Part 1 out of 2
This etext was produced by David Widger
By George Meredith
XXXIII. EPISODES OF THE REVOLT AND THE WAR--COUNT KARL LENKENSTEIN--
THE STORY OF THE GUIDASCARPI--THE VICTORY OF THE VOLUNTEERS
XXXIV. EPISODES OF THE REVOLT AND THE WAR--THE DEEDS OF BARTO RIZZO--
THE MEETING AT ROVEREDO
XXXV. CLOSE OF THE LOMBARD CAMPAIGN--VITTORIA'S PERPLEXITY
XXXVI. A FRESH ENTANGLEMENT
XXXVII. ON LAGO MAGGIORE
XXXVIII. VIOLETTA D'ISORELLA
XXXIX. ANNA OF LENKENSTEIN
EPISODES OF THE REVOLT AND THE WAR
COUNT KARL LENKENSTEIN--THE STORY OF THE GUIDASCARPI--THE VICTORY OF THE
The smoke of a pistol-shot thinned away while there was yet silence.
"It is a saving of six charges of Austrian ammunition," said Pericles.
Vittoria stared at the scene, losing faith in her eyesight. She could in
fact see no distinct thing beyond what appeared as an illuminated copper
medallion, held at a great distance from her, with a dead man and a
towering female figure stamped on it.
The events following were like a rush of water on her senses. There was
fighting up the street of the village, and a struggle in the space where
Rinaldo had fallen; successive yellowish shots under the rising
moonlight, cries from Italian lips, quick words of command from German in
Italian, and one sturdy bull's roar of a voice that called across the
tumult to the Austro-Italian soldiery, "Venite fratelli!--come, brothers,
come under our banner!" She heard "Rinaldo!" called.
This was a second attack of the volunteers for the rescue of their
captured comrades. They fought more desperately than on the hill outside
the village: they fought with steel. Shot enfiladed them; yet they bore
forward in a scattered body up to that spot where Rinaldo lay, shouting
for him. There they turned,--they fled.
Then there was a perfect stillness, succeeding the strife as quickly,
Vittoria thought, as a breath yielded succeeds a breath taken.
She accused the heavens of injustice.
Pericles, prostrate on the floor, moaned that he was wounded. She said,
"Bleed to death!"
"It is my soul, it is my soul is wounded for you, Sandra."
"Dreadful craven man!" she muttered.
"When my soul is shaking for your safety, Sandra Belloni!" Pericles
turned his ear up. "For myself--not; it is for you, for you."
Assured of the cessation of arms by delicious silence he jumped to his
"Ah! brutes to fight. It is 'immonde;' it is unnatural!"
He tapped his finger on the walls for marks of shot, and discovered a
shot-hole in the wood-work, that had passed an arm's length above her
head, into which he thrust his finger in an intense speculative
meditation, shifting eyes from it to her, and throwing them aloft.
He was summoned to the presence of Count Karl, with whom he found Captain
Weisspriess, Wilfrid, and officers of jagers and the Italian battalion.
Barto Rizzo's wife was in a corner of the room. Weisspriess met him with
a very civil greeting, and introduced him to Count Karl, who begged him
to thank Vittoria for the aid she had afforded to General Schoneck's
emissary in crossing the Piedmontese lines. He spoke in Italian. He
agreed to conduct Pericles to a point on the route of his march, where
Pericles and his precious prima donna--"our very good friend," he said,
jovially--could escape the risk of unpleasant mishaps, and arrive at
Trent and cities of peace by easy stages. He was marching for the
neighbourhood of Vicenza.
A little before dawn Vittoria came down to the carriage. Count Karl
stood at the door to hand her in. He was young and handsome, with a soft
flowing blonde moustache and pleasant eyes, a contrast to his brother
Count Lenkenstein. He repeated his thanks to her, which Pericles had not
delivered; he informed her that she was by no means a prisoner, and was
simply under the guardianship of friends--"though perhaps, signorina, you
will not esteem this gentleman to be one of your friends." He pointed to
Weisspriess. The officer bowed, but kept aloof. Vittoria perceived a
singular change in him: he had become pale and sedate. "Poor fellow! he
has had his dose," Count Karl said. "He is, I beg to assure you, one of
your most vehement admirers."
A piece of her property that flushed her with recollections, yet made her
grateful, was presently handed to her, though not in her old enemy's
presence, by a soldier. It was the silver-hilted dagger, Carlo's
precious gift, of which Weisspriess had taken possession in the mountain-
pass over the vale of Meran, when he fought the duel with Angelo.
Whether intended as a peace-offering, or as a simple restitution, it
helped Vittoria to believe that Weisspriess was no longer the man he had
The march was ready, but Barto Rizzo's wife refused to move a foot. The
officers consulted. She, was brought before them. The soldiers swore
with jesting oaths that she had been carefully searched for weapons, and
only wanted a whipping. "She must have it," said Weisspriess. Vittoria
entreated that she might have a place beside her in the carriage. "It is
more than I would have asked of you; but if you are not afraid of her,"
said Count Karl, with an apologetic shrug.
Her heart beat fast when she found herself alone with the terrible woman.
Till then she had never seen a tragic face. Compared with this tawny
colourlessness, this evil brow, this shut mouth, Laura, even on the
battle-field, looked harmless. It was like the face of a dead savage.
The eyeballs were full on Vittoria, as if they dashed at an obstacle, not
embraced an image. In proportion as they seemed to widen about her,
Vittoria shrank. The whole woman was blood to her gaze.
When she was capable of speaking, she said entreatingly:
"I knew his brother."
Not a sign of life was given in reply.
Companionship with this ghost of broad daylight made the flattering
Tyrolese feathers at both windows a welcome sight.
Precautions had been taken to bind the woman's arms. Vittoria offered to
loosen the cords, but she dared not touch her without a mark of assent.
"I know Angelo Guidascarpi, Rinaldo's brother," she spoke again.
The woman's nostrils bent inward, as when the breath we draw is keen as a
sword to the heart. Vittoria was compelled to look away from her.
At the mid-day halt Count Karl deigned to justify to her his intended
execution of Rinaldo--the accomplice in the slaying of his brother Count
Paula. He was evidently eager to obtain her good opinion of the Austrian
military. "But for this miserable spirit of hatred against us," he said,
"I should have espoused an Italian lady;" and he asked, "Why not? For
that matter, in all but blood we Lenkensteins are half Italian, except
when Italy menaces the empire. Can you blame us for then drawing the
sword in earnest?"
He proffered his version of the death of Count Paul. She kept her own
silent in her bosom.
Clelia Guidascarpi, according to his statement, had first been slain by
her brothers. Vittoria believed that Clelia had voluntarily submitted to
death and died by her own hand. She was betrothed to an Italian nobleman
of Bologna, the friend of the brothers. They had arranged the marriage;
she accepted the betrothal. "She loved my brother, poor thing!" said
Count Karl. "She concealed it, and naturally. How could she take a
couple of wolves into her confidence? If she had told the pair of
ruffians that she was plighted to an Austrian, they would have quieted
her at an earlier period. A woman! a girl--signorina! The intolerable
cowardice amazes me. It amazes me that you or anyone can uphold the
character of such brutes. And when she was dead they lured my brother to
the house and slew him; fell upon him with daggers, stretched him at the
foot of her coffin, and then--what then?--ran! ran for their lives. One
has gone to his account. We shall come across the other. He is among
that volunteer party which attacked us yesterday. The body was carried
off by them; it is sufficient testimony that Angelo Guidascarpi is in the
neighbourhood. I should be hunting him now but that I am under orders to
The story, as Vittoria knew it, had a different, though yet a dreadful,
"I could have hanged Rinaldo," Count Karl said further. "I suppose the
rascals feared I should use my right, and that is why they sent their mad
baggage of a woman to spare any damage to the family pride. If I had
been a man to enjoy vengeance, the rope would have swung for him. In
spite of provocation, I shall simply shoot the other; I pledge my word to
it. They shall be paid in coin. I demand no interest."
Weisspriess prudently avoided her. Wilfrid held aloof. She sat in
garden shade till the bugle sounded. Tyrolese and Italian soldiers were
gibing at her haggard companion when she entered the carriage. Fronting
this dumb creature once more, Vittoria thought of the story of the
brothers. She felt herself reading it from the very page. The woman
looked that evil star incarnate which Laura said they were born under.
This is in brief the story of the Guidascarpi.
They were the offspring of a Bolognese noble house, neither wealthy nor
poor. In her early womanhood, Clelia was left to the care of her
brothers. She declined the guardianship of Countess Ammiani because of
her love for them; and the three, with their passion of hatred to the
Austrians inherited from father and mother, schemed in concert to throw
off the Austrian yoke. Clelia had soft features of no great mark; by her
colouring she was beautiful, being dark along the eyebrows, with dark
eyes, and a surpassing richness of Venetian hair. Bologna and Venice
were married in her aspect. Her brothers conceived her to possess such
force of mind that they held no secrets from her. They did not know that
the heart of their sister was struggling with an image of Power when she
uttered hatred of it. She was in truth a woman of a soft heart, with a
most impressionable imagination.
There were many suitors for the hand of Clelia Guidascarpi, though her
dowry was not the portion of a fat estate. Her old nurse counselled the
brothers that they should consent to her taking a husband. They
fulfilled this duty as one that must be done, and she became sorrowfully
the betrothed of a nobleman of Bologna; from which hour she had no
cheerfulness. The brothers quitted Bologna for Venice, where there was
the bed of a conspiracy. On their return they were shaken by rumours of
their sister's misconduct. An Austrian name was allied to hers in busy
mouths. A lady, their distant relative, whose fame was light, had
withdrawn her from the silent house, and made display of her. Since she
had seen more than an Italian girl should see, the brothers proposed to
the nobleman her betrothed to break the treaty; but he was of a mind to
hurry on the marriage, and recollecting now that she was but a woman, the
brothers fixed a day for her espousals, tenderly, without reproach. She
had the choice of taking the vows or surrendering her hand. Her old
nurse prayed for the day of her espousals to come with a quicker step.
One night she surprised Count Paul Lenkenstein at Clelia's window.
Rinaldo was in the garden below. He moved to the shadow of a cypress,
and was seen moving by the old nurse. The lover took the single kiss he
had come for, was led through the chamber, and passed unchallenged into
the street. Clelia sat between locked doors and darkened windows,
feeling colder to the brothers she had been reared with than to all other
men upon the earth. They sent for her after a lapse of hours. Her old
nurse was kneeling at their feet. Rinaldo asked for the name of her
lover. She answered with it. Angelo said, "It will be better for you to
die: but if you cannot do so easy a thing as that, prepare widow's
garments." They forced her to write three words to Count Paul, calling
him to her window at midnight. Rinaldo fetched a priest: Angelo laid out
two swords. An hour before the midnight, Clelia's old nurse raised the
house with her cries. Clelia was stretched dead in her chamber. The
brothers kissed her in turn, and sat, one at her head, one at her feet.
At midnight her lover stood among them. He was gravely saluted, and
bidden to look upon the dead body. Angelo said to him, "Had she lived
you should have wedded her hand. She is gone of her own free choice, and
one of us follows her." With the sweat of anguish on his forehead, Count
Paul drew sword. The window was barred; six male domestics of the
household held high lights in the chamber; the priest knelt beside one
corpse, awaiting the other.
Vittoria's imagination could not go beyond that scene, but she looked out
on the brother of the slain youth with great pity, and with a strange
curiosity. The example given by Clelia of the possible love of an
Italian girl for the white uniform, set her thinking whether so monstrous
a fact could ever be doubled in this world. "Could it happen to me?"
she asked herself, and smiled, as she half-fashioned the words on her
lips, "It is a pretty uniform."
Her reverie was broken by a hiss of "Traitress!" from the woman opposite.
She coloured guiltily, tried to speak, and sat trembling. A divination
of intense hatred had perhaps read the thought within her breast: or it
was a mere outburst of hate. The woman's face was like the wearing away
of smoke from a spot whence shot has issued. Vittoria walked for the
remainder of the day. That fearful companion oppressed her. She felt
that one who followed armies should be cast in such a frame, and now
desired with all her heart to render full obedience to Carlo, and abide
in Brescia, or even in Milan--a city she thought of shyly.
The march was hurried to the slopes of the Vicentino, for enemies were
thick in this district. Pericles refused to quit the soldiers, though
Count Karl used persuasion. The young nobleman said to Vittoria, "Be on
your guard when you meet my sister Anna. I tell you, we can be as
revengeful as any of you: but you will exonerate me. I do my duty; I
seek to do no more."
At an inn that they reached toward evening she saw the innkeeper shoot a
little ball of paper at an Italian corporal, who put his foot on it and
picked it up. The soldier subsequently passed through the ranks of his
comrades, gathering winks and grins. They were to have rested at the
inn, but Count Karl was warned by scouts, which was sufficient to make
Pericles cling to him in avoidance of the volunteers, of whom mainly he
was in terror. He looked ague-stricken. He would not listen to her, or
to reason in any shape. "I am on the sea--shall I trust a boat? I stick
to a ship," he said. The soldiers marched till midnight. It was
arranged that the carriage should strike off for Schio at dawn. The
soldiers bivouacked on the slope of one of the low undulations falling to
the Vicentino plain. Vittoria spread her cloak, and lay under bare sky,
not suffering the woman to be ejected from the carriage. Hitherto Luigi
had avoided her. Under pretence of doubling Count Karl's cloak as a
pillow for her head, he whispered, "If the signorina hears shots let her
lie on the ground flat as a sheet." The peacefulness surrounding her
precluded alarm. There was brilliant moonlight, and the host of stars,
all dim; and first they beckoned her up to come away from trouble, and
then, through long gazing, she had the fancy that they bent and swam
about her, making her feel that she lay in the hollows of a warm hushed
sea. She wished for her lover.
Men and officers were lying at a stone's-throw distant. The Tyrolese had
lit a fire for cooking purposes, by which four of them stood, and,
lifting hands, sang one of their mountain songs, that seemed to her to
spring like clear water into air, and fall wavering as a feather falls,
or the light about a stone in water. It lulled her to a half-sleep,
during which she fancied hearing a broad imitation of a cat's-call from
the mountains, that was answered out of the camp, and a talk of officers
arose in connection with the response, and subsided. The carriage was in
the shadows of the fire. In a little while Luigi and the driver began
putting the horses to, and she saw Count Karl and Weisspriess go up to
Luigi, who declared loudly that it was time. The woman inside was
aroused. Weisspriess helped to drag her out. Luigi kept making much
noise, and apologized for it by saying that he desired to awaken his
master, who was stretched in a secure circle among the Tyrolese.
Presently Vittoria beheld the woman's arms thrown out free; the next
minute they were around the body of Weisspriess, and a shrewd cry issued
from Count Karl. Shots rang from the outposts; the Tyrolese sprang to
arms; "Sandra!" was shouted by Pericles; and once more she heard the
'Venite fratelli!' of the bull's voice, and a stream of volunteers dashed
at the Tyrolese with sword and dagger and bayonet. The Austro-Italians
stood in a crescent line--the ominous form of incipient military
insubordination. Their officers stormed at them, and called for Count
Karl and for Weisspriess. The latter replied like a man stifling, but
Count Karl's voice was silent.
"Weisspriess! here, to me!" the captain sang out in Italian.
"Ammiani! here, to me!" was replied.
Vittoria struck her hands together in electrical gladness at her lover's
voice and name. It rang most cheerfully. Her home was in the conflict
where her lover fought, and she muttered with ecstasy, "We have met! we
have met!" The sound of the keen steel, so exciting to dream of,
paralyzed her nerves in a way that powder, more terrible for a woman's
imagination, would not have done, and she could only feebly advance. It
was a spacious moonlight, but the moonlight appeared to have got of a
brassy hue to her eyes, though the sparkle of the steel was white; and
she felt too, and wondered at it, that the cries and the noise went to
her throat, as if threatening to choke her. Very soon she found herself
standing there, watching for the issue of the strife, almost as dead as a
weight in scales, incapable of clear vision.
Matched against the Tyrolese alone, the volunteers had an equal fight in
point of numbers, and the advantage of possessing a leader; for Count
Karl was down, and Weisspriess was still entangled in the woman's arms.
When at last Wilfrid got him free, the unsupported Tyrolese were giving
ground before Carlo Ammiani and his followers. These fought with stern
fury, keeping close up to their enemy, rarely shouting. They presented
something like the line of a classic bow, with its arrow-head; while the
Tyrolese were huddled in groups, and clubbed at them, and fell back for
space, and ultimately crashed upon their betraying brothers in arms,
swinging rifles and flying. The Austro-Italians rang out a Viva for
Italy, and let them fly: they were swept from the scene.
Vittoria heard her lover addressing his followers. Then he and Angelo
stood over Count Karl, whom she had forgotten. Angelo ran up to her, but
gave place the moment Carlo came; and Carlo drew her by the hand swiftly
to an obscure bend of the rolling ground, and stuck his sword in the
earth, and there put his arms round her and held her fast.
"Obey me now," were his first words.
"Yes," she answered.
He was harsh of eye and tongue, not like the gentle youth she had been
torn from at the door of La Scala.
"Return; make your way to Brescia. My mother is in Brescia. Milan is
hateful. I throw myself into Vicenza. Can I trust you to obey?"
"Carlo, what evil have you heard of me?"
"I listen to no tales."
"Let me follow you to Vicenza and be your handmaid, my beloved."
"Say that you obey."
"I have said it."
He seemed to shut her in his heart, so closely was she enfolded.
"Since La Scala," she murmured; and he bent his lips to her ear,
whispering, "Not one thought of another woman! and never till I die."
"And I only of you, Carlo, and for you, my lover, my lover!"
"You love me absolutely?"
"I belong to you."
"I could be a coward and pray for life to live to hear you say it."
"I feel I breathe another life when you are away from me."
"You belong to me; you are my own?"
"You take my voice, beloved."
"And when I claim you, I am to have you?"
"Am I not in your hands?"
"The very instant I make my claim you will say yes?"
"I shall not have strength for more than to nod."
Carlo shuddered at the delicious image of her weakness.
"My Sandra! Vittoria, my soul! my bride!"
"O my Carlo! Do you go to Vicenza? And did you know I was among these
"You will hear everything from little Leone Rufo, who is wounded and
accompanies you to Brescia. Speak of nothing. Speak my name, and look
at me. I deserve two minutes of blessedness."
"Ah! my dearest, if I am sweet to you, you might have many!"
"No; they begin to hum a reproach at me already, for I must be marching.
Vicenza will soon bubble on a fire, I suspect. Comfort my mother; she
wants a young heart at her elbow. If she is alone, she feeds on every
rumour; other women scatter in emotions what poisons her. And when my
bride is with her, I am between them."
"Yes, Carlo, I will go," said Vittoria, seeing her duty at last through
Carlo sprang from her side to meet Angelo, with whom he exchanged some
quick words. The bugle was sounding, and Barto Rizzo audible. Luigi
came to, her, ruefully announcing that the volunteers had sacked the
carriage behaved worse than the Austrians; and that his padrone, the
signor Antonio-Pericles, was off like a gossamer. Angelo induced her to
remain on the spot where she stood till the carriage was seen on the
Schio road, when he led her to it, saying that Carlo had serious work to
do. Count Karl Lenkenstein was lying in the carriage, supported by
Wilfrid and by young Leone Rufo, who sat laughing, with one eye under a
cross-bandage and an arm slung in a handkerchief. Vittoria desired to
wait that she might see her lover once more; but Angelo entreated her
that she should depart, too earnestly to leave her in doubt of there
being good reason for it and for her lover's absence. He pointed to
Wilfrid: "Barto Rizzo captured this man; Carlo has released him. Take
him with you to attend on his superior officer." She drew Angelo's
observation to the first morning colours over the peaks. He looked up,
and she knew that he remembered that morning of their flight from the
inn. Perhaps he then had the image of his brother in his mind, for the
colours seemed to be plucking at his heart, and he said, "I have lost
"God help you, my friend!" said Vittoria, her throat choking.
Angelo pointed at the insensible nobleman: "These live. I do not grudge
him his breath or his chances; but why should these men take so much
killing? Weisspriess has risen, as though I struck the blow of a babe.
But we one shot does for us! Nevertheless, signorina," Angelo smiled
firmly, "I complain of nothing while we march forward."
He kissed his hand to her, and turned back to his troop. The carriage
was soon under the shadows of the mountains.
EPISODES OF THE REVOLT AND THE WAR
THE DEEDS OF BARTO RIZZO--THE MEETING AT ROVEREDO
At Schio there was no medical attendance to be obtained for Count Karl,
and he begged so piteously to be taken on to Roveredo, that, on his
promising to give Leone Rufo a pass, Vittoria decided to work her way
round to Brescia by the Alpine route. She supposed Pericles to have gone
off among the Tyrolese, and wished in her heart that Wilfrid had gone
likewise, for he continued to wear that look of sad stupefaction which
was the harshest reproach to her. Leone was unconquerably gay in spite
of his wounds. He narrated the doings of the volunteers, with proud
eulogies of Carlo Ammiani's gallant leadership; but the devices of Barto
Rizzo appeared to have struck his imagination most. "He is positively a
cat--a great cat," Leone said. "He can run a day; he can fast a week; he
can climb a house; he can drop from a crag; and he never lets go his
hold. If he says a thing to his wife, she goes true as a bullet to the
mark. The two make a complete piece of artillery. We are all for Barto,
though our captain Carlo is often enraged with him. But there's no
getting on without him. We have found that."
Rinaldo and Angelo Guidascarpi and Barto Rizzo had done many daring
feats. They had first, heading about a couple of dozen out of a force
of sixty, endeavoured to surprise the fortress Rocca d'Anfo in Lake Idro
--an insane enterprise that touched on success, and would have been an
achievement had all the men who followed them been made of the same
desperate stuff. Beaten off, they escaped up the Val di Ledro, and
secretly entered Trent, where they hoped to spread revolt, but the
Austrian commandant knew what a quantity of dry wood was in the city, and
stamped his heel on sparks. A revolt was prepared notwithstanding the
proclamation of imprisonment and death. Barto undertook to lead a troop
against the Buon Consiglio barracks, while Angelo and Rinaldo cleared the
ramparts. It chanced, whether from treachery or extra-vigilance was
unknown, that the troops paid domiciliary visits an hour before the
intended outbreak, and the three were left to accomplish their task
alone. They remained in the city several days, hunted from house to
house, and finally they were brought to bay at night on the roof of a
palace where the Lenkenstein ladies were residing. Barto took his dagger
between his teeth and dropped to the balcony of Lena's chamber. The
brothers soon after found the rooftrap opened to them, and Lena and Anna
conducted them to the postern-door. There Angelo asked whom they had to
thank. The terrified ladies gave their name; upon hearing which, Rinaldo
turned and said that he would pay for a charitable deed to the extent of
his power, and would not meanly allow them to befriend persons who were
to continue strangers to them. He gave the name of Guidascarpi, and
relieved his brother, as well as himself, of a load of obligation, for
the ladies raised wild screams on the instant. In falling from the walls
to the road, Rinaldo hurt his foot. Barto lifted him on his back, and
journeyed with him so till at the appointed place he met his wife, who
dressed the foot, and led them out of the line of pursuit, herself
bending under the beloved load. Her adoration of Rinaldo was deep as a
mother's, pure as a virgin's, fiery as a saint's. Leone Rufo dwelt on it
the more fervidly from seeing Vittoria's expression of astonishment. The
woman led them to a cave in the rocks, where she had stored provision and
sat two days expecting the signal from Trent. They saw numerous bands of
soldiers set out along the valleys--merry men whom it was Barto's
pleasure to beguile by shouts, as a relief for his parched weariness upon
the baking rock. Accident made it an indiscretion. A glass was levelled
at them by a mounted officer, and they had quickly to be moving. Angelo
knew the voice of Weisspriess in the word of command to the soldiers, and
the call to him to surrender. Weisspriess followed them across the
mountain track, keeping at their heels, though they doubled and adopted
all possible contrivances to shake him off. He was joined by Count Karl
Lenkenstein on the day when Carlo Ammiani encountered them, with the rear
of Colonel Corte's band marching for Vicenza. In the collision between
the Austrians and the volunteers, Rinaldo was taken fighting upon his
knee-cap. Leone cursed the disabled foot which had carried the hero in
action, to cast him at the mercy of his enemies; but recollection of that
sight of Rinaldo fighting far ahead and alone, half-down-like a scuttled
ship, stood like a flower in the lad's memory. The volunteers devoted
themselves to liberate or avenge him. It was then that Barto Rizzo sent
his wife upon her mission. Leone assured Vittoria that Angelo was aware
of its nature, and approved it--hoped that the same might be done for
himself. He shook his head when she asked if Count Ammiani approved it
"Signorina, Count Ammiani has a grudge against Barto, though he can't
help making use of him. Our captain Carlo is too much of a mere soldier.
He would have allowed Rinaldo to be strung up, and Barto does not owe him
obedience in those things."
"But why did this Barto Rizzo employ a woman's hand?"
"The woman was capable. No man could have got permission to move freely
among the rascal Austrians, even in the character of a deserter. She
did, and she saved him from the shame of execution. And besides, it was
her punishment. You are astonished? Barto Rizzo punishes royally. He
never forgives, and he never persecutes; he waits for his opportunity.
That woman disobeyed him once--once only; but once was enough. It
occurred in Milan, I believe. She released an Austrian, or did something
--I don't know the story exactly--and Barto said to her, 'Now you can
wash out your crime and send your boy to heaven unspotted, with one
blow.' I saw her set out to do it. She was all teeth and eyes, like a
frightened horse; she walked like a Muse in a garden."
Vittoria discovered that her presence among the Austrians had been known
to Carlo. Leone alluded slightly to Barto Rizzo's confirmed suspicion of
her, saying that it was his weakness to be suspicious of women. The
volunteers, however, were all in her favour, and had jeered at Barto on
his declaring that she might, in proof of her willingness to serve the
cause, have used her voice for the purpose of subjugating the wavering
Austro-Italians, who wanted as much coaxing as women. Count Karl had
been struck to earth by Barto Rizzo. "Not with his boasted neatness, I
imagine," Leone said. In fact, the dagger had grazed an ivory portrait
of a fair Italian head wreathed with violets in Count Karl's breast.
Vittoria recognized the features of Violetta d'Isorella as the original
of the portrait.
They arrived at Roveredo late in the evening. The wounded man again
entreated Vittoria to remain by him till a messenger should bring one of
his sisters from Trent. "See," she said to Leone, "how I give grounds
for suspicion of me; I nurse an enemy."
"Here is a case where Barto is distinctly to blame," the lad replied.
"The poor fellow must want nursing, for he can't smoke."
Anna von Lenkenstein came from Trent to her brother's summons. Vittoria
was by his bedside, and the sufferer had fallen asleep with his head upon
her arm. Anna looked upon this scene with more hateful amazement than
her dull eyelids could express. She beckoned imperiously for her to come
away, but Vittoria would not allow him to be disturbed, and Anna sat and
faced her. The sleep was long. The eyes of the two women met from time
to time, and Vittoria thought that Barto Rizzo's wife, though more
terrible, was pleasanter to behold, and less brutal, than Anna. The
moment her brother stirred, Anna repeated her imperious gesture,
murmuring, "Away! out of my sight!" With great delicacy of touch she
drew the arm from the pillow and thrust it back, and then motioning in an
undisguised horror, said, "Go." Vittoria rose to go.
"Is it my Lena?" came from Karl's faint lips.
"It is your Anna."
"I should have known," he moaned.
Vittoria left them.
Some hours later, Countess Lena appeared, bringing a Trentino doctor.
She said when she beheld Vittoria, "Are you our evil genius, then?"
Vittoria felt that she must necessarily wear that aspect to them.
Still greater was Lena's amazement when she looked on Wilfrid. She
passed him without a sign.
Vittoria had to submit to an interview with both sisters before her
departure. Apart from her distress on their behalf, they had always
seemed as very weak, flippant young women to her, and she could have
smiled in her heart when Anna pointed to a day of retribution in the
"I shall not seek to have you assassinated," Anna said; "do not suppose
that I mean the knife or the pistol. But your day will come, and I can
wait for it. You murdered my brother Paul: you have tried to murder my
brother Karl. I wish you to leave this place convinced of one thing:--
you shall be repaid for it."
There was no direct allusion either to Weisspriess or to Wilfrid.
Lena spoke of the army. "You think our cause is ruined because we have
insurrection on all sides of us: you do not know our army. We can fight
the Hungarians with one hand, and you Italians with the other--with a
little finger. On what spot have we given way? We have to weep, it is
true; but tears do not testify to defeat; and already I am inclined to
pity those fools who have taken part against us. Some have experienced
the fruits of their folly."
This was the nearest approach to a hint at Wilfrid's misconduct.
Lena handed Leone's pass to Vittoria, and drawing out a little pocket
almanac, said, "You proceed to Milan, I presume. I do not love your
society; mademoiselle Belloni or Campa: yet I do not mind making an
appointment--the doctor says a month will set my brother on his feet
again,--I will make an appointment to meet you in Milan or Como, or
anywhere in your present territories, during the month of August. That
affords time for a short siege and two pitched battles."
She appeared to be expecting a retort.
Vittoria replied, "I could beg one thing on my knees of you, Countess
"And that is--?" Lena threw her head up superbly.
"Pardon my old friend the service he did me through friendship."
The sisters interchanged looks. Lena flushed angrily.
Anna said, "The person to whom yon allude is here."
"He is attending on your brother."
"Did he help this last assassin to escape, perchance?"
Vittoria sickened at the cruel irony, and felt that she had perhaps done
ill in beginning to plead for Wilfrid.
"He is here; let him speak for himself: but listen to him, Countess
"A dishonourable man had better be dumb," interposed Anna.
"Ah! it is I who have offended you."
"Is that his excuse?"
Vittoria kept her eyes on the fiercer sister, who now declined to speak.
"I will not excuse my own deeds; perhaps I cannot. We Italians are in a
hurricane; I cannot reflect. It may be that I do not act more thinkingly
than a wild beast."
"You have spoken it," Anna exclaimed.
"Countess Lena, he fights in your ranks as a common soldier. He
encounters more than a common soldier's risks."
"The man is brave,--we knew that," said Anna.
"He is more than brave, he is devoted. He fights against us, without
hope of reward from you. Have I utterly ruined him?"
"I imagine that you may regard it as a fact that you have utterly ruined
him," said Anna, moving to break up the parting interview. Lena turned
to follow her.
"Ladies, if it is I who have hardened your hearts, I am more guilty than
I thought." Vittoria said no more. She knew that she had been speaking
badly, or ineffectually, by a haunting flatness of sound, as of an
unstrung instrument, in her ears: she was herself unstrung and
dispirited, while the recollection of Anna's voice was like a sombre
conquering monotony on a low chord, with which she felt insufficient to
Leone was waiting in the carriage to drive to the ferry across the Adige.
There was news in Roveredo of the king's advance upon Rivoli; and Leone
sat trying to lift and straighten out his wounded arm, with grimaces of
laughter at the pain of the effort, which resolutely refused to
acknowledge him to be an able combatant. At the carriage-door Wilfrid
bowed once over Vittoria's hand.
"You see that," Anna remarked to her sister.
"I should have despised him if he had acted indifference," replied Lena.
She would have suspected him--that was what her heart meant; the artful
show of indifference had deceived her once. The anger within her drew
its springs much more fully from his refusal to respond to her affection,
when she had in a fit of feminine weakness abased herself before him on
the night of the Milanese revolt, than from the recollection of their
days together in Meran. She had nothing of her sister's unforgivingness.
And she was besides keenly curious to discover the nature of the charm
Vittoria threw on him, and not on him solely. Vittoria left Wilfrid to
better chances than she supposed. "Continue fighting with your army,"
she said, when they parted. The deeper shade which traversed his
features told her that, if she pleased, her sway might still be active;
but she had no emotion to spare for sentimental regrets. She asked
herself whether a woman who has cast her lot in scenes of strife does not
lose much of her womanhood and something of her truth; and while her
imagination remained depressed, her answer was sad. In that mood she
pitied Wilfrid with a reckless sense of her inability to repay him for
the harm she had done him. The tragedies written in fresh blood all
about her, together with that ever-present image of the fate of Italy
hanging in the balance, drew her away from personal reflections. She
felt as one in a war-chariot, who has not time to cast more than a glance
on the fallen. At the place where the ferry is, she was rejoiced by
hearing positive news of the proximity of the Royal army. There were
none to tell her that Charles Albert had here made his worst move by
leaving Vicenza to the operations of the enemy, that he might become
master of a point worthless when Vicenza fell into the enemy's hands.
The old Austrian Field-Marshal had eluded him at Mantua on that very
night when Vittoria had seen his troops in motion. The daring Austrian
flank-march on Vicenza, behind the fortresses of the Quadrilateral, was
the capital stroke of the campaign. But the presence of a Piedmontese
vanguard at Rivoli flushed the Adige with confidence, and Vittoria went
on her way sharing the people's delight. She reached Brescia to hear
that Vicenza had fallen. The city was like a landscape smitten black by
the thunder-cloud. Vittoria found Countess Ammiani at her husband's
tomb, stiff, colourless, lifeless as a monument attached to the tomb.
CLOSE OF THE LOMBARD CAMPAIGN--VITTORIA'S PERPLEXITY
The fall of Vicenza turned a tide that had overflowed its barriers with
force enough to roll it to the Adriatic. From that day it was as if a
violent wind blew East over Lombardy; flood and wind breaking here and
there a tree, bowing everything before them. City, fortress, and battle-
field resisted as the eddy whirls. Venice kept her brave colours
streaming aloft in a mighty grasp despite the storm, but between Venice
and Milan there was this unutterable devastation,--so sudden a change,
so complete a reversal of the shield, that the Lombards were at first
incredulous even in their agony, and set their faces against it as at a
monstrous eclipse, as though the heavens were taking false oath of its
being night when it was day. From Vicenza and Rivoli, to Sommacampagna,
and across Monte Godio to Custozza, to Volta on the right of the Mincio,
up to the gates of Milan, the line of fire travelled, with a fantastic
overbearing swiftness that, upon the map, looks like the zig-zag elbowing
of a field-rocket. Vicenza fell on the 11th of June; the Austrians
entered Milan on the 6th of August. Within that short time the Lombards
were struck to the dust.
Countess Ammiani quitted Brescia for Bergamo before the worst had
happened; when nothing but the king's retreat upon the Lombard capital,
after the good fight at Volta, was known. According to the king's
proclamation the Piedmontese army was to defend Milan, and hope was not
dead. Vittoria succeeded in repressing all useless signs of grief in the
presence of the venerable lady, who herself showed none, but simply
recommended her accepted daughter to pray daily. "I can neither confess
nor pray," Vittoria said to the priest, a comfortable, irritable
ecclesiastic, long attached to the family, and little able to deal with
this rebel before Providence, that would not let her swollen spirit be
bled. Yet she admitted to him that the countess possessed resources
which she could find nowhere; and she saw the full beauty of such
inimitable grave endurance. Vittoria's foolish trick of thinking for
herself made her believe, nevertheless, that the countess suffered more
than she betrayed, was less consoled than her spiritual comforter
imagined. She continued obstinate and unrepentant, saying, "If my
punishment is to come, it will at least bring experience with it, and I
shall know why I am punished. The misery now is that I do not know, and
do not see, the justice of the sentence."
Countess Ammiani thought better of her case than the priest did; or she
was more indulgent, or half indifferent. This girl was Carlo's choice;
--a strange choice, but the times were strange, and the girl was robust.
The channels of her own and her husband's house were drying on all sides;
the house wanted resuscitating. There was promise that the girl would
bear children of strong blood. Countess Ammiani would not for one moment
have allowed the spiritual welfare of the children to hang in dubitation,
awaiting their experience of life; but a certain satisfaction was shown
in her faint smile when her confessor lamented over Vittoria's proud
stony state of moral revolt. She said to her accepted daughter, "I shall
expect you to be prepared to espouse my son as soon as I have him by my
side;" nor did Vittoria's silent bowing of her face assure her that
strict obedience was implied. Precise words--"I will," and "I will not
fail"--were exacted. The countess showed some emotion after Vittoria had
spoken. "Now, may God end this war quickly, if it is to go against us,"
she exclaimed, trembling in her chair visibly a half-minute, with dropped
eyelids and lips moving.
Carlo had sent word that he would join his mother as early as he was
disengaged from active service, and meantime requested her to proceed to
a villa on Lago Maggiore. Vittoria obtained permission from the countess
to order the route of the carriage through Milan, where she wished to
take up her mother and her maid Giacinta. For other reasons she would
have avoided the city. The thought of entering it was painful with the
shrewdest pain. Dante's profoundly human line seemed branded on the
forehead of Milan.
The morning was dark when they drove through the streets of Bergamo.
Passing one of the open places, Vittoria beheld a great concourse of
volunteer youth and citizens, all of them listening to the voice of one
who stood a few steps above them holding a banner. She gave an outcry of
bitter joy. It was the Chief. On one side of him was Agostino, in the
midst of memorable heads that were unknown to her. The countess refused
to stay, though Vittoria strained her hands together in extreme entreaty
that she might for a few moments hear what the others were hearing.
"I speak for my son, and I forbid it," Countess Ammiani said. Vittoria
fell back and closed her eyes to cherish the vision. All those faces
raised to the one speaker under the dark sky were beautiful. He had
breathed some new glory of hope in them, making them shine beneath the
overcast heavens, as when the sun breaks from an evening cloud and
flushes the stems of a company of pine-trees.
Along the road to Milan she kept imagining his utterance until her heart
rose with music. A delicious stream of music, thin as poor tears, passed
through her frame, like a life reviving. She reached Milan in a mood to
bear the idea of temporary defeat. Music had forsaken her so long that
celestial reassurance seemed to return with it.
Her mother was at Zotti's, very querulous, but determined not to leave
the house and the few people she knew. She had, as she told her
daughter, fretted so much on her account that she hardly knew whether she
was glad to see her. Tea, of course, she had given up all thoughts of;
but now coffee was rising, and the boasted sweet bread of Lombardy was
something to look at! She trusted that Emilia would soon think of
singing no more, and letting people rest: she might sing when she wanted
money. A letter recently received from Mr. Pericles said that Italy was
her child's ruin, and she hoped Emilia was ready to do as he advised,
and hurry to England, where singing did not upset people, and people
lived like real Christians, not----Vittoria flapped her hand, and would
not hear of the unchristian crimes of the South. As regarded the
expected defence of Milan, the little woman said, that if it brought on a
bombardment, she would call it unpardonable wickedness, and only hoped
that her daughter would repent.
Zotti stood by, interpreting the English to himself by tones. "The
amiable donnina is not of our persuasion," he observed. "She remains
dissatisfied with patriotic Milan. I have exhibited to her my dabs of
bread through all the processes of making and baking. It is in vain.
She rejects analogy. She is wilful as a principessina: 'Tis so! 'tis not
so! 'tis my will! be silent, thou! Signora, I have been treated in that
way by your excellent mother."
"Zotti has not been paid for three weeks, and he certainly has not
mentioned it or looked it, I will say, Emilia."
"Zotti has had something to think of during the last three weeks," said
Vittoria, touching him kindly on the arm.
The confectioner lifted his fingers and his big brown eyes after them,
expressive of the unutterable thoughts. He informed her that he had laid
in a stock of flour, in the expectation that Carlo Alberto would defend
the city: The Milanese were ready to aid him, though some, as Zotti
confessed, had ceased to effervesce; and a great number who were
perfectly ready to fight regarded his tardy appeal to Italian patriotism
very coldly. Zotti set out in person to discover Giacinta. The girl
could hardly fetch her breath when she saw her mistress. She was in
Laura's service, and said that Laura had brought a wounded Englishman
from the field of Custozza. Vittoria hurried to Laura, with whom she
found Merthyr, blue-white as a corpse, having been shot through the body.
His sister was in one of the Lombard hamlets, unaware of his fall; Beppo
had been sent to her.
They noticed one another's embrowned complexions, but embraced silently.
"Twice widowed!" Laura said when they sat together. Laura hushed all
speaking of the war or allusion to a single incident of the miserable
campaign, beyond the bare recital of Vittoria's adventures; yet when
Vicenza by chance was mentioned, she burst out: "They are not cities,
they are living shrieks. They have been made impious for ever. Burn
them to ashes, that they may not breathe foul upon heaven! "She had
clung to the skirts of the army as far as the field of Custozza. "He,"
she said, pointing to the room where Merthyr lay,--"he groans less than
the others I have nursed. Generally, when they looked at me, they
appeared obliged to recollect that it was not I who had hurt them. Poor
souls! some ended in great torment. 'I think of them as the happiest;
for pain is a cloak that wraps you about, and I remember one middle-aged
man who died softly at Custozza, and said, 'Beaten!' To take that
thought as your travelling companion into the gulf, must be worse than
dying of agony; at least, I think so."
Vittoria was too well used to Laura's way of meeting disaster to expect
from her other than this ironical fortitude, in which the fortitude
leaned so much upon the irony. What really astonished her was the
conception Laura had taken of the might of Austria. Laura did not
directly speak of it, but shadowed it in allusive hints, much as if she
had in her mind the image of an iron roller going over a field of flowers
--hateful, imminent, irresistible. She felt as a leaf that has been
flying before the gale.
Merthyr's wound was severe: Vittoria could not leave him. Her resolution
to stay in Milan brought her into collision with Countess Ammiani, when
the countess reminded her of her promise, sedately informing her that she
was no longer her own mistress, and had a primary duty to fulfil. She
offered to wait three days, or until the safety of the wounded man was
medically certified to. It was incomprehensible to her that Vittoria
should reject her terms; and though it was true that she would not have
listened to a reason, she was indignant at not hearing one given in
mitigation of the offence. She set out alone on her journey, deeply
hurt. The reason was a feminine sentiment, and Vittoria was naturally
unable to speak it. She shrank with pathetic horror from the thought of
Merthyr's rising from his couch to find her a married woman, and desired
most earnestly that her marriage should be witnessed by him. Young women
will know how to reconcile the opposition of the sentiment. Had Merthyr
been only slightly wounded, and sound enough to seem to be able to bear
a bitter shock, she would not have allowed her personal feelings to cause
chagrin to the noble lady. The sight of her dear steadfast friend
prostrate in the cause of Italy, and who, if he lived to rise again,
might not have his natural strength to bear the thought of her loss with
his old brave firmness, made it impossible for her to act decisively in
one direct line of conduct.
Countess Ammiani wrote brief letters from Luino and Pallanza on Lago
Maggiore. She said that Carlo was in the Como mountains; he would expect
to find his bride, and would accuse his mother; "but his mother will be
spared those reproaches," she added, "if the last shot fired kills, as it
generally does, the bravest and the dearest."
"If it should!"--the thought rose on a quick breath in Vittoria's bosom,
and the sentiment which held her away dispersed like a feeble smoke, and
showed her another view of her features. She wept with longing for love
and dependence. She was sick of personal freedom, tired of the exercise
of her will, only too eager to give herself to her beloved. The
blessedness of marriage, of peace and dependence, came on her imagination
like a soft breeze from a hidden garden, like sleep. But this very
longing created the resistance to it in the depths of her soul. 'There
was a light as of reviving life, or of pain comforted, when it was she
who was sitting by Merthyr's side, and when at times she saw the hopeless
effort of his hand to reach to hers, or during the long still hours she
laid her head on his pillow, and knew that he breathed gratefully. The
sweetness of helping him, and of making his breathing pleasant to him,
closed much of the world which lay beyond her windows to her thoughts,
and surprised her with an unknown emotion, so strange to her that when it
first swept up her veins she had the fancy of her having been touched by
a supernatural hand, and heard a flying accord of instruments. She was
praying before she knew what prayer was. A crucifix hung over Merthyr's
head. She had looked on it many times, and looked on it still, without
seeing more than the old sorrow. In the night it was dim. She found
herself trying to read the features of the thorn-crowned Head in the
solitary night. She and it were alone with a life that was faint above
the engulphing darkness. She prayed for the life, and trembled, and shed
tears, and would have checked them; they seemed to be bearing away her
little remaining strength. The tears streamed. No answer was given to
her question, "Why do I weep?" She wept when Merthyr had passed the
danger, as she had wept when the hours went by, with shrouded visages;
and though she felt the difference m the springs of her tears, she
thought them but a simple form of weakness showing shade and light.
These tears were a vanward wave of the sea to follow; the rising of her
voice to heaven was no more than a twitter of the earliest dawn before
the coming of her soul's outcry.
"I have had a weeping fit," she thought, and resolved to remember it
tenderly, as being associated with her friend's recovery, and a singular
masterful power absolutely to look on the Austrians marching up the
streets of Milan, and not to feel the surging hatred, or the nerveless
despair, which she had supposed must be her alternatives.
It is a mean image to say that the entry of the Austrians into the
reconquered city was like a river of oil permeating a lake of vinegar,
but it presents the fact in every sense. They demanded nothing more than
submission, and placed a gentle foot upon the fallen enemy; and wherever
they appeared they were isolated. The deepest wrath of the city was,
nevertheless, not directed against them, but against Carlo Alberto, who
had pledged his honour to defend it, and had forsaken it. Vittoria
committed a public indiscretion on the day when the king left Milan to
its fate: word whereof was conveyed to Carlo Ammiani, and he wrote to
"It is right that I should tell you what I have heard," the letter said.
"I have heard that my bride drove up to the crowned traitor, after he had
unmasked himself, and when he was quitting the Greppi palace, and that
she kissed his hand before the people--poor bleeding people of Milan!
This is what I hear in the Val d'Intelvi:--that she despised the misery
and just anger of the people, and, by virtue of her name and mine,
obtained a way for him. How can she have acted so as to give a colour to
this infamous scandal? True or false, it does not affect my love for
her. Still, my dearest, what shall I say? You keep me divided in two
halves. My heart is out of me; and if I had a will, I think I should be
harsh with you. You are absent from my mother at a time when we are
about to strike another blow. Go to her. It is kindness; it is charity:
I do not say duty. I remember that I did write harshly to you from
Brescia. Then our march was so clear in view that a little thing ruffled
me. Was it a little thing? But to applaud the Traitor now! To uphold
him who has spilt our blood only to hand the country over to the old
gaolers! He lent us his army like a Jew, for huge interest. Can you not
read him? If not, cease, I implore you, to think at all for yourself.
"Is this a lover's letter? I know that my beloved will see the love in
it. To me your acts are fair and good as the chronicle of a saint. I
find you creating suspicion--almost justifying it in others, and putting
your name in the mouth of a madman who denounces you. I shall not speak
more of him. Remember that my faith in you is unchangeable, and I pray
you to have the same in me.
"I sent you a greeting from the Chief. He marched in the ranks from
Bergamo. I saw him on the line of march strip off his coat to shelter a
young lad from the heavy rain. He is not discouraged; none are who have
been near him.
"Angelo is here, and so is our Agostino; and I assure you he loads and
fires a carbine much more deliberately than he composes a sonnet. I am
afraid that your adored Antonio-Pericles fared badly among our fellows,
but I could gather no particulars.
"Oh! the bright two minutes when I held you right in my heart. That
spot on the Vicentino is alone unclouded. If I live I will have that bit
of ground. I will make a temple of it. I could reach it blindfolded."
A townsman of Milan brought this letter to Vittoria. She despatched
Luigi with her reply, which met the charge in a straightforward
"I was driving to Zotti's by the Greppi palace, when I saw the king come
forth, and the people hooted him. I stood up, and petitioned to kiss his
hand. The people knew me. They did not hoot any more for some time.
"So that you have heard the truth, and you must judge me by it. I cannot
even add that I am sorry, though I strive to wish that I had not been
present. I might wish it really, if I did not feel it to be a cowardly
"Oh, my Carlo! my lover! my husband! you would not have me go against my
nature? I have seen the king upon the battle-field. He has deigned to
speak to me of Italy and our freedom. I have seen him facing our enemy;
and to see him hooted by the people, and in misfortune and with sad eyes!
--he looked sad and nothing else--and besides, I am sure I know the king.
I mean that I understand him. I am half ashamed to write so boldly, even
to you. I say to myself you should know me, at least; and if I am guilty
of a piece of vanity, you should know that also. Carlo Alberto is quite
unlike other men. He worships success as, much; but they are not, as he
is, so much bettered by adversity. Indeed I do not believe that he has
exact intentions of any sort, or ever had the intention to betray us, or
has done so in reality, that is, meaningly, of his own will. Count
Medole and his party did, as you know, offer Lombardy to him; and Venice
gave herself--brave, noble Venice! Oh! if we two were there--Venice has
England's sea-spirit. But, did we not flatter the king? And ask
yourself, my Carlo, could a king move in such an enterprise as a common
person? Ought we not to be in union with Sardinia? How can we be if we
reject her king? Is it not the only positive army that, we can look to--
I mean regular army? Should we not; make some excuses for one who is not
in our position?
"I feel that I push my questions like waves that fall and cannot get
beyond--they crave so for answers agreeing to them. This should make me
doubt myself, perhaps; but they crowd again, and seem so conclusive until
I have written them down. I am unworthy to struggle with your intellect;
but I say to myself, how unworthy of you I should be if I did not use my
own, such as it is! The poor king; had to conclude an armistice to save
his little kingdom. Perhaps we ought to think of that sternly. My heart
is; filled with pity.
"It cannot but be right that you should know the worst; of me. I call
you my husband, and tremble to be permitted to lean my head on your bosom
for hours, my sweet lover! And yet my cowardice, if I had let the king
go by without a reverential greeting from me, in his adversity, would
have rendered me insufferable to myself. You are hearing me, and I am
compelled to say, that rather than behave so basely I would forfeit your
love, and be widowed till death should offer us for God to join us. Does
your face change to me?
"Dearest, and I say it when the thought of you sets me almost swooning.
I find my hands clasped, and I am muttering I know not what, and I am
blushing. The ground seems to rock; I can barely breathe; my heart is
like a bird caught in the hands of a cruel boy: it will not rest. I fear
everything. I hear a whisper, 'Delay not an instant!' and it is like a
furnace; 'Hasten to him! Speed!' and I seem to totter forward and drop--
I think I have lost you--I am like one dead.
"I remain here to nurse our dear friend Merthyr. For that reason I am
absent from your mother. It is her desire that we should be married.
"Soon, soon, my own soul!
"I seem to be hanging on a tree for you, swayed by such a teazing wind.
"Oh, soon! or I feel that I shall hate any vestige of will that I have
in this head of mine. Not in the heart--it is not there!
"And sometimes I am burning to sing. The voice leaps to my lips; it is
quite like a thing that lives apart--my prisoner.
"It is true, Laura is here with Merthyr.
"Could you come at once?--not here, but to Pallanza? We shall both make
our mother happy. This she wishes, this she lives for, this consoles
her--and oh, this gives me peace! Yes, Merthyr is recovering! I can
leave him without the dread I had; and Laura confesses to the feminine
sentiment, if her funny jealousy of a rival nurse is really simply
feminine. She will be glad of our resolve, I am sure. And then you will
order all my actions; and I shall be certain that they are such as I
would proudly call mine; and I shall be shut away from the world. Yes;
let it be so! Addio. I reserve all sweet names for you. Addio. In
Pallanza:--no not Pallanza--Paradise!
"Hush! and do not smile at me:--it was not my will, I discover, but my
want of will, that distracted me.
"See my last signature of--not Vittoria; for I may sign that again and
still be Emilia Alessandra Ammiani.
The letter was sealed; Luigi bore it away, and a brief letter to Countess
Ammiani, in Pallanza, as well.
Vittoria was relieved of her anxiety concerning Merthyr by the arrival of
Georgiana, who had been compelled to make her way round by Piacenza and
Turin, where she had left Gambier, with Beppo in attendance on him.
Georgiana at once assumed all the duties of head-nurse, and the more
resolutely because of her brother's evident moral weakness in sighing for
the hand of a fickle girl to smooth his pillow. "When he is stronger you
can sit beside him a little," she said to Vittoria, who surrendered her
post without a struggle, and rarely saw him, though Laura told her that
his frequent exclamation was her name, accompanied by a soft look at his
sister--"which would have stirred my heart like poor old Milan last
March," Laura added, with a lift of her shoulders.
Georgiana's icy manner appeared infinitely strange to Vittoria when she
heard from Merthyr that his sister had become engaged to Captain Gambier.
"Nothing softens these women," said Laura, putting Georgiana in a class.
"I wish you could try the effect of your winning Merthyr," Vittoria
"I remember that when I went to my husband, I likewise wanted every woman
of my acquaintance to be married." Laura sighed deeply. "What is this
poor withered body of mine now? It feels like an old volcano, cindery,
with fire somewhere:--a charming bride! My dear, if I live till my
children make me a grandmother, I shall look on the love of men and women
as a toy that I have played with. A new husband? I must be dragged
through the Circles of Dante before I can conceive it, and then I should
loathe the stranger."
News came that the volunteers were crushed. It was time for Vittoria to
start for Pallanza, and she thought of her leave-taking; a final leave-
taking, in one sense, to the friends who had cared too much for her.
Laura delicately drew Georgiana aside in the sick-room, which she would
not quit, and alluded to the necessity for Vittoria's departure without
stating exactly wherefore: but Georgiana was a Welshwoman. Partly to
show her accurate power of guessing, and chiefly that she might reprove
Laura's insulting whisper, which outraged and irritated her as much as if
"Oh! your poor brother!" had been exclaimed, she made display of
Merthyr's manly coldness by saying aloud, "You mean, that she is going to
her marriage." Laura turned her face to Merthyr. He had striven to rise
on his elbow, and had dropped flat in his helplessness. Big tears were
rolling down his cheeks. His articulation failed him, beyond a
reiterated "No, no," pitiful to hear, and he broke into childish sobs.
Georgiana hurried Laura from the room. By-and-by the doctor was promptly
summoned, and it was Georgiana herself, miserably humbled, who obtained
Vittoria's sworn consent to keep the life in Merthyr by lingering yet
Meantime Luigi brought a letter from Pallanza in Carlo's handwriting.
This was the burden of it:
"I am here, and you are absent. Hasten!"
A FRESH ENTANGLEMENT
The Lenkenstein ladies returned to Milan proudly in the path of the army
which they had followed along the city walls on the black March midnight.
The ladies of the Austrian aristocracy generally had to be exiles from
Vienna, and were glad to flock together even in an alien city. Anna and
Lena were aware of Vittoria's residence in Milan, through the interchange
of visits between the Countess of Lenkenstein and her sister Signora
Piaveni. They heard also of Vittoria's prospective and approaching
marriage to Count Ammiani. The Duchess of Graatli, who had forborne a
visit to her unhappy friends, lest her Austrian face should wound their
sensitiveness, was in company with the Lenkensteins one day, when Irma di
Karski called on them. Irma had come from Lago Maggiore, where she had
left her patron, as she was pleased to term Antonio-Pericles. She was
full of chatter of that most worthy man's deplorable experiences of
Vittoria's behaviour to him during the war, and of many things besides.
According to her account, Vittoria had enticed him from place to place
with promises that the next day, and the next day, and the day after, she
would be ready to keep her engagement to go to London, and at last she
had given him the slip and left him to be plucked like a pullet by a
horde of volunteer banditti, out of whose hands Antonio-Pericles-"one of
our richest millionaires in Europe, certainly our richest amateur," said
Irma--escaped in fit outward condition for the garden of Eden.
Count Karl was lying on the sofa, and went into endless invalid's
laughter at the picture presented by Irma of the 'wild man' wanderings
of poor infatuated Pericles, which was exaggerated, though not
intentionally, for Irma repeated the words and gestures of Pericles in
the recital of his tribulations. Being of a somewhat similar physical
organization, she did it very laughably. Irma declared that Pericles was
cured of his infatuation. He had got to Turin, intending to quit Italy
for ever, when--"he met me," said Irma modestly.
"And heard that the war was at an end," Count Karl added.
"And he has taken the superb Villa Ricciardi, on Lago Maggiore, where he
will have a troupe of singers, and perform operas, in which I believe I
may possibly act as prima donna. The truth is, I would do anything to
prevent him from leaving the country."
But Irma had more to say; with "I bear no malice," she commenced it. The
story she had heard was that Count Ammiani, after plighting himself to a
certain signorina, known as Vittoria Campa, had received tidings that she
was one of those persons who bring discredit on Irma's profession.
"Gifted by nature, I can acknowledge," said Irma; "but devoured by vanity
--a perfect slave to the appetite for praise; ready to forfeit anything
for flattery! Poor signor Antonio-Pericles!--he knows her." And now
Count Ammiani, persuaded to reason by his mother, had given her up.
There was nothing more positive, for Irma had seen him in the society of
Countess Violetta d'Isorella.
Anna and Lena glanced at their brother Karl.
"I should not allude to what is not notorious," Irma pursued. "They are
always together. My dear Antonio-Pericles is most amusing in his
expressions of delight at it. For my part, though she served me an evil
turn once,--you will hardly believe, ladies, that in her jealousy of me
she was guilty of the most shameful machinations to get me out of the way
on the night of the first performance of Camilla,--but, for my part, I
bear no malice. The creature is an inveterate rebel, and I dislike her
for that, I do confess."
"The signorina Vittoria Campa is my particular and very dear friend,"
said the duchess.
"She is not the less an inveterate rebel," said Anna.
Count Karl gave a long-drawn sigh. "Alas, that she should have brought
discredit on Fraulein di Karski's profession!"
The duchess hurried straightway to Laura, with whom was Count
Serabiglione, reviewing the present posture of affairs from the
condescending altitudes of one that has foretold it. Laura and Amalia
embraced and went apart. During their absence Vittoria came down to the
count and listened to a familiar illustration of his theory of the
relations which should exist between Italy and Austria, derived from the
friendship of those two women.
"What I wish you to see, signorina, is that such an alliance is possible;
and, if we supply the brains, as we do, is by no means likely to be
degrading. These bears are absolutely on their knees to us for good
fellowship. You have influence, you have amazing wit, you have
unparalleled beauty, and, let me say it with the utmost sadness, you have
now had experience. Why will you not recognize facts? Italian unity!
I have exposed the fatuity--who listens? Italian freedom! I do not
attempt to reason with my daughter. She is pricked by an envenomed fly
of Satan. Yet, behold her and the duchess! It is the very union I
preach; and I am, I declare to you, signorina, in great danger. I feel
it, but I persist. I am in danger" (Count Serabiglione bowed his head
low) "of the transcendent sin of scorn of my species."
The little nobleman swayed deploringly in his chair. "Nothing is so
perilous for a soul's salvation as that. The one sane among madmen!
The one whose reason is left to him among thousands who have forsaken it!
I beg you to realize the idea. The Emperor, as I am given to understand,
is about to make public admission of my services. I shall be all the
more hated. Yet it is a considerable gain. I do not deny that I esteem
it as a promotion for my services. I shall not be the first martyr in
this world, signorina."
Count Serabiglione produced a martyr's smile.
"The profits of my expected posts will be," he was saying, with a
reckoning eye cast upward into his cranium for accuracy, when Laura
returned, and Vittoria ran out to the duchess. Amalia repeated Irma's
tattle. A curious little twitching of the brows at Violetta d'Isorella's
name marked the reception of it.
"She is most lovely," Vittoria said.
"And absolutely reckless."
"She is an old friend of Count Ammiani's."
"And you have an old friend here. But the old friend of a young woman--
I need not say further than that it is different."
The duchess used the privilege of her affection, and urged Vittoria not
to trifle with her lover's impatience.
Admitted to the chamber where Merthyr lay, she was enabled to make
allowance for her irresolution. The face of the wounded man was like a
lake-water taking light from Vittoria's presence.
"This may go on for weeks," she said to Laura.
Three days later, Vittoria received an order from the Government to quit
the city within a prescribed number of hours, and her brain was racked to
discover why Laura appeared so little indignant at the barbarous act of
despotism. Laura undertook to break the bad news to Merthyr. The
parting was as quiet and cheerful as, in the opposite degree, Vittoria
had thought it would be melancholy and regretful. "What a Government!"
Merthyr said, and told her to let him hear of any changes. "All changes
that please my friends please me."
Vittoria kissed his forehead with one grateful murmur of farewell to the
bravest heart she had ever known. The going to her happiness seemed more
like going to something fatal until she reached the Lago Maggiore. There
she saw September beauty, and felt as if the splendour encircling her
were her bridal decoration. But no bridegroom stood to greet her on the
terrace-steps between the potted orange and citron-trees. Countess
Ammiani extended kind hands to her at arms' length.
"You have come," she said. "I hope that it is not too late."
Vittoria was a week without sight of her lover: nor did Countess Ammiani
attempt to explain her words, or speak of other than common daily things.
In body and soul Vittoria had taken a chill. The silent blame resting on
her in this house called up her pride, so that she would not ask any
questions; and when Carlo came, she wanted warmth to melt her. Their
meeting was that of two passionless creatures. Carlo kissed her loyally,
and courteously inquired after her health and the health of friends in
Milan, and then he rallied his mother. Agostino had arrived with him,
and the old man, being in one of his soft moods, unvexed by his conceits,
Vittoria had some comfort from him of a dull kind. She heard Carlo
telling his mother that he must go in the morning. Agostino replied to
her quick look at him, "I stay;" and it seemed like a little saved from
the wreck, for she knew that she could speak to Agostino as she could not
to the countess. When his mother prepared to retire, Carlo walked over
to his bride, and repeated rapidly and brightly his inquiries after
friends in Milan. She, with a pure response to his natural-unnatural
manner, spoke of Merthyr Powys chiefly: to which he said several times,
"Dear fellow!" and added, "I shall always love Englishmen for his sake."
This gave her one throb. "I could not leave him, Carlo."
"Certainly not, certainly not," said Carlo. "I should have been happy to
wait on him myself. I was busy; I am still. I dare say you have guessed
that I have a new journal in my head: the Pallanza Iris is to be the name
of it;--to be printed in three colours, to advocate three principles, in
three styles. The Legitimists, the Moderates, and the Republicans are to
proclaim themselves in its columns in prose, poetry, and hotch-potch.
Once an editor, always an editor. The authorities suspect that something
of the sort is about to be planted, so I can only make occasional visits
here:--therefore, as you will believe,"--Carlo let his voice fall--"I
have good reason to hate them still. They may cease to persecute me
He insisted upon lighting his mother to her room. Vittoria and Agostino
sat talking of the Chief and the minor events of the war--of Luciano,
Marco, Giulio, and Ugo Corte--till the conviction fastened on them that
Carlo would not return, when Agostino stood up and said, yawning wearily,
"I'll talk further to you, my child, tomorrow."
She begged that it might be now.
"No; to-morrow," said he.
"Now, now!" she reiterated, and brought down a reproof from his fore-
"The poetic definition of 'now' is that it is a small boat, my daughter,
in which the female heart is constantly pushing out to sea and sinking.
'To-morrow' is an island in the deeps, where grain grows. When I land
you there, I will talk to you."
She knew that he went to join Carlo after he had quitted her.
Agostino was true to his promise next day. He brought her nearer to what
she had to face, though he did not help her vision much. Carlo had gone
They sat on the terrace above the lake, screened from the sunlight by
thick myrtle bushes. Agostino smoked his loosely-rolled cigarettes, and
Vittoria sipped chocolate and looked upward to the summit of Motterone,
with many thoughts and images in her mind.
He commenced by giving her a love-message from Carlo. "Hold fast to it
that he means it: conduct is never a straight index where the heart's
involved," said the chuckling old man; "or it is not in times like ours.
You have been in the wrong, and your having a good excuse will not help
you before the deciding fates. Woman that you are! did you not think
that because we were beaten we were going to rest for a very long while,
and that your Carlo of yesterday was going to be your Carlo of to-day?"
Vittoria tacitly confessed to it.
"Ay," he pursued, "when you wrote to him in the Val d'Intelvi, you
supposed you had only to say, 'I am ready,' which was then the case. You
made your summer and left the fruits to hang, and now you are astounded
that seasons pass and fruits drop. You should have come to this place,
if but for a pair of days, and so have fixed one matter in the chapter.
This is how the chapter has run on. I see I talk to a stunned head; you
are thinking that Carlo's love for you can't have changed: and it has
not, but occasion has gone and times have changed. Now listen. The
countess desired the marriage. Carlo could not go to you in Milan with
the sword in his hand. Therefore you had to come to him. He waited for
you, perhaps for his own preposterous lover's sake as much as to make his
mother's heart easy. If she loses him she loses everything, unless he
leaves a wife to her care and the hope that her House will not be
extinct, which is possibly not much more the weakness of old aristocracy
than of human nature.
"Meantime, his brothers in arms had broken up and entered Piedmont, and
he remained waiting for you still. You are thinking that he had not
waited a month. But if four months finished Lombardy, less than one
month is quite sufficient to do the same for us little beings. He met
the Countess d'Isorella here. You have to thank her for seeing him at
all, so don't wrinkle your forehead yet. Luciano Romara is drilling his
men in Piedmont; Angelo Guidascarpi has gone there. Carlo was
considering it his duty to join Luciano, when he met this lady, and she
has apparently succeeded in altering his plans. Luciano and his band
will go to Rome. Carlo fancies that another blow will be struck for
Lombardy. This lady should know; the point is, whether she can be
trusted. She persists in declaring that Carlo's duty is to remain, and--
I cannot tell how, for I am as a child among women--she has persuaded him
of her sincerity. Favour me now with your clearest understanding, and
deliver it from feminine sensations of any description for just two
Agostino threw away the end of a cigarette and looked for firmness in
"This Countess d'Isorella is opposed to Carlo's marriage at present. She
says that she is betraying the king's secrets, and has no reliance on a
woman. As a woman you will pardon her, for it is the language of your
sex. You are also denounced by Barto Rizzo, a madman--he went mad as
fire, and had to be chained at Varese. In some way or other Countess
d'Isorella got possession of him; she has managed to subdue him. A
sword-cut he received once in Verona has undoubtedly affected his brain,
or caused it to be affected under strong excitement. He is at her villa,
and she says--perhaps with some truth--that Carlo would in several ways
lose his influence by his immediate marriage with you. The reason must
have weight; otherwise he would fulfil his mother's principal request,
and be at the bidding of his own desire. There; I hope I have spoken
Agostino puffed a sigh of relief at the conclusion of his task.
Vittoria had been too strenuously engaged in defending the steadiness of
her own eyes to notice the shadow of an assumption of frankness in his.
She said that she understood.
She got away to her room like an insect carrying a load thrice its own
size. All that she could really gather from Agostino's words was, that
she felt herself rocking in a tower, and that Violetta d'Isorella was
beautiful. She had striven hard to listen to him with her wits alone,
and her sensations subsequently revenged themselves in this fashion. The
tower rocked and struck a bell that she discovered to be her betraying
voice uttering cries of pain. She was for hours incapable of meeting
Agostino again. His delicate intuition took the harshness off the
meeting. He led her even to examine her state of mind, and to discern
the fancies from the feelings by which she was agitated. He said
shrewdly and bluntly, "You can master pain, but not doubt. If you show a
sign of unhappiness, remember that I shall know you doubt both what I
have told you, and Carlo as well."
Vittoria fenced: "But is there such a thing as happiness?"
"I should imagine so," said Agostino, touching her cheek, "and
slipperiness likewise. There's patience at any rate; only you must dig
for it. You arrive at nothing, but the eternal digging constitutes the
object gained. I recollect when I was a raw lad, full of ambition, in
love, and without a franc in my pockets, one night in Paris, I found
myself looking up at a street lamp; there was a moth in it. He couldn't
get out, so he had very little to trouble his conscience. I think he was
near happiness: he ought to have been happy. My luck was not so good, or
you wouldn't see me still alive, my dear."
Vittoria sighed for a plainer speaker.
ON LAGO MAGGIORE
Carlo's hours were passed chiefly across the lake, in the Piedmontese
valleys. When at Pallanza he was restless, and he shunned the two or
three minutes of privacy with his betrothed which the rigorous Italian
laws besetting courtship might have allowed him to take. He had
perpetually the look of a man starting from wine. It was evident that
he and Countess d'Isorella continued to hold close communication, for she
came regularly to the villa to meet him. On these occasions Countess
Ammiani accorded her one ceremonious interview, and straightway locked
herself in her room. Violetta's grace of ease and vivacity soared too
high to be subject to any hostile judgement of her character. She seemed
to rely entirely on the force of her beauty, and to care little for those
who did not acknowledge it. She accepted public compliments quite
royally, nor was Agostino backward in offering them. "And you have a
voice, you know," he sometimes said aside to Vittoria; but she had
forgotten how easily she could swallow great praise of her voice; she had
almost forgotten her voice. Her delight was to hang her head above
inverted mountains in the lake, and dream that she was just something
better than the poorest of human creatures. She could not avoid putting
her mind in competition with this brilliant woman's, and feeling
eclipsed; and her weakness became pitiable. But Countess d'Isorella
mentioned once that Pericles was at the Villa Ricciardi, projecting
magnificent operatic entertainments. The reviving of a passion to sing
possessed Vittoria like a thirst for freedom, and instantly confused all
the reflected images within her, as the fury of a sudden wind from the
high Alps scourges the glassy surface of the lake. She begged Countess
Ammiani's permission that she might propose to Pericles to sing in his
private operatic company, in any part, at the shortest notice.
"You wish to leave me?" said the countess, and resolutely conceived it.
Speaking to her son on this subject, she thought it necessary to make
some excuse for a singer's instinct, who really did not live save on the
stage. It amused Carlo; he knew when his mother was really angry with
persons she tried to shield from the anger of others; and her not seeing
the wrong on his side in his behaviour to his betrothed was laughable.
Nevertheless she had divined the case more correctly than he: the lover
was hurt. After what he had endured, he supposed, with all his
forgiveness, that he had an illimitable claim upon his bride's patience.
He told his another to speak to her openly.
"Why not you, my Carlo?" said the countess.
"Because, mother, if I speak to her, I shall end by throwing out my arms
and calling for the priest."
"I would clap hands to that."
"We will see; it may be soon or late, but it can't be now."
"How much am I to tell her, Carlo?"
"Enough to keep her from fretting."
The countess then asked herself how much she knew. Her habit of
receiving her son's word and will as supreme kept her ignorant of
anything beyond the outline of his plans; and being told to speak openly
of them to another, she discovered that her acquiescing imagination
supplied the chief part of her knowledge. She was ashamed also to have
it thought, even by Carlo, that she had not gathered every detail of his
occupation, so that she could not argue against him, and had to submit to
see her dearest wishes lightly swept aside.
"I beg you to tell me what you think of Countess d'Isorella; not the
afterthought," she said to Vittoria.
"She is beautiful, dear Countess Ammiani."
"Call me mother now and then. Yes; she is beautiful. She has a bad
"Envy must have given it, I think."
"Of course she provokes envy. But I say that her name is bad, as envy
could not make it. She is a woman who goes on missions, and carries a
husband into society like a passport. You have only thought of her
"I can see nothing else," said Vittoria, whose torture at the sight of
the beauty was appeased by her disingenuous pleading on its behalf.
"In my time Beauty was a sinner," the countess resumed. "My confessor
has filled my ears with warnings that it is a net to the soul, a weapon
for devils. May the saints of Paradise make bare the beauty of this
woman. She has persuaded Carlo that she is serving the country. You
have let him lie here alone in a fruitless bed, silly girl. He stayed
for you while his comrades called him to Vercelli, where they are
assembled. The man whom he salutes as his Chief gave him word to go
there. They are bound for Rome. Ah me! Rome is a great name, but
Lombardy is Carlo's natal home, and Lombardy bleeds. You were absent--
how long you were absent! If you could know the heaviness of those days
of his waiting for you. And it was I who kept him here! I must have
omitted a prayer, for he would have been at Vercelli now with Luciano and
Emilio, and you might have gone to him; but he met this woman, who has
convinced him that Piedmont will make a Winter march, and that his
marriage must be delayed." The countess raised her face and drooped her
hands from the wrists, exclaiming, "If I have lately omitted one prayer,
enlighten me, blessed heaven! I am blind; I cannot see for my son; I am
quite blind. I do not love the woman; therefore I doubt myself. You, my
daughter, tell me your thought of her, tell me what you think. Young
eyes observe; young heads are sometimes shrewd in guessing."
Vittoria said, after a pause, "I will believe her to be true, if she
supports the king." It was hardly truthful speaking on her part.
"How can Carlo have been persuaded!" the countess sighed.
"By me?" Victoria asked herself, and for a moment she was exulting.
She spoke from that emotion when it had ceased to animate her.
"Carlo was angry with the king. He echoed Agostino, but Agostino does
not sting as he did, and Carlo cannot avoid seeing what the king has
sacrificed. Perhaps the Countess d'Isorella has shown him promises of
fresh aid in the king's handwriting. Suffering has made Carlo Alberto
one with the Republicans, if he had other ambitions once. And Carlo
dedicates his blood to Lombardy: he does rightly. Dear countess--my
mother! I have made him wait for me; I will be patient in waiting for
him. I know that Countess d'Isorella is intimate with the king. There
is a man named Barto Rizzo, who thinks me a guilty traitress, and she is
making use of this man. That must be her reason for prohibiting the
marriage. She cannot be false if she is capable of uniting extreme
revolutionary agents and the king in one plot, I think; I do not know."
Vittoria concluded her perfect expression of confidence with this atoning
Countess Ammiani obtained her consent that she would not quit her side.
After Violetta had gone, Carlo, though he shunned secret interviews,
addressed his betrothed as one who was not strange to his occupation and
the trial his heart was undergoing. She could not doubt that she was
beloved, in spite of the colourlessness and tonelessness of a love that
appealed to her intellect. He showed her a letter he had received from
Laura, laughing at its abuse of Countess d'Isorella, and the sarcasms
levelled at himself.
In this letter Laura said that she was engaged in something besides
Carlo pointed his finger to the sentence, and remarked, "I must have your
promise--a word from you is enough--that you will not meddle with any
Vittoria gave the promise, half trusting it to bring the lost bloom of
their love to him; but he received it as a plain matter of necessity.
Certain of his love, she wondered painfully that it should continue so
barren of music.
"Why am I to pledge myself that I will be useless?" she asked. "You
mean, my Carlo, that I am to sit still, and watch, and wait."
He answered, "I will tell you this much: I can be struck vitally through
you. In the game I am playing, I am able to defend myself. If you enter
it, distraction begins. Stay with my mother."
"Am I to know nothing?"
"Everything--in good time."
"I might--might I not help you, my Carlo?"
"Yes; and nobly too. And I show you the way."
Agostino and Carlo made an expedition to Turin. Before he went, Carlo
took her in his arms.
"Is it coming?" she said, shutting her eyelids like a child expecting
the report of firearms.
He pressed his lips to the closed eyes. "Not yet; but are you growing
His voice seemed to reprove her.
She could have told him that keeping her in the dark among unknown
terrors ruined her courage; but the minutes were too precious, his touch
too sweet. In eyes and hands he had become her lover again. The
blissful minutes rolled away like waves that keep the sunshine out at
Her solitude in the villa was beguiled by the arrival of the score of an
operatic scena, entitled "HAGAR," by Rocco Ricci, which she fancied that
either Carlo or her dear old master had sent, and she devoured it. She
thought it written expressly for her. With HAGAR she communed during the
long hours, and sang herself on to the verge of an imagined desert beyond
the mountain-shadowed lake and the last view of her beloved Motterone.
Hagar's face of tears in the Brerawas known to her; and Hagar in her
'Addio' gave the living voice to that dumb one. Vittoria revelled in the
delicious vocal misery. She expanded with the sorrow of poor Hagar,
whose tears refreshed her, and parted her from her recent narrowing self-
consciousness. The great green mountain fronted her like a living
presence. Motterone supplied the place of the robust and venerable
patriarch, whom she reproached, and worshipped, but with a fathomless
burdensome sense of cruel injustice, deeper than the tears or the voice
which spoke of it: a feeling of subjected love that was like a mother's
giving suck to a detested child. Countess Ammiani saw the abrupt
alteration of her step and look with a dim surprise. "What do you
conceal from me?" she asked, and supplied the answer by charitably
attributing it to news that the signora Piaveni was coming.
When Laura came, the countess thanked her, saying, "I am a wretched
companion for this boiling head."
Laura soon proved to her that she had been the best, for after very few
hours Vittoria was looking like the Hagar on the canvas.
A woman such as Violetta d'Isorella was of the sort from which Laura
shrank with all her feminine power of loathing; but she spoke of her with
some effort at personal tolerance until she heard of Violetta's
stipulation for the deferring of Carlo's marriage, and contrived to guess
that Carlo was reserved and unfamiliar with his betrothed. Then she
cried out, "Fool that he is! Is it ever possible to come to the end of
the folly of men? She has inflamed his vanity. She met him when you
were holding him waiting, and no doubt she commenced with lamentations
over the country, followed by a sigh, a fixed look, a cheerful air, and
the assurance to him that she knew it--uttered as if through the keyhole
of the royal cabinet--she knew that Sardinia would break the Salasco
armistice in a mouth:--if only, if the king could be sure of support from
the youth of Lombardy."
"Do you suspect the unhappy king?" Vittoria interposed.
"Grasp your colours tight," said Laura, nodding sarcastic approbation of
such fidelity, and smiling slightly. "There has been no mention of the
king. Countess d'Isorella is a spy and a tool of the Jesuits, taking pay
from all parties--Austria as well, I would swear. Their object is to
paralyze the march on Rome, and she has won Carlo for them. I am told
that Barto Rizzo is another of her conquests. Thus she has a madman and
a fool, and what may not be done with a madman and a fool? However, I
have set a watch on her. She must have inflamed Carlo's vanity. He has
it, just as they all have. There's trickery: I would rather behold the
boy charging at the head of a column than putting faith in this base
creature. She must have simulated well," Laura went on talking to
"What trickery?" said Vittoria.
"He was in love with the woman when he was a lad," Laura replied, and
pertinently to Vittoria's feelings. This threw the moist shade across
Beppo in Turin and Luigi on the lake were the watch set on Countess
d'Isorella; they were useless except to fortify Laura's suspicions. The
Duchess of Graatli wrote mere gossip from Milan. She mentioned that Anna
of Lenkenstein had visited with her the tomb of her brother Count Paul at
Bologna, and had returned in double mourning; and that Madame Sedley--
"the sister of our poor ruined Pierson"--had obtained grace, for herself
at least, from Anna, by casting herself at Anna's feet,--and that they
were now friends.
Vittoria felt ashamed of Adela.
When Carlo returned, the signora attacked him boldly with all her
weapons; reproached him; said, "Would my husband have treated me in such
a manner?" Carlo twisted his moustache and stroked his young beard for
patience. They passed from room to balcony and terrace, and Laura
brought him back into company without cessation of her fire of questions
and sarcasms, saying, "No, no; we will speak of these things publicly."
She appealed alternately to Agostino, Vittoria, and Countess Ammiani for
support, and as she certainly spoke sense, Carlo was reduced to gloom and
silence. Laura then paused. "Surely you have punished your bride
enough?" she said; and more softly, "Brother of my Giacomo! you are
under an evil spell."
Carlo started up in anger. Bending to Vittoria, he offered her his hand
to lead her out, They went together.
"A good sign," said the countess.
"A bad sign!" Laura sighed. "If he had taken me out for explanation!
But tell me, my Agostino, are you the woman's dupe?"
"I have been," Agostino admitted frankly.
"You did really put faith in her?"
"She condescends to be so excessively charming."
"You could not advance a better reason."
"It is one of our best; perhaps our very best, where your sex is
"You are her dupe no more?"
"No more. Oh, dear no!"
"You understand her now, do you?"
"For the very reason, signora, that I have been her dupe. That is, I am
beginning to understand her. I am not yet in possession of the key."
"Not yet in possession!" said Laura contemptuously; "but, never mind.
Now for Carlo."
"Now for Carlo. He declares that he never has been deceived by her."
"He is perilously vain," sighed the signora.
"Seriously"--Agostino drew out the length of his beard--"I do not suppose
that he has been--boys, you know, are so acute. He fancies he can make
her of service, and he shows some skill."
"The skill of a fish to get into the net!"
"My dearest signora, you do not allow for the times. I remember"--
Agostino peered upward through his eyelashes in a way that he had--
"I remember seeing in a meadow a gossamer running away with a spider-
thread. It was against all calculation. But, observe: there were
exterior agencies at work: a stout wind blew. The ordinary reckoning is
based on calms. Without the operation of disturbing elements, the
spider-thread would have gently detained the gossamer."
"Is that meant for my son?" Countess Ammiani asked slowly, with
Agostino and Laura, laughing in their hearts at the mother's mysterious
veneration for Carlo, had to explain that 'gossamer' was a poetic,
generic term, to embrace the lighter qualities of masculine youth.
A woman's figure passed swiftly by the window, which led Laura to suppose
that the couple outside had parted. She ran forth, calling to one of
them, but they came hand in hand, declaring that they had seen neither
woman nor man. "And I am happy," Vittoria whispered. She looked happy,
pale though she was.
"It is only my dreadful longing for rest which makes me pale," she said
to Laura, when they were alone. "Carlo has proved to me that he is wiser
than I am."
"A proof that you love Carlo, perhaps," Laura rejoined.
"Dearest, he speaks more gently of the king."
"It may be cunning, or it may be carelessness."
"Will nothing satisfy you, wilful sceptic? He is quite alive to the
Countess d'Isorella's character. He told me how she dazzled him once."
"Not how she has entangled him now?"
"It is not true. He told me what I should like to dream over without
talking any more to anybody. Ah, what a delight! to have known him, as
you did, when he was a boy. Can one who knew him then mean harm to him?
I am not capable of imagining it. No; he will not abandon poor broken
Lombardy, and he is right; and it is my duty to sit and wait. No shadow
shall come between us. He has said it, and I have said it. We have but
one thing to fear, which is contemptible to fear; so I am at peace."
"Love-sick," was Laura's mental comment. Yet when Carlo explained his
position to her next day, she was milder in her condemnation of him, and
even admitted that a man must be guided by such brains as he possesses.
He had conceived that his mother had a right to claim one month from him
at the close of the war; he said this reddening. Laura nodded. He
confessed that he was irritated when he met the Countess d'Isorella, with
whom, to his astonishment, he found Barto Rizzo. She had picked him up,
weak from a paroxysm, on the high-road to Milan. "And she tamed the
brute," said Carlo, in admiration of her ability; "she saw that he was
plot-mad, and she set him at work on a stupendous plot; agents running
nowhere, and scribblings concentring in her work-basket. You smile at
me, as if I were a similar patient, signora. But I am my own agent.
I have personally seen all my men in Turin and elsewhere. Violetta has
not one grain of love for her country; but she can be made to serve it.
As for me, I have gone too far to think of turning aside and drilling
with Luciano. He may yet be diverted from Rome, to strike another blow
for Lombardy. The Chief, I know, has some religious sentiment about
Rome. So might I have; it is the Head of Italy. Let us raise the body
first. And we have been beaten here. Great Gods! we will have another
fight for it on the same spot, and quickly. Besides, I cannot face
Luciano and tell him why I was away from him in the dark hour. How can I
tell him that I was lingering to bear a bride to the altar? while he and
the rest--poor fellows! Hard enough to have to mention it to you,
She understood his boyish sense of shame. Making smooth allowances for a
feeling natural to his youth and the circumstances, she said, "I am your
sister, for you were my husband's brother in arms, Carlo. We two speak
heart to heart: I sometimes fancy you have that voice: you hurt me with
it more than you know; gladden me too! My Carlo, I wish to hear why
Countess d'Isorella objects to your marriage."
"She does not object."
"An answer that begins by quibbling is not propitious. She opposes it."
"For this reason: you have not forgotten the bronze butterfly?"
"I see more clearly," said Laura, with a start.
"There appears to be no cure for the brute's mad suspicion of her," Carlo
pursued: "and he is powerful among the Milanese. If my darling takes my
name, he can damage much of my influence, and--you know what there is to
be dreaded from a fanatic."
Laura nodded, as if in full agreement with him, and said, after
meditating a minute, "What sort of a lover is this!"
She added a little laugh to the singular interjection.
"Yes, I have also thought of a secret marriage," said Carlo, stung by her
penetrating instinct so that he was enabled to read the meaning in her
"The best way, when you are afflicted by a dilemma of such a character,
my Carlo," the signora looked at him, "is to take a chess-table and make
your moves on it. 'King--my duty;' 'Queen--my passion;' 'Bishop--my
social obligation;' 'Knight--my what-you-will and my round-the-corner
wishes.' Then, if you find that queen may be gratified without
endangering king, and so forth, why, you may follow your inclinations;
and if not, not. My Carlo, you are either enviably cool, or you are an
"The matter is not quite so easily settled as that," said Carlo.
On the whole, though against her preconception, Laura thought him an
honest lover, aud not the player of a double game. She saw that Vittoria
should have been with him in the critical hour of defeat, when his
passions were down, and heaven knows what weakness of our common manhood,
that was partly pride, partly love-craving, made his nature waxen to
every impression; a season, as Laura knew, when the mistress of a loyal
lover should not withhold herself from him. A nature tender like
Carlo's, and he bearing an enamoured heart, could not, as Luciano Romara
had done, pass instantly from defeat to drill. And vain as Carlo was
(the vanity being most intricate and subtle, like a nervous fluid), he
was very open to the belief that he could diplomatize as well as fight,
and lead a movement yet better than follow it. Even so the signora tried
to read his case.
They were all, excepting Countess Ammiani ("who will never, I fear, do me
this honour," Violetta wrote, and the countess said, "Never," and quoted
a proverb), about to pass three or four days at the villa of Countess
d'Isorella. Before they set out, Vittoria received a portentous envelope
containing a long scroll, that was headed "YOUR CRIMES," and detailing a
lest of her offences against the country, from the revelation of the plot
in her first letter to Wilfrid, to services rendered to the enemy during
the war, up to the departure of Charles Albert out of forsaken Milan.
"B. R." was the undisguised signature at the end of the scroll.
Things of this description restored her old war-spirit to Vittoria. She
handed the scroll to Laura; Laura, in great alarm, passed it on to Carlo.
He sent for Angelo Guidascarpi in haste, for Carlo read it as an ante-
dated justificatory document to some mischievous design, and he desired
that hands as sure as his own, and yet more vigilant eyes, should keep
watch over his betrothed.
The villa inhabited by Countess d'Isorella was on the water's edge,
within clear view of the projecting Villa Ricciardi, in that darkly-
wooded region of the lake which leads up to the Italian-Swiss canton.
Violetta received here an envoy from Anna of Lenkenstein, direct out of
Milan: an English lady, calling herself Mrs. Sedley, and a particular
friend of Countess Anna. At the first glance Violetta saw that her
visitor had the pretension to match her arts against her own; so, to
sound her thoroughly, she offered her the hospitalities of the villa
for a day or more. The invitation was accepted. Much to Violetta's
astonishment, the lady betrayed no anxiety to state the exact terms of
her mission: she appeared, on the contrary, to have an unbounded
satisfaction in the society of her hostess, and prattled of herself and
Antonio-Pericles, and her old affection for Vittoria, with the wiliest
simplicity, only requiring to be assured at times that she spoke
intelligible Italian and exquisite French. Violetta supposed her to feel
that she commanded the situation. Patient study of this woman revealed
to Violetta the amazing fact that she was dealing with a born bourgeoise,
who, not devoid of petty acuteness, was unaffectedly enjoying her noble
small-talk, and the prospect of a footing in Italian high society.
Violetta smiled at the comedy she had been playing in, scarcely
reproaching herself for not having imagined it. She proceeded to the
point of business without further delay.
Adela Sedley had nothing but a verbal message to deliver. The Countess
Anna of Lenkenstein offered, on her word of honour as a noblewoman, to
make over the quarter of her estate and patrimony to the Countess
d'Isorella, if the latter should succeed in thwarting--something.
Forced to speak plainly, Adela confessed she thought she knew the nature
of that something.
To preclude its being named, Violetta then diverged from the subject.
"We will go round to your friend the signor Antonio-Pericles at Villa
Ricciardi," she said. "You will see that he treats me familiarly, but
he is not a lover of mine. I suspect your 'something' has something to
do with the Jesuits."
Adela Sedley replied to the penultimate sentence: "It would not surprise
me, indeed, to hear of any number of adorers."
"I have the usual retinue, possibly," said Violetta.
"Dear countess, I could be one of them myself!" Adela burst out with
"Then, kiss me."
Back to Full Books