Part 6 out of 7
the blood within him seemed whirling in his brain.
"But Nera, how can I--in honor--break this marriage?" he urged.
"Break it! well, by going away. No one can force you to marry a girl
who allowed herself to be hawked about here and there--offered to
Marescotti, and refused--to others probably."
"She may not have known it," said Nobili, roused by her bitter words.
"Oh, folly! Why come to me, Count Nobili? You are still in love with
At these words Nobili rose and approached Nera. Something in her
expression checked him; he drew back. With all her allurements, there
was a gulf between them Nobili dared not pass.
"O Nera! do not drive me mad! Help me, or banish me."
"I am helping you," she replied, with what seemed passionate
earnestness. "Have you seen the sonnet?"
"If you mean to marry her, do not. Take advice. My mother has seen
it," Nera added, with well-simulated horror. "She would not let me
Now this was the sheerest malice. Madame Boccarini had never seen
the sonnet. But if she had, there was not one word in the sonnet that
might not have been addressed to the Blessed Virgin herself.
"No, I will not see the sonnet," said Nobili, firmly. "Not that I
will marry her, but because I do not choose to see the woman I loved
befouled. If it is what you say--and I believe you implicitly--let it
lie like other dirt, I will not stir it."
"A generous fellow!" thought Nera. "How I could have loved him! But
not now, not now."
"You have been the object of a base fraud," continued Nera. Nera would
follow to the end artistically; not leave her work half done.
"She has deceived me. I know she has deceived me," cried Nobili, with
a pang he could not hide. "She has deceived me, and I loved her!"
His voice sounded like the cry of a hunted animal.
Nera did not like this. Her work was not complete. Nobili's obstinate
clinging to Enrica chafed her.
"Did Enrica ever speak to you of her engagement to Count Marescotti?"
she asked. She grew impatient, and must probe the wound.
"Never," he answered, shrinking back.
"Heavens! What falseness! Why, she has passed days and days alone with
"No, not alone," interrupted Nobili, stung with a sense of his own
"Oh, you excuse her!" Nera laughed bitterly. "Poor count, believe me.
I tell you what others conceal."
Nobili shuddered. His face grew black as night.
"Do not see that sonnet if you persist in marriage. If not, your
course is clear--fly. If Enrica Guinigi has the smallest sense of
decency, she cannot urge the marriage."
And Nobili heard this in silence! Oh, shame, and weakness and passion
of hot blood; and women's eyes, and cruel, bitter tongues; and
jealousy, maddening jealousy, hideous, formless, vague, reaching he
knew not whither I Oh, shame!
"Write to her, and say you have discovered that she was in league with
her aunt, and had other lovers. Every one knows it."
"But, Nera, if I do, will you comfort me? I shall need it." Nobili
opened both his arms. His eyes clung wildly to hers. She was his only
Nera did not move; only she turned her head away to hide her face from
him. She dared not let Nobili move her. Poor Nobili! She could have
loved him dearly!
Seeing her thus, Nobili's arms dropped to his side hopelessly; a wan
look came over his face.
"Forgive me! Oh, forgive me, Nera! I offer you a broken heart; have
pity on me! Say, can you love me, Nera? Only a little. Speak! tell
Nobili was on his knees before her; every feature of his bright young
face formed into an agony of entreaty.
There was a flash of triumph in Nera's black eyes as she bent them on
Nobili, that chilled him to the soul. Kneeling before her, he feels
it. He doubts her love, doubts all. She has wrought upon him until he
"Rise, dear Nobili," Nera whispered softly, touching his lips with
hers, but so slightly. "To-morrow--come again to-morrow. I can
say nothing now." Her manner was constrained. She spoke in little
sentences. "It is late. Supper is ready. My mother waiting.
To-morrow." She pressed the hand he had laid imploringly upon her
knee. She touched the curls upon his brow with her light finger-tips;
but those fixed, despairing eyes beneath she dared not meet.
"Not one word?" urged Nobili, in a faltering voice. "Send me away
without one word of hope? I shall struggle with horrible thoughts all
night. O Nera, speak one word--but one!" He clasped her hands, and
looked up into her face. He dared do no more. "Love me a little,
Nera," he pleaded, and he laid her warm, full hand upon his throbbing
Nera trembled. She rose hastily from her chair, and raised Nobili up
"I--I--" (she hesitated, and avoided his passionate glance)--"I have
given you good advice. To-morrow I will tell you more about myself."
"To-morrow, Nera! Why not to-night?"
Spite of himself Nobili was shocked at her reserve. She was so
self-possessed. He had flung his all upon the die.
"You have advised me," he answered, stung by her coldness. "You have
convinced me, I shall obey you. Now I must go, unless you bid me
Again his eyes pleaded with hers; again found no response. Nera held
out her hand to him.
"To-morrow," the full, ripe lips uttered--"to-morrow."
Seeing that he hesitated, Nera pointed with a gesture toward the door,
and Nobili departed.
When the door had closed, and the sound of his retreating footsteps
along the empty rooms had ceased, Nera raised her hand, then let it
fall heavily upon the table.
"I have done it!" she exclaimed, triumphantly. "Now I can bear to
think of that Orsetti ball. Poor Nobili! if he had spoken then! But he
did not. It is his own fault."
After standing a minute or two thinking, Nora uncovered the lamp. Then
she took it up in both her hands, stepped to a mirror that hung near,
and, turning the light hither and thither, looked at her blooming
face, in full and in profile. Then she replaced the lamp upon the
table, yawned, and left the room.
Next morning a note was put into Count Nobili's hand at breakfast. It
bore the Boccarini arms and the initials of the marchesa. The contents
MOST ESTEEMED COUNT: As a friend of our family, I have the honor of
informing you that the marriage of my dear daughter Nera with Prince
Ruspoli is arranged, and will take place in a week. I hope you will
be present. I have the honor to assure you of my most sincere and
"MARCHESA AGNESA BOCCARINI."
In the night train from Lucca that evening, Count Nobili was seated.
"He was about to travel," he had informed his household. "Later he
would send them his address." Before he left, he wrote a letter to
Enrica, and sent it to Corellia.
WAITING AND LONGING.
It was the morning of the fourth day since Count Nobili had left
Corellia. All had been very quiet about the house. The marchesa
herself took little heed of any thing. She sat much in her own room.
She was silent and preoccupied; but she was not displeased. The one
dominant passion of her soul--the triumph of the Guinigi name--was
now attained. Now she could bear to think of the grand old palace at
Lucca, the seigneurial throne, the nuptial-chamber; now she could gaze
in peace on the countenance of the great Castruccio. No spoiler would
dare to tread these sacred floors. No irreverent hand would presume
to handle her ancestral treasures; no vulgar eye would rest on
the effigies of her race gathered on these walls. All would now be
safe--safe under the protection of wealth, enormous wealth--wealth to
guard, to preserve, to possess.
Enrica had been the agent by which all this had been effected,
therefore she regarded Enrica at this time with more consideration
than she had ever done before. As to any real sentiments of affection,
the marchesa was incapable of them--a cold, hard woman from her youth,
now vindictive, as well as cold.
The day after the signing of the contract she called Enrica to her.
Enrica trod lightly across the stuccoed floor to where her aunt was
standing; then she stopped and waited for her to address her. The
marchesa took Enrica's hand within her own for some minutes, and
silently stroked each rosy finger.
"My child Enrica, are you content?" This question was accompanied by
an inquiring look, as if she would read Enrica through and through. A
sweet smile of ineffable happiness stole over Enrica's soft face. The
marchesa, still holding her hand, uttered something which might
almost be called a sigh. "I hope this will last, else--" She broke off
Enrica, resenting the implied doubt, disengaged her hand, and drew
back from her. The marchesa, not appearing to observe this, continued:
"I had other views for you, Enrica; but, before you knew any thing,
you chose a husband for yourself. What do you know about a husband? It
is a bad choice."
Again Enrica drew back still farther from her aunt, and lifted up her
head as if in remonstrance. But the marchesa was not to be stopped.
"I hate Count Nobili!" she burst out. "I have had my eye upon him ever
since he came to Lucca. I know him--you do not. It is possible he may
change, but if he does not--"
For the second time the marchesa did not finish the sentence.
"And do you think he loves you?"
As she asked this question she seated herself, and contemplated Enrica
with a cynical smile.
"Yes, he loves me. It is you who do not know him!" exclaimed Enrica.
"He is so good, so generous, so true; there is no one in the world
How pure Enrica looked, pleading for her lover!--her face thrown out
in sharp profile against the dark wall; her short upper lip raised
by her eager speech; the dazzling fairness of her complexion; and her
soft hair hanging loose about her head and neck.
"I think I do--I think I know him better than you do," the marchesa
answered, somewhat absently.
She was struck by Enrica's exceeding beauty, which seemed within the
last few days to have suddenly developed and matured.
"The young man appreciates you, too, I do not doubt. I am told he is a
lover of beauty."
This was added with a sneer. Enrica grew crimson.
"Well, well," the marchesa went on to say, "it is too late now--the
thing is done. But remember I have warned you. You chose Count Nobili,
not I. Enrica, I have done my duty to you and to my own name. Now go
and tell the cavaliere I want him."
The marchesa was always wanting the cavaliere; she was closeted
with him for hours at a time. These conferences all ended in one
conclusion--that she was irretrievably ruined. No one knew this better
than the marchesa herself; but her haughty reluctance either to accept
Count Nobili's money, or to give up Enrica, was the cause of unknown
distress to Trenta.
Meanwhile the prospect of the wedding had stirred up every one in the
house to a sort of aimless activity. Adamo strode about, his sad, lazy
eyes gazing nowhere in particular. Adamo affected to work hard, but
in reality he did nothing but sweep the leaves away from the border
of the fountain, and remove the _debris_ caused by the fire. Then he
would go down and feed the dogs, who, when at home, lived in a sort
of cave cut out of the cliff under the tower--Argo, the long-haired
mastiff, and Tootsey, the rat-terrier, and Juno, the lurcher, and the
useless bull-dog, who grinned horribly--Adamo fed them, then let them
out to run at will over the flowers, while he went to his mid-day
Adamo had no soul for flowers, or he could not have done this; he
could not have seen a bright, many-eyed balsam, or an amber-leaved
zinnia with tufted yellow breast, die miserably on their earthy
beds, trampled under the dogs' feet. Even the marchesa, who concerned
herself so little with such things, had often hidden him for his
carelessness; but Adamo had a way of his own, and by that way he
abided, slowly returning to it, spite of argument or remonstrance.
"Domine Dio orders the weather, not I," Adamo said in a grunt to Pipa
when his mistress had specially upbraided him for not watering the
lemon-trees ranged along the terraces. "Am I expected to give holy oil
to the plants as Fra Pacifico does to the sick? Che! che! what will be
So Adamo went to his dinner in all peace; and Argo and his friends
knocked down the flowers, and scratched deep holes in the gravel,
barking wildly all the time.
The marchesa, sitting in grave confabulation with Cavaliere Trenta,
rubbed her white hands as she listened.
There was neither portcullis, nor moat, nor drawbridge to her feudal
stronghold at Corellia, but there was big, white Argo. Argo alone
would pin any one to the earth.
"Let out the dogs, Adamo," the marchesa would say. "I like to hear
them. They are my soldiers--they defend me."
"Yes, padrona," Adamo would reply, stolidly. "Surely the Signora
Marchesa wants no other. Argo has the sense of a man when I discourse
So Argo barked and yelped, and tore up and down undisturbed, followed
by the pack in full chase after imaginary enemies. Woe betide the
calves of any stranger arriving at that period of the day at the
villa! They might feel Argo's glistening teeth meeting in them, or
be hurled on the ground, for Argo had a nasty trick of clutching
stealthily from behind. Woe betide all but Fra Pacifico, who had so
often licked him in drawn battles, when the dog had leaped upon him,
that now Argo fled at sight of his priestly garments with a howl!
Adamo, who, after his mid-day meal, required tobacco and repose, would
not move to save any one's soul, much less his body.
"Argo is a lunatic without me," he would observe, blandly, to Pipa, if
roused by a special outburst of barking, the smoke of his pipe curling
round his bullet-head the while. "Lunatics, either among men or
beasts, are not worth attending to. A sweating horse, a crying woman,
and a yelping cur, heed not."
Adamo added many more grave remarks between the puffs of his pipe,
turning to Pipa, who sat beside him, distaff in hand, the silver pins,
stuck into her glossy plaits, glistening in the sun.
When Adamo ceased he nodded his head like an oracle that had spoken,
and dozed, leaning against the wall, until the sun had sunk to rest
into a bed of orange and saffron, and the air was cooled by evening
dews. Not till then did Adamo rise up to work.
Pipa, who, next to Adamo and the marchesa, loved Enrica with all the
strength of her warm heart, sings all day those unwritten songs of
Tuscany that rise and fall with such spontaneous cadence among the
vineyards, and in the olive-grounds, that they seem bred in the
air--Pipa sings all day for gladness that the signorina is going
to marry a rich and handsome gentleman. Marriage, to Pipa's simple
mind--especially marriage with money--must bring certain blessings,
and crowds of children; she would as soon doubt the seven wounds of
the Madonna as doubt this. Pipa has seen Count Nobili. She approves
of him. His curly auburn hair, so short and crisp; his bold look and
gracious smile--not to speak of certain notes he slipped into her
hand--have quite conquered her. Besides, had Count Nobili not come
down, the noble gentleman, like San Michele, with golden wings behind
him, and a terrible lance in his hand, as set forth in a dingy fresco
in the church at Corellia--come down and rescued the dear signorina
when--oh, horrible!--she had been forgotten in the burning tower?
Pipa's joy develops itself in a vain endeavor to clean the entire
villa. With characteristic discernment, she has begun her labors in
the upper story, which, being unfurnished, no one ever enters. Pipa
has set open all the windows, and thrown back all the blinds; Pipa
sweeps and sprinkles, and sweeps again, combating with dust, and fleas
and insects innumerable, grown bold by a quiet tenancy of nearly fifty
years. While she sweeps, Pipa sings:
"I'll build a house round, round, quite round,
For us to live at ease, all three;
Father and mother there shall dwell,
And my true love with me."
Poor Pipa! It is so pleasant to hear her clear voice caroling overhead
like a bird from the open window, and to see her bright face looking
out now and then, her gold ear-rings bobbing to and fro--her black
rippling hair, and her merry eyes blinded with dust and flue--to
swallow a breath of air. Adamo does not work, but Pipa does. If she
goes on like this, Pipa may hope to clean the entire floor in a month;
of the great sala below, and the other rooms where people live, Pipa
does not think. It is not her way to think; she lives by happy, rosy
Pipa chatters much to Enrica about Count Nobili and her marriage when
she is not sweeping or spinning. Enrica continually catches sight of
her staring at her with open mouth and curious eyes, her head a little
on one side the better to observe her.
"Sweet innocent! she knows nothing that is coming on her," Pipa is
thinking; and then Pipa winks, and laughs outright--laughs to the
empty walls, which echo the laugh back with a hollow sound.
But if any thing lurks there that mocks Pipa's mirth, it is not
visible to Pipa's outward eye, so she continues addressing herself to
Enrica, who is utterly bewildered by her strange ways.
Pipa cannot bear to think that Enrica never dressed for her betrothed.
"Poverina!" she says to her, "not dress--not dress! What degradation!
Why, when the Gobbina--a little starved hump-backed bastard--married
the blind beggar Gianni at Corellia, for the sake of the pence he got
sitting all day shaking his box by the _cafe_--even the Gobbina had
a white dress and a wreath--and you, beloved lady, not so much as to
care to change your clothes! What must the Signore Conte have thought?
Misera mia! We must all seem pagans to him!" And Pipa's heart smote
her sorely, remembering the notes. "Caro Gesu! When you are to be
married we must find you something to wear. To be sure, the marchesa's
luggage was chiefly burnt in the fire, but one box is left. Out of
that box something will come," Pipa feels sure (miracles are nothing
to Pipa, who believes in pilgrimages and the evil-eye); she feels sure
that it will be so. After much talk with Enrica, who only answers her
with a smile, and says absently, looking at the mountains which she
does not see--
"Dear Pipa, we will look in the box, as you say."
"But when, signorina?" insists Pipa, and she kisses Enrica's hand, and
strokes her dress. "But when?"
"To-morrow," says Enrica, absently. "To-morrow, dear Pipa, not
"Holy mother!" is Pipa's reply, "it has been 'to-morrow' for four
days." "Always to-morrow," mutters Pipa to herself, as she makes the
dust fly with her broom; "and the Signore Conte is to return in a
week! Always to-morrow. What can I do? Such a disgrace was never
known. No bridal dress. No veil. The signorina is too young to
understand such things, and the marchesa is not like other ladies,
or one might venture to speak to her about it. She would only give me
'accidenti' if I did, and that is so unlucky! To-morrow I must make
the signorina search that box. There will be a white dress and a
veil. I dreamed so. Good dreams come from heaven. I have had a candle
lighted for luck before the Santissima in the market-place, and fresh
flowers put into the pots. There will be sure to be a white dress and
a veil--the saints will send them to the signorina."
Pipa sweeps and sings. Her children, Angelo and Gigi, are roasting
chestnuts under the window outside.
This time she sings a nursery rhyme:
"Little Trot, that trots so gayly,
And without legs can walk so bravely!
Pipa, in her motherly heart looking out, blesses little Gigi--a chubby
child blackened by the sun--to see him sitting so meek and good beside
his brother. Angelo is a naughty boy. Pipa does not love him so well
as Gigi. Perhaps this is the reason Angelo is so ill-furnished in
point of clothes. His patched and ragged trousers are hitched on with
a piece of string. Shirt he has none; only a little dingy waistcoat
buttoned over his chest, on which lies a silver medal of the Madonna.
Angelo's arms are bare, his face mahogany-color, his head a hopeless
tangle of colorless hair. But Angelo has a pair of eyes that dance,
and a broad, red-lipped mouth, out of which two rows of white teeth
shine like pearls. Angelo has just burnt his fingers picking a
chestnut out of the ashes. He turns very red, but he is too proud to
cry. Angelo's hands and feet are so hard he does not feel the pointed
rocks that break the turf in the forest, nor does he fear the young
snakes, as plenty as lizards, in the warm nooks. All yesterday Angelo
had run up and down to look for chestnuts, on his naked feet. He dared
not mount into the trees, for that would be stealing; but he leaped,
and skipped, and slid when a russet-coated chestnut caught his eye.
Gigi was with him, trusted to his care by Pipa, with many abjurations
and terrible threats of future punishment should he ill-use him.
Ah! if Pipa knew!--if Pipa had only seen little Gigi lonely in
the woods, and heard his roars for help! Angelo, having found Gigi
troublesome, had tied him by a twisted cord of grass to the trunk of
an ancient chestnut. Gigi was trepanned into this thralldom by a
heap of flowers artful Angelo had brought him--purple crocuses and
cyclamens, and Canterbury bells, and gaudy pea-stalks, all thrown
before the child. Gigi, in his little torn petticoat, had swallowed
the bait, and flung himself upon the bright blossoms, grasping them in
his dirty fingers. Presently the delighted babe turned his eyes upon
cunning Angelo standing behind him, showing his white teeth. Satisfied
that Angelo was there, Gigi buried himself among the flowers. He
crowed to them in his baby way, and flung them here and there. Gigi
would run and catch them, too; but suddenly he felt something which
stopped him. It was a grass cord which Angelo had secretly woven
standing behind Gigi--then had made it fast round Gigi's waist and
knotted it to a tree. A cloud came over Gigi's jolly little face--a
momentary cloud--when he found he could not run after the flowers.
But it soon passed away, and he squatted down upon the grass (the
inveigled child), and again clutched the tempting blossoms. Then his
little eyes peered round for Angelo to play with him. Alas!--Angelo
Gigi sobbed a little to himself silently, but the treacherous flowers
had still power to console him; at least, he could tear them to
pieces. But by-and-by when the sun mounted high over the tops of the
forest-clad mountains, and poured down its burning rays, swallowing up
all the shade and glittering like flame on every leaf, Gigi grew hot
and weary. He was very empty, too; it was just the time that Pipa fed
him. His stomach craved for food. He craved for Pipa, too, for home,
for the soft pressure of Pipa's ample bosom, where he lay so snug.
Gigi looked round. He did not sob now, but set up a hideous roar,
the big tears coursing down his fat cheeks, marking their course by
furrows in the dirt and grime. The wood echoed to Gigi's roars. He
roared for mammy, for daddy (Angelo Gigi cannot say, it is too long
a word). He kicked away the flowers with his pretty dimpled feet,
the false flowers that had betrayed him. The babe cannot reason, but
instinct tells him that those painted leaves have wronged him. They
are faded now, and lie soiled and crumpled, the ghosts of what they
were. Again Gigi tries to rise and run, but he is drawn roughly down
by the grass rope. He tries to tear it asunder, in vain; Angelo had
taken care of that. At last, hoarse and weary, Gigi subsided into
terrible sobs, that heave his little breast. Sobbing thus, with
pouting lips and heavy eyes, he waits his fate.
It comes with Angelo!--Angelo, leaping downward through the checkered
glades, his pockets stuffed with chestnuts. Like an angel with healing
in his wings, Angelo comes to Gigi. When he spies him out, Gigi rises,
unsteady on his little feet--rises up, forgetting all, and clasps his
hands. When Angelo comes near, and stands beside him, Gigi flings his
chubby arms about his neck, and nestles to him.
Angelo, when he sees Gigi's disfigured face and sodden eyes, feels
his conscience prick him. With his pockets full of chestnuts he
pities Gigi; he kisses him, he takes him up, and bears him in his arms
quickly toward home. The happy child closes his weary eyes, and falls
asleep on Angelo's shoulder. Pipa, when she sees Angelo return--so
careful of his little brother--praises him, and gives him a new-baked
cake. Gigi can tell no tales, and Angelo is silent.
While Pipa sweeps and sings, Angelo and Gigi are roasting these very
chestnuts on a heap of ashes under the window outside. Enrica sat near
them--a little apart--on a low wall, that bordered the summit of the
cliff. The zone of mighty mountains rose sharp and clear before her.
It seemed to her as if she had only to stretch out her hand to touch
them. The morning lights rested on them with a fresh glory; the crisp
air, laden with a scent of herbs, came circling round, and stirred the
curls upon her pretty head. Enrica wore the same quaintly-cut dress,
that swept upon the ground, as when Nobili was there. She had no
other. All had been burnt in the fire. Sitting there, she plucked the
moss that grew upon the wall, and watched it as it dropped into the
abyss. This was shrouded in deepest shadow. The rush of the distant
river in the valley below was audible. Enrica raised her head and
listened. That river flowed round the walls of Lucca. Nobili was
there. Happy river! Oh, that it would bear her to him on its frothy
current!--Surely her life-path lay straight before her now!--straight
into paradise! Not a stone is on that path; not a rise, not a fall.
"In a week I will return," Nobili had said. In a week. And his eyes
had rested upon her as he spoke the words in a mist of love. Enrica's
face was pale and almost stern, and her blue eyes had strange lights
and shadows in them. How came it that, since he had left her, the
world had grown so old and gray?--that all the impulse of her nature,
the quick ebb and flow of youth and hope, was stilled and faded out,
and all her thoughts absorbed into a dreadful longing? She could not
tell, nor could she tell what ailed her; but she felt that she was
changed. She tried to listen to the prattle of the two children--to
Pipa singing above:
"Come out! come out!
Father and mother and sweetheart,
All will be there!"
Enrica could not listen. It was the dark abyss below that drew her
toward its silent bosom. She hung over the wall, her eyes measuring
its depths. What ailed her? Was she smitten mad by the wild tumult of
joy that had swept over her as she stood hand-in-hand with Nobili? Or
was she on the eve of some crisis?--a crisis of life and death? Oh!
why had Nobili left her? When would he return? She could not tell. All
she knew was, that in the streaming sunlight of this wondrous morning,
when earth and heaven were as fair as on the first creation-day,
without him all was dark, sad, and dreary.
A STORM AT THE VILLA.
A footstep was heard upon the gravel. The dogs shut up in the cave
scratched furiously, then barked loudly. Following the footsteps a
bareheaded peasant appeared, his red shirt open, showing his sunburnt
chest. He ran up to the open door, a letter in his hand. Seeing Enrica
sitting on the low wall, he stopped and made her a rustic bow.
"Who are you?" Enrica asked, her heart beating wildly.
"Illustrissima," and the man bowed again, "I am Giacomo--Giacomo
protected by his reverence Fra Pacifico. You have heard of Giacomo?"
Enrica shook her head impatiently.
"Surely you are the Signorina Enrica?"
"Yes, I am."
"Then this letter is for you." And Giacomo stepped up and gave it
into her outstretched hand. "I was to tell the illustrissima that the
letter had come express from Lucca to Fra Pacifico. Fra Pacifico could
not bring it down himself, because the wife of the baker Pietro is
ill, and he is nursing her."
Enrica took the letter, then stared at Giacomo so fixedly, before he
turned to go, it haunted him many days after, for fear the signorina
had given him the evil-eye.
Enrica held the letter in her hand. She gazed at it (standing on the
spot where she had taken it, midway between the door and the low wall,
a glint of sunshine striking upon her hair, turning it to threads of
gold) in silent ecstasy. It was Nobili's first letter to her. His name
was in the corner, his monogram on the seal. The letter came to her in
her loneliness like Nobili's visible presence. Ah! who does not recall
the rapture of a first love-letter!--the tangible assurance it brings
that our lover is still our own--the hungry eye that runs over every
line traced by that dear hand--the oft-repeated words his voice
has spoken stamped on the page--the hidden sense--the half-dropped
sentences--all echoing within us as note to note in chords of music!
Enrica's eyes wandered over the address, "To the Noble Signorina
Enrica Guinigi, Corellia," as if each word had been some wonder. She
dwelt upon every crooked line and twist, each tail and flourish, that
Nobili's hand had traced. She pressed the letter to her lips, then
laid it upon her lap and gazed at it, eking out every second of
suspense to its utmost limit. Suddenly a burning curiosity possessed
her to know when he would come. With a gasp that almost stopped her
breath she tore the cover open. The paper shook so violently in her
unsteady hand that the lines seemed to run up and down and dance.
She could distinguish nothing. She pressed her hand to her forehead,
steadied herself, then read:
ENRICA: When this comes to you I am gone from you forever. You have
betrayed me--how much I do not care to know. Perhaps I think you less
guilty than you are. Of all women, my heart clung to you. I loved you
as men only love once in their lives. For the sake of that love, I
will still screen you all I can. But it is known in Lucca that Count
Marescotti was your accepted lover when you promised yourself to me.
Also, that Count Marescotti refused to marry you when you were offered
by the Marchesa Guinigi. From this knowledge I cannot screen you.
God is my witness, I go, not desiring by my presence or my words to
reproach you further. But, as a man who prizes the honor of his house
and home, I cannot marry you. Tell the marchesa I shall keep my word
to her, although I break the marriage-contract. She will find the
money placed as she desired.
"PALAZZO NOBILI, LUCCA."
Little by little Enrica read the whole, sentence by sentence. At first
the full horror of the words was veiled. They came to her in a dazed,
stupid way. A mist gathered about her. There was a buzzing in her ears
that deadened her brain. She forced herself to read over the letter
again. Then her heart stood still with terror--her cheeks burned--her
head reeled. A deadly cold came over her. Of all within that letter
she understood nothing but the words, "I am gone from you forever."
Gone!--Nobili gone! Never to speak to her again in that sweet
voice!--never to press his lips to hers!--never to gather her to him
in those firm, strong arms! O God! then she must die! If Nobili were
gone, she must die! A terrible pang shot through her; then a great
calmness came over her, and she was very still. "Die!--yes--why
Clutching the letter in her icy hand, Enrica looked round with pale,
tremulous eyes, from which the light has faded. It could not be the
same world of an hour ago. Death had come into it--she is about to
die. Yet the sun shone fiercely upon her face as she turned it upward
and struck upon her eyes. The children laughed over the chestnuts
spluttering in the ashes. Pipa sang merrily above at the open window.
A bird--was it a raven?--poised itself in the air; the cattle grazed
peacefully on the green slopes of the opposite mountain, and a drove
of pigs ran downward to drink at a little pool. She alone has changed.
A dull, dim consciousness drew her forward toward the low wall, and
the abyss that yawned beneath. There she should lie at peace. There
the stillness would quiet her heart that beat so hard against her
side--surely her heart must burst! She had a dumb instinct that she
should like to sleep; she was so weary. Stronger grew the passion of
her longing to cast herself on that cold bed--deep, deep below--to
rest forever. She tried to move, but could not. She tottered and
almost fell. Then all swam before her. She sank backward against the
door; with her two hands she clutched the post. Her white face was
set. But in her agony not a sound escaped her. Her secret--Nobili's
secret--must be kept, she told herself. No one must ever know that
Nobili had left her--that she was about to die--no one, no one!
With a last effort she tried to rush forward to take that leap below
which would end all. In vain. All nature rushed in a wild whirlwind
around her! A deadly sickness seized her. Her eyes closed. She dropped
beside the door, a little ruffled heap upon the ground, Nobili's
letter clasped tightly in her hand.
"My love he is to Lucca gone,
To Lucca fair, a lord to be,
And I would fain a message send,
But who will tell my tale for me?"
Sang out Pipa from above.
"All the folk say that I am brown;
The earth is brown, yet gives good corn;
The clove-pink, too, although 'tis brown,
In hands of gentlefolk is borne."
"They say my love is brown; but he
Shines like an angel-form to me;
They say my love is dark as night,
To me he seems an angel bright!"
Not hearing the children's voices, and fearing some trick of naughty
Angelo against the peace of her precious Gigi, Pipa leaned put over
the window-sill. "My babe, my babe, where art thou?" was on her lips
to cry; instead, Pipa gave a piercing scream. It broke the mid-day
silence. Argo barked loudly.
"Dio Gesu!" Pipa cried wildly out. "The signorina, she is dead! Help!
BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH
Many hours had passed. Enrica lay still unconscious upon her bed, her
face framed in her golden hair, her blue eyes open, her limbs stiff,
her body cold. Sometimes her lips parted, and a smile rippled over her
face; then she shuddered, and drew herself, as it were, together. All
this time Nobili's letter was within her hand; her fingers tightened
over it with a convulsive grasp.
Pipa and the cavaliere were with her. They had done all they could
to revive her, but without effect. Trenta, sitting there, his hands
crossed upon his knees, his eyes fixed upon Enrica, looked suddenly
aged. How all this had come about he could not even guess. He had
heard Pipa's screams, and so had the marchesa, and he had come, and he
and Pipa together had raised her up and placed her on her bed; and the
marchesa had charged him to watch her, and let her know when she came
to her senses. Neither the cavaliere nor Pipa knew that Enrica had had
a letter from Nobili. Pipa noticed a paper in her hand, but did not
know what it was. The signorina had been struck down in a fit, was
Pipa's explanation. It was very terrible, but God or the devil--she
could not tell which--did send fits. They must be borne. An end would
come. She had done all she could. Seeing no present change, Trenta
rose to go to the marchesa. His joints were so stiff he could not move
at all without his stick, and the furrows which had deepened upon his
face were moistened with tears.
"Is Enrica no better?" the marchesa asked him, in a voice she tried to
steady, but could not. She trembled all over.
"Enrica is no better," he answered.
"Will she die?" the marchesa asked again.
"Who can tell? She is in the hands of God."
As he spoke, Trenta shot an angry scowl at his friend--he knew her
so well. If Enrica died the Guinigi race was doomed--that made her
tremble, not affection for Enrica. A word more from the marchesa, and
Trenta would have told her this to her face.
"We are all in the hands of God," the marchesa repeated, solemnly, and
crossed herself. "I believe little in doctors."
"Still," said Trenta, "if there is no change, it is our duty to send
for one. Is there any doctor at Corellia?"
"None nearer than Lucca," she replied. "Send for Fra Pacifico. If he
thinks it of any use, a man shall be dispatched to Lucca immediately."
"Surely you will let Count Nobili know the danger Enrica is in?"
"No, no!" cried the marchesa, fiercely. "Count Nobili comes back here
to marry Enrica or not at all. I will not have him on any other terms.
If the child dies, he will not come. That at least will be a gain."
Even on the brink of death and ruin she could think of this!
"Enrica will not die! she will not die!" sobbed the poor old
cavaliere, breaking down all at once. He sank upon a chair and covered
The marchesa rose and placed her hand upon his shoulder. Her heart was
bleeding, too, but from another cause. She bore her wounds in silence.
To complain was not in the marchesa's nature. It would have increased
her suffering rather than have relieved it. Still she pitied her old
friend, although no word expressed it; nothing but the pressure of her
hand resting upon his shoulder. Trenta's sobs were the only sound that
broke the silence.
"This is losing time," she said. "Send at once for Fra Pacifico. Until
he comes, we know nothing."
When Fra Pacifico's rugged, mountainous figure entered Enrica's room,
he seemed to fill it. First, he blessed the sweet girl lying before
him with such a terrible mockery of life in her widely-opened eyes.
His deep voice shook and his grave face twitched as he pronounced the
"Beatus." Leaning over the bed, Fra Pacifico proceeded to examine her
in silence. He uncovered her feet, and felt her heart, her hands,
her forehead, lifting up the shining curls as he did so with a tender
touch, and laying them out upon the pillow, as reverently as he would
replace a relic.
Cavaliere Trenta stood beside him in breathless silence. Was it life
or death? Looking into Fra Pacifico's motionless face, none could
tell. Pipa was kneeling in a corner, running her rosary between her
fingers; she was listening also, with mouth and eyes wide open.
"Her pulse still beats," Fra Pacifico said at last, betraying no
outward emotion. "It beats, but very feebly. There is a little warmth
about her heart."
"San Ricardo be thanked!" ejaculated Trenta, clasping his hands.
With the mention of his ancestral saint, the cavaliere's thoughts ran
on to the Trenta chapel in the church of San Frediano, where they had
all stood so lately together, Enrica blooming in health and beauty at
his side. His sobs choked his voice.
"Shall I send to Lucca for a doctor?" Trenta asked, as soon as he
could compose himself.
"As you please. Her condition is very precarious; nothing can be done,
however, but to keep her warm. That I see has been attended to. She
could swallow nothing, therefore no doctor could help her. With such
a pulse, to bleed her would be madness. Her youth may save her. It
is plain to me some shock or horror must have struck her down and
paralyzed the vital powers. How could this have been?"
The priest stood over her, lost in thought, his bushy eyebrows knit;
then he turned to Pipa.
"Has any thing happened, Pipa," he asked, "to account for this?"
"Nothing your reverence," she answered. "I saw the signorina,
and spoke to her, not ten minutes before I found her lying in the
"Had any one seen her?"
"I sent a letter to her from Count Nobili. Did you see the messenger
"No; I was cleaning in the upper story. He might have come and gone,
and I not seen him."
"I heard of no letter," put in the bewildered Trenta. "What letter? No
one mentioned a letter."
"Possibly," answered Fra Pacifico, in his quiet, impassible way, "but
there was a letter." He turned again to interrogate Pipa. "Then the
signorina must have taken the letter herself." Slightly raising his
eyebrows, a sudden light came into his eyes. "That letter has done
this. What can Nobili have said to her? Did you see any letter beside
her, Pipa, when she fell?"
Pipa rose up from the corner where she had been kneeling, raised the
sheet, and pointed to a paper clasped in Enrica's hand. As she did so,
Pipa pressed her warm lips upon the colorless little hand. She would
have covered the hand again to keep it warm, but Fra Pacifico stopped
"We must see that letter; it is absolutely needful--I her confessor,
and you, cavaliere, Enrica's best friend; indeed, her only friend."
At a touch of his strong hand the letter fell from Enrica's fingers,
though they clung to it convulsively.
"Of course we must see the letter," the cavaliere responded with
emphasis, waking up from the apathy of grief into which he had been
Fra Pacifico, casting a look of unutterable pity on Enrica, whose
secret it seemed sacrilege to violate while she lay helpless before
them, unfolded the letter. He and the cavaliere, standing on tiptoe
at his side, his head hardly reaching the priest's elbow, read it
together. When Trenta had finished, an expression of horror and rage
came into his face. He threw his arms wildly above his head.
"The villain!" he exclaimed, "'Gone forever!'--'You have betrayed
me!'--'Cannot marry you!'--'Marescotti!'"
Here Trenta stopped, remembering suddenly what had passed between
himself and Count Marescotti at their interview, which he justly
considered as confidential. Trenta's first feeling was one of
amazement how Nobili had come to know it. Then he remembered what he
had said to Baldassare in the street, to quiet him, that "it was all
right, and that Enrica would consent to her aunt's commands, and to
"Beast!" he muttered, "this is what I get by associating with one who
is no gentleman. I'll punish him!"
A blank terror took possession of the cavaliere. He glanced at Enrica,
so life-like with her fixed, open eyes, and asked himself, if she
recovered, would she ever forgive him?
"I did it for the best!" he murmured, shaking his white head. "God
knows I did it for the best!--the dear, blessed one!--to give her
a home, and a husband to protect her. I knew nothing about Count
Nobili.--Why did you not tell me, my sweetest?" he said, leaning over
the bed, and addressing Enrica in his bewilderment.
Alas! the glassy blue eyes stared at him fixedly, the white lips were
The effect of all this on Fra Pacifico had been very different. Under
the strongest excitement, the long habit of his office had taught him
a certain outward composure. He was ignorant of much which was known
to the cavaliere. Fra Pacifico watched his excessive agitation with
"What does this mean about Count Marescotti?" he asked, somewhat
sternly. "What has Count Marescotti to do with her?"
As he asked this question he stretched his arm authoritatively over
Enrica. Protection to the weak was the first thought of the strong
man. His great bodily strength had been given him for that purpose,
Fra Pacifico always said.
"I offered her in marriage to Count Marescotti," answered the
cavaliere, lifting up his aged head, and meeting the priest's
suspicious glance with a look of gentle reproach. "What do you think I
could have done but this?"
"And Count Marescotti refused her?"
"Yes, he refused her because he was a communist. Nothing passed
between them, nothing. They never met but twice, both times in my
Fra Pacifico was satisfied.
"God be praised!" he muttered to himself.
Still holding the letter in his hand, the priest turned toward
Enrica. Again he felt her pulse, and passed his broad hand across her
"No change!" he said, sadly--"no change! Poor child, how she must
have suffered! And alone, too! There is some mistake--obviously some
"No mistake about the wretch having forsaken her," interrupted Trenta,
firing up at what he considered Fra Pacifico's ill-placed leniency.
"Domine Dio! No mistake about that."
"Yes, but there must be," insisted the other. "I have known Nobili
from a boy. He is incapable of such villainy. I tell you, cavaliere,
Nobili is utterly incapable of it. He has been deceived. By-and-by he
will bitterly repent this," and Fra Pacifico held up the letter.
"Yes," answered Trenta, bitterly--"yes, if she lives. If he has killed
her, what will his repentance matter?"
"Better wait, however, until we know more. Nobili may be hot-headed,
vain, and credulous, but he is generous to a fault. If he cannot
justify himself, why, then"--the priest's voice changed, his swarthy
face flushed with a dark glow--"I am willing to give him the benefit
of the doubt--charity demands this--but if Nobili cannot justify
himself"--(the cavaliere made an indignant gesture)--"leave him to
me. You shall be satisfied, cavaliere. God deals with men's souls
hereafter, but he permits bodily punishment in this world. Nobili
shall have his, I promise you!"
Fra Pacifico clinched his huge fist menacingly, and dealt a blow in
the air that would have felled a giant.
Having given vent to his feelings, to the unmitigated delight of
the cavaliere, who nodded and smiled--for an instant forgetting his
sorrow, and Enrica lying there--Fra Pacifico composed himself.
"The marchesa must see that letter," he said, in his usual manner.
"Take it to her, cavaliere. Hear what she says."
The cavaliere took the letter in silence. Then he shrugged his
"I must go now to Corellia. I will return soon. That Enrica still
lives is full of hope." Fra Pacifico said this, turning toward the
little bed with its modest shroud of white linen curtains. "But I can
do nothing. The feeble spark of life that still lingers in her frame
would fly forever if tormented by remedies. I have hope in God only."
And he gave a heavy sigh.
Before Fra Pacifico departed, he took some holy water from a little
vessel near the bed, and sprinkled it upon Enrica. He ordered Pipa to
keep her very warm, and to watch every breath she drew. Then he glided
from the room with the light step of one well used to sickness.
Cavaliere Trenta followed him slowly. He paused motionless in the
open doorway, his eyes, from which the tears were streaming, fixed on
Enrica--the fatal letter in his hand. At length he tore himself away,
closed the door, and, crossing the sala, knocked at the door of the
* * * * *
In the gray of the early morning of the second day, just as the sun
rose and cast a few straggling gleams into the room, Enrica called
faintly to Pipa. She knew Pipa when she came. It seemed as if
Enrica had waked out of a long, deep sleep. She felt no pain, but an
excessive weakness. She touched her forehead and her hair. She handled
the sheets--then extended both her hands to Pipa, as if she had been
buried and asked to be raised up again. She tried to sit up, but--she
fell back upon her pillow. Pipa's arms were round her in an instant.
She put back the long hair that fell upon Enrica's face, and poured
into her mouth a few drops of a cordial Fra Pacifico had left for her.
Pipa dared not speak--Pipa dared not breathe--so great was her joy. At
length she ventured to take one of Enrica's hands in hers, pressed it
gently and said to her in a low voice:
"You must be very quiet. We are all here."
Enrica looked up at Pipa, surprised and frightened; then her eyes
wandered round in search of something. She was evidently dwelling
upon some idea she could not express. She raised her hand, opened it
slowly, and gazed at it. Her hand was empty.
"Where is--?" Enrica asked, in a voice like a sigh--then she stopped,
and gazed up again distressfully into Pipa's face. Pipa knew that
Count Nobili's letter had been taken by Fra Pacifico. Now she bent
over Enrica in an agony of fear lest, when her reason came and she
missed that letter, she should sink back again and die.
With the sound of her own voice all came back to Enrica in an instant.
She closed her eyes, and longed never to open them again! "Gone! gone!
forever!" sounded in her ears like a rushing of great waters. Then she
lay for a long time quite still. She could not bear to speak to Pipa.
His name--Nobili's name--was sacred. If Pipa knew what Nobili had
done, she might speak ill of him. That Enrica could not bear. Yet she
should like to know who had taken his letter.
Her brain was very weak, yet it worked incessantly. She asked herself
all manner of questions in a helpless way; but as her fluttering
pulses settled, and the blood returned to its accustomed
channels, faintly coloring her cheek, the truth came to her.
Insulted!--abandoned!--forgotten! She thought it all over bit by bit.
Each thought as it rose in her mind seemed to freeze the returning
warmth within her. That letter--oh, if she could only find that
letter! She tried to recall every phrase and put a sense to it. How
had she deceived him? What could Nobili mean? What had she done to
be talked of in Lucca? Marescotti--who was he? At first she was
so stunned she forgot his name; then it came to her. Yes, the
poet--Marescotti--Trenta's friend--who had raved on the Guinigi Tower.
What was he to her? Marry Marescotti! Oh! who could have said it?
Gradually, as Enrica's mind became clearer, lying there so still with
no sound but Pipa's measured breathing, she felt to its full extent
how Nobili had wronged her. Why had he not come himself and asked her
if all this were true? To leave her thus forever! Without even asking
her--oh, how cruel! She believed in him, why did he not believe in
her? No one had ever yet told her a lie; within herself she felt
no power of deceit. She could not understand it in others, nor the
falseness of the world. Now she must learn it! Then a great longing
and tenderness came over her. She loved Nobili still. Even though
he had smitten her so sorely, she loved him--she loved him, and she
forgave him! But stronger and stronger grew the thought, even while
these longings swept over her like great waves, that Nobili was
unworthy of her. Should she love him less for that? Oh, no! He was
unworthy of her--yet she yearned after him. He had left her--but in
her heart Nobili should forever sit enthroned--and she would worship
And they had been so happy, so more than happy--from the first moment
they had met--and he had shattered it! Oh, his love for her was dead
and buried out of sight! What was life to her without Nobili? Oh,
those forebodings that had clung about her from the very moment he
had left Corellia! Now she could understand them. Never to see him
again!--was it possible? A great pity came upon her for herself. No
one, she was sure, could ever have suffered like her--no one--no one.
This thought for some time pursued her closely. There was a terrible
comfort in it. Alas! all her life would be suffering now!
As Enrica lay there, her face turned toward the wall, and her eyes
closed (Pipa watching her, thinking she had dozed), suddenly her bosom
heaved. She gave a wild cry. The pent-up tears came pouring down her
cheeks, and sob after sob shook her from head to foot.
This burst of grief saved her--Fra Pacifico said so when he came down
later. "Death had passed very near her," he said, "but now she would
FRA PACIFICO AND THE MARCHESA.
On the evening of that day the marchesa was in her own room, opening
from the sala. The little furniture the room contained was collected
around the marchesa, forming a species of oasis on the broad desert
of the scagliola floor. A brass lamp, placed on a table, formed the
centre of this habitable spot. The marchesa sat in deep shadow, but
in the outline of her tall, slight figure, and in the carriage of
her head and neck, there was the same indomitable pride, courage, and
energy, as before. A paper lay on the ground near her; it was Nobili's
letter. Fra Pacifico sat opposite to her. He was speaking. His
deep-set luminous eyes were fixed on the marchesa. His straight,
coarse hair was pushed up erect upon his brow; there was at all times
something of a mane about it. His cassock sat loosely about his big,
well-made limbs; his priestly stock was loosed, showing the dark skin
of his throat and chin. In the turn of his eye, in the expression of
his countenance, there were anxiety, restlessness, and distrust.
"Yes--Enrica has recovered for the present," he was saying, "but such
an attack saps and weakens the very issues of life. Count Nobili, if
not brought to reason, would break her heart." She was obstinately
silent. The balance of her mind was partially upset. "'I shall never
see Nobili again,' was all she would say to me. It is a pity, I think,
that you sent the cavaliere away to Lucca. Enrica might have opened
her mind to him."
As he spoke, Fra Pacifico crossed one of his legs over the other, and
arranged the heavy folds of his cassock over his knees.
"And who says Enrica shall not see Nobili again?" asked the marchesa,
defiantly. "Holy saints! That is my affair. I want no advice. My honor
is now as much concerned in the completion of this marriage as it was
before to prevent it. The contract has been signed in my presence.
The money agreed upon has been paid over to me. The marriage must take
place. I have sent Trenta to Lucca to make preliminary arrangements."
"I rejoice to hear it," answered Fra Pacifico, his countenance
brightening. "There must be some extraordinary mistake. The cavaliere
will explain it. Some enemies of your family must have misled Count
Nobili, especially as there was a certain appearance of concealment
respecting Count Marescotti. It will all come right. I only feared
lest the language of that letter would have, in your opinion, rendered
the marriage impossible."
"That letter does not move me in the least," answered the marchesa
haughtily, speaking out of the shadow. She gave the letter a kick,
sending it farther from her. "I care neither for praise nor insult
from such a fellow. He is but an instrument in my hand. He has,
however, justified my bad opinion of him. I am glad of that. Do you
imagine, my father," she added, leaning forward, and bringing her head
for an instant within the circle of the light--"do you imagine any
thing but absolute necessity would have induced me to allow Count
Nobili ever to enter my presence?"
"I am bound to tell you that your pride is un-Christian, my daughter."
Fra Pacifico spoke with warmth. "I cannot permit such language in my
The marchesa waved her hand contemptuously, then contemplated him, a
smile upon her face.
"I have long known Count Nobili. He has the faults of his age. He
is impulsive--vain, perhaps--but at the same time he is loyal and
generous. He was not himself when he wrote that letter. There is a
passionate sorrow about it that convinces me of this. He has been
misled. The offer you sanctioned of Enrica's hand to Count Marescotti,
has been misrepresented to him. Undoubtedly Nobili ought to have
sought an explanation before he left Lucca; but, the more he loved
Enrica, the more he must have suffered before he could so address
"You justify Count Nobili, then, my father, not only for abandoning
my niece, but for endeavoring to blast her character? Is this your
Christianity?" The marchesa asked this question with bitter scorn;
her keen eyes shone mockingly out of the darkness. "I told you what he
was, remember. I have some knowledge of him and of his father."
"My daughter, I do not defend him. If need be, I have sworn to punish
him with my own hand. But, until I know all the circumstances, I pity
him; I repeat, I pity him. Some powerful influence must have been
brought to bear upon Nobili. It may have been a woman."
"Ha! ha!" laughed the marchesa, contemptuously. "You admit, then,
Nobili has a taste for women?"
Fra Pacifico rose suddenly from his chair. An expression of deep
displeasure was on his face, which had grown crimson under the
"I desire no altercation, marchesa, nor will I permit you to address
such unseemly words to me. What I deem fitting I shall say, now and
always. It is my duty. You have called me here. What do you want? How
can I help you? In all things lawful I am ready to do so. Nay, I will
take the whole matter on myself if you desire."
As he spoke, Fra Pacifico stooped and raised Nobili's crumpled letter
from the floor. He spread it out open on the table. The marchesa
motioned to him to reseat himself. He did so.
"What I want?" she said, taking up the priest's words. "I will tell
you. When I bring Count Nobili here"--the marchesa spoke very slowly,
and stretched out her long fingers, as though she held him already in
her grasp--"when I bring Count Nobili here, I want you to perform
the marriage ceremony. It must take place immediately. Under the
circumstances the marriage had better be private."
"I shall not perform the ceremony," answered Fra Pacifico, his full,
deep voice ringing through the room, "at your bidding only. Enrica
must also consent. Enrica must consent in my presence."
As the light of the lamp struck upon Fra Pacifico, the lines about his
mouth deepened, and that look of courage and of command the people of
Corellia knew so well was marked upon his countenance. A rock might
have been moved, but not Fra Pacifico.
"Enrica shall obey me!" cried the marchesa. Her temper was rising
beyond control at the idea of any opposition at such a critical
moment. She had made her plan, settled it with Trenta; her plan must
be carried out. "Enrica shall obey me," she repeated. "Enrica will
obey me unless instigated by you, Fra Pacifico."
"My daughter," replied the priest, "if you forget the respect due to
my office, I shall leave you."
"Pardon me, my father," and the marchesa bowed stiffly; "but I appeal
to your justice. Can I allow that reprobate to break my niece's
heart?--to tarnish her good name? If there were a single Guinigi left,
he would stab Nobili like a dog! Such a fellow is unworthy the name
of gentleman. Marriage alone can remove the stain he has cast upon
Enrica. It is no question of sentiment. The marriage is essential
to the honor of my house. Enrica must be _called_ Countess Nobili,
whether Nobili pleases it or not. Else how can I keep his money? And
without his money--" She paused suddenly. In the warmth of speech the
marchesa had been actually led into the confession that Nobili was
necessary to her "I have the contract," she added. "Thank Heaven, I
have the contract! Nobili is legally bound by the contract."
"Yes, that may be," answered Fra Pacifico, reflectively, "if you
choose to force him. But I warn you that I will put no violence on
Enrica's feelings. She must decide for herself."
"But if Enrica still loves him," urged the marchesa, determined if
possible to avoid an appeal to her niece--"if Enrica still loves him,
as you assure me she does, may we not look upon her acquiescence as
Fra Pacifico shook his head. He was perfectly unmoved by the
"Life, honor, position, reputation, all rest on this marriage. I have
accepted Count Nobili's money; Count Nobili must accept my niece."
"Your niece must nevertheless consent. I can permit no other
arrangement. Then you have to find Count Nobili. He must voluntarily
appear at the altar."
Fra Pacifico turned his resolute face full upon the marchesa. Her
whole attitude betrayed intense excitement.
"Your niece must consent, Count Nobili must appear voluntarily before
the altar, else the Church cannot sanction the union. It would be
sacrilege. How do you propose to overcome Count Nobili's refusal?"
"By the law!" exclaimed the marchesa, imperiously.
Fra Pacifico turned aside his head to conceal a smile. The law had not
hitherto favored the marchesa. Her constant appeal to the law had been
the principal cause of her present troubles.
"By the law," the marchesa repeated. Her sallow face glowed for a
moment. "Surely, Fra Pacifico--surely you will not oppose me? You
talk of the Church. The Church, indeed! Did not the wretch sign the
marriage-contract in your presence? The Church must enable him to
complete his contract. In your presence too, as priest and civil
delegate; and you talk of sacrilege, my father! Che! che! Dio buono!"
she exclaimed, losing all self-control in the conviction her own
argument brought to her--"Fra Pacifico, you must be mad!"
"I only ask for Enrica's consent," answered the priest. "That given,
if Count Nobili comes, I will consent to marry them."
"Count Nobili--he shall come--never fear," and the marchesa gave a
short, scornful laugh. "After I have been to Lucca he will come. I
shall have done my duty. It is all very well," added the marchesa,
loftily, "for low people to pair like animals, from inclination. Such
vulgar motives have no place in the world in which I live. Persons
of my rank form alliances among themselves from more elevated
considerations; from political and prudential motives; for the sake
of great wealth when wealth is required; to shed fresh lustre on
an historic name by adding to it the splendor of another equally
illustrious. My own marriage was arranged for this end. Again I remind
you, my father, that nothing but necessity would have forced me to
permit a usurer's son to dare to aspire to the hand of my niece. It is
a horrible degradation--the first blot on a spotless escutcheon."
"Again I warn you, my daughter, such pride is unseemly. Summon Enrica
at once. Let us hear what she says."
The marchesa drew back into the shadow, and was silent. As long as she
could bring her battery of arguments against Fra Pacifico, she felt
safe. What Enrica might say, who could tell? One word from Enrica
might overturn all her subtle combinations. That Fra Pacifico should
assist her was indispensable. Another priest, less interested in
Enrica, might, under the circumstances, refuse to unite them. Even if
that difficulty could be got over, the marchesa was fully alive to the
fact that a painful scene would probably occur--such a scene as ought
not to be witnessed by a stranger. Hence her hesitation in calling
During this pause Fra Pacifico crossed his arms upon his breast and
waited in silence.
"Let Enrica come," said the marchesa at last; "I have no objection."
She threw herself back on her seat, and doggedly awaited the result.
Fra Pacifico rose and opened a door on the other side of the room,
communicating with the vaulted passage which had connected the villa
with the tower.
"Who is there?" he called. (Bells were a luxury unknown at Corellia.)
"I," answered Angelo, running forward, his eyes gleaming like two
stars. Angelo sometimes acted as acolyte to Fra Pacifico. Angelo was
proud to show his alacrity to his reverence, who had often cuffed
him for his mischievous pranks; specially on one occasion, when Fra
Pacifico had found him in the act of pushing Gigi stealthily into the
marble basin of the fountain, to see if, being small, Gigi would swim
like the gold-fish.
"Go to the Signorina Enrica, Angelo, and tell her that the marchesa
As long as Enrica was ill, Fra Pacifico went freely in and out of her
room; now that she was recovered, and had risen from her bed, it was
not suitable for him to seek her there himself.
TO BE, OR NOT TO BE?
When Angelo knocked at Enrica's door, Pipa, who was with her, opened
it, and gave her Fra Pacifico's message. The summons was so sudden
Enrica had no time to think, but a wild, unmeaning delight possessed
her. It was so rare for her aunt to send for her she must be going to
tell her something about Nobili. With his name upon her lips, Enrica
started up from the chair on which she had been half lying, and ran
toward the door.
"Softly, softly, my blessed angel!" cried Pipa, following her with
outstretched arms as if she were a baby taking its first steps. "You
were all but dead this morning, and now you run like little Gigi when
I call to him."
"I can walk very well, Pipa." Enrica opened the door with feverish
haste. "I must not keep my aunt waiting."
"Let me put a shawl round you," insisted kind Pipa. "The evening is
She wrapped a large white shawl about her, that made Enrica look paler
and more ghost-like than before.
"Nobody loves me like you, Pipa--nobody--dear Pipa!"
Enrica threw her soft arms around Pipa as she said this. She felt so
lonely the tears came into her eyes, already swollen with excessive
"Who knows?" was Pipa's grave reply. "It is a strange world. You must
not judge a man always by what he does."
Enrica gave a deep sigh. She had hurried out of her room into the sala
with a headlong impulse to rush to her aunt. Now she dreaded what her
aunt might have to say to her. The little strength she had suddenly
left her. The warm blood that had mounted to her head chilled within
her veins. For a few moments she leaned against Pipa, who watched her
with anxious eyes. Then, disengaging herself from her, she trod feebly
across the floor. The sala was in darkness. Enrica stretched out
her hands before her to feel for the door. When she had found it she
stopped terrified. What was she about to hear? The deep voice of Fra
Pacifico was audible from within. Enrica placed her hand upon the
handle of the door--then she withdrew it. Without the autumn wind
moaned round the corners of the house. How it must roar in the abyss
under the cliffs! Enrica thought. How dark it must be down there in
the blackness of the night! Like letters written in fire, Nobili's
words rose up before her--"I am gone from you forever!" Oh! why was
she not dead?--Why was she not lying deep below, buried among the cold
rocks?--Enrica felt very faint. A groan escaped her.
Fra Pacifico, accustomed to listen to the almost inaudible sounds of
the sick and the dying, heard it.
The door opened. Enrica found herself within the room.
"Enrica," said the marchesa, addressing her blandly (did not all now
depend upon her?)--"Enrica, you look very pale."
She made no reply, but looked round vacantly. The light of the lamp,
coming suddenly out of the darkness, the finding herself face to face
with the marchesa, dazzled and alarmed her.
Fra Pacifico took both Enrica's hands in his, drew an arm-chair
forward, and placed her in it.
"Enrica, I have sent for you to ask you a question," the marchesa
At the sound of her aunt's voice, Enrica shuddered visibly. Was it
not, after all, the marchesa's fault that Nobili had left her? Why had
the marchesa thrown her into Count Marescotti's company? Why had the
marchesa offered her in marriage to Count Marescotti without telling
her? At this moment Enrica loathed her. Something of all this passed
over her pallid face as she turned her eyes beseechingly toward Fra
Pacifico. The marchesa watched her with secret rage.
Was this silly, love-sick child about to annihilate the labors of her
life? Was this daughter of her husband's cousin, Antonio--a collateral
branch--about to consign the Guinigi name to the tomb? She could have
lifted up her voice and cursed her where she stood.
"Enrica, I have sent for you to ask you a question." Spite of her
efforts to be calm, there was a strange ring in her voice that made
Enrica look up at her. "Enrica, do you still love Count Nobili?"
"This is not a fair question," interrupted Fra Pacifico, coming to
the rescue of the distressed Enrica, who sat speechless before her
terrible aunt. "I know she still loves him. The love of a heart like
hers is not to be destroyed by such a letter as that, and the unjust
accusations it contains."
Fra Pacifico pointed with his finger to Nobili's letter lying where he
had placed it on the table. Seeing the letter, Enrica started back and
"Is it not so, Enrica?"
The little blond head and the sad blue eyes bowed themselves gently in
response. A faint smile flitted across Enrica's face. Fra Pacifico had
spoken all her mind, which she in her weakness could not have done,
especially with her aunt's dark eyes riveted upon her.
"Then you still love Count Nobili?" The marchesa accentuated each word
with bitter emphasis.
"I do," answered Enrica, faintly.
"If Count Nobili returns here, will you marry him?"
As the marchesa spoke, Enrica trembled like a leaf. "What was she
to answer?" The little composure she had been able to assume utterly
forsook her. She who had believed that nothing was left but to die,
was suddenly called upon to live!
"O my aunt," Enrica cried, springing to her feet, "how can I look
Nobili in the face after that letter? He thinks I have deceived him."
Enrica stopped; the words seemed to choke her. With an imploring look,
she turned toward Fra Pacifico. Without knowing what she did Enrica
flung herself on the floor at his feet; she clasped his knees--she
turned her beseeching eyes into his.
"O my father, help me! Nobili is my very life. How can I refuse what
is my very life? When Nobili left me, my first thought was to die!"
"Surely, my daughter, not by a violent death?" asked Fra Pacifico,
stooping over her.
"Yes, yes," and Enrica wrung her hands, "yes, I would have done it--I
could not bear to live without him."
A look of sorrow and reproach darkened Fra Pacifico's brow. He crossed
himself. "God be praised," he exclaimed, "you were saved from that
"My father"--Enrica extended her arms toward him--"I implore you, for
the love of Jesus, let me enter a convent!"
In these few and simple words Enrica had tried all her powers of
persuasion. The words were addressed to the priest; but her blue eyes,
filled with tears, gathered themselves upon the marchesa imploringly.
Enrica awaited her fate in silence. The priest rose and gently
replaced her on her chair. All the benevolence of his manly nature
was called forth. He cast a searching glance at the marchesa. Nothing
betrayed her feelings.
"Calm yourself, Enrica," Fra Pacifico said, soothingly. "No one seeks
to hurry or to force you. But I could not for a moment sanction your
entering a convent. In your present state of mind it would be an
unholy and an unnatural act."
Although outwardly unmoved, never in her life had the marchesa felt
such exultation. Had Fra Pacifico seconded Enrica's proposal to enter
a convent, all would have been lost! Still nothing was absolutely
decided. It was possible Fra Pacifico might yet frustrate her plans.
She ventured another question.
"If Count Nobili meets you at the altar, you will not then refuse to
There was an imperceptible tremor in the marchesa's voice. The
suspense was becoming intolerable to her.
"Refuse to marry him? Refuse Nobili? No, no, I can refuse Nobili
nothing," answered Enrica, dreamily. "But he will not come!--he is
"He will come," insisted the marchesa, pushing her advantage
"But will he love me?" asked the tender young voice. "Will he believe
that I love him? Oh, tell me that!--Father Pacifico, help me! I cannot
think." Enrica pressed her hands to her forehead. She had suffered so
much, now that the crisis had come she was stunned, she had no power
to decide. "Dare I marry him?--Ought we to part forever?" A flush
gathered on her cheek, an ineffable longing shone from her eyes.
More than life was in the balance--not only to Enrica, but to
the marchesa--the marchesa, who, wrapped within the veil of her
impenetrable reserve, breathlessly awaited, an answer.
Fra Pacifico showed unmistakable signs of agitation. He rose from his
chair, and for some minutes strode rapidly up and down the room, the
floor creaking under his heavy tread. The life of this fragile girl
lay in his hands. How could he resist that pleading look? Enrica had
done nothing wrong. Was Enrica to suffer--die, perhaps--because Nobili
had wrongfully accused her? Fra Pacifico passed his large, muscular
hand thoughtfully over his clean-shaven chin, then stopped to gaze
upon her. Her lips were parted, her eyes dilated to their utmost
"My child," he said at last, laying his hand upon her head with
fatherly tenderness--"my child, if Count Nobili returns here, you will
be justified in marrying him."
Enrica sank back and closed her eyes. A great leap of joy overwhelmed
her. She dared not question her happiness. To behold Nobili once
more--only to behold him--filled her with rapture.
"What is your answer, Enrica? I must hear your answer from yourself."
The marchesa spoke out of the darkness. She shrank from allowing Fra
Pacifico to scrutinize the exultation marked on her every feature.
"My aunt, if Nobili comes here to claim me, I will marry him,"
answered Enrica, more firmly. "But stop"--her eye had meanwhile
traveled to the letter still lying on the table--a horrible doubt
crossed her mind. "Will Nobili know that I am not what he says
there--in that letter?"
Enrica could bring herself to say no more. She longed to ask all that
had happened about Count Marescotti, and how her name had been mixed
up with his, but the words refused to come.
"Leave that to me," answered the marchesa, imperiously. "If Count
Nobili comes to marry you, is not that proof enough that he is
Enrica felt that it must be so. A wild joy possessed her. This joy was
harder to bear than the pain. Enrica was actually sinking under the
hope that Nobili might return to her!
Fra Pacifico noticed the gray shadow that was creeping over her face.
"Enrica must go at once to her room," he said abruptly, "else I cannot
answer for the consequences. Her strength is overtaxed."
As he spoke, Fra Pacifico hastily opened the door leading into the
sala. He took Enrica by the hand and raised her. She was perfectly
passive. The marchesa rose also; for the first time she came into
the full light of the lamp. Enrica stooped and kissed her hand
"My niece, you may prepare for your approaching marriage. Count Nobili
will be here shortly--never fear."
The marchesa's manner was strange, almost menacing. Fra Pacifico led
Enrica across the sala to her own door. When he returned, the marchesa
was again reading Count Nobili's letter.
"A love-match in the Guinigi family!" She was laughing with derision.
"What are we coming to?"
She tore the letter into innumerable fragments.
"My father, I shall leave for Lucca early to-morrow. You must look
after Enrica. I am satisfied with what has passed."
"God send we have done right!" answered the priest, gloomily. "Now at
least she has a chance of life."
"Adieu, Fra Pacifico. When next we meet it will be at the marriage."
Fra Pacifico withdrew. Had he done his duty?--Fra Pacifico dared not
ask himself the question.
THE CHURCH AND THE LAW.
Ten days after the departure of the marchesa, Fra Pacifico received
the following letter:
REVEREND AND ESTEEMED FATHER: I have put the matter of Enrica's
marriage into the hands of the well-known advocate, Maestro Guglielmi,
of Lucca. He at once left for Rome. By extraordinary diligence he
procured a summons for Count Nobili to appear within fifteen
days before the tribunal, to answer in person for his breach of
marriage-contract--unless, before the expiration of that time, he
should make the contract good by marriage. The citation was left with
the secretary at Count Nobili's own house. Maestro Guglielmi also
informed the secretary, by my order, that, in default of his--Count
Nobili's--appearance, a detailed account of the whole transaction with
my niece, and of other transactions touching Count Nobili's father,
known to me--of which I have informed Maestro Guglielmi--would be
published--upon my authority--in every newspaper in all the cities
throughout Italy, with such explanations and particulars as I might
see fit to insert. Also that the name of Count Nobili, as a slanderer
and a perjurer, should be placarded on all the spare walls of
Lucca, at Florence, and throughout Tuscany. The secretary denies any
knowledge of his master's present address. He declared that he was
unable, therefore, to communicate with him.
In the mean time a knowledge of the facts has spread through this
city. The public voice is with us to a man. Once more the citizens
have rallied round the great Guinigi name. Crowds assemble daily
before Count Nobili's palace. His name is loudly execrated by the
citizens. Stones have been thrown, and windows broken; indeed,
there are threats of burning the palace. The authorities have not
interfered. Count Nobili has now, I hear, returned privately to Lucca.
He dares not show himself, or he would be stabbed; but Count Nobili's
lawyer has had a conference with Maestro Guglielmi. Cavaliere Trenta
insisted upon being present. This was against my will. Cavaliere
Trenta always says too much. Maestro Guglielmi gave Count Nobili's
lawyer three days to decide. At the expiration of that time Signore
Guglielmi met him again. Count Nobili's lawyer declared that with the
utmost difficulty he had prevailed upon his client to make good
the contract by the religious ceremony of marriage. Let every thing
therefore be ready for the ceremony. This letter is private. You will
say nothing further to my niece than that Count Nobili will arrive
at Corellia at two o'clock the day after to-morrow to marry her.
Your friend and well-wisher,
The morning of the third day rose gray and chill at Corellia. Much
rain had fallen during the night, and a damp mist streamed up from the
valleys, shutting out the mighty range of mountains. In the plains of
Pisa and Florence the October sun still blazed glorious as ever on the
lush grass and flowery meadows--on the sluggish streams and the rich
blossoms. There, the trees still rustled in green luxuriance, to
soft breezes perfumed with orange-trees and roses. But in the
mountain-fastnesses of the Apennines autumn had come on apace. Such
faded leaves as clung to the shrubs about the villa were drooping
under the weight of the rain-drops, and a few autumnal flowers that
still lit up the broad borders lay prostrate on the earth. Each tiny
stream and brawling water-course--even mere little humble rills
that dried up in summer--now rushed downward over rocks and stones
blackened with moss, to pour themselves into the river Serchio. In the
forest the turf was carpeted with yellow leaves, carried hither and
thither by the winds. The stems and branches of the chestnuts ranged
themselves, tier above tier, like silver pillars, against the red
sandstone of the rocks. The year was dying out, and with the year all
Nature was dying out likewise.
Within the villa a table was spread in the great sala, with wine and
such simple refreshments as the brief notice allowed. As the morning
advanced, clouds gathered more thickly over the heavens. The gloomy
daylight coming in at the doors, and through the many windows, caught
up no ray within. The vaguely-sailing ships painted upon the wall,
destined never to find a port in those unknown seas for which their
sails were set--and that exasperating company opposite, that
through all changes of weal or woe danced remorselessly under the
greenwood--were shrouded in misty shadows.
Not a sound broke the silence--nothing save the striking of the clock
at Corellia, bringing with it visions of the dark old church--the
kneeling women--and the peace of God within. Even Argo and his
friends--Juno and Tuzzi, and the bull-dog--were mute.
About twelve o'clock the marchesa arrived from Lucca. In her company
came the Cavaliere Trenta and Maestro Guglielmi. Fra Pacifico was in
waiting. He received them with grave courtesy. Adamo, arrayed by Pipa
in his Sunday clothes, with a flower behind his ear, and Silvestro,
stood uncovered at the entrance. Once, and once only, Silvestro
abstained from addressing his mistress with his usual question about
Maestro Guglielmi was formally presented to Fra Pacifico by the
punctilious cavaliere, now restored to his usual health and spirits.
The cavaliere had arrayed himself in his official uniform--dark-purple
velvet embroidered with gold. Not having worn the uniform, however,
for more than twenty years, the coat was much too small for him. In
his hand he carried a white staff of office. This served him as a
stick. Coming up from Lucca, the cavaliere had reflected that on him
solely must rest the care of imparting some show of dignity to the
ceremony about to take place. He resolved that he would be equal to
the occasion, whatever might occur.
There was a strange hush upon each one of the little group met in the
sala. Each was busy with his own thoughts. The marriage about to take
place was to the marchesa the resurrection of the Guinigi name. To
Fra Pacifico it was the possible rescue of Enrica from a life of
suffering, perhaps an early death. To Guglielmi it was the triumph of
the keen lawyer, who had tracked and pursued his prey until that prey
had yielded. To the cavaliere it was simply an act of justice which
Count Nobili owed to Enrica, after the explanations he (Trenta) had
given to him through his lawyer, respecting Count Marescotti--such an
act of justice as the paternal government of his master the Duke
of Lucca would have forced, upon the strength of his absolute
prerogative, irrespective of law. The only person not outwardly
affected was the marchesa. The marchesa had said nothing since her
arrival, but there was a haughty alacrity of step and movement, as she
walked down the sala toward the door of her own apartment, that spoke
more than words.
No sooner had the sound of her closing door died away in the echoes of
the sala than Trenta, with forward bows both to Fra Pacifico and the
lawyer, requested permission to leave them, in order to visit Enrica.
Guglielmi and Fra Pacifico were now alone. Guglielmi gave a cautious
glance round, then walked up to the table, and poured out a tumbler
of wine, which he swallowed slowly. As he did so, he was engaged in
closely scrutinizing Fra Pacifico, who, full of anxiety as to what was
about to happen, stood lost in thought.
Maestro Guglielmi, whose age might be about forty, was a man, once
seen, not easily forgotten--a tall, slight man of quick subtile
movements, that betrayed the devouring activity within. Maestro
Guglielmi had a perfectly colorless face, a prominent, eager nose,
thin lips, that perpetually unclosed to a ghostly smile in which the
other features took no part; a brow already knitted with those fine
wrinkles indicative of constant study, and overhanging eyebrows that
framed a pair of eyes that read you like a book. It would have been a
bold man who, with those eyes fixed on him, would have told a lie to
Maestro Guglielmi, advocate in the High Court of Lucca. If any man had
so lied, those eyes would have gathered up the light, and flashed it
forth again in lightnings that might consume him. That they were dark
and flaming, and greatly dreaded by all on whom Guglielmi fixed them
in opposition, was generally admitted by his legal compeers.
"Reverend sir," began Maestro Guglielmi, blandly, stepping up to where
the priest stood a little apart, and speaking in a metallic voice
audible in any court of law, be it ever so closely packed--"it
gratifies me much that chance has so ordered it that we two are left
alone." Guglielmi took out his watch. "We have a good half-hour to
Fra Pacifico turned, and for the first time contemplated the lawyer
attentively. As he did so, he noted with surprise the power of his
"I earnestly desire some conversation with you," continued Guglielmi,
the semblance of a smile flitting over his hard face. "Can we speak
here securely?" And the lawyer glanced round at the various doors, and
particularly to an open one, which led from the sala to the chapel,
at the farther end of the house. Fra Pacifico moved forward and closed
"You are quite safe--say what you please," he answered, bluntly. His
frank nature rose involuntarily against the cunning of Guglielmi's
look and manner. "We have no spies here."
"Pardon me, I did not mean to insinuate that. But what I have to say
is strictly private."
Fra Pacifico eyed Guglielmi with no friendly expression.
"I know you well by repute, reverend sir"--with one comprehensive
glance Guglielmi seemed to take in Fra Pacifico mentally and
physically--"therefore it is that I address myself to you."
The priest crossed his arms and bowed.
"The marchesa has confided to me the charge of this most delicate
case. Hitherto I have conducted it with success. It is not my habit
to fail. I have succeeded in convincing Count Nobili's lawyer, and
through him Count Nobili himself, that it would be suicidal to his
interests should he not make good the marriage-contract with the
Marchesa Guinigi's niece. If Count Nobili refuses, he must leave
the country. He has established himself in Lucca, and desires, as I
understand, to remain there. My noble client has done me the honor
to inform me that she is acquainted with, and can prove, some act of
villainy committed by his father, who, though he ended his life as
an eminent banker at Florence, began it as a money-lender at Leghorn.
Count Nobili's father filled in a blank check which a client had
incautiously left in his hands, to an enormous amount, or something of
that kind, I believe. I refused to notice this circumstance legally,
feeling sure that we were strong enough without it. I was also sure
that giving publicity to such a fact would only prejudice the position
of the future husband of the marchesa's niece. To return. Fortunately,
Count Nobili's lawyer saw the case as I put it to him. Count-Nobili
will, undoubtedly, be here at two o'clock." Again the lawyer took out
his watch, looked at it, and replaced it with rapidity. "A good deal
of hard work is comprised in that sentence, 'Count Nobili will be
here!'" Again there was the ghost of a smile. "Lawyers must not
always be judged by the result. In this case, however, the result is
favorable, eminently favorable."
Fra Pacifico's face deepened into a look of disgust, but he said
"Count Nobili once here and joined to the young lady by the Church,
_we must keep him_. The spouses must pass twenty-four hours under the
same roof to complete and legalize the marriage. I am here officially,
to see that Count Nobili attends at the time appointed for the
ceremony. In reality, I am here to see that Count Nobili remains. This
must be no formal union. They must be bound together irrevocably. You
must help me, reverend sir."
Maestro Guglielmi turned quickly upon Fra Pacifico. His eyes ran all
over him. The priest drew back.
"I have already stretched my conscience to the utmost for the sake of
the lady. I can do nothing more."
"But, my father, it is surely to the lady's advantage that, if the
count marries her, they should live together, that heirs should be
born to them," pleaded Guglielmi in a most persuasive voice. "If the
count separates from his wife after the ceremony, how can this be?
We do not live in the days of miracles, though we have an infallible
pope. Eh, my father? Not in the days of miracles." Guglielmi gave an
ironical laugh, and his eyes twinkled. "Besides, there is the civil
"The Sindaco of Corellia can be present, if you please, for the civil
"Unfortunately, there is no time to call the sindaco now," replied
Guglielmi. "If Count Nobili remains the night in company with his
bride, we shall have no difficulty about the civil marriage to-morrow.
Count Nobili will not object then. Not likely."
The lawyer gave a harsh, cynical laugh that grated offensively upon
the priest's ear. Fra Pacifico began to think Maestro Guglielmi
"That is your affair. I will undertake no further responsibility,"
responded Fra Pacifico, doggedly.
"You cannot mean, my father, that you will not help me?" And Guglielmi
contemplated Fra Pacifico fixedly with all the lightnings he could
bring to bear upon him. To his amazement, he produced no effect
whatever. Fra Pacifico remained silent. Altogether this was a priest
different from any he had ever met with--Guglielmi hated priests--he
began to be interested in Fra Pacifico.
"Well, well," was Guglielmi's reply, with an aspect of intense
chagrin, "I had better hopes. Your position, Fra Pacifico, as a
peace-maker--as a friend of the family--however"--here the lawyer
shrugged his shoulders, and his eyes wandered restlessly up and down
the room--"however, at least permit me to tell you what I intend to
Fra Pacifico bowed coldly.
"As you please," was his reply.
Maestro Guglielmi advanced close to Fra Pacifico, and lowered his
voice almost to a whisper.
"The circumstances attending this marriage are becoming very public.
My client, the Marchesa Guinigi, considers her position so exalted she
dares to court publicity. She forgets we are not in the middle ages.
Ha! ha!" and Guglielmi showed his teeth in a smile that was nothing
but a grin--"publicity will be fatal to the young lady. This the
marchesa fails to see; but I see it, and you see it, my father."
Fra Pacifico shook himself all over as though silently rejecting any
possible participation in Maestro Guglielmi's arguments. Guglielmi
quite understood the gesture, but continued, perfectly at his ease:
"The high rank of the young lady--the wealth of the count--a
marriage-contract broken--an illustrious name libeled--Count Nobili,
a well-known member of the Jockey Club, in concealment--the Lucchese
populace roused to fury--all these details have reached the capital.
A certain royal personage"--here Guglielmi drew himself up pompously,
and waved his hand, as was his wont in the fervor of a grand
peroration--"a certain royal personage, who has reasons of his own
for avoiding unnecessary scandal (possibly because the royal personage
causes so much himself, and considers scandal his own prerogative)
"--Guglielmi emphasized his joke with such scintillation as would
metaphorically have taken any other man than Fra Pacifico off his
legs--even Fra Pacifico stared at him with astonishment--"a certain
royal personage, I say--earnestly desires that this affair should
be amicably arranged--that the republican party should not have the
gratification of gloating over a sensational trial between two noble
families (the republicans would make terrible capital out of
it)--a certain personage desires, I say, that the affair should be
arranged--amicably arranged--not only by a formal marriage--the
formal marriage, of course, we positively insist on--but by a complete
reconciliation between the parties. If this should not be so, the
present ceremony will infallibly lead to a lawsuit respecting the
civil marriage--the domicile--and the cohabitation--which it is
distinctly understood that Count Nobili will refuse, and that
the Marchesa Guinigi, acting for her niece, will maintain. It is
essential, therefore, that more than the formal ceremony shall take
place. It is essential that the subsequent cohabitation--"
"I see your drift," interrupted downright Fra Pacifico, in his blunt
way; "no need to go into further details."
Spite of himself, Fra Pacifico had become interested in the narrative.
The cunning lawyer intended that Fra Pacifico should become so
interested. What was the strong-fisted, simple-hearted priest beside
such a sophist as Maestro Guglielmi!
"The royal personage in question," continued Guglielmi, who read in
Fra Pacifico's frank countenance that he had conquered his repugnance,
"has done me the high honor of communicating to me his august
sentiments. I have pledged myself to do all I can to prevent the
catastrophe of law. My official capacity, however, ends with Count
Nobili's presence here at the appointed hour."
At the word "hour" Guglielmi hastily pulled out his watch.
"Only a few minutes more," he muttered. "But this is not all. Listen,
He gave a hasty glance round, then put his lips close to the priest's
"If I succeed--may I say _we_?" he added, insinuatingly--"if _we_
succeed, a canonry will be offered to you, Fra Pacifico; and I"
(Guglielmi's speaking eyes became brilliantly emphatic now)--"I shall
be appointed judge of the tribunal at Lucca."
"Pshaw!" cried Fra Pacifico, retreating from him with an expression
of blank disappointment. "I a canon at Lucca! If that is to be
the consequence of success, you must depend on yourself, Signore
Guglielmi. I decline to help you. I would not be a canon at Lucca if
the King of Italy asked me in person."
Guglielmi, whose tactics were, if he failed, never to show it, smiled
his falsest smile.
"Noble disinterestedness!" he exclaimed, drawing his delicate hand
across his brow. "Nothing could have raised your reverence higher in
my esteem than this refusal!"
To conceal his real annoyance, Maestro Guglielmi turned away and
coughed. It was a diplomatic cough, ready on all emergencies. Again he
consulted his watch.
"Five minutes more, then we must assemble at the altar. A fine will be
levied upon Count Nobili, if he is not punctual."
"If it is so near the time, I must beg you to excuse me," said Fra
Pacifico, glad to escape.
Fra Pacifico, walked rapidly toward the door opening into the corridor
leading to the chapel. His retreating figure was followed by
a succession of fireworks from Guglielmi's eyes, indicative of
indignation and contempt.
"He who sleeps catches no fish," the lawyer muttered to himself,
biting his lips. "But the priest will help me--spite of himself, he
will help me. A health to Holy Mother Church! She would not do much if
all her ministers were like this country clod. He is without ambition.
He has quite fatigued me."
Saying this, Maestro Guglielmi poured out another glass of wine. He
critically examined the wine in the light before putting it to his
lips; then he swallowed it with an expression of approbation.
THE HOUR STRIKES.
The chapel was approached by a door communicating with the corridor.
(There was another entrance from the garden; at this entrance Adamo
was stationed.) It was narrow and lofty, more like a gallery than a
chapel, except that the double windows at either end were arched and
filled with stained glass. The altar was placed in a recess facing the
door opening from the corridor. It was of dark marble raised on
steps, and was backed by a painting too much blackened by smoke to
be distinguished. Within the rails stood Fra Pacifico, arrayed in
a vestment of white and gold. The grand outline of his tall figure
filled the front of the altar. No one would have recognized the parish
priest in the stately ecclesiastic who wore his robes with so much
dignity. Beside Fra Pacifico was Angelo transformed into an acolyte,
wearing a linen surplice--Angelo awed into perfect propriety--swinging
a silver censer, and only to be recognized by the twinkling of his
wicked eyes (not even Fra Pacifico could tame them). To the right of
the altar stood the marchesa. Maestro Guglielmi, tablets in hand,
was beside her. Behind, at a respectful distance, appeared Silvestro,
gathered up into the smallest possible compass.
As the slow moments passed, all stood so motionless--all save Angelo,
swinging the silver censer--they might have passed for a sculptured
group upon a marble tomb. One--two--struck from the old clock in the
Lombard Tower at Corellia. At the last stroke the door from the garden
was thrown open. Count Nobili stood in the doorway. At the moment of
Count Nobili's appearance Maestro Guglielmi drew out his watch;
then he proceeded to note upon his tablets that Count Nobili, having
observed the appointed time, was not subject to a fine.
Count Nobili paused on the threshold, then he advanced to the altar.
That he had come in haste was apparent. His dress was travel-stained
and dusty; the locks of his abundant chestnut hair matted and rough;