Part 9 out of 11
Georgiana's icy manner appeared infinitely strange to Vittoria when she
heard from Merthyr that his sister had become engaged to Captain Gambier.
"Nothing softens these women," said Laura, putting Georgiana in a class.
"I wish you could try the effect of your winning Merthyr," Vittoria
"I remember that when I went to my husband, I likewise wanted every woman
of my acquaintance to be married." Laura sighed deeply. "What is this
poor withered body of mine now? It feels like an old volcano, cindery,
with fire somewhere:--a charming bride! My dear, if I live till my
children make me a grandmother, I shall look on the love of men and women
as a toy that I have played with. A new husband? I must be dragged
through the Circles of Dante before I can conceive it, and then I should
loathe the stranger."
News came that the volunteers were crushed. It was time for Vittoria to
start for Pallanza, and she thought of her leave-taking; a final leave-
taking, in one sense, to the friends who had cared too much for her.
Laura delicately drew Georgiana aside in the sick-room, which she would
not quit, and alluded to the necessity for Vittoria's departure without
stating exactly wherefore: but Georgiana was a Welshwoman. Partly to
show her accurate power of guessing, and chiefly that she might reprove
Laura's insulting whisper, which outraged and irritated her as much as if
"Oh! your poor brother!" had been exclaimed, she made display of
Merthyr's manly coldness by saying aloud, "You mean, that she is going to
her marriage." Laura turned her face to Merthyr. He had striven to rise
on his elbow, and had dropped flat in his helplessness. Big tears were
rolling down his cheeks. His articulation failed him, beyond a
reiterated "No, no," pitiful to hear, and he broke into childish sobs.
Georgiana hurried Laura from the room. By-and-by the doctor was promptly
summoned, and it was Georgiana herself, miserably humbled, who obtained
Vittoria's sworn consent to keep the life in Merthyr by lingering yet
Meantime Luigi brought a letter from Pallanza in Carlo's handwriting.
This was the burden of it:
"I am here, and you are absent. Hasten!"
A FRESH ENTANGLEMENT
The Lenkenstein ladies returned to Milan proudly in the path of the army
which they had followed along the city walls on the black March midnight.
The ladies of the Austrian aristocracy generally had to be exiles from
Vienna, and were glad to flock together even in an alien city. Anna and
Lena were aware of Vittoria's residence in Milan, through the interchange
of visits between the Countess of Lenkenstein and her sister Signora
Piaveni. They heard also of Vittoria's prospective and approaching
marriage to Count Ammiani. The Duchess of Graatli, who had forborne a
visit to her unhappy friends, lest her Austrian face should wound their
sensitiveness, was in company with the Lenkensteins one day, when Irma di
Karski called on them. Irma had come from Lago Maggiore, where she had
left her patron, as she was pleased to term Antonio-Pericles. She was
full of chatter of that most worthy man's deplorable experiences of
Vittoria's behaviour to him during the war, and of many things besides.
According to her account, Vittoria had enticed him from place to place
with promises that the next day, and the next day, and the day after, she
would be ready to keep her engagement to go to London, and at last she
had given him the slip and left him to be plucked like a pullet by a
horde of volunteer banditti, out of whose hands Antonio-Pericles-"one of
our richest millionaires in Europe, certainly our richest amateur," said
Irma--escaped in fit outward condition for the garden of Eden.
Count Karl was lying on the sofa, and went into endless invalid's
laughter at the picture presented by Irma of the 'wild man' wanderings
of poor infatuated Pericles, which was exaggerated, though not
intentionally, for Irma repeated the words and gestures of Pericles in
the recital of his tribulations. Being of a somewhat similar physical
organization, she did it very laughably. Irma declared that Pericles was
cured of his infatuation. He had got to Turin, intending to quit Italy
for ever, when--"he met me," said Irma modestly.
"And heard that the war was at an end," Count Karl added.
"And he has taken the superb Villa Ricciardi, on Lago Maggiore, where he
will have a troupe of singers, and perform operas, in which I believe I
may possibly act as prima donna. The truth is, I would do anything to
prevent him from leaving the country."
But Irma had more to say; with "I bear no malice," she commenced it. The
story she had heard was that Count Ammiani, after plighting himself to a
certain signorina, known as Vittoria Campa, had received tidings that she
was one of those persons who bring discredit on Irma's profession.
"Gifted by nature, I can acknowledge," said Irma; "but devoured by vanity
--a perfect slave to the appetite for praise; ready to forfeit anything
for flattery! Poor signor Antonio-Pericles!--he knows her." And now
Count Ammiani, persuaded to reason by his mother, had given her up.
There was nothing more positive, for Irma had seen him in the society of
Countess Violetta d'Isorella.
Anna and Lena glanced at their brother Karl.
"I should not allude to what is not notorious," Irma pursued. "They are
always together. My dear Antonio-Pericles is most amusing in his
expressions of delight at it. For my part, though she served me an evil
turn once,--you will hardly believe, ladies, that in her jealousy of me
she was guilty of the most shameful machinations to get me out of the way
on the night of the first performance of Camilla,--but, for my part, I
bear no malice. The creature is an inveterate rebel, and I dislike her
for that, I do confess."
"The signorina Vittoria Campa is my particular and very dear friend,"
said the duchess.
"She is not the less an inveterate rebel," said Anna.
Count Karl gave a long-drawn sigh. "Alas, that she should have brought
discredit on Fraulein di Karski's profession!"
The duchess hurried straightway to Laura, with whom was Count
Serabiglione, reviewing the present posture of affairs from the
condescending altitudes of one that has foretold it. Laura and Amalia
embraced and went apart. During their absence Vittoria came down to the
count and listened to a familiar illustration of his theory of the
relations which should exist between Italy and Austria, derived from the
friendship of those two women.
"What I wish you to see, signorina, is that such an alliance is possible;
and, if we supply the brains, as we do, is by no means likely to be
degrading. These bears are absolutely on their knees to us for good
fellowship. You have influence, you have amazing wit, you have
unparalleled beauty, and, let me say it with the utmost sadness, you have
now had experience. Why will you not recognize facts? Italian unity!
I have exposed the fatuity--who listens? Italian freedom! I do not
attempt to reason with my daughter. She is pricked by an envenomed fly
of Satan. Yet, behold her and the duchess! It is the very union I
preach; and I am, I declare to you, signorina, in great danger. I feel
it, but I persist. I am in danger" (Count Serabiglione bowed his head
low) "of the transcendent sin of scorn of my species."
The little nobleman swayed deploringly in his chair. "Nothing is so
perilous for a soul's salvation as that. The one sane among madmen!
The one whose reason is left to him among thousands who have forsaken it!
I beg you to realize the idea. The Emperor, as I am given to understand,
is about to make public admission of my services. I shall be all the
more hated. Yet it is a considerable gain. I do not deny that I esteem
it as a promotion for my services. I shall not be the first martyr in
this world, signorina."
Count Serabiglione produced a martyr's smile.
"The profits of my expected posts will be," he was saying, with a
reckoning eye cast upward into his cranium for accuracy, when Laura
returned, and Vittoria ran out to the duchess. Amalia repeated Irma's
tattle. A curious little twitching of the brows at Violetta d'Isorella's
name marked the reception of it.
"She is most lovely," Vittoria said.
"And absolutely reckless."
"She is an old friend of Count Ammiani's."
"And you have an old friend here. But the old friend of a young woman--
I need not say further than that it is different."
The duchess used the privilege of her affection, and urged Vittoria not
to trifle with her lover's impatience.
Admitted to the chamber where Merthyr lay, she was enabled to make
allowance for her irresolution. The face of the wounded man was like a
lake-water taking light from Vittoria's presence.
"This may go on for weeks," she said to Laura.
Three days later, Vittoria received an order from the Government to quit
the city within a prescribed number of hours, and her brain was racked to
discover why Laura appeared so little indignant at the barbarous act of
despotism. Laura undertook to break the bad news to Merthyr. The
parting was as quiet and cheerful as, in the opposite degree, Vittoria
had thought it would be melancholy and regretful. "What a Government!"
Merthyr said, and told her to let him hear of any changes. "All changes
that please my friends please me."
Vittoria kissed his forehead with one grateful murmur of farewell to the
bravest heart she had ever known. The going to her happiness seemed more
like going to something fatal until she reached the Lago Maggiore. There
she saw September beauty, and felt as if the splendour encircling her
were her bridal decoration. But no bridegroom stood to greet her on the
terrace-steps between the potted orange and citron-trees. Countess
Ammiani extended kind hands to her at arms' length.
"You have come," she said. "I hope that it is not too late."
Vittoria was a week without sight of her lover: nor did Countess Ammiani
attempt to explain her words, or speak of other than common daily things.
In body and soul Vittoria had taken a chill. The silent blame resting on
her in this house called up her pride, so that she would not ask any
questions; and when Carlo came, she wanted warmth to melt her. Their
meeting was that of two passionless creatures. Carlo kissed her loyally,
and courteously inquired after her health and the health of friends in
Milan, and then he rallied his mother. Agostino had arrived with him,
and the old man, being in one of his soft moods, unvexed by his conceits,
Vittoria had some comfort from him of a dull kind. She heard Carlo
telling his mother that he must go in the morning. Agostino replied to
her quick look at him, "I stay;" and it seemed like a little saved from
the wreck, for she knew that she could speak to Agostino as she could not
to the countess. When his mother prepared to retire, Carlo walked over
to his bride, and repeated rapidly and brightly his inquiries after
friends in Milan. She, with a pure response to his natural-unnatural
manner, spoke of Merthyr Powys chiefly: to which he said several times,
"Dear fellow!" and added, "I shall always love Englishmen for his sake."
This gave her one throb. "I could not leave him, Carlo."
"Certainly not, certainly not," said Carlo. "I should have been happy to
wait on him myself. I was busy; I am still. I dare say you have guessed
that I have a new journal in my head: the Pallanza Iris is to be the name
of it;--to be printed in three colours, to advocate three principles, in
three styles. The Legitimists, the Moderates, and the Republicans are to
proclaim themselves in its columns in prose, poetry, and hotch-potch.
Once an editor, always an editor. The authorities suspect that something
of the sort is about to be planted, so I can only make occasional visits
here:--therefore, as you will believe,"--Carlo let his voice fall--"I
have good reason to hate them still. They may cease to persecute me
He insisted upon lighting his mother to her room. Vittoria and Agostino
sat talking of the Chief and the minor events of the war--of Luciano,
Marco, Giulio, and Ugo Corte--till the conviction fastened on them that
Carlo would not return, when Agostino stood up and said, yawning wearily,
"I'll talk further to you, my child, tomorrow."
She begged that it might be now.
"No; to-morrow," said he.
"Now, now!" she reiterated, and brought down a reproof from his fore-
"The poetic definition of 'now' is that it is a small boat, my daughter,
in which the female heart is constantly pushing out to sea and sinking.
'To-morrow' is an island in the deeps, where grain grows. When I land
you there, I will talk to you."
She knew that he went to join Carlo after he had quitted her.
Agostino was true to his promise next day. He brought her nearer to what
she had to face, though he did not help her vision much. Carlo had gone
They sat on the terrace above the lake, screened from the sunlight by
thick myrtle bushes. Agostino smoked his loosely-rolled cigarettes, and
Vittoria sipped chocolate and looked upward to the summit of Motterone,
with many thoughts and images in her mind.
He commenced by giving her a love-message from Carlo. "Hold fast to it
that he means it: conduct is never a straight index where the heart's
involved," said the chuckling old man; "or it is not in times like ours.
You have been in the wrong, and your having a good excuse will not help
you before the deciding fates. Woman that you are! did you not think
that because we were beaten we were going to rest for a very long while,
and that your Carlo of yesterday was going to be your Carlo of to-day?"
Vittoria tacitly confessed to it.
"Ay," he pursued, "when you wrote to him in the Val d'Intelvi, you
supposed you had only to say, 'I am ready,' which was then the case. You
made your summer and left the fruits to hang, and now you are astounded
that seasons pass and fruits drop. You should have come to this place,
if but for a pair of days, and so have fixed one matter in the chapter.
This is how the chapter has run on. I see I talk to a stunned head; you
are thinking that Carlo's love for you can't have changed: and it has
not, but occasion has gone and times have changed. Now listen. The
countess desired the marriage. Carlo could not go to you in Milan with
the sword in his hand. Therefore you had to come to him. He waited for
you, perhaps for his own preposterous lover's sake as much as to make his
mother's heart easy. If she loses him she loses everything, unless he
leaves a wife to her care and the hope that her House will not be
extinct, which is possibly not much more the weakness of old aristocracy
than of human nature.
"Meantime, his brothers in arms had broken up and entered Piedmont, and
he remained waiting for you still. You are thinking that he had not
waited a month. But if four months finished Lombardy, less than one
month is quite sufficient to do the same for us little beings. He met
the Countess d'Isorella here. You have to thank her for seeing him at
all, so don't wrinkle your forehead yet. Luciano Romara is drilling his
men in Piedmont; Angelo Guidascarpi has gone there. Carlo was
considering it his duty to join Luciano, when he met this lady, and she
has apparently succeeded in altering his plans. Luciano and his band
will go to Rome. Carlo fancies that another blow will be struck for
Lombardy. This lady should know; the point is, whether she can be
trusted. She persists in declaring that Carlo's duty is to remain, and--
I cannot tell how, for I am as a child among women--she has persuaded him
of her sincerity. Favour me now with your clearest understanding, and
deliver it from feminine sensations of any description for just two
Agostino threw away the end of a cigarette and looked for firmness in
"This Countess d'Isorella is opposed to Carlo's marriage at present. She
says that she is betraying the king's secrets, and has no reliance on a
woman. As a woman you will pardon her, for it is the language of your
sex. You are also denounced by Barto Rizzo, a madman--he went mad as
fire, and had to be chained at Varese. In some way or other Countess
d'Isorella got possession of him; she has managed to subdue him. A
sword-cut he received once in Verona has undoubtedly affected his brain,
or caused it to be affected under strong excitement. He is at her villa,
and she says--perhaps with some truth--that Carlo would in several ways
lose his influence by his immediate marriage with you. The reason must
have weight; otherwise he would fulfil his mother's principal request,
and be at the bidding of his own desire. There; I hope I have spoken
Agostino puffed a sigh of relief at the conclusion of his task.
Vittoria had been too strenuously engaged in defending the steadiness of
her own eyes to notice the shadow of an assumption of frankness in his.
She said that she understood.
She got away to her room like an insect carrying a load thrice its own
size. All that she could really gather from Agostino's words was, that
she felt herself rocking in a tower, and that Violetta d'Isorella was
beautiful. She had striven hard to listen to him with her wits alone,
and her sensations subsequently revenged themselves in this fashion. The
tower rocked and struck a bell that she discovered to be her betraying
voice uttering cries of pain. She was for hours incapable of meeting
Agostino again. His delicate intuition took the harshness off the
meeting. He led her even to examine her state of mind, and to discern
the fancies from the feelings by which she was agitated. He said
shrewdly and bluntly, "You can master pain, but not doubt. If you show a
sign of unhappiness, remember that I shall know you doubt both what I
have told you, and Carlo as well."
Vittoria fenced: "But is there such a thing as happiness?"
"I should imagine so," said Agostino, touching her cheek, "and
slipperiness likewise. There's patience at any rate; only you must dig
for it. You arrive at nothing, but the eternal digging constitutes the
object gained. I recollect when I was a raw lad, full of ambition, in
love, and without a franc in my pockets, one night in Paris, I found
myself looking up at a street lamp; there was a moth in it. He couldn't
get out, so he had very little to trouble his conscience. I think he was
near happiness: he ought to have been happy. My luck was not so good, or
you wouldn't see me still alive, my dear."
Vittoria sighed for a plainer speaker.
ON LAGO MAGGIORE
Carlo's hours were passed chiefly across the lake, in the Piedmontese
valleys. When at Pallanza he was restless, and he shunned the two or
three minutes of privacy with his betrothed which the rigorous Italian
laws besetting courtship might have allowed him to take. He had
perpetually the look of a man starting from wine. It was evident that
he and Countess d'Isorella continued to hold close communication, for she
came regularly to the villa to meet him. On these occasions Countess
Ammiani accorded her one ceremonious interview, and straightway locked
herself in her room. Violetta's grace of ease and vivacity soared too
high to be subject to any hostile judgement of her character. She seemed
to rely entirely on the force of her beauty, and to care little for those
who did not acknowledge it. She accepted public compliments quite
royally, nor was Agostino backward in offering them. "And you have a
voice, you know," he sometimes said aside to Vittoria; but she had
forgotten how easily she could swallow great praise of her voice; she had
almost forgotten her voice. Her delight was to hang her head above
inverted mountains in the lake, and dream that she was just something
better than the poorest of human creatures. She could not avoid putting
her mind in competition with this brilliant woman's, and feeling
eclipsed; and her weakness became pitiable. But Countess d'Isorella
mentioned once that Pericles was at the Villa Ricciardi, projecting
magnificent operatic entertainments. The reviving of a passion to sing
possessed Vittoria like a thirst for freedom, and instantly confused all
the reflected images within her, as the fury of a sudden wind from the
high Alps scourges the glassy surface of the lake. She begged Countess
Ammiani's permission that she might propose to Pericles to sing in his
private operatic company, in any part, at the shortest notice.
"You wish to leave me?" said the countess, and resolutely conceived it.
Speaking to her son on this subject, she thought it necessary to make
some excuse for a singer's instinct, who really did not live save on the
stage. It amused Carlo; he knew when his mother was really angry with
persons she tried to shield from the anger of others; and her not seeing
the wrong on his side in his behaviour to his betrothed was laughable.
Nevertheless she had divined the case more correctly than he: the lover
was hurt. After what he had endured, he supposed, with all his
forgiveness, that he had an illimitable claim upon his bride's patience.
He told his another to speak to her openly.
"Why not you, my Carlo?" said the countess.
"Because, mother, if I speak to her, I shall end by throwing out my arms
and calling for the priest."
"I would clap hands to that."
"We will see; it may be soon or late, but it can't be now."
"How much am I to tell her, Carlo?"
"Enough to keep her from fretting."
The countess then asked herself how much she knew. Her habit of
receiving her son's word and will as supreme kept her ignorant of
anything beyond the outline of his plans; and being told to speak openly
of them to another, she discovered that her acquiescing imagination
supplied the chief part of her knowledge. She was ashamed also to have
it thought, even by Carlo, that she had not gathered every detail of his
occupation, so that she could not argue against him, and had to submit to
see her dearest wishes lightly swept aside.
"I beg you to tell me what you think of Countess d'Isorella; not the
afterthought," she said to Vittoria.
"She is beautiful, dear Countess Ammiani."
"Call me mother now and then. Yes; she is beautiful. She has a bad
"Envy must have given it, I think."
"Of course she provokes envy. But I say that her name is bad, as envy
could not make it. She is a woman who goes on missions, and carries a
husband into society like a passport. You have only thought of her
"I can see nothing else," said Vittoria, whose torture at the sight of
the beauty was appeased by her disingenuous pleading on its behalf.
"In my time Beauty was a sinner," the countess resumed. "My confessor
has filled my ears with warnings that it is a net to the soul, a weapon
for devils. May the saints of Paradise make bare the beauty of this
woman. She has persuaded Carlo that she is serving the country. You
have let him lie here alone in a fruitless bed, silly girl. He stayed
for you while his comrades called him to Vercelli, where they are
assembled. The man whom he salutes as his Chief gave him word to go
there. They are bound for Rome. Ah me! Rome is a great name, but
Lombardy is Carlo's natal home, and Lombardy bleeds. You were absent--
how long you were absent! If you could know the heaviness of those days
of his waiting for you. And it was I who kept him here! I must have
omitted a prayer, for he would have been at Vercelli now with Luciano and
Emilio, and you might have gone to him; but he met this woman, who has
convinced him that Piedmont will make a Winter march, and that his
marriage must be delayed." The countess raised her face and drooped her
hands from the wrists, exclaiming, "If I have lately omitted one prayer,
enlighten me, blessed heaven! I am blind; I cannot see for my son; I am
quite blind. I do not love the woman; therefore I doubt myself. You, my
daughter, tell me your thought of her, tell me what you think. Young
eyes observe; young heads are sometimes shrewd in guessing."
Vittoria said, after a pause, "I will believe her to be true, if she
supports the king." It was hardly truthful speaking on her part.
"How can Carlo have been persuaded!" the countess sighed.
"By me?" Victoria asked herself, and for a moment she was exulting.
She spoke from that emotion when it had ceased to animate her.
"Carlo was angry with the king. He echoed Agostino, but Agostino does
not sting as he did, and Carlo cannot avoid seeing what the king has
sacrificed. Perhaps the Countess d'Isorella has shown him promises of
fresh aid in the king's handwriting. Suffering has made Carlo Alberto
one with the Republicans, if he had other ambitions once. And Carlo
dedicates his blood to Lombardy: he does rightly. Dear countess--my
mother! I have made him wait for me; I will be patient in waiting for
him. I know that Countess d'Isorella is intimate with the king. There
is a man named Barto Rizzo, who thinks me a guilty traitress, and she is
making use of this man. That must be her reason for prohibiting the
marriage. She cannot be false if she is capable of uniting extreme
revolutionary agents and the king in one plot, I think; I do not know."
Vittoria concluded her perfect expression of confidence with this atoning
Countess Ammiani obtained her consent that she would not quit her side.
After Violetta had gone, Carlo, though he shunned secret interviews,
addressed his betrothed as one who was not strange to his occupation and
the trial his heart was undergoing. She could not doubt that she was
beloved, in spite of the colourlessness and tonelessness of a love that
appealed to her intellect. He showed her a letter he had received from
Laura, laughing at its abuse of Countess d'Isorella, and the sarcasms
levelled at himself.
In this letter Laura said that she was engaged in something besides
Carlo pointed his finger to the sentence, and remarked, "I must have your
promise--a word from you is enough--that you will not meddle with any
Vittoria gave the promise, half trusting it to bring the lost bloom of
their love to him; but he received it as a plain matter of necessity.
Certain of his love, she wondered painfully that it should continue so
barren of music.
"Why am I to pledge myself that I will be useless?" she asked. "You
mean, my Carlo, that I am to sit still, and watch, and wait."
He answered, "I will tell you this much: I can be struck vitally through
you. In the game I am playing, I am able to defend myself. If you enter
it, distraction begins. Stay with my mother."
"Am I to know nothing?"
"Everything--in good time."
"I might--might I not help you, my Carlo?"
"Yes; and nobly too. And I show you the way."
Agostino and Carlo made an expedition to Turin. Before he went, Carlo
took her in his arms.
"Is it coming?" she said, shutting her eyelids like a child expecting
the report of firearms.
He pressed his lips to the closed eyes. "Not yet; but are you growing
His voice seemed to reprove her.
She could have told him that keeping her in the dark among unknown
terrors ruined her courage; but the minutes were too precious, his touch
too sweet. In eyes and hands he had become her lover again. The
blissful minutes rolled away like waves that keep the sunshine out at
Her solitude in the villa was beguiled by the arrival of the score of an
operatic scena, entitled "HAGAR," by Rocco Ricci, which she fancied that
either Carlo or her dear old master had sent, and she devoured it. She
thought it written expressly for her. With HAGAR she communed during the
long hours, and sang herself on to the verge of an imagined desert beyond
the mountain-shadowed lake and the last view of her beloved Motterone.
Hagar's face of tears in the Brerawas known to her; and Hagar in her
'Addio' gave the living voice to that dumb one. Vittoria revelled in the
delicious vocal misery. She expanded with the sorrow of poor Hagar,
whose tears refreshed her, and parted her from her recent narrowing self-
consciousness. The great green mountain fronted her like a living
presence. Motterone supplied the place of the robust and venerable
patriarch, whom she reproached, and worshipped, but with a fathomless
burdensome sense of cruel injustice, deeper than the tears or the voice
which spoke of it: a feeling of subjected love that was like a mother's
giving suck to a detested child. Countess Ammiani saw the abrupt
alteration of her step and look with a dim surprise. "What do you
conceal from me?" she asked, and supplied the answer by charitably
attributing it to news that the signora Piaveni was coming.
When Laura came, the countess thanked her, saying, "I am a wretched
companion for this boiling head."
Laura soon proved to her that she had been the best, for after very few
hours Vittoria was looking like the Hagar on the canvas.
A woman such as Violetta d'Isorella was of the sort from which Laura
shrank with all her feminine power of loathing; but she spoke of her with
some effort at personal tolerance until she heard of Violetta's
stipulation for the deferring of Carlo's marriage, and contrived to guess
that Carlo was reserved and unfamiliar with his betrothed. Then she
cried out, "Fool that he is! Is it ever possible to come to the end of
the folly of men? She has inflamed his vanity. She met him when you
were holding him waiting, and no doubt she commenced with lamentations
over the country, followed by a sigh, a fixed look, a cheerful air, and
the assurance to him that she knew it--uttered as if through the keyhole
of the royal cabinet--she knew that Sardinia would break the Salasco
armistice in a mouth:--if only, if the king could be sure of support from
the youth of Lombardy."
"Do you suspect the unhappy king?" Vittoria interposed.
"Grasp your colours tight," said Laura, nodding sarcastic approbation of
such fidelity, and smiling slightly. "There has been no mention of the
king. Countess d'Isorella is a spy and a tool of the Jesuits, taking pay
from all parties--Austria as well, I would swear. Their object is to
paralyze the march on Rome, and she has won Carlo for them. I am told
that Barto Rizzo is another of her conquests. Thus she has a madman and
a fool, and what may not be done with a madman and a fool? However, I
have set a watch on her. She must have inflamed Carlo's vanity. He has
it, just as they all have. There's trickery: I would rather behold the
boy charging at the head of a column than putting faith in this base
creature. She must have simulated well," Laura went on talking to
"What trickery?" said Vittoria.
"He was in love with the woman when he was a lad," Laura replied, and
pertinently to Vittoria's feelings. This threw the moist shade across
Beppo in Turin and Luigi on the lake were the watch set on Countess
d'Isorella; they were useless except to fortify Laura's suspicions. The
Duchess of Graatli wrote mere gossip from Milan. She mentioned that Anna
of Lenkenstein had visited with her the tomb of her brother Count Paul at
Bologna, and had returned in double mourning; and that Madame Sedley--
"the sister of our poor ruined Pierson"--had obtained grace, for herself
at least, from Anna, by casting herself at Anna's feet,--and that they
were now friends.
Vittoria felt ashamed of Adela.
When Carlo returned, the signora attacked him boldly with all her
weapons; reproached him; said, "Would my husband have treated me in such
a manner?" Carlo twisted his moustache and stroked his young beard for
patience. They passed from room to balcony and terrace, and Laura
brought him back into company without cessation of her fire of questions
and sarcasms, saying, "No, no; we will speak of these things publicly."
She appealed alternately to Agostino, Vittoria, and Countess Ammiani for
support, and as she certainly spoke sense, Carlo was reduced to gloom and
silence. Laura then paused. "Surely you have punished your bride
enough?" she said; and more softly, "Brother of my Giacomo! you are
under an evil spell."
Carlo started up in anger. Bending to Vittoria, he offered her his hand
to lead her out, They went together.
"A good sign," said the countess.
"A bad sign!" Laura sighed. "If he had taken me out for explanation!
But tell me, my Agostino, are you the woman's dupe?"
"I have been," Agostino admitted frankly.
"You did really put faith in her?"
"She condescends to be so excessively charming."
"You could not advance a better reason."
"It is one of our best; perhaps our very best, where your sex is
"You are her dupe no more?"
"No more. Oh, dear no!"
"You understand her now, do you?"
"For the very reason, signora, that I have been her dupe. That is, I am
beginning to understand her. I am not yet in possession of the key."
"Not yet in possession!" said Laura contemptuously; "but, never mind.
Now for Carlo."
"Now for Carlo. He declares that he never has been deceived by her."
"He is perilously vain," sighed the signora.
"Seriously"--Agostino drew out the length of his beard--"I do not suppose
that he has been--boys, you know, are so acute. He fancies he can make
her of service, and he shows some skill."
"The skill of a fish to get into the net!"
"My dearest signora, you do not allow for the times. I remember"--
Agostino peered upward through his eyelashes in a way that he had--
"I remember seeing in a meadow a gossamer running away with a spider-
thread. It was against all calculation. But, observe: there were
exterior agencies at work: a stout wind blew. The ordinary reckoning is
based on calms. Without the operation of disturbing elements, the
spider-thread would have gently detained the gossamer."
"Is that meant for my son?" Countess Ammiani asked slowly, with
Agostino and Laura, laughing in their hearts at the mother's mysterious
veneration for Carlo, had to explain that 'gossamer' was a poetic,
generic term, to embrace the lighter qualities of masculine youth.
A woman's figure passed swiftly by the window, which led Laura to suppose
that the couple outside had parted. She ran forth, calling to one of
them, but they came hand in hand, declaring that they had seen neither
woman nor man. "And I am happy," Vittoria whispered. She looked happy,
pale though she was.
"It is only my dreadful longing for rest which makes me pale," she said
to Laura, when they were alone. "Carlo has proved to me that he is wiser
than I am."
"A proof that you love Carlo, perhaps," Laura rejoined.
"Dearest, he speaks more gently of the king."
"It may be cunning, or it may be carelessness."
"Will nothing satisfy you, wilful sceptic? He is quite alive to the
Countess d'Isorella's character. He told me how she dazzled him once."
"Not how she has entangled him now?"
"It is not true. He told me what I should like to dream over without
talking any more to anybody. Ah, what a delight! to have known him, as
you did, when he was a boy. Can one who knew him then mean harm to him?
I am not capable of imagining it. No; he will not abandon poor broken
Lombardy, and he is right; and it is my duty to sit and wait. No shadow
shall come between us. He has said it, and I have said it. We have but
one thing to fear, which is contemptible to fear; so I am at peace."
"Love-sick," was Laura's mental comment. Yet when Carlo explained his
position to her next day, she was milder in her condemnation of him, and
even admitted that a man must be guided by such brains as he possesses.
He had conceived that his mother had a right to claim one month from him
at the close of the war; he said this reddening. Laura nodded. He
confessed that he was irritated when he met the Countess d'Isorella, with
whom, to his astonishment, he found Barto Rizzo. She had picked him up,
weak from a paroxysm, on the high-road to Milan. "And she tamed the
brute," said Carlo, in admiration of her ability; "she saw that he was
plot-mad, and she set him at work on a stupendous plot; agents running
nowhere, and scribblings concentring in her work-basket. You smile at
me, as if I were a similar patient, signora. But I am my own agent.
I have personally seen all my men in Turin and elsewhere. Violetta has
not one grain of love for her country; but she can be made to serve it.
As for me, I have gone too far to think of turning aside and drilling
with Luciano. He may yet be diverted from Rome, to strike another blow
for Lombardy. The Chief, I know, has some religious sentiment about
Rome. So might I have; it is the Head of Italy. Let us raise the body
first. And we have been beaten here. Great Gods! we will have another
fight for it on the same spot, and quickly. Besides, I cannot face
Luciano and tell him why I was away from him in the dark hour. How can I
tell him that I was lingering to bear a bride to the altar? while he and
the rest--poor fellows! Hard enough to have to mention it to you,
She understood his boyish sense of shame. Making smooth allowances for a
feeling natural to his youth and the circumstances, she said, "I am your
sister, for you were my husband's brother in arms, Carlo. We two speak
heart to heart: I sometimes fancy you have that voice: you hurt me with
it more than you know; gladden me too! My Carlo, I wish to hear why
Countess d'Isorella objects to your marriage."
"She does not object."
"An answer that begins by quibbling is not propitious. She opposes it."
"For this reason: you have not forgotten the bronze butterfly?"
"I see more clearly," said Laura, with a start.
"There appears to be no cure for the brute's mad suspicion of her," Carlo
pursued: "and he is powerful among the Milanese. If my darling takes my
name, he can damage much of my influence, and--you know what there is to
be dreaded from a fanatic."
Laura nodded, as if in full agreement with him, and said, after
meditating a minute, "What sort of a lover is this!"
She added a little laugh to the singular interjection.
"Yes, I have also thought of a secret marriage," said Carlo, stung by her
penetrating instinct so that he was enabled to read the meaning in her
"The best way, when you are afflicted by a dilemma of such a character,
my Carlo," the signora looked at him, "is to take a chess-table and make
your moves on it. 'King--my duty;' 'Queen--my passion;' 'Bishop--my
social obligation;' 'Knight--my what-you-will and my round-the-corner
wishes.' Then, if you find that queen may be gratified without
endangering king, and so forth, why, you may follow your inclinations;
and if not, not. My Carlo, you are either enviably cool, or you are an
"The matter is not quite so easily settled as that," said Carlo.
On the whole, though against her preconception, Laura thought him an
honest lover, aud not the player of a double game. She saw that Vittoria
should have been with him in the critical hour of defeat, when his
passions were down, and heaven knows what weakness of our common manhood,
that was partly pride, partly love-craving, made his nature waxen to
every impression; a season, as Laura knew, when the mistress of a loyal
lover should not withhold herself from him. A nature tender like
Carlo's, and he bearing an enamoured heart, could not, as Luciano Romara
had done, pass instantly from defeat to drill. And vain as Carlo was
(the vanity being most intricate and subtle, like a nervous fluid), he
was very open to the belief that he could diplomatize as well as fight,
and lead a movement yet better than follow it. Even so the signora tried
to read his case.
They were all, excepting Countess Ammiani ("who will never, I fear, do me
this honour," Violetta wrote, and the countess said, "Never," and quoted
a proverb), about to pass three or four days at the villa of Countess
d'Isorella. Before they set out, Vittoria received a portentous envelope
containing a long scroll, that was headed "YOUR CRIMES," and detailing a
lest of her offences against the country, from the revelation of the plot
in her first letter to Wilfrid, to services rendered to the enemy during
the war, up to the departure of Charles Albert out of forsaken Milan.
"B. R." was the undisguised signature at the end of the scroll.
Things of this description restored her old war-spirit to Vittoria. She
handed the scroll to Laura; Laura, in great alarm, passed it on to Carlo.
He sent for Angelo Guidascarpi in haste, for Carlo read it as an ante-
dated justificatory document to some mischievous design, and he desired
that hands as sure as his own, and yet more vigilant eyes, should keep
watch over his betrothed.
The villa inhabited by Countess d'Isorella was on the water's edge,
within clear view of the projecting Villa Ricciardi, in that darkly-
wooded region of the lake which leads up to the Italian-Swiss canton.
Violetta received here an envoy from Anna of Lenkenstein, direct out of
Milan: an English lady, calling herself Mrs. Sedley, and a particular
friend of Countess Anna. At the first glance Violetta saw that her
visitor had the pretension to match her arts against her own; so, to
sound her thoroughly, she offered her the hospitalities of the villa
for a day or more. The invitation was accepted. Much to Violetta's
astonishment, the lady betrayed no anxiety to state the exact terms of
her mission: she appeared, on the contrary, to have an unbounded
satisfaction in the society of her hostess, and prattled of herself and
Antonio-Pericles, and her old affection for Vittoria, with the wiliest
simplicity, only requiring to be assured at times that she spoke
intelligible Italian and exquisite French. Violetta supposed her to feel
that she commanded the situation. Patient study of this woman revealed
to Violetta the amazing fact that she was dealing with a born bourgeoise,
who, not devoid of petty acuteness, was unaffectedly enjoying her noble
small-talk, and the prospect of a footing in Italian high society.
Violetta smiled at the comedy she had been playing in, scarcely
reproaching herself for not having imagined it. She proceeded to the
point of business without further delay.
Adela Sedley had nothing but a verbal message to deliver. The Countess
Anna of Lenkenstein offered, on her word of honour as a noblewoman, to
make over the quarter of her estate and patrimony to the Countess
d'Isorella, if the latter should succeed in thwarting--something.
Forced to speak plainly, Adela confessed she thought she knew the nature
of that something.
To preclude its being named, Violetta then diverged from the subject.
"We will go round to your friend the signor Antonio-Pericles at Villa
Ricciardi, " she said. "You will see that he treats me familiarly, but
he is not a lover of mine. I suspect your 'something' has something to
do with the Jesuits."
Adela Sedley replied to the penultimate sentence: "It would not surprise
me, indeed, to hear of any number of adorers."
"I have the usual retinue, possibly," said Violetta.
"Dear countess, I could be one of them myself!" Adela burst out with
"Then, kiss me."
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
"Your countrywomen, madame, do not make large allowances for beauty,
"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
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-
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.
ANNA OF LENKENSTEIN
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
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
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
"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
"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,
"MARCCELLINA, COUNTESS AMMIANI.
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.
"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.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
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
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
By George Meredith
Back to Full Books