Part 3 out of 7
leaned upon his stick, and commenced:
"In the sixth century, the flagstones in this portion of the nave were
raised for the burial of a distinguished lady, a member of the Manzi
family; but oh! stupendous prodigy!"--the cavaliere cast up his eyes
to heaven, and clasped his dimpled hands--"no sooner had the coffin
been lowered into the vault prepared for it, than the corpse of the
lady of the Manzi family sat upright in the open bier, put aside the
flowers and wreaths piled upon her, and uttered these memorable and
never-to-be-forgotten words: 'Bury me elsewhere; here lies the body of
Baldassare, who had grown very pale, now shuddered visibly, and
contemplated the cavaliere with awe.
"Stupendous!" he muttered--"prodigious!--Indeed!"
Enrica did not speak; her eyes were fixed on the ground.
"Yes, yes, you may well say prodigious," responded Trenta, bowing his
white head; then, looking round triumphantly: "It was prodigious,
but a prodigy, remember, vouched for by the chronicles of the Church.
(Chronicles of the Church are much more to be trusted than any thing
else, much more than Evangelists, who were not bishops, and therefore
had no authority--we all know that.) No sooner, my friends, had the
corpse of the lady of the Manzi family spoken, as I have said, than
diligent search was made by those assembled in the church, when
lo!--within the open vault the remains of the adorable San Frediano
were discovered in excellent preservation. I need not say that, having
died in the odor of sanctity, the most fragrant perfume filled the
church, and penetrated even to the adjacent streets. Several sick
persons were healed by merely inhaling it. One man, whose arm had been
shot off at the shoulder-joint many years before, found his limb
come again in an instant, by merely touching the blessed relic." The
cavaliere paused to take breath. No one had spoken.--"Have you heard
the miracle of the glorious San Frediano?" asked Trenta, a little
timidly, raising his voice to its utmost pitch as he addressed Count
"No, I have not, cavaliere; but, if I had, it would not alter my
opinion. I do not believe in mediaeval miracles." As he spoke, Count
Marescotti turned round from the steps of a side-altar, whither he had
wandered to look at a picture. "I did not hear one word you said, my
dear cavaliere, but I am acquainted with the supposed miracles of San
Frediano. They are entirely without evidence, and in no way shake my
conclusions as to the utter worthlessness of such legends. In this
I agree with the Protestants," he continued, "rather than with that
inspired teacher, Savonarola. The Protestants, spite of so-called
'ecclesiastical authority,' persist in denying them. With the
Protestants, I hold that the entire machinery of modern miracles is
false and unprofitable. With the Apostles miraculous power ended."
"Marescotti!" ejaculated the poor cavaliere, aghast at the effect his
appeal had produced, "for God's sake, don't, don't! before Enrica--and
in a church, too!"
"I believe with Savonarola in other miracles," continued the count, in
a louder tone, addressing himself directly to Enrica, on whom he gazed
with a tender expression--he was far too much engrossed with her and
with the subject to heed Trenta's feeble remonstrance--"I believe in
the mystic essence of soul to soul--I believe in the reappearance of
the disembodied spirit to its kindred affinity still on earth--still
clothed with a fleshly garment. I believe in those magnetic influences
that circle like an atmosphere about certain purified and special
natures, binding them together in a closely-locked embrace, an embrace
that neither time, distance, nor even death itself, can weaken or
He paused for an instant; a dark fire lit up his eyes, which were
still bent on Enrica.
"All this I believe--life would be intolerable to me without such
convictions. At the same time, I am ready to grant that all cannot
accept my views. These are mysteries to be approached without
prejudice--mysteries that must be received absolutely without
prejudice of religion, country, or race; received as the aesthetic
instinct within us teaches. Who," he added, and as he spoke he
stood erect on the steps of the altar, his arms outstretched in the
eagerness of argument, his grand face all aglow with enthusiasm--"who
can decide? It is faith that convinces--faith that vivifies--faith
that transforms--faith that links us to the hierarchy of angels! To
believe--to act on our belief, even if that belief be false--that is
true religion. A merciful Deity will accept our imperfect sacrifice.
Are we not all believers in Christ? Away with creeds and churches,
with formularies and doctrines, with painted walls and golden altars,
with stoled priests, infallible popes, and temporal hierarchies! What
are these vain distinctions, if we love God? Let the whole world
unite to believe in the Redeemer. Then we shall all be brothers--you,
I--all, brothers--joined within the holy circle of one universal
family--of one universal worship!"
Count Marescotti ceased speaking, but his impassioned words still
echoed through the empty aisles. His eyes had wandered from Enrica;
they were now fixed on high. His countenance glowed with rapture.
Wrapped in the visions his imagination had called forth, he descended
from the altar, and slowly approached the silent group gathered beside
the monumental stone.
Enrica had eagerly drunk in every word the count had uttered. He
seemed to speak the language of her secret musings; to interpret the
hidden mysteries of her young heart. She, at least, believed in the
affinity of kindred spirits. What but that had linked her to Nobili?
Oh, to live in such a union!
Trenta had become very grave.
"You are a visionary," he said, addressing the count, who now stood
beside them. "I am sorry for you. Such a consummation as you desire
is impossible. Your faith has no foundation. It is a creation of the
brain. The Catholic Church stands upon a rock. It permits no change,
it accepts no compromise, it admits no errors. The authority given to
St. Peter by Jesus Christ himself, with the spiritual keys, can alone
open the gates of heaven. All without are damned. Good intentions
are nothing. Private interpretation, believe me, is of the devil.
Obedience to the Holy Father, and the intercession of the saints, can
alone save your soul. Submit yourself to the teaching of our mother
Church, my dear count. Submit yourself--you have my prayers." Trenta
watched Marescotti with a fixed gaze of such solemn earnestness, it
seemed as though he anticipated that the blessed San Frediano himself
might appear, and then and there miraculously convert him. "Submit
yourself," he repeated, raising his arm and pointing to the altar,
"then you will be blessed."
No miraculous interposition, however, was destined to crown the poor
cavaliere's strenuous efforts to convert the heretical count; but,
long before he had finished, the sound of his voice had recalled
Count Marescotti to himself. He remembered that the old chamberlain
belonged, in years at least, if not in belief, to the past. He blamed
himself for his thoughtlessness in having said a syllable that could
give him pain. The mystic disciple of Savonarola became in an instant
the polished gentleman.
"A thousand pardons, my dear Trenta," he said, passing his hand over
his forehead, and putting back the dark, disordered hair that hung
upon his brow--"a thousand pardons!--I am quite ashamed of myself. We
are here, as I now remember, to examine the tombs of your ancestors
in the chapel of the Trenta. I have delayed you too long. Shall we
Trenta, glad to escape from the possibility of any further discussion
with the count, whose religious views were to him nothing but the
ravings of a mischievous maniac, at once turned into the side-aisle,
and, with ceremonious politeness, conducted Enrica toward the chapel
of the Trenta.
The chapel, divided by gates of gilt bronze from the line of the other
altars bordering the aisles, forms a deep recess near the high
altar. The walls are inlaid by what had once been brilliantly-colored
marbles, in squares of red, green, and yellow; but time and damp had
dulled them into a sombre hue. Above, a heavy circular cornice joins
a dome-shaped roof, clothed with frescoes, through which the light
descends through a central lantern. Painted figures of prophets stand
erect within the four spandrils, and beneath, breaking the marble
walls, four snow-white statues of the Evangelists fill lofty niches of
gray-tinted stone. Opposite the gilded gates of entrance which
Trenta had unlocked, a black sarcophagus projects from the wall. This
sarcophagus is surmounted by a carved head. Many other monuments break
the marble walls; some very ancient, others of more recent shape
and construction. The floor, too, is almost entirely overlaid by
tombstones, but, like those in the nave, they are greatly defaced,
and the inscriptions are for the most part illegible. Over the altar
a blackened painting represents "San Riccardo of the Trenta" battling
with the infidels before Jerusalem.
"Here," said the cavaliere, standing in the centre under the dome,
"is the chapel of the Trenta. Here I, Cesare Trenta, fourteenth in
succession from Gaultiero Trenta--who commanded a regiment at the
battle of Marignano against the French under Francis I.--hope to lay
my bones. The altar, as you see, is sanctified by the possession of
an ancestral picture, deemed miraculous." He bowed to the earth as he
spoke, in which example he was followed by Enrica and Baldassare. "San
Riccardo was the companion-in-arms of Godfrey de Bouillon. His bones
lie under the altar. Upon his return from the crusades he died in our
palace. We still show the very room. His body is quite entire within
that tomb. I have seen it myself when a boy."
Even the count did not venture to raise any doubt as to the
authenticity of the patron saint of the Trenta family. The cavaliere
himself was on his knees; rosary in hand, he was devoutly offering up
his innocent prayers to the ashes of an imaginary saint. After many
crossings, bowings, and touchings of the tomb (always kissing the
fingers that had been in contact with the sanctified stone), he arose,
"And now," said the count, turning toward Enrica, "I will ask leave to
show you another tomb, which may, possibly, interest you more than
the sepulchre of the respected Trenta." As he spoke he led her to the
opposite aisle, toward a sarcophagus of black marble placed under an
arch, on which was inscribed, in gilt letters, the name "Castruccio
Castracani degli Antimelli," and the date "1328." "Had our Castruccio
moved in a larger sphere," said the count, addressing the little group
that had now gathered about him, "he would have won a name as great as
that of Alexander of Macedon. Like Alexander, he died in the flower of
his age, in the height of his fame. Had he lived, he would have
been King of Italy, and Lucca would have become the capital of the
peninsula. Chaste, sober, and merciful--brave without rashness,
and prudent without fear--Castruccio won all hearts. Lucca at least
appreciated her hero. Proud alike of his personal qualities, and of
those warlike exploits with which Italy already rang, she unanimously
elected him dictator. When this signal honor was conferred upon him,"
continued the count, addressing himself again specially to Enrica,
who listened, her large dreamy eyes fixed upon him, "Castruccio was
absent, engaged in one of those perpetual campaigns against Florence
which occupied so large a portion of his short life. At that very
moment he was encamped on the heights of San Miniato, preparing to
besiege the hated rival of our city--broken and reduced by the recent
victory he had gained over her at Altopasso. At Altopasso he had
defeated and humiliated Florence. Now he had planted our flag under
her very walls. Upon the arrival of the ambassadors sent by the
Lucchese Republic--one of whom was a Guinigi--"
"There was a Trenta, too, among them; Antonio Trenta, a knight of St.
John," put in the cavaliere, gently, unwilling to interrupt the count,
but finding it impossible to resist the temptation of identifying
his family with his country's triumphs. The count acknowledged the
omission with a courteous bow.
"Upon the arrival of the ambassadors," he resumed, "announcing the
honor conferred upon him, Castruccio instantly left his camp, and
returned with all haste to Lucca. The dignity accorded to Castruccio
exalted him above all external demonstration, but he understood
that his native city longed to behold, and to surround with personal
applause, the person of her idol. In the piazza without this church,
the very centre of Lucca, the heart, as it were, whence all the veins
and arteries of our municipal body flow, Castruccio was received
with all the pomp of a Roman triumph. Ah! cavaliere"--and the count's
lustrous eyes rested on Trenta, who was devouring every word he
uttered with silent delight--"those were proud days for Lucca!"
"Recall them--recall them, O Count!" cried Trenta. "It does me good to
"Thirty thousand Florentine prisoners followed Castruccio to Lucca.
His soldiers were laden with booty. They drove before them innumerable
herds of cattle; strings of wagons, filled with the spoils of a
victorious campaign, blocked the causeways. Last of all appeared,
rumbling on its ancient wheels, the carroccio, or state-car of
the Florentine Republic, bearing their captured flags lowered, and
trailing in the dust. Castruccio--whose sole representatives are the
Marchesa Guinigi and yourself, signorina--Castruccio followed. He
was seated in a triumphal chariot, drawn by eight milk-white horses.
Banners fluttered around him. A golden crown of victory was suspended
above his head. He was arrayed in a flowing mantle of purple, over a
suit of burnished armor. His brows were bound by a wreath of golden
laurel. In his right hand he carried a jeweled sceptre. Upon his
knees lay his victorious sword unsheathed. Never was manly beauty more
transcendent. His lofty stature and majestic bearing fulfilled the
expectation of a hero. How can I describe his features? They are known
to all of you by that famous picture (the only likeness of him extant)
belonging to the Marchesa Guinigi, placed in the presence-chamber of
"Yes, yes," burst forth Trenta, no longer able to control his
enthusiasm. "Old as I am, when I think of those days, it makes me
young again. Alas! what a change! Now we have lost not only
our independence, but our very identity. Our sovereign is
gone--banished--our state broken up. We are but the slaves of a
monster called the kingdom of Italy, ruled by Piedmontese barbarians!"
"Hush!--hush!" whispered the irrepressible Baldassare. "Pray do not
interrupt the count." Even the stolid Adonis was moved.
"The daughters of the noblest houses of Lucca," continued Marescotti,
"strewed flowers in Castruccio's path. The magistrates and nobles
received him on their knees. Young as he was, with one voice they
saluted him 'Father of his Country!'"
The count paused. He bowed his head toward the sarcophagus before
which they were gathered, in a mute tribute of reverence. After a few
minutes of rapt silence he resumed:
"When the multitude heard that name, ten thousand thousand voices
echoed it. 'Father of his Country!' resounded to the summits of the
surrounding Apennines. The mountain-tops tossed it to and fro--the
caves thundered it--the very heavens bore it aloft to distant
hemispheres! Our great soldier, overcome by such overwhelming marks
of affection, expressed in every look and gesture how deeply he
was moved. Before leaving the piazza, Castruccio was joined by his
relative, young Paolo Guinigi!--after his decease to become dictator,
and Lord of Lucca. Amid the clash of arms, the braying of trumpets,
and the applause of thousands, they cordially embraced. They were fast
friends as well as cousins. Our Castruccio was of a type incapable
of jealousy. Paolo was a patriot--that was enough. Together they
proceeded to the cathedral of San Martino. At the porch Castruccio was
received by the archbishop and the assembled clergy. He was placed
in a chair of carved ivory, and carried in triumph up the nave to
the chapel of the Holy Countenance. Here he descended, and, while he
prostrated himself before the miraculous image, hymns and songs of
praise burst from the choir."
"Such, Signorina Enrica," said the count, turning toward her, "is
a brief outline of the scene that passed within this city of Lucca,
before that tomb held the illustrious dust it now contains."
"Bravo, bravo, count!" exclaimed the mercurial Trenta, in a delighted
tone. (He was ready to forgive all the count's transgressions, in the
fervor of the moment.) "That is how I love to hear you talk. Now you
do yourself justice. Gesu mio! how seldom it is given to a man to be
so eloquent! How can he bring himself to employ such gifts against the
infallible Church?" This last remark was addressed to Enrica in a tone
too low to be overheard.
"And now," said the old chamberlain, always on the lookout to marshal
every one as he had marshaled every one at court--"now we will leave
the church, and proceed to the Guinigi Tower."
THE GUINIGI TOWER.
Count Marescotti, by reason of too much imagination, and Baldassare,
by reason of too little, were both oblivious; consequently the key and
the porter were neither of them forthcoming when the party arrived
at the door of the tower, which opened from a side-street behind and
apart from the palace. Both the count and Baldassare ran off to find
the man, leaving Trenta alone with Enrica.
"Ahi!" exclaimed the cavaliere, looking after them with a comical
smile, "this youth of New Italy! They have no more brains than a pin.
When I was young, and every city had its own ruler and its own court,
I should not have escorted a lady and kept her waiting outside in the
sun. Bah! those were not the manners of my day. At the court of the
Duke of Lucca ladies were treated like divinities, but now the young
men don't know how to kiss a woman's hand."
Receiving no answer, Trenta looked hard at Enrica. He was struck by
her absent expression. There was a far-away look on her face he had
never noticed on it before.
"Enrica," he said, taking both her hands within his own, "I fear you
are not amused. These subjects are too grave to interest you. What are
you thinking about?"
An anxious look came into her eyes, and she glanced hastily round, as
if to assure herself that no one was near.
"Oh! I am thinking of such strange things!" She stopped and hesitated,
seeing the cavaliere's glance of surprise. "I should like to tell you
all, dear cavaliere--I would give the world to tell you--"
Again she stopped.
"Speak--speak, my child," he answered; "tell me all that is in your
Before she could reply, the count and Baldassare reappeared,
accompanied by the porter of the Guinigi Palace and the keys.
"Are you sure you would rather not return home again, Enrica? You have
only to turn the corner, remember," asked Trenta, looking at her with
"No, no," she answered, greatly confused; "please say nothing--not
now--another time. I should like to ascend the tower; let us go on."
The cavaliere was greatly puzzled. It was plain there was something on
her mind. What could it be? How fortunate, he told himself, if she had
taken a liking to Marescotti, and desired to confess it! This would
make all easy. When he had spoken to the count, he would contrive to
see her alone, and insist upon knowing if it were so.
The door was now opened, and the porter led the way, followed by the
count and Baldassare. Trenta came next, Enrica last. They ascended
stair after stair almost in darkness. After having mounted a
considerable height, the porter unlocked a small door that barred
their farther advance. Above appeared the blackened walls of the
hollow tower, broken by the loop-holes already mentioned, through
which the ardent sunshine slanted. Before them was a wooden stair,
crossing from angle to angle up to a dizzy height, with no other
support but a frail banister; this even was broken in places. The
count and Enrica both entreated the cavaliere to remain below.
Marescotti ventured to allude to his great age--a subject he himself
continually, as has been seen, mentioned, but which he generally much
resented when alluded to by others.
Trenta listened with perfect gravity and politeness, but, when the
count had done speaking, he placed his foot firmly on the first stair,
and began to ascend after the porter. The others were obliged to
follow. At the last flight several loose planks shook ominously
under their feet; but Trenta, assisted by his stick, stepped on
perseveringly. He also insisted on helping Enrica, who was next to
him, and who by this time was both giddy and frightened. At length a
trap-door, at the top of the tower, was reached and unbarred by
the attendant. Without, covered with grass, is a square platform,
protected by a machicolated parapet of turreted stone-work. In the
centre rises a cluster of ancient bay-trees, fresh and luxuriant,
spite of the wind and storms of centuries.
The count leaped out upon the greensward and rushed to the parapet.
"How beautiful!" he exclaimed, throwing back his head and drawing in
the warm air. "See how the sun of New Italy lights up the old city!
Cathedral, palace, church, gallery, roof, tower, all ablaze at our
feet! Speak, tell me, is it not wonderful?" and he turned to Enrica,
who, anxiously turning from side to side, was trying to discover where
she could best overlook the street of San Simone and Nobili's palace.
Addressed by Marescotti, she started and stopped short.
"Never, never," he continued, becoming greatly excited, "shall I
forget this meeting!--here with you--the golden-haired daughter of
this ancient house!"
"I!" exclaimed Enrica. "O count, what a mistake! I have no house, no
home. I live on the charity of my aunt."
"That makes no difference in your descent, fair Guinigi. Charity!
charity! Who would not shower down oceans of charity to possess such
a treasure?" He leaned his back against the parapet, and bent his
eyes with fervent admiration on her. "It is only in verse that I can
celebrate her," he muttered, "prose is too cold for her warm coloring.
The Madonna--the uninstructed Madonna--before the archangel's visit--"
"But, count," said Enrica timidly (his vehemence and strange glances
made her feel very shy), "will you tell me the names of the beautiful
mountains around? I have seen so little--I am so ignorant."
"I will, I will," replied Marescotti, speaking rapidly, his glowing
eyes raising themselves from her face to look out over the distance;
"but, in mercy, grant me a few moments to collect myself. Remember I
am a poet; imagination is my world; the unreal my home; the Muses my
sisters. I live there above, in the golden clouds"--and he turned and
pointed to a crest of glittering vapor sailing across the intense blue
of the sky. Then, with his hand pressed on his brow, he began to pace
rapidly up and down the narrow platform.
The cavaliere and Baldassare were watching him from the farther end of
"He! he!" said Trenta, and he gave a little laugh and nudged
Baldassare. "Do you see the count? He is fairly off. Marescotti is too
poetical for this world. Unpractical, poor fellow--very unpractical.
The fit is on him now. Look at him, Baldassare; see how he stares
about, and clinches his fist. I hope he will not leap over the parapet
in his ecstasy."
"Ha! ha!" responded Baldassare, who with eyes wide open, and hands
thrust into his pockets, leaned back beside Trenta against the wall.
"Ha, ha!--I must laugh," Baldassare whispered into his ear--"I cannot
help it--look how the count's lips are moving. He is in the most
"It's all very fine," rejoined Trenta, "but I wonder he does not
frighten Enrica. There she stands, quite still. I can't see her face,
but she seems to like it. It's all very fine," he repeated, nodding
his white head reflectively. "Republicans, communists, orators, poets,
heretics--all the plagues of hell! Dio buono! give me a little plain
common-sense--plain common-sense, and a paternal government. As to
Marescotti, these new-fangled notions will turn his brain; he'll end
in a mad-house. I don't believe he is quite in his senses at this very
minute. Look! look! What strides he is taking up and down! For the
love of Heaven, my boy, run and fasten the trap-door tight! He
may fall through! He's not safe! I swear it, by all the saints!"
Baldassare, shaking with suppressed laughter, secured the trap-door.
"I must say you are a little hard on the count," Baldassare said.
"Why, he's only composing. I know his way. Trust me, it's a sonnet. He
is composing a sonnet addressed perhaps to the signorina. He admires
her very much."
Trenta smiled, and mentally determined, for the second time, to take
the earliest opportunity of speaking to Count Marescotti before the
ridiculous reports circulating in Lucca reached him.
"Per Bacco!" he replied, "when the count is as old as I am, he
will have learned that quiet is the greatest luxury a man can
enjoy--especially in Italy, where the climate is hot and fevers
How long the count would have continued in the clouds, it is
impossible to say, had he not been suddenly brought down to earth--or,
at least, the earth on the top of the tower--by something that
suddenly struck his gaze.
Enrica, who had strained her eyes in vain to discover some trace of
Nobili in the narrow street below, or in the garden behind his palace,
had now thrown herself on the grass under the overhanging branches of
the glossy bay-trees. These inclosed her as in a bower. Her colorless
face rested upon her hand, her eyes were turned toward the ground,
and her long blond hair fell in a tangled mass below the folds of her
veil, upon her white dress. The count stood transfixed before her.
"Move not, sweet vision!" he cried. "Be ever so! That innocent face
shaded by the classic bay; that white robe rustling with the thrill of
womanly affinities; those fair locks floating like an aureole in the
breeze thy breath has softly perfumed! Rest there enthroned--the world
thy backguard, the sky thy canopy! Stay, let me crown thee!"
As he spoke he hastily plucked some sprays of bay, which he twisted
into a wreath. He approached Enrica, who had remained quite still,
and, kneeling at her feet, placed the wreath upon her head.
"Enrica Guinigi"--the count spoke so softly that neither Trenta nor
Baldassare could catch the words--"there is something in your beauty
too ethereal for this world."
Enrica, covered with blushes, tried to rise, but he held out his hands
imploringly for her to remain.
"Suffer me to speak to you. Yours is a face of one easily moved to
love--to love and to suffer," he added, strange lights coming into his
eyes as he gazed at her.
Enrica listened to him in painful silence; his words sounded
"To love and to suffer; but, loving once"--again the count was
speaking, and his voice enchained her by its sweetness--"to love
forever. Where shall the man be found pure enough to dare to accept
such love as you can bestow? By Heavens!" he added, and his voice fell
to a whisper, and his black eyes seemed to penetrate into her very
soul, "you love already. I read it in the depths of those heavenly
eyes, in the shadow that already darkens that soft brow, in the
dreamy, languid air that robs you of your youth. You love--is it
possible that you love--?"
He stopped before the question was finished--before the name was
uttered. A spasm, as if wrung from him by sharp bodily pain, passed
over his features as he asked this question, never destined to be
answered. No one but Enrica had heard it. An indescribable terror
seized her; from pale she grew deadly white; her eyelids dropped, her
lips trembled. Tears gathered in Marescotti's eyes as he gazed at her,
but he dared not complete the question.
"If you have guessed my secret, do not--oh! do not betray me!"
She said this so faintly that the sound came to him like a whisper
from the rustling bay-leaves.
"Never!" he responded in a low, earnest tone--"never!"
She believed him implicitly. With that look, that voice, who could
"I have cause to suffer," she replied with a sigh, not venturing to
meet his eyes--"to suffer and to wait. But my aunt--"
She said no more; her head fell on her bosom, her arms dropped to her
side, she sighed deeply.
"May I be at hand to shield you!" was his answer.
After this, he, too, was silent. Rising from his knees, he leaned
against the trunk of the bay-tree and contemplated her steadfastly.
There was a strange mixture of passion and of curiosity in his mobile
face. If she would not tell him, could he not rend her secret from
Trenta, seated at the opposite side of the platform, observed them as
they stood side by side, half concealed by the foliage--observed them
with benign satisfaction. It was all as it should be; his mission
would be easy. It was clear they understood each other. He believed at
that very moment Enrica was receiving the confession of Marescotti's
love; the confusion of her looks was conclusive. The cavaliere's whole
endeavor was, at that moment, to keep Baldassare quiet; he rejoiced
to see that he was gently yielding to the influence of the heat, and
nodding at his side.
"Count," said Enrica, looking up and endeavoring to break a silence
which had become painful, "if I have inspired you with any interest--"
"_If_ you have inspired me?" ejaculated Marescotti, reproachfully, not
moving his eyes off her.
"I can hardly believe it," she added; "but, if it be so, speak to me
in the voice of poetry. Tell me your thoughts."
"Yes," exclaimed the count, clasping his hands; "I have been longing
to do so ever since I first saw you. Will you permit it? If so, give
me paper and pencil, that I may write."
Enrica had neither. Rising from the ground, she crossed over to where
Trenta sat, apparently absorbed in the contemplation of the roofs of
his native city. Fortunately, after diving into various pockets, he
found a pencil and the fly-leaf of a letter. Marescotti took them and
retreated to the farther end of the tower; Enrica leaned against the
wall beside the cavaliere.
In a few minutes the count joined them; he returned the pencil with a
bow to the cavaliere. The sonnet was already written on the fly-leaf
of the letter.
"Oh!" cried Enrica, "give me that paper, I know it will tell me my
fate. Give it to me. Count, do not refuse me." Her look, her manner,
was eager--imploring. As the count drew back, she endeavored to seize
the paper from his hand. But Marescotti, holding the paper above
his head, in one moment had crushed it in his fingers, and, rushing
forward, he flung it over the battlements.
"It is not worthy of you!" he exclaimed, with excitement; "it is
worthy neither of you nor of me! No, no," and he leaned over the
tower, and watched the paper as it floated downward in the still air.
"Let it perish."
"Oh! why have you destroyed it?" cried Enrica, greatly distressed.
"That paper would have told me all I want to know. How cruel! how
But there was no help for it. No lamentation could bring the paper
back again. The sonnet was gone. Marescotti had sacrificed the man to
the poet. His artistic sense had conquered.
"Excuse me, dear signorina," he pleaded, "the composition was
imperfect. It was too hurried. With your permission, on my return,
I will address some other verses to you, more appropriate--more
"Ah! they will not be like those. They will not tell me what I want
to know. They cannot come from your very soul like those. The power to
divine is gone from you." Enrica could hardly restrain her tears.
"I am very sorry," answered the count, "but I could not help it; I did
"Indeed, count, you did very wrong," put in the cavaliere; "one
understands you wrote _in furore_--so much the better," and Trenta
gave a sly wink, which was entirely lost on Marescotti. "But time
is getting on. When are we to have that oration on the history and
beauties of Lucca that we came up to hear? Had you not better begin?"
The count was engaged at that moment in plucking a sprig of bay for
himself and for the cavaliere to wear, as he said, "in memoriam." "I
am ready," he replied. "It is a subject that I love."
"Let us begin with the mountains; they are the nearest to God." As
he pronounced that name, the count raised his eyes reverently, and
uncovered his head. Enrica had placed herself on his right hand, but
all interest had died out of her face. She only listened mechanically.
(Yes, the mountains, the glorious mountains! There they were--before,
behind, in front; range upon range--peak upon peak, like breakers on
a restless sea! Mountains of every shade, of every shape, of every
height. Already their mighty tops were flecked with the glow of the
western sunbeams; already pink and purple mists had gathered upon
their sides, filling the valleys with mystery!)
"There," said the count, pointing in the direction of the winding
river Serchio, "is La Panga, the loftiest Apennine in Central Italy.
The peaked summits of those other mountains more to the right are the
marble-bosomed range of Carrara. One might believe them at this time
covered with a mantle of snow, but for the ardent sun, the deep green
of the belting plains, and the luxuriance of the forests. Yonder steep
chestnut-clothed height that terminates the valley opening before us
is Bargilio, a mountain fortress of the Panciatici over the Baths of
Marescotti paused to take breath. Enrica's eyes languidly followed the
direction of his hand. The cavaliere, standing on his other side, was
adjusting his spectacles, the better to distinguish the distance.
"To the south," continued the count, pointing with his finger--"in the
centre of that rich vine-trellised Campagna, lies Pescia, a garden
of luscious fruits. Beyond, nestling in the hollows of the Apennines,
shutting in the plain of that side, is ancient Lombard-walled
Pistoja--the key to the passes of Northern Italy. Farther on, nearer
Florence, rise the heights of Monte Catni, crowned as with a diadem
by a small burgh untouched since the middle ages. Nearer at hand,
glittering like steel in the sunshine, is the lake of Bientina. You
can see its low, marshy shores fringed by beauteous woodlands, but
without a single dwelling."
Enrica, in a fit of abstraction, leaned over the parapet. Her eyes
were riveted upon the city beneath. Marescotti followed her eyes.
"Yes," said he, "there is Lucca;" and as he spoke he glanced
inquiringly at her, and the tones of his clear, melodious voice grew
soft and tender. "Lucca the Industrious, bound within her line of
ancient walls and fortifications. Great names and great deeds are
connected with Lucca. Here, tradition says, Julius Caesar ruled as
proconsul. How often may the sandals of his feet have trod these
narrow streets--his purple robes swept the dust of our piazza! Here he
may have officiated as high-priest at our altars--dictated laws from
our palaces! It was after the conquest of the Nervii (most savage
among the Gaulish tribes) that Julius Caesar is said to have first
come to Lucca. Pompey and Crassus met him here. It was at this
time that Domitius--Caesar's enemy, then a candidate for the
consulship--boasted that he would ruin him. But Caesar, seizing the
opportune moment of his recent victories over the Gauls, and his
meeting with Pompey--formed the bold plan of grasping universal power
by means of his deadliest enemies. These enemies, rather than see the
supreme power vested in each other, united to advance him. The first
triumvirate was the consequence of the meeting. Ages pass by.
The Roman Empire dissolves. Barbarians invade Italy. Lucca is an
independent state--not long to remain so, however, for the Countess
Matilda, daughter of Duke Bonifazio, is born within her walls. At
Lucca Countess Matilda holds her court. By her counsels, assistance,
and the rich legacy of her patrimonial dominions, she founds the
temporal power of the papacy. To Lucca came, in the fifteenth century,
Charles VIII. of France, presumptuous enough to attempt the conquest
of Naples; also that mighty dissembler, Charles V. to meet the
reigning pontiff Paul III. in our cathedral of San Martino. But more
precious far to me than the traditions of the shadowy pomp of defunct
tyrants is the remembrance that Lucca was the Geneva of Italy--that
these streets beneath us resounded to the public teaching of the
Reformation! Such progress, indeed, had the reformers made, that it
was publicly debated in the city council, 'If Lucca should declare
"Per Bacco! a disgraceful fact in our history!" burst out Trenta, a
look of horror in his round blue eyes. "Hide it, hide it, count! For
the love of Heaven! You do not expect me to rejoice at this? Pray,
when you mention it, add that the Protestants were obliged to flee for
their lives, and that Lucca purified itself by abject submission to
the Holy Father."
"Yes; and what came of that?" cried the count, raising his voice,
a sudden flush of anger mounting over his face. "The Church--your
Catholic and Apostolic Church--established the Inquisition. The
Inquisition condemned to the flames the greatest prophet and teacher
since the apostles--Savonarola!"
Trenta, knowing how deeply Marescotti's feelings were engaged in
the subject of Savonarola, was too courteous to desire any further
discussion. But at the same time he was determined, if possible, to
hear no more of what was to him neither more nor less than blasphemy.
"Do you know how long we have been up here, count?" he asked, taking
out his watch. "Enrica must return. I hope you won't detain us," he
said, with a pitiful look at the count, who seemed preparing for
an oration in honor of the mediaeval martyr. "I have already got
a violent rheumatism in my shoulder.--Here, Baldassare, open the
trap-door, and let us go down.--Where is Baldassare?--Baldassare!
Where are you, imbecile? Baldassare, I say! Why, diamine! Where can
the boy be? He's not been privately practising his last new step
behind the bay-trees, and taken a false one over the parapet?"
The small space was easily searched. Baldassare was discovered
sketched at full length and fast asleep under a bench on the other
side of the bay-trees.
"Ah, wretch!" grumbled the old chamberlain, "if you sleep like this
you will outlive me, who mean to flourish for the next hundred
years. He's always asleep, except when dancing," he added indignantly
appealing to Marescotti. "Look at him. There's beauty without
expression. Doesn't he inspire you? Endymion who has overslept himself
and missed Diana--Narcissus overcome by the sight of his own beauty."
After being called, pushed, and pinched, by the cavaliere, Baldassare
at last opened his eyes in great bewilderment--stretched himself,
yawned, then, suddenly clapping his hand to his side, looked fiercely
at Trenta. Trenta was shaking with laughter.
"Mille diavoli!" cried Baldassare, rubbing himself vigorously, "how
dare you pinch me so, cavaliere? I shall be black and blue. Why should
not I sleep? Nobody spoke to me."
"I fear you have heard little of the history of Lucca," said the
"Dio buono! what is history to me? I hate it!--I-tell you what,
cavaliere, you have hurt me very much." And Baldassare passed his hand
carefully down his side. "The next time I go to sleep in your company,
I'll trouble you to keep your fingers to yourself. You have rapped me
like a drum."
Trenta watched the various phases of Baldassare's wrath with the
greatest amusement. The descent having been safely accomplished, the
whole party landed in the street. Count Marescotti, who came last,
advanced to take leave of Enrica. At this moment an olive-skinned,
black-eyed girl rose out of the shadow of a neighboring wall, and,
lowering a basket from her head, filled with fruit--tawny figs, ruddy
peaches, purple grapes, and russet-skinned medlars, shielded from
the heat by a covering of freshly-picked vine-leaves--offered it to
Enrica. Our Adonis, still sulky and sore from the pinches inflicted by
the mischievous fingers of the cavaliere, waved the girl rudely away.
"Fruit! Che! Begone! our servants have better. Such fruit as that is
not good enough for us; it is full of worms."
The girl looked up at him timidly, tears gathered in her dark eyes.
"It is for my mother," she answered, humbly; "she is ill."
As she bent her head to replace the basket, Marescotti, who had
listened to Baldassare with evident disgust, raised the basket in his
arms, and with the utmost care poised it on the coil of her dark hair.
"Beautiful peasant," he said, "I salute you. This is for your mother,"
and he placed some notes in her hand.
The girl thanked him, coloring as red as the peaches in her basket,
then, hastily turning the corner of the street, disappeared.
"A perfect Pomona! I make a point of honoring beauty whenever I find
it," exclaimed the count, looking after her. He cast a reproving
glance at Baldassare, who stood with his eyes wide open. "The Greeks
worshiped beauty--I agree with them. Beauty is divine. What say you?
Were not the Greeks right?"
The words were addressed to Baldassare--the sense and the direction of
his eyes pointed to Enrica.
"Yes; beauty," replied Baldassare, smoothing his glossy mustache, and
trying to look very wise (he was not in the least conscious of the
covert rebuke administered by Marescotti)--"beauty is very refreshing,
but I must say I prefer it in the upper classes. For my part, I like
beauty that can dance--wooden shoes are not to my taste."
"Ah! canaglia!" muttered the cavaliere, "there is no teaching you. You
will never be a gentleman."
Baldassare was dumbfounded. He had not a word to reply.
"Count"--and the old chamberlain, utterly disregarding the dismay of
poor Adonis, who never clearly understood what he had done to deserve
such severity, now addressed himself to Marescotti--"will you be
visible to-morrow after breakfast? If so, I shall have the honor of
calling on you."
"With pleasure," was the count's reply.
Enrica stood apart. She had not spoken one word since the
disappearance of the sonnet--that sonnet which would have told her
of her future; for had not Marescotti, by some occult power, read
her secret? Alas! too, was she not about to reenter her gloomy home
without catching so much as a glimpse of Nobili? Count Marescotti had
no opportunity of saying a word to Enrica that was not audible to all.
He did venture to ask her if she would be present next evening, if
he joined the marchesa's rubber? Before she could reply, Trenta had
hastily answered for her, that "he would settle all that with the
count when they met in the morning." So, standing in the street,
they parted. Count Marescotti sought in vain for one last glance from
Enrica. When he turned round to look for Baldassare, Baldassare had
When Nobili rushed home through the dark streets from the Countess
Orsetti's ball, he shut himself up in his own particular room, threw
himself on a divan, and tried to collect his thoughts. At first he was
only conscious of one overwhelming feeling--a feeling of intense joy
that Nera Boccarina was alive. The unspeakable horror he had felt, as
she lay stretched out on the floor before him, had stupefied him. If
she had died?--As the horrible question rose up within him, his blood
froze in his veins. But she was not dead--nay, if the report of Madame
Orsetti was to be trusted, she was in no danger of dying.
"Thank God!--thank God!" Then, as the quiet of the night and the
solitude of his own room gradually restored his scattered senses,
Nobili recalled her, not only in the moment of danger, as she lay
death-like, motionless, but as she stood before him lit up by the
rosy shadow of the silken curtains. Was it an enchantment? Had he
been under a spell? Was Nera fiend or angel? As he asked himself these
questions, again her wondrous eyes shone upon him like stars; again
the rhythm of that fatal waltz struck upon his ears soft and liquid
as the fall of oars upon the smooth bosom of an inland lake, bathed in
the mellow light of sunset.
What had he done? He had kissed her--her lips had clung to his; her
fingers had linked themselves in his grasp; her eyes--ah!--those eyes
had told him that she loved him. Loved him!--why not?
And Enrica!--the thought of Enrica pierced through him like the stab
of a knife. Nobili sprang to his feet, pressed both hands to his
bosom, then sank down again, utterly bewildered. Enrica!--He had
forgotten her! He, Nobili, was it possible? Forgotten her!--A pale
plaintive face rose up before him, with soft, pleading eyes. There was
the little head, with its tangled meshes of yellow curls, the slight
girlish figure, the little feet. "Enrica! my Enrica!" he cried aloud,
so palpable did her presence seem--"I love you, I love you only!"
He dashed, as it were, Nera's image from him. She had tempted
him--tempted him with all the fullness of her beauty, tempted him--and
he had yielded! On a sudden it came over him. Yes, she had tempted
him. She had followed him--pursued him rather. Wherever he went, there
Nera was before him. He recalled it all. And how he had avoided her
with the avoidance of an instinct! He clinched his fists as he thought
of it. What devil had possessed him to fall headlong into the snare?
What was Nera--or any other woman--to him now? If he had been obliged
to dance with her, why had he yielded to her?
"I will never speak to her again," was his instant resolve. But the
next moment he remembered that he had been indirectly the cause of an
accident which might have been fatal. He must see her once more if
she were visible--or, if not, he must see her mother. Common humanity
demanded this. Then he would set eyes on her no more. He had almost
come to hate her, for the spell she had thrown over him.
But for Enrica he would have left Lucca altogether for a time. What
had passed that evening would be the subject of general gossip. He
remembered with shame--and as he did so the blood rushed over his face
and brow--how openly he had displayed his admiration. He remembered
the hot glances he had cast upon Nera. He remembered how he had leaned
entranced over her chair; how he had pressed her to him in the fury of
that wild waltz, her white arms entwined round him--the fragrance
of the red roses she wore in her hair mounting to his brain! At the
moment he had been too much entranced to observe what was passing
about him. Now he recalled glances and muttered words. The savage
look Ruspoli had cast on him, when he led her up to him in one of the
figures of the cotillon; how Malatesta had grinned at him--how Orsetti
had whispered "Bravo!" in his ear. Might not some rumor of all this
reach Enrica?--through Trenta, perhaps, or that chattering fool,
Baldassare? If they spoke of the accident, they would surely connect
his name with that of Nera. Would they say he was in love with her? He
grew cold as he thought of it.
Neither could Nobili conceal from himself how probable it was that
the Marchesa Guinigi should come to some knowledge of his clandestine
interviews with her niece. It had been necessary to trust many
persons. Spite of heavy bribes, one of these might at any moment
betray them. He might be followed and watched, spite of his
precautions. Their letters might be intercepted. Should any thing
happen, what a situation for Enrica! She was too trusting and too
inexperienced fully to appreciate the danger; but Nobili understood
it, and trembled for her. Something must, he felt, be done at once.
Enrica must be prepared for any thing that might happen. He must write
to her--write this very night to her.
And then came the question--what should he say to her? Then Nobili
felt, and felt keenly, how much he had compromised himself. Hitherto
his love for Enrica, and Enrica's love for him, had been so full, so
entire, that every thought was hers. Now there was a name he must hide
from her, an hour of his life she must never know.
Nobili rose from the divan on which he had been lying, lighted some
candles, and, sitting down at a table, took a pen in his hand. But the
pen did not help him. He tore it between his teeth, he leaned his head
upon his hand, he stared at the blank paper before him. What should
he say to her? was the question he asked himself. After all, should
he confess all his weakness, and implore her forgiveness? or should he
take the chance of her hearing nothing?
After much thought and many struggles with his pen, he decided he
would say nothing. But write he would; write he must. Full of remorse
for what had passed, he longed to assure her of his love. He yearned
to cast himself for pardon at her feet; to feast his eyes upon the
sweetness of her fair face; to fill his ears with the sound of her
soft voice; to watch her heavenly eyes gathering upon him with the
gleam of incipient passion.
How pure she was! How peerless, how different from all other women!
How different from Nera! dark-eyed, flashing, tempting Nera!--Nera, so
sensual in her ripe and dazzling beauty. At that moment of remorse and
repentance he would have likened her to an alluring fiend, Enrica to
an angel! Yes, he would write; he would say something decisive. This
point settled, Nobili put down the pen, struck a match, and lit a
cigar. A cigar would calm him, and help him to think.
His position, even as he understood it, was sufficiently difficult.
How much more, had he known all that lay behind! He had entered life a
mere boy at his father's death, with some true friends; his wealth
had created him a host of followers. His frank, loyal disposition, his
generosity, his lavish hospitality, his winning manners, had insured
him general popularity. Not one, even of those who envied him, could
deny that he was the best fellow in Lucca. Women adored him, or said
so, which came to the same thing, for he believed them. Many had
proved, with more than words, that they did so. In a word, he had been
_feted_, followed, and caressed, as long as he could remember. Now the
incense of flattery floating continually in the air which he breathed
had done its work. He was not actually spoiled but he had grown
arrogant; vain of his person and of his wealth. He was vain, but not
yet frivolous; he was insolent, but not yet heartless. At his age,
impressions come from without, rather than from within. Nobili was
extremely impressionable; he also, as has been seen, wanted resolution
to resist temptation. As yet, he had not developed the firmness and
steadfastness that really belonged to his character.
But spite of foibles, spite of weakness--foibles and weakness were
but part of the young blood within him--Nobili possessed, especially
toward women, that rare union of courage, tenderness, and fortitude,
we call chivalry; he forgot himself in others. He did this as the most
natural thing in the world--he did it because he could not help it.
He was capable of doing a great wrong--he was also capable of a great
repentance. His great wealth had hitherto enabled him to indulge every
fancy. With this power of wealth, unknown almost to himself, a spirit
of conquest had grown upon him. He resolved to overcome whatever
opposed itself to him. Nobili was constantly assured by those ready
flatterers who lived upon him--those toadies who, like a mildew,
dim and deface the virtues of the rich--that "he could do what he
With the presumption of youth he believed this, and he acted on it,
especially in regard to women. He was of an age and temperament to
feel his pulse quicken at the sight of every pretty woman he met, even
if he should meet a dozen in the day. Until lately, however, he had
cared for no one. He had trifled, dangled, ogled. He had plucked the
fair fruit where it hung freely on the branch, and he had turned away
heart-whole. He knew that there was not a young lady in Lucca who
would not accept him as her suitor--joyfully accept him, if he
asked her. Not a father, let his name be as old as the Crusades, his
escutcheon decorated with "the golden rose," or the heraldic ermine of
the emperors, who would not welcome him as a son-in-law.
The Marchesa Guinigi alone had persistently repulsed him. He had heard
and laughed at the outrageous words she had spoken. He knew what a
struggle it had cost her to sell the second Guinigi Palace at all. He
knew that of all men she had least desired to sell it to him. For that
special reason he had resolved to possess it. He had bought it, so to
say, in spite of her, at the price of gold.
Yet, although Nobili laughed with his friends at the marchesa's
outrageous words, in reality they greatly nettled him. By constant
repetition they came even to rankle. At last he grew--unconfessed, of
course--so aggravated by them that a secret longing for revenge rose
up within him. She had thrown down the gauntlet, why should he not
pick it up? The marchesa, he knew, had a niece, why should he not
marry the niece, in defiance of the aunt?
No sooner was this idea conceived than he determined, if he married at
all (marriage to a young man leading his dissipated life is a serious
step), that, of all living women, the marchesa's niece should be his
wife. All this time he had never seen Enrica. Yes, he would marry the
niece, to spite the marchesa. Marry--she, the marchesa, should see
a Guinigi head his board; a Guinigi seated at his hearth; worse than
all, a Guinigi mother of his children!
All this he kept closely locked within his own breast. As the marchesa
had intimated to him, at the time he bought the palace, that she would
never permit him to cross her threshold, he was debarred from taking
the usual social steps to accomplish his resolve. Not that he in the
least desired to see her, save for that overbearing disposition which
impelled him to combat all opposition. With great difficulty, and
after having expended various sums in bribes among the ill-paid
servants of the marchesa, he had learned the habits of her household.
Enrica, he found, had a servant, formerly her nurse, who never left
her. Teresa, this servant, was cautiously approached. She was informed
that Count Nobili was distractedly in love with the signorina, and
addressed himself to her for help. Teresa, ignorant, well-meaning,
and brimming over with that mere animal fondness for her foster-child
uneducated women share with brute creatures, was proud of becoming the
medium of what she considered an advantageous marriage for Enrica. The
secluded life she led, the selfish indifference with which her aunt
treated her, had long moved Teresa's passionate southern nature to a
high pitch of indignation. Up to this time no man had been permitted
to enter Casa Guinigi, save those who formed the marchesa's
"How, then," reasoned Teresa, shrewdly, "was the signorina to marry at
all? Surely it was right to help her to a husband. Here was one, rich,
handsome, and devoted, one who would give the eyes out of his head for
the signorina." Was such an opportunity to be lost? Certainly not.
So Teresa took Nobili's bribes (bribes are as common in Italy as in
the East), putting them to fructify in the National Bank with an easy
conscience. Was she not emancipating her foster-child from that old
devil, her aunt? Had she not seen Nobili himself when he sent for
her?--seen him, face to face, inside his palace glittering like
paradise? And had he not given her his word, with his hand upon his
heart (also given her a pair of solid gold ear-rings, which she wore
on Sundays), that to marry Enrica was the one hope of his life? Seeing
all this, Teresa was, as I have said, perfectly satisfied.
When Nobili had done all this, impelled by mixed feelings of wounded
pride, obstinacy, and defiance, he had never, let it be noted, seen
Enrica. But after a meeting had been arranged by Teresa one morning at
early mass in the cathedral, near a dark and unfrequented altar in the
transept--an arrangement, be it observed, unknown to Enrica--all his
feelings changed. From the moment he saw her he loved her with all
the fervor of his ardent nature; from that moment he knew that he had
never loved before. The mystery of their stolen meetings, the sweet
flavor of this forbidden fruit--and what man does not love forbidden
fruit better than labeled pleasures?--the innocent frankness with
which Enrica confessed her love, her unbounded faith in him--all
served to heighten his passion. He gloried--he reveled in her
confidence. Never, never, he swore a thousand times, should she have
cause to repent it. In the possession of Enrica's love, all other
desires, aims, ambitions, had--up to the night of the Orsetti
ball--vanished. Up to that night, for her sake, he had grown solitary,
silent--nay, even patient and subtle. He had clean forgotten his
feud with the Marchesa Guinigi, or only remembered it as a possible
obstacle to his union with Enrica; otherwise the marchesa was
absolutely indifferent to him. Up to the night of the Orsetti ball the
whole world was indifferent to him. But now!--
Nobili, sitting very still, his face shaded by his hand, had finished
his cigar. While smoking it he had decided what he would say to
Enrica. Again he took up his pen. This time he dropped it in the ink,
and wrote as follows:
AMORE: I have treasured all the love you gave me when last we met.
I know that love witnesses for me also in your own heart. Beyond all
earthly things you are dear to me. Come to me, O my Enrica--come to
me; never let us part. I must have you, you only. I must gaze upon
you hour by hour; I must hang upon that dear voice. I must feel that
angel-presence ever beside me. When will you meet me? I implore you to
answer. After our next meeting I am resolved to claim you, by force
or by free-will, to be my wife. To wait longer, O my Enrica, is
good neither for you nor for me. My love! my love! you must be
mine--mine--mine! Come to me--come quickly. Your adoring.
NUMBER FOUR AT THE UNIVERSO HOTEL.
Cesare Trenta is dressed with unusual care. His linen is spotless;
his white hair, as fine as silk, is carefully combed; his chin is well
shaven. He wears a glossy white hat, and carries his gold-headed cane
in his hand. Not that he condescends to use that cane as he mounts the
marble staircase of the Universo Hotel (once the Palazzo Buffero)
a little stiffly, on his way to keep his appointment with Count
Marescotti; oh, no--although the cavaliere is well past eighty, he
intends to live much longer; he reserves that cane, therefore, to
assist him in his old age. Now he does not want it.
It is quite clear that Trenta is come on a mission of great
importance; his sleek air, and the solemnly official expression of
his plump rosy face, say so. His glassy blue eyes are without their
pleasant twinkle, and his lips, tightly drawn over his teeth, lack
their usual benignant smile. Even his fat white hand dimples itself
on the top of his cane, so tightly does he clutch it. He has learned
below that Count Marescotti lives at No. 4 on the second story; at
the door of No. 4 he raps softly. A voice from within asks, "Who is
"I," replies Trenta, and he enters.
The count, who is seated at a table near the window, rises. His tall
figure is enveloped in a dark dressing-gown, that folds about him like
a toga. He has all the aspect of a man roused out of deep thought;
his black hair stands straight up in disordered curls all over his
head--he had evidently been digging both his hands into it--his eyes
are wild and abstracted. Taken as he is now, unawares, that expression
of mingled sternness and sweetness in which he so much resembles
Castruccio Castracani is very striking. From the manner he fixes his
eyes upon Trenta it is clear he does not at once recognize him. The
cavaliere returns his stare with a look of blank dismay.
"Oh, carissimo!" the count exclaims at last, his countenance changing
to its usual expression--he holds out both hands to grasp those of
the cavaliere--"how I rejoice to see you! Excuse my absence; I had
forgotten our appointment at the moment. That book"--and he points to
an open volume lying on a table covered with letters, manuscripts, and
piles of printed sheets tossed together in wild confusion--"that book
must plead my excuse; it has riveted me. The wrongs of persecuted
Italy are so eloquently pleaded! Have you read it, my dear cavaliere?
If not, allow me to present you with a copy."
Trenta made a motion with his hand, as if putting both the book and
the subject from him with a certain disgust: he shakes his head.
"I have not read it, and I do not wish to read it," he replies,
The poor cavaliere feels that this is a bad beginning; but he quickly
consoles himself--he was of a hopeful temperament, and saw life
serenely and altogether in rose-color--by remembering that the count
is habitually absent, also that he habitually uses strong language,
and that he had probably not been so absorbed by the wrongs of Italy
as he pretends.
"I fear you have forgotten our appointment, count," recommences the
cavaliere, finding that Marescotti is silent, and that his eyes have
wandered off to the pages of the open book.
"Not at all, not at all, my dear Trenta. On the contrary, had you not
come, I was about to send for you. I have a very important matter to
communicate to you."
The cavaliere's face now breaks out all over into smiles. "Send for
me," he repeats to himself. "Good, good! I understand." He seats
himself with great deliberation in a large, well-stuffed arm-chair,
near the table, at which Marescotti still continues standing. He
places his cane across his knees, folds his hands together, then looks
up in the other's face.
"Yes, yes, my dear count," he answers aloud, "we have much to say to
each other--much to say on a most interesting subject." And he gives
the count what he intends to be a very meaning glance.
"Interesting!" exclaims the count, his whole countenance lighting
up--"enthralling, overwhelming!--a matter to me of life or death!"
As he speaks he turns aside, and begins to stride up and down the
room, as was his wont when much moved.
"He! he! my dear count, pray be calm." And Trenta gives a little
laugh, and feebly winks. "We hope it is a matter of _life_, not of
_death_--no--not of _death_, surely."
"Of death," replied the count, solemnly, and his mobile eyes flash
out, and a dark frown gathers on his brow--"of death, I repeat. Do you
take me for a trifler? I stake my life on the die."
Trenta felt considerably puzzled. Before he begins, he is anxious to
assure himself that the nature of his errand had at least distinctly
dawned upon the count's mind, if it had not (as he hoped) been fully
understood by him. Should he let Marescotti speak first; or should he,
Trenta, address him formally? In order to decide, he again scans the
count's face closely. But, after doing so, he is obliged to confess
that Marescotti is impenetrable. Now he no longer strode up and down
the room, but he has seated himself opposite the cavaliere, and again
his speaking eyes have wandered off toward the book which he has
been reading. It is evident he is mentally resuming the same train of
thought Trenta's entrance had interrupted. Trenta feels therefore that
he must begin. He has prepared himself for some transcendentalism
on the subject of marriage; but with a man who is so much in love as
Count Marescotti, and who was about to send for him and to tell him
so, there can be no great difficulty; nor can it matter much who opens
the conversation. The cavaliere takes a spotless handkerchief from his
pocket, uses it, replaces it, then coughs.
"Count," he begins, in a tone of conscious importance, "when I
proposed this meeting, it was to make you a proposal calculated to
exercise the utmost influence over your future life, and--the life of
another," he adds, in a lower tone. "You appear to have anticipated me
by desiring to send for me. You are, of course, aware of my errand?"
As he asks this question, there is, spite of himself, a slight tremor
in his voice, and the usual ruddiness of his cheeks pales a little.
"How very mysterious!" exclaims the count, throwing himself back in
his chair. "You look like a benevolent conspirator, cavaliere! Surely,
my dear old friend, you are not about to change your opinions, and to
become a disciple of freedom?"
"Change my opinions! At my age, count!--Che, che!"--Trenta waves his
hand impatiently. "When a man arrives at my age, he does not change
his opinions--no, count, no; it is, if you will permit me to say so,
it is yourself in whom the change is to be wrought--yourself only--"
The count, who is still leaning back in his chair in an attitude of
polite attention, starts violently, sits straight upright, and fixes
his eyes upon Trenta.
"What do you mean, cavaliere? After a life devoted to my country, you
cannot imagine I should change? The very idea is offensive to me."
"No, no, my dear count, you misapprehend me," rejoins Trenta,
soothingly. (He perceived the mistake into which the word "change"
had led Count Marescotti, and dreaded exciting his too susceptible
feelings.) "It is no change of that kind I allude to; the change I
mean is in the nature of a reward for the life of sacrifice you have
led--a reward, a consolation to your fervid spirit. It is to bring
you into an atmosphere of peace, happiness, and love. To reconcile you
perhaps, as a son, erring, but repentant, with that Holy Mother Church
to which you still belong. This is the change I am come to offer you."
As the cavaliere proceeds, the count's expressive eyes follow every
word he utters with a look of amazement. He is about to reply, but
Trenta places his finger on his lips.
"Let me continue," he says, smiling blandly. "When I have done, you
shall answer. In one word, count, it is marriage I am come to propose
The count suddenly rises from his seat, then he hurriedly reseats
himself. A look of pain comes into his face.
"Permit me to proceed," urges the cavaliere, watching him anxiously.
"I presume you mean to marry?"
Marescotti was silent. Trenta's naturally piping voice grows shriller
as he proceeds, from a certain sense of agitation.
"As the common friend of both parties, I am come to propose a marriage
to you, Count Marescotti."
"And who may the lady be?" asks the count, drawing back with a sudden
air of reserve. "Who is it that would consent to leave home and
friends, perhaps country, to share the lot of a fugitive patriot?"
"Come, come, count, this will not do," answers Trenta, smiling, a
certain twinkle returning to his blue eyes. "You are a perfectly free
agent. If you are a fugitive, it is because you like change. You bear
a great name--you are rich, singularly handsome--an ardent admirer of
beauty in art and Nature. Now, ardor on one side excites ardor on the
While he is speaking, Trenta had mentally decided that Marescotti
was the most impracticable man he had ever encountered in the various
phases of his court career.
"A fugitive," he repeats, almost with a sneer. "No, no, count, this
will not do with me." The cavaliere pauses and clears his throat.
"You have not yet answered me," says the count, speaking low, a
certain suppressed eagerness penetrating the assumed indifference of
his manner. "Who is the lady?"
"Who is the lady?" echoes the cavaliere. "Did you not tell me just
now you were about to send for me?" Trenta speaks fast, a flush
overspreads his cheeks. "Who is the lady?--You astonish me! Per Bacco!
There can be but one lady in question between you and me--that lady is
Enrica Guinigi." His voice drops. There is a dead silence.
"That the marriage is suitable in all respects," Trenta continues,
reassured by the silence--"I need not tell you; else I, Cesare Trenta,
would not be here as the ambassador."
Again the stout little cavaliere stops to take breath, under evident
agitation; then he draws himself up, and turns his face toward the
count. As Trenta proceeds, Marescotti's brow is overclouded with
thought--a haggard expression now spreads over his features. His eyes
are turned downward on the floor, else the cavaliere might have
seen that their brilliancy is dimmed by rising tears. With his elbow
resting on the arm of the chair on which he sits, the count passes his
other hand from time to time slowly to and fro across his forehead,
pushing back the disordered curls that fall upon it.
"To restore and to continue an illustrious race--to unite yourself
with a lovely girl just bursting into womanhood." Trenta's voice
quivers as he says this. "Ah! lovely indeed, in mind as well as body,"
he adds, half aloud. "This is a privilege you, Count Marescotti, can
appreciate above all other men. That you do appreciate it you have
already made evident. There is no need for me to speak about Enrica
herself; you have already judged her. You have, before my eyes,
approached her with the looks and the language of passionate
admiration. It is not given to all men to be so fascinating. I have
seen it with delight. I love her"--his voice broke and shook with
emotion--"I love her as if she were my own child."
All the enthusiasm of which the old chamberlain is capable passes into
his face as he speaks of Enrica. At that moment he really did look as
young as he was continually telling every one that he felt.
"Count Marescotti," he continues, a solemn tone in his voice as he
slowly pronounces the words, raising his head at the same time, and
gazing fixedly into the other's face--Count Marescotti, "I am come
here to propose a marriage between you and Enrica Guinigi. The
marchesa empowers me to say that she constitutes Enrica her sole
heiress, not only of the great Guinigi name, but of the remaining
Guinigi palace, with the portrait of our Castruccio, the heirlooms,
the castle of Corellia, and lands of--"
"Stop, stop, my dear Trenta!" cries the count, holding up both
his hands in remonstrance; "you overwhelm me. I require no such
inducements; they horrify me. Enrica Guinigi is sufficient in
herself--so bright a jewel requires no golden settings."
At these words the cavaliere beams all over. He rubs his fat hands
together, then gently claps them.
"Bravo!--bravo, count! I see you appreciate her. Per Dio! you make me
feel young again! I never was so happy in my life! I should like
to dance! I will dance by-and-by at the wedding. We will open the
state-rooms. There is not a grander suite in all Italy. It is superb.
I will dance a quadrille with the marchesa. Bagatella! I shall insist
on it. I will execute a solo in the figure of the _pastorelle_. I will
show Baldassare and all the young men the finish of the old style.
People did steps then--they did not jump like wild horses--nor knock
each other down. No--then dancing was practised as a fine art."
Suddenly the brisk old cavaliere stops. The expression of Marescotti's
large, earnest eyes, fixed on him wonderingly, recalls him to himself.
"Excuse me, my dear friend; when you are my age, you will better
understand an old man's feelings. We are losing time. Now get your
hat, and come with me at once to Casa Guinigi; the marchesa expects
you. We will settle the day of the betrothal.--My sweet Enrica, how I
long to see you!"
While he is speaking Trenta rises and strikes his cane on the ground
with a triumphant air; then he holds out both his hands toward the
"Shake hands with me, my dear Marescotti. I congratulate you--with my
whole soul I congratulate you! She will be your salvation, the dear,
blue-eyed little angel?"
In the tumult of his excitement Trenta had taken every thing for
granted. His thoughts had flown off to Enrica. His benevolent
heart throbbed with joy at the thought of her emancipation from
the thralldom of her home. A vision of the dark-haired, pale-faced
Marescotti, and the little blond head, with its shower of golden
curls, kneeling together before the altar in the sunshine, danced
before his eyes. Marescotti would become a, Christian--a firm pillar
of the Church; he would rear up children who would worship God and the
Holy Father; he would restore the glory of the Guinigi!
From this roseate dream the poor cavaliere was abruptly roused. His
outstretched hand had not been taken by Marescotti. It dropped to
his side. Trenta looked up sharply. His countenance suddenly fell; a
purple flush covered it from chin to forehead, penetrating even the
very roots of his snowy hair. His cane dropped with a loud thud, and
rolled away along the uncarpeted floor. He thrust both his hands into
his pockets, and stood motionless, with his eyes wide open, like a man
"Dio buono!--Dio buono!" he muttered, "the man is mad!--the man is
mad!" Then, after a few minutes of absolute silence, he asked, in a
husky voice, "Marescotti, what does this mean?"
The count had turned away toward the window. At the sound of the
cavaliere's husky voice, he moved and faced him. In the space of a
few moments he had greatly changed. Suddenly he had grown worn and
weary-looking. His eyes were sunk into his head; dark circles had
formed round them. His bloodless cheeks, transparent with the pallor
of perfect health, were blanched; the corners of his mouth worked
"Does the lady--does Enrica Guinigi know of this proposal?" he asked,
in a voice so sad that the cavaliere's indignation against him cooled
"Good God!" exclaimed Trenta, "such a question is an insult to me and
to my errand. Can you imagine that I, all my life chamberlain to his
highness the Duke of Lucca, am capable of compromising a lady?"
"Thank God!" ejaculated the count, emphatically, clasping his hands
together, and raising his eyes--"thank God! Forgive me for asking."
His whole voice and manner had changed as rapidly as his aspect. There
was a sense of suffering, a quiet resignation about him, so utterly
unlike his usual excitable manner that Trenta was puzzled beyond
expression--so puzzled, indeed, that he was speechless. Besides, a
veteran in etiquette, he felt that it was to himself an explanation
was due. Marescotti had been about to send for him. Now he was there,
Marescotti had heard his proposal, it was for Marescotti to answer.
That the count felt this also was apparent. There was something solemn
in his manner as he turned away from the window and slowly advanced
toward the cavaliere. Trenta was still standing immovable on the same
spot where he had muttered in the first moment of amazement, "He is
"My dear old friend," said the count, speaking with evident effort in
a dull, sad voice, "there is some mistake. It was not to speak about
any lady that I was about to send for you."
"Not about a lady!" cried Trenta, aghast. "Mercy of God!--"
"Let that pass," interrupted the count, waving his hand. "You have
asked me for an explanation--an explanation you shall have." He sighed
deeply, then proceeded--the cavaliere following every word he uttered
with open mouth and wildly-staring eyes: "Of the lady I can say no
more than that, on my honor as a gentleman, to me she approaches
nearer the divine than any woman I have ever seen--nay, than any woman
I have ever dreamed of."
A flash of fire lit up the depths of the count's dark eyes, and there
was a tone of melting tenderness in his rich voice as he spoke of
Enrica. Then he relapsed into his former weary manner--the manner of a
man pronouncing his own death-warrant.
"Of the unspeakable honor you have done me, as has also the excellent
Marchesa Guinigi--it does not become me to speak. Believe me, I feel
it profoundly." And the count laid his hand upon his heart and bent
his grand head. Trenta, with formal politeness, returned the silent
"But"--and here the count's voice faltered, and there was a dimness
in his eyes, round which the black circles had deepened--"but it is an
honor I must decline."
Trenta, still rooted to the same spot, listened to each word that fell
from the count's lips with a look of anguish.
"Sit down, cavaliere--sit down," continued Marescotti, seeing his
distress. He put his arm round Trenta's burly, well-filled figure,
and drew him down gently into the depths of the arm-chair. "Listen,
cavaliere--listen to what I have to say before you altogether condemn
me. The sacrifice I am making costs me more than I can express. You
hold before my eyes what is to me more precious than life; you tempt
me with what every sense within me--heart, soul, manliness--urges me
to clutch; yet I dare not accept it."
He paused; so profound a sigh escaped him that it almost formed itself
into a groan.
"I don't understand all this," said Trenta, reddening with
indignation. He had been by degrees collecting his scattered senses.
"I don't understand it at all. You have, count, placed me in a most
awkward position; I feel it very much. You speak of a mistake--a
misapprehension. I beg to say there has been none on my part; I am
not in the habit of making mistakes."--It will be seen that the
cavaliere's temper was rising with the sense of the intolerable injury
Count Marescotti was inflicting on himself and all concerned.--"I have
undertaken a very serious responsibility; I have failed, you tell me.
What am I to say to the marchesa?"
His shrill voice rose into an angry cry. Altogether, it was more than
he could bear. For a moment, the injury to Enrica was forgotten in his
own personal sense of wrong. It was too galling to fail in an official
embassy Trenta, who always acted upon mature reflection, abhorred
"Tell her," answered the count, raising his voice, his eyes kindling
as he spoke--"tell her I am here in Lucca on a sacred mission. I
confide it to her honor. A man sworn to a mission cannot marry. As in
the kingdom of heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage,
so I, the anointed priest of the people, dare not marry; it would be
sacrilege." His powerful voice rang through the room; he raised his
hands aloft, as if invoking some unseen power to whom he belonged.
"When you, cavaliere, entered this room, I was about to confide my
position to you. I am at Lucca--Lucca, once the foster-mother of
progress, and, I pray Heaven, to become so again!--I am at Lucca to
found a mission of freedom." A sudden gesture told him how much Trenta
was taken aback at this announcement. "We differ in our opinions as
widely as the poles," continued the count, warming to his subject,
"but you are my old friend--I felt you would not betray me. Now, after
what has passed, as a man of honor, I am bound to confide in you.
O Italy! my country!" exclaimed the count, clasping his hands, and
throwing back his head in a frenzy of enthusiasm, "what sacrifice is
too great for thee? Youth, hope, love--nay, life itself--all--all I
devote to thee!"
As he was speaking, a ray of sunlight penetrated through the closed
windows. It struck like a fiery arrow across the darkened room, and
fell full upon the count's upturned face, lighting up every line of
his noble countenance. There was a solemn passion in his eyes, a rapt
fervor in his gaze, that silenced even the justly-irritated Trenta.
Nevertheless the cavaliere was not a man to be put off by mere words,
however imposing they might be. He returned, therefore, to the charge
"You speak of a mission, Count Marescotti; what is the nature of this
mission? Nothing political, I hope?"
He stopped abruptly. The count's eyelids dropped over his eyes as he
met Trenta's inquiring glance. Then he bowed his head in acquiescence.
"Another revolution may do much for Italy," he answered, in a low
"For the love of God," ejaculated Trenta, stung to the quick by what
he looked upon at that particular moment as in itself an aggravation
of his wrongs, "don't remind me of your politics, or I shall instantly
leave the room. Domine Dio! it is too much. You have just escaped by
the veriest good luck (good luck, by-the-way, you did not in the least
deserve) a life-long imprisonment at Rome. You had a mission there,
too, I believe."
This was spoken in as bitter a sneer as the cavaliere's kindly nature
"Now pray be satisfied. If you and I are not to part this very
instant, don't let me realize you as the 'Red count.' That is a
character I cannot tolerate."
Trenta, so seldom roused to anger, shook all over with rage. "I
believe sincerely that it is such so-called patriots as yourself, with
their devilish missions, that will ruin us all."
"It is because you are ignorant of the grandeur of our cause, it is
because you do not understand our principles, that you misjudge us,"
responded the count, raising his eyes upon Trenta, and speaking with
a lofty disregard of his hot words. "Permit me to unfold to you
something of our philosophy, a philosophy which will resuscitate our
country, and place her again in her ancient position, as intellectual
monitress of Europe. You must not, cavaliere, judge either of my
mission or of my creed by the yelping of the miserable curs that
dog the heels of all great enterprises. There is the penetralia, the
esoteric belief, in all great systems of national belief."
The count spoke with emphasis, yet in grave and measured accents; but
his lustrous eyes, and the wild confusion of those black locks, that
waved, as it were, sympathetic to his humor, showed that his mind was
engrossed with thoughts of overwhelming interest.
The cavaliere, after his last indignant outburst, had subsided into
the depths of the arm-chair in which Marescotti had placed him; it was
so large as almost to swallow up the whole of his stout little person.
With his hands joined, his dimpled fingers interlaced and pointing
upward, he patiently awaited what the count might say. He felt
painfully conscious that he had failed in his errand. This irritated
him exceedingly. He had not entered that room--No. 4, at the Universo
Hotel--in order to listen to the elaboration of Count Marescotti's
mission, but in order to set certain marriage-bells ringing. These
marriage-bells were, it seemed, to be forever mute. Still, having
demanded an explanation of what he conceived to be the count's most
incomprehensible conduct, he was bound, he felt, in common courtesy,
to listen to all he had to say.
Now Trenta never in his life was wanting in the very flower of
courtesy; he would much sooner have shot himself than be guilty of an
ill-bred word. So, under protest, therefore--a protest more distinctly
written in the general puckering up of his round, plump face, and a
certain sulky swell about his usually smiling mouth--it was clear he
meant to listen, cost him what it might. Besides, when he had heard
what the count had to say, it was clearly his duty to reason with him.
Who could tell that he might not yield to such a process? He avowed
that he was deeply enamored of Enrica--a man in love is already half
vanquished. Why should Marescotti throw away his chance of happiness
for a phantasy--a mere dream? There was no real obstacle. He
was versatile and visionary, but the very soul of honor. How, if
he--Trenta--could bring Marescotti to see how much it would be to
Enrica's advantage that he should transplant her from a dreary home,
to become a wife beside him?
Decidedly it was still possible that he, Cesare Trenta, who had
arranged satisfactorily so many most difficult royal complications,
might yet bring Marescotti to reason. Who could tell that he might not
yet be spared the humiliation of returning to impart his failure to
the marchesa? A return, be it said, the good Trenta dreaded not a
little, remembering the characteristics of his dear friend, and the
responsibility of success which he had so confidently taken upon
himself before he started.
A NEW PHILOSOPHY.
There had been an interval of silence, during which the count paced up
and down the spacious room meditatively, each step sounding distinctly
on the stone floor. The rugged look of conscious power upon his
face, the far-way glance in his sombre eyes, showed that his mind was
working upon what he was about to say. Presently he ceased to walk,
reseated himself opposite the cavaliere, and fixed a half-absent gaze
Trenta, who would cheerfully have undergone any amount of suffering
rather than listen to the abominations he felt were coming, sat with
half-closed eyes, gathered into the corner of the arm-chair, the very
picture of patient martyrdom.
The count contemplated him for a moment. As he did so an expression,
half cynical, half melancholy, passed over his countenance, and a
faint smile lurked about the corners of his mouth. Then in a voice
so full and sweet that the ear eagerly drank in the sound, like the
harmony of a cadence, he began:
"The Roman Catholic Church," he said, "styles itself divinely
constituted. It claims to be supreme arbiter in religion and morals;
supreme even in measuring intellectual progress; absolute in its
jurisdiction over the state, and solely responsible to itself as to
what the limit of that jurisdiction shall be. It calls itself supreme
and absolute, because infallible--infallible because divine. Thus the
vicious circle is complete. Now entire obedience necessarily comes
into collision with every species of freedom--nay, it is in
itself antagonistic to freedom--freedom of thought, freedom of
action--specially antagonistic to national freedom."
"The supremacy of the pope (the Holy Father)," put in Trenta,
meekly; he crossed himself several times in rapid succession, looking
afterward as if it had been a great consolation to him.
"The supremacy of the pope," repeated the count, firmly, the shadow
of a smile parting his lips, "is eternal. It is based as firmly in the
next world as it is in this. It constitutes a condition of complete
tyranny both in time and in eternity. Now I," and the count's
voice rose, and his eyes glowed, "I--both in my public and private
capacity--(call me Antichrist if you please)." A visible shudder
passed over the poor cavaliere; his eyes closed altogether, and his
lips moved. (He was repeating an Ave Maria Sanctissima). "I abhor, I
renounce this slavery!--I rebel against it!--I will have none of it.
Who shall control the immortality of thought?--a Pius, a Gregory?
Ignorant dreamers, perjured priests!--never!"
As he spoke, the count raised his right arm, and circled it in the
air. In imagination he was waving the flag of liberty over a prostrate
"But, alas! this slavery is riveted by the grasp of centuries; it
requires measures as firm and uncompromising as its own to dislodge
it. Now the pope "--Trenta did not this time attempt to correct
Marescotti--"the pope is theoretically of no nation, but in reality
he is of all nations; and he is surrounded by a court of celibate
priests, also without nation. Observe, cavaliere--this absolute
dominion is attained by celibates only--men with no family ties--no
household influences." (This was spoken, as it were, _en parenthese_,
as a comment on the earlier portion of the conversation that had taken
place between them.) "Each of these celibate priests is the pope's
courtier--his courtier and his slave; his slave because he is subject
to a higher law than the law of his own conscience, and the law of his
own country. Without home or family, nationality or worldly interest,
the priest is a living machine, to be used in whatever direction his
tyrant dictates. Every priest, therefore, be he cardinal or deacon,
moves and acts the slave of an abstract idea; an idea incompatible
with patriotism, humanity, or freedom."
An audible and deep groan escaped from the suffering cavaliere as the
count's voice ceased.
"Now, Cavaliere Trenta, mark the application." As the count proceeded
with his argument, his dark eyes, lit up with the enthusiasm of
his own oratory, riveted themselves on the arm-chair. (It could not
properly be said that his eyes riveted themselves on Trenta, for
he was stooping down, his face covered with his hands, altogether
insensible to any possible appeal that might be addressed to him.) "I,
Manfredi Marescotti, consecrated priest of the people"--and the count
drew himself up to the full height of his lofty figure--"I am as
devoted to my cause--God is my witness"--and he raised his right
hand as though to seal a solemn pledge of truth--"as that consecrated
renegade, the pope! My followers--and their name is legion--believe in
me as implicitly as do the tonsured dastards of the Vatican."
Another ill-suppressed groan escaped from Trenta, and for a moment
interrupted the count's oration. The miserable cavaliere! He had,
indeed, invoked an explanation, and, cost him what it might, he must
abide it. But he began to think that the explanation had gone too
far. He was sitting there listening to blasphemies. He was actually
imperiling his own soul. He was horrified as he reflected that he
might not obtain absolution when he confessed the awful language
which was addressed to him. Such a risk was really greater than his
submission to etiquette exacted. There were bounds even to that, the
aged chamberlain told himself.
Gracious heavens!--for him, an unquestioning papalino, a sincere
believer in papal infallibility and the temporal power--to hear the
Holy Father called a renegade, and his faithful servants stigmatized
as dastards! It was monstrous!
He secretly resolved that, once escaped from No. 4 at the Universo
Hotel--and he wondered that a thunderbolt had not already struck the
count dead where he stood--he would never allow himself to have any
further intercourse whatever with him.
"I have been elected," continued the count, speaking in the same
emphatic manner, and in the same distinct and harmonious voice,
utterly careless or unobservant of the conflict of feelings under
which the cavaliere was struggling--"head pope, if you please,
cavaliere, so to call me."--("God forbid!" muttered Trenta.)--"It
makes my analogy the clearer--I have been elected by thousands of
devoted followers. But my followers are not slaves, nor am I a tyrant.
I have accepted the glorious title of Priest of the People, and
nothing--_nothing_" the count repeated, vehemently, "shall tempt me
from my duty. I am here at Lucca to establish a mission--to plant
in this fertile soil the sacred banner of freedom--red as the first
streaks of light that lace the eastern heavens; red as the life-blood
from which we draw our being. I am here, under the protection of this
glorious banner, to combat the tyranny upon which the church and the
throne are based. Instead of the fetters of the past, binding mankind
in loathsome trammels of ignorance--instead of the darkness that
broods over a subjugated world--of terrors that rend agonized souls
with horrible tortures--I bring peace, freedom, light, progress. To
the base ideal of perpetual tyranny--both here and hereafter--I oppose
the pure ideal of absolute freedom--freedom to each separate soul to
work out for itself its own innate convictions--freedom to form its
independent destiny. Freedom in state, freedom in church, freedom in
religion, literature, commerce, government--freedom as boundless as
the sunshine that fructifies the teeming earth! Freedom of thought
necessitates freedom in government. As the soul wings itself toward
the light of simple truth, so should the body politic aspire to
perfect freedom. This can only be found in a pure republic; a republic
where all men are equal--where each man lives for the other in living
for himself--where brother cleaves to brother as his own flesh--family
is knit to family--one, yet many--one, yet of all nations!"
"Communism, in fact!" burst forth the cavaliere. His piping voice,
now hoarse with rage, quivered. "You are here to form a communistic
association! God help us!"
"I care not what you call it," cried the count, with a rising
passion. "My faith, my hope, is the ideal of freedom as opposed to the
abstraction of hierarchical superstition and monarchic tyranny. What
are popes, kings, princes, and potentates, to me who deem all men
equal? It is by a republic alone that we can regenerate our beloved,
our unfortunate Italy, now tossed between a debauched monarch--a
traitor, who yielded Savoy--an effete Parliament--a pack of lawyers
who represent nothing but their own interests, and a pope--the
recreant of Gaeta! The sooner our ideas are circulated, the sooner
they will permeate among the masses. Already the harvest has been
great elsewhere. I am here to sow, to reap, and to gather. For this
end--mark me, cavaliere, I entreat you--I am here, for none other."
Here the triumphant patriot became suddenly embarrassed. He stopped,
hesitated, stopped again, took breath, and sighed; then turned full
upon Trenta, in order to obtain some response to the appeal he had
addressed to him. But again Trenta, sullenly silent, had buried
himself in the depths of the arm-chair, and was, so to say, invisible.
"For this end" (a mournful cadence came into the count's voice when he
at length proceeded) "I am ready to sacrifice my life. My life!--what
is that? I am ready to sacrifice my love--ay, my love--the love of the
only woman who fulfills the longings of my poetic soul."
The count ceased speaking. The fair Enrica, with her tender smile,
and patient, chastened loveliness--Enrica, as he had imagined her, the
type of the young Madonna, was before him. No, Enrica could never be
his; no child of his would ever be encircled by those soft, womanly
arms! With a strong effort to shake off the feeling which so deeply
moved him, the count continued:
"In the boundless realms of ideal philosophy"--his noble features were
at this moment lit up into the living image of that hero he so much
resembled--"man grapples hand to hand with the unseen. There are no
limits to his glorious aspirations. He is as God himself. He, too,
becomes a Creator; and a new and purer world forms beneath his hand."
"Have you done?" asked Trenta, looking up out of the arm-chair. He was
so thoroughly overcome, so subdued, he could have wept. From the very
commencement of the count's explanation, he had felt that it was not
given to him to combat his opinions. If he could, he was not sure that
he would have ventured to do so. "Let pitch alone," says the proverb.
Now Trenta, of a most cleanly nature, morally and physically--abhorred
pitch, especially such pitch as this. He had long looked upon Count
Marescotti as an atheist, a visionary--but he had never conceived
him capable of establishing an organized system of rebellion and
communism. At Lucca, too! It was horrible! By some means such
an incendiary must be got rid of. Next to the foul Fiend himself
established in the city, he could conceive nothing more awful! It was
a Providence that Marescotti could not marry Enrica! He should tell
the marchesa so. Such sophistry might have perverted Enrica also. It
was more than probable that, instead of reforming him, she might have
fallen a victim to his wickedness. This reflection was infinitely
comforting to the much-enduring cavaliere. It lightened also much of
his apprehension in approaching the marchesa, as the bearer of the
To Trenta's question as to "whether he had done," Marescotti had
promptly replied with easy courtesy, "Certainly, if you desire it.
But, my dear cavaliere," he went on to say, speaking in his usual
manner, "you will now understand why, cost me what it may, I cannot
marry. Never, never, I confess, have I been so fiercely tempted! But
the pang is past!" And he swept his hand over his brow. "Marriage with
me is impossible. You will understand this."
"Yes, yes, I quite agree with you, count," put in Trenta--sideways, as
it were. He was rejoiced to find he had any common standing-point left
with Marescotti. "I agree with you--marriage is quite impossible.
I hope, too," he added, recovering himself a little, with a faint
twinkle in his eye, "you will find your mission at Lucca equally
impossible. San Riccardo grant it!" And the old man crossed himself,
and secretly fingered an image of the Virgin he wore about his neck.
"Putting aside the sacred office with which I am invested," resumed
the count, without noticing Trenta's observation, "no wife could
sympathize with me. It would be a case of Byron over again. What agony
it would be to me to see the exquisite Enrica unable to understand
me! A poet, a mystic, I am only fit to live alone. My path"--and
a far-away look came into his eyes--"my path lies alone upon the
mountains--alone! alone!" he added sorrowfully, and a tear trembled on
"Then why, may I ask you," retorted Trenta, with energy, raising
himself upright in the arm-chair, "why did you mislead me by such
passionate language to Enrica? Recall the Guinigi Tower, your
attitude--your glances--I must say, Count Marescotti, I consider your
conduct unpardonable--quite unpardonable."
Trenta's face and forehead were scarlet, his steely blue eyes were
rounded to their utmost width, and, as far as such mild eyes could,
they glared at the count.
"You have entirely misled me. As to your political opinions, I have,
thank God, nothing to do with them; that is your affair. But in this
matter of Enrica you have unjustifiably misled me. I shall not forgive
you in a hurry, I can tell you." There was a rustling of anger all
over the cavaliere, as the leaves of the forest-trees rustle before
the breath of the coming tempest.
"My admiration for women," replied the count, "has hitherto been
purely aesthetic. You, cavaliere, cannot understand the discrepancies
of an artistic nature. Women have been to me heretofore as beautiful
abstractions. I have adored them as I adore the works of the great
masters. I would as soon have thought of plucking a virgin from the
canvas--a Venus from her pedestal, as of appropriating one of them.
Enrica Guinigi"--there was a tender inflection in Count Marescotti's
voice whenever he named her, an involuntary bending of the head that
was infinitely touching--"Enrica Guinigi is an exception. I could have
loved her--ah! she is worthy of all love! Her soul is as rare as
her person. I read in the depths of her plaintive eyes the trust of
a child and the fortitude of a heroine. If I dared to give these
thoughts utterance, it was because I knew _she loved another!_"
"Loved another?" screamed Trenta, losing all self-control and
tottering to his feet. "Loved another?" he repeated, every feature
working convulsively. "What do you mean?"
Marescotti rose also. Was it possible that Trenta could be in
ignorance, he asked himself, hurriedly, as he stared at the aged
chamberlain, trembling from head to foot.
"Loved another? You are mad, Count Marescotti, I always said so--mad!
mad!" Trenta gasped for breath. He was hardly able to articulate.
The count bowed to him ironically.
"Calm yourself, cavaliere," he said, haughtily, measuring from head
to foot the plump little cavaliere, who stood before him literally
panting with rage. "There is no need for violence. You and the
marchesa must have known of this. I shuddered, when I thought that
Enrica might have been driven into acquiescence with your proposal
against her will. I love her too much to have permitted it."
The cavaliere could with difficulty bring himself to allow Marescotti
to finish. He was too furious to take in the full sense of what he
said. His throat was parched.
"You must answer to me for this!" Trenta could barely articulate.
His voice was dry and hoarse. "You must--you shall. You have refused
Enrica, now you insult her. I demand--I demand satisfaction. No
excuse--no excuse!" he shouted. And seeing that Marescotti drew back
toward the window, the cavaliere pressed closer upon him, stamped
his foot upon the floor, and raised his clinched fist as near to the
count's face as his height permitted.
Had the official sword hung at Trenta's side, he would undoubtedly
have drawn it at that moment and attacked him. In the defense of
Enrica he forgot his age--he forgot every thing. His very voice had
changed into a manly barytone. In the absence of his sword, Trenta
was evidently about to strike Marescotti. As he advanced, the other
A hot flush overspread the count's face for an instant, then it faded
out, and grew pale and rigid. He remembered the cavaliere's great age,
and checked himself. To avoid him, the count retreated to the farthest
limit of the room, hastily seized a chair, and barricaded himself
behind it. "I will not fight you, Cavaliere Trenta," he answered,
speaking with calmness.
"Ah, coward!" screamed Trenta, "would you dishonor me?"
"Cavaliere Trenta, this is folly," said the count, crossing his arms
on his breast. "Strike me if you please," he added, seeing that Trenta
still threatened him. "Strike me; I shall not return it. On my honor
as a gentleman, what I have said is true. Had you, cavaliere, been
a younger man, you must have heard it in the city, at the club, the
theatre; it is known everywhere."
"What is known?" asked Trenta, hoarsely, standing suddenly motionless,
the flush of rage dying out of his countenance, and a look of helpless
suffering taking its place.
"That Count Nobili loves Enrica Guinigi," answered Marescotti,
Like a shot Baldassare's words rose to Trenta's remembrance. The poor
old chamberlain turned very white. He quivered like a leaf, and clung
to the table for support.
"Pardon me, oh! pardon me a thousand times, if I have pained you,"
exclaimed the count; he left the place where he was standing, threw
his arms round Trenta, and placed him with careful tenderness on a
seat. His generous heart upbraided him bitterly for having allowed
himself for an instant to be heated by the cavaliere's reproaches.
"How could I possibly imagine you did not know all this?" he asked, in
the gentlest voice.
"Take me home, take me home," he murmured, faintly. "Gran Dio! the
marchesa! the marchesa!" He clasped his hands, then let them fall upon
"But what real obstacle can there be to a marriage with Count Nobili?"
"I cannot speak," answered the cavaliere, almost inaudibly, trying to
rise. "Every obstacle." And he sank back helplessly on the chair.
Count Marescotti took a silver flask from a drawer, and offered him a
cordial. Trenta swallowed it with the submissiveness of a child. The
count picked up his cane, and placed it in his hand. The cavaliere
mechanically grasped it, rose, and moved feebly toward the door.
"Let me go," he said, faintly, addressing Marescotti, who urged him to
remain. "Let me go. I must inform the marchesa, I must see Enrica. Ah!
if you knew all!" he whispered, looking piteously at the count. "My
poor Enrica!--my pretty lamb! Who can have led her astray? How can it
have happened? I must go--go at once. I am better now. Yes--give me
your arm, count, I am a little weak. I thank you--it supports me."
The door of No. 4 was at last opened. The cavaliere descended the
stairs very slowly, supported by Marescotti, whose looks expressed the
deepest compassion. A _fiacre_ was called from the piazza.
"The Palazzo Trenta," said Count Marescotti to the driver, handing in
"No, no," he faintly interrupted, "not there. To Casa Guinigi. I must
instantly see the marchesa," whispered Trenta in the count's ear.
The _fiacre_ containing the unhappy chamberlain drove from the door,
and plunged into a dark street toward the cathedral.
Count Marescotti stood for some minutes in the doorway, gazing after
it. The full blaze of a hot September sun played round his uncovered
head, lighting it up as with a glory. Then he turned, and, slowly
reascending the stairs to No. 4, opened his door, and locked it behind
THE MARCHESA'S PASSION.
The Marchesa Guinigi dined early. She had just finished when a knock
at the door of her squalid sitting-room on the second story, with the
pea-green walls and shabby furniture, aroused her from what was
the nearest approach to a nap in which she ever indulged. In direct
opposition to Italian habits, she maintained that sleeping in the day
was not only lazy, but pernicious to health. As the marchesa did not
permit herself to be lulled by the morphitic influences of those long,
dreary days of an Italian summer, which must perforce be passed
in closed and darkened chambers, and in a stifling atmosphere, she
resolutely set her face against any one in her palace enjoying this
At the hottest moment of the twenty-four hours, and in the dog-days,
when the rays of a scalding sun pour down upon roof and wall and
tower like molten lead, searching out each crack and cranny with cruel
persistence, the marchesa was wont stealthily to descend into the
very bowels, as it were, of that great body corporate, the Guinigi