Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership




Title:      The Charterhouse of Parma (1839)
Author:     Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)
            Translated from the French by C. K. Scott-Moncrieff
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0300301.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          March 2003
Date most recently updated: March 2003

Production notes: Italics in the original text are enclosed by
                  "-" in this eBook

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The Charterhouse of Parma (1839)
Author:     Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)
            Translated from the French by C. K. Scott-Moncrieff





TRANSLATOR'S DEDICATION

To MADAME C-------- R--------

In whom alone survives the spirit of the Sanseverina, to resist
tyranny, to unmask intrigue, to encourage ambition, this story of her
countrywoman is, in the language of her adopted country, dedicated by

C. K. S.-M.
Pisa, December, 1924.



TO THE READER

It was in the winter of 1830 and three hundred leagues from Paris that
this tale was written; thus it contains no allusion to the events of
1839.

Many years before 1830, at the time when our Armies were overrunning
Europe, chance put me in possession of a billeting order on the house
of a Canon: this was at Padua, a charming town in Italy; my stay being
prolonged, we became friends.

Passing through Padua again towards the end of 1830, I hastened to the
house of the good Canon: he himself was dead, that I knew, but I
wished to see once again the room in which we had passed so many
pleasant evenings, evenings on which I had often looked back since. I
found there the Canon's nephew and his wife who welcomed me like an
old friend. Several people came in, and we did not break up until a
very late hour; the nephew sent out to the Caffè Pedrocchi for an
excellent _zabaione_. What more than anything kept us up was the story
of the Duchessa Sanseverina, to which someone made an allusion, and
which the nephew was good enough to relate from beginning to end, in
my honour.

"In the place to which I am going," I told my friends, "I am not
likely to find evenings like this, and, to while away the long hours
of darkness, I shall make a novel out of your story."

"In that case," said the nephew, "let me give you my uncle's journal,
which, under the heading _Parma_, mentions several of the intrigues of
that court, in the days when the Duchessa's word was law there; but,
have a care! this story is anything but moral, and now that you pride
yourselves in France on your gospel purity, it may win you the
reputation of an _assassin_."

I publish this tale without any alteration from the manuscript of
1830, a course which may have two drawbacks:

The first for the reader: the characters being Italians will perhaps
interest him less, hearts in that country differing considerably from
hearts in France: the Italians are sincere, honest folk and, not
taking offence, say what is in their minds; it is only when the mood
seizes them that they shew any vanity; which then becomes passion, and
goes by the name of _puntiglio_. Lastly, poverty is not, with them, a
subject for ridicule.

The second drawback concerns the author.

I confess that I have been so bold as to leave my characters with
their natural asperities; but, on the other hand--this I proclaim
aloud--I heap the most moral censure upon many of their actions. To
what purpose should I give them the exalted morality and other graces
of French characters, who love money above all things, and sin
scarcely ever from motives of hatred or love? The Italians in this
tale are almost the opposite. Besides, it seems to me that, whenever
one takes a stride of two hundred leagues from South to North, the
change of scene that occurs is tantamount to a fresh tale. The Canon's
charming niece had known and indeed had been greatly devoted to the
Duchessa Sanseverina, and begs me to alter nothing in her adventures,
which are reprehensible.

23rd January, 1839.





THE CHARTERHOUSE OF PARMA

VOLUME ONE

CHAPTER ONE

On the 15th of May, 1796, General Bonaparte made his entry into Milan
at the head of that young army which had shortly before crossed the
Bridge of Lodi and taught the world that after all these centuries
Caesar and Alexander had a successor. The miracles of gallantry and
genius of which Italy was a witness in the space of a few months
aroused a slumbering people; only a week before the arrival of the
French, the Milanese still regarded them as a mere rabble of brigands,
accustomed invariably to flee before the troops of His Imperial and
Royal Majesty; so much at least was reported to them three times
weekly by a little news-sheet no bigger than one's hand, and printed
on soiled paper.

In the Middle Ages the Republicans of Lombardy had given proof of a
valour equal to that of the French, and deserved to see their city
rased to the ground by the German Emperors. Since they had become
_loyal subjects_, their great occupation was the printing of sonnets
upon handkerchiefs of rose-coloured taffeta whenever the marriage
occurred of a young lady belonging to some rich or noble family. Two
or three years after that great event in her life, the young lady in
question used to engage a devoted admirer: sometimes the name of the
_cicisbeo_ chosen by the husband's family occupied an honourable place
in the marriage contract. It was a far cry from these effeminate ways
to the profound emotions aroused by the unexpected arrival of the
French army. Presently there sprang up a new and passionate way of
life. A whole people discovered, on the 15th of May, 1796, that
everything which until then it had respected was supremely ridiculous,
if not actually hateful. The departure of the last Austrian regiment
marked the collapse of the old ideas: to risk one's life became the
fashion. People saw that in order to be really happy after centuries
of cloying sensations, it was necessary to love one's country with a
real love and to seek out heroic actions. They had been plunged in the
darkest night by the continuation of the jealous despotism of Charles
V and Philip II; they overturned these monarchs' statues and
immediately found themselves flooded with daylight. For the last
half-century, as the _Encyclopaedia_ and Voltaire gained ground in
France, the monks had been dinning into the ears of the good people of
Milan that to learn to read, or for that matter to learn anything at
all was a great waste of labour, and that by paying one's exact tithe
to one's parish priest and faithfully reporting to him all one's
little misdeeds, one was practically certain of having a good place in
Paradise. To complete the debilitation of this people once so
formidable and so rational, Austria had sold them, on easy terms, the
privilege of not having to furnish any recruits to her army.

In 1796, the Milanese army was composed of four and twenty
rapscallions dressed in scarlet, who guarded the town with the
assistance of four magnificent regiments of Hungarian Grenadiers.
Freedom of morals was extreme, but passion very rare; otherwise, apart
from the inconvenience of having to repeat everything to one's parish
priest, on pain of ruin even in this world, the good people of Milan
were still subjected to certain little monarchical interferences which
could not fail to be vexatious. For instance, the Archduke, who
resided at Milan and governed in the name of the Emperor, his
cousin, had had the lucrative idea of trading in corn. In
consequence, an order prohibiting the peasants from selling their
grain until His Highness had filled his granaries.

In May, 1796, three days after the entry of the French, a young
painter in miniature, slightly mad, named Gros, afterwards famous, who
had come with the army, overhearing in the great Caffè dei Servi
(which was then in fashion) an account of the exploits of the
Archduke, who moreover was extremely stout, picked up the list of ices
which was printed on a sheet of coarse yellow paper. On the back of
this he drew the fat Archduke; a French soldier was stabbing him with
his bayonet in the stomach, and instead of blood there gushed out an
incredible quantity of corn. What we call a lampoon or caricature was
unknown in this land of crafty 'despotism. The drawing, left by Gros
on the table of the Caffè dei Servi, seemed a miracle fallen from
heaven; it was engraved and printed during the night, and next day
twenty thousand copies of it were sold.

The same day, there were posted up notices of a forced loan of six
millions, levied to supply the needs of the French army which, having
just won six battles and conquered a score of provinces, wanted
nothing now but shoes, breeches, jackets and caps.

The mass of prosperity and pleasure which burst into Lombardy in the
wake of these French ragamuffins was so great that only the priests
and a few nobles were conscious of the burden of this levy of six
millions, shortly to be followed by a number of others. These French
soldiers laughed and sang all day long; they were all under
twenty-five years of age, and their Commander in Chief, who had
reached twenty-seven, was reckoned the oldest man in his army. This
gaiety, this youthfulness, this irresponsibility furnished a jocular
reply to the furious preachings of the monks, who, for six months, had
been announcing from the pulpit that the French were monsters,
obliged, upon pain of death, to burn down everything and to cut off
everyone's head. With this object, each of their regiments marched
with a guillotine at its head.

In the country districts one saw at the cottage doors the French
soldier engaged in dandling the housewife's baby in his arms, and
almost every evening some drummer, scraping a fiddle, would improvise
a ball. Our country dances proving a great deal too skilful and
complicated for the soldiers, who for that matter barely knew them
themselves, to be able to teach them to the women of the country, it
was the latter who shewed the young Frenchmen the _Monferrina_,
_Salterello_ and other Italian dances.

The officers had been lodged, as far as possible, with the wealthy
inhabitants; they had every need of comfort. A certain lieutenant,
for instance, named Robert, received a billeting order on the
_palazzo_ of the Marchesa del Dongo. This officer, a young conscript
not over-burdened with scruples, possessed as his whole worldly
wealth, when he entered this _palazzo_, a scudo of six francs which he
had received at Piacenza. After the crossing of the Bridge of Lodi he
had taken from a fine Austrian officer, killed by a ball, a
magnificent pair of nankeen pantaloons, quite new, and never did any
garment come more opportunely. His officer's epaulettes were of wool,
and the cloth of his tunic was stitched to the lining of the sleeves
so that its scraps might hold together; but there was something even
more distressing; the soles of his shoes were made out of pieces of
soldiers' caps, likewise picked up on the field of battle, somewhere
beyond the Bridge of Lodi. These makeshift soles were tied on over his
shoes with pieces of string which were plainly visible, so that when
the major-domo appeared at the door of Lieutenant Robert's room
bringing him an invitation to dine with the Signora Marchesa, the
officer was thrown into the utmost confusion. He and his orderly spent
the two hours that divided him from this fatal dinner in trying to
patch up the tunic a little and in dyeing black, with ink, those
wretched strings round his shoes. At last the dread moment arrived.
"Never in my life did I feel more ill at ease," Lieutenant Robert told
me; "the ladies expected that I would terrify them, and I was
trembling far more than they were. I looked down at my shoes and did
not know how to walk gracefully. The Marchesa del Dongo," he went on,
"was then in the full bloom of her beauty: you have seen her for
yourself, with those lovely eyes of an angelic sweetness, and the
dusky gold of her hair which made such a perfect frame for the oval of
that charming face. I had in my room a _Herodias_ by Leonardo da
Vinci, which might have been her portrait. Mercifully, I was so
overcome by her supernatural beauty that I forgot all about my
clothes. For the last two years I had been seeing nothing that was not
ugly and wretched, in the mountains behind Genoa: I ventured to say a
few words to her to express my delight.

"But I had too much sense to waste any time upon compliments. As I
was turning my phrases I saw, in a dining-room built entirely of
marble, a dozen flunkeys and footmen dressed in what seemed to me then
the height of magnificence. Just imagine, the rascals had not only
good shoes on their feet, but silver buckles as well. I could see them
all, out of the corner of my eye, staring stupidly at my coat and
perhaps at my shoes also, which cut me to the heart. I could have
frightened all these fellows with a word; but how was I to put them in
their place without running the risk of offending the ladies? For the
Marchesa, to fortify her own courage a little, as she has told me a
hundred times since, had sent to fetch from the convent where she was
still at school Gina del Dongo, her husband's sister, who was
afterwards that charming Contessa Pietranera: no one, in prosperity,
surpassed her in gaiety and sweetness of temper, just as no one
surpassed her in courage and serenity of soul when fortune turned
against her.

"Gina, who at that time might have been thirteen but looked more like
eighteen, a lively, downright girl, as you know, was in such fear of
bursting out laughing at the sight of my costume that she dared not
eat; the Marchesa, on the other hand, loaded me with constrained
civilities; she could see quite well the movements of impatience in my
eyes. In a word, I cut a sorry figure, I chewed the bread of scorn, a
thing which is said to be impossible for a Frenchman. At length, a
heaven-sent idea shone in my mind: I set to work to tell the ladies of
my poverty and of what we had suffered for the last two years in the
mountains behind Genoa where we were kept by idiotic old Generals.
There, I told them, we were paid in _assignats_ which were not legal
tender in the country, and given three ounces of bread daily. I had
not been speaking for two minutes before there were tears in the good
Marchesa's eyes, and Gina had grown serious.

"'What, Lieutenant,' she broke in, 'three ounces of bread!'

"'Yes, Signorina; but to make up for that the issue ran short three
days in the week, and as the peasants on whom we were billeted were
even worse off than ourselves, we used to hand on some of our bread to
them.'

"On leaving the table, I offered the Marchesa my arm as far as the
door of the drawing-room, then hurried back and gave the servant who
had waited upon me at dinner that solitary scudo of six francs upon
the spending of which I had built so many castles in the air.

"A week later," Robert went on, "when it was satisfactorily
established that the French were not guillotining anyone, the
Marchese del Dongo returned from his castle of Grianta on the Lake of
Como, to which he had gallantly retired on the approach of the army,
abandoning to the fortunes of war his young and beautiful wife and
his sister. The hatred that this Marchese felt for us was equal to his
fear, that is to say immeasurable: his fat face, pale and pious, was
an amusing spectacle when he was being polite to me. On the day after
his return to Milan, I received three ells of cloth and two hundred
francs out of the levy of six millions; I renewed my wardrobe, and
became cavalier to the ladies, for the season of balls was beginning."

Lieutenant Robert's story was more or less that of all the French
troops; instead of laughing at the wretched plight of these poor
soldiers, people were sorry for them and came to love them.

This period of unlooked-for happiness and wild excitement lasted but
two short years; the frenzy had been so excessive and so general
that it would be impossible for me to give any idea of it, were it not
for this historical and profound reflexion: these people had been
living in a state of boredom for the last hundred years.

The thirst for pleasure natural in southern countries had prevailed in
former times at the court of the Visconti and Sforza, those famous
Dukes of Milan. But from the year 1524, when the Spaniards conquered
the Milanese, and conquered them as taciturn, suspicious, arrogant
masters, always in dread of revolt, gaiety had fled. The subject
race, adopting the manners of their masters, thought more of avenging
the least insult by a dagger-blow than of enjoying the fleeting hour.

This frenzied joy, this gaiety, this thirst for pleasure, this
tendency to forget every sad or even reasonable feeling, were carried
to such a pitch, between the 15th of May, 1796, when the French
entered Milan, and April, 1799, when they were driven out again after
the battle of Cassano, that instances have been cited of old
millionaire merchants, old money-lenders, old scriveners who, during
this interval, quite forgot to pull long faces and to amass money.

At the most it would have been possible to point to a few families
belonging to the higher ranks of the nobility, who had retired to
their palaces in the country, as though in a sullen revolt against the
prevailing high spirits and the expansion of every heart. It is true
that these noble and wealthy families had been given a distressing
prominence in the allocation of the forced loans exacted for the
French army.

The Marchese del Dongo, irritated by the spectacle of so much gaiety,
had been one of the first to return to his magnificent castle of
Grianta, on the farther side of Como, whither his ladies took with
them Lieutenant Robert. This castle, standing in a position which is
perhaps unique in the world, on a plateau one hundred and fifty feet
above that sublime lake, a great part of which it commands, had been
originally a fortress. The del Dongo family had constructed it in the
fifteenth century, as was everywhere attested by marble tablets
charged with their arms; one could still see the drawbridges and deep
moats, though the latter, it must be admitted, had been drained of
their water; but with its walls eighty feet in height and six in
thickness, this castle was safe from assault, and it was for this
reason that it was dear to the timorous Marchese. Surrounded by some
twenty-five or thirty retainers whom he supposed to be devoted to his
person, presumably because he never opened his mouth except to curse
them, he was less tormented by fear than at Milan.

This fear was not altogether groundless: he was in most active
correspondence with a spy posted by Austria on the Swiss frontier
three leagues from Grianta, to contrive the escape of the prisoners
taken on the field of battle; conduct which might have been viewed in
a serious light by the French Generals.

The Marchese had left his young wife at Milan; she looked after the
affairs of the family there, and was responsible for providing the
sums levied on the _casa del Dongo_ (as they say in Italy) ; she
sought to have these reduced, which obliged her to visit those of the
nobility who had accepted public office, and even some highly
influential persons who were not of noble birth. A great event now
occurred in this family. The Marchese had arranged the marriage of his
young sister Gina with a personage of great wealth and the very
highest birth; but he powdered his hair; in virtue of which, Ghia
received him with shouts of laughter, and presently took the rash step
of marrying the Conte Pietranera. He was, it is true, a very fine
gentleman, of the most personable appearance, but ruined for
generations past in estate, and to complete the disgrace of the match,
a fervent supporter of the new ideas. Pietranera was a sub-lieutenant
in the Italian Legion; this was the last straw for the Marchese.

After these two years of folly and happiness, the Directory in Paris,
giving itself the ate of a sovereign firmly enthroned, began to shew
a mortal hatred of everything that was not commonplace. The
incompetent Generals whom it imposed on the Army of Italy lost a
succession of battles on those same plains of Verona, which had
witnessed two years before the prodigies of Arcole and Lonato. The
Austrians again drew near to Milan; Lieutenant Robert, who had been
promoted to the command of a battalion and had been wounded at the
battle of Cassano, came to lodge for the last time in the house of his
friend the Marchesa del Dongo. Their parting was a sad one; Robert set
forth with Conte Pietranera, who followed the French in their
retirement on Novi. The young Contessa, to whom her brother refused to
pay her marriage portion, followed the army, riding in a cart.

Then began that period of reaction and a return to the old ideas,
which the Milanese call _i tredici mesi_ (the thirteen months),
because as it turned out their destiny willed that this return to
stupidity should endure for thirteen months only, until Marengo.
Everyone who was old, bigoted, morose, reappeared at the head of
affairs, and resumed the leadership of society; presently the people
who had remained faithful to the sound doctrines published a report
in the villages that Napoleon had been hanged by the Mamelukes in
Egypt, as he so richly deserved.

Among these men who had retired to sulk on their estates and came back
now athirst for vengeance, the Marchese del Dongo distinguished
himself by his rabidity; the extravagance of his sentiments carried
him naturally to the head of his party. These gentlemen, quite worthy
people when they were not in a state of panic, but who were always
trembling, succeeded in getting round the Austrian General: a good
enough man at heart, he let himself be persuaded that severity was the
best policy, and ordered the arrest of one hundred and fifty patriots:
quite the best man to be found in Italy at the time.

They were speedily deported to the Bocche di Cattaro, and, flung into
subterranean caves, the moisture and above all the want of bread did
prompt justice to each and all of these rascals.

The Marchese del Dongo had an exalted position, and, as he combined
with a host of other fine qualities a sordid avarice, he would boast
publicly that he never sent a scudo to his sister, the Contessa
Pietranera: still madly in love, she refused to leave her husband,
and was starving by his side in France. The good Marchesa was in
despair; finally she managed to abstract a few small diamonds from
her jewel case, which her husband took from her every evening to stow
away under his bed, in an iron coffer: the Marchesa had brought him a
dowry of 800,000 francs, and received 80 francs monthly for her
personal expenses. During the thirteen months in which the French were
absent from Milan, this most timid of women found various pretexts and
never went out of mourning.

We must confess that, following the example of many grave authors, we
have begun the history of our hero a year before his birth. This
essential personage is none other than Fabrizio Valserra, Marchesino
del Dongo, as the style is at Milan. [Footnote: By the local custom,
borrowed from Germany, this title is given to every son of a Marchese;
_Contino_ to the son of a Conte, _Contessina_ to the daughter of a
Conte, etc.]


He had taken the trouble to be born just when the French were driven
out, and found himself, by the accident of birth, the second son of
that Marchese del Dongo who was so great a gentleman, and with whose
fat, pasty face, false smile and unbounded hatred for the new ideas
the reader is already acquainted. The whole of the family fortune was
already settled upon the elder son, Ascanio del Dongo, the worthy
image of his father. He was eight years old and Fabrizio two when all
of a sudden that General Bonaparte, whom everyone of good family
understood to have been hanged long ago, came down from the Mont
Saint-Bernard. He entered Milan: that moment is still unique in
history; imagine a whole populace madly in love. A few days later,
Napoleon won the battle of Marengo. The rest needs no telling. The
frenzy of the Milanese reached its climax; but this time it was
mingled with ideas of vengeance: these good people had been taught to
hate. Presently they saw arrive in their midst all that remained of
the patriots deported to the Bocche di Cattaro; their return was
celebrated with a national festa. Their pale faces, their great
startled eyes, their shrunken limbs were in strange contrast to the
joy that broke out on every side. Their arrival was the signal for
departure for the families most deeply compromised. The Marchese del
Dongo was one of the first to flee to his castle of Grianta. The heads
of the great families were filled with hatred and fear; but their
wives, their daughters, remembered the joys of the former French
occupation, and thought with regret of Milan and those gay balls,
which, immediately after Marengo, were organised afresh at the _casa
Tanzi_. A few days after the victory, the French General responsible
for maintaining order in Lombardy discovered that all the farmers on
the noblemen's estates, all the old wives in the villages, so far from
still thinking of this astonishing victory at Marengo, which had
altered the destinies of Italy and recaptured thirteen fortified
positions in a single day, had their minds occupied only by a prophecy
of San Giovila, the principal Patron Saint of Brescia. According to
this inspired utterance, the prosperity of France and of Napoleon was
to cease just thirteen weeks after Marengo. What does to some extent
excuse the Marchese del Dongo and all the nobles sulking on their
estates is that literally and without any affectation they believed in
the prophecy. Not one of these gentlemen had read as many as four
volumes in his life; quite openly they were making their preparations
to return to Milan at the end of the thirteen weeks; but time, as it
went on, recorded fresh successes for the cause of France. Returning
to Paris, Napoleon, by wise decrees, saved the country from revolution
at home as he had saved it from its foreign enemies at Marengo. Then
the Lombard nobles, in the safe shelter of their castles, discovered
that at first they had misinterpreted the prophecy of the holy
patron of Brescia; it was a question not of thirteen weeks, but of
thirteen months. The thirteen months went by, and the prosperity of
France seemed to increase daily.

We pass lightly over ten years of progress and happiness, from 1800 to
1810. Fabrizio spent the first part of this decade at the castle of
Grianta, giving and receiving an abundance of fisticuffs among the
little _contadini_ of the village, and learning nothing, not even how
to read. Later on, he was sent to the Jesuit College at Milan. The
Marchese, his father, insisted on his being shewn the Latin tongue,
not on any account in the works of those ancient writers who are
always talking about Republics, but in a magnificent volume adorned
with more than a hundred engravings, a masterpiece of
seventeenth-century art; this was the Lathi genealogy of the Valserra,
Marchesi del Dongo, published in 1650 by Fabrizio del Dongo,
Archbishop of Parma. The fortunes of the Valserra being pre-eminently
military, the engravings represented any number of battles, and
everywhere one saw some hero of the name dealing mighty blows with his
sword. This book greatly delighted the young Fabrizio. His mother,
who adored him, obtained permission, from time to time, to pay him a
visit at Milan; but as her husband never offered her any money for
these journeys, it was her sister-in-law, the charming Contessa
Pietranera, who lent her what she required. After the return of the
French, the Contessa had become one of the most brilliant ladies at
the court of Prince Eugène, the Viceroy of Italy.

When Fabrizio had made his First Communion, she obtained leave from
the Marchese, still in voluntary exile, to invite him out, now and
again, from his college. She found him unusual, thoughtful, very
serious, but a nice-looking boy and not at all out of place in the
drawing-room of a lady of fashion; otherwise, as ignorant as one could
wish, and barely able to write. The Contessa, who carried her
impulsive character into everything, promised her protection to the
head of the establishment provided that her nephew Fabrizio made
astounding progress and carried off a number of prizes at the end of
the year. So that he should be in a position to deserve them, she used
to send for bun every Saturday evening, and often did not restore him
to his masters until the following Wednesday or Thursday. The Jesuits,
although tenderly cherished by the Prince Viceroy, were expelled
from Italy by the laws of the Kingdom, and the Superior of the
College, an able man, was conscious of all that might be made out of
his relations with a woman all-powerful at court. He never thought of
complaining of the absences of Fabrizio, who, more ignorant than ever,
at the end of the year was awarded five first prizes. This being so,
the Contessa, escorted by her husband, now the General commanding one
of the Divisions of the Guard, and by five or six of the most
important personages at the viceregal court, came to attend the
prize-giving at the Jesuit College. The Superior was complimented by
his chiefs.

The Contessa took her nephew with her to all those brilliant
festivities which marked the too brief reign of the sociable Prince
Eugène. She had on her own authority created him an officer of
hussars, and Fabrizio, now twelve years old, wore that uniform. One
day the Contessa, enchanted by his handsome figure, besought the
Prince to give him a post as page, a request which implied that the
del Dongo family was coming round. Next day she had need of all her
credit to secure the Viceroy's kind consent not to remember this
request, which lacked only the consent of the prospective page's
father, and this consent would have been emphatically refused. After
this act of folly, which made the sullen Marchese shudder, he found
an excuse to recall young Fabrizio to Grianta. The Contessa had a
supreme contempt for her brother, she regarded him as a melancholy
fool, and one who would be troublesome if ever it lay in his power.
But she was madly fond of Fabrizio, and, after ten years of silence,
wrote to the Marchese reclaiming her nephew; her letter was left
unanswered.

On his return to this formidable palace, built by the most bellicose
of his ancestors, Fabrizio knew nothing in the world except how to
drill and how to sit on a horse. Conte Pietranera, as fond of the boy
as was his wife, used often to put him on a horse and take him with
him on parade.

On reaching the castle of Grianta, Fabrizio, his eyes still red with
the tears that he had shed on leaving his aunt's fine rooms, found
only the passionate caresses of his mother and sisters. The Marchese
was closeted in his study with his elder son, the Marchesino Ascanio;
there they composed letters in cipher which had the honour to be
forwarded to Vienna; father and son appeared in public only at
meal-times. The Marchese used ostentatiously to repeat that he was
teaching his natural successor to keep, by double entry, the accounts
of the produce of each of his estates. As a matter of fact, the
Marchese was too jealous of his own power ever to speak of these
matters to a son, the necessary inheritor of all these entailed
properties. He employed him to cipher despatches of fifteen or twenty
pages which two or throe times weekly he had conveyed into
Switzerland, where they were put on the road for Vienna. The Marchese
claimed to inform his rightful Sovereign of the internal condition of
the Kingdom of Italy, of which he himself knew nothing, and his
letters were invariably most successful, for the following reason: the
Marchese would have a count taken on the high road, by some trusted
agent, of the number of men in a certain French or Italian regiment
that was changing its station, and in reporting the fact to the court
of Vienna would take care to reduce by at least a quarter the number
of the troops on the march. These letters, in other respects absurd,
had the merit of contradicting others of greater accuracy, and gave
pleasure. And so, a short time before Fabrizio's arrival at the
castle, the Marchese had received the star of a famous order: it was
the fifth to adorn his Chamberlain's coat. As a matter of fact, he
suffered from the chagrin of not daring to sport this garment outside
his study; but he never allowed himself to dictate a despatch without
first putting on the gold-laced coat, studded with all his orders. He
would have felt himself to be wanting in respect had he acted
otherwise.

The Marchesa was amazed by her son's graces. But she had kept up the
habit of writing two or three times every year to General Comte
d'A----, which was the title now borne by Lieutenant Robert. The
Marchesa had a horror of lying to the people to whom she was attached;
she examined her son and was appalled by his ignorance.

"If he appears to me to have learned little," she said to herself, "to
me who know nothing, Robert, who is so clever, would find that his
education had been entirely neglected; and in these days one must have
merit." Another peculiarity, which astonished her almost as much, was
that Fabrizio had taken seriously all the religious teaching that had
been instilled into him by the Jesuits. Although very pious herself,
the fanaticism of this child made her shudder; "If the Marchese has
the sense to discover this way of influencing him, he will take my
son's affection from me." She wept copiously, and her passion for
Fabrizio was thereby increased.

Life in this castle, peopled by thirty or forty servants, was
extremely dull; accordingly Fabrizio spent all his days in pursuit of
game or exploring the lake in a boat. Soon he was on intimate terms
with the coachmen and grooms; these were all hot supporters of the
French, and laughed openly at the pious valets, attached to the person
of the Marchese or to that of his elder son. The great theme for wit
at the expense of these solemn personages was that, in imitation of
their masters, they powdered their heads.




CHAPTER TWO

_... Alors que Vesper vient embrunir nos yeux, Tout épris d'avenir, je
contemple les deux, En qui Dieu nous escrit, par notes non obscures,
Les sorts et les destins de toutes créatures. Car lui, du fond des
deux regardant un humain, Parfois mû de pitié, lui montre le chemin;
Par les astres du ciel qui sont ses caractères, Les choses nous prédit
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 vigorous hatred of enlightenment: "It is
ideas," he used to say, "that have ruined Italy"; he did not know
quite how to reconcile this holy horror of instruction with his desire
to see his son Fabrizio perfect the education so brilliantly begun
with the Jesuits. In order to incur the least possible risk, he
charged the good Priore Blanès, parish priest of Grianta, with the
task of continuing Fabrizio's Latin studies. For this it was necessary
that the priest should himself know that language; whereas it was to
him an object of scorn; his knowledge in the matter being confined to
the recitation, by heart, of the prayers in his missal, the meaning of
which he could interpret more or less to his flock. But this priest
was nevertheless highly respected and indeed feared throughout the
district; he had always said that it was by no means in thirteen
weeks, nor even in thirteen months that they would see the fulfilment
of the famous prophecy of San Giovila, the Patron Saint of Brescia. He
added, when he was speaking to friends whom he could trust, that this
number _thirteen_ was to be interpreted in a fashion which would
astonish many people, if it were permitted to say all that one knew
(1813).

The fact was that the Priore Blanès, a man whose honesty and virtue
were primitive, and a man of parts as well, spent all his nights up in
his belfry; he was mad on astrology. After using up all his days in
calculating the conjunctions and positions of the stars, he would
devote the greater part of his nights to following their course in the
sky. Such was his poverty, he had no other instrument than a long
telescope with pasteboard tubes. One may imagine the contempt that
was felt for the study of languages by a man who spent his time
discovering the precise dates of the fall of empires and the
revolutions that change the face of the world. "What more do I know
about a horse," he asked Fabrizio, "when I am told that in Latin it is
called equus?"

The _contadini_ looked upon Priore Blanès with awe as a great
magician: for his part, by dint of the fear that his nightly stations
in the belfry inspired, he restrained them from stealing. His clerical
brethren in the surrounding parishes, intensely jealous of his
influence, detested him; the Marchese del Dongo merely despised him,
because he reasoned too much for a man of such humble station.
Fabrizio adored him: to gratify him he sometimes spent whole evenings
in doing enormous sums of addition or multiplication. Then he would go
up to the belfry: this was a great favour and one that Priore Blanès
had never granted to anyone; but he liked the boy for his simplicity.
"If you do not turn out a hypocrite," he would say to him, "you will
perhaps be a man."

Two or three times in a year, Fabrizio, intrepid and passionate in
his pleasures, came within an inch of drowning himself in the lake.
He was the leader of all the great expeditions made by the young
_contadini_ of Grianta and Cadenabbia. These boys had procured a
number of little keys, and on very dark nights would try to open the
padlocks of the chains that fastened the boats to some big stone or to
a tree growing by the water's edge. It should be explained that on the
Lake of Como the fishermen in the pursuit of their calling put out
night-lines at a great distance from the shore. The upper end of the
line is attached to a plank kept afloat by a cork keel, and a supple
hazel twig, fastened to this plank, supports a little bell which rings
whenever a fish, caught on the line, gives a tug to the float.

The great object of these nocturnal expeditions, of which Fabrizio was
commander in chief, was to go out and visit the night-lines before the
fishermen had heard the warning note of the little bells. They used to
choose stormy weather, and for these hazardous exploits would embark
in the early morning, an hour before dawn. As they climbed into the
boat, these boys imagined themselves to be plunging into the greatest
dangers; this was the finer aspect of their behaviour; and, following
the example of their fathers, would devoutly repeat a _Hail, Mary_.
Now it frequently happened that at the moment of starting, and
immediately after the _Hail, Mary_, Fabrizio was struck by a
foreboding. This was the fruit which he had gathered from the
astronomical studies of his friend Priore Blanès, in whose predictions
he had no faith whatsoever. According to his youthful imagination,
this foreboding announced to him infallibly the success or failure of
the expedition; and, as he had a stronger will than any of his
companions, in course of time the whole band had so formed the habit
of having forebodings that if, at the moment of embarking, one of them
caught sight of a priest on the shore, or if someone saw a crow fly
past on his left, they would hasten to replace the padlock on the
chain of the boat, and each would go off to his bed. Thus Priore
Blanès had not imparted his somewhat difficult science to Fabrizio;
but, unconsciously, had infected him with an unbounded confidence in
the signs by which the future can be foretold.

The Marchese felt that any accident to his ciphered correspondence
might put him at the mercy of his sister; and so every year, at the
feast of Sant'Angela, which was Contessa Pietranera's name-day,
Fabrizio was given leave to go and spend a week at Milan. He lived
through the year looking hopefully forward or sadly back to this week.
On this great occasion, to carry out this politic mission, the
Marchese handed over to his son four scudi, and, in accordance with
his custom, gave nothing to his wife, who took the boy. But one of the
cooks, six lackeys and a coachman with a pair of horses started for
Como the day before, and every day at Milan the Marchesa found a
carriage at her disposal and a dinner of twelve covers.

The sullen sort of life that was led by the Marchese del Dongo was
certainly by no means entertaining, but it had this advantage that it
permanently enriched the families who were kind enough to sacrifice
themselves to it. The Marchese, who had an income of more than two
hundred thousand lire, did not spend a quarter of that sum; he was
living on hope. Throughout the thirteen years from 1800 to 1813, he
constantly and firmly believed that Napoleon would be overthrown
within six months. One may judge of his rapture when, at the
beginning of 1813, he learned of the disasters of the Beresima! The
taking of Paris and the fall of Napoleon almost made him lose his
head; he then allowed himself to make the most outrageous remarks to
his wife and sister. Finally, after fourteen years of waiting, he had
that unspeakable joy of seeing the Austrain troops re-enter Milan. In
obedience to orders issued from Vienna, the Austrian General received
the Marchese del Dongo with a consideration akin to respect; they
hastened to offer him one of the highest posts in the government; and
he accepted it as the payment of a debt. His elder son obtained a
lieutenancy in one of the smartest regiments of the Monarchy, but the
younger repeatedly declined to accept a cadetship which was offered
him. This triumph, in which the Marchese exulted with a rare
insolence, lasted but a few months, and was followed by a humiliating
reverse. Never had he had any talent for business, and fourteen years
spent in the country among his footmen, his lawyer and his doctor,
added to the crustiness of old age which had overtaken him, had left
him totally incapable of conducting business in any form. Now it is
not possible, in an Austrian country, to keep an important place
without having the kind of talent that is required by the slow and
complicated, but highly reasonable administration of that venerable
Monarchy. The blunders made by the Marchese del Dongo scandalised the
staff of his office, and even obstructed the course of public
business. His ultra-monarchist utterances irritated the populace which
the authorities sought to lull into a heedless slumber. One fine day
he learned that His Majesty had been graciously pleased to accept the
resignation which he had submitted of his post in the administration,
and at the same time conferred on him the place of _Second Grand
Major-domo Major_ of the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom. The Marchese was
furious at the atrocious injustice of which he had been made a victim;
he printed an open letter to a friend, he who so inveighed against the
liberty of the press. Finally, he wrote to the Emperor that his
Ministers were playing him false, and were no better than Jacobins.
These things accomplished, he went sadly back to his castle of
Grianta. He had one consolation. After the fall of Napoleon, certain
powerful personages at Milan planned an assault in the streets on
Conte Prina, a former Minister of the King of Italy, and a man of the
highest merit. Conte Pietranera risked his own life to save that of
the Minister, who was killed by blows from umbrellas after five hours
of agony. A priest, the Marchese del Bongo's confessor, could have
saved Prina by opening the wicket of the church of San Giovanni, in
front of which the unfortunate Minister was dragged, and indeed left
for a moment in the gutter, in the middle of the street; but he
refused with derision to open his wicket, and, six months afterwards,
the Marchese was happily able to secure for him a fine advancement.

He execrated Conte Pietranera, his brother-in-law, who, not having an
income of 50 louis, had the audacity to be quite content, made a point
of showing himself loyal to what he had loved all his life, and had
the insolence to preach that spirit of justice without regard for
persons, which the Marchese called an infamous piece of Jacobinism.
The Conte had refused to take service in Austria; this refusal was
remembered against him, and, a few months after the death of Prina, the
same persons who had hired the assassins contrived that General
Pietranera should be flung into prison. Whereupon the Contessa, his
wife, procured a passport and sent for posthorses to go to Vienna to
tell the Emperor the truth. Prina's assassins took fright, and one of
them, a cousin of Signora Pietranera, came to her at midnight, an hour
before she was to start for Vienna, with the order for her husband's
release. Next day, the Austrian General sent for Conte Pietranera,
received him with every possible mark of distinction, and assured him
that his pension as a retired officer would be issued to him without
delay and on the most liberal scale. The gallant General Bubna, a man
of sound judgement and warm heart, seemed quite ashamed of the
assassination of Prina and the Conte's imprisonment.

After this brief storm, allayed by the Contessa's firmness of
character, the couple lived, for better or worse, on the retired pay
for which, thanks to General Bubna's recommendation, they were not
long kept waiting.

Fortunately, it so happened that, for the last five or six years, the
Contessa had been on the most friendly terms with a very rich young
man, who was also an intimate friend of the Conte, and never failed to
place at their disposal the finest team of English horses to be seen
in Milan at the time, his box in the theatre _alla Scala_ and his
villa in the country. But the Conte had a sense of his own valour, he
was full of generous impulses, he was easily carried away, and at such
times allowed himself to make imprudent speeches. One day when he was
out shooting with some young men, one of them, who had served under
other flags than his, began to belittle the courage of the soldiers of
the Cisalpine Republic. The Conte struck him, a fight at once
followed, and the Conte, who was without support among all these young
men, was killed. This species of duel gave rise to a great deal of
talk, and the persons who had been engaged in it took the precaution
of going for a tour in Switzerland.

That absurd form of courage which is called resignation, the courage
of a fool who allows himself to be hanged without a word of protest,
was not at all in keeping with the Contessa's character. Furious at
the death of her husband, she would have liked Limercati, the rich
young man, her intimate friend, to be seized also by the desire to
travel in Switzerland, and there to shoot or otherwise assault the
murderer of Conte Pietranera.

Limercati thought this plan the last word in absurdity, and the
Contessa discovered that in herself contempt for him had killed her
affection. She multiplied her attentions to Limercati; she sought to
rekindle his love, and then to leave him stranded and so make him
desperate. To render this plan of vengeance intelligible to French
readers, I should explain that at Milan, in a land widely remote from
our own, people are still made desperate by love. The Contessa, who,
in her widow's weeds, easily eclipsed any of her rivals, flirted with
all the young men of rank and fashion, and one of these, Conte N----,
who, from the first, had said that he felt Limercati's good qualities
to be rather heavy, rather starched for so spirited a woman, fell
madly in love with her. She wrote to Limercati:

"Will you for once act like a man of spirit? Please to consider that
you have never known me.

"I am, with a trace of contempt perhaps, your most humble servant,

"GiNA PIETRANERA."

After reading this missive, Limercati set off for one of his country
seats, his love rose to a climax, he became quite mad and spoke of
blowing out his brains, an unheard-of thing in countries where hell is
believed in. Within twenty-four hours of his arrival in the country,
he had written to the Contessa offering her his hand and his rent-roll
of 200,000 francs. She sent him back his letter, with its seal
unbroken, by Conte N----'s groom. Whereupon Limercati spent three
years on his estates, returning every other month to Milan, but
without ever having the courage to remain there, and boring all his
friends with his passionate love for the Contessa and his detailed
accounts of the favours she had formerly bestowed otì him. At first,
he used to add that with Conte N---- she was ruining herself, and that
such a connexion was degrading to her.

The fact of the matter was that the Contessa had no sort of love for
Conte N----, and she told him as much when she had made quite sure of
Limercati's despair. The Conte, who was no novice, besought her upon
no account to divulge the sad truth which she had confided to him. "If
you will be so extremely indulgent," he added, "as to continue to
receive me with all the outward distinctions accorded to a reigning
lover, I may perhaps be able to find a suitable position."

After this heroic declaration the Contessa declined to avail herself
any longer either of Conte N----'s horses or of his box. But for the
last fifteen years she had been accustomed to the most fashionable
style of living; she had now to solve that difficult, or rather
impossible, problem: how to live in Milan on a pension of 1,500
francs. She left her _palazzo_, took a pair of rooms on a fifth floor,
dismissed all her servants, including even her own maid whose place
she filled with a poor old woman to do the housework. This sacrifice
was as a matter of fact less heroic and less painful than it appears
to us; at Milan poverty is not a thing to laugh at, and therefore does
not present itself to trembling souls as the worst of evils. After
some months of this noble poverty, besieged by incessant letters
from Limercati, and indeed from Conte N----, who also wished to marry
her, it came to pass that the Marchese del Dongo, miserly as a rule to
the last degree, bethought himself that his enemies might find a cause
for triumph in his sister's plight. What! A del Dongo reduced to
living upon the pension which the court of Vienna, of which he had so
many grounds for complaint, grants to the widows of its Generals!

He wrote to inform her that an apartment and an allowance worthy of
his sister awaited her at the castle of Grianta.

The Contessa's volatile mind embraced with enthusiasm the idea of this
new mode of life; it was twenty years since she had lived in that
venerable castle that rose majestically from among its old chestnuts
planted in the days of the Sforza. "There," she told herself, "I
shall find repose, and, at my age, is not that in itself happiness?"
(Having reached one-and-thirty, she imagined that the time had come
for her to retire.) "On that sublime lake by which I was born, there
awaits me at last a happy and peaceful existence."

I cannot say whether she was mistaken, but one thing certain is that
this passionate soul, which had just refused so lightly the offer of
two vast fortunes, brought happiness to the castle of Grianta. Her two
nieces were wild with joy. "You have renewed the dear days of my
youth," the Marchesa told her, as she took her in her arms; "before
you came, I was a hundred." The Contessa set out to revisit, with
Fabrizio, all those enchanting spots in the neighbourhood of Grianta,
which travellers have made so famous: the Villa Melzi on the other
shore of the lake, opposite the castle, and commanding a fine view of
it; higher up, the sacred wood of the Sfrondata, and the bold
promontory which divides the two arms of the lake, that of Como, so
voluptuous, and the other, which runs towards Lecco, grimly severe:
sublime and charming views which the most famous site in the world,
the Bay of Naples, may equal, but does not surpass. It was with
ecstasy that the Contessa recaptured the memories of her earliest
childhood and compared them with her present sensations. "The Lake
of Como," she said to herself, "is not surrounded, like the Lake of
Geneva, by wide tracts of land enclosed and cultivated according to
the most approved methods, which suggest money and speculation. Here,
on every side, I see hills of irregular height covered with clumps of
trees that have grown there at random, which the hand of man has never
yet spoiled and forced to _yield a return_. Standing among these
admirably shaped hills which run down to the lake at such curious
angles, I can preserve all the illusions of Tasso's and Ariosto's
descriptions. All is noble and tender, everything speaks of love,
nothing recalls the ugliness of civilisation. The villages halfway
up their sides are hidden in tall trees, and above the tree-tops rises
the charming architecture of their picturesque belfries. If some
little field fifty yards across comes here and there to interrupt the
clumps of chestnuts and wild cherries, the satisfied eye sees growing
on it plants more vigorous and happier than elsewhere. Beyond these
hills, the crests of which offer one hermitages in all of which one
would like to dwell, the astonished eye perceives the peaks of the
Alps, always covered in snow, and their stern austerity recalls to one
so much of the sorrows of life as is necessary to enhance one's
immediate pleasure. The imagination is touched by the distant sound of
the bell of some little village hidden among the trees: these sounds,
borne across the waters which soften their tone, assume a tinge of
gentle melancholy and resignation, and seem to be saying to man: 'Life
is fleeting: do not therefore show yourself so obdurate towards the
happiness that is offered you, make haste to enjoy it.' " The language
of these enchanting spots, which have not their like in the world,
restored to the Contessa the heart of a girl of sixteen. She could not
conceive how she could have spent all these years without revisiting
the lake. "Is it then to the threshold of old age," she asked herself,
"that our happiness takes flight?" She bought a boat which Fabrizio,
the Marchesa and she decorated with their own hands, having no money
to spend on anything, in the midst of this most luxurious
establishment; since his disgrace the Marchese del Dongo had doubled
his aristocratic state. For example, in order to reclaim ten yards of
land from the lake, near the famous plane avenue, in the direction of
Cadenabbia, he had an embankment built the estimate for which ran to
80,000 francs. At the end of this embankment there rose, from the
plans of the famous Marchese Gagnola, a chapel built entirely of huge
blocks of granite, and in this chapel Marchesi, the sculptor then in
fashion at Milan, built him a tomb on which a number of bas-reliefs
were intended to represent the gallant deeds of his ancestors.

Fabrizio's elder brother, the Marchesino Ascanio, sought to join the
ladies in their excursions; but his aunt flung water over his powdered
hair, and found some fresh dart every day with which to puncture his
solemnity. At length he delivered from the sight of his fat, pasty
face the merry troop who did not venture to laugh in his presence.
They supposed him to be the spy of the Marchese, his father, and care
had to be taken in handling that stern despot, always in a furious
temper since his enforced retirement.

Ascanio swore to be avenged on Fabrizio.

There was a storm in which they were all in danger; although they
were infinitely short of money, they paid the two boatmen generously
not to say anything to the Marchese, who already was showing great ill
humour at their taking his two daughters with them. They encountered a
second storm; the storms on this lake are terrible and unexpected:
gusts of wind sweep out suddenly from the two mountain gorges which
run down into it on opposite sides and join battle on the water. The
Contessa wished to land in the midst of the hurricane and pealing
thunder; she insisted that, if she were to climb to a rock that stood
up by itself in the middle of the lake and was the size of a small
room, she would enjoy a curious spectacle; she would see herself
assailed on all sides by raging waves; but in jumping out of the boat
she fell into the water. Fabrizio dived in after her to save her, and
both were carried away for some distance. No doubt it is not a
pleasant thing to feel oneself drowning; but the spirit of boredom,
taken by surprise, was banished from the feudal castle. The Contessa
conceived a passionate enthusiasm for the primitive nature of the
Priore Blanès and for his astrology. The little money that remained
to her after the purchase of the boat had been spent on buying a
spy-glass, and almost every evening, with her nieces and Fabrizio, she
would take her stand on the platform of one of the Gothic towers of
the castle. Fabrizio was the learned one of the party, and they spent
many hours there very pleasantly, out of reach of the spies.

It must be admitted that there were days on which the Contessa did not
utter a word to anyone; she would be seen strolling under the tall
chestnuts lost in sombre meditations; she was too clever a woman not
to feel at times the tedium of having no one with whom to exchange
ideas. But next day she would be laughing as before: it was the
lamentations of her sister-in-law, the Marchesa, that produced these
sombre impressions on a mind naturally so active.

"Are we to spend all the youth that is left to us in this gloomy
castle?" the Marchesa used to exclaim.

Before the Contessa came, she had not had the courage even to feel
these regrets.

Such was their life during the winter of 1814 and 1815. On two
occasions, in spite of her poverty, the Contessa went to spend a few
days at Milan; she was anxious to see a sublime ballet by Vigano,
given at the Scala, and the Marchese raised no objections to his
wife's accompanying her sister-in-law. They went to draw the arrears
of the little pension, and it was the penniless widow of the Cisalpine
General who lent a few sequins to the millionaire Marchesa del Dongo.
These parties were delightful; they invited old friends to dinner, and
consoled themselves by laughing at everything, just like children.
This Italian gaiety, full of surprise and brio, made them forget the
atmosphere of sombre gloom which the stern faces of the Marchese and
his elder son spread around them at Grianta. Fabrizio, though barely
sixteen, represented the head of the house admirably.

On the 7th of March, 1815, the ladies had been back for two days after
a charming little excursion to Milan; they were strolling under the
fine avenue of plane trees, then recently extended to the very edge of
the lake. A boat appeared, coming from the direction of Como, and
made strange signals. One of the Marchese's agents leaped out upon the
bank: Napoleon had just landed from the Gulf of Juan. Europe was kind
enough to be surprised at this event, which did not at all surprise
the Marchese del Dongo; he wrote his Sovereign a letter full of the
most cordial effusion; he offered him his talents and several millions
of money, and informed him once again that his Ministers were Jacobins
and in league with the ringleaders in Paris.

On the 8th of March, at six o'clock in the morning, the Marchese,
wearing all his orders, was making his elder son dictate to him the
draft of a third political despatch; he was solemnly occupied in
transcribing this in his fine and careful hand, upon paper that bore
the Sovereign's effigy as a watermark. At the same moment, Fabrizio
was knocking at Contessa Pietranera's door.

"I am off," he informed her, "I am going to join the Emperor who is
also King of Italy; he was such a good friend to your husband! I shall
travel through Switzerland. Last night, at Menaggio, my friend Vasi,
the dealer in barometers, gave me his passport; now you must give me a
few napoleons, for I have only a couple on me; but if necessary I
shall go on foot."

The Contessa wept with joy and grief. "Great Heavens! What can have
put that idea into your head?" she cried, seizing Fabrizio's hands in
her own.

She rose and went to fetch from the linen-cupboard, where it was
carefully hidden, a little purse embroidered with pearls; it was all
that she possessed in the world.

"Take it," she said to Fabrizio; "but, in heaven's name, do not let
yourself be killed. What will your poor mother and I have left, if you
are taken from us? As for Napoleon's succeeding, that, my poor boy,
is impossible; our gentlemen will certainly manage to destroy him. Did
you not hear, a week ago, at Milan the story of the twenty-three plots
to assassinate him, all so carefully planned, from which it was only
by a miracle that he escaped? And at that time he was all-powerful.
And you have seen that it is not the will to destroy him that is
lacking in our enemies; France ceased to count after he left it."

It was in a tone of the keenest emotion that the Contessa spoke to
Fabrizio of the fate in store for Napoleon. "In allowing you to go
to join him, I am sacrificing to him the dearest thing I have in the
world," she said. Fabrizio's eyes grew moist, he shed tears as he
embraced the Contessa, but his determination to be off was never for a
moment shaken. He explained with effusion to this beloved friend all
the reasons that had led to his decision, reasons which we take the
liberty of finding highly attractive.

"Yesterday evening, it wanted seven minutes to six, we were strolling,
you remember, by the shore of the lake along the plane avenue, below
the _casa Sommariva_, and we were facing the south. It was there that
I first noticed, in the distance, the boat that was coming from
Como, bearing such great tidings. As I looked at this boat without
thinking of the Emperor, and only envying the lot of those who are
free to travel, suddenly I felt myself seized by a profound emotion.
The boat touched ground, the agent said something in a low tone to my
father, who changed colour, and took us aside to announce the
_terrible news_. I turned towards the lake with no other object but to
hide the tears of joy that were flooding my eyes. Suddenly, at an
immense height in the sky and on my right-hand side, I saw an eagle,
the bird of Napoleon; he flew majestically past making for
Switzerland, and consequently for Paris. 'And I too,' I said to
myself at that moment, 'will fly across Switzerland with the speed
of an eagle, and will go to offer that great man a very little thing,
but the only thing, after all, that I have to offer him, the support
of my feeble arm. He wished to give us a country, and he loved my
uncle.' At that instant, while I was gazing at the eagle, in some
strange way my tears ceased to flow; and the proof that this idea came
from above is that at the same moment, without any discussion, I made
up my mind to go, and saw how the journey might be made. In the
twinkling of an eye all the sorrows that, as you know, are poisoning
my life, especially on Sundays, seemed to be swept away by a breath
from heaven. I saw that mighty figure of Italy raise herself from the
mire in which the Germans keep her plunged; [Footnote: The speaker is
carried away by passion; he is rendering in prose some lines of the
famous Monti.] she stretched out her mangled arms still half loaded
with chains towards her King and Liberator. 'And I,' I said to myself,
'a son as yet unknown to fame of that unhappy Mother, I shall go forth
to die or to conquer with that man marked out by destiny, who sought
to cleanse us from the scorn that is heaped upon us by even the most
enslaved and the vilest among the inhabitants of Europe.'

"You know," he added in a low tone drawing nearer to' the Contessa,
and fastening upon her a pair of eyes from which fire darted, "you
know that young chestnut which my mother, in the winter in which I was
born, planted with her own hands beside the big spring in our forest,
two leagues from here; before doing anything else I wanted to visit
it. 'The spring is not far advanced,' I said to myself, 'very well,
if my tree is in leaf, that shall be a sign for me. I also must emerge
from the state of torpor in which I am languishing in this cold and
dreary castle.' Do you not feel that these old blackened walls, the
symbols now as they were once the instruments of despotism, are a
perfect image of the dreariness of winter? They are to me what winter
is to my tree.

"Would you believe it, Gina? Yesterday evening at half past seven I
came to my chestnut; it had leaves, pretty little leaves that were
quite big already! I kissed them, carefully so as not to hurt them. I
turned the soil reverently round the dear tree. At once filled with a
fresh enthusiasm, I crossed the mountain; I came to Menaggio: I needed
a passport to enter Switzerland. The time had flown, it was already
one o'clock in the morning when I found myself at Vasi's door. I
thought that I should have to knock for a long time to arouse him, but
he was sitting up with three of his friends. At the first word I
uttered: 'You are going to join Napoleon,' he cried; and he fell on
my neck. The others too embraced me with rapture. 'Why am I
married?' I heard one of them say."

Signora Pietranera had grown pensive. She felt that she must offer a
few objections. If Fabrizio had had the slightest experience of life,
he would have seen quite well that the Contessa herself did not
believe in the sound reasons which she hastened to urge on him. But,
failing experience, he had resolution; he did not condescend even to
hear what those reasons were. The Contessa presently came down to
making him promise that at least he would inform his mother of his
intention.

"She will tell my sisters, and those women will betray me without
knowing it!" cried Fabrizio with a sort of heroic grandeur.

"You should speak more respectfully," said the Contessa, smiling
through her tears, "of the sex that will make your fortune; for you
will never appeal to men, you have too much fire for prosaic souls."

The Marchesa dissolved in tears on learning her son's strange plan;
she could not feel its heroism, and did everything in her power to
keep him at home. When she was convinced that nothing in the world,
except the walls of a prison, could prevent him from starting, she
handed over to him the little money that she possessed; then she
remembered that she had also, the day before, received nine or ten
small diamonds, worth perhaps ten thousand francs, which the Marchese
had entrusted to her to take to Milan to be set. Fabrizio's sisters
came ulto their mother's room while the Contessa was sewing these
diamonds into our hero's travelling coat; he handed the poor women
back their humble napoleons. His sisters were so enthusiastic over
his plan, they kissed him with so clamorous a joy that he took in his
hand the diamonds that had still to be concealed and was for starting
off there and then.

"You will betray me without knowing it," he said to his sisters.
"Since I have all this money, there is no need to take clothes; one
can get them anywhere." He embraced these dear ones and set off at
once without even going back to his own room. He walked so fast,
afraid of being followed by men on horseback, that before night he had
entered Lugano. He was now, thank heaven, in a Swiss town, and had no
longer any fear of being waylaid on the lonely road by constables
in his father's pay. From this haven, he wrote him a fine letter, a
boyish weakness which gave strength and substance to the Marchese's
anger. Fabrizio took the post, crossed the Saint-Gothard; his progress
was rapid, and he entered France by Pontarlier. The Emperor was in
Paris. There Fabrizio's troubles began; he had started out with the
firm intention of speaking to the Emperor: it had never occurred to
him that this might be a difficult matter. At Milan, ten times daily
he used to see Prince Eugène, and could have spoken to him had he
wished. In Paris, every morning he went to the courtyard of the
Tuileries to watch the reviews held by Napoleon; but never was he able
to come near the Emperor. Our hero imagined all the French to be
profoundly disturbed, as he himself was, by the extreme peril in which
their country lay. At table in the hotel in which he was staying, he
made no mystery about his plans; he found several young men with
charming manners, even more enthusiastic than himself, who, in a very
few days, did not fail to rob him of all the money that he possessed.
Fortunately, out of pure modesty, he had said nothing of the diamonds
given him by his mother. On the morning when, after an orgy overnight,
he found that he had been decidedly robbed, he bought a fine pair of
horses, engaged as servant an old soldier, one of the dealer's grooms,
and, filled with contempt for the young men of Paris with their fine
speeches, set out to join the army. He knew nothing except that it
was concentrated near Maubeuge. No sooner had he reached the frontier
than he felt that it would be absurd for him to stay in a house,
toasting himself before a good fire, when there were soldiers in
bivouac outside. In spite of the remonstrances of his servant, who was
not lacking in common sense, he rashly made his way to the bivouacs on
the extreme frontier, on the road into Belgium. No sooner had he
reached the first battalion that was resting by the side of the road
than the soldiers began to stare at the sight of this young civilian
in whose appearance there was nothing that suggested uniform. Night
was falling, a cold wind blew. Fabrizio went up to a fire and offered
to pay for hospitality. The soldiers looked at one another amazed
more than anything at the idea of payment, and willingly made room for
him by the fire. His servant constructed a shelter for him. But, an
hour later, the _adjudant_ of the regiment happening to pass near the
bivouac, the soldiers went to report to him the arrival of this
stranger speaking bad French. The _adjudant_ questioned Fabrizio, who
spoke to him of his enthusiasm for the Emperor in an accent which
aroused grave suspicion; whereupon this under-officer requested our
hero to go with him to the Colonel, whose headquarters were in a
neighbouring farm. Fabrizio's servant came up with the two horses. The
sight of them seemed to make so forcible an impression upon the
_adjudant_ that immediately he changed his mind and began to
interrogate the servant also. The latter, an old soldier, guessing
his questioner's plan of campaign from the first, spoke of the
powerful protection which his master enjoyed, adding that certainly
they would not _bone_ his fine horses. At once a soldier called by the
_adjudant_ put his hand on the servant's collar; another soldier took
charge of the horses, and, with an air of severity, the _adjudant_
ordered Fabrizio to follow him and not to answer back.

After making him cover a good league on foot, in the darkness rendered
apparently more intense by the fires of the bivouacs which lighted the
horizon on every side, the adjutant handed Fabrizio over to an officer
of _gendarmerie_ who, with a grave air, asked for his papers. Fabrizio
showed his passport, which described him as a dealer in barometers
travelling with his wares.

"What fools they are!" cried the officer; "this really is too much."

He put a number of questions to our hero, who spoke of the Emperor and
of Liberty in terms of the keenest enthusiasm; whereupon the officer
of _gendarmerie_ went off in peals of laughter.

"Gad! You're no good at telling a tale!" he cried. "It is a bit too
much of a good thing their daring to send us young mugs like you!" And
despite all the protestations of Fabrizio, who was dying to explain
that he was not really a dealer in barometers, the officer sent him to
the prison of B----, a small town in the neighbourhood, where our hero
arrived at about three o'clock in the morning, beside himself with
rage and half dead with exhaustion.

Fabrizio, astonished at first, then furious, understanding absolutely
nothing of what was happening to him, spent thirty-three long days in
this wretched prison; he wrote letter after letter to the town
commandant, and it was the gaoler's wife, a handsome Fleming of
six-and-thirty, who undertook to deliver them. But as she had no wish
to see so nice-looking a boy shot, and as moreover he paid well, she
put all these letters without fail in the fire. Late in the evening,
she would deign to come in and listen to the prisoner's complaints;
she had told her husband that the young greenhorn had money, after
which the prudent gaoler allowed her a free hand. She availed herself
of this licence and received several gold napoleons in return, for the
_adjudant_ had taken only the horses, and the officer of _gendarmerie_
had confiscated nothing at all. One afternoon in the month of June,
Fabrizio heard a violent cannonade at some distance. So they were
fighting at last! His heart leaped with impatience. He heard also a
great deal of noise in the town; as a matter of fact a big movement of
troops was being effected; three divisions were passing through B----.
When, about eleven o'clock, the gaoler's wife came in to share his
griefs, Fabrizio was even more friendly than usual; then, seizing hold
of her hands:

"Get me out of here; I swear on my honour to return to prison as soon
as they have stopped fighting."

"Stuff and nonsense! Have you the _quibus_?" He seemed worried; he did
not understand the word _quibus_. The gaoler's wife, noticing his
dismay, decided that he must be in low water, and instead of talking
in gold napoleons as she had intended talked now only in francs.

"Listen," she said to him, "if you can put down a hundred francs, I
will place a double napoleon on each eye of the corporal who comes to
change the guard during the night. He won't be able to see you
breaking out of prison, and if his regiment is to march to-morrow he
will accept."

The bargain was soon struck. The gaoler's wife even consented to hide
Fabrizio in her own room, from which he could more easily make his
escape in the morning.

Next day, before dawn, the woman, who was quite moved, said to
Fabrizio:

"My dear boy, you are still far too young for that dirty trade; take
my advice, don't go back to it."

"What!" stammered Fabrizio, "is it a crime then to wish to defend
one's country?"

"Enough said. Always remember that I saved your life; your case was
clear, you would have been shot. But don't say a word to anyone, or
you will lose my husband and me our job; and whatever you do, don't go
about repeating that silly tale about being a gentleman from Milan
disguised as a dealer in barometers, it's too stupid. Listen to me
now, I'm going to give you the uniform of a hussar who died the other
day in the prison; open your mouth as little as you possibly can; but
if a serjeant or an officer asks you questions so that you have to
answer, say that you've been lying ill in the house of a peasant who
took you in out of charity when you were shivering with fever in a
ditch by the roadside. If that does not satisfy them, you can add that
you are going back to your regiment. They may perhaps arrest you
because of your accent; then say that you were born in Piedmont, that
you're a conscript who was left in France last year, and all that sort
of thing."

For the first time, after thirty-three days of blind fury, Fabrizio
grasped the clue to all that had happened. They took him for a spy. He
argued with the gaoler's wife, who, that morning, was most
affectionate; and finally, while armed with a needle she was taking in
the hussar's uniform to fit him, he told his whole story in so many
words to the astonished woman. For an instant she believed him; he had
so innocent an air, and looked so nice dressed as a hussar.

"Since you have such a desire to fight," she said to him at length
half convinced, "what you ought to have done as soon as you reached
Paris was to enlist in a regiment. If you had paid for a serjeant's
drink, the whole thing would have been settled." The gaoler's wife
added much good advice for the future, and finally, at the first
streak of dawn, let Fabrizio out of the house, after making him swear
a hundred times over that he would never mention her name, whatever
happened. As soon as Fabrizio had left the little town, marching
boldly with the hussar's sabre under his arm, he was seized by a
scruple. "Here I am," he said to himself, "with the clothes and the
marching orders of a hussar who died in prison, where he was sent,
they say, for stealing a cow and some silver plate! I have, so to
speak, inherited his identity ... and without wishing it or
expecting it in any way! Beware of prison! The omen is clear, I shall
have much to suffer from prisons!"

Not an hour had passed since Fabrizio's parting from his benefactress
when the rain began to fall with such violence that the new hussar was
barely able to get along, hampered by a pair of heavy boots which had
not been made for him. Meeting a peasant mounted upon a sorry horse,
he bought the animal, explaining by signs what he wanted; the gaoler's
wife had recommended him to speak as little as possible, in view of
his accent.

That day the army, which had just won the battle of Ligny, was
marching straight on Brussels. It was the eve of the battle of
Waterloo. Towards midday, the rain still continuing to fall in
torrents, Fabrizio heard the sound of the guns; this joy made him
completely oblivious of the fearful moments of despair in which so
unjust an imprisonment had plunged him. He rode on until late at
night, and, as he was beginning to have a little common sense, went to
seek shelter in a peasant's house a long way from the road. This
peasant wept and pretended that everything had been taken from him;
Fabrizio gave him a crown, and he found some . barley. "My horse is no
beauty," Fabrizio said to himself, "but that makes no difference, he
may easily take the fancy of some _adjutant_," and he went to lie down
in the stable by its side. An hour before dawn Fabrizio was on the
road, and, by copious endearments, succeeded in making his horse trot.
About five o'clock, he heard the cannonade: it was the preliminaries
of Waterloo.




CHAPTER THREE

Fabrizio soon came upon some _vivandières_, and the extreme gratitude
that he felt for the gaoler's wife of B---- impelled him to address
them; he asked one of them where he would find the 4th Hussar
Regiment, to which he belonged.

"You would do just as well not to be in such a hurry, young soldier,"
said the _cantinière_, touched by Fabrizio's pallor and glowing eyes.
"Your wrist is not strong enough yet for the sabre-thrusts they'll be
giving to-day. If you had a musket, I don't say, maybe you could let
off your round as well as any of them."

This advice displeased Fabrizio; but however much he urged on his
horse, he could go no faster than the _cantinière_ in her cart.
Every now and then the sound of the guns seemed to come nearer and
prevented them from hearing each other speak, for Fabrizio was so
beside himself with enthusiasm and delight that he had renewed the
conversation. Every word uttered by the _cantinière_ intensified his
happiness by making him understand it. With the exception of his
real name and his escape from prison, he ended by confiding everything
to this woman who seemed such a good soul. She was greatly surprised
and understood nothing at all of what this handsome young soldier was
telling her.

"I see what it is," she exclaimed at length with an air of triumph.
"You're a young gentleman who has fallen in love with the wife of some
captain in the 4th Hussars. Your mistress will have made you a present
of the uniform you're wearing, and you're going after her. As sure as
God's in heaven, you've never been a soldier; but, like the brave
boy you are, seeing your regiment's under fire, you want to be there
too, and not let them think you a chicken."

Fabrizio agreed with everything; it was his only way of procuring good
advice. "I know nothing of the ways of these French people," he said
to himself, "and if I am not guided by someone I shall find myself
being put in prison again, and they'll steal my horse."

"First of all, my boy," said the _cantinière_, who was becoming more
and more of a friend to him, "confess that you're not one-and-twenty:
at the very most you might be seventeen."

This was the truth, and Fabrizio admitted as much with good grace.

"Then, you aren't even a conscript; it's simply because of Madame's
pretty face that you're going to get your bones broken. Plague it, she
can't be particular. If you've still got some of the _yellow-boys_ she
sent you, you must first of all buy yourself another horse; look how
your screw pricks up his ears when the guns sound at all near; that's
a peasant's horse, and will be the death of you as soon as you reach
the line. That white smoke you see over there above the hedge, that's
the infantry firing, my boy. So prepare for a fine fright when you
hear the bullets whistling over you. You'll do as well to eat a bit
while there's still time."

Fabrizio followed this advice and, presenting a napoleon to the
_vivandière_, asked her to accept payment.

"It makes one weep to see him!" cried the woman; "the poor child
doesn't even know how to spend his money! It would be no more than you
deserve if I pocketed your napoleon and put Cocotte into a trot;
damned if your screw could catch me up. What would you do, stupid, if
you saw me go off? Bear in mind, when the _brute_ growls, never to
show your gold. Here," she went on, "here's 18 francs, 50 centimes,
and your breakfast costs you 30 sous. Now, we shall soon have some
horses for sale. If the beast is a small one, you'll give ten francs,
and, in any case, never more than twenty, not if it was the horse of
the Four Sons of Aymon."

The meal finished, the _vivandière_, who was still haranguing, was
interrupted by a woman who had come across the fields and passed them
on the road.

"Hallo there, hi!" this woman shouted. "Hallo, Margot! Your 6th Light
are over there on the right."

"I must leave you, my boy," said the _vivandière_ to our hero; "but
really and truly I pity you; I've taken quite a fancy to you, upon my
word I have. You don't know a thing about anything, you're going to
get a wipe in the eye, as sure as God's in heaven! Come along to the
6th Light with me."

"I quite understand that I know nothing," Fabrizio told her, "but I
want to fight, and I'm determined to go over there towards that white
smoke."

"Look how your horse is twitching his ears! As soon as he gets over
there, even if he's no strength left, he'll take the bit in his teeth
and start galloping, and heaven only knows where he'll land you. Will
you listen to me now? As soon as you get to the troops, pick up a
musket and a cartridge pouch, get down among the men and copy what you
see them do, exactly the same: But, good heavens, I'll bet you don't
even know how to open a cartridge."

Fabrizio, stung to the quick, admitted nevertheless to his new friend
that she had guessed aright.

"Poor boy! He'll be killed straight away; sure as God! It won't take
long. You've got to come with me, absolutely," went on the
_cantinière_ in a tone of authority.

"But I want to fight."

"You shall fight too; why, the 6th Light are famous fighters, and
there's fighting enough to-day for everyone."

"But shall we come soon to the regiment?"

"In a quarter of an hour at the most."

"With this honest woman's recommendation," Fabrizio told himself, "my
ignorance of everything won't make them take me for a spy, and I shall
have a chance of fighting." At this moment the noise of the guns
redoubled, each explosion coming straight on top of the last. "It's
like a Rosary," said Fabrizio.

"We're beginning to hear the infantry fire now," said the
_vivandière_, whipping up her little horse, which seemed quite excited
by the firing.

The _cantinière_ turned to the right and took a side road that ran
through the fields; there was a foot of mud in it; the little cart
seemed about to be stuck fast: Fabrizio pushed the wheel. His horse
fell twice; presently the road, though with less water on it, was
nothing more than a bridle path through the grass. Fabrizio had not
gone five hundred yards when his nag stopped short: it was a corpse,
lying across the path, which terrified horse and rider alike.

Fabrizio's face, pale enough by nature, assumed a markedly green
tinge; the _cantinière_, after looking at the dead man, said, as
though speaking to herself: "That's not one of our Division." Then,
raising her eyes to our hero, she burst out laughing.

"Aha, my boy! There's a titbit for you!" Fabrizio sat frozen. What
struck him most of all was the dirtiness of the feet of this corpse
which had already been stripped of its shoes and left with nothing but
an old pair of trousers all clotted with blood.

"Come nearer," the _cantinière_ ordered him, "get off your horse,
you'll have to get accustomed to them; look," she cried, "he's stopped
one in the head."

A bullet, entering on one side of the nose, had gone out at the
opposite temple, and disfigured the corpse in a hideous fashion. It
lay with one eye still open.

"Get off your horse then, lad," said the _cantinière_, "and give him a
shake of the hand to see if he'll return it."

Without hesitation, although ready to yield up his soul with disgust,
Fabrizio flung himself from his horse and took the hand of the corpse
which he shook vigorously; then he stood still as though paralysed. He
felt that he had not the strength to mount again. What horrified him
more than anything was that open eye.

"The _vivandière_ will think me a coward," he said to himself
bitterly. But he felt the impossibility of making any movement; he
would have fallen. It was a frightful moment; Fabrizio was on the
point of being physically sick. The _vivandière_ noticed this, jumped
lightly down from her little carriage, and held out to him, without
saying a word, a glass of brandy which he swallowed at a gulp; he was
able to mount his screw, and continued on his way without speaking.
The _vivandière_ looked at him now and again from the corner of her
eye.

"You shall fight to-morrow, my boy," she said at length; "to-day
you're going to stop with me. You can see now that you've got to learn
the business before you can become a soldier."

"On the contrary, I want to start fighting at once," exclaimed our
hero with a sombre air which seemed to the vivandière to augur well.
The noise of the guns grew twice as loud and seemed to be coming
nearer. The explosions began to form a continuous bass; there was no
interval between one and the next, and above this running bass,
which suggested the roar of a torrent in the distance, they could make
out quite plainly the rattle of musketry.

At this point the road dived down into a clump of trees. The
_vivandière_ saw three or four soldiers of our army who were coming
towards her as fast as their legs would carry them; she jumped nimbly
down from her cart and ran into cover fifteen or twenty paces from the
road. She hid herself in a hole which had been left where a big tree
had recently been uprooted. "Now," thought Fabrizio, "we shall see
whether I am a coward!" He stopped by the side of the little cart
which the woman had abandoned, and drew his sabre. The soldiers paid
no attention to him and passed at a run along the wood, to the left of
the road.

"They're ours," said the _vivandière_ calmly, as she came back, quite
breathless, to her little cart.... "If your horse was capable of
galloping, I should say: push ahead as far as the end of the wood, and
see if there's anyone on the plain." Fabrizio did not wait to be told
twice, he tore off a branch from a poplar, stripped it and started to
lash his horse with all his might; the animal broke into a gallop for
a moment, then fell back into its regular slow trot. The _vivandière_
had put her horse into a gallop. "Stop, will you, stop!" she called
after Fabrizio. Presently both were clear of the wood. Coming to the
edge of the plain, they heard a terrifying din, guns and muskets
thundered on every side, right, left, behind them. And as the clump
of trees from which they emerged grew on a mound rising nine or ten
feet above the plain, they could see fairly well a corner of the
battle; but still there was no one to be seen in the meadow beyond the
wood. This meadow was bordered, half a mile away, by a long row of
willows, very bushy; above the willows appeared a white smoke which
now and again rose eddying into the sky.

"If I only knew where the regiment was," said the cantinière, in some
embarrassment. "It won't do to go straight ahead over this big field.
By the way," she said to Fabrizio, "if you see one of the enemy, stick
him with the point of your sabre, don't play about with the blade."

At this moment, the cantinière caught sight of the four soldiers whom
we mentioned a little way back; they were coming out of the wood on to
the plain to the left of the road. One of them was on horseback.

"There you are," she said to Fabrizio. "Hallo there!" she called to
the mounted man, "come over here and have a glass of brandy." The
soldiers approached.

"Where are the 6th Light?" she shouted.

"Over there, five minutes away, across that canal that runs along by
the willows; why, Colonel Macon has just been killed."

"Will you take five francs for your horse, you?"

"Five francs! That's not a bad one, _ma_! An officer's horse I can
sell in ten minutes for five napoleons."

"Give me one of your napoleons," said the _vivandière_ to Fabrizio.
Then going up to the mounted soldier: "Get off, quickly," she said to
him, "here's your napoleon."

The soldier dismounted, Fabrizio sprang gaily on to the saddle, the
_vivandière_ unstrapped the little portmanteau which was on his old
horse.

"Come and help me, all of you!" she said to the soldiers, "is that the
way you leave a lady to do the work?"

But no sooner had the captured horse felt the weight of the
portmanteau than he began to rear, and Fabrizio, who was an excellent
horseman, had to use all his strength to hold him.

"A good sign!" said the _vivandière_, "the gentleman is not accustomed
to being tickled by portmanteaus."

"A general's horse," cried the man who had sold it, "a horse that's
worth ten napoleons if it's worth a Hard."

"Here are twenty francs," said Fabrizio, who could not contain himself
for joy at feeling between his legs a horse that could really move.

At that moment a shot struck the line of willows, through which it
passed obliquely, and Fabrizio had the curious spectacle of all those
little branches flying this way and that as though mown down by a
stroke of the scythe.

"Look, there's the _brute_ advancing," the soldier said to him as he
took the twenty francs. It was now about two o'clock.

Fabrizio was still under the spell of this strange spectacle when a
party of generals, followed by a score of hussars, passed at a gallop
across one corner of the huge field on the edge of which he had
halted: his horse neighed, reared several times in succession, then
began violently tugging the bridle that was holding him. "All right,
then," Fabrizio said to himself.

The horse, left to his own devices, dashed off hell for leather to
join the escort that was following the generals.

Fabrizio counted four gold-laced hats. A quarter of an hour later,
from a few words said by one hussar to the next, Fabrizio gathered
that one of these generals was the famous Marshal Ney. His happiness
knew no bounds; only he had no way of telling which of the four
generals was Marshal Ney; he would have given everything in the world
to know, but he remembered that he had been told not to speak. The
escort halted, having to cross a wide ditch left full of water by the
rain overnight; it was fringed with tall trees and formed the
left-hand boundary of the field at the entrance to which Fabrizio had
bought the horse. Almost all the hussars had dismounted; the bank of
the ditch was steep and very slippery and the water lay quite three or
four feet below the level of the field. Fabrizio, distracted with joy,
was thinking more of Marshal Ney and of glory than of his horse,
which, being highly excited, jumped into the canal, thus splashing the
water up to a considerable height. One of the generals was soaked to
the skin by the sheet of water, and cried with an oath: "Damn the
f---- brute!" Fabrizio felt deeply hurt by this insult. "Can I ask him
to apologise?" he wondered. Meanwhile, to prove that he was not so
clumsy after all, he set his horse to climb the opposite bank of the
ditch; but it rose straight up and was five or six feet high. He had
to abandon the attempt; then he rode up stream, his horse being up to
its head in water, and at last found a sort of drinking-place. By this
gentle slope he was easily able to reach the field on the other side
of the canal. He was the first man of the escort to appear there; he
started to trot proudly down the bank; below him, in the canal, the
hussars were splashing about, somewhat embarrassed by their position,
for in many places the water was five feet deep. Two or three horses
took fright and began to swim, making an appalling mess. A serjeant
noticed the manœuvre that this youngster, who looked so very unlike a
soldier, had just carried out.

"Up here! There is a watering-place on the left!" he shouted, and in
time they all crossed.

On reaching the farther bank, Fabrizio had found the generals there
by themselves; the noise of the guns seemed to him to have doubled;
and it was all he could do to hear the general whom he had given such
a good soaking and who now shouted in his ear:

"Where did you get that horse?"

Fabrizio was so much upset that he answered in Italian:

"_L'ho comprato poco fa_." (I bought it just now.)

"What's that you say?" cried the general.

But the din at that moment became so terrific that Fabrizio could not
answer him. We must admit that our hero was very little of a hero at
that moment. However, fear came to him only as a secondary
consideration; he was principally shocked by the noise, which hurt his
ears. The escort broke into a gallop; they crossed a large batch of
tilled land which lay beyond the canal. And this field was strewn with
dead.

"Red-coats! red-coats!" the hussars of the escort exclaimed joyfully,
and at first Fabrizio did not understand; then he noticed that as a
matter of fact almost all these bodies wore red uniforms. One detail
made him shudder with horror; he observed that many of these
unfortunate red-coats were still alive; they were calling out,
evidently asking for help, and no one stopped to give it them. Our
hero, being most humane, took every possible care that his horse
should not tread upon any of the red-coats. The escort halted;
Fabrizio, who was not paying sufficient attention to his military
duty, galloped on, his eyes fixed on a wounded wretch in front of him.

"Will you halt, you young fool!" the serjeant shouted after him.
Fabrizio discovered that he was twenty paces on the generals' right
front, and precisely in the direction in which they were gazing
through their glasses. As he came back to take his place behind the
other hussars, who had halted a few paces in rear of them, he noticed
the biggest of these generals, who was speaking to his neighbour, a
general also, in a tone of authority and almost of reprimand; he was
swearing. Fabrizio could not contain his curiosity; and, in spite of
the warning not to speak, given him by his friend the gaoler's wife,
he composed a short sentence in good French, quite correct, and said
to his neighbour:

"Who is that general who is chewing up the one next to him?"

"Gad, it's the Marshal!"

"What Marshal?"

"Marshal Ney, you fool! I say, where have you been serving?"

Fabrizio, although highly susceptible, had no thought of resenting
this insult; he was studying, lost in childish admiration, the
famous Prince de la Moskowa, the "Bravest of the Brave."

Suddenly they all moved off at full gallop. A few minutes later
Fabrizio saw, twenty paces ahead of him, a ploughed field the surface
of which was moving in a singular fashion. The furrows were full of
water and the soil, very damp, which formed the ridges between these
furrows kept flying off in little black lumps three or four feet into
the air. Fabrizio noticed as he passed this curious effect; then his
thoughts turned to dreaming of the Marshal and his glory. He heard a
sharp cry close to him; two hussars fell struck by shot; and, when he
looked back at them, they were already twenty paces behind the escort.
What seemed to him horrible was a horse streaming with blood that was
struggling on the ploughed land, its hooves caught in its own
entrails; it was trying to follow the others: its blood ran down into
the mire.

"Ah! So I am under fire at last!" he said to himself. "I have seen
shots fired!" he repeated with a sense of satisfaction. "Now I am a
real soldier." At that moment, the escort began to go hell for
leather, and our hero realised that it was shot from the guns that was
making the earth fly up all round him. He looked vainly in the
direction from which the balls were coming, he saw the white smoke of
the battery at an enormous distance, and, in the thick of the steady
and continuous rumble produced by the artillery fire, he seemed to
hear shots discharged much closer at hand: he could not understand in
the least what was happening.

At that moment, the generals and their escort dropped into a little
road filled with water which ran five feet below the level of the
fields.

The Marshal halted and looked again through his glasses. Fabrizio,
this time, could examine him at his leisure. He found him to be very
fair, with a big red face. "We don't have any faces like that in
Italy," he said to himself. "With my pale cheeks and chestnut hair, I
shall never look like that," he added despondently. To him these words
implied: "I shall never be a hero." He looked at the hussars; with a
solitary exception, all of them had yellow moustaches. If Fabrizio was
studying the hussars of the escort, they were all studying him as
well. Their stare made him blush, and, to get rid of his
embarrassment, he turned his head towards the enemy. They consisted of
widely extended lines of men in red, but, what greatly surprised him,
these men seemed to be quite minute. Their long files, which were
regiments or divisions, appeared no taller than hedges. A line of red
cavalry were trotting in the direction of the sunken road along which
the Marshal and his escort had begun to move at a walk, splashing
through the mud. The smoke made it impossible to distinguish anything
in the direction in which they were advancing; now and then one saw
men moving at a gallop against this background of white smoke.

Suddenly, from the direction of the enemy, Fabrizio saw four men
approaching hell for leather. "Ah! We are attacked," he said to
himself; then he saw two of these men speak to the Marshal. One of the
generals on the latter's staff set off at a gallop towards the enemy,
followed by two hussars of the escort and by the four men who had just
come up. After a little canal which they all crossed, Fabrizio found
himself riding beside a serjeant who seemed a good-natured fellow. "I
must speak to this one," he said to himself, "then perhaps they'll
stop staring at me." He thought for a long time.

"Sir, this is the first time that I have been present at a battle," he
said at length to the serjeant. "But is this a real battle?"

"Something like. But who are you?"

"I am the brother of a captain's wife."

"And what is he called, your captain?"

Our hero was terribly embarrassed; he had never anticipated this
question. Fortunately, the Marshal and his escort broke into a gallop.
"What French name shall I say?" he wondered. At last he remembered
the name of the innkeeper with whom he had lodged in Paris; he brought
his horse up to the serjeant's, and shouted to him at the top of his
voice:

"Captain Meunier!" The other, not hearing properly in the roar of the
guns, replied: "Oh, Captain Teulier? Well, he's been killed."
"Splendid," thought Fabrizio. "Captain Teulier; I must look sad."

"Good God!" he cried; and assumed a piteous mien. They had left the
sunken road and were crossing a small meadow, they were going hell for
leather, shots were coming over again, the Marshal headed for a
division of cavalry. The escort found themselves surrounded by dead
and wounded men; but this sight had already ceased to make any
impression on our hero; he had other things to think of.

While the escort was halted, he caught sight of the little cart of a
_cantinière_, and his affection for this honourable corps sweeping
aside every other consideration, set off at a gallop to join her.

"Stay where you are, curse you," the serjeant shouted after him.

"What can he do to me here?" thought Fabrizio, and he continued to
gallop towards the cantinière. When he put spurs to his horse, he had
had some hope that it might be his good _cantinière_ of the morning;
the horse and the little cart bore a strong resemblance, but their
owner was quite different, and our hero thought her appearance most
forbidding. As he came up to her, Fabrizio heard her say: "And he was
such a fine-looking man, too!" A very ugly sight awaited the new
recruit; they were sawing off a cuirassier's leg at the thigh, a
handsome young fellow of five feet ten. Fabrizio shut his eyes and
drank four glasses of brandy straight off.

"How you do go for it, you boozer!" cried the _cantinière_. The
brandy gave him an idea: "I must buy the goodwill of my comrades, the
hussars of the escort."

"Give me the rest of the bottle," he said to the _vivandière_.

"What do you mean," was her answer, "what's left there costs ten
francs, on a day like this."

As he rejoined the escort at a gallop :

"Ah! You're bringing us a drop of drink," cried the serjeant. "That
was why you deserted, was it? Hand it over."

The bottle went round, the last man to take it flung it in the air
after drinking. "Thank you, chum!" he cried to Fabrizio. All eyes
were fastened on him kindly. This friendly gaze lifted a hundredweight
from Fabrizio's heart; it was one of those hearts of too delicate
tissue which require the friendship of those around it. So at last he
had ceased to be looked at askance by his comrades; there was a bond
between them! Fabrizio breathed a deep sigh of relief, then in a bold
voice said to the serjeant:

"And if Captain Teulier has been killed, where shall I find my
sister?" He fancied himself a little Machiavelli to be saying Teulier
so naturally instead of Meunier.

"That's what you'll find out to-night," was the serjeant's reply.

The escort moved on again and made for some divisions of infantry.
Fabrizio felt quite drunk; he had taken too much brandy, he was
rolling slightly in his saddle: he remembered most opportunely a
favourite saying of his mother's coachman: "When you've been lifting
your elbow, look straight between your horse's ears, and do what the
man next you does." The Marshal stopped for some time beside a number
of cavalry units which he ordered to charge; but for an hour or two
our hero was barely conscious of what was going on round about him. He
was feeling extremely tired, and when his horse galloped he fell back
on the saddle like a lump of lead.

Suddenly the serjeant called out to his men: "Don't you see the
Emperor, curse you!" Whereupon the escort shouted: "_Vive
l'Empereur_!" at the top of their voices. It may be imagined that our
hero stared till his eyes started out of his head, but all he saw was
some generals galloping, also followed by an escort. The long
floating plumes of horsehair which the dragoons of the bodyguard wore
on their helmets prevented him from distinguishing their faces. "So I
have missed seeing the Emperor on a field of battle, all because of
those cursed glasses of brandy!" This reflexion brought him back to
his senses.

They went down into a road filled with water, the horses wished to
drink.

"So that was the Emperor who went past then?" he asked the man next to
him.

"Why, surely, the one with no braid on his coat. How is it you didn't
see him?" his comrade answered kindly. Fabrizio felt a strong desire
to gallop after the Emperor's escort and embody himself in it. What a
joy to go really to war in the train of that hero! It was for that
that he had come to France. "I am quite at liberty to do it," he said
to himself, "for after all I have no other reason for being where I am
but the will of my horse, which started galloping after these
generals."

What made Fabrizio decide to stay where he was was that the hussars,
his new comrades, seemed so friendly towards him; he began to
imagine himself the intimate friend of all the troopers with whom he
had been galloping for the last few hours. He saw arise between them
and himself that noble friendship of the heroes of Tasso and Ariosto.
If he were to attach himself to the Emperor's escort, there would be
fresh acquaintances to be made, perhaps they would look at him
askance, for these other horsemen were dragoons, and he was wearing
the hussar uniform like all the rest that were following the Marshal.
The way in which they now looked at him set our hero on a pinnacle of
happiness; he would have done anything in the world for his comrades;
his mind and soul were in the clouds. Everything seemed to have
assumed a new aspect now that he was among friends; he was dying to
ask them various questions. "But I am still a little drunk," he said
to himself, "I must bear in mind what the gaoler's wife told me." He
noticed on leaving the sunken road that the escort was no longer with
Marshal Ney; the general whom they were following was tall and thin,
with a dry face and an awe-inspiring eye.

This general was none other than Comte d'A----, the Lieutenant Robert
of the 15th of May, 1796. How delighted he would have been to meet
Fabrizio del Dongo!

It was already some time since Fabrizio had noticed the earth flying
off in black crumbs on being struck by shot; they came in rear of a
regiment of cuirassiers, he could hear distinctly the rattle of the
grapeshot against their breastplates, and saw several men fall.

The sun was now very low and had begun to set when the escort,
emerging from a sunken road, mounted a little bank three or four feet
high to enter a ploughed field. Fabrizio heard an odd little sound
quite close to him: he turned his head, four men had fallen with their
horses; the general himself had been unseated, but picked himself up,
covered in blood. Fabrizio looked at the hussars who were lying on the
ground: three of them were still making convulsive movements, the
fourth cried: "Pull me out!" The serjeant and two or three men had
dismounted to assist the general, who, leaning upon his aide-de-camp,
was attempting to walk a few. steps; he was trying to get away from
his horse, which lay on the ground struggling and kicking out madly.

The serjeant came up to Fabrizio. At that moment our hero heard a
voice say behind him and quite close to his ear: "This is the only one
that can still gallop." He felt himself seized by the feet; they were
taken out of the stirrups at the same time as someone caught him
underneath the arms; he was lifted over his horse's tail and then
allowed to slip to the ground, where he landed sitting.

The aide-de-camp took Fabrizio's horse by the bridle; the general,
with the help of the serjeant, mounted and rode off at a gallop; he
was quickly followed by the six men who were left of the escort.
Fabrizio rose up in a fury, and began to run after them shouting:
"_Ladri! Ladri_!" (Thieves! Thieves!) It was an amusing experience to
run after horse-stealers across a battlefield.

The escort and the general, Comte d'A----, disappeared presently
behind a row of willows. Fabrizio, blind with rage, also arrived at
this line of willows; he found himself brought to a halt by a canal of
considerable depth which he crossed. Then, on reaching the other
side, he began swearing again as he saw once more, but far away in the
distance, the general and his escort vanishing among the trees.
"Thieves! Thieves!" he cried, in French this time. In desperation, not
so much at the loss of his horse as at the treachery to himself, he
let himself sink down on the side of the ditch, tired out and dying of
hunger. If his fine horse had been taken from him by the enemy, he
would have thought no more about it; but to see himself betrayed and
robbed by that serjeant whom he liked so much and by those hussars
whom he regarded as brothers! That was what broke his heart. He could
find no consolation for so great an infamy, and, leaning his back
against a willow, began to shed hot tears. He abandoned one by one all
those beautiful dreams of a chivalrous and sublime friendship, like
that of the heroes of the _Gerusalemme Liberata_. To see death come to
one was nothing, surrounded by heroic and tender hearts, by noble
friends who clasp one by the hand as one yields one's dying breath!
But to retain one's enthusiasm surrounded by a pack of vile
scoundrels! Like all angry men Fabrizio exaggerated. After a quarter
of an hour of this melting mood, he noticed that the guns were
beginning to range on the row of trees in the shade of which he sat
meditating. He rose and tried to find his bearings. He scanned those
fields bounded by a wide canal and the row of pollard willows: he
thought he knew where he was. He saw a body of infantry crossing the
ditch and marching over the fields, a quarter of a league in front of
him. "I was just falling asleep," he said to himself; "I must see that
I'm not taken prisoner." And he put his best foot foremost. As he
advanced, his mind was set at rest; he recognized the uniforms, the
regiments by which he had been afraid of being cut off were French. He
made a right incline so as to join them.

After the moral anguish of having been so shamefully betrayed and
robbed, there came another which, at every moment, made itself felt
more keenly; he was dying of hunger. It was therefore with infinite
joy that after having walked, or rather run, for ten minutes, he saw
that the column of infantry, which also had been moving very rapidly,
was halting to take up a position. A few minutes later, he was among
the nearest of the soldiers.

"Friends, could you sell me a mouthful of bread?" "I say, here's a
fellow who thinks we're bakers!" This harsh utterance and the general
guffaw that followed it had a crushing effect on Fabrizio. So war was
no longer that noble and universal uplifting of souls athirst for
glory which he had imagined it to be from Napoleon's proclamations!
He sat down, or rather let himself fall on the grass; he turned very
pale. The soldier who had spoken to him, and who had stopped ten paces
off to clean the lock of his musket with his handkerchief, came nearer
and flung him a lump of bread; then, seeing that he did not pick it
up, broke off a piece which he put in our hero's mouth. Fabrizio
opened his eyes, and ate the bread without having the strength to
speak. When at length he looked round for the soldier to pay him, he
found himself alone; the men nearest to him were a hundred yards off
and were marching. Mechanically he rose and followed them. He entered
a wood; he was dropping with exhaustion, and already had begun to look
round for a comfortable resting-place; but what was his delight on
recognising first of all the horse, then the cart, and finally the
cantinière of that morning! She ran to him and was frightened by his
appearance.

"Still going, my boy," she said to him; "you're wounded then? And
where's your fine horse?" So saying she led him towards the cart, upon
which she made him climb, supporting him under the arms. No sooner
was he in the cart than our hero, utterly worn out, fell fast asleep.




CHAPTER FOUR

Nothing could awaken him, neither the muskets fired close to the cart
nor the trot of the horse which the _cantinière_ was flogging with all
her might. The regiment, attacked unexpectedly by swarms of Prussisn
cavalry, after imagining all day that they were winning the battle,
was beating a retreat or rather fleeing in the direction of France.

The colonel, a handsome young man, well turned out, who had succeeded
Macon, was sabred; the battalion commander who took his place, an old
man with white hair, ordered the regiment to halt. "Damn you," he
cried to his men, "in the days of the Republic we waited till we were
forced by the enemy before running away. Defend every inch of ground,
and get yourselves killed!" he shouted, and swore at them. "It is the
soil of the Fatherland that these Prussians want to invade now!"

The little cart halted; Fabrizio awoke with a start. The sun had set
some time back; he was quite astonished to see that it was almost
night. The troops were running in all directions in a confusion which
greatly surprised our hero; they looked shame-faced, he thought.

"What is happening?" he asked the _cantinière_.

"Nothing at all. Only that we're in the soup, my boy; it's the
Prussian cavalry mowing us down, that's all. The idiot of a general
thought at first they were our men. Come, quick, help me to mend
Cocotte's trace; it's broken."

Several shots were fired ten yards off. Our hero, cool and composed,
said to himself: "But really, I haven't fought at all, the whole day;
I have only escorted a general.--I must go and fight," he said to the
_cantinière_.

"Keep calm, you shall fight, and more than you want! We're done for."

"Aubry, my lad," she called out to a passing corporal, "keep an eye on
the little cart now and then."

"Are you going to fight?" Fabrizio asked Aubry.

"Oh, no, I'm putting my pumps on to go to a dance!"

"I shall follow you."

"I tell you, he's all right, the little hussar," cried the
_cantinière_. "The young gentleman has a stout heart." Corporal
Aubry marched on without saying a word. Eight or nine soldiers ran up
and joined him; he led them behind a big oak surrounded by brambles.
On reaching it he posted them along the edge of the wood, still
without uttering a word, on a widely extended front, each man being at
least ten paces from the next.

"Now then, you men," said the corporal, opening his mouth for the
first time, "don't fire till I give the order: remember you've only
got three rounds each."

"Why, what is happening?" Fabrizio wondered. At length, when he found
himself alone with the corporal, he said to him : "I have no musket."

"Will you hold your tongue? Go forward there: fifty paces in front of
the wood you'll find one of the poor fellows of the Regiment who've
been sabred; you will take his cartridge-pouch and his musket. Don't
strip a wounded man, though; take the pouch and musket from one who's
properly dead, and hurry up or you'll be shot in the back by our
fellows." Fabrizio set off at a run and returned the next minute with
a musket and a pouch.

"Load your musket and stick yourself behind this tree, and whatever
you do don't fire till you get the order from me.... Great God in
heaven!" the corporal broke off, "he doesn't even know how to load!"
He helped Fabrizio to do this while going on with his instructions.
"If one of the enemy's cavalry gallops at you to cut you down, dodge
round your tree and don't fire till he's within three paces: wait till
your bayonet's practically touching his uniform.

"Throw that great sabre away," cried the corporal. "Good God, do you
want it to trip you up? Fine sort of soldiers they're sending us these
days!" As he spoke he himself took hold of the sabre which he flung
angrily away.

"You there, wipe the flint of your musket with your handkerchief.
Have you never fired a musket?"

"I am a hunter."

"Thank God for that!" went on the corporal with a loud sigh. "Whatever
you do, don't fire till I give the order." And he moved away.

Fabrizio was supremely happy. "Now I'm going to do some real
fighting," he said to himself, "and kill one of the enemy. This
morning they were sending cannonballs over, and I did nothing but
expose myself and risk getting killed; that's a fool's game." He gazed
all round him with extreme curiosity. Presently he heard seven or
eight shots fired quite close at hand. But receiving no order to fire
he stood quietly behind his tree. It was almost night; he felt he was
in a look-out, bear-shooting, on the mountain of Tramezzina, above
Grianta. A hunter's idea came to him: he took a cartridge from his
pouch and removed the ball. "If I see him," he said, "it won't do to
miss him," and he slipped this second ball into the barrel of his
musket. He heard shots fired close to his tree; at the same moment he
saw a horseman in blue pass in front of him at a gallop, going from
right to left. "It is more than three paces," he said to himself, "but
at that range I am certain of my mark." He kept the trooper carefully
sighted with his musket and finally pressed the trigger: the trooper
fell with his horse. Our hero imagined he was stalking game: he ran
joyfully out to collect his bag. He was actually touching the man, who
appeared to him to be dying, when, with incredible speed, two Prussian
troopers charged down on him to sabre him. Fabrizio dashed back as
fast as he could go to the wood; to gain speed he flung his musket
away. The Prussian troopers were not more than three paces from him
when he reached another plantation of young oaks, as thick as his arm
and quite upright, which fringed the wood. These little oaks delayed
the horsemen for a moment, but they passed them and continued their
pursuit of Fabrizio along a clearing. Once again they were just
overtaking him when he slipped in among seven or eight big trees. At
that moment his face was almost scorched by the flame of five or six
musket shots fired from in front of him. He ducked his head; when he
raised it again he found himself face to face with the corporal.

"Did you kill your man?" Corporal Aubry asked him.

"Yes; but I've lost my musket."

"It's not muskets we're short of. You're not a bad b------; though you
do look as green as a cabbage you've won the day all right, and these
men here have just missed the two who were chasing you and coming
straight at them. I didn't see them myself. What we've got to do now
is to get away at the double; the Regiment must be half a mile off,
and there's a bit of a field to cross, too, where we may find
ourselves surrounded."

As he spoke, the corporal marched off at a brisk pace at the head of
his ten men. Two hundred yards farther on, as they entered the little
field he had mentioned, they came upon a wounded general who was being
carried by his aide-de-camp and an orderly.

"Give me four of your men," he said to the corporal in a faint voice,
"I've got to be carried to the ambulance; my leg is shattered."

"Go and f---- yourself!" replied the corporal, "you and all your
generals. You've all of you betrayed the Emperor to-day."

"What," said the general, furious, "you dispute my orders. Do you
know that I am General Comte B----, commanding your Division," and so
on. He waxed rhetorical. The aide-de-camp flung himself on the men.
The corporal gave him a thrust in the arm with his bayonet, then made
off with his party at the double. "I wish they were all in your boat,"
he repeated with an oath; "I'd shatter their arms and legs for them. A
pack of puppies! All of them bought by the Bourbons, to betray the
Emperor!" Fabrizio listened with a thrill of horror to this frightful
accusation.

About ten o'clock that night the little party overtook their regiment
on the outskirts of a large village which divided the road into
several very narrow streets; but Fabrizio noticed that Corporal
Aubry avoided speaking to any of the officers. "We can't get on," he
called to his men. All these streets were blocked with infantry,
cavalry, and, worst of all, by the limbers and wagons of the
artillery. The corporal tried three of these streets in turn; after
advancing twenty yards he was obliged to halt. Everyone was swearing
and losing his temper.

"Some traitor in command here, too!" cried the corporal: "if the enemy
has the sense to surround the village, we shall all be caught like
rats in a trap. Follow me, you." Fabrizio looked round; there were
only six men left with the corporal. Through a big gate which stood
open they came into a huge courtyard; from this courtyard they passed
into a stable, the back door of which let them into a garden. They
lost their way for a moment and wandered blindly about. But finally,
going through a hedge, they found themselves in a huge field of
buckwheat. In less than half an hour, guided by the shouts and
confused noises, they had regained the high road on the other side of
the village. The ditches on either side of this road were filled with
muskets that had been thrown away; Fabrizio selected one: but the
road, although very broad, was so blocked with stragglers and
transport that in the next half-hour the corporal and Fabrizio had not
advanced more than five hundred yards at the most; they were told that
this road led to Charleroi. As the village clock struck eleven:

"Let us cut across the fields again," said the corporal. The little
party was reduced now to three men, the corporal and Fabrizio. When
they had gone a quarter of a league from the high road: "I'm done,"
said one of the soldiers.

"Me, too!" said another.

"That's good news! We're all in the same boat," said the corporal;
"but do what I tell you and you'll get through all right." His eye
fell on five or six trees marking the line of a little ditch in the
middle of an immense cornfield. "Make for the trees!" he told his men;
"lie down," he added when they had reached the trees, "and not a
sound, remember. But before you go to sleep, who's got any bread?"

"I have," said one of the men.

"Give it here," said the corporal in a tone of authority. He divided
the bread into five pieces and took the smallest himself.

"A quarter of an hour before dawn," he said as he ate it, "you'll have
the enemy's cavalry on your backs. You've got to see you're not
sabred. A man by himself is done for with cavalry after him on these
big plains, but five can get away; keep in close touch with me, don't
fire till they're at close range, and to-morrow evening I'll undertake
to get you to Charleroi." The corporal roused his men an hour before
daybreak and made them recharge their muskets. The noise on the high
road still continued; it had gone on all night: it was like the sound
of a torrent heard from a long way off.

"They're like a flock of sheep running away," said Fabrizio with a
guileless air to the corporal.

"Will you shut your mouth, you young fool!" said the corporal, greatly
indignant. And the three soldiers who with Fabrizio composed his whole
force scowled angrily at our hero as though he had uttered blasphemy.
He had insulted the nation.

"That is where their strength lies!" thought our hero. "I noticed it
before with the Viceroy at Milan; they are not running away, oh, no!
With these Frenchmen you must never speak the truth if it shocks their
vanity. But as for their savage scowls, they don't trouble me, and I
must let them understand as much." They kept on their way, always at
an interval of five hundred yards from the torrent of fugitives that
covered the high road. A league farther on, the corporal and his party
crossed a road running into the high road in which a number of
soldiers were lying. Fabrizio purchased a fairly good horse which cost
him forty francs, and among all the sabres that had been thrown down
everywhere made a careful choice of one that was long and straight.
"Since I'm told I've got to stick them," he thought, "this is the
best." Thus equipped, he put his horse into a gallop and soon overtook
the corporal who had gone on ahead. He sat up in his stirrups, took
hold with his left hand of the scabbard of his straight sabre, and
said to the four Frenchmen:

"Those people going along the high road look like a flock of sheep ...
they are running like frightened sheep. ..."

In spite of his dwelling upon the word _sheep_, his companions had
completely forgotten that it had annoyed them an hour earlier. Here we
see one of the contrasts between the Italian character and the French;
the Frenchman is no doubt the happier of the two; he glides lightly
over the events of life and bears no malice afterwards.

We shall not attempt to conceal the fact that Fabrizio was highly
pleased with himself after using the word _sheep_. They marched on,
talking about nothing in particular. After covering two leagues
more, the corporal, still greatly astonished to see no sign of the
enemy's cavalry, said to Fabrizio:

"You are our cavalry; gallop over to that farm on the little hill; ask
the farmer if he will _sell_ us breakfast: mind you tell him there are
only five of us. If he hesitates, put down five francs of your money
in advance; but don't be frightened, we'll take the dollar back from
him after we've eaten."

Fabrizio looked at the corporal; he saw in his face an imperturbable
gravity and really an air of moral superiority; he obeyed. Everything
fell out as the commander in chief had anticipated; only, Fabrizio
insisted on their not taking back by force the five francs he had
given to the farmer.

"The money is mine," he said to his friends; "I'm not paying for you,
I'm paying for the oats he's given my horse."

Fabrizio's French accent was so bad that his companions thought they
detected in his words a note of superiority; they were keenly annoyed,
and from that moment a duel began to take shape in their minds for the
end of the day. They found him very different from themselves, which
shocked them; Fabrizio, on the contrary, was beginning to feel a warm
friendship towards them.

They had marched without saying a word for a couple of hours when the
corporal, looking across at the high road, exclaimed in a transport of
joy: "There's the Regiment!" They were soon on the road; but, alas,
round the eagle were mustered not more than two hundred men.
Fabrizio's eye soon caught sight of the _vivandière_: she was going on
foot, her eyes were red and every now and again she burst into tears.
Fabrizio looked in vain for the little cart and Cocotte.

"Stripped, ruined, robbed!" cried the _vivandière_, in answer to our
hero's inquiring glance. He, without a word, got down from his horse,
took hold of the bridle and said to the _vivandière_: "Mount!" She did
not have to be told twice.

"Shorten the stirrups for me," was her only remark.

As soon as she was comfortably in the saddle she began to tell
Fabrizio all the disasters of the night. After a narrative of endless
length but eagerly drunk in by our hero who, to tell the truth,
understood nothing at all of what she said but had a tender feeling
for the _vivandière_, she went on:

"And to think that they were Frenchmen who robbed me, beat me,
destroyed me...."

"What! It wasn't the enemy?" said Fabrizio with an air of innocence
which made his grave, pale face look charming.

"What a fool you are, you poor boy!" said the _vivandière_, smiling
through her tears; "but you're very nice, for all that."

"And such as he is, he brought down his Prussian properly," said
Corporal Aubry, who, in the general confusion round them, happened to
be on the other side of the horse on which the cantinière was sitting.
"But he's proud," the corporal went on.... Fabrizio made an
impulsive movement. "And what's your name?" asked the corporal; "for
if there's a report going in I should like to mention you."

"I'm called Vasi," replied Fabrizio, with a curious expression on
his face. "Boulot, I mean," he added, quickly correcting himself.

Boulot was the name of the late possessor of the marching orders which
the gaoler's wife at B---- had given him; on his way from B---- he had
studied them carefully, for he was beginning to think a little and was
no longer so easily surprised. In addition to the marching orders of
Trooper Boulot, he had stowed away in a safe place the precious
Italian passport according to which he was entitled to the noble
appellation of Vasi, dealer in barometers. When the corporal had
charged him with being proud, it had been on the tip of his tongue to
retort: "I proud! I, Fabrizio Volterra, Marchesino del Dongo, who
consent to go by the name of a Vasi, dealer in barometers!"

While he was making these reflexions and saying to himself: "I must
not forget that I am called B'oulot, or look out for the prison fate
threatens me with," the corporal and the _cantinière_ had been
exchanging a few words with regard to him.

"Don't say I'm inquisitive," said the _cantinière_, ceasing to address
him in the second person singular, "it's for your good I ask you these
questions. Who are you, now, really?"

Fabrizio did not reply at first. He was considering that never again
would he find more devoted friends to ask for advice, and he was in
urgent need of advice from someone. "We are coming into a fortified
place, the governor will want to know who I am, and ware prison if I
let him see by my answers that I know nobody in the 4th Hussar
Regiment, whose uniform I am wearing!" In his capacity as an Austrian
subject, Fabrizio knew all about the importance to be attached to a
passport. Various members of his family, although noble and devout,
although supporters of the winning side, had been in trouble a score
of times over their passports; he was therefore not in the least put
out by the question which the _cantinière_ had addressed to him. But
as, before answering, he had to think of the French words which
would express his meaning most clearly, the _cantinière_, pricked by a
keen curiosity, added, to induce him to speak: "Corporal Aubry and I
are going to give you some good advice."

"I have no doubt you are," replied Fabrizio. "My name is Vasi and I
come from Genoa; my sister, who is famous for her beauty, is married
to a captain. As I am only seventeen, she made me come to her to let
me see something of France, and form my character a little; not
finding her in Paris, and knowing that she was with this army, I came
on here. I've searched for her everywhere and haven't found her. The
soldiers, who were puzzled by my accent, had me arrested. I had money
then, I gave some to the _gendarme_, who let me have some marching
orders and a uniform, and said to me: 'Get away with you, and swear
you'll never mention my name.' "

"What was he called?" asked the _cantinière_.

"I've given my word," said Fabrizio.

"He's right," put in the corporal, "the _gendarme_ is a sweep, but our
friend ought not to give his name. And what is the other one called,
this captain, your sister's husband? If we knew his name, we could
try to find him."

"Teulier, Captain in the 4th Hussars," replied our hero.

"And, so," said the corporal, with a certain subtlety, "from your
foreign accent the soldiers took you for a spy?"

"That's the abominable word!" cried Fabrizio, his eyes blazing. "I
who love the Emperor so and the French people! And it was that insult
that annoyed me more than anything."

"There's no insult about it; that's where you're wrong; the soldiers'
mistake was quite natural," replied Corporal Aubry gravely.

And he went on to explain in the most pedantic manner that in the army
one must belong to some corps and wear a uniform, failing which it was
quite simple that people should take one for a spy. "The enemy sends
us any number of them; everybody's a traitor in this war." The scales
fell from Fabrizio's eyes; he realised for the first time that he had
been in the wrong in everything that had happened to him during the
last two months.

"But make the boy tell us the whole story," said the _cantinière_, her
curiosity more and more excited. Fabrizio obeyed. When he had
finished:

"It comes to this," said the _cantinière_, speaking in a serious tone
to the corporal, "this child is not a soldier at all; we're going to
have a bloody war now that we've been beaten and betrayed. Why should
he go and get his bones broken free, gratis and for nothing?"

"Especially," put in the corporal, "as he doesn't even know how to
load his musket, neither by numbers, nor in his own time. It was I put
in the shot that brought down the Prussian."

"Besides, he lets everyone see the colour of his money," added the
_cantinière_; "he will be robbed of all he has as soon as he hasn't
got us to look after him."

"The first cavalry non-com he comes across," said the corporal, "will
take it from him to pay for his drink, and perhaps they'll enlist him
for the enemy; they're all traitors. The first man he meets will
order him to follow, and he'll follow him; he would do better to join
our Regiment."

"No, please, if you don't mind, Corporal!" Fabrizio exclaimed with
animation; "I am more comfortable on a horse. And, besides, I don't
know how to load a musket, and you have seen that I can manage a
horse."

Fabrizio was extremely proud of this little speech. We need not report
the long discussion that followed between the corporal and the
_cantinière_ as to his future destiny. Fabrizio noticed that in
discussing him these people repeated three or four times all the
circumstances of his story: the soldiers' suspicions, the _gendarme_
selling him marching orders and a uniform, the accident by which, the
day before, he had found himself forming part of the Marshal's escort,
the glimpse of the Emperor as he galloped past, the horse that had
been _scoffed_ from him, and so on indefinitely.

With feminine curiosity the _cantinière_ kept harking back incessantly
to the way in which he had been dispossessed of the good horse which
she had made him buy.

"You felt yourself seized by the feet, they lifted you gently over
your horse's tail, and sat you down on the ground!" "Why repeat so
often," Fabrizio said to himself, "what all three of us know perfectly
well?" He had not yet discovered that this is how, in France, the
lower orders proceed in quest of ideas.

"How much money have you?" the _cantinière_ asked him suddenly.
Fabrizio had no hesitation in answering. He was sure of the nobility
of the woman's nature; that is the fine side of France.

"Altogether, I may have got left thirty napoleons in gold, and eight
or nine five-franc pieces."

"In that case, you have a clear field!" exclaimed the _cantinière_.
"Get right away from this rout of an army; clear out, take the first
road with ruts on it that you come to on the right; keep your horse
moving and your back to the army. At the first opportunity, buy some
civilian clothes. When you've gone nine or ten leagues and there are
no more soldiers in sight, take the mail-coach, and go and rest for a
week and eat beefsteaks in some nice town. Never let anyone know that
you've been in the army, or the police will take you up as a deserter;
and, nice as you are, my boy, you're not quite clever enough yet to
stand up to the police. As soon as you've got civilian clothes on your
back, tear up your marching orders into a thousand pieces and go
back to your real name: say that you're Vasi. And where ought he to
say he comes from?" she asked the corporal.

"From Cambrai on the Scheldt: it's a good town and quite small, if you
know what I mean. There's a cathedral there, and Fénelon."

"That's right," said the _cantinière_. "Never let on to anyone that
you've been in battle, don't breathe a word about B------, or the
_gendarme_ who sold you the marching orders. When you're ready to go
back to Paris, make first for Versailles, and pass the Paris barrier
from that side in a leisurely way, on foot, as if you were taking a
stroll. Sew up your napoleons inside your breeches, and remember, when
you have to pay for anything, shew only the exact sum that you want to
spend. What makes me sad is that they'll take you and rob you and
strip you of everything you have. And whatever will you do without
money, you that don't know how to look after yourself ..." and so on.

The good woman went on talking for some time still; the corporal
indicated his support by nodding his head, not being able to get a
word in himself. Suddenly the crowd that was packing the road first of
all doubled its pace, then, in the twinkling of an eye, crossed the
little ditch that bounded the road on the left and fled helter-skelter
across country. Cries of "The Cossacks! The Cossacks!" rose from every
side.

"Take back your horse!" the _cantinière_ shouted.

"God forbid!" said Fabrizio. "Gallop! Away with you! I give him to
you. Do you want someting to buy another cart with? Half of what I
have is yours."

'Take back your horse, I tell you!" cried the _cantinière_ angrily;
and she prepared to dismount. Fabrizio drew his sabre. "Hold on
tight!" she shouted to her, and gave two or three strokes with the
flat of his sabre to the horse, which broke into a gallop and followed
the fugitives.

Our hero stood looking at the road; a moment ago, two or three
thousand people had been jostling along it, packed together like
peasants at the tail of a procession. After the shout of: "Cossacks!"
he saw not a soul on it; the fugitives had cast away shakoes, muskets,
sabres, everything. Fabrizio, quite bewildered, climbed up into a
field on the right of the road and twenty or thirty feet above it; he
scanned the line of the road in both directions, and the plain, but
saw no trace of the Cossacks. "Funny people, these French!" he said to
himself. "Since I have got to go to the right," he thought, "I may as
well start off at once; it is possible that these people have a reason
for running away that I don't know." He picked up a musket, saw that
it was charged, shook up the powder in the priming, cleaned the flint,
then chose a cartridge-pouch that was well filled and looked round him
again in all directions; he was absolutely alone in the middle of this
plain which just now had been so crowded with people. In the far
distance he could see the fugitives, who were beginning to disappear
behind the trees, and were still running. "That's a very odd thing,"
he said to himself, and remembering the tactics employed by the
corporal the night before, he went and sat down in the middle of a
field of corn. He did not go farther because he was anxious to see
again his good friends the _cantinière_ and Corporal Aubry.

In this cornfield, he made the discovery that he had no more than
eighteen napoleons, instead of thirty as he had supposed; but he still
had some small diamonds which he had stowed away in the lining of the
hussar's boots, before dawn, in the gaoler's wife's room at B----. He
concealed his napoleons as best he could, pondering deeply the while
on the sudden disappearance of the others. "Is that a bad omen for
me?" he asked himself. What distressed him most was that he had not
asked Corporal Aubry the question: "Have I really taken part in a
battle?" It seemed to him that he had, and his happiness would have
known no bounds could he have been certain of this.

"But even if I have," he said to himself, "I took part in it bearing
the name of a prisoner, I had a prisoner's marching orders in my
pocket, and, worse still, his coat on my backl That is the fatal
threat to my future: what would the Priore Blanès say to it? And that
wretched Boulot died in prison. It is all of the most sinister
augury; fate will lead me to prison." Fabrizio would have given
anything in the world to know whether Trooper Boulot had really been
guilty; when he searched his memory, he seemed to recollect that the
gaoler's wife had told him that the hussar had been taken up not only
for the theft of silver plate but also for stealing a cow from a
peasant and nearly beating the peasant to death: Fabrizio had no doubt
that he himself would be sent to prison some day for a crime which
would bear some relation to that of Trooper Boulot. He thought of his
friend the _parroco_ Blanès: what would he not have given for an
opportunity of consulting him! Then he remembered that he had not
written to his aunt since leaving Paris. "Poor Gina!" he said to
himself. And tears stood in his eyes, when suddenly he heard a slight
sound quite close to him: a soldier was feeding three horses on the
standing corn; he had taken the bits out of their mouths and they
seemed half dead with hunger; he was holding them by the snaffle.
Fabrizio got up like a partridge; the soldier seemed frightened. Our
hero noticed this, and yielded to the pleasure of playing the hussar
for a moment.

"One of those horses belongs to me, f---- you, but I don't mind giving
you five francs for the trouble you've taken in bringing it here."

"What are you playing at?" said the soldier. Fabrizio took aim at him
from a distance of six paces.

"Let go the horse, or I'll blow your head off."

The soldier had his musket slung on his back; he reached over his
shoulder to seize it.

"If you move an inch, you're a dead man!" cried Fabrizio, rushing upon
him.

"All right, give me the five francs and take one of the horses," said
the embarrassed soldier, after casting a rueful glance at the high
road, on which there was absolutely no one to be seen. Fabrizio,
keeping his musket raised in his left hand, with the right flung him
three five-franc pieces.

"Dismount, or you're a dead man. Bridle the black, and go farther off
with the other two. ... If you move, I fire."

The soldier looked savage but obeyed. Fabrizio went up to the horse
and passed the rein over his left arm, without losing sight of the
soldier, who was moving slowly away; when our hero saw that he had
gone fifty paces, he jumped nimbly on to the horse. He had barely
mounted and was feeling with his foot for the off stirrup when he
heard a bullet whistle past close to his head: it was the soldier who
had fired at him. Fabrizio; beside himself with rage, started
galloping after the soldier who ran off as fast as his legs could
carry him, and presently Fabrizio saw him mount one of his two horses
and gallop away. "Good, he's out of range now," he said to himself.
The horse he had just bought was a magnificent animal, but seemed
half starved. Fabrizio returned to the high road, where there was
still not a living soul; he crossed it and put his horse into a trot
to reach a little fold in the ground on the left, where he hoped to
find the _cantinière_; but when he was at the top of the little rise
he could see nothing save, more than a league away, a few scattered
troops. "It is written that I shall not see her again," he said to
himself with a sigh, "the good, brave woman!" He came to a farm which
he had seen in the distance on the right of the road. Without
dismounting, and after paying for it in advance, he made the farmer
produce some oats for his poor horse, which was so famished that it
began to gnaw the manger. An hour later, Fabrizio was trotting along
the high road, still in the hope of meeting the _cantinière_, or at
any rate Corporal Aubry. Moving all the time and keeping a look-out
all round him, he came to a marshy river crossed by a fairly narrow
wooden bridge. Between him and the bridge, on the right of the road,
was a solitary house bearing the sign of the White Horse. "There I
shall get some dinner," thought Fabrizio. A cavalry officer with his
arm in a sling was guarding the approach to the bridge; he was on
horseback and looked very melancholy; ten paces away from him, three
dismounted troopers were filling their pipes.

"There are some people," Fabrizio said to himself, "who look to me
very much as though they would like to buy my horse for even less than
he cost me." The wounded officer and the three men on foot watched him
approach and seemed to be waiting for him. "It would be better not to
cross by this bridge, but to follow the river bank to the right; that
was the way the _cantinière_ advised me to take to get clear of
difficulties.... Yes," thought our hero, "but if I take to my heels
now, to-morrow I shall be thoroughly ashamed of myself; besides, my
horse has good legs, the officer's is probably tired; if he tries to
make me dismount I shall gallop." Reasoning thus with himself,
Fabrizio pulled up his horse and moved forward at the slowest possible
pace.

"Advance, you, hussar!" the officer called to him with an air of
authority.

Fabrizio went on a few paces and then halted.

"Do you want to take my horse?" he shouted.

"Not in the least; advance."

Fabrizio examined the officer; he had a white moustache, and looked
the best fellow in the world; the handkerchief that held up his left
arm was drenched with blood, and his right hand also was bound up in a
piece of bloodstained linen. "It is the men on foot who are going to
snatch my bridle," thought Fabrizio; but, on looking at them from
nearer, he saw that they too were wounded.

"On your honour as a soldier," said the officer, who wore the
epaulettes of a colonel, "stay here on picket, and tell all the
dragoons, chasseurs and hussars that you see that Colonel Le Baron is
in the inn over there, and that I order them to come and report to
me." The old colonel had the air of a man broken by suffering; with
his first words he had made a conquest of our hero, who replied with
great good sense:

"I am very young, sir, to make them listen to me; I ought to have a
written order from you."

"He is right," said the colonel, studying him closely; "make out the
order, La Rose, you've got the use of your right hand."

Without saying a word, La Rose took from his pocket a little parchment
book, wrote a few lines, and, tearing out a leaf, handed it to
Fabrizio; the colonel repeated the order to him, adding that after two
hours on duty he would be relieved, as was right and proper, by one of
the three wounded troopers he had with him. So saying he went into the
inn with his men. Fabrizio watched them go and sat without moving at
the end of his wooden bridge, so deeply impressed had he been by the
sombre, silent grief of these three persons. "One would think they
were under a spell," he said to himself. At length he unfolded the
paper and read the order, which ran as follows :

"Colonel Le Baron, 6th Dragoons, Commanding the 2nd Brigade of the 1st
Cavalry Division of the XIV Corps, orders all cavalrymen, dragoons,
chasseurs and hussars, on no account to cross the bridge, and to
report to him at the White Horse Inn, by the bridge, which is his
headquarters.

"Headquarters, by the bridge of La Sainte, June 19, 1815. "For
Colonel Le Baron, wounded in the right arm, and by his orders,

"LA ROSE, _Serjeant_."

Fabrizio had been on guard at the bridge for barely half an hour when
he saw six chasseurs approaching him mounted, and three on foot; he
communicated the colonel's order to them. "We're coming back," said
four of the mounted men, and crossed the bridge at a fast trot.
Fabrizio then spoke to the other two. During the discussion, which
grew heated, the three men on foot crossed the bridge. Finally, one of
the two mounted troopers who had stayed behind asked to see the order
again, and carried it off, with:

"I am taking it to the others, who will come back without fail; wait
for them here." And off he went at a gallop; his companion followed
him. All this had happened in the twinkling of an eye.

Fabrizio was furious, and called to one of the wounded soldiers, who
appeared at a window of the White Horse.

This soldier, on whose arm Fabrizio saw the stripes of a cavalry
serjeant, came down and shouted to him: "Draw your sabre, man, you're
on picket." Fabrizio obeyed, then said: "They've carried off. the
order."

"They're out of hand after yesterday's affair," replied the other in a
melancholy tone. "I'll let you have one of my pistols; if they force
past you again, fire it in the air; I shall come, or the colonel
himself will appear."

Fabrizio had not failed to observe the serjeant's start of surprise on
hearing of the theft of the order. He realised that it was a personal
insult to himself, and promised himself that he would not allow such a
trick to be played on him again.

Armed with the sergeant's horse-pistol, Fabrizio had proudly resumed
his guard when he saw coming towards him seven hussars, mounted. He
had taken up a position that barred the bridge; he read them the
colonel's order, which seemed greatly to annoy them; the most
venturesome of them tried to pass. Fabrizio, following the wise
counsel of his friend the _vivandière_, who, the morning before, had
told him that he must thrust and not slash, lowered the point of his
long, straight sabre and made as though to stab with it the man who
was trying to pass him.

"Oh, so he wants to kill us, the baby!" cried the hussars, "as if we
hadn't been killed quite enough yesterday!" They all drew their sabres
at once and fell on Fabrizio: he gave himself up for dead; but he
thought of the serjeant's surprise, and was not anxious to earn his
contempt again. Drawing back on to his bridge, he tried to reach them
with his sabre-point. He looked so absurd when he tried to wield this
huge, straight heavy-dragoon sabre, a great deal too heavy for him,
that the hussars soon saw with what sort of soldier they had to deal;
they then endeavoured not to wound him but to slash his clothing. In
this way Fabrizio received three or four slight sabre-cuts on his
arms. For his own part, still faithful to the _cantinière's_ precept,
he kept thrusting the point of his sabre at them with all his might.
As ill luck would have it, one of these thrusts wounded a hussar in
the hand: highly indignant at being touched by so raw a recruit, he
replied with a downward thrust which caught Fabrizio in the upper part
of the thigh. What made this blow effective was that our hero's horse,
so far from avoiding the fray, seemed to take pleasure in it and to be
flinging himself on the assailants. These, seeing Fabrizio's blood
streaming along his right arm, were afraid that they might have
carried the game too far, and, pushing him against the left-hand
parapet of the bridge, crossed at a gallop. As soon as Fabrizio had a
moment to himself he fired his pistol in the air to warn the colonel.

Four mounted hussars and two on foot, of the same regiment as the
others, were coming towards the bridge and were still two hundred
yards away from it when the pistol went off. They had been paying
close attention to what was happening on the bridge, and, imagining
that Fabrizio had fired at their comrades, the four mounted men
galloped upon him with raised sabres: it was a regular cavalry charge.
Colonel Le Baron, summoned by the pistol-shot, opened the door of
the inn and rushed on to the bridge just as the galloping hussars
reached it, and himself gave them the order to halt.

'There's no colonel here now!" cried one of them, and pressed on his
horse. The colonel in exasperation broke off the reprimand he was
giving them, and with his wounded right hand seized the rein of this
horse on the off side.

"Halt! You bad soldier," he said to the hussar; "I know you, you're in
Captain Henriot's squadron."

"Very well, then! The captain can give me the order himself! Captain
Henriot was killed yesterday," he added with a snigger, "and you can
go and f---- yourself!"

So saying, he tried to force a passage, and pushed the old colonel,
who fell in a sitting position on the roadway of the bridge. Fabrizio,
who was a couple of yards farther along upon the bridge, but facing
the inn, pressed his horse, and, while the breast-piece of the
assailant's harness threw down the old colonel, who never let go the
off rein, Fabrizio, indignant, bore down upon the hussar with a
driving thrust. Fortunately the hussar's horse, feeling itself pulled
towards the ground by the rein which the colonel still held, made a
movement sideways, with the result that the long blade of Fabrizio's
heavy-cavalry sabre slid along the hussar's jacket, and the whole
length of it passed beneath his eyes. Furious, the hussar turned round
and, using all his strength, dealt Fabrizio a blow which cut his
sleeve and went deep into his arm: our hero fell.

One of the dismounted hussars, seeing the two defenders of the bridge
on the ground, seized the opportunity, jumped on to Fabrizio's horse
and tried to make off with it by starting at a gallop across the
bridge.

The serjeant, as he hurried from the inn, had seen his colonel fall,
and supposed him to be seriously wounded. He ran after Fabrizio's
horse and plunged the point of his sabre into the thief's entrails; he
fell. The hussars, seeing no one now on the bridge but the serjeant,
who was on foot, crossed at a gallop and rapidly disappeared. The one
on foot bolted into the fields.

The serjeant came up to the wounded men. Fabrizio was already on his
feet; he was not in great pain, but was bleeding profusely. The
colonel got up more slowy; he was quite stunned by his fall, but had
received no injury. "I feel nothing," he said to the serjeant,
"except the old wound in my hand."

The hussar whom the serjeant had wounded was dying.

"The devil take him!" exclaimed the colonel. "But," he said to the
serjeant and the two troopers who came running out, "look after this
young man whose life I have risked, most improperly. I shall stay on
the bridge myself and try to stop these madmen. Take the young man to
the inn and tie up his arm. Use one of my shirts."




CHAPTER FIVE

The whole of this adventure had not lasted a minute. Fabrizio's
wounds were nothing; they tied up his arm with bandages torn from the
colonel's shirt. They wanted to make up a bed for him upstairs in the
inn.

"But while I am tucked up here on the first floor," said Fabrizio to
the serjeant, "my horse, who is down in the stable, will get bored
with being left alone and will go off with another master."

"Not bad for a conscript!" said the serjeant. And they deposited
Fabrizio on a litter of clean straw in the same stall as his horse.

Then, as he was feeling very weak, the serjeant brought him a bowl of
mulled wine and talked to him for a little. Several compliments
included in this conversation carried our hero to the seventh heaven.

Fabrizio did not wake until dawn on the following day; the horses were
neighing continuously and making a frightful din; the stable was
filled with smoke. At first Fabrizio could make nothing of all this
noise, and did not even know where he was: finally, half stifled by
the smoke, it occurred to him that the house was on fire; in the
twinkling of an eye he was out of the stable and in the saddle. He
raised his head; smoke was belching violently from the two windows
over the stable; and the roof was covered by a black smoke which rose
curling into the air. A hundred fugitives had arrived during the
night at the White Horse; they were all shouting and swearing. The
five or six whom Fabrizio could see close at hand seemed to him to be
completely drunk; one of them tried to stop him and called out to him:
"Where are you taking my horse?"

When Fabrizio had gone a quarter of a league, he turned his head.
There was no one following him; the building was in flames. Fabrizio
caught sight of the bridge; he remembered his wound, and felt his arm
compressed by bandages and very hot. "And the old colonel, what has
become of him? He gave his shirt to tie up my arm." Our hero was this
morning the coolest man in the world; the amount of blood he had shed
had liberated him from all the romantic element in his character.

"To the right!" he said to himself, "and no time to lose." He began
quietly following the course of the river which, after passing under
the bridge, ran to the right of the road. He remembered the good
_cantinière's_ advice. "What friendship!" he said to himself, "what
an open nature!"

After riding for an hour he felt very weak. "Oho! Am I going to
faint?" he wondered. "If I faint, someone will steal my horse, and my
clothes, perhaps, and my money and jewels with them." He had no longer
the strength to hold the reins, and was trying to keep his balance in
the saddle when a peasant who was digging in a field by the side of
the high road noticed his pallor and came up to offer him a glass of
beer and some bread.

"When I saw you look so pale, I thought you must be one of the wounded
from the great battle," the peasant told him. Never did help come more
opportunely. As Fabrizio was munching the piece of bread his eyes
began to hurt him when he looked straight ahead. When he felt a little
better he thanked the man. "And where am I?" he asked. The peasant
told him that three quarters of a league farther on he would come to
the township of Zonders, where he would be very well looked after.
Fabrizio reached the town, not knowing quite what he was doing and
thinking only at every step of not falling off his horse. He saw a big
door standing open; he entered. It was the Woolcomb Inn. At once there
ran out to him the good lady of the house, an enormous woman; she
called for help in a voice that throbbed with pity. Two girls came and
helped Fabrizio to dismount; no sooner had his feet touched the ground
than he fainted completely. A surgeon was fetched, who bled him. For
the rest of that day and the days that followed Fabrizio scarcely knew
what was being done to him; he slept almost without interruption.

The sabre wound in his thigh threatened to form a serious abscess.
When his mind was clear again, he asked them to look after his horse,
and kept on repeating that he would pay them well, which shocked the
good hostess and her daughters. For a fortnight he was admirably
looked after and he was beginning to be himself again when he noticed
one evening that his hostesses seemed greatly upset. Presently a
German officer came into his room: in answering his questions they
used a language which Fabrizio did not understand, but he could see
that they were speaking about him; he pretended to be asleep. A little
later, when he thought that the officer must have gone, he called his
hostesses.

"That officer came to put my name on a list, and make me a prisoner,
didn't he?" The landlady assented with tears in her eyes.

"Very well, there is money in my dolman!" he cried, sitting up in bed;
"buy me some civilian clothes and tonight I shall go away on my horse.
You have already saved my life once by taking me in just as I was
going to drop down dead in the street; save it again by giving me the
means of going back to my mother."

At this point the landlady's daughters began to dissolve in tears;
they trembled for Fabrizio; and, as they barely understood French,
they came to his bedside to question him. They talked with their
mother in Flemish; but at every moment pitying eyes were turned on our
hero; he thought he could make out that his escape might compromise
them seriously, but that they would gladly incur the risk. A Jew in
the town supplied a complete outfit, but when he brought it to the inn
about ten o'clock that night, the girls saw, on comparing it with
Fabrizio's dolman, that it would require an endless amount of
alteration. At once they set to work; there was no time to lose.
Fabrizio showed them where several napoleons were hidden in his
uniform, and begged his hostesses to stitch them into the new
garments. With these had come a fine pair of new boots. Fabrizio had
no hesitation in asking these kind girls to slit open the hussar's
boots at the place which he shewed them, and they hid the little
diamonds in the lining of the new pair.

One curious result of his loss of blood and the weakness that followed
from it was that Fabrizio had almost completely forgotten his
French; he used Italian to address his hostesses, who themselves spoke
a Flemish dialect, so that their conversation had to be conducted
almost entirely in signs. When the girls, who for that matter were
entirely disinterested, saw the diamonds, their enthusiasm for
Fabrizio knew no bounds; they imagined him to be a prince in disguise.
Aniken, the younger and less sophisticated, kissed him without
ceremony. Fabrizio, for his part, found them charming, and towards
midnight, when the surgeon had allowed him a little wine in view of
the journey he had to take, he felt almost inclined not to go. "Where
could I be better off than here?" he asked himself. However, about two
o'clock in the morning, he rose and dressed. As he was leaving the
room, his good hostess informed him that his horse had been taken by
the officer who had come to search the house that afternoon.

"Ah! The swine!" cried Fabrizio with an oath, "robbing a wounded man!"
He was not enough of a philosopher, this young Italian, to bear in
mind the price at which he himself had acquired the horse.

Aniken told him with tears that they had hired a horse for him. She
would have liked him not to go. Their farewells were tender. Two big
lads, cousins of the good landlady, helped Fabrizio into the saddle:
during the journey they supported him on his horse, while a third, who
walked a few hundred yards in advance of the little convoy, searched
the roads for any suspicious patrol. After going for a couple of
hours, they stopped at the house of a cousin of the landlady of the
Woolcomb. In spite of anything that Fabrizio might say, the young men
who accompanied him refused absolutely to leave him; they claimed that
they knew better than anyone the hidden paths through the woods.

"But to-morrow morning, when my flight becomes known, and they don't
see you anywhere in the town, your absence will make things awkward
for you," said Fabrizio.

They proceeded on their way. Fortunately, when day broke at last, the
plain was covered by a thick fog. About eight o'clock in the morning
they came in sight of a little town. One of the young men went on
ahead to see if the post-horses there had been stolen. The postmaster
had had time to make them vanish and to raise a team of wretched
screws with which he had filled his stables. Grooms were sent to find
a pair of horses in the marshes where they were hidden, and three
hours later Fabrizio climbed into a little cabriolet which was quite
dilapidated but had harnessed to it a pair of good post-horses. He had
regained his strength. The moment of parting with the young men, his
hostess's cousins, was pathetic in the extreme; on no account,
whatever friendly pretext Fabrizio might find, would they consent to
take any money.

"In your condition, sir, you need it more than we do," was the
invariable reply of these worthy young fellows. Finally they set off
with letters in which Fabrizio, somewhat emboldened by the agitation
of the journey, had tried to convey to his hostesses all that he felt
for them. Fabrizio wrote with tears in his eyes, and there was
certainly love in the letter addressed to little Aniken.

In the rest of the journey there was nothing out of the common. He
reached Amiens in great pain from the cut he had received in his
thigh; it had not occurred to the country doctor to lance the wound,
and in spite of the bleedings an abscess had formed. During the
fortnight that Fabrizio spent in the inn at Amiens, kept by an
obsequious and avaricious family, the Allies were invading France, and
Fabrizio became another man, so many and profound were his reflexions
on the things that had happened to him. He had remained a child upon
one point only: what he had seen, was it a battle; and, if so, was
that battle Waterloo? For the first time in his life he found pleasure
in reading; he was always hoping to find in the newspapers, or in the
published accounts of the battle, some description which would enable
him to identify the ground he had covered with Marshal Ney's escort,
and afterwards with the other general. During his stay at Amiens he
wrote almost every day to his good friends at the Woolcomb. As soon as
his wound was healed, he came to Paris. He found at his former hotel a
score of letters from his mother and aunt, who implored him to return
home as soon as possible. The last letter from Contessa Pietranera had
a certain enigmatic tone which made him extremely uneasy; this letter
destroyed all his tender fancies. His was a character to which a
single word was enough to make him readily anticipate the greatest
misfortunes; his imagination then stepped in and depicted these
misfortunes to him with the most horrible details.

"Take care never to sign the letters you write to tell us what you are
doing," the Contessa warned him. "On your return you must on no
account come straight to the Lake of Como. Stop at Lugano, on Swiss
soil." He was to arrive in this little town under the name of Cavi; he
would find at the principal inn the Contessa's footman, who would tell
him what to do. His aunt ended her letter as follows: "Take every
possible precaution to keep your mad escapade secret, and above all do
not carry on you any printed or written document; in Switzerland you
will be surrounded by the friends of Santa Margherita. [Footnote:
Silvio Pellico has given this name a European notoriety: it is that of
the street in Milan in which the police headquarters and prisons are
situated.] If I have enough money," the Contessa told him, "I shall
send someone to Geneva, to the Hôtel des Balances, and you shall have
particulars which I cannot put in writing but which you ought to know
before coming here. But, in heaven's name, not a day longer in Paris;
you will be recognised there by our spies." Fabrizio's imagination set
to work to construct the wildest hypotheses, and he was incapable of
any other pleasure save that of trying to guess what the strange
information could be that his aunt had to give him. Twice on his
passage through France he was arrested, but managed to get away; he
was indebted, for these unpleasantnesses, to his Italian passport and
to that strange description of him as a dealer in barometers, which
hardly seemed to tally with his youthful face and the arm which he
carried in a sling.

Finally, at Geneva, he found a man in the Contessa's service, who
gave him a message from her to the effect that he, Fabrizio, had been
reported to the police at Milan as having gone abroad to convey to
Napoleon certain proposals drafted by a vast conspiracy organised in
the former Kingdom of Italy. If this had not been the object of his
journey, the report went on, why should he have gone under an
assumed name? His mother was endeavouring to establish the truth, as
follows:

1st, that he had never gone beyond Switzerland.

2ndly, that he had left the castle suddenly after a quarrel with his
elder brother.

On hearing this story Fabrizio felt a thrill of pride. "I am supposed
to have been a sort of ambassador to Napoleon," he said to himself; "I
should have had the honour of speaking to that great man: would to
God I had!" He recalled that his ancestor seven generations back, a
grandson of him who came to Milan in the train of the Sforza, had had
the honour of having his head cut off by the Duke's enemies, who
surprised him as he was on his way to Switzerland to convey certain
proposals to the Free Cantons and to raise troops there. He saw in his
mind's eye the print that illustrated this exploit in the genealogy
of the family. Fabrizio, questioning the servant, found him shocked by
a detail which finally he allowed to escape him, despite the express
order, several times repeated to him by the Contessa, not to reveal
it. It was Ascanio, his elder brother, who had reported him to the
Milan police. This cruel news almost drove our hero out of his mind.
>From Geneva, in order to go to Italy, one must pass through Lausanne;
he insisted on setting off at once on foot, and thus covering ten to
twelve leagues, although the mail from Geneva to Lausanne was
starting in two hours' time. Before leaving Geneva he picked a quarrel
in one of the melancholy cafés of the place with a young man who, he
said, stared at him in a singular fashion. Which was perfectly true:
the young Genevan, phlegmatic, rational and interested only in money,
thought him mad; Fabrizio oh coming in had glared furiously in all
directions, then had upset the cup of coffee that was brought to him
over his breeches. In this quarrel Fabrizio's first movement was quite
of the sixteenth century: instead of proposing a duel to the young
Genevan, he drew his dagger and rushed upon him to stab him with it.
In this moment of passion, Fabrizio forgot everything he had ever
learned of the laws of honour and reverted to instinct, or, more
properly speaking, to the memories of his eariest childhood.

The confidential agent whom he found at Lugano increased his fury by
furnishing him with fresh details. As Fabrizio was beloved at Grianta,
no one there had mentioned his name, and, but for his brother's kind
intervention, everyone would have pretended to believe that he was at
Milan, and the attention of the police in that city would not have
been drawn to his absence.

"I expect the _doganieri_ have a description of you," his aunt's envoy
hinted, "and if we keep to the main road, when you come to the
frontier of the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom, you will be arrested."

Fabrizio and his party were familiar with every footpath over the
mountain that divides Lugano from the Lake of Como; they disguised
themselves as hunters, that is to say as poachers, and as they were
three in number and had a fairly resolute bearing, the _doganieri_
whom they passed gave them a greeting and nothing more. Fabrizio
arranged things so as not to arrive at the castle until nearly
midnight; at that hour his father and all the powdered footmen had
long been in bed. He climbed down without difficulty into the deep
moat and entered the castle by the window of a cellar: it was there
that his mother and aunt were waiting for him; presently his sisters
came running in. Transports of affection alternated with tears for
some time, and they had scarcely begun to talk reasonably when the
first light of dawn came to warn these people who thought themselves
so unfortunate that time was flying.

"I hope your brother won't have any suspicion of your being here,"
Signora Pietranera said to him; "I have scarcely spoken to him since
that fine escapade of his, and his vanity has done me the honour of
taking offence. This evening, at supper, I condescended to say a few
words to him; I had to find some excuse to hide my frantic joy, which
might have made him suspicious. Then, when I noticed that he was quite
proud of this sham reconciliation, I took advantage of his happiness
to make him drink a great deal too much, and I am certain he will
never have thought of taking any steps to carry on his profession of
spying."

"We shall have to hide our hussar in your room," said the Marchesa;
"he can't leave at once; we haven't sufficient command of ourselves
at present to make plans, and we shall have to think out the best way
of putting those terrible Milan police off the track."

This plan was adopted; but the Marchese and his elder son noticed,
next day, that the Marchesa was constantly in her sister-in-law's
room. We shall not stop to depict the transports of affection and joy
which continued, all that day, to convulse these happy creatures.
Italian hearts are, far more than ours in France, tormented by the
suspicions and wild ideas which a burning imagination presents to
them, but on the other hand their joys are far more intense and more
lasting. On the day in question the Contessa and Marchesa were
literally out of their minds; Fabrizio was obliged to begin all his
stories over again; finally they decided to go away and conceal
their general joy at Milan, so difficult did it appear to be to keep
it hidden any longer from the scrutiny of the Marchese and his son
Ascanio.

They took the ordinary boat of the household to go to Como; to have
acted otherwise would have aroused endless suspicions. But on arriving
at the harbour of Como the Marchesa remembered that she had left
behind at Grianta papers of the greatest importance: she hastened to
send the boatmen back for them, and so these men could give no account
of how the two ladies were spending their time at Como. No sooner had
they arrived in the town than they selected haphazard one of the
carriages that ply for hire near that tall mediaeval tower which rises
above the Milan gate. They started off at once, without giving the
coachman time to speak to anyone. A quarter of a league from the town
they found a young sportsman of their acquaintance who, out of
courtesy to them as they had no man with them, kindly consented to act
as their escort as far as the gates of Milan, whither he was bound for
the shooting. All went well, and the ladies were conversing in the
most joyous way with the young traveller when, at a bend which the
road makes to pass the charming hill and wood of San Giovanni, three
constables in plain clothes sprang at the horses' heads. "Ah! My
husband has betrayed us," cried the Marchesa, and fainted away. A
serjeant who had remained a little way behind came staggering up to
the carriage and said, in a voice that reeked of the _trattoria_:

"I am sorry, sir, but I must do my duty and arrest you, General Fabio
Conti."

Fabrizio thought that the serjeant was making a joke at his expense
when he addressed him as "General." "You shall pay for this!" he said
to himself. He examined the men in plain clothes and watched for a
favourable moment to jump down from the carriage and dash across the
fields.

The Contessa smiled--a smile of despair, I fancy--then said to the
serjeant:

"But, my dear serjeant, is it this boy of sixteen that you take for
General Conti?"

"Aren't you the General's daughter?" asked the serjeant.

"Look at my father," said the Contessa, pointing to Fabrizio. The
constables went into fits of laughter.

"Show me your passports and don't argue the point," said the serjeant,
stung by the general mirth.

"These ladies never take passports to go to Milan," said the coachman
with a calm and philosophical air: "they are coming from their
castle of Grianta. This lady is the Signora Contessa Pietranera; the
other is the Signora Marchesa del Dongo."

The serjeant, completely disconcerted, went forward to the horses'
heads and there took counsel with his men. The conference had lasted
for fully five minutes when the Contessa asked if the gentlemen
would kindly allow the carriage to be moved forward a few yards and
stopped in the shade; the heat was overpowering, though it was only
eleven o'clock in the morning. Fabrizio, who was looking out most
attentively in all directions, seeking a way of escape, saw coming out
of a little path through the fields and on to the high road a girl of
fourteen or fifteen, who was crying timidly into her handkerchief. She
came forward walking between two constables in uniform, and, three
paces behind her, also between constables, stalked a tall, lean man
who assumed an air of dignity, like a Prefect following a procession.

"Where did you find them?" asked the serjeant, for the moment
completely drunk.

"Running away across the fields, with not a sign of a passport about
them."

The serjeant appeared to lose his head altogether; he had before him
five prisoners, instead of the two that he was expected to have. He
went a little way off, leaving only one man to guard the male prisoner
who put on the air of majesty, and another to keep the horses from
moving.

"Wait," said the Contessa to Fabrizio, who had already jumped out of
the carriage. "Everything will be settled in a minute."

They heard a constable exclaim: "What does it matter! If they have no
passports, they're fair game whoever they are." The serjeant seemed
not quite so certain; the name of Contessa Pietranera made him a
little uneasy: he had known the General, and had not heard of his
death. "The General is not the man to let it pass, if I arrest his
wife without good reason," he said to himself.

During this deliberation, which was prolonged, the Contessa had
entered into conversation with the girl, who was standing on the road,
and in the dust by the side of the carriage; she had been struck by
her beauty.

"The sun will be bad for you, Signorina. This gallant soldier," she
went on, addressing the constable who was posted at the horses' heads,
"will surely allow you to get into the carriage."

Fabrizio, who was wandering round the vehicle, came up to help the
girl to get in. Her foot was already on the step, her arm supported by
Fabrizio, when the imposing man, who was six yards behind the
carriage, called out in a voice magnified by the desire to preserve
his dignity:

"Stay in the road; don't get into a carriage that does not belong to
you!"

Fabrizio had not heard this order; the girl, instead of climbing into
the carriage, tried to get down again, and, as Fabrizio continued to
hold her up, fell into his arms. He smiled; she blushed a deep
crimson; they stood for a moment looking at one another after the girl
had disengaged herself from his arms.

"She would be a charming prison companion," Fabrizio said to himself.
"What profound thought lies behind that brow! She would know how to
love."

The serjeant came up to them with an air of authority: "Which of these
ladies is named Clelia Conti?"

"I am," said the girl.

"And I," cried the elderly man, "am General Fabio Conti, Chamberlain
to H.S.H. the Prince of Parma; I consider it most irregular that a man
in my position should be hunted down like a thief."

"The day before yesterday, when you embarked at the harbour of Como,
did you not tell the police inspector who asked for your passport to
go away? Very well, his orders to-day are that you are not to go
away."

"I had already pushed off my boat, I was in a hurry, there was a storm
threatening, a man not in uniform shouted to me from the quay to put
back into harbour, I told him my name and went on."

"And this morning you escaped from Como."

"A man like myself does not take a passport when he goes from Milan to
visit the lake. This morning, at Como, I was told that I should be
arrested at the gate. I left the town on foot with my daughter; I
hoped to find on the road some carriage that would take me to Milan,
where the first thing I shall do will certainly be to call on the
General commanding the Province and lodge a complaint."

A heavy weight seemed to have been lifted from the serjeant's mind.

"Very well, General, you are under arrest and I shall take you to
Milan. And you, who are you?" he said to Fabrizio.

"My son," replied the Contessa; "Ascanio, son of the Divisional
General Pietranera."

"Without a passport, Signora Contessa?" said the serjeant, in a much
gentler tone.

"At his age, he has never had one; he never travels alone, he is
always with me."

During this colloquy General Conti was standing more and more on his
dignity with the constables.

"Not so much talk," said one of them; "you are under arrest, that's
enough!"

"You will be glad to hear," said the serjeant, "that we allow you to
hire a horse from some contadino; otherwise, never mind all the dust
and the heat and the Chamberlain of Parma, you would have to put your
best foot foremost to keep pace with our horses."

The General began to swear.

"Will you kindly be quiet!" the constable repeated. "Where is your
general's uniform? Anybody can come along and say he's a general."

The General grew more and more angry. Meanwhile things were looking
much brighter in the carriage.

The Contessa kept the constables running about as if they had been her
servants. She had given a scudo to one of them to go and fetch wine,
and, what was better still, cold water from a cottage that was visible
two hundred yards away. She had found time to calm Fabrizio, who was
determined, at all costs, to make a dash for the wood that covered the
hill. "I have a good brace of pistols," he said. She obtained the
infuriated General's permission for his daughter to get into the
carriage. On this occasion the General, who loved to talk about
himself and his family, told the ladies that his daughter was only
twelve years old, having been born in 1803, on the 27th of October,
but that, such was her intelligence, everyone took her to be fourteen
or fifteen.

"A thoroughly common man," the Contessa's eyes signalled to the
Marchesa. Thanks to the Contessa, everything was settled, after a
colloquy that lasted an hour. A constable, who discovered that he had
some business to do in the neighbouring village, lent his horse to
General Conti, after the Contessa had said to him: "You shall have
ten francs." The serjeant went off by himself with the General; the
other constables stayed behind under a tree, accompanied by four
huge bottles of wine, almost small demi-johns, which the one who had
been sent to the cottage had brought back, with the help of a
_contadino_, Clelia Conti was authorised by the proud Chamberlain to
accept, for the return journey to Milan, a seat in the ladies'
carriage, and no one dreamed of arresting the son of the gallant
General Pietranera. After the first few minutes had been devoted to an
exchange of courtesies and to remarks on the little incident that had
just occurred, Clelia Conti observed the note of enthusiasm with which
so beautiful a lady as the Contessa spoke to Fabrizio; certainly, she
was not his mother. The girl's attention was caught most of all by
repeated allusions to something heroic, bold, dangerous to the last
degree, which he had recently done; but for all her cleverness little
Clelia could not discover what this was. She gazed with astonishment
at this young hero, whose eyes seemed to be blazing still with all the
fire of action. For his part, he was somewhat embarrassed by the
remarkable beauty of this girl of twelve, and her steady gaze made him
blush.

A league outside Milan Fabrizio announced that he was going to see his
uncle, and took leave of the ladies.

"If I ever get out of my difficulties," he said to Clelia, "I shall
pay a visit to the beautiful pictures at Parma, and then will you
deign to remember the name: Fabrizio del Dongo?"

"Good!" said the Contessa, "that is how you keep your identity secret.
Signorina, deign to remember that this scape-grace is my son, and is
called Pietranera, and not del Dongo."

That evening, at a late hour, Fabrizio entered Milan by the Porta
Renza, which leads to a fashionable gathering-place. The despatch of
their two servants to Switzerland had exhausted the very modest
savings of the Marchesa and her sister-in-law; fortunately, Fabrizio
had still some napoleons left, and one of the diamonds, which they
decided to sell.

The ladies were highly popular, and knew everyone in the town. The
most important personages in the Austrian and religious party went to
speak on behalf of Fabrizio to Barone Binder, the Chief of Police.
These gentlemen could not conceive, they said, how anyone could take
seriously the escapade of a boy of sixteen who left the paternal
roof after a dispute with an elder brother.

"My business is to take everything seriously," replied Barone Binder
gently; a wise and solemn man, he was then engaged in forming the
Milan police, and had undertaken to prevent a revolution like that of
1746, which drove the Austrians from Genoa. This Milan police, since
rendered so famous by the adventures of Silvio Pellico and M.
Andryane, was not exactly cruel; it carried out, reasonably and
without pity, harsh laws. The Emperor Francis II wished these
over-bold Italian imaginations to be struck by terror.

"Give me, day by day," repeated Barone Binder to Fabrizio's
protectors, "a _certified_ account of what the young Marchesino del
Dongo has been doing; let us follow him from the moment of his
departure on the 8th of March to his arrival last night in this city,
where he is hidden in one of the rooms of his mother's apartment, and
I am prepared to treat him as the most well-disposed and most
frolicsome young man in town. If you cannot furnish me with the young
man's itinerary during all the days following his departure from
Grianta, however exalted his birth may be, however great the respect I
owe to the friends of his family, obviously it is my duty to order his
arrest. Am I not bound to keep him in prison until he-has furnished me
with proofs that he did not go to convey a message to Napoleon from
such disaffected persons as may exist in Lombardy among the subjects
of His Imperial and Royal Majesty? Note farther, gentlemen, that if
young del Dongo succeeds in justifying himself on this point, he will
still be liable to be charged with having gone abroad without a
passport properly issued to himself, and also with assuming a false
name and deliberately making use of a passport issued to a common
workman, that is to say to a person of a class greatly inferior to
that to which he himself belongs."

This declaration, cruelly reasonable, was accompanied by all the marks
of deference and respect which the Chief of Police owed to the high
position of the Marchesa del Dongo and of the important personages who
were intervening on her behalf.

The Marchesa was in despair when Barone Binder's reply was
communicated to her.

"Fabrizio will be arrested," she sobbed, "and once he is in prison,
God knows when he will get out! His father will disown him!"

Signora Pietranera and her sister-in-law took counsel with two or
three ultimate friends, and, in spite of anything these might say, the
Marchesa was absolutely determined to send her son away that very
night.

"But you can see quite well," the Contessa pointed out to her, "that
Barone Binder knows that your son is here; he is not a bad man."

"No; but he is anxious to please the Emperor Francis."

"But, if he thought it would lead to his promotion to put Fabrizio in
prison, the boy would be there now; it is showing an insulting
defiance of the Barone to send him away."

"But his admission to us that he knows where Fabrizio is, is as much
as to say: 'Send him away!' No, I shan't feel alive until I can no
longer say to myself: 'In a quarter of an hour my son may be within.
prison walls.' Whatever Barone Binder's ambition may be," the Marchesa
went on, "he thinks it useful to his personal standing in this country
to make certain concessions to oblige a man of my husband's rank, and
I see a proof of this in the singular frankness with which he admits
that he knows where to lay hands on my son. Besides, the Barone has
been so kind as to let us know the two offences with which Fabrizio is
charged, at the instigation of his unworthy brother; he explains that
each of these offences means prison: is not that as much as to say
that if we prefer exile it is for us to choose?"

"If you choose exile," the Contessa kept on repeating, "we shall never
set eyes on him again as long as we live." Fabrizio, who was present
at the whole conversation, with an old friend of the Marchesa, now a
counsellor on the tribunal set up by Austria, was strongly inclined to
take the key of the street and go; and, as a matter of fact, that same
evening he left the _palazzo_, hidden in the carriage that was taking
his mother and aunt to the Scala theatre. The coachman, whom they,
distrusted, went as usual to wait in an _osteria_, and while the
footmen, on whom they could rely, were looking after the horses,
Fabrizio, disguised as a _contadino_, slipped out of the carriage and
escaped from the town. Next morning he crossed the frontier with equal
ease, and a few hours later had established himself on a property
which his mother owned in Piedmont, near Novara, to be precise, at
Romagnano, where Bayard was killed.

It may be imagined how much attention the ladies, on reaching their
box in the Scala, paid to the performance. They had gone there solely
to be able to consult certain of their friends who belonged to the
Liberal party and whose appearance at the _palazzo_ del Dongo might
have been misconstrued by the police. In the box it was decided to
make a fresh appeal to Barone Binder. There was no question of
offering a sum of money to this magistrate who was a perfectly honest
man; moreover, the ladies were extremely poor; they had forced
Fabrizio to take with him all the money that remained from the sale
of the diamond.

It was of the utmost importance that they should be kept constantly
informed of the Barone's latest decisions. The Contessa's friends
reminded her of a certain Canon Borda, a most charming young man who
at one time had tried to make advances to her, in a somewhat violent
manner; finding himself unsuccessful he had reported her friendship
for Limercati to General Pietranera, whereupon he had been dismissed
from the house as a rascal. Now, at present this Canon was in the
habit of going every evening to play tarocchi with Baronessa Binder,
and was naturally the intimate friend of her husband. The Contessa
made up her mind to take the horribly unpleasant step of going to see
this Canon; and the following morning, at an early hour, before he had
left the house, she sent in her name.

When the Canon's one and only servant announced: "Contessa
Pietranera," his master was so overcome as to be incapable of
speech; he made no attempt to repair the disorder of a very scanty
attire.

"Shew her in, and leave us," he said in faint accents. The Contessa
entered the room; Borda fell on his knees.

"It is in this position that an unhappy madman ought to receive your
orders," he said to the Contessa, who, that morning, in a plain
costume that was almost a disguise, was irresistibly attractive. Her
intense grief at Fabrizio's exile, the violence that she was doing to
her own feelings in coming to the house of a man who had behaved
treacherously towards her, all combined to give an incredible
brilliance to her eyes. "It is in this position that I wish to
recieve your orders," cried the Canon, "for it is obvious that you
have some service to ask of me, otherwise you would not have honoured
with your presence the poor dwelling of an unhappy madman; once
before, carried away by love and jealousy, he behaved towards you like
a scoundrel, as soon as he saw that he could not win your favour."

The words were sincere, and all the more handsome in that the Canon
now enjoyed a position of great power; the Contessa was moved to
tears by them; humiliation and fear had frozen her spirit; now in a
moment affection and a gleam of hope took their place. From a most
unhappy state she passed in a flash almost to happiness.

"Kiss my hand," she said, as she held it out to the Canon, "and rise."
(She used the second person singular, which in Italy, it must be
remembered, indicates a sincere and open friendship just as much as a
more tender sentiment.) "I have come to ask your favour for my nephew
Fabrizio. This is the whole truth of the story without the slightest
concealment, as one tells it to an old friend. At the age of sixteen
and a half he has done an intensely stupid thing. We were at the
castle of Grianta on the Lake of Como. One evening at seven o'clock we
learned by a boat from Como of the Emperor's landing on the shore of
the Gulf of Juan. Next morning Fabrizio went off to France, after
borrowing the passport of one of his plebeian friends, a dealer in
barometers, named Vasi. As he does not exactly resemble a dealer in
barometers, he had hardly gone ten leagues into France when he was
arrested on sight; his outbursts of enthusiasm in bad French seemed
suspicious. After a time he escaped and managed to reach Geneva; we
sent to meet him at Lugano...."

"That is to say, Geneva," put in the Canon with a smile.

The Contessa finished her story.

"I will do everything for you that is humanly possible," replied the
Canon effusively; "I place myself entirely at your disposal. I will
even do imprudent things," he added. "Tell me, what am I to do as soon
as this poor parlour is deprived of this heavenly apparition which
marks an epoch in the history of my life?"

"You must go to Barone Binder and tell him that you have loved
Fabrizio ever since he was born, that you saw him in his cradle when
you used to come to our house, and that accordingly, in the name of
the friendship he has shown for you, you beg him to employ all his
spies to discover whether, before his departure for Switzerland,
Fabrizio was in any sort of communication whatsoever with any of the
Liberals whom he has under supervision. If the Barone's information
is of any value, he is bound to see that there is nothing more in this
than a piece of boyish folly. You know that I used to have, in my
beautiful apartment in the _palazzo_ Dugnani, prints of the battles
won by Napoleon: it was by spelling out the legends engraved beneath
them that my nephew learned to read. When he was five years old, my
poor husband used to explain these battles to him; we put my husband's
helmet on his head, the boy strutted about trailing his big sabre.
Very well, one fine day he learns that my husband's god, the
Emperor, has returned to France, he starts out to join him, like a
fool, but does not succeed in reaching him. Ask your Barone with
what penalty he proposes to punish this moment of folly?"

"I was forgetting one thing," said the Canon, "you shall see that I am
not altogether unworthy of the pardon that you grant me. Here," he
said, looking on the table among his papers, "here is the accusation
by that infamous _collo-torto_" (that is, hypocrite), "see, signed
_Ascanio Vdiserra del_ DONGO, which gave rise to the whole trouble; I
found it yesterday at the police headquarters, and went to the Scala
in the hope of finding someone who was in the habit of going to your
box, through whom I might be able to communicate it to you. A copy of
this document reached Vienna long ago. There is the enemy that we
have to fight." The Canon read the accusation through with the
Contessa, and it was agreed that in the course of the day he would let
her have a copy by the hand of some trustworthy person. It was with
joy in her heart that the Contessa returned to the _palazzo_ del
Dongo.

"No one could possibly be more of a gentleman than that reformed
rake," she told the Marchesa. "This evening at the Scala, at a quarter
to eleven by the theatre clock, we are to send everyone away from our
box, put out the candles, and shut our door, and at eleven the Canon
himself will come and tell us what he has managed to do. We decided
that this would be the least compromising course for him."

This Canon was a man of spirit; he was careful to keep the
appointment; he shewed when he came a complete good nature and an
unreserved openness of heart such as are scarcely to be found except
in countries where vanity does not predominate over every other
sentiment. His denunciation of the Contessa to her husband, General
Pietranera, was one of the great sorrows of his life, and he had now
found a means of getting rid of that remorse.

That morning, when the Contessa had left his room, "So she's in love
with her nephew, is she," he had said to himself bitterly, for he was
by no means cured. "With her pride, to have come to me! ... After that
poor Pietranera died, she repulsed with horror my offers of service,
though they were most polite and admirably presented by Colonel
Scotti, her old lover. The beautiful Pietranera reduced to living on
fifteen hundred francs!" the Canon went on, striding vigorously up
and down the room. "And then to go and live in the castle of Grianta,
with an abominable _seccatore_ like that Marchese del Dongo! ... I can
see it all now! After all, that young Fabrizio is full of charm, tall,
well built, always with a smile on his face ... and, better still, a
deliciously voluptuous expression in his eye ... a Correggio face,"
the Canon added bitterly.

"The difference in age ... not too great ... Fabrizio born after
the French came, about '98, I fancy; the Contessa might be
twenty-seven or twenty-eight: no one could be better looking, more
adorable. In this country rich in beauties, she defeats them all, the
Marini, the Gherardi, the Ruga, the Aresi, the Pietragrua, she is far
and away above any of them. They were living happily together, hidden
away by that beautiful Lake of Como, when the young man took it into
his head to join Napoleon.... There are still souls in Italy! In
spite of everything! Dear country! No," went on this heart inflamed by
jealousy, "impossible to explain in any other way her resigning
herself to vegetating in the country, with the disgusting spectacle,
day after day, at every meal, of that horrible face of the Marchese
del Dongo, as well as that unspeakable pasty physiognomy of the
Marchesino Ascanio, who is going to be worse than his father! Well, I
shall serve her faithfully. At least I shall have the pleasure of
seeing her otherwise than through an opera-glass."

Canon Borda explained the whole case very clearly to the ladies. At
heart, Binder was as well disposed as they could wish; he was
delighted that Fabrizio should have taken the key of the street before
any orders could arrive from Vienna; for Barone Binder had no power to
make any decision, he awaited orders in this case as in every other.
He sent every day to Vienna an exact copy of all the information that
reached him; then he waited.

It was necessary that, in his exile at Romagnano, Fabrizio

(1) Should hear mass daily without fail, take as his confessor a man
of spirit, devoted to the cause of the Monarchy, and should confess to
him, at the tribunal of penitence, only the most irreproachable
sentiments.

(2) Should consort with no one who bore any reputation for
intelligence, and, were the need to arise, must speak of rebellion
with horror as a thing that no circumstances could justify.

(3) Must never let himself be seen in the _caffè_, must never read any
newspaper other than the official _Gazette_ of Turin and Milan; in
general he should shew a distaste for reading, and never open any book
printed later than 1720, with the possible exception of the novels of
Walter Scott.

(4) "Finally" (the Canon added with a touch of malice), "it is most
important that he should pay court openly to one of the pretty women
of the district, of the noble class, of course; this will shew that he
has not the dark and dissatisfied mind of an embryo conspirator."

Before going to bed, the Contessa and the Marchesa each wrote Fabrizio
an endless letter, in which they explained to him with a charming
anxiety all the advice that had been given them by Borda.

' Fabrizio had no wish to be a conspirator: he loved Napoleon, and,
in his capacity as a young noble, believed that he had been created to
be happier than his neighbour, and thought the middle classes absurd.
Never had he opened a book since leaving school, where he had read
only texts arranged by the Jesuits. He established himself at some
distance from Romagnano, in a magnificent _palazzo_, one of the
masterpieces of the famous architect Sanmicheli; but for thirty years
it had been uninhabited, so that the rain came into every room and not
one of the windows would shut. He took possession of the agent's
horses, which he rode without ceremony at all hours of the day; he
never spoke, and he thought about things. The recommendation to take
a mistress from an _ultra_ family appealed to him, and he obeyed it to
the letter. He chose as his confessor a young priest given to intrigue
who wished to become a bishop (like the confessor of the Spielberg
[Footnote: See the curious Memoirs of M. Andryane, as entertaining as
a novel, and as lasting as Tacitus.]

but he went three leagues on foot and wrapped himself in a
mystery which he imagined to be impenetrable, in order to read the
_Constitutionnel_, which he thought sublime. "It is as fine as Alfieri
and Dante!" he used often to exclaim. Fabrizio had this in common with
the young men of France, that he was far more seriously taken up with
his horse and his newspaper than with his politically _sound_
mistress. But there was no room as yet for _imitation of others_ in
this simple and sturdy nature, and he made no friends in the society
of the large country town of Romagnano; his simplicity passed as
arrogance: no one knew what to make of his character. "_He is a
younger son who feels himself wronged because he is not the eldest_,"
was the _parroco's_ comment.




CHAPTER SIX

Let us admit frankly that Canon Borda's jealousy was not altogether
unfounded: on his return from France, Fabrizio appeared to the eyes
of Contessa Pietranera like a handsome stranger whom she had known
well in days gone by. If he had spoken to her of love she would have
loved him; had she not already conceived, for his conduct and his
person, a passionate and, one might say, unbounded admiration? But
Fabrizio embraced her with such an effusion of innocent gratitude and
good-fellowship that she would have been horrified with herself had
she sought for any other sentiment in this almost filial friendship.
"After all," she said to herself, "some of my friends who knew me six
years ago, at Prince Eugene's court, may still find me good-looking
and even young, but for him I am a respectable woman--and, if the
truth must be told without any regard for my vanity, a woman of a
certain age." The Contessa was under an illusion as to the period of
life at which she had arrived, but it was not the illusion of common
women. "Besides, at his age," she went on, "boys are apt to exaggerate
the ravages of time. A man with more experience of life . .."

The Contessa, who was pacing the floor of her drawing-room, stopped
before a mirror, then smiled. It must be explained that, some months
since, the heart of Signora Pietranera had been attacked in a serious
fashion, and by a singular personage. Shortly after Fabrizio's
departure for France, the Contessa who, without altogether admitting
it to herself, was already beginning to take a great interest in him,
had fallen into a profound melancholy. All her occupations seemed to
her to lack pleasure, and, if one may use the word, savour; she told
herself that Napoleon, wishing to secure the attachment of his Italian
peoples, would take Fabrizio as his aide-de-camp. "He is lost to me!"
she exclaimed, weeping, "I shall never see him again; he will write to
me, but what shall I be to him in ten years' time?"

It was in this frame of mind that she made an expedition to Milan; she
hoped to find there some more immediate news of Napoleon, and, for all
she knew, incidentally news of Fabrizio. Without admitting it to
herself, this active soul was beginning to be very weary of the
monotonous life she was leading in the country. "It is a postponement
of death," she said to herself, "it is not life." Every day to see
those powdered heads, her brother, her nephew Ascanio, their footmen!
What would her excursions on the lake be without Fabrizio? Her sole
consolation was based on the ties of friendship that bound her to
the Marchesa. But for some time now this intimacy with Fabrizio's
mother, a woman older than herself and with no hope left in life, had
begun to be less attractive to her.

Such was the singular position in which Signora Pietranera was placed:
with Fabrizio away, she had little hope for the future. Her heart was
in need of consolation and novelty. On arriving in Milan she conceived
a passion for the fashionable opera; she would go and shut herself up
alone for hours on end, at the Scala, in the box of her old friend
General Scotti. The men whom she tried to meet in order to obtain news
of Napoleon and his army seemed to her vulgar and coarse. Going home,
she would improvise on her piano until three o'clock in the morning.
One evening, at the Scala, in the box of one of her friends to which
she had gone in search of news from France, she made the acquaintance
of Conte Mosca, a Minister from Parma; he was an agreeable man who
spoke of France and Napoleon in a way that gave her fresh reasons for
hope or fear. She returned to the same box the following evening; this
intelligent man. reappeared and throughout the whole performance she
talked to him with enjoyment. Since Fabrizio's departure she had not
found any evening so lively. This man who amused her, Conte Mosca
della Rovere Sorezana, was at that time Minister of Police and Finance
to that famous Prince of Parma, Ernesto IV, so notorious for his
severities, which the Liberals of Milan called cruelties. Mosca might
have been forty or forty-five; he had strongly marked features, with
no trace of self-importance, and a simple and light-hearted manner
which was greatly in his favour; he would have looked very well
indeed, if a whim on the part of his Prince had not obliged him to
wear powder on his hair as a proof of his soundness in politics. As
people have little fear of wounding one another's vanity, they quickly
arrive in Italy at a tone of intimacy, and make personal observations.
The antidote to this practice is not to see the other person again if
one's feelings have been hurt.

"Tell me, Conte, why do you powder your hair?" Signora Pietranera
asked him at their third meeting. "Powder! A man like you, attractive,
still young, who fought on our side in Spain!"

"Because, in the said Spain, I stole nothing, and one must live. I was
athirst for glory; a flattering word from the French General, Gouvion
Saint-Cyr, who commanded us, was everything to me then. When
Napoleon fell, it so happened that while I was eating up my patrimony
in his service, my father, a man of imagination, who pictured me as a
general already, had been building me a _palazzo_ at Parma. In 1813 I
found that my whole worldly wealth consisted of a huge _palazzo_, half
finished, and a pension."

"A pension: 3,500 francs, like my husband's?"

"Conte Pietranera commanded a Division. My pension, as a humble
squadron commander, has never been more than 800 francs, and even that
has been paid to me only since I became Minister of Finance."

As there was nobody else in the box but the lady of extremely
liberal views to whom it belonged, the conversation continued with the
same frankness. Conte Mosca, when questioned, spoke of his life at
Parma. "In Spain, under General Saint-Cyr, I faced the enemy's fire to
win a cross and a little glory besides, now I dress myself up like an
actor in a farce to win a great social position and a few thousand
francs a year. Once I had started on this sort of political
chessboard, stung by the insolence of my superiors, I determined to
occupy one of the foremost posts; I have reached it. But the happiest
days of my life will always be those which, now and again, I manage to
spend at Milan; here, it seems to me, there still survives the spirit
of your Army of Italy."

The frankness, the _disinvoltura_ with which this Minister of so
dreaded a Prince spoke pricked the Contessa's curiosity; from his
title she had expected to find a pedant filled with self-importance;
what she saw was a man who was ashamed of the gravity of his position.
Mosca had promised to let her have all the news from France that he
could collect; this was a grave indiscretion at Milan, during the
month that preceded Waterloo; the question for Italy at that time was
to be or not to be; everyone at Milan was in a fever, a fever of hope
or fear. Amid this universal disturbance, the Contessa started to
make inquiries about a man who spoke thus lightly of so coveted a
position, and one which, moreover, was his sole means of livelihood.

Certain curious information of an interesting oddity was reported to
Signora Pietranera. "Conte Mosca della Rovere Sorezana," she was told,
"is on the point of becoming Prime Minister and declared favourite of
Ranuccio-Ernesto IV, the absolute sovereign of Parma and one of the
wealthiest Princes in Europe to boot. The Conte would already have
attained to this exalted position if he had cared to shew a more
solemn face: they say that the Prince often lectures him on this
failing.

"'What do my manners matter to Your Highness,' he answers boldly,
'so long as I conduct his affairs?'

"This favourite's bed of roses," her informant went on, "is not
without its thorns. He has to please a Sovereign, a man of sense and
intelligence, no doubt, but a man who, since his accession to an
absolute throne, seems to have lost his head altogether and shews, for
instance, suspicions worthy of an old woman.

"Ernesto IV is courageous only in war. On the field of battle he has
been seen a score of times leading a column to the attack like a
gallant general; but after the death of his father, Ernesto III, on
his return to his States, where, unfortunately for him, he possesses
unlimited power, he set to work to inveigh in the most senseless
fashion against Liberals and liberty. Presently he began to imagine
that he was hated; finally, in a moment of ill temper, he had two
Liberals hanged, who may or may not have been guilty, acting on the
advice of a wretch called Rassi, a sort of Minister of Justice.

"From that fatal moment the Prince's life changed; we find him
tormented by the strangest suspicions. He is not fifty, and fear has
so reduced him, if one may use the expression, that whenever he
speaks of Jacobins, and the plans of the Central Committee in Paris,
his face becomes like that of an old man of eighty; he relapses into
the fantastic fears of childhood. His favourite, Rassi, the Fiscal
General (or Chief Justice), has no influence except through his
master's fear; and whenever he is alarmed for his own position, he
makes haste to discover some fresh conspiracy of the blackest and most
fantastic order. Thirty rash fellows have banded themselves together
to read a number of the _Constitutionnel_, Rassi declares them to be
conspirators, and sends them off to prison in that famous citadel of
Parma, the terror of the whole of Lombardy. As it rises to a great
height, a hundred and eighty feet, people say, it is visible from a
long way off in the middle of that immense plain; and the physical
outlines of the prison, of which horrible things are reported, makes
it the queen, governing by fear, of the whole of that plain, which
extends from Milan to Bologna."

"Would you believe," said another traveller to the Contessa, "that
at night, on the third floor of his palace, guarded by eighty
sentinels who every quarter of an hour cry aloud a whole sentence,
Ernesto IV trembles in his room. All the doors fastened with ten
bolts, and the adjoining rooms, above as well as below him, packed
with soldiers, he is afraid of the Jacobins. If a plank creaks in the
floor, he snatches up his pistols and imagines there is a Liberal
hiding under his bed. At once all the bells in the castle are set
ringing, and an aide-de-camp goes to awaken Conte Mosca. On reaching
the castle, the Minister of Police takes good care not to deny the
existence of any conspiracy; on the contrary, alone with the Prince,
and armed to the teeth, he inspects every corner of the rooms, looks
under the beds, and, in a word, gives himself up to a whole heap of
ridiculous actions worthy of an old woman. All these precautions would
have seemed highly degrading to the Prince himself in the happy days
when he used to go to war and had never killed anyone except in open
combat. As he is a man of infinite spirit, he is ashamed of these
precautions; they seem to him ridiculous, even at the moment when he
is giving way to them, and the source of Conte Mosca's enormous
reputation is that he devotes all his skill to arranging that the
Prince shall never have occasion to blush in his presence. It is he,
Mosca, who, in his capacity as Minister of Police, insists upon
looking under the furniture, and, so people say in Parma, even in the
cases in which the musicians keep their double-basses. It is the
Prince who objects to this and teases his Minister over his excessive
punctiliousness. 'It is a challenge,' Conte Mosca replies; 'think of
the satirical sonnets the Jacobins would shower on us if we allowed
you to 'be killed. It is not only your life that we are defending, it
is our honour.'

But it appears that the Prince is only half taken in by this, for if
anyone in the town should take it into his head to remark that they
have passed a sleepless night at the castle, the Grand Fiscal Rassi
sends the impertinent fellow to the citadel, and once in that lofty
abode, and _in the fresh air_, as they say at Parma, it is a miracle
if anyone remembers the prisoner's existence. It is because he is a
soldier, and in Spain got away a score of times, pistol in hand, from
a tight corner, that the Prince prefers Conte Mosca to Rassi, who is a
great deal more flexible and baser. Those unfortunate prisoners in
the citadel are kept in the most rigorously secret confinement, and
all sort of stories are told about them. The Liberals assert that (and
this, they say, is one of Rassi's ideas) the gaolers and confessors
are under orders to assure them, about once a month, that one of them
is being led out to die. That day the prisoners have permission to
climb to the platform of the huge tower, one hundred and eighty feet
high, and from there they see a procession file along the plain with
some spy who plays the part of a poor devil going to his death."

These stories and a score of others of the same nature and of no less
authenticity keenly interested Signora Pietranera: on the following
day she asked Conte Mosca, whom she rallied briskly, for details. She
found him amusing, and maintained to him that at heart he was a
monster without knowing it. One day as he went back to his inn the
Conte said to himself: "Not only is this Contessa Pietranera a
charming woman; but when I spend the evening in her box I manage to
forget certain things at Parma the memory of which cuts me to the
heart."--This Minister, in spite of his frivolous air and his polished
manners, was not blessed with a soul of the French type; he could not
_forget_ the things that annoyed him. When there was a thorn in his
pillow, he was obliged to break it off and .to blunt its point by
repeated stabbings of his throbbing limbs. (I must apologise for the
last two sentences, which are translated from the Italian.) On the
morrow of this discovery, the Conte found that, notwithstanding the
business that had summoned him to Milan, the day spun itself out to an
enormous length; he could not stay in one place, he wore out his
carriage-horses. About six o'clock he mounted his saddle-horse to ride
to the _Corso_; he had some hope of meeting Signora Pietranera there;
seeing no sign of her, he remembered that at eight o'clock the Scala
Theatre opened; he entered it, and did not see ten persons in that
immense auditorium. He felt somewhat ashamed of himself for being
there. "Is it possible," he asked himself, "that at forty-five and
past I am committing follies at which a sub-lieutenant would blush?
Fortunately nobody suspects them." He fled, and tried to pass the time
by strolling up and down the attractive streets that surround the
Scala. They are lined with _caffè_ which at that hour are filled to
overflowing with people. Outside each of these _caffè_ crowds of
curious idlers perched on chairs in the middle of the street sip ices
and criticise the passers-by. The Conte was a passer-by of importance;
at once he had the pleasure of being recognised and addressed. Three
or four importunate persons of the kind that one cannot easily shake
off seized this opportunity to obtain an audience of so powerful a
Minister. Two of them handed him petitions; the third was content with
pouring out a stream of long-winded advice as to his political
conduct.

"One does not sleep," he said to himself, "when one has such a brain;
one ought not to walk about when one is so powerful." He returned to
the theatre, where it occurred to him that he might take a box in the
third tier; from there his gaze could plunge, unnoticed by anyone,
into the box in the second tier in which he hoped to see the Contessa
arrive. Two full hours of waiting did not seem any too long to this
lover; certain of not being seen he abandoned himself joyfully to the
full extent of his folly. "Old age," he said to himself, "is not that,
more than anything else, the time when one is no longer capable of
these delicious puerilities?"

Finally the Contessa appeared. Armed with his glasses, he studied her
with rapture: "Young, brilliant, light as a bird," he said to
himself, "she is not twenty-five. Her beauty is the least of her
charms: where else could one find that soul, always sincere, which
never acts _with prudence_, which abandons itself entirely to the
impression of the moment, which asks only to be carried away towards
some new goal? I can understand Conte Nani's foolish behaviour."

The Conte supplied himself with excellent reasons for behaving
foolishly, so long as he was thinking only of capturing the
happiness which he saw before his eyes. He did not find any quite so
satisfactory when he came to consider his age and the anxieties,
sometimes of the saddest nature, that burdened his life. "A man of
ability, whose spirit has been destroyed by fear, gives me a sumptuous
life and plenty of money to be his Minister; but were he to dismiss me
to-morrow, I should be left old and poor, that is to say everything
that the world despises most; there's a fine partner to offer the
Contessa!" These thoughts were too dark, he came back to Signora
Pietranera; he could not tire of gazing at her, and, to be able to
think of her better, did not go down to her box. "Her only reason for
taking Nani, they tell me, was to put that imbecile Limercati in his
place when he could not be prevailed upon to run a sword, or to hire
someone else to stick a dagger into her husband's murderer. I would
fight for her twenty times over!" cried the Conte in a transport of
enthusiasm. Every moment he consulted the theatre clock which, with
illuminated figures upon a black background, warned the audience
every five minutes of the approach of the hour at which it was
permissible for them to visit a friend's box. The Conte said to
himself: "I cannot spend more than half an hour at the most in the
box, seeing that I have known her so short a time; if I stay longer, I
shall attract attention, and, thanks to my age and even more to this
accursed powder on my hair, I shall have all the bewitching
allurements of a Cassandra." But a sudden thought made up his mind
once and for all. "If she were to leave that box to pay someone else a
visit, I should be well rewarded for the avarice with which I am
hoarding up this pleasure." He rose to go down to the box in which he
could see the Contessa; all at once he found that he had lost almost
all his desire to present himself to her.

"Ah! this is really charming," he exclaimed with a smile at his own
expense, and coming to a halt on the staircase; "an impulse of genuine
shyness! It must be at least five and twenty years since an adventure
of this sort last came my way."

He entered the box, almost with an effort to control himself; and,
making the most, like a man of spirit, of the condition in which he
found himself, made no attempt to appear at ease, or to display his
wit by plunging into some entertaining story; he had the courage to
be shy, he employed his wits in letting his disturbance be apparent
without making himself ridiculous. "If she should take it amiss," he
said to himself, "I am lost for ever. What! Shy, with my hair covered
with powder, hair which, without the disguise of the powder, would be
visibly grey! But, after all, it is a fact; it cannot therefore be
absurd unless I exaggerate it or make a boast of it." The Contessa had
spent so many weary hours at the castle of Grianta, facing the
powdered heads of her brother and nephew, and of various politically
_sound_ bores of the neighbourhood, that it never occurred to her to
give a thought to her new adorer's style in hairdressing.

The Contessa's mind having this protection against the impulse to
laugh on his entry, she paid attention only to the news from France
which Mosca always had for her in detail, on coming to her box; no
doubt he used to invent it. As she discussed this news with him, she
noticed this evening the expression in his eyes, which was good and
kindly.

"I can imagine," she said to him, "that at Parma, among your slaves,
you will not wear that friendly expression; it would ruin everything
and give them some hope of not being hanged!"

The entire absence of any sense of self-importance in a man who passed
as the first diplomat in Italy seemed strange to the Contessa; she
even found a certain charm in it. Moreover, as he talked well and with
warmth, she was not at all displeased that he should have thought fit
to take upon himself for one evening, without ulterior consequences,
the part of squire of dames.

It was a great step forward, and highly dangerous; fortunately for
the Minister, who, at Parma, never met a cruel fair, the Contessa had
arrived from Grianta only a few days before: her mind was still stiff
with the boredom of a country life. She had almost forgotten how to
make fun; and all those things that appertain to a light and elegant
way of living had assumed in her eyes as it were a tint of novelty
which made them sacred; she was in no mood to laugh at anyone, even a
lover of forty-five, and shy. A week later, the Conte's temerity might
have met with a very different sort of welcome.

At the Scala, it is not usual to prolong for more than twenty minutes
or so these little visits to one's friends' boxes; the Conte spent the
whole evening in the box in which he had been so fortunate as to meet
Signora Pietranera. "She is a woman," he said to himself, "who revives
in me all the follies of my youth!" But he was well aware of the
danger. "Will my position as an all-powerful Bashaw in a place forty
leagues away induce her to pardon me this stupid behaviour? I get so
bored at Parma!" Meanwhile, every quarter of an hour, he registered a
mental vow to get up and go.

"I must explain to you, Signora," he said to the Contessa with a
laugh, "that at Parma I am bored to death, and I ought to be allowed
to drink my fill of pleasure when the cup comes my way. So, without
involving you in anything and simply for this evening, permit me to
play the part of lover in your company. Alas, in a few days I shall
be far away from this box which makes me forget every care and indeed,
you will say, every convention."

A week after this monstrous visit to the Contessa's box, and after a
series of minor incidents the narration of which here would perhaps
seem tedious, Conte Mosca was absolutely mad with love, and the
Contessa had already begun to think that his age need offer no
objection if the suitor proved attractive in other ways. They had
reached this stage when Mosca was recalled by a courier from Parma.
One would have said that his Prince was afraid to be left alone. The
Contessa returned to Grianta; her imagination no longer serving to
adorn that lovely spot, it appeared to her a desert. "Should I be
attached to this man?" she asked herself. Mosca wrote to her, and had
not to play a part; absence had relieved him of the source of all
his anxious thoughts; his letters were amusing, and, by a little
piece of eccentricity which was not taken amiss, to escape the
comments of the Marchese del Dongo, who did not like having to pay
for the carriage of letters, he used to send couriers who would post
his at Como or Lecco or Varese or some other of those charming little
places on the shores of the lake. This was done with the idea that the
courier might be employed to take back her replies. The move was
successful.

Soon the days when the couriers came were events in the Contessa's
life; these couriers brought her flowers, fruit, little presents of
no value, which amused her, however, and her sister-in-law as well.
Her memory of the Conte was blended with her idea of his great power;
the Contessa had become curious to know everything that people said of
him; the Liberals themselves paid a tribute to his talents.

The principal source of the Conte's reputation for evil was that he
passed as the head of the _Ultra_ Party at the Court of Parma, while
the Liberal Party had at its head an intriguing woman capable of
anything, even of succeeding, the Marchesa Raversi, who was immensely
rich. The Prince made a great point of not discouraging that one of
the two parties which happened not to be in power; he knew quite well
that he himself would always be the master, even with a Ministry
formed in Signora Raversi's drawing-room. Endless details of these
intrigues were reported at Grianta. The bodily absence of Mosca, whom
everyone described as a Minister of supreme talent and a man of
action, made it possible not to think any more of his powdered head, a
symbol of everything that is dull and sad; it was a detail of no
consequence, one of the obligations of the court at which, moreover,
he was playing so distinguished a part. "It is a ridiculous thing, a
court," said the Contessa to the Marchesa, "but it is amusing; it is a
game that it is interesting to play, but one must agree to the rules.
Who ever thought of protesting against the absurdity of the rules of
piquet? And yet, once you are accustomed to the rules, it is
delightful to beat your adversary with _repique_ and _capot_."

The Contessa often thought about the writer of these entertaining
letters; the days on which she received them were delightful to her;
she would take her boat and go to read them in one of the charming
spots by the lake, the Pliniana, Belan, the wood of the Sfrondata.
These letters seemed to console her to some extent for Fabrizio's
absence. She could not, at all events, refuse to allow the Conte to be
deeply in love; a month had not passed before she was thinking of him
with tender affection. For his part, Conte Mosca was almost sincere
when he offered to hand in his resignation, to leave the Ministry and
to come and spend the rest of his life with her at Milan or elsewhere.
"I have 400,000 francs," he added, "which will always bring us in an
income of 15,000." --"A box at the play again, horses, everything,"
thought the Contessa; they were pleasant dreams. The sublime beauty of
the different views of the Lake of Como began to charm her once more.
She went down to dream by its shores of this return to a brilliant
and distinctive life, which, most unexpectedly, seemed to be coming
within the bounds of possibility. She saw herself on the Corso, at
Milan, happy and gay as in the days of the Viceroy: "Youth, or at any
rate a life of action, would begin again for me."

Sometimes her ardent imagination concealed things from her, but never
did she have those deliberate illusions which cowardice induces. She
was above all things a woman who was honest with herself. "If I am a
little too old to be doing foolish things," she said to herself,
"envy, which creates illusions as love does, may poison my stay in
Milan for me. After my husband's death, my noble poverty was a
success, as was my refusal of two vast fortunes. My poor little Conte
Mosca had not a twentieth part of the opulence that was cast at my
feet by those two worms, Limercati and Nani. The meagre widow's
pension which I had to struggle to obtain, the dismissal of my
servants, which made some sensation, the little fifth-floor room,
which brought a score of carriages to the door, all went to form at
the time a striking spectacle. But I shall have unpleasant moments,
however skilfully I may handle things, if, never possessing any
fortune beyond my widow's pension, I go back to live at Milan on the
snug little middle-class comfort which we can secure with the 15,000
lire that Mosca will have left after he retires. One strong
objection, out of which eavy will forge a terrible weapon, is that the
Conte, although separated long ago from his wife, is still a married
man. This separation is known at Parma, but at Milan it will come as
news, and they will put it down to me. So, my dear Scala, my divine
Lake of Como, adieu! adieu!"

In spite of all these forebodings, if the Contessa had had the
smallest income of her own she would have accepted Mosca's offer to
resign his office. She regarded herself as a middle-aged woman, and
the idea of the court alarmed her; but what will appear in the highest
degree improbable on this side of the Alps is that the Conte would
have handed in that resignation gladly. So, at least, he managed to
make his friend believe. In all his letters he implored, with an ever
increasing frenzy, a second interview at Milan; it was granted him.
"To swear that I feel an insane passion for you," the Contessa said to
him one day at Milan, "would be a lie; I should be only too glad to
love to-day at thirty odd as I used to love at two and twenty! But I
have seen so many things decay that I had imagined to be eternal! I
have the most tender regard for you, I place an unbounded confidence
in you, and of all the men I know, you are the one I like best." The
Contessa believed herself to be perfectly sincere; and yet, in the
final clause, this declaration embodied a tiny falsehood. Fabrizio,
perhaps, had he chosen, might have triumphed over every rival in her
heart. But Fabrizio was nothing more than a boy in Conte Mosca's eyes:
he himself reached Milan three days after the young hothead's
departure for Novara, and he hastened to intercede on his behalf with
Barone Binder. The Conte considered that his exile was now
irrevocable.

He had not come to Milan alone; he had in his carriage the Duca
Sanseverina-Taxis, a handsome little old man of sixty-eight,
dapple-grey, very polished, very neat, immensely rich but not quite as
noble as he ought to have been. It was his grandfather, only, who had
amassed millions from the office of Farmer General of the Revenues of
the State of Parma. His father had had himself made Ambassador of the
Prince of Parma to the Court of ----, by advancing the following
argument: "Your Highness allots 30,000 francs to his Representative at
the Court of ----, where he cuts an extremely modest figure. Should
Your Highness deign to appoint me to the post, I will accept 6,000
francs as salary. My expenditure at the Court of ---- will never fall
below 100,000 francs a year, and my agent will pay over 20,000 francs
every year to the Treasurer for Foreign Affairs at Parma. With that
sum they can attach to me whatever Secretary of Embassy they choose,
and I shall shew no curiosity to inquire into diplomatic secrets, if
there are any. My object is to shed lustre on my house, which is still
a new one, and to give it the distinction of having filled one of the
great public offices."

The present Duca, this Ambassador's son and heir, had made the stupid
mistake of coming out as a semi-Liberal, and for the last two years
had been in despair. In Napoleon's time, he had lost two or three
millions owing to his obstinacy in remaining abroad, and even now,
after the re-establishment of order in Europe, he had not managed to
secure a certain Grand Cordon which adorned the portrait of his
father. The want of this Cordon was killing him by inches.

At the degree of intimacy which in Italy follows love, there was no
longer any obstacle in the nature of vanity between the lovers. It was
therefore with the most perfect simplicity that Mosca said to the
woman he adored:

"I have two or three plans of conduct to offer you, all pretty well
thought out; I have been thinking of nothing else for the last three
months.

"First: I hand in my resignation, and we retire to a quiet life at
Milan or Florence or Naples or wherever you please. We have an income
of 15,000 francs, apart from the Prince's generosity, which will
continue for some time, more or less.

"Secondly: You condescend to come to the place in which I have some
authority; you buy a property, Sacca, for example, a charming house
in the middle of a forest, commanding the valley of the Po; you can
have the contract signed within a week from now. The Prince then
attaches you to his court. But here I can see an immense objection.
You will be well received at court; no one would think of refusing,
with me there; besides, the Princess imagines she is unhappy, and I
have recently rendered her certain services with an eye to your
future. But I must remind you of one paramount objection: the Prince
is a bigoted churchman, and, as you already know, ill luck will have
it that I am a married man. From which will arise a million minor
unpleasantnesses. You are a widow; it is a fine title which would have
to be exchanged for another, and this brings me to my third proposal.

"One might find a new husband who would not be a nuisance. But first
of all he would have to be considerably advanced in years, for why
should you deny me the hope of some day succeeding him? Very well, I
have made this curious arrangement with the Duca Sanseverina-Taxis,
who, of course, does not know the name of his future Duchessa. He
knows only that she will make him an Ambassador and will procure him
the Grand Cordon which his father had and the lack of which makes him
the most unhappy of mortals. Apart from this, the Duca is by no means
an absolute idiot; he gets his clothes and wigs from Paris. He is not
in the least the sort of man who would do anything _deliberately_
mean, he seriously believes that honour consists in his having a
Cordon, and he is ashamed of his riches. He came to me a year ago
proposing to found a hospital, in order to get this Cordon; I laughed
at him then, but he did not by any means laugh at me when I made him a
proposal of marriage; my first condition was, you can understand,
that he must never set foot again in Parma."

"But do you know that what you are proposing is highly immoral?" said
the Contessa.

"No more immoral than everything else that is done at our court and a
score of others. Absolute Power has this advantage, that it
sanctifies everything in the eyes of the public: what harm can there
be in a thing that nobody notices? Our policy for the next twenty
years is going to consist in fear of the Jacobins--and such fear, too!
Every year, we shall fancy ourselves on the eve of '93. You will hear,
I hope, the fine speeches I make on the subject at my receptions!
They are beautiful! Everything that can in any way reduce this fear
will be _supremely moral_ in the eyes of the nobles and the bigots.
And you see, at Parma, everyone who is not either a noble or a bigot
is in prison, or is packing up to go there; you may be quite sure that
this marriage will not be thought odd among us until the day on which
I am disgraced. This arrangement involves no dishonesty towards
anyone; that is the essential thing, it seems to me. The Prince, on
whose favour we are trading, has placed only one condition on his
consent, which is that the future Duchessa shall be of noble birth.
Last year my office, all told, brought me in 107,000 francs; my total
income would therefore be 122,000; I invested 20,000 at Lyons. Very
well, chose for yourself; either a life of luxury based on our having
122,000 francs to spend, which, at Parma, go as far as at least
400,000 at Milan, but with this marriage which will give you the name
of a passable man on whom you will never set eyes after you leave the
altar; or else the simple middle-class existence on 15,000 francs at
Florence or Naples, for I am of your opinion, you have been too much
admired at Milan; we should be persecuted here by envy, which might
perhaps succeed in souring our tempers. Our grand life at Parma will,
I hope, have some touches of novelty, even in your eyes, which have
seen the court of Prince Eugène; you would be wise to try it before
shutting the door on it for ever. Do not think that I am seeking to
influence your opinion. As for me, my mind is quite made up: I would
rather live on a fourth floor with you than continue that grand life
by myself."

The possibility of this strange marriage was debated by the loving
couple every day. The Contessa saw the Duca Sanseverina-Taxis at the
Scala Ball, and thought him highly presentable. In one of their final
conversations, Mosca summed up his proposals in the following words:
"We must take some decisive action if we wish to spend the rest of our
lives in an enjoyable fashion and not grow old before our time. The
Prince has given his approval; Sanseverina is a person who might
easily be worse; he possesses the finest _palazzo_ in Parma, and a
boundless fortune; he is sixty-eight, and has an insane passion for
the Grand Cordon; but there is one great stain on his character: he
once paid 10,000 francs for a bust of Napoleon by Canova. His second
sin, which will be the death of him if you do not come to his rescue,
is that he lent 25 napoleons to Ferrante Palla, a lunatic of our
country but also something of a genius, whom we have since sentenced
to death, fortunately in his absence. This Ferrante has written a
couple of hundred lines in his time which are like nothing in the
world; I will repeat them to you, they are as fine as Dante. The
Prince then sends Sanseverina to the Court of ----, he marries you on
the day of his departure, and in the second year of his stay abroad,
which he calls an Embassy, he receives the Grand Cordon of the ----,
without which he cannot live. You will have in him a brother who will
give you no trouble at all; he signs all the papers I require in
advance, and besides you will see nothing of him, or as little as you
choose. He asks for nothing better than never to shew his face at
Parma, where his grandfather the tax-gatherer and his own profession
of Liberalism stand in his way. Rassi, our hangman, makes out that the
Duca was a secret subscriber to the _Constitutionnel_ through
Ferrante Palla the poet, and this slander was for a long time a
serious obstacle in the way of the Prince's consent."

Why should the historian who follows faithfully all the most trivial
details of the story that has been told him be held responsible? Is it
his fault if his characters, led astray by passions which he,
unfortunately for himself, in no way shares, descend to conduct that
is profoundly unmoral? It is true that things of this sort are no
longer done in a country where the sole passion that has outlived all
the rest is that for money, as an excuse for vanity.

Three months after the events we have just related, the Duchessa
Sanseverina-Taxis astonished the court of Parma by her easy affability
and the noble serenity of her mind; her house was beyond comparison
the most attractive in the town. This was what Conte Mosca had
promised his master. Ranuccio-Ernesto IV, the Reigning Prince, and
the Princess his Consort, to whom she was presented by two of the
greatest ladies in the land, gave her a most marked welcome. The
Duchessa was curious to see this Prince, master of the destiny of the
man she loved, she was anxious to please him, and in this was more
than successful. She found a man of tall stature but inclined to
stoutness; his hair, his moustache, his enormous whiskers were of a
fine gold, according to his courtiers; elsewhere they had provoked, by
their faded tint, the ignoble word _flaxen_. From the middle of a
plump face there projected to no distance at all a tiny nose that was
almost feminine. But the Duchessa observed that, in order to notice
all these points of ugliness, one had first to attempt to catalogue
the Prince's features separately. Taken as a whole, he had the air of
a man of sense and of firm character. His carriage, his way of holding
himself were by no means devoid of majesty, but often he sought to
impress the person he was addressing; at such times he grew
embarrassed himself, and fell into an almost continuous swaying motion
from one leg to the other. For the rest, Ernesto IV had a piercing and
commanding gaze; his gestures with his arms had nobility, and his
speech was at once measured and concise.

Mosca had warned the Duchessa that the Prince had, in the large
cabinet in which he gave audiences, a full-length portrait of Louis
XIV, and a very fine table by Scagliola of Florence. She found the
imitation striking; evidently he sought to copy the gaze and the noble
utterance of Louis XIV, and he leaned upon the Scagliola table so as
to give himself the pose of Joseph II. He sat down as soon as he had
uttered his greeting to the Duchessa, to give her an opportunity to
make use of the _tabouret_ befitting her rank. At this court,
duchesses, princesses, and the wives of Grandees of Spain alone have
the right to sit; other women wait until the Prince or Princess
invites them; and, to mark the difference in rank, these August
Personages always take care to allow a short interval to elapse before
inviting the ladies who are not duchesses to be seated. The Duchessa
found that at certain moments the imitation of Louis XIV was a little
too strongly marked in the Prince; for instance, in his way of smiling
good-naturedly and throwing back his head.

Ernesto IV wore an evening coat in the latest fashion, that had come
from Paris; every month he had sent to him from that city, which he
abhorred, an evening coat, a frock coat, and a hat. But by an odd
blend of costume, on the day on which the Duchessa was received he had
put on red breeches, silk stockings and very close-fitting shoes,
models for which might be found in the portraits of Joseph II.

He received Signora Sanseverina graciously; the things he said to her
were shrewd and witty; but she saw quite plainly that there was no
superfluity of warmth in his reception of her.--"Do you know why?"
said Conte Mosca on her return from the audience, "it is because Milan
is a larger and finer city than Parma. He was afraid, had he given you
the welcome that I expected and he himself had led me to hope, of
seeming like a provincial in ecstasies before the charms of a
beautiful lady who has come down from the capital. No doubt, too, he
is still upset by a detail which I hardly dare mention to you; the
Prince sees at his court no woman who can vie with you in _beauty_.
Yesterday evening, when he retired to bed, that was his sole topic
of conversation with Pernice, his principal valet, who is good enough
to confide in me. I foresee a little revolution in etiquette; my chief
enemy at this court is a fool who goes by the name of General Fabio
Conti. Just imagine a creature who has been on active service for
perhaps one day in his life, and sets out from that day to copy the
bearing of Frederick the Great. In addition to which, he aims also at
copying the noble affability of General La Fayette, and that because
he is the leader, here, of the Liberal Party (God knows what sort of
Liberals!)."

"I know your Fabio Conti," said the Duchessa; "I had a good view of
him once near Como; he was quarrelling with the police." She related
the little adventure which the reader may perhaps remember.

"You will learn one day, Signora, if your mind ever succeeds in
penetrating the intricacies of our etiquette, that young ladies do not
appear at court here until after their marriage. At the same time, the
Prince has, for the superiority of his city of Parma over all others,
a patriotism so ardent that I would wager that he will find some way
of having little Clelia Conti, our La Fayette's daughter, presented to
him. She is charming, upon my soul she is; and was still reckoned, a
week ago, the best-looking person in the States of the Prince.

"I do not know," the Conte went on, "whether the horrors that the
enemies of our Sovereign have disseminated against him have reached
the castle of Grianta; they make him out a monster, an ogre. The truth
is that Ernesto IV was full of dear little virtues, and one may add
that, had he been invulnerable like Achilles, he would have continued
to be the model of a potentate. But in a moment of boredom and anger,
and also a little in imitation of Louis XIV cutting off the head of
some hero or other of the Fronde, who was discovered living in
peaceful solitude on a plot of land near Versailles, fifty years after
the Fronde, one fine day Ernesto IV had two Liberals hanged. It seems
that these rash fellows used to meet on fixed days to speak evil of
the Prince and address ardent prayers to heaven that the plague might
visit Parma and deliver them from the tyrant. The word _tyrant_ was
proved. Rassi called this conspiracy; he had them sentenced to
death, and the execution of one of them, Conte L----., was atrocious.
All this happened before my time. Since that fatal hour," the Conte
went on, lowering his voice, "the Prince has been subject to fits of
panic _unworthy of a man_, but these are the sole source of the favour
that I enjoy. But for this royal fear, mine would be a kind of merit
too abrupt, too harsh for this court, where idiocy runs rampant.
Would you believe that the Prince looks under the beds in his room
before going to sleep, and spends a million, which at Parma is the
equivalent of four millions at Milan, to have a good police force; and
you see before you, Signora Duchessa, the Chief of that terrible
Police. By the police, that is to say by fear, I have become Minister
of War and Finance; and as the Minister of the Interior is my nominal
chief, in so far as he has the police under his jurisdiction, I have
had that portfolio given to Conte Zurla-Contarini, an imbecile who is
a glutton for work and gives himself the pleasure of writing eighty
letters a day. I received one only this morning on which Conte
Zurla-Contarini has had the satisfaction of writing with his own hand
the number 20,715."

The Duchessa Sanseverina was presented to the melancholy Princess of
Parma, Clara-Paolina, who, because her husband had a mistress (quite
an attractive woman, the Marchesa Balbi), imagined herself to be the
most unhappy person in the universe, a belief which had made her
perhaps the most trying. The Duchessa found a very tall and very thin
woman, who was not thirty-six and appeared fifty. A symmetrical and
noble face might have passed as beautiful, though somewhat spoiled by
the large round eyes which could barely see, if the Princess had not
herself abandoned every attempt at beauty. She received the Duchessa
with a shyness so marked that certain courtiers, enemies of Conte
Mosca, ventured to say that the Princess looked like the woman who was
being presented and the Duchessa like the sovereign. The Duchessa,
surprised and almost disconcerted, could find no language that would
put her in a place inferior to that which the Princess assumed for
herself. To restore some self-possession to this poor Princess, who at
heart was not wanting in intelligence, the Duchessa could think of
nothing better than to begin, and keep going, a long dissertation on
botany. The Princess was really learned in this science; she had some
very fine hothouses with quantities of tropical plants. The Duchessa,
while seeking simply for a way out of a difficult position, made a
lifelong conquest of Princess Clara-Paolina, who, from the shy and
speechless creature that she had been at the beginning of the
audience, found herself towards the end so much at her ease that, in
defiance of all the rules of etiquette, this first audience lasted for
no less than an hour and a quarter. Next day, the Duchessa sent out to
purchase some exotic plants, and posed as a great lover of botany.

The Princess spent all her time with the venerable Father Landriani,
Archbishop of Parma, a man of learning, a man of intelligence even,
and a perfectly honest man, but one who presented a singular spectacle
when he was seated in his chair of crimson velvet (it was the
privilege of his office) opposite the armchair of the Princess,
surrounded by her maids of honour and her two ladies _of company_. The
old prelate, with his flowing white locks, was even more timid, were
such a thing possible, than the Princess; they saw one another every
day, and every audience began with a silence that lasted fully a
quarter of an hour. To such a state had they come that the Contessa
Alvizi, one of the ladies of company, had become a sort of favourite,
because she possessed the art of encouraging them to talk and so
breaking the silence.

To end the series of presentations, the Duchessa was admitted to the
presence of H.S.H. the Crown Prince, a personage of taller stature
than his father and more timid than his mother. He was learned in
mineralogy, and was sixteen years old. He blushed excessively on
seeing the Duchessa come in, and was so put off his balance that he
could not think of a word to say to that beautiful lady. He was a
fine-looking young man, and spent his life in the woods, hammer in
hand. At the moment when the Duchessa rose to bring this silent
audience to an end:

"My God! Signora, how pretty you are!" exclaimed the Crown Prince; a
remark which was not considered to be in too bad taste by the lady
presented.

The Marchesa Balbi, a young woman of five-and-twenty, might still have
passed for the most perfect type of _leggiadria italiana_, two or
three years before the arrival of the Duchessa Sanseverina at Parma.
As it was, she had still the finest eyes in the world and the most
charming airs, but, viewed close at hand, her skin was netted with
countless fine little wrinkles which made the Marchesa look like a
young grandmother. Seen from a certain distance, in the theatre for
instance, in her box, she was still a beauty, and the people in the
pit thought that the Prince shewed excellent taste. He spent every
evening with the Marchesa Balbi, but often without opening his lips,
and the boredom she saw on the Prince's face had made this poor woman
decline into an extraordinary thinness. She laid claim to an unlimited
subtlety, and was always smiling a bitter smile; she had the prettiest
teeth in the world, and in season and out, having little or no sense,
would attempt by an ironical smile to give some hidden meaning to her
words. Conte Mosca said that it was these continual smiles, while
inwardly she was yawning, that gave her all her wrinkles. The Balbi
had a finger in every pie, and the State never made a contract for
1,000 francs without there being some little _ricordo_ (this was the
polite expression at Parma) for the Marchesa. Common report would
have it that she had invested six millions in England, but her
fortune, which indeed was of recent origin, did not in reality amount
to 1,500,000 francs. It was to be out of reach of her stratagems, and
to have her dependent upon himself, that Conte Mosca had made himself
Minister of Finance. The Marchesa's sole passion was fear
disguised in sordid avarice: "_/ shall die on straw_!" she used
occasionally to say to the Prince, who was shocked by such a remark.
The Duchessa noticed that the ante-room, resplendent with gilding, of
the Balbi's _palazzo_, was lighted by a single candle which guttered
on a priceless marble table, and that the doors of her drawing-room
were blackened by the footmen's fingers.

"She received me," the Duchessa told her lover, "as though she
expected me to offer her a gratuity of 50 francs."

The course of the Duchessa's successes was slightly interrupted by
the reception given her by the shrewdest woman of the court, the
celebrated Marchesa Raversi, a consummate intriguer who had
established herself at the head of the party opposed to that of Conte
Mosca. She was anxious to overthrow him, all the more so in the last
few months, since she was the niece of the Duca Sanseverina, and was
afraid of seeing her prospects impaired by the charms of his new
Duchessa. "The Raversi is by no means a woman to be ignored," the
Conte told his mistress; "I regard her as so far capable of sticking
at nothing that I separated from my wife solely because she insisted
on taking as her lover Cavaliere Bentivoglio, a friend of the
Raversi." This lady, a tall virago with very dark hah-, remarkable for
the diamonds which she wore all day, and the rouge with which she
covered her cheeks, had declared herself in advance the Duchessa's
enemy, and when she received her in her own house made it her business
to open hostilities. The Duca Sanseverina, in the letters he wrote
from ----, appeared so delighted with his Embassy and, above all, with
the prospect of the Grand Cordon, that his family were afraid of his
leaving part of his fortune to his wife, whom he loaded with little
presents. The Raversi, although definitely ugly, had for a lover Conte
Baldi, the handsomest man at court; generally speaking, she was
successful in all her undertakings.

The Duchessa lived in the greatest style imaginable. The _palazzo_
Sanseverina had always been one of the most magnificent in the city
of Parma, and the Duca, to celebrate the occasion of his Embassy and
his future Grand Cordon, was spending enormous sums upon its
decoration; the Duchessa directed the work in person.

The Conte had guessed aright; a few days after the presentation of
the Duchessa, young Clelia Conti came to court; she had been made a
Canoness. In order to parry the blow which this favour might be
thought to have struck at the Conte's influence, the Duchessa gave a
party, on the pretext of throwing open the new garden of her
_palazzo_, and by the exercise of her most charming manners made
Clelia, whom she called her young friend of the Lake of Como, the
queen of the evening. Her monogram was displayed, as though by
accident, upon the principal transparencies. The young Clelia,
although slightly pensive, was pleasant in the way in which she spoke
of the little adventure by the Lake, and of her warm gratitude. She
was said to be deeply religious and very fond of solitude. "I would
wager," said the Conte, "that she has enough sense to be ashamed of
her father." The Duchessa made a friend of this girl; she felt
attracted towards her, she did not wish to appear jealous, and
included her in all her pleasure parties; after all, her plan was to
seek to diminish all the enmities of which the Conte was the object.

Everything smiled on the Duchessa; she was amused by this court
existence where a sudden storm is always to be feared; she felt as
though she were beginning life over again. She was tenderly attached
to the Conte, who was literally mad with happiness. The pleasing
situation had bred in him an absolute impassivity towards everything
in which only his professional interests were concerned. And so,
barely two months after the Duchessa's arrival, he obtained the patent
and honours of Prime Minister, honours which come very near to those
paid to the Sovereign himself. The Conte had complete control of his
master's will; they had a proof of this at Parma by which everyone was
impressed.

To the southeast, and within ten minutes of the town rises that
famous citadel so renowned throughout Italy, the main tower of which
stands one hundred and eighty feet high and is visible from so far.
This tower, constructed on the model of Hadrian's Tomb, at Rome, by
the Farnese, grandsons of Paul III, in the first half of the sixteenth
century, is so large in diameter that on the platform in which it ends
it has been possible to build a _palazzo_ for the governor of the
citadel and a new prison called the Farnese tower. This prison,
erected in honour of the eldest son of Ranuccio-Ernesto II, who had
become the accepted lover of his step-mother, is regarded as a fine
and singular monument throughout the country. The Duchessa was curious
to see it; on the day of her visit the heat was overpowering in Parma,
and up there, in that lofty position, she found fresh air, which so
delighted her that she stayed for several hours. The officials made a
point of throwing open to her the rooms of the Farnese tower.

The Duchessa met on the platform of the great tower a poor Liberal
prisoner who had come to enjoy the half-hour's outing that .was
allowed him every third day. On her return to Parma, not having yet
acquired the discretion necessary in an absolute court, she spoke of
this man, who had told her the whole history of his life. The Marchesa
Raversi's party seized hold of these utterances of the Duchessa and
repeated them broadcast, greatly hoping that they would shock the
Prince. Indeed, Ernesto IV was in the habit of repeating that the
essential thing was to impress the imagination. "_Perpetual_ is a big
word," he used to say, "and more terrible in Italy than elsewhere":
accordingly, never in his life had he granted a pardon. A week after
her visit to the fortress the Duchessa received a letter commuting a
sentence, signed by the Prince and by his Minister, with a blank left
for the name. The prisoner whose name she chose to write in this space
would obtain the restoration of his property, with permission to spend
the rest of his days in America. The Duchessa wrote the name of the
man who had talked to her. Unfortunately this man turned out to be
half a rogue, a weak-kneed creature; it was on the strength of his
confession that the famous Ferrante Palla had been sentenced to death.

The unprecedented nature of this pardon set the seal upon Signora
Sanseverina's position. Conte Mosca was wild with delight; it was a
great day in his life and one that had a decisive influence on
Fabrizio's destiny. He, meanwhile, was still at Romagnano, near
Novara, going to confession, hunting, reading nothing, and paying
court to a lady of noble birth, as was laid down in his instructions.
The Duchessa was still a trifle shocked by this last essential.
Another sign which boded no good to the Conte was that, while she
would speak to him with the utmost frankness about everyone else, and
would think aloud in his presence, she never mentioned Fabrizio to him
without first carefully choosing her words.

"If you like," the Conte said to her one day, "I will write to that
charming brother you have on the Lake of Como, and I will soon force
that Marchese del Dongo, if I and my friends in a certain quarter
apply a little pressure, to ask for the pardon of your dear Fabrizio.
If it be true, as I have not the least doubt that it is, that Fabrizio
is somewhat superior to the young fellows who ride their English
thoroughbreds about the streets of Milan, what a life, at eighteen, to
be doing nothing with no prospect of ever having anything to do! If
heaven had endowed him with a real passion for anything in the world,
were it only for angling, I should respect it; but what is he to do at
Milan, even after he has obtained his pardon? He will get on a horse,
which he will have had sent to him from England, at a certain hour of
the day; at another, idleness will take him to his mistress, for whom
he will care less than he will for his horse.... But, if you say
the word, I will try to procure this sort of life for your nephew."

"I should like him to be an officer," said the Duchessa.

"Would you recommend a Sovereign to entrust a post which, at a given
date, may be of some importance to a young man who, in the first
place, is liable to enthusiasm, and, secondly, has shewn enthusiasm
for Napoleon to the extent of going to join him at Waterloo? Just
think where we should all be if Napoleon had won at Waterloo! We
should have no Liberals to be afraid of, it is true, but the
Sovereigns of ancient Houses would be able to keep their thrones only
by marrying the daughters of his Marshals. And so military life for
Fabrizio would be the life of a squirrel in a revolving cage: plenty
of movement with no progress. He would have the annoyance of seeing
himself cut out by all sorts of plebeian devotion. The essential
quality in a young man of the present day, that is to say for the next
fifty years perhaps, so long as we remain in a state of fear and
religion has not been re-established, is not to be liable to
enthusiasm and not to shew any spirit.

"I have thought of one thing, but one that will begin by making you
cry out in protest, and will give me infinite trouble for many a day
to come: it is an act of folly which I am ready to commit for you. But
tell me, if you can, what folly would I not commit to win a smile?"

"Well?" said the Duchessa.

"Well, we have had as Archbishops of Parma three members of your
family: Ascanio del Dongo who wrote a book in sixteen-something,
Fabrizio in 1699, and another Ascanio in 1740. If Fabrizio cares to
enter the prelacy, and to make himself conspicuous for virtues of the
highest order, I can make him a Bishop somewhere, and then Archbishop
here, provided that my influence lasts. The real objection is this:
shall I remain Minister for long enough to carry out this fine plan,
which will require several years? The Prince may die, he may have the
bad taste to dismiss me. But, after all, it is the only way open to me
of securing for Fabrizio something that is worthy of you."

They discussed the matter at length: the idea was highly repugnant to
the Duchessa.

"Prove to me again," she said to the Conte, "that every other career
is impossible for Fabrizio." The Conte proved it.

"You regret," he added, "the brilliant uniform; but as to that, I do
not know what to do."

After a month in which the Duchessa had asked to be allowed to think
things over, she yielded with a sigh to the sage views of the
Minister. "Either ride stiffly upon an English horse through the
streets of some big town," repeated the Conte, "or adopt a calling
that is not unbefitting his birth; I can see no middle course.
Unfortunately, a gentleman cannot become either a doctor or a
barrister, and this age is made for barristers.

"Always bear in mind, Signora," the Conte went on, "that you are
giving your nephew, on the streets of Milan, the lot enjoyed by the
young men of his age who pass for the most fortunate. His pardon once
procured, you will give him fifteen, twenty, thirty thousand francs;
the amount does not matter; neither you nor I make any pretence of
saving money."

The Duchessa was susceptible to the idea of fame; she did not wish
Fabrizio to be simply a young man living on an allowance; she reverted
to her lover's plan.

"Observe," the Conte said to her, "that I do not pretend to turn
Fabrizio into an exemplary priest, like so many that you see. No, he
is a great gentleman, first and foremost; he can remain perfectly
ignorant if it seems good to him, and will none the less become Bishop
and Archbishop, if the Prince continues to regard me as a useful
person.

"If your orders deign to transform my proposal into an immutable
decree," the Conte went on, "our _protégé_ must on no account be seen
in Parma living with modest means. His subsequent promotion will cause
a scandal if people have seen him here as an ordinary priest; he ought
not to appear in Parma until he has his _violet stockings_ [Footnote:
In Italy, young men with influence or brains become Monsignori_ and
_prelati_, which does not mean bishop; they then wear violet
stockings. A man need not take any vows to become _Monsignore_; he can
discard his violet stockings and marry.] and a suitable establishment.
Then everyone will assume that your nephew is destined to be a Bishop,
and nobody will be shocked.

"If you will take my advice, you will send Fabrizio to take his
theology and spend three years at Naples. During the vacations of the
Ecclesiastical Academy he can go if he likes to visit Paris and
London, but he must never shew his face in Parma." This sentence made
the Duchessa shudder.

She sent a courier to her nephew, asking him to meet her at Piacenza.
Need it be said that this courier was the bearer of all the means of
obtaining money and all the necessary passports?

Arriving first at Piacenza, Fabrizio hastened to meet the Duchessa,
and embraced her with transports of joy which made her dissolve in
tears. She was glad that the Conte was not present; since they had
fallen in love, it was the first time that she had experienced this
sensation.

Fabrizio was profoundly touched, and then distressed by the plans
which the Duchessa had made for him; his hope had always been that,
his affair at Waterloo settled, he might end by becoming a soldier.
One thing struck the Duchessa, and still further increased the
romantic opinion that she had formed of her nephew; he refused
absolutely to lead a cajffè-haunting existence in one of the big towns
of Italy.

"Can't you see yourself on the _Corso_ of Florence or Naples," said
the Duchessa, "with thoroughbred English horses? For the evenings a
carriage, a charming apartment," and so forth. She dwelt with
exquisite relish on the details of this vulgar happiness, which she
saw Fabrizio thrust from him with disdain. "He is a hero," she
thought.

"And after ten years of this agreeable life, what shall I have done?"
said Fabrizio; "what shall I be? A young man _of a certain age_, who
will have to move out of the way of the first good-looking boy who
makes his appearance in society, also mounted upon an English horse."

Fabrizio at first utterly rejected the idea of the Church. He spoke
of going to New York, of becoming an American citizen and a soldier
of the Republic.

"What a mistake you are making! You won't have any war, and you'll
fall back into the _caffè_ life, only without smartness, without
music, without love affairs," replied the Duchessa. "Believe me, for
you just as much as for myself, it would be a wretched existence there
in America." She explained to him the cult of the god _Dollar_, and
the respect that had to be shewn to the artisans in the street who by
their votes decided everything. They came back to the idea of the
Church.

"Before you fly into a passion," the Duchessa said to him, "just try
to understand what the Conte is asking you to do; there is no question
whatever of your being a poor priest of more or less exemplary and
virtuous life, like Priore Blanès. Remember the example of your
uncles, the Archbishops of Parma; read over again the accounts of
their lives in the supplement to the Genealogy. First and foremost, a
man with a name like yours has to be a great gentleman, noble,
generous, an upholder of justice, destined from the first to find
himself at the head of his order ... and in the whole of his life
doing only one dishonourable thing, and that a very useful one."

"So all my illusions are shattered," said Fabrizio, heaving a deep
sigh; "it is a cruel sacrifice! I admit, I had not taken into account
this horror of enthusiasm and spirit, even when wielded to their
advantage, which from now onwards is going to prevail amongst absolute
monarchs."

"Remember that a proclamation, a caprice of the heart flings the
enthusiast into the bosom of the opposite party to the one he has
served all his life!"

"I an enthusiast!" repeated Fabrizio; "a strange accusation! I
cannot manage even to be in love!"

"What!" exclaimed the Duchessa.

"When I have the honour to pay my court to a beauty, even if she is of
good birth and sound religious principles, I cannot think about her
except when I see her."

This avowal made a strange impression upon the Duchessa.

"I ask for a month," Fabrizio went on, "in which to take leave of
Signora C----, of Novara, and, what will be more difficult still, of
all the castles I have been building in the air all my life. I shall
write to my mother, who will be so good as to come and see me at
Belgirate, on the Piedmontese shore of Lake Maggiore, and, in
thirty-one days from now, I shall be in Parma incognito."

"No, whatever you do!" cried the Duchessa. She did not wish Conte
Mosca to see her talking to Fabrizio.

The same pair met again at Piacenza. The Duchessa this time was highly
agitated: a storm had broken at court; the Marchesa Raversi's party
was on the eve of a triumph; it was on the cards that Conte Mosca
might be replaced by General Fabio Conti, the leader of what was
called at Parma the _Liberal Party_. Omitting only the name of the
rival who was growing in the Prince's favour, the Duchessa told
Fabrizio everything. She discussed afresh the chances of his future
career, even with the prospect of his losing the all-powerful
influence of the Conte.

"I am going to spend three years in the Ecclesiastical Academy at
Naples," exclaimed Fabrizio; "but since I must be before all things a
young gentleman, and you do not oblige me to lead the life of a
virtuous seminarist, the prospect of this stay at Naples does -not
frighten me in the least; the life there will be in every way as
pleasant as life at Romagnano; the best society of the neighbourhood
was beginning to class me as a Jacobin. In my exile I have discovered
that I know nothing, not even Latin, not even how to spell. I
had planned to begin my education over again at Novara; I shall
willingly study theology at Naples; it is a complicated science." The
Duchessa was overjoyed. "If we are driven out of Parma," she told him,
"we shall come and visit you at Naples. But since you agree, until
further orders, to try for the violet stockings, the Conte, who knows
the Italy of to-day through and through, has given me an idea to
suggest to you. Believe or not, as you choose, what they teach you,
_but never raise any objection_. Imagine that they are teaching you
the rules of the game of whist; would you raise any objection to the
rules of whist? I have told the Conte that you do believe, and he is
delighted to hear it; it is useful in this world and in the next. But,
if you believe, do not fall into the vulgar habit of speaking with
horror of Voltaire, Diderot, Raynal and all those harebrained
Frenchmen who paved the way to the Dual Chamber. Their names should
not be allowed to pass your lips, but if you must mention them, speak
of these gentlemen with a calm irony: they are people who have long
since been refuted and whose attacks are no longer of any consequence.
Believe blindly everything that they tell you at the Academy. Bear in
mind that there are people who will make a careful note of your
slightest objections; they will forgive you a little amorous intrigue
if it is done in the proper way, but not a doubt: age stifles intrigue
but encourages doubt. Act on this principle at the tribunal of
penitence. You shall have a letter of recommendation to a Bishop who
is factotum to the Cardinal Archbishop of Naples: to him alone you
should admit your escapade in France and your presence on the 18th of
June in the neighbourhood of Waterloo. Even then, cut it as short as
possible, confess it only so that they cannot reproach you with having
kept it secret. You were so young at the time!

"The second idea which the Conte sends you is this: if there should
occur to you a brilliant argument, a triumphant retort that will
change the course of the conversation, do not give in to the
temptation to shine; remain silent: people of any discernment will see
your cleverness in your eyes. It will be time enough to be witty when
you are a Bishop."

Fabrizio began his life at Naples with an unpretentious carriage and
four servants, good Milanese, whom his aunt had sent him. After a year
of study, no one said of him that he was a man of parts: people looked
upon him as a great nobleman, of a studious bent, extremely generous,
but something of a libertine.

That year, amusing enough for Fabrizio, was terrible for the Duchessa.
The Conte was three or four times within an inch of ruin; the Prince,
more timorous than ever, because he was ill that year, believed that
by dismissing him he could free himself from the odium of the
executions carried out before the Conte had entered his service. Rassi
was the cherished favourite who must at all costs be retained. The
Conte's perils won him the passionate attachment of the Duchessa; she
gave no more thought to Fabrizio. To lend colour to their possible
retirement, it appeared that the air of Parma, which was indeed a
trifle damp as it is everywhere in Lombardy, did not at all agree with
her. Finally, after intervals of disgrace which went so far as to,
make the Conte, though Prime Minister, spend sometimes twenty whole
days without seeing his master privately, Mosca won; he secured the
appointment of General Fabio Conti, the so-called Liberal, as governor
of the citadel in which were imprisoned the Liberals condemned by
Rassi. "If Conti shows any leniency towards his prisoners," Mosca
observed to his lady, "he will be disgraced as a Jacobin whose
political theories have made him forget his duty as a general; if he
shows himself stern and pitiless, and that, to my mind, is the
direction in which he will tend, he ceases to be the leader of his own
party and alienates all the families that have a relative in the
citadel. This poor man has learned how to assume an air of awed
respect on the approach of the Prince; if necessary, he changes his
clothes four times a day; he can discuss a question of etiquette, but
his is not a head capable of following the difficult path by which
alone he can save himself from destruction; and in any case, I am
there."

The day after the appointment of General Fabio Conti, which brought
the ministerial crisis to an end, it was announced that Parma was to
have an ultra-monarchist newspaper.

"What feuds the paper will create!" said the Duchessa.

"This paper, the idea of which is perhaps my masterpiece," replied
the Conte with a smile, "I shall gradually and quite against my will
allow to pass into the hands of the ultra-rabid section. I have
attached some good salaries to the editorial posts. People are coming
from all quarters to beg for employment on it; the excitement will
help us through the next month or two, and people will forget the
danger I have been in. Those seriously minded gentlemen P---- and
D------ are already on the list."

"But this paper will be quite revoltingly absurd."

"I am reckoning on that," replied the Conte. "The Prince will read it
every morning and admire the doctrines taught by myself as its
founder. As to the details, he will approve or be shocked; of the
hours which he devotes every day to work, two will be taken up in this
way. The paper will get itself into trouble, but when the serious
complaints begin to come in, in eight or ten months' time, it will be
entirely in the hands of the ultra-rabids. It will be this party,
which is annoying me, that will have to answer; as for me, I shall
raise objections to the paper; but after all I greatly prefer a
hundred absurdities to one hanging. Who remembers an absurdity two
years after the publication of the official gazette! It is better than
having the sons and family of the hanged men vowing a hatred which
will last as long as I shall and may perhaps shorten my life."

The Duchessa, always passionately interested in something, always
active, never idle, had more spirit than the whole court of Parma put
together; but she lacked the patience and impassivity necessary
for success in intrigue. However, she had managed to follow with
passionate excitement the interests of the various groups, she was
beginning even to establish a certain personal reputation
with the Prince. Clara-Paolina, the Princess Consort, surrounded with
honours but a prisoner to the most antiquated etiquette, looked upon
herself as the unhappiest of women. The Duchessa Sanseverina paid her
various attentions and tried to prove to her that she was by no means
so unhappy as she supposed. It should be explained that the Prince saw
his wife only at dinner: this meal lasted for thirty minutes, and the
Prince would spend whole weeks without saying a word to
Clara-Paolina. Signora Sanseverina attempted to change all this;
she amused the Prince, all the more as she had managed to retain her
independence intact. Had she wished to do so, she could not have
succeeded in never hurting any of the fools who swarmed about this
court. It was this utter inadaptability on her part that led to her
being execrated by the common run of courtiers, all Conti or
Marchesi, with an average income of 5,000 lire. She realised this
disadvantage after the first few days, and devoted herself exclusively
to pleasing the Sovereign and his Consort, the latter of whom was in
absolute control of the Crown Prince. The Duchessa knew how to
amuse the Sovereign, and profited by the extreme attention he
paid to her lightest word to put in some shrewd thrusts at the
courtiers who hated her. After the foolish actions that Rassi had
made him commit, and for foolishness that sheds blood there is no
reparation, the Prince was sometimes afraid and was often
bored, which had brought him to a state of morbid envy; he felt that
he was deriving little amusement from life, and grew sombre when he
saw other people amused; the sight of happiness made him furious. "We
must keep our love secret," she told her admirer, and gave the Prince
to understand that she was only very moderately attached to the Conte,
who for that matter was so thoroughly deserving of esteem.

This discovery had given His Highness a happy day. From time to time,
the Duchessa let fall a few words about the plan she had in her mind
of taking a few months' holiday every year, to be spent in seeing
Italy, which she did not know at all; she would visit Naples,
Florence, Rome. Now nothing in the world was more capable of
distressing the Prince than an apparent desertion of this sort: it was
one of his most pronounced weaknesses; any action that might be
interpreted as showing contempt for his capital city pierced him to
the heart. He felt that he had no way of holding Signora Sanseverina,
and Signora Sanseverina was by far the most brilliant woman in Parma.
A thing without parallel in the lazy Italian character, people used to
drive in from the surrounding country to attend her Thursdays; they
were regular festivals; almost every week the Duchessa had something
new and sensational to present. The Prince was dying to see one of
these Thursdays for himself; but how was it to be managed? Go to the
house of a private citizen! That was a thing that neither his father
nor he had ever done in their lives!

There came a certain Thursday of cold wind and rain; all through the
evening the Prince heard carriages rattling over the pavement of the
piazza outside the Palace, on their way to Signora Sanseverina's. He
moved petulantly in his chair: other people were amusing themselves,
and he, their sovereign Prince, their absolute master, who ought to
find more amusement than anyone in the world, he was tasting the fruit
of boredom! He rang for his aide-de-camp: he was obliged to wait until
a dozen trustworthy men had been posted in the street that led from
the Royal Palace to the _palazzo_ Sanseverina. Finally, after an hour
that seemed to the Prince an age, during which he had been minded a
score of times to brave the assassins' daggers and to go boldly out
without any precaution, he appeared in the first of Signora
Sanseverina's drawing-rooms. A thunderbolt might have fallen upon the
carpet and not produced so much surprise. In the twinkling of an eye,
and as the Prince advanced through them, these gay and noisy rooms
were hushed to a stupefied silence; every eye, fixed on the Prince,
was strained with attention. The courtiers appeared disconcerted; the
Duchessa alone shewed no sign of surprise. When finally her guests had
recovered sufficient strength to speak, the great preoccupation of all
present was to decide the important question: had the Duchessa been
warned of this visit, or had she like everyone else been taken by
surprise?

The Prince was amused, and the reader may now judge of the utterly
impulsive character of the Duchessa, and of the boundless power which
vague ideas of departure, adroitly disseminated, had enabled her to
assume.

As she went to the door with the Prince, who was making her the
prettiest speeches, an odd idea came to her which she ventured to put
into words quite simply, and as though it were the most natural thing
in the world.

"If Your Serene Highness would address to the Princess three or four
of these charming utterances which he lavishes on me, he could be far
more certain of giving me pleasure than by telling me that I am
pretty. I mean that I would not for anything in the world have the
Princess look with an unfriendly eye on the signal mark of his favour
with which His Highness has honoured me this evening."

The Prince looked fixedly at her and replied in a dry tone:

"I was under the impression that I was my own master and could go
where I pleased."

The Duchessa blushed.

"I wished only," she explained, instantly recovering herself, "not
to expose His Highness to the risk of a bootless errand, for this
Thursday will be the last; I am going for a few days to Bologna or
Florence."

When she reappeared in the rooms, everyone imagined her to be at the
height of favour, whereas she had just taken a risk upon which, in the
memory of man, no one had ever ventured. She made a sign to the Conte,
who rose from the whist-table and followed her into a little room that
was lighted but empty.

"You have done a very bold thing," he informed her; "I should not have
advised it myself, but when hearts are really inflamed," he added with
a smile, "happiness enhances love, and if you leave to-morrow morning,
I shall follow you to-morrow night. I shall be detained here only by
that burden of a Ministry of Finance which I was stupid enough to take
on my shoulders; but in four hours of hard work, one can hand over a
good many accounts. Let us go back, dear friend, and play at
ministerial fatuity with all freedom and without reserve; it may be
the last performance that we shall give in this town. If he thinks he
is being defied, the man is capable of anything; he will call it
_making an example_. When these people have gone, we can decide on a
way of barricading you for to-night; the best plan perhaps would be
to set off without delay for your house at Sacca, by the Po, which has
the advantage of being within half an hour of Austrian territory."

For the Duchessa's love and self-esteem this was an exquisite
moment; she looked at the Conte, and her eyes brimmed with tears. So
powerful a Minister, surrounded by this swarm of courtiers who loaded
him with homage equal to that which they paid to the Prince himself,
to leave everything for her sake, and with such unconcern!

When she returned to the drawing-room she was beside herself with joy.
Everyone bowed down before her.

"How prosperity has changed the Duchessa!" was murmured everywhere
by the courtiers, "one would hardly recognise her. So that Roman
spirit, so superior to everything in the world, does, after all, deign
to appreciate the extraordinary favour that has just been conferred
upon her by the Sovereign!"

Towards the end of the evening the Conte came to her: "I must tell you
the latest news." Immediately the people who happened to be standing
near the Duchessa withdrew.

"The Prince, on his return to the Palace," the Conte went on, "had
himself announced at the door of his wife's room. Imagine the
surprise! 'I have come to tell you,' he said to her, 'about a really
most delightful evening I have spent at the Sanseverina's. It was she
who asked me to give you a full description of the way in which she
has decorated that grimy old _palazzo_.' Then the Prince took a seat
and went into a description of each of your rooms in turn.

"He spent more than twenty-five minutes with his wife, who was in
tears of joy; for all her intelligence, she could not think of
anything to keep the conversation going in the light tone which His
Highness was pleased to impart to it."

This Prince was by no means a wicked man, whatever the Liberals of
Italy might say of him. As a matter of fact, he had cast a good number
of them into prison, but that was from fear, and he used to repeat now
and then, as though to console himself for certain unpleasant
memories: "It is better to kill the devil than to let the devil kill
you." The day after the party we have been describing, he was
supremely happy; he had done two good actions: he had gone to the
_Thursday_, and he had talked to his wife. At dinner, he addressed
her again; in a word, this _Thursday_ at Signora Sanseverina's
brought about a domestic revolution with which the whole of Parma
rang; the Raversi was in consternation, and the Duchessa doubly
delighted: she had contrived to be of use to her lover, and had found
him more in love with her than ever.

"All this owing to a thoroughly rash idea which came into my mind!"
she said to the Conte. "I should be more free, no doubt, in Rome or
Naples, but should I find so fascinating a game to play there? No,
indeed, my dear Conte, and you provide me with all my joy in life."




CHAPTER SEVEN

It is with trifling details of court life as insignificant as those
related in the last chapter that we should have to fill up the history
of the next four years. Every spring the Marchesa came with her
daughters to spend a couple of months at the _palazzo_ Sanseverina or on
the property of Sacca, by the bank of the Po; there they spent some
very pleasant hours and used to talk of Fabrizio, but the Conte would
never allow him to pay a single visit to Parma. The Duchessa and the
Minister had indeed to make amends for certain acts of folly, but on
the whole Fabrizio followed soberly enough the line of conduct that
had been laid down for him: that of a great nobleman who is studying
theology and does not rely entirely on his virtues to bring him
advancement. At Naples, he had acquired a keen interest in the study
of antiquity, he made excavations; this new passion had almost taken
the place of his passion for horses. He had sold his English
thoroughbreds in order to continue his excavations at Miseno, where he
had turned up a bust of Tiberius as a young man which had been classed
among the finest relics of antiquity. The discovery of this bust was
almost the keenest pleasure that had come to him at Naples. He had
too lofty a nature to seek to copy the other young men he saw, to wish
for example to play with any degree of seriousness the part of lover.
Of course he never lacked mistresses, but these were of no consequence
to him, and, in spite of his years, one might say of him that he still
knew nothing of love: he was all the more loved on that account.
Nothing prevented him from behaving with the most perfect coolness,
for to him a young and pretty woman was always equivalent to any other
young and pretty woman; only the latest comer seemed to him the most
exciting. One of the most generally admired ladies in Naples had done
all sorts of foolish things in his honour during the last year of his
stay there, which at first had amused him, and had ended by boring him
to tears, so much so that one of the joys of his departure was the
prospect of being delivered from the attentions of the charming
Duchessa d'A----. It was in 1821 that, having satisfactorily passed
all his examinations, his director of studies, or governor, received a
Cross and a gratuity, and he himself started out to see at length that
city of Parma of which he had often dreamed. He was _Monsignore_, and
he had four horses drawing his carriage; at the stage before Parma he
took only two, and on entering the town made them stop outside the
church of San Giovanni. There was to be found the costly tomb of
Archbishop Ascanio del Dongo, his great-granduncle, the author of
the Latin genealogy. He prayed beside the tomb, then went on foot to
the _palazzo_ of the Duchessa, who did not expect him until several
days later. There was a large crowd in her drawing-room; presently
they were left alone.

"Well, are you satisfied with me?" he asked her as he flung himself
into her arms; "thanks to you, I have spent four quite happy years at
Naples, instead of eating my head off at Novara with my mistress
authorised by the police."

The Duchessa could not get over her astonishment; she would not have
known him had she seen him go by in the street; she discovered him to
be, what as a matter of fact he was, one of the best-looking men in
Italy; his physiognomy in particular was charming. She had sent him to
Naples a devil-may-care young rough-rider; the horsewhip he invariably
carried at that time had seemed an inherent part of his person:
now he had the noblest and most measured bearing before strangers,
while in private conversation she found that he had retained all the
ardour of his boyhood. This was a diamond that had lost nothing by
being polished. Fabrizio had not been in the room an hour when Conte
Mosca appeared; he arrived a little too soon. The young man spoke to
him with so apt a choice of terms of the Cross of Parma that had been
conferred on his governor, and expressed his lively gratitude for
certain other benefits of which he did not venture to speak in so open
a fashion, with so perfect a restraint, that at the first glance the
Minister formed an excellent impression of him. "This nephew," he
murmured to the Duchessa, "is made to adorn all the exalted posts to
which you will raise him in due course." So far, all had gone
wonderfully well, but when the Minister, thoroughly satisfied with
Fabrizio, and paying attention so far only to his actions and
gestures, turned to the Duchessa, he noticed a curious look in her
eyes. "This young man is making a strange impression here," he said to
himself. This reflexion was bitter; the Conte had reached the
_fifties_, a cruel word of which perhaps only a man desperately in
love can feel the full force. He was a thoroughly good man, thoroughly
deserving to be loved, apart from his severities as a Minister. But in
his eyes that cruel word _fifties_ threw a dark cloud over his whole
life and might well have made him cruel on his own account. In the
five years since he had persuaded the Duchessa to settle at Parma, she
had often aroused his jealousy, especially at first, but never had she
given him any real grounds for complaint. He believed indeed, and
rightly, that it was with the object of making herself more certain of
his heart that the Duchessa had had recourse to those apparent
bestowals of her favour upon various young _beaux_ of the court. He
was sure, for instance, that she had rejected the offers of the
Prince, who, indeed, on that occasion, had made a significant
utterance.

"But if I were to accept Your Highness's offer," the Duchessa had
said to him with a smile, "how should I ever dare to look the Conte in
the face afterwards?"

"I should be almost as much out of countenance as you. The dear
Conte! My friend! But there is a very easy way out of that difficulty,
and I have thought of it: the Conte would be put in the citadel for
the rest of his days."

At the moment of Fabrizio's arrival, the Duchessa was so beside
herself with joy that she never even thought of the ideas which the
look in her eyes might put into the Conte's head. The effect was
profound and the suspicions it'aroused irremediable.

Fabrizio was received by the Prince two hours after his arrival; the
Duchessa, foreseeing the good effect which this impromptu audience
would have on the public, had been begging for it for the last two
months; this favour put Fabrizio beyond all rivalry from the first;
the pretext for it had been that he would only be passing through
Parma on his way to visit his mother in Piedmont. At the moment when a
charming little note from the Duchessa arrived to inform the Prince
that Fabrizio awaited his orders, the Prince was feeling bored. "I
shall see," he said to himself, "a saintly little simpleton, a mean or
a sly face." The Town Commandant had already reported the newcomer's
first visit to the tomb of his archiépiscopal uncle. The Prince saw
enter the room a tall young man whom, but for his violet stockings, he
would have taken for some young officer.

This little surprise dispelled his boredom: "Here is a fellow," he
said to himself, "for whom they will be asking me heaven knows what
favours, everything that I have to bestow. He is just come, he
probably feels nervous: I shall give him a little dose of Jacobin
politics; we shall see how he replies."

After the first gracious words on the Prince's part:

"Well, _Monsignore_," he said to Fabrizio, "and the people of Naples,
are they happy? Is the King loved?"

"Serene Highness," Fabrizio replied without a moment's hesitation, "I
used to admire, when they passed me in the street, the excellent
bearing of the troops of the various regiments of His Majesty the
King; the better classes are respectful towards their masters, as
they ought to be; but I must confess that, all my life, I have never
allowed the lower orders to speak to me about anything but the work
for which I am paying them."

"Plague!" said the Prince, "what a _slyboots_! This is a well-trained
bird, I recognise the Sanseverina touch." Becoming interested, the
Prince employed great skill in leading Fabrizio on to discuss this
scabrous topic. The young man, animated by the danger he was in, was
so fortunate as to hit upon some admirable rejoinders: "It is almost
insolence to boast of one's love for one's King," he said; "it is
blind obedience that one owes to him." At the sight of so much
prudence the Prince almost lost his temper: "Here, it seems, is a man
of parts come among us from Naples, and I don't like _that breed_; a
man of parts may follow the highest principles and even be quite
sincere; all the same on one side or the other he is always first
cousin to Voltaire and Rousseau."

This Prince felt himself almost defied by such correctness of manner
and such unassailable rejoinders coming from a youth fresh from
college; what he had expected never occurred; in an instant he
assumed a tone of good-fellowship and, reverting in a few words to the
basic principles of society and government, repeated, adapting them
to the matter in hand, certain phrases of Fénelon which he had been
made to learn by heart in his boyhood for use in public audiences.

"These principles surprise you, young man," he said to Fabrizio (he
had called him _Monsignore_ at the beginning of the audience, and
intended to give him his _Monsignore_ again in dismissing him, but in
the course of the conversation he felt it to be more adroit, better
suited to moving turns of speech, to address him in an informal and
friendly style). "These principles surprise you, young man. I admit
that they bear little resemblance to the _bread and butter
absolutism_" (this was the expression in use) "which you can read
every day in my official newspaper.... But, great heavens, what is
the good of my quoting that to you? Those writers in my newspaper must
be quite unknown to you."

"I beg Your Serene Highness's pardon; not only do I read the Parma
newspaper, which seems to me to be very well written, but I hold,
moreover, with it, that everything that has been done since the death
of Louis XIV, in 1715, has been at once criminal and foolish. Man's
chief interest in life is his own salvation, there can be no two ways
of looking at it, and that is a happiness that lasts for eternity. The
words _Liberty, Justice_, the _Good of the Greatest Number_, are
infamous and criminal: they form in people's minds the habits of
discussion and want of confidence. A Chamber of Deputies votes _no
confidence_ in what these people call _the Ministry_. This fatal habit
of _want of confidence_ once contracted, human weakness applies it
to everything, man loses confidence in the Bible, the Orders of the
Church, Tradition and everything else; from that moment he is lost.
Even upon the assumption--which is abominably false, and criminal even
to suggest--that this want of confidence in the authority of the
Princes _by God established_ were to secure one's happiness during the
twenty or thirty years of life which any of us may expect to enjoy,
what is half a century, or a whole century even, compared with an
eternity of torment?" And so on.

One could see, from the way in which Fabrizio spoke, that he was
seeking to arrange his ideas so that they should be grasped as quickly
as possible by his listener; it was clear that he was not simply
repeating a lesson.

Presently the Prince lost interest in his contest with this young man
whose simple and serious manner had begun to irritate him.

"Good-.bye, _Monsignore_," he said to him abruptly, "I can see that
they provide an excellent education at the Ecclesiastical Academy of
Naples, and it is quite simple when these good precepts fall upon so
distinguished a mind, one secures brilliant results. Good-bye." And he
turned his back on him.

"I have quite failed to please this animal," thought Fabrizio.

"And now, it remains to be seen," said the Prince as soon as he was
once more alone, "whether this fine young man is capable of passion
for anything; in that case, he would be complete.... Could anyone
repeat with more spirit the lessons he has learned from his aunt? I
felt I could hear her speaking; should we have a revolution here, it
would be she that would edit the _Monitore_, as the Sanfelice did at
Naples! But the Sanfelice, in spite of her twenty-five summers and
her beauty, got a bit of a hanging all the same! A warning to women
with brains." In supposing Fabrizio to be his aunt's pupil, the Prince
was mistaken: people with brains who are born on the throne or at the
foot of it soon lose all fineness of touch; they proscribe, in their
immediate circle, freedom of conversation which seems to them
coarseness; they refuse to look at anything but masks and pretend to
judge the beauty of complexions; the amusing part of it is that they
imagine their touch to be of the finest. In this case, for instance,
Fabrizio believed practically everything that we have heard him say;
it is true that he did not think twice in a month of these great
principles. He had keen appetites, he had brains, but he had faith.

The desire for liberty, the fashion and cult of the _greatest good
of the greatest number_, after which the nineteenth century has run
mad, were nothing in his eyes but a heresy which, like other heresies,
would pass away, though not until it had destroyed many souls, as the
plague while it reigns unchecked in a country destroys many bodies.
And in spite of all this Fabrizio read the French newspapers with keen
enjoyment, even taking rash steps to procure them.

Fabrizio having returned quite flustered from his audience at the
Palace, and having told his aunt of the various attacks launched on
him by the Prince:

"You ought," she told him, "to go at once to see Father Landriani, our
excellent Archbishop; go there on foot; climb the staircase quietly,
make as little noise as possible in the ante-rooms; if you are kept
waiting, so much the better, a thousand times better! In a word, be
_apostolic_!"

"I understand," said Fabrizio, "our man is a Tartuffe."

"Not the least bit in the world, he is virtue incarnate."

"Even after the way he behaved," said Fabrizio in some bewilderment,
"when Conte Palanza was executed?"

"Yes, my friend, after the way he behaved: the father of our
Archbishop was a clerk in the Ministry of Finance, a man of humble
position, and that explains everything. Monsignor Landriani is a man
of keen, extensive and deep intelligence; he is sincere, he loves
virtue; I am convinced that if an Emperor Decius were to reappear in
the world he would undergo martyrdom like Polyeuctes in the opera they
played last week. So much for the good side of the medal, now for the
reverse: as soon as he enters the Sovereign's, or even the Prime
Minister's presence, he is dazzled by the sight of such greatness, he
becomes confused, he begins to blush; it is physically impossible for
him to say no. This accounts for the things he has done, things which
have won him that cruel reputation throughout Italy; but what is not
generally known is that, when public opinion had succeeded in
enlightening him as to the trial of Conte Palanza, he set himself the
penance of living upon bread and water for thirteen weeks, the same
number of weeks as there are letters in the name _Davide Palanza_. We
have at this court a rascal of infinite cleverness named _Rossi_, a
Chief Justice or Fiscal General, who at the time of Conte Palanza's
death cast a spell over Father Landriani. During his thirteen weeks'
penance, Conte Mosca, from pity and also a little out of malice, used
to ask him to dinner once and even twice a week: the good Archbishop,
in deference to his host, ate like everyone else; he would have
thought it rebellious and Jacobinical to make a public display of his
penance for an action that had the Sovereign's approval. But we knew
that, for each dinner at which his duty as a loyal subject had obliged
him to eat like everyone else, he set himself a penance of two days
more of bread and water.

"Monsignor Landriani, a man of superior intellect, a scholar of the
first order, has only one weakness: _he likes to be loved_: therefore,
grow affectionate as you look at him, and, on your third visit, shew
your love for him outright. That, added to your birth, will make him
adore you at once. Shew no sign of surprise if he accompanies you to
the head of the staircase, assume an air of being accustomed to such
manners: he is a man who was born on his knees before the nobility.
For the rest, be simple, apostolic, no cleverness, no brilliance, no
prompt repartee; if you do not startle him at all, he will be
delighted with you; do not forget that it must be on his own
initiative that he makes you his Grand Vicar. The Conte and I will be
surprised and even annoyed at so rapid an advancement; that is
essential in dealing with the Sovereign."

Fabrizio hastened to the Archbishop's Palace: by a singular piece of
good fortune, the worthy prelate's footman, who was slightly deaf, did
not catch the name _del Dongo_; he announced a young priest named
Fabrizio; the Archbishop happened to be closeted with a parish priest
of by no means exemplary morals, for whom he had sent in order to
scold him. He was in the act of delivering a reprimand, a most painful
thing for him, and did not wish to be distressed by it longer than was
necessary; accordingly he kept waiting for three quarters of an hour
the great-nephew of the Archbishop Ascanio del Dongo.

How are we to depict his apologies and despair when, after having
conducted the priest to the farthest ante-room, and on asking, as he
returned, the man who was waiting _what he could do to serve him_, he
caught sight of the violet stockings and heard the name Fabrizio del
Dongo? This accident seemed to our hero so fortunate that on this
first visit he ventured to kiss the saintly prelate's hand, in a
transport of affection. He was obliged to hear the Archbishop repeat
in a tone of despair: "A del Dongo kept waiting in my ante-room!" The
old man felt obliged, by way of apology, to relate to him the whole
story of the parish priest, his misdeeds, his replies to the charges,
and so forth.

"Is it really possible," Fabrizio asked himself as he made his way
back to the _palazzo_ Sanseverina, "that this is the man who hurried
on the execution of that poor Conte Palanza?"

"What is Your Excellency's impression?" Conte Mosca inquired with a
smile, as he saw him enter the Duchessa's drawing-room. (The Conte
would not allow Fabrizio to address him as Excellency.)

"I have fallen from the clouds; I know nothing at all about human
nature: I would have wagered, had I not known his name, that that man
could not bear to see a chicken bleed."

"And you would have won your wager," replied the Conte; "but when he
is with the Prince, or merely with myself, he cannot say no. To be
quite honest, in order for me to create my full effect, I have to slip
the yellow riband of my Grand Cordon over my coat; in plain evening
dress he would contradict me, and so I always put on a uniform to
receive him. It is not for us to destroy the prestige of power, the
French newspapers are demolishing it quite fast enough; it is doubtful
whether the _mania of respect_ will last out our time, and you, my
dear nephew, will outlive respect altogether. You will be simply a
fellow-man!"

Fabrizio delighted greatly in the Conte's society; he was the first
superior person who had condescended to talk to him frankly, without
make-believe; moreover they had a taste in common, that for
antiquities and excavations. The Conte, for his part, was flattered by
the extreme attention with which the young man listened to him; but
there was one paramount objection: Fabrizio occupied a set of rooms in
the _palazzo_ Sanseverina, spent his whole time with the Duchessa,
let it be seen in all innocence that this intimacy constituted his
happiness in life, and Fabrizio had eyes and a complexion of a
freshness that drove the older man to despair.

For a long time past Ranuccio-Ernesto IV, who rarely encountered a
cruel fair, had felt it to be an affront that the Duchessa's virtue,
which was well known at court, had not made an exception in his
favour. As we have seen, the mind and the presence of mind of Fabrizio
had shocked him at their first encounter. He took amiss the extreme
friendship which Fabrizio and his aunt heedlessly displayed in public;
he gave ear with the closest attention to the remarks of his
courtiers, which were endless. The arrival of this young man and the
unprecedented audience which he had obtained provided the court with
news and a sensation for the next month; which gave the Prince an
idea.

He had in his guard a private soldier who carried his wine in the most
admirable way; this man spent his time in the _trattorie_, and
reported the spirit of the troops directly to his Sovereign. Carlone
lacked education, otherwise he would long since have obtained
promotion. Well, his duty was to be in the Palace every day when the
strokes of twelve sounded on the great clock. The Prince went in person
a little before noon to arrange in a certain way the shutters of a
_mezzanino_ communicating with the room in which His Highness dressed.
He returned to this _mezzanino_ shortly after twelve had struck, and
there found the soldier; the Prince had in his pocket writing
materials and a sheet of paper; he dictated to the soldier the
following letter:

"Your Excellency has great intelligence, doubtless, and it is thanks
to his profound sagacity that we see this State so well governed. But,
my dear Conte, such great success never comes unaccompanied by a
little envy, and I am seriously afraid that people will be laughing a
little at your expense if your sagacity does not discern that a
certain handsome young man has had the good fortune to inspire,
unintentionally it may be, a passion of the most singular order. This
happy mortal is, they say, only twenty-three years old, and, dear
Conte, what complicates the question is that you and I are
considerably more than twice that age. In the evening, at a certain
distance, the Conte is charming, scintillating, a wit, as attractive
as possible; but in the morning, in an intimate scene, all things
considered, the newcomer has perhaps greater attractions. Well, we
poor women, we make a great point of this youthful freshness,
especially when we have ourselves passed thirty. Is there not some
talk already of settling this charming youth at our court, in some
fine post? And if so, who is the person who speaks of it most
frequently to Your Excellency?"

The Prince took the letter and gave the soldier two scudi.

"This is in addition to your pay," he said in a grim tone. "Not a
single word of this to anyone, or you will find yourself in the
dampest dungeon in the citadel." The Prince had in his desk a
collection of envelopes bearing the addresses of most of the persons
at his court, in the handwriting of this same soldier who was
understood to be illiterate, and never even wrote out his own police
reports: the Prince picked out the one he required.

A few hours later, Conte Mosca received a letter by post; the hour of
its delivery had been calculated, and just as the postman, who had
been seen going in with a small envelope in his hand, came out of the
ministerial palace, Mosca was summoned to His Highness. Never had the
favourite appeared to be in the grip of a blacker melancholy: to
enjoy this at his leisure, the Prince called out to him, as he saw him
come in:

"I want to amuse myself by talking casually to my friend and not
working with my Minister. I have a maddening headache this evening,
and all sorts of gloomy thoughts keep coming into my mind."

I need hardly mention the abominable ill-humour which agitated the
Prime Minister, Conte Mosca della Rovere, when at length he was
permitted to take leave of his august master. Ranuccio-Ernesto IV was
a past-master in the art of torturing a heart, and it would not be
unfair at this point to make the comparison of the tiger which loves
to play with its victim.

The Conte made his coachman drive him home at a gallop; he called
out as he crossed the threshold that not a living soul was to be
allowed upstairs, sent word to the _auditor_ on duty that he might
take himself off (the knowledge that there was a human being within
earshot was hateful to him), and hastened to shut himself up in the
great picture gallery. There at length he could give full vent to his
fury; there he spent an hour without lights, wandering about the room
like a man out of his mind. He sought to impose silence on his heart,
to concentrate all the force of his attention upon deliberating what
action he ought to take. Plunged in an anguish that would have moved
to pity his most implacable enemy, he said to himself: "The man I
abhor is living in the Duchessa's house; he spends every hour of the
day with her. Ought I to try to make one of her women speak? Nothing
could be more dangerous; she is so good to them; she pays them well;
she is adored by them (and by whom, great God, is she not adored?)!
The question is," he continued, raging: "Ought I to let her detect the
jealousy that is devouring me, or not to speak of it?

"If I remain silent, she will make no attempt to keep anything from
me. I know Gina, she is a woman who acts always on the first impulse;
her conduct is incalculable, even by herself; if she tries to plan out
a course in advance, she goes all wrong; invariably, when it is time
for action, a new idea comes into her head which she follows
rapturously as though it were the most wonderful thing in the world,
and upsets everything.

"If I make no mention of my suffering, nothing will be kept back from
me, and I shall see all that goes on.... "Yes, but by speaking I
bring about a change of circumstances: I make her reflect; I give
her fair warning of all the horrible things that may happen....
Perhaps she will send him away" (the Conte breathed a sigh of relief),
"then I shall practically have won; even allowing her to be a little
out of temper for the moment, I shall soothe her ... and a little
ill-temper, what could be more natural? ... she has loved him like a
son for fifteen years. There lies all my hope: _like a son_ ... but
she had ceased to see him after his dash to Waterloo; now, on his
return from Naples, especially for her, he is a different man. _A
different man_!" he repeated with fury, "and that man is charming; he
has, apart from everything else, that simple and tender air and that
smiling eye which hold out such a promise of happiness! And those
eyes--the Duchessa cannot be accustomed to see eyes like those at this
court! ... Our substitute for them is a gloomy or sardonic stare. I
myself, pursued everywhere by official business, governing only by my
influence over a man who would like to turn me to ridicule, what a
look there must often be in mine! Ah! whatever pains I may take to
conceal it, it is in my eyes that age will always shew. My gaiety,
does it not always border upon irony? ... I will go farther, I must be
sincere with myself; does not my gaiety allow a glimpse to be caught,
as of something quite close to it, of absolute power ... and
irresponsibility? Do I not sometimes say to myself, especially when
people irritate me: 'I can do what I like!' and indeed go on to say
what is foolish: 'I ought to be happier than other men, since I
possess what others have not, sovereign power in three things out of
four ... ?' Very well, let us be just! The habit of thinking thus
must affect my smile, must give me a selfish, satisfied air. And, how
charming his smile is! It breathes the easy happiness of extreme
youth, and engenders it."

Unfortunately for the Conte, the weather that evening was hot,
stifling, with the threat of a storm in the air; the sort of weather,
in short, that in those parts carries people to extremes. How am I to
find space for all the arguments, al' the ways of looking at what was
happening to him, which for three mortal hours on end, kept this
impassioned mar in torment? At length the side of prudence prevailed,
solel; as a result of this reflexion: "I am in all probability mad;
when I think I am reasoning, I am not, I am simply turning about in
search of a less painful position, I pass by without seeing it some
decisive argument. Since I am blinded by excessive grief, let us
obey the rule, approved by every sensible man, which is called
_Prudence_.

"Besides, once I have uttered the fatal word _jealousy_, my course is
traced for me for ever. If on the contrary I say nothing to-day, I can
speak to-morrow, I remain master of the situation." The crisis was too
acute; the Conte would have gone mad had it continued. He was
comforted for a few moments, his attention came to rest on the
anonymous letter. From whose hand could it have come? There followed
then a search for possible names, and a personal judgement of each,
which created a diversion. In the end, the Conte remembered a gleam of
malice that had darted from the eyes of the Sovereign, when it had
occurred to him to say, towards the end of the audience: "Yes, dear
friend, let us be agreed on this point: the pleasures and cares of the
most amply rewarded ambition, even of unbounded power, are as nothing
compared with the intimate happiness that is afforded by relations of
affection and love. I am a man first, and a Prince afterwards, and,
when I have the good fortune to be in love, my mistress speaks to the
man and not to the Prince." The Conte compared that moment of
malicious joy with the phrase in the letter: "It is thanks to your
profound sagacity that we see this State so well governed." "Those are
the Prince's words!" he exclaimed; "in a courtier they would be a
gratuitous piece of imprudence; the letter comes from His Highness."

This problem solved, the fault joy caused by the pleasure of guessing
the solution was soon effaced by the cruel spectre of the charming
graces of Fabrizio, which returned afresh. It was like an enormous
weight that fell back on the heart of the unhappy man. "What does it
matter from whom the anonymous letter comes?" he cried with fury;
"does the fact that it discloses to me exist any the less? This
caprice may alter my whole life," he said, as though to excuse himself
for being so mad. "At the first moment, if she cares for him in a
certain way, she will set off with him for Belgirate, for Switzerland,
for the ends of the earth. She is rich, and besides, even if she had
to live on a few louis a year, what would that matter to her? Did she
not admit to me, not a week ago, that her _palazzo_, so well arranged,
so magnificent, bored her? Novelty is essential to so youthful a
spirit! And with what simplicity does this new form of happiness offer
itself! She will be carried away before she has begun to think of the
danger, before she has begun to think of being sorry for me! And yet I
am so wretched!" cried the Conte, bursting into tears.

He had sworn to himself that he would not go to the Duchessa's that
evening; never had his eyes thirsted so to gaze on her. At midnight he
presented himself at her door; he found her alone with her nephew; at
ten o'clock she had sent all her guests away and had closed her door.

At the sight of the tender intimacy that prevailed between these two
creatures, and of the Duchessa's artless joy, a frightful difficulty
arose before the eyes of the Conte, and one that was quite unforeseen.
He had never thought of it during his long deliberation in the picture
gallery: how was he to conceal his jealousy?

Not knowing what pretext to adopt, he pretended that he had found the
Prince that evening excessively ill-disposed towards him,
contradicting all his assertions, and so forth. He had the distress of
seeing the Duchessa barely listen to him, and pay no attention to
these details which, forty-eight hours earlier, would have plunged her
in an endless stream of discussion. The Conte looked at Fabrizio:
never had that handsome Lombard face appeared to him so simple and
so noble! Fabrizio paid more attention than the Duchessa to the
difficulties which he was relating.

"Really," he said to himself, "that head combines extreme good-nature
with the expression of a certain artless and tender joy which is
irresistible. It seems to be saying: 'Love and the happiness it brings
are the only serious things in this world.' And yet, when one comes to
some detail which requires thought, the light wakes in his eyes and
surprises one, and one is left dumbfoundered.

"Everything is simple in his eyes, because everything is seen from
above. Great God! how is one to fight against an enemy like this? And
after all, what is life without Gina's love? With what rapture she
seems to be listening to the charming sallies of that mind, which is
so boyish and must, to a woman, seem without a counterpart in the
world!"

An atrocious thought gripped the Conte like a sudden cramp. "Shall I
stab him here, before her face, and then kill myself?"

He took a turn through the room, his legs barely supporting him, but
his hand convulsively gripping the hilt of his dagger. Neither of the
others paid any attention to what he might be doing. He announced that
he was going to give an order to his servant; they did not even hear
him; the Duchessa was laughing tenderly at something Fabrizio had just
said to her. The Conte went up to a lamp in the outer room, and looked
to see whether the point of his dagger was well sharpened. "One must
behave graciously, and with perfect manners to this young man," he
said to himself as he returned to the other room and went up to them.

Hé became quite mad; it seemed to him that, as they leaned their heads
together, they were kissing each other, there, before his eyes. "That
is impossible in my presence," he told himself; "my wits have gone
astray. I must calm myself; if I behave rudely, the Duchessa is quite
capable, simply out of injured vanity, of following him to Belgirate;
and there, or on the way there, a chance word may be spoken which will
give a name to what they now feel for one another; and after that, in
a moment, all the consequences.

"Solitude will render that word decisive, and besides, once the
Duchessa has left my side, what is to become of me? And if, after
overcoming endless difficulties on the Prince's part, I go and shew my
old and anxious face at Belgirate, what part shall I play before these
people both mad with happiness?

"Here even, what else am I than the _terzo incomodo_?" (That beautiful
Italian language is simply made for love: _terzo incomodo_, a third
person when two are company.) What misery for a man of spirit to feel
that he is playing that execrable part, and not to be able to muster
the strength to get up and leave the room!

The Conte was on the point of breaking out, or at least of betraying
his anguish by the discomposure of his features. When in one of his
circuits of the room he found himself near the door, he took his
flight, calling out, in a genial, intimate tone: "Good-bye, you
two!--Once must avoid bloodshed," he said to himself.

The day following this horrible evening, after a night spent half in
compiling a detailed sum of Fabrizio's advantages, half in the
frightful transports of the most cruel jealousy, it occurred to the
Conte that he might send for a young servant of his own; this man was
keeping company with a girl named Cecchina, one of the Duchessa's
personal maids, and her favourite. As good luck would have it, this
young man was very sober in his habits, indeed miserly, and was
anxious to find a place as porter in one of the public _institutions_
of Parma. The Conte ordered the man to fetch Cecchina, his
mistress, instantly. The man obeyed, and an hour later the Conte
appeared suddenly in the room where the girl was waiting with her
lover. The Conte frightened them both by the amount of gold that he
gave them, then he addressed these few words to the trembling
Cecchina, looking her straight in the face:

"Is the Duchessa in love with Monsignore?"

"No," said the girl, gaining courage to speak after a moment's
silence.... "No, _not yet_, but he often kisses the Signora's
hands, laughing, it is true, but with real feeling."

This evidence was completed by a hundred answers to as many furious
questions from the Conte; his uneasy passion made the poor couple earn
in full measure the money that he had flung them: he ended by
believing what they told him, and was less unhappy. "If the Duchessa
ever has the slightest suspicion of what we have been saying," he told
Cecchina, "I shall send your lover to spend twenty years in the
fortress, and when you see him again his hair will be quite white."

Some days elapsed, during which Fabrizio in turn lost all his gaiety.

"I assure you," he said to the Duchessa, "that Conte Mosca feels an
antipathy for me."

"So much the worse for His Excellency," she replied with a trace of
temper.

This was by no means the true cause of the uneasiness which had made
Fabrizio's gaiety vanish. "The position in which chance has placed me
is not tenable," he told himself. "I am quite sure that she will
never say anything, she would be as much horrified by a too
significant word as by an incestuous act. But if, one evening, after a
rash and foolish day, she should come to examine her conscience, if
she believes that I may have guessed the feeling that she seems to
have formed for me, what part should I then play in her eyes? Nothing
more nor less than the _casto Giuseppe_!" (An Italian expression
alluding to the ridiculous part played by Joseph with the wife of the
eunuch Potiphar.)

"Should I give her to understand by a fine burst of confidence that
I am not capable of serious affection? I have not the necessary
strength of mind to announce such a fact so that it shall not be as
like as two peas to a gross impertinence. The sole resource left to me
is a great passion left behind at Naples; in that case, I should
return there for twenty-four hours: such a course is wise, but is it
really worth the trouble? There remains a minor affair with some one
of humble rank at Parma, which might annoy her; but anything is
preferable to the appalling position of a man who will not see the
truth. This course may, it is true, prejudice my future; I should
have, by the exercise of prudence and the purchase of discretion, to
minimise the danger." What was so cruel an element among all these
thoughts was that really Fabrizio loved the Duchessa far above anyone
else in the world. "I must be very clumsy," he told himself angrily,
"to have such misgivings as to my ability to persuade her of what is
so glaringly true!" Lacking the skill to extricate himself from this
position, he grew sombre and sad. "What would become of me, Great God,
if I quarrelled with the one person in the world for whom I feel a
passionate attachment?" From another point of view, Fabrizio could not
bring himself to spoil so delicious a happiness by an indiscreet word.
His position abounded so in charm! The intimate friendship of so
beautiful and attractive a woman was so pleasant! Under the most
commonplace relations of life, her protection gave him so agreeable a
position at this court, the great intrigues of which, thanks to her
who explained them to him, were as amusing as a play! "But at any
moment I may be awakened by a thunderbolt," he said to himself. "These
gay, these tender evenings, passed almost in privacy with so thrilling
a woman, if they lead to something better, she will expect to find in
me a lover; she will call on me for frenzied raptures, for acts of
folly, and I shall never have anything more to offer her than
friendship, of the warmest kind, but without love; nature has not
endowed me with that sort of sublime folly. What reproaches have I not
had to bear on that account! I can still hear the Duchessa d'A----
speaking, and I used to laugh at the Duchessa! She will think that I
am wanting in love for her, whereas it is love that is wanting in me;
never will she make herself understand me. Often after some story
about the court, told by her with that grace, that abandonment which
she alone in the world possesses, and which is a necessary part of my
education besides, I kiss her hand and sometimes her cheek. What is to
happen if that hand presses mine in a certain fashion?"

Fabrizio put in an appearance every day in the most respectable and
least amusing drawing-rooms in Parma. Guided by the able advice of
the Duchessa, he paid a sagacious court to the two Princes, father
and son, to the Princess Clara-Paolina and Monsignore the Archbishop.
He met with successes, but these did not in the least console him for
his mortal fear of falling out with the Duchessa.




CHAPTER EIGHT

So, less than a month after his arrival at court, Fabrizio had tasted
all the sorrows of a courtier, and the intimate friendship which
constituted the happiness of his life was poisoned. One evening,
tormented by these thoughts, he left that drawing-room of the Duchessa
in which he had too much of the air of a reigning lover; wandering at
random through the town, he came opposite the theatre, in which he saw
lights; he went in. It was a gratuitous imprudence in a man of his
cloth and one that he had indeed vowed that he would avoid in Parma,
which, after all, is only a small town of forty thousand inhabitants.
It is true that after the first few days he had got rid of his
official costume; in the evenings, when he was not going into the
very highest society, he used simply to dress in black like a layman
in mourning.

At the theatre he took a box on the third tier, so as not to be
noticed; the play was Goldoni's _La Locanderia_. He examined the
architecture of the building, scarcely did he turn his eyes to the
stage. But the crowded audience kept bursting into laughter at every
moment; Fabrizio gave a glance at the young actress who was playing
the part of the landlady, and found her amusing. He looked at her more
closely; she seemed to him quite attractive, and, above all, perfectly
natural; she was a simple-minded young girl who was the first to laugh
at the witty lines Goldoni had put into her mouth, lines which she
appeared to be quite surprised to be uttering. He asked what her name
was, and was told: "Marietta Valserra."

"Ah!" he thought; "she has taken my name; that is odd." In spite of
his intentions he did not leave the theatre until the end of the
piece. The following evening he returned; three days later he knew
Marietta Valserra's address.

On the evening of the day on which, with a certain amount of trouble,
he had procured this address, he noticed that the Conte was looking at
him in the most friendly way. The poor jealous lover, who had all the
trouble in the world in keeping within the bounds of prudence, had set
spies on the young man's track, and this theatrical escapade pleased
him. How are we to depict the Conte's joy when, on the day following
that on which he had managed to bring himself to look amicably
at Fabrizio, he learned that the latter, in the partial disguise, it
must be admitted, of a long blue frock-coat, had climbed to the
wretched apartment which Marietta Valserra occupied on the fourth
floor of an old house behind the theatre? His joy was doubled when
he heard that Fabrizio had presented himself under a false name, and
had had the honour to arouse the jealousy of a scapegrace named
Giletti, who in town played Third Servant, and in the villages danced
on the tight rope. This noble lover of Marietta cursed Fabrizio most
volubly and expressed a desire to kill him.

Opera companies are formed by an _impresario_ who engages in
different places the artists whom he can afford to pay or has found
unemployed, and the company collected at random remains together for
one season or two at most. It is not so with _comedy companies_; while
passing from town to town and changing their address every two or
three months, they nevertheless form a family of which all the members
love or loathe one another. There are in these companies united
couples whom the _beaux_ of the towns in which the actors appear find
it sometimes exceedingly difficult to sunder. This is precisely what
happened to our hero. Little Marietta liked him well enough, but was
horribly afraid of Giletti, who claimed to be her sole lord and master
and kept a close watch over her. He protested everywhere that he would
kill the _Monsignore_, for he had followed Fabrizio, and had succeeded
in discovering his name. This Giletti was quite the ugliest creature
imaginable and the least fitted to be a lover: tall out of all
proportion, he was horribly thin, strongly pitted by smallpox, and
inclined to squint. In addition, being endowed with all the graces of
his profession, he was continually coming into the wings where his
fellow-actors were assembled, turning cart-wheels on his feet and
hands or practising some other pretty trick. He triumphed in those
parts in which the actor has to appear with his face whitened with
flour and to give or receive a countless number of blows with a
cudgel. This worthy rival of Fabrizio drew a monthly salary of 32
francs, and thought himself extremely well off.

Conte Mosca felt himself drawn up from the gate of the tomb when his
watchers gave him the full authority for all these details. His kindly
nature reappeared; he seemed more gay and better company than ever in
the Duchessa's drawing-room, and took good care to say nothing to
her of the little adventure which had restored him to life. He even
took steps to ensure that she should be informed of everything that
occurred with the greatest possibly delay. Finally he had the courage
to listen to the voice of reason, which had been crying to him in vain
for the last month that, whenever a lover's lustre begins to fade,
it is time for that lover to travel.

Urgent business summoned him to Bologna, and twice a day cabinet
messengers brought him not so much the official papers of his
departments as the latest news of the love affairs of little Marietta,
the rage of the terrible Giletti and the enterprises of Fabrizio.

One of the Conte's agents asked several times for _Arlecchino
fantasma e pasticcio_, one of Giletti's triumphs (he emerges from the
pie at the moment when his rival Brighella is sticking the knife into
it, and gives him a drubbing); this was an excuse for making him earn
100 francs. Giletti, who was riddled with debts, took care not to
speak of this windfall, but became astonishing in his arrogance.

Fabrizio's whim changed to a wounded pride (at his age, his anxieties
had already reduced him to the state of having whims!). Vanity led him
to the theatre; the little girl acted in the most sprightly fashion
and amused him; on leaving the theatre, he was in love for an hour.
The Conte returned to Parma on receiving the news that Fabrizio was
in real danger; Giletti, who had served as a trooper in that fine
regiment the Dragoni Napoleone, spoke seriously of killing him, and
was making arrangements for a subsequent flight to Romagna. If the
reader is very young, he will be scandalised by our admiration for
this fine mark of virtue. It was, however, no slight act of heroism
on the part of Conte Mosca, his return from Bologna; for, after all,
frequently in the morning he presented a worn appearance, and
Fabrizio was always so fresh, so serene! Who would ever have dreamed
of reproaching him with the death of Fabrizio, occurring in his
absence and from so stupid a cause? But his was one of those rare
spirits which make an everlasting remorse out of a generous action
which they might have done and did not do; besides, he could not bear
the thought of seeing the Duchessa look sad, and by any fault of his.

He found her, on his arrival, taciturn and gloomy. This is what had
occurred: the little lady's maid, Cecchina, tormented by remorse and
estimating the importance of her crime by the immensity of the sum
that she had received for committing it, had fallen ill. One evening
the Duchessa, who was devoted to her, went up to her room. The girl
could not hold out against this mark of kindness; she dissolved in
tears, was for handing over to her mistress all that she still
possessed of the money she had received, and finally had the courage
to confess to her the questions asked by the Conte and her own replies
to them. The Duchessa ran to the lamp, which she blew out, then said
to little Cecchina that she forgave her, but on condition that she
never uttered a word about this strange episode to anyone in the
world. "The poor Conte," she added in a careless tone, "is afraid of
being laughed at; all men are like that."

The Duchessa hastened downstairs to her own apartments. No sooner had
she shut the door of her bedroom than she burst into tears; there
seemed to her something horrible in the idea of her making love to
Fabrizio, whom she had seen brought into the world; and yet what else
could her behaviour imply?

This had been the primary cause of the black melancholy in which the
Conte found her plunged; on his arrival she suffered fits of
impatience with him, and almost with Fabrizio; she would have liked
never to set eyes on either of them again; she was contemptuous of the
part, ridiculous in her eyes, which Fabrizio was playing with the
little Marietta; for the Conte had told her everything, like a true
lover, incapable of keeping a secret. She could not grow used to this
disaster; her idol had a fault; finally, in a moment of frank
friendship, she asked the Conte's advice; this was for him a delicious
instant, and a fine reward for the honourable impulse which had made
him return to Parma.

"What could be more simple?" said the Conte, smiling. "Young men want
to have every woman they see, and next day they do not give her a
thought. Ought he not to be going to Belgirate, to see the Marchesa
del Dongo? Very well, let him go. During his absence, I shall request
the company of comedians to take their talents elsewhere, I shall pay
their travelling expenses; but presently we shall see him in love with
the first pretty woman that may happen to come his way: it is in the
nature of things, and I should not care to see him act otherwise. ...
If necessary, get the Marchesa to write to him."

This suggestion, offered with the air of a complete indifference,
came as a ray of light to the Duchessa; she was frightened of Giletti.
That evening, the Conte announced, as though by chance, that one of
his couriers, on his way to Vienna, would be passing through Milan;
three days later Fabrizio received a letter from his mother. He seemed
greatly annoyed at not having yet been able, thanks to Giletti's
jealousy, to profit by the excellent intentions, assurance of which
little Marietta had conveyed to him through a _mammaccia_, an old
woman who acted as her mother.

Fabrizio found his mother and one of his sisters at Beigirate, a
large village in Piedmont, on the right shore of Lake Maggiore; the
left shore belongs to the Milanese, and consequently to Austria. This
lake, parallel to the Lake of Como, and also running from north to
south, is situated some ten leagues farther to the west. The mountain
air, the majestic and tranquil aspect of this superb lake which
recalled to him that other on the shores of which he had spent his
childhood, all helped to transform into a tender melancholy Fabrizio's
grief, which was akin to anger. It was with an infinite tenderness
that the memory of the Duchessa now presented itself to him; he felt
that in separation he was acquiring for her that love which he had
never felt for any woman; nothing would have been more painful to him
than to be separated from her for ever, and, he being in this frame of
mind, if the Duchessa had deigned to have recourse to the slightest
coquetry, she could have conquered this heart by--for
instance--presenting it with a rival. But, far from taking any so
decisive a step, it was not without the keenest self-reproach that she
found her thoughts constantly following in the young traveller's
footsteps. She reproached herself for what she still called a fancy,
as though it had been something horrible; she redoubled her
forethought for and attention to the Conte, who, captivated by such a
display of charm, paid no heed to the sane voice of reason which was
prescribing a second visit to Bologna.

The Marchesa del Dongo, busy with preparations for the wedding of her
elder daughter, whom she was marrying to a Milanese Duca, could give
only three days to her beloved son; never had she found in him so
tender an affection. Through the cloud of melancholy that was more and
more closely enwrapping Fabrizio's heart, an odd and indeed ridiculous
idea had presented itself, and he had suddenly decided to adopt it.
Dare we say that he wished to consult Priore Blanès? That excellent
old man was totally incapable of understanding the sorrows of a heart
torn asunder by boyish passions more or less equal in strength;
besides, it would have taken a week to make him gather even a faint
impression of all the conflicting interests that Fabrizio had to
consider at Parma; but in the thought of consulting him Fabrizio
recaptured the freshness of his sensations at the age of sixteen. Will
it be believed? It was not simply as to a man full of wisdom, to an
old and devoted friend, that Fabrizio wished to speak to him; the
object of this expedition, and the feelings that agitated our hero
during the fifty hours that it lasted are so absurd that, doubtless,
in the interests of our narrative, it would have been better to
suppress them. I am afraid that Fabrizio's credulity may make him
forfeit the sympathy of the reader; but after all thus it was; why
flatter him more than another? I have not flattered Conte Mosca, nor
the Prince.

Fabrizo, then, since the whole truth must be told, Fabrizio escorted
his mother as far as the port of Laveno, on the left shore of Lake
Maggiore, the Austrian shore, where she landed about eight o'clock in
the evening. (The lake is regarded as neutral territory, and no
passport is required of those who do not set foot on shore.) But
scarcely had night fallen when he had himself ferried to this same
Austrian shore, and landed in a little wood which juts out into the
water. He had hired a _sediola_, a sort of rustic and fast-moving
tilbury, by means of which he was able, at a distance of five hundred
yards, to keep up with his mother's carriage; he was disguised as a
servant of the _casa_ del Dongo, and none of the many police or
customs officials ever thought of asking him for his passport. A
quarter of a league before Como, where the Marchesa and her daughter
were to stop for the night, he took a path to the left which, making a
circuit of the village of Vico, afterwards joined a little road
recently made along the extreme edge of the lake. It was midnight, and
Fabrizio could count upon not meeting any of the police. The trees of
the various thickets into which the little road kept continually
diving traced the black outline of their foliage against a sky bright
with stars but veiled by a slight mist. Water and sky were of a
profound tranquillity. Fabrizio's soul could not resist this sublime
beauty; he stopped, then sat down on a rock which ran out into the
lake, forming almost a little promontory. The universal silence was
disturbed only, at regular intervals, by the faint ripple of the lake
as it lapped on the shore. Fabrizio had an Italian heart; I crave the
reader's pardon for him: this defect, which will render him less
attractive, consisted mainly in this: he had no vanity, save by fits
and starts, and the mere sight of sublime beauty melted him to a
tender mood and took from his sorrows their hard and bitter edge.
Seated on his isolated rock, having no longer any need to be on his
guard against the police, protected by the profound night and the vast
silence, gentle tears moistened his eyes, and he found there, with
little or no effort, the happiest moments that he had tasted for many
a day.

He resolved never to tell the Duchessa any falsehood, and it was
because he loved her to adoration at that moment that he vowed to
himself never to say to her _that he loved her_; never would he utter
in her hearing the word love, since the passion which bears that name
was a stranger to his heart. In the enthusiasm of generosity and
virtue which formed his happiness at that moment, he made the
resolution to tell her, at the first opportunity, everything: his
heart had never known love. Once this courageous plan had been
definitely adopted, he felt himself delivered of an enormous burden.
"She will perhaps have something to say to me about Marietta; very
well, I shall never see my little Marietta again," he assured himself
blithely.

The overpowering heat which had prevailed throughout the day was
beginning to be tempered by the morning breeze. Already dawn was
outlining in a faint white glimmer the Alpine peaks that rise to the
north and east of Lake Como. Their massive shapes, bleached by their
covering of snow, even in the month of June, stand out against the
pellucid azure of a sky which at those immense altitudes is always
pure. A spur of the Alps stretching southwards into smiling Italy
separates the sloping shores of Lake Como from those of the Lake of
Garda. Fabrizio followed with his eye all the branches of these
sublime mountains, the dawn as it grew brighter came to mark the
valleys that divide them, gilding the faint mist which rose from the
gorges beneath.

Some minutes since, Fabrizio had taken the road again; he passed the
hill that forms the peninsula of Burini, and at length there met his
gaze that _campanile_ of the village of Grianta in which he had so
often made observations of the stars with Priore Blanès. "What bounds
were there to my ignorance in those days? I could not understand," he
reminded himself, "even the ridiculous Latin of those treatises on
astrology which my master used to pore over, and I think I respected
them chiefly because, understanding only a few words here and there,
my imagination stepped in to give them a meaning, and the most
romantic sense imaginable."

Gradually his thoughts entered another channel. "May not there be
something genuine in this science? Why should it be different from the
rest? A certain number of imbeciles and quick-witted persons agree
among themselves that they know (shall we say) _Mexican_; they impose
themselves with this qualification upon society which respects them
and governments which pay them. Favours are showered upon them
precisely because they have no real intelligence, and authority need
not fear their raising the populace and creating an atmosphere of rant
by the aid of generous sentiments! For instance, Father Bari, to whom
Ernesto IV has just awarded a pension of 4,000 francs and the Cross of
his Order for having restored nineteen liries of a Greek dithyramb!

"But, Great God, have I indeed the right to find such things
ridiculous? Is it for me to complain?" he asked himself, suddenly,
stopping short in the road, "has not that same Cross just been given
to my governor at Naples?" Fabrizio was conscious of a feeling of
intense disgust; the fine enthusiasm for virtue which had just been
making his heart beat high changed into the vile pleasure of having a
good share in the spoils of a robbery. "After all," he said to himself
at length, with the lustreless eyes of a man who is dissatisfied with
himself, "since my birth gives me the right to profit by these abuses,
it would be a signal piece of folly on my part not to take my share,
but I must never let myself denounce them in public." This reasoning
was by no means unsound; but Fabrizio had fallen a long way from that
elevation of sublime happiness to which he had found himself
transported an hour earlier. The thought of privilege had withered
that plant, always so delicate, which we name happiness.

"If we are not to believe in astrology," he went on, seeking to calm
himself; "if this science is, like three quarters of the sciences that
are not mathematical, a collection of enthusiastic simpletons and
adroit hypocrites paid by the masters they serve, how does it come
about that I think so often and with emotion of this fatal
circumstance: I did make my escape from the prison at B----, but in
the uniform and with the marching orders of a soldier who had been
flung into prison with good cause?"

Fabrizio's reasoning could never succeed in penetrating farther; he
went a hundred ways round the difficulty without managing to
surmount it. He was too young still; in his moments of leisure, his
mind devoted itself with rapture to enjoying the sensations produced
by the romantic circumstances with which his imagination was always
ready to supply him. He was far from employing his time in studying
with patience the actual details of things in order to discover their
causes. Reality still seemed to him flat and muddy; I can understand a
person's not caring to look at it, but then he ought not to argue
about it. Above all, he ought not to fashion objections out of the
scattered fragments of his ignorance.

Thus it was that, though not lacking in brains, Fabrizio could not
manage to see that his half-belief in omens was for him a religion, a
profound impression received at his entering upon life. To think of
this belief was to feel, it was a happiness. And he set himself
resolutely to discover how this could be a _proved_, a real science,
in the same category as geometry, for example. He searched his memory
strenuously for all the instances in which omens observed by him had
not been followed by the auspicious or inauspicious events which
they seemed to herald. But all this time, while he believed himself to
be following a line of reasoning and marching towards the truth, his
attention kept coming joyfully to rest on the memory of the occasions
on which the foreboding had been amply followed by the happy or
unhappy accident which it had seemed to him to predict, and his heart
was filled with respect and melted; and he would have felt an
invincible repugnance for the person who denied the value of omens,
especially if in doing so he had had recourse to irony.

Fabrizio walked on without noticing the distance he was covering, and
had reached this point in his vain reasonings when, raising his head,
he saw the wall of his father's garden. This wall, which supported a
fine terrace, rose to a height of more than forty feet above the road,
on its right. A cornice of wrought stone along the highest part, next
to the balustrade, gave it a monumental air. "It is not bad,"
Fabrizio said to himself dispassionately, "it is good architecture, a
little in the Roman style"; he applied to it his recently acquired
knowledge of antiquities. Then he turned his head away in disgust; his
father's severities, and especially the denunciation of himself by his
brother Ascanio on his return from his wanderings in France, came back
to his mind.

"That unnatural denunciation was the origin of my present existence;
I may detest, I may despise it; when all is said and done, it has
altered my destiny. What would have become of me once I had been
packed off to Novara, and my presence barely tolerated in the house of
my father's agent, if my aunt had not made love to a powerful
Minister? If the said aunt had happened to possess merely a dry,
conventional heart instead of that tender and passionate heart which
loves me with a sort of enthusiasm that astonishes me? Where should I
be now if the Duchessa had had the heart of her brother the Marchese
del Dongo?"

Oppressed by these cruel memories, Fabrizio began now to walk with an
uncertain step; he came to the edge of the moat immediately opposite
the magnificent façade of the castle. Scarcely did he cast a glance at
that great building, blackened by tune. The noble language of
architecture left him unmoved, the memory of his brother and father
stopped his heart to every sensation of beauty, he was attentive only
to the necessity of keeping on his guard in the presence of
hypocritical and dangerous enemies. He looked for an instant, but
with a marked disgust, at the little window of the bedroom which he
had occupied until 1815 on the third storey. His father's character
had robbed of all charm the memory of his early childhood. "I have not
set foot in it," he thought, "since the 7th of March, at eight o'clock
in the evening. I left it to go and get the passport from Vasi, and
next morning my fear of spies made me hasten my departure. When I
passed through again after my visit to France, I had not time to go
upstairs, even to look at my prints again, and that thanks to my
brother's denouncing me."

Fabrizio turned away his head in horror. "Priore Blanès is
eighty-three at the very least," he said sorrowfully to himself; "he
hardly ever comes to the castle now, from what my sister tells me; the
infirmities of old age have had their effect on him. That heart, once
so strong and noble, is frozen by age. Heaven knows how long it is
since he last went up to his _campanile_! I shall hide myself in the
cellar, under the vats or under the wine-press, until he is awake; I
shall not go in and disturb the good old man in his sleep; probably he
will have forgotten my face, even; six years mean a great deal at his
age! I shall find only the tomb of a friend! And it is really childish
of me," he added, "to have come here to provoke the disgust that the
sight of my father's castle gives me."

Fabrizio now came to the little _piazza_ in front of the church; it
was with an astonishment bordering on delirium that he saw, on the
second stage of the ancient campanile, the long and narrow window
lighted by the little lantern of Priore Blanès. The Priore was in the
habit of leaving it there when he climbed to the cage of planks which
formed his observatory, so that the light should not prevent him
from reading the face of his plain sphere. This chart of the heavens
was stretched over a great jar of terracotta which had originally
belonged to one of the orange-trees at the castle. In the opening, at
the bottom of the jar, burned the tiniest of lamps, the smoke of which
was carried away from the jar through a little tin pipe, and the
shadow of the pipe indicated the north on the chart. All these
memories of things so simple in themselves deluged Fabrizio's heart
with emotions and filled him with happiness.

Almost without thinking, he put his hands to his lips and gave the
little, short, low whistle which had formerly been the signal for his
admission. At once he heard several tugs given to the cord which, from
the observatory above, opened the latch of the _campanile_ door. He
dashed headlong up the staircase, moved to a transport of
excitement; he found the Priore in his wooden armchair in his
accustomed place; his eye was fixed on the little glass of a mura]
quadrant. With his left hand the Priore made a sign to Fabrizio not to
interrupt him in his observation; a moment later, he wrote down a
figure upon a playing card, then, turning round in his chair, opened
his arms to our hero, who flung himself into them, dissolved in tears.
Priore Blanès was his true father.

"I expected you," said Blanès, after the first warm words of
affection. Was the Priore speaking in his character as a diviner, or,
indeed, as he often thought of Fabrizio, had some astrological sign,
by pure chance, announced to him the young man's return?

"This means that my death is at hand," said Priore Blanès.

"What!" cried Fabrizio, quite overcome.

"Yes," the Priore went on in a serious but by no means sad tone: "five
months and a half, or six months and a half after I have seen you
again, my life having found its full complement of happiness will be
extinguished

_Come face al mancar dell'alimento_"

(as the little lamp is when its oil runs dry). "Before the supreme
moment, I shall probably pass a month or two without speaking, after
which I shall be received into Our Father's Bosom; provided always
that He finds that I have performed my duty in the post in which He
has placed me as a sentinel.

"But you, you are worn out with exhaustion, your emotion makes you
ready for sleep. Since I began to expect you, I have hidden a loaf of
bread and a bottle of brandy for you in the great chest which holds my
instruments. Give yourself that sustenance, and try to collect enough
strength to listen to me for a few moments longer. It lies in my power
to tell you a number of things before night shall have given place
altogether to days; at present I see them a great deal more distinctly
than perhaps I shall see them to-morrow. For, my child, we are at all
times frail vessels, and we must always take that frailty into
account. To-morrow, it may be, the old man, the earthly man in me will
be occupied with preparations for my death, and to-morrow evening at
nine o'clock, you will have to leave me."

Fabrizio having obeyed him in silence, as was his custom:

"Then, it is true," the old man went on, "that when you tried to see
Waterloo you found nothing at first but a prison?"

"Yes, Father," replied Fabrizio in amazement.

"Well, that was a rare piece of good fortune, for, warned by my voice,
your soul can prepare itself for another prison, far different in its
austerity, far more terrible! Probably you will escape from it only by
a crime; but, thanks be to heaven, that crime will not have been
committed by you. Never fall into crime, however violently you may be
tempted; I seem to see that it will be a question of killing an
innocent man, who, without knowing it, usurps your rights; if you
resist the violent temptation which will seem to be justified by the
laws of honour, your life will be most happy in the eyes of men ...
and reasonably happy in the eyes of the sage," he added after a
moment's reflexion; "you will die like me, my son, sitting upon a
wooden seat, far from all luxury and having seen the hollowness of
luxury, and like me not having to reproach yourself with any grave
sin.

"And now, the discussion of your future state is at an end between us,
I could add nothing of any importance. It is in vain that I have tried
to see how long this imprisonment is to last; is it to be for six
months, a year, ten years? I have been able to discover nothing;
apparently I have made some error, and heaven has wished to punish me
by the distress of this uncertainty. I have seen only that after
your prison, but I do not know whether it is to be at the actual
moment of your leaving it, there will be what I call a crime; but,
fortunately, I believe I can be sure that it will not be committed by
you. If you are weak enough to involve yourself in this crime, all
the rest of my calculations becomes simply one long error. Then you
will not die with peace in your soul, on a wooden seat and clad in
white." As he said these words, Priore Blanès attempted to rise; it
was then that Fabrizio noticed the ravages of time; it took him nearly
a minute to get upon his feet and to turn towards Fabrizio. Our hero
allowed him to do this, standing motionless and silent. The Priore
flung himself into his arms again and again; he embraced him with
extreme affection. After which he went on, with all the gaiety of the
old days: "Try to make a place for yourself among all my instruments
where you can sleep with some comfort; take my furs; you will find
several of great value which the Duchessa Sanseverina sent me four
years ago. She asked me for a forecast of your fate, which I took care
not to give her, while keeping her furs and her fine quadrant. Every
announcement of the future is a breach of the rule, and contains this
danger, that it may alter the event, in which case the whole science
falls to the ground, like a child's card-castle; and besides, there
were things that it was hard to say to that Duchessa who is always so
charming. But let me warn you, do not be startled in your sleep by the
bells, which will make a terrible din in your ear when the men come to
ring for the seven o'clock mass; later on, in the stage below, they
will set the big _campanarie_ going, which shakes all my instruments.
To-day is the feast of San Giovila, Martyr and Soldier. As you know,
the little village of Grianta has the same patron as the great city of
Brescia, which, by the way, led to a most amusing mistake on the part
of my illustrious master, Giacomo Marini of Ravenna. More than once he
announced to me that I should have quite a fine career in the church;
he believed that I was to be the curate of the magnificent church of
San Giovila, at Brescia; I have been the curate of a little village of
seven hundred and fifty chimneys! But all has been for the best. I
have seen, and not ten years ago, that if I had been curate at
Brescia, my destiny would have been to be cast into prison on a hill
in Moravia, the Spielberg. To-morrow I shall bring you all manner of
delicacies pilfered from the great dinner which I am giving to all the
clergy of the district who are coming to sing at my high mass. I shall
leave them down below, but do not make any attempt 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 again _by daylight_, and as the
sun sets to-morrow at twenty-seven minutes past seven, I shall not
come up to embrace you until about eight, and it is necessary that you
depart while the hours are still numbered by nine, that is to say
before the clock has struck ten. Take care that you are not seen in
the windows of the _campanile_: the police have your description, and
they are to some extent under the orders of your brother, who is a
famous tyrant. The Marchese del Dongo is growing feeble," added Blanès
with a sorrowful air, "and if he were to see you again, perhaps he
would let something pass to you, from hand to hand. But such benefits,
tainted with deceit, do not become a man like yourself, whose strength
will lie one day in his conscience. The Marchese abhors his son
Ascanio, and it is on that son that the five or six millions that he
possesses will devolve. That is justice. You, at his death, will have
a pension of 4,000 francs, and fifty ells of black cloth for your
servants' mourning."




CHAPTER NINE

Fabrizio's soul was exalted by the old man's speech, by his own keen
attention to it, and by his extreme exhaustion. He had great
difficulty in getting to sleep, and his slumber was disturbed by
dreams, presages perhaps of the future; in the morning, at ten
o'clock, he was awakened by the whole belfry's beginning to shake; an
alarming noise seemed to come from outside. He rose in bewilderment
and at first imagined that the end of the world had come; then he
thought that he was in prison; it took him some time to recognise the
sound of the big bell, which forty peasants were setting in motion in
honour of the great San Giovila; ten would have been enough.

Fabrizio looked for a convenient place from which to see without being
seen; he discovered that from this great height his gaze swept the
gardens, and even the inner courtyard of his father's castle. He had
forgotten this. The idea of that father arriving at the ultimate
bourne of life altered all his feelings. He could even make out the
sparrows that were hopping in search of crumbs upon the wide balcony
of the dining-room. "They are the descendants of the ones I used to
tame long ago," he said to himself. This balcony, like every balcony
in the mansion, was decorated with a large number of orange-trees in
earthenware tubs, of different sizes: this sight melted his heart; the
view of that inner courtyard thus decorated, with its sharply defined
shadows outlined by a radiant sun, was truly majestic.

The thought of his father's failing health came back to his mind. "But
it is really singular," he said to himself, "my father is only
thirty-five years older than I am; thirty-five and twenty-three make
only fifty-eight!" His eyes, fixed on the windows of the bedroom of
that stern man who had never loved him, filled with tears. He
shivered, and a sudden chill ran through his veins when he thought he
saw his father crossing a terrace planted with orange-trees which was
on a level with his room; but it was only one of the servants. Close
underneath the _campanile_ a number of girls dressed in white and
split up into different bands were occupied in tracing patterns with
red, blue and yellow flowers on the pavement of the streets through
which the procession was to pass. But there was a spectacle which
spoke with a more living voice to Fabrizio's soul: from the campanile
his gaze shot down to the two branches of the lake, at a distance of
several leagues, and this sublime view soon made him forget all the
others; it awakened in him the most lofty sentiments. All the memories
of his childhood came crowding to besiege his mind; and this day which
he spent imprisoned in a belfry was perhaps one of the happiest days
of his life.

Happiness carried him to an exaltation of mind quite foreign to his
nature; he considered the incidents of life, he, still so young, as if
already he had arrived at its farthest goal. "I must admit that, since
I came to Parma," he said to himself at length after several hours of
delicious musings, "I have known no tranquil and perfect joy such as I
used to find at Naples in galloping over the roads of Vomero or pacing
the shores of Miseno. All the complicated interests of that nasty
little court have made me nasty also. ... I even believe that it would
be a sorry happiness for me to humiliate my enemies if I had any; but
I have no enemy. ... Stop a moment!" he suddenly interjected, "I
have got an enemy, Giletti.... And here is a curious thing," he
said to himself, "the pleasure that I should feel in seeing such an
ugly fellow go to all the devils in hell has survived the very slight
fancy that I had for little Marietta.... She does not come within a
mile of the Duchessa d'A----, to whom I was obliged to make love at
Naples, after I had told her that I was in love with her. Good God,
how bored I have been during the long assignations which that fair
Duchessa used to accord me; never anything like that in the tumbledown
bedroom, serving as a kitchen as well, in which little Marietta
received me twice, and for two minutes on each occasion.

"Oh, good God, what on earth can those people have to eat? They make
one pity them! ... I ought to have settled on her and the _mammaccia_
a pension of three beefsteaks, payable daily.... Little Marietta,"
he went on, "used to distract me from the evil thoughts which the
proximity of that court put in my mind.

"I should perhaps have done well to adopt the _caffè_ life, as the
Duchessa said; she seemed to incline in that direction, and she has
far more intelligence than I. Thanks to her generosity, or indeed
merely with that pension of 4,000 francs and that fund of 40,000
invested at Lyons, which my mother intends for me, I should always
have a horse and a few scudi to spend on digging and collecting a
cabinet. Since it appears that I am not to know the taste of love,
there will always be those other interests to be my great sources of
happiness; I should like, before 1 die, to go back to visit the
battlefield of Waterloo and try to identify the meadow where I was so
neatly lifted from my horse and left sitting on the ground. That
pilgrimage accomplished, I should return constantly to this sublime
lake; nothing else as beautiful is to be seen in the world, for my
heart at least. Why go so far afield in search of happiness? It is
there, beneath my eyes!

"Ah," said Fabrizio to himself, "there is this objection: the police
drive me away from the Lake of Como, but I am younger than the people
who are setting those police on my track. Here," he added with a
smile, "I should certainly not find a Duchessa d'A----, but I should
find one of those little girls down there who are strewing flowers on
the pavement, and, to tell the truth, I should care for her just as
much. Hypocrisy freezes me, even in love, and our great ladies aim at
effects that are too sublime. Napoleon has given them new ideas as to
conduct and constancy.

"The devil!" he suddenly exclaimed, drawing back his head from the
window, as though he had been afraid of being recognised despite the
screen of the enormous wooden shutter which protected the bells from
rain, "here comes a troop of police in full dress." And indeed, ten
policemen, of whom four were non-commissioned officers, had come into
sight at the top of the village street. The serjeant distributed them
at intervals of a hundred yards along the course which the procession
was to take. "Everyone knows me here; if they see me, I shall make but
one bound from the shores of the Lake of Como to the Spielberg, where
they will fasten to each of my legs a chain weighing a hundred and ten
pounds: and what a grief for the Duchessa!"

It took Fabrizio two or three minutes to realise that, for one thing,
he was stationed at a height of more than eighty feet, that the place
in which he stood was comparatively dark, that the eyes of the people
who might be looking up at him were blinded by a dazzling sun, in
addition to which they were walking about, their eyes wide open, in
streets all the houses of which had just been whitewashed with lime,
in honour of the _festa_ of San Giovila. Despite all these clear and
obvious reasons, Fabrizio's Italian nature would not have been in a
state, from that moment, to enjoy any pleasure in the spectacle, had
he not interposed between himself and the policemen a strip of old
cloth which he nailed to the frame of the window, piercing a couple of
holes in it for his eyes.

The bells had been making the air throb for ten minutes, the
procession was coming out of the church, the _mortaretti_ started to
bang. Fabrizio turned his head and recognised that little terrace,
adorned with a parapet and overlooking the lake, where so often, when
he was a boy, he had risked his life to watch the _mortaretti_ go off
between his legs, with the result that on the mornings of public
holidays his mother liked to see him by her side.

It should be explained that the _mortaretti_ (or little mortars) are
nothing else than gun-barrels which are sawn through so as to leave
them only four inches long; that is why the peasants greedily collect
all the gun-barrels which, since 1796, European policy has been sowing
broadcast over the plains of Lombardy. Once they have been reduced to
a length of four inches, these little guns are loaded to the muzzle,
they are planted in the ground in a vertical position, and a train of
powder is laid from one to the next; they are drawn up in three lines
like a battalion, and to the number of two or three hundred, in some
suitable emplacement near the route along which the procession is to
pass. When the Blessed Sacrament approaches, a match is put to the
train of powder, and then begins a running fire of sharp explosions,
utterly irregular and quite ridiculous; the women are wild with joy.
Nothing is so gay as the sound of these _mortaretti_, heard at a
distance on the lake and softened by the rocking of the water; this
curious sound, which had so often been the delight of his boyhood,
banished the somewhat too solemn thoughts by which our hero was
being besieged; he went to find the Priore's big astronomical
telescope, and recognised the majority of the men and women who were
following the procession. A number of charming little girls, whom
Fabrizio had last seen at the age of eleven or twelve, were now superb
women in the full flower of the most vigorous youth; they made our
hero's courage revive, and to speak to them he would readily have
braved the police.

After the procession had passed and had re-entered the church by a
side door which was out of Fabrizio's sight, the heat soon became
intense even up in the belfry; the inhabitants returned to their
homes, and a great silence fell upon the village. Several boats took
on board loads of _contadini_ returning to Bellagio, Menaggio and
other villages situated on the lake; Fabrizio could distinguish the
sound of each stroke of the oars: so simple a detail as this sent him
into an ecstasy; his present joy was composed of all the unhappiness,
all the irritation that he found in the complicated life of a
court. How happy he would have been at this moment to be sailing for a
league over that beautiful lake which looked so calm and reflected so
clearly the depth of the sky above! He heard the door at the foot of
the _campanile_ opened: it was the Priore's old servant who brought in
a great hamper, and he had all the difficulty in the world in
restraining himself from speaking to her. "She is almost as fond of me
as of her master," he said to himself, "and besides, I am leaving
to-night at nine o'clock; would she not keep the oath of secrecy I
should make her swear, if only for a few hours? But," Fabrizio
reminded himself, "I should be vexing my friend! I might get him into
trouble with the police!" and he let Ghita go without speaking to
her. He made an excellent dinner, then settled himself down to sleep
for a few minutes: he did not awake until half-past eight in the
evening; the Priore Blanès was shaking him by the arm; it was dark.

Blanès was extremely tired, and looked fifty years older than the
night before. He said nothing more about serious matters, sitting in
his wooden armchair. "Embrace me," he said to Fabrizio. He clasped him
again and again in his arms. "Death," he said at last, "which is
coming to put an end to this long life, will have nothing about it so
painful as this separation. I have a purse which I shall leave in
Ghita's custody, with orders to draw on it for her own needs, but to
hand over to you what is left, should you ever come to ask for it. I
know her; after those instructions, she is capable, from economy on
your behalf, of not buying meat four times in the year, if you do not
give her quite definite orders. You may yourself be reduced to
penury, and the oboi of your aged friend will be of service to you.
Expect nothing from your brother but atrocious behaviour, and try to
earn money by some work which will make you useful to society. I
foresee strange storms; perhaps, in fifty years' time, the world will
have no more room for idlers! Your mother and aunt may fail you, your
sisters will have to obey their husbands.... Away with you, away
with you, fly!" exclaimed Blanès urgently; he had just heard a little
sound in the clock which warned him that ten was about to strike, and
he would not even allow Fabrizio to give him a farewell embrace.

"Hurry, hurry!" he cried to him; "it will take you at least a minute
to get down the stair; take care not to fall, that would be a terrible
omen." Fabrizio dashed down the staircase and emerging on to the
_piazza_ began to run. He had scarcely arrived opposite his father's
castle when the bell sounded ten times; each stroke reverberated in
his bosom, where it left a singular sense of disturbance. He stopped
to think, or rather to give himself up to the passionate feelings
inspired in him by the contemplation of that majestic edifice which he
had judged so coldly the night before. He was recalled from his
musings by the sound of footsteps; he looked up and found himself
surrounded by four constables. He had a brace of excellent pistols,
the priming of which he had renewed while he dined; the slight sound
that he made in cocking them attracted the attention of one of the
constables, and he was within an inch of being arrested. He saw the
danger he ran, and decided to fire the first shot; he would be
justified in doing so, for this was the sole method open to him of
resisting four well-armed men. Fortunately, the constables, who were
going round to clear the _osteria_, had not shown themselves
altogether irresponsive to the hospitality that they had received in
several of those sociable resorts; they did not make up their minds
quickly enough to do their duty. Fabrizio took to his heels and ran.
The constables went a few yards, running also, and shouting "Stop!
Stop!" then everything relapsed into silence. After every three
hundred yards Fabrizio halted to recover his breath. "The sound of my
pistols nearly made me get caught; this is just the sort of thing that
would make the Duchessa tell me, should it ever be granted me to see
her lovely eyes again, that my mind finds pleasure in contemplating
what is going to happen in ten years' time, and forgets to look out
for what is actually happening beneath my nose."

Fabrizio shuddered at the thought of the danger he had just escaped;
he increased his pace, and presently found himself impelled to run,
which was not over-prudent, as it attracted the attention of several
_contadini_ who were going back to their homes. He could not bring
himself to stop until he had reached the mountain, more than a league
from Grianta, and even when he had stopped, he broke into a cold sweat
at the thought of the Spielberg.

"There's a fine fright!" he said aloud: on hearing the sound of this
word, he was almost tempted to feel ashamed. "But does not my aunt
tell me that the thing I most need is to learn to make allowances for
myself? I am always comparing myself with a model of perfection,
which cannot exist. Very well, I forgive myself my fright, for, from
another point of view, I was quite prepared to defend my liberty, and
certainly all four of them would not have remained on their feet to
carry me off to prison. What I am doing at this moment," he went on,
"is not military; instead of retiring rapidly, after having attained
my object, and perhaps given the alarm to my enemies, I am amusing
myself with a fancy more ridiculous perhaps than all the good Priore's
predictions."

For indeed, instead of retiring along the shortest line, and gaining
the shore of Lake Maggiore, where his boat was awaiting him, he made
an enormous circuit to go and visit _his tree_. The reader may perhaps
remember the love that Fabrizio bore for a chestnut tree planted by
his mother twenty-three years earlier. "It would be quite worthy of my
brother," he said to himself, "to have had the tree cut down; but
those creatures are incapable of delicate shades of feeling; he will
never have thought of it. And besides, that would not be a bad
augury," he added with firmness. Two hours later he was shocked by
what he saw; mischief-makers or a storm had broken one of the main
branches of the young tree, which hung down withered; Fabrizio cut it
off reverently, using his dagger, and smoothed the cut carefully, so
that the rain should not get inside the trunk. Then, although time was
highly precious to him, for day was about to break, he spent a good
hour in turning the soil round his dear tree. All these acts of folly
accomplished, he went rapidly on his way towards Lake Maggiore. All
things considered, he was not at all sad; the tree was coming on
well, was more vigorous than ever, and in five years had almost
doubled in height. The branch was only an accident of no consequence;
once it had been cut off, it did no more harm

THE CHESTNUT TREE	167

to the tree, which indeed would grow all the better if its spread
began higher from the ground.

Fabrizio had not gone a league when a dazzling band of white indicated
to the east the peaks of the Resegon di Lee, a mountain famous
throughout the district. The road which he was following became
thronged with _contadini_; but, instead of adopting military
tactics, Fabrizio let himself be melted by the sublime or touching
aspect of these forests in the neighbourhood of Lake Como. They are
perhaps the finest in the world; I do not mean to say those that bring
in most new money, as the Swiss would say, but those that speak most
eloquently to the soul. To listen to this language in the position in
which Fabrizio found himself, an object for the attentions of the
gentlemen of the Lombardo-Venetian police, was really childish. "I
am half a league from the frontier," he reminded himself at length, "I
am going to meet _doganieri_ and constables making their morning
rounds: this coat of fine cloth will look suspicious, they will ask me
for my passport; now that passport is inscribed at full length with my
name, which is marked down for prison; so here I am under the
regrettable necessity of committing a murder. If, as is usual, the
police are going about in pairs, I cannot wait quietly to fire until
one of them tries to take me by the collar; he has only to clutch me
for a moment while he falls, and off I go to the Spielberg." Fabrizio,
horrified most of all by the necessity of firing first, possibly on an
old soldier who had served under his uncle, Conte Pietranera, ran to
hide himself in the hollow trunk of an enormous chestnut; he was
renewing the priming of his pistols, when he heard a man coming
towards him through the wood, singing very well a delicious air from
_Mercadante_, which was popular at that time in Lombardy.

"There is a good omen for me," he said to himself. This air, to which
he listened religiously, took from him the little spark of anger which
was finding its way into his reasonings. He scrutinised the high road
carefully, in both directions, and saw no one: "The singer must be
coming along some side road," he said to himself. Almost at that
moment, he saw a footman, very neatly dressed in the English style and
mounted on a hack, who was coming towards him at a walk, leading a
fine thoroughbred, which however was perhaps a little too thin.

"Ah! If I reasoned like Conte Mosca," thought Fabrizio, "when he
assures me that the risks a man runs are always the measure of his
rights over his neighbours, I should blow out this servant's brains
with a pistol-shot, and, once I was mounted on the thin horse, I
should laugh aloud at all the police in the world. As soon as I was
safely in Parma, I should send money to the man, or to his widow ...
but it would be a horrible thing to do!"




CHAPTER TEN

Moralising thus, Fabrizio sprang down on to the high road which runs
from Lombardy into Switzerland: at this point, it is fully four or
five feet below the level of the forest. "If my man takes fright," he
said to himself, "he will go off at a gallop, and I shall be stranded
here looking the picture of a fool." At this moment he found himself
only ten yards from the footman, who had stopped singing: Fabrizio
could see in his eyes that he was frightened, he was perhaps going to
turn his horses. Still without having come to any decision, Fabrizio
made a bound, and seized the thin horse by the bridle.

"My friend," he said to the footman, "I am not an ordinary 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 don't get away pretty
quickly. I have the four Riva brothers on my heels, those great
hunters whom you probably know; they caught me just now in their
sister's bedroom, I jumped out of the window, and here I am. They
dashed out into the forest with their dogs and guns. I hid myself in
that big hollow chestnut because I saw one of them cross the road;
their dogs will track me down. I am going to mount your horse and
gallop a league beyond Como; I am going to Milan to throw myself at
the Viceroy's feet. I shall leave your horse at the post-house with
two napoleons for yourself, if you consent with good grace. If you
offer the slightest resistance, I shall kill you with these pistols
you see here. If, after I have gone, you set the police on my track,
my cousin, the gallant Conte Alari, Equerry to the Emperor, will take
good care to break your bones for you."

Fabrizio invented the substance of this speech as he went on, uttering
it in a wholly pacific tone.

"As far as that goes," he went on with a laugh, "my name is no secret;
I am the Marchesino Ascanio del Dongo, my castle is quite close to
here, at Grianta. Damn you!" he cried, raising his voice, "will you
let go the horse!" The servant, stupefied, never breathed a word.
Fabrizio transferred the pistol to his left hand, seized the bridle
which the other dropped, sprang into the saddle, and made off at a
canter. When he had gone three hundred yards, it occurred to him that
he had forgotten to give the man the twenty francs he had promised
him; he stopped; there was still no one upon the road but the footman,
who was following him at a gallop; he signalled to him with his
handkerchief to come on, and when he judged him to be fifty yards off,
flung a handful of small change on to the road and went on again.
>From a distance he looked and saw the footman gathering up the money.
"There is a truly reasonable man," Fabrizio said to himself with a
laugh, "not an unnecessary word." He proceeded rapidly southwards,
halted, towards midday, at a lonely house, and took the road again a
few hours later. At two o'clock in the morning he was on the shore of
Lake Maggiore; he soon caught sight of his boat, which was tacking to
and fro; at the agreed signal, it made for the shore. He could see no
_contadino_ to whom to hand over the horse, so he gave the noble
animal its liberty, and three hours later was at Belgirate. There,
finding himself on friendly soil, he took a little rest; he was
exceedingly joyful, everything had proved a complete success. Dare
we indicate the true causes of his joy? His tree showed a superb
growth, and his soul had been refreshed by the deep affection which he
had found in the arms of Priore Blanès. "Does he really believe," he
asked himself, "in all the predictions he has made me? Or was he,
since my brother has given me the reputation of a Jacobin, a man
without law or honour, sticking at nothing, was he seeking simply to
bind me not to yield to the temptation to break the head of some
animal who may have done me a bad turn?" Two days later, Fabrizio was
at Parma, where he greatly amused the Duchessa and the Conte, when he
related to them, with the utmost exactitude, which he always observed,
the whole story of his travels.

On his arrival, Fabrizio found the porter and all the servants of
the _palazzo_ Sanseverina wearing the tokens of the deepest mourning.

"Whom have we lost?" he inquired of the Duchessa.

"That excellent man whom people called my husband has just died at
Baden. He has left me this _palazzo_, that had been arranged
beforehand, but as a sign of good fellowship he has added a legacy of
300,000 francs, which embarrasses me greatly; I have no desire to
surrender it to his niece, the Marchesa Raversi, who plays the most
damnable tricks on me every day. You are interested in art, you must
find me some good sculptor; I shall erect a tomb to the Duca which
will cost 300,000 francs." The Conte began telling anecdotes about the
Raversi.

"I have tried to win her by kindness, but all in vain," said the
Duchessa. "As for the Duca's nephews, I have made them all colonels or
generals. In return for which, not a month passes without their
sending me some abominable anonymous letter; I have been obliged to
engage a secretary simply to read letters of that sort."

"And these anonymous letters are their mildest offence," the Conte
joined in; "they make a regular business of inventing infamous
accusations. A score of times I could have brought the whole gang
before the courts, and Your Excellency may imagine," he went on,
addressing Fabrizio, "whether my good judges would have convicted
them."

"Ah, well, that is what spoils it all for me," replied Fabrizio with a
simplicity which was quite refreshing at court; "I should prefer to
see them sentenced by magistrates judging according to their
conscience."

"You would oblige me greatly, since you are travelling with a view to
gaining instruction, if you would give me the addresses of such
magistrates; I shall write to them before I go to bed."

"If I were Minister, this absence of judges who were honest men would
wound my self-respect."

"But it seems to me," said the Conte, "that Your Excellency, who is
so fond of the French, and did indeed once lend them the aid of his
invincible arm, is forgetting for the moment one of their great
maxims: 'It is better to kill the devil than to let the devil kill
you.' I should like to see how you would govern these burning souls,
who read every day the _History of the Revolution in France_, with
judges who would acquit the people whom I accuse. They would reach the
point of not convicting the most obviously guilty scoundrels, and
would fancy themselves Brutuses. But I should like to pick a crow with
you; does not your delicate soul feel a touch of remorse at the
thought of that fine (though perhaps a little too thin) horse which
you have just abandoned on the shore of Lake Maggiore?"

"I fully intend," said Fabrizio, with the utmost seriousness, "to
send whatever is necessary to the owner of the horse to recompense him
for the cost of advertising and any other expenses which he may be
made to incur by the _contadini_ who may have found it; I shall study
the Milan newspaper most carefully to find the announcement of a
missing horse; I know the description of that one very well."

"He is truly _primitive_" said the Conte to the Duchessa. "And where
would Your Excellency be now," he went on with a smile, "if, while he
was galloping away hell for leather on this borrowed horse, it had
taken it into its head to make a false step? You would be in the
Spielberg, my dear young nephew, and all my authority would barely
have managed to secure the reduction by thirty pounds of the weight of
the chain attached to each of your legs. You would have had some ten
years to spend in that pleasure-resort; perhaps your legs would have
become swollen and gangrened, then they would have cut them clean
off."

"Oh, for pity's sake, don't go any farther with so sad a romance!"
cried the Duchessa, with tears in her eyes. "Here he is back again.
..."

"And I am more delighted than you, you may well believe," replied
the Minister with great seriousness, "but after all why did not this
cruel boy come to me for a passport in a suitable name, since he was
anxious to penetrate into Lombardy? On the first news of his arrest, I
should have set off for Milan, and the friends I have in those parts
would have obligingly shut their eyes and pretended to believe that
their police had arrested a subject of the Prince of Parma. The story
of your adventures is charming, amusing, I readily agree," the Conte
went on, adopting a less sinister tone; "your rush from the wood on to
the high road quite thrills me; but, between ourselves, since this
servant held your life in his hands, you had the right to take his.
We are about to arrange a brilliant future for Your Excellency; at
least, the Signora here orders me to do so, and I do not believe that
my greatest enemies can accuse me of having ever disobeyed her
commands. What a bitter grief for her and for myself if, in this sort
of steeplechase which you appear to have been riding on this thin
horse, he had made a false step! It would almost have been better,"
the Conte added, "if the horse had broken your neck for you."

"You are very tragic this evening, my friend," said the Duchessa,
quite overcome.

"That is because we are surrounded by tragic events," replied the
Conte, also with emotion; "we are not in France, where everything ends
in song, or in imprisonment for a year or two, and really it is wrong
of me to speak of all this to you in a jocular tone. Well, now, my
young nephew, just suppose that I find a chance to make you a Bishop,
for really I cannot begin with the Archbishopric of Parma, as is
desired, most reasonably, by the Signora Duchessa here present; in
that Bishopric, where you will be far removed from our sage counsels,
just tell us roughly what your policy will be?"

"To kill the devil rather than let him kill me, in the admirable words
of my friends the French," replied Fabrizio with blazing eyes; "to
keep, by every means in my power, including pistols, the position you
will have secured for me. I have read in the del Dongo genealogy the
story of that ancestor of ours who built the castle of Grianta.
Towards the end of his life, his good friend Galeazze, Duke of Milan,
sent him to visit a fortress on our lake; they were afraid of another
invasion by the Swiss. 'I must just write a few civil words to the
governor,' the Duke of Milan said to him as he was sending him off. He
wrote and handed our ancestor a note of a couple of lines; then he
asked for it back to seal it. 'It will be more polite,' the Prince
explained. Vespasiano del Dongo started off, but, as he was sailing
over the lake, an old Greek tale came into his mind, for he was a man
of learning; he opened his liege lord's letter and found inside an
order addressed to the governor of the castle to put him to death as
soon as he should arrive. The Sforza, too much intent on the trick he
was playing our ancestor, had left a space between the end of the
letter and his signature; Vespasiano del Dongo wrote in this space an
order proclaiming himself Governor General of all the castles on the
lake, and tore off the original letter. Arriving at the fort, where
his authority was duly acknowledged, he flung the commandant down a
well, declared war on the Sforza, and after a few years exchanged his
fortress 'for those vast estates which have made the fortune of every
branch of our family, and one day will bring in to me, personally, an
income of four thousand lire."

"You talk like an academician," exclaimed the Conte, laughing; "that
was a bold stroke with a vengeance; but it is only once in ten years
that one has a chance to do anything so sensational. A creature who is
half an idiot, but who keeps a sharp look-out, and acts prudently all
his life, often enjoys the pleasure of triumphing over men of
imagination. It was by a foolish error of imagination that Napoleon
was led to surrender to the prudent _John Bull_, instead of seeking to
conquer America. John Bull, in his counting-house, had a hearty laugh
at his letter in which he quotes Themistocles. In all ages, the base
Sancho Panza triumphs, you will find, in the long run, over the
sublime Don Quixote. If you are willing to agree to do nothing
extraordinary, I have no doubt that you will be a highly respected, if
not a highly respectable Bishop. In any case, what I said just now
holds good: Your Excellency acted with great levity in the affair of
the horse; he was within a finger's breadth of perpetual
imprisonment."

This statement made Fabrizio shudder. He remained plunged in a
profound astonishment. "Was that," he wondered, "the prison with
which I am threatened? Is that the crime which I was not to commit?"
The predictions of Blanès, which as prophecies he utterly derided,
assumed in his eyes all the importance of authentic forecasts.

"Why, what is the matter with you?" the Duchessa asked him, in
surprise; "the Conte has plunged you in a sea of dark thoughts."

"I am illuminated by a new truth, and, instead of revolting against
it, my mind adopts it. It is true, I passed very near to an endless
imprisonment! But that footman looked so nice in his English jacket!
It would have been such a pity to kill him!"

The Minister was enchanted with his little air of wisdom.

"He is excellent in every respect," he said, with his eyes on the
Duchessa. "I may tell you, my friend, that you have made a conquest,
and one that is perhaps the most desirable of all."

"Ah!" thought Fabrizio, "now for some joke about little Marietta." He
was mistaken; the Conte went on to say:

"Your Gospel simplicity has won the heart of our venerable
Archbishop, Father Landriani. One of these days we are going to make a
Grand Vicar of you, and the charming part of the whole joke is that
the three existing Grand Vicars, all most deserving men, workers, two
of whom, I fancy, were Grand Vicars before you were born, will demand,
in a finely worded letter addressed to their Archbishop, that you
shall rank first among them. These gentlemen base their plea in the
first place upon your virtues, and also upon the fact that you are the
great-nephew of the famous Archbishop Ascanio del Dongo. When I
learned the respect that they felt for your virtues, I immediately
made the senior Vicar General's nephew a captain; he had been a
lieutenant ever since the siege of Tarragona by Marshal Suchet."

"Go right away now, dressed as you are, and pay a friendly visit to
your Archbishop!" exclaimed the Duchessa. "Tell him about your
sister's wedding; when he hears that she is to be a Duchessa, he will
think you more apostolic than ever. But, remember, you know nothing of
what the Conte has just told you about your future promotion."

Fabrizio hastened to the archiépiscopal palace; there he shewed
himself simple and modest, a tone which he assumed only too easily;
whereas it required an effort for him to play the great gentleman. As
he listened to the somewhat prolix Stories of Monsignor Landriani, he
was saying to himself: "Ought I to have fired my pistol at the footman
who was leading the thin horse?" His reason said to him: "Yes," but
his heart could not accustom itself to the bleeding image of the
handsome young man, falling from his horse, all disfigured.

"That prison in which I should have been swallowed up, if the horse
had stumbled, was that the prison with which I was threatened by all
those forecasts?"

This question was of the utmost importance to him, and the Archbishop
was gratified by his air of profound attention.




CHAPTER ELEVEN

On leaving the Archbishop's Palace, Fabrizio hastened to see little
Marietta; he could hear from the street the loud voice of Giletti, who
had sent out for wine and was regaling himself with his friends the
prompter and the candle-snuffers. The _mammaccia_, who played the
part of mother, came alone in answer to his signal.

"A lot has happened since you were here," she cried; "two or three of
our actors are accused of having celebrated the great Napoleon's
_festa_ with an orgy, and our poor company, which they say is Jacobin,
has been ordered to leave the States of Parma, and _evviva Napoleone_!
But the Minister has had a finger in that pie, they say. One thing
certain is that Giletti has got money, I don't know how much, but I've
seen him with a fistful of scudi. Marietta has had five scudi from our
manager to pay for the journey to Mantua and Venice, and I have had
one. She is still in love with you, but Giletti frightens her; three
days ago, at the last performance we gave, he absolutely wanted to
kill her; he dealt her two proper blows, and, what was abominable of
him, tore her blue shawl. If you would care to. give her a blue shawl,
you would be a very good boy, and we can say that we won it in a
lottery. The drum-major of the carabinieri is giving an
assault-at-arms to-morrow, you will find the hour posted up at all the
street corners. Come and see us; if he has gone to the assault, and we
have any reason to hope that he will stay away for some time, I shall
be at the window, and I shall give you a signal to come up. Try to
bring us something really nice, and Marietta will be madly in love
with you."

As he made his way down the winding staircase of this foul rookery,
Fabrizio was filled with compunction. "I have not altered in the
least," he said to himself; "all the fine resolutions I made on the
shore of our lake, when I looked at life with so philosophic an eye,
have gone to the winds. My mind has lost its normal balance; the
whole thing was a dream, and vanishes before the stern reality. Now
would be the time for action," he told himself as he entered the
_palazzo_ Sanseverina about eleven o'clock that evening. But it was in
vain that he sought in his heart for the courage to speak with that
sublime sincerity which had seemed to him so easy, the night he spent
by the shore of the Lake of Como. "I am going to vex the person whom I
love best in the world; if I speak, I shall simply seem to be jesting
in the worst of taste; I am not worth anything, really, except in
certain moments of exaltation."

"The Conte has behaved admirably towards me," he said to the Duchessa,
after he had given her an account of his visit to the Archbishop's
Palace; "I appreciate his conduct all the more, in that I think I am
right in saying that personally I have made only a very moderate
impression on him: my behaviour towards him ought therefore to be
strictly correct. He has his excavations at Sanguigna, about which he
is still madly keen, if one is to judge, that is, by his expedition
the day before yesterday: he went twelve leagues at a gallop in order
to spend a couple of hours with his workmen. If they find fragments of
statues in the ancient temple, the foundations of which he has just
laid bare, he is afraid of their being stolen; I should like to
propose to him that I should go and spend a night or two at Sanguigna.
To-morrow, about five, I have to see the Archbishop again; I can
start in the evening and take advantage of the cool night air for the
journey."

The Duchessa did not at first reply.

"One would think you were seeking excuses for staying away from me,"
she said to him at length with extreme affection: "No sooner do you
come back from Belgirate than you find a reason for going off again."

"Here is a fine opportunity for speaking," thought Fabrizio. "But by
the lake I was a trifle mad; I did not realise, in my enthusiasm for
sincerity, that my compliment ended in an impertinence. It was a
question of saying: 'I love you with the most devoted friendship,
etc., etc., but my heart is not susceptible to love.' Is not that as
much as to say: 'I see that you are in love with me: but take care, I
cannot pay you back in the same coin.' If it is love that she feels,
the Duchessa may be annoyed at its being guessed, and she will be
revolted by my impudence if all that she feels for me is friendship
pure and simple ... and that is one of the offences people never
forgive."

While he weighed these important thoughts in his mind, Fabrizio, quite
unconsciously, was pacing up and down the drawing-room with the grave
air, full of dignity, of a man who sees disaster staring him in the
face.

The Duchessa gazed at him with admiration; this was no longer the
child she had seen come into the world, this was no longer the nephew
always ready to obey her; this was a serious man, a man whom it would
be delicious to make fall in love with her. She rose from the ottoman
on which she was sitting, and, flinging herself into his arms in a
transport of emotion:

"So you want to run away from me?" she asked him.

"No," he replied with the air of a Roman Emperor, "but I want to act
wisely."

This speech was capable of several interpretations; Fabrizio did not
feel that he had the courage to go any farther and to run the risk of
wounding this adorable woman. He was too young, too susceptible to
sudden emotion; his brain could not supply him with any elegant turn
of speech to give expression to what he wished to say. By a natural
transport, and in defiance of all reason, he took this charming woman
in his arms and smothered her in kisses. At that moment the Conte's
carriage could be heard coming into the courtyard, and almost
immediately the Conte himself entered the room; he seemed greatly
moved.

"You inspire very singular passions," he said to Fabrizio, who stood
still, almost dumbfoundered by this remark.

"The Archbishop had this evening the audience which His Serene
Highness grants him every Thursday; the Prince has just been telling
me that the Archbishop, who seemed greatly troubled, began with a set
speech, learned by heart, and extremely clever, of which at first the
Prince could understand nothing at all. Landriani ended by declaring
that it was important for the Church in Parma that _Monsignor_
Fabrizio del Dongo should be appointed his First Vicar General, and,
in addition, as soon as he should have completed his twenty-fourth
year, his Coadjutor _with eventual succession_.

"The last clause alarmed me, I must admit," said the Conte: "it is
going a little too fast, and I was afraid of an outburst from the
Prince; but he looked at me with a smile, and said to me in French:
'_Ce sont là de vos coups, monsieur_!'

" 'I can take my oath, before God and before Your Highness,' I
exclaimed with all the unction possible, 'that I knew absolutely
nothing about the words _eventual succession_.' Then I told him the
truth, what in fact we were discussing together here a few hours
ago; I added, impulsively, that, so far as the future was concerned, I
should regard myself as most bounteously rewarded with His Highness's
favour if he would deign to allow me a minor Bishopric to begin with.
The Prince must have believed me, for he thought fit to be gracious;
he said to me with the greatest possible simplicity: 'This is an
official matter between the Archbishop and myself; you do not come
into it at all; the worthy man delivered me a kind of report, of great
length and tedious to a degree, at the end of which he came to an
official proposal; I answered him very coldly that the person in
question was extremely young, and, moreover, a very recent arrival at
my court, that I should almost be giving the impression that I was
honouring a bill of exchange drawn upon me by the Emperor, in giving
the prospect of so high a dignity to the son of one of the principal
officers of his Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom. The Archbishop protested
that no recommendation of that sort had been made. That was a pretty
stupid thing to say to _me_. I was surprised to hear it come from a
man of his experience; but he always loses his head when he speaks to
me, and this evening he was more troubled than ever, which gave me the
idea that he was passionately anxious to secure the appointment. I
told him that I knew better than he that there had been no
recommendation from any high quarter in favour of this del Dongo, that
nobody at my court denied his capacity, that they did not speak at all
too badly of his morals, but that I was afraid of his being liable to
enthusiasm, and that I had made it a rule never to promote to
considerable positions fools of that sort, with whom a Prince can
never be sure of anything. Then,' His Highness went on, 'I had to
submit to a fresh tirade almost as long as the first; the Archbishop
sang me the praises of the enthusiasm of the _Casa di Dio_. Clumsy
fellow, I said to myself, you are going astray, you are endangering an
appointment which was almost confirmed; you ought to have cut your
speech short and thanked me effusively. Not a bit of it; he continued
his homily with a ridiculous intrepidity; I had to think of a reply
which would not be too unfavourable to young del Dongo; I found one,
and by no means a bad one, as you shall judge for yourself.
Monsignore, I said to him, Pius VII was a great Pope and a great
saint: among all the Sovereigns, he alone dared to say _No_ to the
tyrant who saw Europe at his feet: very well, he was liable to
enthusiasm, which led him, when he was Bishop of Imola, to write that
famous Pastoral of the _Citizen-Cardinal_ Chiaramonti, in support of
the Cisalpine Republic.

"'My poor Archbishop was left stupefied, and, to complete his
stupefaction, I said to him with a very serious air: Good-bye,
Monsignore, I shall take twenty-four hours to consider your proposal.
The poor man added various supplications, by no means well expressed
and distinctly inopportune after the word _Good-bye_ had been
uttered by me. Now, Conte Mosca della Rovere, I charge you to inform
the Duchessa that I have no wish to delay for twenty-four hours a
decision which may be agreeable to her; sit down there and write the
Archbishop the letter of approval which will bring the whole matter to
an end.' I wrote the letter, he signed it, and said to me: 'Take it,
immediately, to the Duchessa.' Here, Signora, is the letter, and it is
this that has given me an excuse for taking the pleasure of seeing you
again this evening."

The Duchessa read the letter with rapture. While the Conte was telling
his long story, Fabrizio had had time to collect himself: he shewed no
sign of astonishment at the incident, he took the whole thing like a
true nobleman who naturally has always supposed himself entitled to
these extraordinary advancements, these strokes of fortune which would
unhinge a plebeian mind; he spoke of his gratitude, but in polished
terms, and ended by saying to the Conte:

"A good courtier ought to flatter the ruling passion; yesterday you
expressed the fear that your workmen at Sanguigna might steal any
fragments of ancient sculpture they brought to light; I am extremely
fond of excavation, myself; with your kind permission, I will go to
superintend the workmen. To-morrow evening, after suitably expressing
my thanks at the Palace and to the Archbishop, I shall start for
Sanguigna."

"But can you guess," the Duchessa asked the Conte, "what can have
given rise to this sudden passion on our good Archbishop's part for
Fabrizio?"

"I have no need to guess; the Grand Vicar whose nephew I made a
captain said to me yesterday: 'Father Landriani starts from this
absolute principle, that the titular is superior to the coadjutor, and
is beside himself with joy at the prospect of having a del Dongo under
his orders, and of having done him a service.' Everything that can
draw attention to Fabrizio's noble birth adds to his secret happiness:
that he should have a man like that as his aide-de-camp! In the second
place, Monsignor Fabrizio has taken his fancy, he does not feel in the
least shy before him; finally, he has been nourishing for the last ten
years a very vigorous hatred of the Bishop of Piacenza, who openly
boasts of his claim to succeed him in the see of Parma, and is
moreover the son of a miller. It is with a view to this eventual
succession that the Bishop of Piacenza has formed very close relations
with the Marchesa Raversi, and now their intimacy is making the
Archbishop tremble for the success of his favourite scheme, to have a
del Dongo on his staff and to give him orders."

Two days after this, at an early hour in the morning, Fabrizio was
directing the work of excavation at Sanguigna, opposite Colorno (which
is the Versailles of the Princes of Parma); these excavations extended
over the plain close to the high road which runs from Parma to the
bridge of Casalmaggiore, the first town on Austrian territory. The
workmen were intersecting the plain with a long trench, eight feet
deep and as narrow as possible: they were engaged in seeking, along
the old Roman Way, for the ruins of a second temple which, according
to local reports, had still been in existence in the Middle Ages.
Despite the Prince's orders, many of the _contadini_ looked with
misgivings on these long ditches running across their property.
Whatever one might say to them, they imagined that a search was being
made for treasure, and Fabrizio's presence was especially desirable
with a view to preventing any little unrest. He was by no means bored,
he followed the work with keen interest; from time to time they turned
up some medal, and he saw to it that the workmen did not have time to
arrange among themselves to make off with it.

The day was fine, the time about six o'clock in the morning: he had
borrowed an old gun, single-barrelled; he shot several larks; one of
them, wounded, was falling upon the high road. Fabrizio, as he went
after it, caught sight, in the distance, of a carriage that was coming
from Parma and making for the frontier at Casalmaggiore. He had just
reloaded his gun when, the carriage which was extremely dilapidated
coming towards him at a snail's pace, he recognised little Marietta;
she had, on either side of her, the big bully Giletti and the old
woman whom she passed off as her mother.

Giletti imagined that Fabrizio had posted himself there in the middle
of the road, and with a gun in his hand, to insult him, and perhaps
even to carry off his little Marietta. Like a man of valour, he
jumped down from the carriage; he had in his left hand a large and
very rusty pistol, and held in his right a sheathed sword, which he
used when the limitations of the company obliged them to cast him for
the part of some Marchese.

"Ha! Brigand!" he shouted, "I am very glad to find you here, a league
from the frontier; I'll settle your account for you, right away;
you're not protected here by your violet stockings."

Fabrizio was engaged in smiling at little Marietta, and barely heeding
the jealous shouts of Giletti, when suddenly he saw within three feet
of his chest the muzzle of the rusty pistol; he was just in time to
aim a blow at it, using his gun as a club: the pistol went off, but
did not hit anyone.

"Stop, will you, you ----," cried Giletti to the _vetturino_; at the
same time he was quick enough to spring to the muzzle of his
adversary's gun and to hold it so that it pointed away from his body;
Fabrizio and he pulled at the gun, each with his whole strength.
Giletti, who was a great deal the more vigorous of the two, placing
one hand in front of the other, kept creeping forward towards the
lock, and was on the point of snatching away the gun when Fabrizio, to
prevent him from making use of it, fired. He had indeed seen, first,
that the muzzle of the gun was more than three inches above Giletti's
shoulder: still, the detonation occurred close to the man's ear. He
was somewhat startled at first, but at once recovered himself:

"Oh, so you want to blow my head off, you scum! Just let me settle
your reckoning." Giletti flung away the scabbard of his Marchese's
sword, and fell upon Fabrizio with admirable swiftness. Our hero had
no weapon, and gave himself up for lost.

He made for the carriage, which had stopped some ten yards beyond
Giletti; he passed to the left of it, and, grasping the spring of the
carriage in his hand, made a quick turn which brought him level with
the door on the right-hand side, which stood open. Giletti, who had
started off on his long legs and had not thought of checking himself
by catching hold of the spring, went on for several paces in the same
direction before he could stop. As Fabrizio passed by the open door,
he heard Marietta whisper to him:

"Take care of yourself; he will kill you. Here!"

As he spoke, Fabrizio saw fall from the door a sort of big hunting
knife, he stooped to pick it up, but as he did so was wounded in the
shoulder by a blow from Giletti's sword. Fabrizio, on rising to his
feet, found himself within six inches of Giletti, who struck him a
furious blow in the face with the hilt of his sword; this blow was
delivered with so much force that it completely took away Fabrizio's
senses. At that moment, he was on the point of being killed.
Fortunately for him, Giletti was still too near to be able to give him
a thrust with the point. Fabrizio, when he came to himself, took to
flight, and ran as fast as his legs would carry him; as he ran, he
flung away the sheath of the hunting knife, and then, turning smartly
round, found himself three paces ahead of Giletti, who was in pursuit.
Giletti rushed on, Fabrizio struck at him with the point of his knife;
Giletti was in time to beat up the knife a little with his sword, but
he received the point of the blade full in the left cheek. He passed
close by Fabrizio, who felt his thigh pierced: it was Giletti's knife,
which he had found time to open. Fabrizio sprang to the right; he
turned round, and at last the two adversaries found themselves at a
proper fighting distance.

Giletti swore like a lost soul: "Ah! I shall slit your throat for you,
you rascally priest," he kept on repeating every moment. Fabrizio
was quite out of breath and could not speak: the blow on his face from
the sword-hilt was causing him a great deal of pain, and his nose was
bleeding abundantly. He parried a number of strokes with his hunting
knife, and made a number of passes without knowing quite what he was
doing. He had a vague feeling that he was at a public display. This
idea had been suggested to him by the presence of the workmen, who, to
the number of twenty-five or thirty, formed a circle round the
combatants, but at a most respectful distance; for at every moment
they saw them start to run, and spring upon one another.

The fight seemed to be slackening a little; the strokes no longer
followed one another with the same rapidity, when Fabrizio said to
himself: "To judge by the pain which I feel in my face, he must have
disfigured me." In a spasm of rage at this idea, he leaped upon his
enemy with the point of his hunting knife forwards. This point entered
Giletti's chest on the right side and passed out near his left
shoulder; at the same moment Giletti's sword passed right to the hilt
through the upper part of Fabrizio's arm, but the blade glided under
the skin and the wound was not serious.

Giletti had fallen; as Fabrizio advanced towards him, looking down
at his left hand which was clasping a knife, that hand opened
mechanically and let the weapon slip to the ground.

"The rascal is dead," said Fabrizio to himself. He looked at Giletti's
face: blood was pouring from his mouth. Fabrizio ran to the carriage.

"Have you a mirror?" he cried to Marietta. Marietta stared at him,
deadly pale, and made no answer. The old woman with great coolness
opened à green workbag and handed Fabrizio a little mirror with a
handle, no bigger than his hand. Fabrizio as he looked at himself felt
his face carefully: "My eyes are all right," he said to himself, "that
is something, at any rate." He examined his teeth; they were not
broken at all. "Then how is it that I am in such pain?" he asked
himself, half aloud.

The old woman answered him:

"It is because the top of your cheek has been crushed between the
hilt of Giletti's sword and the bone we keep there. Your cheek is
horribly swollen and blue: put leeches on it instantly, and it will be
all right."

"Ah! Leeches, instantly!" said Fabrizio with a laugh, and recovered
all his coolness. He saw that the workmen had gathered round Giletti,
and were gazing at him, without venturing to touch him.

"Look after that man there!" he called to them; "take his coat off."
He was going to say more, but, on raising his eyes, saw five or six
men at a distance of three hundred yards on the high road, who were
advancing on foot and at a measured pace towards the scene of action.

"They are police," he thought, "and, as there has been a man killed,
they will arrest me, and I shall have the honour of making a solemn
entry into the city of Parma. What a story for the Raversi's friends
at court who detest my aunt!"

Immediately, with the rapidity of a flash of lightning, he flung to
the open-mouthed workmen all the money that he had in his pockets and
leaped into the carriage.

"Stop the police from pursuing me!" he cried to his men, "and your
fortunes are all made; tell them that I am innocent, that this man
_attacked me and wanted to kill me_.

"And you," he said to the _vetturino_, "make your horses gallop; you
shall have four golden napoleons if you cross the Po before these
people behind can overtake me."

"Right you are," said the man; "but there's nothing to be afraid of:
those men back there are on foot, and my little horses have only to
trot to leave them properly in the lurch." So saying, he put the
animals into a gallop.

Our hero was shocked to hear the word "afraid" used by the driver: the
fact being that really he had been extremely afraid after the blow
from the sword-hilt which had struck him in the face.

"We may run into people on horseback coming towards us," said the
prudent _vetturino_, thinking of the four napoleons, "and the men
who are following us may call out to them to stop us...." Which
meant, in other words: "Reload your weapons."

"Oh, how brave you are, my little Abate!" cried Marietta as she
embraced Fabrizio. The old woman was looking out through the window of
the carriage; presently she drew in her head.

"No one is following you, sir," she said to Fabrizio with great
coolness; "and there is no one on the road in front of you. You know
how particular the officials of the Austrian police are: if they see
you arrive like this at a gallop, along the embankment by the Po, they
will arrest you, no doubt about it."

Fabrizio looked out of the window.

"Trot," he said to the driver. "What passport have you?" he asked the
old woman.

"Three, instead of one," she replied, "and they cost us four francs
apiece; a dreadful thing, isn't it, for poor dramatic artists who are
kept travelling all the year round! Here is the passport of Signor
Giletti, dramatic artist: that will be you; here are our two
passports, Marietta's and mine. But ' Giletti had all our money in his
pocket; what is to become of us?"

"What had he?" Fabrizio asked.

"Forty good scudi of five francs," said the old woman.

"You mean six, and some small change," said Marietta With a smile: "I
won't have my little Abate cheated."

"Isn't it only natural, sir," replied the old woman with great
coolness, "that I should try to tap you for thirty-four scudi? What
are thirty-four scudi to you, and we--we have lost our protector. Who
is there now to find us lodgings, to beat down prices with the
_vetturini_ when we are on the road, and to put the fear of God into
everyone? Giletti was not beautiful, but he was most useful; and if
the little girl there hadn't been a fool, and fallen in love with you
from the first, Giletti would never have noticed anything, and you
would have given us good money. I can assure you that we are very
poor."

Fabrizio was touched; he took out his purse and gave several napoleons
to the old woman.

"You see," he said to her, "I have only fifteen left, so it is no use
your trying to pull my leg any more."

Little Marietta flung her arms round his neck, and the old woman
kissed his hands. The carriage was moving all this time at a slow
trot. When they saw in the distance the yellow barriers striped with
black which indicated the beginning of Austrian territory, the old
woman said to Fabrizio:

"You would do best to cross the frontier on foot with Giletti's
passport in your pocket; as for us, we shall stop for a minute, on the
excuse of making ourselves tidy. And besides, the _dogana_ will want
to look at our things. If you will take my advice, you will go through
Casalmaggiore at a careless stroll; even go into the _caffè_ and
drink a glass of brandy, once you are past the village, put your best
foot foremost. The police are as sharp as the devil in an Austrian
country; they will pretty soon know there has been a man killed; you
are travelling with a passport which is not yours, that is more than
enough to get you two years in prison. Make for the Po on your right
after you leave the town, hire a boat and get away to Ravenna or
Ferrara; get clear of the Austrian States as quickly as ever you can.
With a couple of louis you should be able to buy another passport from
some _doganiere_; it would be fatal to use this one; don't forget that
you have killed the man."

As he approached, on foot, the bridge of boats at Casalmaggiore,
Fabrizio carefully reread Giletti's passport. Our hero was in great
fear, he recalled vividly all that Conte Mosca had said to him about
the danger involved in his entering Austrian territory; well, two
hundred yards ahead of him he saw the terrible bridge which was about
to give him access to that country, the capital of which, in his eyes,
was the Spielberg. But what else was he to do? The Duchy of Modena,
which marches with the State of Parma on the South, returned its
fugitives in compliance with a special convention; the frontier of the
State which extends over the mountains in the direction of Genoa was
too far off; his misadventure would be known at Parma long before he
could reach those mountains; there remained therefore nothing but the
Austrian States on the left bank of the Po. Before there was time to
write to the Austrian authorities asking them to arrest him,
thirty-six hours, or even two days must elapse. All these
considerations duly weighed, Fabrizio set a light with his cigar to
his own passport; it was better for him, on Austrian soil, to be a
vagabond than to be Fabrizio del Dongo, and it was possible that they
might search him.

Quite apart from the very natural repugnance which he felt towards
entrusting his life to the passport of the unfortunate Giletti, this
document presented material difficulties. Fabrizio's height was, at
the most, five feet five inches, and not five feet ten inches as was
stated on the passport. He was not quite twenty-four, and looked
younger. Giletti had been thirty-nine. We must confess that our hero
paced for a good half-hour along a flood-barrier of the Po near the
bridge of boats before making up his mind to go down on to it. "What
should I advise anyone else to do in my place?" he asked himself
finally. "Obviously, to cross: there is danger in remaining in the
State of Parma; a constable may be sent in pursuit of the man who has
killed another man, even in self-defence." Fabrizio went through his
pocket, tore up all his papers, and kept literally nothing but his
handkerchief and his cigar-case; it was important for him to curtail
the examination which he would have to undergo. He thought of a
terrible objection which might be raised, and to which he could find
no satisfactory answer: he was going to say that his name was Giletti,
and all his linen was marked F. D.

As we have seen, Fabrizio was one of those unfortunates who are
tormented by their imagination; it is a characteristic fault of men of
intelligence in Italy. A French soldier of equal or even inferior
courage would have gone straight to the bridge and have crossed it
without more ado, without thinking beforehand of any possible
difficulties; but also he would have carried with him all his
coolness, and Fabrizio was far from feeling cool when, at the end of
the bridge, a little man, dressed in grey, said to him: "Go into the
police office and shew your passport."

This office had dirty walls studded with nails from which hung the
pipes and the soiled hats of the officials. The big deal table behind
which they were installed was spotted all over with stains of ink and
wine; two or three fat registers bound in raw hide bore stains of all
colours, and the margins of the pages were black with finger-marks. On
top of the registers which were piled one on another lay three
magnificent wreaths of laurel which had done duty a couple of days
before for one of the Emperor's festivals.

Fabrizio was impressed by all these details; they gave him a
tightening of the heart; this was the price he must pay for the
magnificent luxury, so cool and clean, that caught the eye in his
charming rooms in the _palazzo_ Sanseverina. He was obliged to enter
this dirty office and to appear there as an inferior; he was about to
undergo an examination.

The official who stretched out a yellow hand to take his passport was
small and dark. He wore a brass pin in his necktie. "This is an
ill-tempered fellow," thought Fabrizio. The gentleman seemed
excessively surprised as he read the passport, and his perusal of it
lasted fully five minutes.

"You have met with an accident," he said to the stranger, looking at
his cheek.

"The _vetturino_ flung us out over the embankment."

Then the silence was resumed, and the official cast sour glances at
the traveller.

"I see it now," Fabrizio said to himself, "he is going to inform me
that he is sorry to have bad news to give me, and that I am under
arrest." All sorts of wild ideas surged simultaneously into our hero's
brain, which at this moment was not very logical. For instance, he
thought of escaping by a door in the office which stood open. "I get
rid of my coat, I jump into the Po, and no doubt I shall be able to
swim across it. Anything is better than the Spielberg." The police
official was staring fixedly at him, while he calculated the chances
of success of this dash for safety; they furnished two interesting
types of the human countenance. The presence of danger gives a touch
of genius to the reasoning man, places him, so to speak, above his own
level: in the imaginative man it inspires romances, bold, it is
true, but frequently absurd.

You ought to have seen the indignant air of our hero under the
searching eye of this police official, adorned with his brass jewelry.
"If I were to kill him," thought Fabrizio, "I should be convicted of
murder and sentenced to twenty years in the galleys, or to death,
which is a great deal less terrible than the Spielberg with a chain
weighing a hundred and twenty pounds on each foot and nothing but
eight ounces of bread to live on; and that lasts for twenty years; so
that I should not get out until I was forty-four." Fabrizio's logic
overlooked the fact that, as he had burned his own passport, there was
nothing to indicate to the police official that he was the rebel,
Fabrizio del Dongo.

Our hero was sufficiently alarmed, as we have seen; he would have been
a great deal more so could he have read the thoughts that were
disturbing the official's mind. This man was a friend of Giletti; one
may judge of his surprise when he saw his friend's passport in the
hands of a stranger; his first impulse was to have that stranger
arrested, then he reflected that Giletti might easily have sold his
passport to this fine young man who apparently had just been doing
something disgraceful at Parma. "If I arrest him," he said to himself,
"Giletti will get into trouble; they will at once discover that he
has sold his passport; on the other hand, what will my chiefs say if
it is proved that I, a friend of Giletti, put a _visa_ on his passport
when it was carried by someone else." The official got up with a yawn
and said to Fabrizio: "Wait a minute, sir"; then, adopting a
professional formula, added: "A difficulty has arisen." On which
Fabrizio murmured: "What is going to arise is my escape."

As a matter of fact, the official went out of the office, leaving the
door open; and the passport was left lying on the deal table. "The
danger is obvious," thought Fabrizio; "I shall take my passport and
walk slowly back across the bridge; I shall tell the constable, if he
questions me, that I forgot to have my passport examined by the
commissary of police in the last village in the State of Parma."
Fabrizio had already taken the passport in his hand when, to his
unspeakable astonishment, he heard the clerk with the brass jewelry
say:

"Upon my soul, I can't do any more work; the heat is stifling; I am
going to the _caffè_ to have half a glass. Go into the office when you
have finished your pipe, there's a passport to be stamped; the party
is in there."

Fabrizio, who was stealing out on tiptoe, found himself face to face
with a handsome young man who was saying to himself, or rather
humming: "Well, let us see this passport; I'll put my scrawl on it.

"Where does the gentleman wish to go?"

"To Mantua, Venice and Ferrara."

"Ferrara it is," said the official, whistling; he took up a die,
stamped the _visa_ in blue ink on the passport, rapidly wrote in the
words: "Mantua, Venice and Ferrara," in the space left blank by the
stamp, then waved his hand several times in the air, signed, and
dipped his pen in the ink to make his flourish, which he executed
slowly and with infinite pains. Fabrizio followed every movement of
his pen; the clerk studied his flourish with satisfaction, adding five
or six finishing touches, then handed the passport back to Fabrizio,
saying in a careless tone: "A good journey, sir!"

Fabrizio made off at a pace the alacrity of which he was endeavouring
to conceal, when he felt himself caught by the left arm: instinctively
his hand went to the hilt of his dagger, and if he had not observed
that he was surrounded by houses he might perhaps have done something
rash. The man who was touching his left arm, seeing that he appeared
quite startled, said by way of apology:

"But I called the gentleman three times, and got no answer; has the
gentleman anything to declare before the customs?"

"I have nothing on me but my handkerchief; I am going to a place quite
near here, to shoot with one of my family."

He would have been greatly embarrassed had he been asked to name this
relative. What with the great heat and his various emotions, Fabrizio
was as wet as if he had fallen into the Po. "I am not lacking in
courage to face actors, but clerks with brass jewelry send me out of
my mind; I shall make a humorous sonnet out of that to amuse the
Duchessa."

Entering Casalmaggiore, Fabrizio at once turned to the right along a
mean street which leads down to the Po. "I am in great need," he said
to himself, "of the succour of Bacchus and Ceres," and he entered a
shop outside which there hung a grey clout fastened to a stick; on the
clout was inscribed the word _Trattoria_. A meagre piece of bed-linen
supported on two slender wooden hoops and hanging down to within three
feet of the ground sheltered the doorway of the _Trattoria_ from the
vertical rays of the sun. There, a half-undressed and extremely
pretty woman received our hero with respect, which gave him the
keenest pleasure; he hastened to inform her that he was dying of
hunger. While the woman was preparing his breakfast, there entered a
man of about thirty; he had given no greeting on coming in; suddenly
he rose from the bench on which he had flung himself down with a
familiar air, and said to Fabrizio: "_Eccellenza, la riverisco_!"
(Excellency, your servant!) Fabrizio was in the highest spirits at the
moment, and, instead of forming sinister plans, replied with a laugh:
"And how the devil do you know my Excellency?"

"What! Doesn't Your Excellency remember Lodovico, one of the Signora
Duchessa Sanseverina's coachmen? At Sacca, the place in the country
where we used to go every year, I always took fever; I asked the
Signora for a pension, and retired from service. Now I am rich;
instead of the pension of twelve scudi a year, which was the most I
was entitled to expect, the Signora told me that, to give me the
leisure to compose sonnets, for I am a poet in the _lingua volgare_,
she would allow me twenty-four scudi and the Signor Conte told me that
if ever I was in difficulties I had only to come and tell him. I have
had the honour to drive Monsignore for a stage, when he went to make
his retreat, like a good Christian, in the Certosa of Velleja."

Fabrizio studied the man's face and began to recognise him. He had
been one of the smartest coachmen in the Sanseverina establishment;
now that he was what he called rich his entire clothing consisted of a
coarse shirt, in holes, and a pair of cloth breeches, dyed black at
some time in he past, which barely came down to his knees; a pair of
shoes and a villainous hat completed his equipment. In addition to
this, he had not shaved for a fortnight. As he ate his omelette
Fabrizio engaged in conversation with him, absolutely as between
equals; he thought he detected that Lodovico was in love with their
hostess. He finished his meal rapidly, then said in a low voice to
Lodovico: "I want a word with you."

"Your Excellency can speak openly before her, she is a really good
woman," said Lodovico with a tender air.

"Very well, my friends," said Fabrizio without hesitation, "I am in
trouble, and have need of your help. First of all, there is nothing
political about my case; I have simply and solely killed a man who
wanted to murder me because I spoke to his mistress."

"Poor young man!" said the landlady.

"Your Excellency can count on me!" cried the coachman, his eyes ablaze
with the most passionate devotion; "where does His Excellency wish to
go?"

"To Ferrara. I have a passport, but I should prefer not to speak to
the police, who may have received information of what has happened."

"When did you despatch this fellow?"

"This morning, at six o'clock."

"Your Excellency has no blood on his clothes, has he," asked the
landlady.

"I was thinking of that," put in the coachman, "and besides, the
cloth of that coat is too fine; you don't see many like that in the
country round here, it would make -people stare at us; I shall go and
buy some clothes from the Jew. Your Excellency is about my figure,
only thinner."

"For pity's sake, don't go on calling me Excellency, it may attract
attention."

"Very good, Excellency," replied the coachman, as he left the tavern.

"Here, here," Fabrizio called after him, "and what about the money!
Come back!"

"What do you mean--money!" said the landlady; "he has sixty-seven
scudi which are entirely at your service. I myself," she went on,
lowering her voice, "have forty scudi which I offer you with the best
will in the world; one doesn't always have money on one when these
accidents happen."

On account of the heat, Fabrizio had taken off his coat on entering
the _Trattoria_.

"You have a waistcoat on you which might land us in trouble if anyone
came in: that fine _English cloth_ would attract attention." She
gave our fugitive a stuff waistcoat, dyed black, which belonged to her
husband. A tall young man came into the tavern by an inner door; he
was dressed with a certain style.

"This is my husband," said the landlady. "Pietro-Antonio," she said to
her husband, "this gentleman is a friend of Ludovico; he met with an
accident this morning, across the river, and he wants to get away to
Ferrara."

"Oh, we'll get him there," said the husband with an air of great
gentility; "we have Carlo-Giuseppe's boat."

Owing to another weakness in our hero which we shall confess as
naturally as we have related his fear in the police office at the end
of the bridge, there were tears in his eyes; he was profoundly moved
by the perfect devotion which he found among these _contadini_; he
thought also of this characteristic generosity of his aunt; he would
have liked to be able to make these people's fortune. Lodovico
returned, carrying a packet.

"So that's finished," the husband said to him in a friendly tone.

"It's not that," replied Lodovico in evident alarm, "people are
beginning to talk about you, they noticed that you hesitated before
turning down our _vicolo_ and leaving the big street, like a man who
was trying to hide."

"Go up quick to the bedroom," said the husband.

This room, which was very large and fine, had grey cloth instead of
glass in its two windows; it contained four beds, each six feet wide
and five feet high.

"Be quick! Be quick!" said Lodovico, "there is a swaggering fool of
a constable who has just been posted here and began trying to make
love to the pretty lady downstairs; and I've told him that when he
goes travelling about the country he may find himself stopping a
bullet. If the dog hears any mention of Your Excellency, he'll want to
do us a bad turn, he will try to arrest you here, so as to get
Teodolinda's _Trattoria_ a bad name.

"What's this?" Lodovico went on, seeing Fabrizio's shirt all stained
with blood and his wounds bandaged with handkerchiefs, "so the
_porco_ shewed fight, did he? That's a hundred times more that you
need to get yourself arrested, and I haven't bought you any shirt."
Without ceremony he opened the husband's wardrobe and gave one of his
shirts to Fabrizio, who was soon attired like a prosperous
countryman. Lodovico took down a net that was hanging on the wall,
placed Fabrizio's clothes in the basket in which the fish are put,
went downstairs at a run and hastened out of the house by a back door;
Fabrizio followed him.

"Teodolinda," he called out as he passed by the bar, "hide . what I've
left upstairs, we are going to wait among the willows, and you,
Pietro-Antonio, send us a boat quickly, we'll pay well for it."

Lodovico led Fabrizio across more than a score of ditches. There were
planks, very long and very elastic, which served as bridges across the
wider of these ditches; Lodovico took up these planks after crossing
by them. On coming to the last canal he took up the plank with haste.
"Now we can stop and breathe," he said; "that dog of a constable will
have to go two leagues and more to reach Your Excellency. Why, you're
quite pale," he said to Fabrizio; "I haven't forgotten the little
bottle of brandy."

"It comes in most useful; the wound in my thigh is beginning to hurt
me; and besides, I was in a fine fright in the police office by the
bridge."

"I can well believe it," said Lodovico; "with a shirt covered in
blood, as yours was, I can't conceive how you ever even dared to set
foot in such a place. As for your wounds, I know what to do; I am
going to put you in a cool place where you can sleep for an hour; the
boat will come for us there, if there is any way of getting a boat; if
not, when you have rested a little, we shall go on two short leagues,
and I shall take you to a mill where I shall take a boat myself. Your
Excellency knows far more than I do: the Signora will be in despair
when she hears of the accident; they will tell her that you are
mortally wounded, perhaps even that you killed the other man by foul
play. The Marchesa Raversi will not fail to circulate all the evil
reports that can hurt the Signora. Your Excellency might write." "And
how should I get the letter delivered?" "The boys at the mill where we
are going earn twelve soldi a day; in a day and a half they can be at
Parma; say four francs for the journey, two francs for the wear and
tear of their shoe-leather: if the errand was being done for a poor
man like me, that would be six francs; as it is in the service of a
Signore, I shall give them twelve."

When they had reached the resting-place in a clump of alders and
willows, very leafy and very cool, Lodovico went to a house more than
an hour's journey away in search of ink and paper. "Great heavens, how
comfortable I am here," cried Fabrizio. "Fortune, farewell! I shall
never be an Archbishop!"

On his return, Lodovico found him fast asleep and did not like to
arouse him. The boat did not arrive until the sun had almost set; as
soon as Lodovico saw it appear in the distance he called Fabrizio, who
wrote a couple of letters.

"Your Excellency knows far more than I do," said Lodovico with a
troubled air, "and I am very much afraid of displeasing him
seriously, whatever he may say, if I add a certain remark."

"I am not such a fool as you think me," replied Fabrizio, "and,
whatever you may say, you will always be in my eyes a faithful servant
of my aunt, and a man who has done everything in the world to get me
out of a very awkward scrape."

Many more protestations still were required before Lodovico could be
prevailed upon to speak, and when at last he had made up his mind, he
began with a preamble which lasted for quite five minutes. Fabrizio
grew impatient, then said to himself: "After all, whose fault is it?
It is due to our vanity, which this man has very well observed from
his seat on the box." Lodovico's devotion at last impelled him to run
the risk of speaking plainly.

"What would not the Marchesa Raversi give to the messenger you are
going to send to Parma to have these two letters? They are in your
handwriting, and consequently furnish legal evidence against you.
Your Excellency will take me for an inquisitive and indiscreet fellow;
in the second place, he will perhaps feel ashamed of setting before
the eyes of the Signora Duchessa the wretched handwriting of a
coachman like myself; but after all, the thought of your safety opens
my mouth, although you may think me impertinent. Could not Your
Excellency dictate those two letters to me? Then I am the only person
compromised, and that very little; I can say, at a pinch, that you
appeared to me in the middle of a field with an inkhorn in one hand
and a pistol in the other, and that you ordered me to write."

"Give me your hand, my dear Ludovico?' cried Fabrizio, "and to prove
to you that I wish to have no secret from a friend like yourself, copy
these two letters jest as they are." Lodovico fully appreciated this
mark of confidence, and was extremely grateful for it, but after
writing a few lines, as he saw the boat coming rapidly downstream:

"The letters will be finished sooner," he said to Fabrizio, "if Your
Excellency will take the trouble to dictate them to me." The letters
written, Fabrizio wrote an A and a B on the closing lines, and on a
little scrap of paper which he afterwards crumpled up, put in French:
"_Croyez A et B_." The messenger would be told to hide this scrap of
paper in his clothing.

The boat having come within hailing distance, Lodovico called to the
boatmen by names which were not theirs; they made no reply, and put
into the bank a thousand yards lower down, looking all round them to
make sure that they had not been seen by some _doganiere_.

"I am at your orders," said Lodovico to Fabrizio; "would you like me
to take these letters myself to Parma? Or would you prefer me to
accompany you to Ferrara?"

"To accompany me to Ferrara is a service which I was hardly daring to
ask of you. I shall have to land, and try to enter the town without
shewing my passport. I may tell you that I feel the greatest
repugnance towards travelling under the name of Giletti, and I can
think of no one but yourself who would be able to buy me another
passport."

"Why didn't you speak at Casalmaggiore? I know a spy there who would
have sold me an excellent passport, and not dear, for forty or fifty
francs."

One of the two boatmen, whose home was on the right bank of the Po,
and who consequently had no need of a foreign passport to go to Parma,
undertook to deliver the letters. Lodovico, who knew how to handle
the oars, set to work to propel the boat with the other man.

"We shall find on the lower reaches of the Po," he said, "several
armed vessels belonging to the police, and I shall manage to avoid
them." Ten times at least they were obliged to hide among little
islets flush with the water, covered with willows. Three times they
set foot on shore in order to let the boat drift past the police
vessels empty. Lodovico took advantage of these long intervals of
leisure to recite to Fabrizio several of his sonnets. The sentiments
were true enough, but were so to speak blunted by his expression of
them, and were not worth the trouble of putting them on paper; the
curious thing was that this ex-coachman had passions and points of
view that were vivid and picturesque; he became cold and commonplace
as soon as he began to write. "It is the opposite of what we see in
society," thought Fabrizio; "people know nowadays how to express
everything gracefully, but their hearts have nothing to say." He
realised that the greatest pleasure he could give to this faithful
servant would be to correct the mistakes in spelling in his sonnets.

"They laugh at me when I lend them my copy-book," said Lodovico; "but
if Your Excellency would deign to dictate to me the spelling of the
words letter by letter, the envious fellows wouldn't have anything
left to say: spelling doesn't make genius." It was not until the third
night of his journey that Fabrizio was able to land in complete safety
in a thicket of alders, a league above Pontelagoscuro. All the next
day he remained hidden in a hempfield, while Lodovico went ahead to
Ferrara; he there took some humble lodgings in the house of a poor
Jew, who at once realised that there was money to be earned if one
knew how to keep one's mouth shut. That evening, as the light began to
fail, Fabrizio entered Ferrara riding upon a pony; he had every need
of this support, for he had been touched by the sun on the river; the
knife-wound that he had in his thigh, and the sword-thrust that
Giletti had given him in the shoulder, at the beginning of their duel,
were inflamed and had brought on a fever.




CHAPTER TWELVE

The Jew, the owner of the bouse, had procured a discreet surgeon,
who, realising in his turn that there was money in the case, informed
Lodovico that his _conscience_ obliged him to make his report to the
police on the injuries of the young man whom he, Lodovico, called his
brother. "The law is clear on the subject," he added; "it is evident
that your brother cannot possibly have injured himself, as
he says, by falling from a ladder while he was holding an open knife
in his hand."

Lodovico replied coldly to this honest surgeon that, if he should
decide to yield to the inspirations of his conscience, he, Lodovico,
would have the honour, before leaving Ferrara, of falling upon him
in precisely the same way, with an open knife in his hand. When he
reported this incident to Fabrizio, the latter blamed him strongly,
but there was not a moment to be lost; they must fly. Lodovico told
the Jew that he wished to try the effect of a little fresh air on his
brother; he went to fetch a carriage, and our friends left the house
never to return. The reader is no doubt finding these accounts of all
the manoeuvres that the absence of a passport renders necessary
extremely wearisome; this sort of anxiety does not exist in France;
but in Italy, and especially in the neighbourhood of the Po, people
talk about passports all day long. Once they had left Ferrara without
hindrance, as though they were taking a drive, Lodovico sent the
carriage back, then re-entered the town by another gate and returned
to pick up Fabrizio with a _sediola_ which he had hired to take them a
dozen leagues. Coming near Bologna, our friends had themselves taken
through the fields to the road which leads from Florence to Bologna;
they spent the night in the most wretched inn they could find, and on
the following day, Fabrizio feeling strong enough to walk a little,
they entered Bologna like ordinary pedestrians. They had burned
Giletti's passport; the comedian's death must by now be common
knowledge, and there was less danger in being arrested as people
without passports than as bearing the passport of a man who had been
killed.

Lodovico knew at Bologna two or three servants in great houses; it was
decided that he should go to the them and find out how the land lay.
He explained to them that, while he was on his way from Florence,
travelling with his younger brother, the latter, wanting to sleep, had
let him come on by himself an hour before sunrise. He was to have
joined him in the village where he, Lodovico, would stop to escape the
midday heat. But Lodovico, seeing no sign of his brother, had decided
to retrace his steps; he had found his brother injured by a blow from
a stone and with several knife-wounds, and, in addition, robbed by
some men who had picked a quarrel with him. This brother was a
good-looking boy, knew how to groom and drive horses, read and write,
and was anxious to find a place with some good family. Lodovico
reserved for use on a future occasion the detail that, when Fabrizio
was on the ground, the robbers had fled, taking with them the little
bag in which the brothers had put their linen and their passports.

On arriving in Bologna, Fabrizio, feeling extremely tired and not
venturing, without a passport, to shew his face at an inn, had gone
into the huge church of San Petronio. He found there a delicious
coolness; presently he felt quite revived. "Ungrateful wretch that I
am," he said to himself suddenly, "I go into a church, simply to sit
down, as it might be in a _caffè_'." He threw himself on his knees and
thanked God effusively for the evident protection with which he had
been surrounded ever since he had had the misfortune to kill Giletti.
The danger which still made him shudder had been that of his being
recognised in the police office at Casalmaggiore. "How," he asked
himself, "did that clerk, whose eyes were so full of suspicion, who
read my passport through at least three times, fail to notice that I
am not five feet ten inches tall, that I am not thirty-nine years old,
and that I am not strongly pitted by small-pox? What thanks I owe to
Thee, O my God! And I have actually refrained until this moment from
casting the nonentity that I am at Thy feet. My pride has chosen to
believe that it was to a vain human prudence that I owed the good
fortune of escaping the Spielberg, which was already opening to engulf
me."

Fabrizio spent more than an hour in this state of extreme emotion, in
the presence of the immense bounty of God. Lodovico approached,
without his hearing him, and took his stand opposite him. Fabrizio,
who had buried his face in, his hands, raised his head, and his
faithful servant could see the tears streaming down his cheeks.

"Come back in an hour," Fabrizio ordered him, somewhat harshly.

Lodovico forgave this tone in view of the speaker's piety. Fabrizio
repeated several times the Seven Penitential Psalms, which he knew by
heart; he stopped for a long time at the verses which had a bearing on
his situation at the moment.

Fabrizio asked pardon of God for many things, but what is really
remarkable is that it never entered his head to number among his
faults the plan of becoming Archbishop simply because Conte Mosca was
Prime Minister and felt that office and all the importance it implied
to be suitable for the Duchessa's nephew. He had desired it without
passion, it is true, but still he had thought of it, exactly as one
might think of being made a Minister or a General. It had never
entered his thoughts that his conscience might be concerned in this
project of the Duchessa. This is a remarkable characteristic of the
religion which he owed to the instruction given him by the Jesuits of
Milan. That religion _deprives one of the courage to think of
unfamiliar things_, and especially forbids _personal examination_, as
the most enormous of sins; it is a step towards Protestantism. To find
out of what sins one is guilty, one must question one's priest, or
read the list of sins, as it is to be found printed in the books
entitled, _Preparation for the Sacrament of Penance_. Fabrizio knew by
heart the list of sins, rendered into the Latin tongue, which he had
learned at the Ecclesiastical Academy of Naples. So, when going
through that list, on coming to the article, _Murder_, he had most
forcibly accused himself before God of having killed a man, but in
defence of his own life. He had passed rapidly, and without paying
them the slightest attention, over the various articles relating to
the sin of _Simony_ (the procuring of ecclesiastical dignities with
money). If anyone had suggested to him that he should pay a hundred
louis to become First Grand Vicar of the Archbishop of Parma, he would
have rejected such an idea with horror; but, albeit he was not wanting
in intelligence, nor above all in logic, it never once occurred to his
mind that the employment on his behalf of Conte Mosca's influence was
a form of Simony. This is where the Jesuitical education triumphs: it
forms the habit of not paying attention to things that are clearer
than daylight. A Frenchman, brought up among conflicting personal
interests and in the prevailing irony of Paris, might, without being
deliberately unfair, have accused Fabrizio of hypocrisy at the very
moment when our hero was opening his soul to God with the utmost
sincerity and the most profound emotion.

Fabrizio did not leave the church until he had prepared the confession
which he proposed to make the next day. He found Lodovico sitting on
the steps of the vast stone peristyle which rises above the great
piazza opposite the front of San Petronio. As after a storm the air
becomes more pure, so now Fabrizio's soul was tranquil and happy and
so to speak refreshed.

"I feel quite well now, I hardly notice my wounds," he said to
Lodovico as he approached him; "but first of all I have to apologise
to you; I answered you crossly when you came and spoke to me in the
church; I was examining my conscience. Well, how are things going?"

"Excellently: I have taken lodgings, to tell the truth not at all
worthy of Your Excellency, with the wife of one of my friends, who is
a very pretty woman and, better still, on the best of terms with one
of the heads of the police. To-morrow I shall go to declare how our
passports came to be stolen; my declaration will be taken in good
part; but I shall pay the carriage of the letter which the police will
write to Casalmaggiore, to find out whether there exists in that
_comune_ a certain San Micheli, Lodovico, who has a brother, named
Fabrizio, in service with the Signora Duchessa Sanseverina at Parma.
All is settled, _siamo a cavallo_." (An Italian proverb meaning: "We
are saved.")

Fabrizio had suddenly assumed a most serious air: he begged Lodovico
to wait a moment, almost ran back into the church, and when barely
past the door flung himself down on his knees; he humbly kissed the
stone slabs of the floor. "It is a miracle, Lord," he cried with
tears in his eyes: "when Thou sawest my soul disposed to return to the
path of duty, Thou hast saved me. Great God! It is posr sible that one
day I may be killed in some quarrel; in the hour of my death remember
the state in which my soul is now." It was with transports of the
keenest joy that Fabrizio recited afresh the Seven Penitential Psalms.
Before leaving the building he went up to an old woman who was seated
before a great Madonna and by the side of an iron triangle rising
vertically from a stand on the same metal. The sides of this triangle
bristled with a large number of spikes intended to support the little
candles which the piety of the faithful keeps burning before the
famous Madonna of Cimabue. Seven candles only were lighted when
Fabrizio approached the stand; he registered this fact in his memory,
with the intention of meditating upon it later on when he had more
leisure.

"What do the candles cost?" he asked the woman.

"Two bajocchi each."

As a matter of fact they were scarcely thicker than quills and were
not a foot in length.

"How many candles can still go on your triangle?"

"Sixty-three, since there are seven alight."

"Ah!" thought Fabrizio, "sixty-three and seven make seventy; that also
is to be borne in mind." He paid for the candles, placed the first
seven in position himself, and lighted them, then fell on his knees to
make his oblation, and said to the old woman as he rose:

"It is _for grace received_."

"I am dying of hunger," he said to Ludovico as he joined him outside.

"Don't let us go to an osteria, let us go to our lodgings; the woman
of the house will go out and buy you everything you want for your
meal; she will rob you of a score of soldi, and will be all the more
attached to the newcomer in consequence."

"All this means simply that I shall have to go on dying of hunger for
a good hour longer," said Fabrizio, laughing with the serenity of a
child; and he entered an osteria close to San Petronio. To his extreme
suprise, he saw at a table near the one at which he had taken his
seat, Peppe, his aunt's first footman, the same who on a former
occasion had come to meet him at Geneva. Fabrizio made a sign to him
to say nothing; then, having made a hasty meal, a smile of happiness
hovering over his lips, he rose; Peppe followed him, and, for the
third time, our hero entered the church of San Petronio. Out of
discretion, Ludovico remained outside, strolling in the _piazza_.

"Oh, Lord, Monsignore! How are your wounds? The Signora Duchessa is
terribly upset: for a whole day she thought you were dead, and had
been left lying on some island in the Po; I must go and send off a
messenger to her this very instant. I have been looking for you for
the last six days; I spent three at Ferrara, searching all the inns."

"Have you a passport for me?"

"I have three different ones: one with Your Excellency's names and
titles, a second with your name only, and the other in a false name,
Giuseppe Bossi; each passport is made out in duplicate, according to
whether Your Excellency prefers to have come from Florence or from
Modena. You have only to go for a turn outside the town. The Signor
Conte would be glad if you would lodge at the Albergo del Pellegrino;
the landlord is a friend of his."

Fabrizio, with the air of a casual visitor, advanced along the right
aisle of the church to the place where his candles were burning; he
fastened his eyes on Cimabue's Madonna, then said to Peppe as he fell
on his knees: "I must just give thanks for a moment." Peppe followed
his example. When they left the church, Peppe noticed that Fabrizio
gave a twenty-franc piece to the first pauper who asked him for alms:
this mendicant uttered cries of gratitude which drew into the wake of
the charitable stranger the swarms of paupers of every kind who
generally adorn the Piazza San Petronio. All of them were anxious to
have a share in the napoleon. The women, despairing of making their
way through the crowd that surrounded him, flung themselves on
Fabrizio, shouting to him to know whether it was not the fact that he
had intended to give his napoleon to be divided among all the _poveri
del buon Dio_. Peppe, brandishing his gold-headed cane, ordered them
to leave His Excellency alone.

"Ohi Excellency!" all the women proceeded to cry in still more
piercing accents, "give another gold napoleon for the poor women!"
Fabrizio increased his pace, the women followed him, screaming, and a
number of male paupers, running in from every street, created a sort
of tumult. All this crowd, horribly dirty and energetic, cried out:
"_Eccellenza_!" Fabrizio had great difficulty in escaping from the
rabble; the scene brought his imagination back to earth. "I have got
only what I deserve," he said to himself; "I have rubbed shoulders
with the mob."

Two women followed him as far as the Porta Saragozza, by which he left
the town: Peppe stopped them by threatening them seriously with his
cane and flinging them some small change; Fabrizio climbed the
charming hill of San Michele in Bosco, made a partial circuit of the
town outside the walls, took a path which brought him in five hundred
yards to the Florence road, then re-entered Bologna and gravely handed
to the police official a passport in which his description was given
in the fullest detail. This passport gave him the name of Giuseppe
Bossi, student of theology. Fabrizio noticed a little spot of red ink
dropped, as though by accident, at the foot of the sheet, near the
right-harid corner. A couple of hours later he had a spy on his heels,
on account of the title of _Eccellenza_ which his companion had given
him in front of the beggars of San Petronio, although his passport
bore none of the titles which give a man the right to make his
servants address him as Excellency.

Fabrizio saw the spy and made light of him; he gave no more thought
either to passports or to police, and amused himself with everything,
like a boy. Peppe, who had orders to stay beside him, seeing that he
was more than satisfied with Lodovico, preferred to go back in person
to convey these good tidings to the Duchessa. Fabrizio wrote two very
long letters to his dear friends; then it occurred to him to write a
third to the venerable Archbishop Laadriani. This letter produced a
marvellous effect; it contained a very exact account of the affair
with Giletti. The good Archbishop, deeply moved, did not fail to go
and read this letter to the Prince, who was quite ready to listen to
it, being somewhat curious to know what line this young Monsignore
took to excuse so shocking a murder. Thanks to the many friends of the
Marchesa Raversi, the Prince, as well as the whole city of Parma,
believed that Fabrizio had procured the assistance of twenty or thirty
peasants to overpower a bad actor who had had the insolence to
challenge him for the favours of little Marietta. In despotic courts,
the first skilful intriguer controls the _Truth_, as the fashion
controls it in Paris.

"But, what in the devil's name!" exclaimed the Prince to the
Archbishop; "one gets things of that sort done for one by somebody
else; but to do them oneself is not the custom; besides, one doesn't
kill a comedian like Giletti, one buys him."

Fabrizio had not the slightest suspicion of what was going on at
Parma. As a matter of fact, the question there was whether the death
of this comedian, who in his lifetime had earned a monthly salary of
thirty-two francs, was not going to bring about the fall of the Ultra
Ministry, and of its leader, Conte Mosca.

On learning of the death of Giletti, the Prince, stung by the
independent airs which the Duchessa was giving herself, had ordered
the Fiscal General Rassi to treat the whole case as though the person
charged were a Liberal. Fabrizio, for his part, thought that a man of
his rank was superior to the laws; he did not take into account that
in countries where bearers of great names are never punished, intrigue
can do anything, even against them. He often spoke to Lodovico of his
perfect innocence, which would very soon be proclaimed; his great
argument being that he was not guilty. Whereupon Lodovico said to him:
"I cannot conceive how Your Excellency, who has so much intelligence
and education, can take the trouble to say all that before me who am
his devoted servant; Your Excellency adopts too many precautions; that
sort of thing is all right to say in public, or before a court." "This
man believes me to be a murderer, and loves me none the less for it,"
thought Fabrizio, falling from the clouds.

Three days after Peppe's departure, he was greatly astonished to
receive an enormous letter, sealed with a plait of silk, as in the
days of Louis XIV, and addressed _a Sua Eccellenza reverendissima
monsignor Fabrizio del Dongo, primo gran vicario della diocesi di
Parma, canonico_, etc.

"Why, am I still all that?" he asked himself with a laugh. Archbishop
Landriani's letter was a masterpiece of logic and lucidity; it filled
nevertheless nineteen large pages, and gave an extremely good account
of all that had occurred in Parma on the occasion of the death of
Giletti.

"A French army commanded by Marshal Ney, and marching upon the town,
would not have had a greater effect," the good Archbishop informed
him; "with the exception of the Duchessa and myself, my dearly beloved
son, everyone believes that you gave yourself the pleasure of killing
the histrion Giletti. Had this misfortune befallen you, it is one of
those things which one hushes up with two hundred louis and six
months' absence abroad; but the Marchesa Raversi is seeking to
overthrow Conte Mosca with the help of this incident. It is not at all
with the dreadful sin of murder that the public blames you, it is
solely with the _clumsiness_, or rather the insolence of not having
condescended to have recourse to a _bulo_" (a sort of hired assassin).
"I give you a summary here in clear terms of the things that I hear
said all around me, for since this ever deplorable misfortune, I go
every day to three of the principal houses in the town to have an
opportunity of justifying you. And never have I felt that I was making
a more blessed use of the scanty eloquence with which heaven has
deigned to endow me."

The scales fell from Fabrizio's eyes; the Duchessa's many letters,
filled with transports of affection, never condescended to tell him
anything. The Duchessa swore to him that she would leave Parma for
ever, unless presently he returned there in triumph. "The Conte will
do for you," she wrote to him in the letter that accompanied the
Archbishop's, "everything that is humanly possible. As for myself, you
have changed my character with this fine escapade of yours; I am now
as great a miser as the banker Tombone; I have dismissed all my
workmen, I have done more, I have dictated to the Conte the
inventory of my fortune, which turns out to be far less considerable
than I supposed. After the death of the excellent Conte Pietranera,
whom, by the way, you would have done far better to avenge, instead of
exposing your life to a creature of Giletti's sort, I was left with
an income of twelve hundred francs and five thousand francs of debts;
I remember, among other things, that I had two and a half dozen white
satin slippers coming from Paris and not a single pair of shoes to
wear in the street. I have almost made up my mind to take the three
hundred thousand francs which the Duca has left me, the whole of which
I intended to use in erecting a magnificent tomb to him. Besides, it
is the Marchesa Raversi who is your principal enemy, that is to say
mine; if you find life dull by yourself at Bologna, you have only to
say the word, I shall come and join you. Here are four more bills of
exchange," and so on.

The Duchessa said not a word to Fabrizio of the opinion that was held
in Parma of his affair, she wished above all things to comfort him,
and in any event the death of a ridiculous creature like Giletti did
not seem to her the sort of thing that could be seriously charged
against a del Dongo. "How many Gilettis have not our ancestors sent
into the other world," she said to the Conte, "without anyone's ever
taking it into his head to reproach them with it?"

Fabrizio, taken completely by surprise, and getting for the first time
a glimpse of the true state of things, set himself down to study the
Archbishop's letter. Unfortunately the Archbishop himself believed him
to be better informed than he actually was. Fabrizio gathered that the
principal cause of the Marchesa Raversi's triumph lay in the fact that
it was impossible to find any eye-witnesses of the fatal combat. The
footman who had been the first to bring the news to Parma had been at
the village inn at Sanguigna when the fight occurred; little Marietta
and the old woman who acted as her mother had vanished, and the
Marchesa had bought the _vetturino_ who drove the carriage, and who
had now made an abominable deposition. "Although the proceedings are
enveloped in the most profound mystery," wrote the Archbishop in his
Ciceronian style, "and directed by the Fiscal General, Rassi, of whom
Christian charity alone can restrain me from speaking evil, but who
has made his fortune by harrying his wretched prisoners as the
greyhound harries the hare; although this Rassi, I say, whose
turpitude and venality your imagination would be powerless to
exaggerate, has been appointed to take charge of the case by an angry
Prince, I have been able to read the three depositions of the
vetturino. By a signal piece of good fortune, the wretch contradicts
himself. And I shall add, since I am addressing my Grand Vicar, him
who, after myself, is to have the charge of this Diocese, that I have
sent for the curate of the parish in which this straying sinner
resides. I shall tell you, my dearly beloved son, but under the seal
of the confessional, that this curate already knows, through the wife
of the vetturino, the number of scudi that he has received from the
Marchesa Raversi; I shall not venture to say that the Marchesa
insisted upon his slandering you, but that is probable. The scudi were
transmitted to him through a wretched priest who performs functions of
a base order in the Marchesa's. household, and whom I have been
obliged to banish from the altar for the second time. I shall not
weary you with an account of various other actions which you might
expect from me, and which, moreover, enter into my duty. A Canon, your
colleague at the Cathedral, who is a little too prone at times to
remember the influence conferred upon him by the wealth of his family,
to which, by divine permission, he is now the sole heir, having
allowed himself to say in the house of Conte Zurla, the Minister of
the Interior, that he regarded this _bagattella_ (he referred to the
killing of the unfortunate Giletti) as proved against you, I summoned
him to appear before me, and there, in the presence of my three other
Vicars General, of my Chaplain and of two curates who happened to be
in the waiting-room, I requested him to communicate to us his brethren
the elements of the complete conviction which he professed to have
acquired against one of his colleagues at the Cathedral; the unhappy
man was able to articulate only the most inconclusive arguments; every
voice was raised against him, and, although I did not think it my duty
to add more than a very few words, he burst into tears and made us the
witnesses of his full confession of his complete error, upon which I
promised him secrecy in my name and in the names of the persons who
had been present at the discussion, always on the condition that he
would devote all his zeal to correcting the false impressions that
might have been created by the language employed by him during the
previous fortnight.

"I shall not repeat to you, my dear son, what you must long have
known, namely that of the thirty-four contadini employed on the
excavations undertaken by Conte Mosca, whom the Raversi pretends to
have been paid by you to assist you in a crime, thirty-two were at
the bottom of their trench, wholly taken up with their work, when you
armed yourself with the hunting knife and employed it to defend your
life against the man who had attacked you thus unawares. Two of
their number, who were outside the trench, shouted to the others:
'They are murdering Monsignore!' This cry alone reveals your innocence
in all its whiteness. Very well, the Fiscal General Rassi maintains
that these two men have disappeared; furthermore, they have found
eight of the men who were at the bottom of the trench; at their first
examination, six declared that they had heard the cry: 'They are
murdering Monsignore!' I know, through indirect channels, that at
their fifth examination, which was held yesterday evening, five
declared that they could not remember distinctly whether they had
heard the cry themselves or whether it had been reported to them by
their comrades. Orders have been given that I am to be informed of
the place of residence of these excavators, and their parish priests
will make them understand that they are damning themselves if, in
order to gain a few soldi, they allow themselves to alter the
truth."

The good Archbishop went into endless details, as may be judged by
those we have extracted from his letter. Then he added, using the
Latin tongue:

"This affair is nothing less than an attempt to bring about a change
of government. If you are sentenced, it can be only to the galleys or
to death, in which case I should intervene by declaring from my
Archepiscopal Throne that I know you to be innocent, that you simply
and solely defended your life against a brigand, and that finally I
have forbidden you to return to Parma for so long as your enemies
shall be triumphant there; I propose even to stigmatise, as he
deserves, the Fiscal General; the hatred felt for that man is as
common as esteem for his character is rare. But finally, on the eve of
the day on which this Fiscal is to pronounce so unjust a sentence, the
Duchessa Sanseverina will leave the town, and perhaps even the States
of Parma: in that event, no doubt is felt that the Conte will hand in
his resignation. Then, very probably, General Fabio Conti will come
into office and the Marchesa Raversi will be triumphant. The great
mistake in your case is that no skilled person has been appointed to
take charge of the procedure necessary to bring your innocence into
the light of day, and to foil the attempts that have been made to
suborn witnesses. The Conte believes that he is playing this part; but
he is too great a gentleman to stoop to certain details; besides, in
his capacity as Minister of Police, he was obliged to issue, at the
first moment, the most severe orders against you. Lastly, dare I say
it, our Sovereign Lord believes you to be guilty, or at least feigns
that belief, and has introduced a certain bitterness into the affair."
(The words corresponding to "our Sovereign Lord" and "feigns that
belief" were in Greek, and Fabrizio felt infinitely obliged to the
Archbishop for having had the courage to write them. With a
pen-knife he cut this line out of the letter, and destroyed it on the
spot.)

Fabrizio broke off a score of times while reading this letter; he
was carried away by transports of the liveliest gratitude: he
replied at once in a letter of eight pages. Often he was obliged to
raise his head so that his tears should not fall on the paper. Next
day, as he was sealing this letter, he felt that it was too worldly in
tone. "I shall write it in Latin," he said to himself, "that will make
it appear more seemly to the worthy Archbishop." But, while he was
seeking to construct fine Latin phrases of great length, in the true
Ciceronian style, he remembered that one day the Archbishop, in
speaking to him of Napoleon, had made a point of calling him
Buonaparte; at that instant there vanished all the emotion that, on
the previous day, had moved him to tears. "O King of Italy!" he
exclaimed, "that loyalty which so many others swore to thee in thy
lifetime, I shall preserve for thee after thy death. He is fond of me,
no doubt, but because I am a del Dongo and he a son of the people."
So that his fine letter in Italian might not be wasted, Fabrizio made
a few necessary alterations in it, and addressed it to Conte Mosca.

That same day, Fabrizio met in the street little Marietta; she flushed
with joy and made a sign to him to follow her without speaking. She
made swiftly for a deserted archway; there, she pulled forward the
black lace shawl which, following the local custom, covered her
head, so that she could not be recognised; then turning round quickly:

"How is it," she said to Fabrizio, "that you are walking freely in the
street like this?" Fabrizio told her his story.

"Good God! You were at Ferrara! And there was I looking for you
everywhere in the place! You must know that I quarrelled with the
old woman, because she wanted to take me to Venice, where I knew quite
well that you would never go, because you are on the Austrian black
list. I sold my gold necklace to come to Bologna, I had a presentiment
that I should have the happiness of meeting you here; the old woman
arrived two days after me. And so I shan't ask you to come and see us,
she would go on making those dreadful demands for money which make me
so ashamed. We have lived very comfortably since the fatal day you
remember, and haven't spent a quarter of what you gave us. I would
rather not come and see you at the Albergo del Pellegrino, it would be
a _pubblicità_. Try to find a little room in a quiet street, and at
the Ave Maria" (nightfall) "I shall be here, under this same archway."
So saying, she took to her heels.




CHAPTER THIRTEEN

All serious thoughts were forgotten on the unexpected appearance of
this charming person. Fabrizio settled himself to live at Bologna in
a joy and security that were profound. This artless tendency to take
delight in everything that entered into his life shewed through in the
letters which he wrote to the Duchessa; to such an extent that she
began to take offence. Fabrizio paid little attention; he wrote,
however, in abridged symbols on the face of his watch: "When I write
to the D., must never say _When I was prelate, when I was in the
Church_: that annoys her." He had bought a pair of ponies with which
he was greatly pleased: he used to harness them to a hired carriage
whenever little Marietta wished to pay a visit to any of the
enchanting spots in the neighbourhood of Bologna; almost every evening
he drove her to the _Cascata del Reno_. On their way back, he would
call on the friendly Crescentini, who regarded himself as to some
extent Marietta's father.

"Upon my soul, if this is the _caffè_ life which seemed to me so
ridiculous for a man of any worth, I did wrong to reject it," Fabrizio
said to himself. He forgot that he never went near a _caffè_ except to
read the _Constitutionne_l, and that, since he was a complete stranger
to everyone in Bologna, the gratification of vanity did not enter at
all into his present happiness. When he was not with little Marietta,
he was to be seen at the Observatory, where he was taking a course in
astronomy; the Professor had formed a great affection for him, and
Fabrizio used to lend him his ponies on Sundays, to cut a figure with
his wife on the _Corso della Montagnola_.

He loathed the idea of harming any living creature, however
undeserving that creature might be. Marietta was resolutely opposed to
his seeing the old woman, but one day, when she was at church, he went
up to visit the _Mammaccia_, who flushed with anger when she saw him
enter the room. "This is a case where one plays the del Dongo," he
said to himself.

"How much does Marietta earn in a month when she is working?" he
cried, with the air with which a self-respecting young man, in Paris,
enters the balcony at the Bouffes.

"Fifty scudi."

"You are lying, as usual; tell the truth, or, by God, you shall not
have a centesimo!"

"Very well, she was getting twenty-two scudi in our company at
Parma, when we had the bad luck to meet you; I was getting twelve
scudi, and we used to give Giletti, our protector, a third of what
each of us earned. Out of which, every month almost, Giletti would
make Marietta a present; the present might be worth a couple of
scudi."

"You're lying still; you never had more than four scudi. But if you
are good to Marietta, I will engage you as though I were an
_impresario_; every month you shall have twelve scudi for yourself and
twenty-two for her; but if I see her with red eyes, I make you
bankrupt."

"You're very stiff and proud; very well, your fine generosity will
be the ruin of us," replied the old woman in a furious tone; "we lose
our _avviamento_" (our connexion). "When we have the enormous
misfortune to be deprived of Your Excellency's protection, we shall no
longer be known in any of the companies, they will all be filled up;
we shall not find any engagement, and, all through you, we shall
starve to death."

"Go to the devil," said Fabrizio as he left the room.

"I shall not go to the devil, you impious wretch! But I will go
straight away to the police office, where they shall learn from me
that you are a Monsignore who has flung his cassock to the winds, and
that you are no more Giuseppe Bossi than I am." Fabrizio had already
gone some way down the stairs. He returned.

"In the first place, the police know better than you what my real name
may be; but if you take it into your head to denounce me, if you do
anything so infamous," he said to her with great seriousness,
"Lodovico shall talk to you, and it is not six slashes with the knife
that your old carcass shall get, but two dozen, and you will be six
months in hospital, and no tobacco."

The old woman turned pale, and dashed at Fabrizio's hand, which she
tried to kiss.

"I accept with gratitude the provision that you are making for
Marietta and me. You look so good that I took you for a fool; and, you
bear in mind, others besides myself may make the same error; I advise
you always to adopt a more noblemanly air." Then she added with an
admirable impudence: "You will reflect upon this good advice, and,
as the winter is not far off, you will make Marietta and me a present
of two good jackets of that fine English stuff which they sell at the
big shop in the Piazza San Petronio."

The love of the pretty Marietta offered Fabrizio all the charms of the
most delightful friendship, which set him dreaming of the happiness of
the same order which he might have been finding in the Duchessa's
company.

"But is it not a very pleasant thing," he asked himself at times,
"that I am not susceptible to that exclusive and passionate
preoccupation which they call love? Among the intimacies into which
chance has brought me at Novara or at Naples, have I ever met a woman
whose company, even in the first few days, was to my mind preferable
to riding a good horse that I did not know? What they call love," he
went on, "can that be just another lie? I feel myself in love, no
doubt, as I feel a good appetite at six o'clock! Can it be out of this
slightly vulgar propensity that those liars have fashioned the love of
Othello, the love of Tancred? Or am I indeed to suppose that I am
constructed differently from other men? That my soul should be lacking
in one passion, why should that be? It would be a singular destiny!"

At Naples, -especially in the latter part of his time there, Fabrizio
had met women who, proud of their rank, their beauty and the position
held in society by the adorers whom they had sacrificed to him, had
attempted to lead him. On discovering their intention, Fabrizio had
broken with them in the most summary and open fashion. "Well," he said
to himself, "if I ever allow myself to be carried away by the
pleasure, which no doubt is extremely keen, of being on friendly terms
with that charming woman who is known as the Duchessa Sanseverina, I
shall be exactly like that stupid Frenchman who killed the goose that
was laying the golden eggs. It is to the Duchessa that I owe the sole
happiness which has ever come to me from sentiments of affection: my
friendship for her is my life, and besides, without her, what am I? A
poor exile reduced to living from hand to mouth in a tumble-down
country house outside Novara. I remember how, during the heavy autumn
rains, I used to be obliged, at night, for fear of accidents, to fix
up an umbrella over the tester of my bed. I rode the agent's horses,
which he was good enough to allow out of respect for my blue blood
(for my influence, that is), but he was beginning to find my stay
there a trifle long; my father had made me an allowance of twelve
hundred francs, and thought himself damned for having given bread to a
Jacobin. My poor mother and sisters let themselves go without new
clothes to keep me in a position to make a few little presents to my
mistresses. This way of being generous pierced me to the heart. And
besides, people were beginning to suspect my poverty, and the young
noblemen of the district would have been feeling sorry for me next.
Sooner or later some prig would have let me see his contempt for a
poor Jacobin whose plans had come to grief, for in those people's eyes
I was nothing more than that. I should have given or received some
doughty thrust with a sword which would have carried me off to the
fortress of Fenestrelle, or else I should have been obliged to take
refuge again in Switzerland, still on my allowance of twelve hundred
francs. I have the good fortune to be indebted to the Duchessa for the
absence of all these evils; besides, it is she who feels for me the
transports of affection which I ought to be feeling for her.

"Instead of that ridiculous, pettifogging existence which would have
made me a sad dog, a fool, for the last four years I have been living
in a big town, and have an excellent carriage, which things have
preserved me from feelings of envy and all the base sentiments of a
provincial life. This too indulgent aunt is always scolding me because
I do not draw enough money from the banker. Do I wish to ruin for all
time so admirable a position? Do I wish to lose the one friend that I
have in the world? All I need do is to utter a _falsehood_; all I need
do is to say to a charming woman, a woman who is perhaps without a
counterpart in the world, and for whom I feel the most passionate
friendship: '_I love you_,' I who do not know what it is to love
amorously. She would spend the day finding fault with me for the
absence of these transports which are unknown to me. Marietta, or the
other hand, who does not see into my heart, and takes ; caress for a
transport of the soul, thinks me madly in lov< and looks upon herself
as the most fortunate of women.

"As a matter of fact, the only slight acquaintance I have ever had
with that tender obsession which is called, I believe, _love_, was
with the young Aniken in the inn at Zonders, near the Belgian
frontier."

It is with regret that we have to record here one of Fabrizio's
worst actions; in the midst of this tranquil life, a wretched _pique_
of vanity took possession of this heart rebellious to love and led
it far astray. Simultaneously with himself there happened to be at
Bologna the famous Fausta F------, unquestionably one of the finest
singers of the day and perhaps the most capricious woman that was ever
seen. The excellent poet Burati, of Venice, had composed the famous
satirical sonnet about her, which at that time was to be heard on the
lips alike of princes and of the meanest street Arabs:

"To wish and not to wish, to adore and on the same day to detest, to
find contentment only in inconstancy, to scorn what the world
worships, while the world worships it: Fausta has these defects and
many more. Look not therefore upon that serpent. If thou seest her,
imprudent man, thou forgettest her caprices. Hast thou the happiness
to hear her voice, thou dost forget thyself, and love makes of thee,
in a moment, what Circe in days of yore made of the companions of
Ulysses."

For the moment, this miracle of beauty had come under the spell of the
enormous whiskers and haughty insolence of the young Conte M----, to
such an extent as not to be revolted by his abominable jealousy.
Fabrizio saw this Conte in the streets of Bologna and was shocked by
the air of superiority with which he took up the pavement and deigned
to display his graces to the public. This young man was extremely
rich, imagined that everything was permitted him, and, as his
_prepotenze_ had brought him threats of punishment, never appeared in
public save with the escort of nine or ten _buli_ (a sort of
cut-throat) clad in his livery, whom he had brought from his estates
in the environs of Brescia. Fabrizio's eye had met once or twice that
of this terrible Conte, whence chance led him to hear Fausta sing. He
was astonished by the angelic sweetness of her voice: he had never
imagined anything like it; he was indebted to it for sensations of
supreme happiness, which made a pleasing contrast to the _placidity_
of his life at the time. Could this at last be love? he asked himself.
Thoroughly curious to taste that sentiment, and amused moreover by the
thought of braving Conte M----, whose expression was more terrifying
than that of any drum-major, our hero let himself fall into the
childish habit of passing a great deal too often in front of the
_palazzo_ Tanari, which Conte M---- had taken for Fausta.

One day, as night was beginning to fall, Fabrizio, seeking to catch
Fausta's eye, was greeted by peals of laughter of the most pointed
kind proceeding from the Conte's _buli_, who were assembled by the
door of the _palazzo_ Tanari. He hastened home, armed himself well,
and again passed before the _palazzo_. Fausta, concealed behind her
shutters, was awaiting his return, and gave him due credit for it.
M----, jealous of the whole world, became specially jealous of Signor
Giuseppe Bossi, and indulged in ridiculous utterances; whereupon every
morning our hero had delivered at his door a letter which contained
only these words:

"Signor Giuseppe Bossi destroys troublesome insects and is staying at
the Pellegrino, Via Larga, No. 79."

Conte M----, accustomed to the respect which was everywhere assured
him by his enormous fortune, his blue blood and the physical courage
of his thirty servants, declined altogether to understand the
language of this little missive.

Fabrizio wrote others of the sort to Fausta; M---- posted spies
round this rival, who perhaps was not unattractive; first of all, he
learned his true name, and later that, for the present, he could not
shew his face at Parma. A few days after this, Conte M----, his
_buli_, his magnificent horses and Fausta set off together for Parma.

Fabrizio, becoming excited, followed them next day. In vain did the
good Lodovico utter pathetic remonstrances: Fabrizio turned a deaf
ear, and Lodovico, who was himself extremely brave, admired him for
it; besides, this removal brought him nearer to the pretty mistress he
had left at Casalmaggiore. Through Lodovico's efforts, nine or ten old
soldiers of Napoleon's regiments re-enlisted under Signor Giuseppe
Bossi, in the capacity of servants. "Provided," Fabrizio told himself,
when committing the folly of going after Fausta, "that I have no
communication either with the Minister of Police, Conte Mosca, or with
the Duchessa, I expose only myself to risk. I shall explain later on
to my aunt that I was going in search of love, that beautiful thing
which I have never encountered. The fact is that I think of Fausta
even when I am not looking at her. But is it the memory of her voice
that I love, or her person?" Having ceased to think of an
ecclesiastical career, Fabrizio had grown a pair of moustaches and
whiskers almost as terrible as those of Conte M----, and these
disguised him to some extent. He set up his headquarters not at
Parma--that would have been too imprudent--but in a neighbouring
village, in the woods, on the road to Sacca, where his aunt had her
country house. Following Lodovico's advice, he gave himself out in
this village as the valet of a great English nobleman of original
tastes, who spent a hundred thousand francs a year on providing
himself with the pleasures of the chase, and would arrive shortly from
the Lake of Como, where he was detained by the trout-fishing.
Fortunately for him, the charming little _palazzo_ which Conte M----
had taken for the fair Fausta was situated at the southern extremity
of the city of Parma, precisely on the road to Sacca, and Fausta's
windows looked out over the fine avenues of tall trees which extend
beneath the high tower of the citadel. Fabrizio was completely unknown
in this little frequented quarter; he did not fail to have Conte M----
followed, and one day when that gentleman had just emerged from the
admirable singer's door, he had the audacity to appear in the street
in broad daylight; it must be admitted that he was mounted upon an
excellent horse, and well armed. A party of musicians, of the sort
that frequent the streets in Italy and are sometimes excellent, came
and planted their viols under Fausta's window; after playing a prelude
they sang, and quite well too, a cantata composed in her honour.
Fausta came to the window and had no difficulty in distinguishing a
young man of extremely polite manners, who, stopping his horse in the
middle of the street, bowed to her first of all, then began to direct
at her a gaze that could have but one meaning. In spite of the
exaggeratedly English costume adopted by Fabrizio, she soon
recognised the author of the passionate letters that had brought about
her departure from Bologna. "That is a curious creature," she said to
herself; "it seems to me that I am going to fall in love with him. I
have a hundred louis in hand, I can quite well give that terrible
Conte M---- the slip; if it comes to that, he has no spirit, he never
does anything unexpected, and is only slightly amusing because of the
bloodthirsty appearance of his escort."

On the following day Fabrizio, having learned that every morning at
eleven o'clock Fausta went to hear mass in the centre of the town, in
that same church of San Giovanni which contained the tomb of his
great-uncle, Archbishop Ascanio del Dongo, made bold to follow her
there. To tell the truth, Ludovico had procured him a fine English wig
with hair of the most becoming red. Inspired by the colour of his
wig, which was that of the flames that were devouring his heart, he
composed a sonnet which Fausta thought charming; an unseen hand had
taken care to place it upon her piano. This little war lasted for
quite a week; but Fabrizio found that, in spite of the steps he was
taking in every direction, he was making no real progress; Fausta
refused to see him. He strained the effect of singularity; she
admitted afterwards that she was afraid of him. Fabrizio was kept
going now only by a faint hope of coming to feel what is known as
_love_, but frequently he felt bored.

"Let us leave this place, Signore," Lodovico used to urge him; "you
are not in the least in love: I can see that you have the most
desperate coolness and common sense. Besides, you are making no
headway; if only for shame, let us clear out." Fabrizio was ready to
go at the first moment of ill-humour, when he heard that Fausta was
to sing at the Duchessa Sanseverina's. "Perhaps that sublime voice
will succeed in softening my heart," he said to himself; and he
actually ventured to penetrate in disguise into the _palazzo_ where
he was known to every eye. We may imagine the Duchessa's emotion when,
right at the end of the concert, she noticed a man in the full livery
of a _chasseur_, standing by the door of the big drawing-room: that
pose reminded her of someone. She went to look for Conte Mosca, who
only then informed her of the signal and truly incredible folly of
Fabrizio. He took it extremely well. This love for another than the
Duchessa pleased him greatly; the Conte, a perfect galantuomo, apart
from politics, acted upon the maxim that he could himself find
happiness only so long as the Duchessa was happy. "I shall save him
from himself," he said to his mistress; "judge of our enemies' joy if
he were arrested in this _palazzo_! Also I have more than a hundred
men with me here, and that is why I made them ask you for the keys of
the great reservoir. He gives out that he is madly in love with
Fausta, and up to the present has failed to get her away from Conte
M----, who lets the foolish woman live the life of a queen." The
Duchessa's features betrayed the keenest grief; so Fabrizio was
nothing more than a libertine, utterly incapable of any tender and
serious feeling. "And not to come and see us! That is what I shall
never be able to forgive him!" she said at length; "and I writing to
him every day to Bologna!"

"I greatly admire his restraint," replied the Conte; "he does not wish
to compromise us by his escapade, and it will be amusing to hear him
tell us about it."

Fausta was too great a fool to be able to keep quiet about what was on
her mind; the day after the concert, every melody in which her eyes
had addressed to that tall young man dressed as a _chasseur_, she
spoke to Conte M---- of an unknown admirer. "Where do you see him?"
asked the Conte in a fury. "In the streets, in church," replied
Fausta, at a loss for words. At once she sought to atone for her
imprudence, or at least to eliminate from it anything that could
suggest Fabrizio: she dashed into an endless description of a tall
young man with red hair; he had blue eyes; no doubt he was some
Englishman, very rich and very awkward, or some prince. At this word
Conte M----, who did not shine in the accuracy of his perceptions,
conceived the idea, deliciously flattering to his vanity, that this
rival was none other than the Crown Prince of Parma. This poor
melancholy young man, guarded by five or six governors,
under-governors, preceptors, etc., etc., who never allowed him out of
doors until they had first held council together, used to cast strange
glances at all the passable women whom he was permitted to approach.
At the Duchessa's concert, his rank had placed him in front of all the
rest of the audience in an isolated armchair within three yards of the
fair Fausta, and his stare had been supremely shocking to Conte
M------. This hallucination of an exquisite vanity, that he had a
Prince for a rival, greatly amused Fausta, who took delight in
confirming it with a hundred details artlessly supplied.

"Your" race," she asked the Conte, "is surely as old as that of the
Farnese, to which this young man belongs?"

"What do you mean? As old? I have no bastardy in my family, thank
you." [Footnote: Pier-Luigi, the first sovereign of the Farnese
family, so renowned for his virtues, was, as is generally known, a
natural son of His Holiness Pope Paul III.]

As luck would have it, Conte M---- never had an opportunity of
studying this pretended rival at his leisure, which confirmed him in
the flattering idea of his having a Prince for antagonist. The fact
was that whenever the interests of his enterprise did not summon
Fabrizio to Parma, he remained in the woods round Sacca and on the
bank of the Po. Conte M---- was indeed more proud, but was also more
prudent since he had imagined himself to be on the way to disputing
the heart of Fausta with a Prince; he begged her very seriously to
observe the greatest restraint in all her doings. After flinging
himself on his knees like a jealous and impassioned lover, he declared
to her in so many words that his honour was involved in her not being
made the dupe of the young Prince.

"Excuse me, I should not be his dupe if I cared for him; I must say, I
have never yet seen a Prince at my feet."

"If you yield," he went on with a haughty stare, "I may not perhaps be
able to avenge myself on the Prince but I will, most assuredly, be
avenged"; and he went out, slamming the doors behind him. Had
Fabrizio presented himself at that moment, he would have won his
cause.

"If you value your life," her lover said to her that evening as he
bade her good night after the performance, "see that it never comes to
my ears that the young Prince has been inside your house. I can do
nothing to him, curse him, but do not make me remember that I can do
everything to you!"

"Ah, my little Fabrizio," cried Fausta, "if I only knew where to find
you!"

Wounded vanity may carry a young man far who is rich and from his
cradle has always been surrounded by flatterers. The very genuine
passion that Conte M---- felt for Fausta revived with furious
intensity; it was in no way checked by the dangerous prospect of his
coming into conflict with the only son of the Sovereign in whose
dominions he happened to be staying; at the same time he had not the
courage to try to see this Prince, or at least to have him followed.
Not being able to attack him in any other way, M------ dared to
consider making him ridiculous. "I shall be banished for ever from the
States of Parma," he said to himself; "Pshaw! What does that matter?"
Had he sought to reconnoitre the enemy's position, he would have
learned that the poor young Prince never went out of doors without
being followed by three or four old men, tiresome guardians of
etiquette, and that the one pleasure of his choice that was permitted
him in the world was mineralogy. By day, as by night, the little
_palazzo_ occupied by Fausta, to which the best society of Parma went
in crowds, was surrounded by watchers; M---- knew, hour by hour, what
she was doing, and, more important still, what others were doing round
about her. There is this to be said in praise of the precautions taken
by her jealous lover: this eminently capricious woman had at first no
idea of the multiplication of his vigilance. The reports of all his
agents informed Conte M---- that a very young man, wearing a wig of
red hair, appeared very often beneath Fausta's windows, but always in
a different disguise. "Evidently, it is the young Prince," thought
M----, "otherwise, why the disguise? And, by gad, a man like me is not
made to give way to him. But for the usurpations of the Venetian
Republic, I should be a Sovereign Prince myself."

On the feast of Santo Stefano, the reports of the spies took on a more
sombre hue; they seemed to indicate that Fausta was beginning to
respond to the stranger's advances. "I can go away this instant, and
take the woman with me!" M---- said to himself; "but no! At Bologna I
fled from del Dongo; here I should be fleeing before a Prince. But
what could the young man say? He might think that he had succeeded in
making me afraid. And, by God, I come of as good a family as he."
M------ was furious, but, to crown his misery, he made a particular
point of not letting himself appear in the eyes of Fausta, whom he
knew to be of a mocking spirit, in the ridiculous character of a
jealous lover. On Santo Stefano's day, then, after having spent an
hour with her and been welcomed by her with an ardour which seemed to
him the height of insincerity, he left her, shortly before eleven
o'clock, getting ready to go and hear mass in the church of San
Giovanni. Conte M---- returned home, put on the shabby black coat of a
young student of theology, and hastened to San Giovanni; he chose a
place behind one of the tombs that adorn the third chapel on the
right; he could see everything that went on in the church beneath the
arm of a cardinal who is represented as kneeling upon his tomb; this
statue kept the light from the back of the chapel and gave him
sufficient concealment. Presently he saw Fausta arrive, more
beautiful than ever. She was in full array, and a score of admirers,
drawn from the highest ranks of society, furnished her with an escort.
Joyous smiles broke from her eyes and lips. "It is evident," thought
the jealous wretch, "that she counts upon meeting here the man she
loves, whom for a long time, perhaps, thanks to me, she has been
prevented from seeing." Suddenly, the keen look of happiness in her
eyes seemed to double in intensity; "My rival is here," muttered
M----, and the fury of his outraged vanity knew no bounds. "What sort
of figure do I cut here, serving as pendant to a young Prince in
disguise?" But despite every effort on his part, he could never
succeed in identifying this rival, for whom his famished gaze kept
seeking in every direction.

All through the service Fausta, after letting her eyes wander over
the whole church, would end by bringing her gaze to rest, charged with
love and happiness, on the dim corner in which M------ was concealed.
In an impassioned heart, love is liable to exaggerate the slightest
shades of meaning; it draws from them the most ridiculous conclusions;
did not poor M------ end by persuading himself that Fausta had seen
him, that, having in spite of his efforts perceived his deadly
jealousy, she wished to reproach him with it and at the same time to
console him for it with these tender glances?

The tomb of the cardinal, behind which M------ had taken his post of
observation, was raised four or five feet above the marble floor of
San Giovanni. The fashionable mass ending about one o'clock, the
majority of the faithful left the church, and Fausta dismissed the
_beaux_ of the town, on a pretext of devotion; as she remained
kneeling on her chair, her eyes, which had grown more tender and more
brilliant, were fixed on M------; since there were now only a few
people left in the building, she no longer put her eyes to the trouble
of ranging over the whole of it before coming joyfully to rest on the
cardinal's statue. "What delicacy!'' thought Conte M------, imagining
that he was the object of her gaze. At length Fausta rose and quickly
left the church after first making some odd movements with her hands.

M------, blind with love and almost entirely relieved of his mad
jealousy, had left his post to fly to his mistress's _palazzo_ and
thank her a thousand, thousand times, when, as he passed in front of
the cardinal's tomb, he noticed a young man all in black: this
funereal being had remained until then on his knees, close against the
epitaph on the tomb, in such a position that the eyes of the jealous
lover, in their search for him, must pass over his head and miss him
altogether.

This young man rose, moved briskly away, and was immediately
surrounded by seven or eight persons, somewhat clumsy in their gait,
of a singular appearance, who seemed to belong to him. M---- hurried
after him, but, without any marked sign of obstruction, was stopped in
the narrow passage formed by the wooden drum of the door by these
clumsy men who were protecting his rival; and when finally, at the
tail of their procession, he reached the street, he was in time only
to see someone shut the door of a carriage of humble aspect, which, by
an odd contrast, was drawn by a pair of excellent horses, and in a
moment had passed out of sight.

He returned home panting with fury; presently there arrived his
watchers, who reported impassively that that morning the mysterious
lover, disguised as a priest, had been kneeling in an attitude of
great devotion against a tomb which stood in the entrance of a dark
chapel in the church of San Giovanni. Fausta had remained in the
church until it was almost empty, and had then rapidly exchanged
certain signs with the stranger; with her hands she had seemed to be
making a series of crosses. M---- hastened to the faithless one's
house; for the first time she could not conceal her uneasiness; she
told him, with the artless mendacity of a passionate woman, that, as
usual, she had gone to San Giovanni, but that she had seen no sign
there of that man who was persecuting her. On hearing these words,
M------, beside himself with rage, railed at her as at the vilest of
creatures, told her everything that he had seen himself, and, the
boldness of her lies increasing with the force of his accusations,
took his dagger and flung himself upon her. With great coolness
Fausta said to him:

"Very well, everything you complain of is the absolute truth, but I
have tried to keep it from you so that you should not go rushing
desperately into mad plans of vengeance which may ruin us both; for,
let me tell you once for all, as far as I can make out, the man who is
persecuting me with his attentions is one who is accustomed not to
meet with any opposition to his wishes, in this country at any rate."
Having very skilfully reminded M---- that, after all, he had no legal
authority over her, Fausta ended by saying that probably she would not
go again to the church of San Giovanni. M---- was desperately in love;
a trace of coquetry had perhaps combined itself with prudence in the
young woman's heart; he felt himself disarmed. He thought of leaving
Parma; the young Prince, however powerful he might be, could not
follow him, or if he did follow him would cease to be anything more
than his equal. But pride represented to him afresh that this
departure must inevitably have the appearance of a flight, and Conte
M---- forbade himself to think of it.

"He has no suspicion that my little Fabrizio is here," the singer said
to herself, delighted, "and now we can make a fool of him in the most
priceless fashion!"

Fabrizio had no inkling of his good fortune; finding next day that the
singer's windows were carefully shuttered, and not seeing her
anywhere, he began to feel that the joke was lasting rather too long.
He felt some remorse. "In what sort of position am I putting that poor
Conte Mosca, and he the Minister of Police! They will think he is my
accomplice, I shall have come to this place to ruin his career! But if
I abandon a project I have been following for so long, what will the
Duchessa say when I tell her of my essays in love?"

One evening when, on the point of giving up everything, he was
moralising thus to himself, as he strolled under the tall trees which
divided Fausta's _palazzo_ from the citadel, he observed that he was
being followed by a spy of diminutive stature; in vain did he attempt
to shake him off by turning down various streets, this microscopic
being seemed always to cling to his heels. Growing impatient, he
dashed into a lonely street running along the bank of the Parma, where
his men were ambushed; on a signal from him they leaped out upon the
poor little spy, who flung himself at their feet; it was Bettina,
Fausta's maid; after three days of boredom and seclusion, disguised as
a man to escape the dagger of Conte M----, of whom her mistress and
she were in great dread, she had undertaken to come out and tell
Fabrizio to see someone who loved him passionately and was burning to
see him, but that the said person could not appear any more in the
church of San Giovanni. "The time has come," Fabrizio said to
himself, "hurrah for persistence!"

The little maid was exceedingly pretty, a fact which took Fabrizio's
mind from his moralisings. She told him that the avenue and all the
streets through which he had passed that evening were being jealously
watched, though quite unobtrusively, by M----'s spies. They had
taken rooms on the ground floors or on the first storeys of the
houses; hidden behind the shutters and keeping absolutely silent, they
observed everything that went on in the apparently quite deserted
street, and heard all that was said.

"If those spies had recognised my voice," said little Bettina, "I
should have been stabbed without mercy as soon as I got back to the
house, and my poor mistress with me, perhaps."

This terror rendered her charming in Fabrizio's eyes.

"Conte M------," she went on, "is furious, and the Signora knows
that he will stick at nothing.... She told me to say to you that
she would like to be a hundred leagues away from here with you."

Then she gave an account of the scene on St. Stephen's day, and of the
fury of M----, who had missed none of the glances and signs of
affection which Fausta, madly in love that day with Fabrizio, had
directed towards him. The Conte had drawn his dagger, had seized
Fausta by the hair, and, but for her presence of mind, she must have
perished.

Fabrizio made the pretty Bettina come up to a little apartment which
he had near there. He told her that he came from Turin, and was the
son of an important personage who happened at that moment to be in
Parma, which meant that he had to be most careful in his movements.
Bettina replied with a smile that he was a far grander gentleman than
he chose to appear. It took our hero some little time to realise that
the charming girl took him for no less a personage than the Crown
Prince himself. Fausta was beginning to be frightened, and to love
Fabrizio; she had taken the precaution of not mentioning his name to
her maid, but of speaking to her always of the Prince. Finally
Fabrizio admitted to the pretty girl that she had guessed aright: "But
if my name gets out," he added, "in spite of the great passion of
which I have furnished your mistress with so many proofs, I shall be
obliged to cease to see her, and at once my father's Ministers, those
rascally jokers whom I shall bring down from their high places some
day, will not fail to send her an order to quit the country which up
to now she has been adorning with her presence."

Towards morning, Fabrizio arranged with the little lady's maid a
number of plans by which he might gain admission to Fausta's house. He
summoned Lodovico and another of his retainers, a man of great
cunning, who came to an understanding with Bettina while he himself
wrote the most extravagant letter to Fausta; the situation allowed
all the exaggerations of tragedy, and Fabrizio did not miss the
opportunity. It was not until day was breaking that he parted from
the little lady's maid, whom he left highly satisfied with the ways of
the young Prince.

It had been repeated a hundred times over that, Fausta having now come
to an understanding with her lover, the latter was no longer to pass
to and fro beneath the windows of the little _palazzo_ except when he
could be admitted there, and that then a signal would be given. But
Fabrizio, in love with Bellina, and believing himself to have come
almost to the point wilh Fausla, could not confine himself to his
village two leagues outside Parma. The following evening, about
midnighl, he came on horseback and with a good escort to sing under
Fausta's windows an air then in fashion, the words of which he
altered. "Is not this the way in which our friends the lovers behave?"
he asked himself.

Now that Fausta had shewn a desire to meet him, all this pursuit
seemed to Fabrizio very tedious. "No, I am not really in love in the
least," he assured himself as he sang (none too well) beneath the
windows of the little _palazzo_; "Bellina seems lo me a hundred limes
preferable to Fausta, and it is by her that I should like to be
received at this moment." Fabrizio, distinclly bored, was returning to
his village when, five hundred yards from Fausta's _palazzo_, fifteen
or twenty men flung themselves upon him; four of them seized his
horse by the bridle, two others look hold of his arms. Lodovico and
Fabrizio's _bravi_ were attacked, bui managed to escape; they fired
several shots with their pistols. All Ihis was the affair of an
instanl: fifty lighted torches appeared in Ihe slreet in the twinkling
of an eye, as though by magic. All these men were well armed. Fabrizio
had jumped down from his horse in spite of Ihe men who were holding
him; he iried lo clear a space round him; he even wounded one of Ihe
men who was gripping his arms in hands like a pair of vices; bui he
was greally surprised to hear Ihis man say lo him, in the most
respectful tone: "Your Highness will give me a good pension for Ihis
wound, which will be better for me than falling inlo the crime of high
treason by drawing my sword againsl my Prince."

"So Ihis is Ihe punishment I get for my folly," thought Fabrizio; "I
shall have damned myself for a sin which did not seem to me in the
least attractive."

Scarcely had this little attempt at a battle finished, when a number
of lackeys in full livery appeared with a sedan-chair gilded and
painted in an odd fashion. It was one of those grotesque chairs used
by masked revellers at carnival time. Six men, with daggers in their
hands, requested His Highness lo get into it, telling him that the
cold night air might be injurious to his voice: they affected the most
reverential forms, the title "Prince" being every moment repeated and
almost shouted. The procession began to move on. Fabrizio counted in
the street more than fifty men carrying lighted torches. It might be
about one o'clock in the morning; all the populace was gazing out of
the windows, the whole thing went off with a certain gravity. "I was
afraid of dagger-thrusts on Conte M----'s part," Fabrizio said to
himself; "he contents himself with making a fool of me; I had not
suspected him of such good taste. But does he really think that he has
the Prince to deal with? If he knows that I am only Fabrizio, ware the
dirk!"

These fifty men carrying torches and the twenty armed men, after
stopping for a long interval under Fausta's windows, proceeded to
parade before the finest _palazzi_ in the town. A pair of
_maggiordomi_, posted one on either side of the sedan-chair, asked His
Highness from time to time whether he had any order to give them.
Fabrizio took care not to lose his head; by the light which the
torches cast he saw that Lodovico and his men were following the
procession as closely as possible. Fabrizio said to himself:
"Lodovico has only nine or ten men, and dares not attack." From the
interior of his sedan-chair he could see quite plainly that the men
responsible for carrying out this practical joke were armed to the
teeth. He made a show of talking and laughing with the _maggiordomi_
who were looking after him. After more than two hours of this
triumphal march, he saw that they were about to pass the end of the
street in which the _palazzo_ Sanseverina stood.

As they turned the corner, he quickly opened the door in the front of
the chair, jumped out over one of the carrying poles, felled with a
blow from his dagger one of the flunkeys who thrust a torch into his
face; he received a stab in the shoulder from a dirk; a second flunkey
singed his beard with his lighted torch, and finally Fabrizio reached
Lodovico, to whom he shouted: "Kill! Kill everyone carrying a torch!"
Lodovico used his sword, and delivered Fabrizio from two men who had
started in pursuit of him. He arrived, running, at the door of the
_palazzo_ Sanseverina; out of curiosity the porter had opened the
little door, three feet high, that was cut in the big door, and was
gazing in bewilderment at this great mass of torches. Fabrizio
sprang inside and shut this miniature door behind him; he ran to the
garden and escaped by a gate which opened on to an unfrequented
street. An hour later, he was out of the town; at daybreak he crossed
the frontier of the States of Modena, and was safe. That evening he
entered Bologna. "Here is a fine expedition," he said to himself; "I
never even managed to speak to my charmer." He made haste to write
letters of apology to the Conte and the Duchessa, prudent letters
which, while describing all that was going on in his heart, could not
give away any information to an enemy. "I was in love with love," he
said to the Duchessa, "I have done everything in the world to acquire
knowledge of it; but it appears that nature has refused me a heart to
love, and to be melancholy; I cannot raise myself above the level of
vulgar pleasure," and so forth.

It would be impossible to give any idea of the stir that this escapade
caused in Parma. The mystery of it excited curiosity: innumerable
people had seen the torches and the sedan-chair. But who was the man
they were carrying away, to whom every mark of respect was paid? No
one of note was missing from the town next day.

The humble folk who lived in the street from which the prisoner had
made his escape did indeed say that they had seen a corpse; but in
daylight, when they ventured out of their houses, they found no other
traces of the fray than quantities of blood spilled on the pavement.
More than twenty thousand sight-seers came to visit the street that
day. Italian towns are accustomed to singular spectacles, but the
_why_ and the _wherefore_ of these are always known. What shocked
Parma about this occurrence was that even a month afterwards, when
people had ceased to speak of nothing but the torchlight procession,
nobody, thanks to the prudence of Conte Mosca, had been able to guess
the name of the rival who had sought to carry off Fausta from Conte
M------. This jealous and vindictive lover had taken flight at the
beginning of the parade. By the Conte's order, Fausta was sent to the
citadel. The Duchessa laughed heartily over a little act of injustice
which the Conte was obliged to commit to put a stop to the
curiosity of the Prince, who otherwise might have succeeded in
hitting upon the name of Fabrizio.

There was to be seen at Parma a scholar, arrived there from the North
to write a History of the Middle Ages; he was in search of manuscripts
in the libraries, and the Conte had given him every possible facility.
But this scholar, who was still quite young, shewed a violent temper;
he believed, for one thing, that everybody in Parma was trying to make
a fool of him. It was true that the boys in the streets sometimes
followed him on account of an immense shock of bright red hair which
he displayed with pride. This scholar imagined that at his inn they
were asking exaggerated prices for everything, and he never paid for
the smallest trifle without first looking up its price in the
_Travels_ of a certain Mrs. Starke, a book which has gone into its
twentieth edition because it indicates to the prudent Englishman the
price of a turkey, an apple, a glass of milk, and so forth.

The scholar with the fiery crest, on the evening of the very day on
which Fabrizio made this forced excursion, flew into a rage at his
inn, and drew from his pocket a brace of small pistols to avenge
himself on the _cameriere_ who demanded two soldi for an indifferent
peach. He was arrested, for to carry pocket pistols is a serious
crime!

As this irascible scholar was long and lean, the Conte conceived the
idea, next morning, of making him pass in the Prince's eyes as the
rash fellow who, having tried to steal away Fausta from Conte M------,
had afterwards been hoaxed. The carrying of pocket pistols is
punishable at Parma with three years in the galleys; but this
punishment is never enforced. After a fortnight in prison, during
which time the scholar had seen no one but a lawyer who had put in him
a terrible fright by his account of the atrocious laws aimed by the
pusillanimity of those in power against the bearers of hidden arms,
another lawyer visited the prison and told him of the expedition
inflicted by Conte M------ on a rival who had not yet been identified.
"The police do not wish to admit to the Prince that they have not been
able to find out who this rival is. Confess that you were seeking to
find favour with Fausta; that fifty brigands carried you off while you
were singing beneath her window; that for an hour they took you about
the town in a sedan-chair without saying anything to you that was not
perfectly proper. There is nothing humiliating about this confession,
you are asked to say only one word. As soon as, by saying it, you have
relieved the police from their difficulty, you will be put into a
post-chaise and driven to the frontier, where they will bid you
good-bye."

The scholar held out for a month; two or three times the Prince was on
the point of having him brought to the Ministry of the Interior, and
of being present in person at his examination. But at last he gave no
more thought to the matter when the scholar, losing patience, decided
to confess everything, and was conveyed to the frontier. The Prince
remained convinced that Conte M----'s rival had a forest of red hair.

Three days after the escapade, while Fabrizio, who was in hiding at
Bologna, was planning with the faithful Lodovico the best way to
catch Conte M------, he learned that he too was hiding in a village in
the mountains on the road to Florence. The Conte had only two or three
of his _buli_ with him; next day, just as he was coming home from his
ride, he was seized by eight men in masks who gave him to understand
that they were _sbirri_ from Parma. They conducted him, after
bandaging his eyes, to an inn two leagues farther up the mountains,
where he found himself treated with the utmost possible respect, and
an abundant supper awaiting him. He was served with the best wines of
Italy and Spain.

"Am I a State prisoner then?" asked the Conte.

"Nothing of the sort," the masked Ludovico answered him, most
politely. "You have given offence to a private citizen by taking
upon yourself to have him carried about in a sedan-chair; to-morrow
morning he wishes to fight a duel with you. If you kill him, you will
find a pair of good horses, money, and relays prepared for you along
the road to Genoa."

"What is the name of this fire-eater?" asked the Conte with
irritation.

"He is called _Bombace_. You will have the choice of weapons and
good seconds, thoroughly loyal, but it is essential that one of you
die!"

"Why, it is murder, then!" said the Conte; growing frightened.

"Please God, no! It is simply a duel to the death with the young man
whom you have had carried about the streets of Parma in the middle of
the night, and whose honour would be tarnished if you remained alive.
One or other of you is superfluous on this earth, therefore try to
kill him; you shall have swords, pistols, sabres, all the weapons that
can be procured at a few hours' notice, for we have to make haste; the
police at Bologna are most diligent, as you perhaps know, and they
must on no account interfere with this duel which is necessary to the
honour of the young man whom you have made to look foolish."

"But if this young man is a Prince...."

"He is a private citizen like yourself, and indeed a great deal less
wealthy than you, but he wishes to fight to the death, and he will
force you to fight, I warn you."

"Nothing in the world frightens me!" cried M----.

"That is just what your adversary most passionately desires,"
replied Lodovico. "To-morrow, at dawn, prepare to defend your life; it
will be attacked by a man who has good reason to be extremely angry,
and will not let you off lightly; I repeat that you will have the
choice of weapons; and remember to make your will."

Next morning, about six o'clock, breakfast was brought to Conte
M------, a door was then opened in the room in which he was confined,
and he was made to step into the courtyard of a country inn; this
courtyard was surrounded by hedges and walls of a certain height, and
its doors had been carefully closed.

In a corner, upon a table which the Conte was requested to approach,
he found several bottles of wine and brandy, two pistols, two swords,
two sabres, paper and ink; a score of _contadini_ stood in the windows
of the inn which overlooked the courtyard. The Conte implored their
pity. "They want to murder me," he cried, "save my life!"

"You deceive yourself, or you wish to deceive others," called out
Fabrizio, who was at the opposite corner of the courtyard, beside a
table strewn with weapons. He was in his shirtsleeves, and his face
was concealed by one of those wire masks which one finds in
fencing-rooms.

"I require you," Fabrizio went on, "to put on the wire mask which is
lying beside you, then to advance towards me with a sword or with
pistols; as you were told yesterday evening, you have the choice of
weapons."

Conte M---- raised endless difficulties, and seemed most reluctant to
fight; Fabrizio, for his part, was afraid of the arrival of the
police, although they were in the mountains quite five leagues from
Bologna. He ended by hurling at his rival the most atrocious insults;
at last he had the good fortune to enrage Conte M------, who seized a
sword and advanced upon him. The fight began quietly enough.

After a few minutes, it was interrupted by a great tumult. Our hero
had been quite aware that he was involving himself in an action
which, for the rest of his life, might be a subject of reproach or at
least of slanderous imputations. He had sent Lodovico into the
country to procure witnesses. Lodovico gave money to some strangers
who were working in a neighbouring wood; they ran to the inn shouting,
thinking that the game was to kill an enemy of the man who had paid
them. When they reached the inn, Ludovico asked them to keep their
eyes open and to notice whether either of the two young men who were
fighting acted treacherously and took an unfair advantage over the
other.

The fight, which had been interrupted for the time being by the cries
of murder uttered by the _contadini_, was slow in beginning again.
Fabrizio offered fresh insults to the fatuity of the Conte. "Signor
Conte," he shouted to him, "when one is insolent, one ought to be
brave also. I feel that the conditions are hard on you; you prefer
to pay people who are brave." The Conte, once more stung to action,
began to shout to him that he had for years frequented the
fencing-school of the famous Battistini at Naples, and that he was
going to punish his insolence. Conte M----'s anger having at length
reappeared, he fought with a certain determination, which did not
however prevent Fabrizio from giving him a very pretty thrust in the
chest with his sword, which kept him in bed for several months.
Lodovico, while giving first aid to the wounded man, whispered in his
ear: "If you report this duel to the police, I will have you stabbed
in your bed."

Fabrizio withdrew to Florence; as he had remained in hiding at
Bologna, it was only at Florence that he received all the Duchessa's
letters of reproach; she could not forgive his having come to her
concert and made no attempt to speak to her. Fabrizio was delighted by
Conte Mosca's letters; they breathed a sincere friendship and the most
noble sentiments. He gathered that the Conte had written to Bologna,
in such a way as to clear him of any suspicion which might attach to
him as a result of the duel. The police behaved with perfect justice:
they reported that two strangers, of whom one only, the wounded man,
was known to them (namely Conte M------), had fought with swords, in
front of more than thirty _contadini_, among whom there had arrived
towards the end of the fight the curate of the village, who had made
vain efforts to separate the combatants. As the name of Giuseppe Bossi
had never been mentioned, less than two months afterwards Fabrizio
returned to Bologna, more convinced than ever that his destiny
condemned him never to know the noble and intellectual side of love.
So much he gave himself the pleasure of explaining at greath length to
the Duchessa; he was thoroughly tired of his solitary life and now
felt a passionate desire to return to those charming evenings which he
used to pass with the Conte and his aunt. Since then he had never
tasted the delights of good society. "I am so bored with the thought
of the love which I sought to give myself, and of Fausta," he wrote to
the Duchessa, "that now, even if her fancy were still to favour me, I
would not go twenty leagues to hold her to her promise; so have no
fear, as you tell me you have, of my going to Paris, where I see that
she has now made her appearance and has created a _furore_. I would
travel all the leagues in the world to spend an evening with you and
with that Conte who is so good to his friends."

END OF VOLUME I




THE CHARTERHOUSE
OF PARMA

VOLUME TWO




CHAPTER FOURTEEN

While Fabrizio was in pursuit of love, in a village near Parma, the
Fiscal General Rassi, who did not know that he was so near, continued
to treat his case as though he had been a Liberal: he pretended to be
unable to find--or, rather, he intimidated--the witnesses for the
defence; and finally, after the most ingenious operations, carried on
for nearly a year, and about two months after Fabrizio's final return
to Bologna, on a certain Friday, the Marchesa Raversi, mad with joy,
announced publicly in her drawing-room that next day the sentence
which had just been pronounced, in the last hour, on young del Dongo
would be presented to the Prince for his signature and approved by
him. A few minutes later the Duchessa was informed of this utterance
by her enemy.

"The Conte must be extremely ill served by his agents!" she said to
herself; "only this morning he thought that the sentence could not be
passed for another week. Perhaps he would not be sorry to see my young
Grand Vicar kept out of Parma; but," she added, breaking into song,
"we shall see him come again; and one day he will be our Archbishop.
The Duchessa rang:

"Collect all the servants in the waiting-room," she told her footman,
"including the kitchen staff; go to the town commandant and get the
necessary permit to procure four post-horses, and have those horses
harnessed to my landau within half an hour." All the women of the
household were set to work packing trunks: the Duchessa hastily chose
a travelling dress, all without sending any word to the Conte; the
idea of playing a little joke on him sent her into a transport of joy.

"My friends," she said to the assembled servants, "I learn that my
poor nephew is to be condemned in his absence for having had the
audacity to defend his life against a raging madman; I mean Giletti,
who was trying to kill him. You have all of you had opportunities of
seeing how mild and inoffensive Fabrizio's nature is. Rightly
indignant at this atrocious outrage, I am going to Florence; I leave
for each of you ten years' wages; if you are in distress, write to me,
and, so long as I have a sequin, there will be something for you."

The Duchessa meant exactly what she said, and, at her closing words,
the servants dissolved in tears; her eyes too were moist: she added in
a voice faint with emotion: "Pray to God for me and for Monsignor
Fabrizio del Dongo, First Grand Vicar of the Diocese, who to-morrow
morning is going to be condemned to the galleys, or, which would be
less stupid, to the penalty of death."

The tears of the servants flowed in double volume, and gradually
changed into cries that were almost seditious; the Duchessa stepped
into her carriage and drove to the Prince's Palace. Despite the
unusual hour, she sent in a request for an audience by General
Fontana, the Aide-de-Camp in waiting; she was by no means in court
dress, a fact which threw this Aide-de-Camp into a profound stupor. As
for the Prince, he was not at all surprised, still less annoyed by
this request for an audience. "We shall see tears flowing from fine
eyes," he said to himself, rubbing his hands. "She comes to sue for
pardon; at last that proud beauty is going to humble herself! She was,
really, too insupportable with her little airs of independence! Those
speaking eyes seemed always to be saying to me, when the slightest
thing offended her: 'Naples or Milan would have very different
attractions as a residence from your little town of Parma.' In truth,
I do not reign over Naples, nor over Milan; but now at last this great
lady is coming to ask me for something which depends upon me alone,
and which she is burning to obtain; I always thought that nephew's
coming here would bring me some advantage."

While the Prince was smiling at these thoughts, and giving himself up
to all these agreeable anticipations, he walked up and down his
cabinet, at the door of which General Fontana remained standing stiff
and erect like a soldier presenting arms. Seeing the sparkling eyes of
the Prince, and remembering the Duchessa's travelling dress, he
imagined a dissolution of the Monarchy. His bewilderment knew no
bounds when he heard the Prince say: "Ask the Signora Duchessa to wait
for a quarter of an hour." The General Aide-de-Camp made his
half-turn, like a soldier on parade; the Prince was still smiling:
"Fontana is not accustomed," he said to himself, "to see that proud
Duchessa kept waiting. The face of astonishment with which he is going
to tell her about the _quarter of an hour to wait_ will pave the way
for the touching tears which this cabinet is going to see her shed."
This quarter of an hour was exquisite for the Prince; he walked up and
down with a firm and steady pace; he reigned. "It will not do at this
point to say anything that is not perfectly correct; whatever my
feelings for the Duchessa may be, I must never forget that she is one
of the greatest ladies of my court. How used Louis XIV to speak to the
Princesses, his daughters, when he had occasion to be displeased with
them?" And his eyes came to rest on the portrait of the Great King.

The amusing thing was that the Prince never thought of asking himself
whether he should shew clemency to Fabrizio, or what form that
clemency should take. Finally, at the end of twenty minutes, the
faithful Fontana presented himself again at the door, but without
saying a word. "The Duchessa Sanseverina may enter," cried the Prince,
with a theatrical air. "Now for the tears," he added inwardly, and, as
though to prepare himself for such a spectacle, took out his
handkerchief.

Never had the Duchessa been so gay or so pretty; she did not seem five
and twenty. Seeing her light and rapid little step scarcely brush the
carpet, the poor Aide-de-Camp was on the point of losing his reason
altogether.

"I have a thousand pardons to ask of Your Serene Highness," said the
Duchessa in her light and gay little voice; "I have taken the liberty
of presenting myself before him in a costume which is not exactly
conventional, but Your Highness has so accustomed me to his
kindnesses that I have ventured to hope that he will be pleased to
accord me this pardon also."

The Duchessa spoke quite slowly so as to give herself time to enjoy
the spectacle of the Prince's face; it was delicious, by reason of the
profound astonishment and of the traces of the grand manner which the
position of his head and arms still betrayed. The Prince sat as though
struck by a thunderbolt; in a shrill and troubled little voice he
exclaimed from time to time, barely articulating the words: "_What's
that.' What's that_!" The Duchessa, as though out of respect, having
ended her compliment, left him ample time to reply; then went on:

"I venture to hope that Your Serene Highness deigns to pardon me the
incongruity of my costume"; but, as she said the words, her mocking
eyes shone with so bright a sparkle that the Prince could not endure
it; he studied the ceiling, an act which with him was the final sign
of the most extreme embarrassment.

"_What's that! What's that_!" he said again; then he had the good
fortune to hit upon a phrase:--"Signora Duchessa, pray be seated"; he
himself drew forward a chair for her, not ungraciously. The Duchess
was by no means insensible to this courtesy; she moderated the
petulance of her gaze.

"_What's that! What's that_!" the Prince once more repeated, moving
uneasily in his chair, in which one would have said that he could find
no solid support.

"I am going to take advantage of the cool night air to travel by
post," went on the Duchessa, "and as my absence may be of some
duration, I have not wished to leave the States of His Serene Highness
without thanking him for all the kindnesses which, in the last five
years, he has deigned to shew me." At these words the Prince at last
understood; he grew pale; he was the one man in the world who really
suffered when he saw himself proved wrong in his calculations. Then
he assumed an air of grandeur quite worthy of the portrait of Louis
XIV which hung before his eyes. "Very good," thought the Duchessa,
"there is a man."

"And what is the reason for this sudden departure?" said the Prince in
a fairly firm tone.

"I have long had the plan in my mind," replied the Duchessa, "and a
little insult which has been offered to _Monsignor_ del Dongo, whom
to-morrow they are going to sentence to death or to the galleys, makes
me hasten my departure."

"And to what town are you going?"

"To Naples, I think." She added as she rose to her feet: "It only
remains for me to take leave of Your Serene Highness and to thank him
most humbly for his _former_ kindnesses." She, in turn, spoke with so
firm an air that the Prince saw that in two minutes all would be over;
once the sensation of her departure had occurred, he knew that no
further arrangement was possible; she was not a woman to retrace her
steps. He ran after her.

"But you know well, Signora Duchessa," he said, taking her hand, "that
I have always felt a regard for you, a regard to which it rested only
with you to give another name. A murder has been committed; that is a
fact which no one can deny; I have entrusted the sifting of the
evidence to my best judges. ..."

At these words the Duchessa rose to her full height; every sign of
respect and even of urbanity disappeared in the twinkling of an eye;
the outraged woman became clearly apparent, and the outraged woman
addressing a creature whom she knew to have broken faith with her. It
was with an expression of the most violent anger, and indeed of
contempt that she said to the Prince, dwelling on every word:

"I am leaving the States of Your Serene Highness for ever, so as never
to hear the names of the Fiscal Rassi and of the other infamous
assassins who have condemned my nephew and so many others to death; if
Your Serene Highness does not wish to introduce a feeling of
bitterness into the last moments that I shall pass in the presence of
a Prince who is courteous and intelligent when he is not led astray, I
beg him most humbly not to recall to me the thought of those infamous
judges who sell themselves for a thousand scudi or a Cross."

The admirable--and, above all, genuine--accent in which these words
were uttered made the Prince shudder; he feared for a moment to see
his dignity compromised by an accusation even more direct, but on
the whole his sensation soon became one of pleasure; he admired the
Duchessa; her face and figure attained at that moment to a sublime
beauty. "Great God! How beautiful she is!" the Prince said to himself;
"one ought to make some concessions to a womar who is so unique, when
there probably is not another like her in the whole of Italy. Oh well,
with a little policy it might not be impossible one day to make her my
mistress: there is a wide gulf between a creature like this and that
doll of a Marchesa Balbi, who moreover robs my poor subjects of at
least three hundred thousand francs every year.... but did I hear
aright?" he thought suddenly; "she said: 'condemned my nephew and so
many others.' " Then his anger boiled over, and it was with a
stiffness worthy of his supreme rank that the Prince said, after an
interval of silence: "And what would one have to do to make the
Signora not leave us?"

"Something of which you are not capable," replied the Duchessa in an
accent of the most bitter irony and the most unconcealed contempt.

The Prince was beside himself, but his professional training as an
Absolute Sovereign gave him the strength to overcome his first
impulse. "I must have this woman," he said to himself; "so much I owe
to myself, then she must be made to die of shame. ... If she leaves
this cabinet, I shall never see her again." But, mad with rage and
hatred as he was at this moment, where was he to find an answer that
would at once satisfy the requirements of what he owed to himself and
induce the Duchessa not to abandon his court immediately? "She
cannot," he said to himself, "repeat or turn to ridicule a gesture,"
and he placed himself between the Duchessa and the door of his
cabinet. Presently he heard a tap at this door.

"Who is the creature," he cried, shouting with the full force of his
lungs, "who is the creature who comes here to thrust his fatuous
presence upon me?" Poor General Fontana shewed a pallid face, of
complete discomfiture, and it was with the air of a man in his last
agony that he stammered these inarticulate words: "His Excellency the
Conte Mosca solicits the honour of being introduced."

"Let him come in," said, or rather shouted, the Prince, and, as Mosca
bowed :

"Well," he said to him, "here is the Signora Duchessa Sanseverina, who
informs me that she is leaving Parma immediately to go and settle at
Naples, and who, incidentally, is being most impertinent to me."

"What!" said Mosca turning pale.

"Oh! So you did not know of this plan of departure?"

"Not a word; I left the Signora at six o'clock, happy and content."

This statement had an incredible effect on the Prince. First of all he
looked at Mosca; his increasing pallor shewed the Prince that he was
telling the truth and was in no way an accomplice of the Duchessa's
desperate action. "In that case," he said to himself, "I lose her for
ever; pleasure and vengeance, all goes in a flash. At Naples she will
make epigrams with her nephew Fabrizio about the great fury of the
little Prince of Parma." He looked at the Duchessa: the most violent
scorn and anger were disputing the possession of her heart; her eyes
were fixed at that moment on Conte Mosca, and the exquisite curves of
that lovely mouth expressed the bitterest disdain. The whole face
seemed to be saying: "Vile courtier!" "So," thought the Prince after
he had examined her, "I lose this means of bringing her back ' :> my
country. At this moment again, if she leaves this cabinet, she is
lost to me; God knows the things she will say about my judges at
Naples.... And with that spirit, and that divine power of
persuasion which heaven has bestowed on her, she will make everyone
believe her. I shall be obliged to her for the reputation of a
ridiculous tyrant, who gets up in the middle of the night to look
under his bed...." Then, by an adroit move and as though he were
intending to walk up and down the room to reduce his agitation, the
Prince took his stand once again in front of the door of the cabinet;
the Conte was on his right, at a distance of three paces, pale,
shattered, and trembling so that he was obliged to seek support from
the back of the armchair in which the Duchessa had been sitting during
the earlier part of the audience, and which the Prince in a moment of
anger had pushed across the floor. The Conte was in love. "If the
Duchessa goes, I follow her," he said to himself; "but will she want
me in her train? That is the question."

On the Prince's left, the Duchessa, erect, her arms folded and pressed
to her bosom, was looking at him with an admirable impatience: a
complete and intense pallor had taken the place of the vivid colours
which a moment earlier animated that sublime face.

The Prince, in contrast to the other two occupants of the room, had a
red face and a troubled air; his left hand played convulsively with
the Cross attached to the Grand Cordon of his Order which he wore
under his coat: with his right hand he caressed his chin.

"What is to be done?" he asked the Conte, without knowing quite what
he himself was doing, and carried away by the habit of consulting this
other in everything.

"I can think of nothing, truly, Serene Highness," replied the Conte
with the air of a man yielding up his last breath. It was all he
could do to pronounce the words of his answer. The tone of his voice
gave the Prince the first consolation that his wounded pride had
received during this audience, and this grain of happiness furnished
him with a speech that gratified his vanity.

"Very well," he said, "I am the most reasonable of the three; I choose
to make a complete elimination of my position in the world. I am going
to speak _as a friend_"; and he added, with a fine smile of
condescension, beautifully copied from the brave days of Louis XIV,
"_like a friend speaking to friends_. Signora Duchessa," he went on,
"what is to be done to make you forget an untimely resolution?"

"Truly, I can think of nothing," replied the Duchessa with a deep
sigh, "truly, I can think of nothing, I have such a horror of Parma."
There was no epigrammatic intention in this speech; one could see that
sincerity itself spoke through her lips.

The Conte turned sharply towards her; his courtier's soul was
scandalised; then he addressed a suppliant gaze to the Prince. With
great dignity and coolness the Prince allowed a moment to pass; then,
addressing the Conte:

"I see," he said, "that your charming friend is altogether beside
herself; it is quite simple, she _adores_ her nephew." And, turning
towards the Duchessa, he went on with a glance of the utmost gallantry
and at the same time with the air which one adopts when quoting a line
from a play: "_What must one do to please those lovely eyes_?"

The Duchessa had had time for reflexion; in a firm and measured tone,
and as though she were dictating her ultimatum, she replied:

"His Highness might write me a gracious letter, as he knows so well
how to do; he might say to me that, not being at all convinced of the
guilt of Fabrizio del Dongo, First Grand Vicar of the Archbishop, he
will not sign the sentence when it is laid before him, and that these
unjust proceedings shall have no consequences in the future."

"What, _unjust_!" cried the Prince, colouring to the whites of his
eyes, and recovering his anger.

"That is not all," replied the Duchessa, with a Roman pride, "_this
very evening_, and,'' she added, looking at the clock, "it is already
a quarter past eleven, this very evening His Serene Highness will send
word to the Marchesa Raversi that he advises her to retire to the
country to recover from the fatigue which must have been caused her by
a certain prosecution of which she was speaking in her drawing-room
in the early hours of the evening." The Prince was pacing the floor of
his cabinet like a madman.

"Did anyone ever see such a woman?" he cried. "She is wanting in
respect for me!"

The Duchessa replied with inimitable grace: "Never in my life have I
had a thought of shewing want of respect for His Serene Highness; His
Highness has had the extreme condescension to say that he was speaking
_as a friend to friends_. I have, moreover, no desire to remain at
Parma," she added, looking at the Conte with the utmost contempt. This
look decided the Prince, hitherto highly uncertain, though his words
had seemed to promise a pledge; he paid little attention to words.

There was still some further discussion; but at length Conte Mosca
received the order to write the gracious note solicited by the
Duchessa. He omitted the phrase: _these unjust proceedings shall
have no consequences in the future_. "It is enough," the Conte said
to himself, "that the Prince shall promise not to sign the sentence
which will be laid before him." The Prince thanked him with a quick
glance as he signed.

The Conte was greatly mistaken; the Prince was tired and would have
signed anything. He thought that he was getting well out of the
difficulty, and the whole affair was coloured in his eyes by the
thought: "If the Duchessa goes, I shall find my court become boring
within a week." The Conte noticed that his master altered the date to
that of the following day. He looked at the clock: it pointed almost
to midnight. The Minister saw nothing more in this correction of the
date than a pedantic desire to show a proof of exactitude and good
government. As for the banishment of the Marchesa Raversi, he made no
objection; the Prince took a particular delight in banishing people.

"General Fontana!" he cried, opening the door a little way.

The General appeared with a face shewing so much astonishment and
curiosity, that a merry glance was exchanged by the Duchessa and
Conte, and this glance made peace 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, you will send in your name; if she is in bed, you will add
that you come from me, and, on entering her room, you will say these
precise words and no others: 'Signora Marchesa Raversi, His Serene
Highness requests you to leave to-morrow morning, before eight
o'clock, for your _castello_ at Velleja; His Highness will let you
know when you may return to Parma.' "

The Prince's eyes sought those of the Duchessa, who, without giving
him the thanks he expected, made him an extremely respectful
curtsey, and swiftly left the room.

"What a woman!" said the Prince, turning to Conte Mosca.

The latter, delighted at the banishment of the Marchesa Raversi, which
simplified all his ministerial activities, talked for a full half-hour
like a consummate courtier; he sought to console his Sovereign's
injured vanity, and did not take his leave until he saw him fully
convinced that the historical anecdotes of Louis XIV included no
fairer page than that with which he had just provided his own future
historians.

On reaching home the Duchessa shut her doors, and gave orders that no
one was to be admitted, not even the Conte. She wished to be left
alone with herself, and to consider for a little what idea she ought
to form of the scene that had just occurred. She had acted at random
and for her own immediate pleasure; but to whatever course she might
have let herself be induced to take she would have clung with
tenacity. She had not blamed herself in the least on recovering her
coolness, still less had she repented; such was the character to which
she owed the position of being still, in her thirty-seventh year, the
best-looking woman at court.

She was thinking at this moment of what Parma might have to offer in
the way of attractions, as she might have done on returning after a
long journey, so fully, between nine o'clock and eleven, had she
believed that she was leaving the place for ever.

"That poor Conte did cut a ludicrous figure when he learned of my
departure in the Prince's presence.... After all, he is a pleasant
man, and has a very rare warmth of heart. He would have given up his
Ministries to follow me.... But on the other hand, during five
whole years, he has not had to find fault with me for a single
aberration. How many women married before the altar could say as much
to their lords and masters? It must be admitted that he is not
self-important, he is no pedant; he gives one no desire to be
unfaithful to him; when he is with me, he seems always to be ashamed
of his power. ... He cut a funny figure in the presence of his lord
and master; if he was in the room now, I should kiss him.... But
not for anything in the world would I undertake to amuse a Minister
who had lost his portfolio; that is a malady which only death can
cure, and ... one which kills. What a misfortune it would be to
become Minister when one was young! I must write to him; it is one of
the things that he ought to know officially before he quarrels with
his Prince.... But I am forgetting my good servants."

The Duchessa rang. Her women were still at work packing trunks; the
carriage had drawn up under the portico, and was being loaded; all the
servants who had nothing else to do were gathered round this carriage,
with tears in their eyes. Cecchina, who on great occasions had the
sole right to enter the Duchessa's room, told her all these details.

"Call them upstairs," said the Duchessa.

A moment later she passed into the waiting-room.

"I have been promised," she told them, "that the sentence passed on my
nephew will not be signed by the Sovereign" (such is the term used in
Italy), "and I am postponing my departure. We shall see whether my
enemies have enough influence to alter this decision."

After a brief silence, the servants began to shout: "_Evviva la
Signora Duchessa_!" and to applaud furiously. The Duchessa, who had
gone into the next room, reappeared like an actress taking a _call_,
made a little curtsey, full of grace, to her people, and said to them:
"_My friends, I thank you_." Had she said the word, all of them at
that moment would have marched on the Palace to attack it. She
beckoned to a postilion, an old smuggler and a devoted servant, who
followed her.

"You will disguise yourself as a _contadino_ in easy circumstances,
you will get out of Parma as best you can, hire a _sediola_ and
proceed as quickly as possible to Bologna. You will enter Bologna as
a casual visitor and by the Florence gate, and you will deliver to
Fabrizio, who is at the Pellegrino, a packet which Cecchina will give
you. Fabrizio is in hiding, and is known there as Signor Giuseppe
Bossi; do not give him away by any stupid action, do not appear to
know him; my enemies will perhaps set spies on your track. Fabrizio
will send you back here after a few hours or a few days: and it is on
your return journey especially that you must use every precaution
not to give him away."

"Ah! Marchesa Raversi's people!" cried the postilion. "We are on the
look-out for them, and if the Signora wished, they would soon be
exterminated."

"Some other day, perhaps; but don't, as you value your life, do
anything without orders from me."

It was a copy of the Prince's note which the Duchessa wished to send
to Fabrizio; she could not resist the pleasure of making him amused,
and added a word about the scene which had led up to the note; this
word became a letter of ten pages. She had the postilion called back.

"You cannot start," she told him, "before four o'clock, when the gates
are opened."

"I was thinking of going out by the big conduit; I should be up to my
neck in water, but I should get through...."

"No," said the Duchessa, "I do not wish to expose one of my most
faithful servants to the risk of fever. Do you know anyone in the
Archbishop's household?"

"The second coachman is a friend of mine."

"Here is a letter for that saintly prelate; make your way quietly into
his Palace, get them to take you to his valet; I do not wish
Monsignore to be awakened. If he has retired to his room, spend the
night in the Palace, and, as he is in the habit of rising at dawn,
to-morrow morning, at four o'clock, have yourself announced as coming
from me, ask the holy Archbishop for his blessing, hand him the packet
you see here, and take the letters that he will perhaps give you for
Bologna."

The Duchessa addressed to the Archbishop the actual original of the
Prince's note; as this note concerned his First Grand Vicar, she
begged him to deposit it among the archives of the Palace, where she
hoped that their Reverences the Grand Vicars and Canons, her nephew's
colleagues, would be so good as to acquaint themselves with its
contents; the whole transaction to be kept in the most profound
secrecy.

The Duchessa wrote to Monsignor Landriani with a familiarity which
could not fail to charm that honest plebeian; the signature alone
filled three lines; the letter, couched in the most friendly tone, was
followed by the words: _Angelina-Cornelia-lsotta Valserra del Dongo,
Duchessa Sanseverina_.

"I don't believe I have signed all that," the Duchessa said to
herself, "since my marriage contract with the poor Duca; but one only
gets hold of those people with that sort of thing, and in the eyes of
the middle classes the caricature looks like beauty." She could not
bring the evening to an end without yielding to the temptation to
write to the poor Conte; she announced to him officially, for his
_guidance_, she said, _in his relations with crowned heads_, that she
did not feel herself to be capable of amusing a Minister in disgrace.
"The Prince frightens you; when you are no longer in a position to see
him, will it be my business to frighten you?" She had this letter
taken to him at once.

For his part, that morning at seven o'clock, the Prince sent for Conte
Zurla, the Minister of the Interior.

"Repeat," he told him, "the strictest orders to every _podestà_ to
have Signor Fabrizio del Dongo arrested. We are informed that possibly
he may dare to reappear in our States. This fugitive being now at
Bologna, where he seems to defy the judgement of our tribunals, post
the _sbirri_ who know him by sight: (1) in the villages on the road
from Bologna to Parma; (2) in the neighbourhood of Duchessa
Sanseverina's _castello_ at Sacca, and of her house at Castelnuovo;
(3) round Conte Mosca's _castello_. I venture to hope from your great
sagacity, Signor Conte, that you will manage to keep all knowledge of
these, your Sovereign's orders, from the curiosity of Conte Mosca.
Understand that I wish Signor Fabrizio del Dongo to be arrested."

As soon as the Minister had left him, a secret door introduced into
the Prince's presence the Fiscal General, Rassi, who came towards him
bent double, and bowing at every step. The face of this rascal was a
picture; it did full justice to the infamy of the part he had to play,
and, while the rapid and extravagant movements of his eyes betrayed
his consciousness of his own merits, the arrogant and grimacing
assurance of his mouth showed that he knew how to fight against
contempt.

As this personage is going to acquire a considerable influence over
Fabrizio's destiny, we may say a word here about him. He was tall, he
had fine eyes that shewed great intelligence, but a face ruined by
smallpox; as for brains, he had them in plenty, and of the finest
quality; it was admitted that he had an exhaustive knowledge of the
law, but it was in the quality of resource that he specially shone.
Whatever the aspect in which a case might be laid before him, he
easily and in a few moments discovered the way, thoroughly well
founded in law, to arrive at a conviction or an acquittal; he was
above all a past-master of the hair-splittings of a prosecutor.

In this man, whom great Monarchs might have envied the Prince of
Parma, one passion only was known to exist: he loved to converse with
eminent personages and to please them by buffooneries. It mattered
little to him whether the powerful personage laughed at what he said
or at his person, or uttered revolting pleasantries at the expense of
Signora Rassi; provided that he saw the great man laugh and was
himself treated as a familiar, he was content. Sometimes the Prince,
at a loss how further to insult the dignity of this Chief Justice,
would actually kick him; if the kicks hurt him, he would begin to cry.
But the instinct of buffoonery was so strong in him that he might be
seen every day frequenting the drawing-room of a Minister who scoffed
at him, in preference to his own drawing-room where he exercised a
despotic rule over all the stuff gowns of the place. This Rassi had
above all created for himself a place apart, in that it was impossible
for the most insolent noble to humiliate him; his method of avenging
himself for the insults which he had to endure all day long was to
relate them to the Prince, in whose presence he had acquired the
privilege of saying anything; it is true that the reply often took the
form of a well-directed cuff, which hurt him, but he stood on no
ceremony about that. The presence of this Chief Justice used to
distract the Prince in his moments of ill-humour; then he amused
himself by outraging him. It can be seen that Rassi was almost the
perfect courtier: a man without honour and without humour.

"Secrecy is essential above all things," the Prince shouted to him
without greeting him, treating him, in fact, exactly as he would have
treated a scullion, he who was so polite to everybody. "From when is
your sentence dated?"

"Serene Highness, from yesterday morning."

"By how many judges is it signed?"

"By all five."

"And the penalty?"

"Twenty years in a fortress, as Your Serene Highness told me."

"The death penalty would have given offence," said the Prince, as
though speaking to himself; "it is a pity! What an effect on that
woman! But he is a del Dongo, and that name is revered in Parma, on
account of the three Archbishops, almost in direct sequence.... You
say twenty years in a fortress?"

"Yes, Serene Highness," replied the Fiscal, still on his feet and bent
double; "with, as a preliminary, a public apology before His Serene
Highness's portrait; and, in addition, a diet of bread and water every
Friday and on the Vigils of the principal Feasts, _the accused being
notorious for his impiety_. This is with an eye to the future and to
put a stop to his career."

"Write," said the Prince: "'His Serene Highness having deigned to
turn a considerate ear to the most humble supplications of the
Marchesa del Dongo, the culprit's mother, and of the Duchessa
Sanseverina, his aunt, which ladies have represented to him that at
the date of the crime their son and nephew was extremely young, and in
addition led astray by an insensate passion conceived for the wife of
the unfortunate Giletti, has been graciously pleased,
notwithstanding the horror inspired by such a murder, to commute the
penalty to which Fabrizio del Dongo has been sentenced to that of
twelve years in a fortress.'

"Give it to me to sign."

The Prince signed and dated the sentence from the previous day;
then, handing it back to Rassi, said to him: "Write immediately
beneath my signature: 'The Duchessa Sanseverina having once again
thrown herself before the knees of His Highness, the Prince has given
permission that every Thursday the prisoner may take exercise for one
hour on the platform of the square tower, commonly called Torre
Farnese.'

"Sign that," said the Prince, "and, don't forget, keep your mouth
shut, whatever you may hear said in the town. You will tell Councillor
De' Capitani, who voted for two years in a fortress, and even made a
speech upholding so ridiculous a sentence, that I expect him to
refresh his memory of the laws and regulations. Once again silence,
and good night." Fiscal Rassi performed with great deliberation three
profound reverences to which the Prince paid no attention.

This happened at seven o'clock in the morning. A few hours later, the
news of the Marchesa Raversi's banishment spread through the town and
among the _caffè_: everyone was talking at once of this great event.
The Marchesa's banishment drove away for some time from Parma that
implacable enemy of small towns and small courts, boredom. General
Fabio Conti, who had regarded himself as a Minister already, feigned
an attack of gout, and for several days did not emerge from his
fortress. The middle classes, and consequently the populace,
concluded from what was happening that it was clear that the Prince
had decided to confer the Archbishopric of Parma on Monsignor del
Dongo. The shrewd politicians of the _caffè_ went so far as to assert
that Father Landriani, the reigning Archbishop, had been ordered to
plead ill health and to send in his resignation; he was to be awarded
a fat pension from the tobacco duty, they were positive about it; this
report reached the Archbishop himself, who was greatly alarmed, and
for several days his zeal for our hero was considerably paralysed. Two
months later, this fine piece of news found its way into the Paris
newspapers, with the slight alteration that it was Conte Mosca, nephew
of the Duchessa Sanseverina, who was to be made Archbishop.

The Marchesa Raversi meanwhile was raging in her Castello di
Velleja; she was by no means one of those little feather-pated women
who think that they are avenging themselves when they say damaging
things about their enemies. On the day following her disgrace,
Cavaliere Riscara and three more of her friends presented themselves
before the Prince by her order, and asked him for permission to go to
visit her at her _castello_. His Highness received these gentlemen
with perfect grace, and their arrival at Velleja was a great
consolation to the Marchesa. Before the end of the second week, she
had thirty people in her _castello_, all those whom the Liberal
Ministry was going to bring into power. Every evening, the Marchesa
held a regular council with the better informed of her friends. One
day, on which she had received a number of letters from Parma and
Bologna, she retired to bed early: her maid let into the room, first
of all the reigning lover, Conte Baldi, a young man of admirable
appearance and complete insignificance, and, later on, Cavaliere
Riscara, his predecessor: this was a small man dark in complexion
and in character, who, having begun by being instructor in geometry
at the College of Nobles at Parma, now found himself a Councillor of
State and a Knight of several Orders.

"I have the good habit," the Marchesa said to these two men, "of never
destroying any paper; and well it has served me; here are nine letters
which the Sanseverina has written me on different occasions. You will
both of you proceed to Genoa, you will look among the gaol-birds there
for an ex-lawyer named Burati, like the great Venetian poet, or else
Durati. You, Conte Baldi, sit down at my desk and write what I am
going to dictate to you.

"'An idea has occurred to me, and I write you a line. I am going to
my cottage, by Castelnuovo; if you care to come over and spend a day
with me, I shall be most delighted; there is, it seems to me, no great
danger after what has just happened; the clouds are lifting. However,
stop before you come to Castelnuovo; you will find one of my people on
the road; they are all madly devoted to you. You will, of course, keep
the name Bossi for this little expedition. They tell me that you have
grown a beard like the most perfect Capuchin, and nobody has seen you
at Parma except with the decent countenance of a Grand Vicar.'

"Do you follow me, Riscara?"

"Perfectly; but the journey to Genoa is an unnecessary extravagance; I
know a man in Parma who, to be accurate, is not yet in the galleys,
but cannot fail to get there in the end. He will counterfeit the
Sanseverina's hand to perfection."

At these words, Conte Baldi opened those fine eyes of his to their
full extent; he had only just understood.

"If you know this worthy personage of Parma, who, you hope, will
obtain advancement," said the Marchesa to Riscara, "presumably he
knows you also: his mistress, his confessor, his bosom friend may
have been bought by the Sanseverina: I should prefer to postpone
this little joke for a few days and not to expose myself to any risk.
Start in a couple of hours like good little lambs, don't see a living
soul at Genoa, and return quickly." Cavaliere Riscara fled from the
room laughing, and squeaking through his nose like Punchinello. "_We
must pack up our traps_!" he said as he ran in a burlesque fashion. He
wished to leave Baldi alone with the lady. Five days later, Riscara
brought the Marchesa back her Conte Baldi, flayed alive; to cut off
six leagues, they had made him cross a mountain on mule-back; he vowed
that nothing would ever induce him again to take _long journeys_.
Baldi handed the Marchesa three copies of the letter which she had
dictated to him, and five or six other letters in the same hand,
composed by Riscara, which might perhaps be put to some use later
on. One of these letters contained some very pretty witticisms with
regard to the fears from which the Prince suffered at night, and to
the deplorable thinness of the Marchesa Balbi, his mistress, who
left a dint in the sofa-cushions, it was said, like the mark made
by a pair of tongs, after she had sat on them for a moment. Anyone
would have sworn that all these letters came from the hand of Signora
Sanseverina.

"Now I know, beyond any doubt," said the Marchesa, "that the favoured
lover, Fabrizio, is at Bologna or in the immediate neighbourhood...."

"I am too unwell," cried Conte Baldi, interrupting her; "I ask as a
favour to be excused this second journey, or at least I should like to
have a few days' rest to recover my health."

"I shall go and plead your cause," said Riscara.

He rose and spoke in an undertone to the Marchesa.

"Oh, very well, then, I consent," she replied with a smile. "Reassure
yourself, you shall not go at all," she told Baldi, with a certain air
of contempt.

"Thank you," he cried in heart-felt accents. In the end, Riscara got
into a post-chaise by himself. He had scarcely been a couple of days
in Bologna when he saw, in an open carriage, Fabrizio and little
Marietta. "The devil!" he said to himself, "it seems our future
Archbishop doesn't let the time hang on his hands; we must let the
Duchessa know about this, she will be charmed." Riscara had only to
follow Fabrizio to discover his address; next morning our hero
received from a courier the letter forged at Genoa; he thought it a
trifle short, but apart from that suspected nothing. The thought of
seeing the Duchessa and Conte again made him wild with joy, and in
spite of anything Lodovico might say he took a post-horse and went off
at a gallop. Without knowing it, he was followed at a short distance
by Cavaliere Riscara, who on coming to a point six leagues from
Parma, at the stage before Castelnuovo, had the satisfaction of seeing
a crowd on the _piazza_ outside the local prison; they had just led in
our hero, recognised at the post-house, as he was changing horses, by
two sbirri who had been selected and sent there by Conte Zurla.

Cavaliere Riscara's little eyes sparkled with joy; he informed
himself, with exemplary patience, of everything that had occurred in
the little village, then sent a courier to the Marchesa Raversi. After
which, roaming the streets as though to visit the church, which was of
great interest, and then to look for a picture by the Parmigianino
which, he had been told, was to be found in the place, he finally ran
into the _podestà_, who was obsequious in paying his respects to a
Councillor of State. Riscara appeared surprised that he had not
immediately despatched to the citadel of Parma the conspirator whose
arrest he had had the good fortune to secure.

"There is reason to fear," Riscara added in an indifferent tone, "that
his many friends, who were endeavouring, the day before yesterday, to
facilitate his passage through the States of His Highness, may come
into conflict with the police; there were at least twelve or fifteen
of these rebels, mounted."

"_Intelligenti pauca_!" cried the _podestà_ with a cunning air.




CHAPTER FIFTEEN

A couple of hours later, the unfortunate Fabrizio, fitted with
handcuffs and actually attached by a long chain

to the _sediola_ into which he had been made to climb, started for the
citadel of Parma, escorted by eight constables. These had orders to
take with them all the constables stationed in the villages through
which the procession had to pass; the _podestà_ in person followed
this important prisoner. About seven o'clock in the evening the
_sediola_, escorted by all the little boys in Parma and by thirty
constables, came down the fine avenue of trees, passed in front
of the little _palazzo_ in which Fausta had been living a few months
earlier, and finally presented itself at the outer gate of the citadel
just as General Fabio Conti and his daughter were coming out. The
governor's carriage stopped before reaching the drawbridge to make
way for the _sediola_ to which Fabrizio was attached; the General
instantly shouted for the gates to be shut, and hastened down to the
turnkey's office to see what was the matter; he was not a little
surprised when he recognised the prisoner, who had grown quite stiff
after being fastened to his _sediola_ throughout such a long journey;
four constables had lifted him down and were carrying him into the
turnkey's office. "So I have in my power," thought the feather-pated
governor, "that famous Fabrizio del Dongo, with whom anyone would say
that for the last year the high society of Parma had taken a vow to
occupy themselves exclusively!"

The General had met him a score of times at court, at the Duchessa's
and elsewhere; but he took good care not to shew any sign that he knew
him; he was afraid of compromising himself.

"Have a report made out," he called to the prison clerk, "in full
detail of the surrender made to me of the prisoner by his worship the
_podestà_ of Castelnuovo."

Barbone, the clerk, a terrifying personage owing to the volume of his
beard and his martial bearing, assumed an air of even greater
importance than usual; one would have called him a German gaoler.
Thinking he knew that it was chiefly the Duchessa Sansevérina who had
prevented his master from becoming Minister of War, he was behaving
with more than his ordinary insolence towards the prisoner; in
speaking to him he used the pronoun voi, which in Italy is the formula
used in addressing servants.

"I am a prelate of the Holy Roman Church," Fabrizio said to him
firmly, "and Grand Vicar of this Diocese; my birth alone entitles me
to respect."

"I know nothing about that!" replied the clerk pertly; "prove your
assertions by shewing the brevets which give you a right to those
highly respectable titles."

Fabrizio had no such documents and did not answer. General Fabio
Conti, standing by the side of his clerk, watched him write without
raising his eyes to the prisoner, so as not to be obliged to admit
that he was really Fabrizio del Dongo.

Suddenly Clelia Conti, who was waiting in the carriage, heard a
tremendous racket in the guard-room. The clerk, Barbone, in making an
insolent and extremely long description of the prisoner's person,
ordered him to undo his clothing in order to verify and put on record
the number and condition of scars received by him in his fight with
Giletti.

"I cannot," said Fabrizio, smiling bitterly; "I am not in a position
to obey the gentleman's orders, these handcuffs make it impossible."

"What!" cried the General with an innocent air, "the prisoner is
handcuffed! Inside the fortress! That is against the rules, it
requires an order _ad hoc_; take the handcuffs off him."

Fabrizio looked at him: "There's a nice Jesuit," he thought; "for the
last hour he has seen me with these handcuffs, which have been hurting
me horribly, and he pretends to be surprised!"

The handcuffs were taken off by the constables; they had just learned
that Fabrizio was the nephew of the Duchessa Sansevérina, and made
haste to shew him a honeyed politeness which formed a sharp contrast
to the rudeness of the clerk; the latter seemed annoyed by this and
said to Fabrizio, who stood there without moving:

"Come along, there! Hurry up, shew us those scratches you got from
poor Giletti, the time he was murdered." With a bound, Fabrizio sprang
upon the clerk, and dealt him such a blow that Barbone fell from his
chair against the General's legs. The constables seized hold of the
arms of Fabrizio, who made no attempt to resist them; the General
himself and two constables who were standing by him hastened to pick
up the clerk, whose face was bleeding copiously. Two subordinates
who stood farther off ran to shut the door of the office, in the idea
that the prisoner was trying to escape. The _brigadiere_ who was in
command of them thought that young del Dongo could not make a serious
attempt at flight, since after all he was in the interior of the
citadel; at the same time, he went to the window to put a stop to any
disorder, and by a professional instinct. Opposite this open window
and within a few feet of it the General's carriage was drawn up:
Clelia had shrunk back inside it, so as not to be a witness of the
painful scene that was being enacted in the office; when she heard all
this noise, she looked out.

"What is happening?" she asked the _brigadiere_.

"Signorina, it is young Fabrizio del Dongo who has just given that
insolent Barbone a proper smack!"

"What! It is Signor del Dongo that they are taking to prison?"

"Eh! No doubt about that," said the _brigadiere_; "it is because of
the poor young man's high birth that they are making all this fuss; I
thought the Signorina knew all about it." Clelia remained at the
window: when the constables who were standing round the table moved
away a little she caught a glimpse of the prisoner. "Who would ever
have said," she thought, "that I should see him again for the first
time in this sad plight, when I met him on the road from the Lake of
Como? ... He gave me his hand to help me into his mother's carriage. .
. . He had the Duchessa with him even then! Had they begun to love
each other as long ago as that?"

It should be explained to the reader that the members of the Liberal
Party swayed by the Marchesa Raversi and General Conti affected to
entertain no doubt as to the tender intimacy that must exist between
Fabrizio and the Duchessa. Conte Mosca, whom they abhorred, was the
object of endless pleasantries for the way in which he was being
deceived.

"So," thought Clelia, "there he is a prisoner, and a prisoner in the
hands of his enemies. For after all, Conte Mosca, angel as one would
like to think him, will be delighted when he hears of this capture."

A loud burst of laughter sounded from the guard-room.

"Jacopo," she said to the _brigadiere_ in a voice that quivered with
emotion, "what in the world is happening?"

"The General asked the prisoner sharply why he had struck Barbone:
Monsignor Fabrizio answered calmly: 'He called me _assassino_; let him
produce the titles and brevets which authorise him to give me that
title'; and they all laughed."

A gaoler who could write took Barbone's place; Clelia saw the latter
emerge mopping with his handkerchief the blood that streamed in
abundance from his hideous face; he was swearing like a heathen: "That
f---- Fabrizio," he shouted at the top of his voice, "I'll have his
life, I will, if I have to steal the hangman's rope." He had stopped
between the office window and the General's carriage, and his oaths
redoubled.

"Move along there," the _brigadiere_ told him; "you mustn't swear in
front of the Signorina."

Barbone raised his head to look at the carriage, his eyes met those of
Clelia who could not repress a cry of horror; never had she seen at
such close range so atrocious an expression upon any human face. "He
will kill Fabrizio!" she said to herself, "I shall have to warn Don
Cesare." This was her uncle, one of the most respected priests in the
town; General Conti, his brother, had procured for him the post of
_economo_ and principal chaplain in the prison.

The General got into the carriage.

"Would you rather stay at home," he said to his daughter, "or wait
for me, perhaps for some time, in the courtyard of the Palace? I
must go and report all this to the Sovereign."

Fabrizio came out of the office escorted by three constables; they
were taking him to the room which had been allotted to him. Clelia
looked out of the window, the prisoner was quite close to her. At that
moment she answered her father's question in the words: "_I will go
with you_." Fabrizio, hearing these words uttered close to his ear,
raised his eyes and met the girl's gaze. He was struck, especially,
by the expression of melancholy on her face. "How she has improved,"
he thought, "since our meeting near Como! What an air of profound
thought! ... They are quite right to compare her with the Duchessa;
what angelic features!" Barbone, the bloodstained clerk, who had not
taken his stand beside the carriage without a purpose, held up his
hand to stop the three constables who were leading Fabrizio away, and,
moving round behind the carriage until he reached the window next
which the General was sitting:

"As the prisoner has committed an act of violence in the interior of
the citadel," he said to him, "in consideration of Article 157 of the
regulations, would it not be as well to put the handcuffs on him for
three days?"

"Go to the devil!" cried the General, still considerably embarrassed
by this arrest. It was important for him that he should not drive
either the Duchessa or Conte Mosca to extremes; and besides, what
attitude was the Conte going to adopt towards this affair? After all,
the murder of a Giletti was a mere trifle, and only intrigue had
succeeded in magnifying it into anything of importance.

During this brief dialogue, Fabrizio stood superb among the group of
constables, his expression was certainly the proudest and most noble
that one could imagine; his fine and delicate features and the
contemptuous smile that strayed over his lips made a charming contrast
with the coarse appearance of the constables who stood round him.
But all this formed, so to speak, only the external part of his
physiognomy; he was enraptured by the heavenly beauty of Clelia, and
his eyes betrayed his surprise to the full.

She, profoundly pensive, had never thought of drawing
back her head from the window; he bowed to her with a half-smile of
the utmost respect; then, after a moment's silence :

"It seems to me, Signorina," he said to her, "that, once before, near
a lake, I had the honour of meeting you, in the company of the
police."

Clelia blushed, and was so taken aback that she could find no words in
which to reply. "What a noble air among all those coarse creatures,"
she had been saying to herself at the moment when Fabrizio spoke to
her. The profound pity, we might almost say the tender emotion in
which she was plunged deprived her of the presence of mind necessary
to find words, no matter what; she became conscious of her silence and
blushed all the deeper. At this moment the bolts of the great gate of
the citadel were drawn back with a clang; had not His Excellency's
carriage been waiting for at least a minute? The echo was so loud in
this vaulted passage that even if Clelia had found something to say in
reply Fabrizio could not have caught her words.

Borne away by the horses which had broken into a gallop immediately
after crossing the drawbridge, Clelia said to herself: "He must have
thought me very silly!" Then suddenly she added: "Not only silly; he
must have felt that I had a base nature, he must have thought that I
did not respond to his greeting because he is a prisoner and I am the
governor's daughter."

The thought of such a thing was terrible to this girl of naturally
lofty soul. "What makes my behaviour absolutely degrading," she went
on, "is that before, when we met for the first time, also _in the
company of the police_, as he said just now, it was I who was the
prisoner, and he did me a service, and helped me out of a very awkward
position. ... Yes, I am bound to admit, my behaviour was quite
complete, it combined rudeness and ingratitude. Alas, poor young man!
Now that he is in trouble, everybody is going to behave disgracefully
to him. Even if he did say to me then: 'You will remember my name, I
hope, at Parma?' how he must be despising me at this moment! It would
have been so easy to say a civil word! Yes, I must admit, my conduct
towards him has been atrocious. The other time, but for the generous
offer of his mother's carriage, I should have had to follow the
constables on foot through the dust, or, what would have been far
worse, ride pillion behind one of them; it was my father then who was
under arrest, and I defenceless! Yes, my behaviour is complete. And
how keenly a nature like his must have felt it! What a contrast
between his noble features and my behaviour! What nobility! What
serenity! How like a hero he looked, surrounded by his vile enemies!
Now I understand the Duchessa's passion: if he looks like that in
distressing circumstances which may end in frightful disaster, what
must he be like when his heart is happy!"

The governor's carriage waited for more than an hour and a half in the
courtyard of the Palace, and yet, when the General returned from his
interview with the Prince, Clelia by no means felt that he had stayed
there too long.

"What is His Highness's will?" asked Clelia.

"His tongue said: Prison! His eyes: Death!"

"Deathl Great God!" exclaimed Clelia.

"There now, be quiet!" said the General crossly; "what a fool I am to
answer a child's questions."

Meanwhile Fabrizio was climbing the three hundred and eighty steps
which led to the Torre Farnese, a new prison built on the platform of
the great tower, at a prodigious height from the ground. He never once
thought, distinctly that is to say, of the great change that had just
occurred in his fortunes. "What eyes!" he said to himself: "What a
wealth of expression in them! What profound pity! She looked as though
she were saying: 'Life is such a tangled skein of misfortunes! Do
not distress yourself too much about what is happening to you! Are we
not sent here below to be unhappy?' How those fine eyes of hers
remained fastened on me, even when the horses were moving forward with
such a clatter under the arch!"

Fabrizio completely forgot to feel wretched.

Clelia accompanied her father to various houses; in the early part of
the evening no one had yet heard the news of the arrest of the _great
culprit_, for such was the name which the courtiers bestowed a couple
of hours later on this poor, rash young man.

It was noticed that evening that there was more animation than usual
in Clelia's face; whereas animation, the air of taking part in what
was going on round her, was just what was chiefly lacking in that
charming young person. When you compared her beauty with that of the
Duchessa, it was precisely that air of not being moved by anything,
that manner as though of a person superior to everything, which
weighed down the balance in her rival's favour. In England, in France,
lands of vanity, the general opinion would probably have been just
the opposite, Clelia Conti was a young girl still a trifle too slim,
who might be compared to the beautiful models of Guido Reni. We make
no attempt to conceal the fact that, according to Greek ideas of
beauty, the objection might have been made that her head had certain
features a trifle too strongly marked; the lips, for instance, though
full of the most touching charm, were a little too substantial.

The admirable peculiarity of this face in which shone the artless
graces and the heavenly imprint of the most noble soul was that,
albeit of the rarest and most singular beauty, it did not in any way
resemble the heads of Greek sculpture. The Duchessa had, on the other
hand, a little too much of the _recognised_ beauty of the ideal type,
and her truly Lombard head recalled the voluptuous smile and tender
melancholy of Leonardo's lovely paintings of Herodias. Just as the
Duchessa shone, sparkled with wit and irony, attaching herself
passionately, if one may use the expression, to all the subjects which
the course of the conversation brought before her mind's eye, so
Clelia showed herself calm and slow to move, whether from contempt for
her natural surroundings or from regret for some unfulfilled dream. It
had long been thought that she would end by embracing the religious
life. At twenty she was observed to show a repugnance towards going
to balls, and if she accompanied her father to these entertainments it
was only out of obedience to him and in order not to jeopardise the
interests of his career.

"It is apparently going to be impossible for me," the General in his
vulgarity of spirit was too prone to repeat, "heaven having given me
as a daughter the most beautiful person in the States of our
Sovereign, and the most virtuous, to derive any benefit from her for
the advancement of my fortune! I live in too great isolation, I have
only her in the world, and what I must absolutely have is a family
that will support me socially, and will procure for me a certain
number of houses where my merit, and especially my aptitude for
ministerial office shall be laid down as unchallengeable postulates
in any political discussion. And there is my daughter, so beautiful,
so sensible, so religious, taking offence whenever a young man well
established at court attempts to find favour in her sight. If the
suitor is dismissed, her character becomes less sombre, and I see her
appear almost gay, until another champion enters the lists. The
handsomest man at court, Conte Baldi, presented himself and failed
to please; the richest man in His Highness's States, the Marchese
Crescenzi, has now followed him; she insists that he would make her
miserable.

"Decidedly," the General would say at other times, "my daughter's eyes
are finer than the Duchessa's, particularly as, on rare occasions,
they are capable of assuming a more profound expression; but that
magnificent expression, when does anyone ever see it? Never in a
drawing-room where she might do justice to it; but simply out driving
alone with me, when she lets herself be moved, for instance, by the
miserable state of some hideous rustic. 'Keep some reflexion of that
sublime gaze,' I tell her at times, 'for the drawing-rooms in which we
shall be appearing this evening.' Not a bit of it: should she
condescend to accompany me into society, her pure and noble features
present the somewhat haughty and scarcely encouraging expression of
passive obedience." The General spared himself no trouble, as we can
see, in his search for a suitable son-in-law, but what he said was
true.

Courtiers, who have nothing to contemplate in their own hearts, notice
every little thing that goes on round about them; they had observed
that it was particularly on those days when Clelia could not succeed
in making herself emerge from her precious musings and feign an
interest in anything that the Duchessa chose to stop beside her and
tried to make her talk, Clelia had hair of an ashen fairness, which
stood out with a charming effect against cheeks that were delicately
tinted but, as a rule, rather too pale. The mere shape of her brow
might have told an attentive observer that that air, so instinct with
nobility, that manner, so far superior to vulgar charms, sprang from a
profound indifference to everything that was vulgar. It was the
absence and not the impossibility of interest in anything. Since her
father had become governor of the citadel, Clelia had found happiness,
or at least freedom from vexations in her lofty abode. The appalling
number of steps that had to be climbed in order to reach this official
residence of the governor, situated on the platform of the main tower,
kept away tedious visitors, and Clelia, for this material reason,
enjoyed the liberty of the convent; she found there almost all the
ideal of happiness which at one time she had thought of seeking from
the religious life. She was seized by a sort of horror at the mere
thought of putting her beloved solitude and her secret thoughts at the
disposal of a young man whom the title of husband would authorise to
disturb all this inner life. If, by her solitude, she did not attain
to happiness, at least she had succeeded in avoiding sensations that
were too painful.

On the evening after Fabrizio had been taken to the fortress, the
Duchessa met Clelia at the party given by the Minister of the
Interior, Conte Zurla; everyone gathered round them; that evening,
Clelia's beauty outshone the Duchessa's. The beautiful eyes of the
girl wore an expression so singular and so profound as to be almost
indiscreet; there was pity, there were indignation also and anger in
her gaze. The gaiety and brilliant ideas of the Duchessa seemed to
plunge Clelia into spells of grief that bordered on horror. "What
will be the cries and groans of this poor woman," she said to herself,
"when she learns that her lover, that young man with so great a heart
and so noble a countenance, has just been flung into prison? And that
look in the Sovereign's eyes which condemns him to death! O Absolute
Power, when wilt thou cease to crush down Italy! O base and venal
souls! And I am the daughter of a gaoler! And I have done nothing to
deny that noble station, for I did not deign to answer Fabrizio! And
once before he was my benefactor! What can he be thinking of me at
this moment, alone in his room with his little lamp for sole
companion?" Revolted by this idea, Clelia cast a look of horror at the
magnificent illumination of the drawing-rooms of the Minister of the
Interior.

"Never," the word went round the circle of courtiers who had gathered
round the two reigning beauties, and were seeking to join in their
conversation, "never have they talked to one another with so animated
and at the same time so intimate an air. Can the Duchessa, who is
always so careful to smooth away the animosities aroused by the Prime
Minister, can she have thought of some great marriage for Clelia?"
This conjecture was founded upon a circumstance which until then had
never presented itself to the observation of the court: the girl's
eyes shewed more fire, and indeed, if one may use the term, more
passion than those of the beautiful Duchessa. The latter, for her
part, was astonished, and, one may say it to her credit, delighted by
the discovery of charms so novel in the young recluse; for an hour she
had been gazing at her with a pleasure by no means commonly felt in
the sight of a rival. "Why, what can have happened?" the Duchessa
asked herself; "never has Clelia looked so beautiful, or, one might
say, so touching: can her heart have spoken? ... But in that case,
certainly, it is an unhappy love, there is a dark grief at the root of
this strange animation.... But unhappy love keeps silent. Can it
be a question of recalling a faithless lover by shining in society?"
And the Duchessa gazed with attention at all the young men who stood
round them. Nowhere could she see any unusual expression, every face
shone with a more or less pleased fatuity. "But a miracle must have
happened," the Duchessa told herself, vexed by her inability to solve
the mystery. "Where is Conte Mosca, that man of discernment? No, I am
not mistaken, Clelia is looking at me attentively, and as if I was for
her the object of a quite novel interest. Is it the effect of some
order received from her father, that vile courtier? I supposed that
young and noble mind to be incapable of lowering itself to any
pecuniary consideration. Can General Fabio Conti have some decisive
request to make of the Conte?"

About ten o'clock, a friend of the Duchessa came up to her and
murmured a few words; she turned extremely pale: Clelia took her hand
and ventured to press it.

"I thank you, and I understand you now ... you have a noble heart,"
said the Duchessa, making an effort to control herself; she had
barely the strength to utter these few words. She smiled profusely at
the lady of the house, who rose to escort her to the door of the
outermost drawing-room: such honours were due only to Princesses of
the Blood, and were for the Duchessa an ironical comment on her
position at the moment. And so she continued to smile at Contessa
Zurla, but in spite of untold efforts did not succeed in uttering a
single word.

Clelia's eyes filled with tears as she watched the Duchessa pass
through these rooms, thronged at the moment with all the most
brilliant figures in society. "What is going to happen to that poor
woman," she wondered, "when she finds herself alone in her carriage?
It would be an indiscretion on my part to offer to accompany her, I
dare not.... And yet, what a consolation it would be to the poor
prisoner, sitting in some wretched cell, if he knew that he was loved
to such a point! What a frightful solitude that must be in which they
have plunged him! And we, we are here in these brilliant rooms, how
horrible! Can there be any way of conveying a message to him? Great
God! That would be treachery to my father; his position is so delicate
between the two parties! What will become of him if he exposes
himself to the passionate hatred of the Duchessa, who controls the
will of the Prime Minister, who in three out of every four things here
is the master? On the other hand, the Prince takes an unceasing
interest in everything that goes on at the fortress, and will not
listen to any jest on that subject; fear makes him cruel. ... In any
case, Fabrizio" (Clelia no longer thought of him as Signor del Dongo)
"is greatly to be pitied. ... It is a very different thing for him
from the risk of losing a lucrative post! ... And the Duchessa! ...
What a terrible passion love is! ... And yet all those liars in
society speak of it as a source of happiness! One is sorry for elderly
women because they can no longer feel or inspire love.... Never
shall I forget what I have just seen; what a sudden change! How those
beautiful, radiant eyes of the Duchessa turned dull and dead after the
fatal word which Marchese N---- came up and said to her! ... Fabrizio
must indeed be worthy of love!"

Breaking in upon these highly serious reflexions, which were absorbing
the whole of Clelia's mind, the complimentary speeches which always
surrounded her seemed to her even more distasteful than usual. To
escape from them she went across to an open window, half screened by a
taffeta curtain; she hoped that no one would be so bold as to follow
her into this sort of sanctuary. This window opened upon a little
grove of orange-trees planted in the ground: as a matter of fact,
every winter they had to be protected by a covering, Clelia inhaled
with rapture the scent of their blossom, and this pleasure seemed to
restore a little calm to her spirit. "I felt that he had a very noble
air," she thought, "but to inspire such passion in so distinguished a
woman! She has had the glory of refusing the Prince's homage, and if
she had deigned to consent, she would have reigned as queen over his
States.... My father says that the Sovereign's passion went so far
as to promise to marry her if ever he became free to do so. ... And
this love for Fabrizio has lasted so long! For it is quite five years
since we met them by the Lake of Como.... Yes, it is quite five
years," she said to herself after a moment's reflexion. "I was struck
by it even then, when so many things passed unnoticed before my
childish eyes. How those two ladies seemed to admire Fabrizio! ..."

Clelia remarked with joy that none of the young men who had been
speaking to her with such earnestness had ventured to approach her
balcony. One of them, the Marchese Crescenzi, had taken a few steps
in that direction, but had then stopped by a card-table. "If only,"
she said to herself, "under my window in our _palazzo_ in the
fortress, the only one that has any shade, I had some pretty
orange-trees like these to look at, my thoughts would be less sad: but
to have as one's sole outlook the huge blocks of stone of the Torre
Farnese.... Ah!" she cried with a convulsive movement, "perhaps that
is where they have put him. I must speak about it at once to Don
Cesare! He will be less severe than the General. My father is certain
to tell me nothing on our way back to the fortress, but I shall find
out everything from Don Cesare. ... I have money, I could buy a few
orange-trees, which, placed under the window of my aviary, would
prevent me from seeing that great wall of the Torre Farnese. How
infinitely more hateful still it will be to me now that I know one of
the people whom it hides from the light of day! ... Yes, it is just
the third time I have seen him. Once at court, at the ball on the
Princess's birthday; to-day, hemmed in by three constables, while that
horrible Barbone was begging for handcuffs to be put on him, and the
other time by the Lake of Como. That is quite five years ago. What a
hang-dog air he had then! How he stared at the constables, and what
curious looks his mother and his aunt kept giving him. Certainly there
must have been some secret that day, some special knowledge which they
were keeping to themselves; at the time, I had an idea that he too was
afraid of the police...." Clelia shuddered; "But how ignorant I was!
No doubt at that time the Duchessa had already begun to take an
interest in him. How he made us laugh after the first few minutes,
when the ladies, in spite of their obvious anxiety, had begun to grow
more accustomed to the presence of a stranger! ... And this evening I
had not a word to say in reply when he spoke to me. ... O ignorance
and timidity! How often you have the appearance of the blackest
cowardice! And I am like this at twenty, yes and past twenty! ... I
was well-advised to think of the cloister; really I am good for
nothing but retirement. 'Worthy daughter of a gaoler!' he will have
been saying to himself. He despises me, and, as soon as he is able to
write to the Duchessa, he will tell her of my want of consideration,
and the Duchessa will think me a very deceitful little girl; for,
after all, this evening she must have thought me full of sympathy with
her in her trouble."

Clelia noticed that someone was approaching, apparently with the
intention of taking his place by her side on the iron balcony of this
window; she could not help feeling annoyed, although she blamed
herself for being so; the meditations in which she was disturbed
were by no means without their pleasant side. "Here comes some
troublesome fellow to whom I shall give a warm welcome!" she thought.
She was turning her head with a haughty stare, when she caught sight
of the timid face of the Archbishop, who was approaching the balcony
by a series of almost imperceptible little movements. "This saintly
man has no manners," thought Clelia. "Why come and disturb a poor girl
like me? My tranquillity is the only thing I possess." She was
greeting him with respect, but at the same time with a haughty air,
When the prelate said to her:

"Signorina, have you heard the terrible news?"

The girl's eyes had at once assumed a totally different expression;
but, following the instructions repeated to her a hundred times over
by her father, she replied with an air of ignorance which the language
of her eyes loudly contradicted:

"I have heard nothing, Monsignore."

"My First Grand Vicar, poor Fabrizio del Dongo, who is no more guilty
than I am of the death of that brigand Giletti, has been arrested at
Bologna where he was living under the assumed name of Giuseppe Bossi;
they have shut him up in your citadel; he arrived there actually
_chained_ to the carriage that brought him. A sort of gaoler, named
Barbone, who was pardoned some time ago after murdering one of his
own brothers, chose to attempt an act of personal violence against
Fabrizio, but my young friend is not the man to take an insult
quietly. He flung his infamous adversary to the ground, whereupon
they cast him into a dungeon, twenty feet underground, after first
putting handcuffs on his wrists."

"Not handcuffs, no!"

"Ah! Then you do know something," cried the Archbishop. And the old
man's features lost their intense expression of discouragement. "But,
before we go any farther, someone may come out on to this balcony and
interrupt us: would you be so charitable as to convey personally to
Don Cesare my pastoral ring here?"

The girl took the ring, but did not know where to put it for fear of
losing it.

"Put it on your thumb," said the Archbishop; and he himself slipped
the ring into position. "Can I count upon you to deliver this ring?"

"Yes, Monsignore."

"Will you promise me to keep secret what I am going to say, even if
circumstances should arise in which you may find it inconvenient to
agree to my request?"

"Why, yes, Monsignore," replied the girl, trembling all over as she
observed the sombre and serious air which the old man had suddenly
assumed....

"Our estimable Archbishop," she went on, "can give me no orders that
are not worthy of himself and me."

"Say to Don Cesare that I commend to him my adopted son; I know that
the _sbirri_ who carried him off did not give him time to take his
breviary with him, I therefore request Don Cesare to let him have his
own, and if your uncle will send to-morrow to my Palace, I promise to
replace the book given by him to Fabrizio. I request Don Cesare also
to convey the ring which this pretty hand is now wearing to Signor del
Dongo." The Archibishop was interrupted by General Fabio Conti, who
came in search of his daughter to take her to the carriage; there was
a brief interval of conversation in which the prelate shewed a certain
adroitness. Without making any reference to the latest prisoner, he so
arranged matters that the course of the conversation led naturally to
the utterance of certain moral and political maxims by himself; for
instance: "There are moments of crisis in the life of a court which
decide for long periods the existence of the most exalted personages;
it would be distinctly imprudent to change into _personal hatred_ the
state of political aloofness which is often the quite simple result of
diametrically opposite positions." The Archbishop, letting himself be
carried away to some extent by the profound grief which he felt at so
unexpected an arrest, went so far as to say that one must undoubtedly
strive to retain the position one holds, but that it would be a quite
gratuitous imprudence to attract to oneself furious hatreds in
consequence of lending oneself to certain actions which are never
forgotten.

When the General was in the carriage with his daughter: "Those might
be described as threats," he said to her.... "Threats, to a man of
my sort!"

No other words passed between father and daughter for the next twenty
minutes.

On receiving the Archbishop's pastoral ring, Clelia had indeed
promised herself that she would inform her father, as soon as she was
in the carriage, of the little service which the prelate had asked of
her; but after the word threats, uttered with anger, she took it for
granted that her father would intercept the token; she covered the
ring with her left hand and pressed it passionately. During the whole
of the time that it took them to drive from the Ministry of the
Interior to the citadel, she was asking herself whether it would be
criminal on her part not to speak of the matter to her father. She was
extremely pious, extremely timorous, and her heart, usually so
tranquil, beat with an unaccustomed violence; but in the end the _chi
va là_ of the sentry posted on the rampart above the gate rang out on
the approach of the carriage before Clelia had found a form of words
calculated to incline her father not to refuse, so much afraid was she
of his refusing. As they climbed the three hundred and sixty steps
which led to the governor's residence, Clelia could think of
nothing.

She hastened to speak to her uncle, who rebuked her and refused to
lend himself to anything.




CHAPTER SIXTEEN

"Well," cried the General, when he caught sight of his brother Don
Cesare, "here is the Duchessa going to spend a hundred thousand scudi
to make a fool of me and help the prisoner to escape!"

But, for the moment, we are obliged to leave Fabrizio in his prison,
at the very summit of the citadel of Parma; he is well guarded and we
shall perhaps find him a little altered when we return to him. We must
now concern ourselves first of all with the court, where certain
highly complicated intrigues, and in particular the passions of an
unhappy woman are going to decide his fate. As he climbed the three
hundred and ninety steps to his prison in the Torre Farnese, beneath
the eyes of the governor, Fabrizio, who had so greatly dreaded this
moment, found that he had no time to think of his misfortunes.

On returning home after the party at Conte Zurla's, the Duchessa
dismissed her women with a wave of the hand; then, letting herself
fall, fully dressed, on to her bed, "_Fabrizio_," she cried aloud,
"_is in the power of his enemies, and perhaps to spite me they will
give him poison_!" How is one to depict the moment of despair that
followed this statement of the situation in a woman so far from
reasonable, so much the slave of every passing sensation, and, without
admitting it to herself, desperately in love with the young
prisoner? There were inarticulate cries, paroxysms of rage, convulsive
movements, but never a tear. She had sent her women away to conceal
her tears; she thought that she was going to break into sobs as soon
as she found herself alone; but tears, those first comforters in hours
of great sorrow, completely failed her. Anger, indignation, the sense
of her own inferiority when matched with the Prince, had too firm a
mastery of this proud soul.

"Am I not humiliated enough?" she kept on exclaiming; "I am outraged,
and, worse still, Fabrizio's life is in danger; and I have no means of
vengeance! Wait a moment, my Prince; you kill me, well and good, you
have the power to do so; but afterwards I shall have your life. Alas!
Poor Fabrizio, how will that help you? What a difference from the day
when I was proposing to leave Parma, and yet even then I thought I was
unhappy ... what blindness! I was going to break with all the habits
and customs of a pleasant life; alas! without knowing it, I was on
the edge of an event which was to decide my fate for ever. Had not the
Conte, with the miserable fawning instinct of a courtier, omitted
the words _unjust proceedings_ from that fatal note which the Prince's
vanity allowed me to secure, we should have been saved. I had had the
good fortune (rather than the skill, I must admit) to bring into play
his personal vanity on the subject of his beloved town of Parma. Then
I threatened to leave, then I was free. ... Great God! What sort of
slave am I now? Here I am now nailed down in this foul sewer, and
Fabrizio in chains in the citadel, in that citadel which for so many
eminent men has been the ante-room of death; and I can no longer keep
that tiger cowed by the fear of seeing me leave his den.

"He has too much sense not to realise that I will never move frofh the
infamous tower in which my heart is enchained. Now, the injured
vanity of the man may put the oddest ideas into his head; their
fantastic cruelty would but whet the appetite of his astounding
vanity. If he returns to his former programme of insipid love-making,
if he says to me: 'Accept the devotion of your slave or Fabrizio
dies,'--well, there is the old story of Judith.... Yes, but if it
is only suicide for me, it will be murder for Fabrizio; his fool of a
successor, our Crown Prince, and the infamous headsman Rassi will
have Fabrizio hanged as my accomplice."

The Duchessa wailed aloud: this dilemma, from which she could see no
way of escape, was torturing her unhappy heart. Her distracted head
could see no other probability in the future. For ten minutes she
writhed like a madwoman; then a sleep of utter exhaustion took the
place for a few moments of this horrible state, life was crushed out.
A few minutes later she awoke with a start and found herself sitting
on her bed; she had dreamed that, in her presence, the Prince was
going to cut off Fabrizio's head. With what haggard eyes the
Duchessa stared round her! When at length she was convinced that
neither Fabrizio nor the Prince was in the room with her, she fell
back on her bed and was on the point of fainting. Her physical
exhaustion was such, that she could not summon up enough strength to
change her position. "Great God! If I could die!" she said to
herself.... "But what cowardice, for me to abandon Fabrizio in his
trouble! My wits are straying.... Come, let us get back to the
facts; let us consider calmly the execrable position in which I have
plunged myself, as though of my own free will. What a lamentable
piece of stupidity to come and live at the court of an Absolute
Prince! A tyrant who knows all his victims; every look they give him
he interprets as a defiance of his power. Alas, that is what neither
the Conte nor I took into account when we left Milan: I thought of the
attractions of an amusing court; something inferior, it is true, but
something in the same style as the happy days of Prince Eugène.

"Looking from without, we can form no idea of what is meant by the
authority of a despot who knows all his subjects by sight. The
outward form of despotism is the same as that of the other kinds of
government: there are judges, for instance, but they are Rassis: the
monster! He would see nothing extraordinary in hanging his own father
if the Prince ordered him to do so. ... He would call it his duty...
. Seduce Rassi! Unhappy wretch that I am! I possess no means of doing
so. What can I offer him? A hundred thousand francs, possibly: and
they say that, after the last dagger-blow which the wrath of heaven
against this unhappy country allowed him to escape, the Prince sent
him ten thousand golden sequins in a casket. Besides, what sum of
money would seduce him? That soul of mud, which has never read
anything but contempt in the eyes of men, enjoys here the pleasure of
seeing now fear, and even respect there; he may become Minister of
Police, and why not? Then three-fourths of the inhabitants of the
place will be his base courtiers, and will tremble before him in as
servile a fashion as he himself trembles before his Sovereign.

"Since I cannot fly this detested spot, I must be of use here to
Fabrizio: live alone, in solitude, in despair!--what can I do then for
Fabrizio? Come; _forward, unhappy woman_! Do your duty; go into
society, pretend to think no more of Fabrizio.... Pretend to forget
him, the dear angel!"

So speaking, the Duchessa burst into tears; at last she could weep.
After an hour set apart for human frailty, she saw with some slight
consolation that her mind was beginning to grow clearer. "To have the
magic carpet," she said to herself, "to snatch Fabrizio from the
citadel and fly with him to some happy place where we could not be
pursued, Paris for instance. We should live there, at first, on the
twelve hundred francs which his father's agent transmits to me with so
pleasing a regularity. I could easily gather together a hundred
thousand francs from the remains of my fortune!" The Duchessa's
imagination passed in review, with moments of unspeakable delight, all
the details of the life which she would lead three hundred leagues
from Parma. "There," she said to herself, "he could enter the service
under an assumed name.... Placed in a regiment of those gallant
Frenchmen, the young Valserra would speedily win a reputation; at last
he would be happy."

These blissful pictures brought on a second flood of tears, but they
were tears of joy. So happiness did exist then somewhere in the
world! This state lasted for a long time; the poor woman had a horror
of coming back to the contemplation of the grim reality. At length,
as the light of dawn began to mark with a white line the tops of the
trees in her garden, she forced herself into a state of composure. "In
a few hours from now," she told herself, "I shall be on the field of
battle; it will be a case for action, and if anything should occur
to irritate me, if the Prince should take it into his head to say
anything to me about Fabrizio, I am by no means certain that I can
keep myself properly in control. I must therefore, here and now, _make
plans_.

"If I am declared a State criminal, Rassi will seize everything
there is in this _palazzo_; on the first of this month the Conte and I
burned, as usual, all papers of which the police might make any
improper use; and he is Minister of Police! That is the amusing part
of it. I have three diamonds of some value; to-morrow, Fulgenzio, my
old boatman from Grianta, will set off for Geneva, where he will
deposit them in a safe place. Should Fabrizio ever escape (Great God,
be Thou propitious to me!" She crossed herself), "the unutterable
meanness of the Marchese del Dongo will decide that it is a sin to
supply food to a man pursued by a lawful Sovereign: then he will at
least find my diamonds, he will have bread.

"Dismiss the Conte ... being left alone with him, after what has
happened, is the one thing I cannot face. The poor man! He is not bad
really, far from it; he is only weak. That commonplace soul does not
rise to the level of ours. Poor Fabrizio! Why cannot you be here for
a moment with me to discuss our perils?

"The Conte's meticulous prudence would spoil all my plans, and
besides, I must on no account involve him in my downfall.... For
why should not the vanity of that tyrant cast me into prison? I shall
have conspired ... what could be easier to prove? If it should be to
his citadel that he sent me, and I could manage, by bribery, to speak
to Fabrizio, were it only for an instant, with what courage would we
step out together to death! But enough of such follies: his Rassi
would advise him to make an end of me with poison; my appearance in
the streets, riding upon a cart, might touch the hearts of his dear
Parmesans.... But what is this? Still romancing? Alas! These
follies must be forgiven a poor woman whose actual lot is so piteous!
The truth of all this is that the Prince will not send me to my death;
but nothing could be more easy than to cast me into prison and keep me
there; he will make his people hide all sorts of suspicious papers in
some corner of my _palazzo_, as they did with that poor L----. Then
three judges--not too big rascals, for they will have what is called
_documentary evidence_--and a dozen false witnesses will be all he
needs. So I may be sentenced to death as having conspired, and the
Prince, in his boundless clemency, taking into consideration the fact
that I have had the honour of being admitted to his court, will
commute my punishment to ten years in a fortress. But I, so as not to
fall short in any way of that violent character which has led the
Marchesa Raversi and my other enemies to say so many stupid things
about me, will poison myself bravely. So, at least, the public will be
kind enough to believe; but I wager that Rassi will appear in my cell
to bring me gallantly, in the Prince's name, a little bottle of
strychnine, or Perugia opium.

"Yes, I must quarrel in the most open manner with the Conte, for I do
not wish to involve him in my downfall--that would be a scandalous
thing; the poor man has loved me with such candour! My mistake lay in
thinking that a true courtier would have sufficient heart left to be
capable of love. Very probably the Prince will find some excuse for
casting me into prison; he will be afraid of my perverting public
opinion with regard to Fabrizio. The Conte is a man of perfect honour;
at once he will do what the sycophants of this court, in their
profound astonishment, will call madness, he will leave the court. I
braved the Prince's authority on the evening of the note; I may expect
anything from his wounded vanity: does a man who is born a Prince ever
forget the sensation I gave him that evening? Besides, the Conte,
once he has quarrelled with me, is in a stronger position for being of
use to Fabrizio. But if the Conte, whom this decision of mine must
plunge in despair, should avenge himself? ... There, now, is an idea
that would never occur to him; his is not a fundamentally base nature
like the Prince's; the Conte may, with a sigh of protest, countersign
a wicked decree, but he is a man of honour. And besides, avenge
himself for what? Simply because, after loving him for five years
without giving the slightest offence to his love, I say to him: 'Dear
Conte, I had the good fortune to be in love with you: very well, that
flame is burning low; I no longer love you, but I know your heart
through and through; I retain a profound regard for you and you will
always be my best friend."

"What answer can a _galantuomo_ make to so sincere a declaration?

"I shall take a new lover, or so at least people will suppose; I
shall say to this lover: 'After all, the Prince does right to punish
Fabrizio's folly; but on the day of his _festa_, no doubt our gracious
Sovereign will set him at liberty.' Thus I gain six months. The new
lover whom prudence suggests to me would be that venal judge, that
foul hangman of a Rassi. ... He would find himself ennobled and, as
far as that goes, I shall give him the right of entry into good
society. Forgive me, dear Fabrizio; such an effort, for me, is beyond
the bounds of possibility. What! That monster, still all bespattered
with the blood of Conte P------ and of D------! I should faint with
horror whenever he came near me, or rather I should seize a knife and
plunge it into his vile heart. Do not ask of me things that are
impossible!

"Yes, that is the first thing to do: forget Fabrizio! And not the
least trace of anger with the Prince; I must resume my ordinary
gaiety, which will seem all the more attractive to these souls of mud,
in the first place because I shall appear to be submitting with good
grace to their Sovereign's will, secondly because, so far from
laughing at them, I shall take good care to bring out all their pretty
little qualities; for instance, I shall compliment Conte Zurla on the
beauty of the white feather in his hat, which he has just had sent him
from Lyons by courier, and which keeps him perfectly happy.

"Choose a lover from the Raversi's party. ... If the Conte goes, that
will be the party in office; there is where the power will lie. It
will be a friend of the Raversi that will reign over the citadel, for
Fabio Conti will take office as Minister. How in the world will the
Prince, a man used to good society, a man of intelligence, accustomed
to the charming collaboration of the Conte, be able to discuss
business with that ox, that king of fools, whose whole life has been
occupied with the fundamental problem: ought His Highness's troops
to have seven buttons on their uniform, in front, or nine? It is all
those brute beasts thoroughly jealous of myself, and that is where you
are in danger, dear Fabrizio, it is those brute beasts who are going
to decide my fate and yours! Well then, shall I not allow the Conte to
hand in his resignation? Let him remain, even if he has to submit to
humiliations. He always imagines that to resign is the greatest
sacrifice a Prime Minister can make; and whenever his mirror tells him
he is growing old, he offers me that sacrifice: a complete rupture,
then; yes, and reconciliation only in the event of its being the sole
method of prevailing upon him not to go. Naturally, I shall give him
his dismissal in the friendliest possible way; but, after his
courtierlike omission of the words _unjust proceedings_ in the
Prince's note, I feel that, if I am not to hate him, I need to spend
some months without seeing him. On that decisive evening, I had no
need of his cleverness; he had only to write down what I dictated to
him, he had only to write those words _which I had obtained_ by my own
strength of character: he was led away by force of habit as a base
courtier. He told me next day that he could not make the Prince sign
an absurdity, that we should have had _letters of grace_; why, good
God, with people like that, with those monsters of vanity and rancour
who bear the name Farnese, one takes what one can get."

At the thought of this, all the Duchessa's anger was rekindled. "The
Prince has betrayed me," she said to herself, "and in how dastardly a
way! There is no excuse for the man: he has brains, discernment, he is
capable of reasoning; there is nothing base in him but his passions.
The Conte and I have noticed it a score of times; his mind becomes
vulgar only when he imagines that some one has tried to insult him.
Well, Fabrizio's crime has nothing to do with politics, it is a
trifling homicide, just like a hundred others that are reported
every day in his happy States, and the Conte has sworn to me that he
has taken pains to procure the most accurate information, and that
Fabrizio is innocent. That Giletti was certainly not lacking in
courage: finding himself within a few yards of the frontier, he
suddenly felt the temptation to rid himself of an attractive rival."

The Duchessa paused for a long time to consider whether it were
possible to believe in Fabrizio's guilt, not that she felt that it
would have been a very grave sin in a gentleman of her nephew's rank
to rid himself of the impertinence of a mummer; but, in her despair,
she was beginning to feel vaguely that she would be obliged to fight
to prove Fabrizio's innocence. "No," she told herself finally, "here
is a decisive proof: he is like poor Pietranera, he always has all his
pockets stuffed with weapons, and that day he was carrying only a
wretched singled-barrelled gun, and even that he had borrowed from one
of the workmen.

"I hate the Prince because he has betrayed me, and betrayed me in
the most dastardly fashion; after his written pardon, he had the poor
boy seized at Bologna, and all that. But I shall settle that
account." About five o'clock in the morning, the Duchessa, crushed by
this prolonged fit of despair, rang for her women, who screamed.
Seeing her on her bed, fully dressed, with her diamonds, pale as the
sheet on which she lay and with closed eyes, it seemed to them as
though they beheld her laid out in state after death. They would have
supposed that she had completely lost consciousness had they not
remembered that she had just rung for them. A few rare tears trickled
from time to time down her insentient cheeks; her women gathered from
a sign which she made that she wished to be put to bed.

Twice that evening after the party at the Minister Zurla's, the Conte
had called on the Duchessa; being refused admittance, he wrote to
her that he wished to ask her advice as to his conduct. Ought he to
retain his post after the insult that they had dared to offer him? The
Conte went on to say: "The young man is innocent; but, were he guilty,
ought they to arrest him without first informing me, his acknowledged
protector?" The Duchessa did not see this letter until the following
day.

The Conte had no virtue; one may indeed add that what the Liberals
understand by _virtue_ (seeking the greatest happiness of the
greatest number) seemed to him silly; he believed himself bound to
seek first and foremost the happiness of Conte Mosca della Rovere; but
he was entirely honourable, and perfectly sincere when he spoke of his
resignation.

Never in his life had he told the Duchessa a lie; she, as it happened,
did not pay the slightest attention to this letter; her attitude, and
a very painful attitude it was, had been adopted: _to pretend to
forget Fabrizio_; after that effort, nothing else mattered to her.

Next day, about noon, the Conte, who had called ten times at the
_palazzo_ Sanseverina, was at length admitted; he was appalled when he
saw the Duchessa.... "She looks forty!" he said to himself; "and
yesterday she was so brilliant, so young! ... Everyone tells me
that, during her long conversation with Clelia Conti, she looked every
bit as young and far more attractive."

The Duchessa's voice, her tone were as strange as her personal
appearance. This tone, divested of all passion, of all human interest,
of all anger, turned the Conte pale; it reminded him of the manner
of a friend of his who, a few months earlier, when on the point of
death, and after receiving the Last Sacrament, had sent for him to
talk to him. After some minutes the Duchessa was able to speak to
him. She looked at him, and her eyes remained dead.

"Let us part, my dear Conte," she said to him in a faint but quite
articulate voice which she tried to make sound friendly; "let us part,
we must! Heaven is my witness that, for five years, my behaviour
towards you has been irreproachable. You have given me a brilliant
existence, in place of the boredom which would have been my sad
portion at the castle of Grianta; without you I should have reached
old age several years sooner.... For my part, my sole occupation
has been to try to make you find happiness. It is because I love you
that I propose to you this parting _à l'amiable_, as they say in
France."

The Conte did not understand; she was obliged to repeat her statement
several times. He grew deadly pale, and, flinging himself on his
knees by her bedside, said to her all the things that profound
astonishment, followed by the keenest despair, can inspire in a man
who is passionately in love. At every moment he offered to hand in his
resignation and to follow his mistress to some retreat a thousand
leagues from Parma.

"You dare to speak to me of departure, and Fabrizio is here!" she at
length exclaimed, half rising. But seeing that the sound of Fabrizio's
name made a painful impression, she added after a moment's quiet,
gently pressing the Conte's hand: "No, dear friend, I am not going to
tell you that I have loved you with that passion and those
transports which one no longer feels, it seems to me, after
thirty, and I am already a long way past that age. They will have told
you that I was in love with Fabrizio, for I know that the rumour has
gone round in this _wicked_ court." (Her eyes sparkled for the first
time in this conversation, as she uttered the word _wicked_.) "I swear
to you before God, and upon Fabrizio's life, that never has there
passed between him and me the tiniest thing which could not have borne
the eyes of a third person. Nor shall I say to you that I love him
exactly as a sister might; I love him instinctively, so to speak. I
love in him his courage, so simple and so perfect that, one may say,
he is not aware of it himself; I remember that this sort of admiration
began on his return from Waterloo. He was still a boy then, for all
his seventeen years; his great anxiety was to know whether he had
really been present at the battle, and, if so, whether he could say
that he had fought, when he had not marched to the attack of any enemy
battery or column. It was during the serious discussions which we
used to have together on this important subject that I began to see in
him a perfect charm. His great soul revealed itself to me; what
sophisticated falsehoods would a well-bred young man, in his place,
have flaunted! Well then, if he is not happy I cannot be happy. There,
that is a statement which well describes the state of my heart; if it
is not the truth it is at any rate all of it that I see." The Conte,
encouraged by this tone of frankness and intimacy, tried to kiss her
hand; she drew it back with a sort of horror. "The time is past," she
said to him; "I am a woman of thirty-seven, I find myself on the
threshold of old age, I already feel all its discouragements, and
perhaps I have even drawn near to the tomb. That is a terrible moment,
by all one hears, and yet it seems to me that I desire it. I feel the
worst symptom of old age; my heart is extinguished by this frightful
misfortune, I can no longer love. I see in you now, dear Conte, only
the shade of someone who was dear to me. I shall say more, it is
gratitude, simply and solely, that makes me speak to you thus."

"What is to become of me," the Conte repeated, "of me who feel that I
am attached to you more passionately than in the first days of our
friendship, when I saw you at the Scala?"

"Let me confess to you one thing, dear friend, this talk of love bores
me, and seems to me indecent. Come," she said, trying to smile, but in
vain, "courage! Be the man of spirit, the judicious man, the man of
resource in all circumstances. Be with me what you really are in the
eyes of strangers, the most able man and the greatest politician that
Italy has produced for ages."

The Conte rose, and paced the room in silence for some moments.

"Impossible, dear friend," he said to her at length; "I am rent
asunder by the most violent passion, and you ask me to consult my
reason. There is no longer any reason for me!" "Let us not speak of
passion, I beg of you," she said in a dry tone; and this was the first
time, after two hours of talk, that her voice assumed any expression
whatever. The Conte, in despair himself, sought to console her.

"He has betrayed me," she cried without in any way considering the
reasons for hope which the Conte was setting before her; "_he_ has
betrayed me in the most dastardly fashion!" Her deadly pallor ceased
for a moment; but, even in this moment of violent excitement, the
Conte noticed that she had not the strength to raise her arms.

"Great God! Can it be possible," he thought, "that she is only ill? In
that case, though, it would be the beginning of some very serious
illness." Then, filled with uneasiness, he proposed to call in the
famous Razori, the leading physician in the place and in the whole of
Italy.

"So you wish to give a stranger the pleasure of learning the whole
extent of my despair? ... Is that the counsel of a traitor or of a
friend?" And she looked at him with strange eyes.

"It is all over," he said to himself with despair, "she has no longer
any love for me! And worse still, she no longer includes me even among
the common men of honour.

"I may tell you," the Conte went on, speaking with emphasis, "that I
have been anxious above all things to obtain details of the arrest
which has thrown us into despair, and the curious thing is that still
I know nothing positive; I have had the constables at the nearest
station questioned, they saw the prisoner arrive by the Castelnuovo
road and received orders to follow his _sediola_. I at once sent off
Bruno, whose zeal is as well known to you as his devotion; he has
orders to go on from station to station until he finds out where and
how Fabrizio was arrested."

On hearing him utter Fabrizio's name, the Duchessa was seized by a
slight convulsion.

"Forgive me, my friend," she said to the Conte as soon as she was able
to speak; "these details interest me greatly, give me them all, let me
have a clear understanding of the smallest circumstances."

"Well, Signora," the Conte went on, assuming a somewhat lighter air in
the hope of distracting her a little, "I have a good mind to send a
confidential messenger to Bruno and to order him to push on as far as
Bologna; it was from there, perhaps, that our young friend was carried
off. What is the date of his last letter?"

"Tuesday, five days ago."

"Had it been opened in the post?"

"No trace of any opening. I ought to tell you that it was written on
horrible paper; the address is in a woman's hand, and that address
bears the name of an old laundress who is related to my maid. The
laundress believes that it is something to do with a love affair,
and Cecchina refunds her for the carriage of the letters without
adding anything further." The Conte, who had adopted quite the tone of
a man of business, tried to discover, by questioning the Duchessa,
which could have been the day of the abduction from Bologna. He only
then perceived, he who had ordinarily so much tact, that this was the
right tone to adopt. These details interested the unhappy woman and
seemed to distract her a little. If the Conte had not been in love,
this simple idea would have occurred to him as soon as he entered the
room. The Duchessa sent him away in order that he might without delay
despatch fresh orders to the faithful Bruno. As they were momentarily
considering the question whether there had been a sentence passed
before the moment at which the Prince signed the note addressed to the
Duchessa, the latter with a certain determination seized the
opportunity to say to the Conte: "I shall not reproach you in the
least for having omitted the words _unjust proceedings_ in the letter
which you wrote and he signed, it was the courtier's instinct that
gripped you by the throat; unconsciously you preferred your master's
interest to your friend's. You have placed your actions under my
orders, dear Conte, and that for a long time past, but it is not in
your power to change your nature; you have great talents for the part
of Minister, but you have also the instinct of their trade. The
suppression of the word _unjust_ was my ruin; but far be it from me to
reproach you for it in any way, it was the fault of your instinct and
not of your will.

"Bear in mind," she went on, changing her tone, and with the most
imperious air, "that I am by no means unduly afflicted by the
abduction of Fabrizio, that I have never had the slightest intention
of removing myself from this place, that I am full of respect for the
Prince. That is what you have to say, and this is what I, for my part,
wish to say to you: 'As I intend to have the entire control of my own
behaviour for the future, I wish to part from you _à l'amiable_, that
is to say as a good and old friend. Consider that I am sixty, the
young woman is dead In me, I can no longer form an exaggerated idea of
anything in the world, I can no longer love.' But I should be even
more wretched than I am were I to compromise your future. It may
enter into my plans to give myself the appearance of having a young
lover, and I should not like to see you distressed. I can swear to you
by Fabrizio's happiness"--she stopped for half a minute after these
words --"that never have I been guilty of any infidelity to you, and
that in five, whole years. It is a long time," she said; she tried to
smile; her pallid cheeks were convulsed, but her lips were unable to
part. "I swear to you even that I have never either planned or wished
such a thing. Now you understand that, leave me."

The Conte in despair left the _palazzo_ Sanseverina: he could see in
the Duchessa the deliberately formed intention to part from him, and
never had he been so desperately in love. This is one of the points to
which I am obliged frequently to revert, because they are improbable
outside Italy. Returning home, he despatched as many as six different
people along the road to Castelnuovo and Bologna, and gave them
letters. "But that is not all," the unhappy Conte told himself: "the
Prince may take it into his head to have this wretched boy executed,
and that in revenge for the tone which the Duchessa adopted with him
on the day of that fatal note. I felt that the Duchessa was exceeding
a limit beyond which one ought never to go, and it was to compensate
for this that I was so incredibly foolish as to suppress the words
_unjust proceedings_, the only ones that bound the Sovereign....
But bah! Are those people bound by anything in the world? That is no
doubt the greatest mistake of my life, I have risked everything that
can bring me life's reward: it now remains to compensate for my folly
by dint of activity and cunning; but after all, if I can obtain
nothing, even by sacrificing a little of my dignity, I leave the man
stranded; with his dreams of high politics, with his ideas of making
himself Constitutional King of Lombardy, we shall see how he will fill
my place.... Fabio Conti is nothing but a fool, Rassi's talent
reduces itself to having a man legally hanged who is displeasing to
Authority."

As soon as he had definitely made up his mind to resign from the
Ministry if the rigour shewn Fabrizio went beyond that of simple
detention, the Conte said to himself: "If a caprice of that man's
vanity, rashly braved, should cost me my happiness, at least I shall
have my honour left. ... By that token, since I am throwing my
portfolio to the winds, I may allow myself a hundred actions which,
only this morning, would have seemed to be outside the bounds of
possibility. For instance, I am going to attempt everything that is
humanly feasible to secure Fabrizio's escape.... Great God!"
exclaimed the Conte, breaking off in his soliloquy and opening his
eyes wide as though at the sight of an unexpected happiness, "the
Duchessa never said anything to me about an escape; can she have been
wanting in sincerity for once in her life, and is the motive of her
quarrel only a desire that I should betray the Prince? Upon my word,
no sooner said than done!"

The Conte's eye had recovered all its satirical sublety. "That
engaging Fiscal Rassi is paid by his master for all the sentences that
disgrace us throughout Europe, but he is not the sort of man to refuse
to be paid by me to betray the master's secrets. The animal has a
mistress and a confessor, but the mistress is of too vile a sort for
me to be able to tackle her, next day she would relate our interview
to all the applewomen in the parish." The Conte, revived by this gleam
of hope, was by this time on his way to the Cathedral; astonished at
the alertness of his gait, he smiled in spite of his grief: "This is
what it is," he said, "to be no longer a Minister!" This Cathedral,
like many churches in Italy, serves as a passage from one street to
another; the Conte saw as he entered one of the Archbishop's Grand
Vicars crossing the nave.

"Since I have met you here," he said to him, "will you be so very good
as to spare my gout the deadly fatigue of climbing to His Grace the
Archbishop's. He would be doing me the greatest favour in the world if
he would be so kind as to come down to the sacristy." The Archbishop
was delighted by this message, he had a thousand things to say to the
Minister on the subject of Fabrizio. But the Minister guessed that
these things were no more than fine phrases, and refused to listen to
any of them.

"What sort of man is Dugnani, the Vicar of San Paolo?"

"A small mind and a great ambition," replied the Archbishop; "few
scruples and extreme poverty, for we too have our vices!"

"Egad, Monsignore," exclaimed the Minister, "you portray like
Tacitus"; and he took leave of him, laughing. No sooner had he
returned to his Ministry than he sent for Priore Dugnani.

"You direct the conscience of my excellent friend the Fiscal General
Rassi; are you sure he has nothing to tell me?" And, without any
further speech or ceremony, he dismissed Dugnani.




CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

The Conte regarded himself as out of office. "Let us see now," he said
to himself, "how many horses we shall be able to have after my
disgrace, for that is what they will call my resignation." He made a
reckoning of his fortune: he had come to the Ministry with 80,000
francs to his name; greatly to his surprise, he found that, all told,
his fortune at that moment did not amount to 500,000 francs: "that is
an income of 20,000 lire at the most," he said to himself. "I must
admit that I am a great simpleton! There is not a citizen in Parma who
does not suppose me to have an income of 150,000 lire, and the Prince,
in that respect, is more of a cit than any of them. When they see me
in the ditch, they will say that I know how to hide my fortune. Egad!"
he cried, "if I am still Minister in three months' time, we shall see
that fortune doubled." He found in this idea an occasion for writing
to the Duchessa, which he seized with avidity, but to bespeak her
pardon for a letter, seeing the terms on which they were, he filled
this with figures and calculations. "We shall have only 20,000 lire
of income," he told her, "to live upon, all three of us, at Naples,
Fabrizio, you and myself. Fabrizio and I shall have one saddle-horse
between us." The Minister had barely sent off his letter when the
Fiscal General Rassi was announced. He received him with a stiffness
which bordered on impertinence.

"What, Sir," he said to him, "you seize and carry off from Bologna a
conspirator who is under my protection; what is more, you propose to
cut off his head, and you say nothing about it to me! Do you at least
know the name of my successor? Is it General Conti, or yourself?"

Rassi was dumbfoundered; he was too little accustomed to good society
to know whether the Conte was speaking seriously: he blushed a deep
red, mumbled a few scarcely intelligible words; the Conte watched him
and enjoyed his embarrassment. Suddenly Rassi pulled himself together
and exclaimed, with perfect ease and with the air of Figaro caught
red-handed by Almaviva:

"Faith, Signor Conte, I shan't beat about the bush with Your
Excellency: what will you give me to answer all your questions as I
should those of my confessor?"

"The Cross of San Paolo" (which is the Parmesan Order) "or money, if
you can find me an excuse for granting it to you."

"I prefer the Cross of San Paolo, because it ennobles "me."

"What, my dear Fiscal, you still pay some regard to our poor
nobility?"

"If I were of noble birth," replied Rassi with all the impudence of
his trade, "the families of the people I have had hanged would hate
me, but they would not feel contempt for me."

"Very well, I will save you from their contempt," said the Conte;
"cure me of my ignorance. What do you intend to do with Fabrizio?"

"Faith, the Prince is greatly embarrassed; he is afraid that, seduced
by the fine eyes of Armida--forgive my slightly bold language, they
are the Sovereign's own words --he is afraid that, seduced by a
certain pair of very fine eyes, which have touched him slightly
himself, you may leave him stranded, and there is no one but you to
handle the question of Lombardy. I will go so far as to say," Rassi
went on, lowering his voice, "that there is a fine opportunity there
for you, and one that is well worth the Cross of San Paolo which you
are giving me. The Prince would grant you, as a reward from the
nation, a fine estate worth 600,000 francs, which he would set apart
from his own domains, or a gratuity of 300,000 scudi, if you would
agree not to interfere in the affairs of Fabrizio del Dongo, or at any
rate not to speak of them to him except in public."

"I expected something better than that," said the Conte; "not to
interfere with Fabrizio means quarrelling with the Duchessa."

"There, that is just what the Prince says: the fact is that he is
horribly enraged against the Signora Duchessa, this is between
ourselves; and he is afraid that, to compensate yourself for the
rupture with that charming lady, now that you are a widower, you may
ask him for the hand of his cousin, the old Princess Isotta, who is
only fifty."

"He has guessed aright," exclaimed the Conte; "our master is the
shrewdest man in his States."

Never had the Conte entertained the grotesque idea of marrying this
elderly Princess; nothing would less have suited a man whom the
ceremonies of the court bored to death.

He began to tap with his snuff-box on the marble of a little table
beside his chair. Rassi saw in this gesture of embarrassment the
possibility of a fine windfall; his eye gleamed.

"As a favour, Signor Conte," he cried, "if Your Excellency decides to
accept this estate of 600,000 francs or the gratuity in money, I beg
that he will not choose any other intermediary than myself. I should
make an effort," he added, lowering his voice, "to have the gratuity
increased, or else to have a forest of some importance added to the
land. If Your Excellency would deign to introduce a little gentleness
and tact into his manner in speaking to the Prince of this youngster
they've locked up, a Duchy might perhaps be created out of the lands
which the nation's gratitude would offer him. I repeat to Your
Excellency; the Prince, for the moment, abominates the Duchessa, but
he is greatly embarrassed, so much so indeed that I have sometimes
thought there must be some secret consideration which he dared not
confess to me. Do you know, we may find a gold mine here, I selling
you his most intimate secrets, and quite openly, for I am supposed
to be your sworn enemy. After all, if he is furious with the Duchessa,
he believes also, and so do we all, that you are the one man in the
world who can carry through all the secret negotiations with regard to
the Milanese. Will Your Excellency permit me to repeat to him
textually the Sovereign's words?" said Rassi, growing heated; "there
is often a character in the order of the words which no translation
can render, and you may be able to see more in them than I see."

"I permit everything," said the Conte, as he went on, with an air of
distraction, tapping the marble table with his gold snuff-box; "I
permit everything, and I shall be grateful."

"Give me a patent of hereditary nobility independently of the Cross,
and I shall be more than satisfied. When I speak of ennoblement to the
Prince, he answers: 'A scoundrel like you, noble! I should have to
shut up shop next day; nobody in Parma would wish to be ennobled
again.' To come back to the business of the Milanese, the Prince said
to me not three days ago: There is only that rascal to unravel the
thread of our intrigues; if I send him away, or if he follows the
Duchessa, I may as well abandon the hope of seeing myself one day the
Liberal and beloved ruler of all Italy.' "

At this the Conte drew breath. "Fabrizio will not die," he said to
himself.

Never in his life had Rassi been able to secure an intimate
conversation with the Prime Minister. He was beside himself with joy:
he saw himself on the eve of being able to discard the name Rassi,
which had become synonymous throughout the country with everything
that was base and vile. The lower orders gave the name Rassi to mad
dogs; recently more than one soldier had fought a duel because one
of his comrades had called him Rassi. Not a week passed, moreover, in
which this ill-starred name did not figure in some atrocious sonnet.
His son, a young and innocent school-boy of sixteen, used to be
driven out of the _caffè_ on the strength of his name. It was the
burning memory of all these little perquisites of his office that made
him commit an imprudence. "I have an estate," he said to the Conte,
drawing his chair closer to the Minister's; "it is called Riva. I
should like to be Barone Riva."

"Why not?" said the Minister. Rassi was beside himself.

"Very well, Signor Conte, I shall take the liberty of being
indiscreet. I shall venture to guess the object of your desires; you
aspire to the hand of the Princess Isotta, and it is a noble ambition.
Once you are of the family, you are sheltered from disgrace, you have
our man _tied down_. I shall not conceal from you that he has a horror
of this marriage with the Princess Isotta. But if your affairs were
entrusted to some skilful and _well-paid_ person, you would be in a
position not to despair of success."

"I, my dear Barone, should despair of it; I disavow in advance
everything that you can say in my name; but on the day on which that
illustrious alliance cornes at length to crown my wishes and to give
me so exalted a position in the State, I will offer you, myself,
300,000 francs of my own money, or else recommend the Prince to accord
you a mark of his favour which you yourself will prefer to that sum of
money."

The reader finds this conversation long: and yet we are sparing him
more than half of it; it continued for two hours more. Rassi left the
Conte's presence mad with joy; the Conte was left with a great hope of
saving Fabrizio, and more than ever determined to hand in his
resignation. He found that his credit stood in need of renewal by the
succession to power of persons such as Rassi and General Conti; he
took an exquisite delight in a possible method which he had just
discovered of avenging himself on the Prince: "He may send the
Duchessa away," he cried, "but, by gad, he will have to abandon the
hope of becoming Constitutional King of Lombardy." (This was an absurd
fantasy: the Prince had abundance of brains, but, by dint of dreaming
of it, he had fallen madly in love with the idea. )

The Conte could not contain himself for joy as he hurried to the
Duchessa's to give her a report of his conversation with the Fiscal.
He found the door closed to him; the porter scarcely dared admit to
him the fact of this order, received from his mistress's own lips. The
Conte went sadly back to the ministerial _palazzo_; the rebuff he had
just encountered completely eclipsed the joy that his conversation
with the Prince's confidant had given him. Having no longer the heart
to devote himself to anything, the Conte was wandering gloomily
through his picture gallery when, a quarter of an hour later, he
received a note which ran as follows:

"Since it is true, dear and good friend, that we are nothing more now
than friends, you must come to see me only three times in the week. In
a fortnight we shall reduce these visits, always so dear to my heart,
to two monthly. If you wish to please me, give publicity to this
apparent rupture; if you wished to pay me back almost all the love
that I once felt for you, you would choose a new mistress for
yourself. As for myself, I have great plans of dissipation: I intend
to go a great deal into society, perhaps I shall even find a man of
parts to make me forget my misfortunes. Of course, in your capacity as
a friend, the first place in my heart will always be kept for you; but
I do not wish, for the future, that my actions should be said to have
been dictated by your wisdom; above all, I wish it to be well known
that I have lost all my influence over your decisions. In a word, dear
Conte, be assured that you will always be my dearest friend, but never
anything else. Do not, I beg you, entertain any idea of a resumption,
it is all over. Count, always, upon my friendship."

This last stroke was too much for the Conte's courage: he wrote a fine
letter to the Prince resigning all his offices, and addressed it to
the Duchessa with a request that she would forward it to the Palace. A
moment later, he received his resignation, torn across, and on one of
the blank scraps of the paper the Duchessa had condescended to write:
'_No, a thousand times no_!"

It would be difficult to describe the despair of the poor Minister.
"She is right, I quite agree," he kept saying to himself at every
moment; "my omission of the words _unjust proceedings_ is a dreadful
misfortune; it will involve perhaps the death of Fabrizio, and that
will lead to my own." It was with death in his heart that the Conte,
who did not wish to appear at the Sovereign's Palace before being
summoned there, wrote out with his own hand the _motu proprio_ which
created Rassi Cavaliere of the Order of San Paolo and conferred on
him hereditary nobility; the Conte appended to it a report of half a
page which set forth to the Prince the reasons of state which made
this measure advisable. He found a sort of melancholy joy in making a
fair copy of each of these documents, which he addressed to the
Duchessa.

He lost himself in suppositions; he tried to guess what, for the
future, would be the plan of conduct of the woman he loved. "She has
no idea herself," he said to himself; "one thing alone remains
certain, which is that she would not for anything in the world fail to
adhere to any resolution once she had announced it to me." What added
still further to his unhappiness was that he could not succeed in
finding that the Duchessa was to be blamed. "She has shewn me a favour
in loving me; she ceases to love me after a mistake, unintentional,
it is true, but one that may involve a horrible consequence; I have
no right to complain." Next morning, the Conte learned that the
Duchessa had begun to go into society again; she had appeared the
evening before in all the houses in which parties were being given.
What would have happened if they had met in the same drawing-room? How
was he to speak to her? In what tone was he to address her? And how
could he not speak to her?

The day that followed was a day of gloom; the rumour had gone abroad
everywhere that Fabrizio was going to be put to death, the town was
stirred. It was added that the Prince, having regard for his high
birth, had deigned to decide that he should have his head cut off.

"It is I that am killing him," the Conte said to himself;

"I can no longer aspire to see the Duchessa ever again." In spite of
this fairly obvious conclusion, he could not restrain himself from
going three times to her door; as a matter of fact, in order not to be
noticed, he went to her house on foot. In his despair, he had even
the courage to write to her. He had sent for Rassi twice; the Fiscal
had not shewn his face. "The scoundrel is playing me false," the Conte
said to himself.

The day after this, three great pieces of news excited the high
society of Parma, and even the middle classes. The execution of
Fabrizio was more certain than ever; and, a highly strange complement
to this news, the Duchessa did not appear to be at all despairing. To
all appearance, she bestowed only a quite moderate regret on her
young lover; in any event, she made the most, with an unbounded art,
of the pallor which was the legacy of a really serious indisposition,
which had come to her at the time of Fabrizio's arrest. The middle
classes saw clearly in these details the hard heart of a great lady of
the court. In decency, however, and as a sacrifice to the shade of
the young Fabrizio, she had broken with Conte Mosca. "What
immorality!" exclaimed the Jansenists of Parma. But already the
Duchessa, and this was incredible, seemed disposed to listen to the
flatteries of the handsomest young men at court. It was observed,
among other curious incidents, that she had been very gay in a
conversation with Conte Baldi, the Raversi's reigning lover, and had
teased him greatly over his frequent visits to the _castello_ of
Velleja. The lower middle class and the populace were indignant at the
death of Fabrizio, which these good folk put down to the jealousy of
Conte Mosca. The society of the court was also greatly taken up with
the Conte, but only to laugh at him. The third of the great pieces of
news to which we have referred was indeed nothing else than the
Conte's resignation; everyone laughed at a ridiculous lover who, at
the age of fifty-six, was sacrificing a magnificent position to his
grief at being abandoned by a heartless woman, who moreover had long
ago shewn her preference for a young man. The Archbishop alone had
the intelligence or rather the heart to divine that honour forbade
the Conte to remain Prime Minister in a country where they were going
to cut off the head, and without consulting him, of a young man who
was under his protection. The news of the Conte's resignation had the
effect of curing General Fabio Conti of his gout, as we shall relate
in due course, when we come to speak of the way in which poor Fabrizio
was spending his time in the citadel, while the whole town was
inquiring the hour of his execution.

On the following day the Conte saw Bruno, that faithful agent whom he
had dispatched to Bologna: the Conte's heart melted at the moment when
this man entered his cabinet; the sight of him recalled the happy
state in which he had been when he sent him to Bologna, almost in
concert with the Duchessa. Bruno came from Bologna, where he had
discovered nothing; he had not been able to find Lodovico, whom the
_podestà_ of Castelnuovo had kept locked up in his village prison.

"I am going to send you to Bologna," said the Conte to Bruno; "the
Duchessa wishes to give herself the melancholy pleasure of knowing the
details of Fabrizio's disaster. Report yourself to the _brigadiere_
of police in charge of the station at Castelnuovo....

"No!" exclaimed the Conte, breaking off in his orders; "start at once
for Lombardy, and distribute money lavishly among all our
correspondents. My object is to obtain from all these people reports
of the most encouraging nature." Bruno, after clearly grasping the
object of his mission, set to work to write his letters of credit. As
the Conte was giving him his final instructions, he received a letter
which was entirely false, but extremely well written; one would have
called it the letter of a friend writing to a friend to ask a favour
of him. The friend who wrote it was none other than the Prince.
Having heard mention of some idea of resignation, he besought his
friend, Conte Mosca, to retain his office; he asked him this in the
name of their friendship and of the _dangers that threatened the
country_, and ordered him as his master. He added that, the King of
------ having placed at his disposal two Cordons of his Order, he was
keeping one for himself and was sending the other to his dear Conte
Mosca.

"That animal is ruining me!" cried the Conte in a fury, before the
astonished Bruno, "and he thinks to win me over by those same
hypocritical phrases which we have planned together so many times to
lime the twig for some fool." He declined the Order that was offered
him, and in his reply spoke of the state of his health as allowing him
but little hope of being able to carry on for much longer the arduous
duties of the Ministry. The Conte was furious. A moment later was
announced the Fiscal Rassi, whom he treated like a black.

"Well! Because I have made you noble, you are beginning to shew
insolence! Why did you not come yesterday to thank me, as was your
bounden duty, Master Drudge?"

Rassi was a long way below the reach of insult; it was in this tone
that he was daily received by the Prince; but he was anxious to be a
Barone, and justified himself with spirit. Nothing was easier.

"The Prince kept me glued to a table all day yesterday; I could not
leave the Palace. His Highness made me copy out in my wretched
attorney's script a number of diplomatic papers so stupid and so
long-winded that I really believe his sole object was to keep me
prisoner. When I was finally able to take my leave of him, about five
o'clock, half dead with hunger, he gave me the order to go straight
home and not to go out in the evening. As a matter of fact, I saw two
of his private spies, well known to me, patrolling my street until
nearly midnight. This morning, as soon as I could, I sent for a
carriage which took me to the door of the Cathedral. I got down from
the carriage very slowly, then at a quick pace walked through the
church, and here I am. Your Excellency is at this moment the one man
in the world whom I am most passionately anxious to please."

"And I, Master Joker, am not in the least taken in by all these more
or less well-constructed stories. You refused to speak to me about
Fabrizio the day before yesterday; I respected your scruples and
your oaths of secrecy, although oaths, to a creature like you, are at
the most means of evasion. To-day, I require the truth. What are these
ridiculous rumours which make out that this young man is sentenced to
death as the murderer of the comedian Giletti?"

"No one can give Your Excellency a better account of those rumours,
for it was I myself who started them by the Sovereign's orders; and, I
believe, it was perhaps to prevent me from informing you of this
incident that he kept me prisoner all day yesterday. The Prince, who
does not take me for a fool, could have no doubt that I should come to
you with my Cross and ask you to fasten it in my buttonhole."

"To the point!" cried the Minister. "And no fine speeches."

"No doubt, the Prince would be glad to pass sentence of death on
Signor del Dongo, but he has been sentenced, as you probably know,
only to twenty years in irons, commuted by the Prince, on the very day
after the sentence, to twelve years in a fortress, with fasting on
bread and water every Friday and other religious observances."

"It is because I knew of this sentence to imprisonment only that I was
alarmed by the rumours of immediate execution which are going about
the town; I remember the death of Conte Palanza, which was such a
clever trick on your part."

"It was then that I ought to have had the Cross!" cried Rassi, in no
way disconcerted; "I ought to have forced him when I held him in my
hand, and the man wished the prisoner killed. I was a fool then; and
it is armed with that experience that I venture to advise you not to
copy my example to-day." (This comparison seemed in the worst of taste
to his hearer, who was obliged to restrain himself forcibly from
kicking Rassi.)

"In the first place," the latter went on with the logic of a trained
lawyer and the perfect assurance of a man whom no insult could offend,
"in the first place there can be no question of the execution of the
said del Dongo; the Prince would not dare, the times have altogether
changed! Besides, I, who am noble and hope through you to become
Barone, would not lend a hand in the matter. Now it is only from me,
as Your Excellency knows, that the executioner of supreme penalties
can receive orders, and, I swear to you, Cavaliere Rassi will never
issue any such orders against Signor del Dongo."

"And you will be acting wisely," said the Conte with a severe air,
taking his adversary's measure.

"Let us make a distinction," went on Rassi, smiling. "I myself
figure only in the official death-roll, and if Signor del Dongo
happens to die of a colic, do not go and put it down to me. The Prince
is vexed, and I do not know why, with the Sanseverina." (Three days
earlier Rassi would have said "the Duchessa," but, like everyone in
the town, he knew of her breach with the Prime Minister.) The Conte
was struck by the omission of her title on such lips, and the reader
may judge of the pleasure that it afforded him; he darted at Rassi a
glance charged with the keenest hatred. "My dear angel," he then said
to himself, "I can shew you my love only by blind obedience to your
orders.

"I must admit," he said to the Fiscal, "that I do not take any very
passionate interest in the various caprices of the Signora Duchessa;
only, since it was she who introduced to me this scapegrace of a
Fabrizio, who would have done well to remain at Naples and not come
here to complicate our affairs, I make a point of his not being put
to death in my time, and I am quite ready to give you my word that you
shall be Barone in the week following his release from prison."

"In that case, Signor Conte, I shall not be Barone for twelve whole
years, for the Prince is furious, and his hatred of the Duchessa is so
keen that he is trying to conceal it."

"His Highness is too good; what need has he to conceal his hatred,
since his Prime Minister is no longer protecting the Duchessa? Only I
do not wish that anyone should be able to accuse me of meanness, nor
above all of jealousy: it was I who made the Duchessa come to this
country, and if Fabrizio dies in prison you will not be Barone, but
you will perhaps be stabbed with a dagger. But let us not talk about
this trifle: the fact is that I have made an estimate of my fortune,
at the most I may be able to put together an income of twenty thousand
lire, on which I propose to offer my resignation, most humbly, to the
Sovereign. I have some hope of finding employment with the King of
Naples; that big town will offer me certain distractions which I need
at this moment and which I cannot find in a hole like Parma; I should
stay here only in the event of your obtaining for me the hand of the
Princess Isotta," and so forth. The conversation on this subject was
endless. As Rassi was rising to leave, the Conte said to him with an
air of complete indifference:

"You know that people have said that Fabrizio was playing me false, in
the sense that he was one of the Duchessa's lovers; I decline to
accept that rumour, and, to give it the lie, I wish you to have this
purse conveyed to Fabrizio."

"But, Signor Conte," said Rassi in alarm, looking at the purse, "there
is an enormous sum here, and the regulations. .. ."

"To you, my dear Sir, it may be enormous," replied the Conte with an
air of the most supreme contempt: "a cit like you, sending money to
his friend in prison, thinks he is ruining himself if he gives him ten
sequins; I, on the other hand, wish Fabrizio to receive these six
thousand francs, and on no account is the Castle to know anything of
the matter."

While the terrified Rassi was trying to answer, the Conte shut the
door on him with impatience. "Those fellows," he said to himself,
"cannot see power unless it is cloaked in insolence." So saying, this
great Minister abandoned himself to an action so ridiculous that we
have some misgivings about recording it. He ran to take from his desk
a portrait in miniature of the Duchessa, and covered it with
passionate kisses. "Forgive me, my dear angel," he cried, "if I did
not fling out of the window with my own hands that drudge who dares to
speak of you in a tone of familiarity; but, if I am acting with this
excess of patience, it is to obey you! And he will lose nothing by
waiting."

After a long conversation with the portrait, the Conte, who felt his
heart dead in his breast, had the idea of an absurd action, and dashed
into it with the eagerness of a child. He sent for a coat on which his
decorations were sewn and went to pay a call on the elderly Princess
Isotta. Never in his life had he gone to her apartments, except on New
Year's Day. He found her surrounded by a number of dogs, and tricked
out in all her finery, including diamonds even, as though she were
going to court. The Conte having shewn some fear lest he might be
upsetting the arrangements of Her Highness, who was probably going
out, the lady replied that a Princess of Parma owed it to herself to
be always in such array. For the first time since his disaster the
Conte felt an impulse of gaiety. "I have done well to appear here," he
told himself, "and this very day I must make my declaration." The
Princess had been delighted to receive a visit from a man so renowned
for his wit, and a Prime Minister; the poor old maid was hardly
accustomed to such visitors. The Conte began by an adroit preamble,
relative to the immense distance that must always separate from a
plain gentleman the members of a reigning family.

"One must draw a distinction," said the Princess: "the daughter of a
King of France, for instance, has no hope of ever succeeding to the
Throne; but things are not like that in the House of Parma. And that
is why we Farnese must always keep up a certain dignity in externals;
and I, a poor Princess such as you see me now, I cannot say that it is
absolutely impossible that one day you may be my Prime Minister."

This idea, by its fantastic unexpectedness, gave the poor Conte a
second momentary thrill of perfect gaiety.

On leaving the apartments of the Princess Isotta, who had blushed
deeply on receiving the avowal of the Prime Minister's passion, he met
one of the grooms from the Palace: the Prince had sent for him in hot
haste.

"I am unwell," replied the Minister, delighted at being able to play a
trick on his Prince. "Oh! Oh! You drive me to extremes," he exclaimed
in a fury, "and then you expect me to serve you; but learn this, my
Prince, that to have received power from Providence is no longer
enough in these times: it requires great brains and a strong character
to succeed in being a despot."

After dismissing the groom from the Palace, highly scandalised by
the perfect health of this invalid, the Conte amused himself by going
to see the two men at court who had the greatest influence over
General Fabio Conti. The one thing that made the Minister shudder and
robbed him of all his courage was that the governor of the citadel was
accused of having once before made away with a captain, his personal
enemy, by means of the _acquetta di Perugia_.

The Conte knew that during the last week the Duchessa had been
squandering vast sums with a view to establishing communications with
the citadel; but, in his opinion, there was small hope of success; all
eyes were still too wide open. We shall not relate to the reader all
the attempts at corruption made by this unhappy woman: she was in
despair, and agents of every sort, all perfectly devoted, were
supporting her. But there is perhaps only one kind of business which
is done to perfection in small despotic courts, namely the custody of
political prisoners. The Duchessa's gold had no other effect than to
secure the dismissal from the citadel of nine or ten men of all ranks.




CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Thus, with an entire devotion to the prisoner, the Duchessa and the
Prime Minister had been able to do but very little for him. The Prince
was in a rage, the court as well as the public were _piqued_ by
Fabrizio, delighted to see him come to grief: he had been too
fortunate. In spite of the gold which she spent in handfuls, the
Duchessa had not succeeded in advancing an inch in her siege of the
citadel; not a day passed but the Marchesa Raversi or Cavaliere
Riscara had some fresh report to communicate to General Fabio Conti.
They were supporting his weakness.

As we have already said, on the day of his imprisonment, Fabrizio was
taken first of all to the _governor's palazzo_. This was a neat little
building erected in the eighteenth century from the plans of
Vanvitelli, who placed it one hundred and eighty feet above the
ground, on the platform of the huge round tower. From the windows of
this little _palazzo_, isolated on the back of the enormous tower like a
camel's hump, Fabrizio could make out the country and the Alps to a
great distance; he followed with his eye beneath the citadel the
course of the Parma, a sort of torrent which, turning to the right
four leagues from the town, empties its waters into the Po. Beyond the
left bank of this river, which formed so to speak a series of huge
white patches in the midst of the green fields, his enraptured eye
caught distinctly each of the summits of the immense wall with which
the Alps enclose Italy to the north. These summits, always covered in
snow, even in the month of August which it then was, give one as it
were a reminder of coolness in the midst of these scorching plains;
the eye can follow them in the minutest detail, and yet they are more
than thirty leagues from the citadel of Parma. This expansive view
from the governor's charming _palazzo_ is broken at one corner towards
the south by the _Torre Farnese_, in which a room was being hastily
prepared for Fabrizio. This second tower, as the reader may perhaps
remember, was built on the platform of the great tower in honour of a
Crown Prince who, unlike Hippolytus the son of Theseus, had by no
means repelled the advances of a young stepmother. The Princess died
in a few hours; the Prince's son regained his liberty only seventeen
years later, when he ascended the throne on the death of his father.
This Torre Farnese to which, after waiting for three quarters of an
hour, Fabrizio was made to climb, of an extremely plain exterior,
rises some fifty feet above the platform of the great tower, and is
adorned with a number of lightning conductors. The Prince who, in his
displeasure with his wife, built this prison visible from all parts of
the country, had the singular design of trying to persuade his
subjects that it had been there for many years: that is why he gave it
the name of _Torre Farnese_. It was forbidden to speak of this
construction, and from all parts of the town of Parma and the
surrounding plains people could perfectly well see the masons laying
each of the stones which compose this pentagonal edifice. In order to
prove that it was old, there was placed above the door two feet wide
and four feet high which forms its entrance a magnificent bas-relief
representing Alessandro Farnese, the famous general, forcing Henri IV
to withdraw from Paris. This Torre Farnese, standing in so
conspicuous a position, consists of a hall on the ground floor, at
least forty yards long, broad in proportion and filled with extremely
squat pillars, for this disproportionately large room is not more than
fifteen feet high. It is used as the guard-room, and in the middle of
it the staircase rises in a spiral round one of the pillars; it is a
small staircase of iron, very light, barely two feet in width and
wrought in filigree. By this staircase, which shook beneath the
weight of the gaolers who were escorting him, Fabrizio came to a set
of vast rooms more than twenty feet high, forming a magnificent first
floor. They had originally been furnished with the greatest luxury for
the young Prince who spent in them the seventeen best years of his
life. At one end of this apartment, the new prisoner was shewn a
chapel of the greatest magnificence; the walls and ceiling were
entirely covered in black marble; pillars, black also and of the
noblest proportions, were placed in line along the black walls without
touching them, and these walls were decorated with a number of skulls
in white marble, of colossal proportions, elegantly carved and
supported underneath by crossbones. "There is an invention of the
hatred that cannot kill," thought Fabrizio, "and what a devilish idea
to let me see it."

An iron staircase of light filigree, similarly coiled about a pillar,
gave access to the second floor of this prison, and it was in the
rooms of this second floor, which were some fifteen feet in height,
that for the last year General Fabio Conti had given proof of his
genius. First of all, under his direction, solid bars had been fixed
in the windows of these rooms, originally occupied by the Prince's
servants, and standing more than thirty feet above the stone slabs
which paved the platform of the great round tower. It was by a dark
corridor, running along the middle of this building, that one
approached these rooms, each of which had two windows; and in this
very narrow corridor Fabrizio noticed three iron gates in succession,
formed of enormous bars and rising to the roof. It was the plans,
sections and elevations of all these pretty inventions that, for two
years past, had entitled the General to an audience of his master
every week. A conspirator placed in one of these rooms could not
complain to public opinion that he was being treated in an inhuman
fashion, and yet was unable to communicate with anyone in the world,
or to make a movement without being heard. The General had had placed
in each room huge joists of oak in the form of trestles three feet
high, and this was his paramount invention, which gave him a claim to
the Ministry of Police. On these trestles he had set up a cell of
planks, extremely resonant, ten feet high, and touching the wall only
at the side where the windows were. On the other three sides ran a
little corridor four feet wide, between the original wall of the
prison, which consisted of huge blocks of dressed stone, and the
wooden partitions of the cell. These partitions, formed of four double
planks of walnut, oak and pine, were solidly held together by iron
bolts and by innumerable nails.

It was into one of these rooms, constructed a year earlier, and the
masterpiece of General Fabio Conti's inventive talent, which had
received the sounding title of _Passive Obedience_, that Fabrizio was
taken. He ran to the windows. The view that one had from these barred
windows was sublime: one little piece of the horizon alone was
hidden, to the north-west, by the terraced roof of the governor's
_palazzo_, which had only two floors; the ground floor was occupied by
the offices of the staff; and from the first Fabrizio's eyes were
attracted to one of the windows of the upper floor, in which were to
be seen, in pretty cages, a great number of birds of all sorts.
Fabrizio amused himself in listening to their song and in watching
them greet the last rays of the setting sun, while the gaolers busied
themselves about him. This aviary window was not more than
five-and-twenty feet from one of his, and stood five or six feet lower
down, so that his eyes fell on the birds.

There was a moon that evening, and at the moment of Fabrizio's
entering his prison it was rising majestically on the horizon to the
right, over the chain of the Alps, towards Treviso. It was only half
past eight, and, at the other extremity of the horizon, to the west,
a brilliant orange-red sunset showed to perfection the outlines of
Monviso and the other Alpine peaks which run inland from Nice towards
Mont Cenis and Turin. Without a thought of his misfortunes, Fabrizio
was moved and enraptured by this sublime spectacle. "So it is in this
exquisite world that Clelia Conti dwells; with her pensive and serious
nature, she must enjoy this view more than anyone; here it is like
being alone in the mountains a hundred leagues from Parma." It was
not until he had spent more than two hours at the window, admiring
this horizon which spoke to his soul, and often also letting his eyes
rest on the governor's charming _palazzo_, that Fabrizio suddenly
exclaimed: "But is this really a prison? Is this what I have so
greatly dreaded?" Instead of seeing at every turn discomforts and
reasons for bitterness, our hero let himself be charmed by the
attractions of his prison.

Suddenly his attention was forcibly recalled to reality by a
terrifying din: his wooden cell, which was not unlike a cage and
moreover was extremely resonant, was violently shaken; the barking of
a dog and little shrill cries completed the strangest medley of
sounds. "What now! Am I going to escape so soon?" thought Fabrizio. A
moment later he was laughing as perhaps no one has ever laughed in a
prison. By the General's orders, at the same time as the gaolers there
had been sent up an English dog, extremely savage, which was set to
guard officers of importance, and was to spend the night in the space
so ingeniously contrived all round Fabrizio's cage. The dog and the
gaoler were to sleep in the interval of three feet left between the
stone pavement of the original floor and the wooden planks on which
the prisoner could not move a step without being heard.

Now, when Fabrizio arrived, the room of the _Passive Obedience_
happened to be occupied by a hundred huge rats which took flight in
every direction. The dog, a sort of spaniel crossed with an English
fox-terrier, was no beauty, but to make up for this shewed a great
alertness. He had been tied to the stone pavement beneath the planks
of the wooden room; but when he heard the rats pass close by him, he
made an effort so extraordinary that he succeeded in pulling his head
out of his collar. Then came this splendid battle the din of which
aroused Fabrizio, plunged in the least melancholy of dreams. The rats
that had managed to escape the first assault of the dog's teeth took
refuge in the wooden room, the dog came after them up the six steps
which led from the stone floor to Fabrizio's cell. Then began a really
terrifying din: the cell was shaken to its foundations. Fabrizio
laughed like a madman until the tears ran down his cheeks: the gaoler
Grillo, no less amused, had shut the door; the dog, in going after the
rats, was not impeded by any furniture, for the room was completely
bare; there was nothing to check the bounds of the hunting dog but an
iron stove in one corner. When the dog had triumphed over all his
enemies, Fabrizio called him, patted him, succeeded in winning his
affection. "Should this fellow ever see me jumping over a wall," he
said to himself, "he will not bark." But this far-seeing policy was a
boast on his part: in the state of mind in which he was, he found his
happiness in playing with this dog. By a paradox to which he gave no
thought, a secret joy was reigning in the depths of his heart.

After he had made himself quite breathless by running about with the
dog:

"What is your name?" Fabrizio asked the gaoler.

"Grillo, to serve Your Excellency in all that is allowed by the
regulations."

"Very well, my dear Grillo, a certain Giletti tried to murder me on
the broad highway, I defended myself, and killed him; I should kill
him again if it had to be done, but I wish to lead a gay life for all
that so long as I am your guest. Ask for authority from your chiefs,
and go and procure linen for me from the _palazzo_ Sanseverina; also,
buy me lots of _nebiolo d'Asti_.

This is quite a good sparkling wine which is made in Piedmont, in
Alfieri's country, and is highly esteemed, especially by the class
of wine-tasters to which gaolers belong. Nine or ten of these
gentlemen were engaged in transporting to Fabrizio's wooden room
certain pieces of old furniture, highly gilded, which they took from
the Prince's apartment on the first floor; all of them bore
religiously in mind this recommendation of the wine of Asti. In spite
of all they might do, Fabrizio's establishment for this first night
was lamentable; but he appeared shocked only by the absence of a
bottle of good _nebiolo_. "He seems a good lad," said the gaolers as
they left him, "and there is only one thing to be hoped for, that our
gentlemen will let him have plenty of money."

When he had recovered a little from all this din and confusion: "Is
it possible that this is a prison?" Fabrizio asked himself, gazing at
that vast horizon from Treviso to Monviso, the endless chain of the
Alps, the peaks covered with snow, the stars, and everything, "and a
first night in prison besides. I can conceive that Clelia Conti enjoys
this airy solitude; here one is a thousand leagues above the
pettinesses and wickednesses which occupy us down there. If those
birds which are under my window there belong to her, I shall see her.
... Will she blush when she catches sight of me?" It was while
debating this important question that our hero, at a late hour of the
night, fell asleep.

On the day following this night, the first spent in prison, in the
course of which he never once lost his patience, Fabrizio was reduced
to making conversation with Fox, the English dog; Grillo the gaoler
did indeed greet him always with the friendliest expression, but a new
order made him dumb, and he brought neither linen nor _nebiolo_.

"Shall I see Clelia?" Fabrizio asked himself as he awoke. "But are
those birds hers?" The birds were beginning to utter little chirps and
to sing, and at that height this was the only sound that was carried
on the air. It was a sensation full of novelty and pleasure for
Fabrizio, the vast silence which reigned at this height; he listened
with rapture to the little chirpings, broken and so shrill, with which
his neighbours the birds were greeting the day. "If they belong to
her, she will appear for a moment in that room, there, beneath my
window," and, while he examined the immense chains of the Alps,
against the first foothills of which the citadel of Parma seemed to
rise like an advanced redoubt, his eyes returned every moment to the
sumptuous cages of lemon-wood and mahogany, which, adorned with gilt
wires, filled the bright room which served as an aviary. What Fabrizio
did not learn until later was that this room was the only one on the
second floor of the _palazzo_ which had any shade, between eleven
o'clock and four: it was sheltered by the Torre Farnese.

"What will be my dismay," thought Fabrizio, "if, instead of those
modest and pensive features for which I am waiting, and which will
blush slightly perhaps if she catches sight of me, I see appear the
coarse face of some thoroughly common maid, charged with the duty of
looking after the birds! But if I do see Clelia, will she deign to
notice me? Upon my soul, I must commit some indiscretion so as to be
noticed; my position should have some privileges; besides, we are both
alone here, and so far from the world! I am a prisoner, evidently what
General Conti and the other wretches of his sort call one of their
subordinates.... But she has so much intelligence, or, I should
say, so much heart, so the Conte supposes, that possibly, by what he
says, she despises her father's profession; which would account for
her melancholy. A noble cause of sadness! But, after all, I am not
exactly a stranger to her. With what grace, full of modesty, she
greeted me yesterday evening! I remember quite well how, when we met
near Como, I said to her: 'One day I shall come to see your beautiful
pictures at Parma; will you remember this name: Fabrizio del Dongo?'
Will she have forgotten it? She was so young then!

"But by the way," Fabrizio said to himself in astonishment, suddenly
interrupting the current of his thoughts, "I am forgetting to be
angry. Can I be one of those stout hearts of which antiquity has
furnished the world with several examples? How is this, I who was so
much afraid of prison, I am in prison, and I do not even remember to
be sad! It is certainly a case where the fear was a hundred times
worse than the evil. What! I have to convince myself before I can be
distressed by this prison, which, as Blanès says, may as easily last
ten years as ten months! Can it be the surprise of all these novel
surroundings that is distracting me from the grief that I ought to
feel? Perhaps this good humour which is independent of my will and not
very reasonable will cease all of a sudden, perhaps in an instant I
shall fall into the black misery which I ought to be feeling.

"In any case, it is indeed surprising to be in prison and to have to
reason with oneself in order to be unhappy. Upon my soul, I come back
to my theory, perhaps I have a great character."

Fabrizio's meditations were disturbed by the carpenter of the citadel,
who came to take the measurements of a screen for his windows; it was
the first time that this prison had been used, and they had forgotten
to complete it in this essential detail.

"And so," thought Fabrizio, "I am going to be deprived of that sublime
view." And he sought to derive sadness from this privation.

"But what's this?" he cried suddenly, addressing the carpenter. "Am
I not to see those pretty birds any more?"

"Ah, the Signorina's birds, that she's so fond of," said the man, with
a good-natured air, "hidden, eclipsed, blotted out like everything
else."

Conversation was forbidden the carpenter just as strictly as it was
the gaolers, but the man felt pity for the prisoner's youth: he
informed him that these enormous shutters, resting on the sills of
the two windows, and slanting upwards and away from the wall, were
intended to leave the inmates with no view save of the sky. "It is
done for their morals," he told him, "to increase a wholesome sadness
and the desire to amend their ways in the hearts of the prisoners; the
General," the carpenter added, "has also had the idea of taking the
glass out of their windows and putting oiled paper there instead."

Fabrizio greatly enjoyed the epigrammatic turn of this conversation,
extremely rare in Italy.

"I should very much like to have a bird to cheer me, I am madly fond
of them; buy me one from Signorina Clelia Conti's maid."

"What, do you know her," cried the carpenter, "that you say her name
so easily?"

"Who has not heard tell of so famous a beauty? But I have had the
honour of meeting her several times at court."

"The poor young lady is very dull here," the carpenter went on; "she
spends all her time there with her birds. This morning she sent out to
buy some fine orange trees which they have placed by her orders at the
door of the tower, under your window: if it weren't for the cornice,
you would be able to see them." There were in this speech words that
were very precious to Fabrizio; he found a tactful way of giving the
carpenter money.

"I am breaking two rules at the same time," the man told him; "I am
talking to Your Excellency and taking money. The day after to-morrow,
when I come back with the shutters, I shall have a bird in my
pocket, and if I am not alone, I shall pretend to let it escape; if I
can, I shall bring you a prayer book: you must suffer by not being
able to say your office."

"And so," Fabrizio said to himself as soon as he was alone, "those
birds are hers, but in two days more I shall no longer see them." At
this thought his eyes became tinged with regret. But finally, to his
inexpressible joy, after so long a wait and so much anxious gazing,
towards midday Clelia came to attend to her birds. Fabrizio remained
motionless, and did not breathe; he was standing against the enormous
bars of his window and pressed close to them. He observed that she did
not raise her eyes to himself; but her movements had an air of
embarrassment, like those of a person who knows that she is being
overlooked. Had she wished to do so, the poor girl could not have
forgotten the delicate smile she had seen hovering over the prisoner's
lips the day before, when the constables brought him out of the
guard-room.

Although to all appearance she was paying the most careful attention
to what she was doing, at the moment when she approached the window of
the aviary she blushed quite perceptibly. The first thought in
Fabrizio's mind, as he stood glued to the iron bars of his window, was
to indulge in the childish trick of tapping a little with his hand on
those bars, and so making a slight noise; then the mere idea of such a
want of delicacy horrified him. "It would serve me right if for the
next week she sent her maid to look after the birds." This delicate
thought would never have occurred to him at Naples or at Novara.

He followed her eagerly with his eyes: "Obviously," he said to
himself, "she is going to leave the room without deigning to cast a
glance at this poor window, and yet she is just opposite me." But,
on turning back from the farther end of the room, which Fabrizio,
thanks to his greater elevation, could see quite plainly, Clelia could
not help looking furtively up at him, as she approached, and this was
quite enough to make Fabrizio think himself authorised to salute her.
"Are we not alone in the world here?" he asked himself, to give
himself the courage to do so. At this salute the girl stood still and
lowered her eyes; then Fabrizio saw her raise them very slowly; and,
evidently making an effort to control herself, she greeted the
prisoner with the most grave and _distant_ gesture; but she could not
impose silence on her eyes: without her knowing it, probably, they
expressed for a moment the keenest pity. Fabrizio remarked that she
blushed so deeply that the rosy tinge ran swiftly down to her
shoulders, from which the heat had made her cast off, when she came to
the aviary, a shawl of black lace. The unconscious stare with which
Fabrizio replied to her glance doubled the girl's discomposure. "How
happy that poor woman would be," she said to herself, thinking of the
Duchessa, "if for a moment only she could see him as I see him now."

Fabrizio had had some slight hope of saluting her again as she left
the room; but to avoid this further courtesy Clelia beat a skilful
retreat by stages, from cage to cage, as if, at the end of her task,
she had to attend to the birds nearest the door. At length she went
out; Fabrizio stood motionless gazing at the door through which she
had disappeared; he was another man.

>From that moment the sole object of his thoughts was to discover how
he might manage to continue to see her, even when they had set up that
horrible screen outside the window that overlooked the governor's
_palazzo_.

Overnight, before going to bed, he had set himself the long and
tedious task of hiding the greater part of the gold that he had in
several of the rat-holes which adorned his wooden cell. "This evening,
I must hide my watch. Have I not heard it said that with patience and
a watch-spring with a jagged edge one can cut through wood and even
iron? So I shall be able to saw through this screen." The work of
concealing his watch, which occupied him for hours, did not seem to
him at all long; he was thinking of the different ways of attaining
his object and of what he himself could do in the way of carpentering.
"If I get to work the right way," he said to himself, "I shall be able
to cut a section clean out of the oak plank which will form the
screen, at the end which will be resting on the window-sill; I can
take this piece out and put it back according to circumstances; I
shall give everything I possess to Grillo, so that he may be kind
enough not to notice this little device." All Fabrizio's happiness was
now involved in the possibility of carrying out this task, and he
could think of nothing else. "If I can only manage to see her, I am a
happy man.... No," he reminded himself, "she must also see that I see
her." All night long his head was filled with devices of carpentering,
and perhaps never gave a single thought to the court of Parma, the
Prince's anger, etc., etc. We must admit that he did not think either
of the grief in which the Duchessa must be plunged. He waited
impatiently for the morrow; but the carpenter did not appear again:
evidently he was regarded in the prison as a Liberal. They took care
to send another, a sour-faced fellow who made no reply except a growl
that boded ill to all the pleasant words with which Fabrizio sought to
cajole him. Some of the Duchessa's many attempts to open a
correspondence with Fabrizio had been discovered by the Marchesa
Raversi's many agents, and, by her, General Fabio Conti was daily
warned, frightened, put on his mettle. Every eight hours six soldiers
of the guard relieved the previous six in the great hall with the
hundred pillars on the ground floor: in addition to these, the
governor posted a gaoler on guard at each of the three successive iron
gates of the corridor, and poor Grillo, the only one who saw the
prisoner, was condemned to leave the Torre Farnese only once a week,
at which he shewed great annoyance. He made his ill humour felt by
Fabrizio, who had the sense to reply only in these words: "Plenty of
good _nebiolo d'Asti_, my friend." And he gave him money.

"Well now, even this, which consoles us in all our troubles,"
exclaimed the indignant Grillo, in a voice barely loud enough to be
heard by the prisoner, "we are forbidden to take, and I ought to
refuse it, but I accept; however, it's money thrown away; I can tell
you nothing about anything. Go on, you must be a rare bad lot, the
whole citadel is upside down because of you; the Signora Duchessa's
fine goings on have got three of us dismissed already."

"Will the screen be ready before midday?" This was the great question
which made Fabrizio's heart throb throughout that long morning; he
counted each quarter as it sounded from the citadel clock. Finally,
when the last quarter before noon struck, the screen had not yet
arrived; Clelia reappeared and looked after her birds. Cruel necessity
had made Fabrizio's daring take such strides, and the risk of not
seeing her again seemed to him so to transcend all others that he
ventured, looking at Clelia, to make with his finger the gesture of
sawing through the screen; it is true that as soon as she had
perceived this gesture, so seditious in prison, she half bowed and
withdrew.

"How now!" thought Fabrizio in amazement, "can she be so unreasonable
as to see an absurd familiarity in a gesture dictated by the most
imperious necessity? I meant to request her always to deign, when she
is attending to her birds, to look now and again at the prison window,
even when she finds it masked by an enormous wooden shutter; I meant
to indicate to her that I shall do everything that is humanly
possible to contrive to see her. Great God! Does this mean that she
will not come tomorrow owing to that indiscreet gesture?" This fear,
which troubled Fabrizio's sleep, was entirely justified; on the
following day Clelia had not apppeared at three o'clock, when the
workman finished installing outside Fabrizio's windows the two
enormous screens; they had been hauled up piecemeal, from the terrace
of the great tower, by means of ropes and pulleys attached to the iron
bars outside the windows. It is true that, hidden behind a shutter in
her own room, Clelia had followed with anguish every movement of the
workmen; she had seen quite plainly Fabrizio's mortal anxiety, but had
nevertheless had the courage to keep the promise she had made to
herself.

Clelia was a little devotee of Liberalism; in her girlhood she had
taken seriously all the Liberal utterances which she had heard in the
company of her father, who thought only of establishing his own
position; from this she had come to feel a contempt, almost a horror
for the flexible character of the courtier; whence her antipathy to
marriage. Since Fabrizio's arrival, she had been racked by remorse:
"And so," she said to herself, "my unworthy heart is taking the side
of the people who seek to betray my father! He dares to make me the
sign of sawing through a door! ... But," she at once went on with
anguish in her heart, "the whole town is talking of his approaching
death! To-morrow may be the fatal day! With the monsters who govern
us, what in the world is not possible? What meekness, what heroic
serenity in those eyes, which perhaps are about to close for ever!
God! What must be the Duchessa's anguish! They say that she is in a
state of utter despair. If I were she, I would go and stab the Prince,
like the heroic Charlotte Corday."

Throughout this third day of his imprisonment, Fabrizio was wild with
anger, but solely at not having seen Clelia appear. "Anger for
anger, I ought to have told her that I loved her," he cried; for he
had arrived at this discovery. "No, it is not at all from greatness of
heart that I am not thinking about prison, and am making Blanès's
prophecy prove false: such honour is not mine. In spite of myself I
think of that look of sweet pity which Clelia let fall on me when the
constables led me out of the guard-room; that look has wiped out all
my past life. Who would have said that I should find such sweet eyes
in such a place, and at the moment when my own sight was offended by
the faces of Barbone and the General-governor. Heaven appeared to me
in the midst of those vile creatures. And how can one help loving
beauty and seeking to see it again? No, it is certainly not greatness
of heart that makes me indifferent to all the little vexations which
prison heaps upon me." Fabrizio's imagination, passing rapidly over
every possibility in turn, arrived at that of his being set at
liberty. "No doubt the Duchessa's friendship will do wonders for me.
Well, I shall thank her for my liberty only with my lips; this is not
at all the sort of place to which one returns! Once out of prison,
separated as we are socially, I should practically never see Clelia
again! And, after all, what harm is prison doing me? If Clelia deigned
not to crush me with her anger, what more should I have to ask of
heaven?"

On the evening of this day on which he had not seen his pretty
neighbour, he had a great idea: with the iron cross of the rosary
which is given to every prisoner on his admission to prison, he
began, and with success, to bore a hole in the shutter. "It is perhaps
an imprudence," he told himself before he began. "Did not the
carpenters say in front of me that the painters would be coming
to-morrow in their place? What will they say if they find the shutter
with a hole in it? But if I do not commit this imprudence, to-morrow
I shall not be able to see her. What! By my own inactivity am I to
remain for a day without seeing her, and that after she has turned
from me in an ill humour?" Fabrizio's imprudence was rewarded; after
fifteen hours of work he saw Clelia, and, to complete his happiness,
as she had no idea that he was looking at her, she stood for a long
time without moving, her gaze fixed on the huge screen; he had plenty
of time to read in her eyes the signs of the most tender pity. Towards
the end of the visit, she was even quite evidently neglecting her duty
to her birds, to stay for whole minutes gazing at the window. Her
heart was profoundly troubled; she was thinking of the Duchessa, whose
extreme misfortune had inspired in her so much pity, and at the same
time she was beginning to hate her. She understood nothing of the
profound melancholy which had taken hold of her character, she felt
out of temper with herself. Two or three times, in the course of this
encounter, Fabrizio was impatient to try to shake the screen; he felt
that he was not happy so long as he could not indicate to Clelia that
he saw her. "However," he told himself, "if she knew that I could see
her so easily, timid and reserved as she is, she would probably slip
away out of my sight."

He was far more happy next day (out of what miseries does love create
its happiness!): while she was looking sadly at the huge screen, he
succeeded in slipping a tiny piece of wire through the hole which the
iron cross had bored, and made signs to her which she evidently
understood, at least in the sense that they implied: "I am here and I
see you."

Fabrizio was unfortunate on the days that followed. He was anxious to
cut out of the colossal screen a piece of board the size of his hand,
which could be replaced when he chose, and which would enable him to
see and to be seen, that is to say to speak, by signs at least, of
what was passing in his heart; but he found that the noise of the very
imperfect little saw which he had made by notching the spring of his
watch with the cross aroused Grillo, who came and spent long hours in
his cell. It is true that he thought he noticed that Clelia's severity
seemed to diminish as the material difficulties in the way of any
communication between them increased; Fabrizio was fully aware that
she no longer pretended to lower her eyes or to look at the birds when
he was trying to shew her a sign of his presence by means of his
wretched little piece of wire; he had the pleasure of seeing that she
never failed to appear in the aviary at the precise moment when the
quarter before noon struck, and he almost presumed to imagine himself
to be the cause of this remarkable punctuality. Why? Such an idea
does not seem reasonable; but love detects shades invisible to the
indifferent eye, and draws endless conclusions from them. For
instance, now that Clelia could no longer see the prisoner, almost
immediately on entering the aviary she would raise her eyes to his
window. These were the funereal days on which no one in Parma had any
doubt that Fabrizio would shortly be put to death: he alone knew
nothing; but this terrible thought never left Clelia's mind for a
moment, and how could she reproach herself for the excessive interest
which she felt in Fabrizio? He was about to perish--and for the cause
of freedom! For it was too absurd to put a del Dongo to death for
running his sword into a mummer. It was true that this attractive
young man was attached to another woman! Clelia was profoundly
unhappy, and without admitting to herself at all precisely the kind
of interest that she took in his fate: "Certainly," she said to
herself, "if they lead him out to die, I shall fly to a convent, and
never in my life will I reappear in that society of the court; it
horrifies me. Kid-gloved assassins!"

On the eighth day of Fabrizio's imprisonment, she had good cause to
blush: she was watching fixedly, absorbed in her sorrowful thoughts,
the screen that hid the prisoner's window: suddenly a small piece of
the screen, larger than a man's hand, was removed by him; he looked at
her with an air of gaiety, and she could see his eyes which were
greeting her. She had not the strength to endure this unlooked-for
trial, she turned swiftly towards her birds and began to attend to
them; but she trembled so much that she spilled the water which she
was pouring out for them, and Fabrizio could perfectly well see her
emotion; she could not endure this situation, and took the prudent
course of running from the room.

This was the best moment in Fabrizio's life, beyond all comparison.
With what transports would he have refused his freedom, had it been
offered to him at that instant!

The following day was the day of the Duchessa's great despair.
Everyone in the town was certain that it was all over with Fabrizio.
Clelia had not the melancholy courage to show him a harshness that was
not in her heart, she spent an hour and a half in the aviary, watched
all his signals, and often answered him, at least by an expression of
the keenest and sincerest interest; at certain moments she turned from
him so as not to let him see her tears. Her feminine coquetry felt
very strongly the inadequacy of the language employed: if they could
have spoken, in how many different ways could she not have sought to
discover what precisely was the nature of the sentiments which
Fabrizio felt for the Duchessa! Clelia was now almost unable to delude
herself any longer; her feeling for Signora Sanseverina was one of
hatred.

One night Fabrizio began to think somewhat seriously of his aunt: he
was amazed, he found a difficulty in recognising her image; the memory
that he kept of her had totally changed; for him, at this moment, she
was a woman of fifty. "Great God!" he exclaimed with enthusiasm, "how
well inspired I was not to tell her that I loved her!" He had
reached the point of being barely able to understand how he had found
her so good looking. In this connexion little Marietta gave him the
impression of a less perceptible change: this was because he had never
imagined that his heart entered at all into his love for Marietta,
while often he had believed that his whole heart belonged to the
Duchessa. The Duchessa d'A---- and Marietta now had the effect on him
of two young doves whose whole charm would be in weakness and
innocence, whereas the sublime image of Clelia Conti, taking entire
possession of his heart, went so far as to inspire him with terror. He
felt only too well that the eternal happiness of his life was to force
him to reckon with the governor's daughter, and that it lay in her
power to make of him the unhappiest of men. Every day he went in
mortal fear of seeing brought to a sudden end, by a caprice of her
will against which there was no appeal, this sort of singular and
delicious life which he found in her presence; in any event she had
already filled with joy the first two months of his imprisonment. It
was the time when, twice a week, General Fabio Conti was saying to the
Prince: "I can give Your Highness my word of honour that the prisoner
del Dongo does not speak to a living soul, and is spending his life
crushed by the most profound despair, or asleep."

Clelia came two or three times daily to visit her birds, sometimes for
a few moments only; if Fabrizio had not loved her so well, he would
have seen clearly that he was loved; but he had serious doubts on this
head. Clelia had had a piano put in her aviary. As she struck the
notes, that the sounds of the instrument might account for her
presence there, and occupy the minds of the sentries who were
patrolling beneath her windows, she replied with her eyes to
Fabrizio's questions. On one subject alone she never made any answer,
and indeed, on serious occasions, took flight, and sometimes
disappeared for a whole day; this was when Fabrizio's signals
indicated sentiments the import of which it was too difficult not to
understand: on this point she was inexorable.

Thus, albeit straitly confined in a small enough cage, Fabrizio led
a fully occupied life; it was entirely devoted to seeking the solution
of this important problem: "Does she love me?" The result of thousands
of observations, incessantly repeated, but also incessantly
subjected to doubt, was as follows: "All her deliberate gestures say
no, but what is involuntary in the movement of her eyes seems to admit
that she is forming an affection for me."

Clelia hoped that she might never be brought to an avowal, and it was
to avert this danger that she had repulsed, with an excessive show of
anger, a prayer which Fabrizio had several times addressed to her. The
wretchedness of the resources employed by the poor prisoner ought, it
might seem, to have inspired greater pity in Clelia. He sought to
correspond with her by means of letters which he traced on his hand
with a piece of charcoal of which he had made the precious discovery
in his stove; he would have formed the words letter by letter, in
succession. This invention would have doubled the means of
conversation, inasmuch as it would have allowed him to say actual
words. His window was distant from Clelia's about twenty-five feet; it
would have been too great a risk to speak aloud over the heads of the
sentries patrolling outside the governor's _palazzo_. Fabrizio was in
doubt whether he was loved; if he had had any experience of love, he
would have had no doubt left: but never had a woman occupied his
heart; he had, moreover, no suspicion of a secret which would have
plunged him in despair had he known it: there was a serious question
of the marriage of Clelia Conti to the Marchese Crescenzi, the richest
man at court.




CHAPTER NINETEEN

General Fabio Conti's ambition, exalted to madness by the obstacles
which were occurring in the career of the Prime Minister Mosca, and
seemed to forebode his fall, had led him to make violent scenes before
his daughter; he told her incessantly, and angrily, that she was
ruining her own prospects if she did not finally make up her mind to
choose a husband; at twenty and past it was time to make a match; this
cruel state of isolation, in which her unreasonable obstinacy was
plunging the General, must be brought to an end, and so forth.

It was originally to escape from these continual bursts of ill humour
that Clelia had taken refuge in the aviary; it could be reached only
by an extremely awkward wooden stair, which his gout made a serious
obstacle to the governor.

For some weeks now Clelia's heart had been so agitated, she herself
knew so little what she ought to decide, that, without giving any
definite promise to her father, she had almost let herself be engaged.
In one of his fits of rage, the General had shouted that he could
easily send her to cool her heels in the most depressing convent in
Parma, and that there he would let her stew until she deigned to make
a choice.

"You know that our family, old as it is, cannot muster a rent-roll of
6,000 lire, while the Marchese Crescenzi's fortune amounts to more
than 100,000 scudi a year. Everyone at court agrees that he has the
sweetest temper; he has never given anyone cause for complaint; he is
a fine looking man, young, popular with the Prince; and I say that you
ought to be shut up in a madhouse if you reject his advances. If this
were the first refusal, I might perhaps put up with it, but there have
been five or six suitors now, all among the first men at court, whom
you have rejected, like the little fool that you are. And what would
become of you, I ask you, if I were to be put on half-pay? What a
triumph for my enemies, if they saw me living in some second-floor
apartment, I who have so often been talked of for the Ministry! No,
begad, my good nature has let me play Cassandra quite long enough.
You will kindly supply me with some valid objection to this poor
Marchese Crescenzi, who is so kind as to be in love with you, to be
willing to marry you without a dowry, and to make over to you a
jointure of 30,000 lire a year, which will at least pay my rent; you
will talk to me reasonably, or, by heaven, you will marry him in two
months from now!"

One passage alone in the whole of this speech had struck Clelia; this
was the threat to send her to a convent, and thereby remove her from
the citadel, at the moment, moreover, when Fabrizio's life seemed to
be hanging only by a thread, for not a month passed in which the
rumour of his approaching death did not run afresh through the town
and through the court. Whatever arguments she might use, she could not
make up her mind to run this risk. To be separated from Fabrizio, and
at the moment when she was trembling for his life! This was in her
eyes the greatest of evils; it was at any rate the most immediate.

This is not to say that, even in not being parted from Fabrizio, her
heart found any prospect of happiness; she believed him to be loved
by the Duchessa, and her soul was torn by a deadly jealousy.
Incessantly she thought of the advantages enjoyed by this woman who
was so generally admired. The extreme reserve which she imposed on
herself with regard to Fabrizio, the language of signs to which she
had restricted him, from fear of falling into some indiscretion, all
seemed to combine to take from her the means of arriving at any
enlightenment as to his relations with the Duchessa. Thus, every day,
she felt more cruelly than before the frightful misfortune of having
a rival in the heart of Fabrizio, and every day she dared less to
expose herself to the danger of giving him an opportunity to tell her
the whole truth as to what was passing in that heart. But how charming
it would be, nevertheless, to hear him make an avowal of his true
feelings! What a joy for Clelia to be able to clear away those
frightful suspicions which were poisoning her life!

Fabrizio was fickle; at Naples he had had the reputation of changing
his mistress rather easily. Despite all the reserve imposed on the
character of a young lady, since she had become a Canoness and had
gone to court, Clelia, without ever asking questions, but by listening
attentively, had succeeded in learning the reputation that had been
made for themselves by the young men who in succession had sought her
hand; very well, Fabrizio, when compared with all these young men, was
the one who was charged with being most fickle in affairs of the
heart. He was in prison, he was dull, he was paying court to the one
woman to whom he could speak; what more simple? What, indeed, _more
common_? And it was this that grieved Clelia. Even if, by a complete
revelation, she should learn that Fabrizio no longer loved the
Duchessa, what confidence could she have in his words? Even if she
believed in the sincerity of what he said, what confidence could she
have in the permanence of his feelings? And lastly, to drive the final
stroke of despair into her heart, was not Fabrizio already far
advanced in his career as a churchman? Was he not on the eve of
binding himself by lifelong vows? Did not the highest dignities await
him in that walk in life? "If the least glimmer of sense remained in
my mind," the unhappy Clelia said to herself, "ought I not to take
flight? Ought I not to beg my father to shut me up in some convent far
away? And, as a last straw, it is precisely the fear of being sent
away from the citadel and shut up in a convent that is governing all
my conduct! It is that fear which is forcing me to hide the truth,
which is obliging me to act the hideous and degrading lie of
pretending to accept the public attentions of the Marchese Crescenzi."

Clelia was by nature profoundly reasonable; in the whole of her life
she had never had to reproach herself with a single unconsidered step,
and her conduct on this occasion was the height of unreason: one may
judge of her sufferings! They were all the more cruel in that she let
herself rest under no illusion. She was attaching herself to a man who
was desperately loved by the most beautiful woman at court, a woman
who had so many claims to be reckoned superior to Clelia herself! And
this man himself, had he been at liberty, was incapable of a serious
attachment, whereas she, as she felt only too well, would never have
but this one attachment in her life.

It was, therefore, with a heart agitated by the most frightful
remorse that Clelia came every day to the aviary: carried to this spot
as though in spite of herself, her uneasiness changed its object and
became less cruel, the remorse vanished for a few moments; she
watched, with indescribable beatings of her heart, for the moments at
which Fabrizio could open the sort of hatch that he had made in the
enormous screen which masked his window. Often the presence of the
gaoler Grillo in his cell prevented him from conversing by signs with
his friend.

One evening, about eleven, Fabrizio heard sounds of the strangest
nature in the citadel: at night, by leaning on the window-sill and
poking his head out through the hatch, he could distinguish any noise
at all loud that was made on the great staircase, called "of the three
hundred steps," which led from the first courtyard, inside the round
tower, to the stone platform on which had been built the governor's
_palazzo_ and the Farnese prison in which he himself was.

About halfway up, at the hundred and eightieth step, this staircase
passed from the south side of a vast court to the north side; at this
point there was an iron bridge, very light and very narrow, on the
middle of which a turnkey was posted. This man was relieved every six
hours, and was obliged to rise and stand to one side to enable anyone
to pass over the bridge which he guarded, and by which alone one could
reach the governor's _palazzo_ and the Torre Farnese. Two turns of a
spring, the key of which the governor carried on his person, were
enough to hurl this iron bridge down into the court, more than a
hundred feet below; this simple precaution once taken, as there was no
other staircase in the whole of the citadel, and as every evening at
midnight a serjeant brought to the governor's house, and placed in a
closet which was reached through his bedroom, the ropes of all the
wells, he was left completely inaccessible in his _palazzo_, and it
would have been equally impossible for anyone in the world to reach
the Torre Farnese. All this Fabrizio had thoroughly observed for
himself on the day of his arrival at the citadel, while Grillo who,
like all gaolers, loved to boast of his prison, had explained it to
him many times since; thus he had but little hope of escape. At the
same time he reminded himself of a maxim of Priore Blanès: "The
lover thinks more often of reaching his mistress than the husband of
guarding his wife; the prisoner thinks more often of escaping than
the gaoler of shutting his door; and so, whatever the obstacles may
be, the lover and the prisoner ought to succeed."

That evening Fabrizio could hear quite distinctly a considerable
number of men cross the iron bridge, known as the Slave's Bridge,
because once a Dalmatian slave had succeeded in escaping, by throwing
the guardian of the bridge down into the court below.

"They are coming here to carry off somebody, perhaps they are going to
take me out to hang me; but there may be some disorder, I must make
the most of it." He had armed himself, he was already taking the gold
from some of his hiding-places, when suddenly he stopped.

"Man is a quaint animal," he exclaimed, "I must admit! What would an
invisible onlooker say if he saw my preparations? Do I by any chance
wish to escape? What would happen to me the day after my return to
Parma? Should I not be doing everything in the world to return to
Clelia? If there is some disorder, let us profit by it to slip into
the governor's _palazzo_; perhaps I may be able to speak to her,
perhaps, encouraged by the disorder, I may venture to kiss her hand.
General Conti, highly mistrustful by nature, and no less vain, has his
_palazzo_ guarded by five sentries, one at each corner of the building
and a fifth outside the door, but fortunately the night is very dark."
On tiptoe Fabrizio stole down to find out what the gaoler Grillo and
his dog were doing: the gaoler was fast asleep in an oxhide suspended
by four ropes and enclosed in a coarse net; the dog Fox opened his
eyes, rose, and came quietly towards Fabrizio to lick his hand.

Our prisoner returned softly up the six steps which led to his wooden
cell; the noise was becoming so loud at the foot of the Torre Farnese,
and immediately opposite the door, that he thought that Grillo might
easily awake. Fabrizio, armed with all his weapons, ready for action,
was imagining that he was destined that night for great adventures,
when suddenly he heard the most beautiful symphony in the world strike
up: it was a serenade which was being given to the governor or his
daughter. He was seized with a fit of wild laughter: "And I who was
already dreaming of striking dagger-blows! As though a serenade were
not infinitely more normal than an abduction requiring the presence of
two dozen people in a prison, or than a mutiny!" The music was
excellent, and seemed to Fabrizio delicious, his spirit having had no
distraction for so many weeks; it made him shed very pleasant tears;
in his delight he addressed the most irresistible speeches to the
fair Clelia. But the following day, at noon, he found her in so sombre
a melancholy, she was so pale, she directed at him a gaze in which he
read at times such anger, that he did not feel himself to be
sufficiently justified in putting any question to her as to the
serenade; he was afraid of being impolite.

Clelia had every reason to be sad, it was a serenade given her by the
Marchese Crescenzi; a step so public was in a sense the official
announcement of their marriage. Until the very day of the serenade,
and until nine o'clock that evening, Clelia had set up the bravest
resistance, but she had had the weakness to yield to the threat of her
being sent immediately to a convent, which had been held over her by
her father.

"What! I should never see him again!" she had said to herself,
weeping. It was in vain that her reason had added: "I should never see
again that creature who will harm me in every possible way, I should
never see again that lover of the Duchessa, I should never see again
that man who had ten acknowledged mistresses at Naples, and was
unfaithful to them all; I should never see again that ambitious young
man who, if he survives the sentence that he is undergoing, is to take
holy orders! It would be a crime for me to look at him again when he
is out of his citadel, and his natural inconstancy will spare me the
temptation; for, what am I to him? An excuse for spending less
tediously a few hours of each of his days in prison." In the midst of
all this abuse, Clelia happened to remember the smile with which he
had looked at the constables who surrounded him when he came out of
the turnkey's office to go up to the Torre Farnese. The tears welled
into her eyes: "Dear friend, what would I not do for you? You will
ruin me, I know; such is my fate; I am ruining myself in a terrible
fashion by listening to-night to this frightful serenade; but
to-morrow, at midday, I shall see your eyes again."

It was precisely on the morrow of that day on which Clelia had made
such great sacrifices for the young prisoner, whom she loved with so
strong a passion; it was on the morrow of that day on which, seeing
all his faults, she had sacrificed her life to him, that Fabrizio
was in despair at her coldness. If, even employing only the imperfect
language of signs, he had done the slightest violence to Clelia's
heart, probably she would not have been able to keep back her tears,
and Fabrizio would have won an avowal of all that she felt for him;
but he lacked the courage, he was in too deadly a fear of offending
Clelia, she could punish him with too severe a penalty. In other
words, Fabrizio had no experience of the emotion that is given one by
a woman whom one loves; it was a sensation which he had never felt,
even in the feeblest degree. It took him a week, from the day of the
serenade, to place himself once more on the old footing of simple
friendship with Clelia. The poor girl armed herself with severity,
being half dead with fear of betraying herself, and it seemed to
Fabrizio that every day he was losing ground with her.

One day (and Fabrizio had then been nearly three months in prison
without having had any communication whatever with the outer world,
and yet without feeling unhappy), Grillo had stayed very late in the
morning in his cell: Fabrizio did not know how to get rid of him; in
the end, half past twelve had already struck before he was able to
open the two little traps, a foot high, which he had carved in the
fatal screen.

Clelia was standing at the aviary window, her eyes fixed on
Fabrizio's; her drawn features expressed the most violent despair. As
soon as she saw Fabrizio, she made him a sign that all was lost: she
dashed to her piano, and, pretending to sing a _recitativo_ from the
popular opera of the season, spoke to him in sentences broken by her
despair and the fear of being overheard by the sentries who were
patrolling beneath the window:

"Great God! You are still alive? How grateful I am to heaven! Barbone,
the gaoler whose impudence you punished on the day of your coming
here, disappeared, was not to be found in the citadel; the night
before last he returned, and since yesterday I have had reason to
believe that he is seeking to poison you. He comes prowling through
the private kitchen of the _palazzo_, where your meals are prepared. I
know nothing for certain, but my maid thinks that the horrible
creature can only be coming to the _palazzo_ kitchens with the object
of taking your life. I was dying of anxiety when I did not see you
appear, I thought you were dead. Abstain from all nourishment until
further notice, I shall do everything possible to see that a little
chocolate comes to you. In any case, this evening at nine, if the
bounty of heaven wills that you have any thread, or that you can tie
strips of your linen together in a riband, let it down from your
window over the orange trees, I shall fasten a cord to it which you
can pull up, and by means of the cord I shall keep you supplied with
bread and chocolate."

Fabrizio had carefully treasured the piece of charcoal which he had
found in the stove in his cell: he hastened to make the most of
Clelia's emotion, and wrote on his hand a series of letters which
taken in order formed these words:

"I love you, and life is dear to me only because I see you; at all
costs, send me paper and a pencil."

As Fabrizio had hoped, the extreme terror which he read in Clelia's
features prevented the girl from breaking off the conversation after
this daring announcement, "I love you"; she was content with
exhibiting great vexation. Fabrizio was inspired to add: "There is
such a wind blowing to-day that I can only catch very faintly the
advice you are so kind as to give me in your singing; the sound of the
piano is drowning your voice. What is this poison, for instance, that
you tell me of?"

At these words the girl's terror reappeared in its entirety; she began
in haste to trace large letters in ink on the pages of a book which
she tore out, and Fabrizio was transported with joy to see at length
established, after three months of effort, this channel of
correspondence for which he had so vainly begged. He had no thought of
abandoning the little ruse which had proved so successful, his aim was
to write real letters, and he pretended at every moment not to
understand the words of which Clelia was holding up each letter in
turn before his eyes.

She was obliged to leave the aviary to go to her father; she feared
more than anything that he might come to look for her; his suspicious
nature would not have been at all satisfied with the close proximity
of the window of this aviary to the screen which masked that of the
prisoner. Clelia herself had had the idea a few moments earlier, when
Fabrizio's failure to appear was plunging her in so deadly an
anxiety, that it might be possible to throw a small stone wrapped in a
piece of paper over the top of this screen; if by a lucky chance the
gaoler in charge of Fabrizio happened not to be in his cell at that
moment, it was a certain method of corresponding with him.

Our hero hastened to make a riband of sorts out of his linen; and that
evening, shortly after nine, he heard quite distinctly a series of
little taps on the tubs of the orange trees which stood beneath his
window; he let down his riband, which brought back with it a fine cord
of great length with the help of which he drew up first of all a
supply of chocolate, and then, to his unspeakable satisfaction, a
roll of paper and a pencil. It was in vain that he let down the cord
again, he received nothing more; apparently the sentries had come near
the orange trees. But he was wild with joy. He hastened to write
Clelia an endless letter: no sooner was it finished than he attached
it to the cord and let it down. For more than three hours he waited in
vain for it to be taken, and more than once drew it up again to make
alterations. "If Clelia does not see my letter to-night," he said to
himself, "while she is still upset by her idea of poison, to-morrow
morning perhaps she will utterly reject the idea of receiving a
letter."

The fact was that. Clelia had been unable to avoid going down to the
town with her father; Fabrizio almost guessed as much when he heard,
about half past twelve, the General's carriage return; he recognised
the trot of the horses. What was his joy when, a few minutes after he
had heard the General cross the terrace and the sentries present arms
to him, he felt a pull at the cord which he had not ceased to keep
looped round his arm! A heavy weight was attached to this cord; two
little tugs gave him the signal to draw it up. He had considerable
difficulty in getting the heavy object that he was lifting past a
cornice which jutted out some way beneath his window.

This object which he had so much difficulty in pulling up was a flask
filled with water and wrapped in a shawl. It was with ecstasy that
this poor young man, who had been living for so long in so complete
a solitude, covered this shawl with his kisses. But we must abandon
the attempt to describe his emotion when at last, after so many days
of fruitless expectation, he discovered a little scrap of paper
which was attached to the shawl by a pin.

"Drink nothing but this water, live upon chocolate; to-morrow I shall
do everything in the world to get some bread to you, I shall mark it
on each side with little crosses in ink. It is a terrible thing to
say, but you must know it, perhaps Barbone has been ordered to poison
you. How is it that you did not feel that the subject of which you
treat in your pencilled letter was bound to displease me? Besides, I
should not write to you, but for the danger that threatens us. I have
just seen the Duchessa, she is well and so is the Conte, but she has
grown very thin; do not write to me again on that subject; do you wish
to make me angry?"

It required a great effort of virtue on Clelia's part to write the
penultimate line of this letter. Everyone alleged, in the society at
court, that Signora Sanseverina was becoming extremely friendly with
Conte Baldi, that handsome man, the former friend of the Marchesa
Raversi. What was certain was that he had quarrelled in the most open
fashion with the said Marchesa, who for six years had been a second
mother to him and had established him in society.

Clelia had been obliged to begin this hasty little note over again,
for, in the first draft, some allusion escaped her to the fresh amours
with which popular malice credited the Duchessa.

"How base of me!" she had exclaimed, "to say things to Fabrizio
against the woman he loves!"

The following morning, long before it was light, Grillo came into
Fabrizio's cell, left there a package of some weight, and vanished
without saying a word. This package contained a loaf of bread of
some size, adorned on every side with little crosses traced in ink:
Fabrizio covered them with kisses; he was in love. Besides the bread
there was a roll wrapped in a large number of folds of paper; these
enclosed six hundred francs in sequins; last of all Fabrizio found a
handsome breviary, quite new: a hand which he was beginning to know
had traced these words on the margin:

"_Poison_! Beware of water, wine, everything; live upon chocolate, try
to make the dog eat your untouched dinner; you must not appear
distrustful, the enemy would try some other plan. Do nothing foolish,
in heaven's name! No frivolity!"

Fabrizio made haste to erase these dear words which might compromise
Clelia, and to tear a large number of pages from the breviary, with
the help of which he made several alphabets; each letter was properly
drawn with crushed charcoal soaked in wine. These alphabets had dried
when at a quarter to twelve Clelia appeared, a few feet inside the
aviary window. "The great thing now," Fabrizio said to himself, "is
that she shall consent to make use of these." But, fortunately for
him, it so happened that she had a number of things to say to the
young prisoner with regard to the attempt to poison him: a dog
belonging to one of the maidservants had died after eating a dish that
was intended for him. Clelia, so far from raising any objection to
the use of the alphabets, had prepared a magnificent one for herself,
in ink. The conversation carried out by these means, awkward enough in
the first few moments, lasted not less than an hour and a half, that
is to say all the time that Clelia was able to spend in the aviary.
Two or three times, when Fabrizio allowed himself forbidden liberties,
she made no answer, and turned away for a moment to give the necessary
attention to her birds.

Fabrizio had obtained the concession that, in the evening, when she
sent him his water, she would convey to him one" of the alphabets
which she had written in ink, and which were far more visible. He did
not fail to write her a very long letter in which he took care not to
include anything affectionate, in a manner at least that might give
offence. This plan proved successful; his letter was accepted.

Next day, in their conversation by the alphabets, Clelia made him no
reproach; she told him that the danger of poison was growing less;
Barbone had been attacked and almost killed by the men who were
keeping company with the kitchen-maids of the governor's _palazzo_;
probably he would not venture to appear in the kitchens again. Clelia
confessed to him that, for his sake, she had dared to steal an
antidote from her father; she was sending it to him; the essential
thing was to refuse at once all food in which he detected an unusual
taste.

Clelia had put many questions to Don Cesare without succeeding in
discovering who had sent the six hundred francs which Fabrizio had
received; in any case, it was an excellent sign; the severity was
decreasing.

This episode of the poison advanced our hero's position enormously; he
was still unable ever to obtain the least admission that resembled
love, but he had the happiness of living on the most intimate terms
with Clelia. Every morning, and often in the evening, there was a long
conversation with the alphabets; every evening, at nine o'clock,
Clelia accepted a long letter, to which she sometimes replied in a few
words; she sent him the newspaper and several books; finally, Grillo
had been won over to the extent of bringing Fabrizio bread and wine,
which were given him every day by Clelia's maid. The gaoler Grillo
had concluded from this that the governor was not acting in concert
with the people who had ordered Barbone to poison the young
Monsignore, and was greatly relieved, as were all his fellows, for it
had become a proverb in the prison that "you had only to look
Monsignor del Dongo in the face for him to give you money."

Fabrizio had grown very pale; the complete want of exercise was
affecting his health; apart from this, he had never in his life been
so happy. The tone of the conversation between Clelia and himself was
intimate, and at times quite gay. The only moments in Clelia's life
that were not besieged by grim forebodings and remorse were those
which she spent in talk with him. One day she was so rash as to say to
him:

"I admire your delicacy; as I am the governor's daughter, you never
speak to me of your desire to regain your freedom!"

"That is because I take good care not to feel so absurd a desire," was
Fabrizio's answer; "once back in Parma, how should I see you again?
And life would become insupportable if I could not tell you all that
is in my mind--no, not quite all that is in my mind, you take good
care of that: but still, in spite of your hard-heartedness, to live
without seeing you every day would be to me a far worse punishment
than this prison! Never in my life have I been so happy! ... Is it not
pleasant to find that happiness was awaiting me in prison?"

"There is a great deal more to be said about that," replied Clelia
with an air which became of a sudden unduly serious and almost
sinister.

"What!" cried Fabrizio, greatly alarmed, "is there a risk of my losing
the tiny place I have managed to win in your heart, which constitutes
my sole joy in this world?"

"Yes," she told him; "I have good reason to believe that you are
lacking in frankness towards me, although you may be regarded
generally as a great gentleman; but I do not wish to speak of this
to-day."

This singular opening caused great embarrassment in their
conversation, and often tears started to the eyes of both.

The Fiscal General Rassi was still anxious to change his name; he was
tired to death of the name he had made for himself, and wished to
become Barone Riva. Conte Mosca, for his part, was toiling, with all
the skill of which he was capable, to strengthen in this venal judge
his passion for the Barony, just as he was seeking to intensify in the
Prince his mad hope of making himself Constitutional Monarch of
Lombardy. They were the only means that he could invent of postponing
the death of Fabrizio.

The Prince said to Rassi:

"A fortnight of despair and a fortnight of hope, it is by patiently
carrying out this system that we shall succeed in subduing that proud
woman's nature; it is by these alternatives of mildness and
harshness that one manages to break the wildest horses. Apply the
caustic firmly."

And indeed, every fortnight, one saw a fresh rumour come to birth in
Parma announcing the death of Fabrizio in the near future. This talk
plunged the unhappy Duchessa in the utmost despair. Faithful to her
resolution not to involve the Conte in her downfall, she saw him but
twice monthly; but she was punished for her cruelty towards that poor
man by the continual alternations of dark despair in which she was
passing her life. In vain did Conte Mosca, overcoming the cruel
jealousy inspired in him by the assiduities of Conte Baldi, that
handsome man, write to the Duchessa when he could not see her, and
acquaint her with all the intelligence that he owed to the zeal of the
future Barone Riva; the Duchessa would have needed (for strength to
resist the atrocious rumours that were incessantly going about with
regard to Fabrizio), to spend her life with a man of intelligence and
heart such as Mosca; the nullity of Baldi, leaving her to her own
thoughts, gave her an appalling existence, and the Conte could not
succeed in communicating to her his reasons for hope.

By means of various pretexts of considerable ingenuity the Minister
had succeeded in making the Prince agree to his depositing in a
friendly castle, in the very heart of Lombardy, the records of all
the highly complicated intrigues by means of which Ranuccio-Ernesto IV
nourished the utterly mad hope of making himself Constitutional
Monarch of that smiling land.

More than a score of these extremely compromising documents were in
the Prince's hand, or bore his signature, and in the event of
Fabrizio's life being seriously threatened the Conte had decided to
announce to His Highness that he was going to hand these documents
over to a great power which with a word could crush him.

Conte Mosca believed that he could rely upon the future Barone Riva,
he was afraid only of poison; Barbone's attempt had greatly alarmed
him, and to such a point that he had determined to risk taking a step
which, to all appearance, was an act of madness. One morning he went
to the gate of the citadel and sent for General Fabio Conti, who came
down as far as the bastion above the gate; there, strolling with him
in a friendly fashion, he had no hesitation in saying to him, after a
short preamble, acidulated but polite:

"If Fabrizio dies in any suspicious manner, his death may be put down
to me; I shall get a reputation for jealousy, which would be an absurd
and abominable stigma and one that I am determined not to accept. So,
to clear myself in the matter, if he dies of illness, _I shall kill
you with my own hand_; you may count on that." General Fabio Conti
made a magnificent reply and spoke of his bravery, but the look in the
Conte's eyes remained present in his thoughts.

A few days later, as though he were working in concert with the Conte,
the Fiscal Rassi took a liberty which was indeed singular in a man
of his sort. The public contempt attached to his name, which was
proverbial among the rabble, had made him ill since he had acquired
the hope of being able to change it. He addressed to General Fabio
Conti an official copy of the sentence which condemned Fabrizio to
twelve years in the citadel. According to the law, this was what
should have been done on the very day after Fabrizio's admission to
prison; but what was unheard-of at Parma, in that land of secret
measures, was that Justice should allow itself to take such a step
without an express order from the Sovereign. How indeed could the
Prince entertain the hope of doubling every fortnight the Duchessa's
alarm, and of subduing that proud spirit, to quote his own words, once
an officiai copy of the sentence had gone out from the Chancellory of
Justice? On the day before that on which General Fabio Conti received
the official document from the Fiscal Rassi, he learned that the clerk
Barbone had been beaten black and blue on returning rather late to the
citadel; he concluded from this that there was no longer any question,
in a certain quarter, of getting rid of Fabrizio; and, in a moment of
prudence which saved Rassi from the immediate consequences of his
folly, he said nothing to the Prince, at the next audience which he
obtained of him, of the official copy of Fabrizio's sentence which had
been transmitted to him. The Conte had discovered, happily for the
peace of mind of the unfortunate Duchessa, that Barbone's clumsy
attempt had been only an act of personal revenge, and had caused the
clerk to be given the warning of which we have spoken.

Fabrizio was very agreeably surprised when, after one hundred and
thirty-five days of confinement in a distinctly narrow cell, the good
chaplain Don Cesare came to him one Thursday to take him for an airing
on the dungeon of the Torre Farnese: he had not been there ten minutes
before, unaccustomed to the fresh air, he began to feel faint.

Don Cesare made this accident an excuse to allow him half an hour's
exercise every day. This was a mistake: these frequent airings soon
restored to our hero a strength which he abused.

There were several serenades; the punctilious governor allowed them
only because they created an engagement between the Marchese Crescenzi
and his daughter Clelia, whose character alarmed him; he felt
vaguely that there was no point of contact between her and himself,
and was always afraid of some rash action on her part. She might fly
to the convent, and he would be left helpless. At the same time, the
General was afraid that all this music, the sound of which could
penetrate into the deepest dungeons, reserved for the blackest
Liberals, might contain signals. The musicians themselves, too, made
him suspicious; and so no sooner was the serenade at an end than they
were locked into the big rooms below the governor's _palazzo_, which
by day served as an office for the staff, and the door was not opened
to let them out until the following morning, when it was broad
daylight. It was the governor himself who, stationed on the Slave's
Bridge, had them searched in his presence and gave them their liberty,
not without several times repeating that he would have hanged at once
any of them who had the audacity to undertake the smallest commission
for any prisoner. And they knew that, in his fear of giving offence,
he was a man of his word, so that the Marchese Crescenzi was obliged
to pay his musicians at a triple rate, they being greatly upset at
thus having to spend a night in prison.

All that the Duchessa could obtain, and that with great difficulty,
from the pusillanimity of one of these men was that he should take
with him a letter to be handed to the governor. The letter was
addressed to Fabrizio: the writer deplored the fatality which had
brought it about that, after he had been more than five months in
prison, his friends outside had not been able to establish any
communication with him.

On entering the citadel, the bribed musician flung himself at the feet
of General Fabio Conti, and confessed to him that a priest, unknown to
him, had so insisted upon his taking a letter addressed to Signor del
Dongo that he had not dared to refuse; but, faithful to his duty, he
was hastening to place it in His Excellency's hands.

His Excellency was highly flattered: he knew the resources at the
Duchessa's disposal, and was in great fear of being hoaxed. In his
joy, the General went to submit this letter to the Prince, who was
delighted.

"So, the firmness of my administration has brought me my revenge! That
proud woman has been suffering for more than six months! But one of
these days we are going to have a scaffold erected, and her wild
imagination will not fail to believe that it is intended for young del
Dongo."




CHAPTER TWENTY

One night, about one o'clock in the morning, Fabrizio, leaning upon
his window-sill, had slipped his head through the door cut in his
screen and was contemplating the stars and the immense horizon which
one enjoyed from the summit of the Torre Farnese. His eyes, roaming
over the country in the direction of the lower Po and Ferrara, noticed
quite by chance an extremely small but quite brilliant light which
seemed to be shining from the top of a tower. "That light cannot be
visible from the plain," Fabrizio said to himself, "the bulk of the
tower prevents it from being seen from below; it will be some signal
for a distant point." Suddenly he noticed that this light kept on
appearing and disappearing at very short intervals. "It is some girl
speaking to her lover in the next village." He counted nine flashes in
succession. "That is an _I_," he said, "_I_ being the ninth letter
of the alphabet." There followed, after a pause, fourteen flashes:
"That is _N_"; then, after another pause, a single flash: "It is an
_A_; the word is _Ina_."

What were his joy and surprise when the next series of flashes, still
separated by short pauses, made up the following words:

INA PENSA A TE

Evidently, "Gina is thinking of you!"

He replied at once by flashing his own lamp through the smaller of the
holes that he had made:

FABRIZIO T'AMA ("Fabrizio loves you!")

The conversation continued until daybreak. This night was the one
hundred and seventy-third of his imprisonment, and he was informed
that for four months they had been making these signals every night.
But anyone might see and read them; they began from this night to
establish a system of abbreviations: three flashes in very quick
succession meant the Duchessa; four, the Prince; two, Conte Mosca; two
quick flashes followed by two slow ones meant _escape_. They agreed to
use in future the old alphabet _alla Monaca_, which, so as not to be
understood by unauthorised persons, changes the ordinary sequence of
the letters, and gives them arbitrary values: A, for instance, is
represented by 10, B by Z; that is to say three successive
interruptions of the flash mean B, ten successive interruptions A, and
so on; an interval of darkness separates the words. An appointment was
made for the following night at one o'clock, and that night the
Duchessa came to the tower, which was a quarter of a league from the
town. Her eyes filled with tears as she saw the signals made by the
Fabrizio whom she had so often imagined dead. She told him herself, by
flashes of the lamp: "_I love you--courage --health--hope. Exercise
your strength in your cell, you will need the strength of your
arms_.--I have not seen him," she said to herself, "since that concert
with Fausta, when he appeared at the door of my drawing-room dressed
as a _chasseur_. Who would have said then what a fate was in store
for him?"

The Duchessa had signals made which informed Fabrizio that presently
he would be released THANKS TO THE PRINCE'S BOUNTY (these signals
might be intercepted); then she returned to messages of affection;
she could not tear herself from him. Only the representations made by
Lodovico, who, because he had been of use to Fabrizio, had become her
factotum, could prevail upon her, when day was already breaking, to
discontinue signals which might attract the attention of some
ill-disposed person. This announcement, several times repeated, of an
approaching release, cast Fabrizio into a profound sorrow. Clelia,
noticing this next day, was so imprudent as to inquire the cause of
it.

"I can see myself on the point of giving the Duchessa serious grounds
for displeasure."

"And what can she require of you that you would refuse her?" exclaimed
Clelia, carried away by the most lively curiosity.

"She wishes me to leave this place," was his answer, "and that is what
I will never consent to do."

Clelia could not reply: she looked at him and burst into tears. If he
had been able to speak to her face to face, then perhaps he would have
received her avowal of feelings, his uncertainty as to which often
plunged him in a profound discouragement; he felt keenly that life
without Clelia's love could be for him only a succession of bitter
griefs or intolerable tedium. He felt that it was no longer worth his
while to live to rediscover those same pleasures that had seemed to
him interesting before he knew what love was, and, albeit suicide has
not yet become fashionable in Italy, he had thought of it as a last
resource, if fate were to part him from Clelia. Next day he received
a long letter from her:

"You must, my friend, be told the truth: over and over again, since
you have been here, it has been believed in Parma that your last day
had come. It is true that you were sentenced only to twelve years in a
fortress; but it is, unfortunately, impossible to doubt that an
all-powerful hatred is bent on your destruction, and a score of times
I have trembled for fear that poison was going to put an end to your
days: you must therefore seize every _possible_ means of escaping from
here. You see that for your sake I am neglecting the most sacred
duties; judge of the imminence of the danger by the things which I
venture to say to you, and which are so out of place on my lips. If it
is absolutely necessary, if there is no other way of safety, fly.
Every moment that you spend in this fortress may put your life in the
greatest peril; bear in mind that there is a party at court whom the
prospect of crime has never deterred from carrying out their designs.
And do you not see all the plans of that party constantly circumvented
by the superior skill of Conte Mosca? Very well, they have found a
sure way of banishing him from Parma, it is the Duchessa's
desperation; and are they not only too sure of bringing about the
desperation by the death of a certain young prisoner? This point
alone, which is unanswerable, ought to make you form a judgment of
your situation. You say that you feel friendship for me: think, first
of all, that insurmountable obstacles must prevent that feeling from
ever becoming at all definite between us. We may have met in our
youth, we may each have held out a helping hand to the other in a time
of trouble; fate may have set me in this grim place that I might
lighten your suffering; but I should never cease to reproach myself if
illusions, which nothing justifies or will ever justify, led you not
to seize every possible opportunity of removing your life from so
terrible a peril. I have lost all peace of mind through the cruel
folly I have committed in exchanging with you certain signs of open
friendship. If our childish pastimes, with alphabets, led you to form
illusions which are so little warranted and which may be so fatal to
yourself, it would be vain for me to seek to justify myself by
reminding you of Barbone's attempt. I should be casting you myself
into a far more terrible, far more certain peril, when I thought only
to protect you from a momentary danger; and my imprudences are for
ever unpardonable if they have given rise to feelings which may lead
you to resist the Duchessa's advice. See what you oblige me to repeat
to you: save yourself, I command you...."

This letter was very long; certain passages, such as the _I command
you_ which we have just quoted, gave moments of exquisite hope to
Fabrizio's love; it seemed to him that the sentiments underlying the
words were distinctly tender, if the expressions used were remarkably
prudent. In other instances he paid the penalty for his complete
ignorance of this kind of warfare; he saw only simple friendship, or
even a very ordinary humanity in this letter from Clelia.

Otherwise, nothing that she told him made him change his intentions
for an instant: supposing that the perils which she depicted were
indeed real, was it extravagant to purchase, with a few momentary
dangers, the happiness of seeing her every day? What sort of life
would he lead when he had fled once again to Bologna or to Florence?
For, if he escaped from the citadel, he certainly could not hope for
permission to live in Parma. And even so, when the Prince should
change his mind sufficiently to set him at liberty (which was so
highly improbable since he, Fabrizio, had become, for a powerful
faction, one of the means of overthrowing Conte Mosca), what sort of
life would he lead in Parma, separated from Clelia by all the hatred
that divided the two parties? Once or twice in a month, perhaps,
chance would place them in the same drawing-room; but even then, what
sort of conversation could he hold with her? How could he recapture
that perfect intimacy which, every day now, he enjoyed for several
hours? What would be the conversation of the drawing-room, compared
with that which they made by alphabets? "And, if I must purchase this
life of enjoyment and this unique chance of happiness with a few
little dangers, where is the harm in that? And would it not be a
further happiness to find thus a feeble opportunity of giving her a
proof of my love?"

Fabrizio saw nothing in Clelia's letter but an excuse for asking her
for a meeting; it was the sole and constant object of all his desires.
He had spoken to her of it once only, and then for an instant, at the
moment of his entry into prison; and that was now more than two
hundred days ago.

An easy way of meeting Clelia offered itself: the excellent Priore Don
Cesare allowed Fabrizio half an hour's exercise on the terrace of the
Torre Farnese every Thursday, during the day; but on the other days of
the week this airing, which might be observed by all the inhabitants
of Parma and the neighbouring villages, and might seriously compromise
the governor, took place only at nightfall. To climb to the terrace of
the Torre Farnese there was no other stair but that of the little
belfry belonging to the chapel so lugubriously decorated in black and
white marble, which the reader may perhaps remember. Grillo escorted
Fabrizio to this chapel, and opened the little stair to the belfry for
him: his duty would have been to accompany him; but, as the evenings
were growing cold, the gaoler allowed him to go up by himself, locking
him into this belfry which communicated with the terrace, and went
back to keep warm in his cell. Very well; one evening, could not
Clelia contrive to appear, escorted by her maid, in the black marble
chapel?

The whole of the long letter in which Fabrizio replied to Clelia's was
calculated to obtain this meeting. Otherwise, he confided to her, with
perfect sincerity, and as though he were writing of someone else, all
the reasons which made him decide not to leave the citadel.

"I would expose myself every day to the prospect of a thousand deaths
to have the happiness of speaking to you with the help of our
alphabets, which now never defeat us for a moment, and you wish me to
be such a fool as to exile myself in Parma, or perhaps at Bologna, or
even at Florence! You wish me to walk out of here so as to be farther
from you! Understand that any such effort is impossible for me; it
would be useless to give you my word, I could never keep it."

The result of this request for a meeting was an absence on the part of
Clelia which lasted for no fewer then five days; for five days she
came to the aviary only at times when she knew that Fabrizio could not
make use of the little opening cut in the screen. Fabrizio was in
despair; he concluded from this absence that, despite certain glances
which had made him conceive wild hopes, he had never inspired in
Clelia any sentiments other than those of a simple friendship. "In
that case," he asked himself, "what good is life to me? Let the Prince
take it from me, he will be welcome; another reason for not leaving
the fortress." And it was with a profound feeling of disgust that,
every night, he replied to the signals of the little lamp. The
Duchessa thought him quite mad when she read, on the record of the
messages which Lodovico brought to her every morning, these strange
words: "_I do not wish to escape; 1 wish to die here_!"

During these five days, so cruel for Fabrizio, Clelia was more unhappy
than he; she had had the idea, so poignant for a generous nature: "My
duty is to take refuge in a convent, far from the citadel; when
Fabrizio knows that I am no longer here, and I shall make Grillo and
all the gaolers tell him, then he will decide upon an attempt at
escape." But to go to a convent was to abandon for ever all hope of
seeing Fabrizio again; and how abandon that hope, when he was
furnishing so clear a proof that the sentiments which might at one
time have attached him to the Duchessa no longer existed? What more
touching proof of love could a young man give? After seven long months
in prison, which had seriously affected his health, he refused to
regain his liberty. A fickle creature, such as the talk of the
courtiers had portrayed Fabrizio in Clelia's eyes as being, would
have sacrificed a score of mistresses rather than remain another day
in the citadel, and what would such a man not have done to escape from
a prison in which, at any moment, poison might put an end to his life?

Clelia lacked courage; she made the signal mistake of not seeking
refuge in a convent, a course which would at the same time have
furnished her with a quite natural means of breaking with the Marchese
Crescenzi. Once this mistake was made, how was she to resist this
young man--so lovable, so natural, so tender--who was exposing his
life to frightful perils to gain the simple pleasure of looking at her
from one window to another? After five days of terrible struggles,
interspersed with moments of self-contempt, Clelia made up her mind to
reply to the letter in which Fabrizio begged for the pleasure of
speaking to her in the black marble chapel. To tell the truth, she
refused, and in distinctly firm language; but from that moment all
peace of mind was lost for her; at every instant her imagination
portrayed to her Fabrizio succumbing to the attack of the poisoner;
she came six or eight times in a day to her aviary, she felt the
passionate need of assuring herself with her own eyes that Fabrizio
was alive.

"If he is still in the fortress," she told herself, "if he is exposed
to all the horrors which the Raversi faction are perhaps plotting
against him with the object of getting rid of Conte Mosca, it is
solely because I have had the cowardice not to fly to the convent!
What excuse could he have for remaining here once he was certain that
I had gone for ever?"

This girl, at once so timid and so proud, brought herself to the point
of running the risk of a refusal on the part of the gaoler Grillo;
what was more, she exposed herself to all the comments which the man
might allow himself to make on the singularity of her conduct. She
stooped to the degree of humiliation involved in sending for him, and
telling him in a tremulous voice which betrayed her whole secret that
within a few days Fabrizio was going to obtain his freedom, that the
Duchessa Sanseverina, in the hope of this, was taking the most active
measures, that often it was necessary to have without a moment's delay
the prisoner's answer to certain proposals which might be made, and
that she wished him, Grillo, to allow Fabrizio to make an opening in
the screen which masked his window, so that she might communicate to
him by signs the instructions which she received several times daily
from Signora Sanseverina.

Grillo smiled and gave her an assurance of his respect and obedience.
Clelia felt a boundless gratitude to him because he said nothing; it
was evident that he knew quite well all that had been going on for the
last few months.

Scarcely had the gaoler left her presence when Clelia made the signal
by which she had arranged to call Fabrizio upon important occasions;
she confessed to him all that she had just been doing. "You wish to
perish by poison," she added: "I hope to have the courage, one of
these days, to leave my father and escape to some remote convent. I
shall be indebted to you for that; then I hope that you will no longer
oppose the plans that may be proposed to you for getting you
away from here. So long as you are in prison, I have frightful and
unreasonable moments; never in my life have I contributed to
anyone's hurt, and I feel that I am to be the cause of your death.
Such an idea in the case of a complete stranger would fill me with
despair; judge of what I feel when I picture to myself that a friend,
whose unreasonableness gives me serious cause for complaint, but whom,
after all, I have been seeing every day for so long, is at this very
moment a victim to the pangs of death. At times I feel the need to
know from your own lips that you are alive.

"It was to escape from this frightful grief that I have just lowered
myself so far as to ask a favour of a subordinate who might have
refused it me, and may yet betray me. For that matter, I should
perhaps be happy were he to come and denounce me to my father; at once
I should leave for the convent, I should no longer be the most
unwilling accomplice of your cruel folly. But, believe me, this cannot
go on for long, you will obey the Duchessa's orders. Are you
satisfied, cruel friend? It is I who am begging you to betray my
father. Call Grillo, and give him a present."

Fabrizio was so deeply in love, the simplest expression of Clelia's
wishes plunged him in such fear that even this strange communication
gave him no certainty that he was loved. He summoned Grillo, whom he
paid generously for his services in the past, and, as for the future,
told him that for every day on which he allowed him to make use of the
opening cut in the screen, he should receive a sequin. Grillo was
delighted with these terms.

"I am going to speak to you with my hand on my heart, Monsignore; will
you submit to eating your dinner cold every day? It is a very simple
way of avoiding poison. But I ask you to use the utmost discretion; a
gaoler has to see everything and know nothing," and so on. "Instead of
one dog, I shall have several, and you yourself will make them taste
all the dishes that you propose to eat; as for wine, I will give you
my own, and you will touch only the bottles from which I have drunk.
But if Your Excellency wishes to ruin me for ever, he has merely got
to repeat these details even to Signorina Clelia; women will always be
women; if to-morrow she quarrels with you, the day after, to have her
revenge, she will tell the whole story to her father, whose greatest
joy would be to find an excuse for having a gaoler hanged. After
Barbone, he is perhaps the wickedest creature in the fortress, and
that is where the real danger of your position lies; he knows how to
handle poison, you may be sure of that, and he would never forgive me
this idea of having three or four little dogs."

There was another serenade. This time Grillo answered all Fabrizio's
questions: he had indeed promised himself always to be prudent, and
not to betray Signorina Clelia, who according to him, while on the
point of marrying the Marchese Crescenzi, the richest man in the
States of Parma, was nevertheless making love, so far as the prison
walls allowed, to the charming Monsignore del Dongo. He had answered
the latter's final questions as to the serenade, when he was fool
enough to add: "They think that he will marry her soon." One may judge
of the effect of this simple statement on Fabrizio.

That night he replied to the signals of the lamp only to say that he
was ill. The following morning, at ten o'clock, Clelia having appeared
in the aviary, he asked her in a tone of ceremonious politeness which
was quite novel between them, why she had not told him frankly that
she was in love with the Marchese Crescenzi, and that she was on the
point of marrying him.

"Because there is not a word of truth in the story," replied Clelia
with impatience. It is true, however, that the rest of her answer was
less precise: Fabrizio pointed this out to her, and took advantage of
it to repeat his request for a meeting. Clelia, seeing a doubt cast
on her sincerity, granted his request almost at once, reminding him
at the same time that she was dishonouring herself for ever in
Grillo's eyes. That evening, when it was quite dark, she appeared,
accompanied by her maid, in the black marble chapel; she stopped in
the middle, by the sanctuary lamp; the maid and Grillo retired thirty
paces towards the door. Clelia, who was trembling all over, had
prepared a fine speech: her object was to make no compromising
admission, but the logic of passion is insistent; the profound
interest which it feels in knowing the truth does not allow it to keep
up vain pretences, while at the same time the extreme devotion that it
feels to the object of its love takes from it the fear of giving
offence. Fabrizio was dazzled at first by Clelia's beauty; for nearly
eight months he had seen no one at such close range except gaolers.
But the name of the Marchese Crescenzi revived all his fury, it
increased when he saw quite clearly that Clelia was answering him only
with tactful circumspection; Clelia herself realised that she was
increasing his suspicions instead of dissipating them. This sensation
was too cruel for her to bear.

"Will you be really glad," she said to him with a sort of anger and
with tears in her eyes, "to have made me exceed all the bounds of what
I owe to myself? Until the third of August last year I had never felt
anything but aversion towards the men who sought to attract me. I had
a boundless and probably exaggerated contempt for the character of the
courtier, everyone who flourished at that court revolted me. I found,
on the other hand, singular qualities in a prisoner who, on the third
of August, was brought to this citadel. I felt, without noticing them
at first, all the torments of jealousy. The attractions of a charming
woman, and one whom I knew well, were like daggers thrust into my
heart, because I believed, and I am still inclined to believe that
this prisoner was attached to her. Presently the persecutions of the
Marchese Crescenzi, who had sought my hand, were redoubled; he is
extremely rich, and we have no fortune. I was rejecting them with the
greatest boldness when my father uttered the fatal word convent; I
realised that, if I left the citadel, I would no longer be able to
watch over the life of the prisoner in whose fate I was interested.
The triumph of my precautions had been that until that moment he had
not the slightest suspicion of the appalling dangers that were
threatening his life. I had promised myself never to betray either my
father or my secret; but that woman of an admirable activity, a
superior intelligence, a terrible will, who is protecting this
prisoner, offered him, or so I suppose, means of escape: he rejected
them, and sought to persuade me that he was refusing to leave the
citadel in order not to be separated from me. Then I made a great
mistake, I fought with myself for five days; I ought at once to have
fled to the convent and to have left the fortress: that course offered
me a very simple method of breaking with the Marchese Crescenzi. I
had not the courage to leave the fortress, and I am a ruined girl: I
have attached myself to a fickle man: I know what his conduct was at
Naples; and what reason should I have to believe that his character
has altered? Shut up in a harsh prison, he has paid his court to the
one woman he could see; she has been a distraction from the dulness of
his life. As he could speak to her only with a certain amount of
difficulty, this amusement has assumed the false appearance of a
passion. This prisoner, having made a name for himself in the world by
his courage, imagines himself to be proving that his love is something
more than a passing fancy by exposing himself to considerable dangers
in order to continue to see the person whom he thinks that he loves.
But as soon as he is in a big town, surrounded once more by the
seductions of society, he will once more become what he has always
been, a man of the world given to dissipation, to gallantry; and his
poor prison companion will end her days in a convent, fogotten by this
light-hearted creature, and with the undying regret that she has made
him an avowal."

This historic speech, of which we give only the principal points,
was, as one may imagine, interrupted a score of times by Fabrizio. He
was desperately in love; also he was perfectly convinced that he had
never loved before seeing Clelia, and that the destiny of his life was
to live for her alone.

The reader will no doubt imagine the fine speeches that he was making
when the maid warned her mistress that half past eleven had struck,
and that the General might return at any moment; the parting was
cruel.

"I am seeing you perhaps for the last time," said Celia to the
prisoner: "a proceeding which is evidently in the interest of the
Raversi cabal may furnish you with a cruel fashion of proving that you
are not inconstant." Clelia parted from Fabrizio choked by her sobs
and dying with shame at not being able to hide them entirely from her
maid, nor, what was worse, from the gaoler Grillo. A second
conversation was possible only when the General should announce his
intention of spending an evening in society: and as, since
Fabrizio's imprisonment, and the interest which it inspired in the
curious courtiers, he had found it prudent to afflict himself with an
almost continuous attack of gout, his excursions to the town,
subjected to the requirements of an astute policy, were decided upon
often only at the moment of his getting into the carriage.

After this evening in the marble chapel, Fabrizio's life was a
succession of transports of joy. Serious obstacles, it was true,
seemed still to stand in the way of his happiness; but now at last he
had that supreme and scarcely hoped-for joy of being loved by the
divine creature who occupied all his thoughts.

On the third evening after this conversation, the signals from the
lamp finished quite early, almost at midnight; at the moment of their
coming to an end Fabrizio almost had his skull broken by a huge ball
of lead which, thrown over the top of the screen of his window, came
crashing through its paper panes and fell into his room.

This huge ball was not nearly so heavy as appeared from its size.
Fabrizio easily succeeded in opening it, and found inside a letter
from the Duchessa. By the intervention of the Archbishop, to whom she
paid sedulous attention, she had won over to her side a soldier in the
garrison of the citadel. This man, a skilled slinger, had eluded the
sentries posted at the corners and outside the door of the governor's
palazzo, or had come to terms with them.

"You must escape with cords: I shudder as I give you this strange
advice, I have been hesitating, for two whole months and more, to tell
you this; but the official outlook grows darker every day, and one
must be prepared for the worst. This being so, start signalling again
at once with your lamp, to shew us that you have received this letter;
send _P--B--G ala Monaca_, that is four, three and two: I shall not
breathe until I have seen this signal. I am on the tower, we shall
answer _N--O_, that is seven and five. On receiving the answer send no
other signal, and attend to nothing but the meaning of my letter."

Fabrizio made haste to obey and sent the arranged signals, which were
followed by the promised reply; then he went on reading the letter:

"We may be prepared for the worst; so I have been told by the three
men in whom I have the greatest confidence, after I had made them
swear on the Gospel that they would tell me the truth, however cruel
it might be to me. The first of these men threatened the surgeon who
betrayed you at Ferrara that he would fall upon him with an open knife
in his hand; the second told you, on your return from Belgirate, that
it would have been more strictly prudent to take your pistol and shoot
the footman who came singing through the wood leading a fine horse,
but a trifle thin; you do not know the third: he is a highway robber
of my acquaintance, a man of action if ever there was one, and as full
of courage as yourself; that is chiefly why I asked him to tell me
what you ought to do. All three of them assured me, without knowing,
any of them, that I was consulting the other two, that it was better
to risk breaking your neck than to spend eleven years and four months
in the continual fear of a highly probable poison.

"You must for the next month practise in your cell climbing up and
down on a knotted cord. Then, on the night of some _festa_ when the
garrison of the citadel will have received an extra ration of wine,
you will make the great attempt; you shall have three cords of silk
and canvas, of the thickness of a swan's quill, the first of eighty
feet to come down the thirty-five feet from the window to the orange
trees; the second of three hundred feet, and that is where the
difficulty will be on account of the weight, to come down the hundred
and eighty feet which is the height of the wall of the great tower; a
third of thirty feet will help you to climb down the rampart. I spend
my life studying the great wall from the east, that is from the
direction of Ferrara: a gap due to an earthquake has been filled by
means of a buttress which forms an _inclined plane_. My highway robber
assures me that he would undertake to climb down on that side without
any great difficulty and at the risk only of a few scratches, by
letting himself slide along the inclined plane formed by this
buttress. The vertical drop is no more than twenty-eight feet, right
at the bottom: that side is the least carefully guarded.

"However, all things considered, my robber, who has escaped three
times from prison, and whom you would love if you knew him, though he
abominates people of your class; my highway robber, I say, as agile
and nimble as yourself, thinks that he would rather come down on the
west side, exactly opposite the little _palazzo_ formerly occupied by
Fausta, which you know well. What would make him choose that side is
that the wall, although very slightly inclined, is covered almost
all the way down with shrubs; there are twigs on it, as thick as your
little finger, which may easily scratch you if you do not take care,
but are also excellent things to hold on to. Only this morning I
examined this west side with an excellent telescope: the place to
choose is precisely beneath a new stone which was fixed in the parapet
two or three years ago. Directly beneath this stone you will find
first of all a bare space of some twenty feet; you must go very slowly
down this (you can imagine how my heart shudders in giving you these
terrible instructions, but courage consists in knowing how to choose
the lesser evil, frightful as it may be) ; after the bare space, you
will find eighty or ninety feet of quite big shrubs, out of which one
can see birds flying, then a space of thirty feet where there is
nothing but grass, wall-flowers and creepers. Then, as you come near
the ground, twenty feet of shrubs, and last of all twenty-five or
thirty feet recently plastered.

"What would make me choose this side is that there, directly
underneath the new stone in the parapet on top, there is a wooden hut
built by a soldier in his garden, which the engineer captain employed
at the fortress is trying to force him to pull down; it is seventeen
feet high, and is roofed with thatch, and the roof touches the great
wall of the citadel. It is this roof that tempts me; in the dreadful
event of an accident, it would break your fall. Once you have reached
this point, you are within the circle of the ramparts, which are none
too carefully guarded; if they arrest you there, fire your pistol and
put up a fight for a few minutes. Your friend of Ferrara and another
stout-hearted man, he whom I call the highway robber, will have
ladders, and will not hesitate to scale this quite low rampart, and
fly to your rescue.

"The rampart is only twenty-three feet high, and is built on an easy
slope. I shall be at the foot of this last wall with a good number of
armed men.

"I hope to be able to send you five or six letters by the same channel
as this. I shall continue to repeat the same things in different
words, so that we may fully understand one another. You can guess with
what feelings I tell you that the man who said: '_Shoot the footman_,'
who, after all, is the best of men, and is dying of compunction,
thinks that you will get away with a broken arm. The highway robber,
who has a wider experience of this sort of expedition, thinks that, if
you will climb down very carefully, and, above all, without hurrying,
your liberty need cost you only a few scratches. The great difficulty
is to supply the cords; and this is what has been occupying my whole
mind during the last fortnight, in which this great idea has taken up
all my time.

"I make no answer to that mad signal, the only stupid thing you have
ever said in your life: 'I do not wish to escape!' The man who said:
'Shoot the footman,' exclaimed that boredom had driven you mad. I
shall not attempt to hide from you that we fear a very imminent
danger, which will perhaps hasten the day of your flight. To warn you
of this danger, the lamp will signal several times in succession:

_The castle has taken fire_. You will reply:

_Are my books burned_?"

This letter contained five or six pages more of details; it was
written in a microscopic hand on the thinnest paper.

"All that is very fine and very well thought out," Fabrizio said to
himself; "I owe an eternal debt of gratitude to the Conte and the
Duchessa; they will think perhaps that I am afraid, but I shall not
try to escape. Did anyone ever escape from a place where he was at the
height of happiness, to go and cast himself into a horrible exile
where everything would be lacking, including air to breathe? What
should I do after a month at Florence? I should put on a disguise to
come and prowl round the gate of this fortress, and try to intercept a
glance!"

Next day Fabrizio had an alarm; he was at his window, about eleven
o'clock, admiring the magnificent view and awaiting the happy moment
when he should see Clelia, when Grillo came breathless into his cell:

"Quick, quick, Monsignore! Fling yourself on your bed, pretend to be
ill; there are three judges coming up! They are going to question you:
think well before you speak; they have come to _entangle_ you."

So saying, Grillo made haste to shut the little trap in the screen,
thrust Fabrizio on to his bed and piled two or three cloaks on top of
him.

"Tell them that you are very ill, and don't say much; above all make
them repeat their questions, so as to have time to think."

The three judges entered. "Three escaped gaolbirds," thought Fabrizio
on seeing their vile faces, "not three judges." They wore long black
gowns. They bowed gravely and took possession, without saying a word,
of the three chairs that were in the room.

"Signor Fabrizio del Dongo," said the eldest of the three, We are
pained by the sad duty which we have come to you to perform. We are
here to announce to you the decease of His Excellency the Signor
Marchese del Dongo, your father, Second Grand Majordomo Major of the
Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom, Knight Grand Cross of the Orders of ----" a
string of titles followed. Fabrizio burst into tears. The judge went
on:

"The Signora Marchesa del Bongo, your mother, informs you of this
event by a letter missive; but as she has added to the fact certain
improper reflexions, by a decree issued yesterday, the Court of
Justice has decided that her letter shall be communicated to you only
by extract, and it is this extract which the Recorder Bona is now
going to read to you."

This reading finished, the judge came across to Fabrizio, who was
still lying down, and made him follow on his mother's letter the
passages of which copies had been read to him. Fabrizio saw in the
letter the words _unjust imprisonment, cruel punishment for a crime
which is no crime at all_, and understood what had inspired the
judges' visit. However, in his contempt for magistrates without
honour, he did not actually say to them any more than:

"I am ill, gentlemen, I am dying of weakness, and you will excuse me
if I do not rise."

When the judges had gone, Fabrizio wept again copiously, then said to
himself: "Am I a hypocrite? I used to think that I did not love him at
all."

On that day and the days that followed Clelia was very sad; she called
him several times, but had barely the courage to say a few words. On
the morning of the fifth day after their first meeting, she told him
that she would come that evening to the marble chapel.

"I can only say a few words to you," she told him as she entered. She
trembled so much that she had to lean on her maid. After sending the
woman to wait at the chapel door: "You are going to give me your word
of honour," she went on in a voice that was barely audible, "you are
going to give me your word of honour that you will obey the Duchessa,
and will attempt to escape on the day when she orders you and in the
way that she will indicate to you, or else to-morrow morning I fly to
a convent, and I swear to you here and now that never in my life will
I utter a word to you again."

Fabrizio remained silent.

"Promise," said Clelia, the tears starting to her eyes and apparently
quite beside herself, "or else we converse here for the last time. The
life you have made me lead is intolerable: you are here on my account,
and each day is perhaps the last of your existence." At this stage
Clelia became so weak that she was obliged to seek the support of an
enormous armchair that had originally stood in the middle of the
chapel, for the use of the prisoner-prince; she was almost fainting.

"What must I promise?" asked Fabrizio with a beaten air.

"You know."

"I swear then to cast myself deliberately into a terrible disaster,
and to condemn myself to live far from all that I love in the world."

"Make a definite promise."

"I swear to obey the Duchessa and to make my escape on the day she
wishes and as she wishes. And what is to become of me once I am parted
from you?"

"Swear to escape, whatever may happen to you."

"What! Have you made up your mind to marry the Marchese Crescenzi as
soon as I am no longer here?"

"Oh, heavens! What sort of heart do you think I have? ... But
swear, or I shall not have another moment's peace."

"Very well, I swear to escape from here on the day on which Signora
Sanseverina shall order me to do so, and whatever may happen to me
between now and then."

This oath obtained, Clelia became so faint that she was obliged to
retire after thanking Fabrizio.

"Everything was in readiness for my flight to-morrow morning," she
told him, "had you persisted in refusing. I should have beheld you at
this moment for the last time in my life, I had vowed that to the
Madonna. Now, as soon as I can leave my room, I shall go and examine
the terrible wall beneath the new stone in the parapet."

On the following day he found her so pale that he was keenly
distressed. She said to him from the aviary window:

"Let us be under no illusion, my dear friend; as there is sin in our
friendship, I have no doubt that misfortune will come to us. You will
be discovered while seeking to make your escape, and ruined for ever,
if it is no worse; however, we must satisfy the demands of human
prudence, it orders us to leave nothing untried. You will need, to
climb down the outside of the great tower, a strong cord more than two
hundred feet long. In spite of all the efforts I have made since I
learned of the Duchessa's plan, I have only been able to procure cords
that together amount to barely fifty feet. By a standing order of the
governor, all cords that may be seen in the fortress are burned, and
every evening they remove the well-ropes, which for that matter are so
frail that they often break when drawing up the light weight attached
to them. But pray God to forgive me, I am betraying my father, and
working, unnatural girl that I am, to cause him undying grief. Pray to
God for me, and, if your life is saved, make a vow to consecrate every
moment of it to His Glory.

"This is an idea that has come to me: in a week from now I shall leave
the citadel to be present at the wedding of one of the Marchese
Crescenzi's sisters. I shall come back that night, as I must, but I
shall try in every possible way not to come in until very late, and
perhaps Barbone will not dare to examine me too closely. All the
greatest ladies of the court will be at this wedding of the Marchese's
sister, and no doubt Signora Sanseverina among them. In heaven's name,
make one of these ladies give me a parcel of cords tightly packed, not
too large, and reduced to the smallest possible bulk. Were I to expose
myself to a thousand deaths I shall employ every means, even the most
dangerous, to introduce this parcel of cords into the citadel, in
defiance, alas, of all my duties. If my father comes to hear of it, I
shall never see you again; but whatever may be the fate that is in
store for me, I shall be happy within the bounds of a sisterly
friendship if I can help to save you."

That same evening, by their nocturnal correspondence with the lamps,
Fabrizio gave the Duchessa warning of the unique opportunity that
would shortly arise of conveying into the citadel a sufficient length
of cord. But he begged her to keep this secret even from the Conte,
which seemed to her odd. "He is mad," thought the Duchessa, "prison
has altered him, he is taking things in a tragic spirit." Next day a
ball of lead, thrown by the slinger, brought the prisoner news of the
greatest possible peril; the person who undertook to convey the
cords, he was told, would be literally saving his life. Fabrizio
hastened to give this news to Clelia. This leaden ball brought him
also a very careful drawing of the western wall by which he was to
climb down from the top of the great tower into the space enclosed
within the bastions; from this point it was then quite easy to escape,
the ramparts being, as we know, only twenty-three feet in height. On
the back of the plan was written in an exquisite hand a magnificent
sonnet: a generous soul exhorted Fabrizio to take flight, and not to
allow his soul to be debased and his body destroyed by the eleven
years of captivity which he had still to undergo.

At this point a detail which is essential and will explain in part the
courage that the Duchessa had found to recommend to Fabrizo so
dangerous a flight, obliges us to interrupt for a moment the history
of this bold enterprise.

Like all parties which are not in power, the Raversi party was not
closely united. Cavaliere Riscara detested the Fiscal Rassi, whom he
accused of having made him lose an important suit in which, as a
matter of fact, he, Riscara, had been in the wrong. From Riscara the
Prince received an anonymous message informing him that a copy of
Fabrizio's sentence had been officially addressed to the governor of
the citadel. The Marchesa Raversi, that skilled party leader, was
extremely annoyed by this false move, and at once sent word of it to
her friend the Fiscal General; she found it quite natural that he
should have wished to secure something from the Minister Mosca while
Mosca remained in power. Rassi presented himself boldly at the Palace,
thinking that he would get out of the scrape with a few kicks; the
Prince could not dispense with a talented jurist, and Rassi had
procured the banishment as Liberals of a judge and a barrister, the
only two men in the country who could have taken his place.

The Prince, beside himself with rage, hurled insults at him and
advanced upon him to strike him.

"Why, it is only a clerk's mistake," replied Rassi with the utmost
coolness; "the procedure is laid down by the law, it should have been
done the day after Signor del Dongo was confined in the citadel. The
clerk in his zeal thought it had been forgotten, and must have made me
sign the covering letter as a formality."

"And you expect to take me in with a clumsy lie like that?" cried the
Prince in a fury; "why not confess that you have sold yourself to that
rascal Mosca, and that this is why he gave you the Cross. But, by
heaven, you shall not escape with a thrashing: I shall have you
brought to justice, I shall disgrace you publicly."

"I defy you to bring me to justice," replied Rassi with assurance;
he knew that this was a sure way of calming the Prince: "the law is on
my side, and you have not a second Rassi to find you a way round it.
You will not disgrace me, because there are moments when your nature
is severe; you then feel a thirst for blood, but at the same time you
seek to retain the esteem of reasonable Italians; that esteem is a
_sine qua non_ for your ambition. And so you will recall me for the
first act of severity of which your nature makes you feel the need,
and as usual I shall procure you a quite regular sentence passed by
timid judges who are fairly honest men, which will satisfy your
passions. Find another man in your States as useful as myself!"

So saying, Rassi fled; he had got out of his scrape with a sharp
reprimand and half-a-dozen kicks. On leaving the Palace he started for
his estate of Riva; he had some fear of a dagger-thrust in the first
impulse of anger, but had no doubt that within a fortnight a courier
would summon him back to the capital. He employed the time which he
spent in the country in organising a safe method of correspondence
with Conte Mosca; he was madly in love with the title of Barone, and
felt that the Prince made too much of that sublime thing, nobility,
ever to confer it upon him; whereas the Conte, extremely proud of his
own birth, respected nothing but nobility proved by titles anterior
by the year 1400.

The Fiscal General had not been out in his forecast: he had been
barely eight days on his estate when a friend of the Prince, who came
there by chance, advised him to return to Parma without delay; the
Prince received him with a laugh, then assumed a highly serious air,
and made him swear on the Gospel that he would keep secret what was
going to be confided to him. Rassi swore with great solemnity, and
the Prince, his eye inflamed by hatred, cried that he would no longer
be master in his own house so long as Fabrizio del Dongo was alive.

"I cannot," he went on, "either drive the Duchessa away or endure her
presence; her eyes defy me and destroy my life."

Having allowed the Prince to explain himself at great length, Rassi,
affecting extreme embarrassment, finally exclaimed:

"Your Highness shall be obeyed, of course, but the matter is one of a
horrible difficulty: there is no possibility of condemning a del
Dongo to death for the murder of a Giletti; it is already a masterly
stroke to have made twelve years' imprisonment out of it. Besides, I
suspect the Duchessa of having discovered three of the _contadini_ who
were employed on the excavations at Sanguigna, and were outside the
trench at the moment when that brigand Giletti attacked del Dongo."

"And where are these witnesses?" said the Prince, irritated.

"Hiding in Piedmont, I suppose. It would require a conspiracy
against Your Highness's life. ..."

"There is a danger in that," said the Prince, "it makes people think
of the reality."

"Well," said Rassi with a feint of innocence, "that is all my official
arsenal."

"There remains poison...."

"But who is to give it? Not that imbecile Conte?" "From what one
hears, it would not be his first attempt. ..."

"He would have to be roused to anger first," Rassi went on; "and
besides, when he made away with the captain he was not thirty, and he
was in love, and infinitely less of a coward than he is in these days.
No doubt, everything must give way to reasons of State; but, taken
unawares like this and at first sight, I can see no one to carry out
the Sovereign's orders but a certain Barbone, registry clerk in the
prison, whom Signor del Dongo knocked down with a cuff in the face on
the day of his admission there."

Once the Prince had been put at his ease, the conversation was
endless; he brought it to a close by granting his Fiscal General a
month in which to act; Rassi wished for two. Next day he received a
secret present of a thousand sequins. For three days he reflected;
on the fourth he returned to his original conclusion, which seemed to
him self-evident: "Conte Mosca alone will have the heart to keep his
word to me, because, in making me a Barone, he does not give me
anything that he respects; secondly, by warning him, I save myself
probably from a crime for which I am more or less paid in advance;
thirdly, I have my revenge for the first humiliating blows which
Cavaliere Rassi has received." The following night he communicated to
Conte Mosca the whole of his conversation with the Prince.

The Conte was secretly paying his court to the Duchessa; it is quite
true that he still did not see her in her own house more than once or
twice in a month, but almost every week, and whenever he managed to
create an occasion for speaking of Fabrizio, the Duchessa, accompanied
by Cecchina, would come, late in the evening, to spend a few moments
in the Conte's gardens. She managed even to deceive her coachman,
who was devoted to her, and believed her to be visiting a neighbouring
house.

One may imagine whether the Conte, after receiving the Fiscal's
terrible confidence, at once made the signal arranged between them to
the Duchessa. Although it was the middle of the night, she begged him
by Cecchina to come to her for a moment. The Conte, enraptured,
lover-like, by this prospect of intimate converse, yet hesitated
before telling the Duchessa everything. He was afraid of seeing her
driven mad by grief.

After first seeking veiled words in which to mitigate the fatal
announcement, he ended by telling her all; it was not in his power to
keep a secret which she asked of him. In the last nine months her
extreme misery had had a great influence on this ardent soul, this had
fortified her courage, and she did not give way to sobs or
lamentations. On the following evening she sent Fabrizio the signal of
great danger:

"_The castle has taken fire_."

He made the appropriate reply:

"_Are my books burned_?"

The same night she was fortunate enough to have a letter conveyed to
him in a leaden ball. It was a week after this that the marriage of
the Marchese Crescenzi's sister was celebrated, when the Duchessa
was guilty of an enormously rash action of which we shall give an
account in its proper place.




CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Almost a year before the time of these calamities the Duchessa had
made a singular acquaintance: one day when she had the _luna_, as they
say in those parts, she had gone suddenly, towards evening, to her
villa of Sacca, situated on the farther side of Colorno, on the hill
commanding the Po. She was amusing herself in improving this property;
she loved the vast forest which crowned the hill and reached to the
house; she spent her time laying out paths in picturesque directions.

"You will have yourself carried off by brigands, fair Duchessa," the
Prince said to her one day; "it is impossible that a forest in which
it is known that you take the air should remain deserted." The Prince
threw a glance at the Conte, whose jealousy he hoped to quicken.

"I have no fear, Serene Highness," replied the Duchessa with an
innocent air, "when I go walking in my woods; I reassure myself with
this thought: I have done no harm to anyone, who is there that could
hate me?" This speech was considered daring, it recalled the insults
offered by the Liberals of the country, who were most insolent
people.

On the day of the walk in question, the Prince's words came back to
the mind of the Duchessa as she observed a very ill-dressed man who
was following her at a distance through the woods. At a sudden turn
which she took in the course of her walk, this person came so near her
that she felt alarmed. Her first impulse was to call her game-keeper
whom she had left half a mile away, in the flower-garden close to the
house. The stranger had time to overtake her and fling himself at her
feet. He was young, extremely good looking, but horribly badly
dressed; his clothes had rents in them a foot long, but his eyes
burned with the fire of an ardent soul.

"I am under sentence of death, I am the physician, Ferrante Palla, I
am dying of hunger, I and my five children."

The Duchessa had noticed that he was terribly thin; but his eyes were
so fine, and filled with so tender an exaltation that they took from
him any suggestion of crime. "Pallagi," she thought, "might well have
given eyes like those ,to the Saint John in the Desert he has just
placed in the Cathedral." The idea of Saint John was suggested to her
by the incredible thinness of the vagabond. The Duchessa gave him
three sequins which she had in her purse, with an apology for
offering him so little, because she had just paid her gardener's
account. Ferrante thanked her effusively. "Alas!" he said to her,
"once I lived in towns, I used to see beautiful women; now that in
fulfilment of my duties as a citizen I have had myself sentenced to
death, I live in the woods, and I was following you, not to demand
alms of you nor to rob you, but like a savage fascinated by an angelic
beauty. It is so long since I last saw a pair of lovely white hands."

"Rise, then," the Duchessa told him; for he had remained on his knees.

"Allow me to remain like this," said Ferrante; "this posture proves
to me that I am not for the present engaged in robbery, and that
soothes me; for you must know that I steal to live, now that I am
prevented from practising my profession. But at this moment I am
only a simple mortal who is adoring sublime beauty." The Duchessa
gathered that he was slightly mad, but she was not at all afraid; she
saw in the eyes of the man that he had a good and ardent soul, and
besides she had no objection to extraordinary physiognomies.

"I am a physician, then, and I was making love to the wife of the
apothecary Sarasine of Parma: he took us by surprise and drove us
from the house, with three children whom he supposed, and rightly, to
be mine and not his. I have had two since then. The mother and five
children are living in the direst poverty in a sort of hut which I
built with my own hands a league from here, in the wood. For I have to
keep away from the police, and the poor woman refuses to be parted
from me. I was sentenced to death, and quite justly; I was conspiring.
I abominate the Prince, who is a tyrant. I did not fly the country,
for want of money. My misfortunes have greatly increased, and I ought
to have killed myself a thousand times over; I no longer love the
unhappy woman who has borne me these five children and has ruined
herself for me; I love another. But if I kill myself, the five
children will literally starve to death." The man spoke with an accent
of sincerity.

"But how do you live?" inquired the Duchessa, moved to compassion.

"The children's mother spins; the eldest girl is kept in a farm by
some Liberals, where she tends the sheep; I am a highwayman on the
road between Piacenza and Genoa."

"How do you harmonise highway robbery with your Liberal principles?"

"I keep a note of the people I rob, and if ever I have anything I
shall restore to them the sums I have taken. I consider that a
Tribune of the People like myself is performing work which, in view of
its danger, is well worth a hundred francs monthly; and so I am
careful not to take more than twelve hundred francs in a year.

"No, I am wrong, I steal a small sum in addition, for in that way I am
able to meet the cost of printing my works."

"What works?"

"_Is ------ ever to have a Chamber and a Budget_?"

"What," said the Duchessa in amazement, "it is you, Sir, who are one
of the greatest poets of the age, the famous Ferrante Palla?"

"Famous perhaps, but most unfortunate; that is certain."

"And a man of your talent, Sir, is obliged to steal in order to live?"

"That is perhaps the calling for which I have some talent. Hitherto
all our authors who have made themselves famous have been men paid by
the government or the religion that they sought to undermine. I, in
the first place, risk my life; in the second place, think, Signora, of
the reflexions that disturb my mind when I go out to rob! Am I in the
right, I ask myself. Does the office of Tribune render services that
are really worth a hundred francs a month? I have two shirts, the coat
in which you see me, a few worthless weapons, and I am sure to end by
the rope; I venture to think that I am disinterested. I should be
happy but for this fatal love which allows me to find only misery now
in the company of the mother of my children. Poverty weighs upon me
because it is ugly: I like fine clothes, white hands...."

He looked at the Duchessa's in such a fashion that fear seized hold of
her.

"Good-bye, Sir," she said to him: "can I be of any service to you in
Parma?"

"Think sometimes of this question: his task is to awaken men's hearts
and to prevent them from falling asleep in that false and wholly
material happiness which is given by monarchies. Is the service that
he renders to his fellow-citzens worth a hundred francs a month? ...
My misfortune is that I am in love," he said in the gentlest of tones,
"and for nearly two years my heart has been occupied by you alone, but
until now I have seen you without alarming you." And he took to his
heels with a prodigious swiftness which astonished the Duchessa and
reassured her. "The police would have hard work to catch him," she
thought; "he must be mad, after all."

"He is mad," her servants informed her; "we have all known for a long
time that the poor man was in love with the Signora; when the Signora
is here we see him wandering in the highest parts of the woods, and as
soon as the Signora has gone he never fails to come and sit in the
very places where she has rested; he is careful to pick up any flowers
that may have dropped from her nosegay and keeps them for a long time
fastened in his battered hat."

"And you have never spoken to me of these eccentricities," said the
Duchessa, almost in a tone of reproach.

"We were afraid that the Signora might tell the Minister Mosca. Poor
Ferrante is such a good fellow! He has never done harm to anyone, and
because he loves our Napoleon they have sentenced him to death."

She said no word to the Minister of this meeting, and, as in four
years it was the first secret that she had kept from him, a dozen
times she was obliged to stop short in the middle of a sentence. She
returned to Sacca with a store of gold. Ferrante shewed no sign of
life. She came again a fortnight later: Ferrante, after following her
for some time, bounding through the wood at a distance of a hundred
yards, fell upon her with the swiftness of a hawk, and flung himself
at her feet as on the former occasion.

"Where were you a fortnight ago?"

"In the mountains, beyond Novi, robbing the muleteers who were
returning from Milan where they had been selling oil."

"Take this purse."

Ferrante opened the purse, took from it a sequin which he kissed and
thrust into his bosom, then handed it back to her.

"You give me back this purse, and you are a robber!"

"Certainly; my rule is that I must. never possess more than a hundred
francs; now, at this moment, the mother of my children has eight
francs, and I have twenty-five; I am five francs to the bad, and if
they were to hang me now I should feel remorse. I have taken this
sequin because it comes from you and I love you."

The intonation of this very simple speech was perfect. "He does really
love," the Duchessa said to herself.

That day he appeared quite distracted. He said that there were in
Parma people who owed him six hundred francs, and that with that sum
he could repair his hut in which now his poor children were catching
cold.

"But I will make you a loan of those six hundred francs," said the
Duchessa, genuinely moved.

"But then I, a public man--will not the opposite party have a chance
to slander me, and say that I am selling myself?"

The Duchessa, in compassion, offered him a hiding-place in Parma if he
would swear that for the time being he would not exercise his
magistrature in that city, and above all would not carry out any of
those sentences of death which, he said, he had _in petto_.

"And if they hang me, as a result of my rashness," said Ferrante
gravely, "all those scoundrels, who are so obnoxious to the People,
will live for long years to come, and by whose fault? What will my
father say to me when he greets me up above?"

The Duchessa spoke to him at length of his young children, to whom
the damp might give fatal illnesses; he ended by accepting the offer
of the hiding place in Parma.

The Duca Sanseverina, during the solitary half-day which he had spent
in Parma after his marriage, had shewn the Duchessa a highly singular
hiding place which exists in the southern corner of the _palazzo_ of
that name. The wall in front, which dates from the middle ages, is
eight feet thick; it has been hollowed out inside, so as to provide a
secret chamber twenty feet in height but only two in width. It is
close to where the visitor admires the reservoir mentioned in all the
accounts of travels, a famous work of the twelfth century, constructed
at the time of the siege of Parma by the Emperor Sigismund, and
afterwards enclosed within the walls of the _palazzo_ Sanseverina.

One enters the hiding place by turning an enormous stone on an iron
axis which runs through the middle of the block.

The Duchessa was so profoundly touched by Ferrante's madness and by
the hard lot of his children, for whom he obstinately refused every
present of any value, that she allowed him to make use of this hiding
place for a considerable time. She saw him again a month later, still
in the woods of Sacca, and as on this occasion he was a little more
calm, he recited to her one of his sonnets which seemed to her equal
if not superior to any of the finest work written in Italy in the last
two centuries. Ferrante obtained several interviews; but his love grew
exalted, became importunate, and the Duchessa perceived that this
passion was obeying the laws of all love-affairs in which one
conceives the possibility of a ray of hope. She sent him back to the
woods, forbade him to speak to her again: he obeyed immediately and
with a perfect docility. Things had reached this point when Fabrizio
was arrested. Three days later, at nightfall, a Capuchin presented
himself at the door of the _palazzo_ Sanseverina; he had, he said, an
important secret to communicate to the lady of the house. She was so
wretched that she had him admitted: it was Ferrante. "There is
happening here a fresh iniquity of which the Tribune of the people
ought to take cognisance," this man mad with love said to her. "On the
other hand, acting as a private citizen," he added, "I can give the
Signora Duchessa Sanseverina nothing but my life, and I lay it before
her."

So sincere a devotion on the part of a robber and madman touched the
Duchessa keenly. She talked for some time to this man who was
considered the greatest poet in the North of Italy, and wept freely.
"Here is a man who understands my heart," she said to herself. The
following day he reappeared, again at the _Ave Maria_, disguised as a
servant and wearing livery.

"I have not left Parma: I have heard tell of an atrocity which my lips
shall not repeat; but here I am. Think, Signora, of what you are
refusing! The being you see before you is not a doll of the court, he
is a man!" He was on his knees as he uttered these words with an air
which made them tell. "Yesterday I said to myself," he went on: "She
has wept in my presence; therefore she is a little less unhappy."

"But, Sir, think of the dangers that surround you, you will be
arrested in this town!"

"The Tribune will say to you: Signora, what is life when duty calls?
The unhappy man, who has the grief of no longer feeling any passion
for virtue now that he is burning with love, will add: Signora
Duchessa, Fabrizio, a man of feeling, is perhaps about to perish, do
not repulse another man of feeling who offers himself to you! Here is
a body of iron and a heart which fears nothing in the world but your
displeasure."

"If you speak to me again of your feelings, I close my door to you for
ever."

It occurred to the Duchessa, that evening, to announce to Ferrante
that she would make a small allowance to his children, but she was
afraid that he would go straight from the house and kill himself.

No sooner had he left her than, filled with gloomy presentiments,
she said to herself: "I too, I may die, and would to God I might, and
that soon! If I found a man worthy of the name to whom to commend my
poor Fabrizio."

An idea struck the Duchessa: she took a sheet of paper and drafted an
acknowledgment, into which she introduced the few legal terms that she
knew, that she had received from Signor Ferrante Palla the sum of
25,000 francs, on the express condition of paying every year a
life-rent of 1,500 francs to Signora Sarasine and her five children.
The Duchessa added: "In addition, I bequeath a life-rent of 300
francs to each of these five children, on condition that Ferrante
Palla gives his professional services as a physician to my nephew
Fabrizio del Dongo, and behaves to him as a brother. This I request
him to do." She signed the document, ante-dated it by a year and
folded the sheet.

Two days later, Ferrante reappeared. It was at the moment when the
town was agitated by the rumour of the immediate execution of
Fabrizio. Would this grim ceremony take place in the citadel, or under
the trees of the public mall? Many of the populace took a walk that
evening past the gate of the citadel, trying to see whether the
scaffold were being erected; this spectacle had moved Ferrante. He
found the Duchessa in floods of tears and unable to speak; she greeted
him with her hand and pointed to a seat. Ferrante, disguised that day
as a Capuchin, was superb; instead of seating himself he knelt, and
prayed devoutly in an undertone. At a moment when the Duchessa seemed
slightly more calm, without stirring from his posture, he broke off
his prayer for an instant to say these words: "Once again he offers
his life."

"Think of what you are saying," cried the Duchessa, with that haggard
eye which, following tears, indicates that anger is overcoming
emotion.

"He offers his life to place an obstacle in the way of Fabrizio's
fate, or to avenge it."

"There are circumstances," replied the Duchessa, "in which I could
accept the sacrifice of your life."

She gazed at him with a severe attention. A ray of joy gleamed in his
eye; he rose swiftly and stretched out his arms towards heaven. The
Duchessa went to find a paper hidden in the secret drawer of a walnut
cabinet

"Read this," she said to Ferrante. It was the deed in favour of his
children, of which we have spoken.

Tears and sobs prevented Ferrante from reading it to the end; he fell
on his knees.

"Give me back the paper," said the Duchessa, and, in his presence,
burned it in the flame of a candle.

"My name," she explained, "must not appear if you are taken and
executed, for your life will be at stake."

"My joy is to die in harming the tyrant: a far greater joy is to die
for you. Once this is stated and clearly understood, be so kind as
to make no further mention of this detail of money. I might see in it
a suspicion that would be injurious to me."

"If you are compromised, I may be also," replied the Duchessa, "and
Fabrizio as well as myself: it is for that reason, and not because 1
have any doubt of your bravery, that I require that the man who is
lacerating my heart shall be poisoned and not stabbed. For the same
reason which is so important to me, I order you to do everything in
the world to save your own life."

"I shall execute the task faithfully, punctiliously and prudently. I
foresee, Signora Duchessa, that my revenge will be combined with your
own: were it not so, I should still obey you faithfully, punctiliously
and prudently. I may not succeed, but I shall employ all my human
strength."

"It is a question of poisoning Fabrizio's murderer."

"So I had guessed, and, during the twenty-seven months in which I have
been leading this vagabond and abominable life, I have often thought
of a similar action on my own account."

"If I am discovered and condemned as an accomplice," went on the
Duchessa in a tone of pride, "I do not wish the charge to be imputed
to me of having corrupted you. I order you to make no further attempt
to see me until the time comes for our revenge: he must on no account
be put to death before I have given you the signal. His death at the
present moment, for instance, would be lamentable to me instead of
being useful. Probably his death will occur only in several months'
time, but it shall occur. I insist on his dying by poison, and I
should prefer to leave him alive rather than see him shot. For
considerations which I do not wish to explain to you, I insist upon
your life's being saved."

Ferrante was delighted with the tone of authority which the Duchessa
adopted with him: his eyes gleamed with a profound joy. As we have
said, he was horribly thin; but one could see that he had been very
handsome in his youth, and he imagined himself to be still what he had
once been. "Am I mad?" he asked himself; "or will the Duchessa indeed
one day, when I have given her this proof of my devotion, make me the
happiest of men? And, when it comes to that, why not? Am I not worth
as much as that doll of a Conte Mosca, who when the time came, could
do nothing for her, not even enable Monsignor Fabrizio to escape?"

"I may wish his death to-morrow," the Duchessa continued, still with
the same air of authority. "You know that immense reservoir of water
which is at the corner of the _palazzo_, not far from the hiding-place
which you have sometimes occupied; there is a secret way of letting
all that water run out into the street: very well, that will be the
signal for my revenge. You will see, if you are in Parma, or you will
hear it said, if you are living in the woods, that the great
reservoir of the _palazzo_ Sanseverina has burst. Act at once but by
poison, and above all risk your own life as little as possible. No
one must ever know that I have had a hand in this affair."

"Words are useless," replied Ferrante, with an enthusiasm which he
could ill conceal: "I have already fixed on the means which I shall
employ. The life of that man has become more odious to me than it was
before, since I shall not dare to see you again so long as he is
alive. I shall await the signal of the reservoir flooding the street."
He bowed abruptly and left the room. The Duchessa watched him go.

When he was in the next room, she recalled him.

"Ferrante!" she cried; "sublime man!"

He returned, as though impatient at being detained: his face at that
moment was superb.

"And your children?"

"Signora, they will be richer than I; you wiH perhaps allow them some
small pension."

"Wait," said the Duchessa as she handed him a sort of large case of
olive wood, "here are all the diamonds that I have left: they are
worth 50,000 francs."

"Ah! Signora, you humiliate me!" said Ferrante with a gesture of
horror; and his face completely altered.

"I shall not see you again before the deed: take them, I wish it,"
added the Duchessa with an air of pride which struck Ferrante dumb; he
put the case in his pocket and left her.

The door had closed behind him. The Duchessa called him back once
again; he returned with an uneasy air: the Duchessa was standing in
the middle of the room; she threw herself into his arms. A moment
later, Ferrante had almost fainted with happiness; the Duchessa
released herself from his embrace, and with her eyes shewed him the
door.

"There goes the one man who has understood me," she said to herself;
"that is how Fabrizio would have acted, if he could have realised."

There were two salient points in the Duchessa's character: she always
wished what she had once wished; she never gave any further
consideration to what had once been decided. She used to quote in
this connexion a saying of her first husband, the charming General
Pietranera. "What insolence to myself!" he used to say; "Why should I
suppose that I have more sense to-day than when I made up my mind?"

>From that moment a sort of gaiety reappeared in the Duchessa's
character. Before the fatal resolution, at each step that her mind
took, at each new point that she saw, she had the feeling of her own
inferiority to the Prince, of her weakness and gullibility; the
Prince, according to her, had basely betrayed her, and Conte Mosca, as
was natural to his courtier's spirit, albeit innocently, had supported
the Prince. Once her revenge was settled, she felt her strength,
every step that her mind took gave her happiness. I am inclined to
think that the immoral happiness which the Italians find in revenge is
due to the strength of their imagination; the people of other
countries do not properly speaking forgive; they forget.

The Duchessa did not see Palla again until the last days of Fabrizio's
imprisonment. As the reader may perhaps have guessed, it was he who
gave her the idea of his escape: there was in the woods, two leagues
from Sacca, a mediaeval tower, half in ruins, and more than a hundred
feet high; before speaking a second time to the Duchessa of an escape,
Ferrante begged her to send Lodovico with a party of trustworthy men,
to fasten a set of ladders against this tower. In the Duchessa's
presence he climbed up by means of the ladders and down with an
ordinary knotted cord; he repeated the experiment three times, then
explained his idea again. A week later Lodovico too was prepared to
climb down this old tower with a knotted cord; it was then that the
Duchessa communicated the idea to Fabrizio.

In the final days before this attempt, which might lead to the death
of the prisoner, and in more ways than one, the Duchessa could not
secure a moment's rest unless she had Ferrante by her side; the
courage of this man electrified her own; but it can be understood that
she had to hide from the Conte this singular companionship. She was
afraid, not that he would be revolted, but she would have been
afflicted by his objections, which would have increased her
uneasiness. "What! Take as an intimate adviser a madman known to be
mad, and under sentence of death! And," added the Duchessa, speaking
to herself, "a man who, in consequence, might do such strange things!"
Ferrante happened to be in the Duchessa's drawing-room at the moment
when the Conte came to give her a report of the Prince's conversation
with Rassi; and, when the Conte had left her, she had great difficulty
in preventing Ferrante from going straight away to the execution of a
frightful plan.

"I am strong now," cried this madman; "I have no longer any doubt as
to the lawfulness of the act!"

"But, in the moment of indignation which must inevitably follow,
Fabrizio would be put to death!"

"Yes, but in that way we should spare him the danger of the climb: it
is possible, indeed easy," he added; "but the young man lacks
experience."

The marriage was celebrated of the Marchese Crescenzi's sister, and it
was at the party given on this occasion that the Duchessa met Clelia,
and was able to speak to her without causing any suspicion among the
fashionable onlookers. The Duchessa herself handed to Clelia the
parcel of cords in the garden, where the two ladies had gone for a
moment's fresh air. These cords, prepared with the greatest care, of
hemp and silk in equal parts, were knotted, very slender and fairly
flexible; Lodovico had tested their strength, and, in every portion,
they could bear without breaking a load of sixteen hundredweight. They
had been packed in such a way as to form several packets each of the
size and shape of a quarto volume; Clelia took charge of them, and
promised the Duchessa that everything that was humanly possible would
be done to deliver these packets in the Torre Farnese.

"But I am afraid of the timidity of your nature; and besides," the
Duchessa added politely, "what interest can you feel in a stranger?"

"Signor del Dongo is in distress, _and I promise you that he shall be
saved by me_!"

But the Duchessa, placing only a very moderate reliance on the
presence of mind of a young person of twenty, had taken other
precautions, of which she took care not to inform the governor's
daughter. As might be expected, this governor was present at the party
given for the marriage of the Marchese Crescenzi's sister. The
Duchessa said to herself that, if she could make him be given a strong
narcotic, it might be supposed, at first, that he had had an attack of
apoplexy, and then, instead of his being placed in his carriage to
be taken back to the citadel, it might, with a little arrangement,
be possible to have the suggestion adopted of using a litter, which
would happen to be in the house where the party was being given.
There, too, would be gathered a body of intelligent men, dressed as
workmen employed for the party, who, in the general confusion, would
obligingly offer their services to transport the sick man to his
_palazzo_, which stood at such a height. These men, under the
direction of Lodovico, carried a sufficient quantity of cords,
cleverly concealed beneath their clothing. One sees that the
Duchessa's mind had become really unbalanced since she had begun to
think seriously of Fabrizio's escape. The peril of this beloved
creature was too much for her heart, and besides was lasting too
long. By her excess of precaution, she nearly succeeded in
preventing his escape, as we shall presently see. Everything went off
as she had planned, with this one difference, that the narcotic
produced too powerful an effect; everyone believed, including the
medical profession, that the General had had an apoplectic stroke.

Fortunately, Clelia, who was in despair, had not the least suspicion
of so criminal an attempt on the part of the Duchessa. The confusion
was such at the moment when the litter, in which the General, half
dead, was lying, entered the citadel, that Lodovico and his men passed
in without challenge; they were subjected to a formal scrutiny only at
the Slave's Bridge. When they had carried the General to his bedroom,
they were taken to the kitchens, where the servants entertained them
royally; but after this meal, which did not end until it was very
nearly morning, it was explained to them that the rule of the prison
required that, for the rest of the night, they should be locked up in
the lower rooms of the _palazzo_; in the morning at daybreak they
would be released by the governor's deputy.

These men had found an opportunity of handing to Lodovico the cords
with which they had been loaded, but Lodovico had great difficulty in
attracting Clelia's attention for a moment. At length, as she was
passing from one room to another, he made her observe that he was
laying down packets of cords in a dark corner of one of the
drawing-rooms of the first floor, Clelia was profoundly struck by this
strange circumstance; at once she conceived atrocious suspicions.

"Who are you?" she asked Lodovico.

And, on receiving his highly ambiguous reply, she added:

"I ought to have you arrested; you or your masters have poisoned my
father! Confess this instant what is the nature of the poison you have
used, so that the doctor of the citadel can apply the proper remedies;
confess this instant, or else, you and your accomplices shall never go
out of this citadel!"

"The Signorina does wrong to be alarmed," replied Lodovico, with a
grace and politeness that were perfect; "there is no question of
poison; someone has been rash enough to administer to the General a
dose of laudanum, and it appears that the servant who was responsible
for this crime poured a few drops too many into the glass; this we
shall eternally regret; but the Signorina may be assured that, thank
heaven, there is no sort of danger; the Signore must be treated for
having taken, by mistake, too strong a dose of laudanum; but, I have
the honour to repeat to the Signorina, the lackey responsible for
the crime made no use of real poisons, as Barbone did, when he tried
to poison Monsignor Fabrizio. There was no thought of revenge for the
peril that Monsignor Fabrizio ran; nothing was given to this clumsy
lackey but a bottle in which there was laudanum, that I swear to the
Signorina! But it must be clearly understood that, if I were
questioned officially, I should deny everything.

"Besides, if the Signorina speaks to anyone in the world of laudanum
and poison, even to the excellent Don Cesare, Fabrizio is killed by
the Signorina's own hand. She makes impossible for ever all the plans
of escape; and the Signorina knows better than I that it is not with
laudanum that they wish to poison Monsignore; she knows, too, that a
certain person has granted only a month's delay for that crime, and
that already more than a week has gone by since the fatal order was
received. So, if she has me arrested, or if she merely says a word to
Don Cesare or to anyone else, she retards all our activities far more
than a month, and I am right in saying that she kills Monsignor
Fabrizio with her own hand."

Clelia was terrified by the strange tranquillity of Lodovico.

"And so," she said to herself, "here I am conversing formally with
my father's poisoner, who employs polite turns of speech to address
me! And it is love that has led me to all these crimes! . .."

Her remorse scarcely allowed her the strength to speak; she said to
Ludovico.

"I am going to lock you into this room. I shall run and tell the
doctor that it is only laudanum; but, great God, how shall I tell him
that I discovered this? I shall come back afterwards to release you.
But," said Clelia, running back from the door, "did Fabrizio know
anything of the laudanum?"

"Heavens, no, Signorina, he would never have consented to that. And,
besides, what good would it have done to make an unnecessary
confidence? We are acting with the strictest prudence. It is a
question of saving the life of Monsignore, who will be poisoned in
three weeks from now; the order has been given by a person who is not
accustomed to find any obstacle to his wishes; and, to tell the
Signorina everything, they say that it was the terrible Fiscal General
Rassi who received these instructions."

Clelia fled in terror; she could so count on the perfect probity of
Don Cesare that, taking certain precautions, she had the courage to
tell him that the General had been given laudanum, and nothing else.
Without answering, without putting any question, Don Cesare ran to the
doctor.

Clelia returned to the room in which she had shut up Lodovico, with
the intention of plying him with questions about the laudanum. She did
not find him: he had managed to escape. She saw on the table a purse
full of sequins and a box containing different kinds of poison. The
sight of these poisons made her shudder. "How can I be sure," she
thought, "that they have given nothing but laudanum to my father, and
that the Duchessa has not sought to avenge herself for Barbone's
attempt?

"Great God!" she cried, "here am I in league with my father's
poisoners. And I allow them to escape! And perhaps that man, when put
to the question, would have confessed something else than laudanum!"

Clelia at once fell on her knees, burst into tears, and prayed to the
Madonna with fervour.

Meanwhile the doctor of the citadel, greatly surprised by the
information he had received from Don Cesare, according to which he
had to deal only with laudanum, applied the appropriate remedies,
which presently made the more alarming symptoms disappear. The General
came to himself a little as day began to dawn. His first action that
shewed any sign of consciousness was to hurl insults at the Colonel
who was second in command of the citadel, and had taken upon himself
to give certain orders, the simplest in the world, while the General
was unconscious.

The governor next flew into a towering rage with a kitchen-maid who,
when bringing him his soup, had been so rash as to utter the word
apoplexy.

"Am I of an age," he cried, "to have apoplexies? It is only my deadly
enemies who can find pleasure in spreading such reports. And besides,
have I been bled, that slander itself dare speak of apoplexy?"

Fabrizio, wholly occupied with the preparations for his escape,
could not understand the strange sounds that filled the citadel at the
moment when the governor was brought in half dead. At first he had
some idea that his sentence had been altered, and that they were
coming to put him to death. Then, seeing that no one came to his
cell, he thought that Clelia had been betrayed, that on her return to
the fortress they had taken from her the cords which probably she was
bringing back, and so, that his plans of escape were for the future
impossible. Next day, at dawn, he saw come into his room a man unknown
to him, who, without saying a word, laid down a basket of fruit:
beneath the fruit was hidden the following letter:

"Penetrated by the keenest remorse for what has been done, not, thank
heaven, by my consent, but as the outcome of an idea which I had, I
have made a vow to the Blessed Virgin that if, by the effect of Her
holy intercession my father is saved, I will never refuse to obey any
of his orders; I will marry the Marchese as soon as he requires me to
do so, and I will never see you again. However, I consider it my duty
to finish what has been begun. Next Sunday, when you return from mass,
to which you will be taken at my request (remember to prepare your
soul, you may kill yourself in the difficult enterprise) ; when you
return from mass, I say, put off as long as possible going back to
your room; you will find there what is necessary for the enterprise
that you have in mind. If you perish, my heart will be broken! Will
you be able to accuse me of having contributed to your death? Has not
the Duchessa herself repeated to me upon several occasions that the
Raversi faction is winning? They seek to bind the Prince by an act of
cruelty that must separate him for ever from Conte Mosca. The
Duchessa, with floods of tears, has sworn to me that there remains
only this resource: you will perish unless you make an attempt. I
cannot look at you again, I have made my vow; but if on Sunday,
towards evening, you see me dressed entirely in black, at the usual
window, it will be the signal that everything will be ready that night
so far as my feeble means allow. After eleven, perhaps at midnight or
at one o'clock, a little lamp will appear in my window, that will be
the decisive moment; commend yourself to your Holy Patron, dress
yourself in haste in the priestly habit with which you are provided,
and be off.

"Farewell, Fabrizio, I shall be at my prayers, and shedding the most
bitter tears, as you may well believe, while you are running such
great risks. If you perish, I shall not outlive you a day; Great God!
What am I saying? But if you succeed, I shall never see you again. On
Sunday, after mass, you will find in your prison the money, the
poison, the cords, sent by that terrible woman who loves you with
passion, and who has three times over assured me that this course must
be adopted. May God preserve you, and the Blessed Madonna!"

Fabio Conti was a gaoler who was always uneasy, always unhappy, always
seeing in his dreams one of his prisoners escaping: he was loathed by
everyone in the citadel; but misfortune inspiring the same resolutions
in all men, the poor prisoners, even those who were chained in
dungeons three feet high, three feet wide and eight feet long, in
which they could neither stand nor sit, all the prisoners, even these,
I say, had the idea of ordering a _Te Deum_ to be sung at their own
expense, when they knew that their governor was out of danger. Two or
three of these wretches composed sonnets in honour of Fabio Conti. Oh,
the effect of misery upon men! May he who would blame them be led by
his destiny to spend a year in a cell three feet high, with eight
ounces of bread a day and _fasting_ on Fridays!

Clelia, who left her father's room only to pray in the chapel, said
that the governor had decided that the rejoicings should be confined
to Sunday. On the morning of this Sunday, Fabrizio was present at
mass and at the _Te Deum_; in the evening there were fireworks, and in
the lower rooms of the _palazzo_ the soldiers received a quantity of
wine four times that which the governor had allowed; an unknown hand
had even sent several barrels of brandy which the soldiers broached.
The generous spirit of the soldiers who were becoming intoxicated
would not allow the five of their number who were on duty as sentries
outside the _palazzo_ to suffer accordingly; as soon as they arrived
at their sentry-boxes, a trusted servant gave them wine, and it was
not known from what hand those who came on duty at midnight and for
the rest of the night received also a glass each of brandy, while the
bottle was in each case forgotten and left by the sentry-box (as was
proved in the subsequent investigations).

The disorder lasted longer than Clelia had expected, and it was not
until nearly one o'clock that Fabrizio, who, more than a week earlier,
had sawn through two bars of his window, the window that did not
look out on the aviary, began to take down the screen; he was working
almost over the heads of the sentries who were guarding the governor's
_palazzo_, they heard nothing. He had made some fresh knots only in
the immense cord necessary for descending from that terrible height of
one hundred and eighty feet. He arranged this cord as a bandolier
about his body: it greatly embarrassed him, its bulk was enormous;
the knots prevented it from being wound close, and it projected more
than eighteen inches from his body. "This is the chief obstacle," said
Fabrizio.

This cord once arranged as well as possible, Fabrizio took the other
with which he counted on climbing down the thirty-five feet which
separated his window from the terrace on which the governor's
_palazzo_ stood. But inasmuch as, however drunken the sentries might
be, he could not descend exactly over their heads, he climbed out, as
we have said, by the second window of his room, that which looked over
the roof of a sort of vast guard-room. By a sick man's whim, as soon
as General Fabio Conti was able to speak, he had ordered up two
hundred soldiers into this old guard-room, disused for over a century.
He said that after poisoning him, they would seek to murder him in his
bed, and these two hundred soldiers were to guard him. One may judge
of the effect which this unforeseen measure had on the heart of
Clelia: that pious girl was fully conscious to what an extent she was
betraying her father, and a father who had just been almost poisoned
in the interests of the prisoner whom she loved. She almost saw in the
unexpected arrival of these two hundred men an act of Providence which
forbade her to go any farther and to give Fabrizio his freedom.

But everyone in Parma was talking of the immediate death of the
prisoner. This grim subject had been discussed again at the party
given on the occasion of the marriage of Donna Giulia Crescenzi. Since
for such a mere trifle as a clumsy sword-thrust given to an actor, a
man of Fabrizio's birth was not set at liberty at the end of nine
months' imprisonment, and when he had the protection of the Prime
Minister, it must be because politics entered into the case. And in
that event, it was useless to think any more about him, people said;
if it was not convenient to authority to put him to death in a public
place, he would soon die of sickness. A locksmith who had been
summoned to General Fabio Conti's _palazzo_ spoke of Fabrizio as of a
prisoner long since dispatched, whose death was being kept secret from
motives of policy. This man's words decided Clelia.




CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

During the day Fabrizio was attacked by certain serious and
disagreeable reflexions; but as he heard the hours strike that brought
him nearer to the moment of action, he began to feel alert and ready.
The Duchessa had written that he would feel the shock of the fresh
air, and that once he was out of his prison he might find it
impossible to walk; in that case it was better to run the risk of
being caught than to let himself fall from a height of a hundred and
eighty feet. "If I have that misfortune," said Fabrizio, "I shall lie
down beneath the parapet, I shall sleep for an hour, then I shall
start again. Since I have sworn to Clelia that I will make the
attempt, I prefer to fall from the top of a rampart, however high,
rather than always to have to think about the taste of the bread I
eat. What horrible pains one must feel before the end, when one dies
of poison! Fabio Conti will stand on no ceremony, he will make them
give me the arsenic with which he kills the rats in his citadel."

Towards midnight, one of those thick white fogs in which the Po
sometimes swathes its banks, spread first of all over the town, and
then reached the esplanade and the bastions from the midst of which
rises the great tower of the citadel. Fabrizio estimated that from
the parapet of the platform it would be impossible to make out the
young acacias that surrounded the gardens laid out by the soldiers
at the foot of the hundred and eighty foot wall. "That, now, is
excellent," he thought.

Shortly after half past twelve had struck, the signal of the little
lamp appeared at the aviary window. Fabrizio was ready for action; he
crossed himself, then fastened to his bed the fine cord intended to
enable him to descend the thirty-five feet that separated him from the
platform on which the _palazzo_ stood. He arrived without meeting any
obstacle on the roof of the guard-room occupied overnight by the
reinforcement of two hundred soldiers of whom we have spoken.
Unfortunately, the soldiers, at a quarter to one in the morning, as it
now was, had not yet gone to sleep; while be was creeping on tiptoe
over the roof of large curved tiles, Fabrizio could hear them saying
that the devil was on the roof, and that they must try to kill him
with a shot from a musket. Certain voices insisted that this desire
savoured of great impiety; others said that if a shot were fired
without killing anything, the governor would put them all in prison
for having alarmed the garrison without cause. The upshot of this
discussion was that Fabrizio walked across the roof as quickly as
possible and made a great deal more noise. The fact remains that at
the moment when, hanging by his cord, he passed opposite the windows,
mercifully at a distance of four or five feet owing to the projection
of the roof, they were bristling with bayonets. Some accounts suggest
that Fabrizio, mad as ever, had the idea of acting the part of the
devil, and that he flung these soldiers a handful of sequins... One
thing certain is that he had scattered sequins upon the floor of his
room, and that he scattered more on the platform on his way from the
Torre Farnese to the parapet, so as to give himself the chance of
distracting the attention of the soldiers who might come in pursuit of
him.

Landing upon the platform where he was surrounded by soldiers, who
ordinarily called out every quarter of an hour a whole sentence:
"All's well around my post!" he directed his steps towards the western
parapet and sought for the new stone.

The thing that appears incredible and might make one doubt the truth
of the story if the result had not had a whole town for witnesses, is
that the sentries posted along the parapet did not see and arrest
Fabrizio; as a matter of fact the fog was beginning to rise, and
Fabrizio said afterwards that when he was on the platform the fog
seemed to him to have come already halfway up the Torre Farnese. But
this fog was by no means thick, and he could quite well see the
sentries, some of whom were moving. He added that, impelled as
though by a supernatural force, he went to take up his position boldly
between two sentries who were quite near one another. He calmly
unwound the big cord which he had round his body, and which twice
became entangled; it took him a long time to unravel it and spread it
out on the parapet. He heard the soldiers talking on all sides of him,
and was quite determined to stab the first who advanced upon him. "I
was not in the least anxious," he added, "I felt as though I were
performing a ceremony."

He fastened his cord, when it was finally unravelled, through an
opening cut in the parapet for the escape of rain-water, climbed on to
the said parapet and prayed to God with fervour; then, like a hero of
the days of chivalry, he thought for a moment of Clelia. "How
different I am," he said to himself, "from the fickle, libertine
Fabrizio of nine months ago!" At length he began to descend that
astounding height. He acted mechanically, he said, and as he would
have done in broad daylight, climbing down a wall before friends, to
win a wager. About halfway down, he suddenly felt his arms lose their
strength; he thought afterwards that he had even let go the cord for
an instant, but he soon caught hold of it again; possibly, he said, he
had held on to the bushes into which he slipped, receiving some
scratches from them. He felt from time to time an agonising pain
between his shoulders; it actually took away his breath. There was
an extremely unpleasant swaying motion; he was constantly flung from
the cord to the bushes. He was brushed by several birds which he
aroused, and which dashed at him in their flight. At first, he thought
that he was being clutched by men who had come down from the citadel
by the same way as himself in pursuit, and he prepared to defend his
life. Finally he arrived at the base of the great tower without any
inconvenience save that of having blood on his hands. He relates
that, from the middle of the tower, the slope which it forms was of
great use to him; he hugged the wall all the way down, and the plants
growing between the stones gave him great support. On reaching the
foot, among the soldiers' gardens, he fell upon an acacia which,
looked at from above, had seemed to him to be four or five feet high,
but was really fifteen or twenty. A drunken man who was lying asleep
beneath it took him for a robber. In his fall from this tree,
Fabrizio nearly dislocated his right arm. He started to run towards
the rampart; but, as he said, his legs felt like cotton, he had no
longer any strength. In spite of the danger, he sat down and drank a
little brandy which he had left. He dozed off for a few minutes to the
extent of not knowing where he was; on awaking, he could not
understand how, lying in bed in his cell, he saw trees. Then the
terrible truth came back to his mind. At once he stepped out to the
rampart, and climbed it by a big stair. The sentry who was posted
close beside this stair was snoring in his box. He found a cannon
lying in the grass; he fastened his third cord to it; it proved to be
a little too short, and he fell into a muddy ditch in which there was
perhaps a foot of water. As he was picking himself up and trying to
take his bearings, he felt himself seized by two men; he was afraid
for a moment; but presently heard a voice close to his ear whisper
very softly: "Ah! Monsignore, Monsignore!" He gathered vaguely that
these men belonged to the Duchessa; at once he fell in a dead faint.
A minute later, he felt that he was being carried by men who were
marching in silence and very fast; then they stopped, which caused him
great uneasiness. But he had not the strength either to speak or to
open his eyes; he felt that he was being clasped in someone's arm;
suddenly he recognised the scent of the Duchessa's clothing. This
scent revived him; he opened his eyes; he was able to utter the words:
"Ah! Dear friend!" Then once again he fainted away.

The faithful Bruno, with a squad of police all devoted to the Conte,
was in reserve at a distance of two hundred yards; the Conte himself
was hidden in a small house close to the place where the Duchessa was
waiting. He would not have hesitated, had it been necessary, to take
his sword in his hand, with a party of half-pay officers, his intimate
friends; he regarded himself as obliged to save the life of Fabrizio,
who seemed to him to be exposed to great risk, and would long ago have
had his pardon signed by the Prince, if he, Mosca, had not been so
foolish as to seek to avoid making the Sovereign write a foolish
thing.

Since midnight the Duchessa, surrounded by men armed to the teeth, had
been pacing in deep silence outside the ramparts of the citadel; she
could not stay in one place, she thought that she would have to fight
to rescue Fabrizio from the men who would pursue him. This ardent
imagination had taken a hundred precautions, too long to be given here
in detail, and of an incredible imprudence. It was calculated that
more than eighty agents were afoot that night, in readiness to fight
for something extraordinary. Fortunately Ferrante and Lodovico were
at the head of all these men, and the Minister of Police was not
hostile; but the Conte himself remarked that the Duchessa was not
betrayed by anyone, and that he himself, as Minister, knew nothing.

The Duchessa lost her head altogether on seeing Fabrizio again; she
clasped him convulsively in her arms, then was in despair on seeing
herself covered in blood: it was the blood from Fabrizio's hands; she
thought that he was dangerously wounded. With the assistance of one of
her men, she was taking off his coat to bandage him when Lodovico, who
fortunately happened to be on the spot, firmly put her and Fabrizio in
one of the little carriages which were hidden in a garden near the
gate of the town, and they set off at full gallop to cross the Po near
Sacca. Ferrante, with a score of well-armed men, formed the rearguard,
and had sworn on his head to stop the pursuit. The Conte, alone and on
foot, did not leave the neighbourhood of the citadel until two hours
later, when he saw that no one was stirring. "Look at me, committing
high treason," he said to himself, mad with joy.

Lodovico had the excellent idea of placing in one of the carriages a
young surgeon attached to the Duchessa's household, who was of much
the same build as Fabrizio.

"Make your escape," he told him, "in the direction of Bologna; be as
awkward as possible, try to have yourself arrested; then contradict
yourself in your answers, and finally admit that you are Fabrizio del
Dongo; above all, gain time. Use your skill in being awkward, you will
get off with a month's imprisonment, and the Signora will give you
fifty sequins."

"Does one think of money when one is serving the Signora?"

He set off, and was arrested a few hours later, an event which gave
great joy to General Fabio Conti and also to Rassi, who, with
Fabrizio's peril, saw his Barony taking flight.

The escape was not known at the citadel until about six o'clock in the
morning, and it was not until ten that they dared inform the Prince.
The Duchessa had been so well served that, in spite of Fabrizio's deep
sleep, which she mistook for a dead faint, with the result that she
stopped the carriage three times, she crossed the Po in a boat as four
was striking. There were relays on the other side, they covered two
leagues more at great speed, then were stopped for more than an hour
for the examination of their passports. The Duchessa had every
variety of these for herself and Fabrizio; but she was mad that day,
and took it into her head to give ten napoleons to the clerk of the
Austrian police, and to clasp his hand and burst into tears. This
clerk, greatly alarmed, began the examination afresh. They took post;
the Duchessa paid in so extravagant a fashion that everywhere she
aroused suspicions, in that land where every stranger is suspect.
Lodovico came to the rescue again: he said that the Signora Duchessa
was beside herself with grief at the protracted fever of young Conte
Mosca, son of the Prime Minister of Parma, whom she was taking with
her to consult the doctors of Pavia.

It was not until they were ten leagues beyond the Po that the prisoner
really awoke; he had a dislocated shoulder and a number of slight
cuts. The Duchessa again behaved in so extraordinary a fashion that
the landlord of a village inn where they dined thought he was
entertaining a Princess of the Imperial House, and was going to pay
her the honours which he supposed to be due to her when Lodovico told
him that the Princess would without fail have him put in prison if he
thought of ordering the bells to be rung.

At length, about six o'clock in the evening, they reached Piedmontese
territory. There for the first time Fabrizio was in complete safety;
he was taken to a little village off the high road, the cuts on his
hands were dressed, and he slept for several hours more.

It was in this village that the Duchessa allowed herself to take a
step that was not only horrible from the moral point of view, but also
fatal to the tranquillity of the rest of her life. Some weeks before
Fabrizio's escape, on a day when the whole of Parma had gone to the
gate of the citadel, hoping to see in the courtyard the scaffold that
was being erected for his benefit, the Duchessa had shown to Lodovico,
who had become the factotum of her household, the secret by which one
raised from a little iron frame, very cunningly concealed, one of the
stones forming the floor of the famous reservoir of the _palazzo_
Sanseverina, a work of the thirteenth century, of which we have spoken
already. While Fabrizio was lying asleep in the _trattoria_ of this
little village, the Duchessa sent for Lodovico. He thought that she
had gone mad, so strange was the look that she gave him.

"You probably expect," she said to him, "that I am going to give you
several thousand francs; well, I am not; I know you, you are a poet,
you would soon squander it all. I am giving you the small _podere_ of
La Ricciarda, a league from Casalmaggiore." Lodovico flung himself at
her feet, mad with joy, and protesting in heartfelt accents that it
was not with any thought of earning money that he had helped to save
Monsignor Fabrizio; that he had always loved him with a special
affection since he had had the honour to drive him once, in his
capacity as the Signora's third coachman. When this man, who was
genuinely warm-hearted, thought that he had taken up enough of the
time of so great a lady, he took his leave; but she, with flashing
eyes, said to him:

"Wait!"

She paced without uttering a word the floor of this inn room, looking
from time to time at Lodovico with incredible eyes. Finally the man,
seeing that this strange exercise showed no sign of coming to an end,
took it upon himself to address his mistress.

"The Signora has made me so extravagant a gift, one so far beyond
anything that a poor man like me could imagine, and moreover so much
greater than the humble services which I have had the honour to
render, that I feel, on my conscience, that I cannot accept the
_podere_ of La Ricciarda. I have the honour to return this land to
the Signora, and to beg her to grant me a pension of four hundred
francs."

"How many times in your life," she said to him with the most sombre
pride, "how many times have you heard it said that I had abandoned a
project once I had made it?"

After uttering this sentence, the Duchessa continued to walk up and
down the room for some minutes; then suddenly stopping, cried:

"It is by accident, and because he managed to attract that little
girl, that Fabrizio's life has been saved! If he had not been
attractive, he would now be dead. Can you deny that?" she asked,
advancing on Lodovico with eyes in which the darkest fury blazed.
Lodovico recoiled a few steps and thought her mad, which gave him
great uneasiness as to the possession of his _podere_ of La Ricciarda.

"Very well!" the Duchessa went on, in the most winning and
light-hearted tone, completely changed, "I wish my good people of
Sacca to have a mad holiday which they will long remember. You are
going to return to Sacca; have you any objection? Do you think that
you will be running any risk?"

"None to speak of, Signora: none of the people of Sacca will ever say
that I was in Monsignor Fabrizio's service. Besides, if I may
venture to say so to the Signora, I am burning to see _my_ property
at La Ricciarda: it seems so odd for me to be a landowner!"

"Your gaiety pleases me. The farmer at La Ricciarda owes me, I think,
three or four years' rent; I make him a present of half of what he
owes me, and the other half of all these arrears I give to you, but on
this condition: you will go to Sacca, you will say there that the day
after tomorrow is the _festa_ of one of my patron saints, and, on the
evening after your arrival, you will have my house illuminated in the
most splendid fashion. Spare neither money nor trouble; remember that
the occasion is the greatest happiness of my life. I have prepared
for this illumination long beforehand; more than three months ago, I
collected in the cellars of the house everything that can be used for
this noble _festa_; I have put the gardener in charge of all the
fireworks necessary for a magnificent display: you will let them off
from the terrace overlooking the Po. I have eighty-nine large barrels
of wine in my cellars, you will set up eighty-nine fountains of wine
in my park. If next day there remains a single bottle which has not
been drunk, I shall say that you do not love Fabrizio. When the
fountains of wine, the illumination and the fireworks are well
started, you will slip away cautiously, for it is possible, and it is
my hope, that at Parma all these fine doings may appear an insolence."

"It is not possible, it is only a certainty; as it is certain too that
the Fiscal Rassi, who signed Monsignore's sentence, will burst with
rage. And indeed," added Lodovico timidly, "if the Signora wished to
give more pleasure to her poor servant than by bestowing on him half
the arrears of La Ricciarda, she would allow me to play a little
joke on that Rassi. .. ."

"You are a stout fellow!" cried the Duchessa in a transport; "but I
forbid you absolutely to do anything to Rassi: I have a plan of having
him publicly hanged, later on. As for you, try not to have yourself
arrested at Sacca; everything would be spoiled if I lost you."

"I, Signora! After I have said that I am celebrating the _festa_ of
one of the Signora's patrons, if the police sent thirty constables to
upset things, you may be sure that before they had reached the Croce
Rossa in the middle of the village, not one of them would be on his
horse. They're no fools, the people of Sacca; finished smugglers all
of them, and they worship the Signora."

"Finally," went on the Duchessa with a singularly detached air, "if
I give wine to my good people of Sacca, I wish to flood the
inhabitants of Parma; the same evening on which my house is
illuminated, take the best horse in my stable, dash to my _palazzo_ in
Parma, and open the reservoir."

"Ah! What an excellent idea of the Signora!" cried Lodovico, laughing
like a madman; "wine for the good people of Sacca, water for the cits
of Parma, who were so sure, the wretches, that Monsignor Fabrizio was
going to be poisoned like poor L----."

Lodovico's joy knew no end; the Duchessa complacently watched his wild
laughter; he kept on repeating "Wine for the people of Sacca and water
for the people of Parma! The Signora no doubt knows better than I
that when they rashly emptied the reservoir, twenty years ago, there
was as much as a foot of water in many of the streets of Parma."

"And water for the people of Parma," retorted the Duchessa with a
laugh. "The avenue past the citadel would have been filled with people
if they had cut off Fabrizio's head. ... They all call him _the
great culprit_.... But, above all, do everything carefully, so that
not a living soul knows that the flood was started by you or ordered
by me. Fabrizio, the Conte himself must be left in ignorance of this
mad prank. ... But I was forgetting the poor of Sacca: go and write
a letter to my agent, which I shall sign; you will tell him that, for
the _festa_ of my holy patron, he must distribute a hundred sequins
among the poor of Sacca, and tell him to obey you in everything to do
with the illumination, the fireworks and the wine; and especially
that there must not be a full bottle in my cellars next day."

"The Signora's agent will have no difficulty except in one thing: in
the five years that the Signora has had the villa, she has not left
ten poor persons in Sacca."

"_And water for the people of Parma_!" the Duchessa went on chanting.
"How will you carry out this joke?"

"My plans are all made: I leave Sacca about nine o'clock, at half past
ten my horse is at the inn of the Tre Ganasce, on the road to
Casalmaggiore and to _my podere_ of La Ricciarda; at eleven, I am in
my room in the _palazzo_, and at a quarter past eleven water for the
people of Parma, and more than they wish, to drink to the health of
the great culprit. Ten minutes later, I leave the town by the Bologna
road. I make, as I pass it, a profound bow to the citadel, which
Monsignore's courage and the Signora's spirit have succeeded in
disgracing; I take a path across country, which I know well, and I
make my entry into La Ricciarda."

Lodovico raised his eyes to the Duchessa and was startled. She was
staring fixedly at the blank wall six paces away from her, and, it
must be admitted, her expression was terrible.

"Ah! My poor _podere_!" thought Ludovico. "The fact of the matter is,
she is mad!" The Duchessa looked at him and read bis thoughts.

"Ah! Signor Lodovico the great poet, you wish a deed of gift in
writing: run and find me a sheet of paper." Lodovico did not wait to
be told twice, and the Duchessa wrote out in her own hand a long form
of receipt, ante-dated by a year, in which she declared that she had
received from Lodovico San Micheli the sum of 80,000 francs, and had
given him in pledge the lands of La Ricciarda. If after the lapse of
twelve months the Duchessa had not restored the said 80,000 francs to
Lodovico, the lands of La Ricciarda were to remain his property.

"It is a fine action," the Duchessa said to herself, "to give to a
faithful servant nearly a third of what I have left for myself."

"Now then," she said to Lodovico, "after the joke of the reservoir, I
give you just two days to enjoy yourself at Casalmaggiore. For the
conveyance to hold good, say that it is a transaction which dates back
more than a year. Come back and join me at Belgirate, and as quickly
as possible; Fabrizio is perhaps going to England, where you will
follow him."

Early the next day the Duchessa and Fabrizio were at Belgirate.

They took up then" abode in that enchanting village; but a killing
grief awaited the Duchessa on Lake Maggiore. Fabrizio was entirely
changed; from the first moments in which he had awoken from his sleep,
still somewhat lethargic, after his escape, the Duchessa had noticed
that something out of the common was occurring in him. The deep-lying
sentiment, which he took great pains to conceal, was distinctly odd,
it was nothing less than this: he was in despair at being out of his
prison. He was careful not to admit this cause of his sorrow, which
would have led to questions which he did not wish to answer.

"What!" said the Duchessa, in amazement, "that horrible sensation when
hunger forced you to feed, so as not to fall down, on one of those
loathsome dishes supplied by the prison kitchen, that sensation: 'Is
there some strange taste in this, am I poisoning myself at this
moment?'--did not that sensation fill you with horror?"

"I thought of death," replied Fabrizio, "as I suppose soldiers think
of it: it was a possible thing which I thought to avoid by taking
care."

And so, what uneasiness, what grief for the Duchessa! This adored,
singular, vivid, original creature was now before her eyes a prey to
an endless train of fancies; he actually preferred solitude to the
pleasure of talking of all manner of things, and with an open heart,
to the best friend that he had in the world. Still he was always good,
assiduous, grateful towards the Duchessa; he would, as before, have
given his life a hundred times over for her; but his heart was
elsewhere. They often went four or five leagues over that sublime lake
without uttering a word. The conversation, the exchange of cold
thoughts that from then onwards was possible between them might
perhaps have seemed pleasant to others; but they remembered still, the
Duchessa especially, what their conversation had been before that
fatal fight with Giletti which had set them apart. Fabrizio owed the
Duchessa an account of the nine months that he had spent in a horrible
prison, and it appeared that he had nothing to say of this detention
but brief and unfinished sentences.

"It was bound to happen sooner or later," the Duchessa told herself
with a gloomy sadness. "Grief has aged me, or else he is really in
love, and I have now only the second place in his heart." Demeaned,
cast down by the greatest of all possible griefs, the Duchessa said to
herself at times: "If, by the will of heaven, Ferrante should become
mad altogether, or his courage should fail, I feel that I should be
less unhappy." From that moment this half-remorse poisoned the
esteem that the Duchessa had for her own character. "So," she said to
herself bitterly, "I am repenting of a resolution I have already made.
Then I am no longer a del Dongo!"

"It is the will of heaven," she would say: "Fabrizio is in love, and
what right have I to wish that he should not be in love? Has one
single word of genuine love ever passed between us?"

This idea, reasonable as it was, kept her from sleeping, and in short,
a thing which shewed how old age and a weakening of the heart had
come over her, she was a hundred times more unhappy than at Parma. As
for the person who could be responsible for Fabrizio's strange
abstraction, it was hardly possible to entertain any reasonable doubt:
Clelia Conti, that pious girl, had betrayed her father since she had
consented to make the garrison drunk, and never once did Fabrizio
speak of Clelia! "But," added the Duchessa, beating her breast in
desperation, "if the garrison had not been made drunk, all my
stratagems, all my exertions became useless; so it is she that saved
him!"

It was with extreme difficulty that the Duchessa obtained from
Fabrizio any details of the events of that night, which, she said to
herself, "would at one time have been the subject of an endlessly
renewed discussion between us! In those happy times he would have
talked for a whole day, with a force and gaiety endlessly renewed, of
the smallest trifle which I thought of bringing forward."

As it was necessary to think of everything, the Duchessa had installed
Fabrizio at the port of Locarno, a Swiss town at the head of Lake
Maggiore. Every day she went to fetch him in a boat for long
excursions over the lake. Well, on one occasion when she took it into
her head to go up to his room, she found the walls lined with a number
of views of the town of Parma, for which he had sent to Milan or to
Parma itself, a place which he ought to be holding in abomination.
His little sitting-room, converted into a studio, was littered with
all the apparatus of a painter in water-colours, and she found him
finishing a third sketch of the Torre Farnese and the governor's
_palazzo_.

"The only thing for you to do now," she said to him with an air of
vexation, "is to make a portrait from memory of that charming governor
whose only wish was to poison you. But, while I think of it," she
went on, "you ought to write him a letter of apology for having taken
the liberty of escaping and making his citadel look foolish."

The poor woman little knew how true her words were: no sooner had he
arrived in a place of safety than Fabrizio's first thought had been to
write General Fabio Conti a perfectly polite and in a sense highly
ridiculous letter; he asked his pardon for having escaped, offering as
an excuse that a certain subordinate in the prison had been ordered to
give him poison. Little did he care what he wrote, Fabrizio hoped that
Clelia's eyes would see this letter, and his cheeks were wet with
tears as he wrote it. He ended it with a very pleasant sentence: he
ventured to say that, finding himself at liberty, he frequently had
occasion to regret his little room in the Torre Farnese. This was the
principal thought in his letter, he hoped that Clelia would understand
it. In his writing vein, and always in the hope of being read by
someone, Fabrizio addressed his thanks to Don Cesare, that good
chaplain who had lent him books on theology. A few days later Fabrizio
arranged that the small bookseller of Locarno should make the journey
to Milan, where this bookseller, a friend of the celebrated
bibliomaniac Reina, bought the most sumptuous editions that he could
find of the works that Don Cesare had lent Fabrizio. The good chaplain
received these books and a handsome letter which informed him that, in
moments of impatience, pardonable perhaps to a poor prisoner, the
writer had covered the margins of his books with silly notes. He
begged him, accordingly, to replace them in his library with the
volumes which the most lively gratitude took the liberty of presenting
to him.

Fabrizio was very modest in giving the simple name of notes to the
endless scribblings with which he had covered the margins of a folio
volume of the works of Saint Jerome. In the hope that he might be
able to send back this book to the good chaplain, and exchange it for
another, he had written day by day on the margins a very exact diary
of all that occurred to him in prison; the great events were nothing
else than ecstasies of _divine love_ (this word _divine_ took the
place of another which he dared not write). At one moment this divine
love led the prisoner to a profound despair, at other times a voice
heard in the air restored some hope and caused transports of joy. All
this, fortunately, was written with prison ink, made of wine,
chocolate and soot, and Don Cesare had done no more than cast an eye
over it as he put back on his shelves the volume of Saint Jerome. If
he had studied the margins, he would have seen that one day the
prisoner, believing himself to have been poisoned, was congratulating
himself on dying at a distance of less than forty yards from what he
had loved best in the world. But another eye than the good chaplain's
had read this page since his escape. That fine idea: _To die near what
one loves_! expressed in a hundred different fashions, was followed by
a sonnet in which one saw that this soul, parted, after atrocious
torments, from the frail body in which it had dwelt for
three-and-twenty years, urged by that instinct for happiness natural
to everything that has once existed, would not mount to heaven to
mingle with the choirs of angels as soon as it should be free, and
should the dread Judgment grant it pardon for its sins; but that, more
fortunate after death than it had been in life, it would go a little
way from the prison, where for so long it had groaned, to unite itself
with all that it had loved in this world. And "So," said the last line
of the sonnet, "I should find my earthly paradise."

Although they spoke of Fabrizio in the citadel of Parma only as of an
infamous traitor who had outraged the most sacred ties of duty, still
the good priest Don Cesare was delighted by the sight of the fine
books which an unknown hand had conveyed to him; for Fabrizio had
decided to write to him only a few days after sending them, for fear
lest his name might make the whole parcel be rejected with
indignation. Don Cesare said no word of this kind attention to his
brother, who flew into a rage at the mere name of Fabrizio; but since
the latter's flight, he had returned to all his old intimacy with his
charming niece; and as he had once taught her a few words of Latin, he
let her see the fine books that he had received. Such had been the
traveller's hope. Suddenly Clelia blushed deeply, she had recognised
Fabrizio's handwriting. Long and very narrow strips of yellow paper
were placed by way of markers in various parts of the volume. And as
it is true to say that in the midst of the sordid pecuniary interests,
and of the colourless coldness of the vulgar thoughts which fill our
lives, the actions inspired by a true passion rarely fail to produce
their effect; as though a propitious deity were taking the trouble to
lead them by the hand, Clelia, guided by this instinct, and by the
thought of one thing only in the world, asked her uncle to compare the
old copy of Saint Jerome with the one that he had just received. How
can I describe her rapture in the midst of the gloomy sadness in which
Fabrizio's absence had plunged her, when she found on the margins of
the old Saint Jerome the sonnet of which we have spoken, and the
records, day by day, of the love that he had felt for her.

>From the first day she knew the sonnet by heart; she would sing it,
leaning on her window-sill, before the window, "henceforward empty,
where she had so often seen a little opening appear in the screen.
This screen had been taken down to be placed in the office of the
criminal court, and to serve as evidence in a ridiculous prosecution
which Rassi was drawing up against Fabrizio, accused of the crime of
having escaped, or, as the Fiscal said, laughing himself as he said
it, _of having removed himself from the clemency of a magnanimous
Prince_!

Each stage in Clelia's actions was for her a matter for keen remorse,
and now that she was unhappy, her remorse was all the keener. She
sought to mitigate somewhat the reproaches that she addressed to
herself by reminding herself of the vow _never to see Fabrizio again_,
which she had made to the Madonna at the time when the General was
nearly poisoned, and since then had renewed daily.

Her father had been made ill by Fabrizio's escape, and, moreover, had
been on the point of losing his post, when the Prince, in his anger,
dismissed all the gaolers of the Torre Farnese, and sent them as
prisoners to the town gaol. The General had been saved partly by the
intercession of Conte Mosca, who preferred to see him shut up at the
top of his citadel, rather than as an active and intriguing rival in
court circles.

It was during the fortnight of uncertainty as to the disgrace of
General Fabio Conti, who was really ill, that Clelia had the courage
to carry out this sacrifice which she had announced to Fabrizio. She
had had the sense to be ill on the day of the general rejoicings,
which was also that of the prisoner's flight, as the reader may
perhaps remember; she was ill also on the following day, and, in a
word, managed things so well that, with the exception of Grillo, whose
special duty it was to look after Fabrizio, no one had any suspicion
of her complicity, and Grillo held his tongue.

But as soon as Clelia had no longer any anxiety in that direction, she
was even more cruelly tormented by her just remorse. "What argument in
the world," she asked herself, "can mitigate the crime of a daughter
who betrays her father?"

One evening, after a day spent almost entirely in the chapel, and in
tears, she begged her uncle, Don Cesare, to accompany her to the
General, whose outbursts of rage alarmed her all the more since into
every topic he introduced imprecations against Fabrizio, that
abominable traitor.

Having come into her father's presence, she had the courage to say to
him that if she had always refused to give her hand to the Marchese
Crescenzi, it was because she did not feel any inclination towards
him, and was certain of finding no happiness in such a union. At these
words the General flew into a rage; and Clelia had some difficulty in
making herself heard. She added that if her father, tempted by the
Marchese's great fortune, felt himself bound to give her a definite
order to marry him, she was prepared to obey. The General was quite
astonished by this conclusion, which he had been far from expecting;
he ended, however, by rejoicing at it. "So," he said to his brother,
"I shall not be reduced to a lodging on a second floor, if that
scoundrel Fabrizio makes me lose my post through his vile conduct."

Conte Mosca did not fail to shew himself profoundly scandalised by the
flight of that _scapegrace_ Fabrizio, and repeated when the occasion
served the expression invented by Rassi to describe the base conduct
of the young man--a very vulgar young man, to boot--who had removed
himself from the clemency of the Prince. This witty expression,
consecrated by good society, did not take hold at all of the people.
Left to their own good sense, while fully believing in Fabrizio's
guilt they admired the determination that he must have had to let
himself down from so high a wall. Not a creature at court admired this
courage. As for the police, greatly humiliated by this rebuff, they
had officially discovered that a band of twenty soldiers, corrupted by
the money distributed by the Duchessa, that woman of such atrocious
ingratitude whose name was no longer uttered save with a sigh, had
given Fabrizio four ladders tied together, each forty-five feet long;
Fabrizio, having let down a cord which they had tied to these ladders,
had had only the quite commonplace distinction of pulling the ladders
up to where he was. Certain Liberals, well known for their imprudence,
and among them Doctor C----, an agent paid directly by the Prince,
added, but compromised themselves by adding that these atrocious
police had had the barbarity to shoot eight of the unfortunate
soldiers who had facilitated the flight of that wretch Fabrizio.
Thereupon he was blamed even by the true Liberals, as having caused by
his imprudence by the death of eight poor soldiers. It is thus that
petty despotisms reduce to nothing the value of public opinion.




CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Amid this general uproar, Archbishop Landriani alone shewed himself
loyal to the cause of his young friend; he made bold to repeat, even
at the Princess's court, the legal maxim according to which, in every
case, one ought to keep an ear free from all prejudice to hear the
plea of an absent party.

The day after Fabrizio's escape a number of people had received a
sonnet of no great merit which celebrated this flight as one of the
fine actions of the age, and compared Fabrizio to an angel arriving on
the earth with outspread wings. On the evening of the following day,
the whole of Parma was repeating a sublime sonnet. It was Fabrizio's
monologue as he let himself slide down the cord, and passed judgment
on the different incidents of his life. This sonnet gave him a place
in literature by two magnificent lines; all the experts recognised the
style of Ferrante Palla.

But here I must seek the epic style : where can I find colours in
which to paint the torrents of indignation that suddenly flooded every
orthodox heart, when they learned of the frightful insolence of this
illumination of the house at Sacca? There was but one outcry against
the Duchessa; even the true Liberals decided that such an action
compromised in a barbarous fashion the poor suspects detained in the
various prisons, and needlessly exasperated the heart of the
Sovereign. Conte Mosca declared that there was but one thing left for
the Duchessa's former friends--to forget her. The concert of
execration was therefore unanimous: a stranger passing through the
town would have been struck by the energy of public opinion. But in
the country, where they know how to appreciate the pleasure of
revenge, the illumination and the admirable feast given in the park to
more than six thousand _contadini_ had an immense success. Everyone in
Parma repeated that the Duchessa had distributed a thousand sequins
among her _contadini_; thus they explained the somewhat harsh
reception given to a party of thirty constables whom the police had
been so foolish as to send to that small village, thirty-six hours
after the sublime evening and the general intoxication that had
followed it. The constables, greeted with showers of stones, had
turned and fled, and two of their number, who fell from their horses,
were flung into the Po.

As for the bursting of the great reservoir of the _palazzo_
Sanseverina, it had passed almost unnoticed: it was during the night
that several streets had been more or less flooded, next morning one
would have said that it had _rained_. Lodovico had taken care to
break the panes of a window in the _palazzo_, so as to account for the
entry of robbers.

They had even found a little ladder. Only Conte Mosca recognised his
friend's inventive genius.

Fabrizio was fully determined to return to Parma as soon as he could;
he sent Lodo vico with a long letter to the Archbishop, and this
faithful servant came back to post at the first village in Piedmont,
San Nazzaro, to the west of Pavia, a Latin epistle which the worthy
prelate addressed to his young client. We may add here a detail which,
like many others no doubt, will seem otiose in countries where there
is no longer any need of precaution. The name of Fabrizio del Dongo
was never written; all the letters that were intended for him were
addressed to Lodovico San Micheli, at Locarno in Switzerland, or at
Belgirate in Piedmont. The envelope was made of a coarse paper, the
seal carelessly applied, the address barely legible and sometimes
adorned with recommendations worthy of a cook; all the letters were
dated from Naples six days before their actual date.

>From the Piedmontese village of San Nazzaro, near Pavia, Lodovico
returned in hot haste to Parma; he was charged with a mission to which
Fabrizio attached the greatest importance; this was nothing less
than to convey to Clelia Conti a handkerchief on which was printed a
sonnet of Petrarch. It is true that a word was altered in this sonnet:
Clelia found it on the table two days after she had received the
thanks of the Marchese Crescenzi, who professed himself the happiest
of men; and there is no need to say what impression this token of a
still constant remembrance produced on her heart.

Lodovico was to try to procure all possible details as to what was
happening at the citadel. He it was who told Fabrizio the sad news
that the Marchese Crescenzi's marriage seemed now to be definitely
settled; scarcely a day passed without his giving a _festa_ for
Clelia, inside the citadel. A decisive proof of the marriage was that
the Marchese, immensely rich and in consequence very avaricious, as is
the custom among the opulent people of Northern Italy, was making
immense preparations, and yet he was marrying a girl without a
_portion_. It was true that General Fabio Conti, his vanity greatly
shocked by this observation, the first to spring to the minds of all
his compatriots, had just bought a properly worth more than 300,000
francs; and for this property he, who had nothing, had paid in
ready money, evidently with the Marchese's gold. Moreover, the General
had said that he was giving this property to his daughter on her
marriage. But the charges for the documents and other matters, which
amounted to more than 12,000 francs, seemed a most ridiculous waste of
money to the Marchese, a man of eminently logical mind. For his part
he was having woven at Lyons a set of magnificent tapestries of
admirably blended colours, calculated to charm the eye, by the famous
Pallagi, the Bolognese painter. These tapestries, each of which
embodied some deed of arms by the Crescenzi family, which, as the
whole world knows, is descended from the famous Crescentius, Roman
Consul in the year 985, were to furnish the seventeen saloons which
composed the ground floor of the Marchese's _palazzo_. The tapestries,
clocks and lustres sent to Parma cost more than 350,000 francs; the
price of the new mirrors, in addition to those which the house already
possessed, came to 200,000 francs. With the exception of two rooms,
famous works of the Parmigianino, the greatest of local painters after
the divine Correggio, all those of the first and second floors were
now occupied by the leading painters of Florence, Rome and Milan, who
were decorating them with paintings in fresco. Fokelberg, the great
Swedish sculptor, Tenerani of Rome and Marchesi of Milan had been at
work for the last year on ten bas-reliefs representing as many brave
deeds of Crescentius, that truly great man. The majority of the
ceilings, painted in fresco, also offered some allusion to his life.
The ceiling most generally admired was that on which Hayez of Milan
had represented Crescentius being received in the Elysian Fields by
Francesco Sforza, Lorenzo the Magnificent, King Robert, the Tribune
Cola di Rienzi, Machiavelli, Dante and the other great men of the
middle ages. Admiration for these chosen spirits is supposed to be an
epigram at the expense of the men in power.

All these sumptuous details occupied the exclusive attention of the
nobility and burgesses of Parma, and pierced our hero's heart when he
read of them, related with an artless admiration, in a long letter
of more than twenty pages which Lodovico had dictated to a _doganiere_
of Casalmaggiore.

"And I, who am so poor!" said Fabrizio, "an income of four thousand
lire in all and for all! It is truly an impertinence in me to dare
to be in love with Clelia Conti for whom all these miracles are being
performed."

A single paragraph in Lodovico's long letter, but written, this, in
his own villainous hand, announced to his master that he had met, at
night and apparently in hiding, the unfortunate Grillo, his former
gaoler, who had been put in prison and then released. The man had
asked him for a sequin in charity, and Lodovico had given him four in
the Duchessa's name. The old gaolers recently set at liberty, twelve
in number, were preparing an entertainment with their knives (_un
trattamento di cortellate_) for the new gaolers their successors,
should they ever succeed in meeting them outside the citadel. Grillo
had said that almost every day there was a serenade at the fortress,
that Signorina Clelia was extremely pale, often ill, and _other things
of the sort_. This absurd expression caused Lodovico to receive, by
courier after courier, the order to return to Locarno. He returned,
and the details which he supplied by word of mouth were even more
depressing for Fabrizio.

One may judge what consideration he was shewing for the poor Duchessa;
he would have suffered a thousand deaths rather than utter in her
hearing the name of Clelia Conti. The Duchessa abhorred Parma;
whereas, for Fabrizio, everything which recalled that city was at
once sublime and touching.

Less than ever had the Duchessa forgotten her revenge; she had been so
happy before the incident of Giletti's death --and now, what a fate
was hers! She was living in expectation of a dire event of which she
was careful not to say a word to Fabrizio, she who before, at the time
of her arrangement with Ferrante, thought she would so delight
Fabrizio by telling him that one day he would be avenged.

One can now form some idea of the pleasantness of Fabrizio's
conversations with the Duchessa: a gloomy silence reigned almost
invariably between them. To enhance the pleasantness of their
relations, the Duchessa had yielded to the temptation to play a trick
on this too dear nephew. The Conte wrote to her almost every day;
evidently he was sending couriers as in the days of their infatuation,
for his letters always bore the postmark of some little town in
Switzerland. The poor man was torturing his mind so as not to speak
too openly of his affection, and to construct amusing letters; barely
did a distracted eye glance over them. What avails, alas, the fidelity
of a respected lover when one's heart is pierced by the coldness of
the other whom one sets above him?

In the space of two months the Duchessa answered him only once, and
that was to engage him to explore how the land lay round the Princess,
and to see whether, despite the impertinence of the fireworks, a
letter from her, the Duchessa, would be received with pleasure. The
letter which he was to present, if he thought fit, requested the post
of _Cavaliere d'onore_ to the Princess, which had recently fallen
vacant, for the Marchese Crescenzi, and desired that it should be
conferred upon him in consideration of his marriage. The Duchessa's
letter was a masterpiece; it was a message of the most tender respect,
expressed in the best possible terms; the writer had not admitted to
this courtly style a single word the consequences, even the remotest
consequences of which could be other than agreeable to the Princess.
The reply also breathed a tender friendship, which was being tortured
by the absence of its recipient.

"My son and I," the Princess told her, "have not spent one evening
that could be called tolerable since your sudden departure. Does my
dear Duchessa no longer remember that it was she who caused me to be
consulted in the nomination of the officers of my household? Does she
then think herself obliged to give me reasons for the Marchese's
appointment, as if the expression of her desire was not for me the
chief of reasons? The Marchese shall have the post, if I can do
anything; and there will always be one in my heart, and that the
first, for my dear Duchessa. My son employs absolutely the same
expressions, a little strong perhaps on the lips of a great boy of
one-and-twenty, and asks you for specimens of the minerals of the Val
d'Orla, near Belgirate. You may address your letters, which will, I
hope, be frequent, to the Conte, who still adores you and who is
especially dear to me on account of these sentiments. The Archbishop
also has remained faithful to you. We all hope to see you again one
day: remember that it is your duty. The Marchesa Ghisleri, my Grand
Mistress, is preparing to leave this world for a better: the poor
woman has done me much harm; she displeases me still further by
departing so inopportunely; her illness makes me think of the name
which I should once have set with so much pleasure in the place of
hers, if, that is, I could have obtained that sacrifice of her
independence from that matchless woman who, in fleeing from us, has
taken with her all the joy of my little court," and so forth.

It was therefore with the consciousness of having sought to hasten, so
far as it lay in her power, the marriage which was filling Fabrizio
with despair, that the Duchessa saw him every day. And so they spent
sometimes four or five hours in drifting together over the lake,
without exchanging a single word. The good feeling was entire and
perfect on Fabrizio's part; but he was thinking of other things, and
his innocent and simple nature furnished him with nothing to say. The
Duchessa saw this, and it was her punishment.

We have forgotten to mention in the proper place that the Duchessa had
taken a house at Belgirate, a charming village and one that contains
everything which its name promises (to wit a beautiful bend in the
lake). From the window-sill of her drawing-room, the Duchessa could
set foot in her boat. She had taken a quite simple one for which four
rowers would have sufficed; she engaged twelve, and arranged things so
as to have a man from each of the villages situated in the
neighbourhood of Belgirate. The third or fourth time that she found
herself in the middle of the lake with all of these well-chosen men,
she stopped the movement of their oars.

"I regard you all as friends," she said to them, "and I wish to
confide a secret in you. My nephew Fabrizio has escaped from prison;
and possibly by treachery they will seek to recapture him, although he
is on your lake, in a place of freedom. Keep your ears open, and
inform me of all that you may hear. I authorise you to enter my room
by day or night."

The rowers replied with enthusiasm; she knew how to make herself
loved. But she did not think that there was any question of
recapturing Fabrizio: it was for herself that all these precautions
were taken, and, before the fatal order to open the reservoir of the
_palazzo_ Sanseverina, she would not have dreamed of them.

Her prudence had led her also to take an apartment at the port of
Locarno for Fabrizio; every day he came to see her, or she herself
crossed into Switzerland. One may judge of the pleasantness of their
perpetual companionship by the following detail. The Marchesa and
her daughter came twice to see them, and the presence of these
strangers gave them pleasure; for, in spite of the ties of blood, we
may call "stranger" a person who knows nothing of our dearest
interests and whom we see but once in a year.

The Duchessa happened to be one evening at Locarno, in Fabrizio's
rooms, with the Marchesa and her two daughters. The Archpriest of the
place and the curate had come to pay their respects to these ladies:
the Archpriest, who had an interest in a business house, and kept
closely in touch with the news, was inspired to announce :

"The Prince of Parma is dead!"

The Duchessa turned extremely pale; she had barely the strength to
say:

"Do they give any details?"

"No," replied the Archpriest; "the report is confined to the
announcement of his death, which is certain."

The Duchessa looked at Fabrizio. "I have done this for him," she said
to herself; "I would have done things a thousand times worse, and
there he is standing before me indifferent, and dreaming of
another!" It was beyond the Duchessa's strength to endure this
frightful thought; she fell in a dead faint. Everyone hastened to her
assistance; but, on coming to herself, she observed that Fabrizio was
less active than the Archpriest and curate; he was dreaming as usual.

"He is thinking of returning to Parma," the Duchessa told herself,
"and perhaps of breaking off Clelia's marriage to the Marchese; but I
shall manage to prevent him." Then, remembering the presence of the
two priests, she made haste to add:

"He was a good Prince, and has been greatly maligned! It is an immense
loss for us!"

The priests took their leave, and the Duchessa, to be alone, announced
that she was going to bed.

"No doubt," she said to herself, "prudence ordains that I should wait
a month or two before returning to Parma; but I feel that I shall
never have the patience; I am suffering too keenly here. Fabrizio's
continual dreaming, his silence, are an intolerable spectacle for my
heart. Who would ever have said that I should find it tedious to float
on this charming lake, alone with him, and at the moment when I have
done, to avenge him, more than I can tell him! After such a spectacle,
death is nothing. It is now that I am paying for the transports of
happiness and childish joy which I found in my _palazzo_ at Parma when
I welcomed Fabrizio there on his return from Naples. If I had said a
word, all was at an end, and it may be that, tied to me, he would not
have given a thought to that little Clelia; but that word filled me
with a horrible repugnance. Now she has prevailed over me. What more
simple? She is twenty; and I, altered by my anxieties, sick, I am
twice her age! ... I must die, I must make an end of things! A woman
of forty is no longer anything save to the men who have loved her in
her youth! Now I shall find nothing more but the pleasures of vanity;
and are they worth the trouble of living? All the more reason for
going to Parma, and amusing myself. If things took a certain turn, I
should lose my life. Well, where is the harm? I shall make a
magnificent death, and, before the end, but then only, I shall say to
Fabrizio: 'Wretch! It is for you!' Yes, I can find no occupation for
what little life remains to me save at Parma. I shall play the great
lady there. What a blessing if I could be sensible now of all those
distinctions which used to make the Raversi so unhappy! Then, in order
to see my happiness, I had to look into the eyes of envy.... My vanity
has one satisfaction; with the exception of the Conte perhaps, no
one can have guessed what the event was that put an end to the life of
my heart. ... I shall love Fabrizio, I shall be devoted to his
interests; but he must not be allowed to break off Clelia's marriage,
and end by taking her himself. ... No, that shall not be!"

The Duchessa had reached this point in her melancholy monologue, when
she heard a great noise in the house.

"Good!" she said to herself, "they are coming to arrest me; Ferrante
has let himself be caught, he must have spoken. Well, all the better!
I am going to have an occupation, I am going to fight them for my
head. But in the first place, I must not let myself be taken."

The Duchessa, half clad, fled to the bottom of her garden: she was
already thinking of climbing a low wall and escaping across country;
but she saw someone enter her room. She recognised Bruno, the Conte's
confidential man; he was alone with her maid. She went up to the
window. The man Was telling her maid of the injuries he had received.
The Duchessa entered the house. Bruno almost flung himself at her
feet, imploring her not to tell the Conte of the preposterous hour at
which he had arrived.

"Immediately after the Prince's death," he went on, "the Signor Conte
gave the order to all the posts not to supply horses to subjects of
the States of Parma. So that I had to go as far as the Po with the
horses of the house, but on leaving the boat my carriage was
overturned, broken, smashed, and I had such bad bruises that I could
not get on a horse, as was my duty."

"Very well," said the Duchessa, "it is three o'clock in the morning: I
shall say that you arrived at noon; but you must not go and give me
away."

"I am very grateful for the Signora's kindness." Politics in a work of
literature are like a pistol-shot in the middle of a concert,
something loud and vulgar and yet a thing to which it is not possible
to refuse one's attention.

We are about to speak of very ugly matters, as to which, for more than
one reason, we should like to keep silence; but we are forced to do so
in order to come to happenings which are in our province, since they
have for their theatre the hearts of our characters.

"But, great God, how did that great Prince die?" said the Duchessa to
Bruno.

"He was out shooting the birds of passage, in the marshes, along by
the Po, two leagues from Sacca. He fell into a hole hidden by a tuft
of grass; he was all in a sweat, and caught cold; they carried him to
a lonely house where he died in a few hours. Some say that Signor
Catena and Signor Borono are dead as well, and that the whole accident
arose from the copper pans in the _contadino's_ house they went to,
which were full of verdigris. They took their luncheon there. In fact,
the swelled heads, the Jacobins, who say what they would like to be
true, speak of poison. I know that my friend Toto, who is a groom at
court, would have died but for the kind attention of a rustic who
appeared to have a great knowledge of medicine, and gave him some very
singular remedies. But they've ceased to talk of the Prince's death
already; after all, he was a cruel man. When I left, the people were
gathering to kill the Fiscal General Rassi: they were also proposing
to set fire to the gates of the citadel, to enable the prisoners to
escape. But it was said that Fabio Conti would fire his guns. Others
were positive that the gunners at the citadel had poured water on
their powder, and refused to massacre their fellow-citizens. But I can
tell you something far more interesting: while the surgeon of
Sandolaro was mending my poor arm, a man arrived from Parma who said
that the mob had caught Barbone, the famous clerk from the citadel, in
the street, and had beaten him, and were then going to hang him from
the tree on the avenue nearest to the citadel. The mob were marching
to break that fine statue of the Prince in the gardens of the court;
but the Signor Conte took a battalion of the Guard, paraded them in
front of the statue, and sent word to the people that no one who
entered the gardens would go out of them alive, and the people took
fright. But, what is a very curious thing, which the man who had come
from Parma, who is an old constable, repeated several times, is that
the Signor Conte kicked General P----, the commander of the Prince's
Guard, and had him led out of tha garden by two fusiliers, after
tearing off his epaulettes."

"I can see the Conte doing that," cried the Duchessa with a transport
of joy which she would not have believed possible a minute earlier:
"he will never allow anyone to insult our Princess; and as for General
P----, in his devotion to his rightful masters, he would never consent
to serve the usurper, while the Conte, with less delicacy, fought
through all the Spanish campaigns, and has often been reproached for
it at court."

The Duchessa had opened the Conte's letter, but kept stopping as she
read it to put a hundred questions to Bruno.

The letter was very pleasant; the Conte employed the most lugubrious
terms, and yet the keenest joy broke out in every word; he avoided any
detail of the Prince's death, and ended with the words:

"You will doubtless return, my dear angel, but I advise you to wait
a day or two for the courier whom the Princess will send you, as I
hope, to-day or to-morrow; your return must be as triumphant as your
departure was bold. As for the great criminal who is with you, I count
upon being able to have him tried by twelve judges selected from all
parties in this State. But, to have the monster punished as he
deserves, I must first be able to make spills of the other sentence,
if it exists."

The Conte had opened his letter to add:

"Now for a very different matter: I have just issued ammunition to the
two battalions of the Guard; I am going to fight, and shall do my best
to deserve the title of Cruel with which the Liberals have so long
honoured me. That old mummy General P---- has dared to speak in the
barracks of making a parley with the populace, who are more or less in
revolt. I write to you from the street; I am going to the Palace,
which they shall not enter save over my dead body. Good-bye! If I die,
it will be worshipping you _all the same_, as I have lived. Do not
forget to draw three hundred thousand francs which are deposited in my
name with D---- of Lyons.

"Here is that poor devil Rassi, pale as death, and without his wig;
you have no idea what he looks like. The people are absolutely
determined to hang him; it would be doing him a great injustice, he
deserves to be quartered. He took refuge in my _palazzo_ and has run
after me into the street; I hardly know what to do with him. ... I do
not wish to take him to the Prince's Palace, that would make the
revolt break out there. F---- shall see whether I love him; my first
word to Rassi was: I must have the sentence passed on Signor del
Dongo, and all the copies that you may have of it; and say to all
those unjust judges, who are the cause of this revolt, that I will
have them all hanged, and you as well, my dear friend, if they breathe
a word of that sentence, which never existed. In Fabrizio's name, I am
sending a company of grenadiers to the Archbishop. Good-bye, dear
angeli My _palazzo_ is going to be burned, and I shall lose the
charming portraits I have of you. I must run to the Palace to degrade
that wretched General P----, who is at his tricks; he is basely
flattering the people, as he used to flatter the late Prince. All
these Generals are in the devil of a fright; I am going, I think, to
have myself made Commander in Chief."

The Duchessa was unkind enough not to send to waken Fabrizio; she felt
for the Conte a burst of admiration which was closely akin to love.
"When all is said and done," she decided, "I shall have to marry him."
She wrote to him at once and sent off one of her men. That night the
Duchessa had no time to be unhappy.

Next day, about noon, she saw a boat manned by ten rowers which was
swiftly cleaving the waters of the lake; Fabrizio and she soon
recognised a man wearing the livery of the Prince of Parma: it was, in
fact, one of his couriers who, before landing, cried to the Duchessa:
"The revolt is suppressed!" This courier gave her several letters from
the Conte, an admirable letter from the Princess, and an order from
Prince Ranuccio-Ernesto V, on parchment, creating her Duchessa di San
Giovanni and Grand Mistress to the Princess Dowager. The young Prince,
an expert in mineralogy, whom she regarded as an imbecile, had had the
intelligence to write her a little note; but there was love at the end
of it. The note began thus:

"The Conte says, Signora Duchessa, that he is pleased with me; the
fact is that I stood under fire by his side, and that my horse was
hit: seeing the stir that is made about so small a matter, I am keen
to take part in a real battle, but not against my subjects. I owe
everything to the Conte; all my Generals, who have never been to
war, ran like hares; I believe two or three have fled as far as
Bologna. Since a great and deplorable event set me in power, I have
signed no order which has given me so much pleasure as this which
appoints you Grand Mistress to my mother. My mother and I both
remembered a day when you admired the fine view one has from the
_palazzetto_ of San Giovanni, which once belonged to Petrarch, or so
they say at least; my mother wished to give you that little property:
and I, not knowing what to give you, and not venturing to offer you
all that is rightly yours, have made you Duchessa in my country; I
do not know whether you are learned enough in these matters to be
aware that Sanseverina is a Roman title. I have just given the Grand
Cordon of my Order to our worthy Archbishop, who has shown a firmness
very rare in men of seventy. You will not be angry with me for having
recalled all the ladies from exile. I am told that I must now sign
only after writing the words _your affectionate_; it annoys me that I
should be made to scatter broadcast what is completely true only when
I write to you.

"_Your affectionate_

"RANUCCIO-ERNESTO"

Who would not have said, from such language, that the Duchessa was
about to enjoy the highest favour? And yet she found something very
strange in other letters from	the Conte, which she received an hour
or two later. He offered no special reason, but advised her to
postpone for some days her return to Parma, and to write to the
Princess that she was seriously unwell. The Duchessa and Fabrizio set
off, nevertheless, for Parma immediately after dinner. The Duchessa's
object, which however she did not admit to herself, was to hasten the
Marchese Crescenzi's marriage; Fabrizio, for his part, spent the
journey in wild transports of joy, which seemed to his aunt absurd. He
was in hopes of seeing Clelia again soon; he fully counted upon
carrying her off, against her will, if there should be no other way of
preventing her marriage.

The Duchessa and her nephew made a very gay journey. At a post before
Parma, Fabrizio stopped for a minute to change into the ecclesiastical
habit; ordinarily he dressed as a layman in mourning. When he returned
to the Duchessa's room:

"I find something suspicious and inexplicable," she said to him, "in
the Conte's letters. If you would take my advice you would spend a
few hours here; I shall send you a courier after I have spoken to that
great Minister."

It was with great reluctance that Fabrizio consented to accept this
sensible warning. Transports of joy worthy of a boy of fifteen were
the note of the reception which the Conte gave to the Duchessa, whom
he called his wife. It was long before he would speak of politics, and
when at last they came down to cold reason:

"You did very well to prevent Fabrizio from arriving officially; we
are in the full swing of reaction here. Just guess the colleague that
the Prince has given me as Minister of Justice! Rassi, my dear, Rassi,
whom I treated like the ruffian that he is, on the day of our great
adventure. By the way, I must warn you that we have suppressed
everything that has happened here. If you read our _Gazette_ you will
see that a clerk at the citadel, named Barbone, has died as the result
of falling from a carriage. As for the sixty odd rascals whom I
dispatched with powder and shot, when they were attacking the Prince's
statue in the gardens, they are in the best of health, only they are
travelling abroad. Conte Zurla, the Minister of the Interior, has gone
in person to the house of each of these unfortunate heroes, and has
handed fifteen sequins to his family or his friends, with the order to
say that the deceased is abroad, and a very definite threat of
imprisonment should they let it be understood that he is dead. A man
from my own Ministry, the Foreign Office, has been sent on a mission
to the journalists of Milan and Turin, so that they shall not speak of
the _unfortunate event_ --that is the recognised expression; he is to
go on to Paris and London, to insert a correction in all the
newspapers, semi-officially, of anything that they may say about our
troubles. Another agent has posted off to Bologna and Florence. I
have shrugged my shoulders.

"But the delightful thing, at my age, is that I felt a moment of
enthusiasm when I was speaking to the soldiers of the Guard, and when
I tore the epaulettes off that contemptible General P----. At that
moment, I would have given my life, without hesitating, for the
Prince: I admit now that it would have been a very stupid way of
ending it. To-day the Prince, excellent young fellow as he is, would
give a hundred scudi to see me die in my bed; he has not yet dared to
ask for my resignation, but we speak to each other as seldom as
possible, and I send him a number of little reports in writing, as I
used to do with the late Prince, after Fabrizio's imprisonment. By the
way, I have not yet made spills out of the sentence they passed on
Fabrizio, for the simple reason that that scoundrel Rassi has not let
me have it. So you are very wise to prevent Fabrizio from arriving
here officially. The sentence still holds good; at the same time I do
not think that Rassi would dare to have our nephew arrested now, but
it is possible that he will in another fortnight. If Fabrizio
absolutely insists on returning to town, let him come and stay with
me."

"But the reason for all this?" cried the Duchessa in astonishment.

"They have persuaded the Prince that I am giving myself the airs of a
dictator and a saviour of the country, and that I wish to lead him
about like a boy; what is more, in speaking of him, I seem to have
uttered the fatal words: _that boy_. It may be so, I was excited that
day; for instance, I looked on him as a great man, because he was not
unduly frightened by the first shots he had ever heard fired in his
life. He is not lacking in spirit, indeed he has a better tone than
his father; in fact, I cannot repeat it too often, in his heart of
hearts he is honest and good; but that sincere and youthful heart
shudders when they tell him of any dastardly trick, and he thinks he
must have a very dark soul himself to notice such things: think of the
upbringing he has had!"

"Your Excellency ought to have remembered that one day he would be
master, and to have placed an intelligent man with him."

"For one thing, we have the example of the Abbé de Condillac, who,
when appointed by the Marchese di Felino, my predecessor, could make
nothing more of his pupil than a King of fools. He succeeded in due
course, and, in 1796, he had not the sense to treat with General
Bonaparte, who would have tripled the area of his States. In the
second place, I never expected to remain Minister for ten years in
succession. Now that I have lost all interest in the business, as I
have for the last month, I intend to amass a million before leaving
this bedlam I have rescued to its own devices. But for me, Parma would
have been a Republic for two months, with the poet Ferrante Palla as
Dictator."

This made the Duchessa blush; the Conte knew nothing of what had
happened.

"We are going to fall back into the ordinary Monarchy of the
eighteenth century; the confessor and the mistress. At heart the
Prince cares for nothing but mineralogy, and perhaps yourself,
Signora. Since he began to reign, his valet, whose brother I have just
made a captain, this brother having nine months' service, his valet, I
say, has gone and stuffed into his head that he ought to be the
happiest of men because his profile is going to appear on the scudi.
This bright idea has been followed by boredom.

"What he now needs is an Aide-de-Camp, as a remedy for boredom. Well,
even if he were to offer me that famous million which is necessary for
us to live comfortably in Naples or Paris, I would not be his remedy
for boredom, and spend four or five hours every day with His Highness.
Besides, as I have more brains than he, at the end of a month he
would regard me as a monster.

"The late Prince was evil-minded and jealous, but he had been on
service and had commanded army corps, which had given him a bearing;
he had the stuff in him of which Princes are made, and I could be his
Minister, for better or worse. With this honest fellow of a son, who
is candid and really good, I am forced to be an intriguer. You see me
now the rival of the humblest little woman in the Castle, and a very
inferior rival, for I shall scorn all the hundred essential details.
For instance, three days ago, one of those women who put out the clean
towels every morning in the rooms, took it into her head to make the
Prince lose the key of one of his English desks. Whereupon His
Highness refused to deal with any of the business the papers of which
happened to be in this desk; as a matter of fact, for twenty francs,
they could have taken off the wooden bottom, or used skeleton keys;
but Ranuccio-Ernesto V told me that that would be teaching the court
locksmith bad habits.

"Up to the present, it has been absolutely impossible for him to
adhere to any decision for three days running. If he had been born
Marchese so-and-so, with an ample fortune, this young Prince would
have been one of the most estimable men at court, a sort of Louis XVI;
but how, with his pious simplicity, is he to resist all the cunningly
laid snares that surround him? And so the drawing-room of your enemy
the Marchesa Raversi is more powerful than ever; they have discovered
there that I, who gave the order to fire on the people, and was
determined to kill three thousand men if necessary, rather than let
them outrage the statue of the Prince who had been my master, am a
red-hot Liberal, that I wished him to sign a Constitution, and a
hundred such absurdities. With all this talk of a Republic, the fools
would prevent us from enjoying the best of Monarchies. In short,
Signora, you are the only member of the present Liberal Party of which
my enemies make me the head, at whose expense the Prince has not
expressed himself in offensive terms; the Archbishop, always perfectly
honest, for having spoken in reasonable language of what I did on _the
unhappy day_, is in deep disgrace.

"On the morrow of the day which was not then called _unhappy_, when it
was still true that the revolt had existed, the Prince told the
Archbishop that, so that you should not have to take an inferior title
on marrying me, he would make me a Duca. To-day I fancy that it is
Rassi, ennobled by me when he sold me the late Prince's secrets, who
is going to be made Conte. In the face of such a promotion as that, I
shall cut a sorry figure."

"And the poor Prince will bespatter himself with mud."

"No doubt; but after all he is _master_, a position which, in less
than a fortnight, makes the _ridiculous_ element disappear. So, dear
Duchessa, as at the game of tric-trac, _let us get out_."

"But we shall not be exactly rich."

"After all, neither you nor I have any need of luxury. If you give me,
at Naples, a seat in a box at San Carlo and a horse, I am more than
satisfied; it will never be the amount of luxury with which we live
that will give you and me our position, it is the pleasure which the
intelligent people of the place may perhaps find in coming to take a
dish of tea with you."

"But," the Duchessa went on, "what would have happened, on the
_unhappy day_, if you had held aloof, as I hope you will in future?"

"The troops would have fraternised with the people, there would have
been three days of bloodshed and incendiarism (for it would take a
hundred years in this country for the Republic to be anything more
than an absurdity), then a fortnight of pillage, until two or three
regiments supplied from abroad came to put a stop to it. Ferrante
Palla was in the thick of the crowd, full of courage and raging as
usual; he had probably a dozen friends who were acting in collusion
with hun, which Rassi will make into a superb conspiracy. One thing
certain is that, wearing an incredibly dilapidated coat, he was
scattering gold with both hands."

The Duchessa, bewildered by all this information, went in haste to
thank the Princess.

As she entered the room the Lady of the Bedchamber handed her a little
gold key, which is worn in the belt, and is the badge of supreme
authority in the part of the Palace which belongs to the Princess.
Clara-Paolina hastened to dismiss all the company; and, once she was
alone with her friend, persisted for some moments in giving only
fragmentary explanations. The Duchessa found it hard to understand
what she meant, and answered only with considerable reserve. At
length the Princess burst into tears, and, flinging herself into the
Duchessa's arms, cried: "The days of my misery are going to begin
again; my son will treat me worse than his father did!"

"That is what I shall prevent," the Duchessa replied with emphasis.
"But first of all," she went on, "I must ask Your Serene Highness to
deign to accept this offering of all my gratitude and my profound
respect."

"What do you mean?" cried the Princess, full of uneasiness, and
fearing a resignation.

"I ask that whenever Your Serene Highness shall permit me to turn to
the right the head of that nodding mandarin on her chimneypiece, she
will permit me also to call things by their true names."

"Is that all, my dear Duchessa?" cried Clara-Paolina, rising from
her seat and hastening herself to put the mandarin's head in the right
position: "speak then, with the utmost freedom, Signora Maggiordoma,"
she said in a charming tone.

"Ma'am," the Duchessa went on, "Your Highness has grasped the
situation perfectly; you and I are both running the greatest risk; the
sentence passed on Fabrizio has not been quashed; consequently, on the
day when they wish to rid themselves of me and to insult you, they
will put him back in prison. Our position is as bad as ever. As for me
personally, I am marrying the Conte, and we are going to set up house
in Naples or Paris. The final stroke of ingratitude of which the Conte
is at this moment the victim has entirely disgusted him with public
life, and but for the interest Your Serene Highness takes in him, I
should advise him to remain in this mess only on condition of the
Prince's giving him an enormous sum. I shall ask leave of Your
Highness to explain that the Conte, who had 130,000 francs when he
came into office, has to-day an income of barely 20,000 lire. In vain
did I long urge him to think of his pocket. In my absence, he has
picked a quarrel with the Prince's Farmers-General, who were rascals;
he has replaced them with other rascals, who have given him 800,000
francs."

"What!" cried the Princess in astonishment; "Heavens, I am extremely
annoyed to hear that!"

"Ma'am," replied the Duchessa with the greatest coolness, "must I turn
the mandarin's head back to the left?"

"Good heavens, no," exclaimed the Princess; "but I am annoyed that a
man of the Conte's character should have thought of enriching himself
in such a way."

"But for this peculation he would be despised by all the honest folk."

"Great heavens! Is it possible?"

"Ma'am," went on the Duchessa, "except for my friend, the Marchese
Crescenzi, who has an income of three or four hundred thousand lire,
everyone here steals; and how should they not steal in a country where
the recognition of the greatest services lasts for not quite a month?
It means that there is nothing real, nothing that survives disgrace,
save money. I am going to take the liberty, Ma'am, of saying some
terrible truths."

"You have my permission," said the Princess with a deep sigh, "and yet
they are painfully unpleasant to me."

"Very well, Ma'am, the Prince your son, a perfectly honest man, is
capable of making you far more unhappy than his father ever did; the
late Prince was a man of character more or less like everyone else.
Our present Sovereign is not sure of wishing the same thing for three
days on end, and so, in order that one may make sure of him, one must
live continually with him and not allow him to speak to anyone. As
this truth is not very difficult to guess, the new Ultra Party, ruled
by those two excellent heads, Rassi and the Marchesa Raversi, are
going to try to provide the Prince with a mistress. This mistress will
have permission to make her own fortune and to distribute various
minor posts; but she will have to answer to the Party for the
constancy of the master's will.

"I, to be properly established at Your Highness's court, require that
Rassi be exiled and degraded; I desire, in addition, that Fabrizio
be tried by the most honest judges that can be found: if these
gentlemen admit, as I hope, that he is innocent, it will be natural to
grant the petition of His Grace the Archbishop that Fabrizio shall be
his Coadjutor with eventual succession. If I fail, the Conte and I
retire; in that case, I leave this parting advice with Your Serene
Highness: she must never pardon Rassi, nor must she ever leave her
son's States. While she is with him, that worthy son will never do her
any serious harm."

"I have followed your arguments with the close attention they
require," the Princess replied, smiling; "ought I, then, to take upon
myself the responsibility of providing my son with a mistress?"

"Not at all, Ma'am, but see first of all that your drawing-room is
the only one which he finds amusing."

The conversation on this topic was endless, the scales fell from the
eyes of the innocent and intelligent Princess.

One of the Duchessa's couriers went to tell Fabrizio that he might
enter the town, but must hide himself. He was barely noticed: he spent
his time disguised as a contadino in the wooden booth of a
chestnut-seller, erected opposite the gate of the citadel, beneath the
trees of the avenue.




CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

The Duchessa arranged a series of charming evenings at the Palace,
which had never seen such gaiety: never had she been more delightful
than during this winter, and yet she was living in the midst of the
greatest dangers; but at the same time, during this critical period,
it so happened that she did not think twice with any appreciable
regret of the strange alteration in Fabrizio. The young Prince used to
appear very early at his mother's parties, where she always said to
him:

"Away with you and govern; I wager there are at least a score of
reports on your desk awaiting a definite answer, and I do not wish to
have the rest of Europe accuse me of making you a mere figurehead in
order to reign in your place."

These counsels had the disadvantage of being offered always at the
most inopportune moments, that is to say when His Highness, having
overcome his timidity, was taking part in some acted charade which
amused him greatly. Twice a week there were parties in the country to
which on the pretext of winning for the new Sovereign the affection
of his people, the Princess admitted the prettiest women of the middle
classes. The Duchessa, who was the life and soul of this joyous court,
hoped that these handsome women, all of whom looked with a mortal envy
on the great prosperity of the burgess Rassi, would inform the Prince
of some of the countless rascalities of that Minister. For, among
other childish ideas, the Prince claimed to have a moral Ministry.

Rassi had too much sense not to feel how dangerous these brilliant
evenings at the Princess's court, with his enemy in command of them,
were to himself. He had not chosen to return to Conte Mosca the
perfectly legal sentence passed on Fabrizio; it was inevitable
therefore that either the Duchessa or he must vanish from the court.

On the day of that popular movement, the existence of which it was now
in good taste to deny, someone had distributed money among the
populace. Rassi started from that point: worse dressed even than was
his habit, he climbed to the most wretched attics in the town, and
spent whole hours in serious conversation with their needy
inhabitants. He was well rewarded for all his trouble: after a
fortnight of this kind of life he had acquired the certainty that
Ferrante Palla had been the secret head of the insurrection, and
furthermore, that this creature, a pauper all his life as a great poet
would be, had sent nine or ten diamonds to be sold at Genoa.

Among others were mentioned five valuable stones which were really
worth more than 40,000 francs, and which, _ten days before the death
of the Prince_, had been sacrificed for 35,000 francs, because, the
vendor said, _he was in need of money_.

What words can describe the rapture of the Minister of Justice on
making this discovery? He had learned that every day he was being made
a laughing stock at the court of the Princess Dowager, and on several
occasions the Prince, when discussing business with him, laughed in
his face with all the frankness of his youth. It must be admitted that
Rassi had some singularly plebeian habits: for instance, as soon as a
discussion began to interest him, he would cross his legs and take his
foot in his hand; if the interest increased, he would spread his red
cotton handkerchief over his knee, and so forth. The Prince had
laughed heartily at the wit of one of the prettiest women of the
middle class, who, being aware incidentally that she had a very
shapely leg, had begun to imitate this elegant gesture of the Minister
of Justice.

Rassi requested an extraordinary audience and said to the Prince:

"Would Your Highness be willing to give a hundred thousand francs to
know definitely in what manner his august father met his death? With
that sum, the authorities would be in a position to arrest the guilty
parties, if such exist."

The Prince's reply left no room for doubt.

A little while later, Cecchina informed the Duchessa that she had been
offered a large sum to allow her mistress's diamonds to be examined by
a jeweller; she had indignantly refused. The Duchessa scolded her for
having refused; and, a week later, Cecchina had the diamonds to shew.
On the day appointed for this exhibition of the diamonds, the Conte
posted a couple of trustworthy men at every jeweller's in Parma, and
towards midnight he came to tell the Duchessa that the inquisitive
jeweller was none other than Rassi's brother. The Duchessa, who was
very gay that evening (they were playing at the Palace a _commedia
dell'arte_, that is to say one in which each character invents the
dialogue as he goes on, only the plot of the play being posted up in
the green-room), the Duchessa, who was playing a part, had as her
lover in the piece Conte Baldi, the former friend of the Marchesa
Raversi, who was present. The Prince, the shyest man in his States,
but an extremely good looking youth and one endowed with the tenderest
of hearts, was studying Conte Baldi's part, which he intended to take
at the second performance.

"I have very little time," the Duchessa told the Conte; "I am
appearing in the first scene of the second act: let us go into the
guard-room."

There, surrounded by a score of the body-guard, all wide awake and
closely attentive to the conversation between the Prime Minister and
the Grand Mistress, the Duchessa said with a laugh to her friend:

"You always scold me when I tell you unnecessary secrets. It was I
who summoned Ernesto V to the throne; it was a question of avenging
Fabrizio, whom I loved then far more than I do to-day, although always
quite innocently. I know very well that you have little belief in my
innocence, but that does not matter, since you love me in spite of my
crimes. Very well, here is a real crime: I gave all my diamonds to a
sort of lunatic, a most interesting man, named Ferrante Palla, I even
kissed him so that he should destroy the man who wished to have
Fabrizio poisoned. Where is the harm in that?"

"Ah! So that is where Ferrante had found money for his rising!" said
the Conte, slightly taken aback; "and you tell me all this in the
guard-room!"

"It is because I am in a hurry, and now Rassi is on the track of the
crime. It is quite true that I never mentioned an insurrection, for I
abhor Jacobins. Think it over, and let me have your advice after the
play."

"I will tell you at once that you must make the Prince fall in love
with you. But perfectly honourably, please."

The Duchessa was called to return to the stage. She fled.

Some days later the Duchessa received by post a long and ridiculous
letter, signed with the name of a former maid of her own; the woman
asked to be employed at the court, but the Duchessa had seen from the
first glance that the letter was neither in her handwriting nor in her
style. On opening the sheet to read the second page, she saw fall at
her feet a little miraculous image of the Madonna, folded in a printed
leaf from an old book. After glancing at the image, the Duchessa read
a few lines of the printed page. Her eyes shone, she found on it
these words:

"The Tribune has taken one hundred francs monthly, not more; with the
rest it was decided to rekindle the sacred fire in souls which had
become frozen by selfishness. The fox is upon my track, that is why I
have not sought to see for the last time the adored being. I said to
myself, she does not love the Republic, she who is superior to me in
mind as well as by her graces and her beauty. Besides, how is one to
create a Republic without Republicans? Can I be mistaken? In six
months I shall visit, microscope in hand, and on foot, the small towns
of America, I shall see whether I ought still to love the sole rival
that you have in my heart. If you receive this letter, Signora
Baronessa, and no profane eye has read it before yours, tell them to
break one of the young ash trees planted twenty paces from the spot
where I dared to speak to you for the first time. I shall then have
buried, under the great box tree in the garden to which you called
attention once in my happy days, a box in which will be found some of
those things which lead to the slandering of people of my way of
thinking. You may be sure that I should have taken care not to write
if the fox were not on my track, and there were not a risk of his
reaching that heavenly being; examine the box tree in a fortnight's
time."

"Since he has a printing press at his command," the Duchessa said to
herself, "we shall soon have a volume of sonnets; heaven knows what
name he will give me!"

The Duchessa's coquetry led her to make a venture; for a week she was
indisposed, and the court had no more pleasant evenings. The
Princess, greatly shocked by all that her fear of her son was obliging
her to do in the first moments of her widowhood, went to spend this
week in a convent attached to the church in which the late Prince was
buried.

This interruption of the evening parties threw upon the Prince an
enormous burden of leisure and brought a noteworthy check to the
credit of the Minister of Justice. Ernesto V realised all the boredom
that threatened him if the Duchessa left his court, or merely ceased
to diffuse joy in it. The evenings began again, and the Prince shewed
himself more and more interested in the _commedia dell'arte_. He had
the intention of taking a part, but dared not confess this ambition.
One day, blushing deeply, he said to the Duchessa: "Why should not I
act, also?"

"We are all at Your Highness's orders here; if he deigns to give me
the order, I will arrange the plot of a comedy, all the chief scenes
in Your Highness's part will be with me, and as, on the first
evenings, everyone falters a little, if Your Highness will please to
watch me closely, I will tell him the answers that he ought to make."
Everything was arranged, and with infinite skill. The very shy Prince
was ashamed of being shy, the pains that the Duchessa took not to let
this innate shyness suffer made a deep impression on the young
Sovereign.

On the day of his first appearance, the performance began half an hour
earlier than usual, and there were in the drawing-room, when the
party moved into the theatre, only nine or ten elderly women. This
audience had but little effect on the Prince, and besides, having been
brought up at Munich on sound monarchical principles, they always
applauded. Using her authority as Grand Mistress, the Duchessa turned
the key in the door by which the common herd of courtiers were
admitted to the performance. The Prince, who had a _literary_ mind and
a fine figure, came very well out of his opening scenes; he repeated
with intelligence the lines which he read in the Duchessa's eyes, or
with which she prompted him in an undertone. At a moment when the few
spectators were applauding with all their might, the Duchessa gave a
signal, the door of honour was thrown open, and the theatre filled in
a moment with all the pretty women of the court, who, finding that the
Prince cut a charming figure and seemed thoroughly happy, began to
applaud; the Prince flushed with joy. He was playing the part of a
lover to the Duchessa. So far from having to suggest his speeches to
him, she was soon obliged to request him to curtail those speeches; he
spoke of love with an enthusiasm which often embarrassed the actress;
his replies lasted five minutes. The Duchessa was no longer the
dazzling beauty of the year before: Fabrizio's imprisonment, and, far
more than that, her stay by Lake Maggiore with a Fabrizio grown morose
and silent, had added ten years to the fair Gina's age. Her features
had become marked, they shewed more intelligence and less youth.

They had now only very rarely the playfulness of early youth; but on
the stage, with the aid of rouge and all the expedients which art
supplies to actresses, she was still the prettiest woman at court. The
passionate addresses uttered by the Prince put the courtiers on the
alert; they were all saying to themselves this evening: "There is the
Balbi of this new reign." The Conte felt himself inwardly revolted.
The play ended, the Duchessa said to the Prince before all the court:

"Your Highness acts too well; people will say that you are in love
with a woman of eight-and-thirty, which will put a stop to my
arrangement with the Conte. And so I will not act any more with Your
Highness, unless the Prince swears to me to address me as he would a
woman of a certain age, the Signora Marchesa Raversi, for example."

The same play was three times repeated; the Prince was madly happy;
but one evening he appeared very thoughtful.

"Either I am greatly mistaken," said the Grand Mistress to the
Princess, "or Rassi is seeking to play some trick upon us; I should
advise Your Highness to choose a play for to-morrow; the Prince will
act badly, and in his despair will tell you something."

The Prince did indeed act very badly; one could barely hear him, and
he no longer knew how to end his sentences. At the end of the first
act he almost had tears in his eyes; the Duchessa stayed beside him,
but was cold and unmoved. The Prince, finding himself alone with her
for a moment, in the actors' green-room, went to shut the door.

"I shall never," he said to her, "be able to play in the second and
third acts; I absolutely decline to be applauded out of kindness; the
applause they gave me this evening cut me to the heart. Give me your
advice, what ought I to do?"

"I shall appear on the stage, make a profound reverence to Her
Highness, another to the audience, like a real stage manager, and say
that, the actor who was playing the part of Lelio having suddenly been
taken ill, the performance will conclude with some pieces of music.
Conte Rusca and little Ghisolfi will be delighted to be able to shew
off their harsh voices to so brilliant an assembly."

The Prince took the Duchessa's hand, which he kissed with rapture.

"Why are you not a man?" he said to her; "you would give me good
advice. Rassi has just laid on my desk one hundred and eighty-two
depositions against the alleged assassins of my father. Apart from
the depositions, there is a formal accusation of more than two hundred
pages; I shall have to read all that, and, besides, I have given my
word not to say anything to the Conte. All this is leading straight to
executions, already he wants me to fetch back from France, from near
Antibes, Ferrante Palla, that great poet whom I admire so much. He is
there under the name of Poncet."

"The day on which you have a Liberal hanged, Rassi will be bound to
the Ministry by chains of iron, and that is what he wishes more than
anything: but Your Highness will no longer be able to speak of leaving
the Palace two hours in advance. I shall say nothing either to the
Princess or to the Conte of the cry of grief which has just escaped
you; but, since I am bound on oath to keep nothing secret from the
Princess, I should be glad if Your Highness would say to his mother
the same things that he has let fall with me."

This idea provided a diversion to the misery of the hissed actor which
was crushing the Sovereign.

"Very well, go and tell my mother; I shall be in her big cabinet."

The Prince left the stage, found his way to the drawing-room from
which one entered the theatre, harshly dismissed the Great Chamberlain
and the Aide-de-Camp on duty who were following him; the Princess,
meanwhile, hurriedly left the play; entering the big cabinet, the
Grand Mistress made a profound reverence to mother and son, and left
them alone. One may imagine the agitation of the court, these are the
things that make it so amusing. At the end of an hour the Prince
himself appeared at the door of the cabinet and summoned the Duchessa;
the Princess was in tears; her son's expression had entirely altered.

"These are weak creatures who are out of temper," the Grand Mistress
said to herself, "and are seeking some good excuse to be angry with
somebody." At first the mother and son began both to speak at once to
tell the details to the Duchessa, who in her answers took great care
not to put forward any idea. For two mortal hours, the three actors in
this tedious scene did not step out of the parts which we have
indicated. The Prince went in person to fetch the two enormous
portfolios which Rassi had deposited on his desk; on leaving his
mother's cabinet, he found the whole court awaiting him. "Go away,
leave me alone!" he cried in a most impolite tone which was quite
without precedent in him. The Prince did not wish to be seen carrying
the two portfolios himself, a Prince ought not to carry anything. The
courtiers vanished in the twinkling of an eye. On his return the
Prince encountered no one but the footmen who were blowing out the
candles; he dismissed them with fury, also poor Fontana, the
Aide-de-Camp on duty, who had been so tactless as to remain, in his
zeal.

"Everyone is doing his utmost to try my patience this evening," he
said crossly to the Duchessa, as he entered the cabinet; he credited
her with great intelligence, and was furious at her evident refusal to
offer him any advice. She, for her part, was determined to say nothing
so long as she was not asked for her advice _quite expressly_. Another
long half hour elapsed before the Prince, who had a sense of his own
dignity, could make up his mind to say to her: "But, Signora, you say
nothing."

"I am here to serve the Princess, and to forget very quickly what is
said before me."

"Very well, Signora," said the Prince, blushing deeply, "I order you
to give me your opinion."

"One punishes crimes to prevent their recurrence. Was the late Prince
poisoned? That is a very doubtful question. Was he poisoned by the
Jacobins? That is what Rassi would dearly like to prove, for then he
becomes for Your Highness a permanently necessary instrument. In that
case Your Highness, whose reign is just beginning, can promise
himself many evenings like this. Your subjects say on the whole, what
is quite true, that Your Highness has a strain of goodness in his
nature; so long as he has not had any Liberal hanged, he will enjoy
that reputation, and most certainly no one will ever dream of planning
to poison him."

"Your conclusion is evident," cried the Princess angrily; "you do not
wish us to punish my husband's assassins!"

"Apparently, Ma'am, because I am bound to them by ties of tender
affection."

The Duchessa could see in the Prince's eyes that he believed her to
be perfectly in accord with his mother as to dictating a plan of
action to him. There followed between the two women a fairly rapid
succession of bitter repartees, at the end of which the Duchessa
protested that she would not utter a single word more, and adhered to
her resolution; but the Prince, after a long discussion with his
mother, ordered her once more to express her opinion.

"That is what I swear to Your Highnesses that I will not do!"

"But this is really childish!" exclaimed the Prince.

"I beg you to speak, Signora Duchessa," said the Princess with an air
of dignity.

"That is what I implore you to excuse me from doing, Ma'am; but Your
Highness," the Duchessa went on, addressing the Prince, "reads
French perfectly: to calm our agitated minds, would he read _us_ a
fable by La Fontaine?"

The Princess thought this "_us_" extremely insolent, but assumed an
air at once of surprise and of amusement when the Grand Mistress, who
had gone with the utmost coolness to open the bookcase, returned with
a volume of La Fontaine's _Fables_; she turned the pages for some
moments, then said to the Prince, handing him the book:

"I beg your Highness to read the whole of the fable."

_THE GARDENER AND THE LORD OF THE MANOR_

A devotee of gardening there was,
Between the peasant and the yeoman class,
Who on the outskirts of a certain village
Owned a neat garden with a bit of tillage.
He made a quickset hedge to fence it in,
And there grew lettuce, pink and jessamine,
Such as win prizes at the local show,
Or make a birthday bouquet for Margot.
One day he called upon the neighbouring Squire
To ask his help with a marauding hare.
"The brute," says he, "comes guzzling everywhere,
And simply laughs at all my traps and wire.
No stick or stone will hit him--I declare
He's a magician." "Rubbish! I don't care
If he's the Deuce himself," replied the other,
"I warrant he shan't give you much more bother.
Miraut, in spite of all his cunning,
Won't take much time to get him running."
"But when?" "To-morrow, sure as here I stand."
Next morning he rides up with all his band.
"Now then, we'll lunch! Those chickens don't look bad."

* * *

The luncheon over, all was preparation,
Bustle and buzz and animation,
Horns blowing, hounds barking, such a hullabaloo,
The good man feared the worst. His fear came true!
The kitchen-garden was a total wreck
Under the trampling, not a speck
Of pot or frame survived. Good-bye
To onion, leek, and chicory,
Good-bye to marrows and their bravery,
Good-bye to all that makes soup savoury!

* * *

The wretched owner saw no sense
In this grand style of doing things;
But no one marked his mutterings.
The hounds and riders in a single trice
Had wrought more havoc in his paradise
Than all the hares in the vicinity
Could have achieved throughout infinity.

So far the story--now the moral:
Each petty Prince should settle his own quarrel.
If once he gets a King for an ally,
He's certain to regret it by and by.

[Footnote: For this translation of La Fontaine's fable I am indebted
to my friend Mr. Edward Marsh, who allows me to reprint the lines from
his _Forty-two Fables of La Fontaine_ (William Heinemann, Ltd., 1924).
C. K. S. M.]

This reading was followed by a long silence. The Prince paced up and
down the cabinet, after going himself to put the volume back in its
place.

"Well, Signora," said the Princess, "will you deign to speak?"

"No, indeed, Ma'am, until such time as His Highness shall appoint me
his Minister; by speaking here, I should run the risk of losing my
place as Grand Mistress."

A fresh silence, lasting a full quarter of an hour; finali; the
Princess remembered the part that had been played in tru past by Marie
de' Medici, the mother of Louis XIII: for the last few days the Grand
Mistress had made the _lettrice_ read aloud the excellent _History of
Louis XIII_, by M. Bazin. The Princess, although greatly annoyed,
thought that the Duchessa might easily leave the country, and then
Rassi, who filled her with mortal terror, might quite well imitate
Richelieu and have her banished by her son. At this moment the
Princess would have given everything in the world to humiliate her
Grand Mistress; but she could not. She rose, and came, with a smile
that was slightly exaggerated, to take the Duchessa's hand and say to
her:

"Come, Signora, give me a proof of your friendship by speaking."

"Very well! Two words, and no more: burn, in the grate there, all the
papers collected by that viper Rassi, and never reveal to him that
they have been burned."

She added in a whisper, and in a familiar tone, in the Princess's ear:

"Rassi may become Richelieu!"

"But, damn it, those papers are costing me more than 80,000 francs!"
the Prince exclaimed angrily.

"Prince," replied the Duchessa with emphasis, "that is what it costs
to employ scoundrels of low birth. Would to God you could lose a
million and never put your trust in the base rascals who kept your
father from sleeping during the last six years of his reign."

The words _low birth_ had greatly delighted the Princess, who felt
that the Conte and his friend had too exclusive a regard for brains,
always slightly akin to Jacobinism.

During the short interval of profound silence, filled by the
Princess's reflections, the castle clock struck three. The Princess
rose, made a profound reverence to her son, and said to him: "My
health does not allow me to prolong the discussion further. Never
have a Minister of _low birth_; you will not disabuse me of the idea
that your Rassi has stolen half the money he has made you spend on
spies." The Princess took two candles from the brackets and put them
in the fireplace in such a way that they should not blow out; then,
going up to her son, she added: "La Fontaine's fable prevails, in my
mind, over the lawful desire to avenge a husband. Will Your Highness
permit me to burn _these writings_?" The Prince remained motionless.

"His face is really stupid," the Duchessa said to herself; "the Conte
is right: the late Prince would not have kept us out of our beds until
three o'clock in the morning, before making up his mind."

The Princess, still standing, went on:

"That little attorney would be very proud, if he knew that his papers
stuffed with lies, and arranged so as to secure his own advancement,
had occupied the two greatest personages in the States for a whole
night."

The Prince dashed at one of the portfolios like a madman, and emptied
its contents into the fireplace. The mass of papers nearly
extinguished the two candles; the room filled with smoke. The Princess
saw in her son's eyes that he was tempted to seize a jug of water and
save these papers, which were costing him eighty thousand francs.

"Open the window!" she cried angrily to the Duchessa. The Duchessa
made haste to obey; at once all the papers took light together; there
was a great roar in the chimney, and it soon became evident that it
was on fire.

The Prince had a petty nature in all matters of money; he thought he
saw his Palace in flames, and all the treasures that it contained
destroyed; he ran to the window and called the guard in a voice
completely altered. The soldiers in a tumult rushed into the courtyard
at the sound of the Prince's voice, he returned to the fireplace which
was sucking in the air from the open window with a really alarming
sound; he grew impatient, swore, took two or three turns up and down
the room like a man out of his mind, and finally ran out.

The Princess and the Grand Mistress remained standing, face to face,
and preserving a profound silence.

"Is the storm going to begin again?" the Duchessa asked herself; "upon
my word, my cause is won." And she was preparing to be highly
impertinent in her replies, when a sudden thought came to her; she
saw the second portfolio intact. "No, my cause is only half won!" She
said to the Princess, in a distinctly cold tone:

"Does Ma'am order me to burn the rest of these papers?" "And where
will you burn them?" asked the Princess angrily.

"In the drawing-room fire; if I throw them in one after another, there
is no danger."

The Duchessa put under her arm the portfolio bursting with papers,
took a candle and went into the next room. She looked first to see
that the portfolio was that which contained the depositions, put in
her shawl five or six bundles of papers, burned the rest with great
care, then disappeared without taking leave of the Princess.

"There is a fine piece of impertinence," she said to herself,

with a laugh, "but her affectations of inconsolable widowhood

came very near to making me lose my head on a scaffold."

On hearing the sound of the Duchessa's carriage, the Princess was
beside herself with rage at her Grand Mistress.

In spite of the lateness of the hour, the Duchessa sent for the Conte;
he was at the fire at the Castle, but soon appeared with the news that
it was all over. "That little Prince has really shewn great courage,
and I have complimented him on it effusively."

"Examine these depositions quickly, and let us burn them as soon as
possible."

The Conte read them, and turned pale.

"Upon my soul, they have come very near the truth; their procedure has
been very cleverly managed, they are positively on the track of
Ferrante Palla; and, if he speaks, we have a difficult part to play."

"But he will not speak," cried the Duchessa; "he is a man of honour:
burn them, burn them."

"Not yet. Allow me to take down the names of a dozen or fifteen
dangerous witnesses, whom I shall take the liberty of removing, if
Rassi ever thinks of beginning again."

"I may remind Your Excellency that the Prince has given his word to
say nothing to his Minister of Justice of our midnight escapade."

"From cowardice and fear of a scene he will keep it."

"Now, my friend, this is a night that has greatly hastened our
marriage; I should not have wished to bring you as my portion a
criminal trial, still less for a sin which I was led to commit by my
interest in another man."

The Conte was in love; he took her hand with an exclamation; tears
stood in his eyes.

"Before you go, give me some advice as to the way I ought to behave
with the Princess; I am utterly worn out, I have been play-acting for
an hour on the stage and for five in her cabinet."

"You have avenged yourself quite sufficiently for the Princess's
sour speeches, which were due only to weakness, by the impertinence
with which you left her. Address her to-morrow in the tone you used
this morning; Rassi is not yet in prison or in exile, and we have not
yet torn up Fabrizio's sentence.

"You were asking the Princess to come to a decision, which is a thing
that always annoys Princes and even Prime Ministers; also you are
her Grand Mistress, that is to say her little servant. By a reversion
which is inevitable in weak people, in three days Rassi will be more
in favour than ever; he will try to have someone hanged: so long as he
has not compromised the Prince, he is sure of nothing.

"There has been a man injured in to-night's fire; he is a tailor, who,
upon my word, shewed an extraordinary intrepidity. To-morrow I am
going to ask the Prince to take my arm and come with me to pay the
tailor a visit; I shall be armed to the teeth and shall keep a sharp
look-out; but anyhow, this young Prince is not hated at all as yet. I
wish to make him accustomed to walking in the streets, it is a trick I
am playing on Rassi, who is certainly going to succeed me, and will
not be able to allow such imprudences. On our way back from the
tailor's, I shall take the Prince past his father's statue; he will
notice the marks of the stones which have broken the Roman toga in
which the idiot of a sculptor dressed it up; and, in short, he will
have to be a great fool if he does not on his own initiative make the
comment: 'This is what one gains by having Jacobins hanged.' To which
I shall reply: 'You must hang either ten thousand or none at all: the
Saint-Bartholomew destroyed the Protestants in France.'

'To-morrow, dear friend, before this excursion, send your name in to
the Prince, and say to him: 'Yesterday evening, I performed the duties
of a Minister to you, and, by your orders, have incurred the
Princess's displeasure. You will have to pay me.' He will expect a
demand for money, and will knit his brows; you will leave him plunged
in this unhappy thought for as long as you can; then you will say:
'I beg Your Highness to order that Fabrizio be tried _in
contradittorio_' (which means, in his presence) 'by the twelve most
respected judges in your States.' _And_, without losing any time, you
will present for his signature a little order written out by your own
fair hand, which I am going to dictate to you; I shall of course
include the clause that the former sentence is quashed. To this there
is only one objection; but, if you press the matter warmly, it will
not occur to the Prince's mind. He may say to you: 'Fabrizio must
first make himself a prisoner in the citadel.' To which you will
reply: 'He will make himself a prisoner in the town prison" (you know
that I am the master there; every evening your nephew will come to see
us). If the Prince answers: 'No, his escape has tarnished the honour
of my citadel, and I desire, for form's sake, that he return to the
cell in which he was'; you in turn will reply: 'No, for there he would
be at the disposal of my enemy Rassi'; and, in one of those feminine
sentences which you utter so effectively, you will give him to
understand that, to make Rassi yield, you have only to tell him of
to-night's _auto-da-fè_; if he insists, you will announce that you are
going to spend a fortnight at your place at Sacca.

"You will send for Fabrizio, and consult him as to this step which may
land him in prison. If, to anticipate everything while he is under
lock and key, Rassi should grow too impatient and have me poisoned,
Fabrizio may run a certain risk. But that is hardly probable; you know
that I have imported a French cook, who is the merriest of men, and
makes puns; well, punning is incompatible with poison. I have already
told our friend Fabrizio that I have managed to find all the
witnesses of his fine and courageous action; it was evidently that
fellow Giletti who tried to murder him. I have not spoken to you of
these witnesses, because I wished to give you a surprise, but the plan
has failed; the Prince refused to sign. I have told our friend
Fabrizio that certainly I should procure him a high ecclesiastical
dignity; but I shall have great difficulty if his enemies can raise
the objection in the Roman Curia of a charge of murder.

"Do you realise, Signora, that, if he is not tried and judged in the
most solemn fashion, all his life long the name of Giletti will be a
reproach to him? It would be a great act of cowardice not to have
oneself tried, when one is sure of one's innocence. Besides, even if
he were guilty, I should make them acquit him. When I spoke to him,
the fiery youngster would not allow me to finish, he picked up the
official almanac, and we went through it together choosing the twelve
most upright and learned judges; when we had made the list, we
cancelled six names for which we substituted those of six counsel, my
personal enemies, and, as we could find only two enemies, we filled up
the gaps with four rascals who are devoted to Rassi."

This proposal filled the Duchessa with a mortal anxiety, and not
without cause; at length she yielded to reason, and, at the Minister's
dictation, wrote out the order appointing the judges.

The Conte did not leave her until six o'clock in the morning; she
endeavoured to sleep, but in vain. At nine o'clock, she took breakfast
with Fabrizio, whom she found burning with a desire to be tried; at
ten, she waited on the Princess, who was not visible; at eleven, she
saw the Prince, who was holding his levee, and signed the order
without the slightest objection. The Duchessa sent the order to the
Conte, and retired to bed.

It would be pleasant perhaps to relate Rassi's fury when the Conte
obliged him to countersign, in the Prince's presence, the order
signed that morning by the Prince himself; but we must go on with our
story.

The Conte discussed the merits of each judge, and offered to change
the names. But the reader is perhaps a little tired of all these
details of procedure, no less than of all these court intrigues. From
the whole business one can derive this moral, that the man who mingles
with a court compromises his happiness, if he is happy, and, in any
event, makes his future depend on the intrigues of a chambermaid.

On the other hand in America, in the Republic, one has to spend the
whole weary day paying serious court to the shopkeepers in the street,
and must become as stupid as they are; and there, one has no Opera.

The Duchessa, when she rose in the evening, had a moment of keen
anxiety: Fabrizio was not to be found; finally, towards midnight,
during the performance at court, she received a letter from him.
Instead of making himself a prisoner _in the town prison_, where the
Conte was in control, he had gone back to occupy his old cell in the
citadel, only too happy to be living within a few feet of Clelia.

This was an event of vast consequence: in this place he was exposed to
the risk of poison more than ever. This act of folly filled the
Duchessa with despair; she forgave the cause of it, a mad love for
Clelia, because unquestionably in a few days' time that young lady was
going to marry the rich Marchese Crescenzi. This folly restored to
Fabrizio all the influence he had originally enjoyed over the
Duchessa's heart.

"It is that cursed paper which I went and made the Prince sign that
will be his death! What fools men are with their ideas of honour! As
if one needed to think of honour under absolute governments, in
countries where a Rassi is Minister of Justice! He ought to have
accepted the pardon outright, which the Prince would have signed just
as readily as the order convening this extraordinary tribunal. What
does it matter, after all, that a man of Fabrizio's birth should be
more or less accused of having himself, sword in hand, killed an actor
like Giletti?"

No sooner had she received Fabrizio's note than the Duchessa ran to
the Conte, whom she found deadly pale.

"Great God! Dear friend, I am most unlucky in handling that boy, and
you will be vexed with me again. I can prove to you that I made the
gaoler of the town prison come here yesterday evening; every day your
nephew would have come to take tea with you. What is so terrible is
that it is impossible for you and me to say to the Prince that there
is fear of poison, and of poison administered by Rassi; the suspicion
would seem to him the height of immorality. However, if you insist, I
am ready to go up to the Palace; but I am certain of the answer. I am
going to say more; I offer you a stratagem which I would not employ
for myself. Since I have been in power in this country, I have not
caused the death of a single man, and you know that I am so sensitive
in that respect that sometimes, at the close of day, I still think of
those two spies whom I had shot, rather too light-heartedly, in Spain.
Very well, do you wish me to get rid of Rassi? The danger in which he
is placing Fabrizio is unbounded; he has there a sure way of sending
me packing."

This proposal pleased the Duchessa extremely, but she did not adopt
it.

"I do not wish," she said to the Conte, "that in our retirement,
beneath the beautiful sky of Naples, you should have dark thoughts in
the evenings."

"But, dear friend, it seems to me that we have only the choice between
one dark thought and another. What will you do, what will I do myself,
if Fabrizio is carried off by an illness?"

The discussion returned to dwell upon this idea, and the Duchessa
ended it with this speech:

"Rassi owes his life to the fact that I love you more than Fabrizio;
no, I do not wish to poison all the evenings of the old age which we
are going to spend together."

The Duchessa hastened to the fortress; General Fabio Conti was
delighted at having to stop her with the strict letter of the military
regulations: no one might enter a state prison without an order signed
by the Prince.

"But the Marchese Crescenzi and his musicians come every day to the
citadel?"

"Because I obtained an order for them from the Prince."

The poor Duchessa did not know the full tale of her troubles. General
Fabio Conti had regarded himself as personally dishonoured by
Fabrizio's escape: when he saw him arrive at the citadel, he ought not
to have admitted him, for he had no order to that effect. "But," he
said to himself, "it is Heaven that is sending him to me to restore my
honour, and to save me from the ridicule which would assail my
military career. This opportunity must not be missed: doubtless they
are going to acquit him, and I have only a few days for my revenge."




CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

The arrival of our hero threw Clelia into despair: the poor girl,
pious and sincere with herself, could not avoid the reflexion that
there would never be any happiness for her apart from Fabrizio; but
she had made a vow to the Madonna, at the time when her father was
nearly poisoned, that she would offer him the sacrifice of marrying
the Marchese Crescenzi. She had made the vow that she would never
see Fabrizio, and already she was a prey to the most fearful remorse
over the admission she had been led to make in the letter she had
written Fabrizio on the eve of his escape. How is one to depict what
occurred in that sorrowful heart when, occupied in a melancholy way
with watching her birds flit to and fro, and raising her eyes from
habit, and with affection, towards the window from which formerly
Fabrizio used to look at her, she saw him there once again, greeting
her with tender respect.

She imagined it to be a vision which Heaven had allowed for her
punishment; then the atrocious reality became apparent to her
reason. "They have caught him again," she said to herself, "and he is
lost!" She remembered the things that had been said in the fortress
after the escape; the humblest of the gaolers regarded themselves as
mortally insulted. Clelia looked at Fabrizio, and in spite of herself
that look portrayed in full the passion that had thrown her into
despair.

"Do you suppose," she seemed to be saying to Fabrizio, "that I shall
find happiness in that sumptuous palace which they are making ready
for me? My father repeats to me till I am weary that you are as poor
as ourselves; but, great God, with what joy would I share that
poverty! But, alas, we must never see one another again!"

Clelia had not the strength to make use of the alphabets: as she
looked at Fabrizio she felt faint and sank upon a chair that stood
beside the window. Her head rested upon the ledge of this window, and
as she had been anxious to see him until the last moment, her face was
turned towards Fabrizio, who had a perfect view of it. When, after a
few moments, she opened her eyes again, her first glance was at
Fabrizio: she saw tears in his eyes, but those tears were the effect
of extreme happiness; he saw that absence had by no means made him
forgotten. The two poor young things remained for some time as
though spell-bound by the sight of each other. Fabrizio ventured to
sing, as if he were accompanying himself on the guitar, a few
improvised lines which said: "_It is to see you again_ that I have
returned to prison; _they are going to try me_."

These words seemed to awaken all Clelia's dormant virtue: she rose
swiftly, and hid her eyes; and, by the most vivid gestures, sought to
express to him that she must never see him again; she had promised
this to the Madonna, and had looked at him just now in a moment of
forgetfulness. Fabrizio venturing once more to express his love,
Clelia fled from the room indignant, and swearing to herself that
never would she see him again, for such were the precise words of her
vow to the Madonna: "_My eyes shall never see him again_." She had
written them on a little slip of paper which her uncle Don Cesare had
allowed her to burn upon the altar at the moment of the oblation,
while he was saying mass.

But, oaths or no oaths, Fabrizio's presence in the Torre Farnese had
restored to Clelia all her old habits and activities. Normally she
passed all her days in solitude, in her room. No sooner had she
recovered from the unforeseen disturbance in which the sight of
Fabrizio had plunged her, than she began to wander through the
_palazzo_, and, so to speak, to renew her acquaintance with all her
humble friends. A very loquacious old woman, employed in the kitchen,
said to her with an air of mystery: "This time, Signor Fabrizio will
not leave the citadel."

"He will not make the mistake of going over the walls again," said
Clelia, "but he will leave by the door if he is acquitted."

"I say, and I can assure Your Excellency that he will go out of the
citadel feet first."

Clelia turned extremely pale, a change which was remarked by the old
woman and stopped the flow of her eloquence. She said to herself that
she had been guilty of an imprudence in speaking thus before the
governor's daughter, whose duty it would be to tell everybody that
Fabrizio had died a natural death. As she went up to her room, Clelia
met the prison doctor, an honest sort of man but timid, who told her
with a terrified air that Fabrizio was seriously ill. Clelia could
hardly keep on her feet; she sought everywhere for her uncle, the good
Don Cesare, and at length found him in the chapel, where he was
praying fervently: from his face he appeared upset. The dinner bell
rang. At table, not a word was exchanged between the brothers; only,
towards the end of the meal, the General addressed a few very harsh
words to his brother. The 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 leaving the citadel: I give you my resignation."

"_Bravo! Bravissimo_! So that I shall be suspect! ... And your
reason, if you please?"

"My conscience."

"Go on, you're only a frock! You know nothing about honour."

"Fabrizio is dead," thought Clelia; "they have poisoned him at dinner,
or it is arranged for to-morrow." She ran to the aviary, resolved to
sing, accompanying herself on the piano. "I shall go to confession,"
she said to herself, "and I shall be forgiven for having broken my vow
to save a man's life." What was her consternation when, on reaching
the aviary, she saw that the screens had been replaced by planks
fastened to the iron bars. In desperation she tried to give the
prisoner a warning in a few words shouted rather than sung. There was
no response of any sort: a deathly silence already reigned in the
Torre Farnese. "It is all over," she said to herself. Beside herself,
she went downstairs, then returned to equip herself with the little
money she had and some small diamond earrings; she took also, on her
way out, the bread that remained from dinner, which had been placed in
a sideboard. "If he still lives, my duty is to save him." She advanced
with a haughty air to the little door of the tower; this door stood
open, and eight soldiers had just been posted in the pillared room on
the ground floor. She faced these soldiers boldly; Clelia counted on
speaking to the serjeant who would be in charge of them: this man was
absent, Clelia rushed on to the little iron staircase which wound in a
spiral round one of the pillars; the soldiers looked at her with great
stupefaction but, evidently on account of her lace shawl and her
hat, dared not say anything to her. On the first landing there was no
one; but, when she reached the second, at the entrance to the corridor
which, as the reader may remember, was closed by three barred gates
and led to Fabrizio's cell, she found a turnkey who was a stranger to
her, and said to her with a terrified air: "He has not dined yet."

"I know that," said Clelia haughtily. The man dared not stop her.
Twenty paces farther, Clelia found sitting upon the first of the six
wooden steps which led to Fabrizio's cell, another turnkey, elderly
and very cross, who said to her firmly:

"Signorina, have you an order from the governor?" "Do you mean to say
that you do not know me?" Clelia, at that moment, was animated by a
supernatural force, she was beside herself. "I am going to save my
husband," she said to herself.

While the old turnkey was exclaiming: "But my duty does not allow me.
..." Clelia hastened up the six steps; she hurled herself against
the door: an enormous key was in the lock; she required all her
strength to make it turn. At that moment, the old turnkey, who was
half intoxicated, seized the hem of her gown, she went quickly into
the room, shut the door behind her, tearing her gown, and, as the
turnkey was pushing the door to follow her, closed it with a bolt
which lay to her hand. She looked into the cell and saw Fabrizio
seated at a small table upon which his dinner was laid. She dashed at
the table, overturned it, and, seizing Fabrizio by the arm, said to
him: "_Hai mangiato_?"

This use of the singular form delighted Fabrizio. In her confusion,
Clelia forgot for the first time her feminine reserve, and let her
love appear.

Fabrizio had been going to begin the fatal meal; he took her in his
arms and covered her with kisses. "This dinner was poisoned," was his
thought: "if I tell her that I have not touched it, religion regains
its hold, and Clelia flies. If, on the other hand, she regards me as
a dying man, I shall obtain from her a promise not to leave me. She
wishes to find some way of breaking off her abominatele marriage and
here chance offers us one: the gaolers will collect, they will break
down the door, and then, there will be such a scandal that perhaps the
Marchese Crescenzi will fight shy, and the marriage be broken off."

During the moment of silence occupied by these reflexions Fabrizio
felt that already Clelia was seeking to free herself from his embrace.

"I feel no pain as yet," he said to her, "but presently it will
prostrate me at your feet; help me to die."

"O my only friend!" was her answer, "I will die with thee." She
clasped him in her arms with a convulsive movement.

She was so beautiful, half unclad and in this state of intense
passion, that Fabrizio could not resist an almost unconscious impulse.
No resistance was offered him.

In the enthusiasm of passion and generous instincts which follows an
extreme happiness, he said to her fatuously:

"I must not allow an unworthy falsehood to soil the first moments of
our happiness: but for your courage, I should now be only a corpse, or
writhing in atrocious pain, but I was going to begin my dinner when
you came in, and I have not touched these dishes at all."

Fabrizio dwelt upon these appalling images to conjure away the
indignation which he could already read in Clelia's eyes. She looked
at him for some moments, while two violent and conflicting sentiments
fought within her, then flung herself into his arms. They heard a
great noise in the corridor, the three iron doors were violently
opened and shut, voices shouted.

"Ah! If I had arms!" cried Fabrizio; "they made me give them up before
they would let me in. No doubt they are coming to kill me. Farewell,
my Clelia, I bless my death since it has been the cause of my
happiness." Clelia embraced him and gave him a little dagger with an
ivory handle, the blade of which was scarcely longer than that of a
pen-knife.

"Do not let yourself be killed," she said to him, "and defend yourself
to the last moment; if my uncle the Priore hears the noise, he is a
man of courage and virtue, he will save you." So saying she rushed to
the door.

"If you are not killed," she said with exaltation, holding the bolt of
the door in her hand and turning her head towards him, "let yourself
die of hunger rather than touch anything. Carry this bread always on
you." The noise came nearer, Fabrizio seized her round the body,
stepped into her place by the door, and, opening it with fury, dashed
down ' the six steps of the wooden staircase. He had in his hand the
little dagger with the ivory handle, and was on the point of piercing
with it the waistcoat of General Fontana, Aide-de-Camp to the Prince,
who recoiled with great alacrity, crying in a panic: "But I am coming
to save you, Signor del Dongo."

Fabrizio went up the six steps, called into the cell: "Fontana has
come to save me"; then, returning to the General, on the wooden steps,
discussed matters coldly with him. He begged him at great length to
pardon him a movement of anger. "They wished to poison me; the dinner
that is there on my table is poisoned; I had the sense not to touch
it, but I may admit to you that this procedure has given me a shock.
When I heard you on the stair, I thought that they were coming to
finish me off with their dirks. Signor Generale, I request you to
order that no one shall enter my cell: they would remove the poison,
and our good Prince must know all."

The General, very pale and completely taken aback, passed on the
orders suggested by Fabrizio to the picked body of gaolers who were
following him: these men, greatly dismayed at finding the poison
discovered, hastened downstairs; they went first, ostensibly so as not
to delay the Prince's Aide-de-Camp on the narrow staircase, actually
in order to escape themselves and vanish. To the great surprise of
General Fontana, Fabrizio kept him for fully a quarter of an hour on
the little iron staircase which ran round the pillar of the ground
floor; he wished to give Clelia time to hide on the floor above.

It was the Duchessa who, after various wild attempts, had managed to
get General Fontana sent to the citadel; it was only by chance that
she succeeded. On leaving Conte Mosca, as alarmed as she was herself,
she had hastened to the Palace. The Princess, who had a marked
repugnance for energy, which seemed to her vulgar, thought her mad and
did not appear at all disposed to attempt any unusual measures on
her behalf. The Duchessa, out of her senses, was weeping hot tears,
she could do nothing but repeat, every moment:

"But, Ma'am, in a quarter of an hour Fabrizio will be dead, poisoned."

Seeing the Princess remain perfectly composed, the Duchessa became
mad with grief. She completely overlooked the moral reflexion which
would not have escaped a woman brought up in one of those Northern
religions which allow self-examination: "I was the first to use
poison, and I am perishing by poison." In Italy reflexions of that
sort, in moments of passion, appear in the poorest of taste, as a pun
would seem in Paris in similar circumstances.

The Duchessa, in desperation, risked going into the drawing-room
where she found the Marchese Crescenzi, who was in waiting that day.
On her return to Parma he had thanked her effusively for the place of
_Cavaliere d'onore_, to which, but for her, he would never have had
any claim. Protestations of unbounded devotion had not been lacking
on his part. The Duchessa appealed to him in these words:

"Rassi is going to have Fabrizio, who is in the citadel, poisoned.
Take in your pocket some chocolate and a bottle of water which I shall
give you. Go up to the citadel, and save my life by saying to General
Fabio Conti that you will break off your marriage with his daughter if
he does not allow you to give the water and the chocolate to Fabrizio
with your own hands."

The Marchese turned pale, and his features, so far from shewing any
animation at these words, presented a picture of the dullest
embarrassment; he could not believe in the possibility of so shocking
a crime in a town as moral as Parma, and one over which so great a
Prince reigned, and so forth; these platitudes, moreover, he uttered
slowly. In a word, the Duchessa found an honest man, but the weakest
imaginable, and one who could not make up his mind to act. After a
score of similar phrases interrupted by cries of impatience from
Signora Sanseverina, he hit upon an excellent idea: the oath which he
had given as _Cavaliere d'onore_ forbade him to take part in any
action against the Government.

Who can conceive the anxiety and despair of the Duchessa, who felt
that time was flying? >

"But, at least, see the governor; tell him that I shall pursue
Fabrizio's murderers to hell itself!"

Despair increased the Duchessa's natural eloquence, but all this fire
only made the Marchese more alarmed and doubled his irresolution; at
the end of an hour he was less disposed to act than at the first
moment.

This unhappy woman, who had reached the utmost limits of despair and
knew well that the governor would refuse nothing to so rich a
son-in-law, went so far as to fling herself at his feet; at this the
Marchese's pusillanimity seemed to increase still further; he himself,
at the sight of this strange spectacle, was afraid of being
compromised unawares; but a singular thing happened: the Marchese, a
good man at heart, was touched by the tears and by the posture, at his
feet, of so beautiful and, above all, so influential a woman.

"I myself, noble and rich as I am," he said to himself, "will perhaps
one day be at the feet of some Republican!" The Marchese burst into
tears, and finally it was agreed that the Duchessa, in her capacity as
Grand Mistress, should present him to the Princess, who would give him
permission to convey to Fabrizio a little hamper, of the contents of
which he would declare himself to know nothing.

The previous evening, before the Duchessa knew of Fabrizio's act of
folly in going to the citadel, they had played at court a _commedia
dell'arte_, and the Prince, who always reserved for himself the
lover's part to be played with the Duchessa, had been so passionate in
speaking to her of his affection that he would have been absurd, if,
in Italy, an impassioned man or a Prince could ever be thought so.

The Prince, extremely shy, but always intensely serious in matters of
love, met, in one of the corridors of the Castle, the Duchessa who was
carrying off the Marchese Crescenzi, in great distress, to the
Princess. He was so surprised and dazzled by the beauty, full of
emotion, which her despair gave the Grand Mistress, that for the first
time in his life he shewed character. With a more than imperious
gesture he dismissed the Marchese, and began to make a declaration of
love, according to all the rules, to the Duchessa. The Prince had
doubtless prepared this speech long beforehand, for there were things
in it that were quite reasonable.

"Since the conventions of my rank forbid me to give myself the
supreme happiness of marrying you, I will swear to you upon the
Blessed Sacrament never to marry without your permission in writing. I
am well aware," he added, "that I am making you forfeit the hand of a
Prime Minister, a clever and extremely amiable man; but after all he
is fifty-six, and I am not yet two-and-twenty. I should consider
myself to be insulting you, and to deserve your refusal if I spoke to
you of the advantages that there are apart from love; but everyone who
takes an interest in money at my court speaks with admiration of the
proof of his love which the Conte gives you, in leaving you the
custodian of all that he possesses. I shall be only too happy to copy
him in that respect. You will make a better use of my fortune than I,
and you shall have the entire disposal of the annual sum which my
Ministers hand over to the Intendant General of my Crown; so that it
will be you, Signora Duchessa, who will decide upon the sums which I
may spend each month." The Duchessa found all these details very long;
Fabrizio's dangers pierced her heart.

"Then you do not know, Prince," she cried, "that at this moment they
are poisoning Fabrizio in your citadel! Save him! I accept
everything."

The arrangement of this speech was perfect in its clumsiness. At the
mere mention of poison all the ease, all the good faith which this
poor, moral Prince was putting into the conversation vanished in the
twinkling of an eye; the Duchessa did not notice her tactlessness
until it was too late to remedy it, and her despair was intensified, a
thing she had believed to be impossible. "If I had not spoken of
poison," she said to herself, "he would grant me Fabrizio's freedom.
... O my dear Fabrizio," she added, "so it is fated that it is I who
must pierce your heart by my foolishness!"

It took the Duchessa all her time and all her coquetry to get the
Prince back to his talk of passionate love; but even then he remained
deeply offended. It was his mind alone that spoke; his heart had been
frozen by the idea first of all of poison, and then by the other idea,
as displeasing as the first was terrible: "They administer poison in
my States, and without telling me! So Rassi wishes to dishonour me in
the eyes of Europe! And God knows what I shall read text month in the
Paris newspapers!"

Suddenly the heart of this shy young man was silent, his mind arrived
at an idea.

"Dear Duchessa! You know whether I am attached to you. Your terrible
ideas about poison are unfounded, I prefer to think; still, they give
me food for thought, they make me almost forget for an instant the
passion that I feel for you, which is the only passion that I have
ever felt in all my life. I know that I am not attractive; I am only
a boy, hopelessly in love; still, put me to the test."

The Prince grew quite animated in using this language.

"Save Fabrizio, and I accept everything! No doubt I am carried away by
the foolish fears of a mother's heart; but send this moment to fetch
Fabrizio from the citadel, that I may see him. If he is still alive,
send him from the Palace to the town prison, where he can remain for
months on end, if Your Highness requires, until his trial."

The Duchessa saw with despair that the Prince, instead of granting
with a word so simple a request, had turned sombre; he was very red,
he looked at the Duchessa, then lowered his eyes, and his cheeks grew
pale. The idea of poison put forward at the wrong moment, had
suggested to him an idea worthy of his father or of Philip II; but he
dared not express it in words.

"Listen, Signora," he said at length, as though forcing himself to
speak, and in a tone that was by no means gracious, "you look down
on me as a child and, what is more, a creature without graces: very
well, I am going to say something which is horrible, but which has
just been suggested to me by the deep and true passion that I feel for
you. If I believed for one moment in this poison, I should have taken
action already, as in duty bound; but I see in your request only a
passionate fancy, and one of which, I beg leave to state, I do not see
all the consequences. You desire that I should act without consulting
my Ministers, I who have been reigning for barely three months! You
ask of me a great exception to my ordinary mode of action, which I
regard as highly reasonable. It is you, Signora, who are here and now
the Absolute Sovereign, you give me reason to hope in a matter which
is everything to me; but, in an hour's time, when this imaginary
poison, when this nightmare has vanished, my presence will become an
annoyance to you, I shall forfeit your favour, Signora. Very well, I
require an oath: swear to me, Signora, that if Fabrizio is restored to
you safe and sound I shall obtain from you, in three months from now,
all that my love can desire; you will assure the happiness of my
entire life by placing at my disposal an hour of your own, and you
will be wholly mine."

At that moment, the Castle clock struck two. "Ah! It is too late,
perhaps," thought the Duchessa.

"I swear it," she cried, with a wild look in her eyes.

At once the Prince became another man; he ran to the far end of the
gallery, where the Aide-de-Camp's room was.

"General Fontana, dash off to the citadel this instant, go up as
quickly as possible to the room in which they have put Signor del
Dongo, and bring him to me; I must speak to him within twenty minutes,
fifteen if possible."

"Ah, General," cried the Duchessa, who had followed the Prince, "one
minute may decide my life. A report which is doubtless false makes me
fear poison for Fabrizio: shout to him, as soon as you are within
earshot, not to eat. If he has touched his dinner, make him swallow an
emetic, tell him that it is I who wish it, employ force if necessary;
tell him that I am following close behind you, and I shall be obliged
to you all my life."

"Signora Duchessa, my horse is saddled, I am generally considered a
pretty good horseman, and I shall ride hell for leather; I shall be at
the citadel eight minutes before you."

"And I, Signora Duchessa," cried the Prince, "I ask of you four of
those eight minutes."

The Aide-de-Camp had vanished, he was a man who had no other merit
than that of his horsemanship. No sooner had he shut the door than the
young Prince, who seemed to have acquired some character, seized the
Duchessa's hand.

"Condescend, Signora," he said to her with passion, "to come with me
to the chapel." The Duchessa, at a loss for the first time in her
life, followed him without uttering a word. The Prince and she passed
rapidly down the whole length of the great gallery of the Palace, the
chapel being at the other end. On entering the chapel, the Prince fell
on his knees, almost as much before the Duchessa as before the altar.

"Repeat the oath," he said with passion: "if you had been fair, if the
wretched fact of my being a Prince had not been against me, you would
have granted me out of pity for my love what you now owe me because
you have sworn it."

"If I see Fabrizio again not poisoned, if he is alive in a week from
now, if His Highness will appoint him Coadjutor with eventual
succession to Archbishop Landriani, my honour, my womanly dignity,
everything shall be trampled under foot, and I will give myself to His
Highness."

"But, _dear friend_," said the Prince with a blend of timid anxiety
and affection which was quite pleasing, "I am afraid of some ambush
which I do not understand, and which might destroy my happiness; that
would kill me. If the Archbishop opposes me with one of those
ecclesiastical reasons which keep things dragging on for year after
year, what will become of me? You see that I am behaving towards you
with entire good faith; are you going to be a little Jesuit with me?"

"No: in good faith, if Fabrizio is saved, if, so far as lies in your
power, you make him Coadjutor and a future Archbishop, I dishonour
myself and I am yours.

"Your Highness undertakes to write _approved_ on the margin of a
request which His Grace the Archbishop will present to you in a week
from now."

"I will sign you a blank sheet; reign over me and over my States,"
cried the Prince, colouring with happiness and really beside himself.
He demanded a second oath. He was so deeply moved that he forgot the
shyness that came so naturally to him, and, in this Palace chapel in
which they were alone, murmured in an undertone to the Duchessa things
which, uttered three days earlier, would have altered the opinion that
she held of him. But in her the despair which Fabrizio's danger had
caused her had given place to horror at the promise which had been
wrung from her.

The Duchessa was completely upset by what she had just done. If she
did not yet feel all the fearful bitterness of the word she had given,
it was because her attention was occupied in wondering whether General
Fontana would be able to reach the citadel in time.

To free herself from the madly amorous speeches of this boy, and to
change the topic of conversation, she praised a famous picture by the
Parmigianino, which hung over the high altar of the chapel.

"Be so good as to permit me to send it to you," said the Prince.

"I accept," replied the Duchessa; "but allow me to go and meet
Fabrizio."

With a distracted air she told her coachman to put his horses into a
gallop. On the bridge over the moat of the citadel she met General
Fontana and Fabrizio, who were coming out on foot.

"Have you eaten?"

"No, by a miracle."

The Duchessa flung her arms round Fabrizio's neck and fell in a faint
which lasted for an hour, and gave fears first for her life and
afterwards for her reason.

The governor Fabio Conti had turned white with rage at the sight of
General Fontana: he had been so slow in obeying the Prince's orders
that the Aide-de-Camp, who supposed that the Duchessa was going to
occupy the position of reigning mistress, had ended by losing his
temper. The governor reckoned upon making Fabrizio's illness last for
two or three days, and "now," he said to himself, "the General, a man
from the court, will find that insolent fellow writhing in the agony
which is my revenge for his escape."

Fabio Conti, lost in thought, stopped in the guard-room on the ground
floor of the Torre Farnese, from which he hastily dismissed the
soldiers: he did not wish to have any witnesses of the scene which was
about to be played. Five minutes later he was petrified with
astonishment on hearing Fabrizio's voice, on seeing him, alive and
alert, giving General Fontana an account of his imprisonment. He
vanished.

Fabrizio shewed himself a perfect "gentleman" in his interview with
the Prince. For one thing, he did not wish to assume the air of a boy
who takes fright at nothing. The Prince asked him kindly how he felt:
"Like a man, Serene Highness, who is dying of hunger, having
fortunately neither broken my fast nor dined." After having had the
honour to thank the Prince, he requested permission to visit the
Archbishop before surrendering himself at the town prison. The Prince
had turned prodigiously pale, when his boyish head had been penetrated
by the idea that this poison was not altogether a chimaera of the
Duchessa's imagination. Absorbed in this cruel thought, he did not at
first reply to the request to see the Archbishop which Fabrizio
addressed to him; then he felt himself obliged to atone for his
distraction by a profusion of graciousness.

"Go out alone, Signore, walk through the streets of my capital
unguarded. About ten or eleven o'clock you will return to prison,
where I hope that you will not long remain."

On the morrow of this great day, the most remarkable of his life, the
Prince fancied himself a little Napoleon; he had read that that great
man had been kindly treated by several of the beauties of his court.
Once established as a Napoleon in love, he remembered that he had been
one also under fire. His heart was still quite enraptured by the
firmness of his conduct with the Duchessa. The consciousness of having
done something difficult made him another man altogether for a
fortnight; he became susceptible to generous considerations; he had
some character.

He began this day by burning the patent of Conte made out in favour of
Rassi, which had been lying on his desk for a month. He degraded
General Fabio Conti, and called upon Colonel Lange, his successor, for
the truth as to the poison. Lange, a gallant Polish officer,
intimidated the gaolers, and reported that there had been a design to
poison Signor del Dongo's breakfast; but too many people would have
had to be taken into confidence. Arrangements to deal with his dinner
were more successful; and, but for the arrival of General Fontana,
Signor del Dongo was a dead man. The Prince was dismayed; but, as he
was really in love, it was a consolation for him to be able to say to
himself: "It appears that I really did save Signor del Dongo's life,
and the Duchessa will never dare fail to keep the word she has given
me." Another idea struck him: "My business is a great deal more
difficult than I thought; everyone is agreed that the Buchessa is a
woman of infinite cleverness, here my policy and my heart go together.
It would be divine for me if she would consent to be my Prime
Minister."

That evening, the Prince was so infuriated by the horrors that he had
discovered that he would not take part in the play.

"I should be more than happy," he said to the Buchessa, "if you would
reign over my States as you reign over my heart. To begin with, I am
going to tell you how I have spent my day." He then told her
everything, very exactly: the burning of Conte Rassi's patent, the
appointment of Lange, his report on the poisoning, and so forth. "I
find that I have very little experience for ruling. The Conte
humiliates me by his jokes. He makes jokes even at the Council; and,
in society, he says things the truth of which you are going to
disprove; he says that I am a boy whom he leads wherever he chooses.
Though one is a Prince, Signora, one is none the less a man, and these
things annoy one. In order to give an air of improbability to the
stories which Signor Mosca may repeat, they have made me summon to the
Ministry that dangerous scoundrel Rassi, and now there is that General
Conti who believes him to be still so powerful that he dare not admit
that it was he or the Raversi who ordered him to destroy your nephew;
I have a good mind simply to send General Fabio Conti before the
court; the judges will see whether he is guilty of attempted
poisoning."

"But, Prince, have you judges?"

"What!" said the Prince in astonishment.

"You have certain learned counsel who walk the streets with a solemn
air; apart from that they always give the judgment that will please
the dominant party at your court."

While the young Prince, now scandalised, uttered expressions which
shewed his candour far more than his sagacity, the Buchessa was saying
to herself:

"Does it really suit me to let Conti be disgraced? No, certainly not;
for then his daughter's marriage with that honest simpleton the
Marchese Crescenzi becomes impossible."

On this topic there was an endless discussion between the Duchessa and
the Prince. The Prince was dazed with admiration. In consideration
of the marriage of Clelia Conti to the Marchese Crescenzi, but on that
express condition, which he laid down in an angry scene with the
ex-governor, the Prince pardoned his attempt to poison; but, on the
Duchessa's advice, banished him until the date of his daughter's
marriage. The Duchessa imagined that it was no longer love that she
felt for Fabrizio, but she was still passionately anxious for the
marriage of Clelia Conti to the Marchese; " there lay in that the
vague hope that gradually she might see Fabrizio's preoccupation
disappear.

The Prince, rapturously happy, wished that same evening publicly to
disgrace the Minister Rassi. The Duchessa said to him with a laugh:

"Do you know a saying of Napoleon? A man placed in an exalted
position, with the eyes of the whole world on him, ought never to
allow himself to make violent movements. But this evening it is too
late, let us leave business till to-morrow."

She wished to give herself time to consult the Conte, to whom she
repeated very accurately the whole of the evening's conversation,
suppressing however the frequent allusions to a promise which was
poisoning her life. The Duchessa hoped to make herself so
indispensable that she would be able to obtain an indefinite
adjournment by saying to the Prince: "If you have the barbarity to
insist upon subjecting me to that humiliation, which I will never
forgive you, I leave your States the day after."

Consulted by the Duchessa as to the fate of Rassi, the Conte shewed
himself most philosophic. General Fabio Conti and he went for a tour
of Piedmont.

A singular difficulty arose in the trial of Fabrizio: the judges
wished to acquit him by acclamation, and at the first sitting of the
court. The Conte was obliged to use threats to enforce that the trial
should last for at least a week, and the judges take the trouble to
hear all the witnesses. "These fellows are always the same," he said
to himself.

The day after his acquittal, Fabrizio del Dongo at last took
possession of the place of Grand Vicar to the worthy Archbishop
Landriani. On the same day the Prince signed the dispatches necessary
to obtain Fabrizio's nomination as Coadjutor with eventual succession,
and less than two months afterwards he was installed in that office.

Everyone complimented the Duchessa on her nephew's air of gravity; the
fact was that he was in despair. The day after his deliverance,
followed by the dismissal and banishment of General Fabio Conti and
the Duchessa's arrival in high favour, Clelia had taken refuge with
Contessa Contarmi, her aunt, a woman of great wealth and great age,
occupied exclusively in looking after her health. Clelia could, had
she wished, have seen Fabrizio; but anyone acquainted with her
previous commitments who had seen her behaviour now might have thought
that with her lover's danger her love for him also had ceased. Not
only did Fabrizio pass as often as he decently could before the
_palazzo_ Contarini, he had also succeeded, after endless trouble, in
taking a little apartment opposite the windows of its first floor. On
one occasion Clelia, having gone to the window without thinking, to
see a procession pass, drew back at once, as though terror-stricken;
she had caught sight of Fabrizio, dressed in black, but as a workman
in very humble circumstances, looking at her from one of the windows
of this rookery, which had panes of oiled paper, like his cell in the
Torre Farnese. Fabrizio would fain have been able to persuade himself
that Clelia was shunning him in consequence of her father's disgrace,
which current report put down to the Duchessa; but he knew only too
well another cause for this aloofness, and nothing could distract him
from his melancholy.

He had been left unmoved by his acquittal, his installation in a fine
office, the first that he had had to fill in his life, by his fine
position in society, and finally by the assiduous court that was paid
to him by all the ecclesiastics and all the devout laity in the
diocese. The charming apartment that he occupied in the _palazzo_
Sanseverina was no longer adequate. Greatly to her delight, the
Duchessa was obliged to give up to him all the second floor of her
_palazzo_ and two fine rooms on the first, which were always filled
with people awaiting their turn to pay their respects to the young
Coadjutor. The clause securing his eventual succession had created a
surprising effect in the country; people now ascribed to Fabrizio as
virtues all those firm qualities in his character which before had so
greatly scandalised the poor, foolish courtiers.

It was a great lesson in philosophy to Fabrizio to find himself
perfectly insensible of all these honours, and far more unhappy in
this magnificent apartment, with ten flunkeys wearing his livery, than
he had been in his wooden cell in the Torre Farnese, surrounded by
hideous gaolers, and always in fear for his life. His mother and
sister, the Duchessa V----, who came to Parma to see him in his glory,
were struck by his profound melancholy. The Marchesa del Dongo, now
the least romantic of women, was so greatly alarmed by it that she
imagined that they must, in the Torre Farnese, have given him some
slow poison. Despite her extreme discretion, she felt it her duty to
speak of so extraordinary a melancholy, and Fabrizio replied only by
tears.

A swarm of advantages, due to his brilliant position, produced no
other effect on him than to make him ill-tempered. His brother, that
vain soul gangrened by the vilest selfishness, wrote him what was
almost an officiai letter of congratulation, and in this letter was
enclosed a draft for fifty thousand francs, in order that he might,
said the new Marchese, purchase horses and a carriage worthy of his
name. Fabrizio sent this money to his younger sister, who was poorly
married.

Conte Mosca had ordered a fine translation to be made, in Italian, of
the genealogy of the family Valserra del Dongo, originally published
in Latin by Fabrizio, Archbishop of Parma. He had it splendidly
printed, with the Latin text on alternate pages; the engravings had
been reproduced by superb lithographs made in Paris. The Duchessa had
asked that a fine portrait of Fabrizio should be placed opposite that
of the old Archbishop. This translation was published as being the
work of Fabrizio during his first imprisonment. But all the spirit
was crushed out of our hero; even the vanity so natural to mankind; he
did not deign to read a single page of this work which was attributed
to himself. His social position made it incumbent upon him to present
a magnificently bound copy to the Prince, who felt that he owed him
some compensation for the cruel death to which he had come so near,
and accorded him the grand entry into his bed-chamber, a favour which
confers the rank of _Excellency_.




CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

The only moments in which Fabrizio had any chance of escaping from his
profound melancholy were those which he spent hidden behind a pane,
the glass of which he had had replaced by a sheet of oiled paper, in
the window of his apartment opposite the _palazzo_ Contarmi, in which,
as we know, Clelia had taken refuge; on the few occasions on which he
had seen her since his leaving the citadel, he had been profoundly
distressed by a striking change, and one that seemed to him of the
most evil augury. Since her fall, Clelia's face had assumed a
character of nobility and seriousness that was truly remarkable; one
would have called her a woman of thirty. In this extraordinary change,
Fabrizio caught the reflexion of some firm resolution. "At every
moment of the day," he said to himself, "she is swearing to herself to
be faithful to the vow she made to the Madonna, and never to see me
again."

Fabrizio guessed a part only of Clelia's miseries; she knew that her
father, having fallen into deep disgrace, could not return to Parma
and reappear at court (without which life for him was impossible)
until the day of her marriage to the Marchese Crescenzi; she wrote to
her father that she desired this marriage. The General had then
retired to Turin, where he was ill with grief. Truly, the
counter-effect of that desperate remedy had been to add ten years to
her age.

She had soon discovered that Fabrizio had a window opposite the
_palazzo_ Contarmi; but only once had she had the misfortune to behold
him; as soon as she saw the poise of a head or a man's figure that in
any way resembled his, she at once shut her eyes. Her profound piety
and her confidence in the help of the Madonna were from then onwards
her sole resources. She had the grief of feeling no respect for her
father; the character of her future husband seemed to her perfectly
lifeless and on a par with the emotional manners of high society;
finally she adored a man whom she must never see again, and who at the
same time had certain rights over her. She would need, after her
marriage, to go and live two hundred leagues from Parma.

Fabrizio was aware of Clelia's intense modesty, he knew how greatly
any extraordinary enterprise, that might form a .subject for gossip,
were it discovered, was bound to displease her. And yet, driven to
extremes by the excess of his melancholy and by Clelia's constantly
turning away her eyes from him, he made bold to try to purchase two of
the servants of Signora Contarini, her aunt. One day, at nightfall,
Fabrizio, dressed as a prosperous countryman, presented himself at
the door of the _palazzo_, where one of the servants whom he had
bribed was waiting for him; he announced himself as coming from Turin
and bearing letters for Clelia from her father. The servant went to
deliver the message, and took him up to an immense ante-room on the
first floor of the _palazzo_. It was here that Fabrizio passed what was
perhaps the most anxious quarter of an hour in his life. If Clelia
rejected him, there was no more hope of peace for his mind. "To put
an end to the incessant worries which my new dignity heaps upon me, I
shall remove from the Church an unworthy priest, and, under an
assumed name, seek refuge in some Charterhouse." At length the servant
came to inform him that Signorina Clelia Conti was willing to receive
him. Our hero's courage failed him completely; he almost collapsed
with fear as he climbed the stair to the second floor.

Clelia was sitting at a little table on which stood a single candle.
No sooner had she recognised Fabrizio under his disguise than she rose
and fled, hiding at the far end of the room.

"This is how you care for my salvation!" she cried to him, hiding her
face in her hands. "You know very well, when my father was at the
point of death after taking poison, I made a vow to the Madonna that I
would never see you. I have never failed to keep that vow save on that
day, the most wretched day of my life, when I felt myself bound by
conscience to snatch you from death. It is already far more than you
deserve if, by a strained and no doubt criminal interpretation of my
vow, I consent to listen to you."

This last sentence so astonished Fabrizio that it took him some
moments to grasp its joyful meaning. He had expected the most fiery
anger, and to see Clelia fly from the room; at length his presence of
mind returned, and he extinguished the one candle. Although he
believed that he had understood Clelia's orders, he was trembling all
over as he advanced towards the end of the room, where she had taken
refuge behind a sofa; he did not know whether it would offend her if
he kissed her hand; she was all tremulous with love and threw herself
into his arms.

"Dear Fabrizio," she said to him, "how long you have been in coming! I
can only speak to you for a moment, for I am sure it is a great sin;
and when I promised never to see you, I am sure I meant also to
promise not to hear you speak. But how could you pursue with such
barbarity the idea of vengeance that my poor father had? For, after
all, it was he who was first nearly poisoned to assist your escape.
Ought you not to do something for me, who have exposed my reputation
to such risks in order to save you? And besides you are now bound
absolutely in Holy Orders; you could not marry me any longer, even
though I should find a way of getting rid of that odious Marchese. And
then how did you dare, on the afternoon of the procession, have the
effrontery to look at me in broad daylight, and so violate, in the
most flagrant fashion, the holy promise that I had made to the
Madonna?"

Fabrizio clasped her in his arms, carried out of himself by his
surprise and joy.

A conversation which began with such a quantity of things to be said
could not finish for a long time. Fabrizio told her the exact truth as
to her father's banishment; the Duchessa had had no part in it
whatsoever, for the simple reason that she had never for a single
instant believed that the idea of poison had originated with General
Conti; she had always thought that it was a little game on the part of
the Raversi faction, who wished to drive Conte Mosca from Parma. This
historical truth developed at great length made Clelia very happy; she
was wretched at having to hate anyone who belonged to Fabrizio. Now
she no longer regarded the Duchessa with a jealous eye.

The happiness established by this evening lasted only a few days.

The worthy Don Cesare arrived from Turin; and, taking courage in the
perfect honesty of his heart, ventured to send in his name to the
Duchessa. After asking her to give him her word that she would not
abuse the confidence he was about to repose in her, he admitted that
his brother, led astray by a false point of honour, and thinking
himself challenged and lowered in public opinion by Fabrizio's escape,
had felt bound to avenge himself.

Don Cesare had not been speaking for two minutes before his cause was
won: his perfect goodness had touched the Duchessa, who was by no
means accustomed to such a spectacle. He appealed to her as a novelty.

"Hasten the marriage between the General's daughter and the Marchese
Crescenzi, and I give you my word that I will do all that lies in my
power to ensure that the General is received as though he were
returning from a tour abroad. I shall invite him to dinner; does that
satisfy you? No doubt there will be some coolness at the beginning,
and the General must on no account be in a hurry to ask for his place
as governor of the citadel. But you know that I have a friendly
feeling for the Marchese, and I shall retain no rancour towards his
father-in-law."

Fortified by these words, Don Cesare came to tell his niece that she
held in her hands the life of her father, who was ill with despair.
For many months past he had not appeared at any court.

Clelia decided to go to visit her father, who was hiding under an
assumed name in a village near Turin; for he had supposed that the
court of Parma would demand his extradition from that of Turin, to
put him on his trial. She found him ill and almost insane. That same
evening she wrote Fabrizio a letter threatening an eternal rupture. On
receiving this letter, Fabrizio, who was developing a character
closely resembling that of his mistress, went into retreat in the
convent of Velleja, situated in the mountains, ten leagues from Parma.
Clelia wrote him a letter of ten pages: she had sworn to him, before,
that she would never marry the Marchese without his consent; now she
asked this of him, and Fabrizio granted it from his retreat at
Valleja, in a letter full of the purest friendship.

On receiving this letter, the friendliness of which, it must be
admitted, irritated her, Clelia herself fixed the day of her wedding,
the festivities surrounding which enhanced still further the
brilliance with which the court of Parma, that winter, shone.

Ranuccio-Ernesto V was a miser at heart; but he was desperately in
love, and he hoped to establish the Duchessa permanently at his
court; he begged his mother to accept a very considerable sum of
money, and to give entertainments. The Grand Mistress contrived to
make an admirable use of this increase of wealth; the entertainments
at Parma, that winter, recalled the great days of the court of Milan
and of that charming Prince Eugène, Viceroy of Italy, whose virtues
have left so lasting a memory.

His duties as Coadjutor had summoned Fabrizio back to Parma; but he
announced that, for spiritual reasons, he would continue his retreat
in the small apartment which his protector, Monsignor Landriani, had
forced him to take in the Archbishop's Palace; and he went to shut
himself up there, accompanied by a single servant. Thus he was present
at none of the brilliant festivities of the court, an abstention which
won for him at Parma, and throughout his future diocese, an immense
reputation for sanctity. An unforeseen consequence of this retreat,
inspired in Fabrizio solely by his profound and hopeless sorrow, was
that the good Archbishop Landriani, who had always loved him, began to
be slightly jealous of him. The Archbishop felt it his duty (and
rightly) to attend all the festivities at court, as is the custom in
Italy. On these occasions he wore a ceremonial costume, which was,
more or less, the same as that in which he was to be seen in the choir
of his Cathedral. The hundreds of servants gathered in the colonnaded
ante-chamber of the Palace never failed to rise and ask for a blessing
from Monsignore, who was kind enough to stop and give it them. It was
in one of these moments of solemn silence that Monsignor Landriani
heard a voice say: "Our Archbishop goes out to bails, and Monsignor
del Dongo never leaves his room!"

>From that moment the immense favour that Fabrizio had enjoyed in the
Archbishop's Palace was at an end; but he could now fly with his own
wings. All this conduct, which had been inspired only by the despair
in which Clelia's marriage plunged him, was regarded as due to a
simple and sublime piety, and the faithful read, as a work of
edification, the translation of the genealogy of his family, which
reeked of the most insane vanity. The booksellers prepared a
lithographed edition of his portrait, which was bought up in a few
days, and mainly by the humbler classes; the engraver, in his
ignorance, had reproduced round Fabrizio's portrait a number of the
ornaments which ought only to be found on the portraits of Bishops,
and to which a Coadjutor could have no claim. The Archbishop saw one
of these portraits, and his rage knew no bounds; he sent for Fabrizio
and addressed him in the harshest words, and in terms which his
passion rendered at times extremely coarse. Fabrizio required no
effort, as may well be imagined, to conduct himself as Fénelon would
have done in similar circumstances; he listened to the Archbishop with
all the humility and respect possible; and, when the prelate had
ceased speaking, told him the whole story of the translation of the
genealogy made by Conte Mosca's orders, at the time of his first
imprisonment. It had been published with a worldly object, which had
always seemed to him hardly befitting a man of his cloth. As for the
portrait, he had been entirely unconcerned with the second edition, as
with the first; and the bookseller having sent to him, at the
Archbishop's Palace, during his retreat, twenty-four copies of this
second edition, he had sent his servant to buy a twenty-fifth; and,
having learned in this way that the portrait was being sold for thirty
soldi, he had sent a hundred francs in payment of the twenty-four
copies.

All these arguments, albeit set forth in the most reasonable terms
by a man who had many other sorrows in his heart, lashed the
Archbishop's anger to madness; he went so far as to accuse Fabrizio of
hypocrisy.

"That is what these common people are like," Fabrizio said to himself,
"even when they have brains!"

He had at the time a more serious anxiety; this was his aunt's
letters, in which she absolutely insisted on his coming back to occupy
his apartment in the _palazzo_ Sanseverina, or at least coming to see
her sometimes. There Fabrizio was certain of hearing talk of the
splendid festivities given by the Marchese Crescenzi on the occasion
of his marriage; and this was what he was not sure of his ability to
endure without creating a scene.

When the marriage ceremony was celebrated, for eight whole days in
succession Fabrizio vowed himself to the most complete silence, after
ordering his servant and the members of the Archbishop's household
with whom he had any dealings never to utter a word to him.

Monsignor Landriani having learned of this new affectation sent for
Fabrizio far more often than usual, and tried to engage him in long
conversations; he even obliged him to attend conferences with certain
Canons from the country, who complained that the Archbishop had
infringed their privileges. Fabrizio took all these things with the
perfect indifference of a man who has other thoughts on his mind. "It
would be better for me," he thought, "to become a Carthusian; I should
suffer less among the rocks of Velleja."

He went to see his aunt, and could not restrain his tears as he
embraced her. She found him so greatly altered, his eyes, still more
enlarged by his extreme thinness, had so much the air of starting from
his head, and he himself presented so pinched and unhappy an
appearance, that at this first encounter the Duchessa herself could
not restrain her tears either; but a moment later, when she had
reminded herself that all this change in the appearance of this
handsome young man had been caused by Clelia's marriage, her feelings
were almost equal in vehemence to those of the Archbishop, although
more skilfully controlled. She was so barbarous as to discourse at
length of certain picturesque details which had been a feature of the
charming entertainments given by the Marchese Crescenzi. Fabrizio made
no reply; but his eyes closed slightly with a convulsive movement,
and he became even paler than he already was, which at first sight
would have seemed impossible. In these moments of keen grief, his
pallor assumed a greenish hue.

Conte Mosca joined them, and what he then saw, a thing which seemed to
him incredible, finally and completely cured him of the jealousy which
Fabrizio had never ceased to inspire in him. This able man employed
the most delicate and ingenious turns of speech in an attempt to
restore to Fabrizio some interest in the things of this world. The
Conte had always felt for him a great esteem and a certain degree of
friendship; this friendship, being no longer counterbalanced by
jealousy, became at that moment almost devotion. "There's no denying
it, he has paid dearly for his fine fortune," he said to himself,
going over the tale of Fabrizio's misadventures. On the pretext of
letting him see the picture by the Parmigianino which the Prince had
sent to the Duchessa, the Conte drew Fabrizio aside.

"Now, my friend, let us speak as man to man: can I help you in any
way? You need not be afraid of any questions on my part; still, can
money be of use to you, can power help you? Speak, I am at your
orders; if you prefer to write, write to me."

Fabrizio embraced him tenderly and spoke of the picture.

"Your conduct is a masterpiece of the finest policy," the Conte said
to him, returning to the light tone of their previous conversation;
"you are laying up for yourself a very agreeable future, the Prince
respects you, the people venerate you, your little-worn black coat
gives Monsignor Landriani some bad nights. I have some experience of
life, and I can swear to you that I should not know what advice to
give you to improve upon what I see. Your first step in the world at
the age of twenty-five has carried you to perfection. People talk of
you a great deal at court; and do you know to what you owe that
distinction, unique at your age? To the little-worn black coat. The
Duchessa and I have at our disposal, as you know, Petrarch's old house
on that fine slope in the middle of the forest, near the Po; if ever
you are weary of the little mischief-makings of envy, it has occurred
to me that you might be the successor of Petrarch, whose fame will
enhance your own." The Conte was racking his brains to make a smile
appear on that anchorite face, but failed. What made the change more
striking was that, before this latest phase, if Fabrizio's features
had a defect, it was that of presenting sometimes, at the wrong
moment, an expression of gaiety and pleasure.

The Conte did not let him go without telling him that, notwithstanding
his retreat, it would be perhaps an affectation if he did not appear
at court the following Saturday, which was the Princess's birthday.
These words were a dagger-thrust to Fabrizio. "Great God!" he
thought, "what have I let myself in for here?" He could not think
without shuddering of the meeting that might occur at court. This
idea absorbed every other; he thought that the only thing left to him
was to arrive at the Palace at the precise moment at which the doors
of the rooms would be opened.

And so it happened that th