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Title: The Chartreuse of Parma - Translated from the French of Stendhal (Henri Beyle)
Author: Marie-Henri Beyle (Stendhal)
Language: English
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THE CHARTREUSE OF PARMA



[Illustration: M Beyle (Stendhal)]



[Illustration]

                             THE CHARTREUSE
                                   OF
                                  PARMA

                      Translated from the French of
                         STENDHAL (Henri Beyle)

                                   By
                           THE LADY MARY LOYD

                                NEW YORK
                            D. APPLETON & CO.

                            COPYRIGHT, 1901.
                       BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.

                 Printed in the United States of America



CONTENTS


Transcriber’s Note: This table of contents has been added for the
convenience of the reader.

  LIFE OF STENDHAL          v
  AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION   vii
       CHAPTER I            1
      CHAPTER II           15
     CHAPTER III           36
      CHAPTER IV           53
       CHAPTER V           73
      CHAPTER VI           96
     CHAPTER VII          136
    CHAPTER VIII          155
      CHAPTER IX          171
       CHAPTER X          181
      CHAPTER XI          189
     CHAPTER XII          213
    CHAPTER XIII          227
     CHAPTER XIV          253
      CHAPTER XV          274
     CHAPTER XVI          291
    CHAPTER XVII          308
   CHAPTER XVIII          323
     CHAPTER XIX          343
      CHAPTER XX          360
     CHAPTER XXI          385
    CHAPTER XXII          406
   CHAPTER XXIII          424
    CHAPTER XXIV          446
     CHAPTER XXV          466
    CHAPTER XXVI          486
   CHAPTER XXVII          503
  CHAPTER XXVIII          518



LIFE OF STENDHAL


_MARIE HENRI BEYLE, who called himself STENDHAL, was born at Grenoble
on the 23d of January, 1783. His father, Joseph Chérubin Beyle, was a
lawyer and a member of the parliament of Dauphiné. His childhood and
boyhood, excited by echoes of the Revolution, but repressed in the bosom
of a royalist and conservative family, were turbulent and distressing; in
later years Grenoble was to him “like the recollection of an abominable
indigestion.” He escaped from it in 1799, and spent a short time in the
War Office in Paris. In 1800 he went off to the wars, saw Italy for
the first time, was present at the battle of Marengo, and fought his
first duel at Milan. From 1801 to 1806 Beyle was in Paris and Grenoble,
much occupied with affairs of the heart. In the latter year he entered
Napoleon’s army, and remained in it until after the retreat from Moscow
in 1814. He was made “intendant militaire,” and his zeal commended him
to the Emperor. On one occasion, called upon to raise five million
francs from a German state, Beyle produced seven millions. He seems to
have been one of the few officers who kept their heads in the flood of
disaster; during the retreat from Russia he was always clean-shaved
and perfectly dressed. But the fatigues of 1814 shattered his health,
and the ruin of Napoleon his hopes; he was obliged to withdraw to Como
to recover his composure. He refused an administrative post in Paris
under the new government, and settled definitely at Milan. His career
of violent action had exhausted his spirits; he now adopted the mode
of life of a dilettante. He gave himself up to music, books, and love.
His first work, the “Letters Written from Vienna,” appeared in 1814;
this essay, a musical criticism, was followed in 1817 by the “History of
Italian Painting,” and “Rome, Naples, and Florence.” He became poor, and
in 1821, being suspected of Italianism, was expelled from Milan by the
Austrian police; he took refuge in Paris. Stendhal’s essay on “Love,”
the earliest of his really remarkable books, was published in 1822, but
attracted no attention whatever; in eleven years only seventeen copies
of it were sold. His first novel, “Armance,” belongs to 1827. In 1830
he was appointed consul at Trieste, and while he was there the great
novel, “Le Rouge et le Noir,” appeared in Paris without attracting any
attention. Stendhal was so miserable at Trieste that he contrived to
exchange his consulate for that of Civita Vecchia, which he held until
he died. In spite of the complete and astonishing failures of each of
his successive books, he continued to add to their number. He had but
“one hundred readers” in all Europe, but these he continued to address.
In 1838 he published a mystification, the supposed “Memoirs in France”
of a commercial traveller. Stendhal did not taste literary success in
any degree whatever until, in 1839, and at the age of fifty-six, he
produced “La Chartreuse de Parme.” This novel gave him fame, but he did
not long enjoy it. On the 23d of March, 1842, having reached his sixtieth
year, he died in Paris, after a stroke of paralysis. He lies buried at
Montmartre, under the epitaph, in Italian, which he had written for the
purpose: “Here lies Arrigo Beyle, the Milanese. Lived, Wrote, Died.” The
life of Stendhal was obscure and isolated throughout; but since his death
he has excited boundless curiosity, and his influence has been steadily
advancing. He said of himself that he could afford to wait, that he would
certainly be appreciated in 1880. He proved himself a true prophet, for
it was just forty years after his death that his reputation reached its
highest pinnacle, and that, with the discovery of his Correspondence,
Stendhal entered into his glory._

                                                                  _E. G._



AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION


This novel was written in the year 1830, in a place some three hundred
leagues from Paris. Many years before that, when our armies were pouring
across Europe, I chanced to be billeted in the house of a canon. It
was at Padua—a fortunate city, where, as in Venice, men’s pleasure is
their chief business, and leaves them little time for anger with their
neighbours. My stay was of some duration, and a friendship sprang up
between the canon and myself.

Passing through Padua again, in 1830, I hurried to the good canon’s
house. He was dead, I knew, but I had set my heart on looking once more
upon the room in which we had spent many a pleasant evening, sadly
remembered in later days. I found the canon’s nephew, and his wife, who
both received me like an old friend. A few acquaintances dropped in, and
the party did not break up till a late hour. The nephew had an excellent
_sambaglione_ fetched from the Café Pedrocchi. But what especially caused
us to linger was the story of the Duchess Sanseverina, to which some
chance allusion was made, and the whole of which the nephew was good
enough to relate, for my benefit.

“In the country whither I am bound,” said I to my friends, “I am very
unlikely to find a house like this one. To while away the long evenings
I will write a novel on the life of your charming Duchess Sanseverina.
I will follow in the steps of that old story-teller of yours, Bandello,
Bishop of Agen, who would have thought it a crime to overlook the true
incidents of his tale, or add others to it.”

“In that case,” quoth the nephew, “I will lend you my uncle’s diaries.
Under the head of Parma he mentions some of the court intrigues of that
place, at the period when the influence of the duchess was supreme. But
beware! it is anything but a moral tale, and now that you French people
pique yourselves on your Gospel purity, it may earn you a highly criminal
reputation.”

I send forth my novel without having made any change in the manuscript
written in 1830. This course may present two drawbacks:

The first affects the reader. The characters, being Italian, may not
interest him, for the hearts and souls of that nation are very different
from the hearts and souls of Frenchmen. The Italians are a sincere and
worthy folk, who, except when they are offended, say what they think.
Vanity only attacks them in fits. Then it becomes a passion, and is known
as _puntiglio_. And, further, among this nation poverty is not considered
a cause of ridicule.

The second drawback is connected with the author.

I will avow that I have been bold enough to leave my personages in
possession of the natural roughnesses of their various characters. But to
atone for this—and I proclaim it loudly—I cast blame of the most highly
moral nature upon many of their actions. Where would be the use of my
endowing them with the high morality and pleasing charm of the French,
who love money above every other thing, and are seldom led into sin
either by love or hate? The Italians of my novel are of a very different
stamp. And, indeed, it appears to me that every stage of six hundred
miles northward from the regions of the South brings us to a different
landscape, and to a different kind of novel. The old canon’s charming
niece had known the duchess, and had even been very much attached to her.
She has begged me not to alter anything concerning these adventures of
her friend, which are certainly open to censure.

                                                      _January 23, 1839._



THE CHARTREUSE OF PARMA



CHAPTER I

MILAN IN 1796


On the 15th of May, 1796, General Bonaparte marched into the city of
Milan, at the head of the youthful army which had just crossed the Bridge
of Lodi, and taught the world that, after the lapse of centuries, Cæsar
and Alexander had found a successor at last.

The prodigies of genius and daring witnessed by Italy in the course of a
few months, roused her people from their slumbers. But one week before
the arrival of the French, the Milanese still took them for a horde of
brigands, whose habit it was to fly before the troops of his Royal and
Imperial Majesty. Such, at all events, was the information repeated three
times a week in their little newspaper, no bigger than a man’s hand, and
printed on dirty-looking paper.

In the middle ages, the Milanese had been as brave as the French of the
Revolution, and their courage earned the complete destruction of their
city by the German emperor. But their chief occupation, since they had
become his “_faithful subjects_,” was to print sonnets on pink silk
handkerchiefs whenever any rich or well-born young lady was given in
marriage. Two or three years after that great epoch in her life the
said young lady chose herself a _cavaliere servente_; the name of this
_cicisbeo_, selected by the husband’s family, occasionally held an
honoured place in the marriage contract. Between such effeminate habits
and the deep emotions stirred by the unexpected arrival of the French
army, a great gulf lay. Before long a new and passionate order of things
had supervened. On May 15, 1796, a whole people became aware that all
it had hitherto respected was supremely ridiculous, and occasionally
hateful, to boot. The departure of the last Austrian regiment marked the
downfall of the old ideas. To expose one’s life became the fashionable
thing. People perceived, after these centuries of hypocrisy and
insipidities, that the only chance of happiness lay in loving with
real passion, and knowing how to risk one’s life upon occasion. The
continuance of the watchful despotism of Charles V and Philip II had
plunged the Lombards into impenetrable darkness. They overthrew these
rulers’ statues, and forthwith found themselves bathed in light. For
fifty years, while Voltaire’s Encyclopédie was appearing in France, the
monks had been assuring the good folk of Milan that to learn to read, or
to learn anything on earth, was idle vexation of the spirit, and that if
they would only pay their priest’s dues honestly, and tell him all their
small sins faithfully, they were almost certain to secure a comfortable
place in paradise. To complete the emasculation of this whilom doughty
people, the Austrian had sold them, on moderate terms, the privilege of
not furnishing recruits to the imperial army.

In 1796, the Milanese army consisted of eighty “_facchini_” in red
coats, who kept guard over the town, assisted by four splendid Hungarian
regiments. Morals were exceedingly loose, but real passion excessively
rare. Apart from the inconvenience of being obliged to tell everything
to his priest, the Milanese of the period of 1790 really did not know
the meaning of any vehement desire. The worthy citizens were still
trammelled by certain monarchical bonds, which had their vexatious side.
For instance, the archduke, who resided in the city and governed it in
the Emperor’s name, had pitched on the very lucrative notion of dealing
in corn stuffs. Consequently, no peasant could sell his crops until his
Imperial Highness had filled up his granaries.

In May, 1796, three days after the entry of the French, a young miniature
painter of the name of Gros, rather a mad fellow—he has since become
famous—who had arrived with the troops, heard somebody at the Café dei
Servi, then a fashionable resort, relate the doings of the archduke, who
was a very fat man. Seizing the list of ices, printed on a slip of common
yellowish paper, he sketched on its blank side the portly archduke, with
immoderate quantities of corn, instead of blood, pouring out of the
hole in his stomach, made by a French soldier’s bayonet. In this land
of crafty despotism, that which we call jest or caricature was unknown.
The drawing left by Gros on the _café_ table acted like a miracle from
heaven. During the night the sketch was engraved; on the morrow twenty
thousand copies of it were sold.

That same day the walls were posted with the proclamation of a war tax of
six millions of francs, levied for the support of the French army, which,
though it had just won six battles and conquered twenty provinces, was
short of shoes, pantaloons, coats, and hats.

So great was the volume of happiness and pleasure which poured into
Lombardy with these Frenchmen, poor as they were, that nobody, save
the priests and a few nobles, perceived the weight of the tax, which
was soon followed by many others. The French soldiers laughed and sang
from morning till night. They were all of them under five-and-twenty,
and their general in chief, who numbered twenty-seven years, was said
to be the oldest man in his command. All this youth and mirth and gay
carelessness made cheery answer to the furious sermons of the monks, who
for six months past had been asserting from the pulpit of every sacred
edifice that these Frenchmen were all monsters, forced, on pain of death,
to burn down everything, and cut off every head, and that for this last
purpose a guillotine was borne at the head of every regiment.

In country places the French soldier was to be seen sitting at cottage
doors rocking the owner’s baby; and almost every evening some drummer
would tune up his violin, and dancing would begin. The French square
dances were far too difficult and complicated to be taught to the peasant
women by the soldiers, who, indeed, knew but little about them. So it was
the women who taught the Frenchmen the _monferino_, the _saltarello_,
and other Italian dances.

The officers had been billeted, as far as possible, upon rich families.
They were in sore need of an opportunity to retrieve past losses. A
lieutenant named Robert, for instance, was billeted in the palace of
the Marchesa del Dongo. When this officer, a tolerably handy young
recruit, entered into occupation of his apartment, his sole worldly
wealth consisted of a six-franc piece, which had been paid him at
Piacenza. After the passage of the Bridge of Lodi he had stripped a
handsome Austrian officer, killed by a round shot, of a splendid new pair
of nankeen pantaloons. Never did garment appear at a more appropriate
moment! His officer’s epaulets were woollen, and the cloth of his coat
was sewed to the sleeve linings, to keep the bits together. A yet more
melancholy circumstance was that the soles of his shoes were composed
of portions of hats, picked up on the battle-field beyond the Bridge of
Lodi. These improvised soles were bound to his shoes by strings, which
were aggressively visible—so much so, in fact, that when the major-domo
of the household made his appearance in Robert’s room, to invite him to
dine with the marchesa, the lieutenant was cast into a state of mortal
confusion. He and his orderly spent the two hours intervening before the
dreaded repast in trying to stitch the coat together, and dye the unlucky
shoe-strings with ink. At last the awful moment struck. “Never in all my
life did I feel so uncomfortable,” said Lieutenant Robert to me. “The
ladies thought I was going to frighten them—but I trembled much more than
they! I kept my eyes on my shoes, and could not contrive to move with
ease or grace.

“The Marchesa del Dongo,” he added, “was then in the heyday of her
beauty. You know what she was, with her lovely eyes, angelic in their
gentleness, and the pretty, fair hair, which made so perfect a frame
for the oval of her charming face. In my room there was an Herodia, by
Leonardo da Vinci, which might have been her portrait. God willed that
her supernatural beauty should so overwhelm my senses as to make me
quite forget my own appearance. For two years I had been in the Genoese
mountains, looking at nothing but ugliness and misery. I ventured to say
a few words about my delight.

“But I had too much good sense to dally long with compliments. While I
was making mine, I perceived in a palatial marble dining hall some dozen
lackeys and men servants, dressed in what then appeared to me the height
of magnificence. Think of it! The rascals not only wore good shoes, but
silver buckles into the bargain! Out of the corner of my eye I could
see their stupid gaze riveted on my coat, and perhaps, too—and this
wrung my heart—upon my shoes. With one word I could have terrified the
whole set, but how was I to put them in their place without running the
risk of alarming the ladies? For to give herself a little courage, the
marchesa—she has told me so a hundred times over since—had sent to the
convent, where she was then at school, for her husband’s sister, Gina del
Dongo, who afterward became that charming Contessa Pietranera. No woman
was ever more gay and lovable in prosperity, and none ever surpassed her
in courage and serenity under Fortune’s frowns.

“Gina, who may then have been thirteen, but looked eighteen, frank and
lively, as you know, was so afraid of bursting out laughing at my dress
that she dared not even eat. The marchesa, on the contrary, overwhelmed
me with stiff civilities; she read my impatience and discomfort in my
eyes. In a word, I cut a sorry figure. I was chewing the cud of scorn,
which no Frenchman is supposed to be capable of doing. At last Heaven
sent me a brilliant notion. I began to tell the ladies about my poverty
and the misery we had suffered during those two years in the Genoese
mountains, where the folly of our old generals had kept us. ‘There,’ said
I, ‘they gave us _assignats_ which the people would not take in payment,
and three ounces of bread a day.’ Before I had been talking for two
minutes the kind marchesa’s eyes were full of tears and Gina had grown
quite serious. ‘What, lieutenant!’ she cried, ‘three ounces of bread?’

“‘Yes, mademoiselle. But, on the other hand, the supply failed three
times in the week, and as the peasants with whom we lived were even
poorer than ourselves, we used to give them a little of our bread.’

“When we rose from table I offered the marchesa my arm, escorted her as
far as the drawing-room door, then, hastily retracing my steps, presented
the servant who had waited upon me at dinner with the solitary coin on
the spending of which I had built such castles in the air.

“A week later,” Robert went on, “when it had become quite clear that the
French did not guillotine anybody, the Marchese del Dongo returned from
Grianta, his country house on Lake Como, where he had valiantly taken
refuge when the army drew near, leaving his young and lovely wife and
his sister to the chances of war. The marchese’s hatred of us was only
equalled by his dread. Both were immeasurable. It used to amuse me to see
his large, pale, hypocritical face when he was trying to be polite to me.
The day after his return to Milan I received three ells of cloth and two
hundred francs out of the six millions. I put on fresh plumage and became
the ladies cavalier, for ball giving began.”

Lieutenant Robert’s story was very much that of all the French soldiers.
Instead of laughing at the brave fellows’ poverty, people pitied them and
learned to love them. This period of unforeseen happiness and rapture
lasted only two short years. So excessive and so general was the frolic
that I can not possibly convey an idea of it, unless it be by means of
the following profound historic reflection: This nation had been bored
for a century!

The sensuality natural to southern countries had formerly reigned at the
courts of those famous Milanese dukes, the Sforza and the Visconti. But
since the year 1624, when the Spaniards had seized the province, and held
it under the proud, taciturn, distrustful sway of masters who suspected
revolt in every corner, merriment had fled away, and the populace, aping
its rulers’ habits, was much more prone to avenge the slightest insult
with a dagger thrust, than to enjoy the moment as it passed.

But between May 15, 1796, when the French entered Milan, and April,
1799, when they were driven out of the city by the battle of Cassano,
wild merriment, gaiety, voluptuous pleasure, and oblivion of every sad,
or even rational sentiment, reached such a pitch that old millionaire
merchants, usurers, and notaries were actually quoted by name as having
forgotten their morose and money-getting habits during that period. One
might have found a few families of the highest rank that had retired to
their country places to sulk at the general cheerfulness and universal
joy. And it is a fact, further, that these families had been honoured
with a disagreeable amount of attention by the authorities in charge of
the war tax, levied for the benefit of the French troops.

The Marchese del Dongo, disgusted at the sight of so much gaiety,
had been one of the first to return to his magnificent country seat
at Grianta, beyond Como, whither the ladies of his family conducted
Lieutenant Robert. This castle, standing in what is probably a unique
position, on a plateau some one hundred and fifty feet above the splendid
lake, and commanding a great portion of it, had once been a fortress.
It had been built, as the numerous marble slabs bearing the family arms
attested, during the fifteenth century. The drawbridges were still to
be seen, and the deep moats—now dry, to be sure. Still, with its walls
eighty feet high and six feet thick, the castle was safe from a _coup
de main_, and this fact endeared it to the suspicious marchese. Living
there, surrounded by five-and-twenty or thirty servants, whom he believed
to be devoted to him—apparently because he never spoke to them without
abusing them—he was less harried by fear than at Milan.

This alarm was not entirely unwarranted. The marchese was in active
correspondence with an Austrian spy stationed on the Swiss frontier,
three leagues from Grianta, to assist the escape of prisoners taken in
battle, and the French generals might have taken this exchange of notes
very seriously.

The marchese had left his young wife at Milan to manage the family
affairs. She it was who had to find means of supplying the contributions
levied on the Casa del Dongo, as it was locally called, and to endeavour
to get them reduced, which involved the necessity of her seeing
the noblemen who had accepted public positions, and even some very
influential persons who were not noble at all. A great event occurred in
the family. The marchese had arranged a marriage for his young sister
Gina with a gentleman of great wealth and the very highest descent.
But he powdered his head. Wherefore Gina received him with shrieks of
laughter, and shortly committed the folly of marrying Count Pietranera.
He, too, was a high-born gentleman, and very good-looking as well, but he
was ruined, as his father had been before him, and—crowning disgrace!—he
was an eager partisan of the modern ideas! The marchese’s despair was
completed by the fact that Pietranera was a lieutenant in the Italian
Legion.

After two years of extravagance and bliss, the Paris Directorate, which
took on all the airs of a well-established sovereignty, began to manifest
a mortal hatred of everything that rose above mediocrity. The incapable
generals sent to the Army of Italy lost a series of battles on those very
plains of Verona which but two years previously had witnessed the feats
of Arcola and Lonato. The Austrians approached Milan; Lieutenant Robert,
now a major, was wounded at the battle of Cassano, and came back for the
last time to the house of his friend the Marchesa del Dongo. It was a sad
farewell. Robert departed with Count Pietranera, who was following the
French retreat on Novi. The young countess, whose brother had refused to
give up her fortune, followed the retreating army in a cart.

Then began that period of reaction and return to the old ideas which the
Milanese call “_i tredici mesi_” (the thirteen months) because their
lucky star did not permit this relapse into imbecility to last beyond the
battle of Marengo. Everything that was old, bigoted, morose, and gloomy
came back to the head of affairs and of society. Before long, those who
had remained faithful to the old order were telling the villagers that
Napoleon had met the fate he so richly deserved, and had been hanged by
the Mamelukes in Egypt.

Among the men who had retired to sulk in their country houses, and
who now came back, thirsting for vengeance, the Marchese del Dongo
distinguished himself by his eagerness. His zeal naturally bore him
to the head of the party. The gentlemen composing it, very amiable
fellows when they were not in a fright, but who were still in a state of
trepidation, contrived to circumvent the Austrian general, who, though
rather of a kindly disposition, allowed himself to be persuaded that
severity was a mark of statesmanship, and ordered the arrest of a hundred
and fifty patriots. They were the best men Italy then possessed.

Soon they were all deported to the Bocche de Cattaro, and cast into
subterranean dungeons, where damp and, especially, starvation wreaked
prompt and thorough justice on the villains.

The Marchese del Dongo was appointed to an important post; and as the
meanest avarice accompanied his numerous other noble qualities, he
publicly boasted that he had not sent a single crown to his sister,
the Countess Pietranera. This lady, still fathoms deep in love, would
not forsake her husband, and was starving with him in France. The
kind-hearted marchesa was in despair. At last she contrived to abstract a
few small diamonds from her jewel-case, which her husband took from her
every night and locked up in an iron box under his bed. She had brought
him a dowry of eight hundred thousand francs, and he allowed her eighty
francs a month for her personal expenses. During the thirteen months of
the absence of the French from Milan, this woman, timid as she was, found
pretexts of one sort or another which enabled her always to dress in
black.

It must be confessed here that, after the example of many serious
authors, we have begun the story of our hero a year before his birth.
This important personage is no other, in fact, than Fabrizio Valserra,
Marchesino del Dongo, as he would be called at Milan.[1] He had just
condescended to come into the world when the French were driven out,
the chances of his birth making him the second son of that most noble
Marchese del Dongo, with whose large, pallid countenance, deceitful
smile, and boundless hatred of the new order of ideas, my readers are
already acquainted. The whole of the family fortune was entailed on the
eldest boy, Ascanio del Dongo, the perfect image of his father. He was
eight years old, and Fabrizio two, when, like a flash, that General
Bonaparte whom all well-born folk believed to have been hanged long
since, descended from Mount St. Bernard. He made his entry into Milan;
the event is still unique in history. Conceive a whole population over
head and ears in love! A few days later Napoleon won the battle of
Marengo. I need not tell the rest. The rapture of the Milanese overflowed
the cup. But this time it was mingled with thoughts of vengeance. A
good-natured folk had been taught to hate. Soon the remnant of the
patriots exiled to Cattaro reappeared, and their return was celebrated
by national festivities. Their pale faces, great startled eyes, and
emaciated limbs, contrasted strangely with the joy that reigned on
every side. Their arrival was the signal for the departure of the
families most concerned in their banishment. The Marchese del Dongo
was one of the first to flee to his house at Grianta. The heads of the
great families were filled with rage and terror, but their wives and
daughters, remembering the delights of the first French occupation,
sighed regretfully for Milan and the gay balls which, once Marengo was
over, were given at the Casa Tanzi. A few days after the victory the
French general charged with the duty of maintaining quiet in Lombardy
became aware that all the tenants of the noble families, and all the old
women in the country, far from dwelling on the wonderful victory which
had changed the fate of Italy, and reconquered thirteen fortresses in
one day, were thinking of nothing but the prophecy of San Giovità, the
chief patron saint of Brescia, according to which sacred pronouncement
the prosperity of Napoleon and of the French nation was to end just
thirteen weeks after Marengo. Some slight excuse for the Marchese del
Dongo and all the sulky country nobility is to be found in the fact that
they really and truly did believe in this prophecy. None of these people
had read four books in his life. They openly prepared to return to Milan
at the end of the thirteenth week, but as time went on, it was marked by
fresh successes on the French side. Napoleon, who had returned to Paris,
saved the revolution from within by his wise decrees, even as he had
saved it from foreign attack at Marengo. Then the Lombard nobles in their
country refuges discovered that they had misunderstood the prediction of
the patron saint of Brescia. He must have meant thirteen months instead
of thirteen weeks! But the thirteen months slipped by, and the prosperity
of France seemed to rise higher day by day.

We pass over the ten years of happiness and progress between 1800 and
1810. Fabrizio spent the earliest of them at Grianta, where he dealt
out many hard knocks among the little peasant boys, and received them
back with interest, but learned nothing—not even to read. Later he was
sent to the Jesuit school at Milan. The marchese, his father, insisted
that he should learn Latin, not out of those ancient authors who are
always holding forth about republics, but out of a splendid tome
enriched with more than a hundred and fifty engravings, a masterpiece of
seventeenth-century art, the Latin Genealogy of the Valserra, Marchesi
del Dongo, published by Fabrizio del Dongo, Archbishop of Parma, in the
year 1650. The Valserra were essentially a fighting race, and these
engravings represented numerous battles, in which some hero of the name
was always depicted as laying about mightily with his sword.

This book was a great delight to young Fabrizio. His mother, who adored
him, was allowed now and then to go to Milan to see him, but her husband
never offered to pay the cost of these journeys. The money was always
lent her by her sister-in-law, the charming Countess Pietranera, who,
after the return of the French, had become one of the most brilliant of
the ladies at the court of the Viceroy of Italy, Prince Eugène.

After Fabrizio had made his first communion, the countess persuaded
the marchese, who still lived in voluntary exile, to allow the boy to
pay her occasional visits. He struck her as being out of the common,
clever, very serious, but handsome, and no discredit to a fashionable
lady’s drawing-room—though he was utterly ignorant, and hardly knew how
to write. The countess, who carried her characteristic enthusiasm into
everything she did, promised her protection to the head of the Jesuit
house if only her nephew Fabrizio made astonishing progress in his
studies, and won several prizes at the close of the year. To put him in
the way of earning such rewards, she sent for him every Saturday night,
and frequently did not restore him to his teachers till the Wednesday
or Thursday following. Though the Jesuits were tenderly cherished by
the Viceroy, their presence in Italy was forbidden by the laws of the
kingdom, and the Superior of the college, a clever man, realized all
the benefits that might accrue from his relations with a lady who
was all-powerful at court. He was too wise to complain of Fabrizio’s
absences, and at the end of the year five first prizes were conferred on
the youth, who was more ignorant than ever. In the circumstances, the
brilliant Countess Pietranera, attended by her husband, then general in
command of one of the divisions of the Guard, and five or six of the most
important personages about the Viceroy’s court, attended the distribution
of prizes in the Jesuit school. The Superior received the congratulations
of the heads of his order.

The countess was in the habit of taking her nephew to all the gay fêtes
which enlivened the kindly Viceroy’s too short reign. She had made him
an officer of hussars, on her own authority, and the twelve-year-old
boy wore his uniform. One day the countess, delighted with his handsome
looks, asked the prince to make him a page, which would have been
tantamount, of course, to an acknowledgment of adherence to the new order
of things of the Del Dongo family. The next morning she was fain to use
all her influence to induce the Viceroy kindly to forget her request,
which lacked nothing but the consent of the father of the future page—a
consent which would have been loudly refused. As a result of this piece
of folly, which made him shiver, the sulky marchese coined some pretext
for recalling young Fabrizio to Grianta. The countess nursed a sovereign
contempt for her brother, whom she regarded as a dreary fool, who would
be spiteful if he ever had the power. But she doted on Fabrizio, and
after ten years of silence she wrote to the marchese, to beg that she
might have her nephew with her. Her letter remained unanswered.

When Fabrizio returned to the formidable pile built by the most warlike
of his ancestors he knew nothing about anything in the world except
drill, and riding on horseback. Count Pietranera, who had been as fond of
the child as his wife, had taught him to ride, and taken him with him on
parade.

When the boy reached Grianta, with eyes still reddened by the tears he
had shed on leaving his aunt’s splendid apartments, his only greeting was
that of his mother, who covered him with passionate caresses, and of his
sisters. The marchese was shut up in his study with his eldest son, the
Marchesino Ascanio. They were busy writing letters in cipher, which were
to have the honour of being sent to Vienna, and they were only visible
at mealtimes. The marchese ostentatiously declared that he was teaching
his natural successor to keep the accounts of the revenues of each of
his estates by double entry, but in reality he was far too jealous by
nature to mention such matters to the son on whom these properties were
absolutely entailed. He really employed him to translate into cipher
the despatches of fifteen or twenty pages which he sent, two or three
times a week, across the Swiss frontier, whence they were conveyed to
Vienna. The marchese claimed that he thus kept his legitimate sovereign
informed as to the internal conditions of the kingdom of Italy—a subject
about which he himself knew nothing at all. His letters, however, won
him great credit, and for the following reason: He was in the habit of
employing some trusty agent to count up the numbers of any French or
Italian regiment that marched along the high-road when changing its place
of garrison, and in making his report to Vienna he always carefully
diminished the number of men reported present by a full fourth. These
letters, then, ridiculous as they otherwise were, had the merit of
contradicting others of a more truthful nature, and thus gave pleasure
in high quarters. Consequently, not long before Fabrizio’s return to
Grianta, the marchese had received the star of a famous order—the fifth
that adorned his chamberlain’s coat. It is true, indeed, that he had to
endure the grief of never wearing the said coat outside the walls of
his own study, but, on the other hand, he never ventured to dictate any
despatch without first enduing his person with the richly embroidered
garment, hung with all his orders. Any other course would have seemed to
him a failure in respect.

The marchesa was delighted with her boy’s charms. But she had kept up the
habit of writing, twice or thrice in the year, to General Comte d’A⸺ (the
name then borne by Lieutenant Robert). She had a horror of lying to those
she loved; she questioned her son, and was startled by his ignorance.

“If,” she argued, “he appears ill-instructed to me, who know nothing,
Robert, who knows so much, would think his education an utter failure;
and nowadays some merit is indispensable to success!” Another
peculiarity, which almost equally astounded her, was that Fabrizio
had taken all the religious teaching given him by the Jesuits quite
seriously. Though herself a very pious woman, her child’s fanaticism
made her shiver. “If the marchese has the sense to suspect this means of
influencing my son, he will rob me of his love!” She wept many tears, and
her passionate love for Fabrizio deepened.

Life in the great country house, with its thirty or forty servants, was
very dull; and Fabrizio spent all his days hunting, or skimming over
the waters of the lake in a boat. He was soon the sworn ally of all the
coachmen and stable assistants—every one of them a vehement partisan of
the French—who made open sport of the highly religious valets attached
to the persons of the marchese and his elder son. The great joke against
these individuals was that, like their masters, they wore powder in their
hair.

[1] The habit of the country, borrowed from that of Germany, is that all
the sons of a marchese should be called _marchesino_. The son of a count
is known as _contino_; each of his daughters is a _contessina_.



CHAPTER II

    … “Alors que Vesper vient embrunir nos yeux
    Tout épris de l’avenir, je contemple les cieux,
    En qui Dieu nous escrit, par notes non obscures
    Les sorts et les destins de toutes créatures.
    Car lui, du fond des cieux regardant un humain,
    Parfois, mû de pitié, lui montre le chemin;
    Par les astres du ciel, qui sont ses caractères,
    Les choses nous prèdit, et bonnes et contraires;
    Mais les hommes, chargés de terre et de trépas,
    Méprisent tel écrit, et ne le lisent pas.”—_Ronsard._


The marchese professed a hearty hatred of knowledge. “Ideas,” he said,
“have been the ruin of Italy.” He was somewhat puzzled to reconcile this
holy horror of information with his desire that Fabrizio should perfect
the education so brilliantly begun under the auspices of the Jesuits.

To minimize the risk as far as possible, he commissioned the worthy
priest of Grianta, Father Blanès, to carry on the boy’s Latin studies.
To this end the priest should himself have been acquainted with the
language. But he thoroughly despised it. His knowledge of it was
restricted to the prayers in his missal, which he knew by rote, and
the sense of which, or something near it, he was capable of imparting
to his flock. None the less was the father respected, and even feared,
all over the canton. He had always averred that the famous prophecy
of San Giovità, patron saint of Brescia, would not be accomplished
either in thirteen weeks or thirteen months. He would confide to his
trusted friends that if he dared speak openly he could give the proper
interpretation of the number _thirteen_, and that it would cause general
astonishment (1813).

The fact is that Father Blanès—a man of primitive virtue and honesty, and
a clever one into the bargain—spent most of his nights on the top of his
church tower. He had a mania for astrology, and, after calculating the
positions and conjunctions of the stars all day, would pass the greater
part of his nights in tracing them in the sky. So poor was he that his
only instrument was a telescope with a long cardboard tube. My reader
will conceive the scorn for linguistic study nursed by a man who spent
his life in discovering the precise moment at which empires were to fall,
and revolutions, destined to change the face of the whole world, were to
begin. “What more do I know about a horse,” he would say to Fabrizio,
“because somebody tells me its Latin name is _Equus_?”

The peasants dreaded the priest as a mighty magician, and he, through
the fear inspired by his tarryings on the top of his tower, prevented
them from thieving. His brother priests of the neighbouring parishes
envied him his influence, and hated him accordingly. The marchese frankly
despised him, because he reasoned too much for a person in so humble a
position. Fabrizio worshipped him. To please him he would sometimes spend
whole evenings over huge sums in addition or multiplication. And then he
would climb up into the tower. This was a great favour—one the priest had
never bestowed on any other person. But he loved the boy for the sake of
his simplicity. “If you don’t become a hypocrite,” he would say, “you may
turn into a man!”

Twice or thrice in every year, Fabrizio, who was bold and passionate in
the pursuit of his pleasures, ran serious risks of drowning in the lake.
He was the head and front of all the great expeditions of the peasant
boys of Grianta and Cadenabbia. These urchins had provided themselves
with a collection of small keys, and when the very dark nights came, they
did their best to open the padlocks on the chains by which the fishermen
moored their boats to some big stone or tree close to the shore. It must
be explained that on the Lake of Como the fisherman puts down his lines
at a considerable distance from the edge of the lake. The upper end of
each line is fastened to a lath lined with cork, to which is fixed a very
flexible hazel rod bearing a little bell, which tinkles as soon as the
fish takes the bait and shakes the float.

The great object of the nocturnal raids, in which Fabrizio acted as
commander in chief, was to get to these lines before the fishermen heard
the tinkling of their little bells. The boys chose stormy seasons, and
embarked on their risky enterprises early in the morning, an hour before
dawn. They felt convinced, when they got into their boats, that they were
rushing into terrible danger—this constituted the splendid aspect of
their undertaking—and, like their fathers, they always devoutly recited
an _Ave Maria_. Now, it frequently would happen that at the very moment
of the start, and the instant after the recital of the _Ave Maria_,
Fabrizio would be struck by an omen. This was the fruit, as affecting
him, of his friend the priest’s astrology, in the actual predictions of
which he had no belief at all. To his juvenile imagination these omens
were a certain indication of success or failure, and as he was more
resolute than any of his comrades, the whole band gradually grew so
accustomed to accept such signs that if, just as the boat was shoving
off, a priest was seen on the coast line, or a raven flew away on the
left, the padlock was hastily put back upon the chain and every boy went
home to bed. Thus, though Father Blanès had not imparted his somewhat
recondite science to Fabrizio, he had imbued him, all unconsciously, with
an unlimited confidence in those signs and portents which may unveil the
future.

The marchese was conscious that an accident to his secret correspondence
might place him at his sister’s mercy. Every year, therefore, when the
St. Angela (the Countess Pietranera’s feast day) came around, Fabrizio
was allowed to spend a week at Milan. All through the year he lived on
the hope, or the regretful memory, of those seven days. On so great
an occasion, and to defray the expenses of this politic journey, the
marchese would give his son four crowns. To his wife, who went with the
boy, he gave, as usual, nothing at all. But a cook, six lackeys, and
a coachman and pair of horses started for Como the night before the
travellers, and while the marchesa was at Milan her carriage was at her
disposal, and dinner for twelve persons was served every day.

The sullen retirement in which the Marchese del Dongo elected to
live was certainly not an amusing form of existence. But it had one
advantage, that of permanently enriching the coffers of the families
who chose to adopt it. The marchese owned a revenue of more than two
hundred thousand francs; he did not spend a quarter of it. He lived on
hope. During the years between 1800 and 1813 he remained in the firm
and unceasing expectation that Napoleon would be overthrown before the
next six months were out. His joy when he received the news of the
catastrophe of the Beresina, in the spring of 1813, may consequently be
imagined. The capture of Paris and the fall of Napoleon almost drove
him wild with joy, and he ventured on behaviour of the most insulting
nature, both to his wife and his sister. At last, after fourteen years
of waiting, he tasted the inexpressible delight of seeing the Austrian
troops re-enter Milan. The general in command, obeying orders sent from
Vienna, received the Marchese del Dongo with a courtesy which almost
amounted to respect. One of the highest offices connected with the
Government was at once offered him, and he accepted it as the discharge
of a just debt. His eldest son was made a lieutenant in one of the finest
of the imperial regiments, but Fabrizio would never have anything to do
with the cadet’s commission which was offered for his acceptance. The
marchese’s triumph, which he enjoyed with peculiar insolence, lasted but
a few months, and was followed by a most humiliating reverse. He had
never possessed any business aptitude, and his fourteen years of country
life, surrounded by his servants, his notary, and his doctor, coupled
with the ill humour which had crept upon him with advancing years, had
developed his incapacity to the extremest point. In Austria no important
post can be held for long by any person lacking that particular talent
demanded by the slow and complicated, but essentially logical, system
of administration peculiar to that ancient monarchy. The marchese’s
blunders scandalized the clerks of his department, and even hampered the
progress of business, while his ultra-monarchical vapourings irritated
a populace which it was important to lull back into its former state
of slumbrous indifference. So, one fine day, he was informed that
his Majesty was graciously pleased to accept his resignation of his
office, and simultaneously appointed him second grand major-domo of the
Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom. The marchese was furious at the abominable
injustice of which he was the victim. In spite of his horror of the free
press, he printed a Letter to a Friend. Then he wrote to the Emperor,
assuring his Majesty that his ministers were playing him false, and were
no better than Jacobins. This done, he betook himself sadly back to his
home at Grianta. One consolation he possessed. After the downfall of
Napoleon certain powerful individuals at Milan had organized a brutal
attack on Count Prina, a man of first-class worth, who had acted as
minister in the service of the King of Italy. Pietranera risked his own
life to save that of the unhappy man, who was thrashed to death with
umbrellas, and lingered in agony for five hours. If a certain priest,
the Marchese del Dongo’s own confessor, had chosen to open the iron gate
of the Church of San Giovanni, in front of which Prina had been dragged
(and, indeed, he had at one moment been left lying in the gutter running
along the middle of the street), the victim might have been saved. But
the cleric scornfully refused to unlock the gate, and within six months
his patron enjoyed the happiness of securing him a handsome piece of
preferment.

The marchese detested his brother-in-law, Count Pietranera, who, though
his yearly income did not amount to fifty louis, dared to be fairly
merry, ventured to cling faithfully to that which he had loved all his
life, and was so insolent as to proclaim that spirit of impersonal
justice which Del Dongo was pleased to define as vile Jacobinism. The
count had refused to enter the Austrian service. The attention of the
authorities was drawn to this refusal on his part, and a few months
after the death of Prina the same men who had paid for his assassination
procured an order for the imprisonment of General Pietranera. Upon this,
his wife sent for a passport and ordered post horses to take her to
Vienna, so that she might tell the Emperor the truth. Prina’s assassins
took fright, and at midnight, just one hour before the countess was to
have started for Vienna, one of them, a cousin of her own, brought her
the order for her husband’s release. The following morning the Austrian
general sent for Count Pietranera, received him with every possible
respect, and assured him that his retiring pension would shortly be paid
on the most satisfactory scale. The worthy General Bubna, who was both
a clever and a kind-hearted man, looked thoroughly ashamed of Prina’s
murder and the count’s imprisonment.

After this angry squall had blown over, calmed by Countess Pietranera’s
firmness, the couple lived in tolerable comfort on the retiring pension,
which, thanks to General Bubna’s influence, was shortly granted them.

It was a fortunate circumstance that for five or six years previously
the countess had lived on terms of great friendship with an exceedingly
wealthy young man, who was also her husband’s intimate friend, and who
placed the finest pair of English horses then to be seen at Milan,
his box at the Scala Theatre, and his country house entirely at their
service. But the count was conscious of his own valour; he had a generous
soul, he was easily moved to anger, and on such occasions indulged in
somewhat unusual behaviour. He was out hunting one day with some young
men, when one of them, who had served under a different flag, ventured
on some joke concerning the courage of the soldiers of the Cisalpine
Republic. The count boxed his ears, there was a fracas then and there,
and Pietranera, whose opinion found no support among the company present,
was killed. This duel, if so it could be called, made a great stir; the
persons concerned in it found it more prudent to journey into Switzerland.

That ridiculous kind of courage which men entitle resignation—the
courage of the fool, who allows himself to be hanged without opening
his lips—was not a quality possessed by the countess. In her rage at
her husband’s death she would have had Limercati, the wealthy young man
who was her faithful adorer, instantly take his way to Switzerland, and
there punish Pietranera’s murderer either with a rifle bullet or with a
hearty cuffing. But Limercati regarded the plan as simply ridiculous, and
forthwith the countess realized that, in her case, love had been killed
by scorn.

She grew kinder than ever to Limercati. Her aim was to rekindle his
love, and that done, to forsake him and leave him in despair. To explain
this plan of vengeance to the French mind, I should say that in Milan, a
country far distant from our own, love does still drive men to despair.
The countess, whose beauty, heightened by her mourning robes, eclipsed
that of all her rivals, set herself to coquette with the best-born young
men of the city, and one of them, Count N⸺, who had always said that
Limercati’s qualities struck him as being too heavy and stiff to attract
so brilliant a woman, fell desperately in love with her. Then she wrote
to Limercati:

    “Would you like to behave, for once, like a clever man? Imagine
    that you have never known me. I am, with a touch of scorn,
    perhaps,

                    “Your very humble servant,

                                                  “GINA PIETRANERA.”

When Limercati received this note he departed to one of his country
houses; his passion blazed, he lost his head, and talked of shooting
himself—an unusual course in countries which acknowledge the existence of
a hell.

The very morning after his arrival in the country he wrote to the
countess to offer her his hand and his two hundred thousand francs a
year. She sent him back his letter, with the seal unbroken, by Count
N⸺’s groom; whereupon Limercati spent three years on his estates, coming
back to Milan every two months, but never finding courage to stay there,
and boring all his friends with the story of his passionate adoration of
the lady and the circumstantial recital of the favour she had formerly
shown him. In the earlier months of this period he added that Count N⸺
would ruin her, and that she dishonoured herself by contracting such an
intimacy.

As a matter of fact, the countess had no love of any kind for N⸺, and
of this fact she apprised him as soon as she was quite certain of
Limercati’s despair. The count, who knew the world, only begged her not
to divulge the sad truth she had confided to him. “If,” he added, “you
will have the extreme kindness to continue receiving me with all the
external distinctions generally granted to the reigning lover, I may,
perhaps, attain a suitable position.”

After this heroic declaration the countess would make no further use
of Count N⸺’s horses and opera box. But for fifteen years she had been
accustomed to a life of the greatest ease. She was now driven to solve
the difficult, or rather impossible, problem of living at Milan on a
yearly pension of fifteen hundred francs. She quitted her palace, hired
two fifth-floor rooms, and dismissed all her servants, even to her maid,
whom she replaced by a poor old char-woman. The sacrifice was really
less heroic and less painful than it appears. No ridicule attaches to
poverty in Milan, and therefore people do not shrink from it in terror,
as the worst of all possible evils. After some months spent in this
proud penury, bombarded by perpetual letters from Limercati, and even
from Count N⸺, who also desired to marry her, it came to pass that the
Marchese del Dongo, whose stinginess was usually abominable, was struck
by the notion that his own enemies might perhaps be rejoicing over his
sister’s sufferings. What! Was a Del Dongo to be reduced to existing on
the pension granted by the Viennese court, against which he had so great
a grievance, to its generals’ widows?

He wrote that an apartment and an income worthy of his sister awaited
her at Grianta. The versatile-minded countess welcomed the idea of this
new life with enthusiasm. It was twenty years since she had lived in the
venerable pile which rose so proudly among the old chestnut trees planted
in the days of the Sforzas. “There,” she reflected, “I shall find peace;
and at my age, is that not happiness?” (As she had arrived at the age of
one-and-thirty, she believed that the hour of her retirement had struck.)
“I shall find a happy and peaceful life at last, on the shores of the
noble lake beside which I was born.”

Whether she was mistaken I know not, but it is certain that this
eager-hearted creature, who had just so unhesitatingly refused two huge
fortunes, carried happiness with her into the Castle of Grianta. Her
two nieces were beside themselves with delight. “You have brought the
beautiful days of my youth back to me!” said the marchesa as she kissed
her. “The night before you arrived I felt a hundred years old.”

In Fabrizio’s company the countess went about revisiting all those
enchanting spots near Grianta which travellers have made so famous:
the Villa Melzi, on the other side of the lake, opposite the castle,
and one of the chief objects in the view therefrom; the sacred wood
of the Sfondrata; and the bold promontory which divides the branches
of the lake, that of Como, so rich in its beauty, and that which runs
toward Lecco, of aspect far more severe—a sublime and graceful prospect,
equalled, perhaps, but not surpassed, by the most famous view in all the
world, that of the Bay of Naples. The countess found the most exquisite
delight in calling up memories of her early days, and comparing them with
her present sensations. “The Lake of Como,” she said to herself, “is not
hemmed in, like the Lake of Geneva, by great tracts of land, carefully
hedged and cultivated on the best system, reminding one of money and
speculation. Here, on every side, I see hills of unequal height, covered
with clumps of trees, growing as chance has scattered them, and which
have not yet been ruined, and forced to bring in an income, by the hand
of man. Amid these hills, with their beautiful shapes and their curious
slopes that drop toward the lake, I can carry on all the illusions of
the descriptions of Tasso and Ariosto. It is all noble and tender, it
all speaks of love; nothing recalls the hideousness of civilization. The
villages set half-way up the hills are sheltered by great trees, and
above the tree tops rise the charming outlines of their pretty church
spires. Where some little field, fifty paces wide, shows itself here and
there among the chestnuts and wild-cherry trees my pleased eye notes
plants of more vigorous and willing growth than can be seen elsewhere.
Beyond the hills, on whose deserted crests a happy hermit existence
might be spent, the wondering eye rests on the Alpine peaks, covered
with eternal snows, and their stern severity reminds one sufficiently
of life’s misfortunes, to increase one’s sense of present delight. The
imagination is stirred by the distant sound of the church bells of some
little village hidden among the trees. Their tone softens as it floats
over the water, with a touch of gentle melancholy and resignation,
which seems to say, ‘Life slips by. Do not, then, look so coldly on the
happiness that comes to you. Make haste to enjoy.’”

The influence of these enchanting spots, unequalled on earth for
loveliness, made the countess feel a girl once more. She could not
conceive how she had been able to spend so many years without returning
to the lake. “Can it be,” she wondered, “that true happiness belongs to
the beginning of old age?” She purchased a boat, and adorned it with
her own hands, assisted by Fabrizio and the marchesa, for no money was
to be had, though the household was kept up with the utmost splendour.
Since his fall the Marchese del Dongo had doubled his magnificence. For
instance, to gain ten paces of ground on the shore of the lake, close
to the famous avenue of plane trees leading toward Cadenabbia, he was
building an embankment which was to cost eighty thousand francs. At the
end of this embankment was rising a chapel, constructed entirely of
enormous blocks of granite, after drawings by the celebrated Cagnola,
and within the chapel, Marchesi, the fashionable Milanese sculptor, was
erecting a tomb on which the noble deeds of the marchese’s ancestors were
to be represented in numerous bas-reliefs.

Fabrizio’s elder brother, the Marchesino Ascanio, tried to join the
ladies in their expeditions, but his aunt splashed water over his
powdered head, and was forever playing some fresh prank on his solemnity.
At last he relieved the merry party of the sight of his heavy sallow
countenance. They dared not laugh when he was present, feeling that he
was the spy of the marchese, his father, and that it was wise to keep on
terms with the stern despot, who had never recovered his temper since his
forced resignation.

Ascanio swore to be avenged on Fabrizio.

One day there was a storm, and the boat was in some danger. Though money
was scarce enough, the two boatmen were liberally bribed to prevent their
saying anything to the marchese, who was very angry already because his
daughters had been taken out. Then came a second hurricane. On this
beautiful lake storms are both terrible and unexpected. Violent squalls
sweep suddenly down the mountain gorges on opposite sides of the shore,
and battle over the water. This time, in the midst of the whirlwind and
the thunderclaps, the countess insisted on landing; she declared that
if she could stand on a lonely rock, as large as a small room, which
lay in the middle of the lake, she would enjoy a strange spectacle, and
see her stronghold lashed on every side by the furious waves. But, as
she sprang from the boat, she fell into the water. Fabrizio plunged in
after her, and they were both carried a considerable distance. Drowning
is certainly not an attractive death, but boredom, at all events, fled
astonished from the feudal castle. The countess had fallen in love with
Father Blanès’s primitive qualities, and astrological studies. The little
money remaining to her after the purchase of her boat had been spent on
a small second-hand telescope, and almost every night she mounted, with
Fabrizio and her nieces, to the top of one of the Gothic towers of the
castle. Fabrizio was the learned member of the party, which would thus
spend several very cheerful hours, far from prying eyes.

It must be acknowledged that there were days during which the countess
never spoke to anybody, and might be seen walking up and down under the
great chestnut trees, plunged in gloomy reverie. She was too clever a
woman not to suffer, now and then, from the weariness of never being able
to exchange an idea. But the next day she would be laughing again, as she
had laughed the day before. It was the lamentations of her sister-in-law
which occasionally cast a gloom over her naturally elastic nature. “Are
we doomed to spend all the youth left to us in this dreary house?” the
marchesa would cry. Before the arrival of the countess she had not even
had courage to feel such repinings.

Thus the winter of 1814 to 1815 wore on. Twice, in spite of her
poverty, did the countess spend a few days in Milan. She went to see a
magnificent ballet by Vigano, produced at the Scala, and the marchese
did not forbid his wife to accompany her sister-in-law. The quarterly
payments of the little pension were drawn, and it was the poor widow of
the Cisalpine general who lent a few sequins to the wealthy Marchesa del
Dongo. These expeditions were delightful; the ladies invited their old
friends to dinner, and consoled themselves by laughing at everything,
like real children. Their light-hearted Italian gaiety helped them to
forget the melancholy gloom which the marchese and his elder son shed
over everything at Grianta. Fabrizio, then hardly sixteen years old,
represented the head of the family in a very satisfactory manner.

On the 17th of March, 1815, the ladies, very lately returned from a
delightful little trip to Milan, were walking up and down under the fine
avenue of plane trees which had lately been extended down to the very
edge of the lake. A boat appeared, coming from the direction of Como, and
made some peculiar signals. One of the marchese’s agents sprang ashore.
Napoleon had just landed in the Gulf of Juan! Europe in general was
simple enough to be surprised at this event, which did not astonish the
Marchese del Dongo. He wrote his sovereign a letter full of heartfelt
expressions of devotion, placed his talents and several millions of money
at his service, and reaffirmed that his ministers were all Jacobins, and
in league with the Parisian leaders.

On the 8th of March, at six o’clock in the morning, the marchese,
adorned with all his insignia, was writing the rough draft of a third
political despatch from his son’s dictation. Solemnly he transcribed it
in his large, careful handwriting, on paper the watermark of which bore
his sovereign’s effigy. At that very moment Fabrizio was entering the
presence of his aunt, the Countess Pietranera.

“I am off!” he cried. “I am going to join the Emperor! He is King of
Italy as well! How he loved your husband! I shall go through Switzerland.
Last night my friend Vasi, the barometer dealer at Menagio, gave me his
passport. Now do you give me a few napoleons, for I have only two of my
own. But if it comes to that, I’ll walk!”

The countess was weeping with terror and delight. “Good God!” she cried,
as she seized Fabrizio’s hands, “how did such an idea come into your
head?”

She rose from her seat, and from the linen chest, where it had been
carefully concealed, took a little bead-embroidered purse, containing all
her earthly wealth.

“Take it,” she said to her nephew, “but in God’s name do not get yourself
killed! What would be left to your unhappy mother and to me if you
were taken from us? As for Napoleon’s success, that, my poor child, is
impossible. Did not you hear the story, a week ago, when we were at
Milan, of the three-and-twenty well-laid plots for his assassination
which he only escaped by a miracle? And in those days he was all
powerful! And you have seen it is not the will to destroy him which our
enemies lack. France has been nothing since he left her!”

The voice of the countess trembled with the liveliest emotion as she
spoke to Fabrizio of Napoleon’s future fate. “When I consent to your
going to join them,” she said, “I sacrifice, for his sake, what I hold
dearest in this world!” Fabrizio’s eyes grew moist, and his tears fell
as he embraced his aunt. But not for an instant did he waver in his
determination to depart. He eagerly explained to this beloved friend
the reasons which had decided him—reasons which we take the liberty of
thinking somewhat comical.

“Yesterday evening, at seven minutes to six o’clock, we were walking,
as you know, on the shores of the lake, under the plane trees, below
the Casa Sommariva, and our faces were turned southward. Then, for the
first time, I noticed, in the far distance, the boat from Como which was
bearing the great news to us. As I watched it, without a thought of the
Emperor, and simply envying the fate of those who had an opportunity of
travelling, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of deep emotion. The
boat had touched the shore, and the agent, after whispering something
to my father, who had changed colour, had taken us aside to inform us
of the _terrible news_. I turned toward the lake with the simple object
of hiding the tears of joy with which my eyes were swimming. Suddenly,
on my right, and at an immense height, I perceived an eagle, Napoleon’s
own bird; it was winging its majestic way toward Switzerland, and
consequently toward Paris. ‘And I, too,’ said I to myself instantly,
‘will cross Switzerland, swiftly as an eagle, and will offer that great
man a very little thing indeed—but still all that I have to offer—the
help of my feeble arm! He would fain have given us a fatherland, and he
loved my uncle!’ That instant, while I yet watched the eagle, by some
strange charm, my tears were dried, and the proof that my idea came from
above is that at that very moment, and without hesitation, my resolve
was taken, and the method of carrying out the journey became clear to
me. In a flash all the melancholy which, as you know, poisons my life,
especially on Sundays, was swept away as by some divine breath. I saw the
great figure of Italy rising out of the mire into which the Germans have
cast her, and stretching out her wounded arms, on which the chains still
hung, towards her king and liberator. ‘And I too,’ I murmured, ‘the son,
as yet unknown, of that unhappy mother, I will depart, and I will die or
win victory beside that Man of Fate, who would have cleansed us from the
scorn cast on us by the vilest and most enslaved of the inhabitants of
Europe!’

“You know,” he added in a lower voice, drawing closer to the countess,
and as he spoke he fixed great flashing eyes upon her, “you know the
young chestnut tree which my mother planted with her own hands the winter
I was born, beside the deep pool in our forest, two leagues off? Before
I would do anything I went to see it. ‘The spring is not far advanced,’
said I to myself; ‘well, if there are leaves on my tree, that will be a
sign for me, and I too must cast off the torpor in which I languish in
this cold and dreary house. Are not these old blackened walls—the symbols
now, and once the strongholds, of despotism—a true picture of winter and
its dreariness? To me they are what winter is to my tree.’

“Would you believe it, Gina? At half-past seven yesterday evening I had
reached my chestnut tree. There were leaves upon it—pretty little leaves
of a fair size already! I kissed them, without hurting them, carefully
turned the soil round the beloved tree, and then, in a fresh transport,
crossed the mountain and reached Menagio. A passport was indispensable,
if I was to get into Switzerland. The hours had flown, and it was one
o’clock in the morning when I reached Vasi’s door. I expected to have to
knock for long before I could rouse him; but he was sitting up with three
of his friends. At my very first word, ‘You are going to Napoleon!’ he
cried, and fell upon my neck; the others, too, embraced me joyfully. ‘Why
am I married?’ cried one.”

The countess had grown pensive; she thought it her duty to put forward
some objections. If he had possessed the smallest experience Fabrizio
would have perceived that she herself had no faith in the excellent
reasons she hastened to lay before him. But though experience was
lacking, he had plenty of resolution, and would not even condescend to
listen to her expostulations. Before long the countess confined herself
to obtaining a promise that at all events his mother should be informed
of his plan.

“She will tell my sisters, and those women will betray me unconsciously!”
cried Fabrizio, with a sort of heroic arrogance.

“Speak more respectfully,” said the countess, smiling through her tears,
“of the sex which will make your fortune. For men will never like you—you
are too impulsive to please prosaic beings!”

When the marchesa was made acquainted with her son’s strange project
she burst into tears. His heroism did not appeal to her, and she did
everything in her power to dissuade him. But she was soon convinced that
nothing but prison walls would prevent him from starting, and gave him
what little money she had of her own. Then she recollected that she had
in her possession eight or ten small diamonds, worth about ten thousand
francs, given her the night before by the marchese, so that she might
have them reset the next time she went to Milan. Fabrizio returned the
poor ladies the contents of their slender purses, and his sisters entered
their mother’s room while the countess was sewing the diamonds into our
hero’s travelling coat. They were so enthusiastic over his plan, and
embraced him with such noisy delight, that he snatched up a few diamonds,
which had not yet been hidden in his clothes, and insisted on starting
off at once.

“You will betray me without knowing it!” he said to his sisters, “and as
I have all this money I need not take clothes—I shall find them wherever
I go.” He kissed his loved ones, and departed that instant, without
even going back to his room. So rapidly did he walk, in his terror of
being pursued by mounted men, that he reached Lugano that very evening.
He was safe, by God’s mercy, in a Swiss town, and no longer feared
that gendarmes in his father’s pay might lay violent hands on him in
the lonely road. From Lugano he wrote a fine letter to the marchese,
a childish performance which increased that gentleman’s fury. Then he
took horse, crossed the St. Gothard, travelled rapidly, and entered
France by Pontarlier. The Emperor was in Paris, and in Paris Fabrizio’s
misfortunes began. He had started with the firm intention of getting
speech with the Emperor, the idea that this might be difficult never
entering his head. At Milan he had seen Prince Eugène a dozen times a
day, and could have spoken to him each time if he would. In Paris he
went every day of his life to watch the Emperor review his troops in the
court of the Tuileries, but never could get near him. Our hero believed
every Frenchman must be as deeply moved as he was himself by the extreme
danger in which the country stood. At the table of the hotel in which he
lived, he made no secret of his plans or his devotion. He found himself
surrounded by young men of agreeable manners, and still more enthusiastic
than himself, who succeeded, before many days were passed, in relieving
him of every penny he possessed. Fortunately, and out of sheer modesty,
he had not mentioned the diamonds given him by his mother. One morning,
when, after a night’s orgie, it became quite clear to him that he had
been robbed, he bought himself two fine horses, engaged an old soldier,
one of the horse dealer’s grooms, as his servant, and, overflowing with
scorn for the young Parisians who talked so fine, started to join the
army. He had no information save that it was concentrating near Maubeuge.
Hardly had he reached the frontier, when it struck him as absurd that
he should stay indoors and warm himself at a good fire while soldiers
were bivouacking in the open air. In spite of the remonstrances of his
servant, who was a sensible fellow, he insisted, in the most imprudent
manner, on joining the military bivouac on the farthest edge of the
frontier toward Belgium. He had hardly reached the first battalion,
lying beside the road, when the soldiers began to stare at the young
civilian, whose dress had not a touch of uniform about it. Night was
falling, and the wind was very cold. Fabrizio drew near to a fire, and
offered to pay for leave to sit by it. The soldiers looked at each other
in astonishment, especially at this offer of pay, but made room for him
good-naturedly, and his servant extemporized a shelter for him. But an
hour later, when the adjutant of the regiment passed within hail of the
bivouac, the soldiers reported the arrival of the stranger who talked bad
French. The adjutant questioned Fabrizio, who told him of his worship for
the Emperor in an accent of the most doubtful description, whereupon the
officer requested that he would accompany him to the colonel, who was
quartered in a neighbouring farm. Fabrizio’s servant at once brought up
the two horses. The sight of them seemed to produce such an effect upon
the non-commissioned officer that he immediately changed his mind, and
began to question the servant as well. The man, an old soldier, suspected
his interlocutor’s plan of campaign, and spoke of his master’s influence
in high quarters, adding that his fine horses could not easily be taken
from him. Instantly, at a sign from the adjutant, one soldier seized
him by the collar, another took charge of the horses, and Fabrizio was
sternly ordered to follow his captor and hold his tongue.

After making him march a good league through darkness that seemed all
the blacker by contrast with the bivouac fires, which lighted up the
horizon on every side, the adjutant handed Fabrizio over to an officer
of gendarmerie, who gravely demanded his papers. Fabrizio produced his
passport, which described him as a “dealer in barometers, travelling with
his merchandise.”

“What fools they are!” cried the officer; “this really is too much!”

He questioned our hero, who talked about the Emperor and liberty in terms
of the most ardent and enthusiastic description; whereupon the officer
fell into fits of laughter. “Upon my soul!” he cried, “they are anything
but clever; to send us greenhorns such as you is a little too much,
really!” And in spite of everything Fabrizio could say, and his desperate
assurances that he really was not a dealer in barometers, he was ordered
to the prison of B⸺, a small town in the neighbourhood, where he arrived
at three o’clock in the morning, bursting with anger, and half dead with
fatigue.

Here he remained, astonished, first of all, and then furious, and utterly
unable to understand what had happened, for thirty-three long days. He
wrote letter after letter to the commandant of the fortress, the jailer’s
wife, a handsome Flemish woman of six-and-thirty, undertaking to deliver
them; but as she had no desire whatever to see so good-looking a young
fellow shot, and as, moreover, he paid her well, she invariably put his
letters in the fire. Very late at night she would condescend to come to
listen to his complaints—she had informed her husband that the simpleton
had money, whereupon that prudent functionary had given her _carte
blanche_. She availed herself of his permission, and gleaned several
gold pieces; for the adjutant had only taken the horses, and the police
officer had confiscated nothing at all. One fine afternoon Fabrizio
caught the sound of a heavy though distant cannonade. Fighting had begun
at last! His heart thumped with impatience. He heard a great deal of
noise, too, in the streets. An important military movement was, in fact,
in course of execution. Three divisions were marching through the town.
When the jailer’s wife came to share his sorrows, at about eleven o’clock
that night, Fabrizio made himself even more agreeable than usual. Then,
taking her hands in his, he said: “Help me to get out! I swear on my
honour I’ll come back to prison as soon as the fighting is over.”

“That’s all gammon!” she replied. “Have you any _quibus_ (cash)?” He
looked anxious, not understanding what the word _quibus_ meant. The
woman, seeing his expression, concluded his funds were running low,
and, instead of talking about gold napoleons, as she had intended, only
mentioned francs.

“Listen!” she said. “If you can raise a hundred francs, I will blind both
eyes of the corporal who will relieve the guard to-night, with a double
napoleon. Then he will not see you get out of prison, and if his regiment
is to be off during the day, he will make no difficulties.” The bargain
was soon struck; the woman even agreed to hide Fabrizio in her own room,
out of which it would be easier for him to slip in the early morning.

The next day, before dawn, she said to our hero, and there was real
feeling in her tone: “My dear boy, you are very young to ply this
horrible trade of yours. Believe me, don’t begin it again!”

“What!” repeated Fabrizio. “Is it wicked, then, to want to fight for
one’s own country?”

“Enough! But always remember I have saved your life. Your case was a
clear one. You would certainly have been shot. But never tell anybody,
for we should lose our place, my husband and I. And, above all, never
repeat your silly tale about being a Milanese gentleman disguised as a
dealer in barometers; it is too foolish! Now, listen carefully. I am
going to give you the clothes of a hussar who died in the prison the
day before yesterday. Never open your lips unless you are obliged to.
If a sergeant or an officer questions you so that you have to reply,
say you have been lying ill in the house of a peasant, who found you
shaking with fever in a ditch, and sheltered you out of charity. If this
answer does not satisfy them, say you are working your way back to your
regiment. You may be arrested because of your accent. Then say you were
born in Piedmont, that you are a conscript, and were left behind in
France last year, etc.”

For the first time, after his three-and-thirty days of rage and fury,
Fabrizio understood the meaning of what had befallen him. He had been
taken for a spy! He reasoned with the jailer’s wife, who felt very
tenderly toward him that morning, and at last, while she, armed with a
needle, was taking in the hussar’s garments for him, frankly told her
his story. For a moment she believed it—he looked so simple and was so
handsome in his hussar uniform!

“As you had set your heart on fighting,” she said, half convinced at
last, “you should have enlisted in some regiment as soon as you got
to Paris. That job would have been done at once if you had taken any
sergeant to a tavern and paid his score there.” She added a great deal of
good advice for his future, and at last, just as day was breaking, let
him out of the house, after making him swear again and again, a hundred
times over, that, whatever happened to him, her name should never pass
his lips. As soon as Fabrizio had got clear of the little town and began
stepping out boldly along the high-road, with his sabre tucked under his
arm, a shadow fell upon his soul. “Here I am,” he reflected, “with the
clothes and the route papers of a hussar who died in prison, where he was
put, I understand, for stealing a cow and some silver spoons and forks!
I have inherited, so to speak, his existence, and that without any wish
or intention of my own. Look out for prisons! The omen is clear—I shall
suffer many things from prisons!”

Hardly an hour after he had bidden farewell to his benefactress the rain
began to fall with such violence that the newly fledged hussar, hampered
by the heavy boots which had never been made for his feet, could hardly
contrive to walk. He came across a peasant riding a sorry nag, and bought
the horse, bargaining by signs, for the jailer’s wife had advised him to
speak as little as possible, on account of his foreign accent.

That day the army, which had just won the battle of Ligny, was in full
march on Brussels. It was the eve of the battle of Waterloo. Toward noon,
while the rain still poured down, Fabrizio heard artillery firing. In his
happiness he forgot all the terrible moments of despair he had endured in
his undeserved prison. He travelled on, far into the night, and, as he
was beginning to learn a little sense, he sought shelter in a peasant’s
hut, quite off the main road. The peasant was crying, and saying that he
had been stripped of everything he had. Fabrizio gave him a crown, and
discovered some oats. “My horse is no beauty,” the young man reflected,
“but still some adjutant fellow might take a fancy to him,” and he lay
down in the stable beside his mount. An hour before daylight next morning
he was on the road again. By dint of much coaxing he wheedled his horse
into a trot. Toward five o’clock he heard heavy firing. It was the
beginning of Waterloo.



CHAPTER III


Fabrizio soon came upon some _cantinières_, and the deep gratitude he
felt toward the jailer’s wife incited him to address them. He inquired
of one of them as to where the Fourth Regiment of Hussars, to which he
belonged, might be.

“You would do much better not to be in such a hurry, my young fellow,”
replied the woman, touched by Fabrizio’s pallor and the beauty of his
eyes. “Your hand is not steady enough yet for the sword play that this
day must see! Now, if you had only a gun, I don’t say but that you might
fire it off as well as any other man.”

The advice was not pleasing to Fabrizio, but, however much he pressed
his horse, he could not get it to travel any faster than the sutler’s
cart. Every now and then the artillery fire seemed to grow closer, and
prevented each from hearing what the other said, for so wild was the boy
with enthusiasm and delight that he had begun to talk again. Every word
the woman dropped increased his joy, by making him realize it more fully.
He ended by telling the woman, who seemed thoroughly kind-hearted, the
whole of his adventures, with the exception of his real name and his
flight from prison. She was much astonished, and could make neither head
nor tail of the handsome young soldier’s story.

“I have it!” she cried at last, with a look of triumph. “You are a young
civilian, in love with the wife of some captain in the Fourth Hussars!
Your ladylove has given you the uniform you wear, and you are tearing
about after her. As sure as God reigns above us, you are no soldier; you
have never been a soldier! But, like the brave fellow you are, you are
determined to be with your regiment while it is under fire rather than be
taken for a coward.”

Fabrizio agreed to everything. That was the only method by which he could
secure good advice. “I know nothing of these French people’s ways,” said
he to himself, “and if somebody doesn’t guide me I shall get myself into
prison again, or some fellow will steal my horse from me!”

“In the first place, my boy,” said the _cantinière_, who was growing more
and more friendly, “you must admit you are under twenty—I don’t believe
you are an hour over seventeen!”

That was true, and Fabrizio willingly admitted it.

“Then you’re not even a conscript—it’s simply and solely for the lady’s
sake that you are risking your bones. Bless me, she’s not oversqueamish!
If you still have any of the yellow boys she has given you in your
pocket, the first thing you must do is to buy yourself another horse.
Look how that brute of yours pricks up her ears whenever the guns growl a
little close to her! That’s a peasant’s horse; it’ll kill you the moment
you get to the front. See that white smoke yonder, over the hedge? That
means musket volleys! Therefore, my fine fellow, make ready to be in a
horrible fright when you hear the bullets whistling over your head. You
had far better eat a bit now, while you have the time.”

Fabrizio acted on her advice, and, pulling a napoleon out of his pocket,
requested the _cantinière_ to pay herself out of it.

“It’s a downright pity!” cried the good woman; “the poor child doesn’t
even know how to spend his money! ’Twould serve you right if I pocketed
your napoleon and made my Cocotte start off at full trot. Devil take me
if your beast could follow her! What could you do, you simpleton, if
you saw me make off? Let me tell you that when the big guns begin to
grumble nobody shows his gold pieces. Here,” she went on, “I give you
back eighteen francs and fifty centimes; your breakfast costs you thirty
sous. Soon we shall have horses to sell. Then you’ll give ten francs for
a small one, and _never_ more than twenty, not even for the best!”

The meal was over, and the _cantinière_, who was still holding forth, was
interrupted by a woman who had been coming across the fields, and now
passed along the road.

“Halloo! Hi!” she shouted. “Halloo, Margot! Your Sixth Light Regiment is
on the right!”

“I must be off, my boy,” said the _cantinière_; “but really and truly I
am sorry for you! Upon my soul, I feel friendly to you. You know nothing
about anything; you’ll be wiped out, as sure as God is God; come along
with me to the Sixth!”

“I understand very well that I know nothing at all,” said Fabrizio; “but
I mean to fight, and I am going over there to that white smoke.”

“Just look how your mare’s ears are wagging! The moment you get her down
there she’ll take the bit in her teeth, weak as she is, and gallop off,
and God knows where she’ll take you to! Take my advice, as soon as you
get down to the soldiers, pick up a musket and an ammunition pouch, lie
down beside them, and do exactly as they do. But, Lord! I’ll wager you
don’t even know how to bite open a cartridge!”

Fabrizio, though sorely galled, truthfully answered that his new friend
had guessed aright.

“Poor little chap, he’ll be killed at once! God’s truth, it won’t
take long! You must and shall come with me,” she added with an air of
authority.

“But I want to fight.”

“So you shall fight! The Sixth is a first-rate regiment, and there’ll be
fighting for every one to-day.”

“But shall we soon get to your regiment?”

“In a quarter of an hour, at the outside.”

“If this good woman vouches for me,” reasoned Fabrizio, “I shall not be
taken for a spy on account of my universal ignorance, and I shall get a
chance of fighting.” At that moment the firing grew heavier, the reports
following closely one upon the other, “like the beads in a rosary,” said
Fabrizio to himself.

“I begin to hear the volleys,” said the _cantinière_, whipping up her
pony, which seemed quite excited by the noise. She turned to the right,
along a cross-road leading through the meadow; the mud was a foot deep,
and the little cart almost stuck in it. Fabrizio pushed at the wheels.
Twice over his horse fell down. Soon the road grew dryer, and dwindled
into a mere foot-path across the sward. Fabrizio had not ridden on five
hundred paces when his horse stopped short—a corpse lying across the path
had startled both beast and rider.

Fabrizio, whose face was naturally pale, turned visibly green; the
_cantinière_, looking at the dead man, said, as though talking to
herself, “Nobody of our division,” and then, raising her eyes to our
hero’s face, burst out laughing.

“Ha, ha, my child!” she cried, “here’s a lollypop for you!”

Fabrizio sat on, horror-struck. What most impressed him was the mud on
the feet of the corpse, which had been stripped of its shoes, and of
everything else, indeed, except a wretched pair of blood-stained trousers.

“Come,” said the _cantinière_, “tumble off your horse; you must get used
to it. Ha,” she went on, “he got it through the head!” The corpse was
hideously disfigured. A bullet had entered near the nose and passed out
at the opposite temple. One eye was open and staring.

“Now, then, get off your horse, boy,” cried the _cantinière_, “shake him
by the hand, and see if he’ll shake yours back.”

At once, though sick almost to death with horror, Fabrizio threw himself
from his horse, seized the dead hand and shook it well. Then he stood in
a sort of dream; he felt he had not strength to get back upon his horse;
the dead man’s open eye, especially, filled him with horror.

“This woman will take me for a coward,” thought he to himself bitterly.
Yet he felt that he could not stir; he would certainly have fallen. It
was a terrible moment. Fabrizio was just going to faint dead away. The
_cantinière_ saw it, jumped smartly out of her little cart, and without
a word proffered him a glass of brandy, which he swallowed at a gulp.
After that he was able to remount, and rode along without opening his
lips. Every now and then the woman looked at him out of the corner of her
eye.

“You shall fight to-morrow, my boy,” she said at last. “To-day you shall
stay with me. You see now that you must learn your soldier’s trade.”

“Not at all. I want to fight now, at once,” cried our hero, and his look
was so fierce that the _cantinière_ augured well from it. The artillery
fire grew heavier, and seemed to draw nearer. The reports began to form
a sort of continuous bass, there was no interval between them, and above
this deep note, which was like the noise of a distant torrent, the
musketry volleys rang out distinctly.

Just at this moment the road turned into a grove of trees. The
_cantinière_ noticed two or three French soldiers running toward her as
hard as their legs would carry them. She sprang nimbly from her cart,
and ran to hide herself some fifteen or twenty paces from the road.
There she concealed herself in the hole left by the uprooting of a great
tree. “Now,” said Fabrizio to himself, “I shall find out whether I am
a coward.” He halted beside the forsaken cart and drew his sword. The
soldiers paid no attention to him, but ran along the wood on the left
side of the road.

“Those are some of our men,” said the _cantinière_ coolly, as she came
back panting to her little cart. “If your mare had a canter in her I
would tell you to ride to the end of the wood, and see if there is any
one on the plain beyond.” Fabrizio needed no second bidding. He tore a
branch from a poplar tree, stripped off the leaves, and belaboured his
mount soundly. For a moment the brute broke into a canter, but it soon
went back to its usual jog-trot. The _cantinière_ had forced her pony
into a gallop. “Stop! stop! I say!” she shouted to Fabrizio. Soon they
both emerged from the wood. When they reached the edge of the plain they
heard a most tremendous noise. Heavy guns and musketry volleys thundered
on every hand—right, left, and behind them—and as the grove from which
they had just emerged crowned a hillock some eight or ten feet higher
than the plain, they had a fair view of a corner of the battle-field.
But the meadow just beyond the wood was empty. It was bounded, about a
thousand paces from where they stood, by a long row of very bushy willow
trees. Beyond these hung a cloud of white smoke, which now and then
eddied up toward the sky.

“If I only knew where the regiment was!” said the woman, looking puzzled.
“We can’t go straight across that big meadow. By the way, young fellow,”
she said to Fabrizio, “if you see one of the enemy, stick him with the
point of your sword; don’t amuse yourself by trying to cut him down.”

Just at that moment she caught sight of the four soldiers of whom we have
already spoken. They were coming out of the wood on to the plain to the
left of the road. One of them was on horseback.

“Here’s what you want,” said she to Fabrizio. Then, shouting to the
mounted man, “Halloo, you! Why don’t you come and drink a glass of
brandy?” The soldiers drew nearer.

“Where’s the Sixth Light Regiment?” she called out.

“Over there, five minutes off, in front of the canal that runs along
those willows. And Colonel Macon has just been killed.”

“Will you take five francs for that horse of yours?”

“Five francs! That’s a pretty fair joke, my good woman! Five francs for
an officer’s charger that I shall sell for five napoleons before the
hour’s out!”

“Give me one of your napoleons,” whispered the _cantinière_ to Fabrizio;
then, going close up to the man on horseback, “Get off, and look sharp
about it!” she said; “here’s your napoleon.”

The soldier slipped off, and Fabrizio sprang gaily into his saddle, while
the _cantinière_ unfastened the little valise he had carried on the other.

“Here! why don’t you help me, you fellows?” said she to the soldier.
“What do you mean by letting a lady work!” But the captured charger no
sooner felt the valise than he began to plunge, and Fabrizio, who was a
first-rate horseman, had to use all his skill to retain his seat. “That’s
a good sign,” said the _cantinière_; “the gentleman’s not accustomed to
the tickling of valises!”

“It’s a general’s horse,” cried the soldier who had sold it. “That horse
is worth ten napoleons if it’s worth a farthing.”

“Here are twenty francs for you,” said Fabrizio, who was beside himself
with joy at feeling a spirited animal between his legs.

Just at this moment a round shot came whizzing slantwise through the row
of willows, and Fabrizio enjoyed the curious sight of all the little
branches flying left and right as if they had been mowed off with a
scythe. “Humph!” said the soldier, as he pocketed his twenty francs, “the
worry’s beginning.” It was about two o’clock in the day.

Fabrizio was still lost in admiration of this curious spectacle, when a
group of generals, escorted by a score of hussars, galloped across one of
the corners of the wide meadow on the edge of which he was standing. His
horse neighed, plunged two or three times, and pulled violently at the
curb. “So be it, then,” said Fabrizio to himself. He gave the animal the
rein, and it dashed, full gallop, up to the escort which rode behind the
generals.

Fabrizio counted four plumed hats.

A quarter of an hour later he gathered from some words spoken by the
hussar next him that one of these generals was the famous Marshal Ney.
That crowned his happiness; yet he could not guess which of the four
was the marshal. He would have given all the world to know, but he
remembered he must not open his lips. The escort halted to cross a large
ditch, which the rain of the preceding night had filled with water. It
was skirted by large trees, and ran along the left side of the meadow
at the entrance of which Fabrizio had bought his horse. Almost all the
hussars had dismounted. The sides of the ditch were steep and exceedingly
slippery, and the water lay quite three or four feet below the level
of the meadow. Fabrizio, wrapped up in his delight, was thinking more
about Marshal Ney and glory than about his horse, which, being very
spirited, jumped into the water-course, splashing the water up to a
considerable height. One of the generals was well wetted, and shouted
with an oath, “Devil take the damned brute!” This insult wounded Fabrizio
deeply. “Can I demand an explanation?” he wondered. Meanwhile, to prove
that he was not so stupid as he looked, he tried to force his horse up
the opposite side of the ditch, but it was five or six feet high, and
most precipitous. He was obliged to give it up. Then he followed up the
current, the water rising to his horse’s head, and came at last to a sort
of watering-place, up the gentle slope of which he easily passed into
the field on the other side of the cutting. He was the first man of the
escort to get across, and trotted proudly along the bank. At the bottom
of the ditch the hussars were floundering about, very much puzzled what
to do with themselves, for in many places the water was five feet deep.
Two or three of the horses took fright and tried to swim, which created a
terrible splashing. Then a sergeant noticed the tactics followed by the
greenhorn, who looked so very unlike a soldier. “Turn up the stream,” he
shouted; “there’s a watering-place on the left!” and by degrees they all
got over.

When Fabrizio reached the farther bank, he found the generals there all
alone. The roar of the artillery seemed to him louder than ever. He could
hardly hear the general he had so thoroughly drenched, who shouted into
his ear:

“Where did you get that horse?”

Fabrizio was so taken aback that he answered in Italian:

“_L’ho comprato poco fa!_” (“I have just bought it.”)

“What do you say?” shouted the general again.

But the noise suddenly grew so tremendous that Fabrizio could not reply.
At this moment, it must be acknowledged, our hero felt anything but
heroic. Still, fear was only a secondary sensation on his part. It was
the noise that hurt his ears and disconcerted him so dreadfully. The
escort broke into a gallop. They were crossing a wide stretch of ploughed
land, which lay beyond the canal. The field was dotted with corpses.

“The red-coats! the red-coats!” shouted the hussars joyfully. Fabrizio
did not understand them at first. Then he perceived that almost all
the corpses were dressed in red, and also, which gave him a thrill of
horror, that a great many of these unhappy “red-coats” were still alive.
They were crying out, evidently asking for help, but nobody stopped to
give it to them. Our hero, in his humanity, did all he could to prevent
his horse from treading on any red uniform. The escort halted. Fabrizio,
instead of attending to his duty as a soldier, galloped on, with his eye
on a poor wounded fellow.

“Will you pull up, you idiot?” shouted the troop sergeant-major. Then
Fabrizio became aware that he was twenty paces in advance of the
generals’ right, and just in the line of their field-glasses. As he rode
back to the rear of the escort, he saw the most portly of the officers
speaking to his next neighbour, also a general, with an air of authority,
and almost of reprimand. He swore. Fabrizio could not restrain his
curiosity, and, in spite of the advice of his friend the jailer’s wife,
never to speak if he could help it, made up a neat and correct little
French sentence. “Who’s that general blowing up the one next him?” he
asked.

“Why, that’s the marshal, to be sure!”

“What marshal?”

“Marshal Ney, you fool! Where in thunder have you been serving up to now?”

Touchy though he was by nature, Fabrizio never dreamed of resenting the
insult. Lost in boyish admiration, he feasted his eyes on the “bravest of
the brave,” the famous Prince of the Moskowa.

Suddenly every one broke into a gallop. In a few minutes Fabrizio saw
another ploughed field, about twenty paces in front of him, the surface
of which was heaving in a very curious manner. The furrows were full
of water, and the damp earth of the ridges was flying about, three or
four feet high, in little black lumps. Fabrizio just noticed this odd
appearance as he galloped along; then his thoughts flew back to the
marshal and his glory. A sharp cry rang out close to him; two hussars
fell, struck by bullets, and when he looked at them, they were already
twenty paces behind the escort. A sight which seemed horrible to him was
that of a horse, bathed in blood, struggling on the ploughed earth, with
its feet caught in its own entrails. It was trying to follow the others.
The blood was pouring over the mud.

“Well, I am under fire at last,” he thought. “I have seen it!” he
reiterated, with a glow of satisfaction. “Now I am a real soldier!” The
escort was now galloping at full speed, and our hero realized that it was
shot which was tossing up the soil. In vain he gazed in the direction
whence the fusillade came. The white smoke of the battery seemed to
him an immense way off, and amid the steady and continuous grumble of
the artillery fire he thought he could distinguish other reports, much
nearer. He could make nothing of it at all.

At that moment the generals and their escort entered a narrow lane, sunk
about five feet below the level of the ground. It was full of water.

The marshal halted, and put up his glass again. This time Fabrizio had a
good view of him. He saw a very fair man with a large red head. “We have
no faces like that in Italy,” he mused. “With my pale face and chestnut
hair I shall never be like him,” he added sadly. To him those words
meant, “I shall never be a hero!” He looked at the hussars. All of them
except one had fair mustaches. If Fabrizio stared at them, they stared at
him as well. He coloured under their scrutiny, and, to ease his shyness,
turned his head toward the enemy. He saw very long lines of red figures,
but what astonished him was that they all looked so small. Those long
files, which were really regiments and divisions, seemed to him no higher
than hedges. A line of red-coated horsemen was trotting toward the sunken
road, along which the marshal and his escort had begun to move slowly,
splashing through the mud. The smoke made it impossible to see anything
ahead. Only, from time to time, hurrying horsemen emerged from the white
smoke.

Suddenly Fabrizio saw four men come galloping as hard as they could tear
from the direction in which the enemy lay. “Ah!” said he to himself,
“we are going to be attacked!” Then he saw two of these men address the
marshal, and one of the generals in attendance upon him galloped off
toward the enemy, followed by two hussars of the escort, and the two
men who had just ridden up. On the other side of a small water-course,
which everybody now crossed, Fabrizio found himself riding alongside a
good-natured-looking sergeant. “I really must speak to this man,” he said
to himself. “Perhaps if I do that, they’ll stop staring at me.” After
considerable meditation he said to the sergeant: “This is the first time
I have ever seen a battle. But is it really a battle?”

“I should think so! But who on earth are you?”

“I am brother to a captain’s wife.”

“And what’s the captain’s name?”

Our hero was in a hideous difficulty; he had never expected that
question. Luckily for him, the sergeant and the escort began to gallop
again.

“What French name shall I say?” he wondered. At last he bethought him of
the name of the man who had owned the hotel in which he had lodged in
Paris. He brought his horse up close beside the sergeant’s charger, and
shouted at the top of his voice:

“Captain Meunier.”

The other, half deafened by the noise of the artillery, answered, “What!
Captain Teulier? Well, he’s been killed!”

“Bravo!” said Fabrizio to himself. “Captain Teulier! I must look
distressed.”

“Oh, my God!” he cried, and put on a pitiful face. They had left the
sunken road, and were crossing a small meadow. Every one tore at full
gallop, for the bullets were pelting down again. The marshal rode
toward a cavalry division; the escort was surrounded, now, by dead and
wounded men, but our hero was already less affected by the sight; he had
something else to think about.

While the escort was halting he noticed a _cantinière_ with her little
cart; his affection for that excellent class of women overrode every
other feeling, and he galloped off toward the vehicle. “Stop here, you——”
shouted the sergeant.

“What harm can he do me?” thought Fabrizio, and he galloped on toward
the cart. He had felt some hope, as he spurred his horse onward, that
its owner might be the good woman he had met in the morning—the horse
and cart looked very much like hers. But the owner of these was quite a
different person, and very forbidding-looking into the bargain. As he
drew close to her he heard her say, “Well, he was a very handsome chap.”

A hideous sight awaited the newly made soldier. A cuirassier, a splendid
fellow, nearly six feet high, was having his leg cut off. Fabrizio shut
his eyes and drank off four glasses of brandy one after the other. “You
don’t stint yourself, my little fellow!” quoth the _cantinière_. The
brandy gave him an idea. “I must buy my comrades’ good-will. Give me the
rest of the bottle,” he said to the woman.

“But d’ye know that on such a day as this the rest of the bottle will
cost you six francs?”

As he galloped back to the escort, “Aha! you were fetching us a dram.
’Twas for that you deserted!” exclaimed the sergeant. “Hand over!”

The bottle went round, the last man throwing it into the air after he
had drained it. “Thankye, comrade,” he shouted to Fabrizio. Every eye
looked kindly on him, and these glances lifted a hundred-weight off his
heart, one of those overdelicate organs which pines for the friendship of
those about it. At last, then, his comrades thought no ill of him; there
was a bond between them. He drew a deep breath, and then, turning to the
sergeant, calmly inquired:

“And if Captain Teulier has been killed, where am I to find my sister?”
He thought himself a young Macchiavelli when he said Teulier instead of
Meunier.

“You’ll find that out to-night,” replied the sergeant.

Once more the escort moved forward, in the direction of some infantry
divisions. Fabrizio felt quite drunk; he had swallowed too much brandy,
and swayed a little in his saddle. Then he recollected, very much in
season, a remark he had frequently heard made by his mother’s coachman:
“When you’ve lifted your little finger you must always look between your
horse’s ears, and do what your next neighbour does.” The marshal halted
for some time close to several bodies of cavalry, which he ordered to
charge. But for the next hour or two our hero was hardly conscious of
what was going on about him; he was overcome with weariness, and when his
horse galloped he bumped in his saddle like a lump of lead.

Suddenly the sergeant shouted to his men:

“Don’t you see the Emperor, you——” and instantly the escort shouted “Vive
l’Empereur” at the top of their voices. My readers may well imagine that
our hero stared with all his eyes, but all he saw was a bevy of generals
galloping by, followed by another escort. The long, hanging plumes on the
helmets of the dragoons in attendance prevented him from making out any
faces. “So, thanks to that cursed brandy, I’ve missed seeing the Emperor
on the battle-field.” The thought woke him up completely. They rode into
another lane swimming with water, and the horses paused to drink.

“So that was the Emperor who passed by?” he said to the next man.

“Why, certainly; the one in the plain coat. How did you miss seeing him?”
answered his comrade good-naturedly.

Fabrizio was sorely tempted to gallop after the Emperor’s escort and join
it. What a joy it would have been to serve in a real war in attendance on
that hero! Was it not for that very purpose that he had come to France?
“I am perfectly free to do it,” he reflected, “for indeed the only reason
for my doing my present duty is that my horse chose to gallop after these
generals.”

But what decided him on remaining was that his comrades the hussars
treated him in a friendly fashion; he began to believe himself the close
friend of every one of the soldiers with whom he had been galloping the
last few hours; he conceived himself bound to them by the noble ties that
united the heroes of Tasso and Ariosto. If he joined the Emperor’s escort
he would have to make fresh acquaintances, and perhaps he might get the
cold shoulder, for the horsemen of the other escort were dragoons, and
he, like all those in attendance on the marshal, wore hussar uniform.
The manner in which the troopers now looked at him filled our hero with
happiness. He would have done anything on earth for his comrades; his
whole soul and spirit were in the clouds. Everything seemed different to
him now that he was among friends, and he was dying to ask questions.

“But I am not quite sober yet,” he thought. “I must remember the jailer’s
wife.” As they emerged from the sunken road he noticed that they were no
longer escorting Marshal Ney; the general they were now attending was
tall and thin, with a severe face and a merciless eye.

He was no other than the Count d’A⸺, the Lieutenant Robert of May 15,
1796. What would have been his delight at seeing Fabrizio del Dongo!

For some time Fabrizio had ceased to notice the soil flying hither and
thither under the action of the bullets. The party rode up behind a
regiment of cuirassiers; he distinctly heard the missiles pattering on
the cuirasses, and saw several men fall.

The sun was already low, and it was just about to set, when the escort,
leaving the lane, climbed a little slope which led into a ploughed
field. Fabrizio heard a curious little noise close to him, and turned
his head. Four men had fallen with their horses; the general himself had
been thrown, but was just getting up, all covered with blood. Fabrizio
looked at the hussars on the ground; three of them were still moving
convulsively, the fourth was shouting “Pull me out!” The sergeant and two
or three troopers had dismounted to help the general, who, leaning on his
aide-de-camp, was trying to walk a few steps away from his horse, which
was struggling on the ground and kicking furiously.

The sergeant came up to Fabrizio. Just at that moment, behind him and
close to his ear, he heard somebody say, “It’s the only one that can
still gallop.” He felt his feet seized and himself lifted up by them,
while somebody supported his body under the arms. Thus he was drawn over
his horse’s hind quarters, and allowed to slip on to the ground, where
he fell in a sitting posture. The aide-de-camp caught hold of the horse’s
bridle, and the general, assisted by the sergeant, mounted and galloped
off, swiftly followed by the six remaining men. In a fury, Fabrizio
jumped up and ran after them, shouting, “_Ladri! ladri!_” (“Thieves!
thieves!”) There was something comical about this running after thieves
over a battle-field. The escort and General Count d’A⸺ soon vanished
behind a row of willow trees. Before very long Fabrizio, still beside
himself with rage, reached a similar row, and just beyond it he came on
a very deep water-course, which he crossed. When he reached the other
side he began to swear again at the sight—but a very distant sight—of
the general and his escort disappearing among the trees. “Thieves!
thieves!” he shouted again, this time in French. Broken-hearted—much less
by the loss of his horse than by the treachery with which he had been
treated—weary, and starving, he cast himself down beside the ditch. If
it had been the enemy which had carried off his fine charger he would
not have given it a thought, but to see himself robbed and betrayed by
the sergeant he had liked so much, and the hussars, whom he had looked
on as his brothers, filled his soul with bitterness. The thought of the
infamy of it was more than he could bear, and, leaning his back against a
willow, he wept hot, angry tears. One by one his bright dreams of noble
and chivalrous friendship—like the friendships of the heroes of Jerusalem
Delivered—had faded before his eyes! The approach of death would have
been as nothing in his sight if he had felt himself surrounded by heroic
and tender hearts, by noble-souled friends, whose hands should have
pressed his while he breathed out his last sigh. But how was he to keep
up his enthusiasm when he was surrounded by such vile rascals? Fabrizio,
like every angry man, had fallen into exaggeration. After a quarter of
an hour spent in such melancholy thoughts, he became aware that the
bullets were beginning to fall among the row of trees which sheltered
his meditation. He rose to his feet, and made an effort to discover
his whereabouts. He looked at the meadow, bounded by a broad canal and
a line of bushy willows, and thought he recognised the spot. Then he
noticed a body of infantry which was crossing the ditch and debouching
into the meadows some quarter of a league ahead of him. “I was nearly
caught napping,” thought he. “I must take care not to be taken prisoner.”
And he began to walk forward very rapidly. As he advanced, his mind was
relieved; he recognised the uniform. The regiments which he feared might
have cut off his retreat belonged to the French army; he bore to the
right, so as to reach them.

Besides the moral suffering of having been so vilely deceived and robbed,
Fabrizio felt another, the pangs of which were momentarily increasing—he
was literally starving. It was with the keenest joy, therefore, that
after walking, or rather running, for ten minutes, he perceived that the
body of infantry, which had also been moving very rapidly, had halted,
as though to take up a position. A few minutes more and he was among the
nearest soldiers.

“Comrades, could you sell me a piece of bread?”

“Halloo, here’s a fellow who takes us for bakers!”

The rude speech and the general titter that greeted it overwhelmed
Fabrizio. Could it be that war was not, after all, that noble and general
impulse of souls thirsting for glory which Napoleon’s proclamations had
led him to conceive it? He sat down, or rather let himself drop upon the
sward; he turned deadly pale. The soldier who had spoken, and who had
stopped ten paces off to clean the lock of his gun with his handkerchief,
moved a little nearer, and threw him a bit of bread; then, seeing he did
not pick it up, the man put a bit of the bread into his mouth. Fabrizio
opened his eyes, and ate the bread without having strength to say a word;
when at last he looked about for the soldier, intending to pay him, he
saw he was alone. The nearest soldiers to him were some hundred paces
off, marching away. Mechanically he rose and followed them; he entered a
wood. He was ready to drop with weariness, and was already looking about
for a place where he might lay him down, when to his joy he recognized
first the horse, then the cart, and finally the _cantinière_ he had met
in the morning. She ran to him, quite startled by his looks.

“March on, my boy,” she said. “Are you wounded? and where’s your fine
horse?” As she spoke she led him toward her cart, into which she pushed
him, lifting him under the arms. So weary was our hero that before he had
well got into the cart he had fallen fast asleep.



CHAPTER IV


Nothing woke him, neither the shots that rang out close to the little
cart, nor the jolting of the horse, which the good woman whipped up with
all her might. The regiment, after having believed all day long that
victory was on its side, had been unexpectedly attacked by clouds of
Prussian cavalry, and was retreating, or rather flying, toward the French
border.

The colonel, a handsome, well-set-up young man, who had succeeded to
Macon’s command, was cut down. The major who took his place, an old
fellow with white hair, halted the regiment. “Come,” he shouted to his
men, “in the days of the Republic none of us ran away till the enemy
forced us to it. You must dispute every inch of the ground, and let
yourselves be killed!” he added with an oath. “It’s our own country that
these Prussians are trying to invade now.”

The little cart stopped short, and Fabrizio woke with a jump. The sun
had disappeared long ago, and he noticed to his surprise that it was
almost dark. The soldiers were running hither and thither in a state of
confusion, which greatly astonished our hero. It struck him that they all
looked very crestfallen.

“What’s the matter?” said he to the _cantinière_.

“Nothing at all. The matter is that we’re done for, my boy; that the
Prussian cavalry is cutting us down—that’s all. The fool of a general
took it for our own at first. Now then, look sharp! Help me to mend the
trace; Cocotte has broken it!”

Several musket shots rang out ten paces off. Our hero, now thoroughly
rested, said to himself: “But really, all this whole day through I have
never fought at all! All I have done was to ride escort to a general. I
must go and fight,” said he to the woman.

“Make your mind easy; you’ll fight more than you want. We’re all done
for!”

“Aubry, my boy,” she shouted to a corporal who was passing by, “give an
eye to the little cart now and then.”

“Are you going to fight?” said Fabrizio to Aubry.

“No; I’m going to put on my pumps and go to the ball.”

“I’m after you.”

“Look after the little hussar,” shouted the _cantinière_; “he’s a plucky
young chap.”

Corporal Aubry marched on without saying a word; eight or ten soldiers
ran up and joined him. He led them up behind a big oak with brambles
growing all round it. Once there, he stationed them, still without
opening his lips, in a very open line, along the edge of the wood, each
man at least ten paces from his neighbour.

“Now, then, you fellows,” he said, and it was the first time his voice
had been heard, “don’t you fire until you hear the word of command.
Remember, you’ve only three cartridges apiece.”

“But what is happening?” wondered Fabrizio to himself. At last, when he
was alone with the corporal, he said, “I have no musket.”

“Hold your tongue, to begin with. Go forward fifty paces beyond the wood;
you’ll find some of our poor fellows who’ve just been cut down. Take a
musket and ammunition-pouch off one of them. But mind you don’t take them
from a wounded man; take the gun and pouch from some man who is quite
dead. And look sharp, for fear you should get shot at by our own people!”

Fabrizio started off at a run, and soon came back with a musket and
ammunition-pouch.

“Load your musket, and get behind this tree; and above all, don’t fire
till I give the word.”

“Great God!” said the corporal, breaking off, “he doesn’t even know how
to load his weapon!” He came to Fabrizio’s rescue, and went on talking as
he did it. “If any of the enemy’s cavalry ride at you to cut you down,
slip round your tree, and don’t fire your shot till your man’s quite
close—not more than three paces off; your bayonet must almost touch his
uniform. But will you chuck that great sword of yours away?” exclaimed
the corporal. “Do you want it to throw you down? ’Sdeath, what soldiers
they send us nowadays!” And as he spoke he snatched at the sword himself
and threw it angrily away. “Here, wipe the flint of your gun with your
handkerchief. But have you ever fired a gun off?”

“I am a sportsman.”

“God be praised!” said the corporal, with a sigh of relief. “Well, mind
you don’t fire till I give the word,” and he departed.

Fabrizio was filled with joy. “At last,” said he to himself, “I am
really going to fight and kill an enemy! This morning they were shooting
at us, and all I did was to expose myself—a fool’s errand!” He looked
about in every direction with the most eager curiosity. After a moment
seven or eight musket shots rang out close to him, but as he received
no order himself he stood quietly behind his tree. It had grown almost
quite dark; he could have fancied he was hunting bears in the Tramezzina,
above Grianta. He bethought him of a hunter’s trick: took a cartridge
from his pouch and extracted the ball. “If I get a sight of him,” said
he, “I mustn’t miss him,” and he slipped the extra ball down the barrel
of his gun. He heard two shots fired close to his tree, and at the same
moment he beheld a trooper dressed in blue galloping in front of him from
right to left. “He’s more than three paces off,” said he, “but at this
distance I can’t well miss him.” He covered the horseman with his musket,
and pulled the trigger. The horse fell, and his rider with him. Our hero
fancied he was hunting, and ran joyfully up to the quarry he had just
bagged. He had got quite close to the man, who seemed to him to be dying,
when two Prussian troopers rode down upon him at the most astounding
rate, with their swords lifted to cut him down. Fabrizio took to his
heels, and ran for the wood, throwing away his gun so that he might run
the quicker. The Prussian troopers were not more than three paces behind
him when he reached a plantation of young oaks, very straight growing,
and about as thick as a man’s arm, which skirted the wood. The little
oaks checked the horsemen for a moment, but they soon got through them
and pursued Fabrizio across a clearing. They were quite close on him
again when he managed to slip between seven or eight big trees. Just at
that moment his face was almost scorched by the fire from five or six
muskets just in front of him. He lowered his head, and when he raised it
again he found himself face to face with the corporal.

“Have you killed yours?” said the corporal.

“Yes, but I’ve lost my musket.”

“Muskets are not the thing we are short of. You’re a good chap, though
you do look like a muff. You’ve done well to-day, and these fellows have
just missed the two who were after you, and were riding straight upon
them. I didn’t see them.

“Now we must make off. The regiment must be half a mile away; and,
besides, there’s a little bit of meadow to cross, where we may be taken
in flank.” As he talked the corporal marched swiftly along at the head of
his ten men, some two hundred paces farther on. As he entered the little
meadow of which he had spoken they came upon a wounded general supported
by his aide-de-camp and a servant. “You must give me four men,” said
he to the corporal, and his voice was faint. “I must be carried to the
ambulance; my leg is shattered.”

“You may go to the devil,” replied the corporal; “you and all the rest of
the generals. You’ve all of you betrayed the Emperor this day.”

“What!” cried the general in a fury; “you won’t obey my orders? Do you
know that I am General Count B⸺, commanding your division?” and so forth,
with a string of invectives.

The aide-de-camp rushed at the soldier. The corporal thrust at him with
his bayonet, and then made off at the double, followed by his men.

“May they all be like you!” he repeated with an oath. “With their legs
shattered and their arms too! A pack of rascals, sold to the Bourbons and
traitors to the Emperor, every one of them!”

Fabrizio heard the hideous accusation with astonishment.

Toward ten o’clock in the evening the little party came upon the
regiment, at the entrance to a big village consisting of several narrow
streets. But Fabrizio noticed that Corporal Aubry avoided speaking to any
of the officers. “It’s impossible to get on!” cried the corporal. Every
street was crowded with infantry, cavalry, and especially with artillery
caissons and baggage wagons. The corporal tried to get up three of these
streets, but after about twenty paces he was forced to stop. Everybody
was swearing, and everybody was in a rage.

“Some other traitor must be in command!” cried the corporal. “If the
enemy has the sense to move round the village we shall all be taken like
dogs. Follow me, men!” Fabrizio looked; there were only six soldiers left
of the corporal’s party. Through a big, open doorway they passed into a
great poultry-yard, and thence into a stable, from which a little door
admitted them into a garden. Here they lost their way for a moment, and
wandered hither and thither. But at last, climbing over a hedge, they
found themselves in a huge field of buckwheat, and within less than half
an hour, following the noise of shouting and other confused sounds, they
had got back into the high-road on the other side of the village.

The ditches on either side of the road were full of muskets which had
been thrown away, and Fabrizio took one for himself. But the road, broad
as it was, was so crowded with carts and fugitives that in half an hour
the corporal and Fabrizio had hardly got five hundred paces forward. They
were told that the road would lead them to Charleroi. As the village
clock struck eleven—

“Let us strike across country again,” cried the corporal. The little band
now only consisted of three privates, the corporal, and Fabrizio. When
they had got about a quarter of a league from the high-road—

“I’m done up!” said one of the soldiers.

“And so am I,” said another.

“That’s fine news! We’re all in the same boat,” said the corporal. “But
do as I tell you, and you’ll be the better for it.” He caught sight of
five or six trees growing beside a little ditch in the middle of an
immense field of corn.

“Make for the trees,” said he to his men. “Lie down here,” he added when
they had reached them, “and, above all, make no noise. But before we go
to sleep, which of you has any bread?”

“I have,” said one of the soldiers.

“Hand it over,” commanded the corporal, with a masterful air. He divided
the bread into five pieces, and took the smallest for himself.

“A quarter of an hour before daybreak,” he said as he munched, “you’ll
have the enemy’s cavalry upon you. The great point is not to get
yourselves run through. On these great plains one man alone with cavalry
at his heels is done for, but five men together may save themselves. All
of you stick faithfully to me, don’t fire except at close quarters, and
I’ll undertake to get you into Charleroi to-morrow night.” An hour before
daybreak the corporal roused them; he made them reload their weapons. The
noise on the highway still continued; it had been going on all night,
like the noise of a distant torrent.

“It’s like the noise sheep make when they are running away,” said
Fabrizio to the corporal, with an artless air.

“Will you hold your tongue, you greenhorn?” said the corporal angrily,
and the three privates, who, with Fabrizio, composed the whole of his
army, looked at our hero with an expression of indignation, as if he had
said something blasphemous. He had insulted the nation!

“This is rather strong,” thought our hero to himself. “I noticed the
same sort of thing at Milan under the viceroy. They are not running
away—oh, dear, no! With these Frenchmen you must never tell the truth
if it hurts their vanity. But as for their angry looks, I don’t care a
farthing for them, and I must make them understand it.” They were still
marching along some five hundred paces from the stream of fugitives which
blocked the high-road. A league farther on the corporal and his party
crossed a lane running into the high-road, in which many soldiers were
lying. Here Fabrizio bought a tolerable horse for forty francs, and from
among the numerous swords that were lying about he carefully chose a
long, straight weapon. “As I am told I must thrust,” he thought, “this
will be the best.” Thus equipped, he put his horse into a canter, and
soon came up with the corporal, who had gone forward; he settled himself
in his stirrups, seized the sheath of his sword with his left hand, and
addressed the four Frenchmen. “These fellows who are fleeing along the
highway look like a flock of sheep; they move like frightened sheep!”

In vain did he dwell upon the word sheep; his comrades had quite
forgotten that only an hour previously it had kindled their ire. Here
we perceive one of the contrasts between the French and the Italian
character; the Frenchman is doubtless the happier of the two—events glide
over him; he bears no spite.

I will not conceal the fact that Fabrizio was very much pleased with
himself after he had talked about those sheep. They marched along,
keeping up a casual conversation. Two leagues farther on the corporal,
who was very much astonished at seeing nothing of the enemy’s cavalry,
said to Fabrizio:

“You are our cavalry, so gallop toward that farm on the hillock yonder,
and ask the peasant if he’ll sell us some breakfast. Be sure you tell him
there are only five of us. If he demurs, give him five francs of your
money, on account; but make your mind easy, we’ll take the silver piece
back after we’ve had our breakfast.”

Fabrizio looked at the corporal; his gravity was imperturbable, and he
really wore an appearance of moral superiority. He obeyed, and everything
fell out just as the commander-in-chief had foretold, only Fabrizio
insisted the peasant should not be forced to return the five-franc piece
he had paid him.

“The money is my own,” said he to his comrades. “I’m not paying for you;
I’m paying for the corn he has given my horse.”

Fabrizio’s French was so bad that his comrades thought they detected a
tone of superiority about his remark; they were very much offended, and
from that instant they began to hatch a quarrel with him. They saw he was
very different from themselves, and that fact displeased them. Fabrizio,
on the contrary, began to feel exceedingly friendly toward them. They
had been marching along silently for about two hours when the corporal,
looking toward the high-road, shouted in a transport of delight, “There’s
the regiment!” They were soon on the high-road themselves, but alas,
there were not two hundred men round the eagle! Fabrizio soon caught
sight of the _cantinière_; she was walking along with red eyes, and every
now and then her tears overflowed. In vain did Fabrizio peer about,
looking for Cocotte and the little cart.

“Pillaged! lost! stolen!” cried the poor woman, in answer to our hero’s
inquiring glance. Without a word he threw himself from his horse, took
him by the bridle, and said to her, “Get on his back!” She didn’t wait
for a second invitation. “Shorten the stirrups for me,” she said. Once
she was comfortably settled on horseback, she began to tell Fabrizio all
the disasters of the preceding night.

After an endless story, eagerly listened to, however, by our hero, who
could make nothing of it, we must admit, but who had a deep feeling of
regard for the good-natured _cantinière_, she added, “And to think that
it should be Frenchmen who have robbed, and beaten, and ruined me!”

“What! it wasn’t the enemy?” cried Fabrizio, with an artlessness which
made his handsome face, so grave and pale, look more charming than ever.

“What a silly you are, my poor child!” returned the woman, smiling
through her tears; “and silly as you are, you are a very good fellow.”

“And however silly he may be, he pulled his Prussian down well
yesterday,” added Corporal Aubry, who had happened to find his way
through the crowd to the other side of the horse on which the good woman
was riding. “But he’s proud,” said the corporal. Fabrizio started a
little. “And what’s your name?” continued he. “For, after all, if any
report is sent in, I should like to give it.”

“My name is Vasi,” answered Fabrizio, with rather an odd look. “I mean,”
correcting himself hastily, “Boulot.”

Boulot had been the name of the owner of the route papers the jailer’s
wife had given him. Two nights before, as he marched along, he had
studied them carefully, for he was beginning to reflect a little, and was
not so astonished by everything that happened to him as he had been at
first. In addition to poor Boulot’s papers he had also carefully kept the
Italian passport according to which he claimed the noble name of Vasi,
dealer in barometers. When the corporal had taxed him with being proud it
had been on the tip of his tongue to reply, “Proud! I, Fabrizio Valserra,
Marchesino del Dongo, who is willing to bear the name of a dealer in
barometers called Vasi?”

While he was considering all this and saying to himself, “I must really
remember that my name is Boulot, or I shall find myself in the prison
with which Fate threatens me,” the corporal and the _cantinière_ had been
exchanging ideas about him.

“Don’t take what I say for mere curiosity,” said the _cantinière_, and
she dropped the second person singular, which, in her homely fashion, she
had hitherto been using. “I’m going to ask you these questions for your
own good. Who are you, really and truly?”

Fabrizio was silent for a moment; he was considering that he might never
come across better friends from whom to ask advice, and advice he sorely
needed. “We are going into a fortified town; the governor will want to
know who I am, and if my answers show that I know nothing about the
hussar regiment, the uniform of which I wear, I shall be thrown into
prison at once.” Being an Austrian subject, Fabrizio realized all the
importance of his passport. The members of his own family, highly born
and religious as they were, had suffered frequent annoyance in this
particular. The good woman’s questions were not, therefore, the least
displeasing to him, but when he paused before replying to choose out
his clearest French expressions, the _cantinière_, pricked with eager
curiosity, added by way of encouragement, “We’ll give you good advice
about your behaviour, Corporal Aubry and I.”

“I’m sure of that,” answered Fabrizio. “My name is Vasi, and I belong
to Genoa; my sister, who was a famous beauty, married a captain. As I
am only seventeen, she sent for me that I might see France and improve
myself. I did not find her in Paris, and knowing she was with this army
I followed it, and have hunted in every direction without being able to
find her. The soldiers, struck by my foreign accent, had me arrested.
I had money at that time; I gave some to the gendarme in charge of me.
He gave me papers and a uniform, and said, ‘Be off with you, and swear
you’ll never mention my name to a living soul.’”

“What was his name?” said the _cantinière_.

“I gave my word,” said Fabrizio.

“He’s right,” said the corporal. “The gendarme was a blackguard, but our
comrade mustn’t tell his name. And what was the name of the captain who
married your sister? If we knew his name we might find him.”

“Teulier, of the Fourth Hussars,” answered our hero.

“Then,” said the corporal rather sharply, “your foreign accent made the
soldiers take you for a spy?”

“That’s the vile word!” cried Fabrizio, and his eyes flamed. “I, who
worship the Emperor and the French—that insult hurts me more than
anything!”

“There’s no insult; there’s where you’re mistaken,” replied the corporal
gravely. “The soldiers’ mistake was very natural.”

Then he explained, with more than a little pedantry, that in the army
every man must belong to a regiment and wear a uniform, and, failing
that, would certainly be taken for a spy.

“The enemy,” he said, “has sent us heaps of them. In this war traitors
abound.”

The scales fell from Fabrizio’s eyes, and for the first time he
understood that in everything that had happened to him during the past
two months he himself had been at fault.

“But the boy must tell us the whole story,” said the _cantinière_, whose
curiosity was momentarily growing keener.

Fabrizio obeyed, and when he had finished—

“The fact is,” said she seriously, and addressing the corporal, “the
child knows nothing about soldiering. This war will be a wretched war,
now that we are beaten and betrayed. Why should he get his bones broken,
_gratis pro Deo_!”

“And with that,” said the corporal, “he doesn’t even know how to load his
gun, either in slow time or in quick! It was I who put in the bullet that
killed his Prussian for him.”

“And, besides,” added the _cantinière_, “he lets everybody see his money,
and he’ll be stripped of everything as soon as he leaves us.”

“And the first cavalry sergeant he comes across,” the corporal went on,
“will take possession of him and make him pay for his drinks, and he may
even be recruited for the enemy, for there’s treachery everywhere. The
first man he meets will tell him to follow him, and follow him he will!
He would do much better to enlist in our regiment.”

“Not so, I thank you, corporal,” cried Fabrizio eagerly. “I’m much more
comfortable on horseback; and, besides, I don’t know how to load a
musket, and you’ve seen that I can manage a horse.”

Fabrizio was very proud of this little speech of his. I will not
reproduce the long discussion as to his future which ensued between the
corporal and the _cantinière_.

Fabrizio remarked that in the course of it they repeated all the
incidents of his story three or four times over—the soldiers’ suspicions;
the gendarme who sold him the uniform and the papers; the manner in which
he had fallen in with the marshal’s escort on the previous day; the story
of the horse, etc. The _cantinière_, with feminine curiosity, constantly
harked back to the manner in which he had been robbed of the good horse
she had made him buy.

“You felt somebody seize your feet, you were drawn gently over your
horse’s tail, and were left sitting on the ground.”

“Why is it,” wondered Fabrizio, “that they keep going over things which
we all know perfectly well!” He had not yet learned that this is the
method whereby the humbler folk in France think a matter out.

“How much money have you?” inquired the _cantinière_ of him.
Fabrizio answered unhesitatingly; he was sure of this woman’s
noble-heartedness—that is the finest side of the French character.

“I may have about thirty napoleons in gold, and eight or ten five-franc
pieces, altogether.”

“In that case your course is clear,” cried the _cantinière_. “Get
yourself out of this routed army, turn off to one side, take the first
tolerable road you can find on the right, ride steadily forward, away
from the army always. Buy yourself civilian clothes at the first
opportunity. When you are eight or ten leagues off, and you see no more
soldiers about you, take post-horses, get to some good town, and rest
there for a week, and eat good beefsteaks. Never tell any one that you
have been with the army; the gendarmes would take you up at once as a
deserter, and, nice fellow as you are, my boy, you are not sharp enough
yet to take in the gendarmes. Once you have civilian clothes upon your
back, tear your route papers into little bits, and take back your real
name. Say you’re Vasi—and where should he say he comes from?” she added,
appealing to the corporal.

“From Cambray, on the Scheldt—it’s a good old town, very small, do you
hear? with a cathedral—and Fénelon.”

“That’s it,” said the _cantinière_, “and never let out that you’ve been
in the battle, never breathe a word about B⸺ nor the gendarme who sold
you the papers. When you want to get back to Paris, go first of all to
Versailles, and get into the city from that side, just dawdling along
on your feet as if you were out for a walk. Sew your money into your
trousers, and when you have to pay for anything, mind you only show just
the money you need for that. What worries me is that you’ll be made a
fool of, and you’ll be stripped of everything you have. And what is to
become of you without money, seeing you don’t even know how to behave?”

The good woman talked on and on, the corporal backing her opinions by
nodding his head, for she gave him no chance of getting in a word.
Suddenly the crowd upon the high-road quickened its pace, and then, like
a flash, it crossed the little ditch on the left-hand side and fled at
full speed.

“The Cossacks, the Cossacks!” rang out on every side.

“Take back your horse,” cried the _cantinière_.

“God forbid!” said Fabrizio. “Gallop! be off! I give him to you. Do you
want money to buy another little cart? Half of what I have is yours.”

“Take back your horse, I say,” said the good woman in a rage, and she
tried to get off. Fabrizio drew his sword. “Hold on tight!” he cried, and
he struck the horse two or three times with the flat of the blade. It
broke into a gallop and followed the fugitives.

Our hero looked at the high-road. Only a few minutes before it had been
crowded with some two or three thousand people, packed like peasants in a
religious procession.

Since that cry of “Cossacks” there was not a soul upon it. The fugitives
had thrown away their shakos, their muskets, and their swords.

Fabrizio, thoroughly astonished, climbed about twenty or thirty feet
into a field on the right of the road; thence he looked up and down the
high-road and across the plain. There was not a sign of any Cossack.
“Queer people, these Frenchmen,” said he to himself. Then he went on:
“As I am to go to the right, I may as well start at once. These people
may have had some reason for bolting which I don’t know.” He picked up a
musket, made sure it was loaded, shook the powder in the priming, cleaned
the flint, then chose himself a well-filled cartridge pouch and looked
all round him again. He stood literally alone in the middle of the
plain, which had lately been so packed with people. In the far distance
he saw the fugitives still running along and beginning to disappear
behind the trees. “This really is very odd,” he said. And remembering
the corporal’s manœuvre on the preceding night, he went and sat down in
the middle of a cornfield. He would not go far away, because he hoped to
rejoin his friends the corporal and the _cantinière_.

Sitting in the corn, he discovered he had only eighteen napoleons
left, instead of thirty, but he had a few little diamonds which he had
hidden in the lining of his hussar boots on the morning of his parting
with the jailer’s wife. He concealed his gold pieces as best he could,
and pondered deeply the while over this sudden disappearance of his
fellow-travellers.

“Is it a bad omen for me?” he wondered. His chief vexation was that he
had not asked Corporal Aubry the following question: “Have I really been
in a battle?” He thought he had, and he would have been perfectly happy
if he could have been quite certain of it.

“In any case,” he said, “I was present at it under a prisoner’s name, and
I had the prisoner’s route papers in my pocket, and even his coat upon my
back. All that is fatal for my future. What would Father Blanès have said
of it? And that unlucky Boulot died in prison, too. It all looks very
ominous. My destiny will lead me to a prison!” Fabrizio would have given
anything in the world to know whether Boulot had really been guilty.
He had a recollection that the jailer’s wife had told him the hussar
had been locked up, not only for stealing spoons and forks, but for
having robbed a peasant of his cow, and further beaten the said peasant
unmercifully. He had no doubt that he himself would some day find himself
in prison for misdoings of the same nature as those of the hussar. He
thought of his friend the priest. What would he not have given to be able
to consult him! Then he recollected that he had not written to his aunt
since he left Paris. “Poor Gina!” he said, and the tears rose to his
eyes. All at once he heard a slight noise close to him. It was a soldier
feeding three horses, whose bridles he had removed and who seemed half
dead with hunger, on the growing corn.

He was holding them by the snaffle. Fabrizio flew up like a partridge,
and the soldier was startled. Our hero, perceiving it, could not resist
the pleasure of playing the hussar for a moment. “Fellow,” he shouted,
“one of those horses is mine, but I will give you five francs for the
trouble you’ve taken to bring it to me!” “I wish you may get it,” said
the soldier. Fabrizio, who was within six paces, levelled his musket at
him. “Give up the horse, or I’ll blow your brains out!” The soldier had
his musket slung behind him; he twisted his shoulder back to get at it.
“If you stir a step you’re a dead man!” shouted Fabrizio, rushing at him.
“Well, well! hand over the five francs, and take one of the horses,” said
the soldier, rather crestfallen, after glancing regretfully up and down
the road, on which not a soul was to be seen. Fabrizio, with his gun
still raised in his left hand, threw him three five-franc pieces with the
right. “Get down, or you’re a dead man! Put the bit on the black horse,
and move off with the others. I’ll blow your brains out if you shuffle!”
With an evil glance the man obeyed. Fabrizio came close to the horse and
slipped the bridle over his left arm without taking his eyes off the
soldier, who was slinking slowly away. When he saw he was about fifty
paces off our hero sprang upon the horse’s back. He had hardly got into
the saddle, and his foot was still searching for the right stirrup, when
a bullet whistled close beside his head; it was the soldier who had fired
his musket at him. Fabrizio, in a fury, galloped toward him. He took to
his heels, and was soon galloping away on one of his horses. “Well, he’s
out of range now,” said Fabrizio to himself. The horse he had just bought
was a splendid animal, but it seemed to be almost starving. Fabrizio
went back to the high-road, which was still quite deserted; he crossed
it, and trotted on toward a little undulation in the ground on the left,
where he hoped he might find the _cantinière_, but when he reached the
top of the tiny eminence he could only see a few scattered soldiers more
than a league away. He sighed. “It is written,” he said, “that I am
never to see that good kind woman again!” He went to a farm which he had
noticed in the distance, on the right of the road. Without dismounting
he fed his poor horse with oats, which he paid for beforehand. It was
so starving that it actually bit at the manger. An hour later he was
trotting along the high-road, still in the vague hope that he might find
the _cantinière_, or at all events come across Corporal Aubry. As he
pushed steadily forward, looking about on every side, he came to a marshy
stream, spanned by a narrow wooden bridge. Near the entrance to the
bridge and on the right-hand side of the road stood a lonely house, which
displayed the sign of the White Horse. “I’ll have my dinner there,” said
Fabrizio to himself. Beside the bridge was a cavalry officer with his arm
in a sling. He was sitting on his horse and looked very sad. Ten paces
from him three dismounted troopers were busy with their pipes.

“Those fellows,” said Fabrizio to himself, “look very much as if they
might be inclined to buy my horse even cheaper than the price I’ve
paid for him.” The wounded officer and the three men on foot were
watching him, and seemed to be waiting for him. “I really ought to avoid
that bridge and follow the river bank on the right; that’s what the
_cantinière_ would advise me to do, to get out of the difficulty. Yes,”
said our hero to himself, “but if I take to flight I shall be ashamed of
it to-morrow. Besides, my horse has good legs, and the officer’s horse is
probably tired out. If he tries to dismount me I’ll take to my heels.”
Reasoning thus, Fabrizio shook his horse together and rode on as slowly
as possible.

“Come on, hussar!” shouted the officer, with a voice of authority.
Fabrizio came on a few steps, and then halted. “Do you want to take my
horse from me?” he called out.

“Not a bit of it! Come on!”

Fabrizio looked at the officer. His mustache was white, he had the most
honest face imaginable, the handkerchief which supported his left arm
was covered with blood, and his right hand was also wrapped in a bloody
bandage. “It’s those men on foot who will snatch at the horse’s bridle,”
thought Fabrizio; but when he looked closer he saw that the men on foot
were wounded as well.

“In the name of all that’s honourable,” said the officer, who wore
a colonel’s epaulettes, “keep watch here, and tell every dragoon,
light-cavalry man, and hussar you may see that Colonel Le Baron is in the
inn there, and that he orders them to report themselves to him.” The old
colonel looked broken-hearted. His very first words had won our hero’s
heart, and he replied very sensibly, “I’m very young, sir; perhaps nobody
would listen to me. I ought to have a written order from you.”

“He’s right,” said the colonel, looking hard at him. “Write the order, La
Rose; you can use your right hand.” Without a word, La Rose drew a little
parchment-covered book from his pocket, wrote a few words, tore out the
leaf, and gave it to Fabrizio. The colonel repeated his orders, adding
that Fabrizio would be relieved after two hours, as was only fair, by
one of the wounded soldiers who were with him. This done, he went into
the tavern with his men. Fabrizio, so greatly had he been struck by the
silent and dreary sorrow of the three men, sat motionless at the end of
the bridge, watching them disappear. “They were like enchanted genii,”
said he to himself. At last he opened the folded paper, and read the
following order:

    “Colonel Le Baron, Sixth Dragoons, commanding the Second
    Brigade of the First Cavalry Division of the Fourteenth Corps,
    orders all cavalry, dragoons, light-cavalry men, and hussars
    not to cross the bridge, and to report themselves to him at his
    headquarters, the White Horse Tavern, close to the bridge.

    “_Dated._ Headquarters, close to the bridge over the Sainte.
              June 19, 1815.

    “_Signed_ for Colonel Le Baron, wounded in the right arm, and
              by his orders.

                                                “SERGEANT LA ROSE.”

Fabrizio had hardly kept guard on the bridge for half an hour when six
light-cavalry men mounted, and three on foot, approached him. He gave
them the colonel’s order. “We are coming back,” said four of the mounted
men, and they crossed the bridge at full trot. By that time Fabrizio was
engaged with the two others. While the altercation grew warmer the three
men on foot slipped over the bridge. One of the two remaining mounted
men ended by asking to see the order, and carried it off, saying, “I’ll
take it to my comrades, who are sure to come back; you wait patiently for
them,” and he galloped off with his companion after him. The whole thing
was done in an instant.

Fabrizio, in a fury, beckoned to one of the wounded soldiers who had
appeared at one of the tavern windows. The man, whom Fabrizio observed to
be wearing a sergeant’s stripes, came downstairs, and shouted, as he drew
near him, “Draw your sword, sir! Don’t you know you’re on duty?” Fabrizio
obeyed, and then said, “They’ve carried off the order!”

“They’re still savage over yesterday’s business,” answered the other
drearily. “I’ll give you one of my pistols. If they break through again
fire it in the air, and I’ll come down, or the colonel will make his
appearance.”

Fabrizio had noticed the gesture of surprise with which the sergeant had
received the intelligence that the order had been carried off. He had
realized that the incident was a personal insult to himself, and was
resolved that nothing of the sort should happen in future. He had gone
back proudly to his post, armed with the sergeant’s pistol, when he saw
seven hussars come riding up. He had placed himself across the entrance
to the bridge. He gave them the colonel’s order, which vexed them very
much. The boldest tried to get across. Fabrizio, obeying the wise advice
of his friend the _cantinière_, who had told him the previous morning
that he must cut and not thrust, lowered the point of his big straight
sword, and made as though he would have run through anybody who disobeyed
the order.

“Ha! the greenhorn wants to kill us, as if we had not been killed enough
yesterday!” They all drew their swords, and fell upon Fabrizio. He gave
himself up for dead, but he remembered the look of surprise on the
sergeant’s face, and resolved he would not be despised a second time.
He backed slowly over his bridge, trying to thrust with his point as he
went. He looked so queer, with his great straight cavalry sword, much too
heavy for him, and which he did not know how to handle, that the hussars
soon saw who they had to do with. Then they tried not to wound him,
but to cut his coat off his back. He thus received three or four small
sword cuts on the arm. Meanwhile, faithful to the _cantinière’s_ advice,
he kept on thrusting with all his might. Unluckily one of his lunges
wounded a hussar in the hand. The man, furious at being touched by such
a soldier, replied with a violent thrust which wounded Fabrizio in the
thigh. The wound was all the deeper because our hero’s charger, instead
of escaping from the _mêlée_, seemed to delight in it, and to throw
himself deliberately on the assailants. The hussars, seeing Fabrizio’s
blood running down his right arm, were afraid they had gone too far, and,
forcing him over to the left parapet of the bridge, they galloped off.
The instant Fabrizio was free for a moment he fired his pistol in the air
to warn the colonel.

Four mounted hussars and two on foot belonging to the same regiment as
the last had been coming toward the bridge, and were still two hundred
paces off when the pistol shot rang out. They were carefully watching
what happened on the bridge, and thinking Fabrizio had fired upon their
comrades, the four mounted men galloped down upon him, brandishing their
swords; it was a regular charge. Colonel Le Baron, summoned by the pistol
shot, opened the tavern door, rushed on to the bridge just as the hussars
galloped up to it, and himself ordered them to halt.

“There’s no colonel here,” cried one of the men, and he spurred his
horse. The colonel in his anger broke off his remonstrance, and seized
the rein of the horse on the off side with his wounded hand. “Halt, sir!”
he cried to the hussar. “I know you. You belong to Captain Henriet’s
company.”

“Well, then, let the captain give me his orders! Captain Henriet was
killed yesterday,” he added with a sneer, “and you may go and be
damned!” As he spoke he tried to force his way through, and knocked
over the old colonel, who fell in a sitting posture on the floor of the
bridge. Fabrizio, who was two paces farther on the bridge, but facing
the tavern, urged his horse furiously forward, and while the hussar’s
horse overthrew the colonel, who still clung to the off rein, he thrust
vehemently and angrily at its rider. Luckily the man’s horse, which
was dragged downward by the bridle, on to which the colonel was still
hanging, started to one side, so that the long blade of Fabrizio’s heavy
cavalry sword slipped along the hussar’s waistcoat and came right out
under his nose. The hussar, in his fury, turned round and hacked at
Fabrizio with all his strength, cutting through his sleeve and making
a deep wound in his arm. Our hero tumbled off his horse. One of the
dismounted hussars, seeing the two defenders of the bridge lying on the
ground, seized his opportunity, sprang on to Fabrizio’s horse, and would
have galloped it off the bridge and away, but the sergeant, who had
hurried up from the tavern, had seen his colonel fall, and believed him
to be seriously wounded. He ran after Fabrizio’s horse, and plunged the
point of his sword into the thief’s back, so that he, too, fell. Then the
hussars, seeing nobody but the sergeant standing on the bridge, galloped
across it and rode rapidly away.

The sergeant went to look after the wounded. Fabrizio had already picked
himself up; he was not in much pain, but he was losing a great deal of
blood. The colonel rose to his feet more slowly; he was quite giddy from
his fall, but he was not wounded at all.

“The only thing that hurts me,” he said to his sergeant, “is the old
wound in my hand.” The hussar whom the sergeant had wounded was dying.

“The devil may take him!” cried the colonel. “But,” said he to the
sergeant and the two other troopers who now hurried up, “look after
this boy, whose life I did wrong to endanger. I will stay at the bridge
myself, and try to stop these madmen. Take the young fellow to the inn
and dress his arm. Use one of my shirts for bandages.”



CHAPTER V


The whole affair had not lasted more than a minute. Fabrizio’s wounds
were of the most trifling description; his arm was bound up in strips
torn off one of the colonel’s shirts. He was offered a bed in the upper
story of the inn.

“But while I am lying comfortably here,” said Fabrizio to the sergeant,
“my horse will feel lonely in the stable, and may take himself off with
another master.”

“Not bad, for a recruit,” said the sergeant, and he settled Fabrizio on
some clean straw in the very manger to which his horse was tied.

Then, as Fabrizio felt very faint, he brought him a bowl of hot wine
and talked to him for a while. Certain compliments included in this
conversation made our hero feel as happy as a king.

It was near daybreak on the following morning when Fabrizio awoke. The
horses were neighing long and loud, and making a terrible racket. The
stable was full of smoke. At first Fabrizio could make nothing of the
noise, and did not even realize where he was. At last, when the smoke
had half stifled him, it struck him that the house was on fire; in the
twinkling of an eye he was out of the stable and on his horse’s back.
He looked up and saw the smoke pouring out of the two windows above the
stable, and the roof of the house hidden in a black, whirling cloud. A
good hundred fugitives had reached the tavern during the night, and all
of them were shouting and swearing at once. The five or six who were
close to Fabrizio seemed to him to be completely drunk. One of them tried
to stop him, shouting, “Where are you taking my horse?”

When Fabrizio had gone about a quarter of a league he looked back. Nobody
was following him; the house was blazing. He recognised the bridge,
thought of his wound, and touched his arm, which felt hot and tight
in the bandages. And what had become of the old colonel? “He gave his
shirt to bind up my arm.” That morning our hero was the coolest and most
collected man in the world; the quantities of blood he had lost had
washed all the romantic qualities out of his character.

“To the right,” said he, “and let us be off.” He quietly followed the
course of the river, which, after passing under the bridge, flowed toward
the right side of the road. He remembered the good _cantinière’s_ advice.
“What true friendship!” said he to himself; “what an honest soul!”

After an hour he began to feel very weak. “Now then,” he thought, “am I
going to faint? If I faint somebody will steal my horse, and perhaps my
clothes, and with my clothes my valuables.” He had not strength to guide
his horse, and was doing his best to keep steady in the saddle, when a
peasant digging in a field hard by the high-road noticed his pallor, and
offered him a glass of beer and a bit of bread.

“Seeing you so pale,” said the man, “I thought you might have been
wounded in the great battle.” Never did help come more in the nick of
time. When Fabrizio began to chew that morsel of black bread his eyes
had begun to sting when he looked in front of him. When he had pulled
himself together a little he thanked his benefactor. “And where am I?”
he inquired. The peasant informed him that three quarters of a league
farther on he would find the little town of Zonders, where he would be
well cared for. Fabrizio reached the town without well knowing what he
was doing, his only care being how not to fall off at every step his
horse took. He saw a big gate standing open and rode through it; it led
to a tavern, The Currycomb. The good-natured mistress of the house, an
exceedingly fat woman, ran forward, calling for help in a voice that
shook with pity. Two young girls assisted Fabrizio to dismount. Before he
was well out of his saddle he fainted dead away. A surgeon was summoned
and he was bled. On that day and those following it he hardly knew what
was being done to him. He slept almost incessantly.

The puncture in his leg threatened to turn into a serious abscess.
Whenever he was in his senses he begged that care might be taken of his
horse, and frequently reiterated that he would pay well, which mightily
offended the good hostess and her daughters. He had been admirably tended
for a fortnight, and was beginning to collect his thoughts a little, when
he noticed, one evening, that his nurses seemed very much disturbed.
Presently a German officer entered his room. The language in which his
questions were answered was one which Fabrizio did not understand, but he
clearly perceived that he himself was the subject of the conversation; he
pretended to be asleep. Some time afterward, when he thought the officer
must have departed, he called his hostess.

“Did not that officer come to write my name down on a list and take me
prisoner?”

With tears in her eyes his hostess admitted the fact.

“Well, then,” he cried, raising himself up in his bed, “there’s money in
my pocket. Buy me civilian clothes, and this very night I’ll ride away.
You’ve saved my life once already by taking me in when I should have
fallen and died in the street. Save it again by helping me to get back to
my mother.”

At this point the landlady’s daughters both burst into tears. They
trembled for Fabrizio’s safety, and as they could hardly understand
any French, they came close to his bed to question him. They held a
discussion with their mother in Flemish, but every moment their wet eyes
turned pityingly upon our hero. He thought he gathered that his flight
might compromise them seriously, but that they were ready to take the
risk. He clasped his hands together and thanked them earnestly.

A local Jew undertook to provide him with a suit of clothes, but when he
brought it, about ten o’clock that night, the young ladies discovered,
by comparing the coat with Fabrizio’s hussar jacket, that it was a great
deal too large for him. They set to work on it at once; there was no
time to be lost. Fabrizio showed them several napoleons hidden in his
garments, and begged them to sew them into those which had just been
bought. With the suit the Jew had brought a fine pair of new boots.
Fabrizio did not hesitate to ask the kind-hearted girls to cut open his
hussar boots at the place he showed them, and his little diamonds were
soon hidden in the lining of his new foot-gear.

A singular result of his loss of blood, and his consequent weakness, was
that Fabrizio had almost entirely forgotten his French. He talked to
his hostesses in Italian, and as they spoke nothing but their Flemish
_patois_, intercourse was really carried on solely by signs. When the
young girls, perfectly disinterested as they were, beheld the diamonds,
their admiration for our hero knew no bounds. They were convinced he was
a prince in disguise. Aniken, the younger and more artless of the two,
kissed him without further ceremony. Fabrizio, for his part, thought them
charming, and toward midnight, when, in consideration of the journey he
was about to take, the surgeon had allowed him to drink a little wine, he
was half inclined not to depart at all.

“Where could I be better off than I am here?” he said. Nevertheless,
about two o’clock in the morning he got up and dressed. Just as he was
leaving his room the kindly hostess informed him that his horse had
been carried off by the officer who had searched the house a few hours
previously.

“Ah, the blackguard!” cried Fabrizio, “to play such a trick on a wounded
man!” and he began to swear. Our young Italian was not enough of a
philosopher to recollect the price he himself had paid for the horse.

Aniken told him, through her tears, that a horse had been hired for him.
If she could have had her will he would not have started at all. The
parting was a tender one. Two tall young fellows, the good landlady’s
kinsmen, lifted Fabrizio into his saddle and walked along, holding him
up, while a third preceded the little party by a few hundred paces, on
the lookout for any suspicious patrol upon the road. After two hours’
journey a halt was made at the house of a cousin of the hostess of The
Currycomb. In spite of all Fabrizio could say he could not induce the
young men to leave him. Nobody, they declared, knew the paths through the
forest as well as they!

“But to-morrow morning, when my escape becomes known, and you are not
seen in the neighbourhood, your absence will get you into trouble,” urged
Fabrizio.

A fresh start was made, and by good luck, when daylight came, a heavy fog
shrouded the plain. Toward eight o’clock in the morning they were near a
small town. One of the young men went on to see whether the post-horses
had all been stolen. The postmaster had been able to hide them, and to
fill up his stables with vile screws instead. Two horses were fetched
out of the swamps where they had been concealed, and three hours later
Fabrizio clambered into a little cabriolet, shabby enough, but drawn by
two excellent posters. He felt stronger already; his parting with the
hostesses’ young kinsmen was pathetic in the extreme. Never—not under one
of the friendly pretexts Fabrizio could invent—could he induce them to
accept a halfpenny.

“In your condition, sir, you need it much more than we do,” was the
honest young fellows’ invariable reply. They departed at last, bearing
letters in which Fabrizio, somewhat steadied by the excitement of his
journey, had endeavoured to express all he felt for his benefactresses.
The tears were in his eyes as he wrote, and in his letter to little
Aniken some love passages certainly occurred.

Nothing extraordinary happened during the rest of his journey. When
he reached Amiens the sword thrust in his thigh was causing him great
suffering. The country surgeon had not thought of keeping the wound open,
and in spite of the bleeding, an abscess had formed. During the fortnight
Fabrizio spent in the inn at Amiens, kept by an obsequious and covetous
family, the allies were overrunning France, and so deeply did our hero
reflect upon his late experiences that he became another man. There was
only one point on which he still remained a child. Had the fighting
he had seen really been a battle? and, secondly, Was it the battle of
Waterloo?

For the first time in his life he found pleasure in reading; he was
always hoping to discover in the newspapers or the descriptions of the
battle something which would enable him to recognise the ground he had
ridden over with Marshal Ney’s and the other general’s escort. During
his stay at Amiens he wrote almost every day to his good friends of
the Currycomb Inn. As soon as he was cured he went to Paris. At his
former hotel he found twenty letters from his mother and his aunt, all
beseeching him to return as quickly as possible. The last one from the
Countess Pietranera was couched in a sort of enigmatic tone which alarmed
him very much. This letter dispelled all his tender dreams. To a man of
his nature a word sufficed to stir up apprehensions of the gravest kind,
and his imagination immediately depicted misfortunes aggravated by the
most gruesome details.

“Be careful not to sign your letters when you write us news of yourself,”
said the countess. “When you return you must not come straight to the
Lake of Como. Stop in Swiss territory, at Lugano.” He was to arrive at
that little town under the name of Cavi; there, at the principal inn, he
was to find his aunt’s man-servant, who would tell him what he was to do
next. The countess closed her letter with the following words: “Use every
means to conceal the folly you have committed, and, above all, keep no
paper, whether written or printed, about you! In Switzerland you will be
surrounded by the friends of Ste.-Marguerite.[2] If I have money enough
I will send somebody to the Hôtel des Balances, at Geneva, to give you
details which I can not write, and which, nevertheless, you must have
before you arrive. But for God’s sake, not another day in Paris; our
spies there will recognise you!”

Fabrizio’s imagination began to picture the most extraordinary things,
and the only pleasure of which he was capable was that of trying to guess
what the amazing fact might be, with which his aunt desired to acquaint
him. Twice, during his journey across France, he was arrested, but each
time he contrived to obtain his release. These annoyances he owed to his
Italian passport, and that strange title of “dealer in barometers,” which
tallied so ill with his youthful countenance, and his arm in a sling.

At Geneva, at last, he met one of his aunt’s serving-men, who told him,
from her, that he, Fabrizio, had been denounced to the Milanese police,
as having gone over to Napoleon with proposals formulated by a huge
conspiracy organized in his late Kingdom of Italy. “If this was not the
object of his journey,” said his accuser, “why should he have taken a
false name?” His mother would endeavour to prove the truth; firstly, that
he had never gone beyond Switzerland, and, secondly, that he had left the
castle hastily in consequence of a quarrel with his elder brother.

When Fabrizio heard the story, his first feeling was one of pride.
“I’ve been taken for a sort of ambassador to Napoleon; I am supposed
to have had the honour of speaking to that great man. Would to God it
had been so!” He recollected that his ancestor seven generations back,
grandson of that Valserra who had come to Milan with Sforza, underwent
the honour of having his head cut off by the duke’s enemies, who laid
hands upon him as he was going into Switzerland, to carry proposals to
the cantons and to collect recruits. He could see, in his mind’s eye,
the engraving recording this fact in the family genealogy. When Fabrizio
cross-questioned the man-servant, he found him in a fury about a matter
which he let slip at last, in spite of the fact that the countess
had told him several times over to hold his tongue about it. It was
Fabrizio’s elder brother, Ascanio, who had denounced him to the Milanese
police. This cruel fact threw our hero into a state bordering on madness.
To get into Italy from Geneva, it was necessary to pass through Lausanne.
He insisted on starting instantly on foot, and walking ten or twelve
leagues, although the diligence from Geneva to Lausanne was to depart
within two hours. Before he left Geneva, he had a quarrel in one of the
dreary _cafés_ of the place, with a young man who, so he declared, had
looked at him strangely. It was perfectly true. The phlegmatic, sensible
young citizen, who never thought of anything but making money, believed
him to be mad. When Fabrizio entered the _café_, he had cast wild glances
about him on every side, and then spilled the cup of coffee he had
ordered over his trousers. In this quarrel, Fabrizio’s first instinctive
movement was quite in the style of the sixteenth century. Instead of
suggesting a duel to the young Genevan, he drew his dagger and threw
himself upon him to strike him. In that moment of fury Fabrizio forgot
everything he had learned concerning the code of honour, and fell back on
the instinct—or I should rather say on the memories—of his early boyhood.

The confidential servant whom he met at Lugano increased his rage by
relating fresh details. Fabrizio was very much loved at Grianta, and
nobody would ever have mentioned his name. But for his brother’s spiteful
proceeding every one would have pretended to believe he was at Milan, and
the attention of the police would never have been drawn to his absence.
“You may be quite certain that the customs officers hold a description
of your appearance,” said his aunt’s messenger, “and if we travel by the
high-road you will be stopped on the frontier.”

Fabrizio and his attendants knew every mountain-path between Lugano and
the Lake of Como. They disguised themselves as hunters—in other words,
as smugglers—and as they were three together, and resolute-looking
fellows into the bargain, the customs officers they met did no more than
greet them civilly. Fabrizio arranged matters so as to arrive at the
castle about midnight. At that hour his father and all the servants with
powdered heads were sure to be safe in their beds. Without any difficulty
he dropped into the deep ditch and entered the castle by a small window
opening out of a cellar. Here his mother and his aunt were awaiting him.
Very soon his sisters joined them. For a long time they were all in such
a transport of tenderness and tears, that they had hardly begun to talk
sensibly before the first rays of dawn warned these beings, who believed
themselves unhappy, that time was slipping by.

“I hope your brother will not have suspected your return!” said the
Countess Pietranera. “I have hardly spoken to him since this fine
prank of his, and his vanity did me the honour of being very much
hurt. To-night, at supper, I condescended to address him—I had to
find some pretext for hiding my wild delight, which might have roused
his suspicions. Then, when I perceived how proud he was of this sham
reconciliation, I took advantage of his satisfaction to make him drink
a great deal more than was good for him, and he will certainly not have
thought of lying in ambush to carry on his spying operations.”

“It’s in your room that we must hide our hussar,” said the marchesa. “He
can not start at once. We have not collected our thoughts sufficiently as
yet, and we must choose the best way of throwing that terrible Milanese
police off the scent.”

This idea was promptly put into practice. But on the following day the
marchese and his eldest son remarked that the marchesa spent all her time
in her sister-in-law’s apartment. We will not depict the passion of joy
and tenderness that filled these happy beings’ hearts during the whole of
that day. The Italian nature is much more easily wrung than ours by the
suspicions and wild fancies born of a feverish imagination. But its joys,
on the other hand, are far deeper than ours, and last much longer. During
the whole of that day the countess and the marchesa were absolutely
beside themselves; they made Fabrizio begin all his stories over and
over again. At last, so difficult did any further concealment of their
feelings from the sharp eyes of the marchese and his son Ascanio appear,
that they decided to betake themselves to Milan, and there conceal their
mutual ecstasy.

The ladies took the usual boat belonging to the castle as far as Como;
any other course would have aroused innumerable suspicions. But when they
reached the port of Como, the marchesa recollected that she had left
papers of the most important description at Grianta. She sent the boatmen
back at once, and they were thus deprived of all opportunity of noticing
the manner in which the two ladies employed their time at Como. The
moment the latter arrived, they hired one of the carriages that always
stand near the high tower, built in the middle ages, which rises above
the Milan gate, and started off at once, without giving the coachman time
to speak to a soul. About a quarter of a league beyond the town, they
fell in with a young sportsman of their acquaintance, who, as they had no
gentleman with them, was good-natured enough to attend them to the gates
of Milan, whither he himself was bound, shooting on the way. Everything
promised well, and the ladies were talking most merrily to the young
traveller when, just where the road bends round the base of the pretty
hill and wood of San Giovanni, three gendarmes in disguise sprang to the
horses’ heads. “Ah!” cried the marchesa, “my husband has betrayed us!”
and she fainted away.

A sergeant of gendarmes, who had been standing somewhat in the
background, approached the carriage. He stumbled as he walked, and
spoke in a voice that was redolent of the tavern: “I am sorry to have
to perform this duty, but I arrest you, General Fabio Conti!” Fabrizio
thought the sergeant was poking fun at him by calling him general. “I’ll
pay you out for this,” thought he to himself. He had his eye on the
gendarmes, and was watching his opportunity to leap from the carriage and
take to his heels across the fields.

The countess smiled—at a venture, as I think—and then said to the
sergeant, “But, my good sergeant, do you take this child of sixteen years
old to be General Conti!”

“Are you not the general’s daughter?” said the sergeant.

“Behold my father!” said the countess, pointing to Fabrizio. The
gendarmes burst into a roar of laughter.

“Show your passports, and don’t bandy words!” said the sergeant, nettled
by the general mirth.

“These ladies never take any passport to go to Milan,” said the coachman,
with a cool and philosophic air; “they are coming from their house
at Grianta. This one is the Countess Pietranera, and that one is the
Marchesa del Dongo.”

The sergeant, quite put out of countenance, went to the horses’ heads,
and there held council with his men. The conference had lasted quite
five minutes, when the countess begged the carriage might be moved a few
paces farther into the shade; the heat was overwhelming, though it was
only eleven o’clock in the day. Fabrizio, who had been looking about
carefully in all directions, with a view to making his escape, noticed,
emerging from a field path which led on to the dusty road, a young girl
of fourteen or fifteen, with her handkerchief to her face, shedding
frightened tears. She walked between two gendarmes in uniform, and three
paces behind her, also flanked by gendarmes, came a tall, bony man, who
gave himself dignified airs, like a prefect walking in a procession.

“But where did you find them?” said the sergeant, who now appeared quite
drunk.

“Running away across the fields, and not a passport between them!” The
sergeant seemed to have quite lost his bearings. He had five prisoners
now, instead of the two he had been sent out to take. He retired a little
distance, leaving only one man to look after the prisoner with the
majestic demeanour, and another to keep the horses from moving on.

“Stay here,” whispered the countess to Fabrizio, who had already jumped
out of the carriage. “It will all come right.”

They heard a gendarme exclaim: “What does it matter? If they have no
passports we have a right to take them up.”

The sergeant did not seem quite so sure. The name of Pietranera had
alarmed him. He had known the general, and he was not aware of his death.
“The general,” he reflected, “is not the man to forego his vengeance if I
arrest his wife without authority.”

During this deliberation, which was somewhat lengthy, the countess had
entered into conversation with the young girl, who was still standing in
the dust, on the road beside the carriage. She had been struck by her
beauty.

“The sun will do you harm, signorina. That honest soldier,” she added,
addressing the gendarme standing at the horses’ heads, “will let you
get into the carriage, I am sure!” Fabrizio, who was prowling round the
carriage, came forward to help the young lady into it. She had her foot
on the step, and Fabrizio’s hand was under her arm, when the imposing
individual, who was standing six paces behind the carriage, called out,
in a voice that his desire to look dignified made yet more rasping: “Stop
on the road! Do not get into a carriage which does not belong to you!”
Fabrizio had not heard this order. The young girl, instead of trying to
get up, tried to get down, and as Fabrizio still held her, she fell into
his arms. He smiled, and she blushed deeply; for a moment after the girl
had freed herself from his clasp they stood looking into each other’s
eyes.

“What a charming prison companion!” said Fabrizio to himself. “What deep
thoughts lie behind that brow! That woman would know how to love!”

The sergeant approached with an air of importance.

“Which of these ladies is called Clelia Conti?”

“I,” said the young girl.

“And I,” exclaimed the elderly man, “I am General Fabio Conti,
Chamberlain to his Serene Highness the Prince of Parma, and I think it
most improper that a man of my position should be hunted like a thief!”

“The day before yesterday, when you embarked at the port of Como, did you
not send the police inspector, who asked you for your passport, about his
business? Well, to-day the inspector prevents you from going about your
business.”

“My boat had already pushed off from the shore. I was in a hurry, a storm
was coming on, a man without a uniform shouted to me from the pier to
come back into the port. I told him my name, and I went on my way.”

“And this morning you sneaked out of Como!”

“A man in my position does not take out a passport to go from Milan to
see the lake. This morning, at Como, I was told I should be arrested at
the gate. I left the town on foot with my daughter. I hoped I might meet
with some carriage on the road, which would take me to Milan, where my
first visit will certainly be to the general commanding the province, to
lay my complaint before him.”

The sergeant seemed relieved of a great weight.

“Very good, general, you are under arrest, and I shall take you to
Milan.—And who are you?” he said, turning to Fabrizio.

“My son,” put in the countess, “Ascanio, son of General Pietranera.”

“Without a passport, madam?” said the sergeant, very much more politely.

“He is so young! He has never had one; he never travels alone; he is
always with me!”

While this colloquy was proceeding, General Conti had been growing more
and more dignified, and more and more angry with the gendarmes.

“Not so many words!” said one of them at last; “you’re arrested, and
there’s an end of it.”

“You’ll be very lucky,” said the sergeant, “if we give you leave to hire
a horse from some peasant! Otherwise, in spite of the dust and the heat,
and your chamberlainship, you’ll just march along among our horses.”

The general began to swear.

“Will you hold your tongue?” said the gendarme. “Where’s your uniform?
Any man who chooses can say he is a general.”

The general grew more and more furious. In the carriage, meanwhile,
matters were going far better.

The countess was making all the gendarmes run about as if they had been
her servants. She had just given one of them a crown to go and fetch her
some wine, and above all some cool water, from a villa which stood about
two hundred paces off. She had found time to pacify Fabrizio, who was
most anxious to bolt into the wood that clothed the hill. “I have two
good pistols,” he kept saying. She persuaded the angry general to let
his daughter get into her carriage. On this occasion the general, who
was fond of talking of himself and his family, informed the ladies that
his daughter was only twelve years old, having been born on October 27,
1803, but that she was so sensible that every one took her for fourteen
or fifteen.

“Quite a common person,” was the verdict which the countess’s eyes
telegraphed to the marchesa’s. In an hour’s time, thanks to the former
lady, everything was settled. One of the gendarmes, who had business
in the adjoining village, hired his horse to General Conti, after the
countess had told him he would have ten francs for it.

The sergeant departed alone with the general, and his comrades remained
under a tree, with four huge bottles of wine which the gendarme, with
the assistance of a peasant, had brought back from the villa. The worthy
chamberlain authorized Clelia Conti to accept a seat in the ladies’
carriage back to Milan, and the idea of arresting the gallant General
Pietranera’s son never entered anybody’s head. After the first moments
devoted to general civilities, and remarks on the little incident just
brought to a close, Clelia Conti noticed the touch of enthusiasm evident
in the beautiful countess’s manner when she spoke to Fabrizio. Clelia was
sure she was not his mother. More especially was her attention attracted
by the constant allusions to something bold, heroic, dangerous in the
highest degree, which he had lately done. But what that might be the
young girl, clever as she was, could not divine. She gazed in wonder
on the young hero, whose eyes still seemed to sparkle with the fire of
action. He, on his side, was somewhat taken aback by the singular beauty
of the twelve-year-old girl, and his glances brought the colour to her
cheeks.

About a league from Milan, Fabrizio took leave of the ladies, saying he
must go and see his uncle. “If ever I get out of my difficulties,” said
he, addressing Clelia, “I shall go and see the great pictures at Parma.
Will you deign, then, to remember this name—Fabrizio del Dongo?”

“Very good!” said the countess. “So that’s how you keep your incognito!
Signorina, be good enough to remember that this scamp is my son, and that
his name is Pietranera, and not Del Dongo!”

That evening, very late, Fabrizio entered Milan by the Renza gate, which
leads to a fashionable promenade. The very modest hoards amassed by the
marchesa and her sister had been exhausted by the expense of sending
servants into Switzerland. Luckily Fabrizio still had a few napoleons,
and one of the diamonds, which they decided to sell.

The two ladies were much beloved, and knew everybody in the city. The
leading members of the Austrian and religious party spoke to Baron
Binder, the chief of the police, in Fabrizio’s favour. These gentlemen
could not understand, they declared, how the prank of a boy of sixteen,
who had quarrelled with his elder brother and left his father’s house,
could be taken seriously.

“My business is to take everything seriously,” gently replied the
baron, a wise and melancholy man. He was then engaged in organizing the
far-famed Milan police, and had undertaken to prevent a revolution like
that of 1746, which drove the Austrians out of Genoa. This Milanese
police, which afterward became celebrated by its connection with the
adventures of Pellico and Andryana, was not exactly cruel, but it carried
laws of great severity into logical and pitiless execution. The Emperor
Francis II was determined to strike terror into these bold Italian
imaginations.

“Give me,” said Baron Binder to Fabrizio’s friends, “the proved facts as
to what the young Marchesino del Dongo has been doing every day, from the
moment he left Grianta, on the 8th of March, until his arrival last night
in this city, where he is hidden in a room in his mother’s apartment, and
I am ready to look upon him as the most charming and frolicsome young
fellow in the town. But if you can not give me information as to the
young man’s goings and comings for every day since his departure from
Grianta, is it not my duty to have him arrested, however high may be his
birth, and however deep my respect for the friends of his family? And am
I not bound to keep him in prison until he has proved to me that he did
not convey a message to Napoleon from the few malcontents who may exist
among his Majesty, the Emperor-King’s, Lombard subjects? And further,
gentlemen, note well, that even if young Del Dongo contrives to justify
himself on this point, he will still remain guilty of having gone abroad
without a regular passport, and also of passing under a false name, and
knowingly using a passport issued to a mere artisan—that is to say, to
an individual of a class infinitely inferior to his own.”

This declaration, merciless in its logic, was accompanied by all that
show of deference and respect due from the head of the police to
the exalted position of the Marchesa del Dongo and of the important
personages who had come forward on her behalf.

When the marchesa heard the baron’s reply she was in despair.

“Fabrizio will be arrested!” she exclaimed, bursting into tears; “and
once he is in prison, God only knows when he will come out! His father
will cast him off!”

The two ladies took counsel with two or three of their closest friends,
and in spite of everything they said, the marchesa wished to insist on
sending her son away the following night.

“But,” said the countess, “you must surely see that Baron Binder knows
quite well that your son is here. He is not a spiteful man.”

“No, but he desires to please the Emperor Francis.”

“But if he thought he could serve his own ends by putting Fabrizio into
prison, he would have done it already, and if you insist on the boy’s
taking to flight, you insult him by your want of confidence.”

“But the very fact that he admits he knows Fabrizio’s whereabouts is as
good as telling us to send him away. No, I shall never breathe freely as
long as I can say to myself, ‘In a quarter of an hour my boy may be shut
up between four walls!’ Whatever Baron Binder’s ambition may be,” added
the marchesa, “he thinks his personal position in this country will be
strengthened by an affected consideration for a man of my husband’s rank,
and the strange frankness with which he avows that he knows where to lay
his hand on my son proves this to me. And besides, the baron calmly sets
forth the two offences of which Fabrizio stands accused according to his
brother’s vile denunciation, and explains that either of these entails
imprisonment. Is not that as good as telling us that if we prefer exile
to prison we have only to choose it?”

“If you choose exile,” repeated the countess, “we shall never see the
boy again.” Fabrizio, who had been present at the whole discussion with
one of the marchesa’s oldest friends, now one of the councillors of the
Austrian Tribunal, was strongly in favour of making himself scarce, and
that very evening, in fact, he left the palace, concealed in the carriage
which was to convey his mother and aunt to the Scala.

The coachman, whom they did not trust, betook himself, as usual, to a
neighbouring tavern, and while the footman, a faithful servant, held the
horses, Fabrizio, disguised as a peasant, slipped out of the carriage
and out of the town. By the next morning he had crossed the frontier
with equal success, and a few hours later he was safe in a country house
belonging to his mother in Piedmont, near Novara, at a place called
Romagnano, where Bayard met his death.

The amount of attention bestowed by the two ladies on the theatrical
performance after they reached their box may be easily conceived. They
had only gone to the theatre to secure an opportunity of consulting
several of their friends of the Liberal party, whose appearance at the
Palazzo del Dongo would have stirred suspicion on the part of the police.
The council in the box decided on making a fresh appeal to Baron Binder.
There could be no question of offering money to the magistrate, who was
a perfectly upright man. And besides, the ladies were very poor; they
had obliged Fabrizio to take all the money remaining over from the sale
of the diamond with him. Nevertheless, it was very important to know the
baron’s final word. The countess’s friends reminded her of a certain
Canon Borda, a very agreeable young man, who had formerly tried to pay
her court, and had behaved in a somewhat shabby fashion to her. When he
found his advances were rejected, he had gone to General Pietranera,
had told him of his wife’s friendship with Limercati, and was forthwith
turned out of the house for his pains. Now, the canon played cards every
evening with Baroness Binder, and was, naturally, her husband’s close
friend. The countess made up her mind to the horribly disagreeable step
of paying a visit to the canon, and the next morning early, before he
had gone out, she appeared in his rooms.

When the canon’s only servant pronounced the name of the Countess
Pietranera, his master was so agitated that his voice almost failed him,
and he made no attempt to rearrange a morning costume of the most extreme
simplicity.

“Show the lady in, and then go,” he said huskily. The countess entered
the room, and Borda cast himself on his knees before her.

“It is in this position only that an unhappy madman like myself can dare
to receive your orders,” said he to the countess, who looked irresistibly
charming in her morning dress, which was half a disguise.

Her deep grief at the idea of Fabrizio’s exile and the violence she
did her own feelings in appearing under the roof of a man who had once
behaved like a traitor to her, combined to make her eyes shine with an
extraordinary light.

“It is in this position,” cried the canon again, “that I must receive
your orders—for some service you must desire of me, otherwise the poor
dwelling of this unhappy madman would never have been honoured by your
presence. Once upon a time, wild with love and jealousy, and seeing he
had no chance of finding favour in your eyes, he played a coward’s part
toward you.”

The words were sincerely spoken, and were all the nobler because at that
moment the canon was in a position of great power. The countess was
touched to tears; her heart had been frozen with humiliation and dread,
but these feelings were replaced, in an instant, by a tender emotion
and a ray of hope. From a condition of great misery she passed, in the
twinkling of an eye, to one that was almost happiness.

“Kiss my hand,” she said, and she held it to the canon’s lips, “and stand
up. I have come to ask you to obtain mercy for my nephew Fabrizio. Here
is the truth, without the smallest disguise, just as it should be told
to an old friend. The boy, who is only sixteen years and a half old,
has committed an unspeakable folly. We were living at the Castle of
Grianta, on the Lake of Como. One night, at seven o’clock, a boat from
Como brought us the news that the Emperor had landed in the Gulf of Juan.
The next morning Fabrizio started for France, after having induced one of
his humble friends, a dealer in barometers of the name of Vasi, to give
him his passport. As he by no means looks like a dealer in barometers,
he had hardly travelled ten leagues through France when he was arrested.
His outbursts of enthusiasm, expressed in very bad French, were thought
suspicious. After some time he escaped, and contrived to get to Geneva.
We sent to meet him at Lugano.”

“At Geneva, you mean,” said the canon, smiling.

The countess finished her story.

“Everything that is humanly possible I will do for you,” replied the
canon earnestly. “I place myself entirely at your orders. I will even
risk imprudences,” he added. “Tell me, what am I to do at this moment,
when my poor room is to be bereft of the celestial vision which marks an
epoch in the history of my life?”

“You must go to Baron Binder; you must tell him you have loved Fabrizio
from his babyhood, that you saw the child at the time of his birth, when
you used to come to our house, and that you beseech Binder, in the name
of his friendship for you, to set all his spies to discover whether
before Fabrizio departed into Switzerland he ever had the shortest
interview with any of the suspected Liberals. If the baron is at all
decently served he will be convinced that this whole business has been
nothing but a childish freak. You know that when I lived in the Palazzo
Dugnani I had quantities of engravings of Napoleon’s battles. My nephew
learned to read from the inscriptions on those pictures. When he was only
five years old my poor husband would describe the battles to him; we used
to put the general’s helmet on the child’s head, and he would drag his
great sword about the room. Well, one fine day the boy hears that the man
my husband worshipped, the Emperor, is back in France. Like the young
madcap he is, he started off to join him, but he did not succeed. Ask
your baron what punishment he can possibly inflict for that one moment of
folly.”

“I was forgetting something,” cried the canon. “You shall see that I
am not quite unworthy of your gracious pardon. Here,” he said, hunting
about among the papers on his table, “here is the denunciation of that
vile _col-torto_ [hypocrite]—look! It is signed ‘Ascanio Valserra del
Dongo’—which is at the bottom of the whole business. I got it yesterday
in the police office, and I went to the Scala, hoping to meet somebody
who was in the habit of going to your box, by whom I might send it to
you. The copy of this paper reached Vienna long ago. This is the enemy we
have to fight!” The canon and the countess read the document together,
and agreed that in the course of the day he was to send her a copy by a
safe hand. Then the countess went back rejoicing to the Palazzo del Dongo.

“No one could have behaved more perfectly than this man, who once behaved
so ill,” said she to the marchesa. “To-night, at the Scala, when the
theatre clock strikes a quarter to eleven, we will turn everybody out of
our box, we will shut our door, and at eleven o’clock the canon will come
himself, and tell us what he has been able to do. This plan seemed to us
the one least likely to compromise him.”

The canon was no fool; he took good care not to break his appointment,
and having kept it, he gave proofs of a thorough kind-heartedness and
absolute straightforwardness rarely seen save in countries where vanity
does not override every other feeling. His accusation of the Countess
Pietranera to her own husband had caused him constant remorse, and he
hailed the opportunity for atonement.

That morning, when the countess left him, he had said to himself
bitterly, “Now there she is, in love with her nephew!” and his old
wound was not healed. “Otherwise, proud as she is, she would have never
come to me. When poor Pietranera died she refused all my offers of
service with horror, though they were couched in the most polite terms
and transmitted to her by Colonel Scotti, who had been her lover. To
think of the beautiful Pietranera living on fifteen hundred francs!” he
added, as he walked rapidly up and down his room, “and then settling
herself at Grianta with an odious _secatore_ like the Marchese del Dongo!
But that is all explained now. That young Fabrizio is certainly very
attractive—tall, well-built, with a face that is always gay, and, what’s
better, with a sort of tender voluptuous look about him—a Correggio
face!” added the canon bitterly.

“The difference of age—not too great, after all! Fabrizio was born after
the French came here—about ’98, I think. The countess may be seven or
eight and twenty. No woman could be prettier, more delightful. Even
in this country, where there are so many lovely women, she beats them
all—the Marini, the Gherardi, the Ruga, the Aresi, the Pietragrua—she
is better-looking than any of them! They were living happily together
on the banks of that lovely Lake of Como when the young man insisted on
following Napoleon. Ah, there are hearts in Italy still, in spite of
what every one may do! Beloved country! No,” he mused, and his breast
swelled with jealousy, “there is no other possible means of explaining
her willingness to vegetate in the country and endure the disgusting
sight, every day and at every meal, of the Marchese del Dongo’s hideous
countenance, and the vile sallow face of the Marchesino Ascanio, who will
be much worse than his father, on the top of it! Ah, well! I will serve
her faithfully. At all events, I shall have the satisfaction of seeing
her nearer than through my opera-glasses.”

Canon Borda explained the matter very clearly to the ladies. In his heart
Binder was disposed to do all he could for them. He was heartily glad
that Fabrizio had taken himself off before definite orders had arrived
from Vienna, for Baron Binder could decide nothing himself; on this
matter, as on every other, he was obliged to wait for orders. Every day
he sent an exact copy of all his information to Vienna, and awaited the
imperial reply.

During his exile at Romagnano, Fabrizio was to be sure, in the first
place, to go to mass every day, to choose some intelligent man, devoted
to the cause of the monarchy, as his confessor, and in confession to be
careful to confide none but the most irreproachable sentiments to his
ear; secondly, he was not to consort with any man who had the reputation
of being clever, and, when occasion offered, he was to speak of rebellion
with horror, as a thing that should never be permitted; thirdly, he was
never to be seen in a _café_, he was never to read any newspaper except
the Turin and Milan Official Gazettes, he was to express dislike of
reading in general, and he was never to peruse any work printed later
that 1720, the only possible exception being Sir Walter Scott’s novels;
“and lastly,” said the canon, with just a touch of spite, “he must not
fail to pay open court to some pretty woman in the district—one of
noble birth, of course. That will prove he has none of the gloomy and
discontented spirit of the juvenile conspirator.”

Before going to bed that night, the countess and the marchesa wrote
Fabrizio two voluminous letters, which explained, with an anxiety that
was most endearing, all the advice imparted by the canon.

Fabrizio had not the slightest wish to conspire. He loved Napoleon,
believed himself destined, as a nobleman, to be more fortunate than most
men, and despised the whole middle class.

Since he had left college he had never opened a book, and while there,
had only read books arranged by the Jesuits. He took up his residence
at some distance from Romagnano, in a magnificent palace which had been
one of the masterpieces of the famous architect San Michele. But it had
been left untenanted for thirty years, so that the rain came through
all the ceilings, and there was not a window that would shut. He took
possession of the agent’s horses, and rode them all day long, just as
it suited him. He never opened his lips, and thought a great deal. The
suggestion that he should take a mistress in some _ultra_ family tickled
his fancy, and he obeyed it to the letter. He chose for his confessor a
young and intriguing priest, who aimed at becoming a bishop (like the
confessor of the Spielberg).[3] But he travelled three leagues on foot,
and wrapped himself in what he believed to be impenetrable mystery, so as
to read the Constitutionnel, which he thought sublime—“as fine as Alfieri
and Dante,” he would often exclaim. Fabrizio resembled young Frenchmen
in this particular, that he thought much more about his horse and his
newspaper than about his high-born mistress. But there was no room, as
yet, for any imitation of others in that simple and steadfast soul, and
he made no friends in the society to be found in the town of Romagnano.
His simplicity was taken for pride; nobody could understand his nature;
“a younger son, who is discontented because he is not the eldest,” said
the parish priest.

[2] This name, thanks to Signor Pellico, is known all over Europe. It
is that of the street in Milan in which the Ministry of Police and the
prisons are situated.

[3] In Andryana’s curious memoirs which are as amusing as a fairy-tale
and should be as immortal as the works of Tacitus.



CHAPTER VI


We will honestly admit that the canon’s jealousy was not utterly
unfounded. When Fabrizio returned from France he appeared in Countess
Pietranera’s eyes as a handsome stranger with whom she had once been
intimately acquainted. If he had made love to her she would have fallen
in love with him, and the admiration she already nursed for both his
person and his acts was passionate, and I might almost say unbounded. But
Fabrizio kissed her with so much innocent gratitude and simple affection
that she herself would have been horrified at the idea of seeking any
other feeling in a regard that was almost filial. “After all,” said the
countess to herself, “some few old friends who knew me six years ago at
the viceroy’s court may still consider me pretty, and even young; but to
this boy I am a respectable woman, and frankly, without any regard for my
vanity, a middle-aged woman, too!” The countess laboured under a certain
illusion with regard to her time of life, but it was not the illusion of
the ordinary woman. “Besides,” she added, “at Fabrizio’s age a man is
inclined to exaggerate the effect produced by the ravages of time. Now,
an older man than he——”

The countess, who had been walking up and down her drawing-room, paused
before a mirror, and smiled. My readers must be informed that for several
months past serious siege had been laid to Gina Pietranera’s heart, and
that by a man quite out of the ordinary category. A short time after
Fabrizio’s departure for France the countess, who, though she did not
quite acknowledge it to herself, was already very much interested in
him, had fallen into a condition of the deepest melancholy. All her
former occupations seemed to have lost their attraction, and if I may
so describe it, their flavour. She told herself that Napoleon, in his
desire to win the affections of the Italian people, would certainly take
Fabrizio for his aide-de-camp! “He’s lost to me!” she exclaimed, weeping.
“I shall never see him again! He will write to me, but what can I be to
him ten years hence?”

While she was in this frame of mind she made a trip to Milan, in the hope
of obtaining more direct news of Napoleon, and possibly further news of
Fabrizio. Though she did not admit it, her eager soul was growing very
weary of the monotony of her country life. “I do not live there,” said
she to herself. “I only keep myself from dying.” She shuddered at the
thought of the powdered heads she must behold every day—her brother, her
nephew Ascanio, and their serving-men; what would her trips on the lake
be without Fabrizio? The affection that bound her to the marchesa was her
only consolation. But for some time past her intimacy with Fabrizio’s
mother, who was older than herself, and had no future outlook, had
brought her less satisfaction.

Such was the Countess Pietranera’s peculiar position. Now that Fabrizio
was gone, she expected but little future happiness, and she hungered
for consolation and for novelty. When she reached Milan she developed a
passionate fondness for the opera then in fashion. She shut herself up
alone for long hours at a stretch in her old friend’s, General Scotti’s,
box at the Scala. The men whose acquaintance she sought, in the hope
of obtaining news of Napoleon and his army, struck her as coarse and
vulgar. When she came home at night she would extemporize on her piano
till three o’clock in the morning. One evening she went to the Scala,
and was sitting in a box belonging to one of her lady friends, whither
she had gone to try and gather news from France. The Minister of Parma,
Count Mosca, was presented to her. He was an agreeable man, who spoke of
France and of Napoleon in a manner which made her heart thrill afresh
with hope and fear. The following day she returned to the same box. The
clever statesman returned also, and during the whole of the performance
she talked to him, and found pleasure in the conversation. Never, since
Fabrizio’s departure, had she thought an evening so enjoyable. The man
who thus diverted her thoughts, Count Mosca della Rovere Sorezana, was
then Minister of War, of Police, and of Finance to Ernest IV, that famous
Prince of Parma, so celebrated for his severity, which Milanese Liberals
termed cruelty. Mosca might have been forty or forty-five years of age.
He was a large-featured man, without a vestige of self-importance and a
simple cheery manner, which prepossessed people in his favour. He would
have been very good-looking, if his master’s whim had not obliged him to
powder his hair, as an earnest of the propriety of his political views.
In Italy, where the fear of wounding the vanity of others is little felt,
people soon fall into intimacy, and proceed to make personal remarks.
The corrective for this habit consists in not meeting again, if feelings
happen to be hurt.

“Tell me, count,” said Countess Pietranera on the third occasion of their
meeting, “why you wear powder? Powder on a man like you—delightful, still
young, and who fought with us in Spain!”

“Because I brought no booty away with me from Spain. After all, a man
must live. I was mad for glory; one word of praise from Gouvion-St. Cyr,
the French general who commanded us, was all I cared for in those days.
When Napoleon fell, I discovered that while I had been spending all my
fortune in his service, my father, who had a lively imagination, and
dreamed of seeing me a general, had been building me a palace at Parma;
and in 1813 I discovered that the whole of my worldly wealth consisted of
a big unfinished palace and a pension.”

“A pension! Three thousand five hundred francs, I suppose, like my poor
husband’s.”

“Count Pietranera was a full general. My poor major’s pension was never
more than eight hundred francs, and until I became Minister of Finance I
was never paid even that!”

As the only other occupant of the box was its owner, a lady of
exceedingly liberal opinions, the conversation was continued in the
same strain of intimacy. In answer to the countess’s questions, Count
Mosca spoke of his life at Parma: “In Spain, under General St. Cyr, I
braved volleys of musketry fire for the sake of the Cross of Honour, and
afterward to win a little glory. Now I dress myself up like a character
in a comedy to secure a great establishment and a certain number of
thousand francs. When I played my first moves in this game of chess the
insolence of my superiors nettled me, and I resolved to reach one of the
highest places. I have gained my object, but my happiest days are always
those I am able to spend, now and then, at Milan. Here, as it seems to
me, the heart of the old army of Italy still throbs.”

The frankness and _disinvoltura_ with which the minister referred to
so greatly-dreaded a prince piqued the countess’s curiosity. She had
expected to meet a self-important pedant; instead of that she found a
man who seemed rather ashamed of his solemn position. Mosca had promised
to keep her informed of all the news from France he could collect. This
was a great indiscretion for any one living at Milan the month before
Waterloo. At that moment the fate of Italy hung in the balance, and
every one in Milan was in a fever of hope or fear. In the midst of the
universal agitation, the countess made inquiries concerning the man who
spoke thus lightly of a position so universally envied, and one which
was his own sole subsistence. She learned things that were curious,
whimsical, and interesting. Count Mosca della Rovere Sorezana, she was
told, is on the point of becoming the Prime Minister and acknowledged
favourite of Ernest IV, absolute ruler of the state of Parma, and one of
the richest princes in Europe into the bargain. The count could already
have attained this supreme position if he would only have assumed a more
serious demeanour. The prince, it is said, has frequently remonstrated
with him on this point. “How can my ways matter to your Highness,” he
answers boldly, “so long as I transact your business?”

“The favourite’s good fortune,” continued her informant, “is not without
its thorns. He has to please a sovereign who, though certainly a man of
sense and cleverness, appears to have lost his head since the day he
ascended an absolute throne, and who, for instance, nurses suspicions
really unworthy even of a woman.”

“Ernest IV’s bravery is limited to that he has displayed in war. Twenty
times over, and in the most gallant fashion, he has led a column to the
attack. But since his father, Ernest III, has died, and he himself has
taken up his residence within his dominions—where, unluckily for himself,
he enjoys unlimited power—he has begun to hold forth in the wildest way
against Liberals and liberty. He soon took it into his head that his
subjects hated him, and at last, in a fit of temper, and egged on by a
wretch by the name of Rassi, a sort of Minister of Justice, he caused two
Liberals, whose guilt was probably of the slightest, to be hanged.

“Since that fatal moment, the sovereign’s whole life seems changed,
and he is harried by the most extraordinary suspicions. He is not yet
fifty, but terror has so degraded him, if one may so describe it, that
when he begins to talk about the Jacobins and the plans of their Central
Committee in Paris his face grows like that of a man of ninety, and he
falls back into all the fanciful terrors of babyhood. His favourite,
Rassi, the head of his judicial department (or chief justice) has no
influence except through his master’s terrors. As soon as he begins to
tremble for his own credit, he instantly discovers some fresh conspiracy
of the blackest and most fanciful description. If thirty imprudent souls
meet to read a number of the Constitutionnel, Rassi declares they are
conspiring, and sends them as prisoners to that famous Citadel of Parma,
which is the terror of the whole of Lombardy. As this citadel is very
high—one hundred and eighty feet, they say—it is seen from an immense
distance all over the huge plain, and the outline of the prison, about
which horrible stories are told, frowns like a merciless sovereign over
the whole tract of country from Milan to Bologna.”

“Would you believe it,” said another traveller to the countess, “at night
Ernest IV sits shivering with terror in his room on the third story of
his palace, where he is guarded by eighty sentries, who shout a whole
sentence instead of a password every quarter of an hour. With ten bolts
shot on each of his doors, and the rooms above and below his apartments
filled with soldiers, he is still terrified of the Jacobins! If a board
in the floor creaks he snatches at his pistols and is convinced a Liberal
must be hidden underneath his bed. Instantly every bell in the castle
begins to ring, and an aide-de-camp hurries off to wake Count Mosca. When
the Minister of Police reaches the castle he knows better than to deny
the existence of the conspiracy. Armed to the teeth, he and the prince
go alone round every corner of the apartments, look under all the beds,
and, in a word, perform a number of ridiculous antics worthy of an old
woman. In those happy days when the prince was a soldier, and had never
killed a man except in war, all these precautions would have struck him
as exceedingly degrading. Being an exceedingly intelligent and clever
man, he really is ashamed of them. Even at the moment of taking them they
appear ridiculous to him. And the secret of Count Mosca’s immense credit
is that he applies all his skill to prevent the prince from ever feeling
ashamed in his presence. It is he, Mosca, who, as Minister of Police,
insists on search being made under every bit of furniture, and, as people
at Parma declare, even in musical instrument cases. It is the prince who
objects, and jokes his minister on his extreme punctiliousness. ‘This
is a matter of honour to me,’ Mosca replies. ‘Think of the satirical
sonnets the Jacobins would rain down upon us if we let them kill you! We
have to defend not only your life, but our own reputation.’ Still the
prince appears to be only half taken in by it all, for if any one in the
town ventures to say there has been a sleepless night in the castle,
Rassi forthwith sends the unseasonable joker to the citadel, and once
the prisoner is shut up in that high and airy dwelling, it is only by
a miracle that any one recollects his existence. It is because Mosca
is a soldier, who, during the Spanish campaigns, saved his own life
twenty times over, pistol in hand, and surrounded by pitfalls, that the
prince prefers him to Rassi, who is far more pliable and cringing. The
unhappy prisoners in the citadel are kept in the most strict and solitary
confinement. All sorts of stories are current about them. The Liberals
declare that Rassi has invented a plan whereby the jailers and confessors
are ordered to convince them that almost every month one of them is led
out to execution. On that day they are allowed to mount on to the terrace
of the huge tower, one hundred and eighty feet high, and thence they
see a departing procession, in which a spy represents the poor wretch
supposed to be going out to meet his fate.”

These tales and a score more of the same nature, and not less authentic,
interested the countess deeply. The day after hearing them she questioned
the count, and jested at his answers. She thought him most entertaining,
and kept assuring him that he certainly was a monster, though he might
be unconscious of the fact. One day, as the count was going home to his
inn, he said to himself: “Not only is the Countess Pietranera a charming
woman, but when I spend the evening in her box I contrive to forget
certain things at Parma, the memory of which stabs me to the heart!”
This minister, in spite of his lively air and brilliant manners, had
not the soul of a Frenchman. He did not know how to forget his sorrows.
“When there was a thorn in his pillow he was forced to break it and wear
it down by thrusting it into his own throbbing limbs.” I must apologize
for introducing this sentence, translated from the Italian. The morning
following on his discovery, the count became aware that in spite of the
business which had called him to Milan, the day was extraordinarily long;
he could not stay quiet anywhere, and tired his carriage horses out.
Toward six o’clock he rode out to the Corso. He had hoped he might have
met the Countess Pietranera there. He could not see her, and recollected
that the Scala opened at eight o’clock. Thither he betook himself, and
did not find more than ten persons in the whole of the great building.
He felt quite shy at being there. “Can it be?” he mused, “that at
five-and-forty I am committing follies for which a subaltern officer
would blush? Luckily nobody suspects it.” He fled, and tried to pass
away the time by walking about the pretty streets in the neighbourhood
of the Scala Theatre. They are full of _cafés_, which at that hour are
teeming with customers. In front of each, a crowd of idlers sits on
chairs, spreading right out into the street, eating ices and criticising
the passers-by. The count was a passer-by of considerable notoriety,
and he had the pleasure of being recognised and accosted. Three or four
importunate individuals, of that class which it is not easy to shake
off, seized this opportunity of obtaining an audience from the powerful
minister. Two of them thrust petitions into his hands, a third contented
himself with giving him long-winded advice as to his political conduct.

“So clever a man as I am must not go to sleep, and a person so powerful
as I should not walk in the streets,” he reflected. He went back to
the theatre, and it occurred to him to take a box on the third tier.
Thence he could gaze unnoticed right into the box on the second tier,
in which he hoped to see the countess appear. Two full hours of waiting
did not seem too long to this man who was in love. Safely screened from
observation, he gave himself up to the enjoyment of his passionate dream.
“What is old age!” he said to himself. “Surely, above all other things,
it means that the capacity for this exquisite foolery is lost!”

At last the countess made her appearance. Through his opera-glasses he
watched her adoringly. “Young, brilliant, blithe as a bird,” he said,
“she does not look five-and-twenty. Her beauty is the least of her
charms. Where else could I discover a creature of such perfect sincerity,
one whose actions are never governed _by prudence_, who gives herself up
bodily to the feelings of the moment, and asks nothing better than to be
whirled off by some fresh object? I can understand all Count Nani’s wild
behaviour!”

The count gave himself excellent reasons for his extravagant feelings
so long as he only thought of attaining the happiness he saw before his
eyes. But his arguments were not so cogent when he began to consider his
own age, and the anxieties, some of them gloomy enough, which clouded
his existence. “A clever man, whose terrors override his intelligence,
gives me a great position and large sums of money for acting as his
minister. But supposing he were to dismiss me to-morrow? I should be
nothing but an elderly and needy man; in other words, just the sort of
man that every one is inclined to despise. A nice sort of individual to
offer to the countess!” These thoughts were too dreary, and he turned his
eyes once more upon the object of his affections. He was never tired of
gazing at her, and he refrained from going to her box so that he might
contemplate her more undisturbedly. “I have just been told,” he mused,
“that she only encouraged Nani to play a trick on Limercati, who would
not take the trouble to run her husband’s murderer through, or have
him stabbed by somebody else. I would fight twenty duels for her!” he
murmured in a passion of adoration. He kept continually glancing at the
Scala clock, with its luminous figures standing out on a black ground,
which, as each five minutes passed, warned the spectators that the hour
of their admission into some fair friend’s box had duly arrived.

The count ruminated again: “I have only known her such a short time that
I dare not spend more than half an hour in her box. If I stay longer
than that I shall attract attention, and then, thanks to my age, and
still more to the cursed powder in my hair, I shall look as foolish as
a pantaloon!” But a sudden thought forced him to a decision. “Supposing
she were to leave her box to pay a visit to another; I should be well
punished for the stinginess with which I had meted out my pleasure to
myself!” He rose to his feet, meaning to go down to the box in which
the countess was sitting. Suddenly he felt that his desire to enter
it had almost entirely disappeared. “Now this really is delightful,”
he exclaimed, and he stopped on the staircase to laugh at himself.
“I am positively frightened! Such a thing hasn’t happened to me for
five-and-twenty years!” He had almost to make a conscious effort to go
into the box, and like a clever man he took advantage of the circumstance.

He made no attempt whatever to appear at his ease, or to show off his wit
by plunging headlong into some joking conversation. He had the courage
to be shy, and applied his mind to letting his agitation betray itself
without rendering him ridiculous. “If she takes it amiss,” said he to
himself, “I am done for forever! What! Shyness in a man with powdered
hair—hair which would be gray if the powder did not cover it! But it is
the truth, therefore it can not be ridiculous unless I exaggerate it, or
wave it like a trophy before her eyes.” The countess had so often been
bored at the Castle of Grianta, among the powdered heads of her brother,
her nephew, and some tiresome neighbours of the right way of thinking,
that she never gave a thought to the fashion in which her new adorer
dressed his hair.

Her good sense, then, saved her from bursting out laughing when he
entered, and her whole attention was absorbed by the French news which
Mosca always confided to her particular ear when he entered her box. Some
of this news, no doubt, he invented. As she talked it over with him that
evening she noticed his glance, which was open and kindly.

“I fancy,” she said, “that when you are at Parma, surrounded by your
slaves, you do not look at them in so kindly a manner. That would spoil
everything, and give them some hope of not being hanged.”

The total absence of pretension on the part of a man who bore the
reputation of being the foremost diplomatist in Italy struck the countess
as peculiar, and even endowed him with a certain charm in her eyes. On
the whole, and considering how well and brilliantly he talked, she was
not at all displeased that he should have taken it into his head to play
the part of her attentive swain for this one evening, and with no serious
ulterior intentions.

A great point had been gained, and a very risky one. Fortunately for the
minister, who at Parma never saw his advances rejected, the countess
had only just returned from Grianta, and her mind was still numb with
the dulness of her rural life. She had forgotten, so to speak, how to
be merry, and everything connected with the elegancies and frivolities
of life wore an appearance of novelty which almost made them sacred in
her eyes. She had no inclination to laugh at anything, not even at a shy
man of five-and-forty who had fallen in love with her. A week later the
count’s boldness might have met with quite a different reception.

As a rule no visit paid to a box in the Scala lasts more than twenty
minutes. The count spent the whole evening in that in which he had been
so happy as to find the Countess Pietranera. “This woman,” said he to
himself, “brings me back to all the follies of my youth,” yet he felt
the danger of his position. “Will she forgive my folly for the sake of
my reputation as an all-powerful pasha at a place forty leagues off? How
tiresome that life of mine at Parma is!” Nevertheless, as each quarter
struck, he vowed to himself he would depart.

“You must consider, signora,” he said laughingly to the countess, “that I
am bored to death at Parma, and that therefore I must be allowed to drink
deep draughts of pleasure whenever pleasure lies in my path. Thus, for
this one evening, and without making any ulterior claim on your kindness,
give me leave to pay my court to you. In a few days, alas! I shall be far
from this box, where I forget all my sorrows, and you will say, perhaps,
all the proprieties.”

A week after that lengthy visit to the box at the Scala, which had been
followed by various little incidents too numerous to relate here, Count
Mosca was madly in love, and the countess was beginning to think that his
age need be no objection if he pleased her in other respects. Matters had
reached this point, when Mosca was recalled by a courier from Parma. It
was as though his prince had grown frightened at being left alone. The
countess went back to Grianta. That beautiful spot, no longer idealized,
now, by her imagination, seemed to her a desert. “Have I really grown
fond of this man?” said she to herself. Mosca wrote, and found himself
at a loss; separation had dried up the springs of his ideas. His letters
were amusing, and there was a quaintness connected with them which did
not fail to please. So as to avoid the remarks of the Marchese del Dongo,
who was not fond of paying for the delivery of letters, these were sent
by messengers, who posted them at Como, Lecco, Varese, and the other
pretty little towns in the near neighbourhood of the lake. One object
of this manœuvre was that the couriers might bring back answers. It was
successfully attained.

Before long the countess began to watch for the days when the post
arrived. The couriers brought her flowers, fruit, little presents of
no value, but which entertained her and her sister-in-law as well. Her
memory of the count began to be mingled with thoughts of his great power,
and the countess grew curious about everything that was said concerning
him. Even the Liberals paid homage to his talents.

The chief ground of the count’s evil reputation rested on the fact that
he was considered the head of the _ultra_ party at the court of Parma,
where the Liberal party was led by an intriguing woman, capable of
anything, even of success, and very rich into the bargain—the Marchesa
Raversi. The prince was very careful not to discourage whichever of the
two parties was not in power. He knew well enough that he would always be
master, even with a ministry chosen out of the Marchesa Raversi’s circle.
Numerous details of these intrigues were related at Grianta. Mosca, whom
all the world described as a minister of first-rate talent and a man of
action, was not present, and therefore the countess was free to forget
the hair powder, which in her eyes symbolized everything that is most
slow and dreary. That, after all, was an infinitesimal detail, one of the
obligations imposed by the court at which he otherwise played so noble a
part. “A court is an absurd thing,” said the countess to the marchesa,
“but it’s amusing. It’s an interesting game, but it must be played
according to the rules. Did anybody ever think of rebelling against the
rules of piquet? Yet once one has grown accustomed to them, there is
great enjoyment in beating one’s adversary.”

The countess gave many a thought to the writer of all those pleasant
letters. The days on which she received them were bright days to
her. She would call for her boat, and go and read them at the most
beautiful spots on the lake—at Pliniana, at Belano, or in the wood of
the Sfondrata. These letters seemed to bring her some consolation for
Fabrizio’s absence. At any rate, she could not deny the count the right
to be desperately in love with her, and before the month was out she was
thinking of him with a very tender affection. Count Mosca, on his part,
was very nearly in earnest when he offered to send in his resignation,
leave the ministry, and spend his life with her at Milan or elsewhere. “I
have four hundred thousand francs,” he said; “that would always give us
fifteen thousand francs a year.”

“An opera-box and horses again,” reflected the countess. The dream was a
tempting one.

The charms of the sublime scenery round Como appealed to her afresh. On
the shores of the lake she dreamed again over the strange and brilliant
existence which, contrary to all appearances, was opening once more
before her. She saw herself in Milan, on the Corso, happy and gay as she
had been in the days of the viceroy. “My youth would come back to me. My
life would be full, at all events.”

Her ardent imagination sometimes deceived her, but she had never laboured
under those voluntary illusions which are the result of cowardice. Above
all things, she was perfectly straightforward with herself. “If I am a
little beyond the age for committing follies, envy—which can deceive
as well as love—may poison the happiness of my life at Milan. After my
husband’s death, my proud poverty and my refusal of two great fortunes
were admired. This poor little count of mine has not a twentieth part of
the wealth those two simpletons, Limercati and Nani, laid at my feet. The
tiny widow’s pension, obtained with so much difficulty, the sending away
of my servants, the little room on the fifth story, which brought twenty
coaches to the door of the house—all that was curious and interesting at
the time. But I shall have some disagreeable moments, however cleverly I
may manage, if with no more private fortune than my widow’s pension, I go
back to Milan, and live there in the modest middle-class comfort which
the fifteen thousand francs a year that will remain to Mosca after his
resignation will insure us. One curious objection, which will become a
terrible weapon in the hands of the envious, is, that though the count
has been separated from his wife for years, he is married. At Parma
everybody is aware of this, but at Milan it will be news, and it will be
ascribed to me. Therefore, farewell, my beautiful Scala! my heavenly Lake
of Como, fare thee well!”

In spite of all her forebodings, if the countess had had the smallest
fortune of her own, she would have accepted Mosca’s offer to resign. She
believed herself to be growing old, and the idea of a court alarmed her.
But the fact which, on this side of the Alps, will appear incredible to
the last degree, is that the count would have given in his resignation
most joyfully. At least he contrived to convince his friend that so it
was. Every letter of his besought her, with ever-growing eagerness, to
grant him another interview at Milan. She did so. “If I were to swear
that I loved you madly,” she said to him, “I should lie to you. I should
be only too happy if, now that I am past thirty, I could love as I loved
at two-and-twenty. But too many things which I believed eternal have
faded from my sight. I have the most tender affection for you, I feel
the most unbounded confidence in you, and I prefer you to every other
man I know.” She believed herself perfectly sincere, but the close of
this declaration was not absolutely truthful. It may be that if Fabrizio
had chosen he might have swept everything else out of her heart, but
Fabrizio, in Count Mosca’s eyes, was no more than a child. The minister
arrived in Milan three days after the young madcap had departed for
Novara, and lost no time in speaking to Baron Binder in his favour. The
count’s opinion was, that there was no chance of saving the youth from
banishment.

He had not come to Milan alone. In his carriage had travelled the
Duke Sanseverina-Taxis—a nice-looking little old man of sixty-eight,
gray-haired, polished, well-groomed, immensely rich, but of inadequate
birth. His grandfather had amassed millions of money by farming the
revenues of the state of Parma. His father had induced the then reigning
prince to appoint him his ambassador at a certain court, by means of the
following argument: “Your Highness allows your envoy at the court of ⸺
thirty thousand francs a year, and he cuts a very poor figure on the
money. If your Highness will appoint me I will be content with a salary
of six thousand francs; I will never spend less than a hundred thousand
francs a year on my embassy, and my man of business shall pay twenty
thousand francs a year to the Department of Foreign Affairs at Parma.
This sum will be the salary of any secretary of my embassy selected by
the government. I shall show no jealousy about being informed as to
diplomatic secrets, if any such exist. My object is to shed honour on my
family, which is still a new one, and to increase its dignity by holding
a great official position.” The present duke, son of the ambassador, had
been clumsy enough to betray some Liberal tendencies, and for the last
two years he had been in a state of despair. He had lost two or three
millions in Napoleon’s time, by his obstinate insistence on remaining
abroad, and notwithstanding this he had failed, since the sovereigns had
been re-established in Europe, to obtain a certain great order which
figured in his father’s portrait. The absence of this order was wasting
him away with sorrow.

So complete is the intimacy which in Italy results on love, that personal
vanity could be no stumbling-block between the two friends. It was,
therefore, with the most perfect simplicity that Mosca said to the woman
he worshipped: “I have two or three plans to suggest to you, all of them
fairly well laid. I have dreamed of nothing else for the last three
months. First, I can resign, and we will live quietly at Milan, Florence,
Naples, or where you will. We have fifteen thousand francs a year,
independently of the prince’s bounty to us, which will last for a time,
at all events. Second, if you will condescend to come to the country
where I have some power, you will buy a country place—let us say Sacca,
for instance, a charming house in the forest overlooking the Po; you can
have the contract of sale duly signed within a week. The prince will give
you a position at his court. But here a great difficulty comes in. You
would be well received at court, nobody would venture to hesitate as to
that in my presence, and besides, the princess thinks she is unfortunate,
and I have just rendered her several services with an eye to your
benefit. But there is one capital objection of which I must remind you.
The prince is exceedingly religious, and, as you know, I am, unluckily, a
married man. This would give rise to innumerable small difficulties. You
are a widow, and that charming title must be exchanged for another. Here
my third proposal comes in.

“It would be easy enough to find a husband who would give us no trouble,
but, above all things, we must have a man of considerable age—for why
should you refuse me the hope of taking his place some day? Well, I have
arranged this curious business with the Duke Sanseverina-Taxis, who is
quite ignorant, of course, of the name of his future duchess. All he
knows about her is that she will make him an ambassador and will procure
him the order his father held, and without which he himself is the most
unhappy of men. Apart from that mania the duke is by no means a fool.
He gets his coats and wigs from Paris; he is not at all the kind of man
who deliberately plots wickedness. He honestly believes that his honour
is involved in wearing that particular order, and he is ashamed of his
money. A year ago he came and proposed to me to build a hospital, so as
to get his order. I laughed at him, but he did not laugh at me when I
proposed this marriage. My first condition, of course, was that he was
never to set his foot in Parma again.”

“But do you know that the suggestion you make to me is exceedingly
immoral?” said the countess.

“Not more immoral than everything else at our court, and at twenty
others. There’s one convenience about absolute power, that it sanctifies
everything in the eyes of the people. Now where is the importance of
an absurdity that nobody notices? Our policy for the next twenty years
will consist in being afraid of the Jacobins, and what a terror it will
be! Every year we shall believe ourselves on the brink of another ’93.
Some day, I hope, you will hear the remarks I make on that subject at my
receptions; they are really fine! Everything which may tend to diminish
this terror, however little, will be _superlatively moral_ in the eyes
of the nobles and the bigots. Now, at Parma every one who is not either
noble or a bigot is in prison, or on the road thither. You may be quite
sure that till the day I am disgraced no one will think this marriage the
least extraordinary. The arrangement involves no dishonesty to any one,
and that, I imagine, is the great point. The prince, whose favour is our
stock in trade, has only imposed one condition to insure his consent—that
the future duchess should be of noble birth. Last year, as far as I can
reckon, my post brought me in a hundred and seven thousand francs, and
my whole income must have been a hundred and twenty-two thousand. I have
invested a sum of twenty thousand francs at Lyons. Now, you must choose
between a life of splendour, with a hundred and twenty-two thousand
francs a year to spend—which in Parma would be as much as four hundred
thousand in Milan (but in this case you must accept the marriage which
will give you the name of a very decent man, whom you will never see
except at the altar)—or a modest existence on fifteen thousand francs a
year at Florence or Naples—for I agree with you, you have been too much
admired at Milan. We should be tormented by envy there, and it might end
by making us unhappy. The life at Parma would, I hope, have some charm of
novelty, even for you who have seen the court of Prince Eugène. It would
be worth your while to make acquaintance with it before we close that
door. Do not think I desire to influence your decision. As far as I am
concerned, my choice is made. I would rather live with you on a fourth
floor than continue alone in my great position.”

The possibility of this strange marriage was discussed daily between the
lovers. The countess saw the duke at a ball at the Scala, and thought him
very presentable. In one of their last conversations, Mosca thus summed
up the matter: “We must take some decisive step if we want to spend our
lives happily, and not to grow old before our time. The prince has given
his approbation. Sanseverina is really rather attractive than otherwise.
He owns the finest palace in Parma and a huge fortune; he is sixty-eight
years old, and is madly in love with the Collar of an Order; but there
is one great blot upon his life—he bought a bust of Napoleon by Canova,
for ten thousand francs. His second misdoing, which will be the death of
him if you do not come to his rescue, is that he once lent twenty-five
napoleons to Ferrante Palla, a madman, from our country, but a man of
genius all the same, whom we have since condemned to death—by default, I
am happy to say. This Ferrante once wrote two hundred lines of poetry,
which are quite unrivalled. I will recite them to you; they are as fine
as Dante. The prince will send Sanseverina to the court of ⸺. He will
marry you the day he starts, and in the second year of his journey—which
he calls an embassy—he will receive the collar of the order for which
he sighs. In him you will find a brother, whom you will not dislike. He
is ready to sign every document I give him beforehand, and, besides,
you will see him hardly ever, or never, just as you choose. He will be
glad not to show himself in Parma, where the memory of his grandfather,
the farmer general, and his own imputed liberalism make him feel
uncomfortable. Rassi, our persecutor, declares that the duke subscribed
secretly to the Constitutionnel, through Ferrante, the poet; and for a
long time this calumny was a serious obstacle in the way of the prince’s
consent.”

Why should the historian be blamed for faithfully reproducing the
smallest details of the story he has heard? Is it his fault if certain
persons, led away by a passion which he, unfortunately for himself,
does not share, stoop to actions of the deepest immorality? It is true,
indeed, that this sort of thing is no longer done in a country where the
only passion—that which has survived all others—is the love of money,
which is the food of vanity?

Three months after the events above related, the Duchess
Sanseverina-Taxis was astonishing the court of Parma by her easy charm
and the noble serenity of her intellect. Her house was beyond all
comparison the most agreeable in the city. This fulfilled the promise
made by Count Mosca to his master. The reigning prince, Ranuzio-Ernest
IV, and the princess, his wife, to whom the duchess was presented by
two of the greatest ladies in the country, received her with the utmost
respect. She had been curious to see the prince, the arbiter of the
fate of the man she loved. She desired to please him, and succeeded
only too well. She beheld a man of tall and somewhat heavy build; his
hair, mustaches, and huge whiskers were of what his courtiers called a
beautiful golden colour; elsewhere their dull tinge would have earned
the unflattering title of tow. From the middle of a large face there
projected, very slightly, a tiny, almost feminine nose. But the duchess
remarked that to realize all these various uglinesses a close examination
of the royal features was necessary. Taking him altogether, the prince
had the appearance of a clever and resolute man. His air and manner were
not devoid of majesty, but very often he took it into his head to try
and impress the person to whom he was speaking; then he grew confused
himself, and rocked almost perpetually from one leg to the other. Apart
from this, Ernest IV’s glance was penetrating and authoritative. There
was something noble about the gesture of his arm, and his speech was both
measured and concise.

Mosca had warned the duchess that the prince’s audience chamber contained
a full-length portrait of Louis XIV and a very fine Florentine scagliola
table. The imitation struck her very much. It was evident that the prince
sought to reproduce the noble look and utterance of Louis XIV, and that
he leaned against the scagliola table so as to make himself look like
Joseph II. Immediately after his first words to the duchess he seated
himself, so as to give her an opportunity of making use of the tabouret
which her rank conferred on her. At this court the only ladies who have
a right to sit are duchesses, princesses, and wives of Spanish grandees.
The rest all wait until the prince or princess invites them to be seated,
and these august persons are always careful to mark the degree of rank
by allowing a short interval to elapse before giving this permission to
a lady of less rank than a duchess. The duchess thought the prince’s
imitation of Louis XIV was occasionally somewhat too marked, as, for
instance, when he threw back his head and smiled good-naturedly.

Ernest IV wore a dress-coat of the fashion then reigning in Paris. Every
month he received from that city, which he abhorred, a dress-coat, a
walking-coat, and a hat. But on the day of the duchess’s visit he had
attired himself, with a whimsical mixture of styles, in red pantaloons,
silk stockings, and very high shoes, such as may be observed in the
pictures of Joseph II.

He received the lady graciously, and said several sharp and witty things
to her. But she saw very clearly that civil as her reception was, there
was no excessive warmth about it. “And do you know why?” said Count
Mosca, when she returned from her audience. “It is because Milan is a
larger and finer city than Parma. He was afraid that if he received you
as I expected, and as he had given me reason to hope, you would take him
for a provincial person, in ecstasies over the charms of a fine lady just
arrived from the capital. Doubtless, too, he is vexed by a peculiarity
which I hardly dare express to you. The prince sees no lady at his court
who can compete with you in beauty; last night, when he was going to bed,
that was the sole subject of his conversation with Pernice, his chief
valet, who is a friend of mine. I foresee a small revolution in matters
of etiquette. My greatest enemy at this court is a blockhead who goes
by the name of General Fabio Conti. You must imagine an extraordinary
creature who has spent one full day of his whole life, perhaps, on active
service, and who therefore gives himself the airs of a Frederick the
Great; and, further, because he is the head of the Liberal party here
(God alone knows how liberal they are!), endeavours to reproduce the
noble affability of General Lafayette.”

“I know Fabio Conti,” said the duchess. “I had a glimpse of him at Como;
he was quarrelling with the gendarmes.” She related the little incident,
which my readers may possibly recollect.

“Some of these days, madam—if your intellect ever contrives to probe
the depths of our etiquette—you will become aware that no young lady is
presented at this court till after her marriage. Well, so fervent is our
prince’s patriotic conviction of the superiority of his own city of Parma
over every other, that I am ready to wager anything he will find means to
have young Clelia Conti, our Lafayette’s daughter, presented to him. She
is a charming creature, on my honour, and only a week ago was supposed
to be the loveliest person in the prince’s dominions.

“I do not know,” the count went on, “whether the horrible stories put
about by our sovereign’s enemies have travelled as far as Grianta. He is
described as a monster and an ogre. As a matter of fact, Ernest IV is
full of good commonplace virtues, and it might be added that if he had
been as invulnerable as Achilles he would have continued to be a model
potentate. But in a fit of boredom and bad temper, and a little, too, for
the sake of imitating Louis XIV, who found some hero of the Fronde living
quietly and insolently in a country house close to Versailles fifty years
after the close of that rebellion, and forthwith cut off his head, Ernest
IV had two Liberals hanged. These impudent fellows were in the habit,
it appears, of meeting on certain days to speak evil of the prince and
earnestly implore Heaven to send a plague on Parma, and so deliver them
from the tyrant. The use of the word “tyrant” was absolutely proved.
Rassi declared this was a conspiracy; he had them sentenced to death, and
the execution of one of them, Count L⸺, was a horrible business. All this
happened before my time. Ever since that fatal moment,” continued the
count, dropping his voice, “the prince has been subject to fits of terror
which are unworthy of any man, but which are the sole and only source
of the favour I enjoy. If it were not for the sovereign’s alarms, my
particular style of excellence would be too rough and rugged to suit this
court, where stupidity reigns supreme. Will you believe that the prince
looks under every bed in his apartments before he gets into his own, and
spends a million yearly—which at Parma is what four millions would be at
Milan—to insure himself a good police force. The head of that terrible
police force, madam, now stands before you. Through the police—that is to
say, through the prince’s terrors—I have become Minister of War and of
Finance; and as the Minister of the Interior is my nominal chief—insomuch
as the police falls within his department—I have caused that portfolio
to be bestowed on Count Zurla-Contarini, an idiot who delights in work,
and is never so happy as when he can write eighty letters in a day. This
very morning I have received one on which the count has had the pleasure
of writing No. 20,715 with his own hand.”

The Duchess Sanseverina was presented to the melancholy-looking Princess
of Parma, Clara Paolina, who, because her husband had a mistress (the
Marchesa Balbi, a rather pretty woman), thought herself the unhappiest,
and had thus become the most tiresome woman, perhaps, in the universe.

The duchess found herself in the presence of a very tall and thin woman,
who had not reached the age of six-and-thirty, and who looked fifty.
Her face, with its noble and regular features, might have been thought
beautiful, in spite of a pair of large round eyes, out of which she could
hardly see, if the princess had not grown so utterly careless of her
personal appearance. She received the duchess with such evident shyness
that certain of the courtiers, who hated Count Mosca, ventured to remark
that the sovereign looked like the woman who was being presented, and
the duchess like the sovereign who received her. The duchess, surprised
and almost put out of countenance, did not know what terms she should
employ to indicate the inferiority of her own position to that which
the princess chose to take up. The only thing she could devise to
restore some composure to the poor princess, who was really not lacking
in intelligence, was to begin and carry on a long dissertation on the
subject of botany. The princess really knew a great deal about the
subject; she had very fine hot-houses filled with tropical plants. The
duchess, while simply attempting to get out of her own difficulty, made a
lasting conquest of the Princess Clara Paolina, who, timid and nervous as
she had been at the opening of the audience, was so perfectly at her ease
before its close that, contrary to every rule of etiquette, this first
reception lasted no less than an hour and a quarter. The very next day
the duchess purchased quantities of exotic plants, and gave herself out
as a great lover of botany.

The princess spent all her time with the venerable Father Landriani,
Archbishop of Parma, a learned and even a witty man, and a perfectly
well-mannered man into the bargain. But it was a curious sight to see
him, enthroned in the crimson velvet chair which he occupied by virtue of
his office, opposite the arm-chair in which the princess sat, surrounded
by her ladies of honour and her two ladies in waiting. The aged prelate,
with his long white hair, was even more shy, if that were possible, than
the princess. They met every day of their lives, and every audience began
with a full quarter of an hour of silence—to such a point indeed, that
one of the ladies in waiting, the Countess Alvizi, had become a sort of
favourite because she possessed the knack of encouraging them to open
their lips, and making them break the stillness.

To wind up her presentations, the duchess was received by the hereditary
prince, who was taller than his father, and even shyer than his mother.
He was sixteen years old, and an authority on mineralogy. When the
duchess appeared he blushed scarlet, and was so put out that he was
quite unable to invent anything to say to the fair lady. He was very
good-looking, and spent his whole life in the woods with a hammer in his
hand. When the duchess rose to her feet to bring the silent audience to a
close,

“Heavens, madam,” he cried, “how beautiful you are!” and the lady who had
been presented to him did not think the remark altogether ill-chosen.

The Marchesa Balbi, a young woman of five-and-twenty, might, some two or
three years before the arrival of the duchess in Parma, have been quoted
as a most perfect type of Italian beauty. She still had the loveliest
eyes in the world, and the most graceful little gestures. But close
observation showed her skin to be covered with innumerable tiny wrinkles,
which made her into a young-looking old woman. Seen from a distance,
in her box at the theatre, for instance, she was still beautiful, and
the good people in the pit thought the prince showed very good taste.
He spent all the evenings in the Marchesa Balbi’s house, but frequently
without opening his lips, and her consciousness that the prince was bored
had worried the poor woman into a condition of extraordinary thinness.
She gave herself airs of excessive cleverness, and was always smiling
archly. She had the most beautiful teeth in the world, and in season
and out she endeavoured to smile people into the belief that she meant
something different from what she was saying. Count Mosca declared it
was this perpetual smile—while she was yawning in her heart—which had
given her so many wrinkles. The Balbi had her finger in every business,
and the state could not conclude a bargain of a thousand francs without
a “remembrance,” so it was politely termed at Parma, for the marchesa.
According to public report she had invested six millions of francs in
England, but her fortune, which was certainly a thing of recent growth,
did not really exceed one million five hundred thousand francs. It was
to protect himself from her cunning and to keep her dependent on him
that Mosca had made himself Minister of Finance. The marchesa’s sole
passion was fear, disguised in the shape of sordid avarice. “I shall die
destitute,” she would sometimes say to the prince, who was furious at the
very idea. The duchess remarked that the splendid gilded antechamber of
the Balbi’s palace was lighted by a solitary candle, which was guttering
down on to a precious marble table, and her drawing-room doors were
blackened by the servants’ fingers. “She received me,” said the duchess
to her friend, “as if she expected me to give her a gratuity of fifty
francs!”

The tide of these successes was somewhat checked by the reception the
duchess received at the hands of the cleverest woman at the court of
Parma, the celebrated Marchesa Raversi, a consummate _intrigante_, who
led the party opposed to Count Mosca. She was bent on his overthrow, and
had been so more especially during the last few months, for she was the
Duke Sanseverina’s niece, and was afraid the charms of the new duchess
might diminish her own share of his inheritance.

“The Raversi is by no means a woman to be overlooked,” said the count
to his friend. “So great is my opinion of her capacity that I separated
from my wife simply and solely because she insisted on taking one of the
marchesa’s friends, the Cavaliere Bentivoglio, as her lover.”

The Marchesa Raversi, a tall, masterful woman, with very black hair,
remarkable for the diamonds which she wore even in the daytime, and for
the rouge with which she covered her face, had declared her enmity to the
duchess beforehand, and was careful to begin hostile operations as soon
as she beheld her. Sanseverina’s letters betrayed so much satisfaction
with his embassy, and especially such delight in his hope of obtaining
his much-coveted order, that his family feared he might leave part of
his fortune to his wife, on whom he showered a succession of trifling
presents. The Raversi, though a thoroughly ugly woman, had a lover,
Count Baldi, the best-looking man about the court. As a general rule she
succeeded in everything she undertook.

The duchess kept up a magnificent establishment. The Palazzo Sanseverina
had always been one of the most splendid in Parma, and the duke, in
honour of his embassy and his expected decoration, was spending large
sums on improvements. The duchess superintended all these changes.

The count had guessed aright. A few days after the duchess’s presentation
the young Clelia Conti appeared at court; she had been created a
canoness. To parry the blow the conferring of this favour might appear
to have given the count’s credit, the duchess, under pretext of opening
the gardens of her palace, gave a fête, and in her graceful way made
Clelia, whom she called her “little friend from the Lake of Como,” the
queen of the revels. Her initials appeared, as though by chance, on all
the chief transparencies which adorned the grounds. The youthful Clelia,
though a trifle pensive, spoke in the most charming fashion of her little
adventure on the shore of the lake, and of her own sincere gratitude.
She was said to be very devout and fond of solitude. “I’ll wager,”
said the count, “she’s clever enough to be ashamed of her father!” The
duchess made a friend of the young girl; she really felt drawn toward
her. She did not wish to appear jealous, and included her in all her
entertainments. She made it her rule to endeavour to soften all the
various hatreds of which the count was the object.

Everything smiled on the duchess. The court existence, over which the
storm-cloud always hangs threateningly, entertained her. Life seemed
to have begun afresh for her; she was tenderly attached to the count,
and he was literally beside himself with delight. His private happiness
had endued him with the most absolute composure regarding matters which
only affected his ambition, and hardly two months after the duchess’s
arrival he received his patent as Prime Minister, and all the honours
appertaining to that position, which fell but little short of those
rendered to the sovereign himself. The count’s influence over his
master’s mind was all powerful. A striking proof of the fact was soon to
become evident in Parma.

Ten minutes’ walk from the town, toward the southeast, rises the
far-famed citadel, renowned all over Italy, the great tower of which,
some hundred and eighty feet high, may be descried from an immense
distance. This tower, built toward the beginning of the sixteenth century
by the Farnese, grandsons of Paul III, in imitation of the Mausoleum of
Adrian at Rome, is so thick that room has been found on the terrace at
one end of it, to build a palace for the governor of the citadel, and a
more modern prison, known as the Farnese Tower. This citadel, built in
honour of Ranuzio-Ernest II, who had been his own stepmother’s favourite
lover, has a great reputation in the country, both for its beauty and as
a curiosity. The duchess took a fancy to see it. On the day of her visit,
the heat in Parma had been most oppressive. At the altitude on which the
prison stood she found a breeze, and was so delighted that she remained
there several hours. Rooms in the Farnese Tower were immediately opened
for her convenience.

On the terrace of the great tower she met a poor imprisoned Liberal,
who had come up to enjoy the half-hour’s walk allowed him every third
day. She returned to Parma, and not having yet attained the discretion
indispensable at an autocratic court, she talked about the man, who had
told her his whole story. The Marchesa Raversi’s party laid hold of the
duchess’s remarks, and made a great deal of them, in the eager hope that
they would give umbrage to the prince. As a matter of fact, Ernest IV
was fond of reiterating that the great point was to strike people’s
imaginations. “_Forever_,” he would say, “is a great word, and sheds more
terror in Italy than anywhere else.” Consequently he had never granted a
pardon in his life. A week after her visit to the fortress, the duchess
received a written commutation of a prisoner’s sentence, signed by the
prince and minister, and with the name left blank. Any prisoner whose
name she might insert was to recover his confiscated property, and to be
allowed to depart to America and there spend the remainder of his days.
The duchess wrote the name of the man to whom she had spoken. By ill-luck
he happened to be a sort of half-rascal, a weak-hearted fellow. It was on
his confessions that the celebrated Ferrante Palla had been condemned to
death.

The peculiar circumstances connected with this pardon crowned the Duchess
Sanseverina’s success. Count Mosca was deliriously happy. It was one
of the brightest moments in his life, and had a decisive influence on
Fabrizio’s future. The young man was still at Romagnano, near Novara,
confessing his sins, hunting, reading nothing at all, and making love to
a high-born lady—according to the instructions given him. The duchess was
still somewhat disgusted by this last stipulation. Another sign, which
was not a good one for the count, was that though on every other subject
she was absolutely frank with him, and, in fact, thought aloud in his
presence, she never mentioned Fabrizio without having carefully prepared
her sentence beforehand.

“If you wish it,” said the count to her one day, “I will write to that
delightful brother of yours on the Lake of Como, and with a little
trouble on my own part and that of my friends, I can certainly force the
Marchese del Dongo to sue for mercy for your dear Fabrizio. If it be
true—and I should be sorry to think it was not—that the boy is somewhat
superior to the majority of the young men who ride their horses up and
down the streets of Milan, what a life lies before him! that of a man who
at eighteen years old has nothing to do, and never expects to have any
occupation. If Heaven had granted him a real passion for anything on
the face of the earth—even for rod-fishing—I would respect it. But what
is to become of him at Milan, even if he is pardoned? At one particular
hour of the day he will ride out upon the horse he will have brought over
from England; at another fixed hour sheer idleness will drive him into
the arms of his mistress, whom he will care for less than he does for his
horse. Still, if you order me to do it, I will endeavour to procure your
nephew the opportunity of leading that kind of life.”

“I should like him to be an officer,” said the duchess.

“Could you advise any sovereign to confer such a position, which may at
any moment become one of some importance, on a young man who, in the
first place, is capable of enthusiasm, and, in the second, has proved his
enthusiasm for Napoleon to the extent of going to join him at Waterloo?
Consider what we should all be now if Napoleon had won that battle! True,
there would be no Liberals for us to dread, but the only way in which
the sovereigns of the ancient families could retain their thrones would
be by marrying his marshals’ daughters. For Fabrizio the military career
would be like the life of a squirrel in a cage—constant movement and no
advancement; he would have the vexation of seeing his services outweighed
by those of any and every plebeian. The indispensable quality for every
young man in the present day—that is to say, for the next fifty years,
during which time our terrors will last, and religion will not yet be
firmly re-established—must be lack of intelligence and incapacity for all
enthusiasm. I have thought of one thing—but you will begin by crying out
at the very idea—and it is a matter which would give me infinite trouble,
that would last for many a day. Still, it is a folly that I am ready to
commit for you—and tell me, if you can, what folly I would not commit for
the sake of a smile from you?”

“Well?” said the duchess.

“Well! Three Archbishops of Parma have been members of your
family—Ascanio del Dongo, who wrote a book in 16—; Fabrizio, who was here
in 1699; and another Ascanio, in 1740. If Fabrizio will enter the Church,
and give proofs of first-rate merit, I will first of all make him bishop
of some other place, and then archbishop here, provided my influence
lasts long enough. The real objection is this: Shall I continue in power
sufficiently long to realize this fine plan? It will take several years.
The prince may die, or he may have the bad taste to dismiss me. Still,
after all, this is the only means I can perceive of doing anything for
Fabrizio which will be worthy of you.”

There was a long discussion; the idea was very repugnant to the duchess.

“Prove to me once again,” said she to the count, “that no other career is
possible for Fabrizio.”

The count repeated his arguments, and he added: “What you regret is the
gay uniform. But in that matter I am powerless.”

The duchess asked for a month to think it over, and then, with a sigh,
she accepted the minister’s wise counsels. “He must either ride about
some big town on an English horse, with a stuck-up air, or take up a way
of life which is not unsuitable to his birth. I see no middle course,”
repeated the count. “A nobleman, unfortunately, can not be either a
doctor or a lawyer, and this is the century of lawyers. But remember,
madam,” he continued, “that it is in your power to give your nephew the
same advantages of life in Milan as are enjoyed by the young men of his
age who are considered to be Fortune’s favourites. Once his pardon is
granted, you can allow him fifteen, twenty, or thirty thousand francs a
year; the sum will matter little; neither you nor I expect to put away
money.”

But the duchess pined for glory; she did not want her nephew to be a mere
spendthrift. She gave in her adhesion to her lover’s project.

“Observe,” the count said to her, “that I do not the least claim that
Fabrizio should become an exemplary priest, like so many that you see
about you. No. First and foremost, he remains an aristocrat; he can
continue perfectly ignorant if he so prefers it, and that will not
prevent him from becoming a bishop and an archbishop if the prince only
continues to consider me a useful servant. If your will condescends
to change my proposal into an immutable decree,” he continued, “our
_protégé_ must not appear at Parma in any modest position. His ultimate
honours would give umbrage if he had been seen here as an ordinary
priest. He must not appear at Parma without the violet stockings[4] and
all the appropriate surroundings. Then everybody will guess that your
nephew is going to be a bishop, and nobody will find fault. If you will
be ruled by me, you will send Fabrizio to Naples for three years to study
theology. During the vacations he can, if he chooses, go and see Paris
and London, but he must never show himself at Parma.”

This last sentence made the duchess shiver. She sent a courier to her
nephew, desiring him to meet her at Piacenza. I need hardly say that the
messenger carried all the necessary funds and passports.

Fabrizio, who was the first to arrive at Piacenza, ran to meet the
duchess, and kissed her in a transport of affection, which made her burst
into tears. She was glad the count was not present. It was the first time
since the beginning of their _liaison_ that she had been conscious of
such a sensation.

Fabrizio was greatly touched, and deeply distressed, also, by the plans
the duchess had made for him. His hope had always been that, once his
Waterloo escapade had been excused, he might yet become a soldier.

One thing struck the duchess and increased her romantic admiration for
her nephew; he absolutely refused to lead the ordinary life of young men
in large Italian cities.

“Don’t you see yourself at the Corso, in Florence, or Naples,” said the
duchess, “riding your thorough-bred English horses, and then in the
evening your carriage, and beautiful rooms, and so forth?” She dwelt with
delight on her description of the commonplace enjoyments from which she
saw Fabrizio turn in disdain. “He is a hero,” thought she to herself.

“And after ten years of that delightful life,” said Fabrizio, “what
shall I have done? What shall I be? Nothing but a middle-aged young man
who will have to make way for the first good-looking youth who rides into
society on another English horse.”

At first he would not hear of going into the Church. He talked of going
to New York, obtaining citizenship, and serving as a soldier in the
republic of America.

“What a mistake you will make! You will have no fighting, and you will
just fall back into the old _café_ life, only without elegance, without
music, and without love-making,” replied the duchess. “Believe me, your
life in America would be a sad business, both for you and me.” And she
explained what dollar worship was, and the respect necessarily paid to
the artisan class, on whose votes everything depended. They went back
again to the Church plan.

“Before you lose your temper over it,” said the duchess, “try to
understand what the count asks you to do. It is not at all a question of
your living a poor and more or less exemplary life, like Father Blanès.
Remember the history of your ancestors, who were Archbishops of Parma.
Read the notices of their lives in the Appendix to the Genealogy. The
man who bears a great name must be first and foremost a true nobleman,
high-hearted, generous, a protector of justice, destined from the outset
to stand at the head of his order, guilty of but one piece of knavery in
his life, and that a very useful one.”

“Alas!” cried Fabrizio, “so all my illusions have vanished into thin
air!” and he sighed deeply. “It is a cruel sacrifice. I confess I never
reckoned with the horror of enthusiasm and intelligence, even when used
in their own service, which will reign for the future among all absolute
sovereigns.”

“Consider that a proclamation, or a mere freak of the affections, may
drive an enthusiastic man into the opposite party to that in the service
of which he has spent his whole life.”

“Enthusiastic! I!” repeated Fabrizio. “What an extraordinary accusation!
I can not even contrive to fall in love!”

“What!” exclaimed the duchess.

“When I have the honour of paying my court to a beautiful woman, even
though she be religious and of the highest birth, I never can think of
her except when I am looking at her.”

This confession had a very peculiar effect upon the duchess.

“Give me a month,” said Fabrizio, “to take leave of Signora C⸺ at Novara,
and, what is far more difficult, to bid farewell to the dreams of all my
life. I will write to my mother, who will be good enough to come and see
me at Belgirate, on the Piedmontese shore of the Lago Maggiore, and on
the one-and-thirtieth day from this one I will be at Parma _incognito_.”

“Do not dream of such a thing,” exclaimed the duchess; she had no wish
that Count Mosca should see her with Fabrizio.

They met once more at Piacenza. This time the duchess was sorely
agitated. A storm had broken at court. The Marchesa Raversi’s party was
on the brink of triumph; it was quite on the cards that Count Mosca
might be replaced by General Fabio Conti, the head of what was known at
Parma as the Liberal party. With the exception of the name of the rival
whose favour was thus growing with the prince, the duchess told Fabrizio
everything. She discussed all his future chances over again, even to the
possibility that the count’s all-powerful protection might fail him.

“I am to spend three years at the Ecclesiastical Academy at Naples,”
exclaimed Fabrizio. “But as I am to be first and foremost a young man of
family, and as you do not expect me to lead the severe life of a virtuous
seminarist, the idea of my stay at Naples does not alarm me. The life
there will, at all events, be no worse than that at Romagnano. The best
company in that place was beginning to look on me as a Jacobin. During my
exile I have discovered that I know nothing—not even Latin—nay, not even
how to spell! I had determined to begin my education afresh at Novara. I
shall be glad to study theology at Naples; it is a complicated science.”

The duchess was overjoyed. “If we are dismissed,” she said, “we will go
and see you at Naples. But as, for the moment, you accept the idea of the
violet stockings, the count, who knows the present condition of Italy
thoroughly, has given me a hint for you. Believe whatever is taught you
or not, as you choose, _but never express any objection_. Tell yourself
you are being taught the rules of whist; would you make any demur about
the rules of whist? I told the count you were a believer, and he was
very glad of it; it is useful both in this world and in the next. But
do not, because you believe, fall into the vulgarity of speaking with
horror of Voltaire, Diderot, Raynal, and all the other wild Frenchmen
who were the precursors of the two Chambers. Those names should hardly
ever be pronounced by you. But if the necessity should arise, you must
refer to them with the calmest irony, as people whose theories have long
since been rejected, and whose attacks are no longer of the slightest
consequence. Accept everything you are told at the academy with the
blindest faith. Recollect that there are individuals within its walls
who will take faithful note of your most trifling objections. A little
love affair, if judiciously managed, will be forgiven you, but a doubt,
never! Advancing years suppress the tendency to love-making and increase
that toward doubt. When you go to confession act on this principle. You
will have a letter of recommendation to the bishop who acts as factotum
to the Cardinal Archbishop of Naples. To him alone you will confess
your escapade in France, and your presence near Waterloo on the 18th of
June. And even so, shorten the matter, make little of the adventure;
only confess it so that nobody may be able to reproach you with having
concealed it—you were so young when it happened. The second hint which
the count sends you is this: If a brilliant argument occurs to you, or a
crushing reply which would change the course of a conversation, do not
yield to the temptation to shine; keep silence. Clever people will read
your intelligence in your eyes. It will be time enough for you to be
witty when you are a bishop.”

Fabrizio began life at Naples with a quiet-looking carriage and four
faithful Milanese servants, sent him by his aunt. After a year’s study,
no one called him a clever man; he rather bore the reputation of being an
aristocrat, studious, very generous, and something of a libertine.

The year, which had been a fairly pleasant one to Fabrizio, had been
terrible for the duchess. Two or three times over the count had been
within an inch of ruin. The prince, who, being ill, was more timorous
than ever, fancied that by dismissing him he would get rid of the odium
of the executions which had taken place before the count became minister.
Rassi was the favourite with whom the sovereign was determined not to
part. The count’s peril made the duchess cling to him with passionate
affection; she never gave a thought to Fabrizio. To give some colour
to their possible retirement, she discovered that the air of Parma,
which is, indeed, somewhat damp, like that of the whole of Lombardy,
was quite unsuited to her health. At last, after intervals of disgrace,
during which the Prime Minister sometimes spent three weeks without
seeing his master privately, Mosca won the day. He had General Fabio
Conti, the so-called Liberal, appointed governor of the citadel in which
the Liberals sentenced by Rassi were imprisoned. “If Conti shows any
indulgence to his prisoners,” said Mosca to his mistress, “he will be
disgraced as a Jacobin, whose political views have made him forget his
duty as a soldier. If he proves severe and merciless, which, as I fancy,
is the direction in which he will most likely lean, he ceases to be the
leader of his own party, and alienates all the families whose relations
are imprisoned in the citadel. The poor wretch knows how to put on an
air of the deepest respect whenever he appears before the prince; he
can change his clothes four times a day, he can discuss a question of
etiquette, but his head is not strong enough to guide him along the
difficult path which is the only one that can lead him to safety. And
anyhow, I am on the spot.”

The day after General Fabio Conti’s appointment, which closed the
ministerial crisis, it was noised abroad that an ultra-monarchical
newspaper was to be published in Parma.

“What quarrels this newspaper will cause!” said the duchess.

“The idea of publishing this newspaper is perhaps the best I ever had,”
replied the count with a laugh. “Little by little, and in spite of
myself, I shall let the ultra-furies take the management out of my hands.
I have had good salaries attached to all the positions connected with the
editorial staff—people will apply to be appointed from all quarters—the
matter will keep us busy for a month or two, and so my late dangers will
be forgotten. Those serious personages P⸺ and D⸺ have already joined the
staff.”

“But the whole thing will be too revoltingly absurd!”

“I hope so, indeed,” replied the count. “The prince shall read it every
morning, and admire the doctrine of the newspaper I have founded. As
regards the details, he will approve of some and find fault with others;
that will take up two of his working hours. The newspaper will get into
difficulties, but by the time the serious troubles begin, eight or ten
months hence, it will be entirely in the hands of the ultras. Then that
party, which is a trouble to me, will have to answer for it, and I shall
make complaints against the newspaper. On the whole, I would rather
have a hundred vile absurdities than see a single man hanged. Who will
remember an absurdity two years after its publication in the official
newspaper? Whereas, if I have to hang a man, his son and his whole family
vow a hatred against me which will last my whole life, and may shorten
it.”

The duchess, who was always passionately interested in one thing or
another, constantly active and never idle, was cleverer than the whole
court of Parma together. But she had not the patience and calmness
indispensable to success in intrigue; nevertheless, she contrived to
follow the working of the various coteries with eager interest, and
was even beginning to enjoy some personal credit with the prince. The
reigning princess, Clara Paolina, who was loaded with honours, but,
girt about with the most superannuated etiquette, looked on herself as
the unhappiest of women. The Duchess Sanseverina paid court to her, and
undertook to convince her she was not so very wretched after all. It
must be explained that the prince never saw his wife except at dinner.
This repast lasted about twenty minutes, and sometimes for weeks and
weeks the prince never opened his lips to Clara Paolina. The duchess
endeavoured to change all this. She herself amused the prince, all the
more so because she had managed to preserve her independence. Even if she
had desired it she could not have contrived never to displease any of the
fools who swarmed at court. It was this utter incapacity on her part that
caused her to be detested by the common herd of courtiers, all of them
men of title, most of them enjoying incomes of about five thousand francs
a year. She realized this misfortune during her first days at Parma, and
turned her exclusive attention to pleasing the prince and his consort,
who completely swayed the hereditary prince. The duchess knew how to
amuse the sovereign, and took advantage of the great attention he paid
to her lightest word, to cast hearty ridicule on the courtiers who hated
her. Since the follies into which Rassi had led him—and blood-stained
follies cannot be repaired—the prince was occasionally frightened, and
very often bored. This had brought him to a condition of melancholy envy.
He realized that he was hardly ever amused, and looked glum if he thought
other people were amusing themselves. The sight of happiness drove him
wild. “We must hide our love,” said the duchess to her lover, and she
allowed the prince to surmise that her affection for the count, charming
fellow though he was, was by no means so strong as it had been.

This discovery insured his Highness a whole day of happiness. From time
to time the duchess would let fall a word or two concerning a plan she
had for taking a few months’ holiday every year, and spending the time
in seeing Italy, for she did not know the country at all. She would
pay visits to Naples, Florence, and Rome. Now, nothing in the world
could possibly be more displeasing to the prince than any idea of such
desertion. This was one of his ruling weaknesses—any action which might
be imputed to scorn of his native city stabbed him to the heart. He felt
he had no means of detaining the Duchess Sanseverina, and the Duchess
Sanseverina was by far the most brilliant woman at Parma. People even
came back from their country houses in the neighbourhood to be present at
her Thursday parties, a wonderful effort for these idle Italians. These
Thursday gatherings were real _fêtes_, at which the duchess almost always
produced some fresh and attractive novelty. The prince was dying to see
one of these parties, but how was he to set about it? To go to a private
house was a thing which neither he nor his father had ever done.

On a certain Thursday it was raining and bitterly cold. All through the
evening the duke had been listening to the carriages rattling across
the pavement of the square in front of his palace, on their way to the
Palazzo Sanseverina. A fit of impatient anger seized him. Other people
were amusing themselves, and he, their sovereign prince and absolute
lord, who ought to amuse himself more than anybody in the world, was
feeling bored.

He rang for his aide-de-camp. It took a little time to station a dozen
trusty servants in the street leading from the palace of his Highness
to the Palazzo Sanseverina. At last, after an hour, which to the prince
seemed like a century, and during which he had been tempted, twenty
times over, to set forth boldly without any precaution whatsoever, and
take his chance of dagger thrusts, he made his appearance in the Duchess
Sanseverina’s outer drawing-room. If a thunderbolt had fallen in that
drawing-room, it could not have caused such great surprise. In the
twinkling of an eye, as the prince passed forward, a stupor of silence
fell upon the rooms which had just been so noisy and so gay. Every eye
was fixed on the prince, and stared wider and wider. The courtiers seemed
put out of countenance; the duchess alone did not appear astonished.
When the power of speech returned, the great anxiety of all the company
present was to decide the important question whether the duchess had
been warned of the impending visit, or whether it had taken her, like
everybody else, by surprise.

The prince amused himself, and my readers will now be able to realize the
impulsive nature of the duchess, and the infinite power which the vague
ideas of possible departure she had so skilfully dropped had enabled her
to attain.

As she accompanied the departing prince to the door, he addressed her in
the most flattering strain. A strange notion entered her head, and she
ventured to say, quite simply, and as though it were the most ordinary
matter in the world:

“If your Most Serene Highness would address two or three of the gracious
expressions you have showered on me to the princess, you would ensure my
happiness far more thoroughly than by telling me, here, that I am pretty.
For I would not, for all the world, that the princess should look askance
at the signal mark of favour with which your Highness has just honoured
me.” The prince looked hard at her, and responded dryly:

“I suppose I am free to go where I choose.”

The duchess coloured.

“My only desire,” she instantly replied, “was to avoid giving your
Highness the trouble of driving out for nothing, for this Thursday will
be my last. I am going to spend a few days at Bologna or Florence.”

When she passed back into the drawing-rooms, every one thought she had
reached the very height of court favour, and she had just dared what no
one in the memory of man had ever dared at Parma. She made a sign to
the count, who left his whist table and followed her into a small room,
which, though lighted up, was empty.

“What you have done is very bold,” he said. “I should not have advised
you to do it. But when a man’s heart is really engaged,” he added
with a laugh, “happiness increases love, and if you start to-morrow
morning, I follow you to-morrow night! The only thing which will delay
me is this troublesome Finance Ministry, which I have been foolish
enough to undertake. But in four hours of steady work I shall be able
to give over a great many cash boxes. Let us go back, dear friend, and
show off our ministerial conceit freely and unreservedly; it may be
the last performance we shall give in this city. If the man thinks he
is being set at defiance he is capable of anything; he will call that
_making an example_! When all these people have departed we will see
about barricading you in for the night. Perhaps your best plan would be
to start at once for your house at Sacca, near the Po, which has the
advantage of being only half an hour’s journey from the Austrian states.”

It was an exquisite moment, both for the duchess’s love, and for her
vanity. She looked at the count, and her eyes were moist with tears. That
so powerful a minister, surrounded by a mob of courtiers who overwhelmed
him with homage equal to that they paid to the prince himself, should be
ready to leave everything for her, and that so cheerfully!

When she went back to her rooms she was giddy with delight; every one
bowed down before her.

“How happiness does change the duchess!” said the courtiers on every
side; “one would hardly know her again. At last that Roman soul, which
as a rule scorns everything, actually condescends to appreciate the
exceeding favour which the sovereign has just shown her.”

Toward the end of the evening the count came to her. “I must tell you
some news.” Immediately the persons close to the duchess retired to a
distance.

“When the prince returned to the palace,” the count went on, “he sent to
the princess to announce his arrival. Imagine her astonishment! ‘I have
come,’ he said, ‘to give you an account of a really very pleasant evening
which I have just spent with the Sanseverina. It is she who begged me to
give you details of the manner in which she has rearranged that smoky old
palace.’ And then the prince, seating himself, began to describe each of
your rooms. He spent more than five-and-twenty minutes with his wife, who
was shedding tears of joy. In spite of her cleverness, she could not find
a word to carry on the conversation in the light tone which it was his
Highness’s pleasure to give it.”

The prince was not a bad man, whatever the Italian Liberals might say
of him. He had, it is true, cast a certain number of them into prison,
but this was out of fright, and he would sometimes reiterate, as though
to console himself for certain memories, “It is better to kill the
devil than to let the devil kill us.” On the morrow after the party to
which we have just referred he was quite joyous; he had done two good
actions—had been to the party, and had talked to his wife. At dinner he
spoke to her again. In a word, that Thursday party at the Sanseverina
palace brought about a domestic revolution which resounded all over
Parma. The Raversi was dismayed, and the duchess tasted a twofold joy.
She had been able to serve her lover, and she had found him more devoted
than ever.

“And all that because a very imprudent notion came into my head,” said
she to the count. “I should have more freedom, no doubt, at Rome or at
Naples, but could I find any existence so fascinating as this? No, my
dear count, and, in good truth, I owe my happiness to you.”

[4] In Italy, young men who are learned or protected in high quarters are
created _monsignori_ and _prelates_, which does not mean that they are
bishops. They then wear violet stockings. A _monsignore_ takes no vows,
and can relinquish his violet stockings if he desires to marry.



CHAPTER VII


Any history of the four years that now elapsed would have to be filled
up with small court details, as insignificant as those we have just
related. Every spring the marchesa and her daughters came to spend two
months either at the Palazzo Sanseverina or at the duchess’s country
house at Sacca, on the banks of the Po. These were very delightful
visits, during which there was much talk of Fabrizio. But the count
would never allow him to appear at Parma. The duchess and the Prime
Minister found it necessary to repair an occasional blunder, but on the
whole Fabrizio followed the line of conduct mapped out for him with
tolerable propriety. He was the great nobleman studying theology, who
did not reckon absolutely upon his virtue to insure his advancement.
At Naples he had taken a strong fancy to antiquarian studies. He made
excavations, and this passion almost took the place of his fondness for
horses. He sold his English horses so as to continue his researches
at Miseno, where he found a bust of the youthful Tiberius, which soon
ranked as one of the finest known relics of antiquity. The discovery of
this bust was almost the keenest pleasure Fabrizio knew while he was at
Naples. He was too proud-spirited to imitate other young men, and, for
instance, to play the lover’s part with a certain amount of gravity. He
had mistresses, certainly, but they were of no real consequence to him,
and in spite of his youth he might have been said not to know what love
was. This only made the women love him more. There was nothing to prevent
him from behaving with the most perfect coolness, for in his case one
young and pretty woman was always as good as any other young and pretty
woman; only the one whose acquaintance he had last made seemed to him the
most attractive. During the last year of his sojourn, one of the most
admired beauties in Naples had committed imprudences for his sake. This
had begun by amusing him, and ended by boring him to death; and that to
such a point that one of the joys connected with his departure was that
it delivered him from the pursuit of the charming Duchess of ⸺. It was
in 1821 that, his examination having been passed with tolerable success,
the director of his studies received a decoration and a pecuniary
acknowledgment, and he himself started, at last, to see that city of
Parma of which he had often dreamed. He was a monsignore, and had four
horses to his carriage. At the last posting station before Parma he took
two horses instead, and when he reached the town he stopped before the
Church of St. John. It contained the splendid tomb of the Archbishop
Ascanio del Dongo, his great-great-uncle, author of the Latin Genealogy.
He prayed beside the tomb, and then went on foot to the palace of the
duchess, who did not expect him till several days later. Her drawing-room
was very full. Soon she was left alone.

“Well, are you pleased with me?” he said, and threw himself into her
arms. “Thanks to you, I have been spending four fairly happy years at
Naples, instead of boring myself at Novara with the mistress the police
authorized me to take.”

The duchess could not get over her astonishment; she would not have
known him if she had met him in the street. She thought him, what he
really was, one of the best-looking men in Italy. It was his expression,
especially, that was so charming.

When she had sent him to Naples he had looked a reckless daredevil; the
riding-whip which never left his hand seemed an inherent portion of
his being. Now, when strangers were present, his manner was the most
dignified and guarded imaginable, and when they were alone she recognised
all the fiery ardour of his early youth. Here was a diamond which had
lost nothing in the cutting. Hardly an hour after Fabrizio’s arrival
Count Mosca made his appearance; he had come a little too soon. The
young man spoke so correctly about the Parmesan order conferred on his
tutor, and expressed his lively gratitude for other benefits to which he
dared not refer in so open a manner with such perfect propriety, that
at the first glance the minister judged him correctly. “This nephew of
yours,” he murmured to the duchess, “is born to adorn all the dignities
to which you may ultimately desire to raise him.” Up to this point all
had gone marvellously well. But when the minister, who had been very much
pleased with Fabrizio, and until then had given his whole attention to
his behaviour and gestures, looked at the duchess, the expression in her
eyes struck him as strange.

“This young man makes an unusual impression here,” said he to himself.
The thought was a bitter one. The count had passed his fiftieth year—a
cruel word, the full meaning of which can only be realized, perhaps,
by a man who is desperately in love. He was exceedingly kind-hearted,
very worthy to be loved, except for his official severity. But in his
eyes that cruel phrase, _my fiftieth year_, cast a black cloud over
all his life, and might even have driven him to be cruel on his own
account. During the five years which had elapsed since he had persuaded
the duchess to settle in Parma, she had often roused his jealousy, more
especially in the earlier days. But she had never given him any cause
for real complaint. He even believed, and he was right, that it was with
the object of tightening her hold upon his heart that the duchess had
bestowed apparent favour on certain of the young beaux about the court.
He was sure, for instance, that she had refused the advances of the
prince, who, indeed, had dropped an instructive remark on the occasion.

“But,” the duchess had objected laughingly, “if I accepted your
Highness’s attentions, how should I ever dare to face the count again?”

“I should be almost as much put out of countenance as you. The poor
dear count—my friend! But that is a difficulty very easily surmounted,
and which I have already considered. The count should be shut up in the
citadel for the rest of his life!”

At the moment of Fabrizio’s arrival, the duchess was so transported with
delight that she gave no thought at all to the ideas her looks might stir
in the count’s brain. Their effect was deep, and his consequent suspicion
ineradicable.

Two hours after his arrival Fabrizio was received by the prince. The
duchess, foreseeing the good effect of this impromptu audience on the
public mind, had been soliciting it for two months beforehand. This
favour placed Fabrizio, from the very outset, above the heads of all his
equals. The pretext had been that he was only passing through Parma on
his way to see his mother in Piedmont. Just at the very moment when a
charming little note from the duchess brought the prince the information
that Fabrizio was waiting on his pleasure, his Highness was feeling
bored. “Now,” said he to himself, “I shall behold a very silly little
saint; he will be either empty-headed or sly.” The commandant of the
fortress had already reported the preliminary visit to the archbishop
uncle’s tomb. The prince saw a tall young man enter his presence; but for
his violet stockings he would have taken him for a young officer.

This little surprise drove away his boredom. “Here,” thought he to
himself, “is a fine-looking fellow, for whom I shall be asked God knows
what favours—all and any that are at my disposal. He has just arrived; he
must feel some emotion. I’ll try a little Jacobinism, and we shall see
what kind of answers he’ll give.”

After the first few gracious words spoken by the prince, “Well,
monsignore,” said he to Fabrizio, “are the inhabitants of Naples happy?
Is the King beloved?”

“Most Serene Highness,” replied Fabrizio, without a moment’s hesitation,
“as I passed along the streets I used to admire the excellent demeanour
of the soldiers of his Majesty’s various regiments. All good society is
respectful, as it should be, to its masters; but I confess I have never
in my life permitted people of the lower class to speak to me of anything
but the labour for which I pay them.”

“The deuce!” thought the prince; “what a priestling! Here’s a
well-trained bird! The Sanseverina’s own wit!” Thoroughly piqued, the
prince used all his skill to draw Fabrizio into talk upon this risky
subject. The young man, stimulated by the danger of his position, was
lucky enough to find admirable answers. “To put forward one’s love for
one’s king,” said he, “is almost an insolence. What we owe him is blind
obedience.” The sight of so much prudence almost made the prince angry.
“This young man from Naples seems to be a clever fellow, and I don’t like
the breed. It’s all very well for a clever man to behave according to the
best principles, and even to believe in them honestly—somehow or other he
is always sure to be first cousin to Voltaire and Rousseau!”

The prince felt there was a sort of defiance of himself in the correct
manners and unassailable answers of this youth just leaving college;
things were by no means turning out as he had foreseen. In the twinkling
of an eye he changed his tone to one of simple good-nature, and going
back, in a few words, to the great principles of society and government,
he reeled off, applying them to the occasion, certain sentences from
Fénelon which had been taught him in his childhood for use at public
audiences.

“These principles surprise you, young man,” said he to Fabrizio (he
had addressed him as monsignore at the beginning of the audience, and
proposed to repeat the title when he dismissed him, but during the course
of the conversation he considered it more skilful and more favourable
to the development of the feelings to use a more intimate and friendly
term), “these principles, young man, surprise you. I confess they have
no close resemblance with the _slices of absolutism_ (he used the very
words) which are served up every day in my official newspaper. But, good
God! why do I quote that to you? You know nothing of the writers in that
paper!”

“I beg your Most Serene Highness’s pardon. Not only do I read the Parma
newspaper, which seems to me fairly well written, but I share its
opinion, that everything which has been done since the death of Louis
XIV in 1715, is at once a folly and a crime. Man’s foremost interest is
his own salvation—there can not be two opinions on that score—and that
bliss is to last for all eternity. The words _liberty_, _justice_,
_happiness of the greatest number_, are infamous and criminal; they give
men’s minds a habit of discussion and disbelief. A Chamber of Deputies
_mistrusts_ what those people call the _ministry_. Once that fatal habit
of _distrust_ is contracted, human weakness applies it to everything. Man
ends by distrusting the Bible, the commands of the Church, tradition,
etc., and thenceforward he is lost. Even supposing—and it is horribly
false and criminal to say it—this distrust of the authority of the
princes set up by God could insure happiness during the twenty or thirty
years of life on which each of us may reckon, what is half a century, or
even a whole century, compared with an eternity of torment?”

The manner in which Fabrizio spoke showed that he was endeavouring to
arrange his ideas so that his auditor might grasp them as easily as
possible. He was evidently not repeating a lesson by rote.

Soon the prince ceased to care about coping with the young man, whose
grave and simple manner made him feel uncomfortable.

“Farewell, monsignore,” he said abruptly. “I see that the education
given in the Ecclesiastical Academy at Naples is an admirable one, and
it is quite natural that when these excellent teachings are sown in so
distinguished an intelligence, brilliant results should be obtained.
Farewell!” And he turned his back on him.

“That fool is not pleased with me,” said Fabrizio to himself.

“Now,” thought the prince, as soon as he was alone, “it remains to be
seen whether that handsome young fellow is susceptible of any passion
for anything; in that case he will be perfect. Could he possibly have
repeated his aunt’s lessons more cleverly? I could have fancied I heard
her speaking! If there was a revolution here it would be she who would
edit the Moniteur, just as the San Felice did it in old days at Naples.
But, in spite of her five-and-twenty years and her beauty, the San Felice
was hanged for good and all—a warning to ladies who are too clever!”

When the prince took Fabrizio for his aunt’s pupil he made a mistake.
Clever folk born on the throne, or close behind it, soon lose all their
delicacy of touch. They proscribe all freedom of conversation around
them, taking it for coarseness; they will not look at anything but masks,
and yet claim to be judges of complexion; and the comical thing is that
they believe themselves to be full of tact. In this particular case, for
instance, Fabrizio did believe very nearly everything we have heard him
say. It is quite true that he did not bestow a thought on those great
principles more than twice in a month. He had lively tastes, he had
intelligence, but he also had faith.

The taste for liberty, the fashion for and worship of the happiness
of the greatest number, which is one of the manias of the nineteenth
century, was in his eyes no more than a heresy, which would pass away
like others, after slaying many souls, just as the plague, while it rages
in any particular region, kills many bodies. And in spite of all this,
Fabrizio delighted in reading the French newspapers, and even committed
imprudences for the sake of procuring them.

When Fabrizio returned, rather in a flutter, from his audience at the
palace, and began to relate the prince’s various attacks upon him to
his aunt, “You must call at once,” she said, “on Father Landriani, our
excellent archbishop. Go to his house on foot, slip quietly up the
stairs, don’t make much stir in the antechamber, and if you have to wait,
all the better—a thousand times better. Be _apostolic_, in a word.”

“I understand,” said Fabrizio; “the man is a Tartuffe.”

“Not the least in the world; he is the very embodiment of virtue.”

“Even after what he did at the time of Count Palanza’s execution?”
returned Fabrizio in astonishment.

“Yes, my friend, even after what he did then. Our archbishop’s father was
a clerk in the Ministry of Finance, quite a humble, middle-class person;
that explains everything. Monsignore Landriani is a man of intelligence,
lively, far-reaching, and profound. He is sincere, he loves virtue. I
am convinced that if the Emperor Decius were to come back to earth he
would cheerfully endure martyrdom, like Polyeuctus, in the opera that was
performed here last week. There you have the fair side of the medal; here
is the reverse: The moment he enters the sovereign’s presence, or even
the presence of his Prime Minister, he is dazzled by so much grandeur,
he flushes, grows confused, and it becomes physically impossible to him
to say ‘No.’ This accounts for the things he has done and which have
earned him his cruel reputation all over Italy. But what is not generally
known is that when public opinion opened his eyes as to Count Palanza’s
trial, he voluntarily imposed on himself the penance of living on bread
and water for thirteen weeks—as many weeks as there are letters in the
name Davide Palanza. There is at this court an exceedingly clever rascal
of the name of Rassi, the prince’s chief justice, or head of the Law
Department, who, at the period of Count Palanza’s death, completely
bewitched Father Landriani. While he was doing his thirteen weeks’
penance, Count Mosca, out of pity, and a little out of spite, used to
invite him to dinner once or twice a week. To please his host the good
archbishop ate his dinner like anybody else—he would have thought it
rebellion and Jacobinism to parade his repentance of an action approved
by his sovereign. But it was quite well known that for every dinner which
his duty as a faithful subject had forced him to eat like everybody
else, he endured a self-imposed penance of two days on bread and water.
Monsignore Landriani, though his mind is superior and his knowledge
first-class, has one weakness—_he likes to be loved_. You must look at
him tenderly, therefore, and at your third visit you must be frankly fond
of him. This, together with your birth, will make him adore you at once.
Show no surprise if he accompanies you back to the head of the stairs;
look as if you were accustomed to his ways—he is a man who was born on
his knees before the nobility. For the rest, be simple, apostolic—no
wit, no brilliancy, no swift repartee. If you do not startle him he will
delight in your company. Remember, it is on his own initiative that he
must appoint you his grand vicar; the count and I will appear surprised,
and even vexed, at your too rapid promotion. That is essential on account
of the sovereign.”

Fabrizio hurried to the archiepiscopal palace.

By remarkable good luck the good prelate’s servant, who was a trifle
deaf, did not catch the name of Del Dongo. He announced a young priest
called Fabrizio. The archbishop was engaged with a priest of not very
exemplary morals, whom he had summoned in order to reprimand him. He was
in the act of administering a reproof—a very painful effort to him, and
did not care to carry the trouble about with him any longer. He therefore
kept the great-nephew of the famous Archbishop Ascanio del Dongo waiting
for three quarters of an hour.

How shall I reproduce his excuses and his despair when, having conducted
the parish priest as far as the outermost antechamber, he inquired, as he
passed back toward his apartment, _what he could do for_ the young man
who stood waiting, caught sight of his violet stockings, and heard the
name Fabrizio del Dongo?

The matter struck our hero in so comic a light that even on this first
visit he ventured, in a passion of tenderness, to kiss the saintly
prelate’s hand. It was worth something to hear the archbishop reiterating
in his despair “That a Del Dongo should have waited in my antechamber!”
He felt obliged, in his own excuse, to relate the whole story of the
parish priest, his offences, his replies, and so forth.

“Can that really be the man,” said Fabrizio to himself, as he returned to
the Palazzo Sanseverina, “who hurried on the execution of that poor Count
Palanza?”

“What does your Excellency think?” said Count Mosca laughingly, as he
entered the duchess’s room. (The count would not allow Fabrizio to call
him “your Excellency.”)

“I am utterly amazed! I know nothing about human nature. I would have
wagered, if I had not known his name, that this man could not bear to see
a chicken bleed.”

“And you would have won,” replied the count. “But when he is in the
prince’s presence, or even in mine, he can not say ‘No.’ As a matter
of fact, I must have my yellow ribbon across my coat if I am to produce
my full effect upon him; in morning dress he would contradict me, and I
always put on my uniform before I receive him. It is no business of ours
to destroy the prestige of power—the French newspapers are demolishing it
quite fast enough. The _respectful mania_ will hardly last out our time,
and you, nephew, you’ll outlive respect—you’ll be a good-natured man.”

Fabrizio delighted in the count’s society. He was the first superior man
who had condescended to converse with him seriously, and, further, they
had a taste in common—that for antiques and excavations. The count, on
his side, was flattered by the extreme deference with which the young man
listened to him, but there was one capital objection—Fabrizio occupied
rooms in the Palazzo Sanseverina; he spent his life with the duchess, and
let it appear, in all innocence, that this intimacy constituted his great
happiness, and Fabrizio’s eyes and skin were distressingly brilliant.

For a long time Ranuzio-Ernest IV, who seldom came across an
unaccommodating fair, had been nettled by the fact that the duchess,
whose virtue was well known at court, had made no exception in his
favour. As we have seen, Fabrizio’s intelligence and presence of mind had
displeased him from the very outset; he looked askance at the extreme
affection, somewhat imprudently displayed, between aunt and nephew. He
listened with excessive attention to the comments of his courtiers, which
were endless. The young man’s arrival, and the extraordinary audience
granted him, were the talk and astonishment of the court for a good
month. Whereupon the prince had an idea.

In his guard there was a private soldier who could carry his wine in the
most admirable manner. This man spent his life in taverns, and reported
the general spirit of the military direct to the sovereign. Carlone
lacked education, otherwise he would long ago have been promoted. His
orders were to be in the palace every day when the great clock struck
noon.

The prince himself went a little before noon to arrange something about
the sun-blind in a room on the mezzanine connected with the apartment in
which his Highness dressed. He returned to this room a little after noon
had struck, and found the soldier there. The prince had a sheet of paper
and an ink-bottle in his pocket. He dictated the following note to the
soldier:

    “Your Excellency is a very clever man, no doubt, and it is
    thanks to your deep wisdom that we see this state so well
    governed. But, my dear count, such great successes can not be
    obtained without rousing a little envy, and I greatly fear
    there may be some laughter at your expense, if your sagacity
    does not guess that a certain handsome young man has had the
    good fortune to inspire, in spite of himself, it may be, a
    most extraordinary passion. This fortunate mortal is, we are
    told, only twenty-three years of age, and, dear count, what
    complicates the question is that you and I are much more than
    double that. In the evening, and at a certain distance, the
    count is delightful, sprightly, a man of wit, as charming as he
    can be; but in the morning, and in close intimacy, the newcomer
    may, if we look at matters closely, prove more attractive.
    Now, we women think a great deal of that freshness of youth,
    especially when we ourselves are past thirty. Is there not talk
    already of settling the charming young man at our court in some
    great position? and who may the person be who most constantly
    mentions the subject to your Excellency?”

The prince took the letter and gave the soldier two crowns.

“These over and above your pay,” he said, with a gloomy look. “You will
keep absolute silence to everybody, or you will go to the dampest of the
lower dungeons in the citadel.”

In his writing-table the prince kept a collection of envelopes addressed
to the majority of the people about his court by the hand of this same
soldier, who was supposed not to know how to write, and never did write
even his police reports. The prince chose out the envelope he wanted.

A few hours later Count Mosca received a letter through the post. The
probable hour of its arrival had been carefully calculated, and at the
moment when the postman, who had been seen to go in with a letter in
his hand, emerged from the minister’s palace, Mosca was summoned to the
presence of his Highness. Never had the favourite appeared wrapped in so
black a melancholy. To enjoy it more thoroughly the prince called out
as he entered: “I want to divert myself by gossiping with my friend,
not to work with my minister. I am enjoying the most frightful headache
to-night, and I feel depressed into the bargain.”

Must I describe the abominable temper that raged in the breast of
Count Mosca della Rovere, Prime Minister of Parma, when he was at last
permitted to take leave of his august master? Ranuzio-Ernest IV possessed
a finished skill in the art of torturing the human heart, and I should
not do him much injustice if I were to compare him here with a tiger who
delights in playing with his victim.

The count had himself driven home at a gallop, called out that not a
soul was to be admitted, sent word to the auditor in waiting that he was
dismissed (the very thought of a human being within hearing distance of
his voice was odious to him), and shut himself up in his great picture
gallery. There, at last, he could give rein to all his fury, and there
he spent his evening, walking to and fro in the dark, like a man beside
himself. He tried to silence his heart, so as to concentrate all the
strength of his attention on the course he should pursue. Plunged in an
anguish which would have stirred the pity of his bitterest enemy, he
mused: “The man I hate lives with the duchess, spends every moment of his
time with her. Must I try to make one of her women speak? Nothing could
be more dangerous—she is so kind, she pays them well, they adore her (and
who, great God! does not adore her?). Here lies the question,” he began
again passionately. “Must I let her guess the jealousy which devours me,
or must I hide it?

“If I hold my peace, no attempt at concealment will be made. I know
Gina; she is a woman who always follows her first impulse; her behaviour
is unforeseen even by herself; if she tries to trace out a plan
beforehand, she grows confused; at the moment of action some new idea
always occurs to her, which she follows delightedly as being the best in
the world, and which ruins everything.

“If I say nothing of my martyrdom, then nothing is hidden from me, and I
see everything which may happen.

“Yes, but if I speak, I call other circumstances into existence; I make
them reflect, I prevent many of the horrible things which may happen.…
Perhaps he will be sent away” (the count drew a breath). “Then I shall
almost have won my cause. Even if there were a little temper at first,
I could calm that down.… And if there were temper, what could be more
natural? … She has loved him like a son for the last fifteen years. There
lies all my hope—_like a son!_ … But she has not seen him since he ran
away to Waterloo; but when he came back from Naples, to her, especially,
he was a different man! _A different man!_” he reiterated furiously,
“and a charming man, too! Above all, he has that tender look and smiling
eye which give so much promise of happiness. And the duchess can not
be accustomed to seeing such eyes at our court. Their place is taken
here by glances that are either dreary or sardonic. I myself, worried
by business, ruling by sheer influence only, over a man who would fain
turn me into ridicule—what eyes must I often have! Ah, whatever care I
take, it is my eyes, after all, that must have grown old. Is not my very
laughter always close on irony? … I will go further—for here I must be
sincere—does not my merriment betray its close association with absolute
power and … wickedness? Do not I say to myself, sometimes—especially when
I am exasperated—‘I can do what I choose’? And I even add a piece of
foolishness—‘I must be happier than others, because in three matters out
of four I possess what others have not, sovereign power.…’ Well, then,
let me be just. This habit of thought must spoil my smile—must give me a
look of satisfied selfishness.… And how charming is that smile of his!
It breathes the easy happiness of early youth, and sheds that happiness
around him.”

Unfortunately for the count, the weather that evening was hot,
oppressive, close on a thunder-storm—the sort of weather, in a word,
which in those countries inclines men to extreme resolves. How can I
reproduce all the arguments, all the views of what had happened to him,
which for three mortal hours tortured the passionate-hearted man? At
last prudent counsels prevailed, solely as a result of this reflection:
“In all probability I am out of my mind. When I think I am arguing I am
not arguing at all. I am only turning about in search of a less cruel
position, and I may pass by some decisive reason without perceiving it.
As the excess of my suffering blinds me, let me follow that rule approved
by all wise men, which is called _prudence_.

“Besides, once I have spoken the fatal word _jealousy_, my line is
marked out for good and all. If, on the contrary, I say nothing to-day,
I can always speak to-morrow, and everything remains in my hands.” The
excitement had been too violent; the count would have lost his reason
if it had lasted. He had a moment’s relief—his attention had just fixed
itself on the anonymous letter. Whence could it come? Hereupon supervened
a search for names, and a verdict on each as it occurred, which created
a diversion. At last the count recollected the spiteful flash in the
sovereign’s eye when he had said, toward the close of the audience:
“Yes, dear friend, there can be no doubt that the pleasures and cares of
the most fortunate ambition, and even of unlimited power, are nothing
compared with the inner happiness to be found in the relations of a
tender and loving intercourse. Myself, I am a man before I am a prince,
and when I am so happy as to love, it is the man, and not the prince,
that my mistress knows.”

The count compared that twinkle of spiteful pleasure with the words in
the letter, “_It is thanks to your deep wisdom that we see this state so
well governed._”

“The prince wrote that sentence!” he exclaimed. “It is too gratuitously
imprudent for any courtier. The letter comes from his Highness.”

That problem once solved, the flush of satisfaction caused by the
pleasure of guessing it soon faded before the cruel picture of Fabrizio’s
charms, which once more rose up before him. It was as though a huge
weight had fallen back upon the heart of the unhappy man. “What matters
it who wrote the anonymous letter?” he cried in his fury. “Does it make
the fact it reveals to me any less true? This whim may change my whole
life,” he added, as though to excuse his own excitement. “At any moment,
if she cares for him in a certain way, she may start off with him to
Belgirate, to Switzerland, or to any other corner of the world. She is
rich, and, besides, if she had only a few louis a year to live on, what
would that matter to her? Did she not tell me, only a week ago, that she
was tired of her palace, well arranged and magnificent as it is? That
youthful nature must have novelty! And how simply this new happiness
offers itself to her! She will be swept away before she has thought
of the danger—before she has thought of pitying me! and yet I am so
wretched!” he exclaimed, bursting into tears.

He had sworn he would not go to see the duchess that evening, but he
could not resist the temptation. Never had his eyes so thirsted for the
sight of her. About midnight he entered her rooms. He found her alone
with her nephew. At ten o’clock she had dismissed all her company and
closed her doors.

At the sight of the tender intimacy between the two, and the unaffected
delight of the duchess, a frightful difficulty, and an unexpected one,
rose up before the count’s eyes; he had not thought of it during his
lengthy ponderings in the picture gallery. _How_ was he to conceal his
jealousy?

Not knowing what pretext to adopt, he pretended he had found the prince
exceedingly prejudiced against him that evening, contradicting everything
he said, and so forth. He had the pain of perceiving that the duchess
hardly listened to him, and paid no attention to circumstances which only
two nights before would have led her into a whole train of argument. The
count looked at Fabrizio. Never had that handsome Lombard countenance
seemed to him so simple and so noble. Fabrizio was paying much more
attention than the duchess to the difficulties he was relating.

“Really,” said he to himself, “that face combines extreme
kind-heartedness with a certain expression of tender and artless delight
which is quite irresistible. It seems to say, ‘The only serious matters
in this world are love and the happiness it brings.’ And yet if any
detail which demands intelligence occurs, his eye kindles, and one is
quite astonished and amazed.

“In his eyes everything is simple, because everything is sent from above.
My God, how am I to struggle against such an enemy? And after all,
what will my life be without Gina’s love? With what delight she seems
to listen to the charming sallies of that young intellect, which, to a
woman’s mind, must seem unique!”

A frightful thought clutched the count like a cramp. “Shall I stab
him there, in her sight, and kill myself afterward?” He walked up and
down the room; his legs were shaking under him, but his hand closed
convulsively upon the handle of his dagger. Neither of the others were
paying any attention to him. He said he was going to give an order to his
servant. They did not even hear him; the duchess was laughing fondly at
something Fabrizio had just said to her. The count went under a lamp in
the outer drawing-room, and looked to see whether the point of his dagger
was sharp. “My manner to the young man must be gracious and perfectly
polite,” he thought, as he returned and drew close to them.

His brain was boiling. They seemed to him to be bending forward and
exchanging kisses there in his very sight. “That is not possible under
my eyes,” he thought. “My reason is going. I must compose myself. If I
am rough the duchess is capable, out of sheer pique to her vanity, of
following him to Belgirate, and there, or during the journey, a chance
word may give a name to what they feel for each other; and then, in a
moment, all the consequences must come.

“Solitude will make that one word decisive, and besides, what is to
become of me once the duchess is far away from me? And if, after a great
many difficulties with the prince, I should go and show my aged and
careworn face at Belgirate, what part should I play between those two in
their delirious happiness?

“Even here, what am I but the _terzo incommodo_ (our beautiful Italian
language was made for the purposes of love)! _Terzo incommodo_ (the third
party, in the way)! What anguish for a man of parts to feel himself in
this vile position, and not to have strength of mind to get up and go
away!”

The count was on the point of breaking out, or at all events of betraying
his suffering by the disorder of his countenance. As he walked round
the drawing-room, finding himself close to the door, he took to flight,
calling out, in good-natured and friendly fashion, “Good-bye, you two!—I
must not shed blood,” he murmured to himself.

On the morrow of that horrible evening, after a night spent partly in
revolving Fabrizio’s advantages, and partly in the agonizing paroxysms
of the most cruel jealousy, it occurred to the count to send for a
young man-servant of his own. This man was making love to a girl named
Cecchina, one of the duchess’s waiting-maids, and her favourite. By
good luck, this young servant was exceedingly steady in his conduct,
even stingy, and was anxious to be appointed doorkeeper in one of the
public buildings at Parma. The count ordered this man to send instantly
for Cecchina. The man obeyed, and an hour later the count appeared
unexpectedly in the room occupied by the girl and her lover. The count
alarmed them both by the quantity of gold coins he gave them; then,
looking into the trembling Cecchina’s eyes, he addressed her in the
following words: “Are there love passages between the duchess and
monsignore?”

“No,” said the girl, making up her mind after a moment’s silence. “No,
_not yet_; but he often kisses the signora’s hands. He laughs, I know,
but he kisses them passionately.”

This testimony was borne out by a hundred answers to as many questions
put by the distracted count. His passionate anxiety ensured the poor
folks honest earning of the money he had given them. He ended by
believing what they told him, and felt less wretched. “If ever the
duchess suspects this conversation of ours,” he said to Cecchina, “I will
send your lover to spend twenty years in the fortress, and you will never
see him again till his hair is white.”

A few days went by, during which it became Fabrizio’s turn to lose all
his cheerfulness.

“I assure you,” he kept saying to the duchess, “Count Mosca has an
antipathy to me.”

“So much the worse for his Excellency!” she replied with a touch of
peevishness.

This was not the real cause of the anxiety which had driven away
Fabrizio’s gaiety. “The position,” he mused, “in which chance has placed
me is untenable. I am quite sure she will never speak—a too significant
word would be as horrifying to her as an act of incest. But supposing
that one evening, after a day of imprudence and folly, she should examine
her own conscience! What will my position be if she believes I have
guessed at the inclination she seems to feel toward me? I shall simply be
the casto Giuseppe” (an Italian proverb alluding to Joseph’s ridiculous
position with regard to the wife of the eunuch Potiphar).

“Shall I make her understand by confiding to her frankly that I am quite
incapable of any serious passion? My ideas are not sufficiently well
ordered to enable me to express the fact so as to prevent its appearing a
piece of deliberate impertinence. My only other resource is to simulate
a great devotion for a lady left behind me in Naples, and in that case I
must go back there for four-and-twenty hours. This plan is a wise one,
but what a trouble it will be! I might try some obscure little love
affair here at Parma. This might cause displeasure, but anything is
preferable to the horrible position of the man who will not understand.
This last expedient may, indeed, compromise my future. I must try to
diminish that danger by my prudence, and by buying discretion.” The cruel
thought, amid all these considerations, was that Fabrizio really cared
for the duchess far more than he did for anybody else in the world. “I
must be awkward indeed,” said he to himself angrily, “if I am so afraid
of not being able to convince her of what is really true.”

He had not wit to extricate himself from the difficulty, and he soon grew
gloomy and morose. “What would become of me, great heavens, if I were to
quarrel with the only being on earth to whom I am passionately attached?”

On the other hand, Fabrizio could not make up his mind to disturb so
delightful a condition of felicity by an imprudent word. His position
was so full of enjoyment, his intimate relations with so charming and so
pretty a woman were so delightful! As regarded the more trivial aspects
of life, her protection insured him such an agreeable position at the
court, the deep intrigues of which, thanks to the explanations she gave
him, amused him like a stage play. “But at any moment,” he reflected, “I
may be wakened as by a thunderclap. If one of these evenings, so cheerful
and affectionate, spent alone with this fascinating woman, should lead to
anything more fervent, she will expect to find a lover in me. She will
look for raptures and wild transports, and all I can ever give her is
the liveliest affection, without any love. Nature has bereft me of the
capacity for that sort of sublime madness. What reproaches I have had to
endure on that score already! I fancy I still hear the Duchess of A⸺, and
I could laugh at the duchess! But she will think that I fail in love for
her, whereas it is love which fails in me; and she never will understand
me. Often, when she has told me some story about the court, with all the
grace and frolicsomeness that she alone possesses—and a story, besides,
which it is indispensable for me to know—I kiss her hands and sometimes
her cheek as well. What should I do if her hand pressed mine in one
particular way?”

Fabrizio showed himself daily in the most esteemed and dullest houses in
Parma. Guided by his aunt’s wise counsels, he paid skilful court to the
two princes, father and son, to the Princess Clara Paolina, and to the
archbishop. Success came to him, but this did not console him for his
mortal terror of a misunderstanding with the duchess.



CHAPTER VIII


Thus, only a month after his arrival at court, Fabrizio was acquainted
with all the worries of a courtier, and the intimate friendship which
had been the happiness of his life was poisoned. One evening, harassed
by these thoughts, he left the duchess’s apartments, where he looked far
too much like the reigning lover, and, wandering aimlessly through the
town, happened to pass by the theatre, which was lighted up. He went in.
This, for a man of his cloth, was a piece of gratuitous imprudence, and
one he had fully intended to avoid while at Parma, which, after all, is
only a small town of forty thousand inhabitants. It is true, indeed, that
from the first days of his residence there he had put aside his official
dress, and in the evenings, unless he was going to very large parties, he
wore plain black, like any man in mourning.

At the theatre he took a box on the third tier, so as not to be seen.
The piece was Goldoni’s “Locandiera.” He was looking at the architecture
of the house, and had hardly turned his eyes upon the stage. But the
numerous audience was in a state of constant laughter. Fabrizio glanced
at the young actress who was playing the part of the Locandiera, and
thought her droll; he looked at her more attentively, and she struck him
as being altogether pretty, and, above all, exceedingly natural. She was
a simple young creature, the first to laugh at the pretty things Goldoni
had put into her mouth, which seemed to astonish her as she spoke them.
He inquired her name, and was told it was Marietta Valserra.

“Ah,” thought he to himself, “she has taken my name! How odd!” Contrary
to his intention, he did not leave the theatre until the play was over.
The next day he came back. Three days after that he had found out where
Marietta Valserra lived.

On the very evening of the day on which, with a good deal of difficulty,
he had procured this address, he noticed that the count looked at him in
the most pleasant manner. The poor jealous lover, who had hard work to
restrain himself within the bounds of prudence, had set spies upon the
young man’s conduct, and was delighted at his freak for the actress. How
shall I describe the count’s delight when, the day after that on which
he had been able to force himself to be gracious to Fabrizio, he learned
that the young man—partly disguised, indeed, in a long blue over-coat—had
climbed to the wretched apartment on the fourth floor of an old house
behind the theatre, in which Marietta Valserra lived. His delight
increased twofold when he knew that Fabrizio had presented himself under
a false name, and was honoured by the jealousy of a good-for-nothing
fellow of the name of Giletti, who played third-rate servants’ parts in
the city, and danced on the tight rope in the neighbouring villages. This
noble lover of Marietta’s was heaping volleys of abuse on Fabrizio, and
vowed he would kill him.

Opera companies are formed by an impresario, who engages the artists
he can afford to pay, or finds disengaged, from all quarters, and the
company thus collected by chance remains together for a season or two, at
the outside. This is not the case with comedy companies. These, though
they move about from town to town, and change their place of residence
every two or three months, continue, nevertheless, as one family,
the members of which either love or hate each other. These companies
frequently comprise couples, living in constant and close relations,
which the beaux of the towns in which they occasionally perform find it
very difficult to break up. This is exactly what happened to our hero.
Little Marietta liked him well enough, but she was horribly afraid of
Giletti, who claimed to be her lord and master, and kept a close eye
upon her. He openly declared that he would kill the monsignore, for he
had dogged Fabrizio’s steps, and had succeeded in finding out his name.
This Giletti was certainly the most hideous of beings, and the least
attractive imaginable as a lover. He was enormously tall, hideously thin,
deeply pitted with small-pox, and had something of a squint into the
bargain. Notwithstanding this, he was full of the graces peculiar to his
trade, and would make his entry on the wings, where his comrades were
assembled, turning wheels on his hands and feet, or performing some other
pleasing trick. His great parts were those in which the actor appears
with his face whitened with flour, and receives or inflicts innumerable
blows with a stick. This worthy rival of Fabrizio’s received a salary of
thirty-two francs a month, and thought himself very well off indeed.

To Count Mosca it was as though he had been brought back from the gates
of the tomb, when his watchers brought him the proofs of all these
details. His good-nature reasserted itself; he was gayer and better
company than ever in the duchess’s rooms, and took good care not to tell
her anything of the little adventure which had restored him to life.
He even took precautions to prevent her hearing anything of what was
happening until the latest possible moment; and finally, he gathered
courage to listen to his reason, which for a month had been vainly
assuring him that whenever a lover’s merits fade, that lover should take
a journey.

Important business summoned him to Bologna, and twice a day the cabinet
couriers brought him, not so much the necessary papers from his offices,
as news of little Marietta’s amours, of the redoubtable Giletti’s fury,
and of Fabrizio’s undertakings.

Several times over one of the count’s agents bespoke performances of
“Arlecchino schelettro e pasta,” one of Giletti’s triumphs (he emerges
from the pie just as his rival Brighella is going to eat it, and thrashes
him soundly). This made a pretext for sending him a hundred francs.
Giletti, who was over head and ears in debt, took good care to say
nothing about this windfall, but his pride reached an astonishing pitch.

What had been a whim in Fabrizio’s case, now became a matter of piqued
vanity. (Young as he was, his anxieties had already driven him to
indulge in _whims_.) His vanity led him to the theatre; the little girl
acted very well and amused him. When the play was over he was in love
for quite an hour. The count, receiving news that Fabrizio was in real
danger, returned to Parma. Giletti, who had served as a dragoon in the
fine “Napoleon” regiment, was seriously talking of murdering Fabrizio,
and was making arrangements for his subsequent flight into the Romagna.
If my reader be very young, he will be scandalized by my admiration for
this fine trait of virtue. Yet it involved no small effort of heroism
on the count’s part to leave Bologna. For too often, indeed, in the
mornings, his complexion looked sorely jaded, and Fabrizio’s was so fresh
and pleasant to look at! Who could have reproached him with Fabrizio’s
death if it had occurred in his absence, and on account of so foolish a
business? But to his rare nature, the thought of a generous action, which
he might have done, and which he had not performed, would have been an
eternal remorse; and, further, he could not endure the idea of seeing the
duchess sad, and by his fault.

When he arrived, he found her taciturn and gloomy. This is what had
happened. Her little maid Cecchina, tormented by remorse and gauging
the importance of her own fault by the large sum she had been paid for
committing it, had fallen sick. One night the duchess, who had a real
regard for her, went up to her room. The young girl could not resist this
mark of kindness. She burst into tears, begged her mistress to take back
the money still remaining to her out of what she had received, and at
last gathered courage to tell her the story of the count’s questions and
her own replies. The duchess ran across to the lamp and put it out. Then
she told Cecchina that she would forgive her, but only on condition that
she never said a word about the strange scene to anybody on earth. “The
poor count,” she added carelessly, “is afraid of looking ridiculous—all
men are alike.”

The duchess hurried down to her own apartments. She had hardly shut
herself into her own room before she burst into tears. The idea of love
passages with Fabrizio, at whose birth she had been present, was horrible
to her, and yet what other meaning could her conduct bear?

Such had been the first cause of the black depression in which the count
found her plunged. When he arrived, she had fits of impatience with
him, and almost with Fabrizio; she would have liked never to have seen
either of them again. She was vexed by Fabrizio’s behaviour with little
Marietta, which seemed to her ridiculous. For the count—who, like a true
lover, could keep nothing from his mistress—had told her the whole story.
She could not grow accustomed to this disaster; there was a flaw in her
idol. At last, in a moment of confidence, she asked the count’s advice.
It was an exquisite instant for him, and a worthy reward for the upright
impulse which had brought him back to Parma.

“What can be more simple?” said the count, with a smile. “These young
fellows fall in love with every woman they see, and the next morning
they have forgotten all about her. Ought he not to go to Belgirate to
see the Marchesa del Dongo? Very well, then. Let him start. While he is
away I shall request the comedy company to remove itself and its talents
elsewhere, and will pay its travelling expenses. But we shall soon see
him in love again with the first pretty woman chance may throw across
his path. That is the natural order of things, and I would not have it
otherwise. If it is necessary, let the marchesa write to him.”

This suggestion, emitted with an air of the most complete indifference,
was a ray of light to the duchess; she was afraid of Giletti.

That evening the count mentioned, as though by chance, that one of his
couriers was about to pass through Milan on his way to Vienna.

Three days later Fabrizio received a letter from his mother.

He departed, very much annoyed because Giletti’s jealousy had hitherto
prevented him from taking advantage of the friendly feelings of which
Marietta had assured him through her _mamaccia_, an old woman who
performed the functions of her mother.

Fabrizio met his mother and one of his sisters at Belgirate, a large
Piedmontese village on the right bank of the Lago Maggiore. The left bank
is in Milanese territory, and consequently belongs to Austria.

This lake, which is parallel to the Lake of Como, and, like it, runs
from north to south, lies about thirty miles farther westward. The
mountain air, the calm and majestic aspect of the splendid lake, which
recalled that near which he had spent his childhood, all contributed to
change Fabrizio’s annoyance, which had verged upon anger, into a gentle
melancholy. The memory of the duchess rose up before him, clothed with
infinite tenderness. It seemed to him, now he was far from her, that he
was beginning to love her with that love which he had never yet felt for
any woman. Nothing could have been more painful to him than the thought
of being parted from her forever, and if, while he was in this frame of
mind, the duchess had condescended to the smallest coquetry—such, for
example, as giving him a rival—she would have conquered his heart.

But far from taking so decisive a step, she could not help reproaching
herself bitterly because her thoughts hovered so constantly about the
young traveller’s path. She upbraided herself for what she still called
a fancy, as if it had been an abomination. Her kindness and attention
to the count increased twofold, and he, bewitched by all these charms,
could not listen to the healthy reason which prescribed a second trip to
Bologna.

The Marchesa del Dongo, greatly hurried by the arrangements for the
wedding of her eldest daughter with a Milanese duke, could only spend
three days with her beloved son. Never had she found him so full of
tender affection. Amid the melancholy which was taking stronger and yet
stronger hold of Fabrizio’s soul, a strange and even absurd idea had
presented itself to him, and was forthwith carried into effect. Dare
we say he was bent on consulting Father Blanès? The good old man was
perfectly incapable of understanding the sorrows of a heart torn by
various boyish passions of almost equal strength; and besides, it would
have taken a week to give him even a faint idea of the various interests
at Parma which Fabrizio was forced to consider. Yet when Fabrizio thought
of consulting him, all the fresh feelings of his sixteenth year came
back to him. Shall I be believed when I affirm that it was not simply
to the wise man and the absolutely faithful friend that Fabrizio longed
to speak? The object of this excursion and the feelings which agitated
our hero all through the fifty hours of its duration are so absurd, that
for the sake of my story I should doubtless do better to suppress them.
I fear Fabrizio’s credulity may deprive him of the reader’s sympathy.
But thus he was. Why should I flatter him more than another? I have not
flattered Count Mosca nor the prince.

Fabrizio, then, if the truth must be told, accompanied his mother to
the port of Laveno, on the left bank of the Lago Maggiore, the Austrian
side, where she landed about eight o’clock at night. (The lake itself is
considered neutral, and no passports are asked of any one who does not
land.) But darkness had hardly fallen before he, too, had himself put
ashore on that same Austrian bank, in a little wood which juts out into
the water. He had hired a _sediola_—a sort of country gig which travels
very fast—in which he was able to follow about five hundred paces behind
his mother’s carriage. He was disguised as a servant belonging to the
Casa del Dongo, and none of the numerous police or customs officers
thought of asking him for his passport. A quarter of a league from Como,
where the Marchesa del Dongo and her daughter were to spend the night,
he took a path to the left, which, after running round the village of
Vico, joined a narrow newly made road along the very edge of the lake.
It was midnight, and Fabrizio had reason to hope he would not meet any
gendarmes. The black outline of the foliage on the clumps of trees
through which the road constantly passed stood out against a starry sky,
just veiled by a light mist. A profound stillness hung over the waters
and the sky. Fabrizio’s soul could not resist this sublime beauty; he
stopped and seated himself on a rock which jutted out into the lake and
formed a little promontory. Nothing broke the universal silence, save
the little waves that died out at regular intervals upon the beach.
Fabrizio had the heart of an Italian. I beg the fact may be forgiven him.
This drawback, which will make him less attractive, consisted, above all,
in the following fact: he was only vain by fits and starts, and the very
sight of sublime beauty filled his heart with emotion, and blunted the
keen and cruel edge of his sorrows. Sitting on his lonely rock, no longer
forced to keep watch against police agents, sheltered by the darkness
of the night and the vast silence, soft tears rose in his eyes, and he
enjoyed, at very little cost, the happiest moments he had known for many
a day.

He resolved he would never tell a lie to the duchess; and it was because
he loved her to adoration at that moment that he swore an oath never to
tell her that he _loved her_; never would he drop into her ear that word
_love_, because the passion to which the name is given had never visited
his heart. In the frenzy of generosity and virtue which made him feel so
happy at that moment, he resolved, on the earliest opportunity, to tell
her the whole truth—that his heart had never known what love might be.
Once this bold decision had been adopted, he felt as though a huge weight
had been lifted off him. “Perhaps she will say something to me about
Marietta. Very good; then I will never see little Marietta again,” he
answered his own thought, joyously.

The morning breeze was beginning to temper the overwhelming heat which
had prevailed the whole day long. The dawn was already outlining the
Alpine peaks which rise over the northern and eastern shores of the Lake
of Como with a pale faint light. Their masses, white with snow, even in
the month of June, stand out sharply against the clear blue of a sky
which, at those great heights, no cloud ever dims. A spur of the Alps
running southward toward the favoured land of Italy separates the slopes
of Como from those of Garda. Fabrizio’s eye followed all the branchings
of the noble range; the dawn, as it drove away the light mists rising
from the gorges, revealed the valleys lying between.

He had resumed his way some minutes previously; he climbed the hill which
forms the Durini promontory, and at last his eyes beheld the church
tower of Grianta, from which he had so often watched the stars with
Father Blanès. “How crassly ignorant I was in those days!” he thought. “I
couldn’t even understand the absurd Latin of the astrological treatises
my master thumbed; and I believe the chief reason of my respect for them
was that, as I only comprehended a word here and there, my imagination
undertook to supply their meaning after the most romantic fashion.”

Gradually his reverie wandered into another direction. Was there anything
real about this science? Why should it be different from others? A
certain number of fools and of clever people, for instance, agree between
themselves that they understand the Mexican language. By this means they
impose on society, which respects them, and on governments, who pay them.
They are loaded with favours, just because they are stupid, and because
the people in power need not fear their disturbing the populace, and
stirring interest and pity by their generous sentiments. “Look at Father
Bari, on whom Ernest IV has just bestowed a pension of four thousand
francs and the cross of his order, for having reconstituted nineteen
lines of a Greek dithyramb!

“But, after all, what right have I to think such things absurd?” he
exclaimed of a sudden, stopping short. “Has not that very same cross
been given to my own tutor?” Fabrizio felt profoundly uncomfortable. The
noble passion for virtue which had lately thrilled his heart was being
transformed into the mean satisfaction of enjoying a good share in the
proceeds of a robbery. “Well,” said he at last, and his eyes grew dim as
the eyes of a man who is discontented with himself, “since my birth gives
me a right to profit by these abuses, I should be an arrant fool if I did
not take my share; but I must not venture to speak evil of them in public
places.” This argument was not devoid of sense, but Fabrizio had fallen
a long way below the heights of sublime delight on which he had hovered
only an hour before. The thought of his privileges had scorched that
always delicate plant which men call happiness.

“If I must not believe in astrology,” he went on, making an effort to
divert his thoughts, “if, like three-fourths of the non-mathematical
sciences, this one is no more than an association of enthusiastic
simpletons with clever humbugs, paid by those they serve, how comes it
that I dwell so often, and with so much emotion, upon that fatal episode?
I did escape, long since, from the jail at B⸺, but I was wearing the
clothes and using the papers of a soldier who had been justly cast into
prison.”

Fabrizio’s reasoning would never carry him any farther than this. He
revolved the difficulty in a hundred ways, but he never could surmount
it. He was too young as yet. During his leisure moments, his soul was
steeped in the delight of tasting the sensations arising out of the
romantic circumstances with which his imagination was always ready to
supply him. He by no means employed his time in patiently considering the
real peculiarities of things, and then discovering their causes. Reality
still seemed to him dull and dirty. I can conceive its not being pleasant
to look at. But then one should not argue about it. Above all things, one
should not put forward one’s own various forms of ignorance as objections.

Thus it was that, though Fabrizio was no fool, he was not able to
realize that his half belief in omens really was a religion, a profound
impression received at his entrance into life. The thought of this belief
was a sensation and a happiness, and he obstinately endeavoured to
discover how it might be _proved_ a science which really did exist, like
that of geometry, for instance. He eagerly ransacked his memory for the
occasions on which the omens he had observed had not been followed by the
happy or unfortunate event they had appeared to prognosticate. But though
he believed himself to be following out a course of argument, and so
drawing nearer to the truth, his memory dwelt with delight on those cases
in which the omen had, on the whole, been followed by the accident, good
or evil, which he had believed it to foretell, and his soul was filled
with emotion and respect. And he would have felt an invincible repugnance
toward any one who denied the existence of such signs, more especially if
he had spoken of them jestingly.

Fabrizio had been walking along without any regard for distance, and he
had reached this point in his powerless arguments when, raising his head,
he found himself confronted by the wall of his own father’s garden. This
wall, which supported a fine terrace, rose more than forty feet above
the road, on the right-hand side. A course of dressed stone, running
along the top, close to the balustrade, gave it a monumental appearance.
“It’s not bad,” said Fabrizio coldly to himself. “The architecture is
good; very nearly Roman in style.” He was applying his new antiquarian
knowledge. Then he turned away in disgust—his father’s severity and,
above all, his brother Ascanio’s denunciation after his return from
France, came back to his mind.

“That unnatural denunciation has been the origin of my present way of
life. I may hate it, I may scorn it, but, after all, it has changed
my fate. What would have become of me once I had been sent to Novara,
where my father’s man of business could hardly endure the sight of me,
if my aunt had not fallen in love with a powerful minister? and then,
if that same aunt had possessed a hard and unfeeling nature, instead of
that tender passionate heart which loves me with a sort of frenzy that
astounds me? Where should I be now if the duchess had been like her
brother, the Marchese del Dongo?”

Lost in these bitter memories, Fabrizio had been walking aimlessly
forward. He reached the edge of the moat, just opposite the splendid
façade of the castle. He scarcely cast a glance at the huge time-stained
building. The noble language of its architecture fell on deaf ears; the
memory of his father and his brother shut every sensation of beauty out
of his heart. His only thought was that he must be on his guard in the
presence of a dangerous and hypocritical enemy. For an instant, but in
evident disgust, he glanced at the little window of the third-floor
room he had occupied before 1815. His father’s treatment had wiped all
the charm out of his memories of early days. “I have never been back in
it,” he thought, “since eight o’clock at night on that seventh of March.
I left it to get the passport from Vasi, and the next morning, in my
terror of spies, I hurried on my departure. When I came back, after my
journey to France, I had not time even to run up and look once at my
prints; and all that thanks to my brother’s accusation.”

Fabrizio turned away his head in horror. “Father Blanès is more than
eighty-three now,” he mused sadly; “he hardly ever comes to the castle,
so my sister tells me. The infirmities of years have laid their hand upon
him; that noble steady heart is frozen by old age. God knows how long it
may be since he has been in his tower! I’ll hide myself in his cellar,
under the vats or the wine-press, until he wakes; I will not disturb the
good old man’s slumbers! Probably he will even have forgotten my face—six
years makes so much difference at my age. I shall find nothing but the
shell of my old friend. And it really is a piece of childishness,” he
added, “to have come here to face the odious sight of my father’s house.”

Fabrizio had just entered the little square in front of the church. It
was with an astonishment that almost reached delirium that he saw the
long, narrow window on the second story of the ancient tower lighted up
by Father Blanès’s little lantern. It was the father’s custom to place it
there when he went up to the wooden cage which formed his observatory, so
that the light might not prevent him from reading his planisphere. This
map of the sky was spread out on a huge earthenware vase, which had once
stood in the castle orangery. In the orifice at the bottom of the vase
was the tiniest of lamps, the smoke of which was carried out of the vase
by a slender tin tube, and the shadow cast by this tube on the map marked
the north. All these memories of simple little things flooded Fabrizio’s
soul with emotion and filled it with happiness.

Almost unthinkingly he raised his two hands and gave the little low,
short whistle which had once been the signal for his admission. At once
he heard several pulls at the cord running from the observatory, which
controlled the latch of the tower door. In a transport of emotion he
bounded up the stairs and found the father sitting in his accustomed
place in his wooden arm-chair. His eye was fixed on the little
telescope. With his left hand the father signed to him not to interrupt
his observation. A moment afterward he noted down a figure on a playing
card; then, turning in his chair, he held out his arms to our hero, who
cast himself into them, bursting into tears. The Abbé Blanès was his real
father.

“I was expecting you,” said Blanès when the first outburst of tenderness
had subsided. Was the abbé posing as a wise man, or was it that thinking
of Fabrizio so often as he did, some astrological sign had warned him, by
a mere chance, of his return?

“The hour of my death draws near,” said Father Blanès.

“What!” exclaimed Fabrizio, much affected.

“Yes,” returned the father, and his tone was serious, but not sad. “Five
months and a half, or six months and a half, after I have seen you again,
my life, which will have attained its full measure of happiness, will
fade out, ‘_come face al mancar dell’alimento_’” (even as the little lamp
when the oil fails in it).

“Before the closing moment comes I shall probably be speechless for one
month or two. After that I shall be received into our Father’s bosom,
provided, indeed, that he is satisfied that I have fulfilled my duty at
the post where he set me as sentinel.

“You are worn out with weariness, your agitation makes you inclined for
sleep. Since I have expected you I have hidden a loaf and a bottle of
brandy in the large case which contains my instruments. Support your
life with these, and try to gather enough strength to listen to me for
a few moments more. I have it in my power to tell you several things
before this night has altogether passed into the day. I see them far
more distinctly now, than I may, perhaps, see them to-morrow, for, my
child, we are always weak, and we must always reckon with this weakness.
To-morrow, it may be, the old man, the earthly man, in me, will be making
ready for my death, and to-morrow night, at nine o’clock, you must leave
me.”

When Fabrizio had obeyed him in silence, as was his wont, “It is true,
then,” the old man resumed, “that when you tried to see Waterloo, all you
found at first was a prison?”

“Yes, father,” replied Fabrizio, much astonished.

“Well, that was a rare good fortune, for your soul, warned by my voice,
may make itself ready to endure another prison, far more severe,
infinitely more terrible. You will probably only leave it through a
crime, but, thanks be to Heaven! the crime will not be committed by your
hand. Never fall into crime, however desperately you may be tempted. I
think I see that there will be some question of your killing an innocent
man, who, without knowing it, has usurped your rights. If you resist this
violent temptation, which will seem justified by the laws of honour, your
life will be very happy in the eyes of men … and reasonably happy in
the eyes of the wise,” he added, after a moment’s reflection. “You will
die, my son, like me, sitting on a wooden seat, far from all luxury, and
undeceived by it. And, like me, without having any serious reproach upon
your soul.

“Now future matters are ended between us; I am not able to add anything
of much importance. In vain I have sought to know how long your
imprisonment will last—whether it will be six months, a year, ten years.
I can not discover anything. I must, I suppose, have committed some
sin, and it is the will of Heaven to punish me by the sorrow of this
uncertainty. I have only seen that after the prison—yet I do not know
whether it is at the very moment of your leaving it—there will be what
I call a crime; but, happily, I think I may be sure that it will not be
committed by you. If you are weak enough to dabble in that crime, all
the rest of my calculations are but one long mistake. Then you will not
die with peace in your soul, sitting on a wooden chair and dressed in
white!” As he spoke these words the father tried to rise, and then it
was that Fabrizio became aware of the ravages time had worked on his
frame. He took almost a minute to get up and turn toward Fabrizio. The
young man stood by, motionless and silent. The father threw himself into
his arms, and strained him close to him several times over with the
utmost tenderness. Then, with all the old cheerfulness, he said: “Try
to sleep in tolerable comfort among my instruments. Take my fur-lined
wrappers; you will find several which the Duchess Sanseverina sent me
four years ago. She begged me to foretell your future to her, but I took
care to do nothing of the kind, though I kept her wrappers and her fine
quadrant. Any announcement of future events is an infringement of the
rule, and involves this danger—that it may change the event, in which
case the whole science falls to the ground, and becomes nothing more than
a childish game. And, besides, I should have had to say some hard things
to the ever-lovely duchess. By the way, do not let yourself be startled
in your sleep by the frightful noise the bells will make in your ear,
when they ring for the seven o’clock mass; later on they will begin to
sound the big bell on the lower floor, which makes all my instruments
rattle. To-day is the feast of San Giovità, soldier and martyr. You know
our little village of Grianta has the same patron saint as the great city
of Brescia, which, by the way, led my illustrious master, Jacopo Marini,
of Ravenna, into a very comical error. Several times over he assured me
I should attain a very fair ecclesiastical position; he thought I was to
be priest of the splendid Church of San Giovità at Brescia, and I have
been priest of a little village numbering seven hundred and fifty souls.
But it has all been for the best. I saw, not ten years since, that if I
had been priest of Brescia, my fate would have led me to a prison, on
a hill in Moravia, the Spielberg. To-morrow I will bring you all sorts
of dainty viands, stolen from the great dinner which I am giving to all
the neighbouring priests, who are coming to sing in my high mass. I will
bring them into the bottom of the tower, but do not try to see me, do not
come down to take possession of the good things until you have heard me
go out again; you must not see me _by daylight_, and as the sun sets at
twenty-seven minutes past seven to-morrow, I shall not come to embrace
you till toward eight o’clock. And you must depart while the hours are
still counted by nine—that is to say, before the clock has struck ten.
Take care you are not seen at the tower windows; the gendarmes hold a
description of your person, and they are, in a manner, under the orders
of your brother, who is a thorough tyrant. The Marchese del Dongo is
breaking,” added Blanès sadly, “and if he were to see you, perhaps he
would give you something from his hand directly into yours. But such
benefits, with the stain of fraud upon them, are not worthy of a man such
as you, whose strength one day will be in his conscience. The marchese
hates his son Ascanio, and to that son the five or six millions of his
property will descend. That is just. When he dies you will have four
thousand francs a year, and fifty yards of black cloth for your servants’
mourning.”



CHAPTER IX


The old man’s discourse, Fabrizio’s deep attention to it, and his own
excessive weariness, had thrown him into a state of feverish excitement.
He found it very difficult to sleep, and his slumber was broken by dreams
which may have been omens of the future. At ten o’clock next morning, he
was disturbed by the rocking of the tower, and a frightful noise which
seemed to be coming from without. Terrified, he leaped to his feet, and
thought the end of the world must have come. Then he fancied himself in
prison, and it was some time before he recognised the sound of the great
bell which forty peasants had set swinging in honour of the great San
Giovità. Ten would have done it just as well.

Fabrizio looked about for a place whence he might look on without being
seen. He observed that from that great height he could look all over his
father’s gardens, and even into the inner courtyard of his house. He had
forgotten it. The thought of his father, now nearing the close of his
life, changed all his feelings toward him. He could even distinguish the
sparrows hopping about in search of a few crumbs on the balcony of the
great dining-room.

“They are the descendants of those I once tamed,” he thought. This
balcony, like all the others, was adorned with numerous orange trees,
set in earthenware vases, large and small. The sight of them touched
him. There was an air of great dignity about this inner courtyard, thus
adorned, with its sharply cut shadows standing out against the brilliant
sunshine.

The thought of his father’s failing health came back to him. “It really
is very odd!” he said to himself. “My father is only thirty-five years
older than I am—thirty-five and twenty-three only make fifty-eight.” The
eyes which were gazing at the windows of the room occupied by the harsh
parent, whom he had never loved, brimmed over with tears. He shuddered,
and a sudden chill ran through his veins when he fancied he recognised
his father crossing an orange-covered terrace on the level of his
chamber. But it was only a man-servant. Just beneath the tower a number
of young girls in white dresses, and divided into several groups, were
busily outlining patterns in red, blue, and yellow flowers on the soil of
the streets along which the procession was to pass. But there was another
sight which appealed yet more strongly to Fabrizio’s soul. From his tower
he could look over the two arms of the lake for a distance of several
leagues, and this magnificent prospect soon made him forget every other
sight. It stirred the most lofty feelings in his breast. All his childish
memories crowded on his brain; and that day spent prisoned in a church
tower was perhaps one of the happiest in his life.

His felicity carried him to a frame of thought considerably higher than
was as a rule natural to him. Young as he was, he pondered over the
events of his past life as though he had already reached its close. “I
must acknowledge that never, since I came to Parma,” he mused at last,
after several hours of the most delightful reverie, “have I known calm
and perfect delight such as I used to feel at Naples, when I galloped
along the roads of Vomero, or wandered on the coasts of Misena.

“All the complicated interests of that spiteful little court have made
me spiteful, too.… I find no pleasure in hating anybody; I even think
it would be but a poor delight to me to see my enemies humiliated, if
I had any. But, hold!” he cried; “I have an enemy—Giletti! Now, it is
curious,” he went on, “that my pleasure at the idea of seeing that ugly
fellow going to the devil should have outlived the very slight fancy I
had for little Marietta.… She is not to be compared to the Duchess d’A⸺,
to whom I was obliged to make love, at Naples, because I had told her I
had fallen in love with her. Heavens, how bored I used to be during those
long hours of intimacy with which the fair duchess used to honour me! I
never felt anything of that sort in the shabby room—bedroom and kitchen,
too—in which little Marietta received me twice, and for two minutes each
time!

“And heavens, again! What do those people eat? It was pitiful! I ought
to have given her _mamaccia_ a pension of three beefsteaks a day.… That
little Marietta,” he added, “distracted me from the wicked thoughts with
which the neighbourhood of the court had inspired me.

“Perhaps I should have done better to take up with the ‘_café_ life,’ as
the duchess calls it. She seemed rather to incline to it, and she is much
cleverer than I am. Thanks to her bounty—or even with this income of four
thousand francs a year, and the interest of the forty thousand francs
invested at Lyons, which my mother intends for me—I should always have
been able to keep a horse and to spend a few crowns on making excavations
and forming a collection. As I am apparently never destined to know
what love is, my greatest pleasures will always lie in that direction.
I should like, before I die, to go back once to the battle-field of
Waterloo, and try to recognise the meadow where I was lifted from my
horse in such comical fashion, and left sitting on the grass. Once that
pilgrimage had been performed, I would often come back to this noble
lake. There can be nothing so beautiful in the whole world—to my heart,
at all events! Why should I wander so far away in search of happiness? It
lies here, under my very eyes.

“Ah,” said Fabrizio again, “but there is a difficulty—the police forbid
my presence near the Lake of Como. But I am younger than the people who
direct the police. Here,” he added with a laugh, “I shall find no Duchess
d’A⸺, but I should have one of the little girls who are scattering
flowers down yonder, and I am sure I should love her just as much. Even
in love matters, hypocrisy freezes me, and our fine ladies aim at too
much sublimity in their effects. Napoleon has given them notions of
propriety and constancy.

“The devil!” he exclaimed a moment later, pulling his head in suddenly,
as if afraid he might be recognised, in spite of the shadow cast by the
huge wooden shutters which kept the rain off the bells. “Here come the
gendarmes in all their splendour!” Ten gendarmes, in fact, four of whom
were non-commissioned officers, had appeared at the head of the principal
street of the village. The sergeant posted them a hundred paces apart,
along the line the procession was to follow. “Everybody here knows me. If
I am seen, I shall be carried at one bound from the shores of Como to the
Spielberg, where I shall have a hundred-and-ten-pound weight of fetters
fastened to each of my legs. And what a grief for the duchess!”

It was two or three minutes before Fabrizio was able to realize that, in
the first place, he was eighty feet above other people’s heads, that the
spot where he stood was comparatively dark, that anybody who might glance
upward would be blinded by the blazing sun, and, last of all, that every
eye was staring wide about the village streets, the houses of which had
been freshly whitewashed in honour of the feast of San Giovità. In spite
of the cogency of these arguments, Fabrizio’s Italian soul would have
been incapable of any further enjoyment if he had not interposed a rag of
old sacking, which he nailed up in the window, between himself and the
gendarmes, making two holes in it so that he might be able to look out.

The bells had been crashing out for ten minutes, the procession was
passing out of the church, the _mortaretti_ were exploding loudly.
Fabrizio turned his head and looked at the little esplanade, surrounded
by a parapet, on which his childish life had so often been endangered
by the _mortaretti_, fired off close to his legs, because of which his
mother always insisted on keeping him beside her, on feast days.

These _mortaretti_ (or little mortars), it should be explained, are
nothing but gun barrels sawn off in lengths of about four inches. It is
for this purpose that the peasants so greedily collect the musket barrels
which European policy, since the year 1796, has sown broadcast over the
plains of Lombardy. When these little tubes are cut into four-inch
lengths, they are loaded up to the very muzzle, set on the ground in a
vertical position, and a train of powder is laid from one to the other;
they are ranged in three lines, like a battalion, to the number of some
two or three hundred, in some clear space near the line of procession.
When the Holy Sacrament approaches, the train of powder is lighted, and
then begins a sharp, dropping fire of the most irregular and ridiculous
description, which sends all the women wild with delight. Nothing more
cheery can be imagined than the noise of these _mortaretti_, as heard
from a distance across the lake, and softened by the rocking of the
waters. The curious rattle which had so often been the delight of his
childhood put the overserious notions which had assailed our hero to
flight. He fetched the Father’s big astronomical telescope, and was able
to recognise most of the men and women taking part in the procession.
Many charming little girls, whom Fabrizio had left behind him as slips
of eleven and twelve years old, had now grown into magnificent-looking
women, in all the flower of the most healthy youth. The sight of them
brought back our hero’s courage, and for the sake of exchanging a word
with them, he would have braved the gendarmes willingly.

When the procession had passed, and re-entered the church by a side door,
which was out of Fabrizio’s range of vision, the heat at the top of the
tower soon became intense. The villagers returned to their homes, and
deep silence fell over the place. Several boats filled with peasants
departed to Bellagio, Menaggio, and other villages on the shores of the
lake. Fabrizio could distinguish the sound of every stroke of the oars.
This detail, simple as it was, threw him into a perfect ecstasy; his
delight at that moment was built up on all the unhappiness and discomfort
which the complicated life of courts had inflicted upon him. What a
pleasure would it have been, at that moment, to row a league’s distance
over that beautiful calm lake, in which the depths of the heavens were so
faithfully reflected! He heard somebody open the door at the bottom of
the tower—Father Blanès’s old servant, laden with a big basket; it was
as much as he could do to refrain from going to speak to her. “She has
almost as much affection for me as her master has,” he thought. “And I am
going away at nine o’clock to-night. Would she not keep silence, as she
would swear to me to do, even for those few hours? But,” said Fabrizio to
himself, “I should displease my friend; I might get him into trouble with
the gendarmes.” And he let Ghita depart without saying a word to her. He
made an excellent dinner, and then lay down to sleep for a few minutes.
He did not wake till half-past eight at night. Father Blanès was shaking
his arm, and it had grown quite dark.

Blanès was exceedingly weary; he looked fifty years older than on the
preceding night; he made no further reference to serious matters. Seating
himself in his wooden chair, “Kiss me,” he said to Fabrizio. Several
times over he clasped him in his arms. At last he spoke: “Death, which
will soon end this long life of mine, will not be so painful as this
separation. I have a purse which I shall leave in Ghita’s care, with
orders to use its contents for her own need, but to make over whatever
it may contain to you, if you should ever ask her for it. I know her;
once I have given her this command she is capable, in her desire to save
for you, of not eating meat four times in the year, unless you give her
explicit orders on the subject. You may be reduced to penury yourself,
and then your old friend’s mite may be of service to you. Expect nothing
but vile treatment from your brother, and try to earn money by some
labour that will make you useful to society. I foresee strange tempests;
fifty years hence, perhaps, no idle man will be allowed to live. Your
mother and your aunt may fail you; your sisters must obey their husbands’
will——” Then suddenly, he cried: “Go! Go! Fly!” He had just heard a
little noise in the clock, a warning that it was about to strike ten. He
would not even give Fabrizio time for a farewell embrace.

“Make haste! make haste!” he cried. “It will take you at least a minute
to get down the stairs. Take care you do not fall; that would be a
terrible omen.” Fabrizio rushed down the stairs, and once out on the
square, he began to run. He had hardly reached his father’s castle
before the clock struck ten.

Every stroke echoed in his breast, and filled him with a strange sense of
agitation. He paused to reflect, or rather to give rein to the passionate
feelings inspired by the contemplation of the majestic edifice at which
he had looked so coolly only the night before. His reverie was disturbed
by human footsteps; he looked up, and saw himself surrounded by four
gendarmes. He had two excellent pistols, the priming of which he had
renewed during his dinner; the click he made as he cocked them attracted
one of the gendarme’s notice, and very nearly brought about his arrest.
He recognised his danger, and thought of firing at once. He would have
been within his rights, for it was his only chance of resisting four
armed men. Fortunately for him, the gendarmes, who were going round to
clear the wine-shops, had not treated the civilities offered them in
several of these hospitable meeting-places with absolute indifference.
They were not sufficiently quick in making up their minds to do their
duty. Fabrizio fled at the top of his speed. The gendarmes ran a few
steps after him, shouting, “Stop! stop!” Then silence fell on everything
once more. Some three hundred paces off Fabrizio stopped to get his
breath. “The noise of my pistols very nearly caused my arrest. It would
have served me right if the duchess had told me—if ever I had been
allowed to look into her beautiful eyes again—that my soul delights in
contemplating things that may happen ten years hence, and forgets to look
at those which are actually under my nose.”

Fabrizio shuddered at the thought of the danger he had just escaped. He
hastened his steps, but soon he could not restrain himself from running,
which was not over-prudent, for he attracted the attention of several
peasants on their homeward way. Yet he could not prevail upon himself to
stop till he was on the mountain, over a league from Grianta, and even
then he broke into a cold sweat, whenever he thought of the Spielberg.

“I’ve been in a pretty fright!” said he to himself, and at the sound of
the word he felt almost inclined to be ashamed. “But does not my aunt
tell me that the thing I need most is to learn how to forgive myself? I
am always comparing myself with a perfect model, which can have no real
existence. So be it, then. I will forgive myself my fright, for, on the
other hand, I was very ready to defend my liberty, and certainly those
four men would not all have been left to take me to prison. What I am
doing at this moment,” he added, “is not soldierly. Instead of rapidly
retiring after having fulfilled my object, and possibly roused my enemy’s
suspicions, I am indulging a whim which is perhaps more absurd than all
the good father’s predictions.”

And, in fact, instead of returning by the shortest road, and gaining
the banks of the Lago Maggiore, where the boat awaited him, he was
making a huge detour for the purpose of seeing his tree—my readers will
perhaps recollect Fabrizio’s affection for a chestnut tree planted by
his mother some three-and-twenty years previously. “It would be worthy
of my brother,” he thought, “if he had had that tree cut down; but such
creatures as he have no feeling for delicate matters. He will not have
thought of it, and besides,” he added resolutely, “it would not be an
evil omen.” Two hours later there was consternation in his glance;
mischievous hands, or a stormy wind, had broken off one of the chief
branches of the young tree, and it was hanging withered. With the help of
his dagger Fabrizio cut it off carefully, and closely pared the wound,
so that the rain might not enter the trunk. Then, though time was very
precious to him, for it was nearly dawn, he spent a good hour in digging
up the ground round the _beloved tree_. When all these follies were
accomplished, he rapidly proceeded on his way toward the Lago Maggiore.
He did not feel depressed on the whole; the tree was doing well, it was
stronger than ever, and in five years it had almost doubled in size. The
broken branch was a mere accident, of no consequence.

Now that it had been lopped off, the tree would not suffer, and would
even grow the taller, as its limbs divided at a greater height.

Before Fabrizio had travelled a league, a brilliant strip of white
light in the east outlined the peaks of the Resegon di Lek, a well-known
mountain in that country. The road he was now following was full of
peasants, but instead of thinking of military matters, Fabrizio was
filled with emotion by the sublime or touching aspects of the forest
round the Lake of Como. They are perhaps the most lovely in the world. I
do not mean those which bring in the greatest number of “_new crowns_,”
as they say in Switzerland, but those which appeal most strongly to
the human soul. For a man in Fabrizio’s position, exposed to all the
attentions of the gendarmes of Lombardy and Venetia, it was mere
childishness to listen to their language. At last he said to himself: “I
am half a league from the frontier. I shall meet the customs officers and
the gendarmes making their round. This fine cloth coat of mine will rouse
their suspicions; they will ask me for my passport. The said passport
bears a name doomed to a prison, written in fair characters, and so I
find myself under the agreeable necessity of committing murder. If the
gendarmes walk two together, as they generally do, I dare not wait till
one of them seizes me by the collar before I fire; if he should hold me
for one instant before he falls, I shall find myself at the Spielberg.”

Fabrizio—filled with a special horror at the idea of firing first,
and possibly on an old soldier who had served under his uncle, Count
Pietranera—ran to hide himself in the hollow trunk of a huge chestnut
tree. He was putting fresh caps into his pistols when he heard a man
coming through the wood, singing, as he came, in a charming voice, a
delightful air by Mercadante, then fashionable in Italy.

“That’s a good omen!” said Fabrizio to himself; he listened attentively
to the melody, and the sound of it wiped out the little touch of anger
which had begun to season his arguments. He looked carefully up and down
the high-road and saw nobody. “The singer will come up some side road,”
thought he to himself. Almost at that very moment he saw a servant, very
neatly dressed in the English style, ride slowly up the road on a hack,
leading a very fine blood-horse, perhaps a trifle too thin.

“Ah,” said Fabrizio to himself, “if I had reasoned like Mosca, who is
perpetually telling me that the risk a man runs always marks the ratio
of his rights over his neighbour, I should crack this serving-man’s
skull with a pistol-shot, and once I was on that horse, I should snap my
fingers at all the gendarmes in the world. Then, as soon as I got back to
Parma, I would send money to the man or his widow. But that would be an
abominable action.”



CHAPTER X


Even as he moralized, Fabrizio sprang upon the high-road from Lombardy to
Switzerland, which, at this spot, is quite four or five feet below the
level of the forest. “If my man takes fright,” said our hero to himself,
“he will start off at a gallop, and I shall be left here, looking a sorry
fool.” By this time he was not more than ten paces from the servant, who
had stopped singing. Fabrizio read in his eyes that he was frightened;
perhaps he was going to turn his horses round. Without any conscious
intention, Fabrizio made a bound, and seized the near horse by the bridle.

“My friend,” said he to the serving-man, “I am not a common thief, for
I am going to begin by giving you twenty francs; but I am obliged to
borrow your horse. I shall be killed if I do not clear out at once. The
four brothers Riva, those great hunters whom you doubtless know, are on
my heels. They have just caught me in their sister’s bedroom. I jumped
out of the window, and here I am. They have turned out into the forest,
with their hounds and their guns. I had hidden myself in that big hollow
chestnut tree because I saw one of them cross the road; their hounds will
soon be on my track. I am going to get on your horse and gallop a league
beyond Como; thence I shall go to Milan, to cast myself at the viceroy’s
feet. If you consent with a good grace, I’ll leave your horse at the
posting-house, with two napoleons for yourself. If you make the slightest
difficulty I shall kill you with these pistols. If, when I am once off,
you set the gendarmes after me, my cousin, the brave Count Alari, the
Emperor’s equerry, will see to your bones being broken for you.”

Fabrizio invented his speech as he delivered it, which he did in the
most gentle manner. “For the rest,” he said, laughing, “my name is no
secret. I am the Marchesino Ascanio del Dongo. My home is close by, at
Grianta. Now, then,” he cried, raising his voice, “let the horse go!”
The stupefied servant said never a word. Fabrizio put up the pistol
he had held in his left hand, laid hold of the bridle, which the man
had dropped, sprang on the horse, and cantered off. When he had ridden
three hundred paces he perceived he had forgotten to give him the twenty
francs he had promised. He pulled up; the road was still empty, except
for the servant, who was galloping after him. He waved him forward with
his handkerchief, and when he was within fifty paces threw a handful of
silver coins upon the road, and started off again. Looking back from a
distance, he saw the servant picking up the silver. “Now, that really
is a sensible man,” said Fabrizio, laughing; “not a useless word did he
say.” He rode rapidly southward, halted at a lonely house, and started
forth again a few hours later. By two o’clock in the morning he had
reached the Lago Maggiore. He soon saw his boat, standing on and off.
He made the signal agreed on, and she approached the shore. He could
find no peasant with whom he might leave the horse, so he turned the
noble creature loose, and three hours later, he was at Belgirate. Once
in a friendly country, he took some repose. He was full of joy, for he
had been thoroughly successful. Dare we mention the true cause of his
delight? His tree was growing splendidly, and his soul had been refreshed
by the deep emotion he had felt in Father Blanès’s arms. “Does he really
believe,” said he to himself, “in all the predictions he has made to me?
Or is it that as my brother has given me the reputation of a Jacobin, a
man who knows neither truth nor law, and capable of any crime, he simply
desired to induce me to resist the temptation of taking the life of some
villain who may do me an evil turn?” The day after the next, Fabrizio
was at Parma, where he vastly entertained the duchess and the count by
relating with the greatest exactness, as was his wont, the whole story of
his journey.

When Fabrizio arrived, he found the porter and all the servants at the
Palazzo Sanseverina garbed in the deepest mourning.

“Whose loss do we mourn?” he inquired of the duchess.

“That excellent man who was known as my husband has just died at Baden.
He has left me the palace—that was a settled thing; but, as a proof of
his regard, he has added a legacy of three hundred thousand francs, and
this places me in a serious difficulty. I will not give it up for the
benefit of his niece, the Marchesa Raversi, who plays me the vilest of
tricks every day of her life. You, who understand art, must really find
me some good sculptor, and I will put up a monument to the duke which
shall cost three hundred thousand francs.” The count began to tell
stories about the Raversi.

“In vain have I striven to soften her by kindness,” said the duchess. “As
for the duke’s nephews, I have had them all made colonels or generals,
and in return, never a month passes without their sending me some
abominable anonymous letter. I have been obliged to hire a secretary to
read all my letters of that description.”

“And their anonymous letters are the least of all their sins,” continued
Count Mosca. “They carry on a regular manufacture of vile accusations.
Twenty times over I ought to have had the whole set brought before the
courts, and your Excellency” (turning to Fabrizio) “will guess whether my
worthy judges would have condemned them or not.”

“Well, that’s what spoils all the rest, to me,” replied Fabrizio, with
that artlessness that sounded so comical at court. “I would much rather
see them sentenced by magistrates who would judge them according to their
own consciences.”

“If you, who travel to improve your mind, would give me the addresses of
a few such magistrates, you would do me a real kindness. I would write to
them before I went to bed to-night.”

“If I were a minister this lack of upright judges would wound my vanity.”

“But it strikes me,” rejoined the count, “that your Excellency, who is
so fond of the French, and once upon a time even lent them the help of
your invincible arm, is forgetting one of their great maxims, ‘It is
better to kill the devil than that the devil should kill you?’ I should
very much like to see how anybody could govern these eager beings who
read the history of the French Revolution all day long, with judges who
would acquit the persons I accused. They would end by acquitting rascals
whose guilt was perfectly evident, and every man of them would think
himself a Brutus. But I have a bone to pick with you. Does not your
sensitive soul feel some remorse concerning that fine horse, rather too
lean, which you have just turned loose on the shores of the Maggiore?”

“I certainly intend,” said Fabrizio very gravely, “to send the owner
of the horse whatever sum may be necessary to pay him the expenses of
advertising, and any others he may have incurred in recovering the beast
from the peasants who must have found it. I propose to read the Milanese
newspaper carefully, so as to find any advertisement touching a strayed
horse. I am quite familiar with the appearance of this one.”

“He really is _primitive_,” said the count to the duchess. “And what
would have become of your Excellency,” he continued, laughing, “if,
while you were galloping along on that horse’s back, he had happened to
stumble? You would have found yourself at the Spielberg, my dear young
nephew, and with all my credit, I should barely have contrived to get
some thirty pounds struck off the weight of the shackles on each of your
legs. In that delightful retreat you would have spent quite ten years;
your legs would possibly have swelled and mortified. Then they would have
been neatly cut off for you.”

“Ah, for pity’s sake, don’t carry the wretched story any further,” broke
in the duchess with tears in her eyes. “He is back, and safe——”

“And I am even more glad of it than you, you may be sure of that,”
responded the minister very gravely. “But pray, since this boy was set
on going into Lombardy, why did he not ask me to get him a passport in
a fitting name? The moment I heard of his arrest I should have hurried
off to Milan, and my friends there would have been willing enough to
close their eyes and pretend their police had taken up one of the Prince
of Parma’s subjects. The story of your trip is entertaining and amusing
enough, I am quite ready to admit that,” the count continued, and his
tone grew less gloomy. “Your leap on to the high-road decidedly enchants
me. But between ourselves, since that serving-man held your life in his
hands, you had a right to deprive him of his. We propose to raise your
Excellency to a brilliant position—at least, such are the orders this
lady gives me, and I do not think my bitterest enemies can accuse me of
ever having neglected her commands. What a heartbreak it would have been
to her if that lean horse of yours had happened to make a false step
while you were riding a steeple-chase upon his back! It would almost have
been better if he had broken your neck outright.”

“You are very tragic to-night, dear friend,” said the duchess, quite
overcome.

“Because tragic events are happening all around us,” replied the count,
and he, too, was moved. “This is not France, where everything ends with a
song or a sentence of imprisonment, and I really am wrong to laugh when
I talk to you of such matters. Well, nephew mine, granting that I find a
chance some day of making you a bishop—for, frankly, I can not begin with
making you Archbishop of Parma, as the duchess here would very reasonably
have me do. Supposing you were settled in your bishopric, and far from
the sound of our wise counsels; tell us what your policy would be.”

“I would kill the devil sooner than let him kill me, as my friends the
French so sensibly say,” answered Fabrizio, with shining eyes. “I would
hold the position you gave me by every means, even with my pistols. I
have read the story of our ancestor, who built Grianta, in the Del Dongo
Genealogy. Toward the end of his life his good friend Galeazzo, Duke of
Milan, sent him to inspect a fortified castle on our lake. There was
some fear of a fresh invasion by the Swiss. ‘I really must send a civil
word to the commandant of the fortress,’ said the duke, just as he was
dismissing him. He wrote two lines, and gave him the letter; then he
took it back. ‘It will be more courteous if I seal it,’ said the prince.
Vespasiano del Dongo departed. But as he was sailing over the lake he
remembered an old Greek story, for he was a learned man. He opened his
good master’s letter, and found it was an order to the commandant of
the fortress to put him to death the moment he arrived. So absorbed had
Sforza been in his effort to make the deception he had been playing on
our ancestor life-like, that he had left a considerable space between the
last line of his note and his signature. Vespasiano del Dongo inserted
an order to recognise him as governor-general of all the lake castles,
in the blank space, and tore the upper part of the letter off. When he
had reached the fortress, and his authority had been duly acknowledged,
he threw the commandant down a well, declared war on Sforza, and, after
a few years, exchanged his strong castle for the huge estates which have
enriched every branch of our family, and which will one day benefit me to
the extent of four thousand francs a year.”

“You talk like an academician!” cried the count laughingly. “You have
told the story of a splendid prank. But it is not once in ten years that
the delightful opportunity for doing such startling things presents
itself. A man who may be stupid at times, but is watchful and prudent
always, may often enjoy the pleasure of outwitting men of imagination. It
was a freak of the imagination that led Napoleon to put himself into the
hands of the prudent John Bull, instead of trying to escape to America.
John Bull sat in his counting-house, and laughed at the Emperor’s letter
and his reference to Themistocles. The mean Sancho Panzas of this world
will always triumph over the noble-hearted Don Quixotes. If you will
consent not to do anything extraordinary, I don’t doubt you may be a
highly respected, if not a highly respectable, bishop. Nevertheless,
I hold to my previous observation. In this matter of the horse your
Excellency behaved very foolishly. You have been within an ace of
imprisonment for life.”

Fabrizio shuddered at the words. He sat on, plunged in a deep
astonishment. “Was that the imprisonment which threatens me?” he mused.
“Is that the crime I was not to commit?” Father Blanès’s predictions,
the prophetic value of which he had despised, began to assume all the
importance of real omens in his eyes.

“Well,” cried the duchess, quite surprised, “what is the matter with you?
The count has cast you into a very gloomy reverie.”

“The light of a new truth has fallen upon my mind, and instead of
rebelling against it, I am adopting it. It is quite true. I have been
very near a prison that never would have opened its doors again. But the
servant lad looked so handsome in his English livery it would have been a
sin to kill him.”

The count was delighted with his air of youthful wisdom.

“He is satisfactory in every way,” he said, looking at the duchess. “I
must tell you, my boy, that you have made a conquest, and perhaps the
most desirable one you could possibly have made.”

“Ha!” thought Fabrizio, “now I shall hear some jest about little
Marietta.” He was mistaken. The count went on: “Your evangelic simplicity
has won the heart of our venerable archbishop, Father Landriani. One of
these days you will be made a grand vicar, and the beauty of the joke
is that the three present grand vicars, all of them men of parts and
hard-working, and two of them, I believe, grand vicars before you were
born, are about to send a fine letter to their archbishop, begging you
may take rank above them all. These gentlemen base this request on your
virtuous qualities, in the first place, and in the second, on the fact
that you are great-nephew to the famous Archbishop Ascanio del Dongo.
When I heard of the respect your virtues had inspired, I instantly
promoted the senior grand vicar’s nephew to a captaincy. He had remained
a lieutenant ever since he had served at the siege of Tarragona, under
Marshal Suchet.”

“Go at once, just as you are, in your travelling dress, and pay an
affectionate call on your archbishop,” exclaimed the duchess. “Tell
him all about your sister’s marriage. When he knows she is going to be
a duchess he will think you more _apostolic_ than ever. Of course, you
will forget everything the count has just confided to you about your
approaching appointment.”

Fabrizio hurried off to the archiepiscopal palace. His behaviour there
was both modest and simple. This was a tone he could assume only too
easily. For him the effort was when he had to play the nobleman. While he
was listening to Monsignore Landriani’s somewhat lengthy dissertations
he kept saying to himself, “Ought I to have fired my pistol at the
man-servant who was leading the lean horse?” His reason replied in the
affirmative. But he could not reconcile his heart to the thought of that
handsome young fellow dropping disfigured from his saddle.

“That prison which would have swallowed me up if the horse had
stumbled—was it the prison with which so many omens threaten me?”

The question was of sovereign importance to him. And the archbishop was
enchanted with his air of deep attention.



CHAPTER XI


When Fabrizio left the archiepiscopal palace he hurried off to Marietta’s
dwelling. In the distance he heard Giletti’s rough voice. He had sent
out for wine, and was carousing with his friends the prompter and the
candle snuffer. The _mamaccia_, who performed the functions of a mother
to Marietta, was the only person who answered his signal.

“Things have happened while you have been away,” she cried. “Two or three
of our actors have been accused of having held an orgy in honour of the
great Napoleon’s birthday, and our unlucky company has been given the
name of Jacobin. So we have been ordered to clear out of the dominion of
Parma, and, _Evriva Napoleone_! But the Prime Minister is supposed to
have paid our reckoning. Giletti certainly has money in his pocket. I
don’t know how much, but I have seen him with a handful of crown pieces.
The manager has given Marietta five crowns for her travelling expenses
to Mantua and Venice, and one for mine. She is still very much in love
with you, but she is afraid of Giletti. Three days ago, at her last
performance, he really would have killed her. He boxed her ears soundly
twice over, and, what is abominable, he tore her blue shawl. If you would
give her a blue shawl it would be very good-natured of you, and we would
say we had won it in the lottery. The drum master of the carabineers is
holding a competition to-morrow—you will see the hour advertised at every
street corner. Come and see us then. If Giletti goes to the match, and
we can hope he will stay away for any time, I will be at the window, and
will beckon you to come up. Try to bring us something very pretty. And
Marietta dotes upon you.”

As he descended the winding stairs that led from the vile garret,
Fabrizio’s soul was filled with compunction. “I am not a bit altered,” he
thought. “All those fine resolutions I made on the shores of the lake,
when I looked at life with so much philosophy, have flown away. I was not
in my normal condition then. It was all a dream, which disappears when I
have to face stern realities. This would be the moment for action,” he
went on, as he re-entered the Sanseverina Palace about eleven o’clock at
night. But in vain did he search his heart for that noble sincerity which
had seemed so easy of attainment during the night he had spent on the
shores of Como. “I shall displease the person I love best in the world.
If I speak, I shall look like an inferior play-actor. I really never am
worth anything, except in certain moments of excitement.”

“The count is wonderfully good to me,” said he to the duchess, after he
had given her an account of his visit to the archbishop. “I value his
kindness all the more highly because I fancy I notice that he does not
particularly care about me. Therefore I must be all the more correct
in my behaviour to him. I know he has excavations at Sanguigna in
which he still delights—judging, at least, by his expedition the day
before yesterday, galloping twelve leagues to spend two hours with his
workmen. He is afraid that if they find fragments of statuary in the
antique temple, the foundations of which he has just laid bare, they may
steal them. I should like to offer to go and spend thirty-six hours at
Sanguigna. I am to see the archbishop to-morrow, about five o’clock. I
could start in the evening, and take advantage of the cool hours of the
night for my ride.”

The duchess made no answer at first. Presently she said to him in a very
tender voice: “It looks as if you were seeking pretexts for getting away
from me; you are hardly back from Belgirate, and you find out a reason
for starting off again.”

“Here’s a fine opportunity for me,” thought Fabrizio. “But I was a little
mad when I was sitting by the lake. In my passion for truthfulness I
overlooked the fact that my compliment winds up with an impertinence.
I should have to say, ‘I regard you with the most devoted friendship,
etc., but my heart is not capable of real love.’ Is not that tantamount
to saying: ‘I see you are in love with me. But pray take care! I can not
return it to you in kind.’ If the duchess has any passion for me, she
will be vexed at my having guessed it. If her feeling for me is one of
mere friendship she will be disgusted by my impudence, and such offences
are never forgiven.”

While he was weighing these important considerations Fabrizio was
walking, quite unconsciously, up and down the room, looking grave and
proud, like a man who sees misfortune hovering within ten paces of him.

The duchess gazed at him with admiration. This was not the child she had
known from his birth, the nephew ever ready to obey her commands. This
was a serious man—a man whose love would be an exquisite possession. She
rose from the ottoman on which she had been sitting, and threw herself
passionately into his arms.

“Are you bent on leaving me?” she cried.

“No,” said he, looking like a Roman emperor, “but I want to behave well.”

The phrase was susceptible of several interpretations. Fabrizio had not
courage to go farther, and run the risk of wounding the adorable woman
before him. He was too young, too easily moved. His mind did not suggest
any well-turned expression which might convey his meaning. In a fit of
passion, which was natural enough, and in spite of his reason, he clasped
the charming creature in his arms and rained kisses upon her. Just at
that moment the count’s carriage was heard in the courtyard, and almost
instantly he entered the room. He looked quite affected.

“You inspire very strange devotions,” said he to Fabrizio, who was almost
stunned by the phrase. “This evening the archbishop was received in
audience by the prince, as he is regularly every Thursday. The prince has
just informed me that the archbishop, who seemed greatly agitated, began
by making a very prosy speech, evidently learned by heart, of which the
prince could make nothing at all. Landriani ended by saying that it was
important for the sake of the Church in Parma that Monsignore Fabrizio
del Dongo should be appointed his chief grand vicar, and afterward, as
soon as he had reached his five-and-twentieth year, his coadjutor, _and
his ultimate successor_.

“This idea alarmed me, I confess,” said the count. “It is somewhat
precipitate, and I was afraid it might throw the prince into a fit of
ill-humour. But he looked at me and laughed, and said to me in French,
‘_Ce sont là vos coups, monsieur!_’

“‘I will take my oath before God and your Highness,’ I cried with the
utmost possible fervour, ‘that I was utterly ignorant of the idea of the
“future succession.”’ Then I went on to tell the real truth, as we talked
it over here a few hours since, and I added impulsively that I should
have considered his Highness had conferred an overwhelming favour on me
if he had ultimately granted you a modest bishopric to begin with. The
prince must have believed me, for it pleased him to be gracious. He said
to me in the simplest possible way: ‘This is an official affair between
me and the archbishop. You have nothing whatever to do with it. The old
gentleman has sent me in a very long and tolerably tiresome report, which
he winds up with a formal proposal. I replied that the individual was
still very young, and more especially a very new arrival at my court;
that I should almost look as if I were honouring a letter of credit drawn
on me by the Emperor if I bestowed the reversion of so high a dignity on
the son of one of the great officials of his Lombardo-Venetian kingdom.
The archbishop protested there had been no pressure of any such kind. It
was a pretty piece of folly to say that to me. It surprised me in a man
who is generally so intelligent. But he always loses his head completely
when he talks to me, and to-night he was more nervous than ever, which
led me to think he passionately desired what he asked for. I told him
that nobody knew better than myself that there had been no attempt in
high quarters to put forward Del Dongo, that nobody about my court denied
his powers, that his reputation for virtue was a fair one, but that I
feared he was capable of _enthusiasm_, and that I had made a vow I
would never place madmen of that kind, on whom rulers never can rely, in
any exalted position. Then,’ his Highness continued, ‘I had to endure
a pathetic appeal nearly as long as the first. The archbishop sang the
praises of enthusiasm for God’s house. “Bungler,” said I to myself, “you
are risking the appointment you were very near getting! You should have
cut it short, and thanked me fervently.” Not a bit, he went on pouring
out his homily with a bravery that was ridiculous. I cast about for an
answer that would not be too unfavourable to young Del Dongo’s cause. I
found it, and a fairly apposite one, as you will perceive.

“‘“Monsignore,” I said, ”Pius VII was a great Pope, and a great saint.
He was the only one of all the sovereigns who dared to say _No_ to
the tyrant at whose feet Europe grovelled. Well, he was capable of
enthusiasm, and this led him, when he was Bishop of Imola, into writing
that famous pastoral of the Citizen-Cardinal Chiaramonti, in support of
the Cisalpine Republic.”

“‘My poor archbishop was struck dumb, and to complete his stupefaction
I said to him, very gravely: “Farewell, monsignore; I will take
four-and-twenty hours to think over your proposal.” The poor man added
a few more entreaties, which were both ill-expressed and, considering I
had bidden him “Farewell,” somewhat inopportune. Now, Count Mosca della
Rovere, I desire you will inform the duchess that I will not delay for
four-and-twenty hours a matter which may give her pleasure. Sit you down
here, and write the archbishop the note of approval which will close the
whole business.’ I wrote the note, he signed it, and he said, ‘Take it
to the duchess instantly.’ Here, madam, is the note, and to it I owe the
happiness of seeing you again to-night.”

The duchess perused the paper with delight. While the count had been
telling his long story Fabrizio had had time to collect himself. He did
not appear astonished by the incident. He took it like a true aristocrat,
who had always believed in his own right to that extraordinary
advancement, those lucky chances which might very well throw a common
man off his balance. He expressed his gratitude, but in measured
language, and ended by saying to the count:

“A good courtier should flatter the ruling passion. Yesterday you
expressed your fear that your workmen at Sanguigna might steal the
fragments of antique statuary they may unearth. I delight in excavations.
If you will give me leave, I will go and look after those workmen.
To-morrow evening, after I have paid the necessary visits, to return
thanks, at the palace, and to the archbishop, I will start for Sanguigna.”

“But can you imagine,” said the duchess, “any reason for the good
archbishop’s sudden devotion to Fabrizio?”

“There is no need of any imagination. The grand vicar whose brother
is a captain said to me, yesterday, Father Landriani argues on this
unvarying principle, that the holder of the title is superior to the
coadjutor, and he is beside himself with delight at having a Del Dongo
at his orders, and under an obligation conferred by himself. Everything
that draws attention to Fabrizio’s high birth increases his private
satisfaction—that is the man he has under him. In the second place, he
likes Monsignore Fabrizio. He does not feel shy in his presence. And,
finally, for the last ten years he has been nursing a hearty hatred of
the Bishop of Piacenza, who openly avows his expectation of succeeding
him at Parma, and who is, besides, the son of a miller. It is with an eye
to this future succession that the Bishop of Piacenza has entered into
close relations with the Marchesa Raversi, and this intimacy makes our
archbishop tremble for his pet plan—that of seeing a Del Dongo on his
staff, and of issuing his orders to him.”

Very early on the next morning but one, Fabrizio was overlooking
the workers on the excavations at Sanguigna, opposite Colorno (the
Versailles of the Parmese princes). These excavations stretched across
the plain close to the high-road leading from Parma to the bridge of
Casal-Maggiore, the nearest Austrian town. The workmen were cutting a
long ditch along the plain. It was eight feet deep, and as narrow as
might be. The object was to find, alongside the old Roman road, the ruins
of a second temple, which, according to local tradition, had been still
standing in the middle ages. Notwithstanding the prince’s authority, many
peasants looked with a jealous eye on the long trenches cut across their
land. In spite of everything they were told, they fancied search was
being made for some treasure, and Fabrizio’s presence was particularly
valuable as a check on any little outbreak on their part. He was not at
all bored. He watched the work with passionate interest. Now and then
some medal was turned up, and he was resolved he would not give the
labourers time to agree among themselves to pilfer it.

It was about six o’clock in the morning of a lovely day. He had borrowed
an old single-barrelled gun. He shot at a few larks. One of them fell
wounded on the high-road. Fabrizio, when he followed it, saw a carriage
in the distance, coming from Parma, and travelling toward Casal-Maggiore.
He had just reloaded his gun when the vehicle, a very shabby one, came
slowly up to him, and in it he recognised little Marietta. With her were
the ungainly Giletti and the old woman she passed off as her mother.

Giletti took it into his head that Fabrizio had set himself thus in the
middle of the road, gun in hand, with the idea of insulting him, and
perhaps of carrying off little Marietta. Like a bold fellow, he jumped
out of the carriage instantly. In his left hand he grasped a large and
very rusty pistol, and in his right a sword, still in its scabbard, which
he was in the habit of wearing when necessity obliged the manager of his
company to allot him some nobleman’s part in a play.

“Ha, villain,” he cried, “I’m heartily glad to catch you here, only a
league from the frontier! I’ll soon settle your business for you; your
violet stockings won’t protect you here.”

Fabrizio had been making signs to little Marietta, and scarcely paying
any attention to Giletti’s jealous shrieks. Suddenly he saw the muzzle of
the rusty pistol within three feet of his own chest. He had only time to
strike at the pistol with his gun, using it as if it had been a stick;
the pistol went off, but nobody was wounded.

“Stop, you fool!” shrieked Giletti to the _vetturino_, skilfully
contriving at the same time to spring at the barrel of his adversary’s
gun and hold it away from his own body. He and Fabrizio each tugged at
the gun with all his strength. Giletti, who was much the stronger of the
two, kept slipping one hand over the other toward the lock, and had very
nearly got possession of the weapon when Fabrizio, to prevent his using
it, touched the trigger. He had previously noticed that the muzzle was
over three inches above Giletti’s shoulder. The shot went off close to
the man’s ear; he was a little startled, but pulled himself together in a
moment.

“Oho! you’d like to blow my brains out, you scoundrel! I’ll soon settle
you!”

Giletti threw away the scabbard of his sword, and fell upon Fabrizio with
the most astonishing swiftness. Fabrizio, who was unarmed, gave himself
up for lost.

He bolted toward the carriage, which had stopped some paces behind
Giletti, and, turning to the left, he caught hold of the springs, ran
quickly round it, and past the right-hand door, which was open. Giletti,
tearing along on his long legs, and not having thought of catching at
the carriage springs, ran several steps in his original direction before
he could stop himself. Just as Fabrizio ran past the open door he heard
Marietta say in an undertone: “Look out for yourself; he’ll kill you!
Here!” and at the same moment he saw a great hunting-knife fall out of
the carriage. He bent down to pick it up, but just at that moment a
sword thrust from Giletti touched him on the shoulder. When Fabrizio
stood up he found himself within six inches of Giletti, who gave him a
furious blow in the face with the pommel of his sword. So violent was
this blow that Fabrizio was quite dazed, and at that moment he was very
near being killed. Fortunately for him, Giletti was still too close to
be able to thrust at him. When Fabrizio recovered his wits he took to
flight at the top of his speed. As he ran he threw away the sheath of the
hunting-knife, and then, turning sharp round, he found himself within
three paces of Giletti, who was tearing after him. Giletti was running
as fast as he could go; Fabrizio made a thrust at him, and though
Giletti had time to strike up the hunting-knife a little, he received the
thrust full in his cheek. He passed close to Fabrizio, who felt himself
wounded in the thigh; this was by Giletti’s knife, which he had found
time to open. Fabrizio made a spring to the right, turned round, and at
last the adversaries found themselves within reasonable fighting distance.

Giletti was swearing furiously. “Ah, I’ll cut your throat for you, you
scoundrel of a priest!” he cried over and over again. Fabrizio was quite
out of breath, and could not speak; the blow on his face with the pommel
of the sword hurt him dreadfully, and his nose was pouring blood. He
parried various blows with his hunting-knife, and delivered several
thrusts without well knowing what he was about. He had a sort of vague
idea that he was performing in a public assault-at-arms. This idea had
been suggested to him by the presence of his workmen, who, to the number
of five-and-twenty or thirty, had formed a ring round them, but at a very
respectful distance, for both of the combatants kept running hither and
thither, and then rushing upon each other.

The fight seemed to be growing less fierce, the thrusts rather less
rapidly exchanged, when Fabrizio said to himself, “Judging by the way my
face hurts me he must have disfigured me.” Stung to fury by the thought,
he rushed at his enemy, holding the hunting-knife in front of him. The
point entered Giletti’s chest on the right, and passed out near his
left shoulder. At the same moment the whole length of Giletti’s sword
ran through the upper part of Fabrizio’s arm, but as the sword slipped
beneath the skin the wound was quite a trifling one.

Giletti had fallen. Just as Fabrizio went toward him, with his eye on his
left hand, which held the knife, that hand unclosed mechanically, and the
weapon dropped from its grasp.

“The rascal is dead,” said Fabrizio to himself. He looked at the face;
the blood was pouring from Giletti’s mouth.

Fabrizio ran to the carriage. “Have you a looking-glass?” he cried to
Marietta. Marietta, very pale, was staring at him, and did not answer.
The old woman, with the greatest coolness, opened a green workbag and
handed Fabrizio a small mirror about the size of a man’s hand, with a
handle to it. Fabrizio felt his face all over as he peered into the
glass. “My eyes are all right,” said he. “That’s a great thing.” Then he
looked at his teeth; they were not broken. “Then why does it hurt me so?”
he murmured.

The old woman replied: “Because the top of your cheek has been crushed
between Giletti’s sword and the bone we all have there. It’s all blue and
horribly swelled. Put on leeches at once, and it will be nothing at all.”

“Ah, leeches at once,” said Fabrizio, laughing, and he recovered all his
self-possession. He saw the workmen gathering round Giletti, looking at
him without daring to touch him.

“Why don’t you help the man?” he shouted. “Take his coat off him!” He
would have proceeded, but raising his eyes he saw, some three hundred
paces off, five or six men advancing along the high-road, with slow and
measured step, toward the spot on which he stood.

“Those are gendarmes,” thought he to himself, “and as there’s a man
dead they will arrest me, and I shall have the pleasure of making my
solemn entry into the city of Parma with them! What a nice story for the
courtiers who are the Raversi’s friends and hate my aunt!” Instantly, and
as quick as lightning, he threw all the money he had in his pockets to
the astonished workmen, and jumped into the carriage.

“Prevent those gendarmes from following me,” he shouted to the men, “and
I will make your fortunes. Tell them I am innocent, that the man attacked
me and would have killed me. And you,” he added to the _vetturino_, “make
your horses gallop! You shall have four gold napoleons if you get across
the Po before those fellows can reach me.”

“All right,” said the _vetturino_; “don’t be in a fright! Those men
yonder are on foot, and if my little horses only trot they will be left
far behind.” As he spoke he shook them up into a gallop.

Our hero was much offended by the coachman’s use of the word fright. He
really had been in a horrible fright after receiving the blow from the
sword pommel in his face.

“We may meet people on horseback coming this way,” said the _vetturino_,
thinking of his four napoleons, “and the men who are following us may
shout to them to stop us.” This meant “Reload your weapons.”

“Ah, how brave you are, my little abbé!” cried Marietta, and she kissed
Fabrizio. The old woman had thrust her head out of the window; presently
she drew it in again.

“Nobody is following you, sir,” she said to Fabrizio very coolly, “and
there is nobody on the road in front of you. You know how precise the
Austrian police officials are; if they see you come galloping up to the
embankment beside the Po you may be perfectly certain they will stop you.”

Fabrizio put his head out of the window. “You can trot now,” said he to
the coachman. Then, turning to the old woman, “What passport have you?”

“Three instead of one,” replied she, “and each of them cost us four
francs. Isn’t that cruel for poor play-actors, travelling all the year
round? Here is a passport for Signor Giletti, a dramatic artist—that
shall be you—and here are Mariettina’s and mine. But Giletti had all our
money in his pocket. What is to become of us?”

“How much had he?” said Fabrizio.

“Forty good crowns of five francs each,” said the old woman.

“That is to say, six crowns and some small change,” laughed Marietta. “I
won’t have my little abbé imposed upon.”

“Is it not quite natural, sir,” returned the old woman with the greatest
calmness, “that I should try to do you out of four-and-thirty crowns?
What are thirty-four crowns to you? And as for us, we’ve lost our
protector. Who is to look after our lodgings now, and bargain with the
_vetturino_ when we travel, and keep everything in order? Giletti was
not a beauty, but he was useful, and if this child here had not been a
fool and fallen in love with you at first sight, Giletti would never have
noticed anything, and you would have given us good silver crowns. I can
assure you we are very poor.”

Fabrizio was touched. He took out his purse and gave the old woman
several gold pieces.

“You see,” he said, “that I have only fifteen left, so it will be useless
to try and get any more out of me.”

Little Marietta threw her arms round his neck and the old woman kissed
his hands. The carriage was still trotting slowly forward, when the
yellow barriers, striped with black, which marked the Austrian frontier,
appeared in sight. The old woman addressed Fabrizio.

“You would do well to pass on foot with Giletti’s passport in your
pocket. We will stop a few minutes, on the pretext of making ourselves
look tidy. And besides, the customs officers will open our baggage.
If you will take my advice, you had better walk lazily through
Casal-Maggiore; even turn into the _café_ and drink a glass of brandy.
Once you are out of the village make off. The police on Austrian
territory are devilishly sharp; they will soon find out that a man has
been killed. You are travelling with a passport which does not belong to
you; for less than that you might get two years in prison. When you leave
the town turn to the right, and get to the banks of the Po. Hire a boat,
and take refuge at Ravenna or Ferrara. Get out of the Austrian states as
quickly as ever you can. Two louis will buy you another passport from
some custom-house officer; this one would be the ruin of you. Remember
you’ve killed the man!”

Fabrizio carefully reread Giletti’s passport as he walked toward the
bridge of boats at Casal-Maggiore. Our hero was seriously alarmed; he
had a vivid recollection of all Count Mosca had told him concerning the
risk he would run if he re-entered Austrian territory, and only two paces
in front of him he saw the fateful bridge which was to admit him to
those dominions, the capital of which, in his eyes, was the Spielberg.
But what else was he to do? By an express convention between the two
states the duchy of Modena, which bounds the dominion of Parma on the
south, returned all fugitives who passed over its borders. The Parmese
frontier running up into the mountain country near Genoa was too distant;
his misadventure would be known at Parma before he could reach those
mountains. Nothing remained to him, therefore, except the Austrian states
on the left bank of the Po. Thirty-six hours or two days would probably
elapse before there could be time to write to the Austrian authorities
and request his arrest. On the whole, Fabrizio thought it wiser to burn
his own passport, which he lighted at the end of his cigar. He would be
safer on Austrian ground as a vagabond than as Fabrizio del Dongo, and
there was the possibility of his being searched.

Apart from his very natural repugnance to the idea of staking his life
on the unhappy Giletti’s passport, the document itself presented some
material difficulties. Fabrizio’s stature did not, at the most, exceed
five foot five, instead of the five foot ten described in the passport.
He was nearly twenty-four, and looked younger. Giletti was thirty-nine.
We will confess that our hero spent a full half-hour walking up and down
an embankment on the river, close by the bridge of boats, before he
could make up his mind to go down upon it. “What advice should I give
to another man in my place?” said he to himself at last. “Clearly, to
go across. It is dangerous to stay in Parma. A gendarme may be sent in
pursuit of the man who has killed another, even against his own will.”
Fabrizio turned out his pockets, tore up all his papers, and kept
literally nothing except his handkerchief and his cigar case. It was
important to shorten, by every possible means, the examination he would
have to undergo. He thought of a terrible difficulty which might be made,
and to which he could find no good answer. He was going to call himself
Giletti, and all his linen was marked F. D.

Fabrizio, as will be observed, was one of those unhappy beings who are
tortured by their own imaginations, a somewhat common weakness among
intelligent people in Italy. A French soldier of equal or even inferior
courage would have set about crossing the bridge at once, without
thinking of any difficulty beforehand, and he would have done it with
perfect composure, whereas Fabrizio was very far from being composed
when, at the far end of the bridge, a little man dressed in gray said to
him, “Go into the police office and show your passport.”

The office had dirty walls, studded with nails on which the officials’
pipes and greasy hats were hung. The big deal writing-table at which they
sat was covered with ink stains and wine stains. Two or three big green
leather registers also showed stains of every shade of colour, and the
edges of the pages were blackened by dirty hands. On these registers,
which were piled one upon the other, lay three splendid laurel wreaths,
which had been used the night before, in honour of one of the Emperor’s
fête days.

Fabrizio was struck by all these details; they sent a pang through his
heart. This was the price he paid for the splendid luxury and freshness
of his beautiful rooms in the Palazzo Sanseverina. He was obliged to
enter the dirty office and stand there like an inferior. He was soon to
be cross-questioned.

The official who stretched out a yellow hand to receive his passport was
a short, dark man, with a brass jewel in his neckcloth. “Here’s a common
man, in a bad temper,” said Fabrizio to himself. He seemed very much
surprised when he read the passport, and the perusal lasted quite five
minutes.

“You’ve had an accident,” said he to the stranger, looking at his cheek.

“The _vetturino_ upset us over the river embankment.” Then silence fell
again, and the official cast strange glances at the traveller.

“I have it,” said Fabrizio to himself; “he’s going to tell me that he’s
sorry to have to give me an unpleasant piece of news, and that I am
arrested.”

All sorts of wild notions crowded on to our hero’s brain. His logic at
that moment was of the weakest description. He thought, for instance, of
bolting through the office door, which was standing open. “I would get
rid of my coat, I would jump into the Po, and I have no doubt I could
swim across. Anything is better than the Spielberg.”

While he weighed his chances of succeeding in this prank, the police
officer was looking hard at him; their two faces were a study. The
presence of danger inspires a sensible man with genius, raising him,
so to speak, above himself. In the case of the man of imagination, it
inspires him with romances, which may indeed be bold, but which are
frequently absurd.

Our hero’s look of indignation under the scrutinizing glance of this
police officer with the brass jewellery was something worth seeing. “If
I were to kill him,” said Fabrizio to himself, “I should be sentenced to
twenty years at the galleys or to death. That would be far less awful
than the Spielberg, with a chain weighing a hundred and twenty pounds
on each foot, and eight ounces of bread for my daily food. And it would
last twenty years, so that I should be forty-four before I came out.”
Fabrizio’s logical mind overlooked the fact that as he had burned his
own passport, there was nothing to acquaint the police officer with the
detail of his being the rebel Fabrizio del Dongo.

Our hero was tolerably frightened, as my readers perceive. His alarm
would have been far greater if he had been aware of the thoughts passing
in the official’s mind. The man was a friend of Giletti’s; his surprise
at seeing his passport in the hands of another person may therefore
be imagined. His first impulse had been to arrest the stranger. Then
he reflected that very likely Giletti had sold the passport to the
good-looking young fellow, who had probably just got into some scrape
at Parma. “If I arrest him,” said he to himself, “Giletti will get into
trouble. It will easily be discovered that he has sold his passport.
But, on the other hand, what will my superiors say if they find out that
I, who am a friend of Giletti’s, have countersigned his passport when
presented by another person!” The officer stood up with a yawn, and said
to Fabrizio, “Wait here, sir!” Then, as was natural to a policeman, he
added, “There is a difficulty.” Fabrizio said within himself, “What there
is going to be, is my flight.”

The official, indeed, had left the office, leaving the door open, and the
passport was still lying on the deal table. “There’s no doubt about my
danger,” thought Fabrizio to himself. “I will take up my passport, and
walk quietly back across the bridge. If the gendarme questions me I will
tell him I have forgotten to get it countersigned by the police officer
at the last village in the dominion of Parma.” The passport was actually
in Fabrizio’s hand when, to his inexpressible astonishment, he heard the
clerk with the brass jewellery say:

“Upon my soul! I am done up; I’m choking with heat; I am going to get a
cup of coffee at the _café_. When you’ve finished your pipe just go into
the office; there’s a passport to be signed. The traveller is waiting.”

Fabrizio, who was just stepping out on tiptoe, found himself face to face
with a good-looking young fellow, who was humming a tune, and heard him
say, “Very good. We’ll see to their passport. I’ll oblige them with my
flourish.”

“Where do you wish to go, sir?”

“To Mantua, Venice, and Ferrara.”

“Ferrara let it be,” answered the official, whistling; he took up a
stamp, printed the _visa_ upon the passport in blue ink, and rapidly
inserted the words “Mantua, Venice, and Ferrara” in the blank space left
by the stamp. Then he waved his hand in the air several times, signed his
name, and dipped his pen in the ink again to make his flourish, a feat he
performed slowly and with infinite care. Fabrizio watched every motion of
his pen. The clerk looked complacently at his flourish, added five or six
dots, and then returned the passport to Fabrizio, saying indifferently,
“A pleasant journey to you, sir.”

Fabrizio was departing with a rapidity which he was attempting to conceal
when he felt himself stopped by a touch on his left arm. Instinctively
his hand sought the handle of his dagger, and if he had not seen houses
all round him he might have been guilty of a blunder. The man who had
touched his left arm, seeing his startled look, said apologetically:

“But I spoke to you three times, sir, and you did not answer. Have you
anything to declare at the custom-house?”

“I’ve nothing on me but my handkerchief; I am going to shoot with one of
my relations, quite close by.”

He would have been sorely puzzled if he had been asked to mention that
relation’s name.

Thanks to the great heat and his own emotions, Fabrizio was dripping as
if he had fallen into the Po. “I am brave enough when I have to do with
play-actors, but custom-house clerks with brass jewellery drive me beside
myself. I’ll write the duchess a comic sonnet on that subject.”

Fabrizio entered the town of Casal-Maggiore and immediately turned to the
right, down a shabby street leading to the Po. “I am in sore need,” said
he to himself, “of the assistance of Bacchus and Ceres,” and he entered a
shop, over the door of which a gray cloth hung from a pole. On this cloth
was inscribed the word _Trattoria_. A ragged bed sheet, supported by two
thin wooden hoops and hanging within three feet of the ground, sheltered
the door of the _trattoria_ from the direct blaze of the sun. Within it
a half-naked and very pretty woman received our hero respectfully, a
fact which gave him the keenest satisfaction. He lost no time in telling
her that he was starving with hunger. While the woman was preparing his
breakfast a man of about thirty years of age came into the room. On his
first entrance he made no sign of greeting, but suddenly he rose from
the bench on which he had cast himself with an easy gesture, and said to
Fabrizio:

“_Eccellenza! la riverisco!_” (I salute your Excellency!) Fabrizio felt
exceedingly cheerful at that moment, and instead of at once expecting
something gloomy he answered with a laugh:

“And how the devil do you know my Excellency?”

“What! doesn’t your Excellency recollect Ludovico, one of the Duchess
Sanseverina’s coachmen? At Sacca, the country house where we went every
year, I always got fever, so I asked my mistress to give me a pension,
and I retired. I am rich now, for instead of the pension of twelve
crowns a year, which was the very most I could have expected, my mistress
told me that to give me leisure to write sonnets (for I am a poet in the
vulgar tongue) she would allow me four-and-twenty crowns; and the signor
count told me that if ever I was in need I had only to come and tell
him. I had the honour of driving monsignore for a stage when he went to
make his retreat, like a good churchman, at the Carthusian monastery at
Velleia.”

Fabrizio looked at the man, and began to recall him a little. He had been
one of the smartest coachmen at the Casa Sanseverina; now that he was
rich, as he affirmed, his only garments were a coarse, tattered shirt and
a pair of canvas nether garments, which hardly reached his knees, and had
once been dyed black. A pair of shoes and a very bad hat completed his
costume; and further, he had not been shaved for a fortnight. Fabrizio,
as he ate his omelet, chatted with him on absolutely equal terms. He
thought he perceived that Ludovico was his hostess’s lover. He soon
despatched his meal, and then said to Ludovico in an undertone, “I have a
word for you.”

“Your Excellency can speak freely before her; she is a really good
woman,” said Ludovico, with a tender glance.

“Well, then, my friends,” said Fabrizio at once, “I am in trouble, and
I want your help. To begin with, there is nothing political about my
business. I have simply killed a man who tried to murder me because I was
speaking to his mistress.”

“Poor young fellow!” quoth the hostess.

“Your Excellency may reckon on me,” cried the coachman, with eyes that
shone with the most fervent devotion. “Where does your Excellency desire
to go?”

“To Ferrara. I have a passport, but I would rather not face the
gendarmes, who may know something of what has happened.”

“When did you put the fellow out of the way?”

“At six o’clock this morning.”

“Is there no blood on your Excellency’s clothes?” said the hostess.

“I was thinking of that,” replied the coachman; “and besides, the cloth
is too fine. Such stuff as that is not often seen in our country. It
would attract attention. I will go and buy clothes from the Jew. Your
Excellency is about my height, only thinner.”

“For mercy’s sake, don’t call me your Excellency! That will attract
attention.”

“Yes, your Excellency,” replied the coachman, as he went out of the shop.

“Halloo! halloo!” shouted Fabrizio. “What about the money? Come back!”

“Don’t talk of money,” said the hostess. “He has sixty-seven crowns,
which are very much at your service, and I,” she added, dropping her
voice, “have forty, which I offer you with all my heart. One does not
always happen to have money about one when such accidents as these occur.”

When Fabrizio had entered the _trattoria_ he had taken off his coat on
account of the heat.

“If any one should come in, that waistcoat of yours might get us into
difficulties; that fine English cloth would be remarked.”

She gave the fugitive one of her husband’s waistcoats, made of canvas
dyed black. A tall young man entered the shop through an inner door;
there was a touch of elegance about his dress.

“This is my husband,” said the hostess.—“Pietro Antonio,” said she to her
husband, “this gentleman is a friend of Ludovico’s. He had an accident
this morning on the other side of the river; he wants to escape to
Ferrara.”

“Oh, we’ll get him through,” said the husband very civilly. “We have
Carlo Giuseppe’s boat.”

Another weakness of our hero’s character, which we will confess as
frankly as we have related his fright in the police office at the end of
the bridge, now caused his eyes to brim with tears.

The absolute devotion he had met with among these peasants moved him
deeply. He thought, too, of his aunt’s characteristic kind-heartedness.
He would have liked to have been able to make all these people’s
fortunes. Ludovico now came back, carrying a bundle.

“Good-bye to this other fellow,” said the husband in the most friendly
fashion.

“That’s not it at all,” replied Ludovico, in a very anxious voice.
“People are beginning to talk about you. It was noticed when you left the
main street and turned down our _vicolo_ that you hesitated, like a man
who wanted to hide himself.”

“Get up quickly to the room above,” said the husband. This room was a
very large and handsome one. The two windows were filled with gray linen
instead of glass. It contained four beds, each about six feet wide and
five feet high.

“And quick! and quick!” said Ludovico. “There’s a conceited fool of a
gendarme lately arrived here who wanted to make love to the pretty woman
below stairs, and I warned him that when next he went out patrolling on
the roads he would very likely meet a bullet. If that dog hears your
Excellency mentioned, he’ll want to play us a trick; he’ll try to get you
arrested here, so as to bring disrepute on Theodolinda’s _trattoria_.
What!” Ludovico went on, when he saw Fabrizio’s shirt all stained with
blood and his wounds tied up with handkerchiefs; “so the _porco_ defended
himself! This is enough to get us arrested a hundred times over. I didn’t
buy a shirt.” Unceremoniously he opened the husband’s cupboard, and
handed over one of his shirts to Fabrizio, who was soon dressed as a rich
middle-class countryman. Ludovico unhooked a net which was hanging on the
wall, put Fabrizio’s clothes into the basket for holding the fish, ran
down the stairs, and went swiftly out by a back door, Fabrizio following
him.

“Theodolinda,” he called out, as he hurried past the shop, “hide what
we’ve left upstairs. We’ll go and wait in the willows, and you, Pietro
Antonio, make haste and send us a boat. It will be well paid for.”

Ludovico led Fabrizio over more than twenty ditches; the widest of these
were bridged by very long and very elastic wooden boards. Ludovico pulled
these planks over as fast as they crossed them. When they reached the
last cutting he pulled the plank away eagerly. “Now we can breathe,” he
said. “That dog of a policeman will have to go more than two leagues
round before he can reach your Excellency. But you’ve turned white!” said
he to Fabrizio. “I’ve not forgotten to bring a little bottle of brandy.”

“I shall be very glad of it; the wound in my thigh is beginning to hurt,
and besides, I was in a horrible fright while I was in the police office
at the end of the bridge.”

“I should think so indeed,” said Ludovico. “With a bloody shirt like
yours, I don’t understand how you ever dared to go into such a place. As
for the wounds, I know all about that sort of thing. I’ll take you to
a nice cool place where you can sleep for an hour; the boat will come
to fetch us there, if there’s a boat to be had. If not, when you’re a
little rested we’ll go on two short leagues farther, and I’ll take you
to a mill where I can get a boat myself. Your Excellency knows a great
deal more than I do; my mistress will be in despair when she hears of the
accident. She will be told you are mortally wounded, or perhaps that you
have killed the other treacherously. The Marchesa Raversi will not fail
to put about every kind of spiteful report to distress my mistress. Your
Excellency might write.”

“And how shall I send my letter?”

“The men at the mill to which we are going earn twelve sous a day; they
can get to Parma in a day and a half—that means four francs for the
journey, and two francs for the wear and tear of their shoes. If the
message was carried for a poor man like myself it would cost six francs;
as it will be done for a nobleman, I will give twelve.”

When they reached the resting-place, in a thicket of alder and willow
trees, very cool and shady, Ludovico went on an hour’s distance to fetch
paper and ink. “Heavens! how comfortable I am here!” exclaimed Fabrizio;
“fortune, farewell! I shall never be an archbishop.”

When Ludovico returned he found him sound asleep, and would not wake
him. The boat did not come till near sunset. As soon as Ludovico saw it
appearing in the distance, he roused Fabrizio, who wrote two letters.

“Your Excellency is very much wiser than I am,” said Ludovico, with a
look of distress, “and I am afraid you will be displeased with me at the
bottom of your heart, whatever you may say, if I add a certain thing.”

“I am not such an idiot as you think,” said Fabrizio. “And whatever you
may say to me, I shall always look upon you as a faithful servant of my
aunt’s, and a man who has done everything in the world to help me out of
a very terrible difficulty.”

A good many further protestations were necessary before Ludovico could
be induced to speak, and when he finally made up his mind he began with
a preface which lasted quite five minutes. Fabrizio grew impatient, and
then he thought: “Whose fault is this? The fault of our vanity, which
this man has seen very clearly from his coach-box?” At last Ludovico’s
devotion induced him to run the risk of speaking frankly.

“What would not the Marchesa Raversi give the runner you are going to
send to Parma for those two letters? They are written by your own hand,
and therefore can be used as evidence against you. Your Excellency will
take me for an indiscreet and curious person, and besides, you will be
ashamed, perhaps, to let the duchess see a poor coachman’s handwriting.
But for the sake of your safety, I am forced to speak, even if you do
think it an impertinence. Could not your Excellency dictate those two
letters to me? Then I should be the only person compromised, and very
little compromised at that, for I could always say that you made your
appearance in front of me in a field, with an inkhorn in one hand and a
pistol in the other, and ordered me to write.”

“Give me your hand, my dear Ludovico,” cried Fabrizio; “and to convince
you I have no desire to keep anything secret from such a friend, you
shall copy these two letters just as they are.” Ludovico realized the
full extent of this mark of confidence, and was very much touched by it,
but at the end of a few lines, seeing the boat coming rapidly toward them—

“These letters will be finished more quickly,” said he to Fabrizio, “if
your Excellency would take the trouble of dictating them to me.” As soon
as the letters were finished, Fabrizio wrote an A and a B on the bottom
line, and on a little scrap of paper which he afterward crumpled up, he
wrote in French, “_Croyez A et B._” The messenger was to hide this scrap
of paper in his clothes.

When the boat was within hailing distance, Ludovico shouted to the
boatmen, using names which were not their own. They did not reply, but
approached the bank about a thousand yards lower down, looking about on
every side, lest any custom-house officer should have caught sight of
them.

“I am at your orders,” said Ludovico to Fabrizio. “Would you wish me to
take the letters to Parma myself? Would you like me to go with you to
Ferrara?”

“To come with me to Ferrara is a service which I did not venture to ask
of you. I shall have to land and try to get into the town without showing
my passport. I don’t mind telling you that I have the greatest repugnance
to the idea of travelling under Giletti’s name, and nobody that I can
think of, except yourself, can procure me another passport.”

“Why did you not speak of that at Casal-Maggiore? I know a spy there who
would have sold us an excellent passport, and not dear either, for forty
or fifty francs.”

One of the two boatmen, who had been born on the right bank of the Po,
and consequently needed no passport to get him to Parma, undertook to
deliver the letters. Ludovico, who knew how to handle an oar, pledged
himself to manage the boat with the other man’s assistance.

“Lower down the river,” he said, “we shall meet several armed
police-boats, and I know how to keep out of their way.” A dozen times
they had to hide themselves in the midst of low islets covered with
willows; three times they landed, to let the empty boat pass in front
of the police boats. Ludovico took advantage of these long spells
of idleness to recite several of his sonnets to Fabrizio. They were
good enough as regarded feeling, but this was weakened by the form
of expression, and none of them were worth writing down. The curious
thing was that the ex-coachman’s passions and conception were lively
and picturesque, but the moment he began to write he grew cold and
commonplace. “The very opposite,” said Fabrizio to himself, “of what we
see in the world. There everything is gracefully expressed, but the heart
has nothing to do with it.” He discovered that the greatest pleasure
he could do to his faithful servant was to correct the spelling of his
sonnets.

“When I lend my manuscript to anybody I get laughed at,” said Ludovico.
“But if your Excellency would condescend to dictate the spelling of the
words to me, letter by letter, envious people would have to hold their
tongues. Spelling is not genius.”

It was not till the evening of the second day that Fabrizio was
able to land, in perfect safety, in an alder copse a league from
Ponte-Lago-Oscuro. All the day long he lay hid in a hemp field, and
Ludovico went on to Ferrara, where he hired a little lodging in the house
of a needy Jew, who at once realized that there was money to be earned if
he would hold his tongue. In the evening, as the darkness was falling,
Fabrizio rode into Ferrara on a pony. He was in urgent need of care. The
heat on the river had made him ill; the knife thrust in his thigh and the
sword thrust Giletti had given him in the shoulder, at the beginning of
their fight, had both become inflamed, and made him feverish.



CHAPTER XII


The Jew landlord of their lodgings brought them a discreet surgeon, who,
soon coming to the conclusion that there was money to be made, informed
Ludovico that his conscience obliged him to report the wounds of the
young man, whom Ludovico called his brother, to the police.

“The law is clear,” he added. “It is quite evident that your brother has
not hurt himself, as he declares, by falling off a ladder with an open
knife in his hand.”

Ludovico coldly answered the worthy surgeon to the effect that if he
ventured to listen to the promptings of his conscience, he, Ludovico,
would have the honour, before he left Ferrara, of falling upon him with
an open knife in his hand. When he related the incident to Fabrizio
he blamed him severely. But there was not an instant to be lost about
decamping. Ludovico told the Jew he was going to try what an airing
would do for his brother. He fetched a carriage, and our friends left
the house, never to return to it again. My readers doubtless find these
descriptions of all the steps necessitated by the lack of a passport very
lengthy. But in Italy, and especially in the neighbourhood of the Po,
everybody’s talk is about passports. As soon as they had slipped safely
out of Ferrara, as if they were merely taking a drive, Ludovico dismissed
the carriage, re-entered the town by a different gate, and then came
back to fetch Fabrizio in a _sediola_, which he had hired to take them
twelve leagues. When they were near Bologna, our friends had themselves
driven across country, to the road leading into the city from Florence.
They spent the night in the most wretched tavern they could discover, and
the next morning, as Fabrizio felt strong enough to walk a little, they
entered Bologna on foot. Giletti’s passport had been burned. The actor’s
death must now be known, and it was less dangerous to be arrested for
having no passport, than for presenting one belonging to a man who had
been killed.

Ludovico knew several servants in great houses at Bologna. It was agreed
that he should go and collect intelligence from them. He told them he
had come from Florence with his young brother, who, being overcome with
sleep, had let him start alone an hour before sunrise. They were to have
met in the village where Ludovico was to halt during the sultry midday
hours, but when his brother did not arrive, Ludovico had resolved to
retrace his steps. He had found him wounded by a blow from a stone and
several knife thrusts, and robbed into the bargain, by people who had
picked a quarrel with him. The brother was a good-looking young fellow;
he could groom and manage horses, and would be glad to take service in
some great house. Ludovico intended to add, if necessity should arise,
that when Fabrizio had fallen down, the thieves had taken to flight, and
had carried off a little bag containing their linen and their passports.

When Fabrizio reached Bologna he felt very weary, and not daring to
go into an inn without a passport, he turned into the large Church of
San Petronio. It was deliciously cool within the building, and he soon
felt quite recovered. “Ungrateful wretch that I am,” said he to himself
suddenly; “I walk into a church, and just sit myself down as if I were in
a _café_.” He threw himself on his knees, and thanked God fervently for
the protection He had so evidently extended to him since he had had the
misfortune of killing Giletti. The danger which still made him shudder
was that of being recognised in the police office at Casal-Maggiore.
“How was it,” he thought, “that the clerk, whose eyes were so full of
suspicion, and who read my passport three times over, did not perceive
that I am not five foot ten tall, that I am not eight-and-thirty years
old, and that I am not deeply pitted with the small-pox? What mercies do
I owe thee, oh, my God! and I have waited until now to lay my nothingness
at Thy feet. My pride would fain have believed it was to vain human
prudence that I owed the happiness of escaping the Spielberg, which was
already yawning to engulf me.”

More than an hour did Fabrizio spend in the deepest emotion at the
thought of the immense goodness of the Most High. He did not hear
Ludovico approach him and stand in front of him. Fabrizio, who had hidden
his face in his hands, raised his head, and his faithful servant saw the
tears coursing down his cheeks.

“Come back in an hour,” said Fabrizio to him with some asperity.

Ludovico forgave his tone in consideration of his piety. Fabrizio recited
the seven penitential psalms, which he knew by heart, several times over,
making long pauses over the verses applicable to his present position.

Fabrizio asked pardon of God for many things, but it is a remarkable
fact that it never occurred to him to reckon among his faults his plan
of becoming an archbishop simply and solely because Count Mosca was a
prime minister, and considered this dignity, and the great position it
conferred, suitable for the duchess’s nephew. He had not indeed desired
the thing at all passionately, but still he had considered it exactly
as he would have considered his appointment to a ministry or a military
command. The thought that his conscience might be involved in the
duchess’s plan had never struck him. This is a remarkable feature of the
teaching he owed to the Jesuits at Milan. This form of religion deprives
men of courage to think of unaccustomed matters, and more especially
forbids self-examination, as the greatest of all sins—a step toward
Protestantism. To discover in what one is guilty, we must ask questions
of one’s priest, or read the list of sins as printed in the book entitled
Preparation for the Sacrament of Penitence. Fabrizio knew the Latin list
of sins, which he had learned at the Ecclesiastical Academy at Naples, by
heart, and when, as he repeated this list, he came to the word “Murder,”
he had honestly accused himself before God of having killed a man, though
in defence of his own life. He had run rapidly, and without the smallest
attention, through the various clauses relating to the sin of simony (the
purchase of ecclesiastical dignities with money). If he had been invited
to give a hundred louis to become grand vicar to the Archbishop of Parma,
he would have shrunk from the idea with horror. But although he neither
lacked intelligence nor, more especially, logic, it never once came
into his head that the employment of Count Mosca’s credit in his favour
constituted a simony. Herein lies the triumph of the Jesuits’ teaching;
it instils the habit of paying no attention to things which are as clear
as day. A Frenchman brought up amid Parisian self-interest and scepticism
might honestly have accused Fabrizio of hypocrisy at the very moment
when our hero was laying open his heart before his God with the utmost
sincerity, and the deepest possible emotion.

Fabrizio did not leave the church until he had prepared the confession
which he had resolved to make the very next morning. He found Ludovico
sitting on the steps of the huge stone peristyle which rises on the great
square before the façade of San Petronio. Just as the air is purified by
a great thunder-storm, so Fabrizio’s heart felt calmer, happier, and, so
to speak, cooler. “I am much better. I hardly feel my wounds at all,”
he said, as he joined Ludovico. “But, first of all, I must ask your
forgiveness; I answered you crossly when you came to speak to me in the
church. I was examining my conscience. Well, how does our business go?”

“It’s going right well. I’ve engaged a lodging—not at all worthy of your
Excellency, indeed—kept by the wife of one of my friends, who is a very
pretty woman, and in close intimacy, besides, with one of the principal
police agents. To-morrow I shall go and report that our passports have
been stolen. This declaration will be well received, but I shall pay
the postage of a letter which the police will send to Casal-Maggiore to
inquire whether there is a man there of the name of San Micheli, who has
a brother named Fabrizio in the service of the Duchess Sanseverina of
Parma. It’s all done, _siamo à cavallo_” (an Italian proverb, meaning “we
are saved”).

Fabrizio had suddenly become very grave. He asked Ludovico to wait for
him a moment, returned to the church almost at a run, and had hardly got
inside when he cast himself once more upon his knees and humbly kissed
the stone pavement. “This is a miracle,” he cried, with tears in his
eyes. “Thou sawest my soul ready to return to the path of duty, and Thou
hast saved me. O God, I may be killed some day in a scuffle. Remember,
O Lord, when my dying moment comes, the condition of my heart at this
moment.” In a passion of the liveliest joy, Fabrizio once more recited
the seven penitential psalms. Before he left the church, he approached an
old woman who sat in front of a great Madonna and beside an iron triangle
set vertically on a support of the same metal. The edges of this triangle
bristled with little spikes, destined to support the small tapers which
the faithful burn before Cimabue’s famous Madonna.

Only seven tapers were burning when Fabrizio approached. He noted the
fact in his memory, so as to reflect on it when he should have time.

“How much do the tapers cost?” said he to the woman.

“Two _baiocchi_ each.”

And, indeed, they were no thicker than a penholder, and not a foot high.

“How many tapers will your triangle hold?”

“Sixty-three, since there are seven already.”

“Ha!” said Fabrizio. “Sixty-three and seven make seventy; I must remember
that, too.” He paid for the tapers, set up and lighted the first seven
himself, and then knelt down to make his offering. As he rose from his
knees he said to the old woman, “It is for a mercy bestowed.”

“I am dying of hunger,” said Fabrizio to Ludovico as he rejoined him.

“Don’t let us go into a tavern; let us go to the lodgings,” said his
servant. “The mistress of the house will go out and buy you what you want
for breakfast; she’ll cheat us out of a score of sous, and that will make
her feel all the more kindly to the new arrival.”

“That means that I shall have to go on starving for another hour,” said
Fabrizio, laughing as merrily as a child, and he entered a tavern close
to San Petronio. To his extreme astonishment he beheld, sitting at a
table close to his own his aunt’s principal man-servant, Pepe, the very
man who had once been sent to meet him at Geneva. Fabrizio signed to him
to keep silence; then, after a hasty repast, with a happy smile trembling
on his lips, he rose to his feet. Pepe followed him, and for the third
time our hero passed into San Petronio. Ludovico discreetly held back,
and walked up and down the square.

“Oh, monsignore, how are your wounds? The duchess is in dreadful anxiety.
For one whole day she believed you were dead, and cast away on some
island in the river. I must send a messenger to her instantly. I have
been hunting for you for six days; I spent three of them at Ferrara,
going to all the inns.”

“Have you a passport for me?”

“I have three. One with all your Excellency’s names and titles, one with
nothing but your name, and the third with a false name, Giuseppe Bossi.
Each of the passports will serve your Excellency’s purpose, whether you
choose to arrive from Florence or from Modena. All you have to do is to
walk out beyond the town. The count would be glad if you would lodge at
the Albergo del Pellegrino, which is kept by a friend of his.”

Fabrizio walked, as though by chance, up the right aisle of the church to
the spot where his tapers were burning. He fixed his eyes on the Cimabue
Madonna, then, kneeling down, he said to Pepe, “I must thank God for a
moment.” Pepe followed his example. As they left the church Pepe noticed
that Fabrizio gave a twenty-franc piece to the first beggar who asked
charity of him. The beggar set up a shout of gratitude, which attracted
the crowds of indigent people of every sort who generally collect on
the square of San Petronio all round the charitable donor. Everybody
wanted his or her share of the napoleon. The women, despairing of
getting through the press round the lucky mendicant, fell upon Fabrizio,
shrieking to him to say it was true he had given his gold piece to be
divided among all the poor beggars. Pepe brandished his gold-headed cane,
and ordered them to leave “his Excellency” alone.

“Oh, your Excellency,” screamed all the women at once, even louder than
before, “give the poor women another gold piece.” Fabrizio quickened his
pace; the women ran after him, calling aloud, and many male beggars ran
up from side streets, so that quite a little disturbance ensued. The
whole of the filthy and noisy crowd kept shouting “Your Excellency!”
Fabrizio found it by no means easy to get out of the press. The scene
recalled his imagination to earth. “I am only getting what I deserve,”
thought he. “I have been rubbing shoulders with the common folk.”

Two of the women followed him as far as the Saragossa Gate, through which
he passed out of the town. There Pepe stopped them by threatening them
seriously with his cane and throwing them some small coins. Fabrizio
climbed the pretty hill of San Michele in Bosco, walked partly round the
town, outside the walls, turned into a foot-path, which, five hundred
paces farther on, ran into the road from Florence, returned to Bologna,
and gravely presented a passport containing a very accurate description
of his person to the police commissary. This passport described him as
Giuseppe Bossi, student of theology. Fabrizio noticed a little splash
of red ink that seemed to have been dropped by accident on the lower
right-hand corner of the paper. Two hours later he had a spy upon his
heels, on account of the title “your Excellency” applied to him by his
companion in the presence of the beggars at San Petronio, although
his passport detailed none of those honours which entitle a man to be
addressed as “Excellency” by his servants.

Fabrizio perceived the spy, and snapped his fingers at him. He gave not a
thought, now, either to passports or police officers, and was as amused
as a child with everything about him. When Pepe, who had been ordered
to stay with him, saw how well pleased he was with Ludovico, he thought
his own best course was to carry the good news to the duchess himself.
Fabrizio wrote two long letters to his dear ones. Then he bethought him
of writing a third to the venerable Archbishop Landriani. This letter
produced a most extraordinary effect. It contained the exact history
of his fight with Giletti. The good archbishop, quite overcome by his
emotion, did not fail to go and read the letter to the prince, whose
curiosity to know how the young monsignore would set about excusing so
terrible a murder made him willing to listen. Thanks to the Marchesa
Raversi’s many friends, the prince, like the whole city of Parma,
believed Fabrizio had obtained the assistance of some twenty or thirty
peasants to kill an inferior actor who had ventured to dispute his
possession of little Marietta. At despotic courts truth lies at the mercy
of the first clever schemer, just as in Paris it is ruled by fashion.

“But, devil take it,” said the prince to the archbishop, “one has those
things done by a third person. It is not customary to do them oneself.
And then actors like Giletti are not killed; they are bought.”

Fabrizio had not the smallest suspicion of what was going on at Parma. As
a matter of fact, the death of a player who only earned thirty-two francs
a month in his lifetime was going near to overthrow the _ultra_ ministry,
with Count Mosca at its head.

When the news of Giletti’s death reached him, the prince, nettled by
the airs of independence which the duchess gave herself, had ordered
Rassi, his Minister of Justice, to deal with the whole trial as if the
accused person had been a Liberal. Fabrizio, for his part, believed that
a man of his rank was above all law. The fact that in countries where
the bearers of great names are never punished, there is nothing that can
not be achieved, even against such persons, by intrigue, had not entered
into his calculations. He would often talk to Ludovico of his perfect
innocence, which was soon to be proclaimed. His great argument was that
he was not guilty. At last, one day, Ludovico said to him: “I can not
conceive why your Excellency, who is so clever and knows so much, takes
the trouble of saying such things to me, who am his devoted servant. Your
Excellency is too cautious. Such things are only good for use in public
or before the judges.”

“This man believes I am a murderer, and he does not love me the less,”
mused Fabrizio, thunder-struck.

Three days after Pepe’s departure, Fabrizio was astonished to receive
a huge letter bound with a silken cord, like those used in Louis XIV’s
time, and addressed to “His Most Reverend Excellency, Monsignore Fabrizio
del Dongo, Chief Grand Vicar of the Diocese of Parma, Canon, etc.”

“But am I all that already?” he said to himself with a laugh. Archbishop
Landriani’s epistle was a masterpiece of perspicacity and logic. It
covered no less than nineteen large sheets, and gave a very good account
of everything that had happened at Parma with regard to Giletti’s death.

“The march of a French army on the town, under the command of Marshal
Ney, would not have made more stir,” wrote the good archbishop. “Every
soul, my very dear son, except the duchess and myself, believes you
killed the actor Giletti because you wanted to do it. If that misfortune
had befallen you, it would have been one of those matters that can be
hushed up by means of a couple of hundred louis and an absence of six
months. But the Raversi is bent on using the incident to overthrow Count
Mosca. It is not the terrible sin of murder for which the public blames
you, it is simply for your awkwardness, or rather insolence, in not
having condescended to employ a _bulo_ [a kind of inferior bully]. I
give you the clear substance of the talk I hear all round me. For since
this most deplorable event I go every day to three of the most important
houses in this city, so as to find opportunity for justifying you, and
never have I felt I was making a holier use of what little eloquence
Heaven has bestowed on me.”

The scales began to fall from Fabrizio’s eyes. The numerous letters
he received from the duchess, all throbbing with affection, never
condescended to report anything of what was happening around her. The
duchess assured him she would leave Parma forever, unless he soon
returned there in triumph. “The count,” she wrote, in a letter which
reached him together with the archbishop’s, “will do all that is humanly
possible for you. As for me, this last prank of yours has changed my
nature; I have grown as stingy as Tombone, the banker. I have discharged
all my workmen. I have done more—I have dictated the inventory of my
belongings to the count, and I find I have very much less than I thought.
After the death of that excellent Pietranera (whose murder, by the way,
you would have done far better to avenge, than to risk your life against
such a creature as Giletti), I was left with twelve hundred francs
a year, and debts amounting to five thousand. Among other things, I
remember, I had thirty pairs of white satin slippers which had come from
Paris, and only one single pair of walking shoes. I have almost made up
my mind to take the three hundred thousand francs the duke left me, and
which I had intended to lay out entirely on a magnificent monument to his
memory. For the rest, it is the Marchesa Raversi who is your bitterest
enemy, and therefore mine. If you are bored at Bologna, you have only to
say one word, and I will go to you there. Here are four more bills of
exchange.”

The duchess never told Fabrizio a word about the opinion concerning his
business which prevailed at Parma. Her first object was to console him,
and in any case the death of such an absurd person as Giletti did not
strike her as matter of any serious reproach to a Del Dongo.

“How many Gilettis have our ancestors sent into the next world!” she
would say to the count; “and nobody ever dreamed of finding fault with
them for it.”

Fabrizio, filled with astonishment, and perceiving for the first time the
real condition of things, set himself to study the archbishop’s letter.
Unfortunately the archbishop himself believed him better informed than
he really was. As Fabrizio understood the matter, the Marchesa Raversi’s
triumph rested on the impossibility of discovering any eye-witnesses
of the fatal scuffle. His own servant, who had been the first to bring
the news to Parma, had been inside the village tavern at Sanguigna when
the incident occurred. Little Marietta, and the old woman who acted as
her mother, had disappeared, and the marchesa had bought over the man
who had driven the carriage, and who was now making a deposition of
the most abominable kind. “Although the proceedings are wrapped in the
deepest mystery,” wrote the good archbishop in his Ciceronian style, “and
directed by Rassi, of whom Christian charity forbids me to speak evil,
but who has made his fortune by pursuing unfortunate beings accused of
crime, even as the hound pursues the hare; though Rassi, I say, whose
baseness and venality you can not overrate, has been charged with the
management of the trial by an angry prince, I have obtained a sight of
the _vetturino’s_ three depositions. By a signal piece of good fortune
the wretch has flatly contradicted himself, and I will add, seeing I
speak to my vicar-general, who will rule this diocese when I am gone,
that I sent for the priest of the parish in which this wandering sinner
dwells. I will confide to you, my very dear son, though under the
secret of the confessional, that the priest already knows, through the
_vetturino’s_ wife, the actual number of crowns her husband has received
from the Marchesa Raversi. I will not dare to say that the marchesa has
insisted on his slandering you, but that is very likely. The crowns were
paid over by a miserable priest who performs very dubious functions in
the marchesa’s service, and whom I have been obliged, for the second
time, to prohibit from saying mass. I will not weary you with the recital
of several other steps which you might fairly have expected from me,
and which, indeed, it was only my duty to take. A canon, a colleague
of yours at the cathedral, who is occasionally too apt to remember the
influence conferred on him by the possession of the family fortune, of
which, by God’s will, he has become the sole inheritor, ventured to say,
in the house of Count Zurla, Minister of the Interior, that he considered
this trifle clearly proved against you (he was speaking of the unhappy
Giletti’s murder). I summoned him to my palace, and there, in presence
of my three other vicars-general, of my chaplain, and of two priests who
happened to be in my waiting-room, I requested him to enlighten us, his
brothers, as to the grounds on which he based the complete conviction he
declared himself to have acquired, of the guilt of one of his colleagues
at the cathedral. The only reasons the poor wretch could articulate were
very inconclusive. Every one present rose up against him, and although I
did not think it necessary to add more than a very few words, he burst
into tears, and before us all made a full confession of his complete
error. Whereupon I promised him secrecy, in my own name and that of all
those who had been present at the conference, on condition, however, that
he should use all his zeal to rectify the false impression produced by
the remarks he had been making during the past fortnight.

“I will not repeat, my dear son, what you must have known for long—that
out of the four-and-thirty peasants working on Count Mosca’s excavation,
and who, according to the Raversi, were paid to assist you in your crime,
thirty-two men were hard at work at the bottom of their ditch at the
moment when you seized the hunting-knife and used it to defend your life
against the man who had so unexpectedly attacked you. Two of them who
were not in the ditch shouted to them, ‘He is murdering monsignore!’
This one exclamation is a brilliant testimony to your innocence. Well,
Rassi declares that these two men have disappeared, and further, eight
of the men who were in the trench have been found. When they were first
examined six of these declared they had heard the shout, ‘He is murdering
monsignore!’ I know indirectly that when they were examined for the
fifth time, yesterday evening, five of them asserted that they could not
remember whether they had actually heard the exclamation, or whether they
had been told of it afterward, by one of their comrades. Orders have
been given which will make me acquainted with the localities in which
these workmen live, and their priest will make them understand that if
they allow themselves to be tempted to wrest the truth, for the sake of
earning a few crowns, they will be damned everlastingly.”

The good archbishop proceeded with infinite detail, as may be judged by
what we have already reported. Then he added these lines in Latin:

“This business is nothing less than an attempt to turn out the ministry.
If you are sentenced it can only be to the galleys or to execution.
In that case I should intervene, and declare, with all the weight of
my archiepiscopal authority, that I know you to be innocent; that you
have simply defended your life against a rascal; and further, that I
have forbidden you to return to Parma as long as your enemies triumph
there. I even propose to brand the Minister of Justice as he deserves;
the hatred felt for that man is as common as esteem for his character is
rare. But on the eve of the day whereon the minister pronounces so unjust
a sentence, the Duchess of Sanseverina will leave the city, and perhaps
even the dominion of Parma. In that case, no one doubts that the count
will immediately hand in his resignation. Then, most probably, General
Fabio Conti will be made minister, and the Marchesa Raversi will triumph.
The great difficulty about your business is that no capable man has been
placed in charge of the steps indispensable for the demonstration of
your innocence, and for the frustration of the attempts being made to
suborn witnesses. The count thinks he is doing this himself, but he is
too great a gentleman to condescend to certain details, and besides, his
position as Minister of Police obliged him, at the very outset, to issue
the severest orders against you. And finally—dare I say it?—our sovereign
master believes you guilty, or simulates the belief, at all events, and
imports a certain bitterness into the affair.” (The words corresponding
to _our sovereign master_ and _simulates the belief_ were in Greek
characters, and Fabrizio was infinitely grateful to the archbishop for
having dared to write them at all. He cut the line out of the letter with
his penknife, and instantly destroyed it.)

Twenty times over Fabrizio broke off in the perusal of this letter. He
was filled with the deepest and most lively gratitude, and instantly
wrote a letter of eight pages in reply. Often he had to lift his head,
so as to prevent the tears from dropping on his paper. The next morning,
just as he was about to seal his missive, he bethought him that it was
too worldly in tone. “I will write it in Latin,” said he to himself;
“it will seem more correct to the worthy archbishop.” But while he was
striving to turn fine long Latin phrases, careful imitations of Cicero,
he remembered that one day, when the archbishop had been speaking to him
of Napoleon, he had made it a point to call him “_Buonaparte_.” That
instant every trace of the emotion which, only the night before, had
affected him even to tears, fled utterly. “Oh, King of Italy!” he cried,
“the faith so many swore to you in your lifetime shall be kept by me, now
that you are no more. He cares for me, no doubt, but that is because I
am a Del Dongo and he the son of a common man.” So that his fine Italian
letter might not be wasted, Fabrizio made some necessary changes in it,
and despatched it to Count Mosca.

That very some day, Fabrizio met little Marietta in the street. She
reddened with delight, and signed to him to follow without speaking to
her. She took her way swiftly toward a lonely portico; once there, she
drew forward the black lace which covered her head, in the fashion of
that country, so that no one could recognise her, and then, turning round
sharply—

“How is it,” said she to Fabrizio, “that you are walking about freely in
the streets?” Fabrizio told her his story.

“Great heavens, you’ve been to Ferrara! And I have been hunting for you
everywhere. You must know that I quarrelled with the old woman because
she wanted to take me to Venice, where I knew quite well you would never
go, because you are on the Austrian black list. I sold my gold necklace
to get to Bologna. Something told me I should have the happiness of
meeting you here, and the old woman arrived two days after me. I would
not advise you to visit us, because she would make more of those shabby
attempts to get money out of you, of which I am so ashamed. We have lived
very comfortably since that fatal day you know of, and we have not spent
a quarter of what you gave her. I should not like to go to see you at the
Albergo del Pellegrino; that would be a _publicity_. Try to hire some
little room in a lonely street, and at the _Ave Maria_ (nightfall) I will
be here under this same portico.”

Having said these words, she took to flight.



CHAPTER XIII


The unexpected appearance of this charming young person drove every
serious thought away. Fabrizio lived on at Bologna with a sense of the
deepest delight and security. His artless propensity to find happiness
in anything which filled his life, betrayed itself in his letters to the
duchess, and to such a point as to annoy her.

Fabrizio hardly noticed it; only he noted in abbreviated signs on the
dial plate of his watch, “When I write to the duchess I must never
say ‘when I was a prelate, when I was a churchman’—it vexes her.” He
had bought a pair of ponies, with which he was very much pleased, and
harnessed them to a hired chaise whenever little Marietta had a fancy to
go and see one of the delightful spots in the neighbourhood of Bologna.
Almost every evening he drove her to the Reno Cascade. On the way back
he would stop at the house of the good-natured Crescentini, who rather
believed himself to be Marietta’s father.

“Faith,” said Fabrizio to himself, “if this be the _café_ life which
struck me as being so absurd for any serious man to lead, I did wrong
to turn up my nose at it.” He forgot that he never went near a _café_
except to read the Constitutionnel, and that as he was utterly unknown
to any one in Bologna, the pleasures of vanity had nothing to do with
his present state of felicity. When he was not with little Marietta, he
was to be seen at the observatory, where he was attending a course of
astronomy. The professor had taken a great fancy to him, and Fabrizio
would lend him his horses on a Sunday, so that he and his wife might go
and ruffle it in the Corso of the Montagnola.

He had a horror of making any one unhappy, however unworthy the person
might be. Marietta would not hear of his seeing the _mamaccia_, but one
day, when she was in church, he went up to the old woman’s room. She
flushed with anger when she saw him enter. “I must play the Del Dongo
here,” said Fabrizio to himself. “How much does Marietta earn a month
when she has an engagement?” he called out, with very much the same air
as that with which a self-respecting young Parisian takes his seat in the
_balcon_ at the Opéra Bouffe.

“Fifty crowns.”

“You lie, as usual. Tell me the truth, or, by God, you’ll not get a
centime.”

“Well, she was earning twenty-two crowns in our company at Parma, when we
were so unlucky as to meet you. I earned twelve crowns, and we each gave
Giletti, our protector, a third of our earnings; on that Giletti made
Marietta a present almost every month—something like two crowns——”

“You lie again; you only earned four crowns. But if you are good to
Marietta, I will engage you as if I were an _impresario_. You shall have
twelve crowns for yourself every month, and twenty-two for her, but if I
see her eyes red once I shall go bankrupt.”

“You’re mighty proud of yourself! Well, let me tell you, your fine
generosity is ruining us,” rejoined the old woman furiously. “We are
losing _l’avviamento_ [our custom]. When we have the crushing misfortune
of losing your Excellency’s protection, no comedy company will know
anything about us. They will all be full, we shall find no engagement,
and, thanks to you, we shall die of hunger.”

“Go to the devil!” said Fabrizio, departing.

“I will not go to the devil, you ungodly wretch! But I will go straight
to the police, and they shall know from me that you are a monsignore who
has cast away his cassock, and that Giuseppe Bossi is no more your name
than it’s mine.”

Fabrizio had already descended several steps; he turned and came back.
“In the first place, the police probably know my real name better than
you do. But, if you venture to denounce me, if you dare to do anything so
infamous,” he said very seriously, “Ludovico will talk to you, and it
will not be six knife thrusts that you will have in your old carcass, but
four times six, and you will spend six months in hospital, and without
tobacco.”

The hag turned pale, rushed at Fabrizio’s hand, and tried to kiss it.

“I accept what you are ready to do for me and Marietta thankfully; you
looked so good-natured that I took you for a simpleton. And consider this
well; other people might make the same mistake. I would advise you to
look more like a great gentleman, as a rule.” Then she added, with the
most admirable impudence, “You will think over this piece of good advice,
and, as winter is not far off, you will make Marietta and me each a
present of a good coat of that fine English stuff in the big shop on the
Piazza San Petronio.”

The pretty Marietta’s love offered Fabrizio all the charms of the most
tender friendship, and this made him think of the happiness of the same
description he might have found in the company of the duchess.

“But is it not a very comical thing,” said he to himself, “that I am not
capable of that exclusive and passionate preoccupation which men call
love? Amid all my chance _liaisons_, at Novara or at Naples, did I ever
meet a woman whose presence I preferred, even in the earliest days, to
a ride on a good-looking horse that I had never mounted before? Can it
be,” he added, “that what is called ‘love’ is yet another lie? I love,
of course, just as I am hungry at six o’clock in the evening. Can it be
that this somewhat vulgar propensity is what these liars have lifted
into the love of Othello and the love of Tancred? Or must I believe that
my organization is different from that of other men. What if no passion
should ever touch my heart? That would be a strange fate!”

At Naples, especially toward the close of his residence there, Fabrizio
had met women who, proud of their rank, their beauty, and the worldly
position of the adorers they had sacrificed to him, had tried to govern
him. At the very first inkling of their plans Fabrizio had broken with
them in the promptest and most scandalous manner. “Now,” said he,
“if I ever allow myself to be carried away by the pleasure, no doubt
a very keen one, of being on good terms with that pretty woman known
as the Duchess Sanseverina, I am exactly like the blundering Frenchman
who killed the hen that laid the golden eggs. To the duchess I owe the
only happiness with which a tender feeling has ever inspired me. My
affection for her is my life; and besides, apart from her what am I? A
miserable exile condemned to a hand-to-mouth existence, in a ruinous
castle near Novara. I remember that when the great autumn rains came
I used to be obliged to fasten an umbrella over the head of my bed,
for fear of accidents. I used to ride the agent’s horses, and he just
allowed it out of respect for my blue blood (and my muscular strength).
But he was beginning to think I had stayed there too long. My father
allowed me twelve hundred francs a year, and thought himself damned
because he was supporting a Jacobin. My poor mother and my sisters went
without gowns so as to enable me to make some trifling presents to my
mistresses. This kind of generosity used to wring my heart, and besides,
my state of penury was beginning to be suspected, and the young noblemen
in the neighbourhood would soon have been pitying me. Sooner or later
some coxcomb would have betrayed his scorn for a poor and unsuccessful
Jacobin, for in their eyes I was nothing else. I should have bestowed or
received some hearty sword thrust, which would have brought me to the
fortress of Fenestrella or forced me to take refuge in Switzerland once
more—still with my twelve hundred francs a year. To the duchess I owe the
happiness of having escaped all these ills, and further, she it is who
feels for me those transports of affection which I ought to feel for her.

“Instead of the ridiculous and shabby existence which would have turned
me into that sorry animal, a fool, I have spent four years in a great
city, and with an excellent carriage, which has prevented me from feeling
envy, and other low provincial sentiments. This aunt, in her extreme
kindness, is always scolding me because I do not draw enough money from
her banker. Shall I spoil this admirable position forever? Shall I lose
the only friend I have in the world? All I have to do is to tell her a
lie, and say to a charming woman, who probably has not her equal in the
world, and for whom I have the most passionate regard, ‘I love you.’ This
from me, who do not know what real love means! She would spend whole days
reproaching me with the absence of those transports which I have never
known. Now, Marietta, who can not see into my heart, and who takes a
caress for an outburst of passion, thinks me madly in love with her, and
believes herself the happiest of living women.

“As a matter of fact, the only slight acquaintance that I have ever had
with that tender absorption which is, I believe, denominated _love_,
was for that young girl Aniken, at the inn at Zonders, near the Belgian
frontier.”

It is with much regret that we must here relate one of Fabrizio’s worst
actions. In the midst of his tranquil life, a foolish sting to his vanity
took possession of the heart which love could not vanquish, and carried
him quite off his feet. Living in Bologna at the same time as himself,
was the celebrated Fausta F⸺, undoubtedly one of the first singers of
our time, and perhaps the most capricious woman ever seen. The gifted
Venetian poet Burati had written a famous satirical sonnet concerning
her, which, at that time, was in the mouth of every one, from princes to
the lowest urchins in the street:—

“To will and not to will, to adore and detest in one and the same day,
to find no happiness save in inconstancy, to scorn that which the world
adores, so long as the world adores it—Fausta has all these faults and
many more. Wherefore, never cast your eyes upon the serpent; if once thou
seest her, oh, imprudent man, all her caprices are forgotten. If thou
hast the happiness of hearing her, thou forgettest even thyself, and
love, at that moment, makes of thee what Circe once made the comrades of
Ulysses.”

Just at that moment this miracle of beauty was so fascinated by the huge
whiskers and overweening insolence of the young Count M⸺ that even his
abominable jealousy did not revolt her. Fabrizio saw the count in the
streets of Bologna, and was nettled by the air of superiority with which
he swaggered along the pavements, and graciously condescended to show off
his charms before the public. The young man was very rich, believed he
might venture anything, and as his _prepotenzi_ had earned him several
threats, he hardly ever appeared unaccompanied by eight or ten _buli_ (a
sort of ruffian) who wore his liveries, and came from his property near
Brescia.

Once or twice, when he had chanced to hear the Fausta sing, Fabrizio had
crossed glances with the doughty count. He was astonished by the angelic
sweetness of her voice; he had never dreamed of anything like it. It gave
him sensations of supreme delight, a fine contrast to the placidity of
his existence. “Can this, at last, be love?” said he to himself. Full of
curiosity to feel the passion, and amused, too, by the idea of braving
the count, who looked far more threatening than any drum-major, our hero
committed the childish folly of appearing much too frequently in front of
the Palazzo Tanari, in which the count had installed the Fausta.

One day, toward nightfall, Fabrizio, who was trying to make Fausta look
at him, was greeted by shrieks of laughter, evidently intentional, from
the count’s _buli_, who were standing round the door of the palace. He
hurried home, armed himself well, and returned.

Fausta, hidden behind her sun-blinds, was expecting this return, and
noted it down to his credit. The count, who was jealous of everybody on
earth, became especially jealous of Signor Giuseppe Bossi, and indulged
in all sorts of absurd threats, whereupon our hero sent him a letter
every morning containing nothing but these words: “Signor Giuseppe Bossi
destroys vermin, and lives at the Pellegrino, in the Via Larga, No. 79.”

Count M⸺, inured to the respect ensured him everywhere by his great
fortune, his blue blood, and the bravery of his thirty serving-men,
refused to understand the language of the little note.

Fabrizio wrote more notes to the Fausta. M⸺ set spies upon his rival,
who was not, perhaps, unpleasing to the lady. He first of all learned his
real name, and that, for the moment, at all events, he did not dare to
show his face in Parma. A few days later Count M⸺, with his _buli_, his
splendid horses, and Fausta, all departed to Parma.

Fabrizio, warming to the game, followed them next morning. In vain did
the faithful Ludovico remonstrate pathetically with him. Fabrizio would
not listen, and Ludovico, who was a brave man himself, admired him for
it. Besides, this journey would bring him nearer his own pretty mistress
at Casal-Maggiore. By Ludovico’s care, eight or ten old soldiers who had
served in Napoleon’s regiments, entered Signor Giuseppe Bossi’s service,
nominally as servants.

“If,” said Fabrizio to himself, “when I commit this folly of going after
the Fausta, I only hold no communication with the Minister of Police,
Count Mosca, nor with the duchess, I risk no one but myself. Later on I
will tell my aunt that I did it all in search of love, that beautiful
thing that I have never been able to discover. The fact is that I do
think about Fausta, even when I don’t see her; but is it the memory of
her voice that I love, or is it her person?”

As he had given up all thoughts of the Church as a career, Fabrizio had
grown moustaches and whiskers almost as tremendous as those of Count M⸺,
and these somewhat disguised him. He established his headquarters, not
at Parma—that would have been too imprudent—but in a village hard by, on
the road to Sacca, where his aunt’s country house was situated. Advised
by Ludovico, he gave himself out in the village as the valet of a very
eccentric English nobleman who spent a hundred thousand francs a year on
sport, and who was shortly to arrive from the Lake of Como, where he was
detained by the trout-fishing.

Fortunately the pretty little palace which Count M⸺ had hired for the
fair Fausta stood at the southernmost end of the town of Parma, and just
on the Sacca road, and Fausta’s windows looked on to the fine avenues of
tall trees which stretch away below the high tower of the citadel.

Fabrizio was not known in that lonely quarter of the town. He did not
fail to have Count M⸺ followed, and one day, when he had just left
the exquisite singer’s house, Fabrizio was bold enough to appear in
the street in broad daylight. He was well armed, indeed, and mounted
on an excellent horse. Musicians, such as are constantly found in the
Italian streets, and who occasionally are very good indeed, ranged
themselves with their instruments under the Fausta’s windows, and, after
some introductory chords, sang, very fairly, a cantata in her honour.
Fausta appeared at the window, and her attention was easily caught by a
very courteous young gentleman, who first of all saluted her, and then
began to bombard her with most significant glances. In spite of the
exaggeratedly English dress Fabrizio had donned, she soon recognised the
sender of the passionate letters which had brought about her departure
from Bologna. “This is a strange being,” said she to herself. “I fancy I
am going to fall in love with him. I have a hundred louis in my pocket. I
can very well afford to break with the terrible count. He really has no
intelligence, and there is nothing novel about him; the only thing that
rather entertains me is the frightful appearance of his followers.”

The next morning Fabrizio, having heard that the Fausta went to mass
every day about eleven o’clock, in that very church of San Giovanni which
contained the tomb of his great-uncle, the Archbishop Ascanio del Dongo,
ventured to follow her there. It must be said that Ludovico had provided
him with a fine English wig of the brightest red hair. _À propos_ to
the colour of these locks—that of the flame which devoured his heart—he
wrote a sonnet which delighted the Fausta. An unknown hand had laid it
carefully on her piano. This manœuvring went on for quite a week, but
Fabrizio felt that in spite of all his various efforts, he was making no
real progress.

Fausta refused to receive him. He had overdone his eccentricity, and
she has since acknowledged that she was afraid of him. Fabrizio still
retained a faint hope of arriving at the sensation which is known as
love, but in the meanwhile, he was very often sorely bored.

“Sir, let us take ourselves off,” said Ludovico to him over and over
again. “You are not the least in love; your coolness and reasonableness
are quite hopeless, and besides, you make no progress whatsoever. Let us
decamp, for very shame.”

In the first flush of disgust, Fabrizio was on the very point of
departing. Then he heard that the Fausta was to sing at the Duchess
Sanseverina’s house. “Perhaps that sublime voice will really set my heart
on fire at last,” thought he, and he actually dared to introduce himself,
in disguise, into his aunt’s palace, where every one knew him.

The emotion of the duchess may be imagined, when, quite toward the end
of the concert, she noticed a man in a chasseur’s livery standing near
the door of the great drawing-room; something in his appearance stirred
her memory. She sought Count Mosca, and it was not until then that he
informed her of Fabrizio’s extraordinary and really incomprehensible
folly. He took the matter very well—this love for somebody who was not
the duchess was very agreeable to him—and the count, who, politics apart,
was a man of perfect honour, acted on the maxim that his own happiness
depended entirely on that of the duchess. “I will save him from himself,”
said he to his friend. “Imagine our enemies’ delight if he were arrested
in this very palace! So I have posted a hundred men of my own in the
house, and it was on this account that I asked you to give me the keys of
the great water-tank. He gives himself out as being desperately in love
with the Fausta, and hitherto he has not been able to carry her off from
Count M⸺, who gives the giddy creature all the luxuries of a queen.”

The liveliest sorrow was painted on the features of the duchess.

Fabrizio was nothing more than a libertine, then—incapable of any tender
or serious feeling! “And not to see us! That is what I shall never be
able to forgive him,” she said at last. “And I, who am writing to him
every day, to Bologna——”

“I give him great credit for his self-restraint,” said the count. “He
does not desire to compromise us by his freak, and it will be very
amusing to hear his account of it later.”

The Fausta was too giddy-pated to be able to hold her tongue about
anything which occupied her thoughts. The morning after the concert,
during which she had sung all her airs at the tall young man dressed as
a chasseur, she referred, in conversation with the count, to an unknown
and attentive individual. “Where do you see him?” inquired the count in
a fury. “In the streets, in church,” replied the Fausta, in confusion.
She immediately tried to repair her imprudence, or at all events to
remove any idea which could recall Fabrizio’s person. She launched
into an endless description of a tall red-haired young man with blue
eyes, some very rich and clumsy Englishman, doubtless, or else some
prince. At this word the count, the definiteness of whose impressions
was their only virtue, jumped to the conclusion—a delightful one for
his vanity—that his rival was none other than the hereditary Prince of
Parma. This poor melancholy youth, watched over by five or six governors,
sub-governors, tutors, etc., who never allowed him to go out without
holding a preliminary council, was in the habit of casting strange looks
at every decent-looking woman whom he was allowed to approach. At the
duchess’s concert he had been seated, as his rank demanded, in front of
all the other auditors, in a separate arm-chair, and three paces from the
fair Fausta, and had gazed at her in a manner which had caused excessive
vexation to the count. This delightful piece of wild vanity, the idea of
having a prince for his rival, entertained Fausta vastly, and she amused
herself by strengthening it with a hundred details, imparted in the most
apparently artless fashion.

“Is your family,” said she to the count, “as old as that of the Farnese,
to which this young man belongs?”

“As old! What do you mean? There are no bastards in my family.”[5]

It so fell out that Count M⸺ never could get a clear view of his
pretended rival, and this confirmed his flattering conviction that he
had a prince for his antagonist. As a matter of fact, Fabrizio, when the
necessities of his enterprise did not summon him to Parma, spent his time
in the woods near Sacca, and on the banks of the Po. Count M⸺ had grown
more haughty than ever, but far more prudent, too, since he had believed
himself to be disputing Fausta’s affections with a prince. He besought
her very earnestly to behave with the utmost reserve in everything she
did.

After casting himself at her feet, like a jealous and passionate lover,
he told her very plainly that his honour demanded that she should not be
duped by the young prince.

“Excuse me,” she replied. “I should not be his dupe if I loved him. I
have never yet seen a prince at my feet.”

“If you yield,” he responded, with a haughty look, “I may not, perhaps,
be able to avenge myself on the prince, but vengeance I will have, you
may be certain,” and he went out, banging the doors behind him. Had
Fabrizio made his appearance at that moment, he would have won his cause.

“If you value your life,” said Count M⸺ to her that evening, as he took
leave of her after the play, “see to it that I never find out that
the young prince has entered your house. I can do nothing to him, but
s’death, madam, do not force me to remember that I can do anything I
please to you!”

“Ah, my little Fabrizio,” exclaimed the Fausta, “if I only knew where to
lay my hand on you!”

Wounded vanity may drive a wealthy young man, who has been surrounded
by flatterers since his birth, into many things. The very real passion
with which the Fausta had inspired Count M⸺ burned up again furiously.
The dangerous prospect of a struggle with the only son of the sovereign
in whose country he was sojourning did not daunt him, and at the same
time he was not clever enough to make any attempt to get a sight of the
prince, or at least have him followed. As he could discover no other
method of attack, M⸺ ventured on the idea of making him look ridiculous.
“I shall be banished forever from the dominion of Parma,” said he. “Well,
what matter?”

If he had made any attempt to reconnoitre the enemy’s position, Count M⸺
would have discovered that the poor young prince never went out of doors
except in the company of three or four old men, the tiresome guardians
of official etiquette, and that the only pleasure of his own choice in
which he was allowed to indulge, was his taste for mineralogy. Both in
the daytime, and at night, the little Palazzo occupied by Fausta, and to
which the best company in Parma crowded, was surrounded by watchers. M⸺
was kept informed, hour by hour, of what she was doing, and especially of
what was done by those about her. One point, at least, was praiseworthy,
in the precautions taken by the jealous man—the lady, whimsical as she
was, had no suspicion, at first, of the increasing watchfulness about
her. All Count M⸺’s agents reported that a very young man, wearing a wig
of red hair, constantly appeared under the Fausta’s windows, but every
time in some fresh disguise. “Clearly that is the young prince,” said M⸺
to himself; “otherwise why should he disguise himself? Egad, I am not the
man to make way for him! But for the usurpations of the Venetian republic
I should now be a reigning prince like him.”

On San Stefano’s Day the spies’ reports grew more gloomy; they seemed
to indicate that the Fausta was beginning to respond to her unknown
admirer’s attentions. “I might depart instantly, and take the woman with
me,” said M⸺ to himself, “but I fled from Bologna before Del Dongo. Here
I should flee before a prince, and what would the young man say? He might
think he had contrived to frighten me, and on my soul, my family is as
good as his!”

M⸺ was beside himself with rage, and to crown his misery, his great
object was to prevent his jealousy from making him look ridiculous in the
eyes of Fausta, with whose jeering disposition he was well acquainted.
Therefore, on San Stefano’s Day, after having spent an hour with her, and
received a welcome which seemed to him the very acme of falsehood, he
left her, toward eleven o’clock, when she was dressing to go and hear
mass at the Church of San Giovanni. Count M⸺ returned to his rooms, put
on the shabby black dress of a young theological student, and hurried
off to San Giovanni. He chose out a place behind one of the tombs which
adorned the third chapel on the right. Under the arm of a cardinal, who
was represented kneeling on this tomb, he could see everything that went
on in the church. The statue blocked the light within the chapel, and
concealed him very sufficiently. Soon he saw Fausta enter, looking more
beautiful than ever. She was in full dress, and twenty admirers of the
highest rank attended her. Smiles and delight shone on her lips and in
her eyes. “Clearly,” thought the unhappy man, “she is expecting to meet
the man she loves, and whom, thanks to me, she has perhaps not been able
to see for a long time.”

Suddenly the liveliest expression of happiness shone in Fausta’s eyes.
“My rival is here,” said M⸺ to himself, and the fury of his wounded
vanity knew no bounds. “What am I doing here, acting as counter-weight to
a young prince who puts on disguises?” But, hard as he tried, he could
not discover the rival whom his hungry glance sought on every side. Every
instant the Fausta, after looking all round the church, would fix her
eyes, heavy with love and happiness, on the dark corner in which M⸺ stood
concealed. In a passionate heart, love is apt to exaggerate the very
slightest things, and deduce consequences of the most ridiculous nature.
Thus, poor M⸺ ended by persuading himself that the Fausta had caught
sight of him, and that, having perceived his mortal jealousy, in spite
of his desperate efforts to conceal it, she was seeking, by her tender
glances, at once to reproach and to console him.

The cardinal’s tomb, behind which he had taken up his post of
observation, was raised some four or five feet above the marble pavement
of San Giovanni. When, toward one o’clock, the fashionable mass was
brought to a close, most of the congregation departed, and the Fausta
dismissed the city beaux on the pretext that she desired to perform her
devotions. She remained kneeling on her chair, and her eyes, which had
grown softer and more brilliant than ever, rested on M⸺. Now that only
a few persons remained in the church, she did not take the trouble of
looking all round it before allowing them to dwell with delight on the
cardinal’s statue. “What delicacy!” said Count M⸺, who thought she was
gazing at him. At last the Fausta rose and went quickly out of church,
after having made some curious motions with her hands.

M⸺, drunk with love, and almost wholly cured of his foolish jealousy, was
leaving his place to fly to his mistress’s palace and overwhelm her with
his gratitude, when, as he passed in front of the cardinal’s tomb, he
noticed a young man all in black. This fatal being had remained kneeling
close against the epitaph on the tomb in such a position that the lover’s
jealous eyes had passed over his head, and so failed to catch sight of
him.

The young man rose, moved quickly away, and was instantly surrounded by
seven or eight rather awkward and odd-looking fellows, who seemed to
belong to him. M⸺ rushed after him, but, without any too evident effort,
the clumsy men, who seemed to be protecting his rival, checked his
progress in the little procession necessitated by the wooden screen round
the entrance door. When, at last, he got out into the street behind them,
he had only time to see the door of a sorry-looking carriage, which, by
an odd contrast, was drawn by two excellent horses, swiftly closed, and
in a moment it was out of sight.

He went home, choking with fury. He was soon joined by his spies, who
coolly informed him that on that day the mysterious lover, disguised as
a priest, had knelt very devoutly close up against a tomb standing at
the entrance of a dark chapel in the Church of San Giovanni; that the
Fausta had remained in the church until it was almost empty, and that
she had then swiftly exchanged certain signs with the unknown person,
making something like crosses with her hands. M⸺ rushed to the faithless
woman’s house. For the first time she could not conceal her confusion.
With all the lying simplicity of a passionate woman, she related that
she had gone to San Giovanni as usual, but had not seen her persecutor
there. On these words M⸺, beside himself, told her she was the vilest
of creatures, related all he had seen himself, and, as the more bitterly
he accused her, the more boldly she lied to him, he drew his dagger and
would have fallen upon her. With the most perfect calmness the Fausta
said:

“Well, everything you complain of is perfectly true, but I have tried to
hide it from you, so as to prevent your boldness from carrying you into
mad plans of vengeance which may be the ruin of us both. Let me tell you,
once for all, I take this man who persecutes me with his attentions to
be one who will find no obstacle to his will, in this country, at all
events.” Then, having skilfully reminded M⸺ that, after all, he had no
rights over her, the Fausta ended by saying that she should probably not
go again to the Church of San Giovanni. M⸺ was desperately in love; it
was possible that a touch of coquetry might have mingled with prudence in
the young woman’s heart. He felt himself disarmed. He thought of leaving
Parma; the young prince, powerful as he was, would not be able to follow
him, or, if he followed him, he would be no more than his equal. Then his
pride reminded him once more that such a departure would always look like
flight, and Count M⸺ forbade himself to think of it again.

“He has not an idea of my little Fabrizio’s existence,” thought the
delighted singer. “And now we shall be able to laugh at him most
thoroughly.”

Fabrizio had no suspicion of his own good fortune. The next morning, when
he saw the fair lady’s windows all carefully closed, and could not catch
sight of her anywhere, the joke began to strike him as lasting rather
too long. His conscience began to prick him. “Into what a position am I
putting poor Count Mosca, the Minister of Police? He will be taken for
my accomplice, and my coming to this country will be the ruin of his
fortunes. But if I give up a plan I have followed for so long, what will
the duchess say when I tell her of my attempts at love-making?”

One night when, feeling sorely inclined to give up the game, he thus
reasoned with himself, as he prowled up and down under the great trees
which divide the palace in which Fausta was living from the citadel, he
became aware that he was being followed by a spy of exceedingly small
stature. In vain did he walk through several streets in his endeavour to
get away from him. He could not shake off the tiny form which seemed to
dog his steps. Losing patience at last, he moved quickly into a lonely
street, running along the river, in which his servants were lying in
wait. At a signal from him they sprang upon the poor little spy, who
threw himself at their feet. It turned out to be Bettina, the Fausta’s
waiting-woman. After three days of boredom and retirement she had
disguised herself in man’s attire, to escape Count M⸺’s dagger—which
both she and her mistress greatly dreaded—and had undertaken to come
and tell Fabrizio that he was passionately loved and intensely longed
for, but that any reappearance at the Church of San Giovanni was quite
impossible. “It was high time,” thought Fabrizio to himself. “Well done,
my obstinacy!”

The little waiting-woman was exceedingly pretty, a fact which soon weaned
Fabrizio from his communings with morality. She informed him that the
public promenade and all the streets through which he had passed that
evening, were carefully, though secretly, guarded by spies in the count’s
pay. They had hired rooms on the ground floor and on the first floor,
and, hidden behind the window shutters, they watched everything that
went on in the streets, even those which seemed the loneliest, and heard
everything that was said.

“If the spies had recognised my voice,” said little Bettina, “I should
have been stabbed without mercy as soon as I got home, and my poor
mistress with me, perhaps.” Fabrizio thought her terror increased her
charms.

“Count M⸺,” she added, “is furious, and my mistress knows he is capable
of anything.… She bade me tell you that she wishes she were with you, and
a hundred leagues from here.”

Then she told the story of all that had happened on San Stefano’s Day and
of the fury of the count, who had not missed one of the loving glances
and signs which the Fausta, who had been quite beside herself with
passion that day, had bestowed on Fabrizio. The count had unsheathed his
dagger, had caught hold of Fausta by the hair, and but for her presence
of mind would certainly have killed her.

Fabrizio conducted the pretty waiting-maid to a lodging he had hard by.
He told her that he was the son of a great Turinese nobleman who chanced
to be at Parma at that moment, and that therefore he was obliged to act
with the greatest caution. Bettina answered laughingly that he was a
much greater man than he chose to appear. It was some time before our
hero contrived to understand that the charming girl took him for no less
a person than the hereditary prince himself. The Fausta was beginning
to take alarm, and also to care for Fabrizio. She had resolved not to
tell her waiting-maid his real name, and had spoken of him to her as
“the prince.” Fabrizio ended by confessing to the pretty girl that she
had guessed aright. “But if my name is noised abroad,” he added, “in
spite of my great passion for your mistress, of which I have given her
so many proofs, I shall not be able to see her any more; and my father’s
ministers, those spiteful wretches whom I shall one day send about their
business, will not fail to give her instant orders to clear out of the
country which she has hitherto embellished by her presence.”

Toward morning, Fabrizio and the fair waiting-maid laid several plans
for meeting, so as to enable him to get to Fausta. He sent for Ludovico
and another of his men, a very cunning fellow, who arrived at an
understanding with Bettina, while he was writing the most exaggerated
letter to Fausta. Tragic exaggeration quite fitted in with the situation,
and Fabrizio used it without stint. It was not till daybreak that he
parted with the pretty waiting-maid, who was highly delighted with the
treatment she had received at the hands of the young prince.

A hundred times over they had agreed that now the Fausta had entered
into communication with her lover, he was not to appear under the
windows of the little palace until she was able to admit him, when he
would be duly warned. But Fabrizio, who was now in love with Bettina and
believed himself near success with Fausta, could not stay quietly in his
village two leagues from Parma. Toward midnight on the morrow, he came
on horseback, with a sufficient train of servants, and sang, under the
Fausta’s windows, an air then fashionable, to which he had put words of
his own. “Is not this a common practice among lovers?” said he to himself.

Now that the Fausta had given him to understand that she desired a
meeting, this long pursuit seemed very wearisome to Fabrizio. “No, this
is not love,” said he to himself as he sang, not particularly well, under
the windows of the little palace. “Bettina seems to me a hundred times
more attractive than Fausta, and it is she whom I should best like to see
at this moment.” He was returning to his village, feeling rather bored,
when, about five hundred paces from Fausta’s palace, he was sprung upon
by some fifteen or twenty men. Four of them seized his horse’s bridle,
two others took hold of his arms. Ludovico and Fabrizio’s bravi were
attacked, but contrived to escape, and several pistols were fired. The
whole affair was over in an instant. Then, as though by magic, and in
the twinkling of an eye, fifty men, bearing lighted torches, appeared in
the street, every man well armed. Fabrizio, in spite of the people who
were holding him, had jumped off his horse, and struggled fiercely to
get free. He even wounded one of the men, who was holding his arms in a
vice-like grasp, but he was very much astonished to hear the fellow say,
in the most respectful tone:

“Your Highness will give me a good pension for this wound, and that will
be far better for me than to fall into the crime of high treason by
drawing my sword against my prince.”

“Now here comes the chastisement of my folly,” thought Fabrizio. “I shall
have damned myself for a sin which did not even strike me as attractive.”

Hardly had the attempted scuffle come to an end, when several lackeys,
dressed in magnificent liveries, brought forward a sedan-chair, gilt and
painted in a most extraordinary manner. It was one of those grotesque
conveyances used by masks during carnival time. Six men, dagger in hand,
requested “his Highness” to get in, saying the cold night air might
hurt his voice. The most respectful forms of address were used, and
the title “prince” was constantly repeated, and almost shouted aloud.
The procession began to move on. Fabrizio counted more than fifty men
carrying lighted torches down the street. It was about one o’clock in the
morning, all the world was looking out of window, there was a certain
solemnity about the whole affair. “I was afraid Count M⸺ might treat me
to dagger thrusts,” said Fabrizio to himself, “but he contents himself
with making game of me. I should not have accused him of so much taste.
But does he really believe he has to do with the prince? If he knows I am
only Fabrizio, I must beware of the stiletto.”

The fifty torch-bearers and the twenty armed men, having made a long
halt under the Fausta’s windows, paraded up and down in front of the
finest palaces in the city. From time to time the major-domos who walked
by the side of the sedan-chair inquired whether “his Highness” had any
orders to give them. Fabrizio did not lose his head. He could see by
the torch-light that Ludovico and his men were following the procession
as closely as they could. Fabrizio argued to himself: “Ludovico has
only eight or ten men; he does not dare to attack.” From within his
sedan-chair Fabrizio saw plainly enough that the people charged with the
execution of this doubtful joke were armed to the teeth. He affected to
laugh with the major-domos in attendance on him. After more than two
hours of this triumphal march he perceived that they were about to cross
the street in which the Palazzo Sanseverina stood. Just as they passed
by the street leading to the palace he suddenly opened the door in the
front of the chair, jumped over one of the staves, overthrew one of
the footmen, who thrust his torch into his face, with a dagger thrust,
received one himself in the shoulder, a second footman singed his beard
with his lighted torch, and finally, Fabrizio reached Ludovico, to whom
he shouted, “Kill! kill every one who carries a torch!” Ludovico hacked
with his sword, and saved him from two men who were trying to pursue
him. Fabrizio rushed up to the entrance of the Palazzo Sanseverina. The
porter, in his curiosity, had opened the little door three feet high, set
in the large one, and was staring in astonishment at the great train of
torches. Fabrizio bounded through the tiny door, slammed it behind him,
ran to the garden, and escaped by another door opening on to a deserted
street. An hour later he was beyond the city walls; when day broke he was
over the frontier into the state of Modena, and in perfect safety; by the
evening he was back in Bologna. “Here’s a pretty expedition!” said he to
himself. “I have not even succeeded in getting speech with my flame.”
He lost no time about writing letters of excuse to the count and to the
duchess, prudent missives which, though they described his emotions,
furnished no clew that any enemy could lay hold of. “I was in love with
love,” he wrote to the duchess. “I have done everything in the world to
make its acquaintance. But nature, it appears, has refused me a heart
capable of love and melancholy; I can not rise above vulgar enjoyment,
etc.” The stir this adventure made in Parma can not be described. The
mystery of it whetted the general curiosity. Numbers of people had seen
the torches and the sedan-chair, but who was the man who had been carried
off and treated with such formal ceremony? No well-known personage was
missing from the city on the following day.

The humble folk living in the street in which the prisoner made his
escape declared they had seen a corpse. But when broad daylight came,
and the inhabitants ventured to emerge from their houses, the only trace
of the struggle they could discover was the quantity of blood which
stained the paving stones. More than twenty thousand sightseers visited
the street during the day. The dwellers in Italian towns are accustomed
to see strange sights, but the _how_ and _why_ is always clearly known
to them. What annoyed the Parmese about this incident, was that even a
whole month after, when the torch-light procession had ceased to be the
only subject of general conversation, no one, thanks to Count Mosca’s
prudence, had been able to discover the name of the rival who would fain
have carried the Fausta off from Count M⸺. This jealous and vindictive
lover had taken to flight as soon as the procession had set forth on its
way. By the count’s orders, the Fausta was shut up in the citadel. The
duchess was vastly entertained by a little piece of injustice in which
the count was forced to indulge, to check the curiosity of the prince,
who might otherwise have tried to discover Fabrizio’s name.

A learned man had just arrived at Parma from the north, with the
intention of writing a history of the middle ages. He was searching
for manuscripts in various libraries, and the count had given him all
possible facilities. But this learned man, who was still very young, was
of an irascible temper. He fancied, for instance, that every soul in
Parma desired to turn him into ridicule. It is true that the street boys
did occasionally run after him, attracted by the waving locks of pale red
hair which he proudly displayed. This learned gentleman believed that his
innkeeper charged him abnormal prices for everything, and he would never
pay for the most trifling article without looking up its price in Mrs.
Starke’s Travels, a book which has reached its twentieth edition, because
it gives the prudent Englishman the price of a turkey, an apple, a glass
of milk, and so forth.

On the very evening of the day on which Fabrizio had taken his
involuntary part in the torch-light procession, the red-haired _savant_
fell into a rage at his inn, and pulled a pair of pocket pistols out of
his pocket to take vengeance on a _camérier_ who had asked him two sous
for an inferior peach. He was immediately arrested, for it is a great
crime, in Parma, to carry pocket pistols.

As this irascible gentleman was tall and thin, it occurred to the count,
next morning, to pass him off on the prince as the foolhardy being who
had endeavoured to carry off the Fausta, and on whom a trick had been
played by her lover. In Parma the punishment for carrying pocket pistols
is three years at the galleys, but the penalty is never exacted. After
a fortnight in prison, during which he saw nobody but a lawyer, who
filled him with the deepest terror of the abominable laws directed by
the cowardice of the people in power against the bearers of concealed
weapons, he was visited by a second lawyer, who told him the story of
the mock procession in which Count M⸺ had forced a rival, whose identity
had not been discovered, to bear a part. “The police do not want to
confess to the prince that they can not find out who this rival is. Say
that you desired to find favour in the Fausta’s eyes, that fifty rascals
laid hands on you while you were singing beneath her windows, and that
you were carried about in a sedan-chair for an hour by people who only
spoke to you in a most respectful manner. There is nothing humiliating
about this avowal, and one word is all that is asked of you. The instant
you say it, and get the police out of this difficulty, you will be put
into a post-chaise, taken to the frontier, and allowed to depart in
peace.”

For a whole month the learned man held out. Two or three times over,
the prince was on the point of having him brought before the Minister
of the Interior, and himself presiding at the examination. But he had
forgotten all about it before the historian, wearied out, made up his
mind to confess everything, and was conducted to the frontier. The prince
remained convinced that Count M⸺’s rival possessed a mass of red hair.

Three days after the procession, while Fabrizio, with his faithful
Ludovico, in his hiding-place at Bologna, was plotting means of
discovering Count M⸺, he learned that the count was in hiding, too, in
a mountain village on the road to Florence, and that only three of his
_buli_ were with him. Next day, as he was returning from a ride, the
count was seized by eight masked men, who informed him they were police
agents from Parma. He was conducted, after his eyes had been bandaged,
to an inn some two leagues farther up in the mountains, where he was
received with every attention, and found a liberal supper ready. The best
Italian and Spanish wines were served.

“Pray, am I a state prisoner?” inquired the count.

“Not the least in the world,” was the polite response of Ludovico, who
wore a mask. “You have insulted a private individual by venturing to have
him carried about in a sedan-chair. To-morrow morning he means to fight a
duel with you. If you kill him, you will be provided with money and good
horses, and there will be relays ready for you all the way to Genoa.”

“What may this ruffian’s name be?” quoth the count in a rage.

“His name is Bombace. You will have the choice of weapons, and good
seconds, thoroughly loyal men; but one or the other of you must die.”

“It’s a murder, then!” cried Count M⸺ in alarm.

“God forbid! It is simply a duel to the death, with a young man whom you
carried about the streets of Parma in the middle of the night, and who
would be dishonoured if you lived on. The earth is not large enough for
both of you. Therefore do your best to kill him. You will have swords,
pistols, rapiers—all the weapons it has been possible to collect within a
few hours, for time is precious; the Bolognese police are very diligent,
as you know, and there must be no interference with this duel, for the
sake of the honour of this young man, whom you have turned into ridicule.”

“But if the young man is a prince?”

“He is a private individual, like yourself, and indeed a much less rich
man than you. But he is resolved to fight to the death, and he will force
you to fight, I warn you.”

“I am not afraid of anything on earth,” exclaimed Count M⸺.

“That is what your adversary most earnestly desires,” replied Ludovico.
“Make yourself ready to defend your life to-morrow, very early in the
morning; to be attacked by a man who has good reason to be furious with
you, and who will not spare you. I tell you again, you will have the
choice of weapons, and now, make your will!”

About six o’clock the next morning, Count M⸺’s breakfast was served. Then
one of the doors of the room in which he had been kept was opened, and
he was requested to enter the courtyard of a country inn. This court was
surrounded with tolerably high hedges and walls, and all the entrances
had been carefully closed.

On a table in one corner, which the count was requested to approach,
stood several bottles of wine and brandy, two pistols, two rapiers, two
swords, paper, and ink. About a score of peasants were at the windows of
the tavern, which looked on to the yard. The count besought their pity.
“These people want to murder me,” he cried; “save my life!”

“You are deceived, or else you desire to deceive,” shouted Fabrizio, who
was standing in the opposite corner of the courtyard, beside a table
covered with weapons. He had taken off his coat, and his face was hidden
under one of those wire masks used in fencing-rooms.

“I advise you,” added Fabrizio, “to put on the wire mask you will find
beside you, and then advance either with a rapier or with pistols. As you
were told yesterday morning, you have the choice of weapons.” The count
made endless difficulties, and seemed very unwilling to fight. Fabrizio,
on his side, was afraid the police would arrive, although they were up in
the mountains, and five full leagues from Bologna. He ended by hurling
such frightful insults at his rival, that he had the satisfaction of
goading Count M⸺ into fury. He snatched up a rapier, and advanced upon
Fabrizio. The beginning of the fight was somewhat slack.

After a few minutes it was interrupted by a great noise. Our hero had
been quite conscious that he was undertaking an enterprise which might be
made a subject of reproach, or at all events of slanderous imputations
upon him, all through his life. He had sent Ludovico into the fields
to beat up witnesses. Ludovico gave money to some strangers who were
working in a neighbouring wood, and they hurried up, shouting, under the
impression that they were expected to kill an enemy of the man who had
paid them. When they reached the inn, Ludovico begged them to watch with
all their eyes, and see whether either of the young men did anything
treacherous, or took any unfair advantage of the other.

The fight, which had been checked for a moment by the peasants’ shouts,
again hung fire. Once more Fabrizio rained insults on the count’s
self-conceit. “Signor Conte,” he cried, “when you are insolent, you must
be brave as well. I know that is a hard matter for you; you would far
rather pay other people to be brave.” The count, stung to fresh fury,
yelled out that he had been a constant frequenter of the fencing school
at Naples, kept by the famous Battistino, and that he would soon chastise
his opponent’s impudence. Now that Count M⸺’s fury had revived, he fought
with tolerable resolution, but this did not prevent Fabrizio from giving
him a fine sword thrust in the chest, which kept him several months in
bed. As Ludovico bent over the count to put a temporary bandage on his
wound, he whispered in his ear, “If you dare to let the police know of
this duel, I will have you stabbed in your bed.”

Fabrizio fled to Florence. As he had remained in hiding at Bologna, it
was not till he reached Florence that he received all the duchess’s
reproachful letters. She could not forgive him for coming to her concert,
and not attempting to obtain speech of her. Fabrizio was delighted with
Count Mosca’s letters; they breathed frank friendship and the noblest
feelings. He guessed that the count had written to Bologna to dispel the
suspicions of him which the duel might have caused. The police behaved
with perfect justice. It reported that two strangers, only one of whom,
the wounded man, was recognised (Count M⸺), had fought with rapiers in
the presence of more than thirty peasants, joined, toward the end of
the fight, by the village priest, who had unsuccessfully endeavoured to
separate the combatants. As the name of Giuseppe Bossi had never been
mentioned, Fabrizio ventured, before two months were out, to return
to Bologna, more convinced than ever that he was fated never to make
acquaintance with the noble and intellectual side of love. This he did
himself the pleasure of explaining to the duchess, in very lengthy terms.
He was very tired of his lonely life, and passionately longed to go back
to the delightful evenings he had spent with his aunt and the count. He
had not tasted the delights of good company since he had parted from them.

“I have brought so much worry upon myself on account of the love I had
hoped to enjoy, and of the Fausta,” wrote he to the duchess, “that now,
if her fancy still turned my way, I would not ride twenty leagues to
claim the fulfilment of her bond. Therefore, have no fear, as you say you
have, that I may go to Paris, where I see she is appearing with the most
brilliant success. I would ride any possible number of leagues to spend
an evening with you and with the count, who is always so good to his
friends.”

[5] Pietro Luigi, the first sovereign of the Farnese family, so famous
for his virtues, was, as is well known, the natural son of Pope Paul III.



CHAPTER XIV


While Fabrizio was prosecuting his search for love in a village near
Parma, Rassi, all unconscious of his vicinity, continued dealing with
the young man’s case as if it had been that of a Liberal. He pretended
it was impossible to find any witnesses for the defence, or rather, he
browbeat those he did find. Finally, after protracted and skilful labour,
lasting nearly a year, the Marchesa Raversi, one Friday evening some two
months after Fabrizio’s last visit to Bologna, publicly announced in
her drawing-room—that on the very next day young Del Dongo’s sentence,
which had been pronounced just an hour before, would be presented for the
prince’s signature, and would receive his approval.

Within a very few minutes the duchess was apprised of her enemy’s
announcement. “The count’s agents must serve him very ill,” said she
to herself. “Even this morning he thought the sentence could not be
pronounced for another week. It would not break his heart, perhaps,
to see my young grand vicar banished from Parma. But,” she added, and
she began to sing, “we shall see him come back, and he will be our
archbishop some day!” The duchess rang the bell. “Call all the servants
together into the anteroom,” said she to her footman, “even the cooks.
Go to the commandant of the fortress and get a permit from him for four
post-horses, and see that those same horses are harnessed to my carriage
before half an hour is out.” All the waiting-women in the house were busy
packing trunks, the duchess hurriedly slipped on a travelling dress—all
this without sending any warning to the count. The idea of making sport
of him a little filled her with delight.

“My friends,” she said to the servants, who were now assembled, “I have
just heard that my poor nephew is about to be sentenced, by default,
for having had the impudence to defend his life against a madman. It was
Giletti who would have killed him. You have all of you had opportunities
of seeing how gentle and inoffensive Fabrizio is by nature. Infuriated,
as I have a right to be, by this vile insult, I start instantly for
Florence. I leave each of you ten years’ wages. If you fall into
difficulties, write to me, and as long as I have a sequin, there will be
something for you.”

The duchess thought exactly what she said, and at her last words, her
servants burst into tears. Her own eyes were wet, and she added, in a
voice that trembled with emotion, “Pray to God for me, and for Monsignore
del Dongo, chief grand vicar of the diocese, who will be sentenced
to-morrow morning to the galleys, or, which would be less ridiculous, to
the penalty of death.”

The servants’ tears fell faster, and their sobs changed by degrees into
shouts that were almost seditious. The duchess entered her coach, and had
herself driven to the prince’s palace. In spite of the unwonted hour,
she requested General Fontana, the aide-de-camp in waiting, to beg the
prince to grant her an audience. The aide-de-camp observed, with great
astonishment, that she was not in full court dress. As for the prince,
he was not the least surprised, and even less displeased, by the request
for an audience. “Now we shall see tears shed by lovely eyes,” said he
to himself, rubbing his hands. “She comes to sue for mercy; this proud
beauty is going to humble herself at last. And, indeed, she was quite
unbearable, with her little airs of independence. Whenever the smallest
thing displeased her, those speaking eyes seemed always to tell me ‘it
would be far pleasanter to live at Naples, or at Milan, than in your
little town of Parma.’ It is true I do not reign over Naples, nor over
Milan, but at any rate this fine lady is coming to beg me for something
which depends on me alone, and which she pines to obtain. I have always
thought that the nephew’s arrival would help me to get something out of
her.”

While the prince was smiling at his own thoughts, and indulging in these
pleasing forecasts, he kept walking up and down his study, at the door
of which General Fontana still stood, upright and stiff, like a soldier
shouldering arms. When he saw the prince’s shining eyes and recollected
the duchess’s travelling garments, he felt convinced the monarchy was
about to drop to pieces, and his astonishment exceeded all limits when
he heard the prince address him thus: “You will ask the duchess to be
good enough to wait for a quarter of an hour or so.” The aide-de-camp
turned to the right about, like a soldier on parade, and the prince
smiled again. “Fontana is not accustomed,” said he to himself, “to see
the haughty duchess kept waiting. His face of astonishment when he
tells her to wait for a quarter of an hour will pave the way for the
affecting tears that will shortly be shed in this study.” That quarter
of an hour was an exquisite one to the prince. He walked up and down,
with steady and even step; he reigned in very deed. “It is important that
nothing should be said which is not perfectly correct. Whatever may be
my feelings toward the duchess, I must not forget that she is one of the
greatest ladies of my court. How did Louis XIV address the princesses,
his daughters, when he had reason to be displeased with them?” and his
glance lingered on the great king’s portrait.

The comical thing was that the prince never thought of asking himself
whether he should show mercy to Fabrizio, and what kind of mercy he
should extend. At last, after the lapse of twenty minutes, the faithful
Fontana appeared once more at the door, this time without saying a word.
“The Duchess Sanseverina is permitted to enter,” exclaimed the prince,
with a theatrical air. “Now the tears will begin,” said he, and as though
to prepare himself for the sight, he pulled out his own handkerchief.

Never had the duchess looked so active or so pretty; she did not seem
more than five-and-twenty. When the poor aide-de-camp saw her float
across the carpet which her light foot hardly appeared to touch, he
very nearly lost his head altogether. “I have all sorts of apologies to
make your Most Serene Highness,” said the duchess in her clear blithe
voice. “I’ve taken the liberty of presenting myself in a dress which
is not exactly correct, but your Highness has so accustomed me to your
kindnesses, that I have dared to hope you would grant me this favour.”

The duchess spoke rather slowly, so as to give herself time to enjoy
the expression of the prince’s countenance, which was exquisite, by
reason of his overwhelming astonishment and the remains of pomposity
still indicated by the pose of his head and the position of his arms.
The prince was thunder-struck. Every now and then he exclaimed almost
inarticulately, in his little shrill, unsteady voice, “What! what!”

When the duchess had come to the end of her speech, she paused
respectfully, as though to give him an opportunity of replying. Then she
continued, “I venture to hope your Most Serene Highness will pardon the
incongruity of my costume,” but even as she spoke the words, her mocking
eyes shot out such brilliant shafts that the prince could not endure
their glance. He stared at the ceiling, which, in his case, was always a
sign of the most extreme embarrassment.

“What! what!” said he again. Then he was lucky enough to think of a
remark.

“Duchess, pray be seated,” and he himself offered her a chair, and with
considerable grace. The duchess was not unmoved by this politeness, and
her indignant glance softened.

“What! what!” repeated the prince once more, fidgeting in his chair as
though he could not settle himself firmly into it.

“I am going to take advantage of the coolness of the night hours to
travel by post,” continued the duchess, “and as my absence may be of
considerable duration, I would not leave your Most Serene Highness’s
dominions without thanking you for all the kindness you have condescended
to show me during the last five years.” At these words the prince
understood at last, and turned pale. No man in the world suffered more
than he, at the idea of having been mistaken in his forecast, but he took
on an air of majesty quite worthy of the picture of Louis XIV which hung
in front of him. “Ah, very good,” thought the duchess; “this is a man.”

“And what may be the reason of this sudden departure?” said the prince in
a fairly steady voice.

“The plan is an old one,” replied the duchess, “and a petty insult which
is being put on Monsignore del Dongo, who is to be sentenced either to
death or to the galleys to-morrow, has hastened my departure.”

“And to what town do you proceed?”

“To Naples, I think.” Then, rising, she added: “All that now remains for
me to do is to take leave of your Most Serene Highness, and to thank you,
most humbly, for your _former_ kindnesses.” Her tone was now so resolute
that the prince clearly perceived that in two seconds everything would
be over. Once the rupture of her departure had taken place, he knew any
arrangement would be hopeless. She was not a woman to undo what she had
once done. He hurried after her.

“But you know very well, duchess,” he said, taking her hand, “that I have
always liked you, and that if you had chosen, that affection would have
borne another name. A murder has been committed; that can not be denied.
I employed my best judges to carry on the trial——”

At these words the duchess drew herself up to her full height. Like a
flash every semblance of respect and even of urbanity disappeared. The
offended woman stood unveiled before him, and an offended woman speaking
to a being whom she knew to be false. With an expression of the liveliest
anger and even scorn, she addressed the prince, laying stress on every
word:

“I am leaving your Most Serene Highness’s dominions forever, so that I
may never again hear the names of Rassi and of the other vile assassins
who have passed sentence of death on my nephew, and on so many others.
If your Most Serene Highness does not desire to mingle a feeling of
bitterness with the memory of the last moments I have to spend in the
presence of a prince who is both courteous and witty, when he is not
deceived, I very humbly beseech your Highness not to remind me of
those shameless judges who sell themselves for a decoration, or for
a thousand crowns.” The ring of nobility, and above all of truth, in
her words, made the prince shiver. For a moment he feared his dignity
might be compromised by a yet more direct accusation. But on the whole,
his sensation soon became one of pleasure. He admired the duchess; her
whole person, at that moment, breathed a beauty that was sublime. “Good
God, how beautiful she is!” said the prince to himself; “something must
be forgiven to such a woman—there is probably not another like her in
Italy.… Well, with a little careful policy, I may not find it impossible
to make her my mistress some day. Such a creature would be very different
from that doll-faced Balbi, who steals at least three hundred thousand
francs a year from my poor subjects into the bargain.… But did I hear
aright?” thought he suddenly. “She said, ‘sentenced my nephew and so many
others’!” Then rage got the upper hand, and it was with a haughtiness
worthy of his supreme position that the prince said, after a silence,
“And what must be done to prevent the duchess from departing?”

“Something of which you are not capable,” replied the duchess, and the
most bitter irony and the most open scorn rang in her voice.

The prince was beside himself, but the habit of reigning with absolute
authority had brought him strength to resist his first impulses. “I must
possess this woman,” thought he; “I owe it to myself. And then I must
kill her with my scorn. If she leaves this study I shall never see her
again.” But wild as he was, at that moment, with rage and hatred, how
was he to pitch on a phrase which would at once fulfil what was due to
himself, and induce the duchess not to forsake his court that instant? “A
gesture,” thought he, “can neither be repeated nor turned into ridicule,”
and he put himself between the duchess and the door of the room. Soon
after he heard somebody tapping at the door. “Who is the damned fellow,”
he exclaimed, swearing with all the strength of his lungs, “who is the
damned fellow who wants to intrude his idiotic person here?” Poor General
Fontana put in a pale and completely puzzled countenance. With a face
like the face of a dying man he murmured inarticulately, “His Excellency
Count Mosca craves the honour of an audience.”

“Let him come in,” shouted the prince, and as Mosca bowed before him,
“Well,” said he, “here is the Duchess Sanseverina, who says she is
instantly leaving Parma to go and settle in Naples, and who has been
making impertinent remarks to me into the bargain.”

“What!” said Mosca.

“What! You knew nothing about the plan of departure?”

“Not a single word. When I left the duchess at six o’clock she was
cheerful and gay.” The words produced an incredible effect upon the
prince. First of all he looked at Mosca, whose increasing pallor proved
that he had spoken the truth, and had nothing to do with the duchess’s
sudden freak. “In that case,” said he to himself, “she is lost to me
forever. My pleasure and my vengeance both fly away together. At Naples
she and her nephew Fabrizio will write epigrams on the mighty rages of
the little Prince of Parma.” Then he looked at the duchess; the most
violent scorn and anger were struggling in her breast, her eyes were
riveted on Count Mosca, and the delicate lines of her beautiful mouth
expressed the bitterest disdain. Her whole expression seemed to say
“Cringing courtier!”

“Thus,” thought the prince after having scrutinized her, “I have lost the
means of recalling her to my country. Once more, if she leaves the study
at this moment, she is lost to me. God only knows what she will say about
my judges at Naples. And with the wit and divine powers of persuasion
Heaven has given her, she will make everybody believe her. Thanks to her,
I shall bear the reputation of an undignified tyrant, who gets up in the
night to look under his bed.” Then, by a skilful manœuvre, as if he were
walking about to calm his agitation, the prince once more placed himself
in front of the study door. The count was at his right, some three paces
off, pale, discomposed, and trembling to such an extent that he was
obliged to support himself by leaning on the back of the arm-chair which
the duchess had occupied during the beginning of the audience, and which
the prince had pushed away with an angry gesture.

The count was in love. “If the duchess goes,” he was saying to himself,
“I shall follow her. But will she allow me to follow her? That is the
question.” On the prince’s left the duchess stood erect, her arms folded
tightly across her bosom, superbly angry, watching him. The brilliant
colour which had lately flushed her beautiful face had faded into the
deepest pallor. The prince’s face, unlike those of the other two actors
in the scene, was red, and he looked worried. His left hand convulsively
jerked the cross fastened to the ribbon of his order, which he wore under
his coat; his right hand caressed his chin.

“What is to be done?” said he to the count, hardly knowing what he said,
and carried away by his habit of consulting Mosca about everything.

“Truly I know not, your Most Serene Highness,” said the count, like a man
who was breathing out his last sigh; he could hardly speak the words. The
tone of his voice was the first consolation to his wounded pride which
the prince had enjoyed during the audience, and this small piece of good
fortune inspired him with a remark that was very grateful to his vanity.

“Well,” said he, “I am the most sensible of us three. I am willing to
completely overlook my own position in the world. I shall speak _as
a friend_,” and he added, with a noble smile of condescension—a fine
imitation of the good old times of Louis XIV—“as a _friend speaking to
his friends_. Duchess,” he added, “what must I do to induce you to forget
this untimely decision?”

“Truly, I know not,” said the duchess with a great sigh; “truly I know
not, so hateful is Parma to me.” There was not the smallest epigrammatic
intention in her words; her sincerity was quite evident. The count turned
sharply toward her; his courtier’s soul was horrified. Then he cast a
beseeching glance toward the prince. The prince paused for a moment;
then, turning with great dignity and calmness to the count, “I see,” said
he, “that your charming friend is quite beside herself; that is quite
natural—she _adores_ her nephew.” Then to the duchess—speaking in the
most gallant manner, and at the same time with the sort of air with which
a man quotes the key word of a comedy—he added, “_What must I do to find
favour in those fair eyes?_”

The duchess had had time to reflect. In a slow and steady voice, as if
she had been dictating her ultimatum, she replied: “Your Highness would
write me a gracious letter, such as you so well know how to write, in
which you would say that, not being convinced of the guilt of Fabrizio
del Dongo, chief grand vicar to the archbishop, you will not sign the
sentence when it is presented to you, and that these unjust proceedings
shall have no further effect.”

“What! unjust?” said the prince, reddening up to the whites of his eyes
and falling into a rage again.

“That is not all,” replied the duchess with all the dignity of a Roman
matron. “_This very evening_, and,” she added, looking at the clock,
“it is already a quarter past eleven—this very evening your Most Serene
Highness would send word to the Marchesa Raversi that you advise her to
go to the country to recover from the fatigue which a certain trial,
of which she was talking in her drawing-room early this evening, must
doubtless have caused her.”

The prince was raging up and down his study like a fury.

“Did any one ever see such a woman?” he cried. “She actually fails in
respect to my person!”

The duchess replied with the most perfect grace: “Never in my life did
it enter my head to fail in respect to your Most Serene Highness. Your
Highness was so extremely condescending as to say that you would speak
_as a friend to his friends_. And, indeed, I have no desire to remain
in Parma,” she added, shooting a glance of the most ineffable scorn at
the count. That glance decided the prince, who had been hitherto very
uncertain in his mind, although his words might have been taken to
indicate an undertaking,—but words meant little to him.

A few more remarks were exchanged, but at last Count Mosca received
orders to write the gracious note for which the duchess had asked. He
omitted the sentence: “_These unjust proceedings shall have no further
effect._” “It will be quite enough,” said the count to himself, “if the
prince promises not to sign the sentence when it is presented to him.” As
the prince signed the paper he thanked him with a glance.

The count made a great blunder. The prince was tired out, and he would
have signed everything. He flattered himself he had got through the
scene very well, and the whole matter was overshadowed in his mind by
the thought, “If the duchess goes away the court will grow tiresome
to me in less than a week.” The count noticed that his master had
corrected the date, and inserted that of the next day. He glanced at the
clock; it was almost midnight. The correction only struck the minister
as a proof of the prince’s pedantic desire to show his exactness and
careful government. As to the exile of the Marchesa Raversi, he made no
difficulty at all. The prince took a particular delight in banishing
people.

“General Fontana!” he called out, half opening the door. The general
appeared, wearing a face of such astonishment and curiosity that a swift
glance of amusement passed between the count and the duchess, and in that
glance, peace was made between them.

“General Fontana,” said the prince, “you will get into my carriage, which
is waiting under the colonnade, you will go to the Marchesa Raversi’s
house, you will send up your name. If she is in bed you will add that
you come from me, and when you reach her room, you will say these exact
words, and no others: ‘Signora Marchesa Raversi, his Most Serene Highness
invites you to depart to-morrow, before eight o’clock in the morning, to
your castle at Velleia. His Highness will inform you when you may return
to Parma.’” The prince’s eyes sought those of the duchess, who, without
thanking him, as he had expected, made him an exceedingly respectful
courtesy, and went swiftly out of the room.

“What a woman!” said the prince, turning toward Count Mosca.

The count, who was delighted at the Marchesa Raversi’s exile, which
immensely facilitated all his ministerial actions, talked for a full
half-hour, like the consummate courtier he was; his great object was
to heal the sovereign’s vanity, and he did not take leave until he had
thoroughly convinced him that there was no finer page in the anecdotic
history of Louis XIV than that which he had just furnished for his own
future historians.

When the duchess got home she closed her doors, and gave orders that
nobody was to be admitted—not even the count. She wanted to be alone,
and to make up her mind as to what she ought to think of the scene that
had just taken place. She had acted at random, just as her fancy led her
at the moment. But whatever step she might have been carried away into
undertaking, she would have adhered to it steadily. She never would have
blamed herself, and much less repented, when her coolness had returned.
It was to these characteristics that she owed the fact that she was
still, at six-and-thirty years of age, the prettiest woman at the court.

At that moment she was dreaming over all the charms Parma might possess,
as she might have done on her way back there, after a long absence, so
sure had she been, from nine to eleven o’clock, that she was about to
leave the city forever.

“That poor dear count did cut a comical figure when he heard of my
departure in the prince’s presence! He really is a charming fellow, and
one does not come across such a heart as his every day. He would have
resigned all his portfolios to follow me. But, then, for five whole years
he has never once had to complain of any want of attention on my part.
How many regularly married women could say the same to their lord and
master? I must admit there is no self-importance nor pedantry about him;
he never makes me feel I should like to deceive him. He always seems
ashamed of his power when he is with me. How droll he looked before
his lord and master! If he were here I would kiss him. But nothing on
earth would induce me to undertake the task of amusing a minister who
has lost his portfolio. That is an illness which nothing but death can
cure, and which kills other folks. What a misfortune it must be to be a
minister when you are young! I must write to him. He must know this thing
officially before he quarrels with his prince. But I was forgetting my
poor servants.”

The duchess rang the bell. Her women were still busy filling trunks, the
carriage was standing underneath the portico, and the men were packing
it. All the servants who had no work to do were standing round the
carriage with tearful eyes. Cecchina, the only person allowed to enter
the duchess’s room on solemn occasions, informed her mistress of all
these details.

“Send them upstairs,” said the duchess. A moment later she herself went
into the anteroom. “I have received a promise,” said she, addressing
them, “that the sentence against my nephew will not be signed by
the sovereign” (the Italian mode of expression). “I have put off my
departure. We shall see whether my enemies have enough credit to get this
decision altered.”

There was silence for a moment. Then the servants began to shout “Long
live our lady the duchess!” and clapped their hands furiously. The
duchess, who had retired into the next room, reappeared, like a popular
actress, dropped a little graceful courtesy to her people, and said, “My
friends, I thank you.” At that moment, on the slightest hint from her,
they would all have marched in a body to attack the palace. She beckoned
to one of her postillions, a former smuggler, and most trusty servant,
who followed her out.

“You must dress yourself as a well-to-do peasant, you must get out of
Parma as best you can; then hire a _sediola_, and get to Bologna as
quickly as possible. You will enter Bologna, as if you were taking an
ordinary walk, by the Florence gate, and you will deliver a packet, which
Cecchina will give you, to Fabrizio, who is living at the Pellegrino.
Fabrizio is in hiding there, and calls himself Signor Giuseppe Bossi. Do
not betray him by any imprudence; do not appear to know him. My enemies
may set spies upon your heels. Fabrizio will send you back here in a few
hours, or a few days. It is on your way back, especially, that you must
be careful not to betray him.”

“Ah, the Marchesa Raversi’s servants, you mean,” exclaimed the
postillion. “We’re ready for them, and if it were the signora’s will they
should soon be exterminated.”

“Some day, perhaps. But for your life beware of doing anything without
my orders.” It was the copy of the prince’s note that the duchess wanted
to send to Fabrizio. She could not deny herself the pleasure of amusing
him, and she added a few words concerning the scene of which the note had
been the outcome. These few words swelled into a letter of ten pages. She
sent for the postillion again. “You can not start,” she said, “until four
o’clock, when the gates open.”

“I thought I would get out by the main sewer; the water would be up to my
chin, but I could get through.”

“No,” said the duchess. “I will not let one of my most faithful servants
run the risk of a fever. Do you know any one in the archbishop’s
household?”

“The second coachman is a friend of mine.”

“Here is a letter for the holy prelate; slip quietly into his palace, and
have yourself taken to his valet—I would not have his Grace disturbed. If
he is already shut up in his own room, spend the night at the palace, and
as he always gets up at daybreak, send in to-morrow at four o’clock, say
you have been sent by me, ask the holy archbishop’s blessing, give him
this packet, and take the letters he may possibly give you to Bologna.”
The duchess was sending the archbishop the original of the prince’s
letter, requesting him, as the note concerned his chief grand vicar, to
place it among the archiepiscopal archives, where she hoped her nephew’s
colleagues, the other grand vicars and canons, would take note of its
existence—all this under seal of the most profound secrecy.

The duchess wrote to Monsignore Landriani in a style of familiarity which
was certain to delight that worthy man; her signature took up three
lines. The letter, couched in the most friendly terms, ended with the
words:

“Angelina Cornelia Isola Valserra del Dongo, Duchess Sanseverina.”

“I don’t believe I have written my name in full,” said the duchess,
laughing, “since I signed my marriage contract with the poor duke. But
it is trifles such as these that impress people, and common folk take
caricature for beauty.”

She could not resist winding up her evening by yielding to the temptation
of writing a tormenting letter to the poor count. She announced to him,
_officially_, and _for his guidance_, so she expressed it, _in his
intercourse with crowned heads_, that she did not feel herself equal to
the task of entertaining a disgraced minister. “You are afraid of the
prince,” she wrote. “When you can no longer see him, shall you expect me
to frighten you?” She despatched the letter instantly.

The prince, on his side, sent, at seven o’clock the next morning, for
Count Zurla, Minister of the Interior, and said: “Give fresh and most
stringent orders to every _podestà_ to arrest Fabrizio del Dongo. I hear
there is some chance that he may venture to reappear in my dominions.
The fugitive is at Bologna, where he seems to brave the action of our
law courts. You will therefore place police officers who are personally
acquainted with his appearance: 1. In the villages on the road from
Bologna to Parma. 2. In the neighbourhood of the Duchess Sanseverina’s
house at Sacca and her villa at Castelnovo. 3. All round Count Mosca’s
country-house. I venture, Count, to rely on your great wisdom to conceal
all knowledge of your sovereign’s orders from discovery by Count Mosca.
Understand clearly that I will have Fabrizio del Dongo arrested.”

As soon as this minister had departed, Rassi, the chief justice, entered
the prince’s study by a secret door, and came forward, bent well-nigh
double, and bowing at every step. The rascal’s face was a study for a
painter, worthy of all the vileness of the part he played, and while the
swift and disturbed glance of his eye betrayed his consciousness of his
own value, the grinning expression of arrogant self-confidence upon his
lips showed that he knew how to struggle against scorn.

As this individual is destined to exert great influence over Fabrizio’s
fate, I may say a word of him here. He was tall, with fine and very
intelligent eyes, but his face was seamed by small-pox. As for
intelligence, he had plenty of it, and of the sharpest. His thorough
knowledge of legal matters was uncontested, but his strongest point was
his resourcefulness. Whatever might be the aspect of a matter, he always,
with the greatest ease and in the shortest space of time, discovered
the most logical and well-founded means of obtaining a sentence or an
acquittal. He was, above all things, a past master in attorney’s tricks.

This man, whose services mighty monarchs would have envied the Prince
of Parma, had only one great passion—to talk familiarly with exalted
personages, and entertain them with buffooneries. Little did he care
whether the great man laughed at what he said, or at his own person, or
even made disgusting jokes about his wife. So long as he saw him laugh,
and was himself treated with familiarity, he was content. Sometimes,
when the prince had exhausted all possible means of belittling his chief
justice’s dignity, he would kick him heartily. If the kicks hurt him, the
chief justice would cry. But the instinct of buffoonery was so strong
in him that he continued to prefer the drawing-room of a minister who
scoffed at him, to his own, where he held despotic sway over the whole
legal profession. Rassi had made himself quite a peculiar position,
owing to the fact that not the most insolent noble in the country could
humiliate him. His vengeance for the insults showered on him all the day
long consisted in retailing them to the prince, to whom he had acquired
the privilege of saying everything. It is true that the prince’s answer
frequently consisted in a hearty box on the ear, which hurt him horribly,
but to that he never took exception. The presence of the chief justice
distracted the prince’s thoughts in his hours of bad temper, and he would
then amuse himself by ill treating him. My readers will perceive that
Rassi was almost the perfect man for a court. He had no honour and no
humour.

“Secrecy, above all things!” exclaimed the prince, without any
recognition of his salutation. The most courteous of men, as a rule, he
treated Rassi like the merest varlet. “What is the date of your sentence?”

“Yesterday morning, your Most Serene Highness.”

“How many of the judges signed it?”

“All five.”

“And the penalty?”

“Twenty years in the fortress, as your Most Serene Highness told me.”

“A death sentence would have horrified people,” said the prince, as
though talking to himself. “A pity! What a shock it would have been to
that woman! But he is a Del Dongo, and the name is honoured in Parma
because of the three archbishops who came almost one after the other.…
Twenty years in the fortress, you say?”

“Yes, your Most Serene Highness,” replied Rassi, who was still standing
doubled up in an attitude of obeisance. “To be preceded by a public
apology before a portrait of your Most Serene Highness; and besides, a
fast of bread and water every Friday and on the eves of all the chief
feast days, because of _the prisoner’s notorious impiety_. This with a
view to the future, and to break the neck of his career.”

“Write,” said the prince, “‘His Most Serene Highness, having deigned to
grant a favourable hearing to the very humble petitions of the Marchesa
del Dongo, mother of the culprit, and the Duchess Sanseverina, his aunt,
who have represented that at the period of the crime their son and nephew
was very young, and carried away by his mad passion for the wife of the
unfortunate Giletti, has condescended, notwithstanding his horror of
the murder, to commute the penalty to which Fabrizio del Dongo has been
condemned to that of twelve years’ detention in the fortress.’

“Give the paper to me to sign.” The prince added his signature and the
date of the preceding day. Then, handing the sheet back to Rassi, he
said: “Write just below my signature: ‘The Duchess Sanseverina having
once more cast herself at his Highness’s feet, the prince has granted
the culprit permission to walk for an hour, every Thursday, on the
platform of the square tower, vulgarly called the Farnese Tower.’

“Sign that,” said the prince, “and keep your lips sealed, whatever
you may hear in the town. You will tell Councillor de’ Capitani, who
voted for two years’ imprisonment, and even held forth in support of
his ridiculous opinion, that I advise him to read over the laws and
regulations. Now, silence again, and good-night to you.”

Chief-Justice Rassi made three deep bows, very slowly indeed, and the
prince never even looked at them.

All this happened at seven o’clock in the morning. A few hours later, the
news of the Marchesa Raversi’s exile had spread all over the town and the
_cafés_. Everybody was talking at once about the great event. For some
time, thanks to the marchesa’s banishment, that implacable enemy of small
cities and small courts, known as boredom, fled from the town of Parma.
General Fabio Conti, who had believed himself sure of the ministry,
pretended he had the gout, and never showed his nose outside his fortress
for several days. The middle class, and consequently the populace,
concluded from current events that the prince had resolved to confer the
archbishopric of Parma on Monsignore del Dongo. The more cunning _café_
politicians went so far as to declare that Archbishop Landriani had been
invited to feign serious illness, and send in his resignation. He was to
be compensated with a large pension, charged on the tobacco duties. They
were quite certain of this. The rumour reached the archbishop, who was
very much disturbed, and for some days his zeal in our hero’s cause was
largely paralyzed in consequence. Some two months later, this fine piece
of news appeared in the Paris press, with the trifling alteration that it
was Count Mosca, the Duchess Sanseverina’s nephew, who was supposed to be
likely to be appointed archbishop.

Meanwhile the Marchesa Raversi was raging at her country house at
Velleia. There was nothing womanish about her. She was not one of those
weak creatures who fancy they slake their vengeance when they pour
out violent diatribes against their enemies. The very day after her
disgrace, Cavaliere Riscara and three other friends of hers waited on the
prince, and sued permission to go and see her in her country place. His
Highness received these gentlemen with the utmost graciousness, and their
arrival at Velleia was a great consolation to the marchesa.

Before the second week was out she had gathered quite thirty persons
about her—all those who would have obtained office in the Liberal
government. Every evening the marchesa sat in council with the
best-informed of her adherents. One day, when she had received numerous
letters from Parma and Bologna, she retired at a very early hour.
Her favourite waiting-woman introduced to her presence first of all
her acknowledged lover, Count Baldi, a young man of great beauty and
utter futility, and later on Cavaliere Riscara, who had been Baldi’s
predecessor. This last was a short man, dusky, both physically and
morally speaking, who had begun life by teaching geometry in the Nobles’
College at Parma, and was now a councillor of state, and knight of
several orders.

“I have the good habit,” said the marchesa to the two men, “of never
destroying any paper, and it serves me well now. Here are nine letters
which the Sanseverina has written to me on various occasions. You will
both of you start for Genoa; there, among the convicts at the galleys,
you will seek out an ex-notary whose name is Burati, like the great
Venetian poet, or, it may be, Durati. You, Count Baldi, will be pleased
to sit down at my table, and write at my dictation:

“‘An idea has just struck me, and I send you a word. I am going to my
hut near Castelnovo. If you like to come and spend twelve hours there
with me, it will make me very happy. I do not think there is any great
danger in this, after what has happened. The clouds are growing lighter.
Nevertheless, stop before you go into Castelnovo. You will meet one of my
servants on the road. They are all passionately devoted to you. Of course
you will keep the name of Giuseppe Bossi for this little expedition. I am
told you have a beard worthy of the most splendid Capuchin, and at Parma
you have only been seen with the decent countenance of a grand vicar.’

“Do you understand, Riscara?”

“Perfectly. But the journey to Genoa is a quite unnecessary luxury. I
know a man in Parma who has not been to the galleys yet, indeed, but who
can not fail to get there. He will forge the Sanseverina’s handwriting in
the most successful manner.”

At these words Count Baldi opened his fine eyes desperately wide. He was
only beginning to understand.

“If you know this worthy gentleman at Parma, whose interests you hope
to advance,” said the marchesa to Riscara, “he probably knows you
too. His mistress, his confessor, his best friend, may be bought by
the Sanseverina. I prefer to delay my little joke for a few days, and
run no risk whatsoever. Start within two hours, like two good little
lambs, don’t see a soul at Genoa, and come back as quickly as you can.”
Cavaliere Riscara sped away, laughing, and talking through his nose like
Pulcinello. “I must pack up,” he cried, cantering off with the most
ludicrous gestures.

He wanted to leave Baldi alone with the fair lady. Five days later,
Riscara brought the marchesa back her lover, very stiff and sore. To
save six leagues, he had made him cross a mountain on mule-back. He
swore nobody should ever catch him making a long journey again. Baldi
brought the marchesa three copies of the letter she had dictated, and
six others, in the same hand, of Riscara’s composition, and which might
come in usefully later. One of these letters contained some very pleasing
jokes about the prince’s terrors at night, and the deplorable thinness
of his mistress, the Marchesa Balbi, who, so it declared, left a mark
like that of a pair of tongs on the cushion of every arm-chair in which
she sat. Anybody would have sworn these missives were all in the Duchess
Sanseverina’s handwriting.

“Now,” said the marchesa, “I know, without any possibility of doubt,
that the duchess’s best beloved, her Fabrizio, is at Bologna, or in the
neighbourhood.”

“I am too ill,” interrupted Count Baldi. “I beseech you to excuse me
from making another journey, or, at all events, let me rest for a few
days, and recover my health.”

“I will plead your cause,” said Riscara. He rose, and said something to
the marchesa in an undertone.

“Very good; I consent to that,” she answered with a smile.

“Make your mind easy. You will not have to go away,” said the marchesa to
Baldi, with a somewhat scornful look.

“Thanks,” he cried, and his tone was heartfelt. Riscara did, in fact,
set off alone, in a post-chaise. He had hardly been two days at Bologna
before he caught sight of Fabrizio and Marietta in a carriage. “The
devil!” he cried. “Our future archbishop does not appear to deny
himself any pleasure. This must be revealed to the duchess, who will be
delighted.” All Riscara had to do, to discover Fabrizio’s residence, was
to follow him there. The very next morning, the post brought the young
man the letter of Genoese manufacture. He thought it a little short, but
no idea of suspicion occurred to him. The idea of seeing the duchess
and the count again sent him frantic with delight, and in spite of all
Ludovico’s remonstrances, he hired a post-horse and started off at a hard
gallop. All unknown to himself, he was followed by Riscara, who, when he
reached the posting-station before Castelnovo, about six leagues from
Parma, had the pleasure of seeing a crowd collected in the square in
front of the local prison. Its doors had just closed upon our hero, who
had been recognised, as he was changing horses, by two myrmidons of the
law, chosen and sent out by Count Zurla.

Riscara’s small eyes twinkled with delight. With the most exemplary
patience, he verified every incident connected with the affair that had
just taken place in the little village, and then sent off a messenger
to the marchesa Raversi. After which, by dint of walking about the
streets as though to visit the church—a very interesting building—and
to hunt up a picture by Parmegiano which, he had heard, existed in that
neighbourhood, he contrived to come across the _podestà_, who hastened
to pay his respects to a councillor of state. Riscara appeared surprised
that the _podestà_ had not despatched the conspirator, on whom he had so
luckily laid his hand, straight to the citadel.

“There is some risk,” Riscara added unconcernedly, “that his many
friends, who were out looking for him yesterday, to help him to get
across the dominions of his Most Serene Highness, might meet the
gendarmes. There were quite twelve or fifteen of the rebels, all mounted.”

“_Intelligenti pauca!_” exclaimed the _podestà_, with a knowing look.



CHAPTER XV


Two hours later, poor unlucky Fabrizio, securely handcuffed, and fastened
by a long chain to his own _sediola_, into which he had been thrust,
started for the citadel at Parma, under the guard of eight gendarmes.
These men had been ordered to collect all the gendarmes stationed in the
villages through which the procession might pass as they went along,
and the _podestà_ himself attended the important prisoner. Toward seven
o’clock in the evening the _sediola_, escorted by all the little boys in
Parma, and guarded by thirty gendarmes, was driven across the beautiful
promenade, past the little palace in which the Fausta had lived a few
months previously, and stopped before the outer gate of the citadel
just as General Fabio Conti and his daughter were about to issue from
it. The governor’s carriage stopped before reaching the drawbridge, to
allow the _sediola_ to which Fabrizio was bound to pass across it. The
general at once shouted orders to close the citadel gate, and hastened
down to the doorkeeper’s office to make inquiries. He was more than a
little surprised when he recognised the prisoner, whose limbs had grown
quite stiff from being bound to the _sediola_ during the long journey.
Four gendarmes had picked him up, and were carrying him to the jailer’s
office. “It appears, then,” said the self-sufficient governor to himself,
“that the celebrated Fabrizio del Dongo, the man to whom the best society
in Parma has seemingly sworn to devote its whole thoughts for the past
year, is in my power.”

The general had met him a score of times—at court, in the duchess’s
house, and elsewhere—but he took good care to make no sign of
recognition; he would have been afraid of compromising himself.

“Draw up a most circumstantial report of the prisoner’s delivery into my
hands by the worthy _podestà_ of Castelnovo,” he called out to the prison
clerk.

Barbone, the clerk in question, a most alarming-looking person, with
his huge beard and generally martial air, began to look even more
self-important than usual; he might have been taken for a German jailer.
Believing that it was the Duchess Sanseverina’s influence which had
prevented his master, the governor, from becoming Minister of War, he was
even more insolent than usual to this particular prisoner, addressing
him in the second person plural, which, in Italy, is the tense used in
speaking to servants. “I am a prelate of the Holy Roman Church,” said
Fabrizio steadily, “and grand vicar of this diocese; my birth alone
entitles me to respect.”

“I know nothing about that,” replied the clerk impudently. “Prove your
assertions by producing the patents which give you a right to those
highly respectable titles.” Fabrizio had no patents to show, and held his
peace. General Fabio Conti, standing beside the clerk, watched him write
without raising his own eyes to the prisoner’s face, so that he might not
be obliged to say he really was Fabrizio del Dongo.

Suddenly Clelia Conti, who was waiting in the carriage, heard a terrible
noise in the guard-room. Barbone, after writing an insolent and very
lengthy description of the prisoner’s person, had ordered him to open his
clothes, so that he might verify and note down the number and condition
of the scratches he had received in his affair with Giletti.

“I can not,” said Fabrizio with a bitter smile. “I am not in a position
to obey this gentleman’s orders; my handcuffs prevent it.”

“What!” cried the general; “the prisoner is handcuffed inside the
fortress! That’s against the rules; there must be a distinct order. Take
off the handcuffs!”

Fabrizio looked at him. “Here’s a pretty Jesuit,” thought he to himself;
“for the last hour he has been looking at me in these handcuffs, which
make me horribly uncomfortable, and now he pretends to be astonished.”

The gendarmes at once removed the handcuffs. They had just found out
that Fabrizio was the Duchess Sanseverina’s nephew, and lost no time in
treating him with a honeyed politeness which contrasted strongly with
the clerk’s rudeness. This seemed to annoy the clerk, and he said to
Fabrizio, who had not moved:

“Now then, make haste. Show us those scratches poor Giletti gave you at
the time of his murder.”

With a bound Fabrizio sprang upon the clerk, and gave him such a cuff
that Barbone fell off his chair across the general’s legs. The gendarmes
seized Fabrizio’s arms, but he did not move. The general himself, and the
gendarmes who were close to him, hastily picked up the clerk, whose face
was streaming with blood. Two others, who were standing a little farther
off, ran to shut the office door, thinking the prisoner was trying to
escape. The non-commissioned officer in command was convinced young Del
Dongo could not make any very successful attempt at flight, seeing he was
now actually within the citadel, but at any rate, with the instincts of
his profession, and to prevent any scuffle, he moved over to the window.
Opposite this open window, and about two paces from it, the general’s
carriage was drawn up. Clelia had shrunk far back within it, so as to
avoid witnessing the sad scene that was being enacted in the office. When
she heard all the noise she looked out.

“What is happening?” said she to the officer.

“Signorina, it is young Fabrizio del Dongo, who has just cuffed that
impudent rascal Barbone.”

“What! is it Signor del Dongo who is being taken to prison?”

“Why, there’s no doubt about that,” said the officer. “It’s on account of
the poor fellow’s high birth that there is so much ceremony. I thought
the signorina knew all about it.” Clelia continued to look out of the
carriage window. Whenever the gendarmes round the table scattered a
little she could see the prisoner.

“Who would have dreamed,” thought she, “when I met him on the road near
the Lake of Como, that the very next time I saw him he would be in this
sad position? He gave me his hand then, to help me into his mother’s
coach. Even then he was with the duchess. Can their love story have begun
at that time?”

My readers must be informed that the Liberal party, led by the Marchesa
Raversi and General Conti, affected an absolute belief in the tender
relations supposed to exist between Fabrizio and the duchess; and
the gullibility of Count Mosca, whom it loathed, was a subject of
never-ending pleasantry on its part.

“Well,” thought Clelia, “here he is a prisoner, and the captive of his
enemies. For, after all, Count Mosca, even if one takes him to be an
angel, must be delighted at seeing him caught.”

A peal of loud laughter burst forth in the guard-room.

“Jacopo,” said she to the officer, in a trembling voice, “what can be
happening?”

“The general asked the prisoner angrily why he struck Barbone, and
Monsignore Fabrizio answered very coldly: ‘He called me a murderer; let
him show the patents which authorize him to give me that title,’ and then
everybody laughed.”

Barbone’s place was taken by a jailer who knew how to write.

Clelia saw the clerk come out of the guard-room, mopping up the blood
that streamed from his hideous face with his handkerchief; he was
swearing like a trooper. “That d—d Fabrizio,” he shouted at the top of
his voice, “shall die by no hand but mine! I’ll cheat the executioner
of his job,” and so forth. He had stopped short between the guard-room
window and the carriage to look at Fabrizio, and his oaths grew louder
and deeper.

“Be off with you!” said the officer; “you’ve no business to swear in
that way before the signorina.” Barbone raised his head to glance into
the carriage; his eyes and Clelia’s met, and she could not restrain an
exclamation of horror. She had never had so close a view of so vile a
countenance. “He will kill Fabrizio,” said she to herself. “I must warn
Don Cesare.”

This was her uncle, one of the most respected priests in the town. His
brother, General Conti, had obtained him the appointment of steward and
chief chaplain of the prison.

The general got back into the carriage. “Would you rather go home?” said
he to his daughter, “or sit and wait for me, perhaps for a long time,
in the courtyard of the palace? I must go and report all this to the
sovereign.”

Fabrizio, escorted by the gendarmes, was just leaving the guard-room to
go to the room allotted to him. Clelia was looking out of the carriage;
the prisoner was quite near her. Just at that moment she answered her
father’s question in these words: “I will go with you.” Fabrizio, hearing
them spoken so close to him, raised his eyes, and met the young girl’s
glance. The thing that struck him most was the expression of melancholy
on her face. “How beautiful she has grown since we met at Como!” he
thought. “What deep thoughtfulness in her expression! Those who compare
her with the duchess are quite right. What an angelic face!”

Barbone, the gory clerk, who had his own reasons for keeping near the
carriage, stopped the three gendarmes in charge of Fabrizio with a
gesture, and then, slipping round the back of the carriage so as to get
to the window on the general’s side, he said: “As the prisoner has used
violence within the citadel, would it not be well to put the handcuffs on
him for three days, by virtue of Article 157 of the regulations?”

“Go to the devil!” shouted the general, who saw difficulties ahead of
him in connection with this arrest. He could not afford to drive either
the duchess or Count Mosca to extreme measures, and besides, how was the
count likely to take this business? After all, the murder of a man like
Giletti was a mere trifle, and would have been nothing at all but for the
intrigue that had been built upon it.

During this short dialogue, Fabrizio stood, a superb figure, amid the
gendarmes. Nothing could exceed the pride and nobility of his mien. His
delicate, well-cut features, and the scornful smile which hovered on his
lips, contrasted delightfully with the common appearance of the gendarmes
who stood round him. But all that, so to speak, was only the external
part of his expression. Clelia’s celestial beauty transported him with
delight, and his eyes spoke all his surprise. She, lost in thought, had
not withdrawn her head from the window. He greeted her with the most
deferential of half smiles, and then, after an instant—

“It strikes me, signorina, that some time ago, and near a lake, I had the
honour of meeting you, attended by gendarmes.”

Clelia coloured, and was so confused that she could not find a word in
reply. “How noble he looked among those rough men!” she had been saying
to herself, just when he spoke to her. The deep pity, and we might almost
say emotion, that overwhelmed her, deprived her of the presence of mind
which should have helped her to discover an answer. She became aware of
her own silence, and blushed still more deeply. Just at this moment the
bolts of the great gate of the citadel were shot back with much noise.
Had not his Excellency’s carriage been kept waiting for a minute at
least? So great was the echo under the vaulted roof that even if Clelia
had thought of any reply, Fabrizio would not have been able to hear her
words.

Whirled away by the horses, which had broken into a gallop as soon as
they had crossed the drawbridge, Clelia said to herself, “He must have
thought me very absurd”; and then suddenly she added: “Not absurd only.
He must have thought me a mean-souled creature. He must have fancied I
did not return his salutation because he is a prisoner, and I am the
governor’s daughter.”

This idea threw the high-minded young girl into despair. “What makes my
behaviour altogether degrading,” she added, “is that when we first met,
long ago, and also attended by gendarmes, as he said, it was I who was
a prisoner, and he rendered me a service—and helped me out of a great
difficulty. Yes, I must acknowledge it; my behaviour lacks nothing; it
is full of vulgarity and ingratitude. Alas, for this poor young fellow!
Now that misfortune has overtaken him, every one will be ungrateful to
him. I remember he said to me then, ‘Will you remember my name at Parma?’
How he must despise me now! I might so easily have said a civil word.
Yes, I must acknowledge it, my conduct to him has been abominable. But
for his mother’s kindly offer to take me in her carriage, I should have
had to walk after the gendarmes through the dust, or, which would have
been far worse, to ride on horseback behind one of the men. Then it was
my father who was arrested, and I who was defenceless. Yes, indeed, there
is nothing lacking to my behaviour, and how bitterly such a being as he
must have felt it! What a contrast between his noble face and my actions!
what dignity! what composure! How like a hero he looked, surrounded by
his vile enemies! I can understand the duchess’s passion for him now. If
this is the effect he produces in the midst of a distressing event, which
must lead to terrible results, what must he be when his heart is full of
happiness?”

The governor’s carriage waited for more than an hour in the courtyard of
the palace, and yet, when the general came down from the prince’s study,
Clelia did not think he had stayed too long.

“What is his Highness’s will?” inquired Clelia.

“His lips said ‘imprisonment,’ but his eyes said ‘death.’”

“Death! Great God!” exclaimed Clelia.

“Come, come! hold your tongue,” said the general angrily. “What a fool I
am to answer a child’s questions!”

Meanwhile Fabrizio had climbed the three hundred and eighty steps which
led to the Farnese Tower, a new prison built at an immense height on
the platform of the great tower. He never gave one thought—one distinct
thought, at all events—to the great change which had just taken place in
his life. “What eyes!” he kept saying to himself. “How much they express!
what depths of pity! She seemed to be saying: ‘Life is such a vale of
misery; don’t grieve too much over what happens to you. Are we not sent
here on earth to be unhappy?’ How those lovely eyes of hers gazed at me,
even when the horses moved forward so noisily under the arch!”

Fabrizio was quite forgetting to be miserable.

That night Clelia accompanied her father to several great houses. In the
earlier part of the evening nobody knew anything about the arrest of the
_great culprit_—this was the name the courtiers bestowed on the rash
and unlucky young man only two hours later. That evening it was noticed
that Clelia’s face showed more animation than usual. Now animation, the
air of taking an interest in what was going on about her, was the one
thing generally wanting to this beautiful creature. When comparisons were
drawn between her beauty and that of the duchess, it was this unmoved
appearance, this look of being above everything, which turned the scale
in her rival’s favour. In England or France, the homes of vanity, this
opinion would probably have been completely reversed. Clelia Conti was a
young girl, too slight as yet to permit of her being compared to Guido’s
exquisite figures; we will not conceal the fact that, according to the
rules of antique beauty, her features were somewhat too strongly marked.
Her lips, for instance, exquisitely graceful as their outline was, were
somewhat too full.

The delightful peculiarity of her face, that shone with the artless charm
and celestial impress of the noblest nature, was that, in spite of its
rare and most extraordinary beauty, it bore no resemblance whatever to
the heads of the old Greek statues. The beauty of the duchess, on the
contrary, was almost too much on the lines of the recognised ideal,
and her essentially Lombard type recalled the voluptuous smile and
tender melancholy of Leonardo da Vinci’s pictures of the fair Herodias.
While the duchess was sprightly, bubbling over with wit and merriment,
interesting herself personally, if I may so say, in every subject which
the current of conversation brought before her mental eye, Clelia, to
an equal extent, was calm and slow to betray emotion—either because she
scorned her surroundings, or because she regretted some absent dream.
For a long time it had been believed she would end by embracing the
religious life. She was now twenty. She disliked going to balls, and when
she did accompany her father to such gatherings, she did it in obedience
to his command, and in order to serve the interests of his ambition.

“Will it really never be possible for me,” the vulgar-minded general
would often think, “to turn this daughter of mine, the most beautiful
and the most virtuous creature in our sovereign’s dominions, to some
account for my own advancement? My life is too isolated; I have nobody
but her in the whole world, and a family which would give me social
support is a necessity to me, in order that in a certain number of houses
my worth, and, above all, my fitness for ministerial functions, may be
accepted as the indispensable basis of every political argument. Well, my
daughter—beautiful, good, and pious as she is—loses her temper whenever
any young man in a good position about court attempts to induce her to
accept his advances. As soon as the suitor is dismissed, she takes a
less gloomy view of his character, and she is almost gay until another
marrying man puts in an appearance. The handsomest man at court, Count
Baldi, paid his addresses, and failed to please her. The wealthiest man
in his Highness’s dominions, the Marchese Crescenzi, has succeeded him.
She vows he would make her wretched.”

At other times the general would muse thus: “There is no doubt about it,
my daughter’s eyes are much finer than the duchess’s, especially because
their expression now and then is infinitely deeper. But when is that
splendid expression of hers to be seen? Never in a drawing-room, where it
might make her fortune, but when we are out of doors, and she is moved to
pity, for instance, by the sufferings of some wretched rustic. ‘Pray keep
some memory of that splendid glance for the drawing-rooms in which we
shall appear to-night,’ I sometimes say to her. Not a bit of it. If she
does condescend to go out with me, her pure and noble countenance bears
a somewhat haughty, and anything but encouraging, expression of passive
obedience.” The general had spared no pains, as my readers will perceive,
to provide himself with a suitable son-in-law. But he spoke the truth.

Courtiers, having nothing to look at within their own souls, are very
observant of external matters. The Parmese courtiers had remarked that
it was especially when Clelia could not persuade herself to cast off her
beloved reveries, and feign interest in outside things, that the duchess
was fond of hovering near her, and tried to make her talk. Clelia had
fair hair, which contrasted, very softly, with her delicate colouring,
somewhat too pale, as a general rule. A careful observer would have
judged, from the very shape of her forehead, that her look of dignity,
and her general demeanour, so far above any vulgar seeking after graceful
effect, were the outcome of her profound indifference to all vulgar
things. They arose from an absence of any interest in anything—not
from any incapacity for such interest. Since her father had held the
governorship of the citadel, Clelia had lived happy, or, at all events,
free from sorrow, in her rooms in that lofty building. The huge number
of steps leading to the governor’s palace, which stood on the terrace of
the great tower, kept away tiresome visitors, and for this reason Clelia
enjoyed a quite conventual freedom. This almost constituted the ideal of
happiness which she had once thought of seeking in the religious life.
A sort of horror seized her at the very idea of placing her beloved
solitude, and her inmost thoughts, at the mercy of a young man whose
title of “husband” would give him the right to disturb her whole inner
life. If her solitude had not brought her happiness, it had at all events
enabled her to avoid sensations which would have been too painful.

The day Fabrizio had been taken to the fortress, the duchess met Clelia
at a party given by the Minister of the Interior, Count Zurla. There was
a ring of admirers round them. That evening, Clelia looked even more
beautiful than the duchess. There was a look in the young girl’s eyes, so
strange, so deep, as to be well-nigh indiscreet. There was pity in that
look. There was indignation, too, and anger. The gay talk and brilliant
fancies of the duchess seemed at moments to throw Clelia into a state of
distress which almost amounted to horror. “What sobs and moans that poor
woman will pour out when she hears that her lover—that noble-hearted and
noble-looking young man—has been cast into prison! And the sovereign’s
eyes, that condemned him to death. Oh, absolute power, when wilt thou
cease to crush our Italy? Oh, vile, base beings! And I—I am a jailer’s
daughter; and I did not fail to act up to that noble part when I would
not condescend to answer Fabrizio. And once he was my benefactor! What
can he think of me now, as he sits alone in his room, beside his little
lamp?”

Sickened by the thought, Clelia gazed, with horror in her eyes, round the
minister’s splendidly lighted rooms.

“Never,” whispered the circle of courtiers who gathered round the two
reigning beauties, and strove to join in their conversation, “never have
they talked together so eagerly, and at the same time with such an air of
intimacy. Can it be that the duchess, who is always trying to soothe the
hatreds roused by the Prime Minister, has pitched on some great marriage
for Clelia?” This conjecture was strengthened by a circumstance which
had never, hitherto, been noticed at court. There was more light, so to
speak, more passion, in the young girl’s eyes than in those of the lovely
duchess. She, on her side, was astonished, and to her credit we may say
it, delighted, by the new charms she was discovering in the youthful
recluse. For over an hour she had been gazing at her with a pleasure such
as is not often felt at the sight of a rival.

“But what can be happening?” wondered the duchess. “Never has Clelia
looked so lovely, and I may say, so touching. Can it be that her heart
has spoken?… But if it be so, her love is an unhappy one; there is a
gloomy pain at the bottom of this new-found animation.… But an unhappy
love keeps silence. Is she trying to tempt back some faithless swain by
her social successes?” And the duchess scrutinized all the young men
standing round. She noted no very striking expression in any one of them.
They all wore the same appearance of more or less self-satisfied conceit.
“There is some miracle here,” thought the duchess, nettled at not being
able to guess what it all meant. “Where is Count Mosca, that cleverest of
beings? No, I am not mistaken. Clelia certainly does look at me as if I
had roused quite a new sense of interest in her. Is it the result of the
bestowal of some order on that crawling courtier, her father? I fancied
her young and high-souled nature incapable of descending to matters of
pecuniary gain. Can General Fabio Conti have any important request to
make to the count?”

Toward ten o’clock one of the duchess’s friends came up to her and
murmured something in a low voice. She turned very white. Clelia took her
hand, and ventured to squeeze it.

“I thank you, and now I understand you.… You have a noble heart,” said
the duchess with a great effort. She was hardly able to say the few
words. She smiled profusely at the lady of the house, who left her seat
to conduct her to the door of the outer drawing-room. Such an honour was
due to princesses of the blood only, and the duchess felt its cruel irony
in connection with her present position. So she smiled and smiled to the
Countess Zurla; but though she tried desperately hard, she could not
articulate a single word.

Clelia’s eyes filled with tears as she watched the duchess pass out of
the rooms, crowded with all the most brilliant society of the city. “What
will become of that poor woman,” she thought, “when she finds herself
alone in her carriage? It would be indiscreet of me to offer to go with
her. I dare not.… How it would console the poor prisoner, sitting in
some miserable room, if he could know how deeply he is loved! Into what
horrible solitude they have cast him! And we are here, in these brightly
lighted rooms. It is monstrous! Could I find means of sending him a line?
Good heavens! That would be to betray my father. His position between the
two parties is so delicate. What will become of him if he exposes himself
to the hatred of the duchess, who rules the Prime Minister, the master
of three parts of the business of the state? And then, the prince keeps
a close eye on everything that happens in the fortress, and he will
have no joking on that subject. Terror makes people cruel.… In any case,
Fabrizio” (Clelia had ceased saying Monsignore del Dongo) “is far more
to be pitied.… He has much more at stake than the mere danger of losing
a lucrative appointment. And the duchess!… What a frightful passion
love is! And yet all these liars in society talk of it as a source of
happiness. One hears old women pitied because they can no longer feel
love nor inspire it. Never shall I forget what I have just seen—that
sudden change. How the duchess’s eyes, so lovely, so shining, grew sad
and dim after the Marchese N⸺ whispered those fatal words in her ear!
Fabrizio must be very worthy to be so much loved.”

Amid these very serious reflections, which quite filled Clelia’s mind,
the complimentary remarks around her were more offensive to her than
ever. To escape them she moved toward an open window, half shaded by
a silken curtain. She had a hope that no one would dare to follow her
into this retreat. The window opened on a little grove of orange trees,
planted in the ground; as a matter of fact, it was necessary to roof
them over every winter. Clelia breathed the perfume of the flowers with
the greatest delight, and with this enjoyment, a certain amount of peace
came back into her heart. “I thought him a very noble-looking fellow,”
she mused. “But imagine his inspiring so remarkable a woman with such a
passion! She has had the glory of refusing the prince’s own advances; and
if she had condescended to desire it she might have been the queen of
these dominions. My father says that the sovereign’s passion was so great
that he would have married her if ever he had been free. And this love of
hers for Fabrizio has lasted so long. For it is quite five years since we
met them near the Lake of Como. Yes, quite five years,” she reiterated
after a moment’s thought. “It struck me even then, when so many things
were unperceived by my childish eyes. How both those ladies seemed to
admire Fabrizio!”

Clelia noticed with delight that none of the young men who were so eager
to talk to her had ventured to come near her balcony. One of them, the
Marchese Crescenzi, had made a few steps in her direction, and then
had stopped beside a card-table. “If only,” she said, “I could see some
pretty orange trees like these out of my window in the palace in the
fortress—the only one which has any shade at all—my thoughts might be
less sad. But there is nothing to be seen but those great hewn stones of
the Farnese Tower. Ah!” she said, starting, “perhaps that is where they
have put him! How I long for a talk with Don Cesare; he will be less
strict than the general. My father will certainly tell me nothing as we
drive back to the fortress, but I shall get everything out of Don Cesare.
I have some money. I might buy a few orange trees, and set them under the
window of my aviary, so that they would prevent me from seeing the great
walls of the Farnese Tower. How much more I shall hate them now that I
know one of the persons shut up within them!… Yes, this is the third
time I have seen him: once at court, at the princess’s birthday ball;
to-day, standing with three gendarmes round him, while that horrible
Barbone was asking that the handcuffs might be put upon him; and then
that time at the Lake of Como—that is quite five years ago. What a young
rascal he looked then! How he looked at the gendarmes, and how strangely
his mother and his aunt looked at him! There was some secret that day,
certainly—something they were hiding among themselves. I had an idea at
the time that he, too, was afraid of the gendarmes.” Clelia shuddered.
“But how ignorant I was! No doubt, even then, the duchess was interested
in him.… How he made us laugh after a few minutes when, in spite of
their evident anxiety, the two ladies had grown somewhat accustomed to
a stranger’s presence!… And this evening I could not answer anything
he said to me.… Oh, ignorance and timidity, how often you resemble the
vilest things on earth! And that is my case even now, when I am past
twenty.… I was quite right to think of taking the veil—I am really fit
for nothing but the cloistered life. ‘Worthy daughter of a jailer,’ he
must have said to himself. He despises me, and as soon as he is able to
write to the duchess he will tell her of my unkindness, and the duchess
will think me a very deceitful girl, for this evening she may have
believed I was full of sympathy for her misfortune.”

Clelia perceived that somebody was drawing near, with the apparent
intention of standing beside her on the iron balcony in front of the
window. This vexed her, though she reproached herself for the feeling.
The dreams thus disturbed were not devoid of a certain quality of
sweetness. “Here comes some intruder. I’ll give him a cold reception,”
she thought. She turned her head with a scornful glance, and perceived
the archbishop’s timorous figure edging toward her balcony by almost
invisible degrees. “This holy man has no knowledge of the world,” thought
Clelia to herself. “Why does he come and disturb a poor girl like me? My
peace is the only thing I have!” She was greeting him with a respect not
untinged with haughtiness when the prelate spoke:

“Signorina, have you heard the dreadful news?”

The expression of the young girl’s eyes had completely changed already,
but, obedient to her father’s instructions, reiterated a hundred times
over, she replied, with an air of ignorance which her eyes utterly belied:

“I have heard nothing, monsignore.”

“My chief grand vicar, poor Fabrizio del Dongo, who is no more guilty of
the death of that ruffian Giletti than I am, has been carried off from
Bologna, where he was living under the name of Giuseppe Bossi, and shut
up in your citadel. He arrived there _chained_ to the carriage which
brought him. A kind of jailer of the name of Barbone, who was pardoned
years ago, after having murdered one of his own brothers, tried to use
personal violence to Fabrizio, but my young friend is not a man to endure
an insult. He threw the vile fellow on the ground, and was immediately
carried down to a dungeon, twenty feet below the earth, with handcuffs on
his wrists.”

“Not handcuffs. No.”

“Ah, you know something,” exclaimed the archbishop, and the old man’s
features lost their expression of deep despondency; “but before all
things, since somebody might come near this balcony, and interrupt us,
would you do me the charity of giving Don Cesare this pastoral ring of
mine with your own hands?” The young girl had taken the ring and did not
know where to bestow it so as to avoid the risk of losing it. “Put it on
your thumb,” said the archbishop, and he slipped it on himself. “May I
rely on your giving him this ring?”

“Yes, monsignore.”

“Will you promise me secrecy as to what I am going to add, even if you
should not think it proper to grant my request?”

“Yes, indeed, monsignore,” replied the young girl, alarmed by the grave
and gloomy aspect assumed by the old man. “Our honoured archbishop,” she
added, “can give me no orders that are not worthy of himself and of me.”

“Tell Don Cesare that I recommend my adopted son to his care. I know
that the police officers who carried him off did not even give him time
to take his breviary; I beg Don Cesare to give him his own, and if your
uncle will send to-morrow to the palace, I undertake to replace the book
given by him to Fabrizio. I also beg Don Cesare to pass on the ring, now
on your pretty hand, to Monsignore del Dongo.” The archbishop was here
interrupted by General Fabio Conti, who came to fetch his daughter and
take her to her carriage. A short conversation ensued, during which the
prelate showed himself to be not devoid of cunning. Without referring
in the smallest degree to the newly made prisoner, he contrived that
the current of talk should lead up to his own enunciation of certain
political and moral sentiments, as, for instance: “There are certain
critical moments in court life which decide the existence of important
personages for considerable periods. It would be eminently imprudent to
transform a condition of political coolness, which is a frequent and
very simple result of party opposition, into a personal hatred.” Then
the archbishop, somewhat carried away by the great grief which this
unexpected arrest had occasioned him, went so far as to say that while a
man must certainly preserve the position he enjoyed, it would be wanton
imprudence to bring down desperate hatreds on his own head by allowing
himself to be drawn into certain things which never could be forgotten.

When the general was in his coach with his daughter—

“These may be called threats,” he cried. “Threats, to a man like me!”
Not another word was exchanged between father and daughter during their
twenty minutes’ drive.

When Clelia had received the pastoral ring from the archbishop, she had
fully determined that when she was in the carriage with her father she
would speak to him of the trifling service the prelate had asked of her.
But when she heard the word “threats,” and the furious tone in which it
was uttered, she became convinced that her father would intercept the
message. She hid the ring with her left hand and clasped it passionately.
All the way from the minister’s house to the citadel she kept asking
herself whether it would be a sin not to speak to her father. She was
very pious, very timid, and her heart, usually so quiet, was throbbing
with unaccustomed violence. But the challenge of the sentinel on the
rampart above the gate rang out over the approaching carriage before
Clelia could pitch on words appropriate to persuade her father not to
refuse, so great was her fear that he might do so. Neither could she
think of any as she climbed the three hundred and eighty steps which led
up to the governor’s palace.

She lost no time in speaking to her uncle; he scolded her, and refused to
have anything to do with the business.



CHAPTER XVI


“Well,” cried the general, as soon as he caught sight of his brother Don
Cesare, “here is the duchess ready to spend a hundred thousand crowns to
make a fool of me and save the prisoner.”

But for the present we must leave Fabrizio in his prison, high up in the
citadel of Parma. He is well guarded there, and when we come back we
shall find him safe enough, though perhaps a trifle changed. We must now
turn all our attention to the court, where his fate is to be decided by
the most complicated intrigues, and, above all, by the passions of a most
unhappy woman. As Fabrizio, watched by the governor, climbed the three
hundred and eighty steps which led to his dungeon in the Farnese Tower he
felt, greatly as he had dreaded that moment, that he had no time to think
of his misfortune.

When the duchess reached home after leaving Count Zurla’s party she waved
her women from her, and then, throwing herself, fully dressed, upon her
bed, she moaned aloud: “Fabrizio is in the hands of his enemies, and,
because of me, perhaps they will poison him.” How can I describe the
moment of despair which followed this summing up of the situation in the
heart of a woman so unreasonable, so enslaved by the sensation of the
moment, and, though she did not acknowledge it to herself, so desperately
in love with the young prisoner?

There were inarticulate exclamations, transports of rage, convulsive
movements, but not one tear. She had sent away her women that they might
not see her weep. She had thought she must burst into sobs the moment
she was left alone, but tears, the first relief of a great sorrow, were
denied her utterly. Her haughty soul was too full of rage, indignation,
and the sense of her own inferiority to the prince.

“Is not this humiliation enough?” she cried. “I am insulted, and, what
is far worse, Fabrizio’s life is risked! And shall I not avenge myself?
Beware, my prince! you may destroy me—so be it; that is in your power—but
after you have done it, I will have your life. Alas, my poor Fabrizio,
and what good will that do you? What a change from the day on which I
was about to leave Parma! And yet I thought myself unhappy then.… What
blindness! I was on the point of breaking up all the habits of a pleasant
life. Alas, all unknowingly, I stood on the brink of an event which was
to settle my fate forever. If the count’s vile habits of slavish toadyism
had not made him suppress the words ‘_unjust proceedings_’ in that fatal
note which I had wrung from the prince’s vanity, we should have been
safe. More by good luck than by good guidance, I must acknowledge, I had
nettled his vanity about his beloved city of Parma. Then it was I who
threatened to depart. Then I was free.… My God! now I am nothing but a
slave. Here I lie, nailed to this vile sewer; and Fabrizio lies chained
in the citadel—that citadel which has been death’s antechamber to so many
men. And I—I can no longer hold that wild beast by his fear of seeing me
forsake his lair!

“He is too clever not to feel that I shall never go far from the
hateful tower to which my heart is fettered. The man’s wounded vanity
may inspire him with the most extraordinary notions; their whimsical
cruelty would only tickle his astounding vanity. If he puts forward
his nauseous attempts at love-making again, if he says, ‘Accept the
homage of your slave or else Fabrizio dies,’ well, then it will be the
old story of Judith.… Yes, but though that would be suicide for me, it
would be murdering Fabrizio. That booby who would come after him, our
prince royal, and Rassi, his infamous torturer, would hang Fabrizio as my
accomplice.”

The duchess cried out in her distress. This alternative, from which she
could see no escape, put her agonized heart to torture. Her bewildered
mind could see no other probability in the future. For some ten minutes
she tossed about like a mad woman; this horrible restlessness was
followed at last, for a few moments, by the slumber of exhaustion; she
was worn out. But in a few minutes she woke again, with a start, and
found herself sitting on her bed. She had fancied the prince was cutting
off Fabrizio’s head before her very eyes. The duchess cast distracted
glances all about her. When she had convinced herself, at last, that
neither the prince nor Fabrizio were in her presence, she fell back upon
her bed, and very nearly fainted. So great was her physical weakness
that she had not strength to alter her position. “O God, if only I could
die!” she said. “But what cowardice! Could I forsake Fabrizio in his
misfortunes? My brain must be failing. Come, let me look at the truth;
let me coolly consider the horrible position into which I have sprung,
as though to please myself. What mad folly to come and live at the court
of an absolute prince, a tyrant who knows every one of his victims!
To him every glance they give seems a threat against his own power.
Alas! neither the count nor I thought of that when I left Milan. All I
considered were the attractions—a pleasant court, something inferior,
indeed, still somewhat resembling the happy days under Prince Eugène.

“One has no idea, at a distance, of what the authority of a despot, who
knows all his subjects by sight, really means. The external forms of
despotism are the same as those of other governments. There are judges,
for instance, but they are men like Rassi. The monster! He would not
think it the least odd to hang his own father at the prince’s order.… He
would call it his duty.… I might buy over Rassi, but—unhappy that I am—I
have no means of doing it. What have I to offer him? A hundred thousand
francs, perhaps. And the story goes that when Heaven’s wrath against this
unhappy country last saved him from a dagger thrust, the prince sent him
ten thousand gold sequins in a casket. And besides, what sum of money
could possibly tempt him? That grovelling soul, which has never read
anything but scorn in other men’s eyes, has the pleasure, now, of being
looked at with fear, and even with respect. He may become Minister of
Police—and why not? Then three quarters of the inhabitants of the country
will pay him abject court, and tremble before him as slavishly as he
himself trembles before the sovereign.

“As I can not fly this odious place, I must be useful to Fabrizio. If I
live on alone, solitary, despairing, what, then, am I to do for Fabrizio?
No! forward, miserable woman! Do your duty. Go out into the world.
Pretend you have forgotten Fabrizio. Pretend to forget you, dear angel?”

At the words the duchess burst into tears—she could weep at last. After
an hour claimed by the natural weakness of humanity, she became aware,
with some sense of consolation, that her ideas were beginning to grow
clearer. “If I had a magic carpet,” said she, “if I could carry off
Fabrizio from the citadel, and take refuge with him in some happy country
where they could not pursue us—in Paris, for instance—we should have
the twelve hundred francs his father’s agent sends me with such comical
regularity, to live on, at first; and I am sure I could get together
another three hundred thousand, out of the remnants of my fortune.”
The imagination of the duchess dwelt with inexpressible delight upon
all the details of the life she would lead three hundred leagues from
Parma. “There,” thought she to herself, “he might enter the army under
an assumed name. In one of those brave French regiments, young Valserra
would soon make himself a reputation, and he would be happy at last.”

These dreams of delight brought back her tears again, but this time, they
were softer. There was still such a thing as happiness, then, somewhere.
This frame of mind continued for a long time. The poor woman shrank with
horror from the contemplation of the terrible reality. At last, just as
the dawn began to show a white light above the tree tops in her garden,
she made a great effort. “Within a few hours,” said she to herself,
“I shall be on the battle-field. I shall have to act, and if anything
irritating should happen to me, if the prince took it into his head
to say anything about Fabrizio, I am not sure that I shall be able to
keep my self-control. Therefore, here and without delay, I must take my
resolution.

“If I am declared a state criminal, Rassi will seize everything there
is in the palace. On the first of the month, the count and I, according
to our custom, burned all the papers of which the police might take
advantage—and he is Minister of Police; there lies the beauty of the
joke. I have three rather valuable diamonds. To-morrow Fulgenzio, my old
boatman from Grianta, shall go to Geneva and place them in safe-keeping.
If ever Fabrizio escapes (O God! be favourable to me!” and she crossed
herself), “the Marchese del Dongo will perceive, in his unspeakable
meanness, that it is a sin to provide support for a man who has been
prosecuted by a legitimate prince. Then Fabrizio will get my diamonds,
and so he will have bread at all events.

“I must dismiss the count.… After what has happened I never could bear
to be alone with him again. Poor fellow! he is not wicked—far from it—he
is only weak. His commonplace soul can not rise to the height of ours.
My poor Fabrizio, would you could be with me for an instant, so that we
might take counsel together about our danger!

“The count’s scrupulous prudence would interfere with all my plans, and
besides, I must not drag him down into my own ruin.… For why should
not that tyrant’s vanity make him cast me into prison? I shall have
conspired … what is more easy to prove? If he would only send me to his
citadel, and I could contrive to buy even one instant’s conversation
with Fabrizio, how bravely we would go to death together! But a truce
to such folly—his Rassi would advise him to get rid of me by poison.
My appearance in the streets, dragged along in a cart, might touch the
hearts of his dear subjects … but what! more fancies? Alas! such foolery
must be forgiven to a poor woman whose real fate is so sad. The truth
in all this is that the prince will not send me to death, but nothing
would be easier for him than to cast me into prison and keep me there.
He can have all sorts of compromising papers hidden in a corner of my
palace, as was done in the case of poor L⸺. Then three judges—who need
not be too great rogues, for there will be authentic evidence—and a dozen
false witnesses, will do the rest. Thus I may be sentenced to death for
conspiracy, and the prince, in his boundless mercy, and considering that
I had formerly had the honour of being received by him, will commute the
penalty to ten years in the fortress. But I, not to belie the violent
character which has drawn so many foolish remarks from the Marchesa
Raversi and my other enemies, shall coolly poison myself—so, at least,
the public will kindly believe. But I will undertake that Rassi will make
his appearance in my dungeon, and politely offer me a phial of strychnine
or laudanum, in the prince’s name.

“Yes, I must have a very open rupture with the count, for I will not drag
him down with my own fall. That would be infamy. The poor man has loved
me so sincerely. It was my own folly which led me to believe any true
courtier’s soul had room in it for love. The prince will very probably
find some pretext for throwing me into prison. He will be afraid of my
perverting public opinion with regard to Fabrizio. The count has a deep
sense of honour; that instant he will do what the court hangers-on, in
their overwhelming astonishment, will style an act of madness—he will
leave the court. I braved the prince’s authority the night he wrote that
note; I must be prepared for anything from his wounded self-love. Can
a man who was born a prince ever forget the sensation I gave him that
evening? And besides, if the count is at variance with me, he will be in
a better position to serve Fabrizio. But supposing the count, whom my
decision will throw into despair, were to avenge himself.… But that is an
idea that would not occur to him. He is not an intrinsically mean man,
like the prince. The count may countersign an infamous decree, and groan
as he does it, but he is honourable. And then, what should he avenge?
The fact that after having loved him for five years, and never given his
love a single cause for complaint, I say to him: ‘Dear count, I was happy
enough to love you. Well, the flame has burned out; I do not love you
any more. But I know the very bottom of your heart; I have the deepest
regard for you, and you will always be the dearest of all my friends.’

“What reply can an honourable gentleman make to such a declaration?

“I will take a new lover, or, at all events, the world will think so. I
will say to that lover: ‘After all, the prince is quite right to punish
Fabrizio’s blunder. But on his fête day our gracious sovereign will, no
doubt, set him at liberty!’ Thus I shall gain six months. This new lover,
whom prudence recommends, should be that venal judge, that vile torturer,
Rassi. He would be ennobled, and as a matter of fact, I should give him
the _entrée_ into the best society. Forgive me, Fabrizio, dearest, that
effort is beyond my powers. What! that monster! still stained with the
blood of Count P⸺ and of D⸺? I should swoon with horror if he came near
me, or, rather, I should seize a knife and plunge it into his vile heart.
Ask me not things which are impossible!

“Yes, above all things, I must forget Fabrizio. I must not betray a
shadow of anger against the prince. I must be as cheerful as ever. And my
cheerfulness will seem yet more attractive to these sordid souls. First,
because I shall appear to submit to their sovereign with a good grace;
and secondly, because, far from making game of them, I shall take pains
to show off their pretty little points—for instance, I will compliment
Count Zurla on the beauty of the white feather in the hat he has just
sent a courier to fetch from Lyons, and which is his great delight.

“I might choose a lover in the Raversi’s party. If the count retires,
that will be the ministerial party, and there the power will lie. The man
who rules the citadel will be a friend of the Raversi, for Fabio Conti
will be one of the ministers. How will the prince, a well-bred man, a
clever man, accustomed to the count’s delightful methods, endure doing
business with that ox, that arch-fool, whose whole life has been taken
up with the all-important problem of whether his Highness’s soldiers
ought to wear seven buttons on the breasts of their tunics, or nine? It
is such idiotic brutes as these—all very jealous of me, and there lies
your danger, my dear Fabrizio—it is such idiotic brutes as these who will
decide my fate and yours. Therefore the count will not resign. He always
fancies resignation is the greatest sacrifice that can be made by a Prime
Minister, and every time his looking-glass tells him he is growing old,
he offers to make that sacrifice for me. Therefore my rupture with him
must be complete. Yes, and there must be no reconciliation unless that
should appear my only means of preventing his retirement. I will dismiss
him, indeed, with all the kindness possible. But after his courtier-like
suppression of the words ‘_unjust proceedings_’ in the prince’s note, I
feel that if I am not to hate him I must spend some months without seeing
him at all. On that decisive evening I had no need of his intelligence;
all he had to do was to write under my dictation. He had only to write
that one sentence, which I had won by my own resolution. His cringing
courtier’s instinct was too much for him. He told me next morning that
he could not ask his prince to sign anything so ridiculous—that he would
have had to issue letters of pardon. But, good heavens, when one has to
deal with such people—those monsters of vanity and spite known as the
Farnese—one takes what one can get.”

At the thought, the anger of the duchess blazed up afresh. “The prince
deceived me,” she said, “and how basely!… There is no excuse for that
man. He has intellect, he has cleverness, he has logic; the only mean
things in him are his passions. We have remarked it a score of times,
the count and I. He is never vulgar-minded, except when he thinks there
has been an intention to insult him. Well, Fabrizio’s crime has nothing
to do with politics; it is a mere trifle of an assassination, such as
occur by the hundred every year within his happy dominions, and the count
has sworn to me that he has made the most careful inquiries, and that
Fabrizio is innocent. Giletti was not devoid of courage. When he saw
himself close to the frontier, he was suddenly tempted to get rid of a
rival who found favour in the eyes of his mistress.”

The duchess pondered long over the question of Fabrizio’s possible
culpability. Not that she considered it a very heavy sin on the part of
a nobleman of her nephew’s rank to rid himself of an impertinent actor,
but, in her despair, she was beginning to have a vague feeling that she
would have to struggle desperately to prove Fabrizio’s innocence. “No,”
said she at last, “here is a decisive proof. He is like poor Pietranera;
he always carries arms in his pockets, and that day all he had was a
broken-down single-barrelled gun, which he had borrowed from one of the
workmen.

“I hate the prince, because he has deceived me, and deceived me after the
most cowardly fashion. After he had signed his pardon, he had the poor
boy carried off from Bologna. But this account shall be settled between
us.”

Toward five o’clock in the morning the duchess, worn out by her long fit
of despair, rang for her women. When they entered her room they screamed
aloud. Seeing her stretched on her bed, fully dressed, with all her
diamonds, her face white as her sheets, and her eyes closed, they almost
fancied she was lying in state after her death. They would have thought
her in a dead faint, if they had not recollected that she had just
rung. Every now and then a slow tear coursed down her cheeks; her women
understood, on a sign from her, that she desired to be put to bed.

Twice that morning, after Count Zurla’s party, the count had called upon
the duchess. Finding no admittance, he wrote that he desired her advice
for himself. Ought he to continue minister after the affront which had
been put upon him? “The young man is innocent; but even if he had been
guilty, ought he to have been arrested without any warning to me, his
declared protector?”

The count had no virtue; we may even add that what Liberals understand
by _virtue_ (to seek the happiness of the greatest number) seemed to him
folly. He believed his first duty to be to seek the happiness of Count
Mosca della Rovere; but when he spoke of resigning, he was thoroughly
honourable and perfectly sincere. Never in all his life had he spoken an
untruth to the duchess. She, however, paid not the slightest attention to
his letter. Her course, and a very painful one, was settled: she was to
pretend to forget Fabrizio. After that effort, everything else was quite
indifferent to her.

Toward noon next morning the count, who had called quite ten times at the
Palazzo Sanseverina, was at last admitted. He was thunder-struck when he
saw the duchess. “She looks forty,” said he to himself, “and yesterday
she was so brilliant, so young; every one tells me that during her long
conversation with Clelia Conti she looked quite as young as she, and far
more bewitching.”

The duchess’s voice and manner of speaking were just as strange as her
appearance. Her tone—passionless, devoid of all human interest, of any
touch of anger—drove the colour from the count’s face. It reminded him
of one of his friends who, a few months previously, when on the point
of death, and after having received the sacrament, had desired to speak
with him. After a few minutes, the duchess was able to speak to him. She
looked at him, but her eyes were still dim.

“Let us part, my dear count,” she said, in a voice that was weak, but
quite articulate, and which she did her best to render kind. “Let us
part! It must be done. Heaven is my witness that for the last five years
my conduct toward you has been above reproach. You have given me a
brilliant life in place of the boredom which would have been my dreary
lot at Grianta. But for you, old age and I would have met together some
years earlier.… On my part, my one care has been to endeavour to make you
happy. It is because I care for you that I propose this separation, ‘_à
l’amiable_,’ as they say in France.”

The count did not understand her. She was obliged to repeat herself
several times over. Then he grew deadly pale, and, casting himself on his
knees beside her bed, he poured out all that the deepest astonishment,
followed by the liveliest despair, could inspire in the heart of a clever
man who was desperately in love. Over and over again he offered to send
in his resignation, and follow his friend to some safe retreat a thousand
leagues from Parma.

“You dare to speak to me of departure,” she cried at last, “and Fabrizio
is here!” But seeing that the name of Fabrizio pained the count, she
added, after a moment’s rest, and with a slight pressure of his hand:
“No, dear friend, I will not tell you that I have loved you with those
passionate transports which nobody, it appears to me, can feel after
thirty, and I am long past that age. You will have been told that I love
Fabrizio, for I know that story has been rife at this _wicked_ court.”
For the first time during this conversation, her eyes flashed as she
spoke the word _wicked_. “I swear to you, before God, and on Fabrizio’s
life, that not the smallest thing has ever happened between him and me,
which a third person might not have seen. Neither will I tell you that
I love him exactly as a sister would love him. I love him, so to speak,
by instinct. I love his courage, so simple and so perfect that he may be
said to be unaware of it himself. I remember that this admiration began
when he returned from Waterloo. He was still a child, in spite of his
seventeen years. His great anxiety was to know whether he really had
been present at the battle; and if that were so, whether he could say
he had fought, seeing he had not shared in the attack on any battery or
any column of the enemy’s forces. It was during our serious discussion
of this important subject that I began to notice his perfect charm. His
great soul was revealed to me. What skilful lies a well-brought-up young
man would have put forward in his place! Well, if he is not happy, I can
not be happy. There; that sentence exactly describes the condition of my
heart. If it is not the truth, it is, at all events, as much of the truth
as I can see.” Encouraged by her tone of frankness and friendliness, the
count tried to kiss her hand. She drew it away with a sort of horror.
“Those days are over,” she said. “I am a woman of seven-and-thirty; I am
on the threshold of old age. I feel all its despondency already; perhaps,
indeed, I am very near my grave. That moment is a terrible one, so I
have heard, and yet I think I long for it. I have the worst symptom of
old age. This horrible misfortune has killed my heart; there is no love
left in me. When I look at you, dear count, I only seem to see the shadow
of some one who was once dear to me! I will say more. It is only my
gratitude which makes me speak to you thus.”

“What is to become of me?” reiterated the count; “of me, who feel I love
you more passionately than when I first saw you at the Scala?”

“Shall I tell you something, dear friend? Your talk of love wearies me,
and strikes me as indecent. Come,” she said, and she tried to smile, but
failed, “take courage; act like a clever man, a judicious man, full of
resource to meet events. Be with me that which you really are in the eyes
of the outside world—the cleverest man and the greatest politician whom
Italy has produced for centuries.”

The count rose to his feet and walked up and down for some moments in
silence.

“Impossible, dear friend,” said he at last. “I am torn in pieces by the
most violent passion, and you ask me to appeal to my own reason. There is
no reason for me at present.”

“Let us not speak of passion, I beg of you,” she replied in a hard
tone, and for the first time in their two hours’ conversation there was
some expression in her voice. In spite of his own despair, the count
endeavoured to console her.

“He has deceived me,” she exclaimed, without making any answer to
the reasons for hope which the count was putting before her; “he has
deceived me in the basest manner,” and for an instant her deadly pallor
disappeared. But the count remarked that even at that moment she had not
strength to raise her arms.

“Good God!” thought he, “can it be possible that she is only ill? In
that case this must be the beginning of some very serious illness.” And,
overcome with anxiety, he proposed sending for the famous Razori, the
chief physician of that country, and the best in Italy.

“Would you, then, give a stranger the pleasure of knowing all the depths
of my despair?… Is that the counsel of a traitor or of a friend?” and she
looked at him with wild eyes.

“It is all over,” said he to himself in despair, “She has no more love
for me, and, what is worse, she does not even reckon me among men of
ordinary honour.”

“I must tell you,” added the count, speaking rapidly, “that I was
determined, in the first instance, to know all the details of the arrest
which has thrown us into despair, and, curiously enough, I know nothing
positive as yet. I have had the gendarmes at the next post questioned.
They saw the prisoner come in by the road from Castelnovo, and were
ordered to follow his _sediola_. I immediately sent off Bruno, with whose
zeal and devotion you are acquainted. He has orders to go back from one
post to another, and to find out where and how Fabrizio was arrested.”

At the sound of Fabrizio’s name the duchess was seized with a slight
convulsion.

“Excuse me, my friend,” she said to the count, as soon as she could
speak. “These details interest me. Tell them all to me; help me to
understand the smallest incidents.”

“Well, signora,” continued the count, striving to speak lightly, in the
hope of distracting her thoughts a little. “I am rather tempted to send a
confidential message to Bruno, and tell him to push on as far as Bologna.
It is there, perhaps, that they may have laid hands upon our young
friend. What is the date of his last letter?”

“Tuesday; that is five days ago.”

“Had it been opened in transmission?”

“There was not a sign of that. I must tell you that it was written on
the most horrible paper; the address is in a woman’s handwriting, and
bears the name of an old washerwoman who is related to my waiting-maid.
The washerwoman believes the letters have to do with a love affair, and
Cecchina repays her the charges for delivery, and gives her nothing
more.” The count, who had now quite taken up the tone of a business man,
endeavoured, in talking the matter over with the duchess, to discover on
what day Fabrizio might have been carried off from Bologna. It was only
then that he, generally so full of tact, discovered that this was the
tone he had better take. These details interested the unhappy woman, and
seemed to distract her thoughts a little. If the count had not been so
desperately in love, this simple idea would have occurred to him as soon
as he entered her room.

The duchess dismissed him, so that he might send orders to the faithful
Bruno without delay. When they touched, for a moment, on the question of
finding out whether the sentence had actually been pronounced, when the
prince had signed the note addressed to the duchess, she, with a sort
of eagerness, seized the opportunity of saying to the count: “I will
not reproach you with having omitted the words ‘_unjust proceedings_’
from the note which you wrote, and he signed. That was your courtier’s
instinct, which was too strong for you. Unconsciously, you were
preferring the interests of your master to the interests of your friend.
Your acts, my dear count, have been subservient to my orders, and that
for a very long time. But it is not within your power to change your
nature. As a minister you have great talents, but you have the instincts
of your trade as well. The suppression of the word ‘unjust’ has worked my
ruin. But far be it from me to reproach you with it in any way. The fault
lay with your instincts, and not with your will.

“Remember,” she added in an altered voice, and in the most imperious
fashion, “that I am not too much overwhelmed by Fabrizio’s imprisonment,
that it has never occurred to me to leave this country, and that my
feeling for the prince is one of the most profound respect. That is what
you have to say. And this is what I have to say to you: As I propose,
in future, to direct my course alone, I wish to part from you ‘_à
l’amiable_’—that is to say, as good old friends. You must consider that
I am sixty years old, that youth is dead within me, that I can never
feel anything very strongly again, that love is no longer possible to
me. But I should be still more miserable than I am if I should happen to
compromise your future. It may become part of my plans to give myself
the appearance of having taken a young lover, and I should not like
to see you pained on that account. I can swear to you, on Fabrizio’s
happiness”—and she paused a minute on the words—“that I have never been
unfaithful to you once in all these five years—that is a very long
time,” she said. She tried to smile; there was a movement on her pallid
cheeks, but there was no curve upon her lips. “I will even swear to you
that I have never planned such a thing, nor even thought of it. Now I
have made that clear, so pray leave me.”

The count left the Palazzo Sanseverina in a state of despair. He saw
the duchess was thoroughly resolved to separate from him, and he had
never been so desperately in love with her. This is one of the matters
to which I am constantly obliged to return, because, outside Italy,
their improbability is so great. As soon as he reached his own house
he sent off six different people along the road from Castelnovo and
Bologna, all of them carrying letters. “But this is not all,” said the
unhappy count to himself. “The prince may take it into his head to
have the unhappy boy executed, just to avenge himself for the tone the
duchess took with him on the day of that fatal note. I felt then that
the duchess had overstepped a boundary beyond which one should never
go, and it was to patch things up that I fell into the incredible folly
of suppressing the words ‘_unjust proceedings_,’ the only ones which
bound the sovereign. But pooh! is there anything that binds a man in his
position? It was certainly the greatest mistake of my whole life, and has
risked everything which made it worth living to me. I must use all my
activity and skill to repair the blunder now. But if I utterly fail to
gain anything, even by sacrificing a certain amount of my dignity, I will
leave this man in the lurch, and we’ll see whom he will find to replace
me, and realize his mighty political dreams, and his idea of making
himself constitutional King of Lombardy! Fabio Conti is a mere fool, and
Rassi’s talent amounts to finding legal reasons for hanging a man whom
the ruler dislikes.”

Once the count had thoroughly made up his mind to resign his post if the
severity with which Fabrizio was treated exceeded that of an ordinary
imprisonment, he said to himself: “If an imprudent defiance of that man’s
vain whim costs me my life, I will preserve my honour at all events.…
By the way, now that I snap my fingers at my ministerial portfolio, I
can venture to do a hundred things which would have seemed impossible
to me, even this morning. For instance, I will attempt anything within
the bounds of human possibility to help Fabrizio to escape.… Good
God!” exclaimed the count, breaking off suddenly, and his eyes dilated
immensely, as if he had caught sight of some unexpected joy. “The duchess
said nothing about escape to me! Can she have failed in sincerity for
once in her life, and is her quarrel with me merely founded on her desire
that I should deceive the prince? My faith, the thing is done!”

The count’s eyes had regained their old expression of satirical
shrewdness. “That charming creature Rassi is paid by his master for all
those sentences of his which dishonour us in the eyes of Europe. But
he is not the man to refuse payment from me for betraying his master’s
secrets. The brute has a mistress and a confessor. But the mistress is
too vile a creature for me to converse with; all the fruit hucksters in
the neighbourhood would know the details of our interview by the next
morning.” The count, revived by this gleam of hope, was already on his
way to the cathedral. Astounded at the hastiness of his own action, he
laughed, in spite of his sorrow. “See what it is,” he said, “to be no
longer minister.”

This cathedral, like many Italian churches, was used as a passage from
one street to another. In the distance the count noticed one of the
archbishop’s grand vicars crossing the aisle.

“As I have met you,” said he, “I am sure you will be good enough to save
my gouty feet from the deadly fatigue of climbing up the archbishop’s
staircase. I should be profoundly grateful to him if he would be so kind
as to come down to the sacristy.” The archbishop was delighted at the
message. He had a thousand things to say to the minister about Fabrizio;
but the minister guessed these things were nothing but empty phrases, and
would not listen to any of them.

“What sort of a man is Dugnani, the curate of San Paolo?”

“A small mind and a huge ambition,” replied the archbishop; “very few
scruples, and excessive poverty, because of his vices.”

“Zounds! Monsignore,” exclaimed the minister, “your descriptions are
worthy of Tacitus,” and he took leave of him with a smile. As soon as he
was back in his palace he sent for Father Dugnani.

“You direct the conscience of my excellent friend Chief-Justice Rassi. Is
there not anything he would like to say to me?” and without more words,
or further ceremony, he dismissed the priest.



CHAPTER XVII


The count considered himself as already out of office. “Let me see,”
thought he to himself, “how many horses shall we be able to keep
after my disgrace, for that is what my retirement will be called?”
The count reckoned up his fortune. When he had entered the ministry
he had possessed eighty thousand francs. He now discovered, to his
great astonishment, that his whole possessions did not amount to five
hundred thousand francs. “That makes twenty thousand francs a year at
the most,” he mused. “I really am a terrible blunderer. There is not a
vulgar fellow at Parma who does not believe I have saved a hundred and
fifty thousand francs a year. And on that particular point the prince is
more vulgar-minded than anybody else. When they see me in poverty they
will only say I am very clever about concealing my wealth. By Jove!”
he exclaimed, “if I am in office for three months longer that fortune
shall be doubled!” This idea suggested an excuse for writing to the
duchess, and he seized it eagerly. But to gain forgiveness for writing
at all, in their present terms, he filled his letter up with figures and
calculations. “We shall only have twenty thousand francs a year,” he
said, “to keep us all three at Naples—Fabrizio, you, and I. Fabrizio and
I will keep one saddle horse between us.” The minister had only just sent
his letter off, when Chief-Justice Rassi was announced. He received him
with a haughtiness that bordered closely on impertinence.

“How is this, sir?” he cried; “you have a conspirator in whom I am
interested carried off from Bologna, and you would fain cut off his
head, and all this without a word to me. May I inquire if you know my
successor’s name? Is he to be General Conti or yourself?”

Rassi was struck dumb. He had too little social experience to be able
to judge whether the count was speaking seriously or not. He turned very
red, and mumbled some unintelligible words. The count watched him, and
enjoyed his confusion.

All at once Rassi gave himself a shake, and exclaimed with perfect
glibness, just like Figaro when he is caught red-handed by Almaviva:

“Upon my word, count, I’ll not mince matters with you. What will you give
me if I answer all your questions just as I would answer those of my
confessor?”

“The Cross of St. Paul” (the Parmese order), “or, if you can furnish me
with a pretext for granting it to you, I will give you money.”

“I would rather have the Cross of St. Paul, because that gives me noble
rank.”

“What, my dear sir! You still have some regard for our poor advantages?”

“If I had been nobly born,” replied Rassi, with all the impudence of his
trade, “the relations of the people whom I have hanged would hate me, but
they would not despise me.”

“Well,” returned the count, “I will save you from their scorn. Do you
enlighten my ignorance. What do you intend to do with Fabrizio?”

“Indeed, the prince is sorely puzzled. He is very much afraid that,
tempted by Armida’s lovely eyes—excuse this glowing language, I use the
sovereign’s own words—he is afraid that, fascinated by those exquisite
eyes, of which he himself has felt the charm, you may leave him in
the lurch, and you are the only man capable of managing this Lombard
business. I will even tell you,” added Rassi, lowering his voice, “that
you have a fine opportunity here, quite worth the Cross of St. Paul that
you are giving me. The prince would confer on you, as a reward from the
nation, a fine property worth six hundred thousand francs, which he
would cut off his own domains, or else a grant of three hundred thousand
crowns, on condition of your undertaking not to interfere about Fabrizio
del Dongo, or at all events only to mention the matter to him in public.”

“I expected something better than that,” said the count. “If I don’t
interfere about Fabrizio I must quarrel with the duchess.”

“Well, that again is just what the prince says. Between ourselves, the
fact is that he is furiously angry with the duchess, and he is afraid
that to console yourself for your quarrel with that charming lady you may
ask him, now that your wife is dead, to grant you the hand of his cousin,
Princess Isota—she is not more than fifty years old.”

“He has guessed aright,” replied the count. “Our master is the cleverest
man in his own dominions.”

Never had the whimsical notion of marrying this elderly princess entered
the count’s head. Nothing could have been more uncongenial to a man with
his mortal hatred of court ceremonial. He began rapping his snuff-box on
the top of a little marble table, close to his arm-chair.

Rassi took his perplexed gesture to be the possible harbinger of a stroke
of good fortune; his eyes shone.

“I beg of you, count,” he cried, “if your Excellency proposes to accept
either the property worth six hundred thousand francs, or the money
grant, not to choose anybody but myself to negotiate the matter for you.
I would undertake,” he added, dropping his voice, “to get the money grant
increased, or even to add a considerable tract of forest to the landed
property. If your Excellency would only condescend to impart a little
gentleness and caution into your manner of speaking of the brat shut up
yonder, the landed property bestowed on you by the nation’s gratitude
might be turned into a duchy. I tell your Excellency again, the prince,
at the present moment, loathes the duchess. But he is in a very great
difficulty—to such a point, indeed, that I have sometimes imagined there
must be some secret matter which he does not dare to acknowledge to me.
At any rate, there is a perfect gold mine for us both in the business,
for I can sell you his most private secrets, and very easily, too, seeing
I am looked on as your sworn enemy. After all, furious though he is with
the duchess, he believes, as we all do, that you are the only person in
the world who can successfully carry through the secret arrangements
about the Milanese territory. Will your Excellency give me leave to
repeat the sovereign’s expression, word for word?” said Rassi, growing
more eager. “Often there are features in the mere positions of words
which no paraphrase can render, and you may see more in them than I do.”

“I give you full leave,” said the count, who was still rapping the marble
table absently with his gold snuff-box; “I give you full leave, and I
shall be grateful.”

“If you will give me an hereditary patent of nobility, independently of
the Cross, I shall be more than satisfied. When I mention the idea of
nobility to the prince, he answers: ‘Turn a rascal like you into a noble!
I should have to shut up shop the very next day; not a soul in Parma
would ever seek for rank again.’ To come back to the Milanese business,
the prince said to me, only three days ago: ‘That knave is the only man
who can carry on the thread of our intrigues. If I turn him away, or if
he follows the duchess, I may as well give up all hope of one day seeing
myself the Liberal and adored ruler of all Italy.’”

At these words the count breathed more freely. “Fabrizio will not die,”
said he to himself.

Never before, in the whole of his life, had Rassi been admitted to
familiar conversation with the Prime Minister. He was beside himself with
delight. He felt himself on the eve of bidding farewell to that cognomen
of Rassi, which had become synonymous with everything that was mean and
vile throughout the whole country. The common people called all mad dogs
_Rassi_; only quite lately soldiers had fought duels because the name had
been applied to them by some of their comrades. Never a week passed that
the unlucky name did not appear in some piece of low doggerel. His son,
an innocent schoolboy of sixteen years of age, dared not show himself in
the _cafés_ because of his name.

The scalding memory of all these delightful features of his position
drove him to commit an imprudence.

“I have a property,” said he to the count, edging his seat close to the
Prime Minister’s arm-chair; “it is called Riva. I should like to be Baron
Riva.”

“Why not?” said the Prime Minister. Rassi quite lost his head.

“Well, then, count, I will dare to be indiscreet; I will venture to guess
the object of your desire. You aspire to the hand of Princess Isota, and
that is a noble ambition. Once you are related to the prince, you are
safe from all disgrace; you have a tight hold upon our friend. I will not
conceal from you that the idea of this marriage with Princess Isota is
odious to him. But if your business were in the hands of a skilful man,
well paid, we need not despair of success.”

“I, my dear Baron, should certainly despair. I repudiate beforehand
everything you may say in my name. But, on the day when that illustrious
alliance at last crowns my earnest hopes, and raises me to that mighty
position in the state, I will either give you three hundred thousand
francs of my own, or else I will advise the prince to show you some mark
of favour, which you yourself may prefer to that sum of money.”

This conversation may seem a lengthy one to the reader, yet we have
suppressed more than half of it. It lasted for another two hours. Rassi
left the count’s house, half delirious with delight. The count remained,
with great hopes of saving Fabrizio, and more determined than ever to
resign.

He felt convinced it would be a good thing to renew his credit by the
presence of such men as Rassi and Conti in power. He dwelt with the
keenest delight on a method of revenging himself on the prince which had
just occurred to him. “He may drive the duchess out,” he exclaimed, “but,
by my soul! he shall give up his hope of being constitutional King of
Lombardy.” The whole idea was a ridiculous fancy; the prince, though a
clever man, had dreamed over it till he had fallen desperately in love
with it.

The count flew on wings of delight to retail this conversation with the
chief justice to the duchess. He found her door closed; the porter hardly
dared to tell him that he had received the order from his mistress’s own
lips. Sadly the count retraced his steps to the ministry; the misfortune
which had befallen him had quite wiped out the joy caused by his
conversation with the prince’s confidant. Too disheartened to do anything
else, he was wandering drearily up and down his picture gallery, when, a
quarter of an hour later, the following note was delivered to him:

“Since it is true, dear and kind friend, that we are now no more than
friends, you must only come to see me three times a week. After a
fortnight we will reduce these visits, to which my heart still clings, to
two in the month. If you desire to please me, you will give publicity to
this rupture of ours. If you would bring back almost all the love I once
felt for you, you would choose another woman to be your friend. As for
me, I intend to be very gay; I propose to go out a great deal; perhaps
I shall even find some clever man who may help me to forget my sorrows.
As a friend, indeed, you will always hold the first place in my heart,
but I do not wish it to be said that my action has been dictated by your
wisdom. And above all things, I wish it to be well known that I have lost
all influence over your decisions. In a word, dear count, believe that
you will always be my dearest friend, and never anything else. I beg
you will not nurse any thought of change; this is the very end. You may
reckon on my unchanging regard.”

The last words were too much for the count’s courage; he wrote an
eloquent letter to the prince, resigning all his posts, and sent it to
the duchess, with the request that she would send it over to the palace.
In a few moments his resignation came back to him, torn into four pieces,
and on one of the blank spaces on the paper the duchess had condescended
to write, “No! a thousand times No!”

It would be difficult to describe the poor minister’s despair. “She is
right. I admit it,” he reiterated over and over again. “My omission of
the words ‘_unjust proceedings_’ is a terrible misfortune. It will end,
perhaps, in Fabrizio’s death, and that will involve my own.”

It was with a sick weight at his heart that the count, who would not
appear at the palace without being sent for, wrote out, with his own
hand, the _motu proprio_ which appointed Rassi a Knight of the Order of
St. Paul, and conferred on him a title of hereditary nobility. To this
document the count added a report, covering half a page, which laid the
state reasons rendering this step desirable, before the prince. It was
a sort of melancholy pleasure to him to make fair copies of these two
papers, and send them to the duchess.

His brain was full of conjectures. He strove to guess at the future line
of conduct of the woman he loved. “She knows nothing about it herself,”
he thought. “Only one thing is certain—that nothing in the world would
induce her to relinquish the decisions she has once expressed.” His
misery was increased by the fact that he could not contrive to see that
the duchess was in the wrong. “She conferred a favour on me when she
loved me. She loves me no longer because of a fault, involuntary, indeed,
but which may have horrible consequences. I have no right to complain.”
The next morning the count heard the duchess had begun to go into society
again. She had appeared the night before in all the houses that had been
open to guests. What would have become of him if he had met her in the
same drawing-room? How was he to speak to her? The following day was
terribly gloomy. The general report was that Fabrizio was to be put to
death; the whole town was stirred. It was added that the prince, out of
regard to his high birth, had condescended to give orders that his head
should be cut off.

“It is I who will have killed him,” thought the count. “I can never
expect to see the duchess again.” In spite of this somewhat simple
reasoning, he could not refrain from calling at her house three times
over. It must be said that he went on foot so as to avoid comment. In his
despair he even dared to write to her. He had sent twice for Rassi, but
the chief justice had not appeared. “The rascal is playing me false,”
said the count to himself.

The next morning three great pieces of news stirred the upper ranks,
and even the middle classes, of Parma. Fabrizio’s execution was more
than ever certain, and a very curious thing in connection with this
information was that the duchess did not seem overmuch distressed about
her young lover. At all events she took admirable advantage of the
pallor resulting from a somewhat serious indisposition, from which she
had suffered just at the moment of Fabrizio’s arrest. In these details
the middle classes were sure they recognised the dried-up heart of a
great court lady. Yet, out of decency, or as a sacrifice to the memory
of young Fabrizio, she had broken with Count Mosca. “What immorality!”
exclaimed the Jansenists of Parma. But already the duchess (and this was
incredible) seemed inclined to listen to the addresses of the handsomest
young men about the court. Among other symptoms it was remarked that she
had held a very merry conversation with Count Baldi, the Raversi’s lover,
and had rallied him greatly on his constant expeditions to Velleia.
The lower middle class and the populace were furious about Fabrizio’s
death, which the worthy folk ascribed to Count Mosca’s jealousy. Court
society also devoted a great deal of attention to the count, but only
to mock at him. The third of the great pieces of intelligence to which
we have referred was no other, indeed, than the count’s resignation.
Everybody laughed at this absurd lover of fifty-six, who was sacrificing
a magnificent position to the grief of seeing himself forsaken by a
heartless woman, who, for a considerable time, had preferred a younger
man to himself. The archbishop was the only man whose intelligence—or
shall we say his heart?—enabled him to guess that the count’s honour
forbade him to continue Prime Minister in a country the ruler of which
was about to behead a young man who had been his _protégé_, without even
consulting him. The news of the count’s resignation cured General Fabio
Conti’s gout, as we shall duly relate, when we speak of the manner in
which Fabrizio was spending his time in the citadel, while all the town
was expecting to hear the hour fixed for his execution.

The following day the count saw Bruno, the trusty agent whom he had sent
to Bologna. The count was greatly moved when the man entered his study.
The sight of him brought back the memory of his own happiness, the day he
had despatched him to Bologna at the request of the duchess. Bruno had
just arrived from Bologna, where he had found out nothing at all. He had
not been able to discover Ludovico, whom the _podestà_ of Castelnovo had
detained in the prison of his village.

“I shall send you back to Bologna,” said the count to Bruno. “The duchess
will value the sad pleasure of knowing every detail of Fabrizio’s
misfortune. Apply to the officer commanding the gendarmes at Castelnovo——”

“But, no!” cried the count, breaking off suddenly. “You shall start
instantly for Lombardy, and there you shall distribute money, and plenty
of it, to all our correspondents. My object is to have reports of the
most encouraging nature sent in by all those people.”

Bruno, having thoroughly realized the object of his mission, set to work
to write out his letters of credit. The count, just as he was giving
him his last instructions, received a thoroughly deceitful letter,
but admirably expressed. It might have been taken for a missive from
one friend, asking another to do him a service. The friend who wrote
this letter was none other than the prince. He had heard some talk of
resignation, and besought his friend Count Mosca to continue at his post.
He begged him to do this in the name of friendship, and the dangers
threatening the country, and as his master, he commanded him. He added
that the King of *** had just placed two ribbons of his Order at his
disposal; he was keeping one for himself, and sent the other to his dear
friend Count Mosca.

“This creature is my curse!” exclaimed the count in his fury, and to
Bruno’s amazement. “He thinks he can take me in with the very same
hypocritical phrases we have so often strung together to catch some
fool.” He declined the proffered Order, and in his reply, wrote that the
state of his health left him very little hope of being able to perform
the arduous duties of his ministry much longer. The count was frantic. A
moment afterward, Chief-Justice Rassi was announced; he treated him like
a negro slave.

“How now! Because I have made you a noble, you grow insolent. Why did you
not come yesterday to thank me, as was your merest duty, Sir Rascal?”

Rassi was far above such abuse. The prince’s behaviour to him, every
day, was the same as that. But he wanted to be a baron, and he justified
himself skilfully—nothing was easier.

“The prince kept me nailed to a writing-table the whole of yesterday; I
never could get out of the palace. His Highness set me to copy a whole
heap of diplomatic documents in my crabbed lawyer’s writing. So silly
were they, and so prolix, that I really believe his sole object was to
keep me prisoner. When I was dismissed at last, half-starved, at five
o’clock, he ordered me to go straight home, and not to go out again the
whole evening. And as a matter of fact I saw one of his private spies,
whom I know well, walking up and down my street till midnight. This
morning, the moment I could, I sent for a carriage, in which I drove to
the door of the cathedral. I got out of the carriage very slowly, and
then I walked quickly across the church, and here I am. At this moment
your Excellency is the one man in the world I most passionately desire to
please.”

“And I, you rogue, am not in the least taken in by any of your more or
less well-concocted stories. Yesterday you refused to talk to me about
Fabrizio; I respected your scruples and your oaths of secrecy—though to
such as you, oaths are no more, at the outside, than useful pretexts.
To-day I will have the truth. What are these absurd stories according to
which this youth has been condemned to death for the murder of the man
Giletti?”

“No one can inform your Excellency concerning these reports better than
I, seeing it is I myself who have put them about, according to the
sovereign’s orders. And now I come to think of it, it was perhaps to
prevent me from telling you of this incident that the prince kept me a
prisoner yesterday. The prince, who does not think me a madman, could not
but be sure I would bring you my cross, and beg you to fasten it to my
buttonhole.”

“Come down to facts,” exclaimed the minister, “and make me no speeches.”

“No doubt the prince would be very glad to have young Del Dongo sentenced
to death. But, as you doubtless know, all he has to go upon is a
sentence to twenty years in chains, which he himself commuted, the very
day after it was pronounced, to twelve years in the fortress, with
fasting on bread and water every Friday, and certain other religious
observances.”

“It is just because I knew the sentence was only one of imprisonment
that the reports of his approaching execution current all over the town
alarmed me. I remembered Count Palanza’s death, which you juggled so
cleverly.”

“That’s when I ought to have had the cross,” exclaimed Rassi, not the
least disconcerted. “I ought to have put on the screw while I held it in
my hand, and the man was anxious for the count’s death. I behaved like a
simpleton then, and that experience emboldens me to advise you not to do
likewise now.” This comparison appeared most offensive to the count, who
had much ado to restrain himself from kicking Rassi.

“First of all,” the latter proceeded, with all the logic of a
juris-consult, and all the perfect assurance of a man whom no insult can
offend, “first of all, there can be no execution of the said Del Dongo;
the prince would not venture on it; times are very much changed. And then
I, who am now a nobleman, and hope through you to become a baron, I would
not put my hand to it. Now it is only from me, as your Excellency knows,
that the chief executioner can get his orders, and I swear to you that
the Cavaliere Rassi will never give an order to hurt Signor del Dongo.”

“And you will do well,” said the count, looking him over sternly.

“Let there be no confusion,” replied Rassi with a smile. “My concern is
only with an official demise, and if Monsignore del Dongo should die of
a colic you must not ascribe that to me. The prince is mad—why, I know
not—against the Sanseverina” (only three days previously Rassi would have
said “the duchess,” but, like everybody else in the city, he was aware
of her rupture with the Prime Minister). The count was struck by the
suppression of the title in such a mouth, and my readers may conceive the
pleasure he felt! He flashed a look of the bitterest hatred at Rassi.
“My dearest angel,” said he in his heart, “the only way I can prove my
love, is by blindly obeying your command!”

“I will confess to you,” said he to the lawyer, “that I take no very
passionate interest in the duchess’s various whims. Nevertheless, as it
was she who introduced that good-for-nothing young Fabrizio to me—he
would have done far better to have stayed at Naples, and never to have
come here to throw all our affairs into confusion.—I am anxious he should
not be put to death in my time, and I am ready to give you my word that
you shall be a baron within a week of the time when he gets out of
prison.”

“In that case, count, I shall not be a baron till twelve years are out,
for the prince is furious, and his hatred for the duchess is so intense
that he endeavours to hide it.”

“His Highness is more than good. What need has he to conceal his hatred,
since his Prime Minister no longer extends his protection to the duchess?
Only I will not give any one the chance of accusing me of meanness, or,
above all, of jealousy. It was I who brought the duchess to this country,
and if Fabrizio dies in prison, you will certainly not be a baron, but
you may possibly be stabbed. But enough of this trifling. I have reckoned
up my fortune; I find I have barely twenty thousand francs a year,
and I now propose humbly to send in my resignation to the sovereign.
I have some hope of being employed by the King of Naples. That great
city will offer me recreations which I need just now, and which are not
to be found in a hole like Parma. The only thing that would induce me
to remain would be if I were given the hand of Princess Isota,” etc.,
and the conversation ran endlessly on this subject. When Rassi rose to
go, the count said to him, with a very careless air: “You know it has
been said that Fabrizio deceived me, in the sense that he had been one
of the duchess’s lovers. I do not admit the truth of this report. As a
contradiction of it, I wish you to hand this purse to Fabrizio.”

“But, count,” said Rassi in alarm, looking into the purse, “there is a
huge sum here, and the regulations——”

“To you, my good fellow, it may seem huge,” replied the count, with an
air of royal scorn. “When a man of your class sends ten sequins to a
friend in prison he thinks he has ruined himself. Now, I choose that
Fabrizio shall have these six thousand francs, and especially I choose
that nobody at the palace shall know anything about it.”

When the startled Rassi would have replied, the count slammed the door
impatiently behind him. “Such men as he,” said he to himself, “never
recognise power unless they see insolence.” This over, the mighty
minister indulged in a performance so absurd that we hardly know how to
relate it. Hurrying over to his writing-table, he took out a miniature of
the duchess, and covered it with passionate kisses. “Forgive me, dearest
angel,” he exclaimed, “for not having thrown the rascal who ventured to
speak of you with a tinge of familiarity out of the window with my own
hands. But if I show this excessive patience it is only out of obedience
to your will, and he will lose nothing by my delay.”

After a long conversation with the portrait, the count, who felt his
heart dead within his breast, was struck with an absurd idea, and
proceeded, with childish eagerness, to put it into action. He sent for a
dress-coat and decorations, and betook himself to wait upon the elderly
Princess Isota. Never in his life had he done such a thing, except on
New Year’s Day. He found her surrounded by a number of pet dogs, dressed
up in her fine clothes, and even adorned with her diamonds, as if she
had been going to court. When the count expressed some fear that he was
disturbing her Highness’s plans, as she was probably thinking of going
out, her Highness responded that a Princess of Parma owed it to herself
to be always in full dress. For the first time since his misfortune had
occurred, the count felt a touch of amusement. “I did well to come here,”
thought he to himself, “and I will avow my passion this very day.” The
princess had been delighted at the visit of a man who was so famous for
his wit, and Prime Minister to boot. The poor old lady was not accustomed
to attentions of that kind. The count opened with a skilful speech about
the immense distance which must always part a mere nobleman from the
members of a reigning family.

“Some distinction should be made,” said the princess. “The daughter of
a King of France, for instance, never has any hope of succeeding to the
throne. But this is not the case with the Parma family. That is the
reason why we of the Farnese race must always keep up a certain external
dignity. Even I, poor princess as I am, can not say it is absolutely
impossible that you may one day be my Prime Minister.”

The whimsical unexpectedness of this remark made the poor count feel
quite cheerful again, for an instant. As the minister emerged from
Princess Isota’s apartment (she had blushed furiously when he had
confessed his passion for her), he met one of the quartermasters from the
palace. The prince had sent for him in a great hurry.

“I am ill,” replied the minister, delighted to have the chance of
being rude to the prince. “Ha, ha!” he cried, in a rage. “You drive me
distracted, and then you expect me to serve you! But you shall learn,
my prince, that in this century, the mere fact of having received your
authority from Providence does not suffice you. You must have great
powers of mind, and a noble character, if you want to be a successful
despot.”

Having dismissed the quartermaster, who was highly scandalized by the
sick man’s appearance of perfect health, the count was pleased to call
on the two men about the court who had most influence with Fabio Conti.
What made the minister shudder, and shook all his confidence, was that
the governor of the citadel was supposed to have got rid of a certain
captain, who had been his personal enemy, by means of the “Acquetta di
Perugia.”

For a week, the count was aware, the duchess had been spending immense
sums of money to get into communication with the citadel. But he did not
think her likely to attain success. Everybody was too much on the alert
as yet. We will not weary our readers with all the distracted woman’s
attempts at bribery. She was in despair, and her efforts were seconded by
agents of every kind, and the most absolute devotion. But there is just
one kind of business that is thoroughly well done in a small despotic
court, and that is the watch kept over political prisoners. The only
result produced by the money the duchess laid out was that eight or ten
men of every rank were dismissed from the citadel service.



CHAPTER XVIII


Thus, in spite of their absolute devotion to the prisoner’s interests,
neither the duchess nor the Prime Minister had been able to do more than
a very little for him. The prince was furious with Fabrizio; and both
the court and the public had a grudge against him, and were delighted to
see him in trouble—his luck had been too remarkable. The duchess, though
she had scattered money broadcast, had not been able to advance one step
in her siege of the citadel. Never a day passed but that the Marchesa
Raversi or Cavaliere Riscara found some fresh word to drop into General
Conti’s ear. Thus they strengthened his weakness.

As we have already said, Fabrizio, on the day of his imprisonment, was
conducted, in the first place, to the governor’s palace. This is a pretty
little building erected during the last century, after a design by
Vanvitelli, who placed it at an elevation of a hundred and eighty feet,
on the platform of the huge Round Tower. From the windows of this little
palace, set like a camel’s hump on the back of the great tower, Fabrizio
looked far out over the country, and to the Alps in the distance. At
the foot of the citadel he could mark the course of the Parma, a sort
of torrent which bends to the right, about four leagues from the city,
and casts itself into the Po. Beyond the left bank of that river, which
formed a succession of immense white stains upon the verdant green of the
surrounding country, his delighted eye could distinctly recognise the
peaks of the mighty wall of the Alps, running right across the north of
Italy. These peaks, which, even in the month of August, as it then was,
are always covered with snow, cast a sort of memory of coolness across
the blazing country. Every detail of their outline can be followed, and
yet they are more than thirty leagues from the citadel of Parma.

The wide view from the governor’s charming palace is broken, at one of
its southern corners, by the Farnese Tower, in which a room was being
hastily prepared for Fabrizio. This second tower was built, as my readers
will perhaps remember, on the platform of the great tower, in honour
of a certain hereditary prince, who, far from following the example of
Hippolytus, the son of Theseus, had turned a by no means deaf ear to the
blandishments of a youthful stepmother. The princess died within a few
hours; the son of the prince only regained his liberty some seventeen
years later, when he ascended the throne after his father’s death.
This Farnese Tower, to which Fabrizio was conducted after waiting some
three-quarters of an hour, is externally a very ugly building, rising
some fifty feet above the platform of the great tower, and adorned with a
number of lightning conductors.

The prince, who had reason to be displeased with his wife, and who
had caused the prison, which was visible from every quarter, to be
constructed, conceived the strange notion of persuading his subjects that
it had already been in existence for many years, and for this reason
he dubbed it the Farnese Tower. Any reference to the progress of the
building was forbidden; yet, from every corner of the city of Parma,
and of the plains around it, the masons might be seen laying every
stone that went to the composition of the pentagonal edifice. To prove
its ancient origin a magnificent bas-relief, representing Alessandro
Farnese, the famous general, forcing Henry IV to retire from Paris, was
placed above the doorway, two feet wide and four high, which formed the
entrance to the building. The Farnese Tower, standing in this prominent
position, consists of a ground floor apartment, at least forty paces
long, broad in proportion, and full of very squat pillars, for the room,
disproportionately large as it is, is not more than fifteen feet high.
This is used as the guard-room, and in the middle of it the staircase
runs up round one of the pillars—quite a small, open-work iron staircase,
very light, and hardly two feet wide. Up this staircase, which shook
under the weight of the jailers who guarded him, Fabrizio was led into
some huge rooms more than twenty feet high, which formed a magnificent
first floor. They had once been furnished with the utmost splendour for
the young prince who had spent the seventeen best years of his life in
them. At one end of these rooms the new prisoner was shown a chapel of
the greatest magnificence—the walls and vaulted ceiling were entirely
cased with black marble; the pillars, which were also black, and of the
most noble proportions, were set in rows along the black walls, though
not touching them; these walls were adorned with a number of skulls of
colossal proportions, beautifully chiselled in white marble, and each
supported by two crossed bones. “That was certainly invented by the
hatred of a man who did not dare to kill,” said Fabrizio to himself.
“What a devilish notion to show it to me!”

Another very light open-work iron staircase, also wound round a pillar,
led to the second story of this prison, and it was in these second-story
rooms, about fifteen feet high, that General Fabio Conti’s genius had
been displaying itself for the past year. Under his directions, to begin
with, the windows of the rooms, which had originally been occupied by
the prince’s servants, and are over thirty feet above the stone flags
forming the roof of the great Round Tower, were all securely covered with
gratings. These rooms, each of which has two windows, are reached by a
dark passage, running through the centre of the building, and across
this very narrow passage Fabrizio noticed three successive gates, made
of huge iron bars, and carried right up into the vaulted ceiling. The
plans, sections, and elevations of all these fine inventions had secured
the general a weekly audience with his master for the two previous
years. A conspirator immured in one of these dungeons could not well
appeal to public opinion on the score of inhuman treatment, and yet
he was precluded from holding communication with any one on earth, or
from making the smallest movement without being overheard. In each of
these rooms the general had placed thick oaken planking, which formed
something like benches, three feet high; and here came in his great
invention, that which established his claim to be appointed Minister of
Police. On these planks he had built a kind of wooden shed, ten feet
high, and very resounding, which only touched the wall on the window side
of the room. On the three other sides a narrow passage, some four feet
wide, ran between the original walls of the prison, built of enormous
hewn stones, and the wooden sides of the shed. These sides, made of four
thicknesses of walnut wood, oak, and deal, were strongly bound together
by iron bolts, and innumerable nails.

It was into one of these rooms, which had been prepared a year
previously, was considered General Fabio Conti’s masterpiece, and had
received the resounding title of “Passive Obedience,” that Fabrizio was
conducted. The view out of the barred windows was sublime. Only one small
corner of the horizon, that toward the northwest, was concealed by the
balustraded roof of the governor’s pretty palace, which was only two
stories high. The ground floor was occupied by the officers of his staff,
and Fabrizio’s eye was at once caught by one of the upper-floor windows,
round which hung a great number of pretty cages, containing birds of
every kind. While the jailers were moving about around him, Fabrizio
entertained himself by listening to the birds’ singing, and watching
their farewells to the last rays of the setting sun. This aviary window
was not more than five-and-twenty feet from one of his own, and some five
or six feet below it, so that he looked down upon the birds.

There was a moon that night, and just as Fabrizio entered his prison,
she rose in majesty over the horizon on the right, from behind the Alps
toward Treviso. It was only half past eight, and at the other end of
the horizon, where the sun had just set, a brilliant red light, tinged
with orange, lay on the clear-cut outlines of Monte Viso, and the other
Alpine peaks, piled one above the other from Nice toward the Mont Cenis
and Turin. Without another thought for his misfortunes, Fabrizio gave
himself over to the emotion and delight roused by this splendid sight.
“This, then, is the wonderful world in which Clelia Conti lives. To her
serious and pensive soul this view must be specially delightful. One
feels here just as one does in the lonely mountains a hundred leagues
from Parma.” It was not till he had spent more than two hours at his
window, admiring the view which appealed so strongly to his heart, and
casting many a glance, meanwhile, at the governor’s pretty palace, that
Fabrizio suddenly exclaimed: “But is this a prison? Is this what I have
dreaded so intensely?” Instead of discovering discomforts and causes for
bitterness at every step, our hero was falling in love with the delights
of his dungeon.

Suddenly a frightful noise roughly recalled his attention to the
realities of life. His wooden room, which rather resembled a cage, and
was especially remarkable for its resonant qualities, was violently
shaken; the barking of a dog and a number of little shrill squeaks made
up a most extraordinary pandemonium. “What is this? Shall I be able to
escape so soon?” thought Fabrizio. A moment afterward he was laughing,
as perhaps no prisoner ever laughed before. By the general’s orders,
the jailers had brought up with them an English dog, very savage, which
had been told off to keep guard over the more important officers, and
which was to spend the night in the space so ingeniously contrived all
round Fabrizio’s cage. The dog and the jailer were both to sleep in
the aperture, three feet deep, between the flag-stones of the original
flooring of the room and the wooden boards, upon which the prisoner could
not take a step without being heard.

Now, when Fabrizio entered the room called “Passive Obedience,” it had
been in possession of about a hundred huge rats, who had taken to flight
in all directions. The dog, a sort of cross between a spaniel and an
English fox-terrier, was not good-looking, but was exceedingly sharp.
It had been fastened to the flagged pavement below the floor of the
wooden room, but when it smelled the rats close beside it, it struggled
so desperately that it contrived to slip its collar. Then began the
mighty battle, the noise of which had disturbed Fabrizio, and roused
him out of his anything but unpleasant dream. The rats, which had been
able to escape the first onset, took refuge in the wooden room, and the
dog followed them up the six steps which led from the stone pavement to
Fabrizio’s shed. Then a far more terrible racket began. The wooden shell
was shaken to its very foundations. Fabrizio laughed like a lunatic, till
the tears ran down his cheeks; Grillo, the jailer, who was laughing just
as heartily, had shut the door. The dog was not the least incommoded
in his hunt by the furniture, for the room was absolutely bare; the
only thing to interfere with his bounds upon his prey was an iron stove
standing in one corner. When the dog had destroyed all his enemies,
Fabrizio called to him, patted him, and succeeded in making friends with
him. “If ever this fellow should see me jumping over some wall,” said
he to himself, “he will not bark at me.” But this cunning policy was a
mere pretence on his part. In his state of mind at that moment, it was a
delight to him to play with the dog. By a strange whimsicality, on which
he did not reflect, there was a sense of secret joy at the bottom of his
heart.

When he had run about with the dog till he was out of breath—

“What is your name?” said Fabrizio to the jailer.

“Grillo, at your Excellency’s service, in everything that the regulations
will permit.”

“Well, my good Grillo, a fellow of the name of Giletti tried to murder me
in the middle of the road. I defended my life, and killed him. I should
kill him again, if it had to be done. But none the less I will live a
cheery life as long as I am your guest. Ask leave from your chiefs, and
then go fetch me some linen from the Palazzo Sanseverina, and bring me
plenty of _nébieu d’Asti_.”

This is a fairly good effervescent wine, made in Piedmont, in the country
of Alfieri, and which is highly esteemed, especially by that class to
which jailers generally belong. Eight or ten of these gentry were engaged
in moving various ancient and highly gilt pieces of furniture, taken from
the prince’s apartments on the first floor, into Fabrizio’s wooden room,
and they all carefully treasured up their prisoner’s remark in favour of
Asti wine. In spite of all their efforts, the arrangements for Fabrizio’s
first night were rather pitiful; but the only thing that seemed to
distress him was the absence of a bottle of good _nébieu_. “He seems a
good fellow,” said the jailers as they departed, “and we must only hope
one thing—that our chiefs will let his friends pass money in to him.”

When he was left alone, and had settled down a little after all the
noise, “Is it possible that this can be a prison?” said Fabrizio to
himself, as he looked out over the mighty horizon stretching from Treviso
to the Monte Viso, the huge chain of the Alps, the snow-covered peaks,
and the stars above them. “And this my first night in a prison, too! I
can imagine that Clelia Conti must delight in this aerial solitude. Here
we are a thousand leagues above the meannesses and wickednesses which
make up our life down there. If those birds there, under my window,
belong to her, I shall see her.… Will she blush when she sees me?” When
slumber overtook him, in the small hours of the morning, the prisoner was
still debating this great question.

On the very morning after that first night in prison, during which
Fabrizio had not once felt impatient, he was reduced to holding
conversations with Fox, the English dog. Grillo, the jailer, still looked
at him with the most kindly eyes, but a newly issued order had sealed his
lips, and he brought his prisoner neither linen nor _nébieu_.

“Shall I see Clelia?” thought Fabrizio as he woke. “But do those birds
really belong to her?” The birds in question were beginning to chirp and
sing, and at that height, theirs was the only noise that fell upon the
air. The deep silence which reigned at that altitude was a most novel and
pleasurable sensation to Fabrizio. He listened with delight to the little
fitful, lively warbling with which his neighbours the birds greeted the
sun. “If they are hers, she will come for an instant into that room under
my window.” And while he watched the huge ranges of the Alps, against
the nearer tier of which the citadel of Parma seemed to project like an
outwork, his eyes came back perpetually to the splendid satin-wood and
mahogany cages, with their gilded wires, which stood in the middle of
the bright room which had been transformed into an aviary. It was not
till later that Fabrizio found out that this room was the only one on the
second floor of the palace which had any shade between eleven o’clock and
four; it was screened by the Farnese Tower.

“What will my grief be,” said Fabrizio to himself, “if, instead of that
modest and thoughtful face which I expect, and which, perhaps, will blush
a little at the sight of me, I behold the coarse countenance of some
vulgar waiting-maid, who has been sent to supply the birds’ necessities?
But if I do see Clelia, will she condescend to notice me? Faith, I must
risk some indiscretion, so as to attract her attention. Some privileges
must surely be allowed to a man in my position. And besides, we two are
alone here, and far away from all the world. I am a prisoner, and what
General Conti and wretches of his kind probably regard as their inferior,
… but she has so much cleverness, or rather so much heart, as the count
believes, that perhaps, even as he says, she despises her father’s
trade. That would account for her melancholy. A noble reason, truly,
for her sadness. But, after all, I am not a complete stranger to her.…
What modest grace there was in her greeting to me yesterday evening! I
remember very well that when I met her near Como I said to her, ‘Some
day I shall go to see your beautiful pictures at Parma. Will you then
remember this name—Fabrizio del Dongo?’ Has she forgotten it? She was so
young!

“But now I think of it,” said Fabrizio in astonishment, and breaking
off the thread of his thoughts, “I am forgetting to be angry! Can it be
that I possess a mighty courage, like that of which the ancients gave
a few instances to the world? Am I a hero, with no suspicion of the
fact? What! I, who dreaded prison so bitterly, here am I in a dungeon,
and I can not remember to be sad! How true it is that the dread of the
evil is a hundred times worse than the evil itself! How is this? Must
I argue myself into grief at finding myself in this prison, which, so
Blanès said, may as likely last ten years as ten months? Can it be the
strangeness of my new surroundings which diminishes the distress I
ought to feel? Perhaps this unreasoning cheerfulness, which is quite
independent of my own will, will come to a sudden end? Perhaps in another
instant I shall fall into the black gloom which ought to overwhelm me?

“In any case, it is a very astonishing thing that I should be in prison,
and that I should have to argue with myself before I can feel sad. Upon
my word, I come back to my old inference; perhaps I am a great man, after
all!”

Fabrizio’s musings were broken by the arrival of the carpenter of the
fortress, who came to take measurements for a screen for his windows.
This was the first occasion on which this room had been occupied as
a prison, and its completion in this essential particular had been
overlooked.

“Then,” said Fabrizio, “I shall be deprived of that splendid view?”
and he tried to feel sad over the loss. “But what,” he cried suddenly,
speaking to the carpenter, “I shall not be able to see those pretty
birds!”

“Ah, the signorina’s birds, that she’s so fond of,” said the man, a
kind-looking fellow. “They will be hidden, blocked out, swallowed up,
like all the rest.”

Talking was as strictly forbidden to the carpenter as to the jailer, but
this man pitied the prisoner’s youth. He told him that the huge screens,
which were to rest on the sills of the two windows, and run outward from
the walls in proportion to their height, were to prevent the prisoners
from seeing anything but the sky. “It is done,” he added, “with the
view of impressing their minds, so as to increase a salutary feeling of
sadness, and fill the prisoners’ souls with a desire to amend their ways.
Another invention of the general’s,” added the carpenter, “is to take out
the window-glass and replace it with sheets of oiled paper.”

Fabrizio was much taken with the epigrammatic tone of this conversation,
seldom met with in Italy.

“I should very much like to have a bird to cheer me, I am so fond of
them. Buy me one from the Signorina Clelia Conti’s maid.”

“What!” exclaimed the carpenter; “you must know her, if you tell her name
so plainly.”

“Who is there that has not heard of that famous beauty? But I have had
the honour of meeting her several times at court.”

“The poor young lady has a very dull life here,” continued the carpenter.
“She spends her whole time over there with her birds. This morning she
has had some fine orange trees bought, and has ordered them to be placed
at the door of the tower, just under your window. If it were not for the
cornice you would be able to see them.” Certain words in this reply had
been very precious to Fabrizio; he devised some friendly pretext for
bestowing a gift of money upon the carpenter.

“I am doing wrong twice over,” said the man. “I am talking to your
Excellency, and taking your money. When I come back the day after
to-morrow, about these screens, I will have a bird in my pocket, and if I
am not alone, I will pretend to let it escape. And, if I can manage it,
I will bring you a prayer-book. It must be very painful to you not to be
able to say your prayers.”

“So,” said Fabrizio, as soon as he was alone, “those are her birds! But
after another two days I shall not be able to see them.”

The thought brought a tinge of sadness to his face. But near midday,
at last, to his inexpressible delight, after long waiting and much
watching, Clelia came to attend to her birds. Fabrizio, motionless and
almost breathless, stood upright, close against the huge bars of his
window. He remarked that she did not raise her eyes to him, but there was
a something shy about her movements, as though she felt she was being
looked at. Even if she had desired it, the poor girl could not have
forgotten the subtle smile which had flickered on the prisoner’s lips,
just as he was being led out of the guard-room on the preceding night.

Though according to all appearances she was keeping the most careful
watch upon her actions, she reddened visibly as she drew near the window
of the aviary. Fabrizio’s first impulse, as he stood close against his
iron window bars, was to indulge in the childish freak of rapping a
little on the iron, so as to make a slight noise. But the very idea of
such a lack of delicacy disgusted him. “It would serve me right if she
sent her maid to look after her birds for a week afterward.” This tender
scruple would not have occurred to him at Naples or at Novara.

He watched her hungrily, saying to himself: “She will surely not go away
without condescending to glance at this poor window, and yet she is just
opposite it.” But as she moved from the back of the room, into which,
thanks to the superior height of his position, Fabrizio could clearly
see, Clelia could not prevent herself from glancing up at him as she
walked, and this was sufficient to make Fabrizio venture to salute her.
“Are we not alone in the world here?” said he, to give himself courage.
When he saluted her the young girl stopped short and dropped her eyes.
Then Fabrizio saw her raise them again, very slowly and with an evident
effort, and she greeted the prisoner with the gravest and most distant
gesture. But she could not prevent her eyes from speaking. Without her
knowledge, probably, they held, for one instant, an expression of the
liveliest pity. Fabrizio noticed she was colouring so deeply that the
rosy tinge was spreading rapidly even on to her shoulders, from which
the heat had caused her to drop a black lace shawl, as she entered the
aviary. The involuntary glance by which Fabrizio answered her salute
doubled the young girl’s agitation. “How happy that poor woman would be,”
said she to herself, thinking of the duchess, “if she could only see him
as I see him, just for one moment!”

Fabrizio had nursed a tiny hope that he might have been able to send her
another greeting ere she departed, but to avoid this fresh attention,
Clelia executed a skilful retreat _in échelon_ from one cage to another,
as though she had necessarily to end her task by attending to the birds
nearest to the door. She left the room at last, and Fabrizio stood
motionless, gazing at the door through which she had just disappeared. He
was a changed man.

From that instant the one object of his thoughts was to discover how he
might continue to see her, even after that odious screen should have been
placed over the window looking on to the governor’s palace.

Before going to bed on the previous night, he had performed the tedious
and tiresome duty of concealing most of his gold coins in several of
the rat holes which adorned his wooden room. “To-night,” he thought, “I
must hide my watch. Have I not heard that with patience and the jagged
spring of a watch, a man may cut through wood and even through iron?
So I may be able to saw through the screen.” The work of hiding the
watch, which lasted for several hours, did not seem lengthy to him. He
pondered over the various methods whereby he might attain his end, and
his own knowledge of carpentering matters. “If I set about it properly,”
he mused, “I can simply cut out a compartment of the oaken board of
which the screen will consist, at the place where it will rest on the
window-sill. I will take this bit of wood in and out, according to
circumstances. I will give everything I have to Grillo, so as to induce
him to overlook this little manœuvre.” All Fabrizio’s future happiness
seemed to depend on the possibility of carrying out this undertaking,
and he thought of nothing else. “If I can only contrive to see her, I am
happy.… But, no,” he went on, “she must see that I see her.” All night
long his head was full of carpentering schemes, and in all probability
he never gave a thought to the court of Parma, the prince’s anger, and
all the rest. We must acknowledge, too, that he did not trouble himself
a whit concerning the distress in which the duchess must be plunged.
He waited eagerly for the morning, but the carpenter did not reappear.
He was apparently considered too much of a Liberal by the prison
authorities, and they carefully sent another, a gruff-looking fellow, who
deigned no answer except a threatening grunt to all the pleasant things
which Fabrizio was inspired to say to him. Some of the duchess’s endless
attempts to enter into correspondence with Fabrizio had been discovered
by the marchesa’s numerous agents, and General Fabio Conti received daily
warnings from her, which both startled him, and nettled his vanity. Every
eight hours six soldiers relieved each other in the great ground-floor
hall, with its hundred pillars. Besides this, the governor placed a
jailer on each of the three iron gates in the passage, and poor, unlucky
Grillo, the only person who saw the prisoner, was forbidden to go outside
the Farnese Tower oftener than once a week, which vexed him sorely. He
made Fabrizio conscious of his ill-temper. Fabrizio had wit enough to
reply with these words only, “Plenty of _nébieu d’Asti_, my good fellow,”
and he gave him some money.

“Well, even this, which consoles us for every misfortune,” exclaimed the
angry Grillo in a voice so low that the prisoner could hardly catch it,
“we are forbidden to accept, and I ought to refuse it. But I shall take
it. Yet, indeed, it is money wasted, for I can not tell you anything
about nothing. Why, you must be guilty indeed! The whole citadel is
upside down because of you, and the duchess’s fine tricks have got three
of us sent away already.”

“Will the screen be ready before noon?” That was the great question which
made Fabrizio’s heart thump all through that long morning. He counted up
every quarter of an hour as it rang on the citadel clock. However, when
the third quarter after eleven struck, the screen had not yet arrived,
and Clelia reappeared to attend to her birds. Cruel necessity had so
emboldened Fabrizio, and the danger of never seeing her again seemed to
him so greatly to exceed anything else in the whole world, that he dared,
as he gazed at Clelia, to make a gesture with his finger as of sawing the
wooden screen. It must be added that as soon as she perceived this very
seditious gesture on the part of the prisoner, she made him a sort of
half bow, and retired.

“Bless me!” exclaimed Fabrizio in astonishment. “Can she have been so
unreasonable as to take a sign dictated by the most imperious necessity
for a piece of ridiculous familiarity? I wanted to entreat her to
condescend to look up sometimes at my prison window when she came to see
her birds, even if she should find it masked by a huge wooden shutter! I
wanted to make her understand that I would do everything that was humanly
possible to contrive to see her. Good God! Will she abstain from coming
to-morrow on account of that indiscreet gesture of mine?” This dread,
which disturbed Fabrizio’s slumbers, was thoroughly well founded. By
three o’clock the next day, when the two huge screens were set up on
each of Fabrizio’s windows, Clelia had not appeared. The various sections
of these screens had been drawn up from the platform of the great tower,
by means of cords and pulleys, fastened outside the iron bars of the
windows. It is true, indeed, that Clelia, hidden behind one of the sun
blinds in her room, had anxiously watched all the workman’s actions. She
had clearly perceived Fabrizio’s mortal anxiety, but, nevertheless, she
had found courage to keep the promise she had made herself.

Clelia was an eager little Liberal. In her first youth she had taken
all the Liberal talk she had heard in her father’s society in the most
serious earnest, while her father’s only view of it was to make a
position for himself. This had given her a scorn and almost a horror of
the pliability of courtiers; hence arose her dislike to marriage. Since
Fabrizio’s arrival she had been harried by remorse. “Now,” said she to
herself, “my unworthy heart is taking up the cause of those who would
betray my father. He dares to make me signs, as if he would saw through
a door.… But,” she went on, and her heart was wrung at the thought, “the
whole city talks of his approaching death.… To-morrow may be the fatal
day.… Under such monsters as those who govern us, what is there in the
world that is not possible? How soft, how nobly calm, are those eyes,
doomed, perhaps, soon to close forever! Heavens, what anguish the duchess
must be enduring!… And, indeed, every one says she is in despair.… If
it were I, I would go, like the heroic Charlotte Corday, and stab the
prince.”

During the whole of his third day in prison, Fabrizio was beside himself
with rage, simply and solely because Clelia had not returned. “If she
was to be angry with me,” he exclaimed, “I should have done much better
to tell her that I loved her,” for he had arrived at this discovery.
“No, it is not my nobility of soul that prevents me from fretting in
my prison, and makes me bring Father Blanès’s prophecy to naught. I do
not deserve so much honour. In spite of myself, I dream of the gentle
pitying look Clelia cast on me as the gendarmes were leading me out of
the guard-room—that look has wiped out all my past life! Who would
have told me I should have met such gentle eyes in such a place! and
at the very moment when my own sight was polluted by the appearance of
Barbone, and of the general who rules this fortress! Heaven opened, in
the midst of those vile creatures. And how can I help loving beauty,
and seeking to see it again? No, it is not my nobility of soul which
makes me indifferent to all the petty annoyances with which imprisonment
overwhelms me.” Fabrizio’s imagination, running rapidly over every
possibility, reached that of being set at liberty. “No doubt the
duchess’s affection will work miracles for me. Ah, well, I should thank
her but very coldly for my liberty; there is not much coming back to such
places as these. Once I was out of prison, living as we do in different
societies, I should hardly ever see Clelia again. And, after all, what
harm does the prison do me? If Clelia would only not crush me with her
displeasure, what more need I ask of Heaven?”

On the evening of that day on which he had not seen his lovely neighbour,
a great idea occurred to him. With the iron cross of the rosary given to
each prisoner when he entered the fortress, he began, and successfully,
to work a hole in the screen. “This is not very prudent, perhaps,”
thought he, before he began. “The carpenters have said in my presence
that they will be followed to-morrow by the painters. What will the
painters say when they find a hole in the window screen? But if I do
not commit this imprudence I shall not be able to see her to-morrow.
What! shall I deliberately spend another day without seeing her, and
after she has left me in anger?” Fabrizio’s imprudence had its reward;
after fifteen hours’ labour he did see Clelia, and, by an excess of good
fortune, as she thought he did not see her, she stood motionless for a
long time, gazing at the great screen. He had ample time to read symptoms
of the tenderest pity in her eyes. Toward the end of her visit it became
evident that she was neglecting the care of her birds to spend whole
minutes in contemplation of his window. Her soul was sorely troubled;
she was thinking of the duchess, whose extreme misery had inspired her
with so much pity, and yet she was beginning to hate her. She could not
comprehend the profound melancholy which was taking possession of her
whole nature, and she was angry with herself. Two or three times during
the course of her visit Fabrizio’s eagerness led him to try to shake the
screen; he felt as if he could not be happy unless he could make Clelia
understand that he saw her. “Yet,” said he to himself, “shy and reserved
as she is, no doubt if she knew I could see her so easily, she would hide
herself from my sight.”

He was much more fortunate the next day (on what trifles does love build
happiness!). While she was looking up sadly at the great screen, he
managed to slip a small piece of wire through the hole he had made with
his iron cross, and make signs to her which she evidently understood—at
all events in so far as that they were intended to convey “I am here, and
I see you.”

Bad luck followed Fabrizio on the following days. He was anxious to take
a bit of wood the size of his hand out of the monster screen, which he
would have replaced whenever he chose, and which would have allowed of
his seeing and being seen, and thus of speaking, by signs at all events,
of that which filled his heart. But the noise of the little and very
imperfect saw which he had fashioned out of his watch-spring and notched
with his cross gave the alarm to Grillo, who spent long hours in his
room. He thought he observed, indeed, that Clelia’s severity seemed to
diminish in proportion as the material difficulties, which prevented any
correspondence between them, increased. Fabrizio noticed clearly that
she no longer affected to drop her eyes or look at the birds whenever he
attempted to make her aware of his presence with the help of his paltry
bit of iron wire. He had the pleasure of seeing that she never failed
to appear in her aviary exactly as the clock struck a quarter to noon,
and he was almost presumptuous enough to believe that he himself was
the cause of this exact punctuality. Why so? The idea does not appear
reasonable, but love catches shades which are invisible to the careless
eye, and deduces endless consequences from them. For instance, since
Clelia could not see the prisoner she would raise her eyes toward his
window almost as soon as she entered the aviary. These were the gloomy
days when no one in Parma doubted that Fabrizio would soon be put to
death. He was the only person unaware of the fact. But the horrible
thought was never out of Clelia’s mind, and how could she reproach
herself for the excessive interest she took in Fabrizio? He was about to
perish, and for the cause of liberty, for it was too ridiculous to put a
Del Dongo to death for giving a sword thrust to an actor. It was true,
indeed, that the charming young man was attached to another woman. Clelia
was profoundly miserable, though she did not clearly realize the nature
of the interest she took in his fate. “If he is led out to death,” said
she to herself, “I shall certainly take refuge in a convent, and never
again will I reappear in this court society. It fills me with horror;
they are polished murderers, every one of them!”

On the eighth day of Fabrizio’s imprisonment she endured a great
humiliation. Absorbed in her sad thoughts, she was gazing fixedly at the
prisoner’s window. He had given no sign of his presence that day. All
at once he removed a small bit of his screen, a little larger than his
hand. He looked at her cheerily, and she read greeting in his eyes. This
unexpected experience was too much for her; she turned quickly to her
birds, and began to attend to them; but she trembled so much that she
spilled the water she was pouring out for them, and Fabrizio could see
her emotion quite plainly. She could not face the situation, and at last,
to escape it, she ran away.

That moment was, without any comparison, the happiest in the whole of
Fabrizio’s life. If his liberty had been offered to him at that moment,
how joyously would he have refused it!

The following day was that of the duchess’s deepest despair. Every one
in the city was convinced that all was over with Fabrizio. Clelia had
not the dreary courage to treat him with a harshness which found no echo
in her heart. She spent an hour and a half in the aviary, looked at all
his signs, and often replied to them by the liveliest and sincerest
expression of interest, at all events. Every now and then she would
slip away to conceal her tears. Her womanly instincts made her vividly
conscious of the imperfection of the language they were employing. If
they could have spoken, in how many different ways might she not have
endeavoured to discover the real nature of Fabrizio’s feeling for the
duchess? Clelia could hardly deceive herself now; she felt a hatred for
the Duchess Sanseverina.

One night Fabrizio happened to think somewhat seriously about his aunt.
He was astonished to find he hardly recognised his recollection of her.
His memory of her had completely altered; at that moment she seemed fifty
years old to him. “Good God!” he cried enthusiastically, “how right I was
not to tell her that I loved her!” He went so far as hardly to be able
to understand how he had ever thought her so pretty. In that respect the
alteration in his impression of little Marietta was less remarkable. This
was because he had never dreamed that his heart had anything to do with
his love for Marietta, whereas he had frequently imagined that the whole
of his heart was possessed by the duchess. The duchess of A⸺ and Marietta
now appeared in his memory as two young turtle-doves, whose whole charm
resided in their weakness and their innocence, whereas the noble image
of Clelia Conti, which absorbed his whole soul, actually filled him
with a kind of terror. He felt, only too clearly, that the happiness of
his whole life would depend on the governor’s daughter, and that she
had it in her power to make him the most miserable of men. Every day he
was tortured by the mortal fear of seeing some inexorable caprice end
the strange and delightful life he led in her vicinity. At all events,
she had filled the first two months of his imprisonment with happiness.
This was the period during which, twice every week, General Fabio Conti
assured the prince: “I can give your Highness my word of honour that the
prisoner Del Dongo never speaks to a human being, and spends his whole
life either in a state of the deepest despair or else asleep.”

Clelia came every day, two or three times over, to see her birds.
Sometimes she only stayed a few moments. If Fabrizio had not cared for
her so much he would soon have found out that he was loved. But he was in
deadly doubt upon that subject. Clelia had ordered a piano to be placed
in the aviary. While her fingers wandered over the keys, so as to account
for her presence in the room, and occupy the attention of the sentries
who marched to and fro under her windows, her eyes answered Fabrizio’s
questions. On one subject only she would make no response, and on certain
great occasions she even took to flight, and thus would sometimes
disappear for a whole day. This was when Fabrizio’s signs indicated
feelings the nature of which it was impossible for her to misunderstand.
On that point she was quite inexorable.

Thus, closely imprisoned as he was, within a narrow cage, Fabrizio’s
life was a very busy one. It was entirely devoted to the solution of
the all-important problem, “Will she love me?” The result of endless
observation, perpetually renewed, but as perpetually shadowed by doubt,
was as follows: “All her deliberate gestures answer ‘No,’ but every
involuntary movement of her eyes seems to betray her growing regard for
me.”

Clelia hoped to escape any open avowal of his love, and it was to avoid
this risk that she had refused, and very angrily, to grant a request
which Fabrizio had proffered several times over. One would have fancied
the miserable expedients to which the poor prisoner was reduced would
have touched Clelia’s heart with greater pity. He wanted to correspond
with her, by means of letters which he wrote upon the palm of his hand
with a piece of charcoal he had been so lucky as to find in his stove. He
would have made up the words letter by letter, showing them one after the
other. This plan would have facilitated their intercourse twofold, for
it would have allowed of his putting things in a clear form. His window
was some five-and-twenty feet away from Clelia’s, and it would have been
too risky to talk over the heads of the sentries, who marched up and down
in front of the governor’s palace. Fabrizio was uncertain whether he
was loved or not. If he had possessed any experience in such matters he
would have had no doubt at all. But till now no woman had ever filled
his heart. And further, he had no suspicion of a fact which would have
driven him to despair, if he had been aware of it. There was serious
likelihood of a marriage between Clelia Conti and the Marchese Crescenzi,
the wealthiest gentleman at the court of Parma.



CHAPTER XIX


General Fabio Conti’s ambition, goaded to madness by the difficulties
that had arisen in the way of the Prime Minister, Count Mosca, and which
seemed to threaten his fall, had driven him into violent scenes with his
daughter. Perpetually and angrily he told her that she would ruin his
prospects unless she made up her mind to choose a husband at last. She
was past twenty; it was high time she should come to some decision. An
end must be put, once for all, to the cruel state of isolation in which
her unreasonable obstinacy placed him, and so forth.

Clelia’s first object, when she took refuge in her aviary, had been to
escape from her father’s constant ill-humour. The only means of access
to the room was by climbing a small and very inconvenient staircase, a
serious obstacle to the governor’s gouty feet.

For the past few weeks, Clelia’s soul had been so storm-tossed, she was
so puzzled, herself, to know what she ought to desire, that without
actually giving her father her word, she had almost drifted into an
engagement. In one of his fits of rage the general had exclaimed that he
would thrust her into the gloomiest convent in Parma, and leave her there
to fret her heart out until she condescended to make a choice.

“You know that our family, old though it is, can not command more than
six thousand francs a year, whereas the Marchese Crescenzi’s income
amounts to over a hundred thousand crowns. Every soul at court gives him
the character of being the kindest of men; he is a very good-looking
fellow, young, high in the prince’s favour, and I say that nobody but a
mad woman would refuse his suit. If this refusal had been your first, I
could have endured it, but this is the fifth or sixth offer, the very
best at court, at which you turn up your nose, like the little fool you
are! What would become of you, may I inquire, if I were put on half-pay?
A fine triumph it would be for my enemies, who have so often heard me
spoken of as a possible minister, to see me living in some second-floor
apartment! No, ’pon my soul! my good nature has misled me often enough
into playing the part of Cassandra. You will either give me some valid
reason for your objections to this poor fellow Crescenzi, who does you
the honour to be in love with you, to be ready to marry you without a
fortune, and to insure you a dowry of thirty thousand francs a year,
which will, at all events, insure me a home—you will talk sense to me,
or—devil take it! I’ll make you marry him within the next two months.”

The only word in all this speech that had impressed Clelia was the threat
about the convent, which would remove her from the citadel at a moment
when Fabrizio’s life still seemed to hang upon a thread. For not a month
passed but that the report of his approaching death was noised afresh
about the town and court. However severely she argued with herself, she
could not make up her mind to run this risk. To be parted from Fabrizio,
and at the very moment when she was trembling for his life, was, in
her eyes, the greatest—at all events, it was the most pressing—of all
possible misfortunes.

It was not that proximity to Fabrizio fed her heart with any hope of
happiness. She believed the duchess loved him, and her soul was torn by
deadly jealousy. Her mind dwelt incessantly on the advantages possessed
by a lady who commanded such general admiration. The extreme reserve
with which she carefully treated Fabrizio, the language of signs to
which, in her dread of some possible indiscretion, she had restricted
him, all seemed to combine to deprive her of the means of reaching some
clearer knowledge of his feelings about the duchess. Thus, every day
made her more cruelly conscious of the terrible misfortune of having a
rival in Fabrizio’s heart, and every day her courage to expose herself
to the danger of giving him an opportunity of telling her all the truth
as to what that heart felt, grew less and less. Yet what exquisite joy
would it have been to hear him express his real feelings! How happy it
would have made Clelia to be able to lighten the hideous suspicions that
poisoned her existence.

Fabrizio was a trifler. At Naples he had borne the reputation of being a
man who was always changing his mistresses. In spite of all the reserve
natural to an unmarried girl, Clelia, since she had been a canoness, and
had frequented the court, had made herself acquainted—not by questioning,
but merely by a process of careful listening—with the reputation of each
of the young men who had successively sought her hand in marriage. Well,
compared with all these young men, Fabrizio’s reputation, as regarded his
love-affairs, was the most fickle. He was in prison, he was bored, he was
making love to the only woman to whom he had a chance of speaking. What
could be more simple? What, indeed, more usual? And that was the thought
which distressed Clelia. If some full revelation convinced her that
Fabrizio did not love the duchess, what confidence, even then, could she
place in his vows? And even if she had believed in the sincerity, what
trust could she place in the durability of his feelings? And finally, to
make her heart overflow with despair, was not Fabrizio already high up in
the ecclesiastical career? Was he not on the very eve of taking permanent
vows? Were not the highest dignities in that special line of life in
store for him? “If I had the faintest spark of good sense,” thought the
unhappy Clelia to herself, “should I not take to flight? Ought I not to
beseech my father to shut me up in some far distant convent? And to crown
my misery, it is my very terror of being sent away from the citadel,
and being shut up in a convent, which inspires all my actions. It is
this terror which drives me into deceit, and forces me into the hideous
and shameful falsehood of publicly accepting the Marchese Crescenzi’s
attentions.”

Clelia was exceedingly reasonable by nature; never once in her life,
hitherto, had she had reason to reproach herself with an ill-considered
action. Yet in this matter her behaviour was the very acme of
unreasonableness. Her misery may be imagined. It was all the more cruel
because the girl was under no illusion; she was giving her heart to a
man with whom the most beautiful woman at court, a woman who was her
own superior in numerous particulars, was desperately in love. And this
man, even if he had been free, was incapable of any serious attachment,
whereas she, as she felt only too clearly, would never care but for one
person in her life.

During her daily visits to her aviary, then, Clelia’s heart was torn
by the most cruel remorse. Yet when she reached the spot, the object
of her anxiety was changed; almost in spite of herself, it became less
cruel, and, for an instant, her remorse died away. With beating heart
she awaited the moments when Fabrizio was able to open the little
shutter he had made in the huge wooden screen that masked his window.
Often the presence of the jailer Grillo in his room prevented him from
communicating by signs with his friend.

One evening, about eleven o’clock, Fabrizio heard the strangest sounds
within the citadel. By lying on the window-sill and slipping his head
through his shutter-hole, he could contrive, at night, to make out the
louder noises on the great stairway, called the “Three Hundred Steps,”
which ran from the first courtyard within the Round Tower to the stone
terrace on which the governor’s palace and the Farnese Prison, in which
he was confined, were built.

Toward the middle of its course, somewhere near the hundred and eightieth
step, this staircase was carried from the southern to the northern side
of a great courtyard. At this point there was a very light and narrow
iron bridge, the centre of which was kept by a porter. The man was
relieved every six hours, and he was obliged to stand up and flatten
his body against the side of the bridge before any one could cross it.
This bridge was the only method of access to the governor’s palace and
the Farnese Tower. Two turns of a screw, the key of which the governor
always kept upon his person, sufficed to drop this iron bridge more than
a hundred feet down into the court below. Once this simple precaution had
been taken—as no other staircase existed in the citadel, and as every
night, as twelve o’clock struck, an adjutant brought the ropes belonging
to every well in the fortress into the governor’s house, and placed them
in a closet beyond his own bedroom—access to the governor’s palace was
utterly impossible, and it would have been equally impossible to get into
the Farnese Tower. Fabrizio had clearly realized this fact on the day of
his entrance into the citadel, and Grillo, who, like every jailer, was
fond of boasting about his prison, had re-explained the matter to him
several times over. His hopes of escape were therefore very faint. Yet
one of Father Blanès’s sayings lived in his memory: “The lover thinks
oftener of reaching his mistress than the husband thinks of guarding his
wife; the prisoner thinks more often of escape than the jailer thinks of
locking the doors. Therefore, in spite of every obstacle, the lover and
the prisoner are certain to succeed.”

That evening Fabrizio distinctly heard a numerous party of men cross the
iron bridge—called the “Bridge of the Slave,” because a Dalmatian slave
had once contrived to escape by throwing the keeper of it over into the
courtyard below.

“They are coming to carry somebody off; perhaps they are going to take me
out and hang me. But there may be some confusion; I must take advantage
of it.” He had taken his arms, and was just withdrawing his money from
some of his hiding-places, when he suddenly stopped short.

“Man is a strange animal; there’s no denying that,” he exclaimed. “What
would any invisible spectator think if he saw my preparations? Do I
really want to escape at all? What would become of me the day after that
on which I returned to Parma? Should I not make every possible effort
to get back to Clelia? If there is any confusion, let me take advantage
of it to slip into the governor’s palace. Perhaps I might get speech
of Clelia; perhaps the confusion would provide me with an excuse for
kissing her hand. General Conti, who is as naturally suspicious as he is
constitutionally vain, keeps five sentries on his palace, one at each
corner and one at the entrance door. But luckily for me the night is as
dark as pitch.” Fabrizio crept on tiptoe to find out what Grillo, the
jailer, and his dog were about. The jailer was sound asleep, wrapped in
an ox-skin slung by four cords, and supported by a coarse net. Fox, the
dog, opened his eyes, rose, and crawled over to Fabrizio to be patted.

Our prisoner went softly back up the six steps which led to his wooden
shed. The noise at the base of the tower, and just in front of the door,
had grown so loud that he quite expected Grillo would wake up. Fabrizio,
fully armed and prepared for action, believed this night was to bring
about some great adventure. But suddenly he heard the first notes of a
most beautiful symphony. Somebody had come to serenade the general or his
daughter. He burst into a violent fit of laughter. “And I was already
prepared to deal dagger thrusts in all directions. As if a serenade were
not an infinitely more probable thing than an abduction that necessitated
the presence of eighty persons in a prison, or than a revolt!” The music
was excellent, and to Fabrizio, whose soul had been a stranger to such
delights for many weeks, it seemed exquisite. He shed happy tears as
he listened, and poured out the most irresistible speeches to the fair
Clelia in his delight. But at noon next day she looked so deeply sad,
she was so pale, and the glances she cast at him were occasionally so
wrathful, that he did not venture to ask her any question about the
serenade; he was afraid of appearing rude.

Clelia had good reason to be sad; the serenade had been offered her by
the Marchese Crescenzi. Such a public step was tantamount to a kind of
official announcement of her marriage. Until that very day, and even
until nine o’clock that evening, she had stood out nobly. But she had
given in at last, on her father’s threat that he would instantly send her
to the convent.

“Then I should never see him again,” she said to herself, weeping. In
vain did her reason add: “I should never see him again—that man who will
bring me every sort of sorrow, the lover of the duchess, the fickle being
who is known to have had ten mistresses at Naples, and to have forsaken
them all. I should never see him again—that ambitious youth, who, if
he escapes the sentence now hanging over him, will immediately re-enter
the service of the Church. It would be a crime if I were ever to look
at him again, once he has left the citadel, and his natural inconstancy
will spare me that temptation. For what am I to him? A mere pretext for
lightening his boredom for a few hours of each of his days in prison.”
Even while she thus reviled him the memory of his smile, as he looked
at the gendarmes round him when he was leaving the jailer’s office on
his way to the Farnese Tower, came back to Clelia’s memory. Her eyes
overflowed with tears. “Dear friend, what would I not do for you! You
will be my ruin, I know; that is my fate. I work my own destruction, and
in the vilest way, when I listen to this terrible serenade to-night. But
at noon to-morrow I shall look into your eyes again!”

It was on the very morrow of that day on which Clelia had sacrificed so
much for the young prisoner whom she loved so passionately—it was on the
morrow of the day on which, conscious though she was of all his faults,
she had sacrificed her life to him, that her coldness almost drove
Fabrizio to despair. If, even through the imperfect language of signs, he
had done the least violence to Clelia’s feelings, she would probably not
have been able to restrain her tears, and Fabrizio would have obtained
her confession of all she felt for him. But he was not bold enough; he
was too mortally afraid of displeasing Clelia. The punishment she had it
in her power to inflict on him was too severe for him to face. In other
words, Fabrizio had no experience of the nature of the emotion stirred in
a man by the woman he really loves. It was a sensation he had never felt
before, even to the very faintest extent. It took him a week from the
night of the serenade to recover his accustomed terms of friendship with
Clelia. The poor girl, terrified lest she should betray herself, took
refuge in severity, and every day Fabrizio fancied his favour with her
grew less.

One day—Fabrizio had then been in prison almost three months, without
holding any communication with the outer world, yet without feeling
unhappy—Grillo had remained in his room far into the morning. Fabrizio
was in despair, not knowing how to get rid of him. Half-past twelve
o’clock had struck before he was able to open the two little traps, a
foot high, which he had cut in his hateful screen. Clelia was standing at
the aviary window, her eyes fixed on Fabrizio’s room. The deepest despair
hovered over her drawn features. Hardly had she caught sight of Fabrizio
than she made him a sign that all was lost; then, hurrying to her piano
and pretending to sing a recitative out of an opera then in vogue, she
said, in sentences broken by her despair and the fear of being understood
by the sentinels marching up and down under the window:

“Good God! you are still alive! How deeply I thank Heaven! Barbone, the
jailer whose insolence you punished on the day of your arrival here,
had disappeared, and left the citadel altogether. He returned the night
before last, and since yesterday I have had reason to think he is trying
to poison you. He comes and hangs about the private kitchen in the
palace, where your meals are cooked. I know nothing for certain, but my
waiting-woman believes that vile countenance only comes into the palace
kitchens with the object of destroying your life. I was beside myself
with anxiety when you did not appear; I thought you were dead! Do not eat
any food that is brought you, until I give you leave. I will contrive
some means of sending you a little chocolate. In any case, at nine
o’clock to-night, if, by Heaven’s mercy, you happen to have a thread, or
can make a line out of some of your linen, let it drop from your window
on to the orange trees below. I will fasten a cord to it, which you will
draw up, and by means of that cord I will send you bread and chocolate.”

Fabrizio had treasured up the scrap of charcoal he had found in the stove
in his room. He made haste to take advantage of Clelia’s emotion, and to
write on his hand a succession of letters which made up the following
words:

“I love you, and the only reason my life is precious to me is because I
see you. Above all things, send me paper and a pencil.”

As Fabrizio had hoped, the excessive terror he had read in Clelia’s face
prevented the young girl from breaking off their conversation after his
bold declaration that he loved her. All she did was to look very much
displeased. Fabrizio was clever enough to add: “There is so much wind
to-day that I can hardly make out the counsels you are good enough to
give me as you sing; the noise of the piano drowns your voice. What is
the poison of which you speak?”

At his words all the young girl’s alarm broke out afresh; she began
hastily writing large letters in ink on pages which she tore out of a
book, and Fabrizio was beside himself with delight at seeing the method
of correspondence he had so vainly begged, established at last, after
three months of effort. He carefully clung to the little deception
which had served his purpose so well. What he wanted to do was to write
letters, and he kept pretending he could not catch the sense of the
words, the letters of which Clelia held up to his gaze one after the
other.

She was obliged to leave the aviary and hurry to her father. Her greatest
terror was that he might come to look for her there. His suspicious
instinct would have been very much offended by the close vicinity of the
aviary window to the screen concealing that of the prisoner’s room. It
had occurred to Clelia herself, a few minutes previously, when Fabrizio’s
non-appearance was causing her such mortal anxiety, that a piece of paper
wrapped round a small stone might be thrown over the top of the screen.
If, by good luck, the jailer in charge of Fabrizio should not happen to
be in his room, this would be a quite reliable method of correspondence.

Our prisoner lost no time in fashioning a kind of line out of some of his
under-linen, and a little after nine o’clock in the evening he distinctly
heard a slight tapping on the boxes of the orange trees under his window.
He let down his line, and brought up, fastened to the end of it, a very
long, thin cord, by means of which he drew up, to begin with, a supply of
chocolate, and then, to his inexpressible satisfaction, a roll of paper
and a pencil. In vain did he drop his cord down again; nothing more was
sent up. Probably the sentries had approached the neighbourhood of the
orange trees. But he was beside himself with delight. He instantly wrote
an endless letter to Clelia, and the moment it was finished he fastened
it to his line and let it down. For more than three hours he waited
vainly for her to come and take it, and several times he drew it up again
to alter expressions in it. “If Clelia does not see my letter to-night,”
he thought, “while she is still softened by her idea about the poison,
she may, when morning comes, utterly refuse to receive any letter from me
at all.”

The real truth was that Clelia had not been able to get out of going
down into the town with her father. This idea occurred to Fabrizio when
he heard the general’s carriage drive up, about half an hour after
midnight. He knew the sound of his horses’ feet. What was his joy when,
a few minutes after he had heard the sentries salute the general as he
crossed the terrace, he felt a tremor shake the cord, which he had kept
wound about his arm. Something very heavy was being fastened to the end
of it. Two slight pulls gave him the signal to draw it up. He had some
difficulty in getting the heavy object past a very projecting cornice
that ran below his window.

The object he had found it so difficult to draw up was a bottle filled
with water, wrapped in a shawl. In a passion of delight the poor young
fellow, who had lived so long in such complete solitude, covered the
shawl with kisses. But no words of mine can depict his emotion when,
after all those many days of disappointed hope, his eyes fell on a little
scrap of paper, fastened to the shawl with a pin.

“Drink no water but this; live on the chocolate. To-morrow I will make
every effort to send you up some bread. I will mark it all over with
little crosses in ink.

“It is a horrible thing to say, but you must be told, that Barbone may
possibly be sent here to poison you. How comes it that you have not felt
the subject of your pencil letter must be most displeasing to me? And,
indeed, I would not write to you at all but for the excessive danger that
threatens us. I have just seen the duchess; she is very well, and so is
the count. But she has grown much thinner. Do not write to me again upon
that subject. Do you want me to be angry with you?”

It required a great effort of virtue on Clelia’s part to write the last
line but one of her note. Everybody about court was declaring that the
Duchess Sanseverina was beginning to feel a great regard for Count Baldi,
that very good-looking young man who had been the Marchesa Raversi’s
friend. One point was quite certain—he had broken in the most scandalous
fashion with the aforementioned marchesa, who had been a mother to him
for six years, and had established his social position. Clelia had been
obliged to write her hasty note twice over, because in the first copy she
had allowed something of the new love affair ascribed to the duchess by
public spite to appear.

“What a mean creature I am,” she exclaimed, “to speak evil of the woman
he loves to Fabrizio!”

The next morning, long before daylight, Grillo entered Fabrizio’s room,
put down a rather heavy parcel, and disappeared without a word. The
bundle contained a good-sized loaf of bread, covered all over with little
pen-and-ink crosses. Fabrizio covered them with kisses; he was very much
in love. With the loaf he found a “rouleau,” containing six thousand
francs in sequins, wrapped in numerous paper coverings, and finally a
beautiful new breviary. On the margin of the book the following words had
been traced, in a handwriting he was beginning to know:

“_Poison!_ Beware of water, of wine, of everything! Live on chocolate;
try to make the dog eat the dinner you will not touch. Do not betray your
suspicions. The enemy would seek out some other means. Let there be no
imprudence, in God’s name, and no carelessness!”

Fabrizio immediately removed the precious words, which might have
compromised Clelia, and, tearing a great number of leaves out of the
breviary, he made up several alphabets, each letter clearly written with
charcoal crushed up and moistened with wine. These alphabets were dry
by the time a quarter to twelve struck, and Clelia made her appearance
two paces from the aviary window. “Now,” said Fabrizio to himself, “the
great thing is to get her to make use of them.” But by good luck, she
had many things to tell the young prisoner about the attempt to poison
him. A dog belonging to the servant girls had died after eating of a dish
which had been cooked for Fabrizio. So that Clelia, far from objecting to
the use of alphabets, had prepared a splendid one of her own, written in
ink. The conversation thus carried on—not a very easy matter during the
first few minutes—lasted no less than an hour and a half; that is to say,
for as long as Clelia could stay in the aviary. Two or three times, when
Fabrizio ventured on forbidden subjects, she deigned him no answer, and
turned away for a moment to bestow some necessary care upon her birds.

Fabrizio had induced her to promise that at night, when she sent him
water, she would also send him one of her own alphabets, written in ink,
which was much more easily deciphered. He did not fail to write her a
very long letter, from which he was careful to exclude all expression of
tenderness, or any, at all events, likely to give offence. This method
proved successful, and his letter was accepted. When their alphabet
conversation began next day Clelia did not reproach him. She told him
the danger of poison was growing less; the serving-men who made love to
the governor’s kitchen-maids had fallen upon Barbone and half murdered
him. He would probably not venture to reappear in the kitchens. Clelia
confessed that for Fabrizio’s sake she had dared to steal an antidote in
her father’s possession; this she would send him. The great point was
that he should instantly reject any food the taste of which was unusual.

Clelia had questioned Don Cesare very closely, without being able to
discover the source of the six thousand sequins Fabrizio had received.
But in any case it was an excellent sign; his captors’ severity was
softening.

This poison episode advanced our prisoner’s business mightily. He could
not, indeed, extract the slightest confession of anything like love. But
he had the delight of living on the most intimate terms with Clelia.
Every morning, and sometimes in the evenings, too, they held a long
conversation with their alphabets. Every night at nine o’clock, Clelia
accepted a long letter, and sometimes returned a few words in reply. She
sent him up the newspaper and a few books, and Grillo had been coaxed
into bringing Fabrizio wine and bread, with which he was supplied every
day by Clelia’s waiting-maid. The jailer had concluded that the governor
was not in agreement with the persons who had sent Barbone to poison the
young monsignore, and he, as well as his comrades, was heartily glad of
it, for it had become a proverb in the prison that if a man only looked
Monsignore del Dongo in the face he was sure to give him money.

Fabrizio had grown very pallid. The total absence of exercise tried his
health, but except for that, he had never been so happy in his life. The
tone of his conversations with Clelia was intimate, and sometimes very
merry. The only moments in Clelia’s life that were not embittered by
terrible forebodings and remorse were those she spent talking to him.

One day she was so imprudent as to say:

“I admire your delicacy. As I am the governor’s daughter, you never speak
to me of your desire to recover your liberty.”

“That is because I have no such ridiculous desire,” replied Fabrizio. “If
I once got back to Parma how should I ever see you? And life would be
unendurable to me, henceforth, if I could not tell you all my thoughts.…
No, not exactly all my thoughts. You take good care of that. But, after
all, in spite of your unkindness, to live without seeing you every day
would be far worse suffering to me than this imprisonment. I never was so
happy in my life. Is it not comical that my happiness should have been
waiting for me in a prison?”

“There are a great many things to be said upon that subject,” replied
Clelia, suddenly growing very grave, and almost gloomy.

“What!” cried Fabrizio in great alarm, “am I in danger of losing that
little corner I have won in your heart, the only happiness I have in all
the world?”

“Yes,” she replied. “I have every reason to think you are not acting
honestly by me, although in the world you are considered a very
honourable man. But I will not go into this matter to-day.”

This curious confidence made that day’s conversation very awkward, and
tears often stood in the eyes of both speakers.

Chief-Justice Rassi still pined to change his name. He was very weary
of the one he had made himself, and longed to be called the Baron Riva.
Count Mosca, on his side, was working, with all the skill he possessed,
to feed the venal judge’s passion for his barony, and to double the
prince’s mad hope of making himself constitutional King of Lombardy.
These were the only two methods of delaying Fabrizio’s execution he had
been able to discover.

The prince kept saying to Rassi: “A fortnight’s despair, and a
fortnight’s hope. By patiently carrying out this treatment we shall
contrive to break down that haughty woman’s temper. It is this
alternation of gentleness and severity which is used to break in the most
unmanageable horses. Apply the caustic with a steady hand.”

So every fortnight a fresh report of Fabrizio’s approaching death spread
over Parma. Each of these stories plunged the unhappy duchess into the
deepest despair. Faithful to her resolve not to drag the count down into
her own ruin, she would only see him twice in the month. But her cruelty
to the poor man was punished by the continual alternations of hope and
dark despair in which her own life was spent. In vain did Count Mosca,
in spite of the bitter jealousy caused him by the attentions of the
good-looking Baldi, write to the duchess when he could not see her, and
acquaint her with all the information he owed to the future Baron Riva.
To make a stand against the horrible reports concerning Fabrizio, which
were in such constant circulation, the duchess should have spent all her
time with a clever and kind-hearted man such as Mosca. Baldi’s stupidity,
which left her alone with her own thoughts, rendered existence hideous
to her, and the count could not succeed in inspiring her with his own
reasons for hope.

By means of certain ingenious pretexts the minister induced the prince
to consent to send the documents concerning all the very complicated
intrigues which, according to Ranuzio Ernest IV’s wild hope, were to make
him constitutional King of Lombardy, to the house of an accomplice near
Sarono, in the very middle of that fair country.

More than a score of these very compromising papers were either in the
prince’s own hand or bore his signature, and the count intended, if
Fabrizio’s life should be seriously threatened, to inform his Highness
that he was about to place these proofs in the hands of a great Power
which could crush him with a word.

Count Mosca thought himself sure of the future Baron Riva. Poison was the
only thing he feared. Barbone’s attempt had greatly alarmed him—to such
a point, indeed, that he had made up his mind to risk what looked like
an act of madness. One morning he drove to the citadel gate, and sent
for General Fabio Conti, who came down to him on the bastion above the
gate. As they walked up and down in friendly fashion, the count did not
hesitate to say, after a little preface, which, though civil enough, was
decidedly bitter-sweet:

“If Fabrizio should die in any suspicious manner, his death may be
ascribed to me, and I should bear the reputation of a jealous fool. That
would make me look utterly ridiculous, a thing to which I am resolved
never to submit. Therefore, if he should die of any sickness, I shall
kill you with my own hands to clear myself; of that you may be perfectly
certain.”

General Fabio Conti made a very fine answer, and talked big about his
courage. But he never forgot the look the count had given him as he spoke.

A few days later, and as if he had arranged it with the count,
Chief-Justice Rassi ventured on an imprudence very remarkable in such
a man. The public scorn which clung to his name and made it a proverb
with the lowest of the populace, was sickening him, now that he had a
reasonable hope of escaping it. He forwarded General Fabio Conti an
official copy of the sentence condemning Fabrizio to twelve years in the
citadel. Legally speaking, this ought to have been done the very morning
after Fabrizio entered the prison. But what was unheard of in Parma, that
country of secret measures, was that the justiciary should have ventured
on such a step without an express order from the sovereign. For what hope
could there be of doubling the duchess’s terrors every fortnight, and
so breaking down her haughty temper, as the prince expressed it, once
an official copy of the sentence had passed out of the office of the
Ministry of Justice? On the evening before the day on which General Fabio
Conti received Chief-Justice Rassi’s official letter he was informed
that Barbone, the clerk, had been thoroughly thrashed on his way back to
the citadel, rather late at night. From this he concluded that there was
no longer any desire in high quarters to get rid of Fabrizio, and by an
instinct of prudence which saved Rassi from the immediate consequences
of his folly, he did not mention the transmission of the official copy
of the prisoner’s sentence at his next audience with the prince. The
count, mercifully for the poor duchess’s peace of mind, had discovered
that Barbone’s clumsy attempt had been inspired solely by his own private
vengeance, and it was he who had provided the clerk with the warning to
which we have just referred. It was a pleasant surprise for Fabrizio,
when, after a hundred and thirty-five days in his somewhat cramped cage,
Don Cesare, the worthy chaplain, came one Thursday to take him for a walk
on the leads of the Farnese Tower. Before Fabrizio had been there for
ten minutes, the fresh air overcame him, and he fainted away. Don Cesare
made this incident a pretext for allowing him half an hour’s walk every
day. This was a folly. The frequent outings soon restored our hero to a
strength which he abused.

Several more serenades were given. The only reason that induced the
punctilious governor to permit them was that they helped to bind his
daughter Clelia, whose character alarmed him, to the Marchese Crescenzi.
He had an uneasy feeling that there was nothing in common between himself
and his daughter, and lived in perpetual dread of some freak on her
part. She might take refuge in a convent, and then he would be helpless.
Otherwise the general had his fears that all this music, the sound of
which must reach the deepest dungeons reserved to the blackest Liberals,
might screen the making of signals. He was jealous, too, of the musicians
on their own account. Therefore, the moment the serenade was over, they
were locked up in those great, low-ceilinged rooms of the governor’s
palace which were used as offices by his staff in the daytime, and the
doors were not opened till broad daylight the next morning. The governor
himself stood on the “Bridge of the Slave” while the men were searched in
his presence, and never restored them to liberty without telling them,
several times over, that he would instantly hang any man who dared to
undertake to carry the most trifling message to any prisoner. It was well
known that in his terror of displeasing the prince he was certain to
keep his word; so, to overcome their horror of the night’s imprisonment,
Crescenzi was obliged to pay his musicians triple fees. All the duchess
could wring out of the cowardice of one of these men, and this with great
difficulty, was that he should carry a letter in, and give it to the
governor. The letter was addressed to Fabrizio, and deplored the sad fact
that during the five months he had been in prison his friends outside had
never been able to establish the smallest correspondence with him.

When the musician entered the citadel he cast himself at General Fabio
Conti’s feet, and confessed that a priest, a stranger to him, had so
insisted on his taking charge of a letter addressed to Signor del Dongo,
that he had not ventured to refuse, but that, faithful to his duty, he
now hastened to place it in his Excellency’s hands.

His Excellency was highly flattered. He knew how great the duchess’s
resources were, and was terribly afraid of being fooled by her. In
his joy the general carried the letter to the prince, who was equally
delighted.

“Then the firmness of my government has avenged me at last! For five
months that haughty woman has been in anguish. But one of these days we
will build a scaffold, and her wild imagination will not fail to convince
her it is for young Del Dongo.”



CHAPTER XX


One morning, toward one o’clock, Fabrizio, stretched upon his
window-sill, had slipped his head through the opening he had made in the
screen, and was gazing at the stars, and at the wide horizon visible from
the top of the Farnese Tower. As his eyes wandered over the country lying
toward the lower Po and Ferrara, they chanced to notice a very small, but
exceedingly bright, light, seemingly placed on the top of a tower. “That
light can not be visible from the plain,” said Fabrizio to himself. “The
thickness of the tower would prevent any one from seeing it from below.
It must be a signal to some distant point.” All at once he remarked that
this light appeared and disappeared at very close intervals. “It must be
some young girl signalling to her lover in the next village.” He counted
nine successive flashes. “That’s an ‘I,’” said he, “and certainly ‘I’
is the ninth letter in the alphabet.” Then, after a pause, there came
fourteen flashes. “That’s an ‘N.’” Then, after another pause, there came
a single flash. “That’s an ‘A’; the word is ‘Ina.’”

What were his joy and astonishment when he realized that these successive
flashes, punctuated by short pauses, made up the following words:

    “_Ina pensa a te_,”

which evidently meant, “Gina is thinking of thee.”

Instantly he replied by successive displays of his own lamp through the
aperture in his shutter:

    “_Fabrizio loves thee._”

This correspondence was kept up till daylight. It was the hundred and
seventy-third night of his captivity, and these signals, he was informed,
had been made every night for four months. But any one might notice
and understand the signs; that very night a system of abbreviations
was agreed upon. A series of three rapid flashes was to stand for the
duchess, four for the prince, two for Count Mosca. Two quick flashes,
followed by two slow ones, was to mean “escape.” It was settled that for
the future they would use the ancient alphabet “_alla monaca_,” which,
to baffle indiscreet curiosity, alters the usual position of the letters
in the alphabet, and gives them others of its own devising. Thus, “A”
becomes the tenth letter, and “B” the third; so that three successive
eclipses of the lamp stand for “B,” ten for “A,” and so forth. The words
were separated by a short interval of darkness. A meeting was arranged
for an hour after the following midnight, and that next night the duchess
came to the tower, which stood about a quarter of a league from the town.
Her eyes filled with tears when she beheld signals made by Fabrizio, whom
she had so often given up for dead. She signalled to him herself, with
the lamp: “I love you! Courage! health! hope! Use your muscles in your
room; you will want all the strength of your arms.”

“I have not seen him,” thought the duchess to herself, “since that
concert when the Fausta sang, and he appeared at my drawing-room door
dressed as a footman. Who could have dreamed, then, of the fate that was
awaiting us!” The duchess apprised Fabrizio by signal that he would soon
be rescued, “thanks to the goodness of the prince” (there was always a
chance that the signals might be read). Then she began to say all sorts
of tender things; she could not tear herself away from him. Nothing but
the entreaties of Ludovico, whom she had made her confidential servant,
because he had been useful to Fabrizio, could induce her to discontinue
the signals, even close upon daybreak, when they might possibly attract
the attention of some evil-disposed person. This reiterated assurance of
his approaching deliverance threw Fabrizio into the deepest melancholy.
Clelia remarked this next morning, and was imprudent enough to inquire
its cause.

“I see I am on the point of giving the duchess serious cause for
displeasure.”

“And what can she possibly ask of you that you could refuse?” exclaimed
Clelia, pricked by the most eager curiosity.

“She wants me to leave this place,” he replied, “and that is what I will
never consent to do.”

Clelia could not answer; she looked up at him, and burst into tears. If
he could have spoken to her then at close quarters he might perhaps have
induced her to confess feelings, his uncertainty concerning which often
cast him into the deepest sadness. He was keenly conscious that for him
life without Clelia’s love could only be a succession of bitter sorrows,
or one long unbearable weariness. Life did not appear worth living if he
was only to go back to those pleasures which had seemed to interest him
before he had known what love really was, and although suicide has not
yet become the fashion in Italy, he had thought of it as a final refuge,
should fate part him from Clelia.

The next day he received a long letter from her.

“It is necessary, my friend, that you should know the truth. Very often,
since you have been shut up here, the whole town of Parma has believed
your last hour had come.

“It is true that you are only sentenced to twelve years in the fortress,
but it is an undoubted fact, unhappily, that an all-powerful hate pursues
you, and twenty times I have trembled at the thought that your days might
be ended by poison. You must, therefore, snatch at every _possible_
means of escape. You see that for your sake I fail in my most sacred
duties. You may judge how imminent your danger is, by the things I dare
to tell you, and which are so unfit for me to say. If it be absolutely
necessary, if you can find no other means of safety, you must fly. Every
instant you spend within this fortress may place your life in greater
peril. Remember that there is a party at court which has never allowed
its plans to be checked by any likelihood of crime. And do you not
perceive that all the plans of that party are constantly foiled by Count
Mosca’s superior cunning? Certain means have now been devised to insure
his banishment from Parma. This throws the duchess into despair. And
does not her despair become a certainty, if the young prisoner is put
to death? This one fact, which is unanswerable, will enable you to gauge
your own position. You say you feel affection for me. Think, in the first
place, that insurmountable obstacles must prevent this feeling from ever
becoming a solid one between us. We shall have met each other in our
youth; we shall have held out friendly hands to one another, in a moment
of misfortune. Fate will have sent me to this stern place to soften your
suffering, but I should reproach myself eternally if fancies which have
not, and never will have, any true foundation, led you to neglect any
possible opportunity of saving your life from such a frightful peril. The
cruel imprudence I committed when I exchanged some friendly signs with
you, has cost me my peace of mind. If our childish games with alphabets
have filled you with illusions so unjustifiable, and which may be so
fatal to you, I shall never be able to justify myself in my own eyes, by
recalling Barbone’s attempt upon you to my memory. I myself, even when
I thought I was saving you from a momentary danger, shall have placed
you in far more terrible and far more inevitable peril, and never, to
all eternity, can my wrongdoing gain pardon, if it has inspired you with
feelings which might lead you to neglect the counsels of the duchess.
This, then, is what you force me to reiterate: Save yourself! I command
you!”

The letter was a very long one. Some passages, such as that “I command
you,” which we have just quoted, were full of an exquisite encouragement
to Fabrizio’s love. The actual feeling of the letter struck him as being
fairly tender, although its expression was remarkably prudent. At other
moments he paid the penalty of his complete ignorance of this kind of
warfare, and saw nothing but ordinary friendship, or even the most
commonplace humanity, in Clelia’s letter. None of its contents, however,
shook his resolve for a single instant. Supposing all the dangers she
described to be very real, was it anything too much to purchase the daily
joy of seeing her by facing some momentary risk? What would his life be
if he were to find refuge, once more, at Bologna or Florence? For if he
should escape from the citadel, he could never hope for leave to reside
anywhere within the state of Parma. And if the prince altered his views
so far as to set him at liberty—a very unlikely contingency, seeing
he, Fabrizio, had become, to a powerful faction, a useful element for
the overthrow of Count Mosca—what would life be, even at Parma, parted
from Clelia by the bitter hatred of the two parties? Once or twice in a
month, perhaps, chance might bring them both into the same drawing-room.
But even then, what could the nature of their conversation be? How were
they ever to recover the tone of absolute intimacy he now enjoyed for
several hours every day? What would their drawing-room talk be like,
compared with the intercourse they kept up through their alphabets? “What
matter if I have to pay for this life of delights, this unique chance of
happiness, by taking some trifling risks? And is it not happiness, again,
to find this poor opportunity of proving my love to her?”

Fabrizio’s only view of Clelia’s letter, then, was that it gave him an
excuse for craving an interview with her. This was the one and constant
object of all his longing. He had never spoken to her but once, and only
for an instant, just as he was being led to his prison. And that was
more than two hundred days ago. There was a method by which a meeting
with Clelia might be easily arranged. The worthy Don Cesare allowed
Fabrizio to walk for half an hour every Thursday, in the daytime, on
the terrace of the Farnese Tower. But on the other days his exercise,
which might have been observed by all the dwellers in and around Parma,
and thus seriously compromised the governor, was taken after nightfall.
The only staircase by which the terrace of the Farnese Tower could be
reached was that in the little bell tower of the chapel, with its gloomy
black and white marble decorations, of which my reader may retain some
recollection. Grillo was in the habit of taking Fabrizio into the chapel
and opening the door leading to the little staircase in the tower for
him to pass up it. He ought to have followed him, but the evenings were
growing chilly, and the jailer allowed him to go up alone, turned the key
upon the tower, which communicated with the terrace, and went back to sit
in his warm room. Well, why should not Clelia and her waiting-woman meet
him, some night, in the black marble chapel?

All Fabrizio’s long letter in answer to Clelia’s was written with the
object of obtaining this interview. And further, with the most absolute
sincerity, and as though he had been speaking of another person, he
confided to her all the reasons which made him resolve not to leave the
citadel.

“I would risk a thousand deaths, every day, for the happiness of
talking to you with our alphabets, which do not now give us a moment’s
difficulty. And you would have me commit the blunder of banishing myself
to Parma, or perhaps to Bologna, or even to Florence! You expect me
deliberately to remove myself farther away from you. Such an effort, let
me tell you, is impossible to me. It would be vain for me to give you my
word. I could not keep it.”

The result of this plea for a meeting was a disappearance on Clelia’s
part, which lasted no less than five days. For five whole days she never
came near the aviary, except when she knew Fabrizio would not be able
to open the little shutter in his screen. Fabrizio was in despair. This
absence convinced him that, in spite of some glances which had filled
him with foolish hopes, he had never really inspired Clelia with any
warmer feeling than one of friendship. “In that case,” thought he, “of
what value is my life to me? Let the prince rid me of it. I shall be
grateful to him. That is another reason for my staying in the fortress.”
And it was with a sense of deep disgust that he replied to the signals
flashed by the little lamp. The duchess was convinced he had gone quite
crazy when, in the report of the signalled conversations which Ludovico
presented to her every morning, she read the extraordinary assertion: “I
do not desire to escape. I choose to die here.”

During those five days of Fabrizio’s misery, Clelia was even more
wretched than he. The following idea, a very bitter one to a generous
soul, had occurred to her: “It is my duty to flee to some convent far
from the citadel. When Fabrizio knows I am not here—and I will take care
he does know it, from Grillo and all the other jailers—he will make up
his mind to attempt to escape.” But to go into a convent meant to give
up all hope of ever seeing Fabrizio again. And how could she bear not
to see him, now that he had given her so clear a proof that the feeling
which might once have bound him to the duchess no longer existed? What
more touching proof of devotion could any man have offered? After seven
long months of an imprisonment which had seriously undermined his
health, he refused to regain his liberty. A frivolous being, such as the
courtiers had given Clelia cause to believe Fabrizio to be, would have
sacrificed twenty mistresses to shorten his stay in the fortress by one
day, and what would he not have done to escape from a prison where he
might be poisoned at any moment!

Clelia’s courage failed her; she committed the signal mistake of not
taking refuge in a convent, a step which would likewise have given her
a quite natural excuse for breaking with the Marchese Crescenzi. Once
this mistake was made, how could she stand out against this young man,
so lovable, so natural, so devoted, who was exposing his life to the
most frightful peril, simply for the sake of the happiness of looking at
her out of his window? After five days of the most terrible struggle,
interspersed with fits of bitter self-scorn, Clelia made up her mind
to answer the letter in which Fabrizio besought her to grant him an
interview in the black marble chapel. She refused the meeting, indeed,
and in somewhat harsh terms; but from that instant all her peace of mind
departed. Every moment her imagination showed her Fabrizio dying from
the effects of poison; six or eight times a day she would go up into the
aviary to satisfy her passionate need of seeing with her own eyes that he
was alive.

“If he remains in the fortress,” said she to herself, “if he is still
exposed to all the vile things that the Raversi party is plotting against
him, in order to overthrow Count Mosca, the only reason is because my
cowardice has prevented me from going into a convent. What pretext would
he have had for remaining here, if he had known for certain that I had
gone forever?”

This girl, with all her shyness and innate pride, even faced the risk of
encountering a refusal from Grillo, the jailer. She humbled herself to
the extent of sending for him, and telling him, in a voice the trembling
tones of which betrayed her secret, that in a few days Fabrizio would
gain his freedom; that the Duchess Sanseverina was taking the most active
steps with this object; that it was frequently necessary to obtain the
prisoner’s instant reply to certain proposals made to him, and that she
begged him, Grillo, to allow Fabrizio to make an opening in the screen
which masked the window, so that she might communicate to him, by signs,
the intelligence she was receiving several times each day from the
duchess.

Grillo smiled, and assured her of his respect and obedience. Clelia was
intensely grateful to him for saying nothing more. It was quite clear
that he was perfectly cognizant of everything that had been going on for
some months.

Hardly had the jailer left her presence, when Clelia gave the signal
agreed on for summoning Fabrizio on great occasions, and she confessed
all she had done to him. “Your heart is set on dying by poison,” she
added. “I hope to gather courage, one of these days, to leave my father,
and take refuge in some distant convent. That will be my duty to you; and
then, I hope, you will not oppose the plans which may be suggested to
enable you to escape. As long as you are here, I must endure moments of
horrible distress and perplexity. Never in my life have I done anything
to harm anybody, and now it seems to me that I shall be the cause of your
death. Such an idea, even concerning a person utterly unknown to me,
would drive me to despair. Imagine, then, what I feel at the thought that
a friend, whose folly gives me grave cause for complaint, but with whom,
after all, I have had daily intercourse for so long a time, may at that
very moment be in the throes of death. Now and then I feel that I must
make sure for myself that you are alive.

“To save myself from this horrible anguish I have just humbled myself so
low as to ask a favour from an inferior, who might have refused it, and
who may yet betray me. After all, it would be happier for me, perhaps, if
he did denounce me to my father. I should instantly go to my convent,
and I should no longer be the very unwilling accomplice of your cruel
folly. But, believe me, this state of things can not last long, and you
will obey your orders from the duchess. Are you content, my cruel friend?
It is I who beseech you to betray my father! Call Grillo, and give him
money!”

Fabrizio was so desperately in love, the slightest expression of
Clelia’s will filled him with such dread, that even this extraordinary
communication did not make him feel certain he was beloved. He called
Grillo, rewarded him generously for his past complaisance, and told him,
as regarded the future, that for every day on which he allowed him to
make use of the opening in his screen, he would give him a sequin. Grillo
was delighted with this arrangement.

“Monsignore,” he said, “I am going to speak to you quite frankly. Will
you make up your mind to eating a cold dinner every day? That is a very
simple method of escaping the risk of poison. But I will beg you to
practise the most absolute discretion; a jailer must see everything, and
guess nothing. Instead of one dog, I will keep several, and you yourself
shall make them taste every dish you intend to eat. As for wine, I will
give you mine, and you must never touch any bottle except those out of
which I have drunk. But if your Excellency wants to ruin me forever, you
have only to confide these matters even to the Signorina Clelia. All
women are alike, and if she should quarrel with you to-morrow, the day
after, in her vengeance, she will tell the whole story to her father,
whose greatest joy would be to find some excuse for hanging a jailer.
Next to Barbone himself, the general is the most spiteful man in the
citadel, and there lies the real danger of your position. He knows how to
use poison, be sure of that, and he would not forgive me if he thought I
was keeping two or three little dogs.”

There was another serenade.

Grillo now answered all Fabrizio’s questions; he had resolved, indeed,
that he would be prudent, and not betray the Signorina Clelia, who, as
it appeared to him, though just about to marry the Marchese Crescenzi,
the richest man in the state of Parma, was nevertheless carrying on a
love affair, as far as prison walls allowed, with the handsome Monsignore
del Dongo. He had just been replying to Fabrizio’s questions about the
serenade, and blunderingly added, “He is expected to marry her soon.” The
effect of this simple sentence on Fabrizio may be imagined. That night,
his only response to the lamp signals was to the effect that he was ill.
The next morning, at ten o’clock, when Clelia appeared in the aviary, he
asked her, with a ceremonious politeness quite unusual between them, why
she had not frankly told him that she loved the Marchese Crescenzi, and
was just about to marry him.

“Because none of all that is true,” she answered petulantly. The rest
of her reply, indeed, was not so explicit. Fabrizio pointed this out to
her, and took advantage of the occasion to make a fresh request for an
interview. Clelia, who saw her good faith called in question, agreed
almost at once, begging him, at the same time, to note that she would be
dishonoured forever in the eyes of Grillo.

That evening, when it had grown quite dark, she appeared, with her
waiting-woman, in the black marble chapel. She stopped in the middle,
close by the night lamp. Grillo and the waiting-maid turned back, and
stood about thirty paces off, near the door. Clelia, shaking with
emotion, had made ready a fine speech; her object was not to let any
compromising confession escape her. But the logic of passion is very
merciless; its deep interest in discovering the truth forbids the
employment of useless precautions, and its intense devotion to its object
deprives it of all fear of giving offence. At first Fabrizio was dazzled
by Clelia’s beauty. For over eight months he had not looked so closely at
any human being save his jailers, but the name of the Marchese Crescenzi
brought back all his fury, and this was increased when he clearly
perceived Clelia’s answers to be full of a prudent discretion. Clelia
herself recognised that she was increasing his suspicions, instead of
dispelling them. The painfulness of the thought was more than she could
endure.

“Would it make you very happy,” she said, with a sort of rage, and
with tears standing in her eyes, “to think you have made me forget
everything I owe to myself? Until the third of August last year, I never
felt anything but distaste for the men who sought to please me. I had
a boundless and probably exaggerated scorn for the character of all
courtiers; everybody who was happy at court disgusted me. But I noticed
remarkable qualities in a prisoner who was brought to the citadel on the
third of August. First of all, and almost unconsciously, I endured all
the torments of jealousy. The charms of an exquisite woman, whom I knew
well, were so many dagger thrusts in my heart, because I believed, and I
still believe it a little, that this prisoner was attached to her. Soon
the persecutions of the Marchese Crescenzi, who had asked my father for
my hand, increased twofold. He is a very rich man, and we have no fortune
at all. I refused his advances with the most absolute independence. But
my father pronounced the fatal word, ‘a convent,’ and I realized that if
I left the citadel, I should not be able to watch over the life of the
prisoner in whose fate I was interested. Until that moment, the chief
object of my care had been to prevent his having the smallest suspicion
of the terrible dangers which threatened his life.

“I had been quite resolved never to betray either my father or my secret,
but the woman who protects this prisoner, a woman of the most splendid
activity, a woman of superior intelligence and indomitable will, offered
him, as I believe, the means of escape. He refused them, and endeavoured
to persuade me he would not leave the citadel because he would not leave
me. Then I committed a great fault. I struggled for five days; I ought
instantly to have betaken myself to a convent, and left the fortress.
That step would have provided me with a very easy method of breaking with
the Marchese Crescenzi. I had not courage to leave the fortress, and I am
a ruined girl. I have set my affections on a fickle man. I know what his
conduct was at Naples, and what reason have I to suppose his nature has
changed? During a very severe imprisonment he has paid court to the only
woman he could see; she has been an amusement to him in his boredom. As
he could not speak to her without a certain amount of difficulty, this
amusement has taken on a false appearance of passion. The prisoner, who
has made himself a reputation for courage, has taken it into his head
to prove that his love is more than a mere passing fancy by risking
considerable danger, so as to continue seeing the person whom he believes
he loves. But once he is back in a great city, and surrounded by all the
temptations of society, he will again be that which he has always been—a
man of the world, addicted to dissipation and gallantry; and the poor
companion of his prison will end her days in a convent, forgotten by this
fickle being, and weighed down with the deadly regret of having confessed
her love to him.”

This historic speech, of which we have only indicated the principal
features, was, as may well be imagined, broken twenty times by Fabrizio’s
interruptions. He was desperately in love, and he was perfectly convinced
that before meeting Clelia he had never known what love was, and that the
destiny of his whole life was bound up with her alone.

My reader will doubtless imagine all the fine things he was pouring out
when the waiting-woman warned her mistress that the clock had just struck
half-past eleven, and that the general might be coming in at any moment.
The parting was a cruel one.

“Perhaps this is the last time I shall ever see you,” said Clelia to
the prisoner. “A measure which is so evidently to the interest of the
Raversi cabal may give you a terrible opportunity for proving that
you are not inconstant.” Choking with sobs, and overcome with shame
because she could not altogether stifle them in the presence of her
maid, and more especially of the jailer, Clelia parted with Fabrizio. No
second conversation would be possible until the general gave out that
he was going to spend an evening in society. And as, since Fabrizio’s
imprisonment, and the interest it inspired among the curious courtiers,
he had thought it prudent to suffer from an almost unintermitting fit
of the gout, his expeditions into the town, which were directed by the
necessities of a cunning policy, were frequently not decided upon till
just before he stepped into his carriage.

After that evening in the marble chapel, Fabrizio’s life was one
succession of transports of joy. Great obstacles, indeed, still stood
between him and his happiness, but at all events he had the supreme and
unlooked-for bliss of being loved by the divine creature on whom his
thoughts unceasingly dwelt. On the third day after the interview the lamp
signals ended very early, close upon midnight, and just at that moment
Fabrizio’s head was very nearly broken by a large leaden ball which was
thrown over the upper part of his window screen, came crashing through
the paper panes, and fell into his room.

This very bulky ball was by no means as heavy as its size gave reason to
suppose. Fabrizio opened it with ease, and within it he found a letter
from the duchess.

Through the archbishop, whom she sedulously flattered, she had won over a
soldier belonging to the citadel garrison. This man, who was most skilful
in the use of the catapult, had either fooled the sentries placed at
the corners and on the door of the governor’s palace, or had come to an
understanding with them.

“You must save yourself with ropes. I shudder as I give you this strange
counsel. For a whole month I have shrunk from speaking the words. But the
official horizon grows darker every day, and we may expect the worst.
You must instantly begin to signal with your lamp, so that we may know
you have received this dangerous letter. Show ‘P,’ ‘B,’ and ‘G,’ _alla
monaca_—that is to say, four, twelve, and two. I shall not breathe freely
until I have seen this signal. I am on the tower, and will answer by ‘N’
and ‘O,’ ‘seven’ and ‘five.’ Once you have received this answer, do not
signal any more, and apply your whole mind to understanding my letter.”

Fabrizio instantly obeyed, made the signals indicated, and received the
promised response. Then he resumed his perusal of the letter.

“We may expect the very worst. This has been affirmed to me by the
three men in whom I have most confidence, after I had made them swear
on the Gospels to tell me the truth, whatever agony it might cost me.
The first of these men threatened the surgeon at Ferrara, who would
have denounced you, that he would fall upon him with an open knife in
his hand; the second told you, when you returned from Belgirate, that
you would have been more strictly prudent if you had put a pistol shot
into the man-servant who rode singing through the wood, leading a fine
horse, rather too lean. The third man is unknown to you; he is a highway
robber of my acquaintance, a man of action, if ever there was one, and
as brave as you are yourself. That reason, above all others, induced me
to ask him what you had better do. All three, without knowing that I had
consulted the other two, have assured me you had far better run the risk
of breaking your neck than spend another eleven years and four months in
perpetual fear of a very likely dose of poison.

“For a month you must practise climbing up and down a knotted rope in
your own room. Then, on a feast day, when the garrison of the citadel
will have received an extra ration of wine, you will make your great
effort. You will have three ropes of silk and hemp, as thick as a swan’s
quill. The first, eighty feet long, to carry you down the thirty-five
feet from your window to the orange grove; the second, of three hundred
feet—there the difficulty comes in, on account of the weight—to carry
you down the hundred and eighty feet of the great tower; and a third, of
thirty feet, to take you over the rampart. I spend my whole life studying
the great wall on the east—that is, on the Ferrara side; a crack caused
by an earthquake has been filled up by means of a buttress which forms an
inclined plane. My highway robber assures me he would undertake to get
down on that side, without too much difficulty, and with no damage beyond
a few grazes, simply by letting himself slip down the slope of this
buttress. There are only twenty-eight feet of vertical drop quite at the
bottom; this side of the citadel is the least well guarded.

“Nevertheless, taking it altogether, my robber—who has escaped from
prison three times over, and whom you would like if you knew him,
although he hates all men of your caste—my highway robber, I say, who is
as active and nimble as you are yourself, thinks he would rather make the
descent on the western side, exactly opposite that little palace which
you know so well as having once been occupied by the Fausta. What makes
him inclined to choose that side is that, though the slope of the wall
is very slight, it is almost entirely covered with briers. There are
plenty of twigs as thick as one’s little finger, which may indeed scratch
and tear you if you are not careful, but which also supply an excellent
hold. Only this morning I was looking at this western side, through an
excellent glass. The place to choose is just below a point where a new
stone was inserted in the balustrade, about two or three years ago. From
this stone downward you will first of all find a bare space of about
twenty feet. Down that you must move very slowly (you may imagine how
my heart trembles as I write these horrible instructions, but courage
consists in knowing how to choose the lesser evil, however terrible
that may be); after this bare space you will find eighty or ninety feet
covered with very large brambles and bushes, in which the birds fly
about; then a space of about thirty feet, with nothing on it but grass,
wall-flowers, and pellitories; and at last, as you get closer to the
ground, twenty feet more of brambles, and some twenty-five or thirty feet
which have been lately plastered.

“What would make me choose this side is that exactly below that new stone
on the upper balustrade there stands a wooden hut, built by one of the
soldiers, in his garden, and which the captain of engineers attached to
the fortress is anxious to make him pull down. It is seventeen feet high,
with a thatched roof, and the roof touches the main wall of the fortress.
It is this roof which tempts me. If such a dreadful thing as an accident
should happen it would break your fall. Once you get there you will be
within the ramparts, but these are rather carelessly guarded. If any one
should stop you there, fire off your pistols, and defend yourself for a
few minutes. Your friend from Ferrara and another brave man, he whom I
call the highway robber, will be provided with ladders, and will not
hesitate to scale the rampart, which is not very high, and to fly to your
help.

“The rampart is only twenty-three feet high, with a very gradual slope.
I shall be at the foot of this last wall, with a good number of armed
servants.

“I hope to be able to send you five or six letters by the same hand
which brings you this one. I shall constantly reiterate the same things
in different terms, so that we may be thoroughly agreed. You will guess
what I feel when I tell you that the man who would have had you fire your
pistol at the man-servant—who is, after all, the kindest of beings and is
half killing himself with remorse—thinks you will escape with a broken
arm. The highway robber, who has more experience in such expeditions,
thinks that if you will come down very slowly, and above all, without
hurrying yourself, your liberty should not cost you more than a few raw
places. The great difficulty is to get the ropes, and that has been the
one object of my thoughts during the fortnight for which this great plan
has occupied every instant of my time.

“I do not reply to that piece of madness, the only foolish thing you ever
said in your life, ‘I do not desire to escape.’ The man who would have
had you shoot the man-servant exclaimed at once that the dulness of your
life had driven you crazy. I will not conceal from you that we dread a
very imminent danger, which may perhaps hasten the day of your flight. To
warn you of that danger, the lamp will signal several times over:

    “‘_The castle is on fire._’

“You will answer:

    “‘_Are my books burned?_’”

There were five or six more pages in this letter, all crammed with
details. They were written in microscopic characters, on very thin paper.

“All that is very fine, and very well arranged,” said Fabrizio to
himself, “and I owe eternal gratitude both to the duchess and to the
count. Perhaps they will think I am afraid, but I will not escape. Did
any man ever escape from a place where he is perfectly happy in order
to cast himself into the most hideous banishment, where he will find
nothing, not even air that he can breathe? What should I do at the end of
the first month, if I were at Florence? I should put on a disguise and
come and hover round the gate of this fortress to try to catch a glimpse
of her.”

The next morning Fabrizio had a fright. He was standing at his window,
toward eleven o’clock, looking out at the magnificent view and waiting
for the happy moment when Clelia would appear, when Grillo, quite out of
breath, bustled into his room.

“Quick, quick, monsignore! Throw yourself on your bed—pretend to be ill.
Three judges are coming up; they are going to question you. Think well
before you speak; they have come here to entangle you.” As Grillo spoke
the words he was hastily shutting up the little trap-door in the screen.
He thrust Fabrizio on to his bed, and threw two or three cloaks over him.

“Say you are in great pain, and speak as little as you can. Above all
things, make them repeat their questions, so as to give yourself time to
think.”

The three judges entered the room. “Three escaped convicts,” said
Fabrizio to himself, as he noted their vile countenances, “not three
judges at all.” They wore long black gowns; they bowed to him solemnly,
and sat themselves down without a word, in the only three chairs the
apartment contained.

“Signor Fabrizio del Dongo,” quoth the senior of the three. “We are
distressed by the sadness of the duty we are here to fulfil. We have come
to inform you of the death of His Excellency, the Marchese del Dongo,
your father, late Grand Steward, Major-Domo of the Lombardo-Venetian
Kingdom, Knight Grand Cross of the Orders of ⸺, and so forth.” Fabrizio
burst into tears. The judge proceeded:

“The Marchesa del Dongo, your mother, has sent you a letter communicating
this news, but as she has added improper remarks of her own to her
announcement, the court of justice yesterday decided that you were only
to be given extracts from her letter, and these extracts will now be read
to you by Registrar Bona.”

When the passages had been read out by this functionary, the judge came
over to Fabrizio, who was still lying on his bed, and pointed out the
paragraphs in his mother’s letter, copies of which had just been read
to him. In the letter Fabrizio caught sight of such phrases as “unjust
imprisonment,” “cruel punishment for a crime that is no crime,” and
understood the motive of the judge’s visit. Nevertheless, in his scorn
for these unworthy magistrates, he said nothing at all to them, except
these words: “I am ill, gentlemen; I am half dead with weakness, and you
must excuse my not getting up.”

The judges departed, and Fabrizio shed many more tears. At last he
questioned with himself: “Am I a hypocrite? I used to think I did not
care for him.”

On that day, and those following it, Clelia was very sad. She called him
several times over, but she had hardly courage to say anything to him. On
the morning of the fifth day from that of their first interview, she told
him she was coming to the marble chapel that night.

“I can only say a few words to you,” she said as she entered. She was
trembling to such an extent that she had to lean on her waiting-woman.
Having sent her back to the chapel door, she spoke again, in a voice that
was barely intelligible. “You will give me your word,” she said, “your
sacred word of honour, that you will obey the duchess, and try to escape
on the day and in the manner in which she will command you. Otherwise I
shall immediately take refuge in a convent, and I swear to you, here,
that I will never open my lips to you again.”

Fabrizio stood dumb.

“Promise,” said Clelia, with tears in her eyes, and almost beside
herself, “or else this talk will be our very last. You have turned my
life into something horrible. You are here because of me, and any day
of your life here may be your last.” Clelia was so weak at this moment
that she had to support herself against a huge arm-chair which had been
placed in the centre of the chapel in former days for the use of the
imprisoned prince. She very nearly fainted away.

“What must I promise?” said Fabrizio in a despairing voice.

“You know what.”

“Then I swear to cast myself knowingly into hideous misery, and to
condemn myself to live far from everything I love in this world.”

“Promise clearly!”

“I swear I will obey the duchess, and take to flight when and how she
wills. And what is to become of me when I am far away from you?”

“Swear you will save yourself, whatever happens!”

“What! Have you made up your mind to marry Crescenzi as soon as I am
gone?”

“My God, what a creature you must think me!—But swear, or my soul will
never know peace again!”

“Well, then, I swear I will escape from here the day the duchess commands
me to do so, and whatever may come to pass beforehand.”

Once Clelia had extracted the oath, she grew so faint that she had to
retire as soon as she had expressed her thankfulness to Fabrizio.

“Everything,” she said, “was ready for my flight to-morrow, if you had
insisted on staying on here. At this moment I should have looked my last
on you. That was my vow to the Madonna. Now, as soon as I am able to
leave my room I will go and look at the wall below the new stone in the
balustrade.”

The next day she looked so deadly white that it cut him to the heart. She
said to him, from her aviary window:

“We must not deceive ourselves, dear friend; our affection is a sinful
one, and I am sure some misfortune will overtake us. If nothing worse
happens, your attempted flight will be discovered, and you will be
utterly lost. Nevertheless we must obey the dictates of human prudence,
and that commands us to make every effort. To get down the outside of
the great tower you must have over two hundred feet of the strongest
rope. With all my endeavours I have not been able, since I knew of the
plan, to get together more than fifty feet. The governor has issued an
order that every cord and rope found in the citadel is to be burned, and
every night the ropes belonging to the wells—which are so weak that they
often break even under the light weight they have to carry—are carefully
removed. But you must pray God to pardon me, for I am betraying my
father, and labouring, unnatural daughter that I am, to cause him mortal
grief. Pray to God for me, and if your life is saved, make a vow to
consecrate every instant of it to his glory.

“Here is an idea which has occurred to me. In a week from now I am to go
down from the citadel to be present at the wedding of one of the Marchese
Crescenzi’s sisters. I shall return at night, of course, as propriety
demands. But I will use all my endeavours to come in as late as possible,
and perhaps Barbone will not venture to look at me too closely. All the
great ladies of the court, and among them, no doubt, the duchess, will be
present at the wedding. In Heaven’s name, let one of those ladies pass me
a bundle of fine rope, not too thick, and packed as small as possible.
If I have to risk a thousand deaths, I will dare every means, even the
most dangerous, of getting the bundle into the fortress, and so fail, woe
is me, in every duty. If my father finds me out, I shall never see you
again. But whatever fate awaits me, I shall be happy, as a sister may be
happy, if I can help to save you.”

That very evening, by means of his nightly signals with the lamp,
Fabrizio informed the duchess of the unique chance that presented itself
for sending him a sufficient quantity of rope. But he besought her to
keep the matter secret, even from the count, which seemed to her a most
extraordinary thing.

“He is mad,” thought the duchess. “His imprisonment has altered his
nature; he looks at everything from the tragic point of view.” The next
morning a leaden ball, cast by the catapult, brought the prisoner news
that he stood in the greatest possible danger. The individual, he was
told, who had undertaken to bring in the ropes was thereby positively and
absolutely saving his life. Fabrizio lost no time in apprising Clelia
of this fact. The leaden ball also brought Fabrizio a very exact sketch
of that portion of the western wall lying between the bastions, by which
he was to descend from the top of the great tower. Once he had got so
far, his escape would become fairly easy, the ramparts, as my readers are
aware, being only twenty-three feet in height. The back of the plan bore
a splendid sonnet, written in a small delicate hand. In these lines, some
high-hearted person adjured Fabrizio to take to flight, and not to permit
his soul to be debased, and his body worn out, by the eleven years of
captivity which still lay before him.

And at this point a necessary detail, which partly explains how the
duchess had found courage to counsel Fabrizio to attempt so dangerous
an escape, obliges us to break the thread of the story of this bold
enterprise for a short space.

The Raversi faction, like all parties when they are out of power, was
anything but united. Cavaliere Riscara hated Chief-Justice Rassi, who,
so he declared, had caused him to lose an important lawsuit, in which,
as a matter of fact, Riscara had been in the wrong. Through Riscara,
the prince received an anonymous warning that Fabrizio’s sentence had
been officially reported to the governor of the citadel. The Marchesa
Raversi, like the clever party leader she was, was exceedingly annoyed by
this false step, and at once sent warning of it to her friend the Chief
Justice. She thought it perfectly natural that he should have desired to
get something out of Mosca, so long as Mosca remained in power. Rassi
betook himself boldly to the palace, making sure a few kicks would settle
the matter as far as he was concerned. The prince could not do without
some clever lawyer about him, and Rassi had carefully procured the
banishment, as Liberals, of a judge and a barrister, the only two men in
the country who might possibly have taken his place.

The prince, in a fury, poured out a volley of abuse upon him, and was in
the act of moving forward to thrash him.

“Well, well,” replied Rassi, with the most perfect calmness, “it is only
some clerk’s mistake, after all. The matter is prescribed by law. It
ought to have been done the very morning after Del Dongo was sent to the
citadel. The zealous clerk thought he had forgotten something, and got my
signature to the letter as a mere matter of form.”

“And you think you will get me to believe such clumsy lies as these!”
shouted the prince, in a rage. “Why can’t you say honestly that you’ve
sold yourself to that scamp Mosca, and that he has given you your
decoration for doing it? But, by my soul, a thrashing shall not finish
the job for you. I’ll have you tried, and you shall be dismissed in
disgrace.”

“I defy you to have me tried,” answered Rassi boldly. He knew this to be
a sure means of quieting the prince. “The law is on my side, and you’ve
no second Rassi who will know how to elude it. You will not dismiss me,
because at certain moments your nature grows severe, and then you thirst
for blood, while at the same time you desire to retain the esteem of all
reasonable Italians, because that esteem is essential to your ambition.
At all events, you’ll recall me the first time your temper makes you
hanker after some severe sentence, and, as usual, I shall provide you
with a correct verdict, found by fairly honest judges, to satisfy your
spite. Try and find another man in your dominions as useful to you as I.”

This said, Rassi took to flight. He had escaped with one hearty blow from
a ruler and five or six kicks. He left the palace and departed straight
to his country house at Riva. He was rather afraid of a dagger thrust
while the prince was in his first fury. Still he was quite sure that
before a fortnight was out a courier would be sent to recall him to the
capital. He devoted the time he spent in the country to organizing a safe
means of correspondence with Count Mosca; he was desperately in love with
the title of baron, and thought the prince had too high an opinion of
that whilom sublime dignity known as “noble rank” to allow of his ever
conferring it upon him; whereas the count, who was very proud of his own
birth, thought nothing of any nobility that could not show proofs of its
existence before the year 1400.

The Chief Justice had not been mistaken in his forecast; he had hardly
been a week in his country house before one of the prince’s friends paid
him a chance visit, and advised him to return to Parma without delay. The
prince gave him a smiling reception, but presently he turned very grave,
and made him swear on the Gospels that he would keep what he was about
to confide to him secret. Rassi swore in the most solemn manner, and the
prince, his eyes blazing with hatred, exclaimed that so long as Fabrizio
del Dongo was alive he should never be master in his own house, adding:

“I can neither drive the duchess out, nor endure her presence. Her looks
defy me, and half kill me.”

After Rassi had allowed the prince to explain himself at great length, he
pretended to be greatly puzzled himself, and then—

“Your Highness shall be obeyed, no doubt,” cried he. “But it is a
horribly difficult business. There are no grounds for condemning a
Del Dongo to death for having killed a Giletti. It is an astonishing
feat, already, to have given him twelve years in a fortress for it, and
besides, I have reason to suspect the duchess has laid her hand on three
of the peasants who were working at the Sanguigna excavations, and were
outside the ditch when that villain Giletti attacked Del Dongo.”

“And where are these witnesses?” cried the prince angrily.

“Hidden in Piedmont, I suppose. Now, we should want a conspiracy against
your Highness’s life.”

“That plan has its dangerous side,” said the prince. “It stirs up the
idea.”

“Well, but,” said Rassi, with an air of innocence, “there you have the
whole of my official arsenal.”

“We still have poison.”

“But who would give it? That idiot of a Conti?”

“Well, according to all we have heard, it would not be his first attempt.”

“He would have to be in a rage himself,” replied Rassi, “and besides,
when he got rid of the captain, he was not thirty years old, and he was
desperately in love and far less of a coward than he is now. Reasons of
state must, no doubt, override every other, but, taken at a disadvantage,
as I am now, and at the first glance, the only person I can think of to
carry out the sovereign’s orders is a man of the name of Barbone, the
jail clerk in the fortress, whom Del Dongo knocked down the first day he
was there.”

Once the prince was set at his ease, the conversation was endless; he
closed it by giving his chief justice a month’s law. Rassi had begged
for two. The next morning he received a secret gratuity of a thousand
sequins. He thought the matter over for three days. On the fourth he
came back to his original argument, which seemed to him quite evident.
“Count Mosca is the only person who will be inclined to keep his word to
me, because in making me a baron he gives me something he does not value
himself. _Secondo_, if I warn him, I probably save myself from committing
a crime the full price of which I have pretty nearly received in advance.
_Tertio_, I avenge myself for the first humiliating blows bestowed on the
Cavaliere Rassi.” The following night, he acquainted Count Mosca with the
whole of his conversation with the prince.

The count was still paying his court to the duchess in secret. It is true
that he did not see her more than once or twice a month in her own house,
but almost every week, and whenever he could contrive any opportunity for
speaking to her about Fabrizio, the duchess, attended by Cecchina, came,
late in the evening, and spent a few minutes in the count’s garden. She
contrived to deceive even her coachman, who was devoted to her, and who
believed her to be paying a visit in a neighbouring house.

My readers will easily imagine that the moment the count had received
the Chief Justice’s hideous communication he made the signal agreed
on with the duchess. Though it was midnight, she sent Cecchina to beg
him to come to her at once. The count, as delighted as any young lover
by this appearance of intimacy, hesitated to tell the duchess the
whole story. He feared he might see her go wild with grief. Yet, after
having cast about for equivocations which might mitigate the fatal
announcement, he ended by revealing the whole truth. He was not capable
of keeping back any secret she begged him to tell her. But nine months
of excessive misfortune had greatly altered her passionate soul; her
nature was strengthened, and the duchess did not break out into sobs or
lamentations. The next evening she caused the signal of imminent danger
to be made to Fabrizio:

    “_The castle is on fire._”

He answered quite clearly:

    “_Are my books burned?_”

That same night, she had the happiness of sending him a letter inside
a leaden ball. A week after that day came the wedding of the Marchese
Crescenzi’s sister, at which the duchess was guilty of a desperate piece
of imprudence, which shall be duly related in its place.



CHAPTER XXI


About a year before the period of her misfortunes, the duchess had made
acquaintance with a strange being. One day, when, as they say in that
country, “_aveva la luna_,” she had betaken herself, quite unexpectedly,
toward evening, to her country house on the hill overlooking the Po, at
Sacca, beyond Colorno. She delighted in making improvements in the place;
she loved the huge forest that crowns the hill and grows close up to the
house. She was having paths cut through it to various picturesque spots.

“You’ll be carried off by brigands, fair lady,” said the prince to her
one day. “A forest where you are known to walk can not possibly remain
deserted.” The prince cast an eye on the count, whose jealousy he was
always trying to kindle.

“I have no fears, Most Serene Highness,” replied the duchess, with an air
of innocence. “When I walk about in my woods, I reassure myself with the
thought that I have never done any one any harm; therefore, who should
there be to hate me?” The remark struck the hearers as a bold one; it
recalled the insulting language employed by the Liberals of the country,
a most impudent set of people.

On the day of which we speak, the duchess was reminded of the prince’s
remark by the sight of a very poorly dressed man, who was following her,
at a distance, through the trees. In the course of her walk she made an
unexpected turn, which brought her so close to the stranger that she was
frightened. Her first impulse was to call to her gamekeeper, whom she
had left about a thousand paces off, in the flower-garden, close to the
house. But the stranger had time to approach her, and cast himself at her
feet. He was young, very handsome, miserably clad—there were rents a
foot long in his garments—but his eyes blazed with the fire of an ardent
soul.

“I am condemned to death; I am Dr. Ferrante Palla; I am starving, and so
are my five children.”

The duchess had noticed that he was frightfully thin, but his eyes were
so beautiful, and their expression at once so fervent and so tender,
that any idea of crime never occurred to her. “Pallagi,” thought she
to herself, “should have given such eyes to the St. John in the Desert
he has just placed in the cathedral.” The thought of St. John had been
suggested by Ferrante’s incredible thinness. The duchess gave him the
only three sequins she had in her purse, apologizing for the smallness
of the gift, on the score that she had just paid her gardener’s account.
Ferrante thanked her fervently. “Alas!” he said, “in old days I lived in
cities; I saw beautiful women. Since I have been condemned to death for
performing my duties as a citizen I have dwelt in the woods, and I was
following you, just now, not to rob you, nor to ask for alms, but, like
some savage, fascinated by a dainty beauty. It is long since I have seen
two fair white hands.”

“But pray rise,” said the duchess, for he was still kneeling.

“Let me stay where I am,” answered Ferrante. “The position makes me
realize I am not stealing at this moment, and that thought calms me.
For you must know that since I have been prevented from following my
profession, I have lived by theft. But at this moment I am only a humble
mortal adoring a sublime beauty.” The duchess realized that the man was
a little mad, but she was not frightened, she read the poor fellow’s
fervent and kindly soul in his eyes, and besides, she was not at all
averse to people of extraordinary appearance.

“I am a doctor, then, and I made love to the wife of Sarasine, the
apothecary at Parma. He discovered us, and drove her out, with three
children whom he suspected, and justly, to be mine, and not his own.
She has borne me two more since then. The mother and her five children
live in the deepest poverty about a league from here, in a sort of hut
in the wood, which I built with my own hands. For I must keep out of
the gendarmes’ way, and the poor woman will not be parted from me. I
was condemned to death, and very justly, too, for I was a conspirator;
I loathe the prince, who is a tyrant. I could not take to flight, for I
had no money. But my misfortunes have grown far greater now, and if I had
killed myself it would have been better for me, a thousand times. I have
no love, now, for the unhappy woman who has borne me these five children,
and sacrificed everything for me. I love another. But if I kill myself,
the five children and the mother must literally die of hunger.” There was
truth in the man’s voice.

“But how do you live?” exclaimed the duchess, greatly affected.

“The children’s mother spins; the eldest girl is fed by a farmer of
Liberal opinions, whose sheep she tends. As for me, I rob on the highway
between Piacenza and Genoa.”

“How can you reconcile robbery with your Liberal principles?”

“I keep note of the people whom I rob, and if ever I have anything of
my own, I will return the sums I have stolen from them. I reckon that
a tribune of the people, such as I, performs a work, considering its
danger, well worth a hundred francs a month, and I take care not to
steal more than twelve hundred francs a year. But I am mistaken; I steal
a little more than that, and the overplus enables me to pay for the
printing of my works.”

“What works?”

“Will the ⸺ ever have a chamber and a budget?”

“What!” cried the duchess in astonishment. “Then you, sir, are one of the
most famous poets of our century, the renowned Ferrante Palla!”

“Renowned, that may be; but most unhappy, that is sure.”

“And a man of such powers, sir, is forced to live by theft!”

“Perhaps that is the very reason why I have some talent. Up till now all
our best-known authors have been paid either by the government or by
the faith they were endeavouring to undermine. Now, in my case, first
of all, I carry my life in my hand, and secondly, consider, madam, the
thoughts that stir within me when I set out to rob! ‘Am I doing right?’
I say to myself. ‘Are my services as a tribune really worth a hundred
francs a month?’ I’ve two shirts, the coat you see upon me, some poor
weapons, and I shall certainly end by being hanged. I venture to think
I am disinterested. I should be happy, but for the fatal love which
prevents my finding anything but misery in the company of the mother of
my children. The ugliness of my poverty is what makes me suffer. I love
rich dresses, white hands”—and he began to look at the duchess’s hands in
a way that frightened her.

“Farewell, sir,” she said. “Can I serve you in any matter at Parma?”

“Give a thought, sometimes, to this question: His profession is to
stir men’s hearts, and prevent them from falling asleep in that false
and utterly material happiness which monarchies bestow. Is the service
he renders his fellow-citizens worth a hundred francs a month?—My
misfortune,” he added very gently, “is that I love. For nearly two years
you have filled all my soul, but until this day I had looked at you
without causing you any fear,” and he took to flight with a rapidity
so prodigious that it both astonished and reassured the duchess. “The
gendarmes would find it difficult to catch him,” she thought. “He
certainly is mad.”

“He is mad,” her servants told her. “We have all known for ever so long
that the poor man is desperately in love with the signora. When she is
here, we see him wandering about in the upper parts of the wood, and as
soon as she is gone he never fails to come down and sit wherever she has
stopped. He carefully picks up any flowers which may have fallen from her
nosegay, and carries them about for a long time, fastened to his shabby
hat.”

“And you never told me of these follies?” said the duchess, almost
reproachfully.

“We were afraid the Signora Duchessa might tell Count Mosca. Poor
Ferrante is such a good fellow, he never does any one any harm, and
because he loves our Napoleon, he has been condemned to death.”

Not a word did she say to the minister about this meeting, and as it was
the first secret she had kept from him for over four years, she found
herself stopped short in the middle of a sentence at least ten times
over. When she went back to Sacca she brought gold with her, but Ferrante
did not appear. A fortnight later she went again. Ferrante, after having
followed her for some time, bounding along in the wood about a hundred
paces from her, bore down upon her as swiftly as a sparrow-hawk and cast
himself at her knees, as on the first occasion.

“Where were you a fortnight ago?”

“In the mountains beyond Novi, robbing some muleteers on their way back
from Milan, where they had been selling oil.”

“Accept this purse.”

Ferrante opened the purse, took out a single sequin, which he kissed and
thrust into his bosom, and then gave the purse back to her.

“You give me back this purse—you, who are a robber!”

“No doubt about that. My rule is that I must never have more than a
hundred francs. Now, at this moment, the mother of my children has eighty
francs and I have twenty-five; I am out of my reckoning by five francs,
and if I were to be hanged at this moment I should be stung by remorse. I
have taken one sequin, because it comes from you, and I love you!”

The tone in which these simple words were spoken was perfect. “He really
does love!” thought the duchess to herself.

That day he seemed quite off his balance. He said there were some people
at Parma who owed him six hundred francs, and with that sum he would
repair his hut, in which his poor children were now constantly catching
cold.

“But I will advance the six hundred francs to you,” exclaimed the
duchess, greatly moved.

“But, then, would not my political opponents slander me, and say that I,
a public man, am selling myself?”

The duchess, deeply touched, offered to conceal him at Parma if he would
swear to her that for the moment he would not exercise his functions in
the town, and above all that he would not carry out any of the death
sentences which he declared he had _in petto_.

“And if I am hanged as the result of my imprudence,” said Ferrante
seriously, “all those wretches who do the people so much harm will live
for years and years, and whose fault will that be? What would my father
say to me when I meet him up yonder?”

The duchess talked to him a great deal about his little children, who
would very likely die of the damp. At last he accepted her offer of a
hiding-place in Parma.

During the one and only half-day which the Duke Sanseverina had spent at
Parma after his marriage, he had shown the duchess a very curious secret
chamber in the southern corner of the palace which bore his name. The
outer wall, which dates from the middle ages, is eight feet thick. It
has been hollowed out within, and a chamber has been thus formed, some
twenty feet high, and only two wide. Just beside it is that much-admired
“reservoir,” quoted by all travellers—a famous piece of twelfth-century
work, erected during the siege of Parma by the Emperor Sigismund,
and included, at a later period, within the inclosure of the Palazzo
Sanseverina.

To enter the hiding-place, a huge block of stone, set toward its centre
on an iron pivot, must be swung aside. So deeply touched was the duchess
by Ferrante’s condition of madness and the melancholy fate of his
children, for whom he obstinately refused to accept any gift of value,
that for some considerable time she allowed him to make use of this
chamber. About a month later she saw him again, still in the woods at
Sacca, and, being a trifle calmer on that occasion, he recited one of
his sonnets, which struck her as being equal, if not superior, to all
the finest things produced in Italy during the two previous centuries.
Ferrante was granted several interviews. But his passion grew more ardent
and importunate, and the duchess perceived that it was following the laws
of every love which is allowed the smallest opportunity for conceiving a
gleam of hope. She sent him back to his woods, and forbade him to speak
to her. He obeyed her instantly, with the most perfect gentleness.

Thus matters stood when Fabrizio was arrested. Three days afterward,
just at nightfall, a Capuchin friar knocked at the door of the Palazzo
Sanseverina. He had, he said, an important secret, which he desired to
communicate to the mistress of the mansion. She was so wretched that
she admitted him to her presence. It was Ferrante. “A fresh iniquity is
taking place here—one with which the tribune of the people must concern
himself. Moreover, as a private individual, all I have to give the
Duchess Sanseverina is my life, and that I offer her.”

This heartfelt devotion on the part of a thief and a madman touched the
duchess deeply. For a long time she conversed with this man, held to be
the greatest poet of northern Italy, and she shed many tears. “This man
understands my heart,” said she to herself. The next day, at the Ave
Maria, he reappeared, disguised as a liveried servant.

“I have not left Parma. I have heard a horrible thing which my lips shall
never repeat—but here I am. Consider, madam, what it is that you refuse!
The being you see before you is no court puppet, but a man.” He knelt
as he spoke the words, as though to increase their weight, and added:
“Yesterday I said to myself, ‘She wept in my presence, therefore she is a
thought less wretched!’”

“But, sir, think of the risks you are running. You will be arrested in
this city.”

“The tribune, madam, will reply, ‘What is life when duty calls?’ The
unhappy man whose penance it is that he feels no passion for virtue since
he has been consumed by love, will add: ‘Madam, Fabrizio, a brave-hearted
man, is perhaps about to perish. Do not drive away another brave man who
offers you his service. Here you have a frame of steel and a heart that
fears nothing in the world save your displeasure!’”

“If you mention your feelings to me again, I will close my doors to you
forever.”

It did occur to the duchess, that evening, to tell Ferrante she would
provide a small income for his children. But she was afraid he might go
out from her presence and destroy himself.

Hardly had he left her, when, haunted as she was by gloomy forebodings,
she began to muse. “I, too, may die—would to God it might be so, and
soon! If I could only find a man worthy of the name, to whom I might
confide my poor Fabrizio!”

An idea flashed across the duchess. She took a sheet of paper, and in a
document into which she introduced all the few law terms with which she
was acquainted, she acknowledged that she had received the sum of twenty
thousand francs from Signor Ferrante Palla, on the express condition that
she should pay a yearly pension of fifteen hundred francs to Signora
Sarasine and her five children. The duchess added: “I further leave a
yearly income of three hundred francs to each of her five children, on
condition that Ferrante Palla shall professionally attend my nephew
Fabrizio del Dongo, and be as a brother to him—I implore him to do this!”
She signed the paper, antedated it by a year, and put it away.

Two days later Ferrante reappeared. It was just at the moment when the
whole town was stirred by reports of Fabrizio’s approaching execution.
Was this gloomy ceremony to take place within the citadel, or under the
tree in the public square? Many men of the humbler classes walked up and
down in front of the citadel gates that evening, to try and see whether
the scaffold was being built. This sight had moved Ferrante. He found the
duchess dissolved in tears, and quite unable to speak. She greeted him
with her hand, and pointed him to a seat. Ferrante, who was disguised,
that day, as a Capuchin friar, behaved magnificently. Instead of seating
himself, he knelt down, and began to pray devoutly in an undertone.
Seizing a moment when the duchess was a little calmer, and without
changing his position, he broke off his prayer for an instant, with the
words: “Once again he offers his life.”

“Consider what you say,” exclaimed the duchess, and in her eye there
was that wild look which follows upon tears, and warns us that rage is
getting the better of emotion.

“He offers his life to place an obstacle in the way of Fabrizio’s fate,
or to avenge it.”

“There is a circumstance,” replied the duchess, “in which I might accept
the sacrifice of your life.”

She was looking at him, closely and sternly. A flash of joy shone in
his eyes; he rose swiftly to his feet and stretched out his arms toward
heaven. The duchess fetched a document hidden in a secret drawer in her
walnut-wood cabinet. “Read it,” said she to Ferrante. It was the gift in
his children’s favour, of which we have just spoken.

Tears and sobs prevented Ferrante from reading to the end; he fell on his
knees.

“Give me back that paper,” said the duchess, and she burned it at the
taper before his eyes.

“My name must not appear if you are taken and executed,” she added, “for
this matter affects your very life.”

“It is a joy to me to die by injuring the tyrant; it is a much greater
joy to die for you. Now that is said, and clearly understood, do me the
kindness not to speak of money again. It gives me a painful feeling that
you may doubt me.”

“If you are compromised I may be so too,” replied the duchess, “and
Fabrizio after me. For that reason, and not at all because I doubt
your courage, I insist that the man who will pierce my heart shall be
poisoned, and not stabbed. For the same reason, a most important one to
me, I command you to do everything in the world to save yourself.”

“I will perform all—faithfully, punctually, and prudently. I foresee,
madam, that my vengeance will be bound up with yours. Even if it were
otherwise, I would still obey—faithfully, punctually, and prudently. I
may not succeed, but I will strive with all the strength a man can use.”

“Fabrizio’s murderer must be poisoned.”

“I had guessed it; and during the seven-and-twenty months of this
wandering and hateful life of mine, I have often thought of committing
such an action on my own account.”

“If I am detected and condemned as your accomplice,” continued the
duchess, and there was pride in her voice, “I do not choose to have it
imputed to me that I have tempted you. I command you to make no attempt
to see me before the moment of our vengeance. There is to be no question
of his being put to death until I give you the signal. At this moment,
for instance, his death, far from being a service, would be a misfortune
to me. His death will probably not have to take place for several months,
but it will take place! I insist that he shall die by poison, and I would
rather let him live on than see him killed by a bullet. For reasons which
I do not choose to explain, I insist that your life shall be saved.”

The tone of authority the duchess used to him filled Ferrante with
delight. A mighty joy shone in his eyes. As we have said, he was
frightfully thin, but it was easy to see that he had been exceedingly
handsome in his early youth, and he fancied he still was what he had been
in former days. “Am I mad?” he thought, “or does the duchess intend, some
day, when I shall have given her this proof of my devotion, to make me
the happiest of all living men? And why not, after all? Am I not quite as
good as that puppet Mosca, who has not been able to do anything for her
in her need—not even to help Monsignore Fabrizio to escape?”

“I may desire his death even to-morrow,” continued the duchess, still in
the same authoritative tone. “You know that huge reservoir of water, at
the corner of the palace, close by the hiding-place you have occasionally
occupied? There are secret means whereby all that water can be turned
into the street. Well, that shall be the signal for my vengeance. If you
are at Parma you will see, if you are living in your woods you will hear,
that the great reservoir at the Sanseverina Palace has burst. Act then,
at once! But use poison, and, above all things, risk your own life as
little as may be. Let no one ever know that I have had a finger in the
matter.”

“Words are useless,” replied Ferrante, with ill-restrained enthusiasm. “I
have already decided on the means I shall employ. That man’s life becomes
more odious to me than before, since as long as he lives I shall not dare
to look on you again. I shall await the signal of the reservoir bursting
on to the street.” He bowed swiftly, and went out. The duchess watched
him go.

When he had reached the next apartment she called him back. “Ferrante,”
she cried, “noble fellow!”

He returned, as though impatient at being delayed; at that moment there
was something magnificent about his face.

“And your children?”

“Madam, they will be richer than I. You will perhaps grant them some
trifling income.”

“Here,” said the duchess, holding out a sort of large olive-wood case,
“here are all the diamonds I have left. They are worth fifty thousand
francs.”

“Ah, madam, you humiliate me,” exclaimed Ferrante, with a horrified
gesture, and his whole countenance changed.

“I shall never see you again before the thing is done. Take this, I
desire it,” added the duchess, with a haughty expression which crushed
Ferrante. He slipped the case into his pocket and retired.

He had closed the door behind him when the duchess called him back, and
he returned, wearing an anxious expression. The duchess was standing in
the middle of the drawing-room. She threw herself into his arms. After a
moment Ferrante almost fainted from sheer happiness. The duchess freed
herself from his embrace, and glanced meaningly at the door.

“This is the only man who has ever understood me,” said the duchess
to herself. “Fabrizio would have behaved like that if he could have
understood me.”

The duchess possessed two special characteristics. What she had desired
once she desired always, and she never deliberated a second time
concerning anything she had once decided. In this last connection she
would quote a remark made by her first husband, the kind-hearted General
Pietranera. “What an insolence to my own self! Why should I think I am
cleverer to-day than I was when I made the decision?”

From that moment a sort of cheerfulness reappeared in the duchess’s
temper. Before that fatal resolution was taken, at every step her mind
took, at every new point she noticed, she had felt her own inferiority
to the prince, her weakness, and the vile fashion in which she had been
tricked. The prince, as she held, had shamefully deceived her, and
Count Mosca, as the result of his courtier-like instinct, had, though
innocently, seconded the prince’s efforts. Once vengeance was decided on,
she felt her own strength, and every fresh working of her mind brought
her happiness. I am rather disposed to think that the immoral delight the
Italian nature finds in vengeance is connected with the strength of the
national imagination. The natives of other countries do not, strictly
speaking, forgive—they forget.

The duchess did not see Palla again till toward the end of Fabrizio’s
prison days. He it was, as my readers may perhaps have guessed, who
suggested the idea of the escape. In the woods, about two leagues from
Sacca, stood a half-ruined tower, dating from the middle ages, and over a
hundred feet high. Before mentioning the idea of flight a second time to
the duchess, Ferrante besought her to send Ludovico with some trusty men,
to set a succession of ladders against this tower. In the presence of the
duchess he climbed to the top by the ladders, and came down simply on a
knotted rope. Three times over he made the experiment, and then set forth
his notion again. A week afterward Ludovico also came down from the top
of the tower on a knotted rope. Then it was that the duchess suggested
the idea to Fabrizio.

During the last days before the attempt, which might possibly, and that
in more than one fashion, result in the prisoner’s death, the duchess
never knew an instant’s repose, except when Ferrante was with her. The
man’s courage stirred her own, but it will be easily understood that she
felt obliged to hide this strange connection from the count. She was not
afraid of his being horrified by it, but she would have been worried
by his objections, which would have doubled her own anxiety. “What!
choose an acknowledged madman, sentenced to death, to be her closest
counsellor!” “And,” the duchess would add, talking to herself, “a man
capable, in the future, of doing such strange things!” Ferrante was in
the duchess’s drawing-room when the count entered it to inform her of the
prince’s conversation with Rassi. She had much ado, after the count’s
departure, in preventing Ferrante from proceeding instantly to the
execution of his terrible project.

“I am strong now,” cried the crazy fellow. “I have no doubt at all as to
the legitimacy of my action.”

“But in the moment of rage which must inevitably follow, Fabrizio would
be put to death.”

“Well, then he would be spared the danger of his descent. It is possible,
it is even easy,” he added, “but the young man has had no practice.”

The marriage of the Marchese Crescenzi’s sister was duly celebrated,
and at the _fête_ given on that occasion, the duchess was able to meet
Clelia, and talk to her, without rousing the suspicions of well-bred
lookers-on. In the garden, whither the two ladies had betaken themselves
to get a moment’s breath of air, the duchess herself gave Clelia the
packet of ropes.

These ropes, most carefully made of hemp and wool mixed, and knotted,
were very slight, and fairly flexible. Ludovico had tested their
strength, and every yard of them would safely carry eight hundred-weight.
They had been compressed into several packets, exactly resembling quarto
volumes. Clelia took possession of them, and promised the duchess she
would do everything that was humanly possible to get them into the
Farnese Tower.

“But your natural timidity alarms me; and besides,” added the duchess
politely, “what interest can you feel in a man you do not know?”

“Monsignore del Dongo is unfortunate, and I promise you _that he shall be
saved by me_.”

But the duchess, who had no particular confidence in the presence of
mind of a young lady of twenty, had taken other precautions, which she
took care not to reveal to the governor’s daughter. As may naturally be
supposed, the said governor was present at the festivities in honour
of the marriage of the Marchese Crescenzi’s sister. The duchess said
to herself that if she could give him a strong narcotic, it might be
concluded, on the first blush, that he had been seized with a fit of
apoplexy, and then, instead of putting him into his carriage to take
him back to the citadel, she might, by dint of some little cunning,
contrive to have him carried in a litter, which should chance to be in
the house in which the guests were assembled. There, too, should be found
intelligent men, dressed as workmen employed about the festivities, who,
in the general confusion, should obligingly offer themselves to carry the
sick man up to his palace on the height. These men, headed by Ludovico,
carried a considerable quantity of rope, skilfully concealed about
their persons. It will be observed that since she had been seriously
considering the subject of Fabrizio’s flight, the duchess had quite lost
her head. The peril in which that beloved being stood was more than she
could bear, and above all, it had lasted too long. By the very excess of
her precautions, as we shall see, she almost brought about the failure
of his escape. Everything was carried out as she had planned, with this
single exception—that the effect of the narcotic was far too powerful.
Every one, even professional men, believed the general had an attack of
apoplexy.

Fortunately Clelia, in her despair, never for a moment suspected the
duchess’s criminal attempt. So great was the confusion, when the litter
in which the general lay half dead was borne into the citadel, that no
objection was made to the entrance of Ludovico and his men, and they were
only subjected to a purely formal search on the “Bridge of the Slave.”
When they had carried the general to his bed, they were taken to the
servants’ quarters, and hospitably entertained. But after the meal, which
did not end till toward morning, they were informed that according to
the rules of the prison, they must be locked up for the remainder of the
night in one of the lower rooms of the palace. After daylight the next
morning they would be set at liberty by the governor’s lieutenant.

The men had contrived to convey the ropes they had been carrying to
Ludovico. But Ludovico found great difficulty in attracting Clelia’s
attention for a moment. At last, as she was passing out of one room into
another, he made her see that he was laying the packets of rope in a
dark corner in one of the drawing-rooms on the first floor. Clelia was
profoundly impressed by this strange incident, and horrible suspicions at
once started up in her mind.

“Who are you?” said she to Ludovico, and when he gave her a very
ambiguous answer she added:

“I ought to have you arrested. Either you or those employing you have
poisoned my father.… Tell me, this instant, what poison you have used, so
that the doctor of the citadel may give him the proper remedies! Confess
instantly, or else neither you nor your accomplices shall ever leave this
citadel again.”

“The signora does wrong to be alarmed,” replied Ludovico, with the most
perfect grace and civility. “There is no question of poison at all. Some
one has imprudently given the general a dose of laudanum, and the servant
commissioned to commit this crime has apparently put a few drops too many
into the glass. This will cause us eternal remorse. But the signora may
rest assured that—thank Heaven for it!—there is no danger of any sort.
The governor must be treated for having taken an overdose of laudanum by
mistake. But I have the honour of assuring the signorina, once more, that
the footman employed about the crime used no real poisons, such as those
used by Barbone when he tried to make away with Monsignore Fabrizio.
There has been no attempt to avenge the danger run by Monsignore
Fabrizio; all the clumsy footman was given was a flask of laudanum. I
swear that to the signorina on my oath. But of course she understands
that if I were cross-questioned officially I should deny everything.
Besides, if the signorina were to speak to any one, even to the good Don
Cesare, either of laudanum or of poison, Fabrizio would be slain by the
signorina’s own hand. She would make any attempt at flight impossible,
and the signorina knows, better than I, that the people who desire to
poison Monsignore will not use laudanum only, and she knows, too, that a
certain person has only granted one month’s grace, and that more than one
week has already passed by since the fatal order was received. Therefore,
if she has me arrested, or if she even says a single word to Don Cesare,
or any other person, she will throw back all our undertakings for much
more than a month, and I speak the truth when I say that she will be
killing Monsignore Fabrizio with her own hand.”

Clelia was terrified by the strange calm with which Ludovico spoke.

“So here I am,” she thought, “in close conversation with a man who has
poisoned my father, and who addresses me with the utmost politeness; and
it is love which has led me into all these crimes!”

So great was her remorse that she had hardly strength to speak. She said
to Ludovico:

“I am going to lock you up in this room. I must run and tell the doctor
that the illness is caused by laudanum. But, great heavens! how am I
to tell him that I have found it out myself! Then I will come back
and release you. But,” said Clelia, hurrying back from the door, “did
Fabrizio know anything about this laudanum?”

“No, indeed, signorina. He never would have consented. And besides, what
was the good of confiding in an unnecessary person? We act with the
strictest caution; our object is to save Monsignore Fabrizio, who will
be poisoned within three weeks. The order has been given by a person
whose will meets, as a rule, with no obstacles. But if the signorina must
know all, it is believed that the duty has been confided to the terrible
Chief-Justice Rassi!”

Clelia fled in horror. She had such confidence in Don Cesare’s perfect
uprightness that she ventured to tell him, with a certain amount of
reticence, that the general had been given laudanum, and nothing more.
Without replying, without asking a question, Don Cesare hastened to the
doctor.

Clelia returned to the drawing-room into which she had locked Ludovico,
intending to ply him with questions concerning the laudanum. She did
not find him there; he had contrived to escape. Lying on a table, she
perceived a purse of sequins and a little box containing several sorts
of poisons. The sight of the poison made her shudder. “How can I be
sure,” she thought, “that nothing but laudanum has been administered to
my father, and that the duchess has not tried to avenge herself for the
attempt made by Barbone?

“Great God!” she exclaimed, “I am holding intercourse with my father’s
poisoners, and I have allowed them to escape. And perhaps, if that man
had been closely questioned, he would have confessed to something more
than laudanum.”

Bursting into tears, Clelia instantly fell upon her knees, and prayed
fervently to the Madonna.

Meanwhile the doctor of the citadel, greatly astonished by the
information conveyed to him by Don Cesare, according to which laudanum
was the cause of all the trouble, administered suitable remedies, which
soon removed the most alarming symptoms. At daybreak the general came
to his senses a little. His first act on returning to consciousness was
to pour volleys of abuse on the colonel, his second in command of the
citadel, who had ventured, while the general lay unconscious, to give a
few orders of the most simple description.

The governor then flew into a violent rage with a kitchen maid who had
brought him a bowl of broth, and who ventured to pronounce the word
“apoplexy.”

“Is a man of my age,” he exclaimed, “likely to have an apoplexy? Only my
bitterest enemies could possibly take pleasure in putting such a story
about. Besides, have I been bled, so as to give even slanderers a right
to talk about apoplexy?”

Fabrizio, deep in preparations for his own departure, could not conceive
the meaning of the strange noises that filled the citadel when the
governor was carried back to it half dead. At first he fancied his
sentence had been altered, and that he was about to be put to death.
Then, when nobody appeared in his room, he concluded that Clelia had
been betrayed, that the ropes which she had probably been conveying back
into the fortress had been taken from her, and that, in fact, all the
plans for his escape had been rendered impossible. At dawn the following
morning he saw an unknown man enter his room, and, without uttering a
word, set down a basket of fruit. Under the fruit was hidden a letter,
couched in the following terms:

“Filled with the bitterest remorse for what has been done—not, thank
Heaven, by my consent, but in consequence of an idea of mine—I have made
a vow to the Most Holy Virgin that if, by her blessed intercession, my
father’s life is saved, I will never again refuse to obey an order of
his. I shall marry the marchese as soon as he requires me to do it, and I
shall never see you again.

“Nevertheless, I believe it to be my duty to carry through that which
has been begun. On Sunday next, when you come back from mass, to which
you will be taken at my request—forget not to prepare your soul for
death; you may lose your life in your difficult undertaking—when you
come back from mass, I say, do all you can to delay the moment when you
re-enter your room. There you will find that which is indispensable for
your intended enterprise. If you perish it will break my heart! Will you
be able to accuse me of having had a hand in your death? Has not the
duchess herself told me, over and over again, that the Raversi faction
is winning the day? It is bent on binding the prince to it by an act of
cruelty which will separate him forever from Count Mosca. The duchess
has sworn to me, with tears, that no resource save this remains. If you
make no attempt you will certainly perish. I can not look at you again; I
have made my vow. But if, toward the evening on Sunday, you see me at the
usual window, dressed entirely in black, it will be a sign that on the
following night everything will be ready, as far as my feeble powers will
permit. After eleven o’clock—perhaps at midnight, or one in the morning—a
little lamp will stand in my window. That will be the decisive moment;
commend your soul to your patron saint, put on the priestly habit with
which you are provided, and depart.

“Farewell, Fabrizio! I shall be at my prayers, and shedding the bitterest
tears, you may be sure of that, while you are running these terrible
risks. If you perish I shall not survive you—great God, what have I said?
But if you succeed, I shall never see your face again. On Sunday, after
mass, you will find in your prison the money, the poisons, the ropes sent
you by that terrible woman who loves you so passionately, and who has
told me, three times over, that this thing must be done. May God and the
blessed Madonna preserve you!”

Fabio Conti was a jailer whose soul was always anxious, miserable,
wretched, constantly dreaming that some prisoner was escaping from his
clutches. He was loathed by every soul in the citadel. But misfortune
inspires all men with the same sentiments, and the unhappy prisoners,
even those chained up in dungeons three feet high and wide, and eight
feet long, in which they could neither stand nor sit upright—all the
prisoners, even these, I say, joined in having a Te Deum sung at their
expense, when they heard that the governor was out of danger. Two or
three of the poor wretches even wrote sonnets in honour of Fabio Conti.
Such is the effect of misery upon mankind. Let that man blame them whose
fate has condemned him to spend a year in a dungeon three feet high, with
eight ounces of bread a day, and fasting on Fridays!

Clelia, who never left her father’s room except to say her prayers in the
chapel, announced that the governor had decided that the rejoicings were
not to take place until the Sunday. On that Sunday morning, Fabrizio was
present at the mass and the Te Deum. In the evening there were fireworks,
and the soldiers in the lower halls of the castle received wine, four
times as much as the quantity authorized by the governor. Some unknown
person had even sent in several barrels of brandy, which the soldiers
broached. The soldiers who were drinking themselves drunk were too
good-natured to allow their five comrades, who were doing sentry duty
on the palace, to suffer from that fact. As fast as they reached their
sentry-boxes a trusty servant gave them wine. Further, some unknown hand
provided those on duty from midnight onward with a glass of brandy, and
(as was ultimately proved at the trial) at each glass the brandy bottle
was forgotten in the sentry-box.

The merry-making lasted longer than Clelia had expected, and it was not
till toward one o’clock that Fabrizio, who, more than a week previously,
had sawn through the bars of the window which did not look toward the
aviary, began to take down the wooden screen. He was working almost
over the heads of the sentries on the governor’s palace, but they heard
nothing. All he had done to the immensely long rope necessary for
carrying him down the terrible descent of a hundred and eighty feet was
to make a few fresh knots. He had slung this line over his shoulder; it
was very much in his way, on account of its bulk; the knots prevented it
from falling together, and it stood out more than eighteen inches from
his body. “This will be my great difficulty,” said Fabrizio to himself.

Having arranged this rope as best he could, Fabrizio took the length
which he intended should carry him down the thirty-five feet between
his window and the terrace on which the governor’s palace stood. But
seeing he could hardly, drunk though the sentinels were, come down on
the very tops of their heads, he got out, as we have already said, by
the second window of his room, which looked on to the roof of a sort of
huge guard-room. Some sick whim of General Fabio Conti’s had filled this
old guard-room, which had not been used for a century, with a couple
of hundred soldiers, whom he ordered up as soon as he could speak. He
declared that the people who had tried to poison him would murder him
in his bed, and that these two hundred soldiers must protect him. The
effect of this unexpected measure on Clelia’s feelings may be imagined.
The pious-hearted girl was very deeply conscious of the extent to which
she was deceiving her father, and a father who had just been very nearly
poisoned in the interests of the prisoner whom she loved. The unexpected
advent of these two hundred men almost struck her as a decree of
Providence, forbidding her to go forward, and restore Fabrizio to liberty.

But the prisoner’s approaching death was the universal topic of
conversation in Parma. Even at the festivities in honour of the marriage
of Signorina Julia Crescenzi, the melancholy subject had been discussed.
Since a man of Fabrizio’s birth, imprisoned for such a trifle as an
unlucky sword thrust given to an actor, was not set at liberty after
nine months’ detention, although he was favoured by the Prime Minister,
there must be something political about his story. That being so, it was
said, there was no use in thinking more about it. If it did not suit the
authorities to put him to death in the public square, he would soon die
of sickness.

A locksmith who had been sent for to do some work in General Fabio
Conti’s palace referred to Fabrizio as a prisoner who had been put to
death long since, and whose death was concealed for reasons of policy.
When Clelia heard that man speak, she made up her mind.



CHAPTER XXII


In the course of that day Fabrizio was assailed, several times over, by
certain serious and disagreeable reflections. But as he heard the hours
strike, each one of which brought him nearer to the moment of action, he
felt himself grow brisk and cheerful. The duchess had written to him that
the fresh air was sure to overcome him, and that he would hardly have got
outside his prison before he would find it impossible to walk. In that
case it would certainly be better to run the risk of being retaken than
to throw himself from the top of a wall a hundred and eighty feet high.
“If that misfortune overtakes me,” said Fabrizio to himself, “I will lie
down close to the parapet; I will sleep for an hour, and I will start
again. As I have sworn my oath to Clelia, I would rather fall from the
top of a rampart, however high, than spend my life considering the taste
of every bit of bread I eat. What horrible suffering there must be at the
end when a man dies of poison! And Fabio Conti would make no bones about
it; he would just give me the arsenic with which he kills the rats in his
fortress.”

Toward midnight one of those thick white fogs which the Po sometimes
casts over its banks rose over the town, and thence to the esplanade
and the bastions, in the midst of which stands the great tower of the
citadel. Fabrizio thought he perceived that the little acacias round the
soldiers’ gardens, at the foot of the great wall below, were no longer
visible. “This is capital!” thought he to himself.

A little after the stroke of half-past twelve the tiny lamp appeared
in the aviary window. Fabrizio was ready; he crossed himself, then he
fastened the thin rope which was to carry him down the twenty-five feet
between his room and the platform on which the palace stood to his
bed. He reached the roof of the guard-room occupied, since the previous
night, by the two hundred extra men of whom we have spoken, without any
mishap. Unluckily, at that hour—a quarter to one—the soldiers were not
yet asleep, and while Fabrizio stepped stealthily over the great curved
roof tiles he heard them saying that the devil was on their roof, and
that they must try and shoot him with a musket. Some voices declared
this wish to be exceedingly impious; others said that if they fired a
shot without killing anything the governor would put them all in prison
for having alarmed the garrison unnecessarily. All this fine discussion
caused Fabrizio to hurry over the roof as quickly as he could, and thus
make much more noise than he might have done. As a matter of fact, when
he passed, clinging to his rope, in front of the windows, and fortunately
for him, owing to the projection of the roof, some four or five feet
away from them, they were all bristling with bayonets. Some people have
declared that Fabrizio, who was always a wild fellow, took it into his
head to play the devil’s part, and threw a handful of sequins to the
soldiers. He certainly did scatter sequins all over the floor of his
room and across the platform, as he passed from the Farnese Tower to the
parapet, on the chance of their distracting the attention of the soldiers
who might try to pursue him.

Once he had reached the platform, surrounded by sentries, who, as a rule,
shouted a complete sentence, “All’s well round my post,” every quarter of
an hour, he moved toward the western parapet, and looked about for the
new stone.

What appears incredible, and might induce one to doubt the facts, if
their consequences had not been witnessed by a whole city, is that the
sentries along the parapet did not catch sight of Fabrizio and lay hands
on him. It is true that the fog to which we have referred was beginning
to rise, and Fabrizio has related that when he was on the platform the
fog seemed to him to have reached half-way up the Farnese Tower. But
it was not a thick fog, and he could clearly distinguish the sentries,
some of whom were moving about. He used to add that, driven by some
supernatural force, he placed himself boldly between two sentries, not
very far from each other, and quietly unwound the long rope he was
carrying slung round his body, and which got entangled twice over. It
took him a long time to disentangle it, and lay it out upon the parapet.
He could hear the soldiers talking all round him, and was quite resolved
to stab the first who came near him. “I was not in the least agitated,”
he used to add; “I seemed to myself to be performing some ceremony.”

At last he cleared his rope, and fastened it into an opening in the
parapet, made for the rain-water to run through. Then he climbed on to
the parapet, and prayed earnestly to God. Next, like a hero of the days
of chivalry, he thought for an instant of Clelia. “What a different man
I am,” said he to himself, “from the careless and libertine Fabrizio who
came into this place nine months ago!” At last he began to let himself
down the tremendous height. He moved mechanically, he said, as he would
have done if he had been coming down before friends, in broad daylight,
to win a wager. About midway he suddenly felt the strength in his arms
fail; he even thinks he lost his grip of the rope for a moment. But he
soon grasped it again. Perhaps, he said afterward, he held on to the
brambles against which he was slipping and which tore him. Every now
and then he felt a most agonizing pain between his shoulders, which
almost took away his breath. The undulating motion was most trying; he
was constantly being swung away from the rope against the brambles; he
was touched by several birds of considerable size, which he disturbed,
and which blundered against him as they flew away. He took the first of
these for people in pursuit of him, who were descending from the citadel
in the same manner, and made ready to defend himself. At last he reached
the base of the great tower, unhurt, except that his hands were bleeding.
He related that over the lower half of the tower the outward slope of
the wall was of great assistance to him. He rubbed against it as he went
down, and the plants growing between the stones held him up. When he
reached the bottom he fell on an acacia in the soldiers’ gardens, which,
looking at it from above, he had taken to be four or five feet high, but
which really was fifteen or twenty. A drunken man who was sleeping under
it took him for a robber. When Fabrizio fell out of this tree he almost
put out his left arm. He began to hurry toward the rampart, but according
to his own story his legs seemed made of wadding; he had no strength
left. In spite of the danger he sat down, and drank a little brandy which
still remained to him. For some minutes he slept, so soundly as not to
remember where he was. When he woke up he thought he was in his room, and
could not understand how it was he saw trees. At last the awful truth
dawned on him. Instantly he moved toward the rampart, and reached it by a
wide flight of steps. A sentry was snoring in his box close by. He found
a cannon lying in the grass, and fastened his third rope to it. It was a
little too short, and he fell into a muddy ditch, with about a foot of
water in it. Just as he was getting up, and trying to make out where he
was, he felt himself seized by two men; for a moment he was alarmed, but
soon, close to his ear, and in a very low voice, he heard the words, “Ah,
monsignore, monsignore!” He realized dimly that the men came from the
duchess, and instantly he fainted dead away. A little while after he felt
himself being carried by men who walked swiftly and silently. Then they
stopped, which terrified him very much. But he had no strength either to
speak or to open his eyes. He felt somebody embrace him, and suddenly he
recognised the perfume of the duchess’s clothes. That perfume revived
him; he was able to open his eyes and say “Ah, dearest friend!” and then
he fainted again.

The faithful Bruno, with a squad of police officers, all devoted to the
count, was waiting two hundred paces off. The count himself was hiding in
a little house close to the spot where the duchess was waiting. He would
not have hesitated, had it been necessary, to draw his sword, assisted
by several half-pay officers, his own intimate friends. He considered
himself bound to save Fabrizio’s life. He believed him to be in the
most imminent danger, and felt the prince would have signed his pardon
if he (Mosca) had not committed the folly of endeavouring to save his
sovereign from writing another.

Ever since midnight the duchess, surrounded by men armed to the teeth,
had been wandering up and down, in dead silence, close to the citadel
ramparts. She could not stay quiet for an instant; she expected to have
to fight to save Fabrizio from his pursuers. Her fervent imagination
had inspired her with a hundred precautions, too long to mention here,
and all of them incredibly imprudent. More than eighty persons are
calculated to have been on foot that night, expecting to fight on some
extraordinary occasion. Fortunately Ferrante and Ludovico were at the
head of the business, and the Minister of Police was not hostile. But
the count himself remarked that nobody betrayed the duchess, and, in his
ministerial capacity, he knew nothing at all.

The duchess utterly lost her head when she saw Fabrizio. First of all
she clasped him in her arms, and then, when she saw he was covered with
blood, she grew beside herself with alarm. The blood had flowed from
Fabrizio’s hands, but she thought he was dangerously hurt. Helped by one
of her servants, she was taking off his coat, to dress his wounds, when
Ludovico, who fortunately was present, insisted on placing the duchess
and Fabrizio in one of the little carriages, which had been kept hidden
in a garden near the gate of the city, and they started full gallop to
get across the Po at Sacca. Ferrante, with twenty well-armed men, formed
the rear-guard, and had staked his own life that he would stop all
pursuit. The count did not leave the vicinity of the citadel—and then
alone and on foot—till two hours later, when he saw that nothing was
stirring. “Now,” said he, “I am steeped in high treason,” and he was half
wild with joy.

Ludovico hit upon the excellent idea of putting a young surgeon attached
to the duchess’s household, and who was very much of Fabrizio’s build,
into a carriage.

“Fly,” said he to him, “toward Bologna! Blunder as much as ever you can,
try to get yourself arrested, then refuse to give clear answers, and end
by owning that you are Fabrizio del Dongo. Above all things, gain time.
Use all your skill to be as stupid as you can. You will get off with a
month’s imprisonment, and the duchess will give you fifty sequins.”

“Does anybody think of money when it’s a question of serving the duchess?”

Off he started, and was arrested some hours later, to the deep delight of
General Fabio Conti and Rassi, who saw his barony take to itself wings
and fly away together with Fabrizio’s peril.

It was not till six o’clock in the morning that the escape became known
in the citadel, and it was ten before anybody dared tell the prince. So
well had the duchess been served, that in spite of Fabrizio’s profound
slumber, which she took for a dangerous fainting fit, and consequently
stopped the carriage three times over, she was crossing the river in
a boat as the clock struck four. Relays of horses awaited them on the
farther bank; they drove two more leagues very swiftly, then they were
stopped for more than an hour to verify their passports. The duchess had
passports of every kind, both for herself and Fabrizio, but she was half
mad that day; she took it into her head to give ten napoleons to the
Austrian police official; she took his hand and burst into tears. The
official, very much startled, did all his verification over again. They
now took post-horses. The duchess paid so lavishly, that in a country,
where every stranger is looked at doubtfully, she aroused universal
suspicion. Once more Ludovico came to the rescue; he declared the duchess
was mad with grief on account of the long-continued fever of young Count
Mosca, the son of the Prime Minister of Parma, whom she was taking to
Pavia, to consult the doctors there.

It was not till they were ten leagues beyond the Po that the prisoner
thoroughly woke up. One of his shoulders was dislocated, and he was
covered with abrasions. The duchess was still behaving in such an
extraordinary fashion that the host of the village inn in which they
dined thought he had to do with one of the imperial princesses, and would
have rendered her the honours he believed to be her due, when Ludovico
warned him that the princess would certainly have him thrown into prison
if he ventured to have the bells rung.

At last, toward six o’clock in the evening, they reached Piedmontese
soil. Not till then was Fabrizio in perfect safety. He was conveyed to a
little village, standing off the high-road, his hands were dressed; he
slept for a few hours longer.

It was at this village that the duchess indulged in an action which was
not only a hateful one from the moral point of view, but the effect of
which on the tranquillity of the remainder of her life was grievous
in the extreme. Some weeks before Fabrizio’s escape, on a day when
the whole of Parma had betaken itself to the citadel gates to try and
catch sight of the scaffold being erected in the courtyard for his
benefit, the duchess had shown Ludovico, who had become her household
factotum, the secret whereby one of the stones forming the bottom of the
famous reservoir attached to the Palazzo Sanseverina, that work of the
thirteenth century to which we have already referred, might be driven out
of its skilfully concealed iron bed. While Fabrizio was sleeping soundly
in the little village tavern, the duchess sent for Ludovico. So strange
were the glances she cast at him that he thought she had lost her reason.

“No doubt you expect me to give you several thousand francs,” said she.
“Well, I am not going to do that. You are a poet; you would soon have
squandered all the money. I shall give you the little property called the
Ricciarda, a league from Casal Maggiore.” Beside himself with delight,
Ludovico cast himself at her feet, protesting, in heartfelt accents,
that it was not for the sake of earning money that he had helped to save
Monsignore Fabrizio, and that he had always loved him with a special
affection since the time when he had been third coachman to the duchess,
and had had the honour of driving his carriage. When the man, who really
was a faithful-hearted fellow, thought he had sufficiently encroached
on this great lady’s time, he would have taken his leave, but she, with
flashing eyes, said to him, “Stay here!”

She was walking silently up and down the tavern room, from time to time
casting the most extraordinary glances on Ludovico. At last the man,
perceiving no apparent end to her strange march, ventured to address his
mistress:

“The signora has granted me such an excessive gift, so far beyond
anything a poor man like myself could have imagined, and above all so
immensely superior to the poor services I have had the honour of doing
her, that I think I can not, in all conscience, keep the lands of the
Ricciarda. I have the honour to return the property to the signora, and
to entreat her to grant me a pension of four hundred francs a year.”

“How many times in your life,” said she to him, with the gloomiest air of
pride, “how many times have you heard it said that I relinquished a plan
I had once mentioned?”

Having said these words, the duchess walked up and down again for some
minutes, then, stopping suddenly short, she cried:

“It is by accident, and because he won that little girl’s favour, that
Fabrizio’s life has been saved. If he had not made himself charming he
would have died; can you deny me that?” she cried, sailing down upon
Ludovico, her eyes flashing with the darkest rage. Ludovico stepped
several paces backward, and concluded she was certainly mad, a fact which
inspired him with serious alarm regarding his ownership of the Ricciarda.

“Well, well,” said the duchess, changing suddenly to the gentlest and
most cheerful tone, “I desire my good people at Sacca shall have a
delightful day—one they shall remember for ages. You shall go back to
Sacca. Have you any objection? Do you think you will be in any danger?”

“Very little, signora. Nobody in Sacca will ever let out that I have
been in attendance on Monsignore Fabrizio, and besides, if I may venture
to say so to the signora, I am longing to see _my_ property of the
Ricciarda. It seems so comical to me to be a landowner.”

“Your pleasure delights me. I think the tenant of the Ricciarda owes me
some two or three years of his rent. I make him a present of one half
of what he owes me; the other half of all his arrears I give to you,
but on this condition: You will go to Sacca, you will say that the day
after to-morrow is the _fête_ day of one of my patron saints, and the
night after your arrival you will have my house illuminated in the most
splendid manner. Spare neither money nor pains. Recollect that this has
to do with the greatest happiness of my life.

“I have been making ready for this illumination for a long time. For more
than three months I have been collecting everything needful for this
splendid festivity in the cellars of my house. I have deposited all the
fireworks for a magnificent display in the gardener’s care. You will have
them let off on the terrace facing the Po. There are eighty-nine great
hogsheads of wine in my cellars. You will set up eighty-nine fountains
running wine in my park. If a single bottle remains undrunk on the
following day, I shall say you do not love Fabrizio. When the fountains
of wine are running, and the illumination and the fireworks are in full
swing, you will slip away cautiously, for it is possible, and that is my
hope, that in Parma all these fine doings will be taken as an insult.”

“That is not possible only; it is certain. And it is certain, too, that
Chief-Justice Rassi, who signed monsignore’s sentence, will be bursting
with rage. And,” added Ludovico somewhat timidly, “if the signora desired
to give her poor servant even a greater pleasure than that of receiving
half the arrears of the Ricciarda, she would give me leave to play a
little joke upon that same Rassi.”

“You’re a good fellow,” exclaimed the duchess, delighted. “But I
absolutely forbid you to do anything at all to Rassi. I intend to have
him publicly hanged at some future time. As for yourself, try not to get
yourself arrested at Sacca; everything would be spoiled if I lost you.”

“Me, signora! Once I have said I am keeping the feast of one of the
Signora Duchessa’s patron saints, you may be sure that if the police sent
thirty gendarmes to interfere, not one of them would be on his horse by
the time they reached the red cross in the middle of the village. They
are not to be trifled with, those Sacca men—first-rate smugglers every
one of them, and they worship the signora.”

“Well,” the duchess began again with a curiously offhand air, “while I
give wine to my good people at Sacca, I want to drench the people of
Parma. On the very night when my castle is lighted up, take the best
horse in my stables, hurry off to my palace in Parma, and open the
reservoir.”

“Ah, that’s a fine idea of the signora’s,” cried Ludovico in fits of
laughter, “wine for the good folks at Sacca, water for the Parmese
townsmen, who had made so certain, the wretches, that monsignore was
going to be poisoned like poor L⸺.”

Ludovico could not get over his delight. The duchess watched his
ecstasies with evident satisfaction. “Wine for the Sacca men,” he kept
saying, “water for the Parmese! The signora doubtless knows, better than
I do, that twenty years ago, when the reservoir was imprudently emptied,
the water ran a foot deep in many of the streets of Parma.”

“And water for the Parmese,” answered the duchess, laughing. “The square
before the citadel would have been crammed with people if Fabrizio’s
head had been cut off.… Everybody calls him the _great culprit_.… But
above all things, do it cunningly! Let no living being ever know that
the inundation was your work, nor done by my order. Fabrizio, even the
count himself, must remain in ignorance of this wild joke.… But I was
forgetting my poor people at Sacca. Go you, and write a letter to my man
of business, which I will sign. You will tell him he is to distribute a
hundred sequins among the poor of Sacca, in honour of my patron saint,
and that he is to take all your orders about the illumination, the
fireworks, and the wine. Above all things, be sure there is not one full
bottle in my cellars the next morning.”

“The signora’s steward will only find one difficulty. The signora has
owned the castle now for five years, and she has not left ten poor
persons in Sacca.”

“And water for the Parmese!” quoth the duchess, humming it like a tune.
“How shall you carry out my joke?”

“I see my plan quite clearly. I shall start from Sacca at nine o’clock.
At half past ten my horse will be at the inn of the Three Blockheads on
the road to Casal Maggiore, and _my_ property of the Ricciarda. At eleven
I shall be in my room at the palace, and at a quarter past the townsfolk
of Parma will have water, and more than they want of it, to drink the
_great culprit’s_ health. Ten minutes later I shall go out of the city by
the Bologna road; as I pass it by I shall make a deep bow to the citadel
on which monsignore’s bravery and the signora’s wit have just heaped
dishonour. I shall take a country path with which I am well acquainted,
and so I shall make my way back to the Ricciarda.”

Ludovico raised his eyes to the duchess’s face, and felt a thrill of
terror. She was staring fixedly at the bare wall, six paces from her, and
it must be acknowledged that there was something awful in her glance.
“Ah, my poor land!” thought Ludovico to himself. “She certainly is mad.”
The duchess looked at him and guessed his thought.

“Aha, Signor Ludovico, the great poet! You would like the gift in
writing. Fetch me a sheet of paper.” Ludovico did not wait for a
repetition of the injunction, and the duchess wrote out, in her own
hand, a lengthy acknowledgment, antedated by twelve months, whereby she
declared she had received the sum of eighty thousand francs from Ludovico
San-Michele, and had given him the Ricciarda as security for that sum.
If, at the expiration of twelve months, the duchess had not returned the
said eighty thousand francs to Ludovico, the lands of the Ricciarda were
to remain his property. “There is something fine,” said the duchess to
herself, “in giving a faithful servant very nearly a third of all that
remains to myself.”

“Hark!” said the duchess to Ludovico. “After you have played my joke with
the reservoir I can only give you two days in which to enjoy yourself
at Casal Maggiore. To insure the validity of the sale, you must say the
business dates more than a year back. You must rejoin me at Belgirate,
and that without any delay. Fabrizio may possibly go to England, and you
must follow him thither.”

Early the next morning the duchess and Fabrizio were at Belgirate.

They settled themselves down in that enchanting village. But a mortal
sorrow awaited the duchess on the shores of the beautiful Lago Maggiore.
Fabrizio was an altered man. From the very first moments of his awakening
out of the lethargic slumber which had followed on his flight, the
duchess had perceived that something extraordinary was passing within
his soul. The deep feeling which he hid with so much care was a somewhat
strange one—it was nothing less than his despair at finding himself
out of prison. He carefully abstained from confessing the cause of his
sadness; that would have elicited questions which he did not choose
to answer. “But,” said the duchess in her astonishment, “the hideous
sensation, when hunger forced you to stave off inanition by eating some
of the horrible food sent from the prison kitchen, the sensation—Is there
any odd taste about this? Am I poisoning myself at this moment? Did not
that feeling fill you with horror?”

“I thought of death,” replied Fabrizio, “just as I suppose soldiers think
of it. It was a possibility, which I fully believed I should escape by my
own skill.”

What an anxiety, what a grief was this to the duchess! She watched this
being whom she adored, who had once been so unlike other men, so lively,
so full of originality, a prey now to the deepest reverie. He preferred
solitude even to the pleasure of talking over everything, in utter
frankness, with the best friend he had in the world. His behaviour to
the duchess was still kindly, attentive, full of gratitude. As in the
old days, he would have given his life for her a hundred times over. But
his heart was elsewhere. Often they sailed four or five leagues over the
lovely lake without exchanging a word. Conversation, the chilly exchange
of thought still possible to them, might, perhaps, have seemed agreeable
to others. But they, and more especially the duchess, still recollected
what their conversations had been before that fatal fray with Giletti had
parted them. Fabrizio owed the duchess the story of the nine months he
had spent in a hideous prison, and now it appeared that all he had to
tell of that time amounted to a few short and unfinished phrases.

“This was sure to happen, sooner or later,” said the duchess to herself,
drearily. “Sorrow has aged me, or else real love has come to him, and
I only hold the second place in his heart.” Humbled, crushed, by this
greatest of all possible sorrows, the duchess would sometimes murmur to
herself, “If it had been Heaven’s will that Ferrante should have gone
quite mad, or that his courage should have failed, it seems to me I
should have been less wretched.” From that moment, this partial regret
poisoned the duchess’s esteem for her own character. “So,” she mused
bitterly, “I repent me now of a resolution I have once taken. I am no
longer a Del Dongo.”

“Heaven willed it so,” she began again. “Fabrizio is in love, and what
right have I to desire he should not be in love? Has one single word of
love ever been exchanged between us?”

This thought, sensible as it was, prevented her from sleeping, and
at last—this proves that age and a weakening soul had overtaken her,
simultaneously with her hope of a condign vengeance—she was a hundred
times more wretched at Belgirate than she had been at Parma. As to the
identity of the person who had cast Fabrizio into so strange a reverie,
there was no possibility of any reasonable doubt. Clelia Conti, that
pious maiden, had deceived her father, since she had consented to make
the garrison drunk, and Fabrizio never mentioned Clelia’s name. “But,”
the duchess added, beating her breast in her despair, “if the garrison
had not been intoxicated, all my inventiveness and all my care would have
come to naught. Therefore it is she who has saved him.”

It was only with the most extreme difficulty that the duchess could
induce Fabrizio to give her any details of the events of that night,
which, so the duchess said to herself, “would otherwise have been the
subject of never-ending conversation between us. In those happy days he
would have talked all day long, and with incessant spirit and gaiety,
about the veriest trifle it came into my head to suggest.”

As it was necessary to provide for every contingency, the duchess had
established Fabrizio at the port of Locarno, a Swiss town at the end
of the Lago Maggiore. Every day she fetched him, in a boat, for long
expeditions on the lake. One day she took it into her head to go up
to his room, and found the walls covered with a quantity of views of
the city of Parma, for which he had sent to Milan, or even to Parma
itself—that country which he should have held in detestation. His little
sitting-room had been transformed into a studio, fitted with all the
_impedimenta_ of a water-colour artist, and she found him just finishing
a third sketch of the Farnese Tower and the governor’s palace.

“All you need do now,” said she, with a look of vexation, “is to draw
the portrait of that delightful governor who wanted to poison you, from
memory. But now I come to think of it,” continued the duchess, “you
really should write him a letter of apology for having taken the liberty
of escaping and bringing ridicule upon his citadel.”

The poor lady little thought how truly she was speaking.

Fabrizio’s first care, the moment he had reached a place of safety, had
been to indite General Fabio Conti a perfectly polite and, in a sense,
a very ridiculous letter, in which he begged him to forgive him for
having escaped, alleging, as his excuse, that he had been given reason
to believe that a person occupying a subaltern position in the prison
had been ordered to poison him. Fabrizio cared little what he wrote.
His one hope was that the letter might fall under Clelia’s eyes, and
his own face was wet with tears as he traced the words. He closed his
epistle with a very whimsical phrase: he ventured to say that now he was
at liberty, he very often regretted his little chamber in the Farnese
Tower. This was the ruling thought of his letter, and he hoped Clelia
would understand it. Still in a writing humour, and still hoping that
a certain person might read what he wrote, Fabrizio penned his thanks
to Don Cesare, the good-natured chaplain who had lent him theological
books. A few days later Fabrizio persuaded the small bookseller at
Locarno to travel to Milan, where this worthy, who was a friend of the
celebrated book-fancier, Reina, bought him the most splendid editions
to be discovered of the works lent him by Don Cesare. The kind chaplain
received these books, with a fine letter telling him that the poor
prisoner, in moments of impatience which might perhaps be forgiven him,
had covered the margins of his books with absurd notes. He therefore
besought him to replace those volumes in his library by these now
despatched to him, with a most lively sense of gratitude.

Fabrizio was not exactly correct when he described his endless
scribblings on the margins of a folio copy of the works of St. Jerome
as “notes.” Hoping he might be able to send the book back to the good
chaplain and exchange it for another, he had written on its margins, from
day to day, a most careful journal of everything that happened to him in
prison. These great events amounted to nothing but the expression of his
ecstasies of _divine love_ (the word divine was used instead of another,
which he dared not write). Sometimes this “divine love” cast the prisoner
into the deepest despair; then, again, a voice heard in the air would
give him some hope, and lift him into transports of happiness. All this
was written, fortunately, in prison ink, composed of wine, chocolate, and
soot, and Don Cesare, when he put the volume of St. Jerome back on his
library shelves, had scarcely glanced at it. If he had looked closely
over the margins he would have become aware that one day the prisoner,
believing himself to have been poisoned, was rejoicing in the thought
that he was to die within forty paces of that which he had loved best in
this world. But other eyes besides those of the kind-hearted chaplain
had perused the page since Fabrizio’s escape. The beautiful idea of
_dying near the object of one’s love_, expressed in a hundred different
forms, was followed by a sonnet, which set forth that the soul, parted
after hideous torments from the weak body which it had inhabited for the
past three-and-twenty years, and impelled by that instinctive desire for
happiness natural to everything which has had life, would not, even if
the great Judge granted pardon for all its sins, betake itself to heaven,
to join the angelic choir, the moment it obtained its freedom; but that,
more happy after death than it had been in life, it would join itself to
its earthly love, within a few paces of the prison in which it groaned
so long. “Thus,” ran the last line of the sonnet, “I shall have found my
paradise on earth.”

Although within the citadel of Parma Fabrizio was never mentioned, except
as a vile traitor who had violated the most sacred laws, the worthy
priest was delighted at the sight of these beautiful books, sent him by
an unknown hand—for Fabrizio had been careful not to write for a few
days after their arrival, lest the sight of his name should induce the
indignant return of the whole consignment. Don Cesare did not mention
this attention to his brother, who flew into a fury whenever Fabrizio’s
name was spoken. But since the prisoner’s escape he had fallen back into
all his former intimacy with his charming niece, and as he had at one
time taught her a little Latin, he showed her the beautiful books he had
received. This had been the traveller’s hope. Clelia suddenly reddened
deeply; she had recognised Fabrizio’s handwriting. Long narrow pieces of
yellow paper had been placed, like markers, in different parts of the
volume, and how true is it that amidst the sordid money interests, and
the cold and colourless vulgarity of the considerations which fill our
lives, the acts inspired by a genuine passion seldom fail to produce
their due effect! On this occasion, as though some favouring goddess led
her by the hand, Clelia, guided by instinct, and by one overmastering
thought, begged her uncle to allow her to compare his old copy of St.
Jerome with that he had just received. How shall I describe the joy that
brightened the gloomy sadness into which Fabrizio’s absence had plunged
her, when she found, on the margins of the old St. Jerome, the sonnet of
which we have spoken, and the recital, day by day, of the love she had
inspired!

That very first day she knew the lines by heart, and sang them to
herself, leaning on her own window, opposite that lonely one at which
she had so often seen the tiny opening appear in the wooden screen. The
screen in question had been taken down, to be produced in court, and used
as a proof in an absurd trial which Rassi was now instituting against
Fabrizio, who was accused of having escaped, or, as the Chief Justice put
it, laughing himself, of _having snatched himself from the clemency of a
magnanimous prince_.

Every step Clelia had taken caused her bitter remorse, and now that she
was so unhappy, her self-reproach was all the deeper. She struggled to
soften the blame she cast upon herself by recalling the vow she had made
to the Madonna, when the general had been half poisoned, and renewed
every day since—_that she would never see Fabrizio again_.

Fabrizio’s escape had made the general very ill, and besides, he had
very nearly lost his post, when the prince, in his rage, discharged all
the jailers in the Farnese Tower, and sent them as prisoners to the
city jail. The general had been partly saved by the intercession of
Count Mosca, who preferred having him shut up in the top of his citadel
to having to deal with him as an active and intriguing rival in court
circles.

It was during this fortnight of uncertainty as to the disgrace of the
general, who was really ill, that Clelia found courage to perform the
sacrifice of which she had spoken to Fabrizio. She had been clever
enough to fall ill on that day of general rejoicing, which had also,
as my readers recollect, been that of Fabrizio’s flight. The next day,
again, she was ill, and, in a word, she managed so cleverly that,
except for the jailer Grillo, whose special charge Fabrizio had been,
not a soul suspected her complicity, and Grillo held his peace. But as
soon as Clelia’s fears from this quarter were quieted, her legitimate
remorse tortured her yet more cruelly. “What earthly reason,” said she
to herself, “can possibly lessen the crime of a daughter who betrays her
father?”

One evening, after having spent almost the whole day in the chapel, and
in tears, she begged her uncle, Don Cesare, to come with her to the
general, whose fits of rage now terrified her all the more because they
were constantly mingled with curses of that abominable traitor Fabrizio.

When she reached her father’s presence she found courage to tell him that
if she had always refused to give her hand to the Marchese Crescenzi
it was because she felt no inclination toward him, and that she was
convinced the union would not bring her happiness. At these words the
general flew into a fury, and Clelia had considerable difficulty in
speaking again. She added that if her father, tempted by the marchese’s
fortune, thought himself obliged to give her a formal order to marry
him, she was ready to obey. The general was quite taken aback by this
conclusion, which he did not in the least expect. He ended, however, by
being very much delighted. “So,” said he to his brother, “I shall not
have to live in rooms on the second floor, after all, even if this scamp
Fabrizio’s vile behaviour does cost me my place.”

Count Mosca took care to be very much shocked by the escape of “that
good-for-nothing fellow Fabrizio,” and seized every opportunity of
repeating Rassi’s vulgar phrase as to the dull behaviour of the young man
who had turned his back on the sovereign’s clemency.

This witty remark, beloved by the smart set, did not take at all among
the populace. The people, left to their own good sense, and though they
held Fabrizio a very guilty man, admired the courage he had shown in
climbing down from so great a height. There was not a soul about court
who felt any admiration for his courage. As for the police, which was
sorely humiliated by its mishap, it had officially discovered that twenty
soldiers, bought over with money distributed by the duchess—that vilely
ungrateful woman whose name could not be pronounced without a sigh—had
brought Fabrizio four ladders, each forty-five feet long, and all bound
together. Fabrizio had thrown down a rope, which had been fastened to
these ladders, and his only exploit had been the very ordinary one of
hauling them up. Certain notoriously imprudent Liberals, and among them
a Doctor C⸺, an agent in the prince’s direct pay, added, and compromised
themselves by saying so, that this merciless police had been so cruel as
to cause eight of the soldiers who had abetted the ungrateful Fabrizio’s
flight to be barbarously shot. Hence Fabrizio was blamed, even by genuine
Liberals, because his foolhardiness had brought about the death of eight
poor soldiers. Thus do small despots whittle down the value of public
opinion.



CHAPTER XXIII


Amidst the general storm of invective, Archbishop Landriani alone
stood faithful to his young friend’s cause, and ventured, even at the
princess’s court, to quote that maxim of jurisprudence, according to
which the justification of an absent person must always be received with
unprejudiced ears.

On the very morning after Fabrizio’s escape, several persons received a
tolerable sonnet, which acclaimed his flight as one of the finest actions
of the century, and likened Fabrizio to an angel descending upon earth on
outspread wings. On the evening of the third day, every tongue in Parma
was repeating a really magnificent piece of verse. This purported to be
Fabrizio’s soliloquy as he swung himself down the rope, and reviewed
the various incidents of his life. Two magnificent lines insured this
second sonnet its proper place in public estimation. Every connoisseur
recognised the hand of Ferrante Palla.

But at this point, I myself ought to fall into the epic style. What
colours are bright enough to paint the torrents of indignation that
submerged the hearts of all well-conditioned folk at the incredible news
of the insolent illumination at Sacca! One shriek of horror went up
against the duchess; even genuine Liberals thought she had risked the
safety of the poor suspects in the various prisons in a most barbarous
fashion, and unnecessarily exasperated the sovereign’s feelings.
Count Mosca declared that only one course was left to the duchess’s
old friends—they must forget her. The concert of execration was quite
unanimous. Any stranger passing through the town must have been struck
by the strength of public opinion. Still, in this country, where the
delights of vengeance are thoroughly appreciated, the illuminations and
the splendid _fête_ given to over six thousand peasants in the park at
Sacca had a huge success. Everybody in Parma was saying that the duchess
had given a thousand sequins to her peasants, and this, it was added,
explained the somewhat rough reception given the thirty gendarmes the
police had been foolish enough to send into the village, thirty-six hours
after the splendid festivities, and the general drunkenness which had
followed on them, had come to an end. The gendarmes had been received
with volleys of stones, had taken to flight, and two of them had been
thrown into the river.

As to the bursting of the great reservoir at the Palazzo Sanseverina,
that had hardly been noticed. A few streets had been flooded during the
night, and in the morning people might have thought it had been raining.
Ludovico had carefully broken the glass in one of the palace windows,
which accounted for the entrance of the thieves, and a short ladder
had actually been found hard by. Count Mosca was the only person who
recognised the finger of his friend.

Fabrizio was quite resolved to get back to Parma as soon as he could. He
sent Ludovico with a long letter to the archbishop, and that faithful
servant came back to the first village in Piedmont—Sannazaro, to the
west of Pavia—and there posted the Latin epistle addressed by the worthy
prelate to his young friend. We must here add a detail, which, like
many others, doubtless, may strike people as wearisome, in a country
where caution is no longer necessary. The name “Fabrizio del Dongo” was
never written; all letters intended for him were addressed to Ludovico
San-Michele, either at Locarno in Switzerland, or at Belgirate in
Piedmont. The envelope was made of coarse paper, it was clumsily sealed,
the address was hardly legible, and occasionally adorned with additions
worthy of a cook, and all these letters were antedated, by six days, from
Naples.

From the Piedmontese village of Sannazaro, near Pavia, Ludovico hurried
back to Parma. He was charged with a mission which Fabrizio regarded as
of the utmost importance. He was ordered to do no less a thing than to
send Clelia Conti a silken handkerchief, on which one of Petrarch’s
sonnets had been printed. One word in the sonnet had, indeed, been
altered. Clelia found it on her table, two days after she had received
the thanks of the Marchese Crescenzi, who declared himself the happiest
of men; and I need not describe the impression this mark of unfailing
recollection produced upon her feelings.

Ludovico had received orders to collect every possible detail as to
what was happening in the citadel. He it was who brought Fabrizio the
sad news that the marriage with the Marchese Crescenzi appeared to be
a settled thing. Hardly a day passed that he did not offer Clelia some
form of festivity within the citadel walls. One decisive proof that the
marriage was settled was that the marchese, who was excessively rich, and
consequently, like most wealthy people in northern Italy, exceedingly
stingy, was making huge preparations—and that, although he was marrying
a dowerless girl. It is true that General Fabio Conti, whose vanity had
been sorely stung by this remark—the first which occurred to all his
fellow-countrymen—had just bought a landed property costing over three
hundred thousand francs, and that, though he had nothing of his own,
he had paid for it with ready money, presumably money belonging to the
marquis. He had also given out that he bestowed the property on his
daughter as a wedding gift. But the expenses of drawing up the deeds,
and others, which came to more than twelve thousand francs, struck the
Marchese Crescenzi, a man of very logical mind, as a very ridiculous
outlay. He, on his part, was having magnificent hangings—admirably
devised for delighting the eyes, by the famous Pallazzi, a Bolognese
painter—woven at Lyons. These hangings, each of which bore some part
of the Crescenzi family arms (the family, as all the world knows, is
descended from the famous Roman Consul Crescentius, who lived in 985),
were to furnish the seventeen saloons composing the ground floor of the
marchese’s palace. The hangings, clocks, and chandeliers, delivered in
Parma, cost over three hundred and fifty thousand francs. The value of
the new mirrors, added to those the house already contained, reached two
hundred thousand francs. With the exception of two rooms, famous as the
work of Parmegiano, the greatest painter of that country next to the
divine Correggio, all the apartments on the first and second floor were
now occupied by the most famous Florentine and Milanese painters, who
were adorning them with frescoes. Fokelberg, the great Swedish sculptor,
Tenerani, from Rome, and Marchesi, from Milan, had been working for a
year on ten bas-reliefs representing as many noble acts in the life of
that truly great man Crescentius. Most of the ceilings, which were also
painted in fresco, contained some allusion to his career. One particular
ceiling—on which Hayez, of Milan, had depicted Crescentius received in
the Elysian Fields by Francesco Sforza, Lorenzo the Magnificent, King
Robert, the Tribune Cola di Rienzi, Macchiavelli, Dante, and the other
great figures of the Middle Ages—was most generally admired. Expressed
admiration for these elect beings was considered to hint scorn of the
people in power at the moment.

All these splendid details absorbed the attention of the nobles and
burghers of Parma, and wrung our hero’s heart, when he read them, related
with artless admiration, in a long letter of over twenty pages which
Ludovico had dictated to a customs-officer at Casal Maggiore.

“And I am so poor!” said Fabrizio to himself. “I have four thousand
francs a year in all, and for everything. It is downright insolence for
me to dare to be in love with Clelia Conti, for whom all these marvels
are being prepared.”

One item in Ludovico’s letter, written in his own clumsy hand, informed
his master that he had happened, one night, on poor Grillo, his former
jailer, who had been thrown into prison and subsequently released, and
who now bore all the appearance of a man who was hiding. Grillo had
begged him, of his charity, to give him a sequin, and Ludovico had given
him four in the duchess’s name. The former jailers, twelve of them, who
had just been set at liberty, were making themselves ready to give the
new men who had succeeded them a “knifing entertainment” (_trattamento
di coltellate_) if they could contrive to come upon them outside the
citadel. Grillo had reported that there was a serenade at the fortress
every night, that the Signorina Clelia Conti looked very pale, was often
ill, and _other things of that sort_. As a consequence of this absurd
expression, Ludovico received orders, by return of post, to come back to
Locarno. He came, and the details he supplied by word of mouth were still
more distressing to Fabrizio’s feelings.

My readers may imagine how pleasant he made himself to the poor duchess;
he would have died a thousand deaths rather than have pronounced the name
of Clelia Conti in her presence.

The duchess loathed Parma, and to Fabrizio everything that reminded him
of that city was at once sublime and tender.

Less than ever had the duchess forgotten her vengeance. She had been so
happy before Giletti’s death, and now, what a fate was hers! She was
living in constant expectation of a frightful event, not a word of which
she dared mention to Fabrizio—she who, when she had made her arrangement
with Ferrante, had dreamed that one day she would rejoice Fabrizio’s
heart by assuring him that his day of vengeance would surely come.

My readers may conceive some idea of the agreeability of the
conversations between Fabrizio and the duchess. The dreariest silence
generally reigned between the two. To increase the enjoyment of their
intercourse the duchess had allowed herself to be tempted into playing a
trick upon her too beloved nephew. The count wrote to her almost every
day. Apparently he still sent couriers, as in the first days of their
love, for his letters always bore the postmark of some small Swiss
town. The poor man taxed his wits so as not to speak too openly of his
affection, and to devise amusing letters. All she did was to glance over
them carelessly. What, alas, is the fidelity of a lover she esteems, to a
woman whose heart is wrung by the coldness of the man she prefers!

In two months the duchess only sent him back one answer, and that was to
request him to sound the princess, and find out whether, in spite of the
insolent display of fireworks, a letter from the duchess would be well
received. The letter he was to present, if he thought it wise, prayed
the princess to appoint the Marchese Crescenzi to the post of lord in
waiting to her Serene Highness, which had lately fallen vacant, and
begged the position might be given him in consideration of his marriage.
The duchess’s letter was a masterpiece, full of the tenderest respect,
most perfectly expressed. Its courtier-like language did not contain a
single word of which the consequences, even the most distant, could have
been otherwise than agreeable to the princess, and the answer it elicited
breathed a tender friendship, which separation was putting to the torture.

“My son and I,” wrote the princess, “have not had one fairly pleasant
evening since your sudden departure. Has my dear duchess forgotten that
it is to her I owe the fact that I have regained a consulting voice in
the nomination of the officers of my household? Does she feel herself
obliged to give reasons for appointing the marchese, as though her
expressed desire were not the best of reasons to me? The marchese will
have the post if I can do anything toward it, and in my heart there will
always be a place—and the very first—for my delightful duchess. My son
uses absolutely the same expressions—though indeed they are rather strong
in the mouth of a great fellow of one-and-twenty—and begs you will send
him specimens of the minerals of the valley of Orta, near Belgirate.
You can address your letters to the count, who still detests you, and
whom I love all the better on account of this sentiment. The archbishop,
too, has remained faithful to you. We all hope to see you back some
day; remember, that must be! The Marchesa Ghisleri, my mistress of the
robes, is about to leave this world for a better one. The poor woman has
given me a great deal of trouble, and she displeases me now by departing
at such an unseasonable moment. Her illness makes me think of the name
which I should once have found such pleasure in substituting for hers—if,
indeed, I could have succeeded in obtaining this sacrifice of her
independence from the unique being who, when she left us, carried away
with her all the delights of my little court,” and so forth.

Thus, day after day, when the duchess met Fabrizio, she felt conscious
of having done all that in her lay to hurry on the marriage which was
driving him to despair, and they often spent four or five hours sailing
together upon the lake, without uttering a single word to each other.
Fabrizio’s kind-heartedness was complete and perfect, but he was thinking
of other things, and his simple and artless mind supplied him with no
subjects of conversation. The duchess saw this, and therein was her
torture.

I have forgotten to relate, in its proper place, that the duchess had
taken a house at Belgirate, a lovely village which fulfils all the
promise of its name (the view of a beautiful curve of the lake). Out of
the French window of the drawing-room, the duchess could step into her
boat. She had chosen a very ordinary one, for which four rowers would
have sufficed, but she hired twelve, and was careful to have one man from
each of the villages in the neighbourhood of Belgirate. The third or
fourth time she found herself in the middle of the lake, with all these
well-chosen men about her, she signed to them to cease rowing.

“I look upon you all as my friends,” she said, “and I am going to trust
you with a secret. My nephew Fabrizio has escaped from prison, and
perhaps some treacherous attempt may be made to lay hands upon him,
although he is on your lake, and in a free country. Keep your ears open,
and warn me of everything you may hear. I give you leave to come into my
room either by day or night.”

The men responded in the most enthusiastic manner; she had the talent
of making herself loved. But she did not think there would be any
question of trying to seize Fabrizio; it was for herself she was taking
these precautions, and before she had given the fatal order to open the
reservoir at the Palazzo Sanseverina, she would never have dreamed of
them.

Prudence had also led her to hire Fabrizio’s lodging in the Port of
Locarno. Every day he either came to see her, or she herself went to see
him in Switzerland. The delights of their perpetual _tête-à-tête_ may be
gauged by the following detail. The marchesa and her daughters came to
see them twice, and they were glad of the presence of these strangers—for
ties of blood notwithstanding, a person who knows nothing of one’s
dearest interests, and whom one does not see more than once a year, may
fairly be called a stranger.

One night, the duchess, with the marchesa and her two daughters, was at
Fabrizio’s rooms in Locarno. The archpriest of the neighbourhood and the
village priest had both come to pay their respects to the ladies. The
archpriest, who was interested in some commercial house, and kept himself
informed of the current news, happened to say:

“The Prince of Parma is dead.”

The duchess turned very pale. She could hardly find courage to inquire,
“Have you heard any details?”

“No,” replied the archpriest, “the report only mentions his death; but
that is quite certain.”

The duchess looked at Fabrizio. “It was for him I did it,” she said to
herself, “and I would have done a thousand times worse. And there he sits
in front of me, utterly indifferent, and thinking of another woman!”
It was beyond the duchess’s power to endure the dreadful thought; she
swooned away. Every one hastened to her assistance, but when she came
back to her senses she noticed that Fabrizio was far less perturbed than
the two priests; he was dreaming, as usual. “He is thinking he will go
back to Parma,” said the duchess to herself, “and perhaps that he will
break off Clelia’s marriage with the marchese. But I shall know how to
prevent that.” Then, recollecting the presence of the two ecclesiastics,
she hastily added:

“He was a great prince, and has been sorely slandered. He is a sore loss
to us all.”

The two priests took their leave, and the duchess, who longed to be
alone, announced her intention of going to bed.

“No doubt,” said she to herself, “prudence forbids my returning to Parma
for a month or two. But I feel I shall never have that patience; I suffer
too much here. Fabrizio’s perpetual silence and absorption are more than
my heart can bear. Who would have told me I ever could have felt weary
of sailing alone with him over this beautiful lake! And just at the
moment when, to avenge him, I have done more than I can ever tell him!
After such a sight as that, death seems nothing at all. Now, indeed,
I am paying for the ecstasies of happiness and childish delight I felt
in my palace at Parma, when Fabrizio joined me there on his return from
Naples. If I had said one word then, it would all have been settled;
and perhaps, if he had been bound to me, he never would have thought of
that little Clelia. But that word filled me with a horrible repugnance.
Now she has the better of me, and what can be more natural? She is only
twenty, and I, besides being altered by trouble and illness, am twice her
age.… I must die, I must make an end of it! A woman of forty is nothing
to any man, except those who have loved her in her youth. The only joys
left to me now are those of vanity. And do they make life worth living?
That’s another reason for going to Parma and amusing myself. If certain
things happened, I should be put to death; well, what matter? I will die
nobly, and just before the end, but not till then, I will tell Fabrizio,
‘Ungrateful boy, it was for you I did it!’… Yes, Parma is the only
place where I can find occupation for what little life remains to me.
I’ll play the great lady there. What a blessing it would be if I could
find enjoyment, now, in the glories which used to make the Raversi sick
with envy! In those days I only became aware of my happiness by seeing
it mirrored in jealous eyes.… My vanity has one piece of good fortune.
Except for the count, perhaps, not a soul can have guessed at what has
cut my affections at their root.… I will love Fabrizio, I will devote
myself to his fortunes, but he shall not break off Clelia’s marriage and
marry her himself.… No, that shall never be!”

So far had the duchess proceeded in her melancholy soliloquy when she
heard a great noise in the house.

“Hark!” she cried; “they are coming to arrest me! Ferrante has been taken
and has confessed. Well, all the better. I shall have something to do; I
must fight for my life. But to begin with, I mustn’t let them take me!”

Half dressed, the duchess fled to the bottom of her garden. She was just
meditating climbing over a low wall, and escaping into the open country,
when she caught sight of some one going into her room, and recognised
Bruno, the count’s confidential man. He was alone with her maid. She
approached the open window; the man was telling the maid about the wounds
he had received. The duchess came back into her room, and Bruno, casting
himself at her feet, besought her not to tell the count the absurd hour
at which he had arrived.

“The moment the prince was dead,” he added, “the count sent orders to
all the posting-houses that no horses were to be given to any Parmese
subject; consequently I travelled as far as the Po with our own horses.
But when we were getting off the ferry-boat my carriage was overturned,
smashed up, and destroyed, and I was so seriously hurt that I could not
ride, as it was my duty to have done.”

“Very good,” said the duchess, “it is three o’clock in the morning. I’ll
say it is midday. But don’t you dare to contradict me!”

“That is like the signora’s usual kindness.”

In a literary work, politics play the part of a pistol shot in the middle
of a concert—something rough and disagreeable, to which, nevertheless, we
can not refuse our attention.

I am now going to speak of very ugly matters, concerning which, for more
than one reason, I would gladly be silent. But I am compelled to refer to
certain events which come within our purview, seeing they are connected
with the lives of the persons I describe.

“But good God,” said the duchess to Bruno, “how did that great prince
come by his death?”

“He went out to shoot birds of passage in the marshes by the river, a few
leagues from Sacca. He fell into a hole, hidden by a tuft of grass; he
was in a violent perspiration, and the cold struck him. He was conveyed
to a lonely house, and there he died, within a few hours. Some declare
that Signore Catena and Barone are dead too, and that the whole accident
was caused by the saucepans in the peasant’s house, into which they were
taken, being full of verdigris—they all breakfasted in that house. Then
the hot-headed folk, the Jacobins, who say whatever suits them, talk
about poison. I know that my friend Toto, one of the court servants,
would have died but for the care lavished on him by a sort of lunatic
who seemed to know a great deal about medicine, and made him use very
strange remedies. But nobody talks about the prince’s death any more,
and, indeed, he was a cruel man. When I was starting, the populace was
collecting to murder Chief-Justice Rassi, and the people wanted to set
the gates of the citadel on fire, so as to try and save the prisoners.
But some people declared Fabio Conti would fire his cannon on them,
while others vowed the gunners in the fortress had poured water on
their gunpowder, and would not destroy their fellow-citizens. But here
is something far more interesting: While the surgeon at Sandolaro was
binding up my poor arm, a man came in from Parma, and told us that when
the people saw Barbone, that clerk from the citadel, in the streets, they
first of all thrashed him mercilessly, and then hanged him on the tree
in the square, nearest to the citadel. Then they set out to destroy that
fine statue of the prince that stands in the royal gardens, but the count
sent for a battalion of the guard, drew it up in front of the statue, and
sent the people word that no man who came into the garden should leave it
alive, and then every one was frightened.

“But a very strange thing, which the man from Parma, a former gendarme,
told me, over and over again, is that the count kicked General P⸺, the
commandant of the prince’s guard, tore off his epaulettes, and had him
marched out of the garden by two fusileers.”

“That’s just like the count!” exclaimed the duchess, in a transport of
delight, which she would have thought impossible a moment previously. “He
would never allow any one to insult our princess, and as for General P⸺,
he was so devoted to his legitimate masters that he would never serve the
usurper, whereas the count, whose feelings were less delicate, fought
through all the Spanish campaigns, a thing which was often cast in his
teeth at court.”

The duchess had opened the count’s letter, but over and over again she
stopped reading it to question Bruno.

It was a very comical letter. The count used the most lugubrious
language, and yet the most lively joy was evident in every word. He gave
no details as to the manner of the prince’s death, and ended his letter
with the following words:

“You will come back, of course, my dearest angel. But I would advise your
waiting a day or two for the messenger whom the princess will send you,
as I hope, either to-day or to-morrow. Your return must be as magnificent
as your departure was bold.

“As to the _great culprit_, who is with you, I fully expect to have him
tried by twelve judges, selected from every party in the state. But to
punish the wretch as he deserves, I must first of all be in a position to
make curl-papers out of the first sentence, if it exists.”

The count had reopened his letter:

“Here’s quite another business. I have just had cartridges served out to
the two battalions of the guards. I am going to fight, and do my best
to deserve that surname of ‘Cruel’ with which the Liberals have so long
honoured me. That old mummy, General P⸺, has dared to talk in barracks of
parleying with the populace, which is in a state of semi-revolt. I write
this in the middle of the street. I go hence to the palace, which no one
shall enter except across my dead body. Farewell! If I die, I die as I
have lived, worshipping you _in any case_. Don’t forget to send for the
three hundred thousand francs lodged in your name with D⸺ at Lyons.

“Here comes that poor devil Rassi, wigless and as pale as death; you’ve
no idea what a figure he is. The populace is bent on hanging him. That
would be too hard on him; he deserves to be drawn and quartered as well!
He would have taken refuge in my palace, and has run after me into the
street. I hardly know what to do with him.… I do not want to take him to
the prince’s palace; that would bring about a revolt in that quarter. F⸺
will see whether I care for him. My first words to Rassi were, ‘I must
have the sentence on Monsignore del Dongo, and all the copies you have of
it, and you will tell all those shameless judges, who have brought about
this revolt, that I will have them all hanged, and you, my friend, into
the bargain, if they breathe a single word of this sentence, which has
never existed.’ I am sending a company of grenadiers to the archbishop,
in Fabrizio’s name. Farewell, dear angel. My house will be burned, and I
shall lose those delightful pictures I have of you. I am hurrying off to
the palace to get that vile General P⸺ cashiered. He is working for his
own hand, flattering the populace as basely as he used to flatter the
late prince. All these generals are frightened out of their wits; I think
I’ll have myself appointed commander-in-chief.”

The duchess was spiteful enough not to send and rouse Fabrizio. She felt
a glow of admiration for the count, which strongly resembled love. “All
things considered,” said she to herself, “I really must marry him.” She
wrote him instantly to that effect, and sent off one of her servants.
That night the duchess had no time to feel unhappy.

The next day, toward noon, she saw a boat with six rowers swiftly
cleaving the waters of the lake. Fabrizio and she soon recognised a
man wearing the Prince of Parma’s livery. He was, in fact, one of his
couriers, who, before he jumped on shore, called out to the duchess: “The
revolt is put down.” This courier brought her several letters from the
count, a charming missive from the princess, and a parchment decree from
Prince Ranuzio-Ernest V which created her Duchess of San Giovanni, and
appointed her Mistress of the Robes to the Princess-Mother. The young
prince, who was learned in mineralogy, and whom she believed to be a
simpleton, had been clever enough to write her a little note, but there
was love at the end of it. The note began thus:

“The count says, my Lady Duchess, that he is pleased with me. As a
matter of fact, I have faced a few musket shots beside him, and my horse
was wounded. The fuss made over so small a thing has made me earnestly
desire to be present at a real battle, so long as it be not against my
own subjects. I owe everything to the count; all my generals, who know
nothing of war, have behaved like hounds. I believe two or three of
them have run away as far as Bologna. Since the day when a great and
deplorable event called me to power, I have signed no decree which gives
me so much pleasure as this, which appoints you my mother’s mistress of
the robes. My mother and I have remembered that one day you admired the
beautiful view from the Palazzetto San Giovanni, which once belonged to
Petrarch—at least, so we are told. My mother desired to give you this
little property, and I, not knowing what to give you, and not daring to
offer you all that belongs to you already, have made you a duchess in my
own country. I do not know whether you are so learned as to be aware that
Sanseverina is a Roman title. I have just given the ribbon of my Order to
our excellent archbishop, who has displayed a firmness very uncommon in a
man of sixty-two. You will not be angry with me for having recalled all
the banished ladies. I am told that in future I must never sign my name
without having written the words ‘_your affectionate_.’ It vexes me that
I should be thus made to squander an assurance which is not fully true,
except when I write myself ‘_your_ affectionate, Ranuzio-Ernest.’”

Who would not have thought, judging from this language, that the duchess
was about to enjoy the highest favour? Nevertheless, she found something
very odd in other letters from the count, which reached her two hours
later. These advised her, without further explanation, to put off her
return to Parma for a few days, and to write the princess word that she
was exceedingly unwell. Notwithstanding, the duchess and Fabrizio started
for Parma immediately after dinner; the duchess’s object, which, however,
she did not admit to herself, was to hurry on the Marchese Crescenzi’s
marriage. Fabrizio, for his part, performed the journey in a state of
wild happiness, which seemed perfectly ridiculous to his aunt. He had
hopes of seeing Clelia soon, and fully reckoned on carrying her off, in
spite of herself, if that should be the only means of breaking off her
marriage.

The journey of the duchess and her nephew was a very cheerful one. At the
last posting station before Parma, Fabrizio stopped a moment to put on
his churchman’s garb. As a rule he wore ordinary mourning dress. When he
came back to the duchess’s room—

“There seems to me something very odd and inexplicable,” she said, “in
the count’s letters. If you will be ruled by me you will stay here for a
few hours. I’ll send you a messenger as soon as I have had a talk with
the mighty minister.”

It was only very unwillingly that Fabrizio bowed to this sensible piece
of advice. The count received the duchess with transports of joy worthy
of a boy of fifteen, calling her “his wife.” It was long before he would
talk of politics. When they came back, at last, to the dull realms of
common sense—

“You did very wisely,” he said, “to prevent Fabrizio from arriving
openly. There is a great reaction going on here. Just guess the name of
the colleague the prince has imposed on me as Minister of Justice. Rassi,
my dear soul, Rassi, whom I treated like the blackguard he is, on the day
of our great excitements. By the way, I must warn you that everything
that happened here has been suppressed. If you read our Gazette, you will
perceive that a clerk at the citadel, of the name of Barbone, has been
killed by a fall from a carriage. As for the sixty-odd rogues I had shot
when they tried to wreck the prince’s statue in the gardens, they are
all quite well, but they have gone on long journeys. Count Zurla, the
Minister of the Interior, has personally visited each of these unlucky
heroes’ homes, and has made over fifteen sequins to their family or
friends, with strict orders to say that the dead man is travelling, and
a very direct threat that any one who ventures to hint anybody has been
killed will be forthwith shut up in prison. A man from my own office at
the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has been sent to the journalists of
Milan and Turin, to prevent any mention of the ‘unfortunate event’—that’s
the correct term—and this man is to go as far as Paris and London, so
as to give an almost official denial to any newspaper reference to our
disturbances. Another agent has gone toward Bologna and Florence. I shrug
my shoulders.

“But the comical thing, at my age, is that I felt a flash of real
enthusiasm when I was addressing the soldiers of the guard, and when I
tore the epaulettes off that contemptible fellow, P⸺. At that moment I
would have given my life for the prince without the smallest hesitation.
I confess, now, it would have been a very silly way of ending it. At
this moment the prince, kind-hearted young fellow as he is, would give a
thousand crowns if I would die of some sickness. He dares not ask me to
resign, as yet, but we see each other as seldom as possible, and I send
him a quantity of small written reports, just as I did with the late
prince after Fabrizio was imprisoned. By the way, I have not turned his
sentence into curl-papers, for the excellent reason that that villain
Rassi never gave it to me. That is why you have done so wisely to prevent
Fabrizio from arriving publicly. The sentence is still valid. However, I
do not believe Rassi would dare to arrest our nephew to-day. Still, he
may possibly dare to do it within a fortnight. If Fabrizio absolutely
insists on coming into the city, let him come and live in my house.”

“But what is the reason of all this?” exclaimed the astonished duchess.

“The prince has been persuaded that I give myself the airs of a dictator,
and of the saviour of the country; that I want to lead him like a child,
and even that, in speaking of him, I used those fatal words ‘that child.’
This may be true; I was very much excited that day. But, indeed, I really
looked on him as a thorough man, because he was not frightened in face
of the first musketry firing he had ever heard in his life. He is by no
means a fool. His tone, indeed, is much better than his father’s, and—I
can not say it too often—at the bottom of his heart he is both good and
upright. But his honest young soul is stung when the story of some piece
of rascality is told him, and he thinks his own nature must be vile to
perceive such things. Think what his education has been.”

“Your Excellency should have remembered that he was to be our master some
day, and should have placed a clever man about his person.”

“In the first place, we have the instance of the Abbé de Condillac, who
was appointed by my predecessor, the Marchese di Felino, and turned his
pupil into a very king of simpletons. He walked in religious processions,
and in 1796 he failed to make terms with General Buonaparte, who would
have tripled the size of his dominions. And in the second place, I never
dreamed I should have been Prime Minister for ten successive years. Now
that my mind is disabused of that idea—that is to say, for the last
month—I am resolved to put together a million of francs before I leave
this Bedlam I have saved, to its fate. But for me, Parma would have spent
two months as a republic, with the poet Ferrante Palla as dictator!”

The duchess reddened at the words. The count knew nothing of that story.

“We are coming back, now, to the regular eighteenth-century monarchy,
ruled by the confessor and the mistress. At heart, all the prince cares
for is mineralogy—and perhaps, madam, for you! Since he has succeeded,
his body-servant, whose brother, a fellow with nine months’ service, I
have just made a captain—this body-servant, I say, has put an idea into
his head that he ought to be the happiest of men, because his profile
will appear on the coinage. That fine notion has brought boredom in its
train.

“Now he must have an aide-de-camp to help him out of his boredom. Well,
even if he were to offer me that precious million of money, which is so
necessary to insure our comfort at Naples or Paris, I would not undertake
to cure him of his boredom, and spend four or five hours every day in his
Highness’s company. Besides, as I am cleverer than he is, he would think
me a monster before the first month was out.

“The late prince was spiteful and envious, but he had fought as a
soldier, and commanded troops, and that had given him a certain sense
of deportment. There were the makings of a prince in him, and with him
I could behave as a minister, whether good or bad. But with this honest
son of his, in spite of all his candour and real kind-heartedness, I am
obliged to resort to intrigue. I find myself the rival of the veriest
old woman among his courtiers, and a rival in an inferior position,
too, for I shall certainly despise scores of precautions which I ought
to take. For instance, three days ago, one of those women who lay out
clean towels in all his rooms contrived to mislay the key of one of the
prince’s English writing-tables. Whereupon his Highness refused to attend
to any of the business, the papers for which were in that particular
receptacle. For twenty francs we might have had the board at the back of
the writing-table removed, or have had the lock opened with a false key.
But Ranuzio-Ernest V informed me that such a proceeding would give the
court locksmith bad habits.

“So far he has never contrived to be of the same mind three days running.
If the young prince had been born a marquis, with a large fortune, he
would have been one of the most worthy men about his own court—a sort
of Louis XVI. But how is that pious simplicity of his to escape all
the skilful ambushes that surround him? Thus your friend the Raversi’s
_salon_ is more powerful than ever. Its frequenters have discovered that
I, who had the populace fired on, and who was resolved, if necessary, to
kill three thousand of them, sooner than permit any insult to the statue
of the prince, who had been my master, am a violent Liberal; that I tried
to get a constitution signed, and more stuff of the same kind. With such
republican stories, these madmen would prevent us from enjoying even the
best of monarchies.… You, madam, in fine, are the only existing member
of that Liberal party at the head of which my enemies have placed me, of
whom the prince has not spoken in harsh terms. The archbishop, who is
still a perfectly upright man, is in thorough disgrace, because he used
reasonable language about what I did on the _unlucky day_.

“On the day after that which was not then, as yet, known as ‘unlucky,’
while it was still true that a revolt had taken place, the prince told
the archbishop that he was going to make me a duke, so that you might not
have to take an inferior title when you married me. To-day, I fancy, it
is Rassi, whom I ennobled for selling me the late prince’s secrets, who
will be made a count. In face of such promotion as that, I should look
like a fool.”

“And the poor prince will degrade himself.”

“No doubt of that. But, after all, _he is master_ here, and in less than
a fortnight, that fact will still the voice of _ridicule_. Therefore,
dear duchess, let us do as we should do if we were playing _tric-trac_.
_Let us withdraw._”

“But we shall be anything but rich!”

“After all, neither you nor I need luxury. If you will give me a seat
in your box at the San Carlo, and a horse to ride, I shall be more than
content. It will never be the luxury, greater or less, in which we live,
that will insure our position; it will be the pleasure the clever folk of
the place may find in drinking a cup of tea in your drawing-room.”

“But,” replied the duchess, “what would have happened on the _unlucky
day_ if you had held yourself apart, as I trust you will do in future?”

“The troops would have fraternized with the populace, there would have
been three days of killing and burning;—for it will be a century, yet,
before a republic can cease to be an anomaly in this country. After
that, a fortnight’s pillage, until two or three foreign regiments had
been sent in to quell the disorder. Ferrante Palla was in the midst of
the populace, as brave, and as raging mad, as usual. He had some dozen
friends backing him up, no doubt, and out of that Rassi will make a fine
conspiracy. One thing is certain; that, though he wore an incredibly
tattered coat, he was distributing money by handsful in every direction.”

Astounded by all this news, the duchess hurried off to present her
acknowledgments to the princess. The moment she entered the royal
apartment, the lady-in-waiting presented her with the little gold key, to
be worn at the waist, which is the symbol of supreme authority in that
portion of the palace ruled by the princess. Clara Paolina lost no time
in dismissing all her attendants. For the first moments after she was
left alone with her friend, her manner and speech were neither of them
absolutely frank. The duchess, who could not understand what this meant,
was very cautious in her answers. At last the princess burst into tears,
and throwing herself into the duchess’s arms, exclaimed:

“My misfortunes are beginning afresh. My son will treat me worse than his
father did.”

“I’ll take good care he does not,” replied the duchess vehemently. “But
in the first place,” she went on, “I must beg your Most Serene Highness
to condescend to accept all my gratitude and my humblest duty.”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed the princess, alarmed at the thought of a
possible resignation.

“What I mean is, that whenever your Most Serene Highness gives me leave
to turn the shaking chin of yonder Chinese monster on the chimneypiece to
the right, you will give me permission, too, to call things by their real
names.”

“Is that all, my dear duchess?” exclaimed Clara Paolina, rising, and
herself placing the monster’s chin in the required position. “Speak now,
with perfect freedom,” she added, in the most gracious fashion.

“Madam,” replied the duchess, “your Highness has grasped the position
perfectly. Both you and I are in a most dangerous position. Fabrizio’s
sentence is not annulled. Consequently, whenever there is any desire to
get rid of me, and insult you, he will be cast into prison again. Our
position is as bad as ever it was. As regards myself personally, I am
going to marry the count, and we shall settle at Naples or in Paris. The
final stroke of ingratitude from which the count is suffering at the
present moment, has thoroughly sickened him; and save for your Serene
Highness’s sake, I should not advise him to have anything more to do with
this mess, unless the prince were to give him an enormous sum of money.
I will ask your Highness’s leave to explain that the count, who had a
hundred and thirty thousand francs when he first entered politics, owns
barely twenty thousand francs a year at the present time. In vain have I
besought him, this ever so long, to consider his own pocket. During my
absence he has picked a quarrel with the prince’s farmers-general, who
were scoundrels. The count has replaced them by other scoundrels, who
have given him eight hundred thousand francs.”

“What!” exclaimed the astonished princess. “Good heavens, how sorry I am
to hear that!”

“Madam,” replied the duchess, with the most absolute coolness, “shall I
turn the monster’s head to the left?”

“No, no, indeed!” exclaimed the princess; “but I am sorry that a man of
the count’s character should have thought of gain of that description.”

“But for this theft he would have been despised by all honest folk.”

“Good God! can that be possible?”

“Madam,” replied the duchess, “except my friend the Marchese Crescenzi,
who has four or five hundred thousand francs a year of his own, every
soul in this place steals. And how should they not steal, in a country
where gratitude for the greatest services does not last quite a month?
Therefore the only real thing which outlives disgrace is money. Madam, I
am about to venture on some terrible truths.”

“I give you leave,” said the princess with a deep sigh; “and yet they
hurt me cruelly!”

“Well, then, madam, the prince, your son, a perfectly upright man, may
make you far more wretched than his father did. The late prince’s nature
was very much like that of other men. Our present sovereign is never sure
of desiring the same thing for three days on end. Consequently, to be
sure of him, one must live perpetually with him, and never let him speak
to any one else. As this truth is not very difficult to divine, the new
ultra party, led by those two wise heads, Rassi and the Marchesa Raversi,
will endeavour to provide the prince with a mistress. This mistress will
be given ‘carte blanche’ to make her own fortune, and to dispose of some
inferior posts. But she will have to answer to the party for her master’s
constant good-will.

“To be thoroughly well-established at your Highness’s court, I must
have Rassi spurned and banished. Further, I must have Fabrizio tried
by the most upright judges who can be found. If, as I hope, these
judges recognise his innocence, it will be only natural to grant the
archbishop’s wish that Fabrizio shall be his coadjutor, and his ultimate
successor. If I fail, the count and I will forthwith retire. In that case
I leave your Serene Highness this farewell advice: You must never forgive
Rassi, and you must never leave your son’s dominions. So long as you keep
near him, your good son will never do you any serious harm.”

“I have followed your arguments with all the attention they deserve,”
replied the princess with a smile. “But am I, then, to undertake the care
of finding a mistress for my son?”

“Not that, indeed, madam! But see to it that your drawing-room shall be
the only one in which he finds amusement.”

On this subject the conversation ran on endlessly. The scales were
falling from the eyes of the innocent and intelligent princess. The
duchess sent a courier to Fabrizio, to tell him he might enter the city,
but that he must conceal himself. Hardly any one saw him. Dressed as a
peasant, he spent his whole time in the wooden booth which a chestnut
seller had set up under the trees of the square, just opposite the
citadel gates.



CHAPTER XXIV


The duchess arranged the most delightful evenings at the palace, where
so much gaiety had never been seen before. Never did she make herself
more attractive than during this winter, in spite of the fact that she
was living in circumstances of the greatest danger. Nevertheless, through
all this critical time she never gave a thought of sadness, save on
one or two occasions, to the strange alteration which had taken place
in Fabrizio. The young prince used to come very early to his mother’s
pleasant evening parties, and she never failed to say to him:

“Do go and attend to your government duties! I am certain there are more
than a score of reports lying on your table, waiting for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’
from you, and I do not choose to have it said all over Europe that I am
trying to turn you into a ‘Roi fainéant,’ so that I may reign in your
stead.”

These remarks always suffered from the drawback of being dropped at
the most inopportune moment—that is to say, just when his Highness had
overcome his natural shyness and was enjoying himself very much, acting
some charade. Twice a week there were parties in the country, to which
the princess, on the plea of reconquering the affections of his people
for the young sovereign, invited the prettiest women of the middle class.
The duchess, who was the soul of the merry court, was in hopes that these
fair ladies, who all looked with an eye of mortal jealousy on the success
of their fellow _bourgeois_, Rassi, would make the prince acquainted with
some of that minister’s endless rascalities. For, among other childish
notions, the prince claimed to possess a moral ministry.

Rassi had too much good sense not to realize how much harm these
brilliant parties, managed by his enemy at the princess’s court, were
likely to do him. He had not chosen to make over the perfectly legal
sentence passed on Fabrizio, to Count Mosca. It had therefore become
necessary that either he or the duchess should disappear from court.

On the day of that popular tumult, the existence of which it was now the
correct thing to deny, money had certainly been circulated among the
people. Rassi made this his starting-point. Dressed even more shabbily
than was his wont, he found his way into the most wretched houses in
the city, and spent whole hours in close confabulation with their
poverty-stricken denizens. His efforts were richly rewarded. After a
fortnight spent in this fashion, he had made certain that Ferrante Palla
had been the secret leader of the insurrection, and further, that this
man, who had been as poor as a great poet should be, all his life, had
sent eight or ten diamonds to be sold at Genoa.

Among others, five valuable stones were mentioned, really worth more
than forty thousand francs, but for which thirty-five thousand francs
had been accepted _ten days before the prince’s death_, because, so
the vendors said, _the money was wanted_. The minister’s transports of
delight over this discovery were indescribable. He had perceived that
fun was being constantly poked at him in the princess dowager’s court,
and several times over, when the prince was talking business with him,
he had laughed in his face, with all the artlessness of youth. Rassi, it
must be confessed, had some singularly vulgar habits. For instance, as
soon as he grew interested in a discussion, he would cross his legs, and
take hold of his shoe. If his interest deepened he would spread out his
red cotton handkerchief over his knee. The prince had laughed heartily at
a joke played by one of the prettiest women of Rassi’s own class, who,
well aware that she herself possessed a very pretty leg, had given him an
imitation of the graceful gesture habitual to the Minister of Justice.

Rassi craved a special audience, and said to the prince:

“Would your Highness be disposed to give a hundred thousand francs to
know the exact nature of your august father’s death? With that sum we
should be able to bring the culprits to justice, if they exist.”

The prince’s answer was a foregone conclusion.

Within a short time, Cecchina informed the duchess that she had been
offered a large sum of money if she would allow a jeweller to see her
mistress’s diamonds—a proposal which she had scornfully refused. The
duchess scolded her for having refused, and a week later Cecchina was
able to show the diamonds. On the day fixed for their inspection, Count
Mosca placed two reliable men to watch every jeweller in Parma, and
toward midnight he came to tell the duchess that the inquisitive jeweller
was no other than Rassi’s own brother. The duchess, who was in very gay
spirits that evening (there was acting going on at the palace—a _commedia
dell’arte_, in which each personage invents the dialogue as he proceeds,
only the general plan of the play being posted up in the side scenes),
the duchess, who was playing one of the parts, was to be supported,
as the lover of the piece, by Count Baldi, the former friend of the
Marchesa Raversi, who was present. The prince, who was the shyest man in
his dominions, but very good-looking, and exceedingly soft-hearted, was
under-studying Count Baldi’s part, which he desired to play at the second
performance.

“I have very little time,” said the duchess to the count. “I come on in
the first scene of the second act. Let us go into the guard-room.”

There, in the presence of a score of the body-guard, sharp fellows every
one of them, and eagerly watching the colloquy between the Prime Minister
and the mistress of the robes, the duchess said to her friend, with a
laugh:

“You always scold me if I tell secrets which need not be told. It is I
who brought Ernest V to the throne. I wanted to avenge Fabrizio, whom I
loved much more than I do now, though very innocently, even then. I know
very well you have not much belief in my innocence, but that matters
little, since you love me in spite of my crimes. Well, this crime is
a very real one. I gave all my diamonds to a very interesting kind of
madman, by name Ferrante Palla, and I even kissed him, so as to induce
him to destroy the man who wanted to have Fabrizio poisoned. Where was
the harm?”

“Ah, then that’s how Ferrante got the money for his revolt!” said the
count. “And you tell me all this in the guard-room!”

“I’m in a hurry, you see, and this fellow Rassi is on the track of the
crime. It’s very true that I never hinted at insurrection, for I abhor
Jacobins. Think it all over, and tell me your advice, after the play is
over.”

“I will tell you at once that you must make the prince fall in love with
you … but in all honour, of course!”

The duchess was being called for on the stage, and fled.

A few days later, the duchess received, by post, a long ridiculous
letter, signed with the name of a person who had once been her
waiting-maid. The woman asked for employment about the court, but at
the first glance the duchess realized that neither the writing nor the
style were hers. When she unfolded the sheet, to read the second page,
the duchess saw a little miraculous picture of the Madonna folded within
another leaf, that seemed to belong to an old printed book, flutter to
her feet. After having glanced at the picture, the duchess read a few
lines of the old printed leaf. Her eyes began to shine; these were the
words she had read:

“The tribune took a hundred francs a month, no more. With the rest
he strove to stir the sacred flame in souls which had been frozen by
selfishness. The fox is on my track; that is why I made no attempt to
see the adored being for the last time. I said to myself: ‘She has no
love for the republic—she, who is so superior to me in mind, as in
grace and beauty.’ And besides, how can I set up a republic where there
are no republicans? Can I have been mistaken? In six months I shall be
wandering, microscope in hand, through the small American towns. So shall
I discover whether I should continue to love your sole rival in my heart.
If you receive this letter, baroness, and if no profane eye has seen it
before yours, cause one of the young ash trees which grow twenty paces
from the spot where I first dared to address you, to be broken down.
Then I will cause to be buried, under the great box tree in the garden,
which you once noticed, in my happy days, a coffer containing those
things which bring slander on men of my opinions. Be sure I should never
have ventured to write this, but that the fox is on my track, and may
possibly reach that angelic being. Look under the box tree a fortnight
hence.”

“If he has a printing press at his command,” said the duchess, “we shall
soon have a collection of sonnets! God knows what name he will give me in
them!”

The duchess’s vanity inspired her with an experiment. She was laid up for
a week, and there were no parties at court. The princess, who was very
much scandalized by all that the fear of her son had forced her to do
during the earlier period of her widowhood, spent that week in a convent
attached to the church where the late prince had been buried. This break
in the series of entertainments threw an enormous amount of time on the
prince’s hands, and brought about an evident diminution in the credit
of the Minister of Justice. Ernest V realized all the dulness that
threatened him if the duchess should leave his court, or even cease to
shed gaiety upon it. The evening parties began again, and the prince took
more interest than ever in the _commedia dell’arte_. He was dying to play
a part himself, but did not dare to acknowledge this desire. At last, one
day, he said to the duchess, reddening very much, “Why should I not act,
too?”

“We are all at your Highness’s command. If you will honour me with the
order I will have the plan of a play made out. All your Highness’s chief
scenes shall be with me, and as every beginner must hesitate a little, if
your Highness will be good enough to watch me a little closely, I will
suggest the answers you should make.” Thus everything was settled, and in
the most skilful manner. The prince, shy as he was, was ashamed of his
shyness, and the care the duchess took to prevent his suffering from this
inherent nervousness impressed the young sovereign deeply.

On the day of his first appearance, the performance began earlier than
usual, and when the company moved into the theatre there were not
more than eight or ten elderly women in the drawing-room. Their faces
caused the prince no particular alarm, and besides, they had all been
brought up at Munich, in the most thoroughly monarchical principles,
and applauded dutifully. The duchess, by virtue of her authority as
mistress of the robes, locked the door by which the mass of the courtiers
usually passed into the theatre. The prince, who had considerable
_literary_ intelligence, and was very good-looking, got through his
first scenes very well, cleverly repeating the sentences he read in
the duchess’s eyes, or which she suggested in an undertone. Just when
the few spectators were applauding with all their might, the duchess
made a sign; the great doors were thrown open, and in a moment the room
was filled with all the pretty women of the court, who, thinking the
prince’s face charming, and his whole demeanour thoroughly happy, burst
into applause. The prince flushed with delight. He was playing the part
of lover to the duchess. Far from suggesting words to him, she was soon
obliged to beg him to shorten his scenes. He dilated on “love” with a
fervour which frequently put the actress quite out of countenance; some
of his speeches were five minutes long. The duchess was no longer the
dazzling beauty she had been a year previously. Fabrizio’s imprisonment,
and still more, her stay on the Lago Maggiore with the Fabrizio who
had grown gloomy and silent, had added ten years to the fair Gina’s
appearance. Her features had grown sharper; there was more intelligence,
and less juvenility, about them. Very seldom, nowadays, did they display
the sprightly humour of her youth. Yet on the stage, rouged, and with the
advantage of all that art does for an actress’s appearance, she was still
the prettiest woman at the court. The prince’s passionate speeches roused
the courtiers’ suspicions. That evening, every man said to his neighbour,
“This is the Balbi of the new reign.” The count raged within himself.
When the play was over, the duchess said to the prince, before the whole
court:

“Your Highness acts too well. People will begin to say you are in love
with a woman of eight-and-thirty, and that will spoil my marriage with
the count. So I will not act any more with your Highness unless your
Highness will promise you will only address me as you would a woman of a
certain age—the Marchesa Raversi, for instance.”

The performance was repeated three times over. The prince was wild with
delight, but one evening he looked very much worried.

“Unless I am very much mistaken,” said the mistress of the robes to the
princess, “Rassi is trying to play us some trick. I would suggest that
your Highness should have some acting to-morrow night. The prince will
act badly, and in his despair, he will tell you something.”

As a matter of fact the prince did act very ill; he was hardly audible,
and could not contrive to wind up his sentences. By the end of the first
act the tears were almost standing in his eyes. The duchess kept close
beside him, but she was cold and unmoved. The prince, finding himself
alone with her for a moment in the green room, went over to the door and
shut it. Then he said:

“I shall never be able to get through the second and third acts. I will
not submit to being applauded out of good nature. The applause I was
given to-night almost broke my heart. Advise me. What am I to do?”

“I will go upon the stage; I will make a deep courtesy to her Highness,
and another to the audience, and I will announce that the actor who was
playing the part of Lelio has been taken suddenly ill, and that therefore
the play will be wound up with a little music. Count Rusca and the little
Ghisolfi will be too delighted to have a chance of showing off their thin
voices before such a brilliant assembly.”

The prince seized the duchess’s hand and kissed it passionately. “Why are
you not a man?” he cried. “You would give me good advice! Rassi has just
laid a hundred and eighty-two depositions against the persons accused
of murdering my father on my writing-table, and besides the depositions
there is an indictment which covers more than two hundred pages. I shall
have to read them all, and further, I have given my word not to say
anything about them to the count. All this is sure to end in executions.
Already he is pressing me to have Ferrante Palla, that great poet whom I
admire so much, carried off from a place near Antibes, in France, where
he is living under the name of Poncet.”

“From the day when your Highness hangs a Liberal, Rassi will be bound to
the ministry by iron chains, and that is what he most earnestly desires.
But it will not be safe for your Highness to let it be known you are
going to take a drive, two hours before you start. Neither the princess
nor the count shall hear, through me, of the cry of anguish which has
just escaped you, but as my oath forbids me to keep any secret from the
princess, I shall be glad if your Highness will tell your mother what you
have just permitted me to hear.”

This idea diverted the sovereign’s mind from the distress with which his
failure as an actor had overwhelmed him.

“Very good. Go and call my mother. I will go straight to her cabinet.”

The prince left the theatre, crossed the drawing-room leading to it,
and haughtily dismissed the great chamberlain and the aide-de-camp in
waiting, who had followed him. The princess, on her part, hastily left
the auditorium. As soon as she had reached her own apartments the duchess
courtesied profoundly to mother and son, and left them alone together.
The excitement of the courtiers may be conceived; that is one of the
things which makes a court so entertaining. In an hour’s time, the prince
himself appeared at the door of the cabinet, and summoned the duchess.
The princess was in tears, the prince looked very much disturbed.

“Here are two weak beings in a bad temper,” said the mistress of the
robes to herself, “and looking about for some good pretext for being
angry with somebody else.” To begin with, mother and son took the words
out of each other’s mouth in their anxiety to relate all the details of
the matter to the duchess, who, when she answered, was most careful not
to put forward any idea. For two mortal hours the three actors in this
wearisome scene never ceased playing the parts we have just indicated.
The prince himself went to fetch the two huge portfolios Rassi had laid
upon his writing-table. Coming out of his mother’s cabinet, he found the
whole court waiting for him. “Take yourselves off and leave me alone!” he
exclaimed with a rudeness which had never been known in him before. The
prince did not choose to be seen carrying the portfolios himself—a prince
must never carry anything. In the twinkling of an eye the courtiers
disappeared. When the prince came back, he found nobody in the apartment
except the footmen, who were putting out the candles. He packed them off
in a rage, and treated poor Fontana, the aide-de-camp in waiting, who, in
his zeal, had stupidly stayed behind, in the same fashion.

“Every soul is set on trying my patience this evening,” he said to
the duchess crossly, as he re-entered the cabinet. He believed in her
cleverness, and was furious at her evident determination not to put
forward any opinion. She, on her part, was quite resolved she would
say nothing unless her advice was expressly asked. Thus another full
half-hour went by before the prince, who was keenly alive to his own
dignity, could make up his mind to say, “But you say nothing, madam!”

“I am here to wait on the princess, and to forget everything that is said
before me, instantly.”

“Very good, madam,” said the prince, reddening deeply. “I command you to
give me your opinion.”

“The object of punishing crimes is to prevent a repetition of them. Was
the late prince poisoned? That is very doubtful. Was he poisoned by the
Jacobins? That is what Rassi pines to prove; for thenceforward he becomes
indispensable to your Highness for all time. In that case your Highness,
whose reign is just opening, may expect many an evening like this one.
The general opinion of your subjects, and it is a perfectly true one, is
that your Highness’s nature is full of kindness. So long as your Highness
does not have any Liberal hanged, this reputation will remain to you, and
you may be very certain that no one will think of giving you poison.”

“Your conclusion is quite clear,” exclaimed the princess peevishly. “You
don’t desire to have my husband’s murderers punished.”

“Madam, that, I suppose, is because I am bound to them by ties of the
tenderest friendship.”

The duchess read clearly in the prince’s eyes that he believed her to be
thoroughly agreed with his mother on some line of conduct to be dictated
to him. A somewhat rapid succession of bitter repartees was exchanged
between the ladies, at the end of which the duchess vowed she would not
say another word, and to this resolution she steadily adhered. But the
prince, after a long discussion with his mother, ordered her once more to
tell him her opinion.

“I can assure both your Highnesses I will do nothing of the kind.”

“But this is mere childishness!” exclaimed the prince.

“Duchess, I beg you will speak,” said the princess with much dignity.

“I beg your Highness will excuse my doing so. But,” continued the
duchess, addressing herself to the prince, “your Highness reads French
beautifully. To soothe our agitated feelings, would your Highness read
_us_ one of La Fontaine’s fables?”

The princess thought the expression “_us_” exceedingly impertinent,
but she looked at once astonished and amused when the mistress of the
robes, who had calmly gone over to the bookcase and opened it, came back
carrying a volume of La Fontaine’s Fables. She turned over the leaves
for a few minutes, and then, handing the prince the book, she said: “I
beseech your Highness to read the _whole_ fable.”

LE JARDINIER ET SON SEIGNEUR

        Un amateur de jardinage
        Demi-bourgeois, demi-manant,
        Possédait en certain village
    Un jardin assez propre, et le clos attenant.
    Il avait de plant vif fermé cette étendue:
    Là croissaient à plaisir l’oseille et la laitue,
    De quoi faire à Margot pour sa fête un bouquet,
    Peu de jasmin d’Espagne et force serpolet.
    Cette félicité par un lièvre troublée
    Fit qu’au seigneur du bourg notre homme se plaignit.
    Ce maudit animal vient prendre sa goulée
    Soir et matin, dit-il, et des piéges se rit;
    Les pierres, les bâtons y perdent leur crédit:
    Il est sorcier, je crois.—Sorcier! je l’en défie,
    Repartit le seigneur: fût-il diable, Miraut,
    En dépit de ses tours, l’attrapera bientôt.
    Je vous en déferai, bonhomme, sur ma vie.
    —Et quand?—Et dès demain, sans tarder plus longtemps
    La partie ainsi faite, il vient avec ses gens.
    —Çà, déjeunons, dit-il: vos poulets sont-ils tendres?

    …

    L’embarras des chasseurs succède au déjeuné.
        Chacun s’anime et se prépare;
    Les trompes et les cors font un tel tintamarre,
        Que le bonhomme est étonné.
    Le pis fut que l’on mit en piteux équipage
    Le pauvre potager. Adieu planches, carreaux;
        Adieu chicorée et poireaux;
        Adieu de quoi mettre au potage.

    …

    Le bonhomme disait: Ce sont là jeux de prince.
    Mais on le laissait dire; et les chiens et les gens
    Firent plus de dégât en une heure de temps
        Que n’en auraient fait en cent ans
        Tous les lièvres de la province.

    Petits princes, videz vos débats entre vous;
    De recourir aux rois vous seriez de grands fous.
    Il ne les faut jamais engager dans vos guerres,
        _Ni les faire entrer sur vos terres_.

After the reading a long silence ensued. The prince put the book back in
its place himself, and began to walk up and down the room.

“Well, madam,” said the princess, “will you deign to speak?”

“No, indeed, madam; not until his Highness has appointed me his minister.
If I were to speak here I should run the risk of losing my post as
mistress of the robes.”

Silence fell again, for a full quarter of an hour. At last the princess
bethought her of the part once played by Marie de Medicis, mother of
Louis XIII. Every day, for some time previously, the mistress of the
robes had caused Mons. Bazin’s excellent History of Louis XIII to be read
to her Highness. The princess, vexed though she was, considered that the
duchess might very likely leave the country, and that then Rassi, of whom
she was horribly afraid, would quite possibly follow Richelieu’s example,
and induce her son to banish her. At that moment the princess would have
given anything she had on earth to be able to humiliate her mistress of
the robes. But she was powerless. She rose from her seat, and with a
smile which had a touch of exaggeration about it she took the duchess’s
hand, and said:

“Come, madam, prove your affection for me by speaking!”

“Two words then, and no more. All the papers collected by that viper
Rassi should be burned in this fireplace, and he must never know they
have been burned.” Whispering in the princess’s ear, she added, with a
familiar air:

“Rassi may be a Richelieu.”

“But, devil take it,” cried the prince, much vexed, “these papers have
cost me more than eighty thousand francs!”

“Prince,” replied the duchess passionately, “now you see what it costs
you to employ low-born rogues! Would to God you might lose a million
rather than that you should ever place your faith in the vile scoundrels
who robbed your father of his peaceful sleep for the last six years of
his reign!”

The word _low-born_ had given great pleasure to the princess, who held
that the count and his friend were somewhat too exclusive in their esteem
for intelligence—always nearly related to Jacobinism.

During the short moment of deep silence filled up by the princess’s
reflections, the castle clock struck three. The princess rose, courtesied
profoundly to her son, and said: “My health will not permit me to prolong
this discussion any further. Never employ a _low-born_ minister! You
will never convince me that Rassi has not stolen half the money he
made you spend on espionage.” The princess took two tapers out of the
candlesticks, and set them in the fireplace, so that they still remained
alight. Then, drawing nearer to her son, she added: “In my case, La
Fontaine’s fable over-rides my just longing to avenge my husband. Will
your Highness give me leave to burn these writings?”

The prince stood motionless.

“He really has a stupid face,” said the duchess to herself. “The count is
quite right, the late prince would never have kept us till three o’clock
in the morning before he could make up his mind.”

The princess, who was still standing, continued:

“That lawyer-fellow would be very proud if he knew his papers, all of
them crammed with lies, and cooked up to secure his own advancement, had
kept the two greatest personages in the state awake all night!”

The prince flew at the portfolios like a fury, and emptied their contents
on to the hearth. The weight of the papers very nearly stifled the two
candles; the room was filled with smoke. The princess saw in her son’s
eyes that he was sorely tempted to seize a water-bottle, and save the
documents that had cost him a hundred thousand francs.

She called to the duchess sharply, “Why don’t you open the window?” The
duchess hastened to obey. Instantly all the papers flamed up together;
there was a great roar in the chimney, and soon it became evident that
it, too, had caught fire.

In all money matters, the prince was a mean man. He fancied he saw his
palace blazing, and all the treasures it contained destroyed. Rushing
to the window, he shouted for the Guard, and his tone was quite wild.
At the sound of the prince’s voice, the soldiers ran tumultuously into
the court. He came back to the fireplace, up which the air from the open
window was rushing, with a noise that was really alarming. He lost his
temper, swore, took two or three turns up and down the room, like a man
beside himself, and finally ran out of it.

The princess and her mistress of the robes were left standing, facing
each other, in the deepest silence.

“Is she going to be in a rage again?” said the duchess to herself. “Well,
my cause is won, at any rate!” and she was just making up her mind to
return very impertinent answers, when a thought flashed across her—she
had noticed the second portfolio standing untouched. “No, my cause is
only half won,” she thought, and she addressed the princess, somewhat
coldly, “Have I your Highness’s commands to burn the rest of these
papers?”

“And where will you burn them, pray?” inquired the princess crossly.

“In the drawing-room fireplace. If I throw them in one after the other
there will be no danger.”

The duchess thrust the portfolio, bursting with papers, under her arm,
took a candle in her hand, and went into the adjoining drawing-room. She
gave herself time to make sure that this particular portfolio held the
depositions, hid five or six packets of papers under her shawl, burned
the rest very carefully, and slipped out without taking leave of the
princess.

“Here’s a fine piece of impertinence,” she said with a laugh. “But with
her affectations of inconsolable widowhood, she very nearly brought my
head to the scaffold.”

When the princess heard the noise of the duchess’s carriage, she was
filled with anger against her mistress of the robes.

In spite of the lateness of the hour, the duchess sent for the count. He
had gone to the fire at the palace, but he soon appeared, bringing news
that it was all over. “The young prince really showed a great deal of
courage, and I paid him my heartiest compliments.”

“Look quickly over these depositions, and let us burn them as fast as we
can.”

The count read and turned pale.

“Upon my word, they had got very near the truth. The investigation has
been most skilfully conducted. They are quite on Ferrante Palla’s track,
and if he speaks, we shall have a difficult card to play.”

“But he won’t speak,” cried the duchess. “That man is a man of honour!
Now into the fire with them!”

“Not yet. Let me take down the names of ten or fifteen dangerous
witnesses, whom I shall take the liberty of spiriting away, if Rassi ever
attempts to begin again.”

“Let me remind your Excellency that the prince has given his word not to
tell the Minister of Justice anything about our nocturnal performance.”

“And he will keep it, out of cowardice, and because he hates a scene.”

“Now, my dear friend, this night’s work has done a great deal to hasten
on our marriage. I never would have brought you a trial in the criminal
courts as my dowry, more especially for a wrong I did on account of my
interest in another person.”

The count was in love. He caught her hand protestingly; tears stood in
his eyes.

“Before you leave me, pray give me some advice about my behaviour to the
princess. I am worn out with fatigue. I have been acting for an hour on
the stage, and for five hours in her Highness’s cabinet.”

“The impertinent manner of your departure has avenged you amply for the
princess’s disagreeable remarks, which were only a proof of weakness.
When you see her to-morrow, take the same tone as that you used this
morning. Rassi is neither an exile nor a prisoner yet, nor have we torn
up Fabrizio’s sentence.

“You pressed the princess to make a decision; that always puts princes,
and even prime ministers, out of temper. And besides, after all, you
are her mistress of the robes; in other words, her humble servant. A
revulsion of feeling which is invariable with weak natures will make
Rassi’s favour higher than ever within three days. He will strive to ruin
somebody, but until he has compromised the prince, he can be sure of
nothing.

“There was a man hurt at the fire to-night—a tailor. Upon my soul, he
showed the most extraordinary courage. To-morrow I will suggest that
the prince should walk out, leaning on my arm, and pay a visit to that
tailor. I shall be armed to the teeth, and I will keep a sharp lookout.
And, indeed, so far, no one hates this young prince. I want to give him
the habit of walking about in the streets—a trick I shall play on Rassi,
who will certainly succeed me, and who will not be able to allow him to
do anything so imprudent. On our way back from the tailor’s house, I’ll
bring the prince past his father’s statue; he’ll see how the stones have
broken the skirt of the Roman tunic with which the fool of a sculptor has
adorned the figure, and he must be a prince of very limited intelligence
indeed if he is not inspired with the remark, ‘This is what one gets by
hanging Jacobins,’ to which I shall reply, ‘You must either hang ten
thousand, or not a single one; the massacre of St. Bartholomew destroyed
Protestantism in France.’

“To-morrow, dearest friend, before I start on my expedition, you must
wait upon the prince, and say to him: ‘Last night I acted as your
minister; I gave you advice, and in obeying your orders I incurred the
displeasure of the princess. You must reward me.’ He will think you are
going to ask him for money, and will begin to knit his brows. You must
leave him to struggle with this unpleasant thought as long as possible.
Then you will say: ‘I entreat your Highness to give orders that Fabrizio
shall be tried after hearing _both_ parties—that is to say, that Fabrizio
himself shall be present—by the twelve most respected judges in your
dominions,’ and without losing a moment you will beg his signature to
a short order written by your own fair hand, which I will now dictate
to you. Of course I shall insert a clause to the effect that the first
sentence is annulled. To this there is only one objection, but if you
carry the business through quickly, it will not occur to the prince.

“He may say, ‘Fabrizio must give himself up again at the fortress.’ You
will reply, ‘He will give himself up at the city jail’ (you know I am
master there, and your nephew will be able to come and see you every
evening). If the prince answers, ‘No; his flight has smirched the honour
of my citadel, and as a matter of form, I insist on his going back to
the room he occupied there,’ you in your turn will say, ‘No; for there
he would be at the mercy of my enemy Rassi,’ and by one of those womanly
hints you know so well how to insinuate, you will make him understand
that to work on Rassi, you might possibly inform him as to this night’s
_auto da fé_. If the prince persists, you will say you are going away to
your house at Sacca for ten days.

“You must send for Fabrizio, and consult with him about this step,
which may bring him back into his prison. We must foresee everything,
and if, while he is under lock and key, Rassi loses patience, and has me
poisoned, Fabrizio might be in danger. But this is not very probable.

“You know I have brought over a French cook, who is the cheeriest of
men, always making puns; now, punning is incompatible with murder. I
have already told our Fabrizio that I have discovered all the witnesses
of his brave and noble behaviour. It is quite clear it was Giletti who
tried to murder him. I had not mentioned these witnesses to you, because
I wanted to give you a surprise. But the plan has failed; I could not get
the prince’s signature. I told our Fabrizio I would certainly procure him
some high ecclesiastical position, but I shall find that very difficult
if his enemies at the court of Rome can put forward an accusation of
murder against him. Do you realize, madam, that if he is not tried in the
most formal manner, the name of Giletti will be a bugbear to him all the
days of his life? It would be a very cowardly thing to avoid a trial when
one is quite sure of one’s innocence. Besides, if he were guilty I would
have him acquitted. When I mentioned the subject, the eager young fellow
would not let me finish my story; he laid hands on the official list, and
together we chose out the twelve most upright and learned of the judges.
When the list was complete we struck out six of the names, and replaced
them by those of six lawyers who are my personal enemies, and as we could
only discover two of these, we made up the number with four rascals who
are devoted to Rassi.”

The count’s remarks filled the duchess with deadly and not unreasonable
alarm. At last she submitted to reason, and wrote the order appointing
the judges, at the minister’s dictation.

It was six o’clock in the morning before the count left her. She tried
to sleep, but all in vain. At nine she was breakfasting with Fabrizio,
whom she found consumed with longing to be tried; at ten she waited on
the princess, who was not visible; at eleven she saw the prince, who
was holding his _lever_, and who signed the order without making the
slightest objection. The duchess sent off the order to the count, and
went to bed.

I might give an entertaining account of Rassi’s fury when the count
obliged him, in the prince’s presence, to countersign the order the
prince himself had signed earlier in the morning. But events press too
thickly upon us.

The count discussed the merits of each judge, and offered to change the
names. But my readers may possibly be growing as weary of my details of
legal procedure as of all these court intrigues. From all of them we may
draw this moral—that the man who comes to close quarters with a court
imperils his happiness, if he is happy, and in any case, risks his whole
future on the intrigues of a waiting-woman.

On the other hand, in a republic, such as America, he must bore himself
from morning to night by paying solemn court to the shopkeepers in the
street, and grow as dull as they are, and then, over there, there is no
opera for him to go to.

When the duchess left her bed that evening, she endured a moment of
extreme anxiety. Fabrizio was not to be found. At last, toward midnight,
during the performance of a play at the palace, she received a letter
from him. Instead of giving himself up at the city jail, which was
under the count’s jurisdiction, he had gone back to his old room in
the fortress, too delighted to find himself once more in Clelia’s
neighbourhood.

This was an immensely important incident, for in that place he was more
than ever exposed to the danger of poison. This piece of folly drove the
duchess to despair, but she forgave its cause—her nephew’s wild love
for Clelia—because that young lady was certainly to be married, within
a few days, to the wealthy Marchese Crescenzi. By this mad act Fabrizio
recovered all his former influence over the duchess.

“That cursed paper I made the prince sign will bring about Fabrizio’s
death! What idiots men are, with their notions of honour! As if there
were any necessity for thinking about honour under an absolute government
in a country where a man like Rassi is Minister of Justice! We ought
simply and solely to have accepted the pardon which the prince would
have given, just as willingly as he gave the order convoking this
extraordinary court. What matter is it, after all, whether a man of
Fabrizio’s birth is accused, more or less, of having killed a strolling
player like Giletti with his own hand and his own sword?”

No sooner had the duchess received Fabrizio’s note, than she hurried to
the count. She found him looking quite pale.

“Good God, my dear friend!” he cried. “I certainly bring bad luck to
this poor boy, and you will be frantic with me again. I can give you
proofs that I sent for the keeper of the city jail yesterday evening.
Your nephew would have come to drink tea with you every day. The awful
thing is that it is impossible for either you or me to tell the prince we
are afraid of poison, and poison administered by Rassi. He would regard
such a suspicion as immoral to the last degree. Nevertheless, if you
insist upon it, I am ready to go to the palace. But I know what answer I
shall receive. I will say more; I will offer you a means which I would
not use for myself. Since I have held power in this country I have never
caused a single man to perish, and you know I am so weak-minded in that
particular, that when evening falls I sometimes think of those two spies
I had shot, a trifle hastily, in Spain. Well, do you wish me to rid you
of Rassi? There is no limit to Fabrizio’s danger at his hands. Therein he
holds a certain means of driving me to take my departure.”

The suggestion was exceedingly pleasing to the duchess, but she did not
adopt it.

“I do not choose,” said she to the count, “that in our retirement under
the beautiful Neapolitan sky your evenings should be darkened by sad
thoughts.”

“But, dearest friend, it seems to me we have nothing but sad thoughts
to choose from. What will become of you, what is to become of me, if
Fabrizio is carried off by illness?”

There was a fresh discussion over this idea. The duchess closed it with
these words: “Rassi owes his life to the fact that I love you better than
I do Fabrizio. No; I will not poison every evening of the old age we are
going to spend together.”

The duchess hurried to the fortress. General Fabio Conti was delighted to
have to refuse her admittance, in obedience to the formal provisions of
military law, whereby no one can enter a state prison without an order
signed by the prince.

“But the Marchese Crescenzi and his musicians come into the citadel every
day.”

“That is because I have obtained a special order for them from the
prince.”

The poor duchess was unaware of the extent of her misfortune. General
Fabio Conti had taken Fabrizio’s escape as a personal slight upon
himself. He had no business to admit him when he saw him enter the
citadel, for he had no orders to that effect.

“But,” thought he, “Heaven has sent him to me, to repair my honour, and
save me from the ridicule which would have blighted my military career.
I must not lose my chance. He will be acquitted—there is no doubt of
that—and I have only a few days in which to wreak my vengeance.”



CHAPTER XXV


Our hero’s arrival threw Clelia into a condition of despair. The poor
girl, earnestly pious and thoroughly honest with herself, could not blink
the fact that she could never know happiness apart from Fabrizio. But
when her father had been half poisoned, she had made a vow to the Madonna
that she would sacrifice herself to him by marrying the marchese. She had
also vowed she would never see Fabrizio again, and she was already torn
by the most cruel remorse, on account of the admission into which she
had slipped in her letter to Fabrizio the night before his flight. How
shall I describe the feelings that swelled that shadowed heart when, as
she sadly watched her birds fluttering hither and thither, she raised her
eyes, instinctively, and lovingly, to the window whence Fabrizio had once
gazed at her, and saw him stand there once again, and greet her with the
tenderest respect.

At first she thought it was a vision, which Heaven had sent her as a
punishment. At last the hideous truth forced itself on her mind. “They
have taken him,” she thought, “and now he is lost!” She remembered the
language used within the fortress after his escape—the very humblest
jailer had felt himself mortally humiliated by it. Clelia looked at
Fabrizio, and in spite of herself, her eyes spoke all the passion that
was driving her to despair. “Can you believe,” she seemed to say to
Fabrizio, “that I shall find happiness in the sumptuous palace that is
being prepared for me? My father tells me, till I am sick of hearing it,
that you are as poor as we are. Heavens! how gladly would I share that
poverty! But, alas, we must never see each other again!”

Clelia had not the strength to make any use of the alphabets. Even as
she gazed at Fabrizio, she turned faint, and dropped upon a chair beside
the window. Her head rested upon the window ledge, and as she had striven
to look at him till the last moment her face, turned toward Fabrizio,
was fully exposed to his gaze. When, after a few moments, she opened her
eyes, her first glance sought Fabrizio. Tears stood in his eyes, but
they were tears of utter happiness. He saw that absence had not made her
forget him. For some time the two poor young creatures remained as though
bewitched by the sight of each other. Fabrizio ventured to say a few
words, as though singing to a guitar, something to this effect: “It is to
see you again that I have come back to prison; I am to be tried.”

These words seemed to stir all Clelia’s sense of virtue. She rose swiftly
to her feet, covered her eyes, and endeavoured to make him understand, by
the most earnest gestures, that she must never see him again. This had
been her promise to the Madonna, which she had forgotten when she had
looked at him. When Fabrizio still ventured to give expression to his
love, Clelia fled indignantly, swearing to herself that she would never
see him again. For these were the exact terms of her vow to the Madonna:
“_My eyes shall never look on him again._” She had written them on a slip
of paper which her uncle Cesare had allowed her to burn on the altar, at
the moment of the elevation, while he was saying mass.

But in spite of every vow, Fabrizio’s presence in the Farnese Tower drove
Clelia back into all her former habits. She now generally spent her
whole day alone in her room, but hardly had she recovered from the state
of agitation into which Fabrizio’s appearance had thrown her, than she
began to move about the palace, and renew acquaintance, so to speak, with
all her humbler friends. A very talkative old woman, who worked in the
kitchens, said to her, with a look of mystery, “Signor Fabrizio will not
get out of the citadel this time.”

“He will not commit the crime of getting over the walls,” said Clelia,
“but he will go out by the gate if he is acquitted.”

“I tell your Excellency, and I know what I am saying, that he will never
go out till he is carried out feet foremost.”

Clelia turned deadly pale; the old woman remarked it, and her eloquence
was checked. She felt she had committed an imprudence in speaking thus
before the daughter of the governor, whose duty it would be to tell every
one Fabrizio had died of illness. As Clelia was going back to her rooms
she met the prison doctor, an honest, timid kind of man, who told her,
with a look of alarm, that Fabrizio was very ill. Clelia could hardly
drag herself along; she hunted high and low for her uncle, the good
priest Cesare, and found him at last in the chapel, praying fervently;
his face betrayed the greatest distress. The dinner bell rang. Not a word
was exchanged between the two brothers at table, but toward the end of
the meal the general addressed some very tart remark to his brother. This
latter looked at the servants, who left the room.

“General,” said Don Cesare to the governor, “I have the honour to inform
you that I am about to leave the citadel. I give you my resignation.”

“Bravo! Bravissimo!… to cast suspicion on me! And your reason, may I
inquire?”

“My conscience.”

“Pooh! you’re nothing but a shaveling priest. You know nothing about
honour.”

“Fabrizio is killed!” said Clelia to herself. “They’ve poisoned him at
his dinner, or else they’ll do it to-morrow.” She flew to her aviary,
determined to sing and accompany herself on the piano. “I will confess
it all,” said she to herself. “I shall be given absolution for breaking
my vow to save a man’s life.” What was her consternation, on reaching
the aviary, to perceive that the screens had been replaced by boards,
fastened to the iron bars. Half distracted, she endeavoured to warn the
prisoner by a few words, which she screamed rather than sang. There was
no answer of any sort. A deathlike silence already reigned within the
Farnese Tower. “It’s all over,” she thought. Distraught, she ran down the
stairs, then ran back again, to fetch what money she had, and her little
diamond earrings. As she went by she snatched up the bread remaining from
dinner, which had been put on a sideboard. “If he is still alive, it is
my duty to save him.” With a haughty air she moved toward the little door
in the tower. The door was open, and eight soldiers had only just been
stationed in the pillared hall on the ground floor. She looked boldly at
the soldiers. Clelia had intended to speak to the sergeant who should
have been in charge, but the man was not there. Clelia hurried up the
little iron staircase which wound round one of the pillars; the soldiers
stared at her, very much astonished, but presumably on account of her
lace shawl, and her bonnet, they dared not say anything to her. There
was nobody at all on the first floor, but on the second, at the entrance
to the passage, which, as my readers may recollect, was closed by three
iron-barred doors, and led to Fabrizio’s room, she found a turnkey, a
stranger to her, who said, with a startled look:

“He hasn’t dined yet.”

“I know that quite well,” said Clelia loftily. The man did not venture
to stop her. Twenty paces farther on, Clelia found, sitting on the first
of the six wooden steps leading up to Fabrizio’s room, another turnkey,
very elderly, and exceedingly red in the face, who said to her firmly,
“Signorina, have you an order from the governor?”

“Do you not know who I am?”

At that moment Clelia was possessed by a sort of supernatural strength.
She was quite beside herself. “I am going to save my husband,” she said
to herself.

While the old turnkey was calling out, “But my duty will not permit me,”
Clelia ran swiftly up the six steps. She threw herself against the door.
A huge key was in the lock; it took all her strength to turn it. At that
moment the old turnkey, who was half drunk, snatched at the bottom of her
skirt. She dashed into the room, slammed the door, tearing her gown, and,
as the turnkey pushed at it, to get in after her, she shot a bolt which
she found just under her hand. She looked into the room and saw Fabrizio
sitting at a very small table, on which his dinner was laid. She rushed
at the table, overturned it, and, clutching Fabrizio’s arm, she cried,
“Hast thou eaten?”

This use of the second person singular filled Fabrizio with joy. For the
first time in her agitation, Clelia had forgotten her womanly reserve and
betrayed her love.

Fabrizio had been on the point of beginning his fatal meal. He clasped
her in his arms, and covered her with kisses. “This food has been
poisoned,” thought he to himself. “If I tell her I have not touched it,
religion will reassert its rights, and Clelia will take to flight. But
if she looks upon me as a dying man I shall persuade her not to leave
me. She is longing to find a means of escape from her hateful marriage;
chance has brought us this one. The jailers will soon collect; they
will break in the door, and then there will be such a scandal that the
Marchese Crescenzi will take fright, and break off his marriage.”

During the momentary silence consequent on these reflections, Fabrizio
felt that Clelia was already endeavouring to free herself from his
embrace.

“I feel no pain as yet,” he said to her, “but soon I shall lie at thy
feet in agony. Help me to die!”

“Oh, my only friend,” she answered, “I will die with thee!” and she
clasped her arms about him with a convulsive pressure.

Half dressed as she was, and half wild with passion, she was so beautiful
that Fabrizio could not restrain an almost involuntary gesture. He met
with no resistance.

In the gush of passion and generous feeling which follows on excessive
happiness, he said to her boldly: “The first instants of our happiness
shall not be soiled by a vile lie. But for thy courage I should now be
nothing but a corpse, or struggling in the most hideous tortures. But
at thy entrance I was only about to dine; I had not touched any of the
dishes.”

Fabrizio dilated on the frightful picture, so as to soften the
indignation he already perceived in Clelia’s eyes. Torn by violent and
conflicting feelings, she looked at him for an instant, and then threw
herself into his arms. A great noise arose in the passage, the iron doors
were roughly opened and violently banged, and there was talking and
shouting.

“Oh, if only I was armed!” exclaimed Fabrizio. “They took my arms away
before they would let me come in. No doubt they are coming to make an
end of me. Farewell, my Clelia! I bless my death, since it has brought
me my happiness!” Clelia kissed him, and gave him a little ivory-handled
dagger, with a blade not much longer than that of a penknife.

“Do not let them kill thee,” she said. “Defend thyself to the last
moment. If my uncle hears the noise—he is brave and virtuous—he will save
thee. I am going to speak to them!” and as she said the words, she rushed
toward the door.

“If thou art not killed,” she said feverishly, with her hand on the bolt
and her head turned toward him, “starve rather than touch any food that
is brought thee. Keep this bread about thy person always.” The noise
was drawing nearer. Fabrizio caught hold of her, took her place by the
door, and throwing it open violently, rushed down the six wooden steps.
The ivory-handled dagger was in his hand, and he was just about to drive
it into the waistcoat of General Fontana, the prince’s aide-de-camp,
who started back in alarm, and exclaimed, “But I have come to save you,
Signor del Dongo!”

Fabrizio turned back, up the six steps, said, within the room, “Fontana
has come to save me,” then, returning to the general, on the wooden
steps, he conversed calmly with him, begging him, in many words, to
forgive him his angry impulse. “There has been an attempt to poison me;
that dinner you see laid out there is poisoned. I had the sense not to
touch it, but I will confess to you that the incident annoyed me. When I
heard you coming up the stairs, I thought they were coming to finish me
with daggers.… General, I request you will give orders that nobody shall
enter my room. Somebody would take away the poison, and our good prince
must be informed of everything.”

The general, very pale, and very much horrified, transmitted the order
suggested by Fabrizio to the specially selected jailers, who had
followed him. These gentry, very much crestfallen at seeing the poison
discovered, lost no time in getting downstairs. They made as though they
were going in front, to get out of the way of the prince’s aide-de-camp
on the narrow staircase; as a matter of fact, they were panting to escape
and disappear. To General Fontana’s great astonishment, Fabrizio halted
for more than a quarter of an hour at the little iron staircase that ran
round the pillar on the ground floor. He wanted to give Clelia time to
conceal herself on the first floor.

It was the duchess who, after doing several wild things, had succeeded
in getting General Fontana sent to the citadel. This success had been
the result of chance. Leaving Count Mosca, who was as much alarmed as
herself, she hurried to the palace. The princess, who had a strong
dislike to energy, which always struck her as being vulgar, thought she
was mad, and did not show the least disposition to attempt any unusual
step to help her. The duchess, distracted, was weeping bitterly. All
she could do was to repeat, over and over again, “But, madam, within a
quarter of an hour Fabrizio will be dead of poison!”

When the duchess perceived the princess’s perfect indifference, her grief
drove her mad. That moral reflection, which would certainly have occurred
to any woman educated in one of those northern religions which permit of
self-examination—“I was the first to use poison, and now it is by poison
that I am destroyed”—never occurred to her. In Italy such considerations,
in moments of deep passion, would seem as commonplace as a pun would
appear to a Parisian, under parallel circumstances.

In her despair, the duchess chanced to go into the drawing-room, where
she found the Marchese Crescenzi, who was in waiting that day. When the
duchess had returned to Parma he had thanked her fervently for his post
as lord in waiting, to which, but for her, he could never have aspired.
There had been no lack of asseverations of devotion on his part. The
duchess addressed him in the following words:

“Rassi is going to have Fabrizio, who is in the citadel, poisoned. Put
some chocolate and a bottle of water, which I will give you, into your
pocket. Go up to the citadel, and save my life by telling General Fabio
Conti that if he does not allow you to give Fabrizio the chocolate and
the water yourself, you will break off your marriage with his daughter.”

The marchese turned pale, and his features, instead of kindling into
animation, expressed the most miserable perplexity. He “could not believe
that so hideous a crime could be committed in so well-ordered a city as
Parma, ruled over by so great a prince,” and so forth. And to make it
worse, he enunciated all these platitudes exceedingly slowly. In a word,
the duchess found she had to deal with a man who was upright enough, but
weak beyond words, and quite unable to make up his mind to act. After a
score of remarks of this kind, all of them interrupted by her impatient
exclamations, he hit on an excellent excuse. His oath as lord in waiting
forbade him to take part in any machinations against the government.

My readers will imagine the anxiety and despair of the duchess, who felt
the time was slipping by.

“But see the governor, at all events, and tell him I will hunt Fabrizio’s
murderers into hell!”

Despair had quickened the duchess’s eloquence. But all her fervour only
added to the marchese’s alarm, and doubled his natural irresolution. At
the end of an hour he was even less inclined to do anything than he had
been at first.

The unhappy woman, who had reached the utmost limit of distraction,
and was thoroughly convinced the governor would never refuse anything
to so rich a son-in-law, went so far as to throw herself at his feet.
This seemed only to increase the Marchese Crescenzi’s cowardice—the
strange sight filled him with an unconscious fear that he himself might
be compromised. But then a strange thing happened. The marchese, a
kind-hearted man at bottom, was touched when he saw so beautiful and,
above all, so powerful a woman, kneeling at his feet.

“I myself, rich and noble as I am,” thought he, “may one day be forced to
kneel at the feet of some republican.”

The marchese began to cry, and at last it was agreed that the duchess,
as mistress of the robes, should introduce him to the princess, who would
give him leave to convey a small basket, of the contents of which he
would declare himself ignorant, to Fabrizio.

The previous night, before the duchess had become aware of Fabrizio’s
folly in giving himself up to the citadel, a _commedia dell’arte_ had
been acted at court, and the prince, who always kept the lovers’ parts
for himself, and played them with the duchess, had spoken to her so
passionately of his love that had such a thing been possible, in Italy,
to any passionate man, or any prince, he would have looked ridiculous.

The prince, who, shy as he was, took his love-affairs very seriously,
was walking along one of the corridors of the palace, when he met the
duchess, hurrying the Marchese Crescenzi, who looked very much flustered,
into the princess’s presence. He was so surprised and dazzled by the
beauty and the emotion with which despair had endued the mistress of
the robes, that for the first time in his life he showed some decision
of character. With a gesture that was more than imperious, he dismissed
the marchese, and forthwith made a formal declaration of his love to the
duchess. No doubt the prince had thought it all over beforehand, for it
contained some very sensible remarks.

“Since my rank forbids me the supreme happiness of marrying you, I will
swear to you on the Holy Wafer that I will never marry without your
written consent. I know very well,” he added, “that I shall cause you to
lose the hand of the Prime Minister—a clever and very charming man—but,
after all, he is fifty-six years old, and I am not yet twenty-two. I
should feel I was insulting you, and should deserve your refusal, if I
spoke to you of advantages apart from my love. But every soul about my
court who cares about money speaks with admiration of the proof of love
the count gives you, by leaving everything he possesses in your hands. I
shall be only too happy to imitate him in this respect. You will use my
fortune much better than I, and you will have the entire disposal of the
annual sum which my ministers pay over to the lord steward of the crown.
Thus it will be you, duchess, who will decide what sums I may expend
each month.”

The duchess thought all these details very long-winded. The sense of
Fabrizio’s peril was tearing at her heart.

“But don’t you know, sir,” she exclaimed, “that Fabrizio is at this
moment being poisoned in your citadel. Save him! I believe everything!”
The arrangement of her sentence was thoroughly awkward. At the word
_poison_ all the confidence, all the good faith which had been evident in
the poor, well-meaning prince’s conversation, disappeared like a flash.
The duchess only noticed her blunder when it was too late to remedy it,
and this increased her despair—a thing she had thought impossible. “If I
had not mentioned poison,” said she to herself, “he would have granted me
Fabrizio’s liberty. Oh, dear Fabrizio,” she added, “I am fated to ruin
you by my folly!”

It took the duchess a long time, and she was forced to employ many wiles,
before she could win the prince back to his passionate declarations of
affection. But he was still thoroughly scared. It was only his mind that
spoke; his heart had been frozen—first of all by the idea of poison, and
then by another, as displeasing to him as the first had been terrible.
“Poison is being administered in my dominions without my being told
anything about it. Rassi, then, is bent on dishonouring me in the eyes of
Europe. God alone knows what I shall read in the French newspapers next
month.”

Suddenly, timid as the young man was, his heart was silent, and an idea
started up in his mind.

“Dear duchess,” he cried, “you know how deeply I am attached to you. I
would fain believe your terrible notion about poison is quite unfounded.
But, indeed, it set me thinking, too, and for a moment it almost made
me forget my passionate love for you, the only one I have ever felt in
my life. I feel I am not very lovable; I am nothing but a boy, very
desperately in love. But put me to the test, at all events!”

As the prince spoke he grew very eager.

“Save Fabrizio, and I will believe everything! No doubt I am carried
away by a foolish mother’s fears. But send instantly to fetch Fabrizio
from the citadel, and let me see him. If he is still alive, send him from
the palace to the city jail, and keep him there for months and months,
until he has been tried, if that be your Highness’s will!”

The duchess noticed with despair that the prince, instead of granting
so simple a petition with a word, had grown gloomy. He was very much
flushed; he looked at the duchess, then dropped his eyes, and his cheeks
grew pale. The idea of poison she had so unluckily put forward had
inspired him with a thought worthy of his own father, or of Philip II.
But he did not dare to express it.

“Listen, madam,” he said at last, as though with an effort, and in a tone
that was not particularly gracious. “You look down upon me as a boy, and
further, as a creature possessing no attraction. Well, I am going to say
something horrible to you, which has been suggested to me, this instant,
by the real and deep passion I feel for you. If I had the smallest belief
in the world in this poison story, I should have taken steps at once; my
duty would have made that a law. But I take your request to be nothing
but a wild fancy, the meaning of which, you will allow me to say, I may
not fully grasp. You expect me, who have hardly reigned three months,
to act without consulting my ministers. You ask me to make an exception
to a general rule, which, I confess, seems to me a very reasonable one.
At this moment it is you, madam, who are absolute sovereign here; you
inspire me with hope in a matter which is all in all to me. But within an
hour, when this nightmare of yours, this fancy about poison, has faded
away, my presence will become a weariness to you, and you will drive
me away, madam. Therefore I want an oath. Swear to me, madam, that if
Fabrizio is restored to you, safe and sound, you will grant me, within
three months, all the happiness that my love can crave; that you will
ensure the bliss of my whole life by placing one hour of yours at my
disposal, and that you will be mine!”

At that moment the castle clock struck two. “Ah, perhaps it is too late
now!” thought the duchess.

“I swear it,” she cried, and her eyes were wild.

Instantly the prince became a different man. Running to the
aide-de-camp’s room at the end of the gallery—

“General Fontana,” he cried, “gallop at full speed to the citadel; hurry
as fast as you can to the room where Signor del Dongo is confined,
and bring him to me. I must speak to him within twenty minutes—within
fifteen, if that be possible.”

“Ah, general!” exclaimed the duchess, who had followed on the prince’s
heels. “My whole life may depend on one moment. A report—a false one,
no doubt—has made me fear Fabrizio may be poisoned. The moment you are
within earshot, call out to him not to eat. If he has touched food, you
must make him sick; say I insist upon it—use violence if necessary. Tell
him I am following close after you, and believe I shall be indebted to
you all my life!”

“My lady duchess, my horse is saddled; I am thought a good rider; I will
gallop as hard as I can go, and I shall be at the citadel eight minutes
before you.”

The aide-de-camp vanished. He was a man whose one merit was that he knew
how to ride.

Before he had well closed the door the young prince, who apparently knew
his own mind now, seized the duchess’s hand. “Madam,” he said, and there
was passion in his tone, “deign to come with me to the chapel.” Taken
aback for the first time in her life, the duchess followed him without a
word. She and the prince ran down the whole length of the great gallery
of the palace, at the far end of which the chapel was situated. When they
were inside the chapel the prince cast himself on his knees, as much
before the duchess as before the altar.

“Repeat your oath!” he exclaimed passionately. “If you had been just, if
the misfortune of my being a prince had not injured my cause, you would
have granted me, out of pity for my love, that which you owe me now,
because you have sworn it.”

“If I see Fabrizio again, and he has not been poisoned—if he is alive
within a week from now—if your Highness appoints him coadjutor to
Archbishop Landriani, and his ultimate successor—I will trample
everything, my honour, my womanly dignity, beneath my feet, and I will
give myself to your Highness.”

“But, _dearest friend_,” said the prince, with a comical mixture of
nervous anxiety and tenderness, “I am afraid of some pitfall I do not
understand, and which may destroy all my happiness; that would kill me.
If the archbishop makes some ecclesiastical difficulty which will drag
the business out for years, what is to become of me? I am acting, you
see, in perfect good faith; are you going to treat me like a Jesuit?”

“No, in all good faith. If Fabrizio is saved, and if you do all in your
power to make him coadjutor and future archbishop, I will dishonour
myself, and give myself to you. Your Highness will undertake to write
‘_approved_’ on the margin of a request which the archbishop will present
within the week?”

“I will sign you a blank sheet of paper! You shall rule me and my
dominions!” Reddening with happiness, and thoroughly beside himself, he
insisted on a second oath. So great was his emotion that it made him
forget his natural timidity, and in that palace chapel where they were
alone together, he whispered things which, if he had said them three
days previously, would have altered the duchess’s opinion of him. But in
her heart, despair concerning Fabrizio’s danger had now been replaced by
horror at the promise which had been torn from her.

The duchess was overwhelmed by the thought of what she had done. If she
was not yet conscious of the frightful bitterness of what she had said,
it was because her attention was still strained by anxiety as to whether
General Fontana would reach the citadel in time.

To stem the boy’s wild love talk, and turn the conversation, she praised
a famous picture by Parmegiano, which adorned the high altar in the
chapel.

“Do me the kindness of allowing me to send it to you,” said the prince.

“I accept it,” replied the duchess. “But give me leave to hurry to meet
Fabrizio.”

With a bewildered look she told her coachman to make his horses into a
gallop. On the bridge that spanned the fortress moat she met General
Fontana and Fabrizio coming out on foot.

“Have you eaten?”

“No, by some miracle.”

The duchess threw herself on Fabrizio’s breast, and fell into a swoon,
which lasted for an hour, and engendered fears, first for her life, and
afterward for her reason.

At the sight of General Fontana, General Fabio Conti had grown white
with rage. He dallied so much about obeying the prince’s order, that the
aide-de-camp, who concluded the duchess was about to occupy the position
of reigning mistress, had ended by losing his temper. The governor had
intended to make Fabrizio’s illness last two or three days, and “now,”
said he to himself, “this general, a man about the court, will find the
impudent fellow struggling in the agonies which are to avenge me for his
flight.”

Greatly worried, Fabio Conti stopped in the guard-room of the Farnese
Tower, and hastily dismissed the soldiers in it. He did not care to have
any witnesses of the approaching scene.

Five minutes afterwards, he was petrified with astonishment by hearing
Fabrizio’s voice, and seeing him well and hearty, describing the prison
to General Fontana. He swiftly disappeared.

At his interview with the prince, Fabrizio behaved like a perfect
gentleman. In the first place, he had no intention of looking like a
child who is frightened by a mere nothing. The prince inquired kindly how
he felt.

“Like a man, your Serene Highness, who is starving with hunger, because,
by good luck, he has neither breakfasted nor dined.”

After having had the honour of thanking the prince, he requested
permission to see the archbishop, before proceeding to the city jail.

The prince had turned exceedingly pale when the conviction that the
poison had not been altogether a phantom of the duchess’s imagination
had forced itself upon his childish brain. Absorbed by the cruel
thought, he did not at first reply to Fabrizio’s request that he might
see the archbishop. Then he felt obliged to atone for his inattention by
excessive graciousness.

“You can go out alone, sir, and move through the streets of my capital
without any guard. Toward ten or eleven o’clock you will repair to the
prison, and I trust you will not have to stay there long.”

On the morrow of that great day, the most remarkable in his whole life,
the prince thought himself a young Napoleon. That great man, he had
read, had received favours from several of the most beautiful women
of his court. Now that he too was a Napoleon by his success in love,
he recollected that he had also been a Napoleon under fire. His soul
was still glowing with delight over the firmness of his treatment of
the duchess. The sense that he had achieved something difficult made
quite another man of him. For a whole fortnight he became accessible to
generous-minded argument; he showed some resolution of character.

He began, that very day, by burning the patent creating Rassi a
count, which had been lying on his writing-table for the last month.
He dismissed General Fabio Conti, and commanded Colonel Lange, his
successor, to tell him the truth about the poison. Lange, a brave
Polish soldier, terrified the jailers, and found out that Signor del
Dongo was to have been poisoned at his breakfast, but that too many
persons would have had to have been let into the secret. At his dinner,
measures had been more carefully taken, and but for General Fontana’s
arrival, Monsignore del Dongo would have died. The prince was thrown into
consternation. But, desperately in love as he was, it was a consolation
to him to be able to think, “It turns out that I really have saved
Monsignore del Dongo’s life, and the duchess will not dare to break the
word she has given me.” From this thought another proceeded: “My way of
life is much more difficult than I supposed. Every one agrees that the
duchess is an exceedingly clever woman. In this case my interest and
my heart agree. What divine happiness it would be for me, if she would
become my Prime Minister!”

So worried was the prince by the horrors he had discovered, that he would
have nothing to do with the acting that evening.

“It would be too great a happiness for me,” said he to the duchess,
“if you would rule my dominions, even as you rule my heart. To begin
with, I am going to tell you how I have spent my day.” And he began to
relate everything very exactly. How he had burned Rassi’s patent, his
appointment of Lange, Lange’s report on the attempted poisoning, and so
forth.

“I feel I am a very inexperienced ruler. The count’s jokes humiliate me.
Even at the council-table he jokes, and in general society he says things
which you will say are not true. He declares I am a child, and that he
leads me wherever he chooses. Though I am a prince, madam, I am a man as
well, and such remarks are very vexatious. To cast doubt on the stories
Mosca put about, I was induced to appoint that dangerous scoundrel Rassi
to the ministry. And now here I have General Fabio Conti, who still
believes him to be so powerful that he dares not confess whether it was
he or the Raversi who suggested his making away with your nephew. I have
a good mind to have General Fabio Conti tried. The judges would soon find
out whether he is guilty of the attempted poisoning.”

“But have you any judges, sir?”

“What!” said the prince, astounded.

“You have learned lawyers, sir, who look very solemn as they walk through
the streets. But their verdicts will always follow the will of the
dominant party at your court.”

While the young prince, thoroughly scandalized, was saying a number of
things which proved his candour to be far greater than his wisdom, the
duchess was thinking to herself.

“Will it answer my purpose to have Conti dishonoured? Certainly not, for
then his daughter’s marriage with that worthy commonplace individual
Crescenzi becomes impossible.”

An endless conversation followed on this subject between the duchess
and the prince. The prince’s admiration quite blinded him. Out of
consideration for Clelia’s marriage with the Marchese Crescenzi, but
on this account solely, as he angrily informed the ex-governor, the
prince overlooked his attempt to poison a prisoner. But, advised by the
duchess, he sent him into banishment until the date of his daughter’s
marriage. The duchess believed she no longer loved Fabrizio, but she was
passionately anxious to see Clelia married to the marchese. This came of
her vague hope that she might thus see Fabrizio grow less absent-minded.

In his delight, the prince would have disgraced Rassi openly that very
night. The duchess said to him laughingly:

“Do not you know a saying of Napoleon’s, that a man in a high position,
on whom all men’s eyes are fixed, must never allow himself to act in
anger? But it is too late to do anything to-night. Let us put off all
business until to-morrow.”

She wanted to get time to consult the count, to whom she faithfully
repeated the whole of the evening’s conversation, only suppressing the
prince’s frequent references to a promise the thought of which poisoned
her existence. The duchess hoped to make herself so indispensable that
she would be able to get the matter indefinitely adjourned by saying
to the prince, “If you are so barbarous as to make me endure such a
humiliation, which I should never forgive, I will leave your state the
next morning.”

The count, when the duchess consulted with him as to Rassi’s fate,
behaved like a true philosopher. Rassi and General Fabio Conti travelled
to Piedmont together.

A very peculiar difficulty arose in connection with Fabrizio’s trial. The
judges wanted to acquit him by acclamation at their very first sitting.

The count was obliged to use threats to make the trial last a week, and
insure the hearing of all the witnesses. “These people are all alike,”
said he to himself.

The day after his acquittal, Fabrizio del Dongo took possession, at last,
of his post as grand vicar to the good Archbishop Landriani. On that
same day the prince signed the despatches necessary to insure Fabrizio’s
appointment as the archbishop’s coadjutor and ultimate successor, and
within less than two months, he was installed in this position.

Everybody complimented the duchess on her nephew’s serious bearing. As a
matter of fact, he was in utter despair.

Immediately after his deliverance, which had been followed by General
Fabio Conti’s disgrace and banishment, and the duchess’s accession to the
highest favour, Clelia had taken refuge in the house of her aunt, the
Countess Cantarini, a very rich and very aged woman, who never thought
of anything but her health. Clelia might have seen Fabrizio, but any
one acquainted with her former engagements, and seeing her present mode
of behaviour, would have concluded that her regard for her lover had
departed when the danger in which he stood had disappeared. Fabrizio
not only walked past the Palazzo Cantarini as often as he decently
could; he had also succeeded, after endless trouble, in hiring a small
lodging opposite the first floor of the mansion. Once, when Clelia had
thoughtlessly stationed herself at the window, to watch a procession pass
by, she had started back, as though terror-struck. She had caught sight
of Fabrizio, dressed in black, but as a very poor workman, looking at her
out of one of his garret windows, filled with oiled paper, like those of
his room in the Farnese Tower. Fabrizio would have been very thankful to
persuade himself that Clelia was avoiding him on account of her father’s
disgrace, which public rumour ascribed to the duchess. But he was only
too well acquainted with another cause for her retirement, and nothing
could cheer his sadness.

Neither his acquittal, nor his important functions, the first he had
been called on to perform, nor his fine social position, nor even the
assiduous court paid him by all the clergy and devout persons in the
diocese, touched him in the least. His charming rooms in the Palazzo
Sanseverina were no longer large enough. The duchess, to her great
delight, was obliged to give him the whole of the second floor of her
palace, and two fine rooms on the first floor, which were always full of
people waiting to pay their duty to the youthful coadjutor. The clause
insuring his succession to the archbishopric had created an extraordinary
effect in the country. Those resolute qualities in Fabrizio’s character,
which had once so scandalized the needy and foolish courtiers, were now
ascribed to him as virtues.

It was a great lesson in philosophy to Fabrizio to find himself so
utterly indifferent to all these honours, and far more unhappy in his
splendid rooms, with half a score of lackeys dressed in his liveries,
than he had been in his wooden chamber in the Farnese Tower, with hideous
jailers all about him, and in perpetual terror for his life. His mother
and his sister, the Duchess V⸺, who had travelled to Parma to see him in
his glory, were struck by his deep melancholy. So greatly did it alarm
the Marchesa del Dongo, who had become the most unromantic of women,
that she thought he must have been given some slow poison in the Farnese
Tower. Discreet as she was, she felt it her duty to speak to him about
his extraordinary depression, and Fabrizio’s tears were his only answer.

The innumerable advantages arising out of his brilliant position produced
no impression on him, save one of vexation. His brother, that vainest of
mortals, eaten up with the vilest selfishness, wrote him an almost formal
letter of congratulation, and with this letter he received a bank bill
for fifty thousand francs, to enable him, so the new marchese wrote, to
purchase horses and carriages worthy of his name. Fabrizio sent the money
to his younger sister, who had made a poor marriage.

Count Mosca had caused a fine Italian translation to be made of the Latin
genealogy of the Valserra del Dongo family, originally published by
Fabrizio, Archbishop of Parma. This he had splendidly printed, with the
Latin text on the opposite page; the engravings had been reproduced by
magnificent lithographs, done in Paris. By the duchess’s desire a fine
portrait of Fabrizio was inserted, opposite that of the late archbishop.
This translation was published as Fabrizio’s work, executed during his
first imprisonment. But in our hero’s heart every feeling was dead,
even the vanity inherent in every human creature. He did not condescend
to read one page of the volume attributed to him. His social position
made it incumbent on him to present a magnificently bound copy of it
to the prince, who, thinking he owed him some amends for having brought
him so near an agonizing death, granted him his “_grandes entrées_”
to the sovereign’s apartment—an honour which confers the title of
“_Eccellenza_.”



CHAPTER XXVI


The only moments when Fabrizio’s deep sadness knew a little respite were
those he spent lurking behind a glass pane which he had substituted for
one of the oiled-paper squares in the window of his lodging, opposite
the Palazzo Cantarini, to which mansion, as my readers know, Clelia
had retired. On the few occasions, since he had left the fortress, on
which he had caught sight of her, he had been profoundly distressed by a
striking change in her appearance, from which he augured very ill. Since
Clelia’s one moment of weakness her face had assumed a most striking
appearance of nobility and gravity. It might have been that of a woman of
thirty. In this extraordinary change of expression Fabrizio recognised
the reflection of some deep-seated resolution. “Every moment of the day,”
said he to himself, “she is swearing to herself that she will keep her
vow to the Madonna, and never look at me again.”

Fabrizio only guessed at part of Clelia’s misery. She knew that her
father, who had fallen into the direst disgrace, would never be able
to return to Parma and reappear at the court (without which life was
impossible to him) until she married the Marchese Crescenzi. She wrote
her father word that she desired to be married. The general was then
lying ill from worry at Turin. This fateful decision had aged her by ten
years.

She was quite aware that Fabrizio had a window facing the Palazzo
Cantarini, but only once had she been so unfortunate as to look at him.
The moment she caught sight of the turn of a head or the outline of a
figure the least resembling his, she instantly closed her eyes. Her deep
piety, and her trust in the Madonna’s help, were to be her only support
for the future. She had to endure the sorrow of feeling no esteem for
her father; her future husband’s character she took to be perfectly
commonplace, and suited to the dominant feelings of the upper ranks of
society. To crown it all, she adored a man whom she must never see again,
and who, nevertheless, had certain claims upon her. Taking it altogether,
her fate seemed to her the most miserable that could be conceived, and it
must be acknowledged that she was right. The moment she was married she
ought to have gone to live two hundred leagues from Parma.

Fabrizio was acquainted with the extreme modesty of Clelia’s character;
he knew how much any unusual step, the discovery of which might
cause comment, was certain to displease her. Nevertheless, driven to
distraction by his own sadness, and by seeing Clelia’s eyes so constantly
turned away from him, he ventured to try to buy over two of the servants
of her aunt, the Countess Cantarini. One day, as dusk was falling,
Fabrizio, dressed like a respectable countryman, presented himself at
the door of the palace, at which one of the servants he had bribed was
awaiting him. He announced that he had just arrived from Turin with
letters for Clelia from her father. The servant took up his message, and
then conducted him into a huge antechamber on the first floor. In this
apartment Fabrizio spent what was perhaps the most anxious quarter of
an hour in his whole life. If Clelia repulsed him he could never hope
to know peace again. “To cut short the wearisome duties with which my
new position overwhelms me,” he mused, “I will rid the Church of an
indifferent priest, and will take refuge, under a feigned name, in some
Carthusian monastery.” At last the servant appeared, and told him the
Signorina Clelia was willing to receive him.

Our hero’s courage quite failed him as he climbed the staircase to the
second floor, and he very nearly fell down from sheer fright.

Clelia was sitting at a little table, on which a solitary taper was
burning. No sooner did she recognise Fabrizio, under his disguise, than
she rushed away, and hid herself at the far end of the drawing-room.
“This is how you care for my salvation,” she cried, hiding her face in
her hands. “Yet you know that when my father was at the point of death
from poison, I made a vow to the Madonna that I would never see you. That
vow I have never broken except on that one day—the most wretched of my
life—when my conscience commanded me to save you from death. I do a great
deal when, by putting a forced and, no doubt, a wicked interpretation on
my vow, I consent even to listen to you.”

Fabrizio was so astounded by this last sentence that, for a few seconds,
he was incapable even of rejoicing over it. He had expected to see Clelia
rush away in the most lively anger. But at last he recovered his presence
of mind, and blew out the candle. Although he believed he had understood
Clelia’s wishes, he was trembling with alarm as he moved toward the far
end of the drawing-room, where she had taken refuge behind a sofa. He
did not know whether she might not take it ill if he kissed her hand.
Throbbing with passion, she cast herself into his arms.

“Dearest Fabrizio,” she said, “how slow you have been in coming! I can
only speak to you for a few moments, for even that is certainly a great
sin, and when I promised that I would n