Part 8 out of 11
He asked her if she did not know that she had the power to move
"Sire, singing appears so poor a thing in time of war."
He remarked that wine was good for soldiers, singing better, such a voice
as hers best of all.
For hours after the interview, Vittoria struggled with her deep blushes.
She heard the drums of the regiments, the clatter of horses, the bugle-
call of assembly, as so many confirmatory notes that it was a royal hero
who was going forth.
"He stakes a crown," she said to Laura.
"Tusk! it tumbles off his head if he refuses to venture something," was
Vittoria reproached her for injustice.
"No," Laura said; "he is like a young man for whom his mother has made a
match. And he would be very much in love with his bride if he were quite
certain of winning her, or rather, if she would come a little more than
halfway to meet him. Some young men are so composed. Genoa and Turin
say, 'Go and try.' Milan and Venice say, 'Come and have faith in us.' My
opinion is that he is quite as much propelled as attracted."
"This is shameful," said Vittoria.
"No; for I am quite willing to suspend my judgement. I pray that fortune
may bless his arms. I do think that the stir of a campaign, and a
certain amount of success will make him in earnest."
"Can you look on his face and not see pure enthusiasm?"
"I see every feminine quality in it, my dear."
"What can it be that he is wanting in?"
"I am not defending him," said Vittoria hastily.
"Not at all; and I am not attacking him. I can excuse his dread of
Republicanism. I can fancy that there is reason for him just now to fear
Republicanism worse than Austria. Paris and Milan are two grisly
phantoms before him. These red spectres are born of earthquake, and are
more given to shaking thrones than are hostile cannonshot. Earthquakes
are dreadfuller than common maladies to all of us. Fortune may help him,
but he has not the look of one who commands her. The face is not
aquiline. There's a light over him like the ray of a sickly star."
"For that reason!" Vittoria burst out.
"Oh, for that reason we pity men, assuredly, my Sandra, but not kings.
Luckless kings are not generous men, and ungenerous men are mischievous
"But if you find him chivalrous and devoted; if he proves his noble
intentions, why not support him?"
"Dandle a puppet, by all means," said Laura.
Her intellect, not her heart, was harsh to the king; and her heart was
not mistress of her intellect in this respect, because she beheld riding
forth at the head of Italy one whose spirit was too much after the
pattern of her supple, springing, cowering, impressionable sex,
alternately ardent and abject, chivalrous and treacherous, and not to be
confided in firmly when standing at the head of a great cause.
Aware that she was reading him very strictly by the letters of his past
deeds, which were not plain history to Vittoria, she declared that she
did not countenance suspicion in dealing with the king, and that it would
be a delight to her to hear of his gallant bearing on the battle-field.
"Or to witness it, my Sandra, if that were possible;--we two! For,
should he prove to be no General, he has the courage of his family."
Vittoria took fire at this. "What hinders our following the army?"
"The less baggage the better, my dear."
"But the king said that my singing--I have no right to think it myself."
Vittoria concluded her sentence with a comical intention of humility.
"It was a pretty compliment," said Laura. "You replied that singing is a
poor thing in time of war, and I agree with you. We might serve as
"Why do we not determine?"
"We are only considering possibilities."
"Consider the impossibility of our remaining quiet."
"Fire that goes to flame is a waste of heat, my Sandra."
The signora, however, was not so discreet as her speech. On all sides
there was uproar and movement. High-born Italian ladies were offering
their hands for any serviceable work. Laura and Vittoria were not alone
in the desire which was growing to be resolution to share the hardships
of the soldiers, to cherish and encourage them, and by seeing, to have
the supreme joy of feeling the blows struck at the common enemy.
The opera closed when the king marched. Carlo Ammiani's letter was
handed to Vittoria at the fall of the curtain on the last night.
Three paths were open to her: either that she should obey her lover,
or earn an immense sum of money from Antonio-Pericles by accepting an
immediate engagement in London, or go to the war. To sit in submissive
obedience seemed unreasonable; to fly from Italy impossible. Yet the
latter alternative appealed strongly to her sense of duty, and as it
thereby threw her lover's commands into the background, she left it to
her heart to struggle with Carlo, and thought over the two final
propositions. The idea of being apart from Italy while the living
country streamed forth to battle struck her inflamed spirit like the
shock of a pause in martial music. Laura pretended to take no part
in Vittoria's decision, but when it was reached, she showed her a
travelling-carriage stocked with lint and linen, wine in jars, chocolate,
cases of brandy, tea, coffee, needles, thread, twine, scissors, knives;
saying, as she displayed them, "there, my dear, all my money has gone in
that equipment, so you must pay on the road."
"This doesn't leave me a choice, then," said Victoria, joining her
"Ah, but think over it," Laura suggested.
"No! not think at all," cried Vittoria.
"You do not fear Carlo's anger?"
"If I think, I am weak as water. Let us go."
Countess d'Isorella wrote to Carlo: "Your Vittoria is away after the king
to Pavia. They tell me she stood up in her carriage on the Ponte del Po
-'Viva il Re d'Italia!' waving the cross of Savoy. As I have previously
assured you, no woman is Republican. The demonstration was a mistake.
Public characters should not let their personal preferences betrumpeted:
a diplomatic truism:--but I must add, least of all a cantatrice for a
king. The famous Greek amateur--the prop of failing finances--is after
her to arrest her for breach of engagement. You wished to discover an
independent mind in a woman, my Carlo; did you not? One would suppose
her your wife--or widow. She looked a superb thing the last night she
sang. She is not, in my opinion, wanting in height. If, behind all that
innocence and candour, she has any trained artfulness, she will beat us
all. Heaven bless your arms!"
The demonstration mentioned by the countess had not occurred.
Vittoria's letter to her lover missed him. She wrote from Pavia, after
she had taken her decisive step.
Carlo Ammiani went into the business of the war with the belief that his
betrothed had despised his prayer to her.
He was under Colonel Corte, operating on the sub-Alpine range of hills
along the line of the Chiese South-eastward. Here the volunteers, formed
of the best blood of Milan, the gay and brave young men, after marching
in the pride of their strength to hold the Alpine passes and bar Austria
from Italy while the fight went on below, were struck by a sudden
paralysis. They hung aloft there like an arm cleft from the body.
Weapons, clothes, provisions, money, the implements of war, were
withheld from them. The Piedmontese officers despatched to watch their
proceedings laughed at them like exasperating senior scholars examining
the accomplishments of a lower form. It was manifest that Count Medole
and the Government of Milan worked everywhere to conquer the people for
the king before the king had done a stroke to conquer the Austrians for
the people; while, in order to reduce them to the condition of
Piedmontese soldiery, the flame of their patriotic enthusiasm was
systematically damped, and instead of apprentices in war, who possessed
at any rate the elementary stuff of soldiers, miserable dummies were
drafted into the royal service. The Tuscans and the Romans had good
reason to complain on behalf of their princes, as had the Venetians and
the Lombards for the cause of their Republic. Neither Tuscans, Romans,
Venetians, nor Lombards were offering up their lives simply to obtain a
change of rulers; though all Italy was ready to bow in allegiance to a
king of proved kingly quality. Early in the campaign the cry of treason
was muttered, and on all sides such became the temper of the Alpine
volunteers, that Angelo and Rinaldo Guidascarpi were forced to join their
cousin under Corte, by the dispersion of their band, amounting to
something more than eighteen hundred fighting lads, whom a Piedmontese
superior officer summoned peremptorily to shout for the king. They
thundered as one voice for the Italian Republic, and instantly broke up
and disbanded. This was the folly of the young: Carlo Ammiani confessed
that it was no better; but he knew that a breath of generous confidence
from the self-appointed champion of the national cause would have subdued
his impatience at royalty and given heart and cheer to his sickening
comrades. He began to frown angrily when he thought of Vittoria. "Where
is she now?--where now?" he asked himself in the season of his most
violent wrath at the king. Her conduct grew inseparable in his mind from
the king's deeds. The sufferings, the fierce irony, the very deaths of
the men surrounding him in aims, rose up in accusation against the woman
EPISODES OF THE REVOLT AND THE WAR
THE TREACHERY OF PERICLES--THE WHITE UMBRELLA--THE DEATH OF RINALDO
The king crossed the Mincio. The Marshal, threatened on his left flank,
drew in his line from the farther Veronese heights upon a narrowed battle
front before Verona. Here they manoeuvred, and the opening successes
fell to the king. Holding Peschiera begirt, with one sharp passage of
arms he cleared the right bank of the Adige and stood on the semicircle
of hills, master of the main artery into Tyrol.
The village of Pastrengo has given its name to the day. It was a day of
intense heat coming after heavy rains. The arid soil steamed; the white
powder-smoke curled in long horizontal columns across the hazy ring of
the fight. Seen from a distance it was like a huge downy ball, kicked
this way and that between the cypresses by invisible giants. A pair of
eager-eyed women gazing on a battle-field for the first time could but
ask themselves in bewilderment whether the fate of countries were verily
settled in such a fashion. Far in the rear, Vittoria and Laura heard the
cannon-shots; a sullen dull sound, as of a mallet striking upon rotten
timber. They drove at speed. The great thumps became varied by musketry
volleys, that were like blocks of rockboulder tumbled in the roll of a
mountain torrent. These, then, were the voices of Italy and Austria
speaking the devilish tongue of the final alternative. Cannon, rockets,
musketry, and now the run of drums, now the ring of bugles, now the tramp
of horses, and the field was like a landslip. A joyful bright black
death-wine seemed to pour from the bugles all about. The women strained
their senses to hear and see; they could realize nothing of a reality so
absolute; their feelings were shattered, and crowded over them in
patches;--horror, glory, panic, hope, shifted lights within their bosoms.
The fascination and repulsion of the image of Force divided them. They
feared; they were prostrate; they sprang in praise. The image of Force
was god and devil to their souls. They strove to understand why the
field was marked with blocks of men who made a plume of vapour here, and
hurried thither. The action of their intellects resolved to a blank
marvel at seeing an imminent thing--an interrogation to almighty heaven
treated with method, not with fury streaming forward. Cleave the
opposing ranks! Cry to God for fire? Cut them through! They had come
to see the Song of Deborah performed before their eyes, and they
witnessed only a battle. Blocks of infantry gathered densely, thinned to
a line, wheeled in column, marched: blocks of cavalry changed posts:
artillery bellowed from one spot and quickly selected another. Infantry
advanced in the wake of tiny smokepuffs, halted, advanced again, rattled
files of shots, became struck into knots, faced half about as from a blow
of the back of a hand, retired orderly. Cavalry curved like a flickering
scimetar in their rear; artillery plodded to its further station.
Innumerable tiny smoke-puffs then preceded a fresh advance of infantry.
The enemy were on the hills and looked mightier, for they were revealed
among red flashes of their guns, and stood partly visible above clouds of
hostile smoke and through clouds of their own, which grasped viscously by
the skirts of the hills. Yet it seemed a strife of insects, until, one
by one, soldiers who had gone into yonder white pit for the bloody kiss
of death, and had got it on their faces, were borne by Vittoria and Laura
knelt in this horrid stream of mortal anguish to give succour from their
stores in the carriage. Their natural emotions were distraught. They
welcomed the sight of suffering thankfully, for the poor blotted faces
were so glad at sight of them. Torture was their key to the reading of
the battle. They gazed on the field no longer, but let the roaring wave
of combat wash up to them what it would.
The hill behind Pastrengo was twice stormed. When the bluecoats first
fell back, a fine charge of Piedmontese horse cleared the slopes for a
second effort, and they went up and on, driving the enemy from hill to
hill. The Adige was crossed by the Austrians under cover of Tyrolese
Then, with Beppo at their heels, bearing water, wine, and brandy, the
women walked in the paths of carnage, and saw the many faces of death.
Laura whispered strangely, "How light-hearted they look!" The wounded
called their comforters sweet names. Some smoked and some sang, some
groaned; all were quick to drink. Their jokes at the dead were
universal. They twisted their bodies painfully to stick a cigar between
dead lips, and besprinkle them with the last drops of liquor in their
cups, laughing a benediction. These scenes put grievous chains on
Vittoria's spirit, but Laura evidently was not the heavier for them.
Glorious Verona shone under the sunset as their own to come; Peschiera,
on the blue lake, was in the hollow of their hands. "Prizes worth any
quantity of blood," said Laura. Vittoria confessed that she had seen
enough of blood, and her aspect provoked Laura to utter, "For God's sake,
think of something miserable;--cry, if you can!"
Vittoria's underlip dropped sickly with the question, "Why?"
Laura stated the physical necessity with Italian naivete.
"If I can," said Vittoria, and blinked to get a tear; but laughter helped
as well to relieve her, and it came on their return to the carriage.
They found the spy Luigi sitting beside the driver. He informed them
that Antonio-Pericles had been in the track of the army ever since their
flight from Turin; daily hurrying off with whip of horses at the sound of
cannon-shot, and gradually stealing back to the extreme rear. This day
he had flown from Oliosi to Cavriani, and was, perhaps, retracing his way
already as before, on fearful toe-tips. Luigi acted the caution of one
who stepped blindfolded across hot iron plates. Vittoria, without a
spark of interest, asked why the Signor Antonio should be following the
"Why, it's to find you, signorina."
Luigi's comical emphasis conjured up in a jumbled picture the devotion,
the fury, the zeal, the terror of Antonio-Pericles--a mixture of
demoniacal energy and ludicrous trepidation. She imagined his long
figure, fantastical as a shadow, off at huge strides, and back, with eyes
sliding swiftly to the temples, and his odd serpent's head raised to peer
across the plains and occasionally to exclaim to the reasonable heavens
in anger at men and loathing of her. She laughed ungovernably. Luigi
exclaimed that, albeit in disgrace with the signor Antonio, he had been
sent for to serve him afresh, and had now been sent forward to entreat
the gracious signorina to grant her sincerest friend and adorer an
interview. She laughed at Pericles, but in truth she almost loved the
man for his worship of her Art, and representation of her dear peaceful
practice of it.
The interview between them took place at Oliosi. There, also, she met
Georgiana Ford, the half-sister of Merthyr Powys, who told her that
Merthyr and Augustus Gambier were in the ranks of a volunteer contingent
in the king's army, and might have been present at Pastrengo. Georgiana
held aloof from battle-fields, her business being simply to serve as
Merthyr's nurse in case of wounds, or to see the last of him in case of
death. She appeared to have no enthusiasm. She seconded strongly the
vehement persuasions addressed by Pericles to Vittoria. Her disapproval
of the presence of her sex on fields of battle was precise. Pericles had
followed the army to give Vittoria one last chance, he said, and drag her
away from this sick country, as he called it, pointing at the dusty land
from the windows of the inn. On first seeing her he gasped like one who
has recovered a lost thing. To Laura he was a fool; but Vittoria enjoyed
his wildest outbursts, and her half-sincere humility encouraged him to
think that he had captured her at last. He enlarged on the perils
surrounding her voice in dusty bellowing Lombardy, and on the ardour of
his friendship in exposing himself to perils as tremendous, that he might
rescue her. While speaking he pricked a lively ear for the noise of
guns, hearing a gun in everything, and jumping to the window with horrid
imprecations. His carriage was horsed at the doors below. Let the
horses die, he said, let the coachman have sun-stroke. Let hundreds
perish, if Vittoria would only start in an hour-in two--to-night--to-
"Because, do you see,"--he turned to Laura and Georgiana, submitting to
the vexatious necessity of seeming reasonable to these creatures,--"she
is a casket for one pearl. It is only one, but it is ONE, mon Dieu! and
inscrutable heaven, mesdames, has made the holder of it mad. Her voice
has but a sole skin; it is not like a body; it bleeds to death at a
scratch. A spot on the pearl, and it is perished--pfoof! Ah, cruel
thing! impious, I say. I have watched, I have reared her. Speak to me
of mothers! I have cherished her for her splendid destiny--to see it go
down, heels up, among quarrels of boobies! Yes; we have war in Italy.
Fight! Fight in this beautiful climate that you may be dominated by a
blue coat, not by a white coat. We are an intelligent race; we are a
civilized people; we will fight for that. What has a voice of the very
heavens to do with your fighting? I heard it first in England, in a
firwood, in a month of Spring, at night-time, fifteen miles and a quarter
from the city of London--oh, city of peace! Sandra you will come there.
I give you thousands additional to the sum stipulated. You have no
rival. Sandra Belloni! no rival, I say"--he invoked her in English,
"and you hear--you, to be a draggle-tail vivandiere wiz a brandy-bottle
at your hips and a reputation going like ze brandy. Ah! pardon,
mesdames; but did mankind ever see a frenzy like this girl's? Speak,
Sandra. I could cry it like Michiella to Camilla--Speak!"
Vittoria compelled him to despatch his horses to stables. He had relays
of horses at war-prices between Castiglione and Pavia, and a retinue of
servants; nor did he hesitate to inform the ladies that, before
entrusting his person to the hazards of war, he had taken care to be
provided with safe-conduct passes for both armies, as befitted a prudent
man of peace--"or sense; it is one, mesdames."
Notwithstanding his terror at the guns, and disgust at the soldiery and
the bad fare at the inn, Vittoria's presence kept him lingering in this
wretched place, though he cried continually, "I shall have heart-
disease." He believed at first that he should subdue her; then it became
his intention to carry her off.
It was to see Merthyr that she remained. Merthyr came there the day
after the engagement at Santa Lucia. They had not met since the days at
Meran. He was bronzed, and keen with strife, and looked young, but spoke
not over-hopefully. He scolded her for wishing to taste battle, and
compared her to a bad swimmer on deep shores. Pericles bounded with
delight to hear him, and said he had not supposed there was so much sense
in Powys. Merthyr confessed that the Austrians had as good as beaten
them at Santa Lucia. The tactical combinations of the Piedmontese were
wretched. He was enamoured of the gallantly of the Duke of Savoy, who
had saved the right wing of the army from rout while covering the
backward movement. Why there had been any fight at all at Santa Lucia,
where nothing was to be gained, much to be lost, he was incapable of
telling; but attributed it to an antique chivalry on the part of the
king, that had prompted the hero to a trial of strength, a bout of blood-
"You do think he is a hero?" said Vittoria.
"He is; and he will march to Venice."
"And open the opera at Venice," Pericles sneered. "Powys, mon cher, cure
her of this beastly dream. It is a scandal to you to want a woman's
help. You were defeated at Santa Lucia. I say bravo to anything that
brings you to reason. Bravo! You hear me."
The engagement at Santa Lucia was designed by the king to serve as an
instigating signal for the Veronese to rise in revolt; and this was the
secret of Charles Albert's stultifying manoeuvres between Peschiera and
Mantua. Instead of matching his military skill against the wary old
Marshal's, he was offering incentives to conspiracy. Distrusting the
revolution, which was a force behind him, he placed such reliance on its
efforts in his front as to make it the pivot of his actions.
"The volunteers North-east of Vicenza are doing the real work for us, I
believe," said Merthyr; and it seemed so then, as it might have been
indeed, had they not been left almost entirely to themselves to do it.
These tidings of a fight lost set Laura and Vittoria quivering with
nervous irritation. They had been on the field of Pastrengo, and it was
won. They had been absent from Santa Lucia. What was the deduction?
Not such as reason would have made for them; but they were at the mercy
of the currents of the blood. "Let us go on," said Laura. Merthyr
refused to convoy them. Pericles drove with him an hour on the road, and
returned in glee, to find Vittoria and Laura seated in their carriage,
and Luigi scuffling with Beppo.
"Padrone, see how I assist you," cried Luigi.
Upon this Beppo instantly made a swan's neck of his body and trumpeted:
"A sally from the fortress for forage."
"Whip! whip!" Pericles shouted to his coachman, and the two carriages
parted company at the top of their speed.
Pericles fell a victim to a regiment of bersaglieri that wanted horses,
and unceremoniously stopped his pair and took possession of them on the
route for Peschiera. He was left in a stranded carriage between a dusty
ditch and a mulberry bough. Vittoria and Laura were not much luckier.
They were met by a band of deserters, who made no claim upon the horses,
but stood for drink, and having therewith fortified their fine opinion of
themselves, petitioned for money. A kiss was their next demand. Money
and good humour saved the women from indignity. The band of rascals went
off with a 'Viva l'Italia.' Such scum is upon every popular rising, as
Vittoria had to learn. Days of rain and an incomprehensible inactivity
of the royal army kept her at a miserable inn, where the walls were bare,
the cock had crowed his last. The guns of Peschiera seemed to roam over
the plain like an echo unwillingly aroused that seeks a hollow for its
further sleep. Laura sat pondering for hours, harsh in manner, as if she
hated her. "I think," she said once, "that women are those persons who
have done evil in another world: "The "why?" from Vittoria was uttered
simply to awaken friendly talk, but Laura relapsed into her gloom. A
village priest, a sleek gentle creature, who shook his head to earth when
he hoped, and filled his nostrils with snuff when he desponded, gave them
occasional companionship under the title of consolation. He wished the
Austrians to be beaten, remarking, however, that they were good
Catholics, most fervent Catholics. As the Lord decided, so it would end!
"Oh, delicious creed!" Laura broke out: "Oh, dear and sweet doctrine!
that results and developments in a world where there is more evil than
good are approved by heaven." She twisted the mild man in supple steel
of her irony so tenderly that Vittoria marvelled to hear her speak of him
in abhorrence when they quitted the village. "Not to be born a woman,
and voluntarily to be a woman!" ejaculated Laura. "How many, how many
are we to deduct from the male population of Italy? Cross in hand, he
should be at the head of our arms, not whimpering in a corner for white
bread. Wretch! he makes the marrow in my bones rage at him. He
chronicled pig that squeaked."
"Why had she been so gentle with him?"
"Because, my dear, when I loathe a thing I never care to exhaust my
detestation before I can strike it," said the true Italian.
They were on the field of Goito; it was won. It was won against odds.
At Pastrengo they witnessed an encounter; this was a battle. Vittoria
perceived that there was the difference between a symphony and a lyric
song. The blessedness of the sensation that death can be light and easy
dispossessed her of the meaner compassion, half made up of cowardice,
which she had been nearly borne down by on the field of Pastrengo. At an
angle on a height off the left wing of the royal army the face of the
battle was plain to her: the movements of the troops were clear as
strokes on a slate. Laura flung her life into her eyes, and knelt and
watched, without summing one sole thing from what her senses received.
Vittoria said, "We are too far away to understand it."
"No," said Laura, "we are too far away to feel it."
The savage soul of the woman was robbed of its share of tragic emotion by
having to hold so far aloof. Flashes of guns were but flashes of guns up
there where she knelt. She thirsted to read the things written by them;
thirsted for their mystic terrors, somewhat as souls of great prophets
have craved for the full revelation of those fitful underlights which
inspired their mouths.
Charles Albert's star was at its highest when the Piedmontese drums beat
for an advance of the whole line at Goito.
Laura stood up, white as furnace-fire. "Women can do some good by
praying," she said. She believed that she had been praying. That was
her part in the victory.
Rain fell as from the forehead of thunder. From black eve to black dawn
the women were among dead and dying men, where the lanterns trailed a
slow flame across faces that took the light and let it go. They returned
to their carriage exhausted. The ways were almost impassable for
carriage-wheels. While they were toiling on and exchanging their
drenched clothes, Vittoria heard Merthyr's voice speaking to Beppo on the
box. He was saying that Captain Gambier lay badly wounded; brandy was
wanted for him. She flung a cloak over Laura, and handed out the flask
with a naked arm. It was not till she saw him again that she remembered
or even felt that he had kissed the arm. A spot of sweet fire burned on
it just where the soft fulness of a woman's arm slopes to the bend. He
chid her for being on the field and rejoiced in a breath, for the
carriage and its contents helped to rescue his wounded brother in arms
from probable death. Gambier, wounded in thigh and ankle by rifle-shot,
was placed in the carriage. His clothes were saturated with the soil of
Goito; but wounded and wet, he smiled gaily, and talked sweet boyish
English. Merthyr gave the driver directions to wind along up the Mincio.
"Georgiana will be at the nearest village--she has an instinct for
battle-fields, or keeps spies in her pay," he said.
Tell her I am safe. We march to cut them (the enemy) off from Verona,
and I can't leave. The game is in our hands. We shall give you Venice."
Georgiana was found at the nearest village. Gambier's wounds had been
dressed by an army-surgeon. She looked at the dressing, and said that it
would do for six hours. This singular person had fully qualified herself
to attend on a soldier-brother. She had studied medicine for that
purpose, and she had served as nurse in a London hospital. Her nerves
were completely under control. She could sit in attendance by a sick-bed
for hours, hearing distant cannon, and the brawl of soldiery and
vagabonds in the street, without a change of countenance. Her dress was
plain black from throat to heel, with a skull cap of white, like a
Moravian sister. Vittoria reverenced her; but Georgiana's manner in
return was cold aversion, so much more scornful than disdain that it
offended Laura, who promptly put her finger on the blot in the fair
character with the word 'Jealousy;' but a single word is too broad a mark
to be exactly true. "She is a perfect example of your English," Laura
said. "Brave, good, devoted, admirable--ice at the heart. The judge of
others, of course. I always respected her; I never liked her; and I
should be afraid of a comparison with her. Her management of the
household of this inn is extraordinary."
Georgiana condescended to advise Vittoria once more not to dangle after
"I wish to wait here to assist you in nursing our friend," said Vittoria.
Georgiana replied that her strength was unlikely to fail.
After two days of incessant rain, sunshine blazed over 'the watery
Mantuan flats. Laura drove with Beppo to see whether the army was in
motion, for they were distracted by rumours. Vittoria clung to her
wounded friend, whose pleasure was the hearing her speak. She expected
Laura's return by set of sun. After dark a messenger came to her, saying
that the signora had sent a carriage to fetch her to Valeggio. Her
immediate supposition was that Merthyr might have fallen. She found
Luigi at the carriage-door, and listened to his mysterious directions and
remarks that not a minute must be lost, without suspicion. He said that
the signora was in great trouble, very anxious to see the signorina
instantly; there was but a distance of five miles to traverse.
She thought it strange that the carriage should be so luxuriously fitted
with lights and silken pillows, but her ideas were all of Merthyr, until
she by chance discovered a packet marked I chocolate, which told her at
once that she was entrapped by Antonio-Pericles. Luigi would not answer
her cry to him. After some fruitless tremblings of wrath, she lay back
relieved by the feeling that Merthyr was safe, come what might come to
herself. Things could lend to nothing but an altercation with Pericles,
and for this scene she prepared her mind. The carriage stopped while she
was dozing. Too proud to supplicate in the darkness, she left it to the
horses to bear her on, reserving her energies for the morning's
interview, and saying, "The farther he takes me the angrier I shall be."
She dreamed of her anger while asleep, but awakened so frequently during
the night that morning was at her eyelids before they divided. To her
amazement, she saw the carriage surrounded by Austrian troopers.
Pericles was spreading cigars among them, and addressing them affably.
The carriage was on a good road, between irrigated flats, that flashed
a lively green and bright steel blue for miles away. She drew down the
blinds to cry at leisure; her wings were clipped, and she lost heart.
Pericles came round to her when the carriage had drawn up at an inn.
He was egregiously polite, but modestly kept back any expressions of
triumph. A body of Austrians, cavalry and infantry, were breaking camp.
Pericles accorded her an hour of rest. She perceived that he was
anticipating an outbreak of the anger she had nursed overnight, and
baffled him so far by keeping dumb. Luigi was sent up to her to announce
the expiration of her hour of grace.
"Ah, Luigi!" she said. "Signorina, only wait, and see how Luigi can
serve two," he whispered, writhing under the reproachfulness of her eyes.
At the carriage-door she asked Pericles whither he was taking her. "Not
to Turin, not to London, Sandra Belloni!" he replied; "not to a place
where you are wet all night long, to wheeze for ever after it. Go in."
She entered the carriage quickly, to escape from staring officers, whose
laughter rang in her ears and humbled her bitterly; she felt herself
bringing dishonour on her lover. The carriage continued in the track of
the Austrians. Pericles was audibly careful to avoid the border
regiments. He showered cigars as he passed; now and then he exhibited a
paper; and on one occasion he brought a General officer to the carriage-
door, opened it and pointed in. A white-helmeted dragoon rode on each
side of the carriage for the remainder of the day. The delight of the
supposition that these Austrians were retreating before the invincible
arms of King Carlo Alberto kept her cheerful; but she heard no guns in
the rear. A blocking of artillery and waggons compelled a halt, and then
Pericles came and faced her. He looked profoundly ashamed of himself,
ready as he was for an animated defence of his proceedings.
"Where are you taking me, sir?" she said in English.
"Sandra, will you be a good child? It is anywhere you please, if you
"I will promise nothing."
"Zen, I lock you up in Verona." In Verona!"
"Sandra, will you promise to me?"
"I will promise nothing."
"Zen I lock you up in Verona. It is settled. No more of it. I come to
say, we shall not reach a village. I am sorry. We have soldiers for a
guard. You draw out a board and lodge in your carriage as in a bed.
Biscuits, potted meats, prunes, bon-bona, chocolate, wine--you shall find
all at your right hand and your left. I am desolate in offending you.
Sandra, if you will promise--"
"I will promise--this is what I will promise," said Vittoria.
Pericles thrust his ear forward, and withdrew it as if it had been
She promised to run from him at the first opportunity, to despise him
ever after, and never to sing again in his hearing. With the darkness
Luigi appeared to light her lamp; he mouthed perpetually, "To-morrow, to-
morrow." The watch-fires of Austrians encamped in the fields encircled
her; and moving up and down, the cigar of Antonio-Pericles was visible.
He had not eaten or drunk, and he was out there sleepless; he walked
conquering his fears in the thick of war troubles: all for her sake.
She watched critically to see whether the cigar-light was puffed in
fretfulness. It burned steadily; and the thought of Pericles supporting
patience quite overcame her. In a fit of humour that was almost tears,
she called to him and begged him to take a place in the carriage and have
food. "If it is your pleasure," he said; and threw off his cloak. The
wine comforted him. Thereupon he commenced a series of strange
gesticulations, and ended by blinking at the window, saying, "No, no; it
is impossible to explain. I have no voice; I am not, gifted. It is," he
tapped at his chest, "it is here. It is, imprisoned in me."
"What?" said Vittoria, to encourage him.
"It can never be explained, my child. Am I not respectful to you? Am I
not worshipful to you? But, no! it can never be explained. Some do
call me mad. I know it; I am laughed at. Oh! do I not know zat?
Perfectly well. My ancestors adored Goddesses. I discover ze voice of a
Goddess: I adore it. So you call me mad; it is to me what you call me--
juste ze same. I am possessed wiz passion for her voice. So it will be
till I go to ashes. It is to me ze one zsing divine in a pig, a porpoise
world. It is to me--I talk! It is unutterable--impossible to tell."
"But I understand it; I know you must feel it," said Vittoria.
"But you hate me, Sandra. You hate your Pericles."
"No, I do not; you are my good friend, my good Pericles."
"I am your good Pericles? So you obey me?"
"You come to London?"
"I shall not."
"You come to Turin?"
"I cannot promise."
"No; not yet."
Ungrateful little beast! minx! temptress! You seduce me into your
carriage to feed me, to fill me, for to coax me," cried Pericles.
"Am I the person to have abuse poured on me?" Vittoria rejoined, and she
frowned. "Might I not have called you a wretched whimsical money-
machine, without the comprehension of a human feeling? You are doing me
a great wrong--to win my submission, as I see, and it half amuses me; but
the pretence of an attempt to carry me off from my friends is an offence
that I should take certain care to punish in another. I do not give you
any promise, because the first promise of all--the promise to keep one--
is not in my power. Shut your eyes and sleep where you are, and in the
morning think better of your conduct!"
"Of my conduct, mademoiselle! "Pericles retained this sentence in his
head till the conclusion of her animated speech,--"of my conduct I judge
better zan to accept of such a privilege as you graciously offer to me;"
and he retired with a sour grin, very much subdued by her unexpected
capacity for expression. The bugles of the Austrians were soon ringing.
There was a trifle of a romantic flavour in the notes which Vittoria
tried not to feel; the smart iteration of them all about her rubbed it
off, but she was reduced to repeat them, and take them in various keys.
This was her theme for the day.
They were in the midst of mulberries, out of sight of the army; green
mulberries, and the green and the bronze young vine-leaf. It was a
delicious day, but she began to fear that she was approaching Verona, and
that Pericles was acting seriously. The bronze young vine-leaf seemed to
her like some warrior's face, as it would look when beaten by weather,
burned by the sun. They came now to inns which had been visited by both
armies. Luigi established communication with the innkeepers before the
latter had stated the names of villages to Pericles, who stood map in
hand, believing himself at last to be no more conscious of his position
than an atom in a whirl of dust. Vittoria still refused to give him any
promise, and finally, on a solitary stretch of the road, he appealed to
her mercy. She was the mistress of the carriage, he said; he had never
meant to imprison her in Verona; his behaviour was simply dictated by his
adoration--alas! This was true or not true, but it was certain that the
ways were confounded to them. Luigi, despatched to reconnoitre from a
neighbouring eminence, reported a Piedmontese encampment far ahead, and a
walking tent that was coming on their route. The walking tent was an
enormous white umbrella. Pericles advanced to meet it; after an
interchange of opening formalities, he turned about and clapped hands.
The umbrella was folded. Vittoria recognized the last man she would then
have thought of meeting; he seemed to have jumped out of an ambush from
Meran in Tyrol:--it was Wilfrid. Their greeting was disturbed by the
rushing up of half-a-dozen troopers. The men claimed him as an Austrian
spy. With difficulty Vittoria obtained leave to drive him on to their
commanding officer. It appeared that the white umbrella was notorious
for having been seen on previous occasions threading the Piedmontese
lines into and out of Peschiera. These very troopers swore to it; but
they could not swear to Wilfrid, and white umbrellas were not absolutely
uncommon. Vittoria declared that Wilfrid was an old English friend;
Pericles vowed that Wilfrid was one of their party. The prisoner was
clearly an Englishman. As it chanced, the officer before whom Wilfrid
was taken had heard Vittoria sing on the great night at La Scala.
"Signorina, your word should pass the Austrian Field-Marshal himself," he
said, and merely requested Wilfrid to state on his word of honour that he
was not in the Austrian service, to which Wilfrid unhesitatingly replied,
"I am not."
Permission was then accorded to him to proceed in the carriage.
Vittoria held her hand to Wilfrid. He took the fingers and bowed over
He was perfectly self-possessed, and cool even under her eyes. Like a
pedlar he carried a pack on his back, which was his life; for his
business was a combination of scout and spy.
"You have saved me from a ditch to-day," he said; "every fellow has some
sort of love for his life, and I must thank you for the odd luck of your
coming by. I knew you were on this ground somewhere. If the rascals had
searched me, I should not have come off so well. I did not speak falsely
to that officer; I am not in the Austrian service. I am a volunteer spy.
I am an unpaid soldier. I am the dog of the army--fetching and carrying
for a smile and a pat on the head. I am ruined, and I am working my way
up as best I can. My uncle disowns me. It is to General Schoneck that I
owe this chance of re-establishing myself. I followed the army out of
Milan. I was at Melegnano, at Pastrengo, at Santa Lucia. If I get
nothing for it, the Lenkensteins at least shall not say that I abandoned
the flag in adversity. I am bound for Rivoli. The fortress (Peschiera)
has just surrendered. The Marshal is stealing round to make a dash on
Vicenza." So far he spoke like one apart from her, but a flush crossed
his forehead. "I have not followed you. I have obeyed your brief
directions. I saw this carriage yesterday in the ranks of our troops.
I saw Pericles. I guessed who might be inside it. I let it pass me.
Could I do more?"
"Not if you wanted to punish me," said Vittoria.
She was afflicted by his refraining from reproaches in his sunken state.
Their talk bordered the old life which they had known, like a rivulet,
coming to falls where it threatens to be e, torrent and a flood; like
flame bubbling the wax of a seal. She was surprised to find herself
expecting tenderness from him: and, startled by the languor in her veins,
she conceived a contempt for her sex and her own weak nature. To mask
that, an excessive outward coldness was assumed. "You can serve as a
The answer was ready: "Having twice served as a traitor, I need not be
particular. It is what my uncle and the Lenkensteins call me. I do my
best to work my way up again. Despise me for it, if you please."
On the contrary, she had never respected him so much. She got herself
into opposition to him by provoking him to speak with pride of his army;
but the opposition was artificial, and she called to Carlo Ammiani in
heart. "I will leave these places, cover up my head, and crouch till the
struggle is decided."
The difficulty was now to be happily rid of Wilfrid by leaving him in
safety. Piedmontese horse scoured the neighbourhood, and any mischance
that might befall him she traced to her hand. She dreaded at every
instant to hear him speak of his love for her; yet how sweet it would
have been to hear it,--to hear him speak of passionate love; to shape it
in deep music; to hear one crave for what she gave to another! "I am
sinking: I am growing degraded," she thought. But there was no other way
for her to quicken her imagination of her distant and offended lover.
The sights on the plains were strange contrasts to these conflicting
inner emotions: she seemed to be living in two divided worlds.
Pericles declared anew that she was mistress of the carriage. She issued
orders: "The nearest point to Rivoli, and then to Brescia."
Pericles broke into shouts. "She has arrived at her reason! Hurrah for
Brescia! I beheld you," he confessed to Wilfrid,--"it was on ze right of
Mincio, my friend. I did not know you were so true for Art, or what a
hand I would have reached to you! Excuse me now. Let us whip on. I am
your banker. I shall desire you not to be shot or sabred. You are
deserving of an effigy on a theatral grand stair-case!" His gratitude
could no further express itself. In joy he whipped the horses on. Fools
might be fighting--he was the conqueror. From Brescia, one leap took him
in fancy to London. He composed mentally a letter to be forwarded
immediately to a London manager, directing him to cause the appearance of
articles in the journals on the grand new prima donna, whose singing had
awakened the people of Italy.
Another day brought them in view of the Lago di Garda. The flag of
Sardinia hung from the walls of Peschiera. And now Vittoria saw the
Pastrengo hills--dear hills, that drove her wretched languor out of her,
and made her soul and body one again. The horses were going at a gallop.
Shots were heard. To the left of them, somewhat in the rear, on higher
ground, there was an encounter of a body of Austrians and Italians:
Tyrolese riflemen and the volunteers. Pericles was raving. He refused
to draw the reins till they had reached the village, where one of the
horses dropped. From the windows of the inn, fronting a clear space,
Vittoria beheld a guard of Austrians surrounding two or more prisoners.
A woman sat near them with her head buried in her lap. Presently an
officer left the door of the inn and spoke to the soldiers. "That is
Count Karl von Lenkenstein," Wilfrid said in a whisper. Pericles had
been speaking with Count Karl and came up to the room, saying, "We are to
observe something; but we are safe; it is only fortune of war." Wilfrid
immediately went out to report himself. He was seen giving his papers,
after which Count Karl waved his finger back to the inn, and he returned.
Vittoria sprang to her feet at the words he uttered. Rinaldo Guidascarpi
was one of the prisoners. The others Wilfrid professed not to know. The
woman was the wife of Barto Rizzo.
In the great red of sunset the Tyrolese riflemen and a body of Italians
in Austrian fatigue uniform marched into the village. These formed in
the space before the inn. It seemed as if Count Karl were declaiming an
indictment. A voice answered, "I am the man." It was clear and straight
as a voice that goes up in the night. Then a procession walked some
paces on. The woman followed. She fell prostrate at the feet of Count
Karl. He listened to her and nodded. Rinaldo Guidascarpi stood alone
with bandaged eyes. The woman advanced to him; she put her mouth on his
ear; there she hung.
Vittoria heard a single shot. Rinaldo Guidascarpi lay stretched upon the
ground. and the woman stood over him.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
As the Lord decided, so it would end! "Oh, delicious creed!"
By our manner of loving we are known
Every church of the city lent its iron tongue to the peal
Fast growing to be an eccentric by profession
I always respected her; I never liked her
Too well used to defeat to believe readily in victory
Will not admit the existence of a virtue in an opposite opinion
By George Meredith
XXXIII. EPISODES OF THE REVOLT AND THE WAR--COUNT KARL LENKENSTEIN--
THE STORY OF THE GUIDASCARPI--THE VICTORY OF THE VOLUNTEERS
XXXIV. EPISODES OF THE REVOLT AND THE WAR--THE DEEDS OF BARTO RIZZO--
THE MEETING AT ROVEREDO
XXXV. CLOSE OF THE LOMBARD CAMPAIGN--VITTORIA'S PERPLEXITY
XXXVI. A FRESH ENTANGLEMENT
XXXVII. ON LAGO MAGGIORE
XXXVIII. VIOLETTA D'ISORELLA
XXXIX. ANNA OF LENKENSTEIN
EPISODES OF THE REVOLT AND THE WAR
COUNT KARL LENKENSTEIN--THE STORY OF THE GUIDASCARPI--THE VICTORY OF THE
The smoke of a pistol-shot thinned away while there was yet silence.
"It is a saving of six charges of Austrian ammunition," said Pericles.
Vittoria stared at the scene, losing faith in her eyesight. She could in
fact see no distinct thing beyond what appeared as an illuminated copper
medallion, held at a great distance from her, with a dead man and a
towering female figure stamped on it.
The events following were like a rush of water on her senses. There was
fighting up the street of the village, and a struggle in the space where
Rinaldo had fallen; successive yellowish shots under the rising
moonlight, cries from Italian lips, quick words of command from German in
Italian, and one sturdy bull's roar of a voice that called across the
tumult to the Austro-Italian soldiery, "Venite fratelli!--come, brothers,
come under our banner!" She heard "Rinaldo!" called.
This was a second attack of the volunteers for the rescue of their
captured comrades. They fought more desperately than on the hill outside
the village: they fought with steel. Shot enfiladed them; yet they bore
forward in a scattered body up to that spot where Rinaldo lay, shouting
for him. There they turned,--they fled.
Then there was a perfect stillness, succeeding the strife as quickly,
Vittoria thought, as a breath yielded succeeds a breath taken.
She accused the heavens of injustice.
Pericles, prostrate on the floor, moaned that he was wounded. She said,
"Bleed to death!"
"It is my soul, it is my soul is wounded for you, Sandra."
"Dreadful craven man!" she muttered.
"When my soul is shaking for your safety, Sandra Belloni!" Pericles
turned his ear up. "For myself--not; it is for you, for you."
Assured of the cessation of arms by delicious silence he jumped to his
"Ah! brutes to fight. It is 'immonde;' it is unnatural!"
He tapped his finger on the walls for marks of shot, and discovered a
shot-hole in the wood-work, that had passed an arm's length above her
head, into which he thrust his finger in an intense speculative
meditation, shifting eyes from it to her, and throwing them aloft.
He was summoned to the presence of Count Karl, with whom he found Captain
Weisspriess, Wilfrid, and officers of jagers and the Italian battalion.
Barto Rizzo's wife was in a corner of the room. Weisspriess met him with
a very civil greeting, and introduced him to Count Karl, who begged him
to thank Vittoria for the aid she had afforded to General Schoneck's
emissary in crossing the Piedmontese lines. He spoke in Italian. He
agreed to conduct Pericles to a point on the route of his march, where
Pericles and his precious prima donna--"our very good friend," he said,
jovially--could escape the risk of unpleasant mishaps, and arrive at
Trent and cities of peace by easy stages. He was marching for the
neighbourhood of Vicenza.
A little before dawn Vittoria came down to the carriage. Count Karl
stood at the door to hand her in. He was young and handsome, with a soft
flowing blonde moustache and pleasant eyes, a contrast to his brother
Count Lenkenstein. He repeated his thanks to her, which Pericles had not
delivered; he informed her that she was by no means a prisoner, and was
simply under the guardianship of friends--"though perhaps, signorina, you
will not esteem this gentleman to be one of your friends." He pointed to
Weisspriess. The officer bowed, but kept aloof. Vittoria perceived a
singular change in him: he had become pale and sedate. "Poor fellow! he
has had his dose," Count Karl said. "He is, I beg to assure you, one of
your most vehement admirers."
A piece of her property that flushed her with recollections, yet made her
grateful, was presently handed to her, though not in her old enemy's
presence, by a soldier. It was the silver-hilted dagger, Carlo's
precious gift, of which Weisspriess had taken possession in the mountain-
pass over the vale of Meran, when he fought the duel with Angelo.
Whether intended as a peace-offering, or as a simple restitution, it
helped Vittoria to believe that Weisspriess was no longer the man he had
The march was ready, but Barto Rizzo's wife refused to move a foot. The
officers consulted. She, was brought before them. The soldiers swore
with jesting oaths that she had been carefully searched for weapons, and
only wanted a whipping. "She must have it," said Weisspriess. Vittoria
entreated that she might have a place beside her in the carriage. "It is
more than I would have asked of you; but if you are not afraid of her,"
said Count Karl, with an apologetic shrug.
Her heart beat fast when she found herself alone with the terrible woman.
Till then she had never seen a tragic face. Compared with this tawny
colourlessness, this evil brow, this shut mouth, Laura, even on the
battle-field, looked harmless. It was like the face of a dead savage.
The eyeballs were full on Vittoria, as if they dashed at an obstacle, not
embraced an image. In proportion as they seemed to widen about her,
Vittoria shrank. The whole woman was blood to her gaze.
When she was capable of speaking, she said entreatingly:
"I knew his brother."
Not a sign of life was given in reply.
Companionship with this ghost of broad daylight made the flattering
Tyrolese feathers at both windows a welcome sight.
Precautions had been taken to bind the woman's arms. Vittoria offered to
loosen the cords, but she dared not touch her without a mark of assent.
"I know Angelo Guidascarpi, Rinaldo's brother," she spoke again.
The woman's nostrils bent inward, as when the breath we draw is keen as a
sword to the heart. Vittoria was compelled to look away from her.
At the mid-day halt Count Karl deigned to justify to her his intended
execution of Rinaldo--the accomplice in the slaying of his brother Count
Paula. He was evidently eager to obtain her good opinion of the Austrian
military. "But for this miserable spirit of hatred against us," he said,
"I should have espoused an Italian lady; " and he asked, " Why not? For
that matter, in all but blood we Lenkensteins are half Italian, except
when Italy menaces the empire. Can you blame us for then drawing the
sword in earnest?"
He proffered his version of the death of Count Paul. She kept her own
silent in her bosom.
Clelia Guidascarpi, according to his statement, had first been slain by
her brothers. Vittoria believed that Clelia had voluntarily submitted to
death and died by her own hand. She was betrothed to an Italian nobleman
of Bologna, the friend of the brothers. They had arranged the marriage;
she accepted the betrothal. "She loved my brother, poor thing!" said
Count Karl. "She concealed it, and naturally. How could she take a
couple of wolves into her confidence? If she had told the pair of
ruffians that she was plighted to an Austrian, they would have quieted
her at an earlier period. A woman! a girl--signorina! The intolerable
cowardice amazes me. It amazes me that you or anyone can uphold the
character of such brutes. And when she was dead they lured my brother to
the house and slew him; fell upon him with daggers, stretched him at the
foot of her coffin, and then--what then?--ran! ran for their lives. One
has gone to his account. We shall come across the other. He is among
that volunteer party which attacked us yesterday. The body was carried
off by them; it is sufficient testimony that Angelo Guidascarpi is in the
neighbourhood. I should be hunting him now but that I am under orders to
The story, as Vittoria knew it, had a different, though yet a dreadful,
"I could have hanged Rinaldo," Count Karl said further. "I suppose the
rascals feared I should use my right, and that is why they sent their mad
baggage of a woman to spare any damage to the family pride. If I had
been a man to enjoy vengeance, the rope would have swung for him. In
spite of provocation, I shall simply shoot the other; I pledge my word to
it. They shall be paid in coin. I demand no interest."
Weisspriess prudently avoided her. Wilfrid held aloof. She sat in
garden shade till the bugle sounded. Tyrolese and Italian soldiers were
gibing at her haggard companion when she entered the carriage. Fronting
this dumb creature once more, Vittoria thought of the story of the
brothers. She felt herself reading it from the very page. The woman
looked that evil star incarnate which Laura said they were born under.
This is in brief the story of the Guidascarpi.
They were the offspring of a Bolognese noble house, neither wealthy nor
poor. In her early womanhood, Clelia was left to the care of her
brothers. She declined the guardianship of Countess Ammiani because of
her love for them; and the three, with their passion of hatred to the
Austrians inherited from father and mother, schemed in concert to throw
off the Austrian yoke. Clelia had soft features of no great mark; by her
colouring she was beautiful, being dark along the eyebrows, with dark
eyes, and a surpassing richness of Venetian hair. Bologna and Venice
were married in her aspect. Her brothers conceived her to possess such
force of mind that they held no secrets from her. They did not know that
the heart of their sister was struggling with an image of Power when she
uttered hatred of it. She was in truth a woman of a soft heart, with a
most impressionable imagination.
There were many suitors for the hand of Clelia Guidascarpi, though her
dowry was not the portion of a fat estate. Her old nurse counselled the
brothers that they should consent to her taking a husband. They
fulfilled this duty as one that must be done, and she became sorrowfully
the betrothed of a nobleman of Bologna; from which hour she had no
cheerfulness. The brothers quitted Bologna for Venice, where there was
the bed of a conspiracy. On their return they were shaken by rumours of
their sister's misconduct. An Austrian name was allied to hers in busy
mouths. A lady, their distant relative, whose fame was light, had
withdrawn her from the silent house, and made display of her. Since she
had seen more than an Italian girl should see, the brothers proposed to
the nobleman her betrothed to break the treaty; but he was of a mind to
hurry on the marriage, and recollecting now that she was but a woman, the
brothers fixed a day for her espousals, tenderly, without reproach. She
had the choice of taking the vows or surrendering her hand. Her old
nurse prayed for the day of her espousals to come with a quicker step.
One night she surprised Count Paul Lenkenstein at Clelia's window.
Rinaldo was in the garden below. He moved to the shadow of a cypress,
and was seen moving by the old nurse. The lover took the single kiss he
had come for, was led through the chamber, and passed unchallenged into
the street. Clelia sat between locked doors and darkened windows,
feeling colder to the brothers she had been reared with than to all other
men upon the earth. They sent for her after a lapse of hours. Her old
nurse was kneeling at their feet. Rinaldo asked for the name of her
lover. She answered with it. Angelo said, "It will be better for you to
die: but if you cannot do so easy a thing as that, prepare widow's
garments." They forced her to write three words to Count Paul, calling
him to her window at midnight. Rinaldo fetched a priest: Angelo laid out
two swords. An hour before the midnight, Clelia's old nurse raised the
house with her cries. Clelia was stretched dead in her chamber. The
brothers kissed her in turn, and sat, one at her head, one at her feet.
At midnight her lover stood among them. He was gravely saluted, and
bidden to look upon the dead body. Angelo said to him, "Had she lived
you should have wedded her hand. She is gone of her own free choice, and
one of us follows her." With the sweat of anguish on his forehead, Count
Paul drew sword. The window was barred; six male domestics of the
household held high lights in the chamber; the priest knelt beside one
corpse, awaiting the other.
Vittoria's imagination could not go beyond that scene, but she looked out
on the brother of the slain youth with great pity, and with a strange
curiosity. The example given by Clelia of the possible love of an
Italian girl for the white uniform, set her thinking whether so monstrous
a fact could ever be doubled in this world. "Could it happen to me?"
she asked herself, and smiled, as she half-fashioned the words on her
lips, "It is a pretty uniform."
Her reverie was broken by a hiss of "Traitress!" from the woman opposite.
She coloured guiltily, tried to speak, and sat trembling. A divination
of intense hatred had perhaps read the thought within her breast: or it
was a mere outburst of hate. The woman's face was like the wearing away
of smoke from a spot whence shot has issued. Vittoria walked for the
remainder of the day. That fearful companion oppressed her. She felt
that one who followed armies should be cast in such a frame, and now
desired with all her heart to render full obedience to Carlo, and abide
in Brescia, or even in Milan--a city she thought of shyly.
The march was hurried to the slopes of the Vicentino, for enemies were
thick in this district. Pericles refused to quit the soldiers, though
Count Karl used persuasion. The young nobleman said to Vittoria, "Be on
your guard when you meet my sister Anna. I tell you, we can be as
revengeful as any of you: but you will exonerate me. I do my duty; I
seek to do no more."
At an inn that they reached toward evening she saw the innkeeper shoot a
little ball of paper at an Italian corporal, who put his foot on it and
picked it up. The soldier subsequently passed through the ranks of his
comrades, gathering winks and grins. They were to have rested at the
inn, but Count Karl was warned by scouts, which was sufficient to make
Pericles cling to him in avoidance of the volunteers, of whom mainly he
was in terror. He looked ague-stricken. He would not listen to her, or
to reason in any shape. "I am on the sea--shall I trust a boat? I stick
to a ship," he said. The soldiers marched till midnight. It was
arranged that the carriage should strike off for Schio at dawn. The
soldiers bivouacked on the slope of one of the low undulations falling to
the Vicentino plain. Vittoria spread her cloak, and lay under bare sky,
not suffering the woman to be ejected from the carriage. Hitherto Luigi
had avoided her. Under pretence of doubling Count Karl's cloak as a
pillow for her head, he whispered, "If the signorina hears shots let her
lie on the ground flat as a sheet." The peacefulness surrounding her
precluded alarm. There was brilliant moonlight, and the host of stars,
all dim; and first they beckoned her up to come away from trouble, and
then, through long gazing, she had the fancy that they bent and swam
about her, making her feel that she lay in the hollows of a warm hushed
sea. She wished for her lover.
Men and officers were lying at a stone's-throw distant. The Tyrolese had
lit a fire for cooking purposes, by which four of them stood, and,
lifting hands, sang one of their mountain songs, that seemed to her to
spring like clear water into air, and fall wavering as a feather falls,
or the light about a stone in water. It lulled her to a half-sleep,
during which she fancied hearing a broad imitation of a cat's-call from
the mountains, that was answered out of the camp, and a talk of officers
arose in connection with the response, and subsided. The carriage was in
the shadows of the fire. In a little while Luigi and the driver began
putting the horses to, and she saw Count Karl and Weisspriess go up to
Luigi, who declared loudly that it was time. The woman inside was
aroused. Weisspriess helped to drag her out. Luigi kept making much
noise, and apologized for it by saying that he desired to awaken his
master, who was stretched in a secure circle among the Tyrolese.
Presently Vittoria beheld the woman's arms thrown out free; the next
minute they were around the body of Weisspriess, and a shrewd cry issued
from Count Karl. Shots rang from the outposts; the Tyrolese sprang to
arms; "Sandra!" was shouted by Pericles; and once more she heard the
'Venite fratelli!' of the bull's voice, and a stream of volunteers dashed
at the Tyrolese with sword and dagger and bayonet. The Austro-Italians
stood in a crescent line--the ominous form of incipient military
insubordination. Their officers stormed at them, and called for Count
Karl and for Weisspriess. The latter replied like a man stifling, but
Count Karl's voice was silent.
"Weisspriess! here, to me!" the captain sang out in Italian.
"Ammiani! here, to me!" was replied.
Vittoria struck her hands together in electrical gladness at her lover's
voice and name. It rang most cheerfully. Her home was in the conflict
where her lover fought, and she muttered with ecstasy, "We have met! we
have met!" The sound of the keen steel, so exciting to dream of,
paralyzed her nerves in a way that powder, more terrible for a woman's
imagination, would not have done, and she could only feebly advance. It
was a spacious moonlight, but the moonlight appeared to have got of a
brassy hue to her eyes, though the sparkle of the steel was white; and
she felt too, and wondered at it, that the cries and the noise went to
her throat, as if threatening to choke her. Very soon she found herself
standing there, watching for the issue of the strife, almost as dead as a
weight in scales, incapable of clear vision.
Matched against the Tyrolese alone, the volunteers had an equal fight in
point of numbers, and the advantage of possessing a leader; for Count
Karl was down, and Weisspriess was still entangled in the woman's arms.
When at last Wilfrid got him free, the unsupported Tyrolese were giving
ground before Carlo Ammiani and his followers. These fought with stern
fury, keeping close up to their enemy, rarely shouting. They presented
something like the line of a classic bow, with its arrow-head; while the
Tyrolese were huddled in groups, and clubbed at them, and fell back for
space, and ultimately crashed upon their betraying brothers in arms,
swinging rifles and flying. The Austro-Italians rang out a Viva for
Italy, and let them fly: they were swept from the scene.
Vittoria heard her lover addressing his followers. Then he and Angelo
stood over Count Karl, whom she had forgotten. Angelo ran up to her, but
gave place the moment Carlo came; and Carlo drew her by the hand swiftly
to an obscure bend of the rolling ground, and stuck his sword in the
earth, and there put his arms round her and held her fast.
"Obey me now," were his first words.
"Yes," she answered.
He was harsh of eye and tongue, not like the gentle youth she had been
torn from at the door of La Scala.
"Return; make your way to Brescia. My mother is in Brescia. Milan is
hateful. I throw myself into Vicenza. Can I trust you to obey?"
"Carlo, what evil have you heard of me?"
"I listen to no tales."
"Let me follow you to Vicenza and be your handmaid, my beloved."
"Say that you obey."
"I have said it."
He seemed to shut her in his heart, so closely was she enfolded.
"Since La Scala," she murmured; and he bent his lips to her ear,
whispering, "Not one thought of another woman! and never till I die."
"And I only of you, Carlo, and for you, my lover, my lover!"
"You love me absolutely?"
"I belong to you."
"I could be a coward and pray for life to live to hear you say it."
"I feel I breathe another life when you are away from me."
"You belong to me; you are my own?"
"You take my voice, beloved."
"And when I claim you, I am to have you?"
"Am I not in your hands?"
"The very instant I make my claim you will say yes?"
"I shall not have strength for more than to nod."
Carlo shuddered at the delicious image of her weakness.
"My Sandra! Vittoria, my soul! my bride!"
"O my Carlo! Do you go to Vicenza? And did you know I was among these
"You will hear everything from little Leone Rufo, who is wounded and
accompanies you to Brescia. Speak of nothing. Speak my name, and look
at me. I deserve two minutes of blessedness."
"Ah! my dearest, if I am sweet to you, you might have many!"
"No; they begin to hum a reproach at me already, for I must be marching.
Vicenza will soon bubble on a fire, I suspect. Comfort my mother; she
wants a young heart at her elbow. If she is alone, she feeds on every
rumour; other women scatter in emotions what poisons her. And when my
bride is with her, I am between them."
"Yes, Carlo, I will go," said Vittoria, seeing her duty at last through
Carlo sprang from her side to meet Angelo, with whom he exchanged some
quick words. The bugle was sounding, and Barto Rizzo audible. Luigi
came to, her, ruefully announcing that the volunteers had sacked the
carriage behaved worse than the Austrians; and that his padrone, the
signor Antonio-Pericles, was off like a gossamer. Angelo induced her to
remain on the spot where she stood till the carriage was seen on the
Schio road, when he led her to it, saying that Carlo had serious work to
do. Count Karl Lenkenstein was lying in the carriage, supported by
Wilfrid and by young Leone Rufo, who sat laughing, with one eye under a
cross-bandage and an arm slung in a handkerchief. Vittoria desired to
wait that she might see her lover once more; but Angelo entreated her
that she should depart, too earnestly to leave her in doubt of there
being good reason for it and for her lover's absence. He pointed to
Wilfrid: "Barto Rizzo captured this man; Carlo has released him. Take
him with you to attend on his superior officer." She drew Angelo's
observation to the first morning colours over the peaks. He looked up,
and she knew that he remembered that morning of their flight from the
inn. Perhaps he then had the image of his brother in his mind, for the
colours seemed to be plucking at his heart, and he said, "I have lost
"God help you, my friend!" said Vittoria, her throat choking.
Angelo pointed at the insensible nobleman: "These live. I do not grudge
him his breath or his chances; but why should these men take so much
killing? Weisspriess has risen, as though I struck the blow of a babe.
But we one shot does for us! Nevertheless, signorina," Angelo smiled
firmly, "I complain of nothing while we march forward."
He kissed his hand to her, and turned back to his troop. The carriage
was soon under the shadows of the mountains.
EPISODES OF THE REVOLT AND THE WAR
THE DEEDS OF BARTO RIZZO--THE MEETING AT ROVEREDO
At Schio there was no medical attendance to be obtained for Count Karl,
and he begged so piteously to be taken on to Roveredo, that, on his
promising to give Leone Rufo a pass, Vittoria decided to work her way
round to Brescia by the Alpine route. She supposed Pericles to have gone
off among the Tyrolese, and wished in her heart that Wilfrid had gone
likewise, for he continued to wear that look of sad stupefaction which
was the harshest reproach to her. Leone was unconquerably gay in spite
of his wounds. He narrated the doings of the volunteers, with proud
eulogies of Carlo Ammiani's gallant leadership; but the devices of Barto
Rizzo appeared to have struck his imagination most. "He is positively a
cat--a great cat," Leone said. "He can run a day; he can fast a week; he
can climb a house; he can drop from a crag; and he never lets go his
hold. If he says a thing to his wife, she goes true as a bullet to the
mark. The two make a complete piece of artillery. We are all for Barto,
though our captain Carlo is often enraged with him. But there's no
getting on without him. We have found that."
Rinaldo and Angelo Guidascarpi and Barto Rizzo had done many daring
feats. They had first, heading about a couple of dozen out of a force
of sixty, endeavoured to surprise the fortress Rocca d'Anfo in Lake Idro
--an insane enterprise that touched on success, and would have been an
achievement had all the men who followed them been made of the same
desperate stuff. Beaten off, they escaped up the Val di Ledro, and
secretly entered Trent, where they hoped to spread revolt, but the
Austrian commandant knew what a quantity of dry wood was in the city, and
stamped his heel on sparks. A revolt was prepared notwithstanding the
proclamation of imprisonment and death. Barto undertook to lead a troop
against the Buon Consiglio barracks, while Angelo and Rinaldo cleared the
ramparts. It chanced, whether from treachery or extra-vigilance was
unknown, that the troops paid domiciliary visits an hour before the
intended outbreak, and the three were left to accomplish their task
alone. They remained in the city several days, hunted from house to
house, and finally they were brought to bay at night on the roof of a
palace where the Lenkenstein ladies were residing. Barto took his dagger
between his teeth and dropped to the balcony of Lena's chamber. The
brothers soon after found the rooftrap opened to them, and Lena and Anna
conducted them to the postern-door. There Angelo asked whom they had to
thank. The terrified ladies gave their name; upon hearing which, Rinaldo
turned and said that he would pay for a charitable deed to the extent of
his power, and would not meanly allow them to befriend persons who were
to continue strangers to them. He gave the name of Guidascarpi, and
relieved his brother, as well as himself, of a load of obligation, for
the ladies raised wild screams on the instant. In falling from the walls
to the road, Rinaldo hurt his foot. Barto lifted him on his back, and
journeyed with him so till at the appointed place he met his wife, who
dressed the foot, and led them out of the line of pursuit, herself
bending under the beloved load. Her adoration of Rinaldo was deep as a
mother's, pure as a virgin's, fiery as a saint's. Leone Rufo dwelt on it
the more fervidly from seeing Vittoria's expression of astonishment. The
woman led them to a cave in the rocks, where she had stored provision and
sat two days expecting the signal from Trent. They saw numerous bands of
soldiers set out along the valleys--merry men whom it was Barto's
pleasure to beguile by shouts, as a relief for his parched weariness upon
the baking rock. Accident made it an indiscretion. A glass was levelled
at them by a mounted officer, and they had quickly to be moving. Angelo
knew the voice of Weisspriess in the word of command to the soldiers, and
the call to him to surrender. Weisspriess followed them across the
mountain track, keeping at their heels, though they doubled and adopted
all possible contrivances to shake him off. He was joined by Count Karl
Lenkenstein on the day when Carlo Ammiani encountered them, with the rear
of Colonel Corte's band marching for Vicenza. In the collision between
the Austrians and the volunteers, Rinaldo was taken fighting upon his
knee-cap. Leone cursed the disabled foot which had carried the hero in
action, to cast him at the mercy of his enemies; but recollection of that
sight of Rinaldo fighting far ahead and alone, half-down-like a scuttled
ship, stood like a flower in the lad's memory. The volunteers devoted
themselves to liberate or avenge him. It was then that Barto Rizzo sent
his wife upon her mission. Leone assured Vittoria that Angelo was aware
of its nature, and approved it--hoped that the same might be done for
himself. He shook his head when she asked if Count Ammiani approved it
"Signorina, Count Ammiani has a grudge against Barto, though he can't
help making use of him. Our captain Carlo is too much of a mere soldier.
He would have allowed Rinaldo to be strung up, and Barto does not owe him
obedience in those things."
"But why did this Barto Rizzo employ a woman's hand?"
"The woman was capable. No man could have got permission to move freely
among the rascal Austrians, even in the character of a deserter. She
did, and she saved him from the shame of execution. And besides, it was
her punishment. You are astonished? Barto Rizzo punishes royally. He
never forgives, and he never persecutes; he waits for his opportunity.
That woman disobeyed him once--once only; but once was enough. It
occurred in Milan, I believe. She released an Austrian, or did something
--I don't know the story exactly--and Barto said to her, 'Now you can
wash out your crime and send your boy to heaven unspotted, with one
blow.' I saw her set out to do it. She was all teeth and eyes, like a
frightened horse; she walked like a Muse in a garden."
Vittoria discovered that her presence among the Austrians had been known
to Carlo. Leone alluded slightly to Barto Rizzo's confirmed suspicion of
her, saying that it was his weakness to be suspicious of women. The
volunteers, however, were all in her favour, and had jeered at Barto on
his declaring that she might, in proof of her willingness to serve the
cause, have used her voice for the purpose of subjugating the wavering
Austro-Italians, who wanted as much coaxing as women. Count Karl had
been struck to earth by Barto Rizzo. "Not with his boasted neatness, I
imagine," Leone said. In fact, the dagger had grazed an ivory portrait
of a fair Italian head wreathed with violets in Count Karl's breast.
Vittoria recognized the features of Violetta d'Isorella as the original
of the portrait.
They arrived at Roveredo late in the evening. The wounded man again
entreated Vittoria to remain by him till a messenger should bring one of
his sisters from Trent. "See," she said to Leone, "how I give grounds
for suspicion of me; I nurse an enemy."
"Here is a case where Barto is distinctly to blame," the lad replied.
"The poor fellow must want nursing, for he can't smoke."
Anna von Lenkenstein came from Trent to her brother's summons. Vittoria
was by his bedside, and the sufferer had fallen asleep with his head upon
her arm. Anna looked upon this scene with more hateful amazement than
her dull eyelids could express. She beckoned imperiously for her to come
away, but Vittoria would not allow him to be disturbed, and Anna sat and
faced her. The sleep was long. The eyes of the two women met from time
to time, and Vittoria thought that Barto Rizzo's wife, though more
terrible, was pleasanter to behold, and less brutal, than Anna. The
moment her brother stirred, Anna repeated her imperious gesture,
murmuring, "Away! out of my sight!" With great delicacy of touch she
drew the arm from the pillow and thrust it back, and then motioning in an
undisguised horror, said, "Go." Vittoria rose to go.
"Is it my Lena?" came from Karl's faint lips.
"It is your Anna."
"I should have known," he moaned.
Vittoria left them.
Some hours later, Countess Lena appeared, bringing a Trentino doctor.
She said when she beheld Vittoria, "Are you our evil genius, then?"
Vittoria felt that she must necessarily wear that aspect to them.
Still greater was Lena's amazement when she looked on Wilfrid. She
passed him without a sign.
Vittoria had to submit to an interview with both sisters before her
departure. Apart from her distress on their behalf, they had always
seemed as very weak, flippant young women to her, and she could have
smiled in her heart when Anna pointed to a day of retribution in the
"I shall not seek to have you assassinated," Anna said; "do not suppose
that I mean the knife or the pistol. But your day will come, and I can
wait for it. You murdered my brother Paul: you have tried to murder my
brother Karl. I wish you to leave this place convinced of one thing:--
you shall be repaid for it."
There was no direct allusion either to Weisspriess or to Wilfrid.
Lena spoke of the army. "You think our cause is ruined because we have
insurrection on all sides of us: you do not know our army. We can fight
the Hungarians with one hand, and you Italians with the other--with a
little finger. On what spot have we given way? We have to weep, it is
true; but tears do not testify to defeat; and already I am inclined to
pity those fools who have taken part against us. Some have experienced
the fruits of their folly."
This was the nearest approach to a hint at Wilfrid's misconduct.
Lena handed Leone's pass to Vittoria, and drawing out a little pocket
almanac, said, "You proceed to Milan, I presume. I do not love your
society; mademoiselle Belloni or Campa: yet I do not mind making an
appointment--the doctor says a month will set my brother on his feet
again,--I will make an appointment to meet you in Milan or Como, or
anywhere in your present territories, during the month of August. That
affords time for a short siege and two pitched battles."
She appeared to be expecting a retort.
Vittoria replied, "I could beg one thing on my knees of you, Countess
"And that is--?" Lena threw her head up superbly.
"Pardon my old friend the service he did me through friendship."
The sisters interchanged looks. Lena flushed angrily.
Anna said, "The person to whom yon allude is here."
"He is attending on your brother."
"Did he help this last assassin to escape, perchance?"
Vittoria sickened at the cruel irony, and felt that she had perhaps done
ill in beginning to plead for Wilfrid.
"He is here; let him speak for himself: but listen to him, Countess
"A dishonourable man had better be dumb," interposed Anna.
"Ah! it is I who have offended you."
"Is that his excuse?"
Vittoria kept her eyes on the fiercer sister, who now declined to speak.
"I will not excuse my own deeds; perhaps I cannot. We Italians are in a
hurricane; I cannot reflect. It may be that I do not act more thinkingly
than a wild beast."
"You have spoken it," Anna exclaimed.
"Countess Lena, he fights in your ranks as a common soldier. He
encounters more than a common soldier's risks."
"The man is brave,--we knew that," said Anna.
"He is more than brave, he is devoted. He fights against us, without
hope of reward from you. Have I utterly ruined him?"
"I imagine that you may regard it as a fact that you have utterly ruined
him," said Anna, moving to break up the parting interview. Lena turned
to follow her.
"Ladies, if it is I who have hardened your hearts, I am more guilty than
I thought." Vittoria said no more. She knew that she had been speaking
badly, or ineffectually, by a haunting flatness of sound, as of an
unstrung instrument, in her ears: she was herself unstrung and
dispirited, while the recollection of Anna's voice was like a sombre
conquering monotony on a low chord, with which she felt insufficient to
Leone was waiting in the carriage to drive to the ferry across the Adige.
There was news in Roveredo of the king's advance upon Rivoli; and Leone
sat trying to lift and straighten out his wounded arm, with grimaces of
laughter at the pain of the effort, which resolutely refused to
acknowledge him to be an able combatant. At the carriage-door Wilfrid
bowed once over Vittoria's hand.
"You see that," Anna remarked to her sister.
"I should have despised him if he had acted indifference," replied Lena.
She would have suspected him--that was what her heart meant; the artful
show of indifference had deceived her once. The anger within her drew
its springs much more fully from his refusal to respond to her affection,
when she had in a fit of feminine weakness abased herself before him on
the night of the Milanese revolt, than from the recollection of their
days together in Meran. She had nothing of her sister's unforgivingness.
And she was besides keenly curious to discover the nature of the charm
Vittoria threw on him, and not on him solely. Vittoria left Wilfrid to
better chances than she supposed. "Continue fighting with your army,"
she said, when they parted. The deeper shade which traversed his
features told her that, if she pleased, her sway might still be active;
but she had no emotion to spare for sentimental regrets. She asked
herself whether a woman who has cast her lot in scenes of strife does not
lose much of her womanhood and something of her truth; and while her
imagination remained depressed, her answer was sad. In that mood she
pitied Wilfrid with a reckless sense of her inability to repay him for
the harm she had done him. The tragedies written in fresh blood all
about her, together with that ever-present image of the fate of Italy
hanging in the balance, drew her away from personal reflections. She
felt as one in a war-chariot, who has not time to cast more than a glance
on the fallen. At the place where the ferry is, she was rejoiced by
hearing positive news of the proximity of the Royal army. There were
none to tell her that Charles Albert had here made his worst move by
leaving Vicenza to the operations of the enemy, that he might become
master of a point worthless when Vicenza fell into the enemy's hands.
The old Austrian Field-Marshal had eluded him at Mantua on that very
night when Vittoria had seen his troops in motion. The daring Austrian
flank-march on Vicenza, behind the fortresses of the Quadrilateral, was
the capital stroke of the campaign. But the presence of a Piedmontese
vanguard at Rivoli flushed the Adige with confidence, and Vittoria went
on her way sharing the people's delight. She reached Brescia to hear
that Vicenza had fallen. The city was like a landscape smitten black by
the thunder-cloud. Vittoria found Countess Ammiani at her husband's
tomb, stiff, colourless, lifeless as a monument attached to the tomb.
CLOSE OF THE LOMBARD CAMPAIGN--VITTORIA'S PERPLEXITY
The fall of Vicenza turned a tide that had overflowed its barriers with
force enough to roll it to the Adriatic. From that day it was as if a
violent wind blew East over Lombardy; flood and wind breaking here and
there a tree, bowing everything before them. City, fortress, and battle-
field resisted as the eddy whirls. Venice kept her brave colours
streaming aloft in a mighty grasp despite the storm, but between Venice
and Milan there was this unutterable devastation,--so sudden a change,
so complete a reversal of the shield, that the Lombards were at first
incredulous even in their agony, and set their faces against it as at a
monstrous eclipse, as though the heavens were taking false oath of its
being night when it was day. From Vicenza and Rivoli, to Sommacampagna,
and across Monte Godio to Custozza, to Volta on the right of the Mincio,
up to the gates of Milan, the line of fire travelled, with a fantastic
overbearing swiftness that, upon the map, looks like the zig-zag elbowing
of a field-rocket. Vicenza fell on the 11th of June; the Austrians
entered Milan on the 6th of August. Within that short time the Lombards
were struck to the dust.
Countess Ammiani quitted Brescia for Bergamo before the worst had
happened; when nothing but the king's retreat upon the Lombard capital,
after the good fight at Volta, was known. According to the king's
proclamation the Piedmontese army was to defend Milan, and hope was not
dead. Vittoria succeeded in repressing all useless signs of grief in the
presence of the venerable lady, who herself showed none, but simply
recommended her accepted daughter to pray daily. "I can neither confess
nor pray," Vittoria said to the priest, a comfortable, irritable
ecclesiastic, long attached to the family, and little able to deal with
this rebel before Providence, that would not let her swollen spirit be
bled. Yet she admitted to him that the countess possessed resources
which she could find nowhere; and she saw the full beauty of such
inimitable grave endurance. Vittoria's foolish trick of thinking for
herself made her believe, nevertheless, that the countess suffered more
than she betrayed, was less consoled than her spiritual comforter
imagined. She continued obstinate and unrepentant, saying, "If my
punishment is to come, it will at least bring experience with it, and I
shall know why I am punished. The misery now is that I do not know, and
do not see, the justice of the sentence."
Countess Ammiani thought better of her case than the priest did; or she
was more indulgent, or half indifferent. This girl was Carlo's choice;
--a strange choice, but the times were strange, and the girl was robust.
The channels of her own and her husband's house were drying on all sides;
the house wanted resuscitating. There was promise that the girl would
bear children of strong blood. Countess Ammiani would not for one moment
have allowed the spiritual welfare of the children to hang in dubitation,
awaiting their experience of life; but a certain satisfaction was shown
in her faint smile when her confessor lamented over Vittoria's proud
stony state of moral revolt. She said to her accepted daughter, "I shall
expect you to be prepared to espouse my son as soon as I have him by my
side;" nor did Vittoria's silent bowing of her face assure her that
strict obedience was implied. Precise words--"I will," and "I will not
fail"--were exacted. The countess showed some emotion after Vittoria had
spoken. "Now, may God end this war quickly, if it is to go against us,"
she exclaimed, trembling in her chair visibly a half-minute, with dropped
eyelids and lips moving.
Carlo had sent word that he would join his mother as early as he was
disengaged from active service, and meantime requested her to proceed to
a villa on Lago Maggiore. Vittoria obtained permission from the countess
to order the route of the carriage through Milan, where she wished to
take up her mother and her maid Giacinta. For other reasons she would
have avoided the city. The thought of entering it was painful with the
shrewdest pain. Dante's profoundly human line seemed branded on the
forehead of Milan.
The morning was dark when they drove through the streets of Bergamo.
Passing one of the open places, Vittoria beheld a great concourse of
volunteer youth and citizens, all of them listening to the voice of one
who stood a few steps above them holding a banner. She gave an outcry of
bitter joy. It was the Chief. On one side of him was Agostino, in the
midst of memorable heads that were unknown to her. The countess refused
to stay, though Vittoria strained her hands together in extreme entreaty
that she might for a few moments hear what the others were hearing.
"I speak for my son, and I forbid it," Countess Ammiani said. Vittoria
fell back and closed her eyes to cherish the vision. All those faces
raised to the one speaker under the dark sky were beautiful. He had
breathed some new glory of hope in them, making them shine beneath the
overcast heavens, as when the sun breaks from an evening cloud and
flushes the stems of a company of pine-trees.
Along the road to Milan she kept imagining his utterance until her heart
rose with music. A delicious stream of music, thin as poor tears, passed
through her frame, like a life reviving. She reached Milan in a mood to
bear the idea of temporary defeat. Music had forsaken her so long that
celestial reassurance seemed to return with it.
Her mother was at Zotti's, very querulous, but determined not to leave
the house and the few people she knew. She had, as she told her
daughter, fretted so much on her account that she hardly knew whether she
was glad to see her. Tea, of course, she had given up all thoughts of;
but now coffee was rising, and the boasted sweet bread of Lombardy was
something to look at! She trusted that Emilia would soon think of
singing no more, and letting people rest: she might sing when she wanted
money. A letter recently received from Mr. Pericles said that Italy was
her child's ruin, and she hoped Emilia was ready to do as he advised,
and hurry to England, where singing did not upset people, and people
lived like real Christians, not----Vittoria flapped her hand, and would
not hear of the unchristian crimes of the South. As regarded the
expected defence of Milan, the little woman said, that if it brought on a
bombardment, she would call it unpardonable wickedness, and only hoped
that her daughter would repent.
Zotti stood by, interpreting the English to himself by tones. "The
amiable donnina is not of our persuasion," he observed. "She remains
dissatisfied with patriotic Milan. I have exhibited to her my dabs of
bread through all the processes of making and baking. It is in vain.
She rejects analogy. She is wilful as a principessina: 'Tis so! 'tis not
so! 'tis my will! be silent, thou! Signora, I have been treated in that
way by your excellent mother."
"Zotti has not been paid for three weeks, and he certainly has not
mentioned it or looked it, I will say, Emilia."
"Zotti has had something to think of during the last three weeks," said
Vittoria, touching him kindly on the arm.
The confectioner lifted his fingers and his big brown eyes after them,
expressive of the unutterable thoughts. He informed her that he had laid
in a stock of flour, in the expectation that Carlo Alberto would defend
the city: The Milanese were ready to aid him, though some, as Zotti
confessed, had ceased to effervesce; and a great number who were
perfectly ready to fight regarded his tardy appeal to Italian patriotism
very coldly. Zotti set out in person to discover Giacinta. The girl
could hardly fetch her breath when she saw her mistress. She was in
Laura's service, and said that Laura had brought a wounded Englishman
from the field of Custozza. Vittoria hurried to Laura, with whom she
found Merthyr, blue-white as a corpse, having been shot through the body.
His sister was in one of the Lombard hamlets, unaware of his fall; Beppo
had been sent to her.
They noticed one another's embrowned complexions, but embraced silently.
"Twice widowed!" Laura said when they sat together. Laura hushed all
speaking of the war or allusion to a single incident of the miserable
campaign, beyond the bare recital of Vittoria's adventures; yet when
Vicenza by chance was mentioned, she burst out: "They are not cities,
they are living shrieks. They have been made impious for ever. Burn
them to ashes, that they may not breathe foul upon heaven! "She had
clung to the skirts of the army as far as the field of Custozza. "He,"
she said, pointing to the room where Merthyr lay,--"he groans less than
the others I have nursed. Generally, when they looked at me, they
appeared obliged to recollect that it was not I who had hurt them. Poor
souls! some ended in great torment. 'I think of them as the happiest;
for pain is a cloak that wraps you about, and I remember one middle-aged
man who died softly at Custozza, and said, 'Beaten!' To take that
thought as your travelling companion into the gulf, must be worse than
dying of agony; at least, I think so."
Vittoria was too well used to Laura's way of meeting disaster to expect
from her other than this ironical fortitude, in which the fortitude
leaned so much upon the irony. What really astonished her was the
conception Laura had taken of the might of Austria. Laura did not
directly speak of it, but shadowed it in allusive hints, much as if she
had in her mind the image of an iron roller going over a field of flowers
--hateful, imminent, irresistible. She felt as a leaf that has been
flying before the gale.
Merthyr's wound was severe: Vittoria could not leave him. Her resolution
to stay in Milan brought her into collision with Countess Ammiani, when
the countess reminded her of her promise, sedately informing her that she
was no longer her own mistress, and had a primary duty to fulfil. She
offered to wait three days, or until the safety of the wounded man was
medically certified to. It was incomprehensible to her that Vittoria
should reject her terms; and though it was true that she would not have
listened to a reason, she was indignant at not hearing one given in
mitigation of the offence. She set out alone on her journey, deeply
hurt. The reason was a feminine sentiment, and Vittoria was naturally
unable to speak it. She shrank with pathetic horror from the thought of
Merthyr's rising from his couch to find her a married woman, and desired
most earnestly that her marriage should be witnessed by him. Young women
will know how to reconcile the opposition of the sentiment. Had Merthyr
been only slightly wounded, and sound enough to seem to be able to bear
a bitter shock, she would not have allowed her personal feelings to cause
chagrin to the noble lady. The sight of her dear steadfast friend
prostrate in the cause of Italy, and who, if he lived to rise again,
might not have his natural strength to bear the thought of her loss with
his old brave firmness, made it impossible for her to act decisively in
one direct line of conduct.
Countess Ammiani wrote brief letters from Luino and Pallanza on Lago
Maggiore. She said that Carlo was in the Como mountains; he would expect
to find his bride, and would accuse his mother; "but his mother will be
spared those reproaches," she added, "if the last shot fired kills, as it
generally does, the bravest and the dearest."
"If it should!"--the thought rose on a quick breath in Vittoria's bosom,
and the sentiment which held her away dispersed like a feeble smoke, and
showed her another view of her features. She wept with longing for love
and dependence. She was sick of personal freedom, tired of the exercise
of her will, only too eager to give herself to her beloved. The
blessedness of marriage, of peace and dependence, came on her imagination
like a soft breeze from a hidden garden, like sleep. But this very
longing created the resistance to it in the depths of her soul. 'There
was a light as of reviving life, or of pain comforted, when it was she
who was sitting by Merthyr's side, and when at times she saw the hopeless
effort of his hand to reach to hers, or during the long still hours she
laid her head on his pillow, and knew that he breathed gratefully. The
sweetness of helping him, and of making his breathing pleasant to him,
closed much of the world which lay beyond her windows to her thoughts,
and surprised her with an unknown emotion, so strange to her that when it
first swept up her veins she had the fancy of her having been touched by
a supernatural hand, and heard a flying accord of instruments. She was
praying before she knew what prayer was. A crucifix hung over Merthyr's
head. She had looked on it many times, and looked on it still, without
seeing more than the old sorrow. In the night it was dim. She found
herself trying to read the features of the thorn-crowned Head in the
solitary night. She and it were alone with a life that was faint above
the engulphing darkness. She prayed for the life, and trembled, and shed
tears, and would have checked them; they seemed to be bearing away her
little remaining strength. The tears streamed. No answer was given to
her question, "Why do I weep?" She wept when Merthyr had passed the
danger, as she had wept when the hours went by, with shrouded visages;
and though she felt the difference m the springs of her tears, she
thought them but a simple form of weakness showing shade and light.
These tears were a vanward wave of the sea to follow; the rising of her
voice to heaven was no more than a twitter of the earliest dawn before
the coming of her soul's outcry.
"I have had a weeping fit," she thought, and resolved to remember it
tenderly, as being associated with her friend's recovery, and a singular
masterful power absolutely to look on the Austrians marching up the
streets of Milan, and not to feel the surging hatred, or the nerveless
despair, which she had supposed must be her alternatives.
It is a mean image to say that the entry of the Austrians into the
reconquered city was like a river of oil permeating a lake of vinegar,
but it presents the fact in every sense. They demanded nothing more than
submission, and placed a gentle foot upon the fallen enemy; and wherever
they appeared they were isolated. The deepest wrath of the city was,
nevertheless, not directed against them, but against Carlo Alberto, who
had pledged his honour to defend it, and had forsaken it. Vittoria
committed a public indiscretion on the day when the king left Milan to
its fate: word whereof was conveyed to Carlo Ammiani, and he wrote to
"It is right that I should tell you what I have heard," the letter said.
"I have heard that my bride drove up to the crowned traitor, after he had
unmasked himself, and when he was quitting the Greppi palace, and that
she kissed his hand before the people--poor bleeding people of Milan!
This is what I hear in the Val d'Intelvi:--that she despised the misery
and just anger of the people, and, by virtue of her name and mine,
obtained a way for him. How can she have acted so as to give a colour to
this infamous scandal? True or false, it does not affect my love for
her. Still, my dearest, what shall I say? You keep me divided in two
halves. My heart is out of me; and if I had a will, I think I should be
harsh with you. You are absent from my mother at a time when we are
about to strike another blow. Go to her. It is kindness; it is charity:
I do not say duty. I remember that I did write harshly to you from
Brescia. Then our march was so clear in view that a little thing ruffled
me. Was it a little thing? But to applaud the Traitor now! To uphold
him who has spilt our blood only to hand the country over to the old
gaolers! He lent us his army like a Jew, for huge interest. Can you not
read him? If not, cease, I implore you, to think at all for yourself.
"Is this a lover's letter? I know that my beloved will see the love in
it. To me your acts are fair and good as the chronicle of a saint. I
find you creating suspicion--almost justifying it in others, and putting
your name in the mouth of a madman who denounces you. I shall not speak
more of him. Remember that my faith in you is unchangeable, and I pray
you to have the same in me.
"I sent you a greeting from the Chief. He marched in the ranks from
Bergamo. I saw him on the line of march strip off his coat to shelter a
young lad from the heavy rain. He is not discouraged; none are who have
been near him.
"Angelo is here, and so is our Agostino; and I assure you he loads and
fires a carbine much more deliberately than he composes a sonnet. I am
afraid that your adored Antonio-Pericles fared badly among our fellows,
but I could gather no particulars.
"Oh! the bright two minutes when I held you right in my heart. That
spot on the Vicentino is alone unclouded. If I live I will have that bit
of ground. I will make a temple of it. I could reach it blindfolded."
A townsman of Milan brought this letter to Vittoria. She despatched
Luigi with her reply, which met the charge in a straightforward
"I was driving to Zotti's by the Greppi palace, when I saw the king come
forth, and the people hooted him. I stood up, and petitioned to kiss his
hand. The people knew me. They did not hoot any more for some time.
"So that you have heard the truth, and you must judge me by it. I cannot
even add that I am sorry, though I strive to wish that I had not been
present. I might wish it really, if I did not feel it to be a cowardly
"Oh, my Carlo! my lover! my husband! you would not have me go against my
nature? I have seen the king upon the battle-field. He has deigned to
speak to me of Italy and our freedom. I have seen him facing our enemy;
and to see him hooted by the people, and in misfortune and with sad eyes!
--he looked sad and nothing else--and besides, I am sure I know the king.
I mean that I understand him. I am half ashamed to write so boldly, even
to you. I say to myself you should know me, at least; and if I am guilty
of a piece of vanity, you should know that also. Carlo Alberto is quite
unlike other men. He worships success as, much; but they are not, as he
is, so much bettered by adversity. Indeed I do not believe that he has
exact intentions of any sort, or ever had the intention to betray us, or
has done so in reality, that is, meaningly, of his own will. Count
Medole and his party did, as you know, offer Lombardy to him; and Venice
gave herself--brave, noble Venice! Oh! if we two were there--Venice has
England's sea-spirit. But, did we not flatter the king? And ask
yourself, my Carlo, could a king move in such an enterprise as a common
person? Ought we not to be in union with Sardinia? How can we be if we
reject her king? Is it not the only positive army that, we can look to--
I mean regular army? Should we not; make some excuses for one who is not
in our position?
"I feel that I push my questions like waves that fall and cannot get
beyond--they crave so for answers agreeing to them. This should make me
doubt myself, perhaps; but they crowd again, and seem so conclusive until
I have written them down. I am unworthy to struggle with your intellect;
but I say to myself, how unworthy of you I should be if I did not use my
own, such as it is! The poor king; had to conclude an armistice to save
his little kingdom. Perhaps we ought to think of that sternly. My heart
is; filled with pity.
"It cannot but be right that you should know the worst; of me. I call
you my husband, and tremble to be permitted to lean my head on your bosom
for hours, my sweet lover! And yet my cowardice, if I had let the king
go by without a reverential greeting from me, in his adversity, would
have rendered me insufferable to myself. You are hearing me, and I am
compelled to say, that rather than behave so basely I would forfeit your
love, and be widowed till death should offer us for God to join us. Does
your face change to me?
"Dearest, and I say it when the thought of you sets me almost swooning.
I find my hands clasped, and I am muttering I know not what, and I am
blushing. The ground seems to rock; I can barely breathe; my heart is
like a bird caught in the hands of a cruel boy: it will not rest. I fear
everything. I hear a whisper, 'Delay not an instant!' and it is like a
furnace; 'Hasten to him! Speed!' and I seem to totter forward and drop--
I think I have lost you--I am like one dead.
"I remain here to nurse our dear friend Merthyr. For that reason I am
absent from your mother. It is her desire that we should be married.
"Soon, soon, my own soul!
"I seem to be hanging on a tree for you, swayed by such a teazing wind.
"Oh, soon! or I feel that I shall hate any vestige of will that I have
in this head of mine. Not in the heart--it is not there!
"And sometimes I am burning to sing. The voice leaps to my lips; it is
quite like a thing that lives apart--my prisoner.
"It is true, Laura is here with Merthyr.
"Could you come at once?--not here, but to Pallanza? We shall both make
our mother happy. This she wishes, this she lives for, this consoles
her--and oh, this gives me peace! Yes, Merthyr is recovering! I can
leave him without the dread I had; and Laura confesses to the feminine
sentiment, if her funny jealousy of a rival nurse is really simply
feminine. She will be glad of our resolve, I am sure. And then you will
order all my actions; and I shall be certain that they are such as I
would proudly call mine; and I shall be shut away from the world. Yes;
let it be so! Addio. I reserve all sweet names for you. Addio. In
Pallanza:--no not Pallanza--Paradise!
"Hush! and do not smile at me:--it was not my will, I discover, but my
want of will, that distracted me.
"See my last signature of--not Vittoria; for I may sign that again and
still be Emilia Alessandra Ammiani.
The letter was sealed; Luigi bore it away, and a brief letter to Countess
Ammiani, in Pallanza, as well.
Vittoria was relieved of her anxiety concerning Merthyr by the arrival of
Georgiana, who had been compelled to make her way round by Piacenza and
Turin, where she had left Gambier, with Beppo in attendance on him.
Georgiana at once assumed all the duties of head-nurse, and the more
resolutely because of her brother's evident moral weakness in sighing for
the hand of a fickle girl to smooth his pillow. "When he is stronger you
can sit beside him a little," she said to Vittoria, who surrendered her
post without a struggle, and rarely saw him, though Laura told her that
his frequent exclamation was her name, accompanied by a soft look at his
sister--"which would have stirred my heart like poor old Milan last
March," Laura added, with a lift of her shoulders.