Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Vittoria, v7 by George Meredith

Part 2 out of 2

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

And behold, they interchanged that unsweet feminine performance.

Adela's lips were unlocked by it.

"How many would envy me, dear Countess d'Isorella!"

She really conceived that she was driving into Violetta's heart by the
great high-road of feminine vanity. Violetta permitted her to think as
she liked.

"Your countrywomen, madame, do not make large allowances for beauty,
I hear."

"None at all. But they are so stiff! so frigid! I know one, a Miss
Ford, now in Italy, who would not let me have a male friend, and a
character, in conjunction."

"You are acquainted with Count Karl Lenkenstein?"

Adela blushingly acknowledged it.

"The whisper goes that I was once admired by him," said Violetta.

"And by Count Ammiani."

"By count? by milord? by prince? by king?"

"By all who have good taste."

"Was it jealousy, then, that made Countess Anna hate me?"

"She could not--or she cannot now."

"Because I have not taken possession of her brother."

"I could not--may I say it?--I could not understand his infatuation until
Countess Anna showed me the portrait of Italy's most beautiful living
woman. She told me to look at the last of the Borgia family."

Violetta laughed out clear music. "And now you see her?"

"She said that it had saved her brother's life. It has a star and a
scratch on the left cheek from a dagger. He wore it on his heart, and an
assassin struck him there: a true romance. Countess Anna said to me that
it had saved one brother, and that it should help to avenge the other.
She has not spoken to me of Jesuits."

"Nothing at all of the Jesuits?" said Violetta carelessly. "Perhaps she
wishes to use my endeavours to get the Salaseo armistice prolonged, and
tempts me, knowing I am a prodigal. Austria is victorious, you know, but
she wants peace. Is that the case? I do not press you to answer."

Adela replied hesitatingly: "Are you aware, countess, whether there is
any truth in the report that Countess Lena has a passion for Count

"Ah, then," said Violetta, "Countess Lena's sister would naturally wish
to prevent his contemplated marriage! We may have read the riddle at
last. Are you discreet? If you are, you will let it be known that I had
the honour of becoming intimate with you in Turin--say, at the Court. We
shall meet frequently there during winter, I trust, if you care to make a
comparison of the Italian with the Austrian and the English nobility."

An eloquent "Oh!" escaped from Adela's bosom. She had certainly not
expected to win her way with this estimable Italian titled lady thus
rapidly. Violetta had managed her so well that she was no longer sure
whether she did know the exact nature of her mission, the words of which
she had faithfully transmitted as having been alone confided to her. It
was with chagrin that she saw Pericles put his fore-finger on a salient
dimple of the countess's cheek when he welcomed them. He puffed and blew
like one working simultaneously at bugle and big drum on hearing an
allusion to Victoria. The mention of the name of that abominable
traitress was interdicted at Villa Ricciardi, he said; she had dragged
him at two armies' tails to find his right senses at last: Pericles was
cured of his passion for her at last. He had been mad, but he was cured
--and so forth, in the old strain. His preparations for a private
operatic performance diverted him from these fierce incriminations, and
he tripped busily from spot to spot, conducting the ladies over the
tumbled lower floors of the spacious villa, and calling their admiration
on the desolation of the scene. Then they went up to the maestro's room.
Pericles became deeply considerate for the master's privacy. "He is my
slave; the man has ruined himself for la Vittoria; but I respect the
impersonation of art," he said under his breath to the ladies as they
stood at the door; "hark! "The piano was touched, and the voice of Irma
di Karski broke out in a shrill crescendo. Rocco Ricci within gave
tongue to the vehement damnatory dance of Pericles outside. Rocco struck
his piano again encouragingly for a second attempt, but Irma was sobbing.
She was heard to say: "This is the fifteenth time you have pulled me down
in one morning. You hate me; you do; you hate me." Rocco ran his
fingers across the keys, and again struck the octave for Irma. Pericles
wiped his forehead, when, impenitent and unteachable, she took the notes
in the manner of a cock. He thumped at the door violently and entered.

"Excellent! horrid! brava! abominable! beautiful! My Irma, you have
reached the skies. You ascend like a firework, and crown yourself at the
top. No more to-day; but descend at your leisure, my dear, and we will
try to mount again by-and-by, and not so fast, if you please. Ha! your
voice is a racehorse. You will learn to ride him with temper and
judgement, and you will go. Not so, my Rocco? Irma, you want repose, my
dear. One thing I guarantee to you--you will please the public. It is a
minor thing that you should please me."

Countess d'Isorella led Irma away, and had to bear with many fits of
weeping, and to assent to the force of all the charges of vindictive
conspiracy and inveterate malice with which the jealous creature assailed
Vittoria's name. The countess then claimed her ear for half-a-minute.

"Have you had any news of Countess Anna lately?"

Irma had not; she admitted it despondently. "There is such a vile
conspiracy against me in Italy--and Italy is a poor singer's fame--that
I should be tempted to do anything. And I detest la Vittoria. She has
such a hold on this Antonio-Pericles, I don't see how I can hurt her,
unless I meet her and fly at her throat."

"You naturally detest her," said the countess. "Repeat Countess Anna's
proposal to you."

"It was insulting--she offered me money."

"That you should persuade me to assist you in preventing la Vittoria's
marriage to Count Ammiani?"

"Dear lady, you know I did not try to persuade you."

"You knew that you would not succeed, my Irma. But Count Ammiani will
not marry her; so you will have a right to claim some reward. I do not
think that la Vittoria is quite idle. Look out for yourself, my child.
If you take to plotting, remember it is a game of two."

"If she thwarts me in one single step, I will let loose that madman on
her," said Irma, trembling.

"You mean the signor Antonio-Pericles?"

"No; I mean that furious man I saw at your villa, dear countess."

"Ah! Barto Rizzo. A very furious man. He bellowed when he heard her
name, I remember. You must not do it. But, for Count Ammiani's sake,
I desire to see his marriage postponed, at least."

"Where is she?" Irma inquired.

The countess shrugged. "Even though I knew, I could not prudently tell
you in your present excited state."

She went to Pericles for a loan of money. Pericles remarked that there
was not much of it in Turin. "But, countess, you whirl the gold-pieces
like dust from your wheels; and a spy, my good soul, a lovely secret
emissary, she will be getting underpaid if she allows herself to want
money. There is your beauty; it is ripe, but it is fresh, and it is
extraordinary. Yes; there is your beauty." Before she could obtain a
promise of the money, Violetta had to submit to be stripped to her
character, which was hard; but on the other hand, Pericles exacted no
interest on his money, and it was not often that he exacted a return of
it in coin. Under these circumstances, ladies in need of money can find
it in their hearts to pardon mere brutality of phrase. Pericles promised
to send it to the countess on one condition; which condition he
cancelled, saying dejectedly, "I do not care to know where she is. I
will not know."

"She has the score of Hagar, wherever she is," said Violetta, "and when
she hears that you have done the scene without her aid, you will have
stuck a dagger in her bosom."

"Not," Pericles cried in despair, "not if she should hear Irma's Hagar!
To the desert with Irma. It is the place for a crab-apple. Bravo,
Abraham! you were wise."

Pericles added that Montini was hourly expected, and that there was to be
a rehearsal in the evening.

When she had driven home, Violetta found Barto Rizzo's accusatory paper
laid on her writing-desk. She gathered the contents in a careless
glance, and walked into the garden alone, to look for Carlo.

He was leaning on the balustrade of the terrace, near the water-gate,
looking into the deep clear lake-water. Violetta placed herself beside
him without a greeting.

"You are watching fish for coolness, my Carlo?"

"Yes," he said, and did not turn to her face.

"You were very angry when you arrived?"

She waited for his reply.

"Why do you not speak, Carlino?"

"I am watching fish for coolness," he said.

"Meantime," said Violetta, "I am scorched."

He looked up, and led her to an arch of shade, where he sat quite silent.

"Can anything be more vexing than this?" she was reduced to exclaim.

"Ah!" said he, "you would like the catalogue to be written out for you in
a big bold hand, possibly, with a terrific initials at the end of the

"Carlo, you have done worse than that. When I saw you first here, what
crimes did you not accuse me of? what names did you not scatter on my
head? and what things did I not, confess to? I bore the unkindness, for
you were beaten, and you wanted a victim. And, my dear friend,
considering that I am after all a woman, my forbearance has subsequently
been still greater."

"How?" he asked. Her half-pathetic candour melted him.

"You must, have a lively memory for the uses of forgetfulness, Carlo,
When you had scourged me well, you thought it proper to raise me up and
give me comfort. I was wicked for serving the king, and therefore the
country, as a spy; but I was to persevere, and cancel my iniquities by
betraying those whom I served to you. That was your instructive precept.
Have I done it or not? Answer, too have I done it for any payment beyond
your approbation? I persuaded you to hope for Lombardy, and without any
vaunting of my own patriotism. You have seen and spoken to the men I
directed you to visit. If their heads master yours, I shall be
reprobated for it, I know surely; but I am confident as yet that you can
match them. In another month I expect to see the king over the Ticino
once more, and Carlo in Brescia with his comrades. You try to penetrate
my eyes. That's foolish; I can make them glass. Read me by what I say
and what I do. I do not entreat you to trust me; I merely beg that you
will trust your own judgement of me by what I have helped you to do
hitherto. You and I, my dear boy, have had some trifling together. Admit
that another woman would have refused to surrender you as I did when your
unruly Vittoria was at last induced to come to you from Milan. Or,
another woman would have had her revenge on discovering that she had been
a puppet of soft eyes and a lover's quarrel with his mistress. Instead
of which, I let you go. I am opposed to the marriage, it's true; and you
know why."

Carlo had listened to Violetta, measuring the false and the true in this
recapitulation of her conduct with cool accuracy until she alluded to
their personal relations. Thereat his brows darkened.

"We had I some trifling together," he said, musingly.

"Is it going to be denied in these sweeter days?" Violetta reddened.

"The phrase is elastic. Suppose my bride were to hear it?"

"It was addressed to your ears, Carlo."

"It cuts two ways. Will you tell me when it was that I last had the
happiness of saluting you, lip to lip?"

"In Brescia--before I had espoused an imbecile--two nights before my
marriage--near the fountain of the Greek girl with a pitcher."

Pride and anger nerved the reply. It was uttered in a rapid low breath.
Coming altogether unexpectedly, it created an intense momentary revulsion
of his feelings by conjuring up his boyish love in a scene more living
than the sunlight.

He lifted her hand to his mouth. He was Italian enough, though a lover,
to feel that she deserved more. She had reddened deliciously, and
therewith hung a dewy rosy moisture on her underlids. Raising her eyes,
she looked like a cut orange to a thirsty lip. He kissed her, saying,

"Keep it secret, you mean?" she retorted. "Yes, I pardon that wish of
yours. I can pardon much to my beauty."

She stood up as majestically as she had spoken.

"You know, my Violetta, that I am madly in love."

"I have learnt it."

"You know it:--what else would . . ? If I were not lost in love, could
I see you as I do and let Brescia be the final chapter?"

Violetta sighed. "I should have preferred its being so rather than this
superfluous additional line to announce an end, like a foolish staff on
the edge of a cliff. You thought that you were saluting a leper, or a

"Neither. If ever we can talk together again, as we have done," Carlo
said gloomily, "I will tell you what I think of myself."

"No, but Richelieu might have behaved . . . . Ah! perhaps not quite
in the same way," she corrected her flowing apology for him. "But then,
he was a Frenchman. He could be flighty without losing his head. Dear
Italian Carlo! Yes, in the teeth of Barto Rizzo, and for the sake of the
country, marry her at once. It will be the best thing for you; really
the best. You want to know from me the whereabout of Barto Rizzo. He
may be in the mountain over Stresa, or in Milan. He also has thrown off
my yoke, such as it was! I do assure you, Carlo, I have no command over
him: but, mind, I half doat on the wretch. No man made me desperately in
love with myself before he saw me, when I stopped his raving in the
middle of the road with one look of my face. There was foam on his beard
and round his eyes; the poor wretch took out his handkerchief, and he
sobbed. I don't know how many luckless creatures he had killed on his
way; but when I took him into my carriage--king, emperor, orator on
stilts, minister of police not one has flattered me as he did, by just
gazing at me. Beauty can do as much as music, my Carlo."

Carlo thanked heaven that Violetta had no passion in her nature. She had
none: merely a leaning toward evil, a light sense of shame, a desire for
money, and in her heart a contempt for the principles she did not
possess, but which, apart from the intervention of other influences,
could occasionally sway her actions. Friendship, or rather the shadowy
recovery of a past attachment that had been more than friendship,
inclined her now and then to serve a master who failed distinctly to
represent her interests; and when she met Carlo after the close of the
war, she had really set to work in hearty kindliness to rescue him from
what she termed "shipwreck with that disastrous Republican crew." He had
obtained greater ascendency over her than she liked; yet she would have
forgiven it, as well as her consequent slight deviation from direct
allegiance to her masters in various cities, but for Carlo's commanding
personal coolness. She who had tamed a madman by her beauty, was
outraged, and not unnaturally, by the indifference of a former lover.

Later in the day, Laura and Vittoria, with Agostino, reached the villa;
and Adela put her lips to Vittoria's ear, whispering: "Naughty! when are
you to lose your liberty to turn men's heads?" and then she heaved a
sigh with Wilfrid's name. She had formed the acquaintance of Countess
d'Isorella in Turin, she said, and satisfactorily repeated her lesson,
but with a blush. She was little more than a shade to Vittoria, who
wondered what she had to live for. After the early evening dinner, when
sunlight and the colours of the sun were beyond the western mountains,
they pushed out on the lake. A moon was overhead, seeming to drop lower
on them as she filled with light.

Agostino and Vittoria fell upon their theme of discord, as usual--the
King of Sardinia.

"We near the vesper hour, my daughter," said Agostino; "you would provoke
me to argumentation in heaven itself. I am for peace. I remember
looking down on two cats with arched backs in the solitary arena of the
Verona amphitheatre. We men, my Carlo, will not, in the decay of time,
so conduct ourselves."

Vittoria looked on Laura and thought of the cannon-sounding hours, whose
echoes rolled over their slaughtered hope. The sun fell, the moon shone,
and the sun would rise again, but Italy lay face to earth. They had seen
her together before the enemy. That recollection was a joy that stood,
though the winds beat at it, and the torrents. She loved her friend's
worn eyelids and softly-shut mouth; the after-glow of battle seemed on
them; the silence of the field of carnage under heaven;--and the patient
turning of Laura's eyes this way and that to speakers upon common things,
covered the despair of her heart as with a soldier's cloak.

Laura met the tender study of Vittoria's look, and smiled.

They neared the Villa Ricciardi, and heard singing. The villa was
lighted profusely, so that it made a little mock-sunset on the lake.

"Irma!" said Vittoria, astonished at the ring of a well-known voice that
shot up in firework fashion, as Pericles had said of it. Incredulous,
she listened till she was sure; and then glanced hurried questions at all
eyes. Violetta laughed, saying, "You have the score of Rocco Ricci's

The boat drew under the blazing windows, and half guessing, half hearing,
Vittoria understood that Pericles was giving an entertainment here, and
had abjured her. She was not insensible to the slight. This feeling,
joined to her long unsatisfied craving to sing, led her to be intolerant
of Irma's style, and visibly vexed her.

Violetta whispered: "He declares that your voice is cracked: show him!
Burst out with the 'Addio' of Hagar. May she not, Carlo? Don't you
permit the poor soul to sing? She cannot contain herself."

Carlo, Adela, Agostino, and Violetta prompted her, and, catching a pause
in the villa, she sang the opening notes of Hagar's 'Addio' with her old
glorious fulness of tone and perfect utterance.

The first who called her name was Rocco Ricci, but Pericles was the first
to rush out and hang over the boat. "Witch! traitress! infernal ghost!
heart of ice!" and in English "humbug!" and in French "coquin!":--these
were a few of the titles he poured on her. Rocco Ricci and Montini
kissed hands to her, begging her to come to them. She was very willing
outwardly, and in her heart most eager; but Carlo bade the rowers push
off. Then it was pitiful to hear the shout of abject supplication from
Pericles. He implored Count Ammiani's pardon, Vittoria's pardon, for
telling her what she was; and as the boat drew farther away, he offered
her sums of money to enter the villa and sing the score of Hagar. He
offered to bear the blame of her bad behaviour to him, said he would
forget it and stamp it out; that he would pay for the provisioning of a
regiment of volunteers for a whole month; that he would present her
marriage trousseau to her--yes, and let her marry. "Sandra! my dear! my
dear!" he cried, and stretched over the parapet speechless, like a puppet

So strongly did she comprehend the sincerity of his passion for her voice
that she could or would see nothing extravagant in this demonstration,
which excited unrestrained laughter in every key from her companions in
the boat. When the boat was about a hundred yards from the shore, and in
full moonlight, she sang the great "Addio" of Hagar. At the close of it,
she had to feel for her lover's hand blindly. No one spoke, either at
the Villa Ricciardi, or about her. Her voice possessed the mountain-
shadowed lake.

The rowers pulled lustily home through chill air.

Luigi and Beppo were at the villa, both charged with news from Milan.
Beppo claiming the right to speak first, which Luigi granted with a
magnificent sweep of his hand, related that Captain Weisspriess, of the
garrison, had wounded Count Medole in a duel severely. He brought a
letter to Vittoria from Merthyr, in which Merthyr urged her to prevent
Count Ammiani's visiting Milan for any purpose whatever, and said that he
was coming to be present at, her marriage. She was reading this while
Luigi delivered his burden; which was, that in a subsequent duel, the
slaughtering captain had killed little Leone Rufo, the gay and gallant
boy, Carlo's comrade, and her friend.

Luigi laughed scornfully at his rival, and had edged away--out of sight
before he could be asked who had sent him. Beppo ignominiously confessed
that he had not heard of this second duel. At midnight he was on
horseback, bound for Milan, with a challenge to the captain from Carlo,
who had a jealous fear that Luciano at Vercelli might have outstripped
him. Carlo requested the captain to guarantee him an hour's immunity in
the city on a stated day, or to name any spot on the borders of Piedmont
for the meeting. The challenge was sent with Countess Ammiani's
approbation and Laura's. Vittoria submitted.

That done, Carlo gave up his heart to his bride. A fight in prospect was
the hope of wholesome work after his late indecision and double play.
They laughed at themselves, accused hotly, and humbly excused themselves,
praying for mutual pardon.

She had behaved badly in disobeying his mandate from Brescia.

Yes, but had he not been over-imperious?

True; still she should have remembered her promise in the Vicentino.

She did indeed; but how could she quit her wounded friend Merthyr?

Perhaps not: then, why had she sent word to him from Milan that she would
be at Pallanza?

This question knocked at a sealed chamber. She was silent, and Carlo had
to brood over something as well. He gave her hints of his foolish pique,
his wrath and bitter baffled desire for her when, coming to Pallanza, he
came to an empty house. But he could not help her to see, for he did not
himself feel, that he had been spurred by silly passions, pique, and
wrath, to plunge instantly into new political intrigue; and that some of
his worst faults had become mixed up with his devotion to his country.
Had he taken Violetta for an ally in all purity of heart? The kiss he
had laid on the woman's sweet lips had shaken his absolute belief in
that. He tried to set his brain travelling backward, in order to
contemplate accurately the point of his original weakness. It being
almost too severe a task for any young head, Carlo deemed it sufficient
that he should say--and this he felt--that he was unworthy of his

Could Vittoria listen to such stuff? She might have kissed him to stop
the flow of it, but kissings were rare between them; so rare, that when
they had put mouth to mouth, a little quivering spire of flame, dim at
the base, stood to mark the spot in their memories. She moved her hand,
as to throw aside such talk. Unfretful in blood, chaste and keen, she at
least knew the foolishness of the common form of lovers' trifling when
there is a burning love to keep under, and Carlo saw that she did, and
adored her for this highest proof of the passion of her love.

"In three days you will be mine, if I do not hear from Milan? within
five, if I do?" he said.

Vittoria gave him the whole beauty of her face a divine minute, and bowed
it assenting. Carlo then led her to his mother, before whom he embraced
her for the comfort of his mother's heart. They decided that there
should be no whisper of the marriage until the couple were one. Vittoria
obtained the countess's permission to write for Merthyr to attend her at
the altar. She had seen Weisspriess fall in combat, and she had perfect
faith in her lover's right hand.



Captain Weisspriess replied to Carlo Ammiani promptly, naming Camerlata
by Como, as the place where he would meet him.

He stated at the end of some temperate formal lines, that he had given
Count Ammiani the preference over half-a-dozen competitors for the honour
of measuring swords with him; but that his adversary must not expect him
to be always ready to instruct the young gentlemen of the Lombardo-
Venetian province in the arts of fence; and therefore he begged to
observe, that his encounter with Count Ammiani would be the last occasion
upon which he should hold himself bound to accept a challenge from Count
Ammiani's countrymen.

It was quite possible, the captain said, drawing a familiar illustration
from the gaming-table, to break the stoutest Bank in the world by a
perpetual multiplication of your bets, and he was modest enough to
remember that he was but one man against some thousands, to contend with
all of whom would be exhausting.

Consequently the captain desired Count Ammiani to proclaim to his
countrymen that the series of challenges must terminate; and he requested
him to advertize the same in a Milanese, a Turin, and a Neapolitan

"I am not a butcher," he concluded. "The task you inflict upon me is
scarcely bearable. Call it by what name you will, it is having ten shots
to one, which was generally considered an equivalent to murder. My sword
is due to you, Count Ammiani; and, as I know you to be an honourable
nobleman, I would rather you were fighting in Venice, though your cause
is hopeless, than standing up to match yourself against me. Let me add,
that I deeply respect the lady who is engaged to be united to you, and
would not willingly cross steel either with her lover or her husband. I
shall be at Camerlata at the time appointed. If I do not find you there,
I shall understand that you have done me the honour to take my humble
advice, and have gone where your courage may at least appear to have done
better service. I shall sheathe my sword and say no more about it."

All of this, save the concluding paragraph, was written under the eyes of
Countess Anna of Lenkenstein.

He carried it to his quarters, where he appended the as he deemed it--
conciliatory passage: after which he handed it to Beppo, in a square of
the barracks, with a buon'mano that Beppo received bowing, and tossed to
an old decorated regimental dog of many wounds and a veteran's gravity.
For this offence a Styrian grenadier seized him by the shoulders, lifting
him off his feet and swinging him easily, while the dog arose from his
contemplation of the coin and swayed an expectant tail. The Styrian had
dashed Beppo to earth before Weisspriess could interpose, and the dog had
got him by the throat. In the struggle Beppo tore off the dog's medal
for distinguished conduct on the field of battle. He restored it as soon
as he was free, and won unanimous plaudits from officers and soldiers for
his kindly thoughtfulness and the pretty manner with which he dropped on
one knee, and assuaged the growls, and attached the medal to the old
dog's neck. Weisspriess walked away. Beppo then challenged his Styrian
to fight. The case was laid before a couple of sergeants, who shook
their heads on hearing his condition to be that of a serving-man, the
Styrian was ready to waive considerations of superiority; but the "judge"
pronounced their veto. A soldier in the Imperial Royal service, though
he was merely a private in the ranks, could not accept a challenge from
civilians below the rank of notary, secretary, hotel- or inn-keeper, and
suchlike: servants and tradesmen he must seek to punish in some other
way; and they also had their appeal to his commanding officer. So went
the decision of the military tribunal: until the Styrian, having
contrived to make Beppo understand, by the agency of a single Italian
verb, that he wanted a blow, Beppo spun about and delivered a stinging
smack on the Styrian's cheek; which altered the view of the case, for,
under peculiar circumstances--supposing that he did not choose to cut him
down--a soldier might condescend to challenge his civilian inferiors:
"in our regiment," said the sergeants, meaning that they had relaxed the
stringency of their laws.

Beppo met his Styrian outside the city walls, and laid him flat. He
declined to fight a second; but it was represented to him, by the aid of
an interpreter, that the officers of the garrison were subjected to
successive challenges, and that the first trial of his skill might have
been nothing finer than luck; and besides, his adversary had a right to
call a champion. "We all do it," the soldiers assured him. "Now your
blood's up you're ready for a dozen of us;" which was less true of a
constitution that was quicker in expending its heat. He stood out
against a young fellow almost as limber as himself, much taller, and
longer in the reach, by whom he was quickly disabled with cuts on thigh
and head. Seeing this easy victory over him, the soldiers, previously
quite civil, cursed him for having got the better of their fallen
comrade, and went off discussing how be had done the trick, leaving him
to lie there. A peasant carried him to a small suburban inn, where he
remained several days oppressed horribly by a sense that he had forgotten
something. When he recollected what it was, he entrusted the captain's
letter to his landlady;--a good woman, but she chanced to have a scamp
of a husband, who snatched it from her and took it to his market. Beppo
supposed the letter to be on its Way to Pallauza, when it was in General
Schoneck's official desk; and soon after the breath of a scandalous
rumour began to circulate.

Captain Weisspriess had gone down to Camerlata, accompanied by a Colonel
Volpo, of an Austro-Italian regiment, and by Lieutenant Jenna. At
Camerlata a spectacled officer, Major Nagen, joined them. Weisspriess
was the less pleased with his company on hearing that he had come to
witness the meeting, in obedience to an express command of a person who
was interested in it. Jenna was the captain's friend: Volpo was
seconding him for the purpose of getting Count Ammiani to listen to
reason from the mouth of a countryman. There could be no doubt in the
captain's mind that this Major Nagen was Countess Anna's spy as well as
his rival, and he tried to be rid of him; but in addition to the
shortness of sight which was Nagen's plea for pushing his thin
transparent nose into every corner, he enjoyed at will an intermittent
deafness, and could hear anything without knowing of it. Brother
officers said of Major Nagen that he was occasionally equally senseless
in the nose, which had been tweaked without disturbing the repose of his
features. He waited half-an-hour on the ground after the appointed time,
and then hurried to Milan. Weisspriess waited an hour. Satisfied that
Count Ammiani was not coming, he exacted from Volpo and from Jenna their
word of honour as Austrian officers that they would forbear-to cast any
slur on the courage of his adversary, and would be so discreet on the
subject as to imply that the duel was a drawn affair. They pledged
themselves accordingly. "There's Nagen, it's true," said Weisspriess, as
a man will say and feel that he has done his best to prevent a thing

Milan, and some of the journals of Milan, soon had Carlo Ammiani's name
up for challenging Weisspriess and failing to keep his appointment. It
grew to be discussed as a tremendous event. The captain received fifteen
challenges within two days; among these a second one from Luciano Romara,
whom he was beginning to have a strong desire to encounter. He repressed
it, as quondam drunkards fight off the whisper of their lips for liquor.
"No more blood," was his constant inward cry. He wanted peace; but as he
also wanted Countess Anna of Lenkenstein and her estates, it may possibly
be remarked of him that what he wanted he did not want to pay for.

At this period Wilfrid had resumed the Austrian uniform as a common
soldier in the ranks of the Kinsky regiment. General Schoneck had
obtained the privilege for him from the Marshal, General Pierson refusing
to lift a finger on his behalf. Nevertheless the uncle was not sorry to
hear the tale of his nephew's exploits during the campaign, or of the
eccentric intrepidity of the white umbrella; and both to please him, and
to intercede for Wilfrid, the tatter's old comrades recited his deeds as
a part of the treasured familiar history of the army in its late arduous

General Pierson was chiefly anxious to know whether Countess Lena would
be willing to give her hand to Wilfrid in the event of his restoration to
his antecedent position in the army. He found her extremely excited
about Carlo Ammiani, her old playmate, and once her dear friend. She
would not speak of Wilfrid at all. To appease the chivalrous little
woman, General Pierson hinted that his nephew, being under the protection
of General Schoneck, might get some intelligence from that officer. Lena
pretended to reject the notion of her coming into communication with
Wilfrid for any earthly purpose. She said to herself, however, that her
object was pre-eminently unselfish; and as the General pointedly refused
to serve her in a matter that concerned an Italian nobleman, she sent
directions to Wilfrid to go before General Schoeneck the moment he was
off duty, and ask his assistance, in her name, to elucidate the mystery
of Count Ammiani's behaviour. The answer was a transmission of Captain
Weisspriess's letter to Carlo. Lena caused the fact of this letter
having missed its way to be circulated in the journals, and then she
carried it triumphantly to her sister, saying:

"There! I knew these reports were abase calumny."

"Reports, to what effect?" said Anna.

"That Carlo Ammiani had slunk from a combat with your duellist."

"Oh! I knew that myself," Anna remarked.

"You were the loudest in proclaiming it."

"Because I intend to ruin him."

"Carlo Ammiani? What has he done to you?"

Anna's eyes had fallen on the additional lines of the letter which she
had not dictated. She frowned and exclaimed:

"What is this? Does the man play me false? Read those lines, Lena, and
tell me, does the man mean to fight in earnest who can dare to write
them? He advises Ammiani to go to Venice. It's treason, if it is not
cowardice. And see here--he has the audacity to say that he deeply
respects the lady Ammiani is going to marry. Is Ammiani going to marry
her? I think not."

Anna dashed the letter to the floor.

"But I will make use of what's within my reach," she said, picking it up.

"Carlo Ammiani will marry her, I presume," said Lena.

"Not before he has met Captain Weisspriess, who, by the way, has obtained
his majority. And, Lena, my dear, write to inform him that we wish to
offer him our congratulations. He will be a General officer in good

"Perhaps you forget that Count Ammiani is a perfect swordsman, Anna."

"Weisspriess remembers it for me, perhaps;--is that your idea, Lena?"

"He might do so profitably. You have thrown him on two swords."

"Merely to provoke the third. He is invincible. If he were not, where
would his use be?"

"Oh, how I loathe revenge!" cried Lena.

"You cannot love!" her sister retorted. "That woman calling herself
Vittoria Campa shall suffer. She has injured and defied me. How was it
that she behaved to us at Meran? She is mixed up with assassins; she is
insolent--a dark-minded slut; and she catches stupid men. My brother, my
country, and this weak Weisspriess, as I saw him lying in the Ultenthal,
cry out against her. I have no sleep. I am not revengeful. Say it, say
it, all of you! but I am not. I am not unforgiving. I worship justice,
and a black deed haunts me. Let the wicked be contrite and washed in
tears, and I think I can pardon them. But I will have them on their
knees. I hate that woman Vittoria more than I hate Angelo Guidascarpi.
Look, Lena. If both were begging for life to me, I would send him to the
gallows and her to her bedchamber; and all because I worship justice, and
believe it to be the weapon of the good and pious. You have a baby's
heart; so has Karl. He declines to second Weisspriess; he will have
nothing to do with duelling; he would behold his sisters mocked in the
streets and pass on. He talks of Paul's death like a priest. Priests
are worthy men; a great resource! Give me a priests lap when I need it.
Shall I be condemned to go to the priest and leave that woman singing?
If I did, I might well say the world's a snare, a sham, a pitfall, a
horror! It's what I don't think in any degree. It's what you think,
though. Yes, whenever you are vexed you think it. So do the priests,
and so do all who will not exert themselves to chastise. I, on the
contrary, know that the world is not made up of nonsense. Write to
Weisspriess immediately; I must have him here in an hour."

Weisspriess, on visiting the ladies to receive their congratulations,
was unprepared for the sight of his letter to Carlo Ammiani, which Anna
thrust before him after he had saluted her, bidding him read it aloud.
He perused it in silence. He was beginning to be afraid of his mistress.

"I called you Austria once, for you were always ready," Anna said, and
withdrew from him, that the sung of her words might take effect.

"God knows, I have endeavoured to earn the title in my humble way,"
Weisspriess appealed to Lena.

"Yes, Major Weisspriess, you have," she said. "Be Austria still, and
forbear toward these people as much as you can. To beat them is enough,
in my mind. I am rejoiced that you have not met Count Ammiani, for if
you had, two friends of mine, equally dear and equally skilful, would
have held their lives at one another's mercy."

"Equally!" said Weisspriess, and pulled out the length of his moustache.

"Equally courageous," Lena corrected herself. "I never distrusted Count
Ammiani's courage, nor could distrust yours."

"Equally dear!" Weisspriess tried to direct a concentrated gaze on her.

Lena evaded an answer by speaking of the rumour of Count Ammiani's

Weisspriess was thinking with all the sagacious penetration of the
military mind, that perhaps this sister was trying to tell him that she
would be willing to usurp the piece of the other in his affections; and
if so, why should she not?

"I may cherish the idea that I am dear to you, Countess Lena?"

"When you are formally betrothed to my sister, you will know you are very
dear to me, Major Weisspriess."

"But," said he, perceiving his error, "how many persons am I to call out
before she will consent to a formal betrothal?"

Lena was half smiling at the little tentative bit of sentiment she had so
easily turned aside. Her advice to him was to refuse to fight, seeing
that he had done sufficient for glory and his good name.

He mentioned Major Nagen as a rival.

Upon this she said: "Hear me one minute. I was in my sister's bed-room
on the first night when she knew of your lying wounded in the Ultenthal.
She told you just now that she called you Austria. She adores our
Austria in you. The thought that you had been vanquished seemed like our
Austria vanquished, and she is so strong for Austria that it is really
out of her power to fancy you as defeated without suspecting foul play.
So when she makes you fight, she thinks you safe. Many are to go down
because you have gone down. Do you not see? And now, Major Weisspriess,
I need not expose my sister to you any more, I hope, or depreciate Major
Nagen for your satisfaction."

Weisspriess had no other interview with Anna for several days. She
shunned him openly. Her carriage moved off when he advanced to meet her
at the parade, or review of arms; and she did not scruple to speak in
public with Major Nagen, in the manner of those who have begun to speak
together in private. The offender received his punishment gracefully,
as men will who have been taught that it flatters them. He refused every
challenge. From Carlo Ammiani there came not a word.

It would have been a deadly lull to any fiery temperament engaged in
plotting to destroy a victim, but Anna had the patience of hatred--that
absolute malignity which can measure its exultation rather by the
gathering of its power to harm than by striking. She could lay it aside,
or sink it to the bottom of her emotions, at will, when circumstances
appeared against it. And she could do this without fretful regrets,
without looking to the future. The spirit of her hatred extracted its
own nourishment from things, like an organized creature. When foiled she
became passive, and she enjoyed--forced herself compliantly to enjoy--her
redoubled energy of hatred voluptuously, if ever a turn in events made
wreck of her scheming. She hated Vittoria for many reasons, all of them
vague within her bosom because the source of them was indefinite and lay
in the fact of her having come into collision with an opposing nature,
whose rivalry was no visible rivalry, whose triumph was an ignorance of
scorn--a woman who attracted all men, who scattered injuries with
insolent artlessness, who never appealed to forgiveness, and was a low-
born woman daring to be proud. By repute Anna was implacable, but she
had, and knew she had, the capacity for magnanimity of a certain kind;
and her knowledge of the existence of this unsuspected fund within her
justified in some degree her reckless efforts to pull her enemy down on
her knees. It seemed doubly right that she should force Vittoria to
penitence, as being good for the woman, and an end that exonerated her
own private sins committed to effect it.

Yet she did not look clearly forward to the day of Vittoria's imploring
for mercy. She had too many vexations to endure: she was an insufficient
schemer, and was too frequently thwarted to enjoy that ulterior prospect.
Her only servile instruments were Major Nagen, and Irma, who came to her
from the Villa Ricciardi, hot to do her rival any deadly injury; but
though willing to attempt much, these were apparently able to perform
little more than the menial work of vengeance. Major Nagen wrote in the
name of Weisspriess to Count Ammiani, appointing a second meeting at
Como, and stating that he would be at the villa of the Duchess of Graatli
there. Weisspriess was unsuspectingly taken down to the place by Anna
and Lena. There was a gathering of such guests as the duchess alone
among her countrywomen could assemble, under the patronage of the
conciliatory Government, and the duchess projected to give a series of
brilliant entertainments in the saloons of the Union, as she named her
house-roof. Count Serabiglione arrived, as did numerous Moderates and
priest-party men, Milanese garrison officers and others. Laura Piaveni
travelled with Countess d'Isorella and the happy Adela Sedley, from Lago

Laura came, as she cruelly told her friend, for the purpose of making
Victoria's excuses to the duchess. "Why can she not come herself?"
Amalia persisted in asking, and began to be afflicted with womanly
curiosity. Laura would do nothing but shrug and smile, and repeat her
message. A little after sunset, when the saloons were lighted,
Weisspriess, sitting by his Countess Anna's side, had a slip of paper
placed in his hands by one of the domestics. He quitted his post
frowning with astonishment, and muttered once, "My appointment!" Laura
noticed that Anna's heavy eyelids lifted to shoot an expressive glance at
Violetta d'Isorella. She said: "Can that have been anything hostile, do
you suppose?" and glanced slyly at her friend.

"No, no," said Amalia; "the misunderstanding is explained, and Major
Weisspriess is just as ready as Count Ammiani to listen to reason.
Besides, Count Ammiani is not so unfriendly but that if he came so near
he would come up to me, surely."

Laura brought Amalia's observation to bear upon Anna and Violetta by
turning pointedly from one to the other as she said: "As for reason,
perhaps you have chosen the word. If Count Ammiani attended an
appointment this time, he would be unreasonable."

A startled "Why?"--leaped from Anna's lips. She reddened at her
impulsive clumsiness.

Laura raised her shoulders slightly: "Do you not know?" The expression of
her face reproved Violetta, as for remissness in transmitting secret
intelligence. "You can answer why, countess," she addressed the latter,
eager to exercise her native love of conflict with this doubtfully-
faithful countrywoman;--the Austrian could feel that she had beaten her
on the essential point, and afford to give her any number of dialectical

"I really cannot answer why," Violetta said; "unless Count Ammiani is,
as I venture to hope, better employed."

"But the answer is charming and perfect," said Laura.

"Enigmatical answers are declared to be so when they come from us women,"
the duchess remarked; "but then, I fancy, women must not be the hearers,
or they will confess that they are just as much bewildered and irritated
as I am. Do speak out, my dearest. How is he better employed?"

Laura passed her eyes around the group of ladies. "If any hero of yours
had won the woman he loves, he would be right in thinking it folly to be
bound by the invitation to fight, or feast, or what you will, within a
space of three months or so; do you not agree with me?"

The different emotions on many visages made the scene curious.

"Count Ammiani has married her!" exclaimed the duchess.

"My old friend Carlo is really married!" said Lena.

Anna stared at Violetta.

The duchess, recovering from her wonder, confirmed the news by saying
that she now knew why M. Powys had left Milan in haste, three or four
days previously, as she was aware that the bride had always wished him
to be present at the ceremony of her marriage.

"Signora, may I ask you, were you present?" Violetta addressed Laura.

"I will answer most honestly that I was not," said Laura.

"The marriage was a secret one; perhaps?"

"Even for friends, you see."

"Necessarily, no doubt," Lena said, with an idea of easing her sister's
stupefaction by a sarcasm foreign to her sentiments.

Adela Sedley, later in exactly comprehending what had been spoken,
glanced about for some one who would not be unsympathetic to her
exclamation, and suddenly beheld her brother entering the room with
Weisspriess. "Wilfrid! Wilfrid! do you know she is married?"

"So they tell me," Wilfrid replied, while making his bow to the duchess.
He was much broken in appearance, but wore his usual collected manner.
Who had told him of the marriage? A person downstairs, he said; not
Count Ammiani; not signor Balderini; no one whom he saw present, no one
whom he knew.

"A very mysterious person," said the duchess.

"Then it's true after all," cried Laura. "I did but guess it." She
assured Violetta that she had only guessed it.

"Does Major Weisspriess know it to be true?" The question came from

Weisspriess coolly verified it, on the faith of a common servant's

The ladies could see that some fresh piece of mystery lay between him and

"With whom have you had an interview, and what have you heard?" asked
Lena, vexed by Wilfrid's pallid cheeks.

Both men stammered and protested, out of conceit, and were as foolish as
men are when pushed to play at mutual concealment.

The duchess's chasseur, Jacob Baumwalder Feckelwitz, stepped up to his
mistress and whispered discreetly. She gazed straight at Laura. After
hesitation she shook her head, and the chasseur retired. Amalia then
came to the rescue of the unhappy military wits that were standing a
cross-fire of sturdy interrogation.

"Do you not perceive what it is?" she said to Anna. "Major Weisspriess
meets Private Pierson at the door of my house, and forgets that he is
well-born and my guest. I may be revolutionary, but I declare that in
plain clothes Private Pierson is the equal of Major Weisspriess. If
bravery made men equals, who would be Herr Pierson's superior? Ire has
done me the honour, at a sacrifice of his pride, I am sure, to come here
and meet his sister, and rejoice me with his society. Major Weisspriess,
if I understand the case correctly, you are greatly to blame."

"I beg to assert," Weisspriess was saying as the duchess turned her
shoulder on him.

"There is really no foundation," Wilfrid began, with similar simplicity.

"What will sharpen the wits of these soldiers!" the duchess murmured
dolefully to Laura.

"But Major Weisspriess was called out of his room by a message--was that
from Private Pierson?" said Anna.

"Assuredly; I should presume so," the duchess answered for them.

"Ay; undoubtedly," Weisspriess supported her.

"Then," Laura smiled encouragement to Wilfrid, "you know nothing of Count
Ammiani's marriage after all?"

Wilfrid launched his reply on a sharp repression of his breath, "Nothing

"And the common servant's communication was not made to you?" Anna
interrogated Weisspriess.

"I simply followed in the track of Pierson," said that officer, masking
his retreat from the position with a duck of his head and a smile, tooth
on lip.

"How could you ever suppose, child, that a common servant would be sent
to deliver such tidings? and to Major Weisspriess!" the duchess

This broke up the Court of inquiry.

Weisspriess shortly after took his leave, on the plea that he wished to
prove his friendliness by accompanying Private Pierson, who had to be on
duty early next day in Milan. Amalia had seen him breaking from Anna in
extreme irritation, and he had only to pledge his word that he was really
bound for Milan to satisfy her. "I believe you to be at heart humane,"
she said meaningly.

"Duchess, you may be sure that I would not kill an enemy save on the
point of my sword," he answered her.

"You are a gallant man," said Amalia, and pride was in her face as she
looked on him.

She willingly consented to Wilfrid's sudden departure, as it was evident
that some shot had hit him hard.

On turning to Laura, the duchess beheld an aspect of such shrewd disgust
that she was provoked to exclaim: "What on earth is the matter now?"

Laura would favour her with no explanation until they were alone in the
duchess's boudoir, when she said that to call Weisspriess a gallant man
was an instance of unblushing adulation of brutal strength: "Gallant for
slaying a boy? Gallant because he has force of wrist?"

"Yes; gallant;--an honour to his countrymen: and an example to some of
yours," Amalia rejoined.

"See," cried Laura, "to what a degeneracy your excess of national
sentiment reduces you!"

While she was flowing on, the duchess leaned a hand across her shoulder,
and smiling kindly, said she would not allow her to utter words that she
would have to eat. "You saw my chasseur step up to me this evening, my
Laura? Well, not to torment you, he wished to sound an alarm cry after
Angelo Guidascarpi. I believe my conjecture is correct, that Angelo
Guidascarpi was seen by Major Weisspriess below, and allowed to pass
free. Have you no remark to make?"

"None," said Laura.

"You cannot admit that he behaved like a gallant man?" Laura sighed
deeply. "Perhaps it was well for you to encourage him!"

The mystery of Angelo's interview with Weisspriess was cleared the next
night, when in the midst of a ball-room's din, Aennchen, Amalia's
favourite maid, brought a letter to Laura from Countess Ammiani. These
were the contents:


"You now learn a new and blessed thing. God make the marriage fruitful!
I have daughter as well as son. Our Carlo still hesitated, for hearing
of the disgraceful rumours in Milan, he fancied a duty lay there for him
to do. Another menace came to my daughter from the madman Barto Rizzo.
God can use madmen to bring about the heavenly designs. We decided that
Carlo's name should cover her. My son was like a man who has awakened
up. M. Powys was our good genius. He told her that he had promised you
to bring it about. He, and Angelo, and myself, were the witnesses. So
much before heaven! I crossed the lake with them to Stress. I was her
tirewoman, with Giacinta, to whom I will give a husband for the tears of
joy she dropped upon the bed. Blessed be it! I placed my daughter in my
Carlo's arms. Both kissed their mother at parting.

"This is something fixed. I had great fears during the war. You do not
yet know what it is to have a sonless son in peril. Terror and remorse
haunted me for having sent the last Ammiani out to those fields,
unattached to posterity.

"An envelope from Milan arrived on the morning of his nuptials. It was
intercepted by me. The German made a second appointment at Como. Angelo
undertook to assist me in saving my son's honour. So my Carlo had
nothing to disturb his day. Pray with me, Laura Piaveni, that the day
and the night of it may prove fresh springs of a river that shall pass
our name through the happier mornings of Italy! I commend you to God, my
dear, and am your friend,


"P.S. Countess Alessandra will be my daughter's name."

The letter was read and re-read before the sweeter burden it contained
would allow Laura to understand that Countess Ammiani had violated a seal
and kept a second hostile appointment hidden from her son.

"Amalia, you detest me," she said, when they had left the guests for a
short space, and the duchess had perused the letter, "but acknowledge
Angelo Guidascarpi's devotion. He came here in the midst of you Germans,
at the risk of his life, to offer battle for his cousin."

The duchess, however, had much more to say for the magnanimity of Major
Weisspriess, who, if he saw him, had spared him; she compelled Laura to
confess that Weisspriess must have behaved with some nobleness, which
Laura did, humming and I 'brumming,' and hinting at the experience he had
gained of Angelo's skill. Her naughtiness provoked first, and then
affected Amalia; in this mood the duchess had the habit of putting on a
grand air of pitying sadness. Laura knew it well, and never could make
head against it. She wavered, as a stray floating thing detached from an
eddy whirls and passes on the flood. Close on Amalia's bosom she sobbed
out: "Yes; you Austrians have good qualities some: many! but you choose
to think us mean because we can't readily admit them when we are under
your heels. Just see me; what a crumb feeds me! I am crying with
delight at a marriage!"

The duchess clasped her fondly.

"It's not often one gets you so humble, my Laura."

"I am crying with delight at a marriage! Amalia, look at me: you would
suppose it a mighty triumph. A marriage! two little lovers lying cheek
to cheek! and me blessing heaven for its goodness! and there may be dead
men unburied still on the accursed Custozza hill-top!"

Amalia let her weep. The soft affection which the duchess bore to her
was informed with a slight touch of envy of a complexion that could be
torn with tears one minute, and the next be fit to show in public. No
other thing made her regard her friend as a southern--that is, a foreign-

"Be patient," Laura said.

"Cry; you need not be restrained," said Amalia.

"You sighed."


"A sort of sigh. My fit's over. Carlo's marriage is too surprising and
delicious. I shall be laughing presently. I hinted at his marriage--
I thought it among the list of possible things, no more--to see if that
crystal pool, called Violetta d'Isorella, could be discoloured by
stirring. Did you watch her face? I don't know what she wanted with
Carlo, for she's cold as poison--a female trifler; one of those women
whom I, and I have a chaste body, despise as worse than wantons; but she
certainly did not want him to be married. It seems like a victory--
though we're beaten. You have beaten us, my dear!"

"My darling! it is your husband kisses you," said Amalia, kissing Laura's
forehead from a full heart.


But is there such a thing as happiness
Conduct is never a straight index where the heart's involved
Deep as a mother's, pure as a virgin's, fiery as a saint's
Foolish trick of thinking for herself
Fortitude leaned so much upon the irony
Grand air of pitying sadness
Ironical fortitude
Longing for love and dependence
Love of men and women as a toy that I have played with
Pain is a cloak that wraps you about
She was sick of personal freedom
Watch, and wait
Went into endless invalid's laughter
Why should these men take so much killing?
You can master pain, but not doubt

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest