Part 8 out of 9
Colonel Ferrari fears another rescue attempt on
the part of your friends, and wishes to forestall it
in--the way you speak of. You see, I am quite
frank with you."
"Your E-eminence was always f-f-famous for
truthfulness," the Gadfly put in bitterly.
"You know, of course," Montanelli went on,
"that legally I have no jurisdiction in temporal
matters; I am a bishop, not a legate. But I have
a good deal of influence in this district; and the
colonel will not, I think, venture to take so extreme
a course unless he can get, at least, my tacit
consent to it. Up till now I have unconditionally
opposed the scheme; and he has been trying
very hard to conquer my objection by assuring me
that there is great danger of an armed attempt
on Thursday when the crowd collects for the procession
--an attempt which probably would end
in bloodshed. Do you follow me?"
The Gadfly was staring absently out of the
window. He looked round and answered in a
"Yes, I am listening."
"Perhaps you are really not well enough to
stand this conversation to-night. Shall I come
back in the morning? It is a very serious matter,
and I want your whole attention."
"I would rather get it over now," the Gadfly
answered in the same tone. "I follow everything
"Now, if it be true," Montanelli went on, "that
there is any real danger of riots and bloodshed on
account of you, I am taking upon myself a tremendous
responsibility in opposing the colonel;
and I believe there is at least some truth in what
he says. On the other hand, I am inclined to
think that his judgment is warped, to a certain
extent, by his personal animosity against you, and
that he probably exaggerates the danger. That
seems to me the more likely since I have seen this
shameful brutality." He glanced at the straps and
chains lying on the floor, and went on:
"If I consent, I kill you; if I refuse, I run the
risk of killing innocent persons. I have considered
the matter earnestly, and have sought with
all my heart for a way out of this dreadful alternative.
And now at last I have made up my mind."
"To kill me and s-save the innocent persons,
of course--the only decision a Christian man
could possibly come to. 'If thy r-right hand
offend thee,' etc. I have n-not the honour to be
the right hand of Your Eminence, and I have
offended you; the c-c-conclusion is plain. Couldn't
you tell me that without so much preamble?"
The Gadfly spoke with languid indifference and
contempt, like a man weary of the whole subject.
"Well?" he added after a little pause. "Was
that the decision, Your Eminence?"
The Gadfly shifted his position, putting both
hands behind his head, and looked at Montanelli
with half-shut eyes. The Cardinal, with his head
sunk down as in deep thought, was softly beating
one hand on the arm of his chair. Ah, that old,
"I have decided," he said, raising his head at
last, "to do, I suppose, an utterly unprecedented
thing. When I heard that you had asked to see
me, I resolved to come here and tell you everything,
as I have done, and to place the matter in
your own hands."
"Signor Rivarez, I have not come to you as
cardinal, or as bishop, or as judge; I have come
to you as one man to another. I do not ask you
to tell me whether you know of any such scheme
as the colonel apprehends. I understand quite
well that, if you do, it is your secret and you will
not tell it. But I do ask you to put yourself in
my place. I am old, and, no doubt, have not much
longer to live. I would go down to my grave
without blood on my hands."
"Is there none on them as yet, Your Eminence?"
Montanelli grew a shade paler, but went on
"All my life I have opposed repressive measures
and cruelty wherever I have met with them.
I have always disapproved of capital punishment
in all its forms; I have protested earnestly and
repeatedly against the military commissions in the
last reign, and have been out of favour on account
of doing so. Up till now such influence and power
as I have possessed have always been employed on
the side of mercy. I ask you to believe me, at
least, that I am speaking the truth. Now, I am
placed in this dilemma. By refusing, I am exposing
the town to the danger of riots and all their
consequences; and this to save the life of a man
who blasphemes against my religion, who has
slandered and wronged and insulted me personally
(though that is comparatively a trifle), and
who, as I firmly believe, will put that life to a bad
use when it is given to him. But--it is to save a
He paused a moment, and went on again:
"Signor Rivarez, everything that I know of
your career seems to me bad and mischievous; and
I have long believed you to be reckless and violent
and unscrupulous. To some extent I hold that
opinion of you still. But during this last fortnight
you have shown me that you are a brave
man and that you can be faithful to your friends.
You have made the soldiers love and admire you,
too; and not every man could have done that. I
think that perhaps I have misjudged you, and that
there is in you something better than what you
show outside. To that better self in you I appeal,
and solemnly entreat you, on your conscience, to
tell me truthfully--in my place, what would you do?"
A long silence followed; then the Gadfly looked up.
"At least, I would decide my own actions for
myself, and take the consequences of them. I
would not come sneaking to other people, in the
cowardly Christian way, asking them to solve my
problems for me!"
The onslaught was so sudden, and its extraordinary
vehemence and passion were in such startling
contrast to the languid affectation of a
moment before, that it was as though he had
thrown off a mask.
"We atheists," he went on fiercely, "understand
that if a man has a thing to bear, he must
bear it as best he can; and if he sinks under it--
why, so much the worse for him. But a Christian
comes whining to his God, or his saints; or, if they
won't help him, to his enemies--he can always
find a back to shift his burdens on to. Isn't there
a rule to go by in your Bible, or your Missal, or
any of your canting theology books, that you
must come to me to tell you what to do?
Heavens and earth, man! Haven't I enough as
it is, without your laying your responsibilities on
my shoulders? Go back to your Jesus; he exacted
the uttermost farthing, and you'd better do
the same. After all, you'll only be killing an
atheist--a man who boggles over 'shibboleth'; and
that's no great crime, surely!"
He broke off, panting for breath, and then
burst out again:
"And YOU to talk of cruelty! Why, that
p-p-pudding-headed ass couldn't hurt me as much as you
do if he tried for a year; he hasn't got the brains.
All he can think of is to pull a strap tight, and
when he can't get it any tighter he's at the end
of his resources. Any fool can do that! But
you---- 'Sign your own death sentence, please;
I'm too tender-hearted to do it myself.' Oh! it
would take a Christian to hit on that--a gentle,
compassionate Christian, that turns pale at the
sight of a strap pulled too tight! I might have
known when you came in, like an angel of mercy--
so shocked at the colonel's 'barbarity'--that the
real thing was going to begin! Why do you look
at me that way? Consent, man, of course, and
go home to your dinner; the thing's not worth all
this fuss. Tell your colonel he can have me shot,
or hanged, or whatever comes handiest--roasted
alive, if it's any amusement to him--and be done
The Gadfly was hardly recognizable; he was
beside himself with rage and desperation, panting
and quivering, his eyes glittering with green reflections
like the eyes of an angry cat.
Montanelli had risen, and was looking down at
him silently. He did not understand the drift of
the frenzied reproaches, but he understood out of
what extremity they were uttered; and, understanding
that, forgave all past insults.
"Hush!" he said. "I did not want to hurt you
so. Indeed, I never meant to shift my burden
on to you, who have too much already. I have
never consciously done that to any living creature----"
"It's a lie!" the Gadfly cried out with blazing
eyes. "And the bishopric?"
"Ah! you've forgotten that? It's so easy to
forget! 'If you wish it, Arthur, I will say I cannot
go. I was to decide your life for you--I, at
nineteen! If it weren't so hideous, it would be funny."
"Stop!" Montanelli put up both hands to his
head with a desperate cry. He let them fall again,
and walked slowly away to the window. There he
sat down on the sill, resting one arm on the bars,
and pressing his forehead against it. The Gadfly
lay and watched him, trembling.
Presently Montanelli rose and came back, with
lips as pale as ashes.
"I am very sorry," he said, struggling piteously
to keep up his usual quiet manner, "but I must
go home. I--am not quite well."
He was shivering as if with ague. All the Gadfly's
fury broke down.
"Padre, can't you see----"
Montanelli shrank away, and stood still.
"Only not that!" he whispered at last. "My
God, anything but that! If I am going mad----"
The Gadfly raised himself on one arm, and took
the shaking hands in his.
"Padre, will you never understand that I am
not really drowned?"
The hands grew suddenly cold and stiff. For a
moment everything was dead with silence, and
then Montanelli knelt down and hid his face on
the Gadfly's breast.
. . . . .
When he raised his head the sun had set, and
the red glow was dying in the west. They had
forgotten time and place, and life and death; they
had forgotten, even, that they were enemies.
"Arthur," Montanelli whispered, "are you
real? Have you come back to me from the dead?"
"From the dead----" the Gadfly repeated,
shivering. He was lying with his head on Montanelli's
arm, as a sick child might lie in its mother's embrace.
"You have come back--you have come back
The Gadfly sighed heavily. "Yes," he said;
"and you have to fight me, or to kill me."
"Oh, hush, carino! What is all that now? We
have been like two children lost in the dark,
mistaking one another for phantoms. Now we have
found each other, and have come out into the
light. My poor boy, how changed you are--how
changed you are! You look as if all the ocean of
the world's misery had passed over your head--
you that used to be so full of the joy of life!
Arthur, is it really you? I have dreamed so often
that you had come back to me; and then have
waked and seen the outer darkness staring in
upon an empty place. How can I know I shall
not wake again and find it all a dream? Give
me something tangible--tell me how it all happened."
"It happened simply enough. I hid on a goods
vessel, as stowaway, and got out to South America."
"There I--lived, if you like to call it so, till--
oh, I have seen something else besides theological
seminaries since you used to teach me philosophy!
You say you have dreamed of me--yes, and
much! You say you have dreamed of me--yes,
and I of you----"
He broke off, shuddering.
"Once," he began again abruptly, "I was working
at a mine in Ecuador----"
"Not as a miner?"
"No, as a miner's fag--odd-jobbing with the
coolies. We had a barrack to sleep in at the pit's
mouth; and one night--I had been ill, the same
as lately, and carrying stones in the blazing
sun--I must have got light-headed, for I saw you
come in at the door-way. You were holding a
crucifix like that one on the wall. You were praying,
and brushed past me without turning. I
cried out to you to help me--to give me poison or
a knife--something to put an end to it all before I
went mad. And you--ah------!"
He drew one hand across his eyes. Montanelli
was still clasping the other.
"I saw in your face that you had heard, but you
never looked round; you went on with your prayers.
When you had finished, and kissed the crucifix,
you glanced round and whispered: 'I am
very sorry for you, Arthur; but I daren't show it;
He would be angry.' And I looked at Him, and
the wooden image was laughing.
"Then, when I came to my senses, and saw the
barrack and the coolies with their leprosy, I understood.
I saw that you care more to curry favour
with that devilish God of yours than to save me
from any hell. And I have remembered that. I
forgot just now when you touched me; I--have
been ill, and I used to love you once. But there
can be nothing between us but war, and war,
and war. What do you want to hold my hand for?
Can't you see that while you believe in your Jesus
we can't be anything but enemies?"
Montanelli bent his head and kissed the mutilated hand.
"Arthur, how can I help believing in Him? If
I have kept my faith through all these frightful
years, how can I ever doubt Him any more, now
that He has given you back to me? Remember,
I thought I had killed you."
"You have that still to do."
"Arthur!" It was a cry of actual terror; but
the Gadfly went on, unheeding:
"Let us be honest, whatever we do, and not
shilly-shally. You and I stand on two sides of a
pit, and it's hopeless trying to join hands across
it. If you have decided that you can't, or won't,
give up that thing"--he glanced again at the
crucifix on the wall--"you must consent to what
"Consent! My God--consent--Arthur, but I
The Gadfly's face contracted fearfully.
"Which do you love best, me or that thing?"
Montanelli slowly rose. The very soul in him
withered with dread, and he seemed to shrivel up
bodily, and to grow feeble, and old, and wilted,
like a leaf that the frost has touched. He had
awaked out of his dream, and the outer darkness
was staring in upon an empty place.
"Arthur, have just a little mercy on me----"
"How much had you for me when your lies
drove me out to be slave to the blacks on the
sugar-plantations? You shudder at that--ah,
these tender-hearted saints! This is the man
after God's own heart--the man that repents of
his sin and lives. No one dies but his son. You
say you love me,--your love has cost me dear
enough! Do you think I can blot out everything,
and turn back into Arthur at a few soft
words--I, that have been dish-washer in filthy
half-caste brothels and stable-boy to Creole farmers
that were worse brutes than their own cattle?
I, that have been zany in cap and bells for
a strolling variety show--drudge and Jack-of-all-trades
to the matadors in the bull-fighting
ring; I, that have been slave to every black
beast who cared to set his foot on my neck;
I, that have been starved and spat upon and
trampled under foot; I, that have begged for
mouldy scraps and been refused because the dogs
had the first right? Oh, what is the use of all this!
How can I TELL you what you have brought on me?
And now--you love me! How much do you love
me? Enough to give up your God for me? Oh,
what has He done for you, this everlasting Jesus,
--what has He suffered for you, that you should
love Him more than me? Is it for the pierced
hands He is so dear to you? Look at mine!
Look here, and here, and here----"
He tore open his shirt and showed the ghastly scars.
"Padre, this God of yours is an impostor, His
wounds are sham wounds, His pain is all a farce!
It is I that have the right to your heart! Padre,
there is no torture you have not put me to; if
you could only know what my life has been! And
yet I would not die! I have endured it all, and
have possessed my soul in patience, because I
would come back and fight this God of yours. I
have held this purpose as a shield against my
heart, and it has saved me from madness, and from
the second death. And now, when I come back,
I find Him still in my place--this sham victim that
was crucified for six hours, forsooth, and rose
again from the dead! Padre, I have been crucified
for five years, and I, too, have risen from the
dead. What are you going to do with me?
What are you going to do with me?"
He broke down. Montanelli sat like some
stone image, or like a dead man set upright. At
first, under the fiery torrent of the Gadfly's despair,
he had quivered a little, with the automatic
shrinking of the flesh, as under the lash
of a whip; but now he was quite still. After a
long silence he looked up and spoke, lifelessly,
"Arthur, will you explain to me more clearly?
You confuse and terrify me so, I can't understand.
What is it you demand of me?"
The Gadfly turned to him a spectral face.
"I demand nothing. Who shall compel love?
You are free to choose between us two the one
who is most dear to you. If you love Him best,
"I can't understand," Montanelli repeated
wearily. "What is there I can choose? I cannot
undo the past."
"You have to choose between us. If you love
me, take that cross off your neck and come away
with me. My friends are arranging another
attempt, and with your help they could manage
it easily. Then, when we are safe over the frontier,
acknowledge me publicly. But if you don't
love me enough for that,--if this wooden idol is
more to you than I,--then go to the colonel and
tell him you consent. And if you go, then go at
once, and spare me the misery of seeing you. I
have enough without that."
Montanelli looked up, trembling faintly. He
was beginning to understand.
"I will communicate with your friends, of
course. But--to go with you--it is impossible--
I am a priest."
"And I accept no favours from priests. I will
have no more compromises, Padre; I have had
enough of them, and of their consequences. You
must give up your priesthood, or you must give
"How can I give you up? Arthur, how can I
give you up?"
"Then give up Him. You have to choose between
us. Would you offer me a share of your
love--half for me, half for your fiend of a God?
I will not take His leavings. If you are His, you
are not mine."
"Would you have me tear my heart in two?
Arthur! Arthur! Do you want to drive me
The Gadfly struck his hand against the wall.
"You have to choose between us," he repeated
Montanelli drew from his breast a little case
containing a bit of soiled and crumpled paper.
"Look!" he said.
"I believed in you, as I believed in God. God is
a thing made of clay, that I can smash with a hammer;
and you have fooled me with a lie."
The Gadfly laughed and handed it back. "How
d-d-delightfully young one is at nineteen! To
take a hammer and smash things seems so easy.
It's that now--only it's I that am under the hammer.
As for you, there are plenty of other people
you can fool with lies--and they won't even find
"As you will," Montanelli said. "Perhaps in
your place I should be as merciless as you--God
knows. I can't do what you ask, Arthur; but I
will do what I can. I will arrange your escape,
and when you are safe I will have an accident in
the mountains, or take the wrong sleeping-draught
by mistake--whatever you like to choose.
Will that content you? It is all I can do. It is a
great sin; but I think He will forgive me. He is
The Gadfly flung out both hands with a sharp cry.
"Oh, that is too much! That is too much!
What have I done that you should think of me
that way? What right have you---- As if I
wanted to be revenged on you! Can't you see
that I only want to save you? Will you never
understand that I love you?"
He caught hold of Montanelli's hands and
covered them with burning kisses and tears.
"Padre, come away with us! What have you
to do with this dead world of priests and idols?
They are full of the dust of bygone ages; they are
rotten; they are pestilent and foul! Come out of
this plague-stricken Church--come away with us
into the light! Padre, it is we that are life and
youth; it is we that are the everlasting springtime;
it is we that are the future! Padre, the dawn is
close upon us--will you miss your part in the sunrise?
Wake up, and let us forget the horrible
nightmares,--wake up, and we will begin our life
again! Padre, I have always loved you--always,
even when you killed me--will you kill me again?"
Montanelli tore his hands away. "Oh, God
have mercy on me!" he cried out. "YOU HAVE
YOUR MOTHER'S EYES!"
A strange silence, long and deep and sudden, fell
upon them both. In the gray twilight they
looked at each other, and their hearts stood still
"Have you anything more to say?" Montanelli
whispered. "Any--hope to give me?"
"No. My life is of no use to me except to
fight priests. I am not a man; I am a knife. If
you let me live, you sanction knives."
Montanelli turned to the crucifix. "God!
Listen to this----"
His voice died away into the empty stillness
without response. Only the mocking devil awoke
again in the Gadfly.
"'C-c-call him louder; perchance he s-s-sleepeth'----"
Montanelli started up as if he had been struck.
For a moment he stood looking straight before
him;--then he sat down on the edge of the pallet,
covered his face with both hands, and burst into
tears. A long shudder passed through the Gadfly,
and the damp cold broke out on his body. He
knew what the tears meant.
He drew the blanket over his head that he might
not hear. It was enough that he had to die--he
who was so vividly, magnificently alive. But he
could not shut out the sound; it rang in his
ears, it beat in his brain, it throbbed in all his
pulses. And still Montanelli sobbed and sobbed,
and the tears dripped down between his fingers.
He left off sobbing at last, and dried his eyes
with his handkerchief, like a child that has been
crying. As he stood up the handkerchief slipped
from his knee and fell to the floor.
"There is no use in talking any more," he said.
"I understand," the Gadfly answered, with dull
submission. "It's not your fault. Your God is
hungry, and must be fed."
Montanelli turned towards him. The grave
that was to be dug was not more still than they
were. Silent, they looked into each other's eyes,
as two lovers, torn apart, might gaze across the
barrier they cannot pass.
It was the Gadfly whose eyes sank first. He
shrank down, hiding his face; and Montanelli
understood that the gesture meant "Go!" He
turned, and went out of the cell. A moment
later the Gadfly started up.
"Oh, I can't bear it! Padre, come back!
The door was shut. He looked around him
slowly, with a wide, still gaze, and understood that
all was over. The Galilean had conquered.
All night long the grass waved softly in the
courtyard below--the grass that was so soon to
wither, uprooted by the spade; and all night long
the Gadfly lay alone in the darkness, and sobbed.
THE court-martial was held on Tuesday morning.
It was a very short and simple affair; a
mere formality, occupying barely twenty minutes.
There was, indeed, nothing to spend much time
over; no defence was allowed, and the only witnesses
were the wounded spy and officer and a
few soldiers. The sentence was drawn up beforehand;
Montanelli had sent in the desired informal
consent; and the judges (Colonel Ferrari, the local
major of dragoons, and two officers of the Swiss
guards) had little to do. The indictment was
read aloud, the witnesses gave their evidence, and
the signatures were affixed to the sentence, which
was then read to the condemned man with befitting
solemnity. He listened in silence; and when
asked, according to the usual form, whether he had
anything to say, merely waved the question aside
with an impatient movement of his hand. Hidden
on his breast was the handkerchief which Montanelli
had let fall. It had been kissed and wept
over all night, as though it were a living thing.
Now he looked wan and spiritless, and the traces
of tears were still about his eyelids; but the words:
"to be shot," did not seem to affect him much.
When they were uttered, the pupils of his eyes
dilated, but that was all.
"Take him back to his cell," the Governor said.
when all the formalities were over; and the sergeant,
who was evidently near to breaking down,
touched the motionless figure on the shoulder.
The Gadfly looked round him with a little start.
"Ah, yes!" he said. "I forgot."
There was something almost like pity in the
Governor's face. He was not a cruel man by
nature, and was secretly a little ashamed of the
part he had been playing during the last month.
Now that his main point was gained he was willing
to make every little concession in his power.
"You needn't put the irons on again," he said,
glancing at the bruised and swollen wrists. "And
he can stay in his own cell. The condemned cell
is wretchedly dark and gloomy," he added, turning
to his nephew; "and really the thing's a mere
He coughed and shifted his feet in evident embarrassment;
then called back the sergeant, who
was leaving the room with his prisoner.
"Wait, sergeant; I want to speak to him."
The Gadfly did not move, and the Governor's
voice seemed to fall on unresponsive ears.
"If you have any message you would like conveyed
to your friends or relatives---- You have
relatives, I suppose?"
There was no answer.
"Well, think it over and tell me, or the priest.
I will see it is not neglected. You had better give
your messages to the priest; he shall come at once,
and stay the night with you. If there is any other
The Gadfly looked up.
"Tell the priest I would rather be alone. I
have no friends and no messages."
"But you will want to confess."
"I am an atheist. I want nothing but to be
left in peace."
He said it in a dull, quiet voice, without defiance
or irritation; and turned slowly away. At the
door he stopped again.
"I forgot, colonel; there is a favour I wanted
to ask. Don't let them tie me or bandage my
eyes to-morrow, please. I will stand quite still."
. . . . .
At sunrise on Wednesday morning they brought
him out into the courtyard. His lameness was
more than usually apparent, and he walked with
evident difficulty and pain, leaning heavily on the
sergeant's arm; but all the weary submission had
gone out of his face. The spectral terrors that
had crushed him down in the empty silence, the
visions and dreams of the world of shadows, were
gone with the night which gave them birth; and
once the sun was shining and his enemies were
present to rouse the fighting spirit in him, he was
The six carabineers who had been told off for
the execution were drawn up in line against the
ivied wall; the same crannied and crumbling wall
down which he had climbed on the night of his
unlucky attempt. They could hardly refrain from
weeping as they stood together, each man with his
carbine in his hand. It seemed to them a horror
beyond imagination that they should be called out
to kill the Gadfly. He and his stinging repartees,
his perpetual laughter, his bright, infectious courage,
had come into their dull and dreary lives like
a wandering sunbeam; and that he should die, and
at their hands, was to them as the darkening of
the clear lamps of heaven.
Under the great fig-tree in the courtyard, his
grave was waiting for him. It had been dug in
the night by unwilling hands; and tears had fallen
on the spade. As he passed he looked down,
smiling, at the black pit and the withering grass
beside it; and drew a long breath, to smell the
scent of the freshly turned earth.
Near the tree the sergeant stopped short, and
the Gadfly looked round with his brightest smile.
"Shall I stand here, sergeant?"
The man nodded silently; there was a lump in
his throat, and he could not have spoken to save
his life. The Governor, his nephew, the lieutenant
of carabineers who was to command, a doctor and
a priest were already in the courtyard, and came
forward with grave faces, half abashed under the
radiant defiance of the Gadfly's laughing eyes.
"G-good morning, gentlemen! Ah, and his
reverence is up so early, too! How do you do,
captain? This is a pleasanter occasion for you
than our former meeting, isn't it? I see your arm
is still in a sling; that's because I bungled my
work. These good fellows will do theirs better--
won't you, lads?"
He glanced round at the gloomy faces of the
"There'll be no need of slings this time, any way.
There, there, you needn't look so doleful over it!
Put your heels together and show how straight
you can shoot. Before long there'll be more work
cut out for you than you'll know how to get
through, and there's nothing like practice beforehand."
"My son," the priest interrupted, coming forward,
while the others drew back to leave them
alone together; "in a few minutes you must enter
into the presence of your Maker. Have you no
other use but this for these last moments that are
left you for repentance? Think, I entreat you,
how dreadful a thing it is to die without absolution,
with all your sins upon your head. When
you stand before your Judge it will be too late to
repent. Will you approach His awful throne with
a jest upon your lips?"
"A jest, your reverence? It is your side that
needs that little homily, I think. When our turn
comes we shall use field-guns instead of half a
dozen second-hand carbines, and then you'll see
how much we're in jest."
"YOU will use field-guns! Oh, unhappy man!
Have you still not realized on what frightful brink
The Gadfly glanced back over his shoulder at
the open grave.
"And s-s-so your reverence thinks that, when
you have put me down there, you will have done
with me? Perhaps you will lay a stone on the top
to pre-v-vent a r-resurrection 'after three days'?
No fear, your reverence! I shan't poach on the
monopoly in cheap theatricals; I shall lie as still as
a m-mouse, just where you put me. And all the
same, WE shall use field-guns."
"Oh, merciful God," the priest cried out; "forgive
this wretched man!"
"Amen!" murmured the lieutenant of carabineers,
in a deep bass growl, while the colonel and
his nephew crossed themselves devoutly.
As there was evidently no hope of further insistence
producing any effect, the priest gave up the
fruitless attempt and moved aside, shaking his
head and murmuring a prayer. The short and
simple preparations were made without more delay,
and the Gadfly placed himself in the required
position, only turning his head to glance up for
a moment at the red and yellow splendour of the
sunrise. He had repeated the request that his
eyes might not be bandaged, and his defiant face
had wrung from the colonel a reluctant consent.
They had both forgotten what they were inflicting
on the soldiers.
He stood and faced them, smiling, and the carbines
shook in their hands.
"I am quite ready," he said.
The lieutenant stepped forward, trembling a
little with excitement. He had never given the
word of command for an execution before.
The Gadfly staggered a little and recovered his
balance. One unsteady shot had grazed his cheek,
and a little blood fell on to the white cravat.
Another ball had struck him above the knee.
When the smoke cleared away the soldiers looked
and saw him smiling still and wiping the blood
from his cheek with the mutilated hand
"A bad shot, men!" he said; and his voice cut
in, clear and articulate, upon the dazed stupor of
the wretched soldiers. "Have another try."
A general groan and shudder passed through
the row of carabineers. Each man had aimed aside,
with a secret hope that the death-shot would come
from his neighbour's hand, not his; and there the
Gadfly stood and smiled at them; they had only
turned the execution into a butchery, and the
whole ghastly business was to do again. They
were seized with sudden terror, and, lowering their
carbines, listened hopelessly to the furious curses
and reproaches of the officers, staring in dull
horror at the man whom they had killed and who
somehow was not dead.
The Governor shook his fist in their faces,
savagely shouting to them to stand in position,
to present arms, to make haste and get the thing
over. He had become as thoroughly demoralized
as they were, and dared not look at the terrible
figure that stood, and stood, and would not fall.
When the Gadfly spoke to him he started and
shuddered at the sound of the mocking voice.
"You have brought out the awkward squad this
morning, colonel! Let me see if I can manage
them better. Now, men! Hold your tool higher
there, you to the left. Bless your heart, man, it's
a carbine you've got in your hand, not a frying-pan!
Are you all straight? Now then! Ready--present----"
"Fire!" the colonel interrupted, starting forward.
It was intolerable that this man should
give the command for his own death.
There was another confused, disorganized volley,
and the line broke up into a knot of shivering
figures, staring before them with wild eyes. One
of the soldiers had not even discharged his carbine;
he had flung it away, and crouched down, moaning
under his breath: "I can't--I can't!"
The smoke cleared slowly away, floating up into
the glimmer of the early sunlight; and they saw
that the Gadfly had fallen; and saw, too, that he
was still not dead. For the first moment soldiers
and officials stood as if they had been turned to
stone, and watched the ghastly thing that writhed
and struggled on the ground; then both doctor
and colonel rushed forward with a cry, for he had
dragged himself up on one knee and was still facing
the soldiers, and still laughing.
"Another miss! Try--again, lads--see--if you can't----"
He suddenly swayed and fell over sideways on
"Is he dead?" the colonel asked under his
breath; and the doctor, kneeling down, with a
hand on the bloody shirt, answered softly:
"I think so--God be praised!"
"God be praised!" the colonel repeated. "At
His nephew was touching him on the arm.
"Uncle! It's the Cardinal! He's at the gate
and wants to come in."
"What? He can't come in--I won't have
it! What are the guards about? Your Eminence----"
The gate had opened and shut, and Montanelli
was standing in the courtyard, looking before him
with still and awful eyes.
"Your Eminence! I must beg of you--this is
not a fit sight for you! The execution is only just
over; the body is not yet----"
"I have come to look at him," Montanelli said.
Even at the moment it struck the Governor that
his voice and bearing were those of a sleep-walker.
"Oh, my God!" one of the soldiers cried out
suddenly; and the Governor glanced hastily back.
The blood-stained heap on the grass had once
more begun to struggle and moan. The doctor
flung himself down and lifted the head upon his knee.
"Make haste!" he cried in desperation. "You
savages, make haste! Get it over, for God's sake!
There's no bearing this!"
Great jets of blood poured over his hands, and
the convulsions of the figure that he held in his
arms shook him, too, from head to foot. As he
looked frantically round for help, the priest bent
over his shoulder and put a crucifix to the lips of
the dying man.
"In the name of the Father and of the Son----"
The Gadfly raised himself against the doctor's
knee, and, with wide-open eyes, looked straight
upon the crucifix.
Slowly, amid hushed and frozen stillness, he
lifted the broken right hand and pushed away the
image. There was a red smear across its face.
His head fell back on the doctor's arm.
. . . . .
As the Cardinal did not awake from his stupor,
Colonel Ferrari repeated, louder:
Montanelli looked up.
"He is dead."
"Quite dead, your Eminence. Will you not
come away? This is a horrible sight."
"He is dead," Montanelli repeated, and looked
down again at the face. "I touched him; and he
"What does he expect a man to be with half a
dozen bullets in him?" the lieutenant whispered
contemptuously; and the doctor whispered back.
"I think the sight of the blood has upset him."
The Governor put his hand firmly on Montanelli's arm.
"Your Eminence--you had better not look at
him any longer. Will you allow the chaplain to
escort you home?"
"Yes--I will go."
He turned slowly from the blood-stained spot
and walked away, the priest and sergeant following.
At the gate he paused and looked back, with
a ghostlike, still surprise.
"He is dead."
. . . . .
A few hours later Marcone went up to a cottage
on the hillside to tell Martini that there
was no longer any need for him to throw away his
All the preparations for a second attempt at
rescue were ready, as the plot was much more
simple than the former one. It had been arranged
that on the following morning, as the Corpus
Domini procession passed along the fortress hill,
Martini should step forward out of the crowd,
draw a pistol from his breast, and fire in the Governor's
face. In the moment of wild confusion
which would follow twenty armed men were to
make a sudden rush at the gate, break into the
tower, and, taking the turnkey with them by force,
to enter the prisoner's cell and carry him bodily
away, killing or overpowering everyone who interfered
with them. From the gate they were to
retire fighting, and cover the retreat of a second
band of armed and mounted smugglers, who would
carry him off into a safe hiding-place in the
hills. The only person in the little group who
knew nothing of the plan was Gemma; it had been
kept from her at Martini's special desire. "She
will break her heart over it soon enough," he had
As the smuggler came in at the garden gate
Martini opened the glass door and stepped out
on to the verandah to meet him.
"Any news, Marcone? Ah!"
The smuggler had pushed back his broad-brimmed
They sat down together on the verandah. Not
a word was spoken on either side. From the
instant when Martini had caught sight of the face
under the hat-brim he had understood.
"When was it?" he asked after a long pause;
and his own voice, in his ears, was as dull and
wearisome as everything else.
"This morning, at sunrise. The sergeant told
me. He was there and saw it."
Martini looked down and flicked a stray thread
from his coat-sleeve.
Vanity of vanities; this also is vanity. He was
to have died to-morrow. And now the land
of his heart's desire had vanished, like the fairyland
of golden sunset dreams that fades away when
the darkness comes; and he was driven back into
the world of every day and every night--the world
of Grassini and Galli, of ciphering and pamphleteering,
of party squabbles between comrades
and dreary intrigues among Austrian spies--of the
old revolutionary mill-round that maketh the
heart sick. And somewhere down at the bottom
of his consciousness there was a great empty place;
a place that nothing and no one would fill any
more, now that the Gadfly was dead.
Someone was asking him a question, and he
raised his head, wondering what could be left that
was worth the trouble of talking about.
"What did you say?"
"I was saying that of course you will break the
news to her."
Life, and all the horror of life, came back into
"How can I tell her?" he cried out. "You
might as well ask me to go and stab her. Oh,
how can I tell her--how can I!"
He had clasped both hands over his eyes; but,
without seeing, he felt the smuggler start beside
him, and looked up. Gemma was standing in the
"Have you heard, Cesare?" she said. "It is
all over. They have shot him."
"INTROIBO ad altare Dei." Montanelli stood
before the high altar among his ministers and acolytes
and read the Introit aloud in steady tones.
All the Cathedral was a blaze of light and colour;
from the holiday dresses of the congregation to
the pillars with their flaming draperies and wreaths
of flowers there was no dull spot in it. Over the
open spaces of the doorway fell great scarlet curtains,
through whose folds the hot June sunlight
glowed, as through the petals of red poppies in
a corn-field. The religious orders with their candles
and torches, the companies of the parishes
with their crosses and flags, lighted up the dim
side-chapels; and in the aisles the silken folds of
the processional banners drooped, their gilded
staves and tassels glinting under the arches. The
surplices of the choristers gleamed, rainbow-tinted,
beneath the coloured windows; the sunlight
lay on the chancel floor in chequered stains of
orange and purple and green. Behind the altar
hung a shimmering veil of silver tissue; and against
the veil and the decorations and the altar-lights
the Cardinal's figure stood out in its trailing white
robes like a marble statue that had come to life.
As was customary on processional days, he was
only to preside at the Mass, not to celebrate, so
at the end of the Indulgentiam he turned from the
altar and walked slowly to the episcopal throne,
celebrant and ministers bowing low as he passed.
"I'm afraid His Eminence is not well," one of
the canons whispered to his neighbour; "he seems
Montanelli bent his head to receive the jewelled
mitre. The priest who was acting as deacon of
honour put it on, looked at him for an instant,
then leaned forward and whispered softly:
"Your Eminence, are you ill?"
Montanelli turned slightly towards him. There
was no recognition in his eyes.
"Pardon, Your Eminence!" the priest whispered,
as he made a genuflexion and went back to
his place, reproaching himself for having interrupted
the Cardinal's devotions.
The familiar ceremony went on; and Montanelli
sat erect and still, his glittering mitre and gold-brocaded
vestments flashing back the sunlight,
and the heavy folds of his white festival mantle
sweeping down over the red carpet. The light of a
hundred candles sparkled among the sapphires on
his breast, and shone into the deep, still eyes that
had no answering gleam; and when, at the words:
"Benedicite, pater eminentissime," he stooped to
bless the incense, and the sunbeams played among
the diamonds, he might have recalled some splendid
and fearful ice-spirit of the mountains, crowned
with rainbows and robed in drifted snow, scattering,
with extended hands, a shower of blessings or
At the elevation of the Host he descended from
his throne and knelt before the altar. There was
a strange, still evenness about all his movements;
and as he rose and went back to his place the major
of dragoons, who was sitting in gala uniform behind
the Governor, whispered to the wounded
captain: "The old Cardinal's breaking, not a
doubt of it. He goes through his work like a
"So much the better!" the captain whispered
back. "He's been nothing but a mill-stone round
all our necks ever since that confounded amnesty."
"He did give in, though, about the court-martial."
"Yes, at last; but he was a precious time making
up his mind to. Heavens, how close it is!
We shall all get sun-stroke in the procession. It's
a pity we're not Cardinals, to have a canopy held
over our heads all the way---- Sh-sh-sh!
There's my uncle looking at us!"
Colonel Ferrari had turned round to glance
severely at the two younger officers. After the
solemn event of yesterday morning he was in a
devout and serious frame of mind, and inclined to
reproach them with a want of proper feeling about
what he regarded as "a painful necessity of state."
The masters of the ceremonies began to
assemble and place in order those who were to
take part in the procession. Colonel Ferrari rose
from his place and moved up to the chancel-rail,
beckoning to the other officers to accompany him.
When the Mass was finished, and the Host had
been placed behind the crystal shield in the processional
sun, the celebrant and his ministers retired
to the sacristy to change their vestments, and a
little buzz of whispered conversation broke out
through the church. Montanelli remained seated
on his throne, looking straight before him, immovably.
All the sea of human life and motion
seemed to surge around and below him, and to die
away into stillness about his feet. A censer was
brought to him; and he raised his hand with the
action of an automaton, and put the incense into
the vessel, looking neither to the right nor to the left.
The clergy had come back from the sacristy,
and were waiting in the chancel for him to descend;
but he remained utterly motionless. The
deacon of honour, bending forward to take off the
mitre, whispered again, hesitatingly:
The Cardinal looked round.
"What did you say?"
"Are you quite sure the procession will not be
too much for you? The sun is very hot."
"What does the sun matter?"
Montanelli spoke in a cold, measured voice,
and the priest again fancied that he must have
"Forgive me, Your Eminence. I thought you
Montanelli rose without answering. He paused
a moment on the upper step of the throne, and
asked in the same measured way:
"What is that?"
The long train of his mantle swept down over the
steps and lay spread out on the chancel-floor, and
he was pointing to a fiery stain on the white satin.
"It's only the sunlight shining through a coloured
window, Your Eminence."
"The sunlight? Is it so red?"
He descended the steps, and knelt before the
altar, swinging the censer slowly to and fro. As
he handed it back, the chequered sunlight fell on
his bared head and wide, uplifted eyes, and cast a
crimson glow across the white veil that his ministers
were folding round him.
He took from the deacon the sacred golden sun;
and stood up, as choir and organ burst into a peal
of triumphal melody.
"Pange, lingua, g]oriosi
Quem in mundi pretium,
Fructus ventris generosi
Rex effudit gentium."
The bearers came slowly forward, and raised the
silken canopy over his head, while the deacons of
honour stepped to their places at his right and left
and drew back the long folds of the mantle. As
the acolytes stooped to lift his robe from the
chancel-floor, the lay fraternities heading the procession
started to pace down the nave in stately
double file, with lighted candles held to left and right.
He stood above them, by the altar, motionless
under the white canopy, holding the Eucharist
aloft with steady hands, and watched them as they
passed. Two by two, with candles and banners
and torches, with crosses and images and flags,
they swept slowly down the chancel steps, along
the broad nave between the garlanded pillars, and
out under the lifted scarlet curtains into the blazing
sunlight of the street; and the sound of their
chanting died into a rolling murmur, drowned in
the pealing of new and newer voices, as the unending
stream flowed on, and yet new footsteps echoed down the nave.
The companies of the parishes passed, with their
white shrouds and veiled faces; then the brothers
of the Misericordia, black from head to foot,
their eyes faintly gleaming through the holes in
their masks. Next came the monks in solemn
row: the mendicant friars, with their dusky cowls
and bare, brown feet; the white-robed, grave Dominicans.
Then followed the lay officials of the
district; dragoons and carabineers and the local
police-officials; the Governor in gala uniform, with
his brother officers beside him. A deacon followed,
holding up a great cross between two
acolytes with gleaming candles; and as the curtains
were lifted high to let them pass out at the
doorway, Montanelli caught a momentary glimpse,
from where he stood under the canopy, of the sunlit
blaze of carpeted street and flag-hung walls and
white-robed children scattering roses. Ah, the
roses; how red they were!
On and on the procession paced in order; form
succeeding to form and colour to colour. Long
white surplices, grave and seemly, gave place to
gorgeous vestments and embroidered pluvials.
Now passed a tall and slender golden cross, borne
high above the lighted candles; now the cathedral
canons, stately in their dead white mantles. A
chaplain paced down the chancel, with the crozier
between two flaring torches; then the acolytes
moved forward in step, their censers swinging to
the rhythm of the music; the bearers raised the
canopy higher, counting their steps: "One, two;
one, two!" and Montanelli started upon the Way
of the Cross.
Down the chancel steps and all along the nave
he passed; under the gallery where the organ
pealed and thundered; under the lifted curtains
that were so red--so fearfully red; and out into
the glaring street, where the blood-red roses lay
and withered, crushed into the red carpet by the
passing of many feet. A moment's pause at the
door, while the lay officials came forward to replace
the canopy-bearers; then the procession moved on
again, and he with it, his hands clasping the
Eucharistic sun, and the voices of the choristers
swelling and dying around him, with the rhythmical
swaying of censers and the rolling tramp of feet.
"Verbum caro, panem verum,
Verbo carnem efficit;
Sitque sanguis Christi merum----"
Always blood and always blood! The carpet
stretched before him like a red river; the roses lay
like blood splashed on the stones---- Oh, God!
Is all Thine earth grown red, and all Thy heaven?
Ah, what is it to Thee, Thou mighty God----
Thou, whose very lips are smeared with blood!
"Tantum ergo Sacramentum,
He looked through the crystal shield at the
Eucharist. What was that oozing from the wafer--
dripping down between the points of the golden
sun--down on to his white robe? What had he seen
dripping down--dripping from a lifted hand?
The grass in the courtyard was trampled and
red,--all red,--there was so much blood. It was
trickling down the cheek, and dripping from the
pierced right hand, and gushing in a hot red torrent
from the wounded side. Even a lock of the
hair was dabbled in it,--the hair that lay all wet
and matted on the forehead--ah, that was the
death-sweat; it came from the horrible pain.
The voices of the choristers rose higher, triumphantly:
Laus et jubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque,
Sit et benedictio."
Oh, that is more than any patience can endure!
God, Who sittest on the brazen heavens enthroned,
and smilest with bloody lips, looking
down upon agony and death, is it not enough? Is
it not enough, without this mockery of praise and
blessing? Body of Christ, Thou that wast broken
for the salvation of men; blood of Christ, Thou
that wast shed for the remission of sins; is it not
"Ah, call Him louder; perchance He sleepeth!
Dost Thou sleep indeed, dear love; and wilt
Thou never wake again? Is the grave so jealous
of its victory; and will the black pit under the tree
not loose Thee even for a little, heart's delight?
Then the Thing behind the crystal shield made
answer, and the blood dripped down as It spoke:
"Hast thou chosen, and wilt repent of thy
choice? Is thy desire not fulfilled? Look upon
these men that walk in the light and are clad in
silk and in gold: for their sake was I laid in the
black pit. Look upon the children scattering
roses, and hearken to their singing if it be sweet:
for their sake is my mouth filled with dust, and the
roses are red from the well-springs of my heart.
See where the people kneel to drink the blood that
drips from thy garment-hem: for their sake was
it shed, to quench their ravening thirst. For it is
written: 'Greater love hath no man than this, if
a man lay down his life for his friends.'"
"Oh, Arthur, Arthur; there is greater love than
this! If a man lay down the life of his best beloved,
is not that greater?"
And It answered again:
"Who is thy best beloved? In sooth, not I."
And when he would have spoken the words
froze on his tongue, for the singing of the choristers
passed over them, as the north wind over icy
pools, and hushed them into silence:
"Dedit fragilibus corporis ferculum,
Dedit et tristibus sanguinis poculum,
Dicens: Accipite, quod trado vasculum
Omnes ex eo bibite."
Drink of it, Christians; drink of it, all of you!
Is it not yours? For you the red stream stains
the grass; for you the living flesh is seared and
torn. Eat of it, cannibals; eat of it, all of you!
This is your feast and your orgy; this is the day of
your joy! Haste you and come to the festival;
join the procession and march with us; women
and children, young men and old men--come to
the sharing of flesh! Come to the pouring of
blood-wine and drink of it while it is red; take
and eat of the Body----
Ah, God; the fortress! Sullen and brown, with
crumbling battlements and towers dark among the
barren hills, it scowled on the procession sweeping
past in the dusty road below. The iron teeth
of the portcullis were drawn down over the mouth
of the gate; and as a beast crouched on the mountain-side,
the fortress guarded its prey. Yet, be
the teeth clenched never so fast, they shall be
broken and riven asunder; and the grave in the
courtyard within shall yield up her dead. For the
Christian hosts are marching, marching in mighty
procession to their sacramental feast of blood, as
marches an army of famished rats to the gleaning;
and their cry is: "Give! Give!" and they say
not: "It is enough."
"Wilt thou not be satisfied? For these men
was I sacrificed; thou hast destroyed me that they
might live; and behold, they march everyone on
his ways, and they shall not break their ranks.
"This is the army of Christians, the followers of
thy God; a great people and a strong. A fire
devoureth before them, and behind them a flame
burneth; the land is as the garden of Eden before
them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea,
and nothing shall escape them."
"Oh, yet come back, come back to me, beloved;
for I repent me of my choice! Come back, and we
will creep away together, to some dark and silent
grave where the devouring army shall not find us;
and we will lay us down there, locked in one another's
arms, and sleep, and sleep, and sleep. And
the hungry Christians shall pass by in the merciless
daylight above our heads; and when they howl
for blood to drink and for flesh to eat, their cry
shall be faint in our ears; and they shall pass on
their ways and leave us to our rest."
And It answered yet again:
"Where shall I hide me? Is it not written:
'They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall
run upon the wall; they shall climb up upon the
houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a
thief?' If I build me a tomb on the mountain-top,
shall they not break it open? If I dig me a
grave in the river-bed, shall they not tear it up?
Verily, they are keen as blood-hounds to seek out
their prey; and for them are my wounds red, that
they may drink. Canst thou not hear them, what
And they sang, as they went in between the
scarlet curtains of the Cathedral door; for the
procession was over, and all the roses were strewn:
"Ave, verum Corpus, natum
De Maria Virgine:
Vere passum, immolatum
In cruce pro homine!
Cujus latus perforatum
Undam fluxit cum sanguinae;
Esto nobis praegustatum
Mortis in examinae."
And when they had left off singing, he entered
at the doorway, and passed between the silent rows
of monks and priests, where they knelt, each man
in his place, with the lighted candles uplifted.
And he saw their hungry eyes fixed on the sacred
Body that he bore; and he knew why they bowed
their heads as he passed. For the dark stream
ran down the folds of his white vestments; and on
the stones of the Cathedral floor his footsteps left
a deep, red stain.
So he passed up the nave to the chancel rails;
and there the bearers paused, and he went out
from under the canopy and up to the altar steps.
To left and right the white-robed acolytes knelt
with their censers and the chaplains with their
torches; and their eyes shone greedily in the flaring
light as they watched the Body of the Victim.
And as he stood before the altar, holding aloft
with blood-stained hands the torn and mangled
body of his murdered love, the voices of the guests
bidden to the Eucharistic feast rang out in another
peal of song:
"Oh salutaris Hostia,
Quae coeli pandis ostium;
Bella praemunt hostilia,
Da robur, fer, auxilium!"
Ah, and now they come to take the Body----
Go then, dear heart, to thy bitter doom, and open
the gates of heaven for these ravening wolves that
will not be denied. The gates that are opened for
me are the gates of the nethermost hell.
And as the deacon of honour placed the sacred
vessel on the altar, Montanelli sank down where
he had stood, and knelt upon the step; and from
the white altar above him the blood flowed down
and dripped upon his head. And the voices of the
singers rang on, pealing under the arches and
echoing along the vaulted roof:
"Uni trinoque Domino
Sit sempiterna gloria:
Qui vitam sine termino
Nobis donet in patria."
"Sine termino--sine termino!" Oh, happy
Jesus, Who could sink beneath His cross! Oh,
happy Jesus, Who could say: "It is finished!"
This doom is never ended; it is eternal as the stars
in their courses. This is the worm that dieth not
and the fire that is not quenched. "Sine termino,
Wearily, patiently, he went through his part in
the remaining ceremonies, fulfilling mechanically,
from old habit, the rites that had no longer any
meaning for him. Then, after the benediction, he
knelt down again before the altar and covered his
face; and the voice of the priest reading aloud the
list of indulgences swelled and sank like a far-off
murmur from a world to which he belonged no more.
The voice broke off, and he stood up and
stretched out his hand for silence. Some of the
congregation were moving towards the doors; and
they turned back with a hurried rustle and murmur,
as a whisper went through the Cathedral:
"His Eminence is going to speak."
His ministers, startled and wondering, drew
closer to him and one of them whispered hastily:
"Your Eminence, do you intend to speak to the
Montanelli silently waved him aside. The
priests drew back, whispering together; the thing
was unusual, even irregular; but it was within the
Cardinal's prerogative if he chose to do it. No
doubt, he had some statement of exceptional importance
to make; some new reform from Rome to announce or a
special communication from the Holy Father.
Montanelli looked down from the altar-steps
upon the sea of upturned faces. Full of eager
expectancy they looked up at him as he stood
above them, spectral and still and white.
"Sh-sh! Silence!" the leaders of the procession
called softly; and the murmuring of the congregation
died into stillness, as a gust of wind dies
among whispering tree-tops. All the crowd gazed
up, in breathless silence, at the white figure on the
altar-steps. Slowly and steadily he began to speak:
"It is written in the Gospel according to St.
John: 'God so loved the world, that He gave His
only begotten Son that the world through Him
might be saved.'
"This is the festival of the Body and Blood of
the Victim who was slain for your salvation; the
Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the
world; the Son of God, Who died for your transgressions.
And you are assembled here in solemn
festival array, to eat of the sacrifice that was given
for you, and to render thanks for this great mercy.
And I know that this morning, when you came to
share in the banquet, to eat of the Body of the
Victim, your hearts were filled with joy, as you
remembered the Passion of God the Son, Who
died, that you might be saved.
"But tell me, which among you has thought of
that other Passion--of the Passion of God the
Father, Who gave His Son to be crucified?
Which of you has remembered the agony of God
the Father, when He bent from His throne in the
heavens above, and looked down upon Calvary?
"I have watched you to-day, my people, as you
walked in your ranks in solemn procession; and I
have seen that your hearts are glad within you for
the remission of your sins, and that you rejoice in
your salvation. Yet I pray you that you consider
at what price that salvation was bought.
Surely it is very precious, and the price of it is
above rubies; it is the price of blood."
A faint, long shudder passed through the listening
crowd. In the chancel the priests bent forward
and whispered to one another; but the preacher went
on speaking, and they held their peace.
"Therefore it is that I speak with you this day:
I AM THAT I AM. For I looked upon your weakness
and your sorrow, and upon the little children
about your feet; and my heart was moved to compassion
for their sake, that they must die. Then
I looked into my dear son's eyes; and I knew that
the Atonement of Blood was there. And I went
my way, and left him to his doom.
"This is the remission of sins. He died for you,
and the darkness has swallowed him up; he is
dead, and there is no resurrection; he is dead, and
I have no son. Oh, my boy, my boy!"
The Cardinal's voice broke in a long, wailing
cry; and the voices of the terrified people answered
it like an echo. All the clergy had risen
from their places, and the deacons of honour
started forward to lay their hands on the preacher's
arm. But he wrenched it away, and faced them
suddenly, with the eyes of an angry wild beast.
"What is this? Is there not blood enough?
Wait your turn, jackals; you shall all be fed!"
They shrank away and huddled shivering together,
their panting breath thick and loud, their
faces white with the whiteness of chalk. Montanelli
turned again to the people, and they swayed
and shook before him, as a field of corn before
"You have killed him! You have killed him!
And I suffered it, because I would not let you die.
And now, when you come about me with your
lying praises and your unclean prayers, I repent
me--I repent me that I have done this thing!
It were better that you all should rot in your vices,
in the bottomless filth of damnation, and that he
should live. What is the worth of your plague-spotted
souls, that such a price should be paid for
them? But it is too late--too late! I cry aloud,
but he does not hear me; I beat at the door of the
grave, but he will not wake; I stand alone, in
desert space, and look around me, from the blood-stained
earth where the heart of my heart lies
buried, to the void and awful heaven that is left
unto me, desolate. I have given him up; oh,
generation of vipers, I have given him up for you!
"Take your salvation, since it is yours! I fling
it to you as a bone is flung to a pack of snarling
curs! The price of your banquet is paid for
you; come, then, and gorge yourselves, cannibals,
bloodsuckers--carrion beasts that feed on the
dead! See where the blood streams down from
the altar, foaming and hot from my darling's
heart--the blood that was shed for you! Wallow
and lap it and smear yourselves red with it!
Snatch and fight for the flesh and devour it--and
trouble me no more! This is the body that was
given for you--look at it, torn and bleeding,
throbbing still with the tortured life, quivering
from the bitter death-agony; take it, Christians,
He had caught up the sun with the Host and
lifted it above his head; and now flung it crashing
down upon the floor. At the ring of the metal on
stone the clergy rushed forward together, and
twenty hands seized the madman.
Then, and only then, the silence of the people
broke in a wild, hysterical scream; and, overturning
chairs and benches, beating at the doorways,
trampling one upon another, tearing down curtains
and garlands in their haste, the surging,
sobbing human flood poured out upon the street.
"GEMMA, there's a man downstairs who wants
to see you." Martini spoke in the subdued tone
which they had both unconsciously adopted during
these last ten days. That, and a certain slow
evenness of speech and movement, were the sole
expression which either of them gave to their grief.
Gemma, with bare arms and an apron over her
dress, was standing at a table, putting up little
packages of cartridges for distribution. She had
stood over the work since early morning; and
now, in the glaring afternoon, her face looked haggard
"A man, Cesare? What does he want?"
"I don't know, dear. He wouldn't tell me.
He said he must speak to you alone."
"Very well." She took off her apron and
pulled down the sleeves of her dress. "I must go
to him, I suppose; but very likely it's only a spy."
"In any case, I shall be in the next room, within
call. As soon as you get rid of him you had better
go and lie down a bit. You have been standing
too long to-day."
"Oh, no! I would rather go on working."
She went slowly down the stairs, Martini following
in silence. She had grown to look ten years
older in these few days, and the gray streak across
her hair had widened into a broad band. She
mostly kept her eyes lowered now; but when, by
chance, she raised them, he shivered at the horror
in their shadows.
In the little parlour she found a clumsy-looking
man standing with his heels together in the middle
of the floor. His whole figure and the half-frightened
way he looked up when she came in,
suggested to her that he must be one of the Swiss
guards. He wore a countryman's blouse, which
evidently did not belong to him, and kept glancing
round as though afraid of detection.
"Can you speak German?" he asked in the
heavy Zurich patois.
"A little. I hear you want to see me."
"You are Signora Bolla? I've brought you a
"A--letter?" She was beginning to tremble,
and rested one hand on the table to steady herself.
"I'm one of the guard over there." He
pointed out of the window to the fortress on the
hill. "It's from--the man that was shot last
week. He wrote it the night before. I promised
him I'd give it into your own hand myself."
She bent her head down. So he had written
"That's why I've been so long bringing it," the
soldier went on. "He said I was not to give it to
anyone but you, and I couldn't get off before--
they watched me so. I had to borrow these
things to come in."
He was fumbling in the breast of his blouse.
The weather was hot, and the sheet of folded
paper that he pulled out was not only dirty and
crumpled, but damp. He stood for a moment
shuffling his feet uneasily; then put up one hand
and scratched the back of his head.
"You won't say anything," he began again
timidly, with a distrustful glance at her. "It's as
much as my life's worth to have come here."
"Of course I shall not say anything. No,
wait a minute----"
As he turned to go, she stopped him, feeling for
her purse; but he drew back, offended.
"I don't want your money," he said roughly.
"I did it for him--because he asked me to. I'd
have done more than that for him. He'd been
good to me--God help me!"
The little catch in his voice made her look up.
He was slowly rubbing a grimy sleeve across his
"We had to shoot," he went on under his
breath; "my mates and I. A man must obey
orders. We bungled it, and had to fire again--
and he laughed at us--he called us the awkward
squad--and he'd been good to me----"
There was silence in the room. A moment
later he straightened himself up, made a clumsy
military salute, and went away.
She stood still for a little while with the paper
in her hand; then sat down by the open window
to read. The letter was closely written in pencil,
and in some parts hardly legible. But the first
two words stood out quite clear upon the page;
and they were in English:
The writing grew suddenly blurred and misty.
And she had lost him again--had lost him again!
At the sight of the familiar childish nickname all
the hopelessness of her bereavement came over
her afresh, and she put out her hands in blind
desperation, as though the weight of the earth-clods
that lay above him were pressing on her heart.
Presently she took up the paper again and went
"I am to be shot at sunrise to-morrow. So
if I am to keep at all my promise to tell you everything,
I must keep it now. But, after all, there is
not much need of explanations between you and
me. We always understood each other without
many words, even when we were little things.
"And so, you see, my dear, you had no need to
break your heart over that old story of the blow.
It was a hard hit, of course; but I have had plenty
of others as hard, and yet I have managed to get
over them,--even to pay back a few of them,--and
here I am still, like the mackerel in our nursery-book
(I forget its name), 'Alive and kicking,
oh!' This is my last kick, though; and then, to-morrow
morning, and--'Finita la Commedia!'
You and I will translate that: 'The variety show
is over'; and will give thanks to the gods that
they have had, at least, so much mercy on us. It
is not much, but it is something; and for this and
all other blessings may we be truly thankful!
"About that same to-morrow morning, I want
both you and Martini to understand clearly that
I am quite happy and satisfied, and could ask
no better thing of Fate. Tell that to Martini
as a message from me; he is a good fellow and a
good comrade, and he will understand. You see,
dear, I know that the stick-in-the-mud people are
doing us a good turn and themselves a bad one
by going back to secret trials and executions so
soon, and I know that if you who are left stand
together steadily and hit hard, you will see great
things. As for me, I shall go out into the courtyard
with as light a heart as any child starting
home for the holidays. I have done my share of
the work, and this death-sentence is the proof that
I have done it thoroughly. They kill me because
they are afraid of me; and what more can any man's
"It desires just one thing more, though. A man
who is going to die has a right to a personal fancy,
and mine is that you should see why I have always
been such a sulky brute to you, and so slow to forget
old scores. Of course, though, you understand
why, and I tell you only for the pleasure of
writing the words. I loved you, Gemma, when you
were an ugly little girl in a gingham frock, with a
scratchy tucker and your hair in a pig-tail down
your back; and I love you still. Do you remember
that day when I kissed your hand, and when
you so piteously begged me 'never to do that
again'? It was a scoundrelly trick to play, I know;
but you must forgive that; and now I kiss the
paper where I have written your name. So I have
kissed you twice, and both times without your
"That is all. Good-bye, my dear."
There was no signature, but a verse which they
had learned together as children was written
under the letter:
"Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live
Or if I die."
. . . . .
Half an hour later Martini entered the room,
and, startled out of the silence of half a life-time,
threw down the placard he was carrying and flung
his arms about her.
"Gemma! What is it, for God's sake? Don't
sob like that--you that never cry! Gemma!
Gemma, my darling!"
"Nothing, Cesare; I will tell you afterwards--I
--can't talk about it just now."
She hurriedly slipped the tear-stained letter into
her pocket; and, rising, leaned out of the window
to hide her face. Martini held his tongue and bit
his moustache. After all these years he had betrayed
himself like a schoolboy--and she had not
even noticed it!
"The Cathedral bell is tolling," she said after