This etext was produced by David Widger
By George Meredith
XX. THE OPERA OF CAMILLA
XXI. THE THIRD ACT
XXII. WILFRID COMES FORWARD
XXIII. FIRST HOURS OF THE FLIGHT
XXIV. ADVENTURES OF VITTORIA AND ANGELO
XXV. ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS
THE OPERA OF CAMILLA
She was dressed like a noble damsel from the hands of Titian. An Italian
audience cannot but be critical in their first glance at a prima donna,
for they are asked to do homage to a queen who is to be taken on her
merits: all that they have heard and have been taught to expect of her is
compared swiftly with the observation of her appearance and her manner.
She is crucially examined to discover defects. There is no boisterous
loyalty at the outset. And as it was now evident that Vittoria had
chosen to impersonate a significant character, her indications of method
were jealously watched for a sign of inequality, either in her, motion,
or the force of her eyes. So silent a reception might have seemed cruel
in any other case; though in all cases the candidate for laurels must, in
common with the criminal, go through the ordeal of justification. Men do
not heartily bow their heads until they have subjected the aspirant to
some personal contest, and find themselves overmatched. The senses,
ready to become so slavish in adulation and delight, are at the beginning
more exacting than the judgement, more imperious than the will. A figure
in amber and pale blue silk was seen, such as the great Venetian might
have sketched from his windows on a day when the Doge went forth to wed
the Adriatic a superb Italian head, with dark banded hair-braid, and dark
strong eyes under unabashed soft eyelids! She moved as, after long
gazing at a painting of a fair woman, we may have the vision of her
moving from the frame. It was an animated picture of ideal Italia.
The sea of heads right up to the highest walls fronted her glistening,
and she was mute as moonrise. A virgin who loosens a dove from her bosom
does it with no greater effort than Vittoria gave out her voice. The
white bird flutters rapidly; it circles and takes its flight. The voice
seemed to be as little the singer's own.
The theme was as follows:--Camilla has dreamed overnight that her lost
mother came to her bedside to bless her nuptials. Her mother was folded
in a black shroud, looking formless as death, like very death, save that
death sheds no tears. She wept, without change of voice, or mortal
shuddering, like one whose nature weeps: 'And with the forth-flowing of
her tears the knowledge of her features was revealed to me.' Behold the
Adige, the Mincio, Tiber, and the Po!--such great rivers were the tears
pouring from her eyes. She threw apart the shroud: her breasts and her
limbs were smooth and firm as those of an immortal Goddess: but breasts
and limbs showed the cruel handwriting of base men upon the body of a
martyred saint. The blood from those deep gashes sprang out at
intervals, mingling with her tears. She said:
'My child! were I a Goddess, my wounds would heal. Were I a Saint, I
should be in Paradise. I am no Goddess, and no Saint: yet I cannot die.
My wounds flow and my tears. My tears flow because of no fleshly
anguish: I pardon my enemies. My blood flows from my body, my tears from
my soul. They flow to wash out my shame. I have to expiate my soul's
shame by my body's shame. Oh! how shall I tell you what it is to walk
among my children unknown of them, though each day I bear the sun abroad
like my beating heart; each night the moon, like a heart with no blood in
it. Sun and moon they see, but not me! They know not their mother. I
cry to God. The answer of our God is this:--"Give to thy children one by
one to drink of thy mingled tears and blood:--then, if there is virtue in
them, they shall revive, thou shaft revive. If virtue is not in them,
they and thou shall continue prostrate, and the ox shall walk over you."
From heaven's high altar, O Camilla, my child, this silver sacramental
cup was reached to me. Gather my tears in it, fill it with my blood, and
The song had been massive in monotones, almost Gregorian in its severity
up to this point.
'I took the cup. I looked my mother in the face. I filled the cup from
the flowing of her tears, the flowing of her blood; and I drank!'
Vittoria sent this last phrase ringing out forcefully. From the
inveterate contralto of the interview, she rose to pure soprano in
describing her own action. 'And I drank,' was given on a descent of the
voice: the last note was in the minor key--it held the ear as if more
must follow: like a wail after a triumph of resolve. It was a
masterpiece of audacious dramatic musical genius addressed with sagacious
cunning and courage to the sympathizing audience present. The supposed
incompleteness kept them listening; the intentness sent that last falling
(as it were, broken) note travelling awakeningly through their minds.
It is the effect of the minor key to stir the hearts of men with this
particular suggestiveness. The house rose, Italians--and Germans
together. Genius, music, and enthusiasm break the line of nationalities.
A rain of nosegays fell about Vittoria; evvivas, bravas, shouts--all the
outcries of delirious men surrounded her. Men and women, even among the
hardened chorus, shook together and sobbed. 'Agostino!' and 'Rocco!'
were called; 'Vittoria!' 'Vittoria!' above all, with increasing thunder,
like a storm rushing down a valley, striking in broad volume from rock to
rock, humming remote, and bursting up again in the face of the vale. Her
name was sung over and over--'Vittoria! Vittoria!' as if the mouths were
enamoured of it.
'Evviva la Vittoria a d' Italia!' was sung out from the body of the
An echo replied--
'"Italia a il premio della VITTORIA!"' a well-known saying gloriously
adapted, gloriously rescued from disgrace.
But the object and source of the tremendous frenzy stood like one frozen
by the revelation of the magic the secret of which she has studiously
mastered. A nosegay, the last of the tributary shower, discharged from a
distance, fell at her feet. She gave it unconsciously preference over
the rest, and picked it up. A little paper was fixed in the centre. She
opened it with a mechanical hand, thinking there might be patriotic
orders enclosed for her. It was a cheque for one thousand guineas, drawn
upon an English banker by the hand of Antonio-Pericles Agriolopoulos;
freshly drawn; the ink was only half dried, showing signs of the dictates
of a furious impulse. This dash of solid prose, and its convincing proof
that her Art had been successful, restored Vittoria's composure, though
not her early statuesque simplicity. Rocco gave an inquiring look to see
if she would repeat the song. She shook her head resolutely. Her
opening of the paper in the bouquet had quieted the general ebullition,
and the expression of her wish being seen, the chorus was permitted to
usurp her place. Agostino paced up and down the lobby, fearful that he
had been guilty of leading her to anticlimax.
He met Antonio-Pericles, and told him so; adding (for now the mask had
been seen through, and was useless any further) that he had not had the
heart to put back that vision of Camilla's mother to a later scene, lest
an interruption should come which would altogether preclude its being
heard. Pericles affected disdain of any success which Vittoria had yet
achieved. 'Wait for Act the Third,' he said; but his irritable
anxiousness to hold intercourse with every one, patriot or critic,
German, English, or Italian, betrayed what agitation of exultation
coursed in his veins. 'Aha!' was his commencement of a greeting; 'was
Antonio-Pericles wrong when he told you that he had a prima donna for you
to amaze all Christendom, and whose notes were safe and firm as the
footing of the angels up and down Jacob's ladder, my friends? Aha!'
'Do you see that your uncle is signalling to you?' Countess Lena said to
Wilfrid. He answered like a man in a mist, and looked neither at her nor
at the General, who, in default of his obedience to gestures, came good-
humouredly to the box, bringing Captain Weisspriess with him.
'We 're assisting at a pretty show,' he said.
'I am in love with her voice,' said Countess Anna.
'Ay; if it were only a matter of voices, countess.'
'I think that these good people require a trouncing,' said Captain
'Lieutenant Pierson is not of your opinion,' Countess Anna remarked.
Hearing his own name, Wilfrid turned to them with a weariness well acted,
but insufficiently to a jealous observation, for his eyes were quick
under the carelessly-dropped eyelids, and ranged keenly over the stage
while they were affecting to assist his fluent tongue.
Countess Lena levelled her opera-glass at Carlo Ammiani, and then placed
the glass in her sister's hand. Wilfrid drank deep of bitterness. 'That
is Vittoria's lover,' he thought; 'the lover of the Emilia who once loved
General Pierson may have noticed this by-play: he said to his nephew in
the brief military tone: 'Go out; see that the whole regiment is handy
about the house; station a dozen men, with a serjeant, at each of the
backdoors, and remain below. I very much mistake, or we shall have to
make a capture of this little woman to-night.'
'How on earth,' he resumed, while Wilfrid rose savagely and went out with
his stiffest bow, 'this opera was permitted to appear, I can't guess! A
child could see through it. The stupidity of our civil authorities
passes my understanding--it's a miracle! We have stringent orders not to
take any initiative, or I would stop the Fraulein Camilla from uttering
'If you did that, I should be angry with you, General,' said Countess
'And I also think the Government cannot do wrong,' Countess Lena joined
The General contented himself by saying: 'Well, we shall see.'
Countess Lena talked to Captain Weisspriess in an undertone, referring to
what she called his dispute with Carlo Ammiani. The captain was
extremely playful in rejoinders.
'You iron man!' she exclaimed.
'Man of steel would be the better phrase,' her sister whispered.
'It will be an assassination, if it happens.'
'No officer can bear with an open insult, Lena.'
'I shall not sit and see harm done to my old playmate, Anna.'
'Beware of betraying yourself for one who detests you.'
A grand duo between Montini and Vittoria silenced all converse. Camilla
tells Camillo of her dream. He pledges his oath to discover her mother,
if alive; if dead, to avenge her. Camilla says she believes her mother
is in the dungeons of Count Orso's castle. The duo tasked Vittoria's
execution of florid passages; it gave evidence of her sound artistic
'I was a fool,' thought Antonio-Pericles; 'I flung my bouquet with the
herd. I was a fool! I lost my head!'
He tapped angrily at the little ink-flask in his coat-pocket. The first
act, after scenes between false Camillo and Michiella, ends with the
marriage of Camillo and Camilla;--a quatuor composed of Montini,
Vittoria, Irma, and Lebruno. Michiella is in despair; Count Orso is
profoundly sonorous with paternity and devotion to the law. He has
restored to Camilla a portion of her mother's sequestrated estates.
A portion of the remainder will be handed over to her when he has had
experience of her husband's good behaviour. The rest he considers
legally his own by right of (Treaties), and by right of possession and
documents his sword. Yonder castle he must keep. It is the key of all
his other territories. Without it, his position will be insecure.
(Allusion to the Austrian argument that the plains of Lombardy are the
strategic defensive lines of the Alps.)
Agostino, pursued by his terror of anticlimax, ran from the sight of
Vittoria when she was called, after the fall of the curtain. He made his
way to Rocco Ricci (who had given his bow to the public from his perch),
and found the maestro drinking Asti to counteract his natural excitement.
Rocco told Agostino, that up to the last moment, neither he nor any soul
behind the scenes knew Vittoria would be able to appear, except that she
had sent a note to him with a pledge to be in readiness for the call.
Irma had come flying in late, enraged, and in disorder, praying to take
Camilla's part; but Montini refused to act with the seconda donna as
prima donna. They had commenced the opera in uncertainty whether it
could go on beyond the situation where Camilla presents herself. 'I was
prepared to throw up my baton,' said Rocco, 'and publicly to charge the
Government with the rape of our prima donna. Irma I was ready to
replace. I could have filled that gap.' He spoke of Vittoria's triumph.
Agostino's face darkened. 'Ha!' said he, 'provided we don't fall flat,
like your Asti with the cork out. I should have preferred an enthusiasm
a trifle more progressive. The notion of travelling backwards is upon me
forcibly, after that tempest of acclamation.'
'Or do you think that you have put your best poetry in the first Act?'
Rocco suggested with malice.
'Not a bit of it!' Agostino repudiated the idea very angrily, and puffed
and puffed. Yet he said, 'I should not be lamenting if the opera were
stopped at once.'
'No!' cried Rocco; 'let us have our one night. I bargain for that.
Medole has played us false, but we go on. We are victims already, my
'But I do stipulate,' said Agostino, 'that my jewel is not to melt
herself in the cup to-night. I must see her. As it is, she is
inevitably down in the list for a week's or a month's incarceration.'
Antonio-Pericles had this, in his case, singular piece of delicacy, that
he refrained from the attempt to see Vittoria immediately after he had
flung his magnificent bouquet of treasure at her feet. In his
intoxication with the success which he had foreseen and cradled to its
apogee, he was now reckless of any consequences. He felt ready to take
patriotic Italy in his arms, provided that it would succeed as Vittoria
had done, and on the spot. Her singing of the severe phrases of the
opening chant, or hymn, had turned the man, and for a time had put a new
heart in him. The consolation was his also, that he had rewarded it the
most splendidly--as it were, in golden italics of praise; so that her
forgiveness of his disinterested endeavour to transplant her was certain,
and perhaps her future implicit obedience or allegiance bought. Meeting
General Pierson, the latter rallied him.
'Why, my fine Pericles, your scheme to get this girl out of the way was
capitally concerted. My only fear is that on another occasion the
Government will take another view of it and you.'
Pericles shrugged. 'The Gods, my dear General, decree. I did my best to
lay a case before them; that is all.'
'Ah, well! I am of opinion you will not lay many other cases before the
Gods who rule in Milan.'
'I have helped them to a good opera.'
'Are you aware that this opera consists entirely of political allusions?'
General Pierson spoke offensively, as the urbane Austrian military
permitted themselves to do upon occasion when addressing the conquered or
'To me,' returned Pericles, 'an opera--it is music. I know no more.'
'You are responsible for it,' said the General, harshly. 'It was taken
upon trust from you.'
'Brutal Austrians!' Pericles murmured. 'And you do not think much of her
'Pretty fair, sir.'
'What wonder she does not care to open her throat to these swine!'
thought the changed Greek.
Vittoria's door was shut to Agostino. No voice within gave answer. He
tried the lock of the door, and departed. She sat in a stupor. It was
harder for her to make a second appearance than it was to make the first,
when the shameful suspicion cruelly attached to her had helped to balance
her steps with rebellious pride; and more, the great collected wave of
her ambitious years of girlhood had cast her forward to the spot, as in a
last effort for consummation. Now that she had won the public voice
(love, her heart called it) her eyes looked inward; she meditated upon
what she had to do, and coughed nervously. She frightened herself with
her coughing, and shivered at the prospect of again going forward in the
great nakedness of stagelights and thirsting eyes. And, moreover, she
was not strengthened by the character of the music and the poetry of the
second Act:--a knowledge of its somewhat inferior quality may possibly
have been at the root of Agostino's dread of an anticlimax. The seconda
donna had the chief part in it--notably an aria (Rocco had given it to
her in compassion) that suited Irma's pure shrieks and the tragic
skeleton she could be. Vittoria knew how low she was sinking when she
found her soul in the shallows of a sort of jealousy of Irma. For a
little space she lost all intimacy with herself; she looked at her face
in the glass and swallowed water, thinking that she had strained a dream
and confused her brain with it. The silence of her solitary room coming
upon the blaze of light the colour and clamour of the house, and the
strange remembrance of the recent impersonation of an ideal character,
smote her with the sense of her having fallen from a mighty eminence,
and that she lay in the dust. All those incense-breathing flowers heaped
on her table seemed poisonous, and reproached her as a delusion. She sat
crouching alone till her tirewomen called; horrible talkative things!
her own familiar maid Giacinta being the worst to bear with.
Now, Michiella, by making love to Leonardo, Camillo's associate,
discovers that Camillo is conspiring against her father. She utters to
Leonardo very pleasant promises indeed, if he will betray his friend.
Leonardo, a wavering baritono, complains that love should ask for any
return save in the coin of the empire of love. He is seduced, and
invokes a malediction upon his head should he accomplish what he has
sworn to perform. Camilla reposes perfect confidence in this wretch, and
brings her more doubtful husband to be of her mind.
Camillo and Camilla agree to wear the mask of a dissipated couple.
They throw their mansion open; dicing, betting, intriguing, revellings,
maskings, commence. Michiella is courted ardently by Camillo; Camilla
trifles with Leonardo and with Count Orso alternately. Jealous again
of Camilla, Michiella warns and threatens Leonardo; but she becomes
Camillo's dupe, partly from returning love, partly from desire for
vengeance on her rival. Camilla persuades Orso to discard Michiella.
The infatuated count waxes as the personification of portentous
burlesque; he is having everything his own way. The acting throughout--
owing to the real gravity of the vast basso Lebruno's burlesque, and
Vittoria's archness--was that of high comedy with a lurid background.
Vittoria showed an enchanting spirit of humour. She sang one bewitching
barcarole that set the house in rocking motion. There was such
melancholy in her heart that she cast herself into all the flippancy with
abandonment. The Act was weak in too distinctly revealing the finger of
the poetic political squib at a point here and there. The temptation to
do it of an Agostino, who had no other outlet, had been irresistible, and
he sat moaning over his artistic depravity, now that it stared him in the
face. Applause scarcely consoled him, and it was with humiliation of
mind that he acknowledged his debt to the music and the singers, and how
little they owed to him.
Now Camillo is pleased to receive the ardent passion of his wife, and the
masking suits his taste, but it is the vice of his character that he
cannot act to any degree subordinately in concert; he insists upon
positive headship!--(allusion to an Italian weakness for sovereignties;
it passed unobserved, and chuckled bitterly over his excess of subtlety).
Camillo cannot leave the scheming to her. He pursues Michiella to subdue
her with blandishments. Reproaches cease upon her part. There is a duo
between them. They exchange the silver keys, which express absolute
intimacy, and give mutual freedom of access. Camillo can now secrete his
followers in the castle; Michiella can enter Camilla's blue-room, and
ravage her caskets for treasonable correspondence. Artfully she bids him
reflect on what she is forfeiting for him; and so helps him to put aside
the thought of that which he also may be imperilling.
Irma's shrill crescendos and octave-leaps, assisted by her peculiar
attitudes of strangulation, came out well in this scene. The murmurs
concerning the sour privileges to be granted by a Lazzeruola were
inaudible. But there has been a witness to the stipulation. The ever-
shifting baritono, from behind a pillar, has joined in with an aside
phrase here and there. Leonardo discovers that his fealty to Camilla is
reviving. He determines to watch over her. Camillo now tosses a
perfumed handkerchief under his nose, and inhales the coxcombical incense
of the idea that he will do all without Camilla's aid, to surprise her;
thereby teaching her to know him to be somewhat a hero. She has played
her part so thoroughly that he can choose to fancy her a giddy person;
he remarks upon the frequent instances of girls who in their girlhood
were wild dreamers becoming after marriage wild wives. His followers
assemble, that he may take advantage of the exchanged key of silver.
He is moved to seek one embrace of Camilla before the conflict:--she is
beautiful! There was never such beauty as hers! He goes to her in the
fittest preparation for the pangs of jealousy. But he has not been
foremost in practising the uses of silver keys. Michiella, having first
arranged with her father to be before Camillo's doors at a certain hour
with men-at-arms, is in Camilla's private chamber, with her hand upon a
pregnant box of ebony wood, when she is startled by a noise, and slips
into concealment. Leonardo bursts through the casement window. Camilla
then appears. Leonardo stretches the tips of his fingers out to her; on
his knees confesses his guilt and warns her. Camillo comes in.
Thrusting herself before him, Michiella points to the stricken couple
'See! it is to show you this that I am here.' Behold occasion for a
While confessing his guilt to Camilla, Leonardo has excused it by an
emphatic delineation of Michiella's magic sway over him. (Leonardo, in
fact, is your small modern Italian Machiavelli, overmatched in cunning,
for the reason that he is always at a last moment the victim of his poor
bit of heart or honesty: he is devoid of the inspiration of great
patriotic aims.) If Michiella (Austrian intrigue) has any love, it is for
such a tool. She cannot afford to lose him. She pleads for him; and, as
Camilla is silent on his account, the cynical magnanimity of Camillo is
predisposed to spare a fangless snake. Michiella withdraws him from the
naked sword to the back of the stage. The terrible repudiation scene
ensues, in which Camillo casts off his wife. If it was a puzzle to one
Italian half of the audience, the other comprehended it perfectly, and
with rapture. It was thus that YOUNG ITALY had too often been treated by
the compromising, merely discontented, dallying aristocracy. Camilla
cries to him, 'Have faith in me! have faith in me! have faith in me!'
That is the sole answer to his accusations, his threats of eternal
loathing, and generally blustering sublimities. She cannot defend
herself; she only knows her innocence. He is inexorable, being the
guilty one of the two. Turning from him with crossed arms, Camilla
'Mother! it is my fate that I should know
Thy miseries, and in thy footprints go.
Grief treads the starry places of the earth:
In thy long track I feel who gave me birth.
I am alone; a wife without a lord;
My home is with the stranger--home abhorr'd!--
But that I trust to meet thy spirit there.
Mother of Sorrows! joy thou canst not share:
So let me wander in among the tombs,
Among the cypresses and the withered blooms.
Thy soul is with dead suns: there let me be;
A silent thing that shares thy veil with thee.'
The wonderful viol-like trembling of the contralto tones thrilled through
the house. It was the highest homage to Vittoria that no longer any
shouts arose nothing but a prolonged murmur, as when one tells another a
tale of deep emotion, and all exclamations, all ulterior thoughts, all
gathered tenderness of sensibility, are reserved for the close, are seen
heaping for the close, like waters above a dam. The flattery of
beholding a great assembly of human creatures bound glittering in wizard
subservience to the voice of one soul, belongs to the artist, and is the
cantatrice's glory, pre-eminent over whatever poor glory this world
gives. She felt it, but she felt it as something apart. Within her was
the struggle of Italy calling to Italy: Italy's shame, her sadness, her
tortures, her quenchless hope, and the view of Freedom. It sent her
blood about her body in rebellious volumes. Once it completely strangled
her notes. She dropped the ball of her chin in her throat; paused
without ceremony; and recovered herself. Vittoria had too severe an
artistic instinct to court reality; and as much as she could she from
that moment corrected the underlinings of Agostino's libretto.
On the other hand, Irma fell into all his traps, and painted her Austrian
heart with a prodigal waste of colour and frank energy:
'Now Leonardo is my tool:
Camilla is my slave:
And she I hate goes forth to cool
Her rage beyond the wave.
Paid am I in full coin for my caressing;
I take, but give nought, ere the priestly blessing.'
A subtle distinction. She insists upon her reverence for the priestly
(papistical) blessing, while she confides her determination to have it
dispensed with in Camilla's case. Irma's known sympathies with the
Austrian uniform seasoned the ludicrousness of many of the double-edged
verses which she sang or declaimed in recitative. The irony of
applauding her vehemently was irresistible.
Camilla is charged with conspiracy, and proved guilty by her own
The Act ends with the entry of Count Orso and his force; conspirators
overawed; Camilla repudiated; Count Orso imperially just; Leonardo
chagrined; Camillo pardoned; Michiella triumphant. Camillo sacrifices
his wife for safety. He holds her estates; and therefore Count Orso,
whose respect for law causes him to have a keen eye for matrimonial
alliances, is now paternally willing, and even anxious to bestow
Michiella upon him when the Pontifical divorce can be obtained; so that
the long-coveted fruitful acres may be in the family. The chorus sings a
song of praise to Hymen, the 'builder of great Houses.' Camilla goes
forth into exile. The word was not spoken, but the mention of 'bread of
strangers, strange faces, cold climes,' said sufficient.
'It is a question whether we ought to sit still and see a firebrand
flashed in our faces,' General Pierson remarked as the curtain fell. He
was talking to Major de Pyrmont outside the Duchess of Graatli's box.
Two General officers joined them, and presently Count Serabiglione, with
his courtly semi-ironical smile, on whom they straightway turned their
backs. The insult was happily unseen, and the count caressed his shaven
chin and smiled himself onward. The point for the officers to decide
was, whether they dared offend an enthusiastic house--the fiery core of
the population of Milan--by putting a stop to the opera before worse
Their own views were entirely military; but they were paralyzed by the
recent pseudo-liberalistic despatches from Vienna; and agreed, with some
malice in their shrugs, that the odium might as well be left on the
shoulders of the bureau which had examined the libretto. In fact, they
saw that there would be rank peril in attempting to arrest the course of
things within the walls of the house.
'The temper this people is changeing oddly,' said General Pierson. Major
de Pyrmont listened awhile to what they had to say, and returned to the
duchess. Amalia wrote these lines to Laura:--
'If she sings that song she is to be seized on the wings of the stage.
I order my carriage to be in readiness to take her whither she should
have gone last night. Do you contrive only her escape from the house.
Georges de P. will aid you. I adore the naughty rebel!'
Major de Pyrmont delivered the missive at Laura's box. He went down to
the duchess's chasseur, and gave him certain commands and money for a
journey. Looking about, he beheld Wilfrid, who implored him to take his
place for two minutes. De Pyrmont laughed. 'She is superb, my friend.
Come up with me. I am going behind the scenes. The unfortunate
impresario is a ruined man; let us both condole with him. It is possible
that he has children, and children like bread.'
Wilfrid was linking his arm to De Pyrmont's, when, with a vivid
recollection of old times, he glanced at his uniform with Vittoria's
eyes. 'She would spit at me!' he muttered, and dropped behind.
Up in her room Vittoria held council with Rocco, Agostino, and the
impresario, Salvolo, who was partly their dupe. Salvolo had laid a
freshly-written injunction from General Pierson before her, bidding him
to exclude the chief solo parts from the Third Act, and to bring it
speedily to a termination. His case was, that he had been ready to
forfeit much if a rising followed; but that simply to beard the
authorities was madness. He stated his case by no means as a pleader,
although the impression made on him by the prima donna's success caused
his urgency to be civil.
'Strike out what you please,' said Vittoria.
Agostino smote her with a forefinger. 'Rogue! you deserve an imperial
crown. You have been educated for monarchy. You are ready enough to
dispense with what you don't care for, and what is not your own.'
Much of the time was lost by Agostino's dispute with Salvolo. They
haggled and wrangled laughingly over this and that printed aria, but it
was a deplorable deception of the unhappy man; and with Vittoria's
stronger resolve to sing the incendiary song, the more necessary it was
for her to have her soul clear of deceit. She said, 'Signor Salvolo, you
have been very kind to me, and I would do nothing to hurt your interests.
I suppose you must suffer for being an Italian, like the rest of us.
The song I mean to sing is not written or printed. What is in the book
cannot harm you, for the censorship has passed it; and surely I alone am
responsible for singing what is not in the book--I and the maestro. He
supports me. We have both taken precautions' (she smiled) 'to secure our
property. If you are despoiled, we will share with you. And believe,
oh! in God's name, believe that you will not suffer to no purpose!'
Salvolo started from her in a horror of amazement. He declared that he
had been miserably deceived and entrapped. He threatened to send the
company to their homes forthwith. 'Dare to!' said Agostino; and to judge
by the temper of the house, it was only too certain, that if he did so,
La Scala would be a wrecked tenement in the eye of morning. But Agostino
backed his entreaty to her to abjure that song; Rocco gave way, and half
shyly requested her to think of prudence. She remembered Laura, and
Carlo, and her poor little frightened foreign mother. Her intense ideal
conception of her duty sank and danced within her brain as the pilot-star
dances on the bows of a tossing vessel. All were against her, as the
tempest is against the ship. Even light above (by which I would image
that which she could appeal to pleading in behalf of the wisdom of her
obstinate will) was dyed black in the sweeping obscuration; she failed to
recollect a sentence that was to be said to vindicate her settled course.
Her sole idea was her holding her country by an unseen thread, and of the
everlasting welfare of Italy being jeopardized if she relaxed her hold.
Simple obstinacy of will sustained her.
You mariners batten down the hatchways when the heavens are dark and seas
are angry. Vittoria, with the same faith in her instinct, shut the
avenues to her senses--would see nothing, hear nothing. The impresario's
figure of despair touched her later. Giacinta drove him forth in the act
of smiting his forehead with both hands. She did the same for Agostino
and Rocco, who were not demonstrative.
They knew that by this time the agents of the Government were in all
probability ransacking their rooms, and confiscating their goods.
'Is your piano hired?' quoth the former.
'No,' said the latter, 'are your slippers?'
They went their separate ways, laughing.
THE THIRD ACT
The libretto of the Third Act was steeped in the sentiment of Young
Italy. I wish that I could pipe to your mind's hearing any notion of the
fine music of Rocco Ricci, and touch you to feel the revelations which
were in this new voice. Rocco and Vittoria gave the verses a life that
cannot belong to them now; yet, as they contain much of the vital spirit
of the revolt, they may assist you to some idea of the faith animating
its heads, and may serve to justify this history.
Rocco's music in the opera of Camilla had been sprung from a fresh
Italian well; neither the elegiac-melodious, nor the sensuous-lyrical,
nor the joyous buffo; it was severe as an old masterpiece, with veins
of buoyant liveliness threading it, and with sufficient distinctness
of melody to enrapture those who like to suck the sugarplums of sound.
He would indeed have favoured the public with more sweet things, but
Vittoria, for whom the opera was composed, and who had been at his elbow,
was young, and stern in her devotion to an ideal of classical music that
should elevate and never stoop to seduce or to flatter thoughtless
hearers. Her taste had directed as her voice had inspired the opera.
Her voice belonged to the order of the simply great voices, and was a
royal voice among them. Pure without attenuation, passionate without
contortion, when once heard it exacted absolute confidence. On this
night her theme and her impersonation were adventitious introductions,
but there were passages when her artistic pre-eminence and the sovereign
fulness and fire of her singing struck a note of grateful remembered
delight. This is what the great voice does for us. It rarely astonishes
our ears. It illumines our souls, as you see the lightning make the
unintelligible craving darkness leap into long mountain ridges, and
twisting vales, and spires of cities, and inner recesses of light within
light, rose-like, toward a central core of violet heat.
At the rising of the curtain the knights of the plains, Rudolfo,
Romualdo, Arnoldo, and others, who were conspiring to overthrow Count
Orso at the time when Camillo's folly ruined all, assemble to deplore
Camilla's banishment, and show, bereft of her, their helplessness and
indecision. They utter contempt of Camillo, who is this day to be
Pontifically divorced from his wife to espouse the detested Michiella.
His taste is not admired.
They pass off. Camillo appears. He is, as he knows, little better than
a pensioner in Count Orso's household. He holds his lands on sufferance.
His faculties are paralyzed. He is on the first smooth shoulder-slope of
the cataract. He knows that not only was his jealousy of his wife
groundless, but it was forced by a spleenful pride. What is there to do?
Nothing, save resignedly to prepare for his divorce from the conspiratrix
Camilla and espousals with Michiella. The cup is bitter, and his song is
mournful. He does the rarest thing a man will do in such a predicament--
he acknowledges that he is going to get his deserts. The faithfulness
and purity of Camilla have struck his inner consciousness. He knows not
where she may be. He has secretly sent messengers in all directions to
seek her, and recover her, and obtain her pardon: in vain. It is as
well, perhaps, that he should never see her more. Accursed, he has cast
off his sweetest friend. The craven heart could never beat in unison
'She is in the darkness: I am in the light. I am a blot upon the light;
she is light in the darkness.'
Montini poured this out with so fine a sentiment that the impatience of
the house for sight of its heroine was quieted. But Irma and Lebruno
came forward barely under tolerance.
'We might as well be thumping a tambourine,' said Lebruno, during a
caress. Irma bit her underlip with mortification. Their notes fell flat
as bullets against a wall.
This circumstance aroused the ire of Antonio-Pericles against the
libretto and revolutionists. 'I perceive,' he said, grinning savagely,
'it has come to be a concert, not an opera; it is a musical harangue in
the marketplace. Illusion goes: it is politics here!'
Carlo Ammiani was sitting with his mother and Luciano breathlessly
awaiting the entrance of Vittoria. The inner box-door was rudely shaken:
beneath it a slip of paper had been thrust. He read a warning to him to
quit the house instantly. Luciano and his mother both counselled his
departure. The detestable initials 'B. R.,' and the one word 'Sbirri,'
revealed who had warned, and what was the danger. His friend's advice
and the commands of his mother failed to move him. 'When I have seen her
safe; not before,' he said.
Countess Ammiani addressed Luciano: 'This is a young man's love for a
'The woman is worth it,' Luciano replied.
'No woman is worth the sacrifice of a mother and of a relative.'
'Dearest countess,' said Luciano, 'look at the pit; it's a cauldron. We
shall get him out presently, have no fear: there will soon be hubbub
enough to let Lucifer escape unseen. If nothing is done to-night, he and
I will be off to the Lago di Garda to-morrow morning, and fish and shoot,
and talk with Catullus.'
The countess gazed on her son with sorrowful sternness. His eyes had
taken that bright glazed look which is an indication of frozen brain and
turbulent heart--madness that sane men enamoured can be struck by. She
knew there was no appeal to it.
A very dull continuous sound, like that of an angry swarm, or more like a
rapid mufed thrumming of wires, was heard. The audience had caught view
of a brown-coated soldier at one of the wings. The curious Croat had
merely gratified a desire to have a glance at the semicircle of crowded
heads; he withdrew his own, but not before he had awakened the wild beast
in the throng. Yet a little while and the roar of the beasts would have
burst out. It was thought that Vittoria had been seized or interdicted
from appearing. Conspirators--the knights of the plains--meet: Rudolfos,
Romualdos, Arnoldos, and others,--so that you know Camilla is not idle.
She comes on in the great scene which closes the opera.
It is the banqueting hall of the castle. The Pontifical divorce is
spread upon the table. Courtly friends, guards, and a choric bridal
company, form a circle.
'I have obtained it,' says Count Orso: 'but at a cost.'
Leonardo, wavering eternally, lets us know that it is weighted with a
proviso: IF Camilla shall not present herself within a certain term, this
being the last day of it. Camillo comes forward. Too late, he has
perceived his faults and weakness. He has cast his beloved from his arms
to clasp them on despair. The choric bridal company gives intervening
strophes. Cavaliers enter. 'Look at them well,' says Leonardo. They
are the knights of the plains. 'They have come to mock me,' Camillo
exclaims, and avoids them.
Leonardo, Michiella, and Camillo now sing a trio that is tricuspidato,
or a three-pointed manner of declaring their divergent sentiments in
harmony. The fast-gathering cavaliers lend masculine character to the
choric refrains at every interval. Leonardo plucks Michiella
entreatingly by the arm. She spurns him. He has served her; she needs
him no more; but she will recommend him in other quarters, and bids him
to seek them. 'I will give thee a collar for thy neck, marked
"Faithful." It is the utmost I can do for thy species.' Leonardo thinks
that he is insulted, but there is a vestige of doubt in him still. 'She
is so fair! she dissembles so magnificently ever!' She has previously
told him that she is acting a part, as Camilla did. Irma had shed all
her hair from a golden circlet about her temples, barbarian-wise. Some
Hunnish grandeur pertained to her appearance, and partly excused the
infatuated wretch who shivered at her disdain and exulted over her beauty
In the midst of the chorus there is one veiled figure and one voice
distinguishable. This voice outlives the rest at every strophe, and
contrives to add a supplemental antiphonic phrase that recalls in turn
the favourite melodies of the opera. Camillo hears it, but takes it as a
delusion of impassioned memory and a mere theme for the recurring
melodious utterance of his regrets. Michiella hears it. She chimes with
the third notes of Camillo's solo to inform us of her suspicions that
they have a serpent among them. Leonardo hears it. The trio is formed.
Count Orso, without hearing it, makes a quatuor by inviting the bridal
couple to go through the necessary formalities. The chorus changes its
measure to one of hymeneals. The unknown voice closes it ominously with
three bars in the minor key. Michiella stalks close around the rank
singers like an enraged daughter of Attila. Stopping in front of the
veiled figure, she says: 'Why is it thou wearest the black veil at my
'Because my time of mourning is not yet ended.'
'Thou standest the shadow in my happiness.'
'The bright sun will have its shadow.'
'I desire that all rejoice this day.'
'My hour of rejoicing approaches.'
'Wilt thou unveil?'
'Dost thou ask to look the storm in the face?'
'Wilt thou unveil?'
'Art thou hungry for the lightning?'
'I bid thee unveil, woman!'
Michiella's ringing shriek of command produces no response.
'It is she!' cries Michiella, from a contracted bosom; smiting it with
'Swift to the signatures. O rival! what bitterness hast thou come hither
Camilla sings aside: 'If yet my husband loves me and is true.'
Count Orso exclaims: 'Let trumpets sound for the commencement of the
festivities. The lord of his country may slumber while his people dance
Trumpets flourish. Witnesses are called about the table. Camillo, pen
in hand, prepares for the supreme act. Leonardo at one wing watches the
eagerness of Michiella. The chorus chants to a muted measure of
suspense, while Camillo dips pen in ink.
'She is away from me: she scorns me: she is lost to me. Life without
honour is the life of swine. Union without love is the yoke of savage
beasts. O me miserable! Can the heavens themselves plumb the depth of
Count Orso permits a half-tone of paternal severity to point his kindly
hint that time is passing. When he was young, he says, in the broad and
benevolently frisky manner, he would have signed ere the eye of the
maiden twinkled her affirmative, or the goose had shed its quill.
Camillo still trifles. Then he dashes the pen to earth.
'Never! I have but one wife. Our marriage is irrevocable. The
dishonoured man is the everlasting outcast. What are earthly possessions
to me, if within myself shame faces me? Let all go. Though I have lost
Camilla, I will be worthy of her. Not a pen no pen; it is the sword that
I must write with. Strike, O count! I am here: I stand alone. By the
edge of this sword, I swear that never deed of mine shall rob Camilla of
her heritage; though I die the death, she shall not weep for a craven!'
The multitude break away from Camilla--veiled no more, but radiant; fresh
as a star that issues through corrupting vapours, and with her voice at a
starry pitch in its clear ascendency:
'Tear up the insufferable scroll!--
O thou, my lover and my soul!
It is the Sword that reunites;
The Pen that our perdition writes.'
She is folded in her husband's arms.
Michiella fronts them, horrid of aspect:--
'Accurst divorced one! dost thou dare
To lie in shameless fondness there?
Abandoned! on thy lying brow
Thy name shall be imprinted now.'
Camilla parts from her husband's embrace:
'My name is one I do not fear;
'Tis one that thou wouldst shrink to hear.
Go, cool thy penitential fires,
Thou creature, foul with base desires!'
CAMILLO (facing Count Orso).
'The choice is thine!'
COUNT ORSO (draws).
'The choice is made!'
CHORUS (narrowing its circle).
'Familiar is that naked blade.
Of others, of himself, the fate
How swift 'tis Provocation's mate!'
MICHIELLA (torn with jealous rage).
'Yea; I could smite her on the face.
Father, first read the thing's disgrace.
I grudge them, honourable death.
Put poison in their latest breath!'
ORSO (his left arm extended).
'You twain are sundered: hear with awe
The judgement of the Source of Law.'
CAMILLA (smiling confidently).
'Not such, when I was at the Source,
It said to me;--but take thy course.'
'Thither thy steps were bent?'
MICHIELLA (spurning verbal controversy).
A thousand swords are in my veins.
Friends! soldiers I strike them down, the pair!'
CAMILLO (on guard, clasping his wife).
''Tis well! I cry, to all we share.
Yea, life or death, 'tis well! 'tis well!'
MICHIELLA (stamps her foot).
'My heart 's a vessel tossed on hell!'
'Not in glad nuptials ends the day.'
ORSO (to Camilla).
'What is thy purpose with us?--say !'
'Unto my Father I have crossed
For tidings of my Mother lost.'
'Thy mother dead!'
The tablets of the tomb defiest!
The Fates denounce, the Furies chase
The wretch who lies in Reason's face.'
'Fly, then; for we are match'd to try
Which is the idiot, thou or I'
I cherished thee a precious pearl,
And almost owned thee child of mine.'
'Thou kept'st me like a gem, to shine,
Careless that I of blood am made;
No longer be the end delay'd.
'Tis time to prove I have a heart--
Forth from these walls of mine depart!
The ghosts within them are disturb'd
Go forth, and let thy wrath be curb'd,
For I am strong: Camillo's truth
Has arm'd the visions of our youth.
Our union by the Head Supreme
Is blest: our severance was the dream.
We who have drunk of blood and tears,
Knew nothing of a mortal's fears.
Life is as Death until the strife
In our just cause makes Death as Life.'
'Is it madness?'
'Tis Reason, but beyond your ken.
There lives a light that none can view
Whose thoughts are brutish:--seen by few,
The few have therefore light divine
Their visions are God's legions!--sign,
I give you; for we stand alone,
And you are frozen to the bone.
Your palsied hands refuse their swords.
A sharper edge is in my words,
A deadlier wound is in my cry.
Yea, tho' you slay us, do we die?
In forcing us to bear the worst,
You made of us Immortals first.
Away! and trouble not my sight.'
Chorus of Cavaliers: RUDOLFO, ROMUALDO, ARNOLDO, and others.
'She moves us with an angel's might.
What if his host outnumber ours!
'Tis heaven that gives victorious powers.'
[They draw their steel. ORSO, simulating gratitude for their
devotion to him, addresses them as to pacify their friendly ardour.]
MICHIELLA to LEONARDO (supplicating).
'Ever my friend I shall I appeal
In vain to see thy flashing steel?'
LEONARDO (finally resolved).
'Traitress! pray, rather, it may rest,
Or its first home will be thy breast.'
Chorus of Bridal Company.
'The flowers from bright Aurora's head
We pluck'd to strew a happy bed,
Shall they be dipp'd in blood ere night?
Woe to the nuptials! woe the sight!'
Rudolfo, Romualdo, Arnoldo, and the others, advance toward Camillo.
Michiella calls to them encouragingly that it were well for the deed to
be done by their hands. They bid Camillo to direct their lifted swords
upon his enemies. Leonardo joins them. Count Orso, after a burst of
upbraidings, accepts Camillo's offer of peace, and gives his bond to quit
the castle. Michiella, gazing savagely at Camilla, entreats her for an
utterance of her triumphant scorn. She assures Camilla that she knows
her feelings accurately.
'Now you think that I am overwhelmed; that I shall have a restless night,
and lie, after all my crying's over, with my hair spread out on my
pillow, on either side my face, like green moss of a withered waterfall:
you think you will bestow a little serpent of a gift from my stolen
treasures to comfort me. You will comfort me with a lock of Camillo's
hair, that I may have it on my breast to-night, and dream, and wail, and
writhe, and curse the air I breathe, and clasp the abominable emptiness
like a thousand Camillos. Speak!'
The dagger is seen gleaming up Michiella's wrist; she steps on in a bony
triangle, faced for mischief: a savage Hunnish woman, with the hair of a
Goddess--the figure of a cat taking to its forepaws. Close upon Camilla
she towers in her whole height, and crying thrice, swift as the assassin
trebles his blow, 'Speak,' to Camilla, who is fronting her mildly, she
raises her arm, and the stilet flashes into Camilla's bosom.
'Die then, and outrage me no more.'
Camilla staggers to her husband. Camillo receives her falling.
Michiella, seized by Leonardo, presents a stiffened shape of vengeance
with fierce white eyes and dagger aloft. There are many shouts, and
there is silence.
CAMILLA, supported by CAMILLO.
'If this is death, it is not hard to bear.
Your handkerchief drinks up my blood so fast
It seems to love it. Threads of my own hair
Are woven in it. 'Tis the one I cast
That midnight from my window, when you stood
Alone, and heaven seemed to love you so!
I did not think to wet it with my blood
When next I tossed it to my love below.'
CAMILLO (cherishing her).
'Camilla, pity! say you will not die.
Your voice is like a soul lost in the sky.'
'I know not if my soul has flown; I know
My body is a weight I cannot raise:
My voice between them issues, and
I go Upon a journey of uncounted days.
Forgetfulness is like a closing sea;
But you are very bright above me still.
My life I give as it was given to me
I enter on a darkness wide and chill.'
'O noble heart! a million fires consume
The hateful hand that sends you to your doom.'
'There is an end to joy: there is no end
To striving; therefore ever let us strive
In purity that shall the toil befriend,
And keep our poor mortality alive.
I hang upon the boundaries like light
Along the hills when downward goes the day
I feel the silent creeping up of night.
For you, my husband, lies a flaming way.'
'I lose your eyes: I lose your voice: 'tis faint.
Ah, Christ! see the fallen eyelids of a saint.'
'Our life is but a little holding, lent
To do a mighty labour: we are one
With heaven and the stars when it is spent
To serve God's aim: else die we with the sun.'
She sinks. Camillo droops his head above her.
The house was hushed as at a veritable death-scene. It was more like a
cathedral service than an operatic pageant. Agostino had done his best
to put the heart of the creed of his Chief into these last verses.
Rocco's music floated them in solemn measures, and Vittoria had been
careful to articulate throughout the sacred monotony so that their full
meaning should be taken.
In the printed book of the libretto a chorus of cavaliers, followed by
one harmless verse of Camilla's adieux to them, and to her husband and
life, concluded the opera.
'Let her stop at that--it's enough!--and she shall be untouched,' said
General Pierson to Antonio-Pericles.
'I have information, as you know, that an extremely impudent song is
The General saw Wilfrid hanging about the lobby, in flagrant disobedience
to orders. Rebuking his nephew with a frown, he commanded the lieutenant
to make his way round to the stage and see that the curtain was dropped
according to the printed book.
'Off, mon Dieu! off!' Pericles speeded him; adding in English, 'Shall she
taste prison-damp, zat voice is killed.'
The chorus of cavaliers was a lamentation: the keynote being despair:
ordinary libretto verses.
Camilla's eyes unclose. She struggles to be lifted, and, raised on
Camillo's arm, she sings as if with the last pulsation of her voice,
softly resonant in its rich contralto. She pardons Michiella. She tells
Count Orso that when he has extinguished his appetite for dominion, he
will enjoy an unknown pleasure in the friendship of his neighbours.
Repeating that her mother lives, and will some day kneel by her
daughter's grave--not mournfully, but in beatitude--she utters her adieu
At the moment of her doing so, Montini whispered in Vittoria's ear. She
looked up and beheld the downward curl of the curtain. There was
confusion at the wings: Croats were visible to the audience. Carlo
Ammiani and Luciano Romara jumped on the stage; a dozen of the noble
youths of Milan streamed across the boards to either wing, and caught the
curtain descending. The whole house had risen insurgent with cries of
'Vittoria.' The curtain-ropes were in the hands of the Croats, but Carlo,
Luciano, and their fellows held the curtain aloft at arm's length at each
side of her. She was seen, and she sang, and the house listened.
The Italians present, one and all, rose up reverently and murmured the
refrain. Many of the aristocracy would, doubtless, have preferred that
this public declaration of the plain enigma should not have rung forth to
carry them on the popular current; and some might have sympathized with
the insane grin which distorted the features of Antonio-Pericles, when he
beheld illusion wantonly destroyed, and the opera reduced to be a mere
vehicle for a fulmination of politics. But the general enthusiasm was
too tremendous to permit of individual protestations. To sit, when the
nation was standing, was to be a German. Nor, indeed, was there an
Italian in the house who would willingly have consented to see Vittoria
silenced, now that she had chosen to defy the Tedeschi from the boards of
La Scala. The fascination of her voice extended even over the German
division of the audience. They, with the Italians, said: 'Hear her!
hear her!' The curtain was agitated at the wings, but in the centre it
was kept above Vittoria's head by the uplifted arms of the twelve young
'I cannot count the years,
That you will drink, like me,
The cup of blood and tears,
Ere she to you appears:--
Italia, Italia shall be free!'
So the great name was out, and its enemies had heard it.
'You dedicate your lives
To her, and you will be
The food on which she thrives,
Till her great day arrives
Italia, Italia shall be free!
'She asks you but for faith!
Your faith in her takes she
As draughts of heaven's breath,
Amid defeat and death:--
Italia, Italia shall be free!'
The prima donna was not acting exhaustion when sinking lower in Montini's
arms. Her bosom rose and sank quickly, and she gave the terminating
'I enter the black boat
Upon the wide grey sea,
Where all her set suns float;
Thence hear my voice remote
Italia, Italia shall be free!'
The curtain dropped.
WILFRID COMES FORWARD
An order for the immediate arrest of Vittoria was brought round to the
stage at the fall of the curtain by Captain Weisspriess, and delivered by
him on the stage to the officer commanding, a pothered lieutenant of
Croats, whose first proceeding was dictated by the military instinct to
get his men in line, and who was utterly devoid of any subsequent idea.
The thunder of the house on the other side of the curtain was enough to
disconcert a youngster such as he was; nor have the subalterns of Croat
regiments a very signal reputation for efficiency in the Austrian
Service. Vittoria stood among her supporters apart; pale, and 'only very
thirsty,' as she told the enthusiastic youths who pressed near her, and
implored her to have no fear. Carlo was on her right hand; Luciano on
her left. They kept her from going off to her room. Montini was
despatched to fetch her maid Giacinta with cloak and hood for her
mistress. The young lieutenant of Croats drew his sword, but hesitated.
Weisspriess, Wilfrid, and Major de Pyrmont were at one wing, between the
Italian gentlemen and the soldiery. The operatic company had fallen into
the background, or stood crowding the side places of exit. Vittoria's
name was being shouted with that angry, sea-like, horrid monotony of
iteration which is more suggestive of menacing impatience and the
positive will of the people, than varied, sharp, imperative calls.
The people had got the lion in their throats. One shriek from her would
bring them, like a torrent, on the boards, as the officers well knew; and
every second's delay in executing the orders of the General added to the
difficulty of their position. The lieutenant of Croats strode up to
Weisspriess and Wilfrid, who were discussing a plan of action vehemently;
while, amid hubbub and argument, De Pyrmont studied Vittoria's features
through his opera-glass, with an admirable simple languor.
Wilfrid turned back to him, and De Pyrmont, without altering the level of
his glass, said, 'She's as cool as a lemon-ice. That girl will be a
mother of heroes. To have volcanic fire and the mastery of her nerves at
the same time, is something prodigious. She is magnificent. Take a peep
at her. I suspect that the rascal at her right is seizing his occasion
to plant a trifle or so in her memory--the animal! It's just the moment,
and he knows it.'
De Pyrmont looked at Wilfrid's face.
'Have I hit you anywhere accidentally?' he asked, for the face had grown
'Be my friend, for heaven's sake!' was the choking answer. 'Save her!
Get her away ! She is an old acquaintance of mine--of mine, in England.
Do; or I shall have to break my sword.'
'You know her? and you don't go over to her?' said De Pyrmont.
'I--yes, she knows me.'
'Then, why not present yourself?'
'Get her away. Talk Weisspriess down. He is for seizing her at all
hazards. It 's madness to provoke a conflict. Just listen to the house!
I may be broken, but save her I will. De Pyrmont, on my honour, I will
stand by you for ever if you will help me to get her away.'
'To suggest my need in the hour of your own is not a bad notion,' said
the cool Frenchman. 'What plan have you?'
Wilfrid struck his forehead miserably.
'Stop Lieutenant Zettlisch. Don't let him go up to her. Don't--'
De Pyrmont beheld in astonishment that a speechlessness such as affects
condemned wretches in the supreme last minutes of existence had come upon
'I'm afraid yours is a bad case,' he said; 'and the worst of it is, it's
just the case women have no compassion for. Here comes a parlementaire
from the opposite camp. Let's hear him.'
It was Luciano Romara. He stood before them to request that the curtain
should be raised. The officers debated together, and deemed it prudent
to yield consent.
Luciano stipulated further that the soldiers were to be withdrawn.
'On one wing, or on both wings?' said Captain Weisspriess, twinkling eyes
'Out of the house,' said Luciano.
The officers laughed.
'You must confess,' said De Pyrmont, affably, 'that though the drum does
issue command to the horse, it scarcely thinks of doing so after a rent
in the skin has shown its emptiness. Can you suppose that we are likely
to run when we see you empty-handed? These things are matters of
'It is for you to calculate correctly,' said Luciano.
As he spoke, a first surge of the exasperated house broke upon the stage
and smote the curtain, which burst into white zigzags, as it were a
breast stricken with panic.
Giacinta came running in to her mistress, and cloaked and hooded her
Enamoured; impassioned, Ammiani murmured in Vittoria's ear:
'My own soul!'
She replied: 'My lover!'
So their first love-speech was interchanged with Italian simplicity, and
made a divine circle about them in the storm.
Luciano returned to his party to inform them that they held the key of
'Stick fast,' he said. 'None of you move. Whoever takes the first step
takes the false step; I see that.'
'We have no arms, Luciano.'
'We have the people behind us.'
There was a fiercer tempest in the body of the house, and, on a sudden,
silence. Men who had invaded the stage joined the Italian guard
surrounding Vittoria, telling that the lights had been extinguished; and
then came the muffled uproar of universal confusion. Some were for
handing her down into the orchestra, and getting her out through the
general vomitorium, but Carlo and Luciano held her firmly by them. The
theatre was a rageing darkness; and there was barely a light on the
stage. 'Santa Maria!' cried Giacinta, 'how dreadful that steel does look
in the dark! I wish our sweet boys would cry louder.' Her mistress,
almost laughing, bade her keep close, and be still. 'Oh! this must be
like being at sea,' the poor creature whined, stopping her ears and
shutting her eyes. Vittoria was in a thick gathering of her defenders;
she could just hear that a parley was going on between Luciano and the
Austrians. Luciano made his way back to her. 'Quick!' he said; 'nothing
cows a mob like darkness. One of these officers tells me he knows you,
and gives his word of honour--he's an Englishman--to conduct you out:
Vittoria placed her hands in Carlo's one instant. Luciano cleared a
space for them. She heard a low English voice.
'You do not recognize me? There is no time to lose. You had another
name once, and I have had the honour to call you by it.'
'Are you an Austrian?' she exclaimed, and Carlo felt that she was
'I am the Wilfrid Pole whom you knew. You are entrusted to my charge;
I have sworn to conduct you to the doors in safety, whatever it may cost
Vittoria looked at him mournfully. Her eyes filled with tears. 'The
night is spoiled for me!' she murmured.
'That is not my name.'
'I know you by no other. Have mercy on me. I would do anything in the
world to serve you.'
Major de Pyrmont came up to him and touched his arm. He said briefly:
'We shall have a collision, to a certainty, unless the people hear from
one of her set that she is out of the house.'
Wilfrid requested her to confide her hand to him.
'My hand is engaged,' she said.
Bowing ceremoniously, Wilfrid passed on, and Vittoria, with Carlo and
Luciano and her maid Giacinta, followed between files of bayonets through
the dusky passages, and downstairs into the night air.
Vittoria spoke in Carlo's ear: 'I have been unkind to him. I had a great
affection for him in England.'
'Thank him; thank him,' said Carlo.
She quitted her lover's side and went up to Wilfrid with a shyly extended
hand. A carriage was drawn up by the kerbstone; the doors of it were
open. She had barely made a word intelligible; when Major de Pyrmont
pointed to some officers approaching. 'Get her out of the way while
there's time,' he said in French to Luciano. 'This is her carriage.
Swiftly, gentlemen, or she's lost.'
Giacinta read his meaning by signs, and caught her mistress by the
sleeve, using force. She and Major de Pyrmont placed Vittoria,
bewildered, in the carriage; De Pyrmont shut the door, and signalled to
the coachman. Vittoria thrust her head out for a last look at her lover,
and beheld him with the arms of dark-clothed men upon him. La Scala was
pouring forth its occupants in struggling roaring shoals from every door.
Her outcry returned to her deadened in the rapid rolling of the carriage
across the lighted Piazza. Giacinta had to hold her down with all her
might. Great clamour was for one moment heard by them, and then a
rushing voicelessness. Giacinta screamed to the coachman till she was
exhausted. Vittoria sank shuddering on the lap of her maid, hiding her
face that she might plunge out of recollection.
The lightnings shot across her brain, but wrote no legible thing; the
scenes of the opera lost their outlines as in a white heat of fire. She
tried to weep, and vainly asked her heart for tears, that this dry
dreadful blind misery of mere sensation might be washed out of her, and
leave her mind clear to grapple with evil; and then, as the lurid breaks
come in a storm-driven night sky, she had the picture of her lover in the
hands of enemies, and of Wilfrid in the white uniform; the torment of her
living passion, the mockery of her passion by-gone. Recollection, when
it came back, overwhelmed her; she swayed from recollection to oblivion,
and was like a caged wild thing. Giacinta had to be as a mother with
her. The poor trembling girl, who had begun to perceive that the
carriage was bearing them to some unknown destination, tore open the
bands of her corset and drew her mistress's head against the full warmth
of her bosom, rocked her, and moaned over her, mixing comfort and
lamentation in one offering, and so contrived to draw the tears out from
her, a storm of tears; not fitfully hysterical, but tears that poured a
black veil over the eyeballs, and fell steadily streaming. Once subdued
by the weakness, Vittoria's nature melted; she shook piteously with
weeping; she remembered Laura's words, and thought of what she had done,
in terror and remorse, and tried to ask if the people would be fighting
now, but could not. Laura seemed to stand before her like a Fury
stretching her finger at the dear brave men whom she had hurled upon the
bayonets and the guns. It was an unendurable anguish. Giacinta was
compelled to let her cry, and had to reflect upon their present situation
unaided. They had passed the city gates. Voices on the coachman's box
had given German pass-words. She would have screamed then had not the
carriage seemed to her a sanctuary from such creatures as foreign
soldiers, whitecoats; so she cowered on. They were in the starry open
country, on the high-road between the vine-hung mulberry trees. She held
the precious head of her mistress, praying the Saints that strength
would soon come to her to talk of their plight, or chatter a little
comfortingly at least; and but for the singular sweetness which it
shot thrilling to her woman's heart, she would have been fretted when
Vittoria, after one long-drawn wavering sob, turned her lips to the bared
warm breast, and put a little kiss upon it, and slept.
FIRST HOURS OF THE FLIGHT
Vittoria slept on like an outworn child, while Giacinta nodded over her,
and started, and wondered what embowelled mountain they might be passing
through, so cold was the air and thick the darkness; and wondered more at
the old face of dawn, which appeared to know nothing of her agitation.
But morning was better than night, and she ceased counting over her sins
forward and backward; adding comments on them, excusing some and
admitting the turpitude of others, with 'Oh! I was naughty, padre mio!
I was naughty--she huddled them all into one of memory's spare sacks, and
tied the neck of it, that they should keep safe for her father-confessor.
At such times, after a tumult of the blood, women have tender delight in
one another's beauty. Giacinta doted on the marble cheek, upturned on
her lap, with the black unbound locks slipping across it; the braid of
the coronal of hair loosening; the chance flitting movement of the pearly
little dimple that lay at the edge of the bow of the joined lips, like
the cradling hollow of a dream. At whiles it would twitch; yet the dear
eyelids continued sealed.
Looking at shut eyelids when you love the eyes beneath, is more or less a
teazing mystery that draws down your mouth to kiss them. Their lashes
seem to answer you in some way with infantine provocation; and fine
eyelashes upon a face bent sideways, suggest a kind of internal smiling.
Giacinta looked till she could bear it no longer; she kissed the cheek,
and crooned over it, gladdened by a sense of jealous possession when she
thought of the adored thing her mistress had been overnight. One of her
hugs awoke Vittoria, who said, 'Shut my window, mother,' and slept again
fast. Giacinta saw that they were nearer to the mountains. Mountain-
shadows were thrown out, and long lank shadows of cypresses that climbed
up reddish-yellow undulations, told of the sun coming. The sun threw a
blaze of light into the carriage. He shone like a good friend, and
helped Giacinta think, as she had already been disposed to imagine, that
the machinery by which they had been caught out of Milan was amicable
magic after all, and not to be screamed at. The sound medicine of sleep
and sunlight was restoring livelier colour to her mistress. Giacinta
hushed her now, but Vittoria's eyes opened, and settled on her, full of
'What are you thinking about?' she asked.
'Signorina, my own, I was thinking whether those people I see on the
hill-sides are as fond of coffee as I am.'
Vittoria sat up and tumbled questions out headlong, pressing her eyes and
gathering her senses; she shook with a few convulsions, but shed no
tears. It was rather the discomfort of their position than any vestige
of alarm which prompted Giacinta to project her head and interrogate the
coachman and chasseur. She drew back, saying, 'Holy Virgin! they are
Germans. We are to stop in half-an-hour.' With that she put her hands
to use in arranging and smoothing Vittoria's hair and dress--the dress of
Camilla--of which triumphant heroine Vittoria felt herself an odd little
ghost now. She changed her seat that she might look back on Milan. A
letter was spied fastened with a pin to one of the cushions. She opened
it, and read in pencil writing:
'Go quietly. You have done all that you could do for good or for ill.
The carriage will take you to a safe place, where you will soon see your
friends and hear the news. Wait till you reach Meran. You will see a
friend from England. Avoid the lion's jaw a second time. Here you
compromise everybody. Submit, or your friends will take you for a mad
girl. Be satisfied. It is an Austrian who rescues you. Think yourself
no longer appointed to put match to powder. Drown yourself if a second
frenzy comes. I feel I could still love your body if the obstinate soul
were out of it. You know who it is that writes. I might sign
"Michiella" to this: I have a sympathy with her anger at the provoking
Camilla. Addio! From La Scala.'
The lines read as if Laura were uttering them. Wrapping her cloak across
the silken opera garb, Vittoria leaned back passively until the carriage
stopped at a village inn, where Giacinta made speedy arrangements to
satisfy as far as possible her mistress's queer predilection for bathing
her whole person daily in cold water. The household service of the inn
recovered from the effort to assist her sufficiently to produce hot
coffee and sweet bread, and new green-streaked stracchino, the cheese of
the district, which was the morning meal of the fugitives. Giacinta, who
had never been so thirsty in her life, became intemperately refreshed,
and was seized by the fatal desire to do something: to do what she could
not tell; but chancing to see that her mistress had silken slippers on
her feet, she protested loudly that stouter foot-gear should be obtained
for her, and ran out to circulate inquiries concerning a shoemaker who
might have a pair of country overshoes for sale. She returned to say
that the coachman and his comrade, the German chasseur, were drinking and
watering their horses, and were not going to start until after a rest of
two hours, and that she proposed to walk to a small Bergamasc town within
a couple of miles of the village, where the shoes could be obtained, and
perhaps a stuff to replace the silken dress. Receiving consent, Giacinta
whispered, 'A man outside wishes to speak to you, signorina. Don't be
frightened. He pounced on me at the end of the village, and had as
little breath to speak as a boy in love. He was behind us all last night
on the carriage. He mentioned you by name. He is quite commonly
dressed, but he's a gallant gentleman, and exactly like our Signor Carlo.
My dearest lady, he'll be company for you while I am absent. May I
beckon him to come into the room?'
Vittoria supposed at once that this was a smoothing of the way for the
entrance of her lover and her joy. She stood up, letting all her
strength go that he might the more justly take her and cherish her. But
it was not Carlo who entered. So dead fell her broken hope that her face
was repellent with the effort she made to support herself. He said, 'I
address the Signorina Vittoria. I am a relative of Countess Ammiani. My
name is Angelo Guidascarpi. Last night I was evading the sbirri in this
disguise by the private door of La Scala, from which I expected Carlo to
come forth. I saw him seized in mistake for me. I jumped up on the
empty box-seat behind your carriage. Before we entered the village I let
myself down. If I am seen and recognized, I am lost, and great evil will
befall Countess Ammiani and her son; but if they are unable to confront
Carlo and me, my escape ensures his safety!
'What can I do?' said Vittoria.
He replied, 'Shall I answer you by telling you what I have done?'
'You need not, signore!
'Enough that I want to keep a sword fresh for my country. I am at your
mercy, signorina; and I am without anxiety. I heard the chasseur saying
at the door of La Scala that he had the night-pass for the city gates and
orders for the Tyrol. Once in Tyrol I leap into Switzerland. I should
have remained in Milan, but nothing will be done there yet, and quiet
cities are not homes for me.'
Vittoria began to admit the existence of his likeness to her lover,
though it seemed to her a guilty weakness that she should see it.
'Will nothing be done in Milan?' was her first eager question.
'Nothing, signorina, or I should be there, and safe!'
'What, signore, do you require me to help you in?'
'Say that I am your servant.'
'And take you with me?'
'Such is my petition.'
'Is the case very urgent?'
'Hardly more, as regards myself, than a sword lost to Italy if I am
discovered. But, signorina, from what Countess Ammiani has told me,
I believe that you will some day be my relative likewise. Therefore I
appeal not only to a charitable lady, but to one of my own family.'
Vittoria reddened. 'All that I can do I will do.'
Angelo had to assure her that Carlo's release was certain the moment his
identity was established. She breathed gladly, saying, 'I wonder at it
all very much. I do not know where they are carrying me, but I think I
am in friendly hands. I owe you a duty. You will permit me to call you
Beppo till our journey ends.'
They were attracted to the windows by a noise of a horseman drawing rein
under it, whose imperious shout for the innkeeper betrayed the soldier's
habit of exacting prompt obedience from civilians, though there was no
military character in his attire. The innkeeper and his wife came out to
the summons, and then both made way for the chasseur in attendance on
Vittoria. With this man the cavalier conversed.
'Have you had food?' said Vittoria. 'I have some money that will serve
for both of us three days. Go, and eat and drink. Pay for us both.'
She gave him her purse. He received it with a grave servitorial bow, and
Soon after the chasseur brought up a message. Herr Johannes requested
that he might have the honour of presenting his homage to her: it was
imperative that he should see her. She nodded. Her first glance at Herr
Johannes assured her of his being one of the officers whom she had seen
on the stage last night, and she prepared to act her part. Herr Johannes
desired her to recall to mind his introduction to her by the Signor
Antonio-Pericles at the house of the maestro Rocco Ricci. 'It is true;
pardon me,' said Vittoria.
He informed her that she had surpassed herself at the opera; so much so
that he and many other Germans had been completely conquered by her.
Hearing, he said, that she was to be pursued, he took horse and galloped
all night on the road toward Schloss Sonnenberg, whither, as it had been
whispered to him, she was flying, in order to counsel her to lie 'perdu'
for a short space, and subsequently to conduct her to the schloss of the
amiable duchess. Vittoria thanked him, but stated humbly that she
preferred to travel alone. He declared that it was impossible: that she
was precious to the world of Art, and must on no account be allowed to
run into peril. Vittoria tried to assert her will; she found it
unstrung. She thought besides that this disguised officer, with the ill-
looking eyes running into one, might easily, since he had heard her, be a
devotee of her voice; and it flattered her yet more to imagine him as a
capture from the enemy--a vanquished subservient Austrian. She had seen
him come on horseback; he had evidently followed her; and he knew what
she now understood must be her destination.
Moreover, Laura had underlined 'it is an Austrian who rescues you.' This
man perchance was the Austrian. His precise manner of speech demanded an
extreme repugnance, if it was to be resisted; Vittoria's reliance upon
her own natural fortitude was much too secure for her to encourage the
physical revulsions which certain hard faces of men create in the hearts
of young women.
'Was all quiet in Milan?' she asked.
'Quiet as a pillow,' he said.
'And will continue to be?'
'Not a doubt of it.'
'Why is there not a doubt of it, signore?'
'You beat us Germans on one field. On the other you have no chance. But
you must lose no time. The Croats are on your track. I have ordered out
The mention of the Croats struck her fugitive senses with a panic.
'I must wait for my maid,' she said, attempting to deliberate.
'Ha! you have a maid: of course you have! Where is your maid?'
'She ought to have returned by this time. If not, she is on the road.'
'On the road? Good; we will pick up the maid on the road. We have not a
minute to spare. Lady, I am your obsequious servant. Hasten out, I beg
of you. I was taught at my school that minutes are not to be wasted.
Those Croats have been drinking and what not on the way, or they would
have been here before this. You can't rely on Italian innkeepers to
'Signore, are you a man of honour?'
'Illustrious lady, I am.'
She listened simply to the response without giving heed to the
prodigality of gesture. The necessity for flight now that Milan was
announced as lying quiet, had become her sole thought. Angelo was
standing by the carriage.
'What man is this?' said Herr Johannes, frowning.
'He is my servant,' said Vittoria.
'My dear good lady, you told me your servant was a maid. This will never
do. We can't have him.'
'Excuse me, signore, I never travel without him.'
'Travel! This is not a case of travelling, but running; and when you
run, if you are in earnest about it, you must fling away your baggage and
Herr Johannes tossed out his moustache to right and left, and stamped his
foot. He insisted that the man should be left behind.
'Off, sir! back to Milan, or elsewhere,' he cried.
'Beppo, mount on the box,' said Vittoria.
Her command was instantly obeyed. Herr Johannes looked her in the face.
'You are very decided, my dear lady.' He seemed to have lost his own
decision, but handing Vittoria in, he drew a long cigar from his
breastpocket, lit it, and mounted beside the coachman. The chasseur had
Vittoria entreated that a general look-out should be kept for Giacinta.
The road was straight up an ascent, and she had no fear that her maid
would not be seen. Presently there was a view of the violet domes of a
city. 'Is it Bergamo?--is it Brescia?' she longed to ask, thinking of
her Bergamasc and Brescian friends, and of those two places famous for
the bravery of their sons: one being especially dear to her, as the
birthplace of a genius of melody, whose blood was in her veins. 'Did he
look on these mulberry trees?--did he look on these green-grassed
valleys?--did he hear these falling waters?' she asked herself, and
closed her spirit with reverential thoughts of him and with his music.
She saw sadly that they were turning from the city. A little ball of
paper was shot into her lap. She opened it and read: 'An officer of the
cavalry.--Beppo.' She put her hand out of the window to signify that she
was awake to the situation. Her anxiety, however, began to fret. No
sight of Giacinta was to be had in any direction. Her mistress commenced
chiding the absent garrulous creature, and did so until she pitied her,
when she accused herself of cowardice, for she was incapable of calling
out to the coachman to stop. The rapid motion subdued such energy as
remained to her, and she willingly allowed her hurried feelings to rest
on the faces of rocks impending over long ravines, and of perched old
castles and white villas and sub-Alpine herds. She burst from the
fascination as from a dream, but only to fall into it again, reproaching
her weakness, and saying, 'What a thing am I!' When she did make her
voice heard by Herr Johannes and the coachman, she was nervous and
ashamed, and met the equivocating pacification of the reply with an
assent half-way, though she was far from comprehending the consolation
she supposed that it was meant to convey. She put out her hand to
communicate with Beppo. Another ball of pencilled writing answered to
it. She read: 'Keep watch on this Austrian. Your maid is two hours in
the rear. Refuse to be separated from me. My life is at your service.
Vittoria made her final effort to get a resolve of some sort; ending it
with a compassionate exclamation over poor Giacinta. The girl could soon
find her way back to Milan. On the other hand, the farther from Milan,
the less the danger to Carlo's relative, in whom she now perceived a
stronger likeness to her lover. She sank back in the carriage and closed
her eyes. Though she smiled at the vanity of forcing sleep in this way,
sleep came. Her healthy frame seized its natural medicine to rebuild her
after the fever of recent days.
She slept till the rocks were purple, and rose-purple mists were in the
valleys. The stopping of the carriage aroused her. They were at the
threshold of a large wayside hostelry, fronting a slope of forest and a
plunging brook. Whitecoats in all attitudes leaned about the door; she
beheld the inner court full of them. Herr Johannes was ready to hand her
to the ground. He said: 'You have nothing to fear. These fellows are on
the march to Cremona. Perhaps it will be better if you are served up in
your chamber. You will be called early in the morning.'
She thanked him, and felt grateful. 'Beppo, look to yourself,' she said,
and ran to her retirement.
'I fancy that 's about all that you are fit for,' Herr Johannes remarked,
with his eyes on the impersonator of Beppo, who bore the scrutiny
carelessly, and after seeing that Vittoria had left nothing on the
carriage-seats, directed his steps to the kitchen, as became his
functions. Herr Johannes beckoned to a Tyrolese maid-servant, of whom
Beppo had asked his way. She gave her name as Katchen.
'Katchen, Katchen, my sweet chuck,' said Herr Johannes, 'here are ten
florins for you, in silver, if you will get me the handkerchief of that
man: you have just stretched your finger out for him.'
According to the common Austrian reckoning of them, Herr Johannes had
adopted the right method for ensuring the devotion of the maidens of
Tyrol. She responded with an amazed gulp of her mouth and a grimace of
acquiescence. Ten florins in silver shortened the migratory term of the
mountain girl by full three months. Herr Johannes asked her the hour
when the officers in command had supper, and deferred his own meal till
that time. Katchen set about earning her money. With any common Beppo
it would have been easy enough--simple barter for a harmless kiss. But
this Beppo appeared inaccessible; he was so courtly and so reserved; nor
is a maiden of Tyrol a particularly skilled seductress. The supper of
the officers was smoking on the table when Herr Johannes presented
himself among them, and very soon the inn was shaken with an uproar of
greeting. Katchen found Beppo listening at the door of the salle. She
clapped her hands upon him to drag him away.
'What right have you to be leaning your head there?' she said, and
threatened to make his proceedings known. Beppo had no jewel to give,
little money to spare. He had just heard Herr Johannes welcomed among
the officers by a name that half paralyzed him. 'You shall have anything
you ask of me if you will find me out in a couple of hours,' he said.
Katchen nodded truce for that period, and saw her home in the Oberinnthal
still nearer--twelve mountain goats and a cow her undisputed property.
She found him out, though he had strayed through the court of the inn,
and down a hanging garden to the borders of a torrent that drenched the
air and sounded awfully in the dark ravine below. He embraced her very
mildly. 'One scream and you go,' he said; she felt the saving hold of
her feet plucked from her, with all the sinking horror, and bit her under
lip, as if keeping in the scream with bare stitches. When he released
her she was perfectly mastered. 'You do play tricks,' she said, and
'I play no tricks. Tell me at what hour these soldiers march.'
'At two in the morning.'
'Don't be afraid, silly child: you're safe if you obey me. At what time
has our carriage been ordered?'
'Now swear to do this:--rouse my mistress at a quarter past two: bring
her down to me.'
'Yes, yes,' said Kitchen, eagerly: 'give me your handkerchief, and she
will follow me. I do swear; that I do; by big St. Christopher! who's
painted on the walls of our house at home.'
Beppo handed her sweet silver, which played a lively tune for her
temporarily--vanished cow and goats. Peering at her features in the
starlight, he let her take the handkerchief from his pocket.
'Oh! what have you got in there?' she said.
He laid his finger across her mouth, bidding her return to the house.
'Dear heaven!' Katchen went in murmuring; 'would I have gone out to that
soft-looking young man if I had known he was a devil.'
Angelo Guidascarpi was aware that an officer without responsibility never
sleeps faster than when his brothers-in-arms have to be obedient to the
reveillee. At two in the morning the bugle rang out: many lighted cigars
were flashing among the dark passages of the inn; the whitecoats were
disposed in marching order; hot coffee was hastily swallowed; the last
stragglers from the stables, the outhouses, the court, and the straw beds
under roofs of rock, had gathered to the main body. The march set
forward. A pair of officers sent a shout up to the drowsy windows, 'Good
luck to you, Weisspriess!' Angelo descended from the concealment of the
opposite trees, where he had stationed himself to watch the departure.
The inn was like a sleeper who has turned over. He made Katchen bring
him bread and slices of meat and a flask of wine, which things found a
place in his pockets: and paying for his mistress and himself, he awaited
Vittoria's foot on the stairs. When Vittoria came she asked no
questions, but said to Katchen, 'You may kiss me'; and Kitchen began
crying; she believed that they were lovers daring everything for love.
'You have a clear start of an hour and a half. Leave the high-road then,
and turn left through the forest and ask for Bormio. If you reach Tyrol,
and come to Silz, tell people that you know Katchen Giesslinger, and they
will be kind to you.'
So saying, she let them out into the black-eyed starlight.
ADVENTURES OF VITTORIA AND ANGELO
Nothing was distinguishable for the flying couple save the high-road
winding under rock and forest, and here and there a coursing water in the
depths of the ravines, that showed like a vein in black marble. They
walked swiftly, keeping brisk ears for sound of hoof or foot behind them.
Angelo promised her that she should rest after the morning light had
come; but she assured him that she could bear fatigue, and her firm
cheerfulness lent his heart vigour. At times they were hooded with the
darkness, which came on them as if, as benighted children fancy, their
faces were about to meet the shaggy breast of the forest. Rising up to
lighter air, they had sight of distant twinklings: it might be city, or
autumn weed, or fires of the woodmen, or beacon fires: they glimmered
like eyelets to the mystery of the vast unseen land. Innumerable brooks
went talking to the night: torrents in seasons of rain, childish voices
now, with endless involutions of a song of three notes and a sort of
unnoted clanging chorus, as if a little one sang and would sing on
through the thumping of a tambourine and bells. Vittoria had these
fancies: Angelo had none. He walked like a hunted man whose life is at
'If we reach a village soon we may get some conveyance,' he said.
'I would rather walk than drive,' said Vittoria; 'it keeps me from
'There is the dawn, signorina!
Vittoria frightened him by taking a seat upon a bench of rock; while it
was still dark about them, she drew off Camilla's silken shoes and
stockings, and stood on bare feet.
'You fancied I was tired,' she said. 'No, I am thrifty; and I want to
save as much of my finery as I can. I can go very well on naked feet.
These shoes are no protection; they would be worn out in half-a-day, and
spoilt for decent wearing in another hour.'
The sight of fair feet upon hard earth troubled Angelo; he excused
himself for calling her out to endure hardship; but she said, 'I trust
you entirely.' She looked up at the first thin wave of colour while
'You do not know me,' said he.
'You are the Countess Ammiani's nephew.'
'I have, as I had the honour to tell you yesterday, the blood of your
lover in my veins.'
'Do not speak of him now, I pray,' said Vittoria; 'I want my strength!
'Signorina, the man we have left behind us is his enemy;--mine. I would
rather see you dead than alive in his hands. Do you fear death?'
'Sometimes; when I am half awake,' she confessed. 'I dislike thinking of
He asked her curiously: 'Have you never seen it?'
'Death?' said she, and changed a shudder to a smile; 'I died last night.'
Angelo smiled with her. 'I saw you die!
'It seems a hundred years ago.'
'Or half-a-dozen minutes. The heart counts everything'
'Was I very much liked by the people, Signor Angelo?'
'They love you.'
'I have done them no good.'
'Every possible good. And now, mine is the duty to protect you.'
'And yesterday we were strangers! Signor Angelo, you spoke of sbirri.
There is no rising in Bologna. Why are they after you? You look too
gentle to give them cause.'
'Do I look gentle? But what I carry is no burden. Who that saw you last
night would know you for Camilla? You will hear of my deeds, and judge.
We shall soon have men upon the road; you must be hidden. See, there:
there are our colours in the sky. Austria cannot wipe them out. Since I
was a boy I have always slept in a bed facing East, to keep that truth
before my eyes. Black and yellow drop to the earth: green, white, and
red mount to heaven. If more of my countrymen saw these meanings!--but
they are learning to. My tutor called them Germanisms. If so, I have
stolen a jewel from my enemy.'
Vittoria mentioned the Chief.
'Yes,' said Angelo; 'he has taught us to read God's handwriting. I
revere him. It's odd; I always fancy I hear his voice from a dungeon,
and seeing him looking at one light. He has a fault: he does not
comprehend the feelings of a nobleman. Do you think he has made a
convert of our Carlo in that? Never! High blood is ineradicable.'
'I am not of high blood,' said Vittoria.
'Countess Ammiani overlooks it. And besides, low blood may be elevated
without the intervention of a miracle. You have a noble heart,
signorina. It may be the will of God that you should perpetuate our
race. All of us save Carlo Ammiani seem to be falling.'
Vittoria bent her head, distressed by a broad beam of sunlight. The
country undulating to the plain lay under them, the great Alps above, and
much covert on all sides. They entered a forest pathway, following
chance for safety. The dark leafage and low green roofing tasted sweeter
to their senses than clear air and sky. Dark woods are home to
fugitives, and here there was soft footing, a surrounding gentleness,--
grass, and moss with dead leaves peacefully flat on it. The birds were
not timorous, and when a lizard or a snake slipped away from her feet, it
was amusing to Vittoria and did not hurt her tenderness to see that they
were feared. Threading on beneath the trees, they wound by a valley's
incline, where tumbled stones blocked the course of a green water, and
filled the lonely place with one onward voice. When the sun stood over
the valley they sat beneath a chestnut tree in a semicircle of orange
rock to eat the food which Angelo had procured at the inn. He poured out
wine for her in the hollow of a stone, deep as an egg-shell, whereat she
sipped, smiling at simple contrivances; but no smile crossed the face of
Angelo. He ate and drank to sustain his strength, as a weapon is
sharpened; and having done, he gathered up what was left, and lay at her
feet with his eyes fixed upon an old grey stone. She, too, sat brooding.
The endless babble and noise of the water had hardened the sense of its
being a life in that solitude. The floating of a hawk overhead scarce
had the character of an animated thing. Angelo turned round to look at
her, and looking upward as he lay, his sight was smitten by spots of
blood upon one of her torn white feet, that was but half-nestled in the
folds of her dress. Bending his head down, like a bird beaking at prey,
he kissed the foot passionately. Vittoria's eyelids ran up; a chord
seemed to snap within her ears: she stole the shamed foot into
concealment, and throbbed, but not fearfully, for Angelo's forehead was
on the earth. Clumps of grass, and sharp flint-dust stuck between his
fists, which were thrust out stiff on either side of him. She heard him
groan heavily. When he raised his face, it was white as madness. Her
womanly nature did not shrink from caressing it with a touch of soothing
She chanced to say, 'I am your sister.'
'No, by God! you are not my sister,' cried the young man. 'She died
without a stain of blood; a lily from head to foot, and went into the
vault so. Our mother will see that. She will kiss the girl in heaven
and see that.' He rose, crying louder: 'Are there echoes here?' But his
voice beat against the rocks undoubted.
She saw that a frenzy had seized him. He looked with eyes drained of
human objects; standing square, with stiff half-dropped arms, and an
intense melody of wretchedness in his voice.
'Rinaldo, Rinaldo!' he shouted: 'Clelia!--no answer from man or ghost.
She is dead. We two said to her die! and she died. Therefore she is
silent, for the dead have not a word. Oh! Milan, Milan! accursed
betraying city! I should have found my work in you if you had kept
faith. Now here am I, talking to the strangled throat of this place, and
can get no answer. Where am I? The world is hollow: the miserable
shell! They lied. Battle and slaughter they promised me, and enemies
like ripe maize for the reaping-hook. I would have had them in thick to
my hands. I would have washed my hands at night, and eaten and drunk and
slept, and sung again to work in the morning. They promised me a sword
and a sea to plunge it in, and our mother Italy to bless me. I would
have toiled: I would have done good in my life. I would have bathed my
soul in our colours. I would have had our flag about my body for a
winding-sheet, and the fighting angels of God to unroll me. Now here am
I, and my own pale mother trying at every turn to get in front of me.
Have her away! It's a ghost, I know. She will be touching the strength
out of me. She is not the mother I love and I serve. Go: cherish your
daughter, you dead woman!'
Angelo reeled. 'A spot of blood has sent me mad,' he said, and caught
for a darkness to cross his sight, and fell and lay flat.
Vittoria looked around her; her courage was needed in that long silence.
She adopted his language: 'Our mother Italy is waiting for us. We must
travel on, and not be weary. Angelo, my friend, lend me your help over
He rose quietly. She laid her elbow on his hand; thus supported she left
a place that seemed to shudder. All the heavy day they walked almost
silently; she not daring to probe his anguish with a question; and he
calm and vacant as the hour following thunder. But, of her safety by his
side she had no longer a doubt. She let him gather weeds and grasses,
and bind them across her feet, and perform friendly services, sure that
nothing earthly could cause such a mental tempest to recur. The
considerate observation which at all seasons belongs to true courage
told her that it was not madness afflicting Angelo.
Near nightfall they came upon a forester's hut, where they were welcomed
by an old man and a little girl, who gave them milk and black bread, and
straw to rest on. Angelo slept in the outer air. When Vittoria awoke
she had the fancy that she had taken one long dive downward in a well;
and on touching the bottom found her head above the surface. While her
surprise was wearing off, she beheld the woodman's little girl at her
feet holding up one end of her cloak, and peeping underneath, overcome by
amazement at the flashing richness of the dress of the heroine Camilla.
Entering into the state of her mind spontaneously, Vittoria sought to
induce the child to kiss her; but quite vainly. The child's reverence
for the dress allowed her only to be within reach of the hem of it, so as
to delight her curiosity. Vittoria smiled when, as she sat up, the child
fell back against the wall; and as she rose to her feet, the child
scampered from the room. 'My poor Camilla! you can charm somebody,
yet,' she said, limping; her visage like a broken water with the pain of
her feet. 'If the bell rings for Camilla now, what sort of an entry will
she make?' Vittoria treated her physical weakness and ailments with this
spirit of humour. 'They may say that Michiella has bewitched you, my
Camilla. I think your voice would sound as if it were dragging its feet
after it just as a stork flies. O my Camilla! don't I wish I could do
the same, and be ungraceful and at ease! A moan is married to every note
of your treble, my Camilla, like December and May. Keep me from
The pangs shooting from her feet were scarce bearable, but the repression
of them helped her to meet Angelo with a freer mind than, after the
interval of separation, she would have had. The old woodman was cooking
a queer composition of flour and milk sprinkled with salt for them.
Angelo cut a stout cloth to encase each of her feet, and bound them in
it. He was more cheerful than she had ever seen him, and now first spoke
of their destination. His design was to conduct her near to Bormio,
there to engage a couple of men in her service who would accompany her
to Meran, by the Val di Sole, while he crossed the Stelvio alone, and
turning leftward in the Tyrolese valley, tried the passage into
Bormio, if, when they quitted the forest, a conveyance could be obtained,
was no more than a short day's distance, according to the old woodman's
directions. Vittoria induced the little girl to sit upon her knee, and
sang to her, but greatly unspirited the charm of her dress. The sun was
rising as they bade adieu to the hut.
About mid-day they quitted the shelter of forest trees and stood on
broken ground, without a path to guide them. Vittoria did her best to
laugh at her mishaps in walking, and compared herself to a Capuchin
pilgrim; but she was unused to going bareheaded and shoeless, and though
she held on bravely, the strong beams of the sun and the stony ways
warped her strength. She had to check fancies drawn from Arabian tales,
concerning the help sometimes given by genii of the air and enchanted
birds, that were so incessant and vivid that she found herself sulking at
the loneliness and helplessness of the visible sky, and feared that her
brain was losing its hold of things. Angelo led her to a half-shaded
hollow, where they finished the remainder of yesterday's meat and wine.
She set her eyes upon a gold-green lizard by a stone and slept.
'The quantity of sleep I require is unmeasured,' she said, a minute
afterwards, according to her reckoning of time, and expected to see the
lizard still by the stone. Angelo was near her; the sky was full of
colours, and the earth of shadows.
'Another day gone!' she exclaimed in wonderment, thinking that the days
of human creatures had grown to be as rapid and (save toward the one end)
as meaningless as the gaspings of a fish on dry land. He told her that
he had explored the country as far as he had dared to stray from her. He
had seen no habitation along the heights. The vale was too distant for
strangers to reach it before nightfall. 'We can make a little way on,'
said Vittoria, and the trouble of walking began again. He entreated her
more than once to have no fear. 'What can I fear?' she asked. His voice
sank penitently: 'You can rely on me fully when there is anything to do
'I am sure of that,' she replied, knowing his allusion to be to his
frenzy of yesterday. In truth, no woman could have had a gentler
On the topmost ridge of the heights, looking over an interminable gulf of
darkness they saw the lights of the vale. 'A bird might find his perch
there, but I think there is no chance for us,' said Vittoria. 'The
moment we move forward to them the lights will fly back. It is their way
Angelo glanced round desperately. Farther on along the ridge his eye
caught sight of a low smouldering fire. When he reached it he had a
great disappointment. A fire in the darkness gives hopes that men will
be at hand. Here there was not any human society. The fire crouched on
its ashes. It was on a little circular eminence of mossed rock; black
sticks, and brushwood, and dry fern, and split logs, pitchy to the touch,
lay about; in the centre of them the fire coiled sullenly among its
ashes, with a long eye like a serpent's.
'Could you sleep here?' said Angelo.
'Anywhere!' Vittoria sighed with droll dolefulness.
'I can promise to keep you warm, signorina.'
'I will not ask for more till to-morrow, my friend.'
She laid herself down sideways, curling up her feet, with her cheek on
the palm of her hand.
Angelo knelt and coaxed the fire, whose appetite, like that which is said
to be ours, was fed by eating, for after the red jaws had taken half-a-
dozen sticks, it sang out for more, and sent up flame leaping after flame
and thick smoke. Vittoria watched the scene through a thin division of
her eyelids; the fire, the black abyss of country, the stars, and the
sentinel figure. She dozed on the edge of sleep, unable to yield herself
to it wholly. She believed that she was dreaming when by-and-by many
voices filled her ears. The fire was sounding like an angry sea, and the
voices were like the shore, more intelligible, but confused in shriller
clamour. She was awakened by Angelo, who knelt on one knee and took her
outlying hand; then she saw that men surrounded them, some of whom were
hurling the lighted logs about, some trampling down the outer rim of
flames. They looked devilish to a first awakening glance. He told her
that the men were friendly; they were good Italians. This had been the
beacon arranged for the night of the Fifteenth, when no run of signals
was seen from Milan; and yesterday afternoon it had been in mockery
partially consumed. 'We have aroused the country, signorina, and brought
these poor fellows out of their beds. They supposed that Milan must be
up and at work. I have explained everything to them.'
Vittoria had rather to receive their excuses than to proffer her own.
They were mostly youths dressed like the better class of peasantry. They
laughed at the incident, stating how glad they would have been to behold
the heights all across the lakes ablaze and promising action for the
morrow. One square-shouldered fellow raised her lightly from the ground.
She felt herself to be a creature for whom circumstance was busily
plotting, so that it was useless to exert her mind in thought. The long
procession sank down the darkness, leaving the low red fire to die out
Next morning she awoke in a warm bed, possessed by odd images of flames
that stood up like crowing cocks, and cowered like hens above the brood.
She was in the house of one of their new friends, and she could hear
Angelo talking in the adjoining room. A conveyance was ready to take her
on to Bormio. A woman came to her to tell her this, appearing to have a
dull desire to get her gone. She was a draggled woman, with a face of
slothful anguish, like one of the inner spectres of a guilty man. She
said that her husband was willing to drive the lady to Bormio for a sum
that was to be paid at once into his wife's hand; and little enough it
was which poor persons could ever look for from your patriots and
disturbers who seduced orderly men from their labour, and made widows and
ruined households. This was a new Italian language to Vittoria, and when
the woman went on giving instances of households ruined by a husband's
vile infatuation about his country, she did not attempt to defend the
reckless lord, but dressed quickly that she might leave the house as soon
as she could. Her stock of money barely satisfied the woman's demand.
The woman seized it, and secreted it in her girdle. When they had passed
into the sitting-room, her husband, who was sitting conversing with
Angelo, stretched out his hand and knocked the girdle.
'That's our trick,' he said. 'I guessed so. Fund up, our little Maria
of the dirty fingers'-ends! We accept no money from true patriots. Grub
in other ground, my dear!'
The woman stretched her throat awry, and set up a howl like a dog; but
her claws came out when he seized her.
'Would you disgrace me, old fowl?'
'Lorenzo, may you rot like a pumpkin!'
The connubial reciprocities were sharp until the money lay on the table,
when the woman began whining so miserably that Vittoria's sensitive
nerves danced on her face, and at her authoritative interposition,
Lorenzo very reluctantly permitted his wife to take what he chose to
reckon a fair portion of the money, and also of his contempt. She seemed
to be licking the money up, she bent over it so greedily.
'Poor wretch!' he observed; 'she was born on a hired bed.'
Vittoria felt that the recollection of this woman would haunt her. It
was inconceivable to her that a handsome young man like Lorenzo should
ever have wedded the unsweet creature, who was like a crawling image of
decay; but he, as if to account for his taste, said that they had been of
a common age once, when he married her; now she had grown old. He
repeated that she 'was born on a hired bed.' They saw nothing further of
Vittoria's desire was to get to Meran speedily, that she might see her
friends, and have tidings of her lover and the city. Those baffled
beacon-flames on the heights had become an irritating indicative vision:
she thirsted for the history. Lorenzo offered to conduct her over the
Tonale Pass into the Val di Sole, or up the Val Furva, by the pass of the
Corno dei Tre Signori, into the Val del Monte to Pejo, thence by Cles, or
by Bolzano, to Meran. But she required shoeing and refitting; and for
other reasons also, she determined to go on to Bormio. She supposed that
Angelo had little money, and that in a place such as Bormio sounded to
her ears she might possibly obtain the change for the great money-order
which the triumph of her singing had won from Antonio-Pericles. In spite
of Angelo's appeals to her to hurry on to the end of her journey without
tempting chance by a single pause, she resolved to go to Bormio. Lorenzo
privately assured her that there were bankers in Bormio. Many bankers,
he said, came there from Milan, and that fact she thought sufficient for
her purpose. The wanderers parted regretfully. A little chapel, on a
hillock off the road, shaded by chestnuts, was pointed out to Lorenzo
where to bring a letter for Angelo. Vittoria begged Angelo to wait till
he heard from her; and then, with mutual wavings of hands, she was driven
out of his sight.
ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS
After parting from Vittoria, Angelo made his way to an inn, where he ate
and drank like a man of the fields, and slept with the power of one from
noon till after morning. The innkeeper came up to his room, and, finding
him awake, asked him if he was disposed to take a second holiday in bed.
Angelo jumped up; as he did so, his stiletto slipped from under his
pillow and flashed.
'That's a pretty bit of steel,' said the innkeeper, but could not get a
word out of him. It was plain to Angelo that this fellow had suspicions.
Angelo had been careful to tie up his clothes in a bundle; there was
nothing for the innkeeper to see, save a young man in bed, who had a
terrible weapon near his hand, and a look in his eyes of wary indolence
that counselled prudent dealings. He went out, and returned a second and
a third time, talking more and more confusedly and fretfully; but as he
was again going to leave, 'No, no,' said Angelo, determined to give him a
lesson, 'I have taken a liking to your company. Here, come here; I will
show you a trick. I learnt it from the Servians when I was three feet
high. Look; I lie quite still, you observe. Try to get on the other
side of that door and the point of this blade shall scratch you through
Angelo laid the blue stilet up his wrist, and slightly curled his arm.
'Try,' he repeated, but the innkeeper had stopped short in his movement
to the door. 'Well, then, stay where you are,' said Angelo, 'and look;
I'll be as good as my word. There's the point I shall strike.' With that
he gave the peculiar Servian jerk of the muscles, from the wrist up to
the arm, and the blade quivered on the mark. The innkeeper fell back in
admiring horror. 'Now fetch it to me,' said Angelo, putting both hands
carelessly under his head. The innkeeper tugged at the blade.
'Illustrious signore, I am afraid of breaking it,' he almost whimpered;
'it seems alive, does it not?'
'Like a hawk on a small bird,' said Angelo; 'that's the beauty of those
blades. They kill, and put you to as little pain as a shot; and it 's
better than a shot in your breast--there's something to show for it.
Send up your wife or your daughter to take orders about my breakfast.
It 's the breakfast of five mountaineers; and don't "Illustrious signore"
me, sir, either in my hearing or out of it. Leave the knife sticking.'
The innkeeper sidled out with a dumb salute. 'I can count on his
discretion for a couple of hours,' Angelo said to himself. He knew the
effect of an exhibition of physical dexterity and strength upon a coward.
The landlord's daughter came and received his orders for breakfast.
Angelo inquired whether they had been visited by Germans of late. The
girl told him that a German chasseur with a couple of soldiers had called
them up last night.
'Wouldn't it have been a pity if they had dragged me out and shot me?'
'But they were after a lady,' she explained; 'they have gone on to
Bormio, and expect to catch her there or in the mountains.'
'Better there than in the mountains, my dear; don't you think so?'
The girl said that she would not like to meet those fellows among the
'Suppose you were among the mountains, and those fellows came up with
you; wouldn't you clap your hands to see me jumping down right in front
of you all?' said Angelo.
'Yes, I should,' she admitted. 'What is one man, though!'
'Something, if he feeds like five. Quick! I must eat. Have you a
'Fancy you are waiting on him.'
'He's only a middling lover, signore. He lives at Cles, over Val Pejo,
in Val di Non, a long way, and courts me twice a year, when he comes over
to do carpentering. He cuts very pretty Madonnas. He is a German.'
'Ha! you kneel to the Madonna, and give your lips to a German? Go.'
'But I don't like him much, signore; it's my father who wishes me to have
him; he can make money.'
Angelo motioned to her to be gone, saying to himself, 'That father of
hers would betray the Saints for a handful of florins.'
He dressed, and wrenched his knife from the door. Hearing the clatter of
a horse at the porch, he stopped as he was descending the stairs. A
German voice said, 'Sure enough, my jolly landlord, she's there, in Worms
--your Bormio. Found her at the big hotel: spoke not a syllable; stole
away, stole away. One chopin of wine! I'm off on four legs to the
captain. Those lads who are after her by Roveredo and Trent have bad
noses. "Poor nose--empty belly." Says the captain, "I stick at the
point of the cross-roads." Says I, "Herr Captain, I'm back to you first
of the lot." My business is to find the runaway lady-pretty Fraulein!
pretty Fraulein! lai-ai! There's money on her servant, too; he's a
disguised Excellency--a handsome boy; but he has cut himself loose, and
he go hang. Two birds for the pride of the thing; one for satisfaction--
I 'm satisfied. I've killed chamois in my time. Jacob, I am;
Baumwalder, I am; Feckelwitz, likewise; and the very devil for following
a track. Ach! the wine is good. You know the song?
"He who drinks wine, he may cry with a will,
Fortune is mine, may she stick to me still."
'I give it you in German--the language of song! my own, my native 'lai-ai-
"While stars still sit
On mountain tops,
I take my gun,
Kiss little one
On mother's breast.
My pipe is lit,
I climb the slopes,
I meet the dawn
A little one
On mother's breast.
Ai-aie: ta-ta-tai: iu-iu-iu-e!"
'Another chopin, my jolly landlord. What's that you're mumbling? About
the servant of my runaway young lady? He go hang! What----?'
Angelo struck his foot heavily on the stairs; the innkeeper coughed and
ran back, bowing to his guest. The chasseur cried, 'I 'll drink farther
on-wine between gaps!' A coin chinked on the steps in accompaniment to
the chasseur's departing gallop. 'Beast of a Tedesco,' the landlord
exclaimed as he picked up the money; 'they do the reckoning--not we.
If I had served him with the worth of this, I should have had the bottle
at my head. What a country ours is! We're ridden over, ridden over!'
Angelo compelled the landlord to sit with him while he ate like five
mountaineers. He left mere bones on the table. 'It's wonderful,' said
the innkeeper; 'you can't know what fear is.'
'I think I don't,' Angelo replied; 'you do; cowards have to serve every
party in turn. Up, and follow at my heels till I dismiss you. You know
the pass into the Val Pejo and the Val di Sole.' The innkeeper stood
entrenched behind a sturdy negative. Angelo eased him to submission by
telling him that he only wanted the way to be pointed out. 'Bring
tobacco; you're going to have an idle day,' said Angelo: 'I pay you when
we separate.' He was deaf to entreaties and refusals, and began to look
mad about the eyes; his poor coward plied him with expostulations,
offered his wife, his daughter, half the village, for the service: he had
to follow, but would take no cigars. Angelo made his daughter fetch
bread and cigars, and put a handful in his pocket, upon which, after two
hours of inactivity at the foot of the little chapel, where Angelo waited
for the coming of Vittoria's messenger, the innkeeper was glad to close
his fist. About noon Lorenzo came, and at once acted a play of eyes for
Angelo to perceive his distrust of the man and a multitude of bad things
about him he was reluctant, notwithstanding Angelo's ready nod, to bring
out a letter; and frowned again, for emphasis to the expressive comedy.
The letter said:
'I have fallen upon English friends. They lend me money. Fly to Lugano
by the help of these notes: I inclose them, and will not ask pardon for
it. The Valtellina is dangerous; the Stelvio we know to be watched.
Retrace your way, and then try the Engadine. I should stop on a breaking
bridge if I thought my companion, my Carlo's cousin, was near capture.
I am well taken care of: one of my dearest friends, a captain in the
English army, bears me company across. I have a maid from one of the
villages, a willing girl. We ride up to the mountains; to-morrow we
cross the pass; there is a glacier. Val di Non sounds Italian, but I am
going into the enemy's land. You see I am well guarded. My immediate
anxiety concerns you; for what will our Carlo ask of me? Lose not one
moment. Away, and do not detain Lorenzo. He has orders to meet us up
high in the mountain this evening. He is the best of servants but
I always meet the best everywhere--that is, in Italy. Leaving it,
I grieve. No news from Milan, except of great confusion there. I judge
by the quiet of my sleep that we have come to no harm there.
Lorenzo and the innkeeper had arrived at an altercation before Angelo
finished reading. Angelo checked it, and told Lorenzo to make speed: he
sent no message.
'My humanity,' Angelo then addressed his craven associate, 'counsels me
that it's better to drag you some distance on than to kill you. You 're
a man of intelligence, and you know why I have to consider the matter.
I give you guide's pay up to the glacier, and ten florins buon'mano.
Would you rather earn it with the blood of a countryman? I can't let
that tongue of yours be on the high-road of running Tedeschi: you know
'Illustrious signore, obedience oils necessity,' quoth the innkeeper.
'If we had but a few more of my cigars!'
'Step on,' said Angelo sternly.
They walked till dark and they were in keen air. A hut full of recent
grass-cuttings, on the border of a sloping wood, sheltered them. The
innkeeper moaned for food at night and in the morning, and Angelo tossed
him pieces of bread. Beyond the wood they came upon bare crag and
commenced a sharper ascent, reached the height, and roused an eagle.
The great bird went up with a sharp yelp, hanging over them with knotted
claws. Its shadow stretched across sweeps of fresh snow. The innkeeper
sent a mocking yelp after the eagle.
'Up here, one forgets one is a father--what's more, a husband,' he said,
striking a finger on the side of his nose.
'And a cur, a traitor, carrion,' said Angelo.
'Ah, signore, one might know you were a noble. You can't understand our
troubles, who carry a house on our heads, and have to fill mouths agape.'
'Speak when you have better to say,' Angelo replied.
'Padrone, one would really like to have your good opinion; and I'm lean
as a wolf for a morsel of flesh. I could part with my buon'mano for a
sight of red meat--oh! red meat dripping.'
'If,' cried Angelo, bringing his eyebrows down black on the man, 'if I
knew that you had ever in your life betrayed one of us look below; there
you should lie to be pecked and gnawed at.'
'Ah, Jacopo Cruchi, what an end for you when you are full of good
meanings!' the innkeeper moaned. 'I see your ribs, my poor soul!'
Angelo quitted him. The tremendous excitement of the Alpine solitudes
was like a stringent wine to his surcharged spirit. He was one to whom
life and death had become as the yes and no of ordinary men: not more
than a turning to the right or to the left. It surprised him that this
fellow, knowing his own cowardice and his conscience, should consent to
live, and care to eat to live.
When he returned to his companion, he found the fellow drinking from the
flask of an Austrian soldier. Another whitecoat was lying near. They
pressed Angelo to drink, and began to play lubberly pranks. One clapped
hands, while another rammed the flask at the reluctant mouth, till Angelo
tripped him and made him a subject for derision; whereupon they were all
good friends. Musket on shoulder, the soldiers descended, blowing at
their finger-nails and puffing at their tobacco--lauter kaiserlicher
(rank Imperial), as with a sad enforcement of resignation they had, while
lighting, characterized the universally detested Government issue of the
'They are after her,' said Jacopo, and he shot out his thumb and twisted
an eyelid. His looks became insolent, and he added: 'I let them go on;
but now, for my part, I must tell you, my worthy gentleman, I've had
enough of it. You go your way, I go mine. Pay me, and we part. With
the utmost reverence, I quit you. Climbing mountains at my time of life
is out of all reason. If you want companions, I 'll signal to that pair
of Tedeschi; they're within hail. Would you like it? Say the word, if
Angelo smiled at the visible effect of the liquor.
'Barto Rizzo would be the man to take you in hand,' he remarked.
The innkeeper flung his head back to ejaculate, and murmured, 'Barto
Rizzo! defend me from him! Why, he levies contribution upon us in the
Valtellina for the good of Milan; and if we don't pay, we're all of us
down in a black book. Disobey, and it's worse than swearing you won't
pay taxes to the legitimate--perdition to it!--Government. Do you know
Barto Rizzo, padrone? You don't know him, I hope? I'm sure you wouldn't
know such a fellow.'
'I am his favourite pupil,' said Angelo.
'I'd have sworn it,' groaned the innkeeper, and cursed the day and hour
when Angelo crossed his threshold. That done, he begged permission to be
allowed to return, crying with tears of entreaty for mercy: 'Barto
Rizzo's pupils are always out upon bloody business!' Angelo told him
that he had now an opportunity of earning the approval of Barto Rizzo,
and then said, 'On,' and they went in the track of the two whitecoats;
the innkeeper murmuring all the while that he wanted the approval of
Barto Rizzo as little as his enmity; he wanted neither frost nor fire.
The glacier being traversed, they skirted a young stream, and arrived at
an inn, where they found the soldiers regaling. Jacopo was informed by
them that the lady whom they were pursuing had not passed. They pushed
their wine for Angelo to drink: he declined, saying that he had sworn not
to drink before he had shot the chamois with the white cross on his back.
'Come: we're two to one,' they said, 'and drink you shall this time!'
'Two to two,' returned Angelo: 'here is my Jacopo, and if he doesn't
count for one, I won't call him father-in-law, and the fellow living at
Cles may have his daughter without fighting for her.'
'Right so,' said one of the soldiers, 'and you don't speak bad German
'Haven't I served in the ranks?' said Angelo, giving a bugle-call of the
reveille of the cavalry.
He got on with them so well that they related the object of their
expedition, which was, to catch a runaway young rebel lady and hold her
fast down at Cles for the great captain--'unser tuchtiger Hauptmann.'
'Hadn't she a servant, a sort of rascal?' Angelo inquired.
'Right so; she had: but the doe's the buck in this chase.'
Angelo tossed them cigars. The valley was like a tumbled mountain, thick
with crags and eminences, through which the river worked strenuously,
sinuous in foam, hurrying at the turns. Angelo watched all the ways from
a distant height till set of sun. He saw another couple of soldiers meet
those two at the inn, and then one pair went up toward the vale-head. It
seemed as if Vittoria had disconcerted them by having chosen another
'Padrone,' said Jacopo to him abruptly, when they descended to find a
resting-place, 'you are, I speak humbly, so like the devil that I must
enter into a stipulation with you, before I continue in your company, and
take the worst at once. This is going to be the second night of my
sleeping away from my wife: I merely mention it. I pinch her, and she
beats me, and we are equal. But if you think of making me fight, I tell
you I won't. If there was a furnace behind me, I should fall into it
rather than run against a bayonet. I 've heard say that the nerves are
in the front part of us, and that's where I feel the shock. Now we're on
a plain footing. Say that I'm not to fight. I'll be your servant till
you release me, but say I 'm not to fight; padrone, say that.'
'I can't say that: I'll say I won't make you fight,' Angelo pacified him
by replying. From this moment Jacopo followed him less like a graceless
dog pulled by his chain. In fact, with the sense of prospective
security, he tasted a luxurious amazement in being moved about by a
superior will, wafted from his inn, and paid for witnessing strange
incidents. Angelo took care that he was fed well at the place where
they slept, but himself ate nothing. Early after dawn they mounted the
heights above the road. It was about noon that Angelo discerned a party
coming from the pass on foot, consisting of two women and three men.
They rested an hour at the village where he had slept overnight; the
muskets were a quarter of a mile to the rear of them. When they started
afresh, one of the muskets was discharged, and while the echoes were
rolling away, a reply to it sounded in the front. Angelo, from his post
of observation, could see that Vittoria and her party were marching
between two guards, and that she herself must have perceived both the
front and rearward couple. Yet she and her party held on their course at
an even pace. For a time he kept them clearly in view; but it was tough
work along the slopes of crag: presently Jacopo slipped and went down.
'Ah, padrone,' he said: 'I'm done for; leave me.'
'Not though I should have to haul you on my back,' replied Angelo. 'If I
do leave you, I must cut out your tongue.'
'Rather than that, I'd go on a sprained ankle,' said Jacopo, and he
strove manfully to conquer pain; limping and exclaiming, 'Oh, my little
village! Oh, my little inn! When can a man say that he has finished
running about the world! The moment he sits, in comes the devil.'
Angelo was obliged to lead him down to the open way, upon which they made
'The noble gentleman might let me return--he might trust me now,' Jacopo
'The devil trusts nobody,' said Angelo.
'Ah, padrone! there's a crucifix. Let me kneel by that.'
Angelo indulged him. Jacopo knelt by the wayside and prayed for an easy
ankle and a snoring pillow and no wakeners. After this he was refreshed.
The sun sank; the darkness spread around; the air grew icy. 'Does the
Blessed Virgin ever consider what patriots have to endure?' Jacopo
muttered to himself, and aroused a rare laugh from Angelo, who seized him
under the arm, half-lifting him on. At the inn where they rested, he
bathed and bandaged the foot.
'I can't help feeling a kindness to you for it,' said Jacopo.
'I can't afford to leave you behind,' Angelo accounted for his attention.
'Padrone, we've been understanding one another all along by our thumbs.
It's that old inn of mine--the taxes! we have to sell our souls to pay
the taxes. There's the tongue of the thing. I wouldn't betray you; I
'I'll try you,' said Angelo, and put him to proof next day, when the
soldiers stopped them as they were driving in a cart, and Jacopo swore to
them that Angelo was his intended son-in-law.
There was evidently an unusual activity among the gendarmerie of the
lower valley, the Val di Non; for Jacopo had to repeat his fable more
than once, and Angelo thought it prudent not to make inquiries about
travellers. In this valley they were again in summer heat. Summer
splendours robed the broken ground. The Val di Non lies toward the sun,
banked by the Val di Sole, like the southern lizard under a stone.
Chestnut forest and shoulder over shoulder of vineyard, and meadows of
marvellous emerald, with here and there central partly-wooded crags,
peaked with castle-ruins, and ancestral castles that are still warm
homes, and villages dropped among them, and a river bounding and rushing
eagerly through the rich enclosure, form the scene, beneath that Italian
sun which turns everything to gold. There is a fair breadth to the vale:
it enjoys a great oval of sky: the falls of shade are dispersed, dot the
hollow range, and are not at noontide a broad curtain passing over from
right to left. The sun reigns and also governs in the Val di Non.
'The, grape has his full benefit here, padrone,' said Jacopo.
But the place was too populous, and too much subjected to the general
eye, to please Angelo. At Cles they were compelled to bear an
inspection, and a little comedy occurred. Jacopo, after exhibiting
Angelo as his son-in-law, seeing doubts on the soldiers' faces, mentioned
the name of the German suitor for his daughter's hand--the carpenter,
Johann Spellmann, to whose workshop he requested to be taken. Johann,
being one of the odd Germans in the valley, was well known: he was
carving wood astride a stool, and stopped his whistling to listen to
the soldiers, who took the first word out of Jacopo's mouth, and were
convinced, by Johann's droop of the chin, that the tale had some truth in
it; and more when Johann yelled at the Valtelline innkeeper to know why,
then, he had come to him, if he was prepared to play him false. One of
the soldiers said bluntly, that as Angelo's appearance answered to the
portrait of a man for whom they were on the lookout, they would, if their
countryman liked, take him and give him a dose of marching and
'Ach! that won't make my little Rosetta love me better,' cried Johann,
who commenced taking up a string of reproaches against women, and pitched
his carving-blade and tools abroad in the wood-dust.
'Well, now, it 's queer you don't want to fight this lad,' said Jacopo;
'he's come to square it with you that way, if you think best.'
Johann spared a remark between his vehement imprecations against the sex
to say that he was ready to fight; but his idea of vengeance was directed
upon the abstract conception of a faithless womankind. Angelo, by reason
of his detestation of Germans, temporarily threw himself into the part he
was playing to the extent of despising him. Johann admitted to Jacopo
that intervals of six months' duration in a courtship were wide jumps for
Love to take.
'Yes; amor! amor!' he exclaimed with extreme dejection; 'I could wait.
Well! since you've brought the young man, we'll have it out.'
He stepped before Angelo with bare fists. Jacopo had to interpose. The
soldiers backed Johann, who now said to Angelo, 'Since you've come for
it, we'll have it out.'
Jacopo had great difficulty in bringing him to see that it was a matter
to talk over. Johann swore he would not talk about it, and was ready to
fight a dozen Italians, man up man down.
'Bare-fisted?' screamed Jacopo.
'Hey! the old way! Give him knuckles, and break his back, my boy!' cried
the soldiers; 'none of their steel this side of the mountain.'
Johann waited for Angelo to lift his hands; and to instigate his
reluctant adversary, thumped his chest; but Angelo did not move. The
'If she has you, she shall have a dolly,' said Johann, now heated with
the prospect of presenting that sort of husband to his little Rosetta.
At this juncture Jacopo threw himself between them.
'It shall be a real fight,' he said; 'my daughter can't make up her mind,
and she shall have the best man. Leave me to arrange it all fairly; and
you come here in a couple of hours, my children,' he addressed the
soldiers, who unwillingly quitted the scene where there was a certainty
of fun, on the assurance of there being a livelier scene to come.
When they had turned their heels on the shop, Jacopo made a face at
Johann; Johann swung round upon Angelo, and met a smile. Then followed
'What's that you say? She's true--she's true?' exclaimed the astounded
'True enough, but a girl at an inn wants hotter courting,' said Jacopo.
'His Excellency here is after his own sweetheart.'
Johann huzzaed, hugged at Angelo's hands, and gave a lusty filial tap to
Jacopo on the shoulder. Bread and grapes and Tyrolese wine were placed
for them, and Johann's mother soon produced a salad, eggs, and fowl; and
then and there declared her willingness to receive Rosetta into the
household, 'if she would swear at the outset never to have 'heimweh'
(home-longing); as people--men and women, both--always did when they took
a new home across a mountain.'
'She won't--will she?' Johann inquired with a dubious sparkle.
'Not she,' said Jacopo.
After the meal he drew Johann aside. They returned to Angelo, and Johann
beckoned him to leave the house by a back way, leading up a slope of
garden into high vine-poles. He said that he had seen a party pass out
of Cles from the inn early, in a light car, on for Meran. The
gendarmerie were busy on the road: a mounted officer had dashed up to the
inn an hour later, and had followed them: it was the talk of the village.
'Padrone, you dismiss me now,' said Jacopo.
'I pay you, but don't dismiss you,' said Angelo, and handed him a bank-
'I stick to you, padrone, till you do dismiss me,' Jacopo sighed.
Johann offered to conduct them as far as the Monte Pallade pass, and they
started, avoiding the high road, which was enviably broad and solid.
Within view of a village under climbing woods, they discerned an open
car, flanked by bayonets, returning to Cles. Angelo rushed ahead of them
down the declivity, and stood full in the road to meet the procession.
A girl sat in the car, who hung her head, weeping; Lorenzo was beside
her; an Englishman on foot gave employment to a pair of soldiers to get
him along. As they came near at marching pace, Lorenzo yawned and raised
his hand to his cheek, keeping the thumb pointed behind him. Including
the girl, there were four prisoners: Vittoria was absent. The
Englishman, as he was being propelled forward, addressed Angelo in
French, asking him whether he could bear to see an unoffending foreigner
treated with wanton violation of law. The soldiers bellowed at their
captive, and Angelo sent a stupid shrug after him. They rounded a bend
of the road. Angelo tightened the buckle at his waist.
'Now I trust you,' he said to Jacopo. 'Follow the length of five miles
over the pass: if you don't see me then, you have your liberty, tongue
With that he doubled his arms and set forth at a steady run, leaving his
companions to speculate on his powers of endurance. They did so
complacently enough, until Jacopo backed him for a distance and Johann
betted against him, when behold them at intervals taking a sharp trot to
keep him in view.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A common age once, when he married her; now she had grown old
Critical in their first glance at a prima donna
Forgetfulness is like a closing sea
He is inexorable, being the guilty one of the two
Her singing struck a note of grateful remembered delight
It rarely astonishes our ears. It illumines our souls
Madness that sane men enamoured can be struck by
Obedience oils necessity
Our life is but a little holding, lent To do a mighty labour
Simple obstinacy of will sustained her
The devil trusts nobody
Was born on a hired bed
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