Part 7 out of 9
Tribunal of First Instance. But law doesn't count
for much in the Four Legations; it depends on the
personal fancy of anybody who happens to be in power."
"They won't take him in to Ravenna," Michele interposed.
"What makes you think so?"
"I am sure of it. Colonel Ferrari, the military
Governor at Brisighella, is uncle to the officer that
Rivarez wounded; he's a vindictive sort of brute
and won't give up a chance to spite an enemy."
"You think he will try to keep Rivarez here?"
"I think he will try to get him hanged."
Martini glanced quickly at Gemma. She was
very pale, but her face had not changed at the
words. Evidently the idea was no new one to her.
"He can hardly do that without some formality,"
she said quietly; "but he might possibly
get up a court-martial on some pretext or other,
and justify himself afterwards by saying that the
peace of the town required it."
"But what about the Cardinal? Would he
consent to things of that kind?"
"He has no jurisdiction in military affairs."
"No, but he has great influence. Surely the
Governor would not venture on such a step without
"He'll never get that," Marcone interrupted.
"Montanelli was always against the military
commissions, and everything of the kind. So
long as they keep him in Brisighella nothing
serious can happen; the Cardinal will always take
the part of any prisoner. What I am afraid of is
their taking him to Ravenna. Once there, he's
"We shouldn't let him get there," said Michele.
"We could manage a rescue on the road; but to
get him out of the fortress here is another
"I think," said Gemma; "that it would be
quite useless to wait for the chance of his being
transferred to Ravenna. We must make the attempt
at Brisighella, and we have no time to lose.
Cesare, you and I had better go over the plan of
the fortress together, and see whether we can
think out anything. I have an idea in my head,
but I can't get over one point."
"Come, Marcone," said Michele, rising; "we
will leave them to think out their scheme. I have
to go across to Fognano this afternoon, and I
want you to come with me. Vincenzo hasn't sent
those cartridges, and they ought to have been
When the two men had gone, Martini went up
to Gemma and silently held out his hand. She let
her fingers lie in his for a moment.
"You were always a good friend, Cesare," she
said at last; "and a very present help in trouble.
And now let us discuss plans."
"AND I once more most earnestly assure Your
Eminence that your refusal is endangering the
peace of the town."
The Governor tried to preserve the respectful
tone due to a high dignitary of the Church; but
there was audible irritation in his voice. His liver
was out of order, his wife was running up heavy
bills, and his temper had been sorely tried during
the last three weeks. A sullen, disaffected populace,
whose dangerous mood grew daily more apparent; a
district honeycombed with plots and bristling with
hidden weapons; an inefficient garrison, of whose
loyalty he was more than doubtful, and a Cardinal
whom he had pathetically described to his adjutant
as the "incarnation of immaculate pig-headedness,"
had already reduced him to the verge of desperation.
Now he was saddled with the Gadfly, an animated
quintessence of the spirit of mischief.
Having begun by disabling both the Governor's
favourite nephew and his most valuable spy, the
"crooked Spanish devil" had followed up his
exploits in the market-place by suborning the
guards, browbeating the interrogating officers,
and "turning the prison into a bear-garden." He
had now been three weeks in the fortress, and the
authorities of Brisighella were heartily sick of their
bargain. They had subjected him to interrogation
upon interrogation; and after employing, to
obtain admissions from him, every device of threat,
persuasion, and stratagem which their ingenuity
could suggest, remained just as wise as on the day
of his capture. They had begun to realize that
it would perhaps have been better to send him into
Ravenna at once. It was, however, too late to
rectify the mistake. The Governor, when sending
in to the Legate his report of the arrest, had
begged, as a special favour, permission to superintend
personally the investigation of this case; and,
his request having been graciously acceded to, he
could not now withdraw without a humiliating
confession that he was overmatched.
The idea of settling the difficulty by a courtmartial
had, as Gemma and Michele had foreseen,
presented itself to him as the only satisfactory
solution; and Cardinal Montanelli's stubborn refusal
to countenance this was the last drop which
made the cup of his vexations overflow.
"I think," he said, "that if Your Eminence knew
what I and my assistants have put up with from
this man you would feel differently about the matter.
I fully understand and respect the conscientious
objection to irregularities in judicial
proceedings; but this is an exceptional case and
calls for exceptional measures."
"There is no case," Montanelli answered,
"which calls for injustice; and to condemn a
civilian by the judgment of a secret military tribunal
is both unjust and illegal."
"The case amounts to this, Your Eminence:
The prisoner is manifestly guilty of several capital
crimes. He joined the infamous attempt of
Savigno, and the military commission nominated
by Monsignor Spinola would certainly have had
him shot or sent to the galleys then, had he not
succeeded in escaping to Tuscany. Since that
time he has never ceased plotting. He is known
to be an influential member of one of the most
pestilent secret societies in the country. He is
gravely suspected of having consented to, if not
inspired, the assassination of no less than three
confidential police agents. He has been caught--
one might almost say--in the act of smuggling
firearms into the Legation. He has offered armed
resistance to authority and seriously wounded two
officials in the discharge of their duty, and he is
now a standing menace to the peace and order of
the town. Surely, in such a case, a court-martial
"Whatever the man has done," Montanelli replied,
"he has the right to be judged according to law."
"The ordinary course of law involves delay, Your
Eminence, and in this case every moment is precious.
Besides everything else, I am in constant
terror of his escaping."
"If there is any danger of that, it rests with you
to guard him more closely."
"I do my best, Your Eminence, but I am
dependent upon the prison staff, and the man
seems to have bewitched them all. I have
changed the guard four times within three weeks;
I have punished the soldiers till I am tired of it,
and nothing is of any use. I can't prevent their
carrying letters backwards and forwards. The
fools are in love with him as if he were a woman."
"That is very curious. There must be something
remarkable about him."
"There's a remarkable amount of devilry--I
beg pardon, Your Eminence, but really this man is
enough to try the patience of a saint. It's hardly
credible, but I have to conduct all the interrogations
myself, for the regular officer cannot stand
it any longer."
"How is that?"
"It's difficult to explain. Your Eminence, but
you would understand if you had once heard the
way he goes on. One might think the interrogating
officer were the criminal and he the judge."
"But what is there so terrible that he can do?
He can refuse to answer your questions, of course;
but he has no weapon except silence."
"And a tongue like a razor. We are all mortal,
Your Eminence, and most of us have made mistakes
in our time that we don't want published
on the house-tops. That's only human nature,
and it's hard on a man to have his little slips of
twenty years ago raked up and thrown in his teeth----"
"Has Rivarez brought up some personal secret
of the interrogating officer?"
"Well, really--the poor fellow got into debt
when he was a cavalry officer, and borrowed a little
sum from the regimental funds----"
"Stole public money that had been intrusted to
him, in fact?"
"Of course it was very wrong, Your Eminence;
but his friends paid it back at once, and the affair
was hushed up,--he comes of a good family,--and
ever since then he has been irreproachable. How
Rivarez found out about it I can't conceive; but
the first thing he did at interrogation was to bring
up this old scandal--before the subaltern, too!
And with as innocent a face as if he were saying
his prayers! Of course the story's all over the
Legation by now. If Your Eminence would only
be present at one of the interrogations, I am sure
you would realize---- He needn't know anything
about it. You might overhear him from------"
Montanelli turned round and looked at the Governor
with an expression which his face did not often wear.
"I am a minister of religion," he said; "not a
police-spy; and eavesdropping forms no part of
my professional duties."
"I--I didn't mean to give offence------"
"I think we shall not get any good out of
discussing this question further. If you will
send the prisoner here, I will have a talk with
"I venture very respectfully to advise Your Eminence
not to attempt it. The man is perfectly
incorrigible. It would be both safer and wiser to
overstep the letter of the law for this once, and get
rid of him before he does any more mischief. It
is with great diffidence that I venture to press the
point after what Your Eminence has said; but after
all I am responsible to Monsignor the Legate for
the order of the town------"
"And I," Montanelli interrupted, "am responsible
to God and His Holiness that there shall
be no underhand dealing in my diocese. Since you
press me in the matter, colonel, I take my stand
upon my privilege as Cardinal. I will not allow a
secret court-martial in this town in peace-time. I
will receive the prisoner here, and alone, at ten
"As Your Eminence pleases," the Governor
replied with sulky respectfulness; and went away,
grumbling to himself: "They're about a pair, as
far as obstinacy goes."
He told no one of the approaching interview till
it was actually time to knock off the prisoner's
chains and start for the palace. It was quite
enough, as he remarked to his wounded nephew,
to have this Most Eminent son of Balaam's ass
laying down the law, without running any risk of
the soldiers plotting with Rivarez and his friends
to effect an escape on the way.
When the Gadfly, strongly guarded, entered the
room where Montanelli was writing at a table
covered with papers, a sudden recollection came
over him, of a hot midsummer afternoon when he
had sat turning over manuscript sermons in a study
much like this. The shutters had been closed, as
they were here, to keep out the heat, and a fruitseller's
voice outside had called: "Fragola! Fragola!"
He shook the hair angrily back from his eyes
and set his mouth in a smile.
Montanelli looked up from his papers.
"You can wait in the hall," he said to the
"May it please Your Eminence," began the sergeant,
in a lowered voice and with evident nervousness,
"the colonel thinks that this prisoner is
dangerous and that it would be better------"
A sudden flash came into Montanelli's eyes.
"You can wait in the hall," he repeated quietly;
and the sergeant, saluting and stammering excuses
with a frightened face, left the room with his men.
"Sit down, please," said the Cardinal, when the
door was shut. The Gadfly obeyed in silence.
"Signor Rivarez," Montanelli began after a
pause, "I wish to ask you a few questions, and
shall be very much obliged to you if you will
The Gadfly smiled. "My ch-ch-chief occupation
at p-p-present is to be asked questions."
"And--not to answer them? So I have heard;
but these questions are put by officials who are
investigating your case and whose duty is to use
your answers as evidence."
"And th-those of Your Eminence?" There
was a covert insult in the tone more than in the
words, and the Cardinal understood it at once; but
his face did not lose its grave sweetness of
"Mine," he said, "whether you answer them
or not, will remain between you and me. If they
should trench upon your political secrets, of course
you will not answer. Otherwise, though we are
complete strangers to each other, I hope that you
will do so, as a personal favour to me."
"I am ent-t-tirely at the service of Your Eminence."
He said it with a little bow, and a face
that would have taken the heart to ask favours out
of the daughters of the horse-leech.
"First, then, you are said to have been smuggling
firearms into this district. What are they
"T-t-to k-k-kill rats with."
"That is a terrible answer. Are all your fellow-men
rats in your eyes if they cannot think as you do?"
"S-s-some of them."
Montanelli leaned back in his chair and looked
at him in silence for a little while.
"What is that on your hand?" he asked
The Gadfly glanced at his left hand. "Old
m-m-marks from the teeth of some of the rats."
"Excuse me; I was speaking of the other
hand. That is a fresh hurt."
The slender, flexible right hand was badly cut
and grazed. The Gadfly held it up. The wrist
was swollen, and across it ran a deep and long
"It is a m-m-mere trifle, as you see," he said.
"When I was arrested the other day,--thanks to
Your Eminence,"--he made another little bow,--
"one of the soldiers stamped on it."
Montanelli took the wrist and examined it
closely. "How does it come to be in such a state
now, after three weeks?" he asked. "It is all
"Possibly the p-p-pressure of the iron has not
done it much good."
The Cardinal looked up with a frown.
"Have they been putting irons on a fresh
"N-n-naturally, Your Eminence; that is what
fresh wounds are for. Old wounds are not much
use. They will only ache; you c-c-can't make
them burn properly."
Montanelli looked at him again in the same
close, scrutinizing way; then rose and opened a
drawer full of surgical appliances.
"Give me the hand," he said.
The Gadfly, with a face as hard as beaten iron,
held out the hand, and Montanelli, after bathing
the injured place, gently bandaged it. Evidently
he was accustomed to such work.
"I will speak about the irons," he said. "And
now I want to ask you another question: What do
you propose to do?"
"Th-th-that is very simply answered, Your Eminence.
To escape if I can, and if I can't, to die."
"Why 'to die'?"
"Because if the Governor doesn't succeed in
getting me shot, I shall be sent to the galleys, and
for me that c-c-comes to the same thing. I have
not got the health to live through it."
Montanelli rested his arm on the table and
pondered silently. The Gadfly did not disturb
him. He was leaning back with half-shut eyes,
lazily enjoying the delicious physical sensation of
relief from the chains.
"Supposing," Montanelli began again, "that
you were to succeed in escaping; what should you
do with your life?"
"I have already told Your Eminence; I should
"You would kill rats. That is to say, that if I
were to let you escape from here now,--supposing
I had the power to do so,--you would use your
freedom to foster violence and bloodshed instead
of preventing them?"
The Gadfly raised his eyes to the crucifix on the
wall. "'Not peace, but a sword';--at l-least I
should be in good company. For my own part,
though, I prefer pistols."
"Signor Rivarez," said the Cardinal with unruffled
composure, "I have not insulted you as
yet, or spoken slightingly of your beliefs or friends.
May I not expect the same courtesy from you, or
do you wish me to suppose that an atheist cannot
be a gentleman?"
"Ah, I q-quite forgot. Your Eminence places
courtesy high among the Christian virtues. I remember
your sermon in Florence, on the occasion
of my c-controversy with your anonymous defender."
"That is one of the subjects about which I
wished to speak to you. Would you mind
explaining to me the reason of the peculiar bitterness
you seem to feel against me? If you have
simply picked me out as a convenient target, that
is another matter. Your methods of political controversy
are your own affair, and we are not discussing politics
now. But I fancied at the time that there was some
personal animosity towards me; and if so, I should be
glad to know whether I have ever done you wrong or in
any way given you cause for such a feeling."
Ever done him wrong! The Gadfly put up the
bandaged hand to his throat. "I must refer Your
Eminence to Shakspere," he said with a little
laugh. "It's as with the man who can't endure
a harmless, necessary cat. My antipathy is a
priest. The sight of the cassock makes my
"Oh, if it is only that----" Montanelli dismissed
the subject with an indifferent gesture.
"Still," he added, "abuse is one thing and perversion
of fact is another. When you stated, in
answer to my sermon, that I knew the identity
of the anonymous writer, you made a mistake,--I
do not accuse you of wilful falsehood,--and stated
what was untrue. I am to this day quite ignorant
of his name."
The Gadfly put his head on one side, like an
intelligent robin, looked at him for a moment
gravely, then suddenly threw himself back and
burst into a peal of laughter.
"S-s-sancta simplicitas! Oh, you, sweet, innocent,
Arcadian people--and you never guessed!
You n-never saw the cloven hoof?"
Montanelli stood up. "Am I to understand,
Signor Rivarez, that you wrote both sides of the
"It was a shame, I know," the Gadfly answered,
looking up with wide, innocent blue eyes. "And
you s-s-swallowed everything whole; just as if it
had been an oyster. It was very wrong; but oh,
it w-w-was so funny!"
Montanelli bit his lip and sat down again. He
had realized from the first that the Gadfly was trying
to make him lose his temper, and had resolved
to keep it whatever happened; but he was beginning
to find excuses for the Governor's exasperation.
A man who had been spending two hours
a day for the last three weeks in interrogating the
Gadfly might be pardoned an occasional swear-word.
"We will drop that subject," he said quietly.
"What I wanted to see you for particularly is this:
My position here as Cardinal gives me some voice,
if I choose to claim my privilege, in the question
of what is to be done with you. The only use to
which I should ever put such a privilege would be
to interfere in case of any violence to you which
was not necessary to prevent you from doing violence
to others. I sent for you, therefore, partly
in order to ask whether you have anything to
complain of,--I will see about the irons; but perhaps
there is something else,--and partly because
I felt it right, before giving my opinion, to see for
myself what sort of man you are."
"I have nothing to complain of, Your Eminence.
'A la guerre comme a la guerre.' I am
not a schoolboy, to expect any government to pat
me on the head for s-s-smuggling firearms onto its
territory. It's only natural that they should hit
as hard as they can. As for what sort of man I
am, you have had a romantic confession of my sins
once. Is not that enough; or w-w-would you like
me to begin again?"
"I don't understand you," Montanelli said
coldly, taking up a pencil and twisting it between
"Surely Your Eminence has not forgotten old Diego,
the pilgrim?" He suddenly changed his voice and began
to speak as Diego: "I am a miserable sinner------"
The pencil snapped in Montanelli's hand.
"That is too much!" he said.
The Gadfly leaned his head back with a soft little
laugh, and sat watching while the Cardinal
paced silently up and down the room.
"Signor Rivarez," said Montanelli, stopping at
last in front of him, "you have done a thing to me
that a man who was born of a woman should hesitate
to do to his worst enemy. You have stolen
in upon my private grief and have made for
yourself a mock and a jest out of the sorrow of a
fellow-man. I once more beg you to tell me:
Have I ever done you wrong? And if not, why
have you played this heartless trick on me?"
The Gadfly, leaning back against the chair-cushions,
looked up with his subtle, chilling, inscrutable smile
"It am-m-mused me, Your Eminence; you took
it all so much to heart, and it rem-m-minded me--
a little bit--of a variety show----"
Montanelli, white to the very lips, turned away
and rang the bell.
"You can take back the prisoner," he said when
the guards came in.
After they had gone he sat down at the table,
still trembling with unaccustomed indignation,
and took up a pile of reports which had been sent
in to him by the parish priests of his diocese.
Presently he pushed them away, and, leaning on
the table, hid his face in both hands. The Gadfly
seemed to have left some terrible shadow of himself,
some ghostly trail of his personality, to haunt
the room; and Montanelli sat trembling and
cowering, not daring to look up lest he should see
the phantom presence that he knew was not there.
The spectre hardly amounted to a hallucination.
It was a mere fancy of overwrought nerves; but
he was seized with an unutterable dread of its
shadowy presence--of the wounded hand, the
smiling, cruel mouth, the mysterious eyes, like
deep sea water----
He shook off the fancy and settled to his work.
All day long he had scarcely a free moment, and
the thing did not trouble him; but going into his
bedroom late at night, he stopped on the threshold
with a sudden shock of fear. What if he
should see it in a dream? He recovered himself
immediately and knelt down before the crucifix
But he lay awake the whole night through.
MONTANELLI'S anger did not make him neglectful
of his promise. He protested so emphatically
against the manner in which the Gadfly had been
chained that the unfortunate Governor, who by
now was at his wit's end, knocked off all the fetters
in the recklessness of despair. "How am I
to know," he grumbled to the adjutant, "what
His Eminence will object to next? If he calls a
simple pair of handcuffs 'cruelty,' he'll be exclaiming
against the window-bars presently, or wanting
me to feed Rivarez on oysters and truffles. In my
young days malefactors were malefactors and
were treated accordingly, and nobody thought a
traitor any better than a thief. But it's the fashion
to be seditious nowadays; and His Eminence
seems inclined to encourage all the scoundrels in
"I don't see what business he has got to interfere
at all," the adjutant remarked. "He is not
a Legate and has no authority in civil and military
affairs. By law------"
"What is the use of talking about law? You
can't expect anyone to respect laws after the Holy
Father has opened the prisons and turned the
whole crew of Liberal scamps loose on us! It's
a positive infatuation! Of course Monsignor
Montanelli will give himself airs; he was quiet
enough under His Holiness the late Pope, but he's
cock of the walk now. He has jumped into
favour all at once and can do as he pleases. How
am I to oppose him? He may have secret authorization
from the Vatican, for all I know. Everything's
topsy-turvy now; you can't tell from day
to day what may happen next. In the good old
times one knew what to be at, but nowadays------"
The Governor shook his head ruefully. A
world in which Cardinals troubled themselves over
trifles of prison discipline and talked about the
"rights" of political offenders was a world that
was growing too complex for him.
The Gadfly, for his part, had returned to the fortress
in a state of nervous excitement bordering
on hysteria. The meeting with Montanelli had
strained his endurance almost to breaking-point;
and his final brutality about the variety show had
been uttered in sheer desperation, merely to cut
short an interview which, in another five minutes,
would have ended in tears.
Called up for interrogation in the afternoon of
the same day, he did nothing but go into convulsions
of laughter at every question put to him;
and when the Governor, worried out of all
patience, lost his temper and began to swear, he
only laughed more immoderately than ever. The
unlucky Governor fumed and stormed and threatened
his refractory prisoner with impossible punishments;
but finally came, as James Burton had
come long ago, to the conclusion that it was mere
waste of breath and temper to argue with a person
in so unreasonable a state of mind.
The Gadfly was once more taken back to his cell;
and there lay down upon the pallet, in the mood
of black and hopeless depression which always succeeded
to his boisterous fits. He lay till evening
without moving, without even thinking; he had
passed, after the vehement emotion of the morning,
into a strange, half-apathetic state, in which
his own misery was hardly more to him than a dull
and mechanical weight, pressing on some wooden
thing that had forgotten to be a soul. In truth,
it was of little consequence how all ended; the one
thing that mattered to any sentient being was to
be spared unbearable pain, and whether the relief
came from altered conditions or from the deadening
of the power to feel, was a question of no moment.
Perhaps he would succeed in escaping;
perhaps they would kill him; in any case he
should never see the Padre again, and it was all
vanity and vexation of spirit.
One of the warders brought in supper, and the
Gadfly looked up with heavy-eyed indifference.
"What time is it?"
"Six o'clock. Your supper, sir."
He looked with disgust at the stale, foul-smelling,
half-cold mess, and turned his head away.
He was feeling bodily ill as well as depressed; and
the sight of the food sickened him.
"You will be ill if you don't eat," said the soldier
hurriedly. "Take a bit of bread, anyway; it'll do you good."
The man spoke with a curious earnestness of
tone, lifting a piece of sodden bread from the plate
and putting it down again. All the conspirator
awoke in the Gadfly; he had guessed at once that
there was something hidden in the bread.
"You can leave it; I'll eat a bit by and by," he
said carelessly. The door was open, and he knew
that the sergeant on the stairs could hear every
word spoken between them.
When the door was locked on him again, and
he had satisfied himself that no one was watching
at the spy-hole, he took up the piece of bread and
carefully crumbled it away. In the middle was
the thing he had expected, a bundle of small files.
It was wrapped in a bit of paper, on which a few
words were written. He smoothed the paper out
carefully and carried it to what little light there
was. The writing was crowded into so narrow a
space, and on such thin paper, that it was very
difficult to read.
"The door is unlocked, and there is no moon.
Get the filing done as fast as possible, and come
by the passage between two and three. We are
quite ready and may not have another chance."
He crushed the paper feverishly in his hand.
All the preparations were ready, then, and he had
only to file the window bars; how lucky it was
that the chains were off! He need not stop about
filing them. How many bars were there? Two,
four; and each must be filed in two places: eight.
Oh, he could manage that in the course of the
night if he made haste---- How had Gemma
and Martini contrived to get everything ready
so quickly--disguises, passports, hiding-places?
They must have worked like cart-horses to do
it---- And it was her plan that had been
adopted after all. He laughed a little to himself
at his own foolishness; as if it mattered whether
the plan was hers or not, once it was a good one!
And yet he could not help being glad that it was
she who had struck on the idea of his utilizing the
subterranean passage, instead of letting himself
down by a rope-ladder, as the smugglers had at
first suggested. Hers was the more complex
and difficult plan, but did not involve, as the other
did, a risk to the life of the sentinel on duty outside
the east wall. Therefore, when the two
schemes had been laid before him, he had unhesitatingly
The arrangement was that the friendly guard
who went by the nickname of "The Cricket"
should seize the first opportunity of unlocking,
without the knowledge of his fellows, the iron gate
leading from the courtyard into the subterranean
passage underneath the ramparts, and should then
replace the key on its nail in the guard-room.
The Gadfly, on receiving information of this, was
to file through the bars of his window, tear his
shirt into strips and plait them into a rope, by
means of which he could let himself down on to
the broad east wall of the courtyard. Along this
wall he was to creep on hands and knees while the
sentinel was looking in the opposite direction, lying
flat upon the masonry whenever the man turned
towards him. At the southeast corner was a half-ruined
turret. It was upheld, to some extent, by
a thick growth of ivy; but great masses of crumbling
stone had fallen inward and lay in the courtyard,
heaped against the wall. From this turret
he was to climb down by the ivy and the heaps of
stone into the courtyard; and, softly opening the
unlocked gate, to make his way along the passage
to a subterranean tunnel communicating with it.
Centuries ago this tunnel had formed a secret corridor
between the fortress and a tower on the
neighbouring hill; now it was quite disused and
blocked in many places by the falling in of the
rocks. No one but the smugglers knew of a certain
carefully-hidden hole in the mountain-side
which they had bored through to the tunnel; no
one suspected that stores of forbidden merchandise
were often kept, for weeks together, under
the very ramparts of the fortress itself, while the
customs-officers were vainly searching the houses
of the sullen, wrathful-eyed mountaineers. At
this hole the Gadfly was to creep out on to the
hillside, and make his way in the dark to a lonely
spot where Martini and a smuggler would be
waiting for him. The one great difficulty was
that opportunities to unlock the gate after the
evening patrol did not occur every night, and the
descent from the window could not be made in
very clear weather without too great a risk of
being observed by the sentinel. Now that there
was really a fair chance of success, it must not be
He sat down and began to eat some of the
bread. It at least did not disgust him like the
rest of the prison food, and he must eat something
to keep up his strength.
He had better lie down a bit, too, and try to
get a little sleep; it would not be safe to begin
filing before ten o'clock, and he would have a hard
And so, after all, the Padre had been thinking
of letting him escape! That was like the Padre.
But he, for his part, would never consent to it.
Anything rather than that! If he escaped, it
should be his own doing and that of his comrades;
he would have no favours from priests.
How hot it was! Surely it must be going to
thunder; the air was so close and oppressive. He
moved restlessly on the pallet and put the bandaged
right hand behind his head for a pillow;
then drew it away again. How it burned and
throbbed! And all the old wounds were beginning
to ache, with a dull, faint persistence. What
was the matter with them? Oh, absurd! It was
only the thundery weather. He would go to
sleep and get a little rest before beginning his
Eight bars, and all so thick and strong! How
many more were there left to file? Surely not
many. He must have been filing for hours,--
interminable hours--yes, of course, that was what
made his arm ache---- And how it ached; right
through to the very bone! But it could hardly be
the filing that made his side ache so; and the
throbbing, burning pain in the lame leg--was
that from filing?
He started up. No, he had not been asleep; he
had been dreaming with open eyes--dreaming of
filing, and it was all still to do. There stood the
window-bars, untouched, strong and firm as ever.
And there was ten striking from the clock-tower
in the distance. He must get to work.
He looked through the spy-hole, and, seeing
that no one was watching, took one of the files
from his breast.
. . . . .
No, there was nothing the matter with him--
nothing! It was all imagination. The pain in
his side was indigestion, or a chill, or some such
thing; not much wonder, after three weeks of
this insufferable prison food and air. As for the
aching and throbbing all over, it was partly nervous
trouble and partly want of exercise. Yes,
that was it, no doubt; want of exercise. How
absurd not to have thought of that before!
He would sit down a little bit, though, and let
it pass before he got to work. It would be sure
to go over in a minute or two.
To sit still was worse than all. When he sat
still he was at its mercy, and his face grew gray
with fear. No, he must get up and set to work,
and shake it off. It should depend upon his will
to feel or not to feel; and he would not feel, he
would force it back.
He stood up again and spoke to himself, aloud
"I am not ill; I have no time to be ill. I have
those bars to file, and I am not going to be ill."
Then he began to file.
A quarter-past ten--half-past ten--a quarter to
eleven---- He filed and filed, and every grating
scrape of the iron was as though someone were filing
on his body and brain. "I wonder which will
be filed through first," he said to himself with a
little laugh; "I or the bars?" And he set his
teeth and went on filing.
Half-past eleven. He was still filing, though
the hand was stiff and swollen and would hardly
grasp the tool. No, he dared not stop to rest;
if he once put the horrible thing down he should
never have the courage to begin again.
The sentinel moved outside the door, and the
butt end of his carbine scratched against the lintel.
The Gadfly stopped and looked round, the file still
in his lifted hand. Was he discovered?
A little round pellet had been shot through the
spy-hole and was lying on the floor. He laid down
the file and stooped to pick up the round thing.
It was a bit of rolled paper.
. . . . .
It was a long way to go down and down, with
the black waves rushing about him--how they
Ah, yes! He was only stooping down to pick
up the paper. He was a bit giddy; many people
are when they stoop. There was nothing the
matter with him--nothing.
He picked it up, carried it to the light, and
unfolded it steadily.
"Come to-night, whatever happens; the Cricket
will be transferred to-morrow to another service.
This is our only chance."
He destroyed the paper as he had done the
former one, picked up his file again, and went
back to work, dogged and mute and desperate.
One o'clock. He had been working for three
hours now, and six of the eight bars were filed.
Two more, and then, to climb------
He began to recall the former occasions when
these terrible attacks had come on. The last had
been the one at New Year; and he shuddered as
he remembered those five nights. But that time
it had not come on so suddenly; he had never
known it so sudden.
He dropped the file and flung out both hands
blindly, praying, in his utter desperation, for the
first time since he had been an atheist; praying
to anything--to nothing--to everything.
"Not to-night! Oh, let me be ill to-morrow!
I will bear anything to-morrow--only not to-night!"
He stood still for a moment, with both hands
up to his temples; then he took up the file once
more, and once more went back to his work.
Half-past one. He had begun on the last bar.
His shirt-sleeve was bitten to rags; there was
blood on his lips and a red mist before his eyes,
and the sweat poured from his forehead as he filed,
and filed, and filed----
. . . . .
After sunrise Montanelli fell asleep. He was
utterly worn out with the restless misery of the
night and slept for a little while quietly; then he
began to dream.
At first he dreamed vaguely, confusedly; broken
fragments of images and fancies followed each
other, fleeting and incoherent, but all filled with
the same dim sense of struggle and pain, the same
shadow of indefinable dread. Presently he began
to dream of sleeplessness; the old, frightful, familiar
dream that had been a terror to him for
years. And even as he dreamed he recognized
that he had been through it all before.
He was wandering about in a great empty place,
trying to find some quiet spot where he could lie
down and sleep. Everywhere there were people,
walking up and down; talking, laughing, shouting;
praying, ringing bells, and clashing metal instruments
together. Sometimes he would get away
to a little distance from the noise, and would lie
down, now on the grass, now on a wooden bench,
now on some slab of stone. He would shut his
eyes and cover them with both hands to keep out
the light; and would say to himself: "Now I
will get to sleep." Then the crowds would come
sweeping up to him, shouting, yelling, calling him
by name, begging him: "Wake up! Wake up,
quick; we want you!"
Again: he was in a great palace, full of gorgeous
rooms, with beds and couches and low soft
lounges. It was night, and he said to himself:
"Here, at last, I shall find a quiet place to sleep."
But when he chose a dark room and lay down,
someone came in with a lamp, flashing the merciless
light into his eyes, and said: "Get up; you are wanted."
He rose and wandered on, staggering and stumbling
like a creature wounded to death; and heard
the clocks strike one, and knew that half the night
was gone already--the precious night that was so
short. Two, three, four, five--by six o'clock the
whole town would wake up and there would be
no more silence.
He went into another room and would have lain
down on a bed, but someone started up from the
pillows, crying out: "This bed is mine!" and he
shrank away with despair in his heart.
Hour after hour struck, and still he wandered
on and on, from room to room, from house to
house, from corridor to corridor. The horrible
gray dawn was creeping near and nearer; the
clocks were striking five; the night was gone and
he had found no rest. Oh, misery! Another day
He was in a long, subterranean corridor, a low,
vaulted passage that seemed to have no end. It
was lighted with glaring lamps and chandeliers;
and through its grated roof came the sounds of
dancing and laughter and merry music. Up there,
in the world of the live people overhead, there
was some festival, no doubt. Oh, for a place
to hide and sleep; some little place, were it even
a grave! And as he spoke he stumbled over an
open grave. An open grave, smelling of death
and rottenness---- Ah, what matter, so he could
"This grave is mine!" It was Gladys; and she
raised her head and stared at him over the rotting
shroud. Then he knelt down and stretched out
his arms to her.
"Gladys! Gladys! Have a little pity on me;
let me creep into this narrow space and sleep. I
do not ask you for your love; I will not touch you,
will not speak to you; only let me lie down beside
you and sleep! Oh, love, it is so long since I have
slept! I cannot bear another day. The light
glares in upon my soul; the noise is beating my
brain to dust. Gladys, let me come in here and
And he would have drawn her shroud across his
eyes. But she shrank away, screaming:
"It is sacrilege; you are a priest!"
On and on he wandered, and came out upon the
sea-shore, on the barren rocks where the fierce
light struck down, and the water moaned its low,
perpetual wail of unrest. "Ah!" he said; "the
sea will be more merciful; it, too, is wearied unto
death and cannot sleep."
Then Arthur rose up from the deep, and cried
"This sea is mine!"
. . . . .
"Your Eminence! Your Eminence!"
Montanelli awoke with a start. His servant
was knocking at the door. He rose mechanically
and opened it, and the man saw how wild and
scared he looked.
"Your Eminence--are you ill?"
He drew both hands across his forehead.
"No; I was asleep, and you startled me."
"I am very sorry; I thought I had heard you
moving early this morning, and I supposed------"
"Is it late now?"
"It is nine o'clock, and the Governor has called.
He says he has very important business, and knowing
Your Eminence to be an early riser------"
"Is he downstairs? I will come presently."
He dressed and went downstairs.
"I am afraid this is an unceremonious way to
call upon Your Eminence," the Governor began.
"I hope there is nothing the matter?"
"There is very much the matter. Rivarez has
all but succeeded in escaping."
"Well, so long as he has not quite succeeded
there is no harm done. How was it?"
"He was found in the courtyard, right against
the little iron gate. When the patrol came in to
inspect the courtyard at three o'clock this morning
one of the men stumbled over something on
the ground; and when they brought the light up
they found Rivarez lying across the path unconscious.
They raised an alarm at once and called
me up; and when I went to examine his cell I
found all the window-bars filed through and a rope
made of torn body-linen hanging from one of
them. He had let himself down and climbed along
the wall. The iron gate, which leads into the
subterranean tunnels, was found to be unlocked.
That looks as if the guards had been suborned."
"But how did he come to be lying across the
path? Did he fall from the rampart and hurt
"That is what I thought at first. Your Eminence;
but the prison surgeon can't find any trace
of a fall. The soldier who was on duty yesterday
says that Rivarez looked very ill last night when
he brought in the supper, and did not eat anything.
But that must be nonsense; a sick man couldn't
file those bars through and climb along that roof.
It's not in reason."
"Does he give any account of himself?"
"He is unconscious, Your Eminence."
"He just half comes to himself from time to
time and moans, and then goes off again."
"That is very strange. What does the doctor
"He doesn't know what to think. There is no
trace of heart-disease that he can find to account
for the thing; but whatever is the matter with
him, it is something that must have come on
suddenly, just when he had nearly managed to
escape. For my part, I believe he was struck
down by the direct intervention of a merciful
Montanelli frowned slightly.
"What are you going to do with him?" he
"That is a question I shall settle in a very few
days. In the meantime I have had a good lesson.
That is what comes of taking off the irons--with
all due respect to Your Eminence."
"I hope," Montanelli interrupted, "that you
will at least not replace the fetters while he is ill.
A man in the condition you describe can hardly
make any more attempts to escape."
"I shall take good care he doesn't," the Governor
muttered to himself as he went out. "His
Eminence can go hang with his sentimental scruples
for all I care. Rivarez is chained pretty tight
now, and is going to stop so, ill or not."
. . . . .
"But how can it have happened? To faint
away at the last moment, when everything was
ready; when he was at the very gate! It's like
some hideous joke."
"I tell you," Martini answered, "the only thing
I can think of is that one of these attacks must
have come on, and that he must have struggled
against it as long as his strength lasted and have
fainted from sheer exhaustion when he got down
into the courtyard."
Marcone knocked the ashes savagely from his
"Well. anyhow, that's the end of it; we can't
do anything for him now, poor fellow."
"Poor fellow!" Martini echoed, under his
breath. He was beginning to realise that to him,
too, the world would look empty and dismal without
"What does she think?" the smuggler asked,
glancing towards the other end of the room, where
Gemma sat alone, her hands lying idly in her lap,
her eyes looking straight before her into blank
"I have not asked her; she has not spoken since
I brought her the news. We had best not disturb
her just yet."
She did not appear to be conscious of their presence,
but they both spoke with lowered voices, as though
they were looking at a corpse. After a dreary little
pause, Marcone rose and put away his pipe.
"I will come back this evening," he said; but
Martini stopped him with a gesture.
"Don't go yet; I want to speak to you." He
dropped his voice still lower and continued in
almost a whisper:
"Do you believe there is really no hope?"
"I don't see what hope there can be now. We
can't attempt it again. Even if he were well
enough to manage his part of the thing, we
couldn't do our share. The sentinels are all being
changed, on suspicion. The Cricket won't get
another chance, you may be sure."
"Don't you think," Martini asked suddenly;
"that, when he recovers, something might be
done by calling off the sentinels?"
"Calling off the sentinels? What do you
"Well, it has occurred to me that if I were to
get in the Governor's way when the procession
passes close by the fortress on Corpus Domini day
and fire in his face, all the sentinels would come
rushing to get hold of me, and some of you fellows
could perhaps help Rivarez out in the confusion.
It really hardly amounts to a plan; it only came
into my head."
"I doubt whether it could be managed," Marcone
answered with a very grave face. "Certainly it
would want a lot of thinking out for
anything to come of it. But"--he stopped and
looked at Martini--"if it should be possible--
would you do it?"
Martini was a reserved man at ordinary times;
but this was not an ordinary time. He looked
straight into the smuggler's face.
"Would I do it?" he repeated. "Look at her!"
There was no need for further explanations;
in saying that he had said all. Marcone turned
and looked across the room.
She had not moved since their conversation
began. There was no doubt, no fear, even no
grief in her face; there was nothing in it but the
shadow of death. The smuggler's eyes filled with
tears as he looked at her.
"Make haste, Michele!" he said, throwing open
the verandah door and looking out. "Aren't you
nearly done, you two? There are a hundred and
fifty things to do!"
Michele, followed by Gino, came in from the
"I am ready now," he said. "I only want to
ask the signora----"
He was moving towards her when Martini
caught him by the arm.
"Don't disturb her; she's better alone."
"Let her be!" Marcone added. "We shan't do
any good by meddling. God knows, it's hard enough
on all of us; but it's worse for her, poor soul!"
FOR a week the Gadfly lay in a fearful state.
The attack was a violent one, and the Governor,
rendered brutal by fear and perplexity, had not
only chained him hand and foot, but had insisted
on his being bound to his pallet with leather
straps, drawn so tight that he could not move
without their cutting into the flesh. He endured
everything with his dogged, bitter stoicism till the
end of the sixth day. Then his pride broke down,
and he piteously entreated the prison doctor for a
dose of opium. The doctor was quite willing to
give it; but the Governor, hearing of the request,
sharply forbade "any such foolery."
"How do you know what he wants it for?" he
said. "It's just as likely as not that he's shamming
all the time and wants to drug the sentinel,
or some such devilry. Rivarez is cunning enough
"My giving him a dose would hardly help him
to drug the sentinel," replied the doctor, unable
to suppress a smile. "And as for shamming--
there's not much fear of that. He is as likely as
not to die."
"Anyway, I won't have it given. If a man
wants to be tenderly treated, he should behave
accordingly. He has thoroughly deserved a little
sharp discipline. Perhaps it will be a lesson to
him not to play tricks with the window-bars again."
"The law does not admit of torture, though,"
the doctor ventured to say; "and this is coming
perilously near it."
"The law says nothing about opium, I think,"
said the Governor snappishly.
"It is for you to decide, of course, colonel; but
I hope you will let the straps be taken off at
any rate. They are a needless aggravation of
his misery. There's no fear of his escaping now.
He couldn't stand if you let him go free."
"My good sir, a doctor may make a mistake
like other people, I suppose. I have got him safe
strapped now, and he's going to stop so."
"At least, then, have the straps a little loosened.
It is downright barbarity to keep them drawn so tight."
"They will stop exactly as they are; and I will
thank you, sir, not to talk about barbarity to me.
If I do a thing, I have a reason for it."
So the seventh night passed without any relief,
and the soldier stationed on guard at the cell door
crossed himself, shuddering, over and over again,
as he listened all night long to heart-rending
moans. The Gadfly's endurance was failing him
At six in the morning the sentinel, just before
going off duty, unlocked the door softly and entered
the cell. He knew that he was committing
a serious breach of discipline, but could not bear
to go away without offering the consolation of
a friendly word.
He found the Gadfly lying still, with closed eyes
and parted lips. He stood silent for a moment;
then stooped down and asked:
"Can I do anything for you, sir? I have only
The Gadfly opened his eyes. "Let me alone!"
he moaned. "Let me alone----"
He was asleep almost before the soldier had
slipped back to his post.
Ten days afterwards the Governor called again
at the palace, but found that the Cardinal had
gone to visit a sick man at Pieve d'Ottavo, and
was not expected home till the afternoon. That
evening, just as he was sitting down to dinner, his
servant came in to announce:
"His Eminence would like to speak to you."
The Governor, with a hasty glance into the
looking glass, to make sure that his uniform was
in order, put on his most dignified air, and
went into the reception room, where Montanelli
was sitting, beating his hand gently on the arm
of the chair and looking out of the window with
an anxious line between his brows.
"I heard that you called to-day," he said, cutting
short the Governor's polite speeches with
a slightly imperious manner which he never
adopted in speaking to the country folk. "It was
probably on the business about which I have been
wishing to speak to you."
"It was about Rivarez, Your Eminence."
"So I supposed. I have been thinking the matter
over these last few days. But before we go
into that, I should like to hear whether you have
anything new to tell me."
The Governor pulled his moustaches with an
"The fact is, I came to know whether Your
Eminence had anything to tell me. If you still
have an objection to the course I proposed taking,
I should be sincerely glad of your advice in
the matter; for, honestly, I don't know what
"Is there any new difficulty?"
"Only that next Thursday is the 3d of June,
--Corpus Domini,--and somehow or other the
matter must be settled before then."
"Thursday is Corpus Domini, certainly; but
why must it be settled especially before then?"
"I am exceedingly sorry, Your Eminence, if I
seem to oppose you, but I can't undertake to be
responsible for the peace of the town if Rivarez is
not got rid of before then. All the roughest set
in the hills collects here for that day, as Your Eminence
knows, and it is more than probable that
they may attempt to break open the fortress gates
and take him out. They won't succeed; I'll
take care of that, if I have to sweep them from the
gates with powder and shot. But we are very
likely to have something of that kind before the
day is over. Here in the Romagna there is bad
blood in the people, and when once they get out
"I think with a little care we can prevent matters
going as far as knives. I have always found
the people of this district easy to get on with, if
they are reasonably treated. Of course, if you
once begin to threaten or coerce a Romagnol he
becomes unmanageable. But have you any reason for
supposing a new rescue scheme is intended?"
"I heard, both this morning and yesterday,
from confidential agents of mine, that a great
many rumours are circulating all over the district
and that the people are evidently up to some mischief
or other. But one can't find out the details;
if one could it would be easier to take precautions.
And for my part, after the fright we had
the other day, I prefer to be on the safe side.
With such a cunning fox as Rivarez one can't be
"The last I heard about Rivarez was that he was
too ill to move or speak. Is he recovering, then?"
"He seems much better now, Your Eminence.
He certainly has been very ill--unless he was
shamming all the time."
"Have you any reason for supposing that
"Well, the doctor seems convinced that it was
all genuine; but it's a very mysterious kind of illness.
Any way, he is recovering, and more intractable than ever."
"What has he done now?"
"There's not much he can do, fortunately,"
the Governor answered, smiling as he remembered
the straps. "But his behaviour is something indescribable.
Yesterday morning I went into the
cell to ask him a few questions; he is not well
enough yet to come to me for interrogation--and
indeed, I thought it best not to run any risk of
the people seeing him until he recovers. Such
absurd stories always get about at once."
"So you went there to interrogate him?"
"Yes, Your Eminence. I hoped he would be
more amenable to reason now."
Montanelli looked him over deliberately, almost
as if he had been inspecting a new and disagreeable
animal. Fortunately, however, the Governor
was fingering his sword-belt, and did not see the
look. He went on placidly:
"I have not subjected him to any particular
severities, but I have been obliged to be rather
strict with him--especially as it is a military
prison--and I thought that perhaps a little indulgence
might have a good effect. I offered to
relax the discipline considerably if he would behave
in a reasonable manner; and how does Your
Eminence suppose he answered me? He lay looking
at me a minute, like a wolf in a cage, and then
said quite softly: 'Colonel, I can't get up and
strangle you; but my teeth are pretty good; you
had better take your throat a little further off.'
He is as savage as a wild-cat."
"I am not surprised to hear it," Montanelli
answered quietly. "But I came to ask you a
question. Do you honestly believe that the presence
of Rivarez in the prison here constitutes a
serious danger to the peace of the district?"
"Most certainly I do, Your Eminence."
"You think that, to prevent the risk of bloodshed,
it is absolutely necessary that he should
somehow be got rid of before Corpus Domini?"
"I can only repeat that if he is here on Thursday,
I do not expect the festival to pass over without
a fight, and I think it likely to be a serious one."
"And you think that if he were not here there
would be no such danger?"
"In that case, there would either be no disturbance
at all, or at most a little shouting and stone-throwing.
If Your Eminence can find some way
of getting rid of him, I will undertake that the
peace shall be kept. Otherwise, I expect most
serious trouble. I am convinced that a new rescue
plot is on hand, and Thursday is the day when we
may expect the attempt. Now, if on that very
morning they suddenly find that he is not in the
fortress at all, their plan fails of itself, and they
have no occasion to begin fighting. But if we
have to repulse them, and the daggers once get
drawn among such throngs of people, we are
likely to have the place burnt down before nightfall."
"Then why do you not send him in to Ravenna?"
"Heaven knows, Your Eminence, I should be
thankful to do it! But how am I to prevent the
people rescuing him on the way? I have not soldiers
enough to resist an armed attack; and all
these mountaineers have got knives or flint-locks
or some such thing."
"You still persist, then, in wishing for a court-martial,
and in asking my consent to it?"
"Pardon me, Your Eminence; I ask you only
one thing--to help me prevent riots and bloodshed.
I am quite willing to admit that the military
commissions, such as that of Colonel Freddi,
were sometimes unnecessarily severe, and irritated
instead of subduing the people; but I think that
in this case a court-martial would be a wise measure
and in the long run a merciful one. It would
prevent a riot, which in itself would be a terrible
disaster, and which very likely might cause a return
of the military commissions His Holiness has abolished."
The Governor finished his little speech with
much solemnity, and waited for the Cardinal's
answer. It was a long time coming; and when
it came was startlingly unexpected.
"Colonel Ferrari, do you believe in God?"
"Your Eminence!" the colonel gasped in a
voice full of exclamation-stops.
"Do you believe in God?" Montanelli repeated,
rising and looking down at him with steady,
searching eyes. The colonel rose too.
"Your Eminence, I am a Christian man, and
have never yet been refused absolution."
Montanelli lifted the cross from his breast.
"Then swear on the cross of the Redeemer Who
died for you, that you have been speaking the
truth to me."
The colonel stood still and gazed at it blankly.
He could not quite make up his mind which was
mad, he or the Cardinal.
"You have asked me," Montanelli went on,
"to give my consent to a man's death. Kiss the
cross, if you dare, and tell me that you believe
there is no other way to prevent greater bloodshed.
And remember that if you tell me a lie you
are imperilling your immortal soul."
After a little pause, the Governor bent down
and put the cross to his lips.
"I believe it," he said.
Montanelli turned slowly away.
"I will give you a definite answer to-morrow.
But first I must see Rivarez and speak to him
"Your Eminence--if I might suggest--I am
sure you will regret it. For that matter, he sent
me a message yesterday, by the guard, asking to
see Your Eminence; but I took no notice of it,
"Took no notice!" Montanelli repeated. "A
man in such circumstances sent you a message,
and you took no notice of it?"
"I am sorry if Your Eminence is displeased. I
did not wish to trouble you over a mere impertinence
like that; I know Rivarez well enough by
now to feel sure that he only wanted to insult
you. And, indeed, if you will allow me to say so,
it would be most imprudent to go near him alone;
he is really dangerous--so much so, in fact, that
I have thought it necessary to use some physical
restraint of a mild kind------"
"And you really think there is much danger to
be apprehended from one sick and unarmed man,
who is under physical restraint of a mild kind?"
Montanelli spoke quite gently, but the colonel felt
the sting of his quiet contempt, and flushed under
"Your Eminence will do as you think best," he
said in his stiffest manner. "I only wished to
spare you the pain of hearing this man's awful
"Which do you think the more grievous misfortune
for a Christian man; to hear a blasphemous
word uttered, or to abandon a fellow-creature in
The Governor stood erect and stiff, with his official
face, like a face of wood. He was deeply
offended at Montanelli's treatment of him, and
showed it by unusual ceremoniousness.
"At what time does Your Eminence wish to
visit the prisoner?" he asked.
"I will go to him at once."
"As Your Eminence pleases. If you will kindly wait a
few moments, I will send someone to prepare him."
The Governor had come down from his official
pedestal in a great hurry. He did not want Montanelli
to see the straps.
"Thank you; I would rather see him as he is,
without preparation. I will go straight up to the
fortress. Good-evening, colonel; you may expect
my answer to-morrow morning."
HEARING the cell-door unlocked, the Gadfly
turned away his eyes with languid indifference.
He supposed that it was only the Governor, coming
to worry him with another interrogation.
Several soldiers mounted the narrow stair, their
carbines clanking against the wall; then a deferential
voice said: "It is rather steep here, Your Eminence."
He started convulsively, and then shrank down,
catching his breath under the stinging pressure of
Montanelli came in with the sergeant and three
"If Your Eminence will kindly wait a moment,"
the sergeant began nervously, "one of my men
will bring a chair. He has just gone to fetch it.
Your Eminence will excuse us--if we had been expecting
you, we should have been prepared."
"There is no need for any preparation. Will
you kindly leave us alone, sergeant; and wait at
the foot of the stairs with your men?"
"Yes, Your Eminence. Here is the chair; shall
I put it beside him?"
The Gadfly was lying with closed eyes; but he
felt that Montanelli was looking at him.
"I think he is asleep, Your Eminence," the sergeant
was beginning, but the Gadfly opened his eyes.
"No," he said.
As the soldiers were leaving the cell they were
stopped by a sudden exclamation from Montanelli;
and, turning back, saw that he was bending
down to examine the straps.
"Who has been doing this?" he asked. The
sergeant fumbled with his cap.
"It was by the Governor's express orders, Your
"I had no idea of this, Signer Rivarez," Montanelli
said in a voice of great distress.
"I told Your Eminence," the Gadfly answered,
with his hard smile, "that I n-n-never expected to
be patted on the head."
"Sergeant, how long has this been going on?"
"Since he tried to escape, Your Eminence."
"That is, nearly a week? Bring a knife and cut
these off at once."
"May it please Your Eminence, the doctor
wanted to take them off, but Colonel Ferrari
wouldn't allow it."
"Bring a knife at once." Montanelli had not
raised his voice, but the soldiers could see that he
was white with anger. The sergeant took a clasp-knife
from his pocket, and bent down to cut the
arm-strap. He was not a skilful-fingered man;
and he jerked the strap tighter with an awkward
movement, so that the Gadfly winced and bit his
lip in spite of all his self-control. Montanelli came
forward at once.
"You don't know how to do it; give me the
"Ah-h-h!" The Gadfly stretched out his arms
with a long, rapturous sigh as the strap fell off.
The next instant Montanelli had cut the other
one, which bound his ankles.
"Take off the irons, too, sergeant; and then
come here. I want to speak to you."
He stood by the window, looking on, till the
sergeant threw down the fetters and approached him.
"Now," he said, "tell me everything that has
The sergeant, nothing loath, related all that he
knew of the Gadfly's illness, of the "disciplinary
measures," and of the doctor's unsuccessful attempt
"But I think, Your Eminence," he added,
"that the colonel wanted the straps kept on as a
means of getting evidence."
"Yes, Your Eminence; the day before yesterday
I heard him offer to have them taken off if
he"--with a glance at the Gadfly--"would answer
a question he had asked."
Montanelli clenched his hand on the window-sill,
and the soldiers glanced at one another: they
had never seen the gentle Cardinal angry before.
As for the Gadfly, he had forgotten their existence;
he had forgotten everything except the
physical sensation of freedom. He was cramped
in every limb; and now stretched, and turned, and
twisted about in a positive ecstasy of relief.
"You can go now, sergeant," the Cardinal said.
"You need not feel anxious about having committed
a breach of discipline; it was your duty to
tell me when I asked you. See that no one disturbs
us. I will come out when I am ready."
When the door had closed behind the soldiers,
he leaned on the window-sill and looked for a while
at the sinking sun, so as to leave the Gadfly a little
more breathing time.
"I have heard," he said presently, leaving the
window, and sitting down beside the pallet, "that
you wish to speak to me alone. If you feel well
enough to tell me what you wanted to say, I am
at your service."
He spoke very coldly, with a stiff, imperious
manner that was not natural to him. Until the
straps were off, the Gadfly was to him simply a
grievously wronged and tortured human being;
but now he recalled their last interview, and the
deadly insult with which it had closed. The Gadfly
looked up, resting his head lazily on one arm.
He possessed the gift of slipping into graceful attitudes;
and when his face was in shadow no one
would have guessed through what deep waters he
had been passing. But, as he looked up, the clear
evening light showed how haggard and colourless
he was, and how plainly the trace of the last few
days was stamped on him. Montanelli's anger
"I am afraid you have been terribly ill," he said.
"I am sincerely sorry that I did not know of all
this. I would have put a stop to it before."
The Gadfly shrugged his shoulders. "All's fair
in war," he said coolly. "Your Eminence objects
to straps theoretically, from the Christian standpoint;
but it is hardly fair to expect the colonel
to see that. He, no doubt, would prefer not to
try them on his own skin--which is j-j-just my
case. But that is a matter of p-p-personal convenience.
At this moment I am undermost--
w-w-what would you have? It is very kind of
Your Eminence, though, to call here; but perhaps
that was done from the C-c-christian standpoint,
too. Visiting prisoners--ah, yes! I forgot.
'Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the l-least of
these'--it's not very complimentary, but one of
the least is duly grateful."
"Signor Rivarez," the Cardinal interrupted, "I
have come here on your account--not on my own.
If you had not been 'undermost,' as you call it, I
should never have spoken to you again after what
you said to me last week; but you have the double
privilege of a prisoner and a sick man, and I could
not refuse to come. Have you anything to say
to me, now I am here; or have you sent for me
merely to amuse yourself by insulting an old man?"
There was no answer. The Gadfly had turned.
away, and was lying with one hand across his eyes.
"I am--very sorry to trouble you," he said at
last, huskily; "but could I have a little water?"
There was a jug of water standing by the window,
and Montanelli rose and fetched it. As he
slipped his arm round the Gadfly to lift him, he
suddenly felt the damp, cold fingers close over
his wrist like a vice.
"Give me your hand--quick--just a moment,"
the Gadfly whispered. "Oh, what difference does
it make to you? Only one minute!"
He sank down, hiding his face on Montanelli's
arm, and quivering from head to foot.
"Drink a little water," Montanelli said after a
moment. The Gadfly obeyed silently; then lay
back on the pallet with closed eyes. He himself
could have given no explanation of what had happened
to him when Montanelli's hand had touched
his cheek; he only knew that in all his life there
had been nothing more terrible.
Montanelli drew his chair closer to the pallet
and sat down. The Gadfly was lying quite motionless,
like a corpse, and his face was livid and
drawn. After a long silence, he opened his eyes,
and fixed their haunting, spectral gaze on the Cardinal.
"Thank you," he said. "I--am sorry. I think
--you asked me something?"
"You are not fit to talk. If there is anything
you want to say to me, I will try to come again
"Please don't go, Your Eminence--indeed,
there is nothing the matter with me. I--I have
been a little upset these few days; it was half of
it malingering, though--the colonel will tell you
so if you ask him."
"I prefer to form my own conclusions," Montanelli
"S-so does the colonel. And occasionally, do
you know, they are rather witty. You w-w-wouldn't
think it to look at him; but s-s-sometimes he
gets hold of an or-r-riginal idea. On
Friday night, for instance--I think it was Friday,
but I got a l-little mixed as to time towards the
end--anyhow, I asked for a d-dose of opium--I
remember that quite distinctly; and he came in
here and said I m-might h-h-have it if I would
tell him who un-l-l-locked the gate. I remember
his saying: 'If it's real, you'll consent; if you
don't, I shall look upon it as a p-proof that you are
shamming.' It n-n-never oc-c-curred to me before
how comic that is; it's one of the f-f-funniest things----"
He burst into a sudden fit of harsh, discordant
laughter; then, turning sharply on the silent Cardinal,
went on, more and more hurriedly, and
stammering so that the words were hardly intelligible:
"You d-d-don't see that it's f-f-funny? Of
c-course not; you r-religious people n-n-never have
any s-sense of humour--you t-take everything
t-t-tragically. F-for instance, that night in the
Cath-thedral--how solemn you were! By the way
--w-what a path-thetic figure I must have c-cut
as the pilgrim! I d-don't believe you e-even see
anything c-c-comic in the b-business you have
c-come about this evening."
"I came to hear what you have to say; but I
think you are too much excited to say it to-night.
The doctor had better give you a sedative, and we
will talk to-morrow, when you have had a night's
"S-sleep? Oh, I shall s-sleep well enough, Your
Eminence, when you g-give your c-consent to the
colonel's plan--an ounce of l-lead is a s-splendid
"I don't understand you," Montanelli said,
turning to him with a startled look.
The Gadfly burst out laughing again.
"Your Eminence, Your Eminence, t-t-truth
is the c-chief of the Christian virtues! D-d-do
you th-th-think I d-d-don't know how hard the
Governor has been trying to g-get your consent to
a court-martial? You had b-better by half g-give
it, Your Eminence; it's only w-what all your
b-brother prelates would do in your place. 'Cosi
fan tutti;' and then you would be doing s-such a
lot of good, and so l-little harm! Really, it's n-not
worth all the sleepless nights you have been spending
"Please stop laughing a minute," Montanelli
interrupted, "and tell me how you heard all this.
Who has been talking to you about it?"
"H-hasn't the colonel e-e-ever told you I am
a d-d-devil--not a man? No? He has t-told me
so often enough! Well, I am devil enough to
f-find out a little bit what p-people are thinking
about. Your E-eminence is thinking that I'm a
conf-founded nuisance, and you wish s-somebody
else had to settle what's to be done with me, without
disturbing your s-sensitive conscience. That's
a p-pretty fair guess, isn't it?"
"Listen to me," the Cardinal said, sitting down
again beside him, with a very grave face. "However
you found out all this, it is quite true.