Part 3 out of 9
a fight, and my own belief is that before the winter
is half over we shall have Jesuits and Gregorians
and Sanfedists and all the rest of the crew about
our ears, plotting and intriguing, and poisoning
off everybody they can't bribe."
"That's likely enough."
"Very well, then; shall we wait here, meekly
sending in petitions, till Lambruschini and his
pack have persuaded the Grand Duke to put us
bodily under Jesuit rule, with perhaps a few Austrian
hussars to patrol the streets and keep us
in order; or shall we forestall them and take advantage
of their momentary discomfiture to strike
the first blow?"
"Tell us first what blow you propose?"
"I would suggest that we start an organized
propaganda and agitation against the Jesuits."
"A pamphleteering declaration of war, in
"Yes; exposing their intrigues, ferreting out
their secrets, and calling upon the people to make
common cause against them."
"But there are no Jesuits here to expose."
"Aren't there? Wait three months and see
how many we shall have. It'll be too late to keep
them out then."
"But really to rouse the town against the
Jesuits one must speak plainly; and if you do that
how will you evade the censorship?"
"I wouldn't evade it; I would defy it."
"You would print the pamphlets anonymously?
That's all very well, but the fact is, we have all
seen enough of the clandestine press to know----"
"I did not mean that. I would print the pamphlets
openly, with our names and addresses, and
let them prosecute us if they dare."
"The project is a perfectly mad one," Grassini
exclaimed. "It is simply putting one's head into
the lion's mouth out of sheer wantonness."
"Oh, you needn't be afraid!" Galli cut in
sharply; "we shouldn't ask you to go to prison
for our pamphlets."
"Hold your tongue, Galli!" said Riccardo.
"It's not a question of being afraid; we're all as
ready as you are to go to prison if there's any good
to be got by it, but it is childish to run into danger
for nothing. For my part, I have an amendment
to the proposal to suggest."
"Well, what is it?"
"I think we might contrive, with care, to fight
the Jesuits without coming into collision with the
"I don't see how you are going to manage it."
"I think that it is possible to clothe what one
has to say in so roundabout a form that----"
"That the censorship won't understand it?
And then you'll expect every poor artisan and
labourer to find out the meaning by the light of
the ignorance and stupidity that are in him! That
doesn't sound very practicable."
"Martini, what do you think?" asked the professor,
turning to a broad-shouldered man with
a great brown beard, who was sitting beside him.
"I think that I will reserve my opinion till I
have more facts to go upon. It's a question of
trying experiments and seeing what comes of them."
"And you, Sacconi?"
"I should like to hear what Signora Bolla has
to say. Her suggestions are always valuable."
Everyone turned to the only woman in the
room, who had been sitting on the sofa, resting
her chin on one hand and listening in silence to
the discussion. She had deep, serious black eyes,
but as she raised them now there was an unmistakable
gleam of amusement in them.
"I am afraid," she said; "that I disagree with
"You always do, and the worst of it is that you
are always right," Riccardo put in.
"I think it is quite true that we must fight the
Jesuits somehow; and if we can't do it with one
weapon we must with another. But mere defiance
is a feeble weapon and evasion a cumbersome
one. As for petitioning, that is a child's toy."
"I hope, signora," Grassini interposed, with
a solemn face; "that you are not suggesting such
Martini tugged at his big moustache and Galli
sniggered outright. Even the grave young
woman could not repress a smile.
"Believe me," she said, "that if I were ferocious
enough to think of such things I should not be
childish enough to talk about them. But the
deadliest weapon I know is ridicule. If you can
once succeed in rendering the Jesuits ludicrous,
in making people laugh at them and their claims,
you have conquered them without bloodshed."
"I believe you are right, as far as that goes,"
Fabrizi said; "but I don't see how you are going
to carry the thing through."
"Why should we not be able to carry it
through?" asked Martini. "A satirical thing has
a better chance of getting over the censorship
difficulty than a serious one; and, if it must be
cloaked, the average reader is more likely to find
out the double meaning of an apparently silly joke
than of a scientific or economic treatise."
"Then is your suggestion, signora, that we
should issue satirical pamphlets, or attempt to run
a comic paper? That last, I am sure, the censorship
would never allow."
"I don't mean exactly either. I believe a series
of small satirical leaflets, in verse or prose, to be
sold cheap or distributed free about the streets,
would be very useful. If we could find a clever
artist who would enter into the spirit of the thing,
we might have them illustrated."
"It's a capital idea, if only one could carry it
out; but if the thing is to be done at all it must
be well done. We should want a first-class satirist;
and where are we to get him?"
"You see," added Lega, "most of us are
serious writers; and, with all respect to the company,
I am afraid that a general attempt to be
humorous would present the spectacle of an elephant
trying to dance the tarantella."
"I never suggested that we should all rush into
work for which we are unfitted. My idea was
that we should try to find a really gifted satirist--
there must be one to be got somewhere in Italy,
surely--and offer to provide the necessary funds.
Of course we should have to know something of
the man and make sure that he would work on
lines with which we could agree."
"But where are you going to find him? I can
count up the satirists of any real talent on the
fingers of one hand; and none of them are available.
Giusti wouldn't accept; he is fully occupied
as it is. There are one or two good men in
Lombardy, but they write only in the Milanese
"And moreover," said Grassini, "the Tuscan
people can be influenced in better ways than this.
I am sure that it would be felt as, to say the least,
a want of political savoir faire if we were to treat
this solemn question of civil and religious liberty
as a subject for trifling. Florence is not a mere
wilderness of factories and money-getting like
London, nor a haunt of idle luxury like Paris. It
is a city with a great history------"
"So was Athens," she interrupted, smiling;
"but it was 'rather sluggish from its size and
needed a gadfly to rouse it'----"
Riccardo struck his hand upon the table.
"Why, we never thought of the Gadfly! The very man!"
"Who is that?"
"The Gadfly--Felice Rivarez. Don't you remember
him? One of Muratori's band that came
down from the Apennines three years ago?"
"Oh, you knew that set, didn't you? I remember
your travelling with them when they went on
"Yes; I went as far as Leghorn to see Rivarez
off for Marseilles. He wouldn't stop in Tuscany;
he said there was nothing left to do but laugh,
once the insurrection had failed, and so he had
better go to Paris. No doubt he agreed with
Signor Grassini that Tuscany is the wrong place
to laugh in. But I am nearly sure he would come
back if we asked him, now that there is a chance
of doing something in Italy."
"What name did you say?"
"Rivarez. He's a Brazilian, I think. At any
rate, I know he has lived out there. He is one of
the wittiest men I ever came across. Heaven
knows we had nothing to be merry over, that week
in Leghorn; it was enough to break one's heart to
look at poor Lambertini; but there was no keeping
one's countenance when Rivarez was in the
room; it was one perpetual fire of absurdities. He
had a nasty sabre-cut across the face, too; I
remember sewing it up. He's an odd creature;
but I believe he and his nonsense kept some of
those poor lads from breaking down altogether."
"Is that the man who writes political skits
in the French papers under the name of 'Le Taon'?"
"Yes; short paragraphs mostly, and comic
feuilletons. The smugglers up in the Apennines
called him 'the Gadfly' because of his tongue;
and he took the nickname to sign his work
"I know something about this gentleman,"
said Grassini, breaking in upon the conversation
in his slow and stately manner; "and I cannot say
that what I have heard is much to his credit. He
undoubtedly possesses a certain showy, superficial
cleverness, though I think his abilities have been
exaggerated; and possibly he is not lacking in
physical courage; but his reputation in Paris and
Vienna is, I believe, very far from spotless. He
appears to be a gentleman of--a--a--many adventures
and unknown antecedents. It is said that he
was picked up out of charity by Duprez's expedition
somewhere in the wilds of tropical South
America, in a state of inconceivable savagery and
degradation. I believe he has never satisfactorily
explained how he came to be in such a condition.
As for the rising in the Apennines, I fear it is no
secret that persons of all characters took part in
that unfortunate affair. The men who were executed
in Bologna are known to have been nothing
but common malefactors; and the character of
many who escaped will hardly bear description.
Without doubt, SOME of the participators were
men of high character----"
"Some of them were the intimate friends of
several persons in this room!" Riccardo interrupted,
with an angry ring in his voice. "It's all
very well to be particular and exclusive, Grassini;
but these 'common malefactors' died for their
belief, which is more than you or I have done as
"And another time when people tell you the
stale gossip of Paris," added Galli, "you can tell
them from me that they are mistaken about the
Duprez expedition. I know Duprez's adjutant,
Martel, personally, and have heard the whole story
from him. It's true that they found Rivarez
stranded out there. He had been taken prisoner
in the war, fighting for the Argentine Republic,
and had escaped. He was wandering about the
country in various disguises, trying to get back
to Buenos Ayres. But the story of their taking
him on out of charity is a pure fabrication. Their
interpreter had fallen ill and been obliged to turn
back; and not one of the Frenchmen could speak
the native languages; so they offered him the post,
and he spent the whole three years with them,
exploring the tributaries of the Amazon. Martel
told me he believed they never would have got
through the expedition at all if it had not been
"Whatever he may be," said Fabrizi; "there
must be something remarkable about a man who
could lay his 'come hither' on two old campaigners
like Martel and Duprez as he seems to have
done. What do you think, signora?"
"I know nothing about the matter; I was in
England when the fugitives passed through Tuscany.
But I should think that if the companions
who were with a man on a three years' expedition
in savage countries, and the comrades who were
with him through an insurrection, think well of
him, that is recommendation enough to counterbalance
a good deal of boulevard gossip."
"There is no question about the opinion his
comrades had of him," said Riccardo. "From
Muratori and Zambeccari down to the roughest
mountaineers they were all devoted to him.
Moreover, he is a personal friend of Orsini. It's
quite true, on the other hand, that there are endless
cock-and-bull stories of a not very pleasant
kind going about concerning him in Paris; but if
a man doesn't want to make enemies he shouldn't
become a political satirist."
"I'm not quite sure," interposed Lega; "but
it seems to me that I saw him once when
the refugees were here. Was he not hunchbacked,
or crooked, or something of that kind?"
The professor had opened a drawer in his writing-table
and was turning over a heap of papers.
"I think I have his police description somewhere
here," he said. "You remember when they escaped
and hid in the mountain passes their personal
appearance was posted up everywhere, and
that Cardinal--what's the scoundrel's name?--
Spinola, offered a reward for their heads."
"There was a splendid story about Rivarez and
that police paper, by the way. He put on a
soldier's old uniform and tramped across country
as a carabineer wounded in the discharge of his
duty and trying to find his company. He actually
got Spinola's search-party to give him a lift, and
rode the whole day in one of their waggons,
telling them harrowing stories of how he had been
taken captive by the rebels and dragged off into
their haunts in the mountains, and of the fearful
tortures that he had suffered at their hands. They
showed him the description paper, and he told
them all the rubbish he could think of about 'the
fiend they call the Gadfly.' Then at night, when
they were asleep, he poured a bucketful of water
into their powder and decamped, with his pockets
full of provisions and ammunition------"
"Ah, here's the paper," Fabrizi broke in: "'Felice
Rivarez, called: The Gadfly. Age, about 30;
birthplace and parentage, unknown, probably
South American; profession, journalist. Short;
black hair; black beard; dark skin; eyes, blue;
forehead, broad and square; nose, mouth, chin------'
Yes, here it is: 'Special marks: right foot lame;
left arm twisted; two ringers missing on left hand;
recent sabre-cut across face; stammers.' Then
there's a note put: 'Very expert shot; care should
be taken in arresting.'"
"It's an extraordinary thing that he can have
managed to deceive the search-party with such a
formidable list of identification marks."
"It was nothing but sheer audacity that carried
him through, of course. If it had once occurred
to them to suspect him he would have been lost.
But the air of confiding innocence that he can put
on when he chooses would bring a man through
anything. Well, gentlemen, what do you think of
the proposal? Rivarez seems to be pretty well
known to several of the company. Shall we suggest
to him that we should be glad of his help
here or not?"
"I think," said Fabrizi, "that he might be
sounded upon the subject, just to find out whether
he would be inclined to think of the plan."
"Oh, he'll be inclined, you may be sure, once
it's a case of fighting the Jesuits; he is the most
savage anti-clerical I ever met; in fact, he's rather
rabid on the point."
"Then will you write, Riccardo?"
"Certainly. Let me see, where is he now? In
Switzerland, I think. He's the most restless
being; always flitting about. But as for the pamphlet
They plunged into a long and animated discussion.
When at last the company began to disperse Martini
went up to the quiet young woman.
"I will see you home, Gemma."
"Thanks; I want to have a business talk with
"Anything wrong with the addresses?" he
"Nothing serious; but I think it is time to make
a few alterations. Two letters have been stopped
in the post this week. They were both quite unimportant,
and it may have been accidental; but
we cannot afford to have any risks. If once the
police have begun to suspect any of our addresses,
they must be changed immediately."
"I will come in about that to-morrow. I am
not going to talk business with you to-night;
you look tired."
"I am not tired."
"Then you are depressed again."
"Oh, no; not particularly."
"Is the mistress in, Katie?"
"Yes, sir; she is dressing. If you'll just step
into the parlour she will be down in a few
Katie ushered the visitor in with the cheerful
friendliness of a true Devonshire girl. Martini
was a special favourite of hers. He spoke English,
like a foreigner, of course, but still quite respectably;
and he never sat discussing politics at the top
of his voice till one in the morning, when the mistress
was tired, as some visitors had a way of
doing. Moreover, he had come to Devonshire to
help the mistress in her trouble, when her baby
was dead and her husband dying there; and ever
since that time the big, awkward, silent man had
been to Katie as much "one of the family" as was
the lazy black cat which now ensconced itself upon
his knee. Pasht, for his part, regarded Martini
as a useful piece of household furniture. This
visitor never trod upon his tail, or puffed tobacco
smoke into his eyes, or in any way obtruded upon
his consciousness an aggressive biped personality.
He behaved as a mere man should: provided a
comfortable knee to lie upon and purr, and at table
never forgot that to look on while human beings
eat fish is not interesting for a cat. The friendship
between them was of old date. Once, when
Pasht was a kitten and his mistress too ill to think
about him, he had come from England under Martini's
care, tucked away in a basket. Since then,
long experience had convinced him that this
clumsy human bear was no fair-weather friend.
"How snug you look, you two!" said Gemma,
coming into the room. "One would think you
had settled yourselves for the evening."
Martini carefully lifted the cat off his knee. "I
came early," he said, "in the hope that you will
give me some tea before we start. There will
probably be a frightful crush, and Grassini won't
give us any sensible supper--they never do in
those fashionable houses."
"Come now!" she said, laughing; "that's as
bad as Galli! Poor Grassini has quite enough sins
of his own to answer for without having his wife's
imperfect housekeeping visited upon his head.
As for the tea, it will be ready in a minute. Katie
has been making some Devonshire cakes specially
"Katie is a good soul, isn't she, Pasht? By the
way, so are you to have put on that pretty dress.
I was afraid you would forget."
"I promised you I would wear it, though it is
rather warm for a hot evening like this."
"It will be much cooler up at Fiesole; and
nothing else ever suits you so well as white cashmere.
I have brought you some flowers to wear with it."
"Oh, those lovely cluster roses; I am so fond
of them! But they had much better go into water.
I hate to wear flowers."
"Now that's one of your superstitious fancies."
"No, it isn't; only I think they must get so
bored, spending all the evening pinned to such a
"I am afraid we shall all be bored to-night. The
conversazione will be dull beyond endurance."
"Partly because everything Grassini touches
becomes as dull as himself."
"Now don't be spiteful. It is not fair when we
are going to be a man's guests."
"You are always right, Madonna. Well then,
it will be dull because half the interesting people
are not coming."
"How is that?"
"I don't know. Out of town, or ill, or something.
Anyway, there will be two or three ambassadors
and some learned Germans, and the usual
nondescript crowd of tourists and Russian princes
and literary club people, and a few French officers;
nobody else that I know of--except, of course,
the new satirist, who is to be the attraction of the
"The new satirist? What, Rivarez? But I
thought Grassini disapproved of him so strongly."
"Yes; but once the man is here and is sure to
be talked about, of course Grassini wants his house
to be the first place where the new lion will be on
show. You may be sure Rivarez has heard nothing
of Grassini's disapproval. He may have guessed
it, though; he's sharp enough."
"I did not even know he had come."
"He only arrived yesterday. Here comes the
tea. No, don't get up; let me fetch the kettle."
He was never so happy as in this little study.
Gemma's friendship, her grave unconsciousness of
the charm she exercised over him, her frank and
simple comradeship were the brightest things for
him in a life that was none too bright; and whenever
he began to feel more than usually depressed
he would come in here after business hours and
sit with her, generally in silence, watching her as
she bent over her needlework or poured out tea.
She never questioned him about his troubles or
expressed any sympathy in words; but he always
went away stronger and calmer, feeling, as he put
it to himself, that he could "trudge through
another fortnight quite respectably." She possessed,
without knowing it, the rare gift of consolation;
and when, two years ago, his dearest
friends had been betrayed in Calabria and shot
down like wolves, her steady faith had been perhaps
the thing which had saved him from despair.
On Sunday mornings he sometimes came in to
"talk business," that expression standing for anything
connected with the practical work of the
Mazzinian party, of which they both were active
and devoted members. She was quite a different
creature then; keen, cool, and logical, perfectly
accurate and perfectly neutral. Those who saw
her only at her political work regarded her as a
trained and disciplined conspirator, trustworthy,
courageous, in every way a valuable member of
the party, but somehow lacking in life and individuality.
"She's a born conspirator, worth any
dozen of us; and she is nothing more," Galli had
said of her. The "Madonna Gemma" whom
Martini knew was very difficult to get at.
"Well, and what is your 'new satirist' like?"
she asked, glancing back over her shoulder as she
opened the sideboard. "There, Cesare, there are
barley-sugar and candied angelica for you. I wonder,
by the way, why revolutionary men are always
so fond of sweets."
"Other men are, too, only they think it beneath
their dignity to confess it. The new satirist? Oh,
the kind of man that ordinary women will rave
over and you will dislike. A sort of professional
dealer in sharp speeches, that goes about the world
with a lackadaisical manner and a handsome ballet-girl
dangling on to his coat-tails."
"Do you mean that there is really a ballet-girl,
or simply that you feel cross and want to imitate
the sharp speeches?"
"The Lord defend me! No; the ballet-girl is
real enough and handsome enough, too, for those
who like shrewish beauty. Personally, I don't.
She's a Hungarian gipsy, or something of that
kind, so Riccardo says; from some provincial
theatre in Galicia. He seems to be rather a cool
hand; he has been introducing the girl to people
just as if she were his maiden aunt."
"Well, that's only fair if he has taken her away
from her home."
"You may look at things that way, dear Madonna,
but society won't. I think most people
will very much resent being introduced to a woman
whom they know to be his mistress."
"How can they know it unless he tells them
"It's plain enough; you'll see if you meet her.
But I should think even he would not have the
audacity to bring her to the Grassinis'."
"They wouldn't receive her. Signora Grassini
is not the woman to do unconventional things of
that kind. But I wanted to hear about Signor
Rivarez as a satirist, not as a man. Fabrizi told
me he had been written to and had consented to
come and take up the campaign against the
Jesuits; and that is the last I have heard. There
has been such a rush of work this week."
"I don't know that I can tell you much more.
There doesn't seem to have been any difficulty
over the money question, as we feared there would
be. He's well off, it appears, and willing to work
"Has he a private fortune, then?"
"Apparently he has; though it seems rather
odd--you heard that night at Fabrizi's about
the state the Duprez expedition found him
in. But he has got shares in mines somewhere
out in Brazil; and then he has been immensely
successful as a feuilleton writer in Paris and
Vienna and London. He seems to have half a
dozen languages at his finger-tips; and there's
nothing to prevent his keeping up his newspaper
connections from here. Slanging the Jesuits
won't take all his time."
"That's true, of course. It's time to start,
Cesare. Yes, I will wear the roses. Wait just a
She ran upstairs, and came back with the roses
in the bosom of her dress, and a long scarf of black
Spanish lace thrown over her head. Martini surveyed
her with artistic approval.
"You look like a queen, Madonna mia; like
the great and wise Queen of Sheba."
"What an unkind speech!" she retorted,
laughing; "when you know how hard I've been
trying to mould myself into the image of the typical
society lady! Who wants a conspirator to
look like the Queen of Sheba? That's not the
way to keep clear of spies."
"You'll never be able to personate the stupid
society woman if you try for ever. But it doesn't
matter, after all; you're too fair to look upon for
spies to guess your opinions, even though you
can't simper and hide behind your fan like Signora
"Now Cesare, let that poor woman alone!
There, take some more barley-sugar to sweeten
your temper. Are you ready? Then we had
Martini had been quite right in saying that the
conversazione would be both crowded and dull.
The literary men talked polite small-talk and
looked hopelessly bored, while the "nondescript
crowd of tourists and Russian princes" fluttered
up and down the rooms, asking each other who
were the various celebrities and trying to carry on
intellectual conversation. Grassini was receiving
his guests with a manner as carefully polished as
his boots; but his cold face lighted up at the sight
of Gemma. He did not really like her and indeed
was secretly a little afraid of her; but he realized
that without her his drawing room would lack a
great attraction. He had risen high in his profession,
and now that he was rich and well known
his chief ambition was to make of his house a
centre of liberal and intellectual society. He was
painfully conscious that the insignificant, overdressed
little woman whom in his youth he had
made the mistake of marrying was not fit, with
her vapid talk and faded prettiness, to be the
mistress of a great literary salon. When he could
prevail upon Gemma to come he always felt that
the evening would be a success. Her quiet
graciousness of manner set the guests at their ease,
and her very presence seemed to lay the spectre
of vulgarity which always, in his imagination,
haunted the house.
Signora Grassini greeted Gemma affectionately,
exclaiming in a loud whisper: "How charming
you look to-night!" and examining the white
cashmere with viciously critical eyes. She hated
her visitor rancourously, for the very things for
which Martini loved her; for her quiet strength
of character; for her grave, sincere directness;
for the steady balance of her mind; for the very
expression of her face. And when Signora Grassini
hated a woman, she showed it by effusive tenderness.
Gemma took the compliments and
endearments for what they were worth, and
troubled her head no more about them. What
is called "going into society" was in her eyes one
of the wearisome and rather unpleasant tasks
which a conspirator who wishes not to attract the
notice of spies must conscientiously fulfil. She
classed it together with the laborious work of
writing in cipher; and, knowing how valuable a
practical safeguard against suspicion is the reputation
of being a well-dressed woman, studied the
fashion-plates as carefully as she did the keys of
The bored and melancholy literary lions brightened
up a little at the sound of Gemma's name;
she was very popular among them; and the radical
journalists, especially, gravitated at once to her
end of the long room. But she was far too practised
a conspirator to let them monopolize her.
Radicals could be had any day; and now, when
they came crowding round her, she gently sent
them about their business, reminding them with a
smile that they need not waste their time on converting
her when there were so many tourists in
need of instruction. For her part, she devoted
herself to an English M. P. whose sympathies the
republican party was anxious to gain; and, knowing
him to be a specialist on finance, she first won
his attention by asking his opinion on a technical
point concerning the Austrian currency, and then
deftly turned the conversation to the condition of
the Lombardo-Venetian revenue. The Englishman,
who had expected to be bored with small-talk,
looked askance at her, evidently fearing that
he had fallen into the clutches of a blue-stocking;
but finding that she was both pleasant to look at
and interesting to talk to, surrendered completely
and plunged into as grave a discussion of Italian
finance as if she had been Metternich. When
Grassini brought up a Frenchman "who wishes to
ask Signora Bolla something about the history of
Young Italy," the M. P. rose with a bewildered
sense that perhaps there was more ground for
Italian discontent than he had supposed.
Later in the evening Gemma slipped out on to
the terrace under the drawing-room windows to
sit alone for a few moments among the great
camellias and oleanders. The close air and continually
shifting crowd in the rooms were beginning to give her
a headache. At the further end of the terrace stood a
row of palms and tree-ferns, planted in large tubs
which were hidden by a bank of lilies and other
flowering plants. The whole formed a complete screen,
behind which was a little nook commanding a beautiful
view out across the valley. The branches of a pomegranate
tree, clustered with late blossoms, hung beside the
narrow opening between the plants.
In this nook Gemma took refuge, hoping that
no one would guess her whereabouts until she had
secured herself against the threatening headache
by a little rest and silence. The night was warm
and beautifully still; but coming out from the
hot, close rooms she felt it cool, and drew her lace
scarf about her head.
Presently the sounds of voices and footsteps
approaching along the terrace roused her from the
dreamy state into which she had fallen. She drew
back into the shadow, hoping to escape notice and
get a few more precious minutes of silence before
again having to rack her tired brain for conversation.
To her great annoyance the footsteps
paused near to the screen; then Signora Grassini's
thin, piping little voice broke off for a moment in
its stream of chatter.
The other voice, a man's, was remarkably soft
and musical; but its sweetness of tone was marred
by a peculiar, purring drawl, perhaps mere affectation,
more probably the result of a habitual
effort to conquer some impediment of speech, but
in any case very unpleasant.
"English, did you say?" it asked. "But
surely the name is quite Italian. What was it--
"Yes; she is the widow of poor Giovanni Bolla,
who died in England about four years ago,--
don't you remember? Ah, I forgot--you lead
such a wandering life; we can't expect you to
know of all our unhappy country's martyrs--they
are so many!"
Signora Grassini sighed. She always talked in
this style to strangers; the role of a patriotic
mourner for the sorrows of Italy formed an effective
combination with her boarding-school manner and
pretty infantine pout.
"Died in England!" repeated the other voice.
"Was he a refugee, then? I seem to recognize
the name, somehow; was he not connected with
Young Italy in its early days?"
"Yes; he was one of the unfortunate young
men who were arrested in '33--you remember
that sad affair? He was released in a few months;
then, two or three years later, when there was a
warrant out against him again, he escaped to
England. The next we heard was that he was
married there. It was a most romantic affair altogether,
but poor Bolla always was romantic."
"And then he died in England, you say?"
"Yes, of consumption; he could not stand that
terrible English climate. And she lost her only
child just before his death; it caught scarlet fever.
Very sad, is it not? And we are all so fond of
dear Gemma! She is a little stiff, poor thing; the
English always are, you know; but I think her
troubles have made her melancholy, and----"
Gemma stood up and pushed back the boughs
of the pomegranate tree. This retailing of her
private sorrows for purposes of small-talk was
almost unbearable to her, and there was visible
annoyance in her face as she stepped into the
"Ah! here she is!" exclaimed the hostess, with
admirable coolness. "Gemma, dear, I was wondering
where you could have disappeared to.
Signor Felice Rivarez wishes to make your
"So it's the Gadfly," thought Gemma, looking
at him with some curiosity. He bowed to her
decorously enough, but his eyes glanced over her
face and figure with a look which seemed to
her insolently keen and inquisitorial.
"You have found a d-d-delightful little nook
here," he remarked, looking at the thick screen;
"and w-w-what a charming view!"
"Yes; it's a pretty corner. I came out here to
get some air."
"It seems almost ungrateful to the good God
to stay indoors on such a lovely night," said the
hostess, raising her eyes to the stars. (She had
good eyelashes and liked to show them.) "Look,
signore! Would not our sweet Italy be heaven
on earth if only she were free? To think that she
should be a bond-slave, with such flowers and such
"And such patriotic women!" the Gadfly murmured
in his soft, languid drawl.
Gemma glanced round at him in some trepidation;
his impudence was too glaring, surely, to
deceive anyone. But she had underrated Signora
Grassini's appetite for compliments; the poor
woman cast down her lashes with a sigh.
"Ah, signore, it is so little that a woman can
do! Perhaps some day I may prove my right to
the name of an Italian--who knows? And now
I must go back to my social duties; the French
ambassador has begged me to introduce his ward
to all the notabilities; you must come in presently
and see her. She is a most charming girl.
Gemma, dear, I brought Signor Rivarez out to
show him our beautiful view; I must leave him
under your care. I know you will look after him
and introduce him to everyone. Ah! there is
that delightful Russian prince! Have you met
him? They say he is a great favourite of the
Emperor Nicholas. He is military commander
of some Polish town with a name that nobody can
pronounce. Quelle nuit magnifique! N'est-ce-pas,
She fluttered away, chattering volubly to a
bull-necked man with a heavy jaw and a coat glittering
with orders; and her plaintive dirges for
"notre malheureuse patrie," interpolated with
"charmant" and "mon prince," died away along
Gemma stood quite still beside the pomegranate
tree. She was sorry for the poor, silly
little woman, and annoyed at the Gadfly's languid
insolence. He was watching the retreating figures
with an expression of face that angered her; it
seemed ungenerous to mock at such pitiable creatures.
"There go Italian and--Russian patriotism,"
he said, turning to her with a smile; "arm in arm
and mightily pleased with each other's company.
Which do you prefer?"
She frowned slightly and made no answer.
"Of c-course," he went on; "it's all a question
of p-personal taste; but I think, of the two, I like
the Russian variety best--it's so thorough. If
Russia had to depend on flowers and skies for her
supremacy instead of on powder and shot, how
long do you think 'mon prince' would k-keep
that Polish fortress?"
"I think," she answered coldly, "that we can
hold our personal opinions without ridiculing a
woman whose guests we are."
"Ah, yes! I f-forgot the obligations of hospitality
here in Italy; they are a wonderfully hospitable
people, these Italians. I'm sure the
Austrians find them so. Won't you sit down?"
He limped across the terrace to fetch a chair
for her, and placed himself opposite to her, leaning
against the balustrade. The light from a
window was shining full on his face; and she was
able to study it at her leisure.
She was disappointed. She had expected to
see a striking and powerful, if not pleasant face;
but the most salient points of his appearance were
a tendency to foppishness in dress and rather more
than a tendency to a certain veiled insolence of
expression and manner. For the rest, he was as
swarthy as a mulatto, and, notwithstanding his
lameness, as agile as a cat. His whole personality
was oddly suggestive of a black jaguar. The forehead
and left cheek were terribly disfigured by
the long crooked scar of the old sabre-cut; and
she had already noticed that, when he began to
stammer in speaking, that side of his face was
affected with a nervous twitch. But for these
defects he would have been, in a certain restless
and uncomfortable way, rather handsome; but it
was not an attractive face.
Presently he began again in his soft, murmuring
purr ("Just the voice a jaguar would talk in,
if it could speak and were in a good humour,"
Gemma said to herself with rising irritation).
"I hear," he said, "that you are interested in
the radical press, and write for the papers."
"I write a little; I have not time to do much."
"Ah, of course! I understood from Signora
Grassini that you undertake other important
work as well."
Gemma raised her eyebrows slightly. Signora
Grassini, like the silly little woman she was, had
evidently been chattering imprudently to this
slippery creature, whom Gemma, for her part, was
beginning actually to dislike.
"My time is a good deal taken up," she said
rather stiffly; "but Signora Grassini overrates
the importance of my occupations. They are
mostly of a very trivial character."
"Well, the world would be in a bad way if we
ALL of us spent our time in chanting dirges for
Italy. I should think the neighbourhood of our
host of this evening and his wife would make anybody
frivolous, in self-defence. Oh, yes, I know
what you're going to say; you are perfectly right,
but they are both so deliciously funny with their
patriotism.--Are you going in already? It is so
nice out here!"
"I think I will go in now. Is that my scarf?
He had picked it up, and now stood looking at
her with wide eyes as blue and innocent as forget-me-nots
in a brook.
"I know you are offended with me," he said
penitently, "for fooling that painted-up wax doll;
but what can a fellow do?"
"Since you ask me, I do think it an ungenerous
and--well--cowardly thing to hold one's intellectual
inferiors up to ridicule in that way; it is
like laughing at a cripple, or------"
He caught his breath suddenly, painfully; and
shrank back, glancing at his lame foot and mutilated
hand. In another instant he recovered his
self-possession and burst out laughing.
"That's hardly a fair comparison, signora; we
cripples don't flaunt our deformities in people's
faces as she does her stupidity. At least give us
credit for recognizing that crooked backs are no
pleasanter than crooked ways. There is a step
here; will you take my arm?"
She re-entered the house in embarrassed silence;
his unexpected sensitiveness had completely disconcerted her.
Directly he opened the door of the great reception
room she realized that something unusual
had happened in her absence. Most of the gentlemen
looked both angry and uncomfortable;
the ladies, with hot cheeks and carefully feigned
unconsciousness, were all collected at one end of
the room; the host was fingering his eye-glasses
with suppressed but unmistakable fury, and a little
group of tourists stood in a corner casting amused
glances at the further end of the room. Evidently
something was going on there which appeared to
them in the light of a joke, and to most
of the guests in that of an insult. Signora Grassini
alone did not appear to have noticed anything;
she was fluttering her fan coquettishly
and chattering to the secretary of the Dutch
embassy, who listened with a broad grin on his
Gemma paused an instant in the doorway, turning
to see if the Gadfly, too, had noticed the disturbed
appearance of the company. There was
no mistaking the malicious triumph in his eyes as
he glanced from the face of the blissfully unconscious
hostess to a sofa at the end of the room.
She understood at once; he had brought his mistress
here under some false colour, which had
deceived no one but Signora Grassini.
The gipsy-girl was leaning back on the sofa,
surrounded by a group of simpering dandies and
blandly ironical cavalry officers. She was gorgeously
dressed in amber and scarlet, with an
Oriental brilliancy of tint and profusion of ornament
as startling in a Florentine literary salon
as if she had been some tropical bird among
sparrows and starlings. She herself seemed to
feel out of place, and looked at the offended
ladies with a fiercely contemptuous scowl. Catching
sight of the Gadfly as he crossed the room
with Gemma, she sprang up and came towards
him, with a voluble flood of painfully incorrect
"M. Rivarez, I have been looking for you everywhere!
Count Saltykov wants to know whether
you can go to his villa to-morrow night. There
will be dancing."
"I am sorry I can't go; but then I couldn't
dance if I did. Signora Bolla, allow me to introduce
to you Mme. Zita Reni."
The gipsy glanced round at Gemma with a half
defiant air and bowed stiffly. She was certainly
handsome enough, as Martini had said, with a
vivid, animal, unintelligent beauty; and the perfect
harmony and freedom of her movements were
delightful to see; but her forehead was low and
narrow, and the line of her delicate nostrils was
unsympathetic, almost cruel. The sense of
oppression which Gemma had felt in the Gadfly's
society was intensified by the gypsy's presence;
and when, a moment later, the host came up to
beg Signora Bolla to help him entertain some
tourists in the other room, she consented with an
odd feeling of relief.
. . . . .
"Well, Madonna, and what do you think of the
Gadfly?" Martini asked as they drove back to
Florence late at night. "Did you ever see anything
quite so shameless as the way he fooled that
poor little Grassini woman?"
"About the ballet-girl, you mean?"
"Yes, he persuaded her the girl was going to
be the lion of the season. Signora Grassini would
do anything for a celebrity."
"I thought it an unfair and unkind thing to
do; it put the Grassinis into a false position; and
it was nothing less than cruel to the girl herself.
I am sure she felt ill at ease."
"You had a talk with him, didn't you? What
did you think of him?"
"Oh, Cesare, I didn't think anything except
how glad I was to see the last of him. I never
met anyone so fearfully tiring. He gave me a
headache in ten minutes. He is like an incarnate
demon of unrest."
"I thought you wouldn't like him; and, to tell
the truth, no more do I. The man's as slippery
as an eel; I don't trust him."
THE Gadfly took lodgings outside the Roman
gate, near to which Zita was boarding. He was
evidently somewhat of a sybarite; and, though
nothing in the rooms showed any serious extravagance,
there was a tendency to luxuriousness in
trifles and to a certain fastidious daintiness in the
arrangement of everything which surprised Galli
and Riccardo. They had expected to find a man
who had lived among the wildernesses of the Amazon
more simple in his tastes, and wondered at his
spotless ties and rows of boots, and at the masses
of flowers which always stood upon his writing
table. On the whole they got on very well with
him. He was hospitable and friendly to everyone,
especially to the local members of the Mazzinian
party. To this rule Gemma, apparently, formed
an exception; he seemed to have taken a dislike to
her from the time of their first meeting, and in
every way avoided her company. On two or three
occasions he was actually rude to her, thus bringing
upon himself Martini's most cordial detestation.
There had been no love lost between the
two men from the beginning; their temperaments
appeared to be too incompatible for them to feel
anything but repugnance for each other. On
Martini's part this was fast developing into
"I don't care about his not liking me," he said
one day to Gemma with an aggrieved air. "I
don't like him, for that matter; so there's no harm
done. But I can't stand the way he behaves to
you. If it weren't for the scandal it would make
in the party first to beg a man to come and then
to quarrel with him, I should call him to account
"Let him alone, Cesare; it isn't of any consequence,
and after all, it's as much my fault as his."
"What is your fault?"
"That he dislikes me so. I said a brutal thing
to him when we first met, that night at the
"YOU said a brutal thing? That's hard to
"It was unintentional, of course, and I was very
sorry. I said something about people laughing at
cripples, and he took it personally. It had never
occurred to me to think of him as a cripple; he is
not so badly deformed."
"Of course not. He has one shoulder higher
than the other, and his left arm is pretty badly
disabled, but he's neither hunchbacked nor clubfooted.
As for his lameness, it isn't worth talking
"Anyway, he shivered all over and changed
colour. Of course it was horribly tactless of me,
but it's odd he should be so sensitive. I wonder
if he has ever suffered from any cruel jokes of that
"Much more likely to have perpetrated them, I
should think. There's a sort of internal brutality
about that man, under all his fine manners, that
is perfectly sickening to me."
"Now, Cesare, that's downright unfair. I
don't like him any more than you do, but what is
the use of making him out worse than he is? His
manner is a little affected and irritating--I expect
he has been too much lionized--and the everlasting
smart speeches are dreadfully tiring; but I
don't believe he means any harm."
"I don't know what he means, but there's something
not clean about a man who sneers at everything. It
fairly disgusted me the other day at
Fabrizi's debate to hear the way he cried down
the reforms in Rome, just as if he wanted to find
a foul motive for everything."
Gemma sighed. "I am afraid I agreed better
with him than with you on that point," she said.
"All you good people are so full of the most
delightful hopes and expectations; you are always
ready to think that if one well-meaning middle-aged
gentleman happens to get elected Pope,
everything else will come right of itself. He has
only got to throw open the prison doors and give
his blessing to everybody all round, and we may
expect the millennium within three months. You
never seem able to see that he can't set things
right even if he would. It's the principle of the
thing that's wrong, not the behaviour of this man
"What principle? The temporal power of the
"Why that in particular? That's merely a part
of the general wrong. The bad principle is that
any man should hold over another the power to
bind and loose. It's a false relationship to stand
in towards one's fellows."
Martini held up his hands. "That will do, Madonna,"
he said, laughing. "I am not going to
discuss with you, once you begin talking rank
Antinomianism in that fashion. I'm sure your
ancestors must have been English Levellers in the
seventeenth century. Besides, what I came round
about is this MS."
He pulled it out of his pocket.
"Another new pamphlet?"
"A stupid thing this wretched man Rivarez
sent in to yesterday's committee. I knew we
should come to loggerheads with him before
"What is the matter with it? Honestly,
Cesare, I think you are a little prejudiced. Rivarez
may be unpleasant, but he's not stupid."
"Oh, I don't deny that this is clever enough in
its way; but you had better read the thing
The pamphlet was a skit on the wild enthusiasm
over the new Pope with which Italy was still
ringing. Like all the Gadfly's writing, it was
bitter and vindictive; but, notwithstanding her
irritation at the style, Gemma could not help
recognizing in her heart the justice of the criticism.
"I quite agree with you that it is detestably
malicious," she said, laying down the manuscript.
"But the worst thing about it is that it's all true."
"Yes, but it is. The man's a cold-blooded eel,
if you like; but he's got the truth on his side.
There is no use in our trying to persuade ourselves
that this doesn't hit the mark--it does!"
"Then do you suggest that we should print it?"
"Ah! that's quite another matter. I certainly
don't think we ought to print it as it stands; it
would hurt and alienate everybody and do no
good. But if he would rewrite it and cut out the
personal attacks, I think it might be made into a
really valuable piece of work. As political criticism
it is very fine. I had no idea he could write
so well. He says things which need saying and
which none of us have had the courage to say.
This passage, where he compares Italy to a tipsy
man weeping with tenderness on the neck of the
thief who is picking his pocket, is splendidly
"Gemma! The very worst bit in the whole
thing! I hate that ill-natured yelping at everything
"So do I; but that's not the point. Rivarez
has a very disagreeable style, and as a human being
he is not attractive; but when he says that we have
made ourselves drunk with processions and embracing
and shouting about love and reconciliation, and that
the Jesuits and Sanfedists are the people who will
profit by it all, he's right a thousand times. I
wish I could have been at the committee yesterday.
What decision did you finally arrive at?"
"What I have come here about: to ask you to
go and talk it over with him and persuade him to
soften the thing."
"Me? But I hardly know the man; and besides
that, he detests me. Why should I go, of all
"Simply because there's no one else to do it
to-day. Besides, you are more reasonable than
the rest of us, and won't get into useless arguments
and quarrel with him, as we should."
"I shan't do that, certainly. Well, I will go if
you like, though I have not much hope of success."
"I am sure you will be able to manage him if
you try. Yes, and tell him that the committee
all admired the thing from a literary point of view.
That will put him into a good humour, and it's perfectly
. . . . .
The Gadfly was sitting beside a table covered
with flowers and ferns, staring absently at the
floor, with an open letter on his knee. A shaggy
collie dog, lying on a rug at his feet, raised its
head and growled as Gemma knocked at the open
door, and the Gadfly rose hastily and bowed in a
stiff, ceremonious way. His face had suddenly
grown hard and expressionless.
"You are too kind," he said in his most chilling
manner. "If you had let me know that you
wanted to speak to me I would have called on
Seeing that he evidently wished her at the end
of the earth, Gemma hastened to state her business.
He bowed again and placed a chair for her.
"The committee wished me to call upon you,"
she began, "because there has been a certain difference
of opinion about your pamphlet."
"So I expected." He smiled and sat down opposite
to her, drawing a large vase of chrysanthemums
between his face and the light.
"Most of the members agreed that, however
much they may admire the pamphlet as a literary
composition, they do not think that in its present
form it is quite suitable for publication. They fear
that the vehemence of its tone may give offence,
and alienate persons whose help and support are
valuable to the party."
He pulled a chrysanthemum from the vase and
began slowly plucking off one white petal after
another. As her eyes happened to catch the
movement of the slim right hand dropping the
petals, one by one, an uncomfortable sensation
came over Gemma, as though she had somewhere
seen that gesture before.
"As a literary composition," he remarked in
his soft, cold voice, "it is utterly worthless, and
could be admired only by persons who know nothing
about literature. As for its giving offence,
that is the very thing I intended it to do."
"That I quite understand. The question is
whether you may not succeed in giving offence to
the wrong people."
He shrugged his shoulders and put a torn-off
petal between his teeth. "I think you are mistaken,"
he said. "The question is: For what purpose did
your committee invite me to come here? I understood,
to expose and ridicule the Jesuits. I fulfil my
obligation to the best of my ability."
"And I can assure you that no one has any
doubt as to either the ability or the good-will.
What the committee fears is that the liberal party
may take offence, and also that the town workmen
may withdraw their moral support. You may have
meant the pamphlet for an attack upon the Sanfedists:
but many readers will construe it as an
attack upon the Church and the new Pope; and
this, as a matter of political tactics, the
committee does not consider desirable."
"I begin to understand. So long as I keep to
the particular set of clerical gentlemen with whom
the party is just now on bad terms, I may speak
sooth if the fancy takes me; but directly I touch
upon the committee's own pet priests--'truth's a
dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out,
when the--Holy Father may stand by the fire
and-----' Yes, the fool was right; I'd rather be
any kind of a thing than a fool. Of course I
must bow to the committee's decision, but I
continue to think that it has pared its wit o' both
sides and left--M-mon-signor M-m-montan-n-nelli
in the middle."
"Montanelli?" Gemma repeated. "I don't understand
you. Do you mean the Bishop of Brisighella?"
"Yes; the new Pope has just created him a
Cardinal, you know. I have a letter about him
here. Would you care to hear it? The writer is
a friend of mine on the other side of the frontier."
"The Papal frontier?"
"Yes. This is what he writes----" He took
up the letter which had been in his hand when she
entered, and read aloud, suddenly beginning to
"'Y-o-you will s-s-s-soon have the p-pleasure
of m-m-meeting one of our w-w-worst enemies,
C-cardinal Lorenzo M-montan-n-nelli, the
B-b-bishop of Brisig-g-hella. He int-t----'"
He broke off, paused a moment, and began
again, very slowly and drawling insufferably, but
no longer stammering:
"'He intends to visit Tuscany during the coming
month on a mission of reconciliation. He will
preach first in Florence, where he will stay for
about three weeks; then will go on to Siena and
Pisa, and return to the Romagna by Pistoja. He
ostensibly belongs to the liberal party in the
Church, and is a personal friend of the Pope and
Cardinal Feretti. Under Gregory he was out of
favour, and was kept out of sight in a little hole
in the Apennines. Now he has come suddenly to
the front. Really, of course, he is as much pulled
by Jesuit wires as any Sanfedist in the country.
This mission was suggested by some of the Jesuit
fathers. He is one of the most brilliant preachers
in the Church, and as mischievous in his way as
Lambruschini himself. His business is to keep
the popular enthusiasm over the Pope from subsiding,
and to occupy the public attention until
the Grand Duke has signed a project which the
agents of the Jesuits are preparing to lay before
him. What this project is I have been unable to
discover.' Then, further on, it says: 'Whether
Montanelli understands for what purpose he is
being sent to Tuscany, or whether the Jesuits are
playing on him, I cannot make out. He is either
an uncommonly clever knave, or the biggest ass
that was ever foaled. The odd thing is that, so
far as I can discover, he neither takes bribes nor
keeps mistresses--the first time I ever came
across such a thing.'"
He laid down the letter and sat looking at her
with half-shut eyes, waiting, apparently, for her to
"Are you satisfied that your informant is correct
in his facts?" she asked after a moment.
"As to the irreproachable character of Monsignor
M-mon-t-tan-nelli's private life? No; but
neither is he. As you will observe, he puts in the
s-s-saving clause: 'So far as I c-can discover----
"I was not speaking of that," she interposed
coldly, "but of the part about this mission."
"I can fully trust the writer. He is an old
friend of mine--one of my comrades of '43, and he
is in a position which gives him exceptional
opportunities for finding out things of that kind."
"Some official at the Vatican," thought Gemma
quickly. "So that's the kind of connections you
have? I guessed there was something of that sort."
"This letter is, of course, a private one," the
Gadfly went on; "and you understand that the
information is to be kept strictly to the members
of your committee."
"That hardly needs saying. Then about the
pamphlet: may I tell the committee that you consent
to make a few alterations and soften it a little,
"Don't you think the alterations may succeed
in spoiling the beauty of the 'literary composition,'
signora, as well as in reducing the vehemence
of the tone?"
"You are asking my personal opinion. What
I have come here to express is that of the committee
as a whole."
"Does that imply that y-y-you disagree with the
committee as a whole?" He had put the letter
into his pocket and was now leaning forward and
looking at her with an eager, concentrated expression
which quite changed the character of his
face. "You think----"
"If you care to know what I personally think
--I disagree with the majority on both points. I
do not at all admire the pamphlet from a literary
point of view, and I do think it true as a presentation
of facts and wise as a matter of tactics."
"I quite agree with you that Italy is being led
away by a will-o'-the-wisp and that all this enthusiasm
and rejoicing will probably land her in a
terrible bog; and I should be most heartily glad
to have that openly and boldly said, even at the
cost of offending or alienating some of our present
supporters. But as a member of a body the large
majority of which holds the opposite view, I cannot
insist upon my personal opinion; and I certainly
think that if things of that kind are to be
said at all, they should be said temperately and
quietly; not in the tone adopted in this pamphlet."
"Will you wait a minute while I look through
He took it up and glanced down the pages. A
dissatisfied frown settled on his face.
"Yes, of course, you are perfectly right. The
thing's written like a cafe chantant skit, not a
political satire. But what's a man to do? If I
write decently the public won't understand it;
they will say it's dull if it isn't spiteful enough."
"Don't you think spitefulness manages to be
dull when we get too much of it?"
He threw a keen, rapid glance at her, and burst
"Apparently the signora belongs to the dreadful
category of people who are always right!
Then if I yield to the temptation to be spiteful, I
may come in time to be as dull as Signora Grassini?
Heavens, what a fate! No, you needn't
frown. I know you don't like me, and I am going
to keep to business. What it comes to, then,
is practically this: if I cut out the personalities and
leave the essential part of the thing as it is, the
committee will very much regret that they can't
take the responsibility of printing it. If I cut out
the political truth and make all the hard names
apply to no one but the party's enemies, the committee
will praise the thing up to the skies, and
you and I will know it's not worth printing.
Rather a nice point of metaphysics: Which is the
more desirable condition, to be printed and not be
worth it, or to be worth it and not be printed?
"I do not think you are tied to any such alternative.
I believe that if you were to cut out the
personalities the committee would consent to
print the pamphlet, though the majority would,
of course, not agree with it; and I am convinced
that it would be very useful. But you would have
to lay aside the spitefulness. If you are going to
say a thing the substance of which is a big pill for
your readers to swallow, there is no use in frightening
them at the beginning by the form."
He sighed and shrugged his shoulders resignedly.
"I submit, signora; but on one condition.
If you rob me of my laugh now, I must have it
out next time. When His Eminence, the irreproachable
Cardinal, turns up in Florence, neither
you nor your committee must object to my being
as spiteful as I like. It's my due!"
He spoke in his lightest, coldest manner, pulling
the chrysanthemums out of their vase and
holding them up to watch the light through the
translucent petals. "What an unsteady hand he
has," she thought, seeing how the flowers shook
and quivered. "Surely he doesn't drink!"
"You had better discuss the matter with the
other members of the committee," she said, rising.
"I cannot form any opinion as to what they will
think about it."
"And you?" He had risen too, and was leaning
against the table, pressing the flowers to his face
She hesitated. The question distressed her,
bringing up old and miserable associations. "I
--hardly know," she said at last. "Many years
ago I used to know something about Monsignor
Montanelli. He was only a canon at that time,
and Director of the theological seminary in the
province where I lived as a girl. I heard a great
deal about him from--someone who knew him
very intimately; and I never heard anything of him
that was not good. I believe that, in those days
at least, he was really a most remarkable man.
But that was long ago, and he may have changed.
Irresponsible power corrupts so many people."
The Gadfly raised his head from the flowers, and
looked at her with a steady face.
"At any rate," he said, "if Monsignor Montanelli
is not himself a scoundrel, he is a tool in
scoundrelly hands. It is all one to me which he
is--and to my friends across the frontier. A stone
in the path may have the best intentions, but it
must be kicked out of the path, for all that.
Allow me, signora!" He rang the bell, and, limping
to the door, opened it for her to pass out.
"It was very kind of you to call, signora. May
I send for a vettura? No? Good-afternoon, then!
Bianca, open the hall-door, please."
Gemma went out into the street, pondering
anxiously. "My friends across the frontier"--
who were they? And how was the stone to be
kicked out of the path? If with satire only, why
had he said it with such dangerous eyes?
MONSIGNOR MONTANELLI arrived in Florence
in the first week of October. His visit caused a
little flutter of excitement throughout the town.
He was a famous preacher and a representative of
the reformed Papacy; and people looked eagerly
to him for an exposition of the "new doctrine,"
the gospel of love and reconciliation which was to
cure the sorrows of Italy. The nomination of
Cardinal Gizzi to the Roman State Secretaryship
in place of the universally detested Lambruschini
had raised the public enthusiasm to its highest
pitch; and Montanelli was just the man who could
most easily sustain it. The irreproachable strictness
of his life was a phenomenon sufficiently rare
among the high dignitaries of the Roman Church
to attract the attention of people accustomed to
regard blackmailing, peculation, and disreputable
intrigues as almost invariable adjuncts to the
career of a prelate. Moreover, his talent as a
preacher was really great; and with his beautiful
voice and magnetic personality, he would in any
time and place have made his mark.
Grassini, as usual, strained every nerve to get
the newly arrived celebrity to his house; but
Montanelli was no easy game to catch. To all
invitations he replied with the same courteous but
positive refusal, saying that his health was bad and
his time fully occupied, and that he had neither
strength nor leisure for going into society.
"What omnivorous creatures those Grassinis
are!" Martini said contemptuously to Gemma as
they crossed the Signoria square one bright, cold
Sunday morning. "Did you notice the way
Grassini bowed when the Cardinal's carriage drove
up? It's all one to them who a man is, so long as
he's talked about. I never saw such lion-hunters
in my life. Only last August it was the Gadfly;
now it's Montanelli. I hope His Eminence feels
flattered at the attention; a precious lot of adventurers
have shared it with him."
They had been hearing Montanelli preach in
the Cathedral; and the great building had been so
thronged with eager listeners that Martini, fearing
a return of Gemma's troublesome headaches,
had persuaded her to come away before the Mass
was over. The sunny morning, the first after a
week of rain, offered him an excuse for suggesting
a walk among the garden slopes by San Niccolo.
"No," she answered; "I should like a walk if
you have time; but not to the hills. Let us keep
along the Lung'Arno; Montanelli will pass on his
way back from church and I am like Grassini--
I want to see the notability."
"But you have just seen him."
"Not close. There was such a crush in the
Cathedral, and his back was turned to us when the
carriage passed. If we keep near to the bridge
we shall be sure to see him well--he is staying
on the Lung'Arno, you know."
"But what has given you such a sudden fancy
to see Montanelli? You never used to care about
"It is not famous preachers; it is the man himself;
I want to see how much he has changed since I saw him last."
"When was that?"
"Two days after Arthur's death."
Martini glanced at her anxiously. They had
come out on to the Lung'Arno, and she was staring
absently across the water, with a look on her
face that he hated to see.
"Gemma, dear," he said after a moment; "are
you going to let that miserable business haunt
you all your life? We have all made mistakes
when we were seventeen."
"We have not all killed our dearest friend when
we were seventeen," she answered wearily; and,
leaning her arm on the stone balustrade of the
bridge, looked down into the river. Martini held
his tongue; he was almost afraid to speak to her
when this mood was on her.
"I never look down at water without remembering,"
she said, slowly raising her eyes to his;
then with a nervous little shiver: "Let us walk
on a bit, Cesare; it is chilly for standing."
They crossed the bridge in silence and walked
on along the river-side. After a few minutes she
"What a beautiful voice that man has! There
is something about it that I have never heard in
any other human voice. I believe it is the secret
of half his influence."
"It is a wonderful voice," Martini assented,
catching at a subject of conversation which might
lead her away from the dreadful memory called up
by the river, "and he is, apart from his voice,
about the finest preacher I have ever heard. But
I believe the secret of his influence lies deeper than
that. It is the way his life stands out from that
of almost all the other prelates. I don't know
whether you could lay your hand on one other
high dignitary in all the Italian Church--except
the Pope himself--whose reputation is so utterly
spotless. I remember, when I was in the Romagna
last year, passing through his diocese and
seeing those fierce mountaineers waiting in the
rain to get a glimpse of him or touch his dress.
He is venerated there almost as a saint; and that
means a good deal among the Romagnols, who
generally hate everything that wears a cassock. I
remarked to one of the old peasants,--as typical
a smuggler as ever I saw in my life,--that the
people seemed very much devoted to their bishop,
and he said: 'We don't love bishops, they are
liars; we love Monsignor Montanelli. Nobody has
ever known him to tell a lie or do an unjust thing.'"
"I wonder," Gemma said, half to herself, "if he
knows the people think that about him."
"Why shouldn't he know it? Do you think it
is not true?"
"I know it is not true."
"How do you know it?"
"Because he told me so."
"HE told you? Montanelli? Gemma, what do you mean?"
She pushed the hair back from her forehead and
turned towards him. They were standing still
again, he leaning on the balustrade and she slowly
drawing lines on the pavement with the point of
"Cesare, you and I have been friends for all
these years, and I have never told you what really
happened about Arthur."
"There is no need to tell me, dear," he broke
in hastily; "I know all about it already."
"Giovanni told you?"
"Yes, when he was dying. He told me about
it one night when I was sitting up with him. He
said---- Gemma, dear, I had better tell you the
truth, now we have begun talking about it--he
said that you were always brooding over that
wretched story, and he begged me to be as good
a friend to you as I could and try to keep you
from thinking of it. And I have tried to, dear,
though I may not have succeeded--I have,
"I know you have," she answered softly, raising
her eyes for a moment; "I should have been
badly off without your friendship. But--Giovanni
did not tell you about Monsignor Montanelli, then?"
"No, I didn't know that he had anything to
do with it. What he told me was about--all that
affair with the spy, and about----"
"About my striking Arthur and his drowning
himself. Well, I will tell you about Montanelli."
They turned back towards the bridge over which
the Cardinal's carriage would have to pass.
Gemma looked out steadily across the water as
"In those days Montanelli was a canon; he was
Director of the Theological Seminary at Pisa, and
used to give Arthur lessons in philosophy and read
with him after he went up to the Sapienza. They
were perfectly devoted to each other; more like
two lovers than teacher and pupil. Arthur almost
worshipped the ground that Montanelli walked on,
and I remember his once telling me that if he lost
his 'Padre'--he always used to call Montanelli so
--he should go and drown himself. Well, then
you know what happened about the spy. The
next day, my father and the Burtons--Arthur's
step-brothers, most detestable people--spent the
whole day dragging the Darsena basin for the
body; and I sat in my room alone and thought of
what I had done----"
She paused a moment, and went on again:
"Late in the evening my father came into my
room and said: 'Gemma, child, come downstairs;
there's a man I want you to see.' And when we
went down there was one of the students belonging
to the group sitting in the consulting room,
all white and shaking; and he told us about Giovanni's
second letter coming from the prison to
say that they had heard from the jailer about
Cardi, and that Arthur had been tricked in the
confessional. I remember the student saying to
me: 'It is at least some consolation that we know
he was innocent' My father held my hands and
tried to comfort me; he did not know then about
the blow. Then I went back to my room and
sat there all night alone. In the morning my
father went out again with the Burtons to see the
harbour dragged. They had some hope of finding
the body there."
"It was never found, was it?"
"No; it must have got washed out to sea; but
they thought there was a chance. I was alone in
my room and the servant came up to say that a
'reverendissimo padre' had called and she had
told him my father was at the docks and he had
gone away. I knew it must be Montanelli; so I
ran out at the back door and caught him up at
the garden gate. When I said: 'Canon Montanelli,
I want to speak to you,' he just stopped and
waited silently for me to speak. Oh, Cesare, if
you had seen his face--it haunted me for months
afterwards! I said: 'I am Dr. Warren's daughter,
and I have come to tell you that it is I who have
killed Arthur.' I told him everything, and he
stood and listened, like a figure cut in stone, till
I had finished; then he said: 'Set your heart at
rest, my child; it is I that am a murderer, not you.
I deceived him and he found it out.' And with
that he turned and went out at the gate without
"I don't know what happened to him after that;
I heard the same evening that he had fallen down
in the street in a kind of fit and had been carried
into a house near the docks; but that is all
I know. My father did everything he could for
me; when I told him about it he threw up
his practice and took me away to England at
once, so that I should never hear anything that
could remind me. He was afraid I should end in
the water, too; and indeed I believe I was near it
at one time. But then, you know, when we found
out that my father had cancer I was obliged to
come to myself--there was no one else to nurse
him. And after he died I was left with the little
ones on my hands until my elder brother was able
to give them a home. Then there was Giovanni.
Do you know, when he came to England we were
almost afraid to meet each other with that frightful
memory between us. He was so bitterly
remorseful for his share in it all--that unhappy
letter he wrote from prison. But I believe,
really, it was our common trouble that drew us
Martini smiled and shook his head.
"It may have been so on your side," he said;
"but Giovanni had made up his mind from the
first time he ever saw you. I remember his coming
back to Milan after that first visit to Leghorn
and raving about you to me till I was perfectly
sick of hearing of the English Gemma. I thought
I should hate you. Ah! there it comes!"
The carriage crossed the bridge and drove up to
a large house on the Lung'Arno. Montanelli was
leaning back on the cushions as if too tired to
care any longer for the enthusiastic crowd which
had collected round the door to catch a glimpse of
him. The inspired look that his face had worn
in the Cathedral had faded quite away and the
sunlight showed the lines of care and fatigue.
When he had alighted and passed, with the heavy,
spiritless tread of weary and heart-sick old age,
into the house, Gemma turned away and walked
slowly to the bridge. Her face seemed for a moment
to reflect the withered, hopeless look of his.
Martini walked beside her in silence.
"I have so often wondered," she began again
after a little pause; "what he meant about the
deception. It has sometimes occurred to me----"
"Well, it is very strange; there was the
most extraordinary personal resemblance between
"Arthur and Montanelli. It was not only I
who noticed it. And there was something mysterious
in the relationship between the members
of that household. Mrs. Burton, Arthur's mother,
was one of the sweetest women I ever knew. Her
face had the same spiritual look as Arthur's, and
I believe they were alike in character, too. But