Part 7 out of 7
his whole appearance wild and disordered. All the outward polish of
the man was gone; the happy smile contagious in its brightness; the
pleasant curl of the upper lip raising the fair mustache; the kindling
eye so capable of tenderness. His expression was of a man undergoing a
terrible ordeal; defiance, shame, anger, contended on his face.
There was something in the studied negligence of Count Nobili's
appearance that irritated the marchesa to the last degree of
endurance. She bridled with rage, and exchanged a significant glance
Footsteps were now heard coming from the sala. It was Enrica, led
by the cavaliere. Enrica was whiter than her bridal veil. She had
suffered Pipa to array her as she pleased, without a word. Her hair
was arranged in a coronet upon her head; a whole sheaf of golden curls
hung down from it behind. There were the exquisite symmetry of form,
the natural grace, the dreamy beauty--all the soft harmony of color
upon her oval face--but the freshness of girlhood was gone. Enrica had
made a desperate effort to be calm. Nobili was under the same roof--in
the same room--Nobili was beside her. Would he not show some sign
that he still loved her?--Else why had he come?--One glance at him was
enough. Oh! he was changed!--She could not bear it. Enrica would have
fled had not Trenta held her. The marchesa, too, advanced a step or
two, and cast upon her a look so menacing that it filled her with
terror. Trembling all over, Enrica clung to the cavaliere. He led her
gently forward, and placed her beside Count Nobili standing at the
altar. Thus unsupported, Enrica tottered--she seemed about to fall. No
hand was stretched out to help her.
Nobili had turned visibly pale as Enrica entered. His face was
averted. The witnesses, Adamo and Silvestro, ranged themselves on
either side. The marchesa and Maestro Guglielmi drew nearer to the
altar. Angelo waved the censer, walking to and fro before the rails.
Pipa peeped in at the open doorway. Her eyes were red with weeping.
Pipa looked round aghast.
"What a marriage was this! More like a death than a marriage! She
would not have married so--not if it had cost her her life--no music,
no rose-leaves, no dance, no wine. None had even changed their clothes
but the cavaliere and the signorina. And a bridegroom like that!--a
statue--not a living man! And the signorina--poverina--hardly able to
stand upon her feet! The signorina would be sure to faint, she was so
Pipa had to muffle her face in her handkerchief to drown her sobs.
Then Fra Pacifico's impressive voice broke the silence with the
opening words of exhortation.
"Deus Israel sit vobiscum."
"Gloria patri," was the response in Angelo's childish treble.
Enrica and Nobili now knelt side by side. Two lighted tapers, typical
of chaste love, were placed on the floor beside them on either hand.
The image of the Virgin on the altar was uncovered. The tall candles
flickered, Enrica and Nobili knelt side by side--the man who had
ceased to love, and the woman who still loved, but who dared not
confess her love!
As Fra Pacifico proceeded, Count Nobili's face hardened. Was not the
basilisk eye of the marchesa upon him? Her lawyer, too, taking notes
of every look and gesture?
"Mario Nobili, wilt thou have this woman to be thy wife?" asked the
priest. Turning from the altar, Fra Pacifico faced Count Nobili as he
put this question.
A hot flush overspread Nobili's face. He opened his lips to speak, but
no words were audible. Would the words not come, or would Nobili at
the last moment refuse to utter them?
"Mario Nobili, wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife?"
sternly repeated Fra Pacifico, fixing his dark eyes upon him.
"I will," answered Nobili. Whatever his feelings were, Nobili had
For an instant Nobili's eye met Enrica's. He turned hastily away.
Enrica sighed. Whatever hopes had buoyed her up were gone. Nobili had
turned away from her!
Fra Pacifico placed Enrica's hand in that of Nobili. Poor little
hand--how it trembled! Ah! would Nobili not recall how fondly he had
clasped it? What kisses he had showered upon each rosy little finger!
So lately, too! No--Nobili is impassive; not a feature of his face
changes. But the contact of Nobili's beloved hand utterly overcame
Enrica. The limit of her endurance was reached. Again the shadow of
death was upon her--the shadow that had led her to the dark abyss.
When Nobili dropped her hand; Enrica leaned forward upon the edge
of the marble rails. She hid her head upon her arms. Her long hair,
escaped from the fastening, shrouded her face.
"Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus!" spoke the deep voice of Fra Pacifico.
He made the sign of the cross. The address followed. The priest's last
words died away in sonorous echoes. It was done. They were man and
Fra Pacifico had by no outward sign betrayed what he felt during the
discharge of his office; but his conscience sorely smote him. He asked
himself with dismay if, in helping Enrica, he had not committed a
mortal sin? Hitherto he had defended Count Nobili; now his whole soul
rose against him. "Would Nobili say nothing in justification?"
Spite of himself, Fra Pacifico's fists clinched themselves under his
But Nobili was about to speak. He gave a hurried glance round the
circle--upon Enrica kneeling at the altar; with the air of a man who
forces himself to do a hateful penance, he broke silence.
"In the presence of the blessed sacrament"--his voice was thick and
hoarse--"I declare that, after the explanations given, I withdraw my
accusations. I hold that lady, now Countess Nobili"--and he pointed to
the motionless mass of white drapery kneeling beside him--"I hold
that lady innocent in thought and life. But I include her in the just
indignation with which I regard this house and its mistress, whose
agent she has made herself to deceive me."
Count Nobili's kindling eye rested on the marchesa. She, in her turn,
shot a furious glance at the cavaliere.
"'Explanations given!' Then Trenta had dared to exonerate Enrica! It
"This reparation made," continued Count Nobili--"my name and hand
given to her by the Church--honor is satisfied: I will never live with
Was there no mercy in the man as he pronounced these last words? No
appeal? No mercy? Or had the marchesa driven him to bay?
The marchesa!--Nobili's last words had shattered the whole fabric of
her ambition! Never for a moment had the marchesa doubted that, the
marriage once over, Nobili would have seriously refused the splendid
position she offered him. Look at her!--She cannot conceal her
"I invite you, therefore, Maestro Guglielmi"--the studied calmness of
Nobili's manner belied the agitation of his voice and aspect--"you,
Maestro Guglielmi, who have been called here expressly to insult me--I
invite you to advise the Marchesa Guinigi to accept what I am willing
"To insult you, Count Nobili?" exclaimed Guglielmi, looking round.
(Guglielmi had turned aside to write a few hurried words upon his
tablets, torn out the leaf, and slipped it into the marchesa's hand.
So rapidly was this done, no one had perceived it.) "To insult you?
Surely not to insult you! Allow me to explain."
"Silence!" thundered Fra Pacifico standing before the altar. "In the
name of God, silence! Let those who desire to wrangle choose a fitter
place. There can be no contentions in the presence of the sacrament.
The declaration of Count Nobili's belief in the virtue of his wife
I permitted. I listened to what followed, praying that, if human
aid failed, God, hearing his blasphemy against the holy sacrament of
marriage, might touch his heart. In the hands of God I leave him!"
Having thus spoken, Fra Pacifico replaced the Host in the ciborium,
and, assisted by Angelo, proceeded to divest himself of his robes,
which he laid one by one upon the altar.
At this instant the marchesa rose and left the chapel. Count Nobili's
eyes followed her with a look of absolute loathing. Without one glance
at Enrica, still immovable, her head buried on her arms, Nobili left
the altar. He walked slowly to the window at the farther end of the
chapel. Turning his back upon all present, he took from his pocket a
parchment, which he perused with deep attention.
All this time Cavaliere Trenta, radiant in his official costume, his
white staff of office in his right hand, had remained standing behind
Enrica. Each instant he expected to see her rise, when it would
devolve on him to lead her away; but she had not stirred. Now the
cavaliere felt that the fitting moment had fully come for Enrica to
withdraw. Indeed, he wondered within himself why she had remained so
"Enrica, rise, my child," he said, softly. "There is nothing more to
be done. The ceremony is over."
Still Enrica did not move. Fra Pacifico leaned over the altar-rails,
and gently raised her head. It dropped back upon his hand--Enrica had
This discovery caused the most terrible commotion. Pipa, who had
watched every thing from the door, screamed and ran forward. Fra
Pacifico was bending over the prostrate girl, supported in the arms of
"I feared this," Fra Pacifico whispered. "Thank God, I believe it is
only momentary! We must carry her instantly to her room. I will take
care of her."
"Poor, broken flower!" cried Trenta, "who will raise thee up?" His
voice came thick, struggling with sobs. "Can you see that unmoved,
Count Nobili?" Trenta pointed to the retreating figure of Fra Pacifico
bearing Enrica in his arms.
At the sound of Trenta's voice, Count Nobili started and turned
around. Enrica had already disappeared.
"You will soon give her another bridegroom--he will not leave her
as you have done--that bridegroom will be Death! To-day it is the
bridal-veil--to-morrow it will be the shroud. Not a month ago she
lay upon what might have been her death-bed. Your infamous letter
did that!" The remembrance of that letter roused the cavaliere out of
himself; he cared not what he said. "That letter almost killed her.
Would to God she had died! What has she done? She is an angel! We were
all here when you signed the contract. Why did you break it?" Trenta's
shrill voice had risen into a kind of wail. "Do you mean to doubt what
I told you at Lucca? I swear to you that Enrica never knew that she
was offered in marriage to Count Marescotti--I swear it!--I did it--it
was my fault. I persuaded the marchesa. It was I. Enrica and Count
Marescotti never met but in my presence. And you revenge yourself on
her? If you had the heart of a man, you could not do it!"
"It is because I have the heart of a man, I will not suffer
degradation!" cried Nobili. "It is because I have the heart of a man,
I will not sink into an unworthy tool! This is why I refuse to live
with her. She is one of a vile conspiracy. She has joined with the
marchesa against me. I have been forced to marry her. I will not live
Count Nobili stopped suddenly. An agonized expression came into his
"I screened her in the first fury of my anger--I screened her when
I believed her guilty. Now it is too late--God help her!" He turned
Cavaliere Trenta, whose vehemence had died away as suddenly as it had
risen, crept to the door. He threw up his hands in despair. There was
no help for Enrica!
All this time Maestro Guglielmi's keen eyes had noted every thing. He
was on the lookout for evidence. Persons under strong emotions, as a
rule, commit themselves. Count Nobili was young and hot-headed. Count
Nobili would probably commit himself. Up to this time Count Nobili had
said nothing, however, that could be made use of. Guglielmi's ready
brain worked incessantly. If he could carry out the plan he had
formed, he might yet be a judge within the year. Already Guglielmi
feels the touch of the soft fur upon his official robes!
After the cavaliere's departure, Guglielmi advanced. He had been
standing so entirely concealed in the shadow thrown by the altar, that
Nobili had forgotten his presence. Nobili now stared at him in angry
"With your permission," said the lawyer, with a low bow, accosting
Nobili, "I hope to convince you how much you have wronged me by your
"What accusation?" demanded the count, drawing back toward the window.
"I do not understand you."
Guglielmi was the marchesa's adviser; Count Nobili hated him.
"Your accusation that 'I am here to insult you.' If you will do me the
honor, Count Nobili, to speak to me in private"--Guglielmi glanced at
Silvestro, Adamo, and Angelo, peering out half hid by the altar--"if
you will do me this honor, I will prove to you that I am here to serve
"That is impossible," answered Nobili. "Nor do I care. I leave this
"But allow me to observe, Count Nobili," and Maestro Guglielmi drew
himself up with an air of offended dignity, "you are bound as a
gentleman to retract those words, or to hear my explanation." (Delay
at any price was Guglielmi's object.) "Surely, Count Nobili, you
cannot refuse me this satisfaction?"
Count Nobili hesitated. What could this strange man have to say to
Guglielmi watched him.
"You will spare me half an hour?" he urged. "That will suffice."
Count Nobili looked greatly embarrassed.
"A thousand thanks!" exclaimed Guglielmi, accepting his silence for
consent. "I will not trespass needlessly on your time. Permit me to
find some one to conduct you to a room."
Guglielmi looked round--Angelo came forward.
"Conduct Count Nobili to the room prepared for him," said the lawyer.
"There, Count Nobili, I will attend you in a few minutes."
FOR THE HONOR OF A NAME.
When the marchesa entered the sala after she had left the chapel, her
steps were slow and measured. Count Nobili's words rang in her ear: "I
will not live with her." She could not put these words from her. For
the first time in her life the marchesa was shaken in the belief of
If Count Nobili refused to live with Enrica as his wife, all the law
in the world could not force him. If no heir was born to the Guinigi,
she had lived in vain.
As the marchesa stood in the dull light of the misty afternoon,
leaning against the solid carved table on which refreshments were
spread, the old palace at Lucca rose up before her dyed with the ruddy
tints of summer sunsets. She trod again in thought those mysterious
rooms, shrouded in perpetual twilight. She gazed upon the faces of the
dead, looking down upon her from the walls. How could she answer
to those dead; for what had she done? That heroic face too with the
stern, soft eyes--how could she meet it? What was Count Nobili or his
wealth to her without an heir? By threats she had forced Nobili to
make Enrica his wife, but no threats could compel him to complete the
As she lingered in the sala, stunned by the blow that had fallen
upon her, the marchesa suddenly recollected the penciled lines which
Guglielmi had torn from his tablet and slipped into her hand. She drew
the paper from the folds of her dress and read these words:
"_We are beaten if Count Nobili leaves the house to-night.
Keep him at all hazards_."
A sudden revulsion seized her. She raised her head with that
snake-like action natural to her. The blood rushed to her face and
neck. Guglielmi then still had hope?--All was not lost. In an instant
her energy returned to her. What could she do to keep him? Would
Enrica--Enrica was still within the chapel. The marchesa heard the
murmur of voices coming through the corridor. No, though she worshiped
him, Enrica would never lend herself to tempt Nobili with the bait of
her beauty--no, even though she was his wife. It would be useless to
ask her. "Keep him--how?" the marchesa asked herself with feverish
impatience. Every moment was precious. She heard footsteps. They must
be leaving the chapel. Nobili, perhaps, was going. No. The door to the
garden, by which Nobili had entered the chapel, was now locked. Adamo
had given her the key. She must therefore see them when they passed
out through the sala. At this moment the howling of the dogs was
audible. They were chained up in the cave under the tower. Poor
beasts, they had been forgotten in the hurry of the day. The dogs
were hungry; were yelping for their food. Through the open door the
marchesa saw Adamo pass--a sudden thought struck her.
"Padrona." And Adamo's bullet-head and broad shoulders fill up the
"Where is Count Nobili?"
"Along with the lawyer from Lucca."
"He is safe, then, for the present," the marchesa told herself.
Adamo could not speak for staring at his mistress as she stood
opposite to him full in the light. He had never seen such a look upon
her face all the years he had served her.
She almost smiled at him.
"Adamo," the marchesa addresses him eagerly, "come here. How many
years have you lived with me?"
Adamo grins and shows two rows of white teeth.
"Thirty years, padrona--I came when I was a little lad."
"Have I treated you well, Adamo?"
As she asks this question, the marchesa moves close to him.
"Have I ever complained," is Adamo's answer, "that the marchesa asks
"You saved my life, Adamo, not long ago, from the fire." The eager
look is growing intenser. "I have never thanked you. Adamo--"
"Padrona"--he is more and more amazed at her--"she must be going to
die! Gesu mio! I wish she would swear at me," Adamo thought. "Padrona,
don't thank me--Domine Dio did it."
"Take these"--and the marchesa puts her hand into her pocket and draws
out some notes--"take these, these are better than thanks."
Adamo drew back much affronted. "Padrona, I don't want money."
"Yes, yes, take them--for Pipa and the boys"--and she thrusts the
notes into his big red hands.
"After all," thought Adamo to himself, "if the padrona is going to
die, I may as well have these notes as another."
"I would save your life any day, padrona," Adamo says aloud. "It is a
"Would you?" the marchesa fell into a muse.
Again the dogs howled. Adamo makes a motion to go to them.
"Were you going to feed the dogs when I called to you?" she asks.
"Padrona, yes. I was going to feed them."
"Are they very hungry?"
"Very--poverini! they have had nothing since this morning. Now it is
"Don't feed them, Adamo, don't feed them." The marchesa is strangely
excited. She holds out her hand to detain him.
Adamo stares at her in mute consternation. "The padrona is certainly
going mad before she dies," he mutters, trying to get away.
"Adamo, come here!" He approaches her, secretly making horns against
the evil-eye with his fingers. "You saved my life, now you must save
The words came hissing into his ear. Adamo drew back a step or two.
"Blessed mother, what ails her?" But he held his tongue.
The marchesa stands before him drawn up to her full height, every
nerve and muscle strained to the utmost.
"Adamo, do you hear?--My honor, the honor of my name. Quick, quick!"
She lays her hand on his rough jacket and grasps it.
Adamo, struck with superstitious awe, cannot speak. He nods.
"The dogs are hungry, you say. Let them loose without feeding. No one
must leave the house to-night. Do you understand? You must prevent it.
Let the dogs loose."
Again Adamo nods. He is utterly bewildered. He will obey her, of
course, but what can she mean?
"Is your gun loaded?" she asks, anxiously.
"That is well." A vindictive smile lights up her features. "No one
must leave the house to-night. You understand? The dogs will be
loose--the guns loaded.--Where is Pipa? Say nothing to Pipa. Do you
understand? Don't tell Pipa--"
"Understand? No, diavalo! I don't understand," bursts out Adamo. "If
you want any one shot, tell me who it is, padrona, and I will do it."
"That would be murder, Adamo." The marchesa is standing very near
him. Adamo sees the savage gleam that comes into her eyes. "If any one
leaves the house to-night except Fra Pacifico, stop him, Adamo, stop
him. You, or the dogs, or the gun--no matter. Stop him, I command you.
I have my reasons. If a life is lost I cannot help it--nor can you,
She smiles grimly. Adamo smiles too, a stolid smile, and nods. He is
greatly relieved. The padrona is not mad, nor will she die.
"You may sleep in peace, padrona." With the utmost respect Adamo
raises her hand to his lips and kisses it. "Next time ask Adamo to do
something more, and he will do it. Trust me, no one shall leave the
house to-night alive."
The marchesa listens to Adamo breathlessly. "Go--go," she says; "we
must not be seen together."
"The signora shall be obeyed," answers Adamo. He vanishes behind the
"Now I can meet Guglielmi!" The marchesa rapidly crosses the sala to
the door of her own room, which she leaves ajar.
HUSBAND VERSUS WIFE.
The room to which Angelo conducts Count Nobili is on the ground-floor,
in the same wing as the chapel. It is reached by the same corridor,
which traverses all that side of the house. Into this corridor many
other doors open. Pipa had chosen it because it was the best room in
the house. From the high ceiling, painted in gay frescoes, hangs a
large chandelier; the bed is covered with red damask curtains. Such
furniture as was available had been carried thither by Pipa and Adamo.
One large window, reaching to the ground, looks westward over the low
The sun is setting. The mighty range of mountains are laced with gold;
light, fleecy cloudlets float across the sky. Behind rise banks of
deepest saffron. These shift and move at first in chaos; then they
take the form as of a fiery city. There are domes and towers and
pinnacles as of living flame, that burn and glisten. Another moment,
and the sun has sunk to rest. The phantom city fades; the ruddy
background melts into the gray mountain-side. Dim ghost-like streaks
linger about the double summits of La Pagna. They vanish. Nothing then
remains but masses of leaden clouds soon to darken into night.
On entering the room, Count Nobili takes a long breath, gazes for a
moment on the mountains that rise before him, then turns toward
the door, awaiting the arrival of Guglielmi. His restless eye, his
shifting color, betray his agitation. The ordeal is not yet over; he
must hear what this man has to say.
Maestro Guglielmi enters with a quick, brisk step and easy, confident
bearing; indeed, he is in the highest spirits. He had trembled lest
Nobili should have insisted upon leaving Corellia immediately after
the ceremony when it was still broad daylight. Several unforeseen
circumstances had prevented this--Enrica's fainting-fit; the
discussion that ensued upon it between Nobili and the old
chamberlain--all this had created delay, and afforded him an
appropriate opportunity of requesting a private interview. Besides,
the cunning lawyer had noted that, during that discussion in the
chapel with Cavaliere Trenta, Nobili had evinced indications of other
passions besides anger--indications of a certain tenderness in the
midst of his vehement sense of the wrong done him by the marchesa.
But, what was of far more consequence to Guglielmi was, that all
this had the effect of stopping Nobili's immediate departure. That
Guglielmi had prevailed upon Nobili to enter the room prepared for
him--that he had in so doing domiciled himself voluntarily under the
same roof as his wife--was an immense point gained.
All this filled Maestro Guglielmi with the prescience of success. With
Nobili in the house, what might not the chapter of accidents produce?
All this had occurred, too, without taking into account what the
marchesa herself might have planned, when she had read the note of
instructions he had written upon a page of his tablets. Guglielmi
thought he knew his friend and client the Marchesa Guinigi but little,
if her fertile brain had not already created some complication that
would have the effect of preventing Count Nobili's departure that
night. The instant--the immediate instant--now lay with himself. He
was about to make the most of it.
When Guglielmi entered the room, Count Nobili received him with an
expression of undisguised disgust. Summoned by Nobili in a peremptory
tone to say why he had brought him hither, Guglielmi broke forth with
extraordinary volubility. He had used, he declared, his influence with
the marchesa throughout for his (Count Nobili's) advantage--solely for
his advantage. One word from him, and the Marchesa Guinigi would
have availed herself of her legal claims in the most vindictive
manner--exposed family secrets--made the whole transaction of the
marriage public--and so revenged herself upon him that Count Nobili
would have no choice but to leave Lucca and Italy forever.
"All this I have prevented," Guglielmi insisted emphatically. "How
could I serve you better?--Could a brother have guarded your honor
more jealously? You will come to see and acknowledge the obligation
in time--yes, Count Nobili--in time. Time brings all things to light.
Time will exhibit my integrity, my disinterested devotion to your
interests in their true aspect. All little difficulties settled with
my illustrious client, the Marchesa Guinigi (a high-minded and most
courageous lady of the heroic type), established in Lucca in the full
enjoyment of your enormous wealth--with the lovely lady I have just
seen by your side--the enlightened benefactor of the city--the patron
of art--the consoler of distress--a leader of the young generation
of nobles--the political head of the new Italian party--bearing the
grandest name (of course you will adopt that of Guinigi), adorning
that name with the example of noble actions--a splendid career opens
before you. Yes, Count Nobili--yes--a career worthy of the loftiest
"All this I have been the happy means of procuring for you. Another
advocate might have exasperated the marchesa's passions for his own
purposes; it would have been most easy. But I," continued Guglielmi,
bringing his flaming eyes to bear upon Count Nobili, then raising them
from him outward toward the darkening mountains as though he would
call on the great Apennines to bear witness to his truth--"I have
scorned such base considerations. With unexampled magnanimity I have
brought about this marriage--all this I have done, actuated by the
purest, the most single-hearted motives. In return, Count Nobili, I
make one request--I entreat you to believe that I am your friend--"
(Before the lawyer had concluded his peroration, professional zeal had
so far transported him that he had convinced himself all he said was
true--was he not indeed pleading for his judgeship?)
Guglielmi extended his arms as if about to _embrace_ Count Nobili!
All this time Nobili had stood as far removed from him as possible.
Nobili had neither moved nor raised his head once. He had listened
to Guglielmi, as the rocks listen to the splash of the seething waves
beating against their side. As the lawyer proceeded, a deep flush
gradually overspread his face--when he saw the lawyer's outstretched
arms, he retreated to the utmost limits of the room. Guglielmi's arms
fell to his side.
"Whatever may be my opinion of you, Signore Avvocato," spoke the count
at length, contemplating Guglielmi fixedly, and speaking slowly, as
if exercising a strong control over himself--"whether I accept your
friendship, or whether I believe any one word you say, is immaterial.
It cannot affect in any way what is past. The declaration I made
before the altar is the declaration to which I adhere--I am not bound
to state my reasons. To me they are overwhelming. I must therefore
decline all discussion with you. It is for you to make such
arrangements with your client as will insure me a separation. That
done, our paths lie far apart."
Who would have recognized the gracious, facile Count Nobili in these
hard words? The haughty tone in which they were uttered added to their
We are at best the creatures of circumstances--circumstances had
entirely altered him. At that moment, Nobili was at war with all
the world. He hated himself--he hated and he mistrusted every one.
Guglielmi was not certainly adapted to restore faith in mankind.
Legal habits had taught Maestro Guglielmi to shape his countenance
into a mask, fashioned to whatever expression he might desire to
assume. Never had the trick been so difficult! The intense rage
that possessed him was uncontrollable. For the first moment he stood
stolidly mute. Then he struck the heel of his boot loudly upon the
stuccoed floor--would he could crush Count Nobili thus!--crush him
and trample upon him--Nobili--the only obstacle to the high honors
awaiting him! The next instant Guglielmi was reproaching himself for
his want of control--the next instant he was conscious how needful it
was to dissemble. Was he--Guglielmi--who had flashed his sword in
a thousand battles, to be worsted by a stubborn boy? Outwitted by a
capricious lover? Never!
"Excuse me, Count Nobili," he said, overmastering himself by a violent
effort--"it is a bitter pang to me, your devoted friend, to be asked
to become a party to an act fatal to your prospects. If you adhere
to your resolution, you can never return to Lucca--never inhabit the
palace your wealth has so superbly decorated. Public opinion would not
permit it. You, a stranger in the city, are held to have ill-used and
abandoned the niece of the Marchesa Guinigi." Nobili looked up; he
was about to reply. "Pardon me, count, I neither affirm nor deny this
accusation," continued Guglielmi, observing his movement; "I am giving
no opinion on the merits of the case. You have now espoused the lady.
If for a second time you abandon her, you will incur the increased
indignation of the public. Reconsider, I implore you, this last
The lawyer's metallic voice grew positively pathetic.
"I will not reconsider it!" cried Count Nobili, indignantly. "I deny
your right to advise me. You have brought me into this room for no
purpose that I can comprehend. What have I in common with the advocate
of my enemy? I desire to leave Corellia. You are detaining me. Here
is the deed of separation "--Nobili drew from his breast-pocket the
parchment he had perused so attentively in the chapel--"it only needs
the lady's signature. Mine is already affixed. Let me tell you, and
through you the Marchesa Guinigi, without that deed--and my own free
will," he added in a lower tone, "neither you nor she would have
forced me here to this marriage; I came because I considered some
reparation was due to a young lady whose name has been cruelly
outraged. Else I would have died first! If the lady I have made my
wife desires, to make any amends to me for the insults that have
been heaped upon me through her, let her set me free from an odious
thralldom. I will not so much as look upon one who has permitted
herself to be made the tool of others to deceive me. She has been
treacherous to me in business--she has been treacherous to me in
love--no, I will never look upon her again! Live with her?--by God!
The pent-up wrath within him, the maddening sense of wrong, blaze out.
Count Nobili is now striding up and down the room insensible to
any thing for the moment but the consciousness of his own outraged
As Count Nobili waxed furious, Maestro Guglielmi grew calm. His busy
brain was concocting all sorts of expedients. He leaned his chin
upon his hands. His false smile gave place to a sardonic grin, as
he watched Nobili--marked his well-set, muscular figure, his easy
movements, the graceful curve of his head and neck, his delicate,
regular features, his sunny complexion. But Nobili's face without a
smile was shorn of its chief charm: that smile, so bright in itself,
brought brightness to others.
"A fine, generous fellow, a proper husband for any lady in Italy,
whoever she may be," was Guglielmi's reflection, as he watched him.
"The young countess has taste. He is not such a fool either, but
desperately provoking--like all boys with large fortunes, desperately
provoking--and dogged as a mule. But for all that he is a fine,
generous-hearted fellow. I like him--I like him for refusing to
be forced against his will. I would not live with an angel on such
terms." At this point Guglielmi's eyes exhibited a succession of
fireworks; his long teeth gleamed, and he smiled a stealthy smile.
"But he must be tamed, this youth--he must be tamed. Let me see, I
must take him on another tack--on the flank this time, and hit him
Nobili has now ceased striding up and down the room. He stands facing
the window. His ear has caught the barking of several dogs. A minute
after, one rushes past the window--raised only by a few stone steps
from the ground--formidable beast with long white hair, tail on end,
ears erect, open-mouthed, fiery-eyed--this is Argo--Argo let loose,
famished--maddened by Adamo's devices--Argo rushing at full speed and
tearing up a shower of gravel with his huge paws. Barking horribly, he
disappears into the shrubs. Argo's bark is taken up by the other dogs
from all round the house in various keys. Juno the lurcher gives a
short low yelp; the rat-terrier Tuzzi, a shrill, grating whine like
a rusty saw; the bull-terrier, a deep growl. In the solemn silence of
the untrodden Apennines that rise around, the loud voices of the dogs
echo from cliff to cliff boom down into the abyss, and rattle there
like thunder. The night-birds catch up the sound and screech; the
frightened bats circle round wildly.
At this moment heavy footsteps creak upon the gravel under the shadow
of the wall. A low whistle passes through the air, and the dogs
"A savage pack, like their mistress," was Count Nobili's thought as
his eyes tried to pierce into the growing darkness.
Night is coming on. Heavy vapors creep up from the earth and obscure
the air. Darker and denser clouds cover the heavens. Black shadows
gather within the room. The bed looms out from the lighter walls like
a funeral catafalque.
A few pale gleams of light still linger on the horizon. These fall
upon Nobili's figure as he stands framed in the window. As the waning
light strikes upon his eyes, a presentiment of danger comes over him.
These dogs, these footsteps--what do they mean?
Again a wild desire seizes him to be riding full speed on the
mountain-road to Lucca, to feel the fresh night air upon his heated
brow; the elastic spring of his good horse under him, each stride
bearing him farther from his enemies. He is about to leap out and
fly, when the warning hand of the lawyer is laid upon his arm.
Nobili shakes him off, but Guglielmi permits himself no indication
of offense. Dejection and grief are depicted on his countenance. He
shakes his head despondingly; his manner is dangerously fawning. He,
too, has heard the dogs, the footsteps, and the whistle. He has drawn
his own conclusions.
"I perceive, Count Nobili," he says, "you are impatient."
This was in response to a muttered curse from Nobili.
"Let me go! A thousand devils! Let me go!" cried the count, putting
the lawyer back. "Impatient! I am maddened!"
"But not before we have settled the matter in question. That is
impossible! Hear me, then. Count Nobili. With the deepest sorrow I
accept the separation you demand on the part of the marchesa; you
give me no choice. I venture no further remark," continues Guglielmi
meekly, drilling his eyes to a subdued expression.
(His eyes are a continual curse to him; sometimes they will tell the
"But there is one point, my dear count, upon which we must understand
In order to detain Nobili, Guglielmi is about to commit himself to a
deliberate lie. Lying is not his practice; not on principle, for
he has none. Expediency is his faith, pliancy his creed; lying is
inartistic, also dangerous. A lie may grow into a spectre, and haunt
you to your grave, perhaps beyond it.
Guglielmi felt he must do something decisive, or that exalted
personage who desired to avoid all scandal not connected with himself
would be irretrievably offended, and he, Guglielmi, would never sit
on the judicial bench. Yet, unscrupulous as he was, the trickster
shuddered at the thought of what that lie might cost him.
"It is my duty to inform you, Count Nobili"--Guglielmi is speaking
with pompous earnestness--he anxiously notes the effect his words
produce upon Count Nobili--"that, unless you remain under the same
roof with your wife to-night, the marriage will not be completed;
therefore no separation between you will be legal."
Nobili turned pale. He struck his fist violently on the table.
"What! a new difficulty? When will this torture end?"
"It will end to-morrow morning, Count Nobili. To-morrow morning I
shall have the honor of waiting upon you, in company with the Mayor
of Corellia, for the civil marriage. Every requisition of the law will
then have been complied with."
Maestro Guglielmi bows and moves toward the door. If by this means the
civil marriage can be brought about, Guglielmi will have clinched a
doubtful act into a legal certainty.
"A moment, Signore Avvocato "--and Nobili is following Guglielmi to
the door, consternation and amazement depicted upon his countenance,
"Is this indeed so?"
Nobili's manner indicates suspicion.
"Absolutely so," answers the mendacious one. "To-morrow morning,
after the civil marriage, we shall be in readiness to sign the deed of
separation. Allow me in the mean time to peruse it."
He holds out his hand. If all fails, he determines to destroy that
deed, and protest that he has lost it.
"Dio Santo!" ejaculates Nobili, giving the deed to him--"twenty-four
hours at Corellia!"
"Not twenty-four," suggests Guglielmi, blandly, putting the deed into
his pocket and taking out his watch with extraordinary rapidity, then
replacing it as rapidly; "it is now seven o'clock. At nine o'clock
to-morrow morning the deed of separation shall be signed, and you,
Count Nobili, will be free."
THE LAWYER BAFFLED.
At that moment Fra Pacifico's tall figure barred the doorway. He
seemed to have risen suddenly out of the darkness. Nobili started back
and changed color. Of all living men, he most dreaded the priest at
that particular moment. The priest was now before him, stern, grave,
authoritative; searching him with those earnest eyes--the priest--a
living protest against all he had done, against all he was about to
The agile lawyer darted forward. He was about to speak. Fra Pacifico
waved him into silence.
"Maestro Guglielmi," he said, with that sonorous voice which lent
importance to his slightest utterances, "I am glad to find you here.
You represent the marchesa.--My son," he continued, addressing Count
Nobili (as he did so, his face darkened into a look of mingled pain
and displeasure), "I come from your wife."
At that word Fra Pacifico paused. Count Nobili reddened. His eyes fell
upon the floor; he dared not meet the reproving glance he felt was
"My son, I come from your wife," repeated Fra Pacifico.
There was a dead silence.
"You saw your wife borne from the altar fainting. She was mercifully
spared, therefore, hearing from your own lips that you repudiated her.
She has since been informed by Cavaliere Trenta that you did so. I am
here as her messenger. Your wife accepts the separation you desire."
As each sentence fell from the priest's lips his countenance grew
"Accepts the separation! Gives me up!" exclaimed Nobili, quite taken
aback. "So much the better. We are both of the same mind."
But, spite his words, there were irritation and surprise in Nobili's
manner. That Enrica herself should have consented to part from him was
altogether an astonishment!
"If Countess Nobili accepts the separation"--and he turned sharply
upon Guglielmi--"nothing need detain you here, Signore Avvocato. You
hear what Fra Pacifico says. You have only, therefore, to inform the
Marchesa Guinigi. Probably her niece has already done so. We know that
they act in concert." Count Nobili laughed bitterly.
"The marchesa is not even aware that I am here," interposed Fra
Pacifico. "Enrica is now married--she acts for herself. Her first act,
Count Nobili, is one of obedience--she sacrifices herself to you."
Again the priest's deep-set eyes turned reprovingly upon Count Nobili.
Dare the headstrong boy affect to misunderstand that he had driven
Enrica to renounce him? Guglielmi remained standing near the
door--self-possessed, indeed, as usual, but utterly crestfallen. His
very soul sank within him as he listened to Fra Pacifico. Every thing
was going wrong, the judgeship in imminent peril, and this devil of a
priest, who ought to know better, doing every thing to divide them!
"Signore Guglielmi," said Nobili, with a significant glance at the
open door, "allow me to repeat--we need not detain you. We shall now
act for ourselves. Without reference to the difficulties you have
"The difficulties I have raised have been for your own good, Count
Nobili," was Guglielmi's indignant reply. "Had I been supported
by"--and he glanced at Fra Pacifico--"by those whose duty teaches
them obedience to the ordinances of the Church, you would have saved
yourself and others the spectacle of a matrimonial scandal that will
degrade you before the eyes of all Italy."
Count Nobili was rushing forward, with some undefined purpose of
chastising Guglielmi, when Fra Pacifico interposed. A quiet smile
parted his well-formed mouth; he shrugged his shoulders as he eyed the
"Allow me to judge of my duty as a priest. Look to your own as a
lawyer, or it may be the worse for you. What says the motto?--'Those
who seek gold may find sand.'"
Guglielmi, greatly alarmed at what Fra Pacifico might reveal of their
previous conversation, waited to hear no more; he hastily disappeared.
Fra Pacifico watched the manner of his exit with silence, the quiet
smile of conscious power still on his lips. When he turned and
addressed Count Nobili, the smile had died out.
Before Fra Pacifico can speak, the whole pack of dogs, attracted by
the loud voices, gather round the steps before the open window. They
are barking furiously. The smooth-skinned, treacherous bull-dog is
silent, but he stands foremost. True to his breed, the bull-dog is
silent. He creeps in noiselessly--his teeth gleam within an inch of
Nobili. Fra Pacifico spies him. With a furious kick he flings him out
far over the heads of the others. The bull-dog's howl of anguish rouses
the rest to frenzy. A moment more, and Fra Pacifico and Count Nobili
would have been attacked within the very room, but again footsteps are
heard passing in the shadow. A shot is fired close at hand. The dogs
rush off, the bull-dog whining and limping in the rear.
Count Nobili and Fra Pacifico exchange glances. There is a knock at
the door. Pipa enters carrying a lighted lamp which she places on the
table. Pipa does not even salute Fra Pacifico, but fixes her eyes,
swollen with crying, upon Count Nobili.
"What is the matter?" asks the priest.
"Riverenza, I do not know. Adamo and Angelo are out watching."
"But, Pipa, it is very strange. A shot was fired. The dogs, too, are
wilder than ever."
"Riverenza, I know nothing. Perhaps there are some deserters about.
We are used to the dogs. I never hear them. I am come from the
At that name Count Nobili looks up and meets Pipa's gaze. If Pipa
could have stabbed him then and there with the silver dagger in her
black hair she would have done it, and counted it a righteous act. But
she must deliver her message.
"Signore Conte"--Pipa flings her words at Nobili as if each word
were a stone, with which she would have hit him--"Signore Conte, the
marchesa has sent me. The marchesa bids me salute you. She desired
me to bring in this light. I was to say supper is served in the great
sala. She eats in her own room with the cavaliere, and hopes you will
Before the count could answer, Pipa was gone.
"My son," said Fra Pacifico, standing beside him in the dimly-lighted
room, "you have now had time to reflect. Do you accept the separation
offered to you by your wife?"
"I do, my father."
"Then she will enter a convent." Nobili sighed heavily. "You have
broken her heart."
There was a depth of unexpressed reproach in the priest's look. Tears
gathered in his eyes, his deep voice shook.
"But why if she ever loved me"--whispered Nobili into Fra Pacifico's
ear as though he shrank from letting the very walls hear what he was
about to say--
"If she loved you!" burst out Fra Pacifico with rising passion--"if
she loved you! You have my word that she loved you--nay, God help her,
that she loves you still!"
Fra Pacifico drew back from Nobili as he said this. Again Nobili
approached him, speaking into his ear.
"Why, then, if she loved me, could she join with the marchesa against
me? Was I not induced by my love for her to pay her aunt's debts?
Answer me that, my father. Why did she insist upon this ill-omened
marriage?--a proceeding as indelicate as it is--"
"Silence!" thundered Fra Pacifico--"silence, I command you! What you
say of that pure and lovely girl whose soul is as crystal before me,
is absolute sacrilege. I will not listen to it!"
Fra Pacifico's eyes flashed fire. He looked as if he would strike
Count Nobili where he stood. He checked himself, however; then he
continued with more calmness: "To become your wife was needful for the
honor of Enrica's name, which you had slandered. The child put herself
in my hands. I am responsible for this marriage--I only. As to the
marchesa, do you think she consults Enrica? The hawk and the dove
share not the same nest! No, no. Did the marchesa so much as tell
Enrica, when she offered her as wife to Count Marescotti?"
At the sound of Marescotti's name Nobili's assumed composure utterly
gave way. His whole frame stiffened with rage.
"Yes--Marescotti--curse him! And I am the husband of the woman he
"For shame, Count Nobili!--you have yourself exonerated her."
"Enrica must have been an accomplice!" cried Nobili, transported
out of himself. Count Marescotti's name had exasperated him beyond
"Fool!" exclaimed Fra Pacifico. "Will you not listen to reason? Has
not Enrica by her own act renounced all claim to you as a wife? Is not
Nobili was silent. Hitherto he had been driven on, goaded by the
promptings of passion, and the firm belief that Enrica was the mere
tool of her aunt. Now the same facts detailed by the priest placed
themselves in a new light. For the first time Nobili doubted whether
he was entirely justified in all that he had done--in all that he was
about to do.
Meanwhile Fra Pacifico was losing all patience. His manly nature
rose within him at what he considered Nobili's deliberate cruelty.
Inflexible in right, Fra Pacifico was violent in face of wrong.
"Why did you not let her die?" he exclaimed, bitterly. "It would
have saved her a world of suffering. I thought I knew you, Mario
Nobili--knew you from a boy," he added, contemplating him with a dark
scowl. "You have deceived me. Every word you utter only sinks you
lower in my esteem."
"It would indeed have been better had we both perished in the flames!"
cried Nobili in a voice full of anguish--"perished--locked in each
other's arms! Poor Enrica!" He turned away, and a low sob burst from
his heart of hearts. "The marchesa has destroyed my love!--She has
blighted my life!" Nobili's voice sounded hollow in the dimly-lighted
room. At last Nobili was speaking out--speaking, as it were, from the
grave of his love! "Yes, I loved her," he continued dreamily--"I loved
her! How much I did not know!"
He had forgotten he was not alone. The priest was but dimly visible.
He was leaning against the wall, his massive chin resting on his hand,
listening to Nobili. Now, hearing what he said, Fra Pacifico's anger
had vanished. After all, he had not been mistaken in his old pupil!
Nobili was neither cruel nor heartless; but he had been driven to bay!
Now he pitied him, profoundly. What could he say to him? He could urge
Nobili no more. He must work out his own fate!
Again Nobili spoke.
"When I saw her sweet face turned toward me as she entered the chapel,
I dared not look again! It was too late. My pride as a man, all that
is sacred to me as a gentleman, has been too deeply wounded. The
marchesa has done it. She alone is responsible. _She_ has left me
no alternative. I will never accept a wife forced upon me by
_her_--never, by Heaven! My father, these are my last words. Carry
them to Enrica."
Count Nobili's head dropped upon his breast. He covered his face with
"My son, I leave you in the hands of God. May He lead you and comfort
you! But remember, the life of your wife is bound up in _your_ life.
Hitherto Enrica has lived upon hope. Deprived of hope, _she will
When Nobili looked up, Fra Pacifico was gone.
FACE TO FACE.
The time had now come when Count Nobili must finally make up his mind.
He had told Fra Pacifico that his determination was unaltered. He had
told him that his dignity as a man, his honor as a gentleman, demanded
that he should free himself from the net-work of intrigues in which
the marchesa had entangled him. Of all earthly things, compliancy with
her desires most revolted him. Rather than live any longer the victim
either of her malice or her ambition, he had brought himself to
believe that it was his duty to renounce Enrica. Until Fra Pacifico
had entered that room within which he was again pacing up and down
with hasty strides, no doubt whatever had arisen in his mind as to
what it was incumbent upon him to do: to give Enrica the protection
of his name by marriage, then to separate. Whether to separate in
the manner pointed out by Guglielmi he had not decided. An innate
repulsion, now increased by suspicion, made him distrust any act
pressed upon him by that man, especially when urged in concert with
Every hour passed at Corellia was torture to him. Should he go at
once, or should he remain until the morning?--sign the deed?--complete
the sacrifice? Already what he had so loudly insisted on presented
itself now to him in the light of a sacrifice. Enrica loved him
still--he believed Fra Pacifico. The throbbing of his heart as he
thought of her told him that he returned that love. She was there near
him under the same roof. Could he leave her? Yes, he must leave her!
He would trust himself no longer in the hands of the marchesa or of
her agent. Instinct told him some subtle scheme lay under the urgings
of Guglielmi--the dangerous civilities of the marchesa. He would
go. The legal separation might be completed elsewhere. Why only at
Corellia? Why must those formalities insisted on by Guglielmi be
respected? What did they mean? Of the real drift of the delay Nobili
was utterly ignorant. Had he asked Fra Pacifico, he would have told
him the truth, but he had not done so.
To meet Enrica in the morning; to meet her again in the presence of
her detested aunt; to meet her only to sign a deed separating them
forever under the mockery of mutual consent, was agony. Why should he
Nobili, wrought up to a pitch of excitement that almost robbed him of
reason, dares not trust himself to think. He seizes his hat, which lay
upon the table, and rushes out into the night. The murmur of voices
comes dimly to him in the freshness of the air out of a window next
his own. A circle of light shines on the glistening gravel before him.
There must be people within--people watching him, doubtless. As the
thought crosses his mind he is suddenly pinned to the earth. Argo is
watching for him--stealthy Argo--Argo springs upon him silently from
behind; he holds him tightly in his grip. The dog made no sound, nor
does he now, but he has laid Nobili flat on the ground. He stands over
him, his heavy paws planted upon his chest, his open jaws and dripping
tongue close upon his face, so close, that Nobili feels the dog's hot
breath upon his skin. Nobili cannot move; he looks up fixedly into
Argo's glaring, bloodshot eyes. His steady gaze daunts the dog. In the
very act of digging his big fangs into Nobili's throat Argo pauses;
he shrinks before those human eyes before which the brutish nature
quails. In an instant Nobili's strong hands close round his throat;
he presses it until the powerful paws slacken in their grip--until the
fiery eyes are starting from their sockets.
Silent as is the struggle the other dogs are alarmed--they give tongue
from different sides. Footsteps are rapidly approaching--the barrel of
a gun gleams out of the darkness--a shot is fired--the report wanders
off in endless reverberation among the rocks--another shot, and
another, in instant succession, answer each other from behind the
With a grasp of iron Nobili holds back gallant Argo--Argo foaming at
the mouth; his white-coated chest heaving, as if in his last agony!
Yet Argo is still immovable--his heavy paws upon Nobili's chest
pressing with all his weight upon him!
Now the footsteps have turned the corner! Dim forms already shape
themselves in the night mist. The other dogs, barking savagely, are
behind--they are coming--they are at hand! Ah! Nobili, what can you do
now?--Nobili understands his danger. Quick as thought Nobili has
dealt Argo a tremendous blow under the left ear. He seizes him by his
milk-white hair so long and beautiful, he flings him against the low
wall almost insensible. Argo falls a shapeless mass. He is stunned and
motionless. Before the shadow of Adamo is upon him--before the dogs
noses touch him--Nobili is on his feet. With one bound he has leaped
through the window--the same from which the voices had come (it has
been opened in the scuffle)--in an instant he closes the sash! He is
Coming suddenly out of the darkness, after the great force he had put
forth, Nobili feels giddy and bewildered. At first he sees nothing
but that there is a light in the centre of the room. As his eyes fix
themselves upon it the light almost blinds him. He puts his hand to
his forehead, where the veins had swollen out like cords upon his
fair skin. He puts up his hands to shade his dazzled eyes before
which clouds of stars dance desperately. He steadies himself and looks
Before him stands Enrica!
By Pipa's care the bridegroom's chamber had been chosen next
the bride's when she prepared Count Nobili's room. Pipa was
straightforward and simple in her notions of matrimony, but, like a
wise woman, she had held her tongue.
Nobili and Enrica are alone. A furtive glance passes between them.
Neither of them moves. Neither of them speaks. The first movement
comes from Enrica. She sinks backward upon a chair. The tangle of her
yellow hair closes round her face upon which a deep blush had risen
at sight of Nobili. When that blush had died out she looked resigned,
almost passionless. She knew that the moment had come which must
decide her fate. Before they two parted she would hear from the lips
of the man she loved if they were ever to meet again! Her eyes fell
to the ground. She dared not raise them. If she looked at Nobili, she
must fling herself into his arms.
Nobili, standing on the same spot beyond the circle of the light,
gazes at Enrica in silence. He is overwhelmed by the most conflicting
emotions. But the spell of her beauty is upon him. His pulses beat
madly. For an instant he forgets where he is. He forgets all but
that Enrica is before him. For a moment! Then his brain clears. He
remembers every thing--remembers--oh, how bitterly!--that, after all
that has passed, his very presence in that room is an insult to her!
He feels he ought to go--yet an irresistible longing chains him to
the spot. He moves toward the door. To reach it he must pass close to
Enrica. When he is near the door he stops. The light shows that his
clothes are torn--that there is blood upon his face and hands. In
scarcely articulate words Nobili addresses her.
"Enrica--countess, I mean"--Nobili hesitates--"pardon this
intrusion.--You saw the accident.--I did not know that this was _your_
Again Nobili pauses, waiting for an answer. None comes. Would she not
speak to him? Alas! had he deserved that she should? Nobili takes a
step or two toward the door. With one hand upon the lock he pauses
once more, gazing at Enrica with lingering eyes. Then he turns to
leave the room. It is all over!--he had only to depart! A low cry from
Enrica stops him.
"Nobili," Enrica says, "tell me--oh! tell me, are you hurt?"
Enrica has risen from the chair. One hand rests on the table for
support. Her voice falters as she asks the question. Nobili, every
drop of whose blood runs fevered in his veins, turns toward her.
"I am not hurt--a scratch or two--nothing."
"Thank God!" Enrica utters, in a low voice.
Nobili endeavors to approach her. She draws back.
"As I am here"--he speaks with the utmost embarrassment--"here, as you
see, by accident"--his voice rests on the words--"I cannot go--"
As Nobili speaks he perceives that Enrica gradually retreats farther
from him. The tender delight that had come into her eyes when he first
addressed her fades out into a scared look--a look like a defenseless
animal expecting to receive a death-wound. Nobili sees and understands
His heart smites him sorely. Great God!--has he become an object of
terror to her?
"Enrica!"--she starts back as Nobili pronounces her name, yet he
speaks so softly the sound comes to her almost like a sigh--"Enrica,
do not fear me. I will say no word to offend you. I cannot go without
asking your pardon. As one who loved you once--as one who loves--"
He stops. What is he saying?--"I humbly beseech you to forgive me.
Enrica, let me hear you say that you forgive me."
Still Enrica retreats from him, that suffering, saint-like look upon
her face he knows so well. Nobili follows her. He kneels at her feet.
He kneels at the feet of the woman from whom, not an hour before, he
had demanded a separation!
"Say--can you forgive me before I go?"
As Nobili speaks, his strong heart goes out to her in speechless
longings. If Enrica had looked into his eyes they would have told her
that he never had loved her as now! And they were parted!
Enrica puts out her hand timidly. Her lips move as if to speak, but no
sound comes. Nobili rises; he takes her hand within both his own. He
kisses it reverently.
"Dear hand--" he murmurs, "and it was mine!"
Released from his, the dainty little hand falls to her side. She
sighs deeply. There is the old charm in Nobili's voice--so sweet, so
subtile. The tones fall upon her ear like strains of passionate music.
A storm of emotion sweeps across her face. She has forgotten all in
the rapture of his presence. Yes!--that voice! Had it not been raised
but a few hours before at the altar to repudiate her? How can she
believe in him? How surrender herself to the glamour of his words?
Remembering all this, despair comes over her. Again Enrica shrinks
from him. She bursts into tears and hides her face with her hands.
Enrica's distrust of him, her silence, her tears, cut Nobili to the
soul. He knows he deserves it. Ah!--with her there before him, how
he curses himself for ever having doubted her! Every justification
suddenly leaves him. He is utterly confounded. The gossip of the
club--Count Marescotti and his miserable verses--the marchesa
herself--what are they all beside the purity of those saint-like eyes?
Nera, too--false, fickle, sensual Nera--a mere thing of flesh and
blood--he had left her for Nera! Was he mad?
At that moment, of all living men, Count Nobili seemed to himself the
most unworthy! He must go--he did not deserve to stay!
"Enrica--before I leave you, speak to me one word of forgiveness--I
As he speaks their eyes meet. Yes, she is his own Enrica--unchanged,
unsullied!--the idol is intact within its shrine--the sanctuary is as
he had left it! No rude touch had soiled that atmosphere of purity and
freshness that floated like an aureole around her!
How could he leave her?--if they must part, he would hear his fate
from her own lips. Enrica is leaning against the wall speechless, her
face shaded by her hand. Big tears are trickling through her fingers.
Unable to support herself she clings to a chair, then seats herself.
And Nobili, pale with passion stands by, and dares not so much as to
touch her--dares not touch her, although she is his wife!
In the fury of his self-reproach, he digs his hands into the masses of
thick chestnut curls that lie disordered about his head.
Fool, idiot!--had he lost her? A terrible misgiving overcomes him? It
fills him with horror. Was it too late? Would she never forgive him?
Nobili's troubled eyes, that wander all over her, ask the question.
"Speak to me--speak to me!" he cries. "Curse me--but speak to me!"
At this appeal Enrica turns her tear-bedewed face toward him.
"Nobili," she says at last, very low, "would you have gone without
Nobili dares not lie to her. He makes no reply.
"Oh, do not deceive me, Nobili!" and Enrica wrings her hands and looks
piteously into his face. "Tell me--would you have come to me?"
It is only by a strong effort that Nobili can restrain himself
from folding Enrica in his arms and in one burning kiss burying the
remembrance of the miserable past. But he trembles lest by offending
her the tender flower before him may never again expand to the ardor
of his love. If Fra Pacifico has not by his arguments already shaken
Nobili's conviction of the righteousness of his own conduct, the sight
of Enrica utterly overcomes him.
"Deceive you!" he exclaims, approaching her and seizing her hands
which she did not withdraw--"deceive you! How little you read my
He holds her soft hands firmly in his--he covers them with kisses.
Enrica feels the tender pressure of his lips pass through her whole
frame. But, can she trust him?
"Did I not love you enough?" she asks, looking into his face. She
gently disengages her hands from his grasp. There is no reproach in
her look, but infinite sorrow. "Can I believe you?" And the soft blue
eyes rest upon him full of pathetic pleading.
An expression of despair comes into Nobili's bright face. How can
he answer her? How can he satisfy her when he himself has shaken her
trust? Alas! would the golden past never come again? The past, tinted
with the passion of ardent summer?
"Believe me?" he cries, in a tone of wildest passion. "Can you ask
As he speaks he leans over her. Love is in his voice--his eyes--his
whole attitude. Would she not understand him? Would she reject him?
Enrica draws back--she raises her hand in protest.
"Let me again"--Nobili is following her closely--"let me implore your
forgiveness of my unmanly conduct."
She presses her hands to her bosom as if in pain, but not a sound
comes to her lips.
"Believe me," he urges, "I have been driven mad by the marchesa! It is
my only excuse."
"Am I?" Enrica answers. "Have I not suffered enough from my aunt?
What had she to do between you and me? Did I love you less because
she hated you? Listen, Nobili"--Enrica with difficulty commands her
voice--"from the first time we met in the cathedral I gave myself to
"But, Enrica--love--you consented to leave me. You sent Fra Pacifico
to say so."
The thought that Enrica had so easily resigned him still rankled in
Nobili's heart. Spite of himself, there is bitterness in his tone.
Enrica is standing aloof from him. The light of the lamp strikes upon
her golden hair, her downcast eyes, her cheeks mantling with blushes.
"I leave you!"--a soft dew came into Enrica's eyes as she fixed them
upon Nobili--a dew that rapidly formed itself into two tears that
rolled silently down her cheek--"never--never!"
Spite of the horrors of the past, these words, that look, tell him
she is his! Nobili's heart leaps within him. For a moment he is
breathless--speechless in the tumult of his great joy.
"Oh! my beloved!" he cries, in a voice that penetrates her very soul.
"Come to me--here--to a heart all your own!" He springs forward and
clasps her in his arms. "Thus--thus let the past perish!" Nobili
whispers as his lips touch hers. Enrica's head nestles upon his
breast. She has once more found her home.
A subdued knock is heard at the door.
"Sangue di Dio!" mutters Nobili, disengaging himself from
Enrica--"what new torment is this? Is there no peace in this house?
Who is there?"
"It is I, Count Nobili." Maestro Guglielmi puts in his hatchet face
and glaring teeth. In an instant his piercing eyes have traveled round
the room. He has taken in the whole situation--Count Nobili in the
middle of the floor--flushed--agitated--furious at this interruption;
Enrica--revived--conscious--blushing at his side. The investigation
is so perfectly satisfactory that Maestro Guglielmi cannot suppress a
grin of delight.
"Believe me, Signore Conte," he says, advancing cautiously a step or
two forward into the room, a deprecating look on his face--"believe
me--this intrusion"--Guglielmi turns to Enrica, grins again palpably,
then bows--"is not of my seeking."
"Tell me instantly what brings you here?" demands Nobili, advancing.
(Nobili would have liked beyond measure to relieve his feelings by
"It is just that"--Guglielmi cannot refrain from another glance round
before he proceeds--(yes, they are reconciled, no doubt of it.
The judgeship is his own! Evviva! The illustrious personage--so
notoriously careful of his subject's morals--who had deigned to
interest himself in the marriage, might possibly, at the birth of
a son and heir to the Guinigi, add a pension--who knows? At this
reflection the lawyer's eyes become altogether unmanageable)--"it is
just that," repeats Guglielmi, making a desperate effort to collect
himself. "Personally I should have declined it, personally; but the
marchesa's commands were absolute: 'You must go yourself, I will
permit no deputy.'"
"Damn the marchesa! Shall I never be rid of the marchesa?"
Nobili's aspect is becoming menacing. Maestro Guglielmi is not a man
easily daunted; yet once within the room, and the desired evidence
obtained, he cannot but feel all the awkwardness of his position.
Greatly as Guglielmi had been tickled at the notion of becoming
himself a witness in his own case, to do him justice he would not have
"The marchesa sent me," he stammers, conscious of Count Nobili's
indignation (with his arms crossed, Count Nobili is eying Guglielmi
from head to foot). "The marchesa sent me to know--"
Nobili unfolds his arms, walks straight up to where Guglielmi is
standing, and shakes his fist in his face.
"Do you know, Signore Avvocato, that you are committing an intolerable
impertinence? If you do not instantly quit this room, or give me
some excellent reason for remaining, you shall very speedily have my
opinion of your conduct in a very decided manner."
Count Nobili is decidedly dangerous. He glares at Guglielmi like a
very devil. Guglielmi falls back. The false smile is upon his lips,
but his treacherous eyes express his terror. Guglielmi's combats are
only with words, his weapon the pen; otherwise he is powerless.
"Excuse me, Count Nobili, excuse me," he stammers. He rubs his hands
nervously together and watches Nobili, who is following him step by
step. "It is not my fault--I give you my word--not my fault. Don't
look so, count; you really alarm me. I am here as a man of peace--I
entreated the marchesa to retire to rest. I represented to her the
peculiar delicacy of the position, but I grieve to say she insisted."
Nobili is now close to him; his eyes are gathered upon him more
threateningly than ever.
"Remember, sir, you are addressing me in the presence of my wife--be
What a withering look Nobili gives Guglielmi as he says this! He can
with difficulty keep his hands off him!
"Yes--yes--just so--just so--I applaud your sentiments, Count
Nobili--most appropriate. Now I will go."
Alarmed as he is, Guglielmi cannot resist one parting glance at
Enrica. She is crimson. Then with an expression of infinite relief
he retreats to the door walking backward. Guglielmi has a strong
conviction that if he turns round Count Nobili may kick him, so,
keeping his eyes well balanced upon him, he fumbles with his hands
behind his back to find the handle of the door. In his confusion he
"Not for worlds, Signore Conte," says Guglielmi, nervously passing
his hand up and down the panel in search of the door-handle--"not for
worlds would I offend you! Believe me--(maledictions on the door--it
Now Guglielmi has it! Safely clutching the handle with both his hands,
Guglielmi's courage returns. His mocking eyes look up without blinking
into Nobili's, fierce and flashing as they are.
"Before I go"--he bows with affected humility--"will you favor me,
count, and you, madame" (Guglielmi is clutching the door-handle
tightly, so as to be able to escape at any moment), "by informing me
whether you still desire the deed of separation to be prepared for
your signature in the morning?"
"Leave the room!" roars Count Nobili, stamping furiously on the
floor--"leave the room, or, Domine Dio!--"
Maestro Guglielmi had jumped out backward, before Count Nobili could
finish the sentence.
"Enrica!" cries Nobili, turning toward her--he had banged-to the door
and locked it--"Enrica, if you love me, let us leave this accursed
villa to-night! This is more than I can bear!"
What Enrica replied, or if Enrica ever replied at all, is, and ever
will remain, a mystery!
An hour or two has passed. A slow and cautious step, accompanied with
the tapping of a stick upon the stone flags of the floor, is audible
along the narrow passage leading from the sala to Pipa's room. It
is as dark as pitch. Whoever it is, is afraid of falling, and creeps
along cautiously, feeling by the wall.
Pipa, expecting to be summoned to her mistress--Pipa, wondering
greatly indeed what Enrica can be about, and why she does not go
to bed, when she, the blessed dear, was so faint and tired, and
crying--oh, so pitifully!--when she left her--Pipa, leaning against
the door-post near the half-open door, dozing like a dog with one eye
open in case she should be called--listened and looked out into the
passage. A figure is standing within the light that streams out from
the door, a very well-remembered figure, stout and short--a little
bent forward on a stick--with a round, rosy face framed in snowy
curls, a world of pleasant wickedness in two twinkling eyes, on which
the light strikes, and a mouth puckered up for any mischief.
"Madonna!" cries Pipa, rubbing her eyes--"the cavaliere! How you did
frighten me! I cannot bear to hear footsteps about when Adamo is
out;" and Pipa gazes up and down into the darkness with an unpleasant
consciousness that something ghostly might be watching her.
"Pipa," says the cavaliere, putting his finger to his nose and
winking palpably, "hold your tongue, and don't scream when I tell you
something. Promise me."
"O Gesu!" cries Pipa in a loud voice, starting back, forgetting his
injunction--"is it not about the signorina?"
"Hold your tongue, Pipa, or I will tell you nothing."
Pipa's head is instantly close to the cavaliere's, her face all
"Yes, it is about the signorina--the countess. She is gone!"
"Gone!" and Pipa, spite of warning, fairly shouts now "gone!" at which
the cavaliere shakes his stick at her, smiling, however, benignly all
the time. "Holy mother! gone! O cavaliere! tell me--she is not dead?"
(Ever since Pipa had tended Enrica lying on her bed, so still and
cold, it seemed reasonable to her that she might die at any instant,
without warning given.)
"Yes, Pipa," answers the cavaliere solemnly, his voice shaking
slightly, but he still smiles, though the dew of rising tears is in
his merry eyes--"yes, dead--dead to us, my Pipa--I fear dead to us."
Pipa sinks back in speechless horror against the wall, and groans.
"But only to us--(don't be a fool, Pipa)"--this in a parenthesis--"she
is gone with her husband."
Pipa rises to her feet and stares at Trenta, at first wildly, then, as
little by little the hidden sense comes to her, her rosy lips slowly
part and lengthen out until every snowy tooth is visible. Then Pipa
covers her face with her apron, and shakes from head to foot in such
a fit of laughter, that she has to lean against the wall not to fall
down. "Oh hello!" is all she can say. This Pipa repeats at intervals
"Come, Pipa, that will do," says the cavaliere, poking at her with his
stick--"I must get back before I am missed--no one must know it till
morning--least of all the marchesa and Guglielmi. They are shut up
together. The marchesa says she will sit up all night. But Count
Nobili and his wife are gone--really gone. Fra Pacifico managed it. He
got hold of Adamo, who was running round the house with a loaded
gun, all the dogs after him. Take care of Adamo when he comes back
to-night, Pipa. He is fastening up the dogs, and feeding them, and
taking care of poor Argo, who is badly hurt. He is quite mad, Adamo.
I never saw a man so wild. He would not come in. He said the marchesa
had told him to shoot some one. He swore he would do it yet. He nearly
fought with Fra Pacifico when he forced him in. Adamo is quite mad.
Tell him nothing to-night; he is not safe."
Pipa has now let down her apron. Her bright olive-complexioned face
beams in one broad smile, like the full moon at harvest. She is still
shaking, and at intervals gives little spasmodic giggles.
"Leave Adamo to me" (another giggle); "I will manage him" (another).
"Why, he might have shot the signorina's husband--the fool!"
This thought steadies Pipa for an instant, but she bursts out again.
"Oh hello!"--Pipa gurgles like a stream that cannot stop running; then
she breaks off all at once, and listens. "Hush! hush! There is
Adamo coming, cavaliere--hush! hush! Make haste and go away. He is
coming--Adamo; I hear him on the gravel."
"Say nothing until the morning," whispers the cavaliere. "Give them a
fair start. Ha! ha!"
Pipa nods. Her face twitches all over. As Cavaliere Trenta turns to
go, Pipa catches him smartly by the shoulder, draws him to her, and
speaks into his ear:
"To think the signorina has run away with her own husband! Oh bello!"