous despotism
of the ideal over the minds that fall in love with it. Gambara, before
meeting you, had given himself over to the haughty and overbearing
mistress, with whom you have struggled for him to this day.

“Once, for an instant, you had a vision of happiness. Paolo, tumbling
from the lofty sphere where his spirit was constantly soaring, was
amazed to find reality so sweet; you fancied that his madness would be
lulled in the arms of love. But before long Music again clutched
her prey. The dazzling mirage which had cheated you into the joys of
reciprocal love made the lonely path on which you had started look more
desolate and barren.

“In the tale your husband has just told me, I could read, as plainly as
in the contrast between your looks and his, all the painful secrets of
that ill-assorted union, in which you have accepted the sufferer’s part.
Though your conduct has been unfailingly heroical, though your firmness
has never once given way in the exercise of your painful duties,
perhaps, in the silence of lonely nights, the heart that at this moment
is beating so wildly in your breast, may, from time to time, have
rebelled. Your husband’s superiority was in itself your worst torment.
If he had been less noble, less single-minded, you might have deserted
him; but his virtues upheld yours; you wondered, perhaps, whether his
heroism or your own would be the first to give way.

“You clung to your really magnanimous task as Paolo clung to his
chimera. If you had had nothing but a devotion to duty to guide and
sustain you, triumph might have seemed easier; you would only have
had to crush your heart, and transfer your life into the world of
abstractions; religion would have absorbed all else, and you would have
lived for an idea, like those saintly women who kill all the instincts
of nature at the foot of the altar. But the all-pervading charm of
Paolo, the loftiness of his mind, his rare and touching proofs of
tenderness, constantly drag you down from that ideal realm where virtue
would fain maintain you; they perennially revive in you the energies
you have exhausted in contending with the phantom of love. You never
suspected this! The faintest glimmer of hope led you on in pursuit of
the sweet vision.

“At last the disappointments of many years have undermined your
patience,--an angel would have lost it long since,--and now the
apparition so long pursued is no more than a shade without substance.
Madness that is so nearly allied to genius can know no cure in this
world. When this thought first struck you, you looked back on your
past youth, sacrificed, if not wasted; you then bitterly discerned the
blunder of nature that had given you a father when you looked for a
husband. You asked yourself whether you had not gone beyond the duty
of a wife in keeping yourself wholly for a man who was bound up in his
science. Marianna, leave your hand in mine; all I have said is true. And
you looked about you--but now you were in Paris, not in Italy, where men
know how to love----”

“Oh! Let me finish the tale,” cried Marianna. “I would rather say things
myself. I will be honest; I feel that I am speaking to my truest friend.
Yes, I was in Paris when all you have expressed so clearly took place
in my mind; but when I saw you I was saved, for I had never met with
the love I had dreamed of from my childhood. My poor dress and my
dwelling-place had hidden me from the eyes of men of your class. A few
young men, whose position did not allow of their insulting me, were all
the more intolerable for the levity with which they treated me. Some
made game of my husband, as if he were merely a ridiculous old man;
others basely tried to win his good graces to betray me; one and all
talked of getting me away from him, and none understood the devotion I
feel for a soul that is so far away from us only because it is so near
heaven, for that friend, that brother, whose handmaid I will always be.

“You alone understood, did you not? the tie that binds me to him. Tell
me that you feel a sincere and disinterested regard for my Paolo--”

“I gladly accept your praises,” Andrea interrupted; “but go no further;
do not compel me to contradict you. I love you, Marianna, as we love in
the beautiful country where we both were born, I love you with all my
soul and with all my strength; but before offering you that love, I will
be worthy of yours. I will make a last attempt to give back to you the
man you have loved so long and will love forever. Till success or defeat
is certain, accept without any shame the modest ease I can give you
both. We will go to-morrow and choose a place where he may live.

“Have you such regard for me as will allow you to make me the partner in
your guardianship?”

Marianna, surprised at such magnanimity, held out her hand to the Count,
who went away, trying to evade the civilities of Giardini and his wife.

On the following day Giardini took the Count up to the room where the
Gambaras lodged. Though Marianna fully knew her lover’s noble
soul,--for there are natures which quickly enter into each other’s
spirit,--Marianna was too good a housewife not to betray her annoyance
at receiving such a fine gentleman in so humble a room. Everything
was exquisitely clean. She had spent the morning in dusting her motley
furniture, the handiwork of Signor Giardini, who had put it together, at
odd moments of leisure, out of the fragments of the instruments rejected
by Gambara.

Andrea had never seen anything quite so crazy. To keep a decent
countenance he turned away from a grotesque bed, contrived by the
ingenious cook in the case of an old harpsichord, and looked at
Marianna’s narrow couch, of which the single mattress was covered with
a white muslin counterpane, a circumstance that gave rise in his mind to
some sad but sweet thoughts.

He wished to speak of his plans and of his morning’s work; but Gambara,
in his enthusiasm, believing that he had at last met with a willing
listener, took possession of him, and compelled him to listen to the
opera he had written for Paris.

“In the first place, monsieur,” said the composer, “allow me to explain
the subject in a few words. Here, the hearers receiving a musical
impression do not work it out in themselves, as religion bids us work
out the texts of Scripture in prayer. Hence it is very difficult to make
them understand that there is in nature an eternal melody, exquisitely
sweet, a perfect harmony, disturbed only by revolutions independent of
the divine will, as passions are uncontrolled by the will of men.

“I, therefore, had to seek a vast framework in which effect and cause
might both be included; for the aim of my music is to give a picture of
the life of nations from the loftiest point of view. My opera, for
which I myself wrote the _libretto_, for a poet would never have fully
developed the subject, is the life of Mahomet,--a figure in whom the
magic of Sabaeanism combined with the Oriental poetry of the Hebrew
Scriptures to result in one of the greatest human epics, the Arab
dominion. Mahomet certainly derived from the Hebrews the idea of a
despotic government, and from the religion of the shepherd tribes or
Sabaeans the spirit of expansion which created the splendid empire of
the Khalifs. His destiny was stamped on him in his birth, for his father
was a heathen and his mother a Jewess. Ah! my dear Count to be a great
musician a man must be very learned. Without knowledge he can get no
local color and put no ideas into his music. The composer who sings for
singing’s sake is an artisan, not an artist.

“This magnificent opera is the continuation of the great work I
projected. My first opera was called _The Martyrs_, and I intend to
write a third on Jerusalem delivered. You perceive the beauty of this
trilogy and what a variety of motives it offers,--the Martyrs, Mahomet,
the Deliverance of Jerusalem: the God of the West, the God of the East,
and the struggle of their worshipers over a tomb. But we will not dwell
on my fame, now for ever lost.

“This is the argument of my opera.” He paused. “The first act,” he went
on, “shows Mahomet as a porter to Kadijah, a rich widow with whom his
uncle placed him. He is in love and ambitious. Driven from Mecca, he
escapes to Medina, and dates his era from his flight, the _Hegira_. In
the second act he is a Prophet, founding a militant religion. In
the third, disgusted with all things, having exhausted life, Mahomet
conceals the manner of his death in the hope of being regarded as a
god,--last effort of human pride.

“Now you shall judge of my way of expressing in sound a great idea, for
which poetry could find no adequate expression in words.”

Gambara sat down to the piano with an absorbed gaze, and his wife
brought him the mass of papers forming his score; but he did not open

“The whole opera,” said he, “is founded on a bass, as on a fruitful
soil. Mahomet was to have a majestic bass voice, and his wife
necessarily had a contralto. Kadijah was quite old--twenty! Attention!
This is the overture. It begins with an _andante_ in C major, triple
time. Do you hear the sadness of the ambitious man who is not satisfied
with love? Then, through his lamentation, by a transition to the key
of E flat, _allegro_, common time, we hear the cries of the epileptic
lover, his fury and certain warlike phrases, for the mighty charms of
the one and only woman give him the impulse to multiplied loves which
strikes us in _Don Giovanni_. Now, as you hear these themes, do you not
catch a glimpse of Mahomet’s Paradise?

“And next we have a _cantabile_ (A flat major, six-eight time), that
might expand the soul that is least susceptible to music. Kadijah has
understood Mahomet! Then Kadijah announces to the populace the Prophet’s
interviews with the Angel Gabriel (_maestoso sostenuto_ in F Major). The
magistrates and priests, power and religion, feeling themselves attacked
by the innovator, as Christ and Socrates also attacked effete or
worn-out powers and religions, persecute Mahomet and drive him out of
Mecca (_stretto_ in C major). Then comes my beautiful dominant (G major,
common time). Arabia now harkens to the Prophet; horsemen arrive (G
major, E flat, B flat, G minor, and still common time). The mass of men
gathers like an avalanche; the false Prophet has begun on a tribe the
work he will achieve over a world (G major).

“He promises the Arabs universal dominion, and they believe him because
he is inspired. The _crescendo_ begins (still in the dominant). Here
come some flourishes (in C major) from the brass, founded on the
harmony, but strongly marked, and asserting themselves as an expression
of the first triumphs. Medina has gone over to the Prophet, and the
whole army marches on Mecca (an explosion of sound in C major). The
whole power of the orchestra is worked up like a conflagration; every
instrument is employed; it is a torrent of harmony.

“Suddenly the _tutti_ is interrupted by a flowing air (on the minor
third). You hear the last strain of devoted love. The woman who had
upheld the great man dies concealing her despair, dies at the moment of
triumph for him in whom love has become too overbearing to be content
with one woman; and she worships him enough to sacrifice herself to the
greatness of the man who is killing her. What a blaze of love!

“Then the Desert rises to overrun the world (back to C major). The whole
strength of the orchestra comes in again, collected in a tremendous
quintet grounded on the fundamental bass--and he is dying! Mahomet is
world-weary; he has exhausted everything. Now he craves to die a god.
Arabia, in fact, worships and prays to him, and we return to the first
melancholy strain (C minor) to which the curtain rose.

“Now, do you not discern,” said Gambara, ceasing to play, and turning to
the Count, “in this picturesque and vivid music--abrupt, grotesque, or
melancholy, but always grand--the complete expression of the life of
an epileptic, mad for enjoyment, unable to read or write, using all his
defects as stepping-stones, turning every blunder and disaster into
a triumph? Did not you feel a sense of his fascination exerted over a
greedy and lustful race, in this overture, which is an epitome of the

At first calm and stern, the maestro’s face, in which Andrea had been
trying to read the ideas he was uttering in inspired tones, though the
chaotic flood of notes afforded no clue to them, had by degrees glowed
with fire and assumed an impassioned force that infected Marianna and
the cook. Marianna, too, deeply affected by certain passages in which
she recognized a picture of her own position, could not conceal the
expression of her eyes from Andrea.

Gambara wiped his brow, and shot a glance at the ceiling of such fierce
energy that he seemed to pierce it and soar to the very skies.

“You have seen the vestibule,” said he; “we will now enter the palace.
The opera begins:--

“Act I. Mahomet, alone on the stage, begins with an air (F natural,
common time), interrupted by a chorus of camel-drivers gathered
round a well at the back of the stage (they sing in contrary
time--twelve-eight). What majestic woe! It will appeal to the most
frivolous women, piercing to their inmost nerves if they have no heart.
Is not this the very expression of crushed genius?”

To Andrea’s great astonishment,--for Marianna was accustomed to
it,--Gambara contracted his larynx to such a pitch that the only sound
was a stifled cry not unlike the bark of a watch-dog that has lost
its voice. A slight foam came to the composer’s lips and made Andrea

“His wife appears (A minor). Such a magnificent duet! In this number I
have shown that Mahomet has the will and his wife the brains. Kadijah
announces that she is about to devote herself to an enterprise that will
rob her of her young husband’s love. Mahomet means to conquer the world;
this his wife has guessed, and she supports him by persuading the people
of Mecca that her husband’s attacks of epilepsy are the effect of his
intercourse with the angels (chorus of the first followers of Mahomet,
who come to promise him their aid, C sharp minor, _sotto voce_). Mahomet
goes off to seek the Angel Gabriel (_recitative_ in F major). His wife
encourages the disciples (_aria_, interrupted by the chorus, gusts of
chanting support Kadijah’s broad and majestic air, A major).

“Abdallah, the father of Ayesha,--the only maiden Mahomet has found
really innocent, wherefore he changed the name of Abdallah to Abubekir
(the father of the virgin),--comes forward with Ayesha and sings against
the chorus, in strains which rise above the other voices and supplement
the air sung by Kadijah in contrapuntal treatment. Omar, the father
of another maiden who is to be Mahomet’s concubine, follows Abubekir’s
example; he and his daughter join in to form a quintette. The girl
Ayesha is first soprano, Hafsa second soprano; Abubekir is a bass, Omar
a baritone.

“Mahomet returns, inspired. He sings his first _bravura_ air, the
beginning of the _finale_ (E major), promising the empire of the world
to those who believe in him. The Prophet seeing the two damsels, then,
by a gentle transition (from B major to G major), addresses them in
amorous tones. Ali, Mahomet’s cousin, and Khaled, his greatest general,
both tenors, now arrive and announce the persecution; the magistrates,
the military, and the authorities have all proscribed the Prophet
(_recitative_). Mahomet declares in an invocation (in C) that the Angel
Gabriel is on his side, and points to a pigeon that is seen flying away.
The chorus of believers responds in accents of devotion (on a modulation
to B major). The soldiers, magistrates, and officials then come on
(_tempo di marcia_, common time, B major). A chorus in two divisions
(_stretto_ in E major). Mahomet yields to the storm (in a descending
phrase of diminished sevenths) and makes his escape. The fierce and
gloomy tone of this _finale_ is relieved by the phrases given to the
three women who foretell Mahomet’s triumph, and these motives are
further developed in the third act in the scene where Mahomet is
enjoying his splendor.”

The tears rose to Gambara’s eyes, and it was only upon controlling his
emotion that he went on.

“Act II. The religion is now established. The Arabs are guarding the
Prophet’s tent while he speaks with God (chorus in A minor). Mahomet
appears (a prayer in F). What a majestic and noble strain is this that
forms the bass of the voices, in which I have perhaps enlarged the
borders of melody. It was needful to express the wonderful energy of
this great human movement which created an architecture, a music, a
poetry of its own, a costume and manners. As you listen, you are walking
under the arcades of the Generalife, the carved vaults of the Alhambra.
The runs and trills depict that delicate mauresque decoration, and the
gallant and valorous religion which was destined to wage war against the
gallant and valorous chivalry of Christendom. A few brass instruments
awake in the orchestra, announcing the Prophet’s first triumph (in a
broken _cadenza_). The Arabs adore the Prophet (E flat major), and the
Khaled, Amru, and Ali arrive (_tempo di marcia_). The armies of the
faithful have taken many towns and subjugated the three Arabias. Such a
grand recitative!--Mahomet rewards his generals by presenting them with

“And here,” said Gambara, sadly, “there is one of those wretched
ballets, which interrupt the thread of the finest musical tragedies! But
Mahomet elevates it once more by his great prophetic scene, which poor
Monsieur Voltaire begins with these words:

  “Arabia’s time at last has come!

“He is interrupted by a chorus of triumphant Arabs (twelve-eight
time, _accelerando_). The tribes arrive in crowds; the horns and brass
reappear in the orchestra. General rejoicings ensue, all the voices
joining in by degrees, and Mahomet announces polygamy. In the midst of
all this triumph, the woman who has been of such faithful service to
Mahomet sings a magnificent air (in B major). ‘And I,’ says she, ‘am
I no longer loved?’ ‘We must part. Thou art but a woman, and I am a
Prophet; I may still have slaves but no equal.’ Just listen to this duet
(G sharp minor). What anguish! The woman understands the greatness her
hands have built up; she loves Mahomet well enough to sacrifice
herself to his glory; she worships him as a god, without criticising
him,--without murmuring. Poor woman! His first dupe and his first

“What a subject for the _finale_ (in B major) is her grief, brought out
in such sombre hues against the acclamations of the chorus, and mingling
with Mahomet’s tones as he throws his wife aside as a tool of no further
use, still showing her that he can never forget her! What fireworks of
triumph! what a rush of glad and rippling song go up from the two young
voices (first and second soprano) of Ayesha and Hafsa, supported by Ali
and his wife, by Omar and Abubekir! Weep!--rejoice!--Triumph and tears!
Such is life.”

Marianna could not control her tears, and Andrea was so deeply moved
that his eyes were moist. The Neapolitan cook was startled by the
magnetic influence of the ideas expressed by Gambara’s convulsive

The composer looked round, saw the group, and smiled.

“At last you understand me!” said he.

No conqueror, led in pomp to the Capitol under the purple beams of
glory, as the crown was placed on his head amid the acclamations of a
nation, ever wore such an expression. The composer’s face was radiant,
like that of a holy martyr. No one dispelled the error. A terrible smile
parted Marianna’s lips. The Count was appalled by the guilelessness of
this mania.

“Act III,” said the enchanted musician, reseating himself at the piano.
“(_Andantino, solo_.) Mahomet in his seraglio, surrounded by women, but
not happy. Quartette of Houris (A major). What pompous harmony, what
trills as of ecstatic nightingales! Modulation (into F sharp minor). The
theme is stated (on the dominant E and repeated in F major). Here every
delight is grouped and expressed to give effect to the contrast of the
gloomy _finale_ of the first act. After the dancing, Mahomet rises and
sings a grand _bravura_ air (in F minor), repelling the perfect and
devoted love of his first wife, but confessing himself conquered by
polygamy. Never has a musician had so fine a subject! The orchestra
and the chorus of female voices express the joys of the Houris, while
Mahomet reverts to the melancholy strain of the opening. Where is
Beethoven,” cried Gambara, “to appreciate this prodigious reaction of my
opera on itself? How completely it all rests on the bass.

“It is thus that Beethoven composed his E minor symphony. But his heroic
work is purely instrumental, whereas here, my heroic phrase is worked
out on a sextette of the finest human voices, and a chorus of the
faithful on guard at the door of the sacred dwelling. I have every
resource of melody and harmony at my command, an orchestra and voices.
Listen to the utterance of all these phases of human life, rich and
poor;--battle, triumph, and exhaustion!

“Ali arrives, the Koran prevails in every province (duet in D minor).
Mahomet places himself in the hands of his two fathers-in-law; he will
abdicate his rule and die in retirement to consolidate his work. A
magnificent sextette (B flat major). He takes leave of all (solo in F
natural). His two fathers-in-law, constituted his vicars or Khalifs,
appeal to the people. A great triumphal march, and a prayer by all the
Arabs kneeling before the sacred house, the Kasbah, from which a pigeon
is seen to fly away (the same key). This prayer, sung by sixty voices
and led by the women (in B flat), crowns the stupendous work expressive
of the life of nations and of man. Here you have every emotion, human
and divine.”

Andrea gazed at Gambara in blank amazement. Though at first he had been
struck by the terrible irony of the situation,--this man expressing the
feelings of Mahomet’s wife without discovering them in Marianna,--the
husband’s hallucination was as nothing compared with the composer’s.
There was no hint even of a poetical or musical idea in the hideous
cacophony with which he had deluged their ears; the first principles of
harmony, the most elementary rules of composition, were absolutely alien
to this chaotic structure. Instead of the scientifically compacted
music which Gambara described, his fingers produced sequences of fifths,
sevenths, and octaves, of major thirds, progressions of fourths with no
supporting bass,--a medley of discordant sounds struck out haphazard
in such a way as to be excruciating to the least sensitive ear. It is
difficult to give any idea of the grotesque performance. New words would
be needed to describe this impossible music.

Andrea, painfully affected by this worthy man’s madness, colored, and
stole a glance at Marianna; while she, turning pale and looking down,
could not restrain her tears. In the midst of this chaos of notes,
Gambara had every now and then given vent to his rapture in exclamations
of delight. He had closed his eyes in ecstasy; had smiled at his piano;
had looked at it with a frown; put out his tongue at it after the
fashion of the inspired performer,--in short, was quite intoxicated
with the poetry that filled his brain, and that he had vainly striven to
utter. The strange discords that clashed under his fingers had obviously
sounded in his ears like celestial harmonies.

A deaf man, seeing the inspired gaze of his blue eyes open on another
world, the rosy glow that tinged his cheeks, and, above all, the
heavenly serenity which ecstasy stamped on his proud and noble
countenance, would have supposed that he was looking on at the
improvisation of a really great artist. The illusion would have been
all the more natural because the performance of this mad music required
immense executive skill to achieve such fingering. Gambara must have
worked at it for years.

Nor were his hands alone employed; his feet were constantly at work
with complicated pedaling; his body swayed to and fro; the perspiration
poured down his face while he toiled to produce a great _crescendo_
with the feeble means the thankless instrument placed at his command.
He stamped, puffed, shouted; his fingers were as swift as the serpent’s
double tongue; and finally, at the last crash on the keys, he fell back
in his chair, resting his head on the top of it.

“_Per Bacco!_ I am quite stunned,” said the Count as he left the house.
“A child dancing on the keyboard would make better music.”

“Certainly mere chance could not more successfully avoid hitting two
notes in concord than that possessed creature has done during the past
hour,” said Giardini.

“How is it that the regular beauty of Marianna’s features is not
spoiled by incessantly hearing such a hideous medley?” said the Count to
himself. “Marianna will certainly grow ugly.”

“Signor, she must be saved from that,” cried Giardini.

“Yes,” said Andrea. “I have thought of that. Still, to be sure that
my plans are not based on error, I must confirm my doubts by another
experiment. I will return and examine the instruments he has invented.
To-morrow, after dinner, we will have a little supper. I will send in
some wine and little dishes.”

The cook bowed.

Andrea spent the following day in superintending the arrangement of the
rooms where he meant to install the artist in a humble home.

In the evening the Count made his appearance, and found the wine,
according to his instructions, set out with some care by Marianna and
Giardini. Gambara proudly exhibited the little drums, on which lay
the powder by means of which he made his observations on the pitch and
quality of the sounds emitted by his instruments.

“You see,” said he, “by what simple means I can prove the most important
propositions. Acoustics thus can show me the analogous effects of sound
on every object of its impact. All harmonies start from a common centre
and preserve the closest relations among themselves; or rather, harmony,
like light, is decomposable by our art as a ray is by a prism.”

He then displayed the instruments constructed in accordance with his
laws, explaining the changes he had introduced into their constitution.
And finally he announced that to conclude this preliminary inspection,
which could only satisfy a superficial curiosity, he would perform on an
instrument that contained all the elements of a complete orchestra, and
which he called a _Panharmonicon_.

“If it is the machine in that huge case, which brings down on us the
complaints of the neighborhood whenever you work at it, you will not
play on it long,” said Giardini. “The police will interfere. Remember

“If that poor idiot stays in the room,” said Gambara in a whisper to the
Count, “I cannot possibly play.”

Andrea dismissed the cook, promising a handsome reward if he would keep
watch outside and hinder the neighbors or the police from interfering.
Giardini, who had not stinted himself while helping Gambara to wine, was
quite willing.

Gambara, without being drunk, was in the condition when every power of
the brain is over-wrought; when the walls of the room are transparent;
when the garret has no roof, and the soul soars in the empyrean of

Marianna, with some little difficulty, removed the covers from an
instrument as large as a grand piano, but with an upper case added. This
strange-looking instrument, besides this second body and its keyboard,
supported the openings or bells of various wind instruments and the
closed funnels of a few organ pipes.

“Will you play me the prayer you say is so fine at the end of your
opera?” said the Count.

To the great surprise of both Marianna and the Count, Gambara began
with a succession of chords that proclaimed him a master; and their
astonishment gave way first to amazed admiration and then to perfect
rapture, effacing all thought of the place and the performer. The
effects of a real orchestra could not have been finer than the voices
of the wind instruments, which were like those of an organ and combined
wonderfully with the harmonies of the strings. But the unfinished
condition of the machine set limits to the composer’s execution, and his
idea seemed all the greater; for, often, the very perfection of a work
of art limits its suggestiveness to the recipient soul. Is not this
proved by the preference accorded to a sketch rather than a finished
picture when on their trial before those who interpret a work in their
own mind rather than accept it rounded off and complete?

The purest and serenest music that Andrea had ever listened to rose up
from under Gambara’s fingers like the vapor of incense from an altar.
The composer’s voice grew young again, and, far from marring the noble
melody, it elucidated it, supported it, guided it,--just as the feeble
and quavering voice of an accomplished reader, such as Andrieux, for
instance, can expand the meaning of some great scene by Corneille or
Racine by lending personal and poetical feeling.

This really angelic strain showed what treasures lay hidden in that
stupendous opera, which, however, would never find comprehension so
long as the musician persisted in trying to explain it in his present
demented state. His wife and the Count were equally divided between the
music and their surprise at this hundred-voiced instrument, inside which
a stranger might have fancied an invisible chorus of girls were hidden,
so closely did some of the tones resemble the human voice; and they
dared not express their ideas by a look or a word. Marianna’s face was
lighted up by a radiant beam of hope which revived the glories of her
youth. This renascence of beauty, co-existent with the luminous glow of
her husband’s genius, cast a shade of regret on the Count’s exquisite
pleasure in this mysterious hour.

“You are our good genius!” whispered Marianna. “I am tempted to believe
that you actually inspire him; for I, who never am away from him, have
never heard anything like this.”

“And Kadijah’s farewell!” cried Gambara, who sang the _cavatina_ which
he had described the day before as sublime, and which now brought tears
to the eyes of the lovers, so perfectly did it express the loftiest
devotion of love.

“Who can have taught you such strains?” cried the Count.

“The Spirit,” said Gambara. “When he appears, all is fire. I see the
melodies there before me; lovely, fresh in vivid hues like flowers. They
beam on me, they ring out,--and I listen. But it takes a long, long time
to reproduce them.”

“Some more!” said Marianna.

Gambara, who could not tire, played on without effort or antics. He
performed his overture with such skill, bringing out such rich and
original musical effects, that the Count was quite dazzled, and at last
believed in some magic like that commanded by Paganini and Liszt,--a
style of execution which changes every aspect of music as an art, by
giving it a poetic quality far above musical inventions.

“Well, Excellenza, and can you cure him?” asked Giardini, as Andrea came

“I shall soon find out,” replied the Count. “This man’s intellect
has two windows; one is closed to the world, the other is open to the
heavens. The first is music, the second is poetry. Till now he has
insisted on sitting in front of the shuttered window; he must be got
to the other. It was you, Giardini, who first started me on the right
track, by telling me that your client’s mind was clearer after drinking
a few glasses of wine.”

“Yes,” cried the cook, “and I can see what your plan is.”

“If it is not too late to make the thunder of poetry audible to his
ears, in the midst of the harmonies of some noble music, we must put him
into a condition to receive it and appreciate it. Will you help me to
intoxicate Gambara, my good fellow? Will you be none the worse for it?”

“What do you mean, Excellenza?”

Andrea went off without answering him, laughing at the acumen still left
to this cracked wit.

On the following day he called for Marianna, who had spent the morning
in arranging her dress,--a simple but decent outfit, on which she had
spent all her little savings. The transformation would have destroyed
the illusions of a mere dangler; but Andrea’s caprice had become a
passion. Marianna, diverted of her picturesque poverty, and looking like
any ordinary woman of modest rank, inspired dreams of wedded life.

He handed her into a hackney coach, and told her of the plans he had in
his head; and she approved of everything, happy in finding her admirer
more lofty, more generous, more disinterested than she had dared to
hope. He took her to a little apartment, where he had allowed himself to
remind her of his good offices by some of the elegant trifles which have
a charm for the most virtuous women.

“I will never speak to you of love till you give up all hope of your
Paolo,” said the Count to Marianna, as he bid her good-bye at the Rue
Froid-Manteau. “You will be witness to the sincerity of my attempts.
If they succeed. I may find myself unequal to keeping up my part as a
friend; but in that case I shall go far away, Marianna. Though I have
firmness enough to work for your happiness, I shall not have so much as
will enable me to look on at it.”

“Do not say such things. Generosity, too, has its dangers,” said she,
swallowing down her tears. “But are you going now?”

“Yes,” said Andrea; “be happy, without any drawbacks.”

If Giardini might be believed, the new treatment was beneficial to both
husband and wife. Every evening after his wine, Gambara seemed less
self-centered, talked more, and with great lucidity; he even spoke
at last of reading the papers. Andrea could not help quaking at his
unexpectedly rapid success; but though his distress made him aware of
the strength of his passion, it did not make him waver in his virtuous

One day he called to note the progress of this singular cure. Though the
state of the patient at first gave him satisfaction, his joy was dashed
by Marianna’s beauty, for an easy life had restored its brilliancy.
He called now every evening to enjoy calm and serious conversation, to
which he contributed lucid and well considered arguments controverting
Gambara’s singular theories. He took advantage of the remarkable acumen
of the composer’s mind as to every point not too directly bearing on his
manias, to obtain his assent to principles in various branches of
art, and apply them subsequently to music. All was well so long as the
patient’s brain was heated with the fumes of wine; but as soon as he had
recovered--or, rather, lost--his reason, he was a monomaniac once more.

However, Paolo was already more easily diverted by the impression
of outside things; his mind was more capable of addressing itself to
several points at a time.

Andrea, who took an artistic interest in his semi-medical treatment,
thought at last that the time had come for a great experiment. He would
give a dinner at his own house, to which he would invite Giardini
for the sake of keeping the tragedy and the parody side by side,
and afterwards take the party to the first performance of _Robert le
Diable_. He had seen it in rehearsal, and he judged it well fitted to
open his patient’s eyes.

By the end of the second course, Gambara was already tipsy, laughing
at himself with a very good grace; while Giardini confessed that his
culinary innovations were not worth a rush. Andrea had neglected nothing
that could contribute to this twofold miracle. The wines of Orvieto and
of Montefiascone, conveyed with the peculiar care needed in moving
them, Lachrymachristi and Giro,--all the heady liqueurs of _la cara
Patria_,--went to their brains with the intoxication alike of the grape
and of fond memory. At dessert the musician and the cook both abjured
every heresy; one was humming a _cavatina_ by Rossini, and the other
piling delicacies on his plate and washing them down with Maraschino
from Zara, to the prosperity of the French _cuisine_.

The Count took advantage of this happy frame of mind, and Gambara
allowed himself to be taken to the opera like a lamb.

At the first introductory notes Gambara’s intoxication appeared to clear
away and make way for the feverish excitement which sometimes brought
his judgment and his imagination into perfect harmony; for it was their
habitual disagreement, no doubt, that caused his madness. The ruling
idea of that great musical drama appeared to him, no doubt, in its noble
simplicity, like a lightning flash, illuminating the utter darkness in
which he lived. To his unsealed eyes this music revealed the immense
horizons of a world in which he found himself for the first time, though
recognizing it as that he had seen in his dreams. He fancied himself
transported into the scenery of his native land, where that beautiful
Italian landscape begins at what Napoleon so cleverly described as the
_glacis_ of the Alps. Carried back by memory to the time when his
young and eager brain was as yet untroubled by the ecstasy of his too
exuberant imagination he listened with religious awe and would not utter
a single word. The Count respected the internal travail of his soul.
Till half-past twelve Gambara sat so perfectly motionless that the
frequenters of the opera house took him, no doubt, for what he was--a
man drunk.

On their return, Andrea began to attack Meyerbeer’s work, in order
to wake up Gambara, who sat sunk in the half-torpid state common in

“What is there in that incoherent score to reduce you to a condition of
somnambulism?” asked Andrea, when they got out at his house. “The story
of _Robert le Diable_, to be sure, is not devoid of interest, and Holtei
has worked it out with great skill in a drama that is very well written
and full of strong and pathetic situations; but the French librettist
has contrived to extract from it the most ridiculous farrago of
nonsense. The absurdities of the libretti of Vesari and Schikander are
not to compare with those of the words of Robert le Diable; it is a
dramatic nightmare, which oppresses the hearer without deeply moving

“And Meyerbeer has given the devil a too prominent part. Bertram and
Alice represent the contest between right and wrong, the spirits of
good and evil. This antagonism offered a splendid opportunity to the
composer. The sweetest melodies, in juxtaposition with harsh and crude
strains, was the natural outcome of the form of the story; but in the
German composer’s score the demons sing better than the saints. The
heavenly airs belie their origin, and when the composer abandons the
infernal motives he returns to them as soon as possible, fatigued with
the effort of keeping aloof from them. Melody, the golden thread that
ought never to be lost throughout so vast a plan, often vanishes from
Meyerbeer’s work. Feeling counts for nothing, the heart has no part
in it. Hence we never come upon those happy inventions, those artless
scenes, which captivate all our sympathies and leave a blissful
impression on the soul.

“Harmony reigns supreme, instead of being the foundation from which
the melodic groups of the musical picture stand forth. These discordant
combinations, far from moving the listener, arouse in him a feeling
analogous to that which he would experience on seeing a rope-dancer
hanging to a thread and swaying between life and death. Never does a
soothing strain come in to mitigate the fatiguing suspense. It really is
as though the composer had had no other object in view than to produce
a baroque effect without troubling himself about musical truth or unity,
or about the capabilities of human voices which are swamped by this
flood of instrumental noise.”

“Silence, my friend!” cried Gambara. “I am still under the spell of
that glorious chorus of hell, made still more terrible by the long
trumpets,--a new method of instrumentation. The broken _cadenzas_ which
give such force to Robert’s scene, the _cavatina_ in the fourth act, the
_finale_ of the first, all hold me in the grip of a supernatural power.
No, not even Gluck’s declamation ever produced so prodigious an effect,
and I am amazed by such skill and learning.”

“Signor Maestro,” said Andrea, smiling, “allow me to contradict you.
Gluck, before he wrote, reflected long; he calculated the chances,
and he decided on a plan which might be subsequently modified by his
inspirations as to detail, but hindered him from ever losing his way.
Hence his power of emphasis, his declamatory style thrilling with
life and truth. I quite agree with you that Meyerbeer’s learning is
transcendent; but science is a defect when it evicts inspiration, and
it seems to me that we have in this opera the painful toil of a refined
craftsman who in his music has but picked up thousands of phrases out
of other operas, damned or forgotten, and appropriated them, while
extending, modifying, or condensing them. But he has fallen into the
error of all selectors of _centos_,--an abuse of good things. This
clever harvester of notes is lavish of discords, which, when too often
introduced, fatigue the ear till those great effects pall upon it which
a composer should husband with care to make the more effective use of
them when the situation requires it. These enharmonic passages recur
to satiety, and the abuse of the plagal cadence deprives it of its
religious solemnity.

“I know, of course, that every musician has certain forms to which he
drifts back in spite of himself; he should watch himself so as to avoid
that blunder. A picture in which there were no colors but blue and red
would be untrue to nature, and fatigue the eye. And thus the constantly
recurring rhythm in the score of _Robert le Diable_ makes the work, as
a whole, appear monotonous. As to the effect of the long trumpets, of
which you speak, it has long been known in Germany; and what Meyerbeer
offers us as a novelty was constantly used by Mozart, who gives just
such a chorus to the devils in _Don Giovanni_.”

By plying Gambara, meanwhile, with fresh libations, Andrea thus strove,
by his contradictoriness, to bring the musician back to a true sense of
music, by proving to him that his so-called mission was not to try to
regenerate an art beyond his powers, but to seek to express himself in
another form; namely, that of poetry.

“But, my dear Count, you have understood nothing of that stupendous
musical drama,” said Gambara, airily, as standing in front of Andrea’s
piano he struck the keys, listened to the tone, and then seated himself,
meditating for a few minutes as if to collect his ideas.

“To begin with, you must know,” said he, “that an ear as practised as
mine at once detected that labor of choice and setting of which you
spoke. Yes, the music has been selected, lovingly, from the storehouse
of a rich and fertile imagination wherein learning has squeezed every
idea to extract the very essence of music. I will illustrate the

He rose to carry the candles into the adjoining room, and before sitting
down again he drank a full glass of Giro, a Sardinian wine, as full of
fire as the old wines of Tokay can inspire.

“Now, you see,” said Gambara, “this music is not written for
misbelievers, nor for those who know not love. If you have never
suffered from the virulent attacks of an evil spirit who shifts your
object just as you are taking aim, who puts a fatal end to your highest
hopes,--in one word, if you have never felt the devil’s tail whisking
over the world, the opera of _Robert le Diable_ must be to you, what the
Apocalypse is to those who believe that all things will end with
them. But if, persecuted and wretched, you understand that Spirit of
Evil,--the monstrous ape who is perpetually employed in destroying the
work of God,--if you can conceive of him as having, not indeed loved,
but ravished, an almost divine woman, and achieved through her the
joy of paternity; as so loving his son that he would rather have him
eternally miserable with himself than think of him as eternally happy
with God; if, finally, you can imagine the mother’s soul for ever
hovering over the child’s head to snatch it from the atrocious
temptations offered by its father,--even then you will have but a faint
idea of this stupendous drama, which needs but little to make it worthy
of comparison with Mozart’s _Don Giovanni_. _Don Giovanni_ is in its
perfection the greater, I grant; _Robert le Diable_ expresses ideas,
_Don Giovanni_ arouses sensations. _Don Giovanni_ is as yet the only
musical work in which harmony and melody are combined in exactly the
right proportions. In this lies its only superiority, for _Robert_ is
the richer work. But how vain are such comparisons since each is so
beautiful in its own way!

“To me, suffering as I do from the demon’s repeated shocks, Robert spoke
with greater power than to you; it struck me as being at the same time
vast and concentrated.

“Thanks to you, I have been transported to the glorious land of dreams
where our senses expand, and the world works on a scale which is
gigantic as compared with man.”

He was silent for a space.

“I am trembling still,” said the ill-starred artist, “from the four bars
of cymbals which pierced to my marrow as they opened that short,
abrupt introduction with its solo for trombone, its flutes, oboes,
and clarionet, all suggesting the most fantastic effects of color. The
_andante_ in C minor is a foretaste of the subject of the evocation of
the ghosts in the abbey, and gives grandeur to the scene by anticipating
the spiritual struggle. I shivered.”

Gambara pressed the keys with a firm hand and expanded Meyerbeer’s theme
in a masterly _fantasia_, a sort of outpouring of his soul after the
manner of Liszt. It was no longer the piano, it was a whole orchestra
that they heard; the very genius of music rose before them.

“That was worthy of Mozart!” he exclaimed. “See how that German can
handle his chords, and through what masterly modulations he raises the
image of terror to come to the dominant C. I can hear all hell in it!

“The curtain rises. What do I see? The only scene to which we gave the
epithet infernal: an orgy of knights in Sicily. In that chorus in F
every human passion is unchained in a bacchanalian _allegro_. Every
thread by which the devil holds us is pulled. Yes, that is the sort of
glee that comes over men when they dance on the edge of a precipice;
they make themselves giddy. What _go_ there is in that chorus!

“Against that chorus--the reality of life--the simple life of every-day
virtue stands out in the air, in G minor, sung by Raimbaut. For a moment
it refreshed my spirit to hear the simple fellow, representative of
verdurous and fruitful Normandy, which he brings to Robert’s mind in the
midst of his drunkenness. The sweet influence of his beloved native land
lends a touch of tender color to this gloomy opening.

“Then comes the wonderful air in C major, supported by the chorus in C
minor, so expressive of the subject. ‘_Je suis Robert_!’ he immediately
breaks out. The wrath of the prince, insulted by his vassal, is already
more than natural anger; but it will die away, for memories of his
childhood come to him, with Alice, in the bright and graceful _allegro_
in A major.

“Can you not hear the cries of the innocent dragged into this infernal
drama,--a persecuted creature? ‘_Non, non_,’” sang Gambara, who made the
consumptive piano sing. “His native land and tender emotions have come
back to him; his childhood and its memories have blossomed anew in
Robert’s heart. And now his mother’s shade rises up, bringing with it
soothing religious thoughts. It is religion that lives in that beautiful
song in E major, with its wonderful harmonic and melodic progression in
the words:

  “Car dans les cieux, comme sur la terre,
  Sa mere va prier pour lui.

“Here the struggle begins between the unseen powers and the only human
being who has the fire of hell in his veins to enable him to resist
them; and to make this quite clear, as Bertram comes on, the great
musician has given the orchestra a passage introducing a reminiscence of
Raimbaut’s ballad. What a stroke of art! What cohesion of all the parts!
What solidity of structure!

“The devil is there, in hiding, but restless. The conflict of the
antagonistic powers opens with Alice’s terror; she recognizes the devil
of the image of Saint Michael in her village. The musical subject
is worked out through an endless variety of phases. The antithesis
indispensable in opera is emphatically presented in a noble
_recitative_, such as a Gluck might have composed, between Bertram and

  “Tu se sauras jamais a quel exces je t’aime.

“In that diabolical C minor, Bertram, with his terrible bass, begins his
work of undermining which will overthrow every effort of the vehement,
passionate man.

“Here, everything is appalling. Will the crime get possession of the
criminal? Will the executioner seize his victim? Will sorrow consume
the artist’s genius? Will the disease kill the patient? or, will the
guardian angel save the Christian?

“Then comes the _finale_, the gambling scene in which Bertram tortures
his son by rousing him to tremendous emotions. Robert, beggared,
frenzied, searching everything, eager for blood, fire, and sword, is his
own son; in this mood he is exactly like his father. What hideous glee
we hear in Bertram’s words: ‘_Je ris de tes coups_!’ And how perfectly
the Venetian _barcarole_ comes in here. Through what wonderful
transitions the diabolical parent is brought on to the stage once more
to make Robert throw the dice.

“This first act is overwhelming to any one capable of working out the
subjects in his very heart, and lending them the breadth of development
which the composer intended them to call forth.

“Nothing but love could now be contrasted with this noble symphony of
song, in which you will detect no monotony, no repetitions of means and
effects. It is one, but many; the characteristic of all that is truly
great and natural.

“I breathe more freely; I find myself in the elegant circle of a gallant
court; I hear Isabella’s charming phrases, fresh, but almost melancholy,
and the female chorus in two divisions, and in _imitation_, with a
suggestion of the Moorish coloring of Spain. Here the terrifying music
is softened to gentler hues, like a storm dying away, and ends in the
florid prettiness of a duet wholly unlike anything that has come before
it. After the turmoil of a camp full of errant heroes, we have a picture
of love. Poet! I thank thee! My heart could not have borne much more. If
I could not here and there pluck the daisies of a French light opera, if
I could not hear the gentle wit of a woman able to love and to charm,
I could not endure the terrible deep note on which Bertram comes in,
saying to his son: ‘_Si je la permets_!’ when Robert had promised the
princess he adores that he will conquer with the arms she has bestowed
on him.

“The hopes of the gambler cured by love, the love of a most beautiful
woman,--did you observe that magnificent Sicilian, with her hawk’s eye
secure of her prey? (What interpreters that composer has found!) the
hopes of the man are mocked at by the hopes of hell in the tremendous
cry: ‘_A toi, Robert de Normandie_!’

“And are not you struck by the gloom and horror of those long-held
notes, to which the words are set: ‘_Dans la foret prochaine_’? We find
here all the sinister spells of _Jerusalem Delivered_, just as we find
all chivalry in the chorus with the Spanish lilt, and in the march tune.
How original is the _alegro_ with the modulations of the four cymbals
(tuned to C, D, C, G)! How elegant is the call to the lists! The whole
movement of the heroic life of the period is there: the mind enters into
it; I read in it a romance, a poem of chivalry. The _exposition_ is now
finished; the resources of music would seem to be exhausted; you have
never heard anything like it before; and yet it is homogeneous. You have
had life set before you, and its one and only _crux_: ‘Shall I be happy
or unhappy?’ is the philosopher’s query. ‘Shall I be saved or damned?’
asks the Christian.”

With these words Gambara struck the last chord of the chorus, dwelt on
it with a melancholy modulation, and then rose to drink another large
glass of Giro. This half-African vintage gave his face a deeper flush,
for his passionate and wonderful sketch of Meyerbeer’s opera had made
him turn a little pale.

“That nothing may be lacking to this composition,” he went on, “the
great artist has generously added the only _buffo_ duet permissible for
a devil: that in which he tempts the unhappy troubadour. The composer
has set jocosity side by side with horror--a jocosity in which he mocks
at the only realism he had allowed himself amid the sublime imaginings
of his work--the pure calm love of Alice and Raimbaut; and their life is
overshadowed by the forecast of evil.

“None but a lofty soul can feel the noble style of these _buffo_ airs;
they have neither the superabundant frivolity of Italian music nor the
vulgar accent of French commonplace; rather have they the majesty of
Olympus. There is the bitter laughter of a divine being mocking the
surprise of a troubadour Don-Juanizing himself. But for this dignity we
should be too suddenly brought down to the general tone of the opera,
here stamped on that terrible fury of diminished sevenths which resolves
itself into an infernal waltz, and finally brings us face to face with
the demons.

“How emphatically Bertram’s couplet stands out in B minor against that
diabolical chorus, depicting his paternity, but mingling in fearful
despair with these demoniacal strains.

“Then comes the delightful transition of Alice’s reappearance, with
the _ritornel_ in B flat. I can still hear that air of angelical
simplicity--the nightingale after a storm. Thus the grand leading
idea of the whole is worked out in the details; for what could be more
perfectly in contrast with the tumult of devils tossing in the pit than
that wonderful air given to Alice? ‘_Quand j’ai quitte la Normandie_.’

“The golden thread of melody flows on, side by side with the mighty
harmony, like a heavenly hope; it is embroidered on it, and with what
marvelous skill! Genius never lets go of the science that guides it.
Here Alice’s song is in B flat leading into F sharp, the key of the
demon’s chorus. Do you hear the tremolo in the orchestra? The host of
devils clamor for Robert.

“Bertram now reappears, and this is the culminating point of musical
interest; after a _recitative_, worthy of comparison with the finest
work of the great masters, comes the fierce conflict in E flat between
two tremendous forces--one on the words ‘_Oui, tu me connais_!’ on a
diminished seventh; the other, on that sublime F, ‘_Le ciel est avec
moi_.’ Hell and the Crucifix have met for battle. Next we have Bertram
threatening Alice, the most violent pathos ever heard--the Spirit of
Evil expatiating complacently, and, as usual, appealing to personal
interest. Robert’s arrival gives us the magnificent unaccompanied trio
in A flat, the first skirmish between the two rival forces and the man.
And note how clearly that is expressed,” said Gambara, epitomizing the
scene with such passion of expression as startled Andrea.

“All this avalanche of music, from the clash of cymbals in common time,
has been gathering up to this contest of three voices. The magic of evil
triumphs! Alice flies, and you have the duet in D between Bertram and
Robert. The devil sets his talons in the man’s heart; he tears it to
make it his own; he works on every feeling. Honor, hope, eternal and
infinite pleasures--he displays them all. He places him, as he did
Jesus, on the pinnacle of the Temple, and shows him all the treasures of
the earth, the storehouse of sin. He nettles him to flaunt his courage;
and the man’s nobler mind is expressed in his exclamation:

  “Des chevaliers de ma patrie
  L’honneur toujours fut le soutien!

“And finally, to crown the work, the theme comes in which sounded
the note of fatality at the beginning. Thus, the leading strain, the
magnificent call to the deed:

  “Nonnes qui reposez sous cette froide pierre,

“The career of the music, gloriously worked out, is gloriously finished
by the _allegro vivace_ of the bacchanalian chorus in D minor. This,
indeed, is the triumph of hell! Roll on, harmony, and wrap us in
a thousand folds! Roll on, bewitch us! The powers of darkness have
clutched their prey; they hold him while they dance. The great genius,
born to conquer and to reign, is lost! The devils rejoice, misery
stifles genius, passion will wreck the knight!”

And here Gambara improvised a _fantasia_ of his own on the bacchanalian
chorus, with ingenious variations, and humming the air in a melancholy
drone as if to express the secret sufferings he had known.

“Do you hear the heavenly lamentations of neglected love?” he said.
“Isabella calls to Robert above the grand chorus of knights riding forth
to the tournament, in which the _motifs_ of the second act reappear to
make it clear that the third act has all taken place in a supernatural
sphere. This is real life again. This chorus dies away at the approach
of the hellish enchantment brought by Robert with the talisman. The
deviltry of the third act is to be carried on. Here we have the duet
with the viol; the rhythm is highly expressive of the brutal desires of
a man who is omnipotent, and the Princess, by plaintive phrases, tries
to win her lover back to moderation. The musician has here placed
himself in a situation of great difficulty, and has surmounted it in the
loveliest number of the whole opera. How charming is the melody of the
_cavatina ‘Grace pour toi!’_ All the women present understood it well;
each saw herself seized and snatched away on the stage. That part alone
would suffice to make the fortune of the opera. Every woman felt herself
engaged in a struggle with some violent lover. Never was music so
passionate and so dramatic.

“The whole world now rises in arms against the reprobate. This _finale_
may be criticised for its resemblance to that of _Don Giovanni_; but
there is this immense difference: in Isabella we have the expression of
the noblest faith, a true love that will save Robert, for he scornfully
rejects the infernal powers bestowed on him, while Don Giovanni persists
in his unbelief. Moreover, that particular fault is common to every
composer who has written a _finale_ since Mozart. The _finale_ to _Don
Giovanni_ is one of those classic forms that are invented once for all.

“At last religion wins the day, uplifting the voice that governs worlds,
that invites all sorrow to come for consolation, all repentance to be
forgiven and helped.

“The whole house was stirred by the chorus:

  “Malheureaux on coupables
  Hatez-vous d’accourir!

“In the terrific tumult of raving passions, the holy Voice would have
been unheard; but at this critical moment it sounds like thunder; the
divine Catholic Church rises glorious in light. And here I was amazed to
find that after such lavish use of harmonic treasure, the composer
had come upon a new vein with the splendid chorus: ‘_Gloire a la
Providence_’ in the manner of Handel.

“Robert rushes on with his heartrending cry: ‘_Si je pouvais prier_!’
and Bertram, driven by the infernal decree, pursues his son, and makes a
last effort. Alice has called up the vision of the Mother, and now comes
the grand trio to which the whole opera has led up: the triumph of the
soul over matter, of the Spirit of Good over the Spirit of Evil. The
strains of piety prevail over the chorus of hell, and happiness appears
glorious; but here the music is weaker. I only saw a cathedral
instead of hearing a concert of angels in bliss, and a divine prayer
consecrating the union of Robert and Isabella. We ought not to have been
left oppressed by the spells of hell; we ought to emerge with hope in
our heart.

“I, as musician and a Catholic, wanted another prayer like that in
_Mose_. I should have liked to see how Germany would contend with Italy,
what Meyerbeer could do in rivalry with Rossini.

“However, in spite of this trifling blemish, the writer cannot say that
after five hours of such solid music, a Parisian prefers a bit of ribbon
to a musical masterpiece. You heard how the work was applauded; it will
go through five hundred performances! If the French really understand
that music----”

“It is because it expresses ideas,” the Count put in.

“No; it is because it sets forth in a definite shape a picture of the
struggle in which so many perish, and because every individual life is
implicated in it through memory. Ah! I, hapless wretch, should have been
too happy to hear the sound of those heavenly voices I have so often
dreamed of.”

Hereupon Gambara fell into a musical day-dream, improvising the most
lovely melodious and harmonious _cavatina_ that Andrea would ever hear
on earth; a divine strain divinely performed on a theme as exquisite as
that of _O filii et filioe_, but graced with additions such as none but
the loftiest musical genius could devise.

The Count sat lost in keen admiration; the clouds cleared away, the blue
sky opened, figures of angels appeared lifting the veil that hid the
sanctuary, and the light of heaven poured down.

There was a sudden silence.

The Count, surprised at the cessation of the music, looked at Gambara,
who, with fixed gaze, in the attitude of a visionary, murmured the word:

Andrea waited till the composer had descended from the enchanted realm
to which he had soared on the many-hued wings of inspiration, intending
to show him the truth by the light he himself would bring down with him.

“Well,” said he, pouring him out another bumper of wine and clinking
glasses with him, “this German has, you see, written a sublime opera
without troubling himself with theories, while those musicians who write
grammars of harmony may, like literary critics, be atrocious composers.”

“Then you do not like my music?”

“I do not say so. But if, instead of carrying musical principles to an
extreme--which takes you too far--you would simply try to arouse
our feelings, you would be better understood, unless indeed you have
mistaken your vocation. You are a great poet.”

“What,” cried Gambara, “are twenty-five years of study in vain? Am I to
learn the imperfect language of men when I have the key to the heavenly
tongue? Oh, if you are right,--I should die.”

“No, no. You are great and strong; you would begin life again, and I
would support you. We would show the world the noble and rare alliance
of a rich man and an artist in perfect sympathy and understanding.”

“Do you mean it?” asked Gambara, struck with amazement.

“As I have told you, you are a poet more than a musician.”

“A poet, a poet! It is better than nothing. But tell me truly, which do
you esteem most highly, Mozart or Homer?”

“I admire them equally.”

“On your honor?”

“On my honor.”

“H’m! Once more. What do you think of Meyerbeer and Byron?”

“You have measured them by naming them together.”

The Count’s carriage was waiting. The composer and his noble physician
ran down-stairs, and in a few minutes they were with Marianna.

As they went in, Gambara threw himself into his wife’s arms, but she
drew back a step and turned away her head; the husband also drew back
and beamed on the Count.

“Oh, monsieur!” said Gambara in a husky voice, “you might have left me
my illusions.” He hung his head, and then fell.

“What have you done to him? He is dead drunk!” cried Marianna, looking
down at her husband with a mingled expression of pity and disgust.

The Count, with the help of his servant, picked up Gambara and laid him
on his bed.

Then Andrea left, his heart exultant with horrible gladness.

The Count let the usual hour for calling slip past next day, for he
began to fear lest he had duped himself and had made this humble couple
pay too dear for their improved circumstances and added wisdom, since
their peace was destroyed for ever.

At last Giardini came to him with a note from Marianna.

“Come,” she wrote, “the mischief is not so great as you so cruelly meant
it to be.”

“Excellenza,” said the cook, while Andrea was making ready, “you
treated us splendidly last evening. But apart from the wine, which
was excellent, your steward did not put anything on the table that was
worthy to set before a true epicure. You will not deny, I suppose, that
the dish I sent to you on the day when you did me the honor to sit down
at my board, contained the quintessence of all those that disgraced your
magnificent service of plate? And when I awoke this morning I remembered
the promise you once made me of a place as _chef_. Henceforth I consider
myself as a member of your household.”

“I thought of the same thing a few days ago,” replied Andrea. “I
mentioned you to the secretary of the Austrian Embassy, and you have
permission to recross the Alps as soon as you please. I have a castle
in Croatia which I rarely visit. There you may combine the offices of
gate-keeper, butler, and steward, with two hundred crowns a year. Your
wife will have as much for doing all the rest of the work. You may make
all the experiments you please _in anima vili_, that is to say on the
stomach of my vassals. Here is a cheque for your traveling expenses.”

Giardini kissed the Count’s hand after the Neapolitan fashion.

“Excellenza,” said he, “I accept the cheque, but beg to decline the
place. It would dishonor me to give up my art by losing the opinion of
the most perfect epicures, who are certainly to be found in Paris.”

When Andrea arrived at Gambara’s lodgings, the musician rose to welcome

“My generous friend,” said he, with the utmost frankness, “you either
took advantage, last evening, of the weakness of my brain to make a fool
of me, or else your brain is no more capable of standing the test of
the heady liquors of our native Latium, than mine is. I will assume this
latter hypothesis; I would rather doubt your digestion than your heart.
Be this as it may, henceforth I drink no more wine--for ever. The
abuse of good liquor last evening led me into much guilty folly. When I
remember that I very nearly----” He gave a glance of terror at Marianna.
“As to the wretched opera you took me to hear, I have thought it over,
and it is, after all, music written on ordinary lines, a mountain of
piled-up notes, _verba et voces_. It is but the dregs of the nectar
I can drink in deep draughts as I reproduce the heavenly music that I
hear! It is a patchwork of airs of which I could trace the origin. The
passage ‘_Gloire a la Providence_’ is too much like a bit of Handel;
the chorus of knights is closely related to the Scotch air in _La Dame
Blanche_; in short, if this opera is a success, it is because the music
is borrowed from everybody’s--so it ought to be popular.

“I will say good-bye to you, my dear friend. I have had some ideas
seething in my brain since the morning that only wait to soar up to
God on the wings of song, but I wished to see you. Good-bye; I must ask
forgiveness of the Muse. We shall meet at dinner to-night--but no wine;
at any rate, none for me. I am firmly resolved--”

“I give him up!” cried Andrea, flushing red.

“And you restore my sense of conscience,” said Marianna. “I dared not
appeal to it! My friend, my friend, it is no fault of ours; he does not
want to be cured.”

Six years after this, in January 1837, such artists as were so unlucky
as to damage their wind or stringed instruments, generally took them to
the Rue Froid-Manteau, to a squalid and horrible house, where, on the
fifth floor, dwelt an old Italian named Gambara.

For five years past he had been left to himself, deserted by his wife;
he had gone through many misfortunes. An instrument on which he had
relied to make his fortune, and which he called a _Panharmonicon_, had
been sold by order of the Court on the public square, Place du Chatelet,
together with a cartload of music paper scrawled with notes. The day
after the sale, these scores had served in the market to wrap up butter,
fish, and fruit.

Thus the three grand operas of which the poor man would boast, but which
an old Neapolitan cook, who was now but a patcher up of broken meats,
declared to be a heap of nonsense, were scattered throughout Paris on
the trucks of costermongers. But at any rate, the landlord had got his
rent and the bailiffs their expenses.

According to the Neapolitan cook--who warmed up for the street-walkers
of the Rue Froid-Manteau the fragments left from the most sumptuous
dinners in Paris--Signora Gambara had gone off to Italy with a Milanese
nobleman, and no one knew what had become of her. Worn out with
fifteen years of misery, she was very likely ruining the Count by her
extravagant luxury, for they were so devotedly adoring, that in all his
life, Giardini could recall no instance of such a passion.

Towards the end of that very January, one evening when Giardini was
chatting with a girl who had come to buy her supper, about the divine
Marianna--so poor, so beautiful, so heroically devoted, and who had,
nevertheless, “gone the way of them all,” the cook, his wife, and the
street-girl saw coming towards them a woman fearfully thin, with a
sunburned, dusty face; a nervous walking skeleton, looking at the
numbers, and trying to recognize a house.

“_Ecco la Marianna_!” exclaimed the cook.

Marianna recognized Giardini, the erewhile cook, in the poor fellow she
saw, without wondering by what series of disasters he had sunk to keep
a miserable shop for secondhand food. She went in and sat down, for she
had come from Fontainebleau. She had walked fourteen leagues that day,
after begging her bread from Turin to Paris.

She frightened that terrible trio! Of all her wondrous beauty nothing
remained but her fine eyes, dimmed and sunken. The only thing faithful
to her was misfortune.

She was welcomed by the skilled old instrument mender, who greeted her
with unspeakable joy.

“Why, here you are, my poor Marianna!” said he, warmly. “During your
absence they sold up my instrument and my operas.”

It would have been difficult to kill the fatted calf for the return of
the Samaritan, but Giardini contributed the fag end of a salmon, the
trull paid for wine, Gambara produced some bread, Signora Giardini lent
a cloth, and the unfortunates all supped together in the musician’s

When questioned as to her adventures, Marianna would make no reply; she
only raised her beautiful eyes to heaven and whispered to Giardini:

“He married a dancer!”

“And how do you mean to live?” said the girl. “The journey has ruined
you, and----”

“And made me an old woman,” said Marianna. “No, that is not the result
of fatigue or hardship, but of grief.”

“And why did you never send your man here any money?” asked the girl.

Marianna’s only answer was a look, but it went to the woman’s heart.

“She is proud with a vengeance!” she exclaimed. “And much good it has
done her!” she added in Giardini’s ear.

All that year musicians took especial care of their instruments, and
repairs did not bring in enough to enable the poor couple to pay their
way; the wife, too, did not earn much by her needle, and they were
compelled to turn their talents to account in the lowest form of
employment. They would go out together in the dark to the Champs Elysees
and sing duets, which Gambara, poor fellow, accompanied on a wretched
guitar. On the way, Marianna, who on these expeditions covered her head
with a sort of veil of coarse muslin, would take her husband to the
grocer’s shop in the Faubourg Saint-Honore and give him two or three
thimblefuls of brandy to make him tipsy; otherwise he could not play.
Then they would stand up together in front of the smart people sitting
on the chairs, and one of the greatest geniuses of the time, the
unrecognized Orpheus of Modern Music, would perform passages from his
operas--pieces so remarkable that they would extract a few half-pence
from Parisian supineness. When some _dilettante_ of comic operas
happened to be sitting there and did not recognize from what work they
were taken, he would question the woman dressed like a Greek priestess,
who held out a bottle-stand of stamped metal in which she collected

“I say, my dear, what is that music out of?”

“The opera of _Mahomet_,” Marianna would reply.

As Rossini composed an opera called _Mahomet II._, the amateur would say
to his wife, sitting at his side:

“What a pity it is that they will never give us at the Italiens any
operas by Rossini but those we know. That is really fine music!”

And Gambara would smile.

Only a few days since, this unhappy couple had to pay the trifling sum
of thirty-six francs as arrears for rent for the cock-loft in which they
lived resigned. The grocer would not give them credit for the brandy
with which Marianna plied her husband to enable him to play. Gambara
was, consequently, so unendurably bad that the ears of the wealthy were
irresponsive, and the tin bottle-stand remained empty.

It was nine o’clock in the evening. A handsome Italian, the Principessa
Massimilla De Varese, took pity on the poor creatures; she gave them
forty francs and questioned them, discerning from the woman’s thanks
that she was a Venetian. Prince Emilio would know the history of their
woes, and Marianna told it, making no complaints of God or men.

“Madame,” said Gambara, as she ended, for he was sober, “we are
victims of our own superiority. My music is good. But as soon as music
transcends feeling and becomes an idea, only persons of genius should
be the hearers, for they alone are capable of responding to it! It is my
misfortune that I have heard the chorus of angels, and believed that men
could understand the strains. The same thing happens to women when their
love assumes a divine aspect: men cannot understand them.”

This speech was well worth the forty francs bestowed by Massimilla;
she took out a second gold piece, and told Marianna she would write to
Andrea Marcosini.

“Do not write to him, madame!” exclaimed Marianna. “And God grant you to
always be beautiful!”

“Let us provide for them,” said the Princess to her husband; “for this
man has remained faithful to the Ideal which we have killed.”

As he saw the gold pieces, Gambara shed tears; and then a vague
reminiscence of old scientific experiments crossed his mind, and the
hapless composer, as he wiped his eyes, spoke these words, which the
circumstances made pathetic:

“Water is a product of burning.”

PARIS, June 1837.


The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

     Varese, Emilio Memmi, Prince of
       Massimilla Doni

     Varese, Princess of
       Massimilla Doni

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