The Chartreuse of Parma CHAPTER XIX

General Fabio Conti’s ambition, goaded to madness by the difficulties that had arisen in the way of the Prime Minister, Count Mosca, and which seemed to threaten his fall, had driven him into violent scenes with his daughter. Perpetually and angrily he told her that she would ruin his prospects unless she made up her mind to choose a husband at last. She was past twenty; it was high time she should come to some decision. An end must be put, once for all, to the cruel state of isolation in which her unreasonable obstinacy placed him, and so forth.

Clelia’s first object, when she took refuge in her aviary, had been to escape from her father’s constant ill-humour. The only means of access to the room was by climbing a small and very inconvenient staircase, a serious obstacle to the governor’s gouty feet.

For the past few weeks, Clelia’s soul had been so storm-tossed, she was so puzzled, herself, to know what she ought to desire, that without actually giving her father her word, she had almost drifted into an engagement. In one of his fits of rage the general had exclaimed that he would thrust her into the gloomiest convent in Parma, and leave her there to fret her heart out until she condescended to make a choice.

“You know that our family, old though it is, can not command more than six thousand francs a year, whereas the Marchese Crescenzi’s income amounts to over a hundred thousand crowns. Every soul at court gives him the character of being the kindest of men; he is a very good-looking fellow, young, high in the prince’s favour, and I say that nobody but a mad woman would refuse his suit. If this refusal had been your first, I could have endured it, but this is the fifth or sixth offer, the very best at court, at which you turn up your nose, like the little fool you are! What would become of you, may I inquire, if I were put on half-pay? A fine triumph it would be for my enemies, who have so often heard me spoken of as a possible minister, to see me living in some second-floor apartment! No, ’pon my soul! my good nature has misled me often enough into playing the part of Cassandra. You will either give me some valid reason for your objections to this poor fellow Crescenzi, who does you the honour to be in love with you, to be ready to marry you without a fortune, and to insure you a dowry of thirty thousand francs a year, which will, at all events, insure me a home—you will talk sense to me, or—devil take it! I’ll make you marry him within the next two months.”

The only word in all this speech that had impressed Clelia was the threat about the convent, which would remove her from the citadel at a moment when Fabrizio’s life still seemed to hang upon a thread. For not a month passed but that the report of his approaching death was noised afresh about the town and court. However severely she argued with herself, she could not make up her mind to run this risk. To be parted from Fabrizio, and at the very moment when she was trembling for his life, was, in her eyes, the greatest—at all events, it was the most pressing—of all possible misfortunes.

It was not that proximity to Fabrizio fed her heart with any hope of happiness. She believed the duchess loved him, and her soul was torn by deadly jealousy. Her mind dwelt incessantly on the advantages possessed by a lady who commanded such general admiration. The extreme reserve with which she carefully treated Fabrizio, the language of signs to which, in her dread of some possible indiscretion, she had restricted him, all seemed to combine to deprive her of the means of reaching some clearer knowledge of his feelings about the duchess. Thus, every day made her more cruelly conscious of the terrible misfortune of having a rival in Fabrizio’s heart, and every day her courage to expose herself to the danger of giving him an opportunity of telling her all the truth as to what that heart felt, grew less and less. Yet what exquisite joy would it have been to hear him express his real feelings! How happy it would have made Clelia to be able to lighten the hideous suspicions that poisoned her existence.

Fabrizio was a trifler. At Naples he had borne the reputation of being a man who was always changing his mistresses. In spite of all the reserve natural to an unmarried girl, Clelia, since she had been a canoness, and had frequented the court, had made herself acquainted—not by questioning, but merely by a process of careful listening—with the reputation of each of the young men who had successively sought her hand in marriage. Well, compared with all these young men, Fabrizio’s reputation, as regarded his love-affairs, was the most fickle. He was in prison, he was bored, he was making love to the only woman to whom he had a chance of speaking. What could be more simple? What, indeed, more usual? And that was the thought which distressed Clelia. If some full revelation convinced her that Fabrizio did not love the duchess, what confidence, even then, could she place in his vows? And even if she had believed in the sincerity, what trust could she place in the durability of his feelings? And finally, to make her heart overflow with despair, was not Fabrizio already high up in the ecclesiastical career? Was he not on the very eve of taking permanent vows? Were not the highest dignities in that special line of life in store for him? “If I had the faintest spark of good sense,” thought the unhappy Clelia to herself, “should I not take to flight? Ought I not to beseech my father to shut me up in some far distant convent? And to crown my misery, it is my very terror of being sent away from the citadel, and being shut up in a convent, which inspires all my actions. It is this terror which drives me into deceit, and forces me into the hideous and shameful falsehood of publicly accepting the Marchese Crescenzi’s attentions.”

Clelia was exceedingly reasonable by nature; never once in her life, hitherto, had she had reason to reproach herself with an ill-considered action. Yet in this matter her behaviour was the very acme of unreasonableness. Her misery may be imagined. It was all the more cruel because the girl was under no illusion; she was giving her heart to a man with whom the most beautiful woman at court, a woman who was her own superior in numerous particulars, was desperately in love. And this man, even if he had been free, was incapable of any serious attachment, whereas she, as she felt only too clearly, would never care but for one person in her life.

During her daily visits to her aviary, then, Clelia’s heart was torn by the most cruel remorse. Yet when she reached the spot, the object of her anxiety was changed; almost in spite of herself, it became less cruel, and, for an instant, her remorse died away. With beating heart she awaited the moments when Fabrizio was able to open the little shutter he had made in the huge wooden screen that masked his window. Often the presence of the jailer Grillo in his room prevented him from communicating by signs with his friend.

One evening, about eleven o’clock, Fabrizio heard the strangest sounds within the citadel. By lying on the window-sill and slipping his head through his shutter-hole, he could contrive, at night, to make out the louder noises on the great stairway, called the “Three Hundred Steps,” which ran from the first courtyard within the Round Tower to the stone terrace on which the governor’s palace and the Farnese Prison, in which he was confined, were built.

Toward the middle of its course, somewhere near the hundred and eightieth step, this staircase was carried from the southern to the northern side of a great courtyard. At this point there was a very light and narrow iron bridge, the centre of which was kept by a porter. The man was relieved every six hours, and he was obliged to stand up and flatten his body against the side of the bridge before any one could cross it. This bridge was the only method of access to the governor’s palace and the Farnese Tower. Two turns of a screw, the key of which the governor always kept upon his person, sufficed to drop this iron bridge more than a hundred feet down into the court below. Once this simple precaution had been taken—as no other staircase existed in the citadel, and as every night, as twelve o’clock struck, an adjutant brought the ropes belonging to every well in the fortress into the governor’s house, and placed them in a closet beyond his own bedroom—access to the governor’s palace was utterly impossible, and it would have been equally impossible to get into the Farnese Tower. Fabrizio had clearly realized this fact on the day of his entrance into the citadel, and Grillo, who, like every jailer, was fond of boasting about his prison, had re-explained the matter to him several times over. His hopes of escape were therefore very faint. Yet one of Father Blanès’s sayings lived in his memory: “The lover thinks oftener of reaching his mistress than the husband thinks of guarding his wife; the prisoner thinks more often of escape than the jailer thinks of locking the doors. Therefore, in spite of every obstacle, the lover and the prisoner are certain to succeed.”

That evening Fabrizio distinctly heard a numerous party of men cross the iron bridge—called the “Bridge of the Slave,” because a Dalmatian slave had once contrived to escape by throwing the keeper of it over into the courtyard below.

“They are coming to carry somebody off; perhaps they are going to take me out and hang me. But there may be some confusion; I must take advantage of it.” He had taken his arms, and was just withdrawing his money from some of his hiding-places, when he suddenly stopped short.

“Man is a strange animal; there’s no denying that,” he exclaimed. “What would any invisible spectator think if he saw my preparations? Do I really want to escape at all? What would become of me the day after that on which I returned to Parma? Should I not make every possible effort to get back to Clelia? If there is any confusion, let me take advantage of it to slip into the governor’s palace. Perhaps I might get speech of Clelia; perhaps the confusion would provide me with an excuse for kissing her hand. General Conti, who is as naturally suspicious as he is constitutionally vain, keeps five sentries on his palace, one at each corner and one at the entrance door. But luckily for me the night is as dark as pitch.” Fabrizio crept on tiptoe to find out what Grillo, the jailer, and his dog were about. The jailer was sound asleep, wrapped in an ox-skin slung by four cords, and supported by a coarse net. Fox, the dog, opened his eyes, rose, and crawled over to Fabrizio to be patted.

Our prisoner went softly back up the six steps which led to his wooden shed. The noise at the base of the tower, and just in front of the door, had grown so loud that he quite expected Grillo would wake up. Fabrizio, fully armed and prepared for action, believed this night was to bring about some great adventure. But suddenly he heard the first notes of a most beautiful symphony. Somebody had come to serenade the general or his daughter. He burst into a violent fit of laughter. “And I was already prepared to deal dagger thrusts in all directions. As if a serenade were not an infinitely more probable thing than an abduction that necessitated the presence of eighty persons in a prison, or than a revolt!” The music was excellent, and to Fabrizio, whose soul had been a stranger to such delights for many weeks, it seemed exquisite. He shed happy tears as he listened, and poured out the most irresistible speeches to the fair Clelia in his delight. But at noon next day she looked so deeply sad, she was so pale, and the glances she cast at him were occasionally so wrathful, that he did not venture to ask her any question about the serenade; he was afraid of appearing rude.

Clelia had good reason to be sad; the serenade had been offered her by the Marchese Crescenzi. Such a public step was tantamount to a kind of official announcement of her marriage. Until that very day, and even until nine o’clock that evening, she had stood out nobly. But she had given in at last, on her father’s threat that he would instantly send her to the convent.

“Then I should never see him again,” she said to herself, weeping. In vain did her reason add: “I should never see him again—that man who will bring me every sort of sorrow, the lover of the duchess, the fickle being who is known to have had ten mistresses at Naples, and to have forsaken them all. I should never see him again—that ambitious youth, who, if he escapes the sentence now hanging over him, will immediately re-enter the service of the Church. It would be a crime if I were ever to look at him again, once he has left the citadel, and his natural inconstancy will spare me that temptation. For what am I to him? A mere pretext for lightening his boredom for a few hours of each of his days in prison.” Even while she thus reviled him the memory of his smile, as he looked at the gendarmes round him when he was leaving the jailer’s office on his way to the Farnese Tower, came back to Clelia’s memory. Her eyes overflowed with tears. “Dear friend, what would I not do for you! You will be my ruin, I know; that is my fate. I work my own destruction, and in the vilest way, when I listen to this terrible serenade to-night. But at noon to-morrow I shall look into your eyes again!”

It was on the very morrow of that day on which Clelia had sacrificed so much for the young prisoner whom she loved so passionately—it was on the morrow of the day on which, conscious though she was of all his faults, she had sacrificed her life to him, that her coldness almost drove Fabrizio to despair. If, even through the imperfect language of signs, he had done the least violence to Clelia’s feelings, she would probably not have been able to restrain her tears, and Fabrizio would have obtained her confession of all she felt for him. But he was not bold enough; he was too mortally afraid of displeasing Clelia. The punishment she had it in her power to inflict on him was too severe for him to face. In other words, Fabrizio had no experience of the nature of the emotion stirred in a man by the woman he really loves. It was a sensation he had never felt before, even to the very faintest extent. It took him a week from the night of the serenade to recover his accustomed terms of friendship with Clelia. The poor girl, terrified lest she should betray herself, took refuge in severity, and every day Fabrizio fancied his favour with her grew less.

One day—Fabrizio had then been in prison almost three months, without holding any communication with the outer world, yet without feeling unhappy—Grillo had remained in his room far into the morning. Fabrizio was in despair, not knowing how to get rid of him. Half-past twelve o’clock had struck before he was able to open the two little traps, a foot high, which he had cut in his hateful screen. Clelia was standing at the aviary window, her eyes fixed on Fabrizio’s room. The deepest despair hovered over her drawn features. Hardly had she caught sight of Fabrizio than she made him a sign that all was lost; then, hurrying to her piano and pretending to sing a recitative out of an opera then in vogue, she said, in sentences broken by her despair and the fear of being understood by the sentinels marching up and down under the window:

“Good God! you are still alive! How deeply I thank Heaven! Barbone, the jailer whose insolence you punished on the day of your arrival here, had disappeared, and left the citadel altogether. He returned the night before last, and since yesterday I have had reason to think he is trying to poison you. He comes and hangs about the private kitchen in the palace, where your meals are cooked. I know nothing for certain, but my waiting-woman believes that vile countenance only comes into the palace kitchens with the object of destroying your life. I was beside myself with anxiety when you did not appear; I thought you were dead! Do not eat any food that is brought you, until I give you leave. I will contrive some means of sending you a little chocolate. In any case, at nine o’clock to-night, if, by Heaven’s mercy, you happen to have a thread, or can make a line out of some of your linen, let it drop from your window on to the orange trees below. I will fasten a cord to it, which you will draw up, and by means of that cord I will send you bread and chocolate.”

Fabrizio had treasured up the scrap of charcoal he had found in the stove in his room. He made haste to take advantage of Clelia’s emotion, and to write on his hand a succession of letters which made up the following words:

“I love you, and the only reason my life is precious to me is because I see you. Above all things, send me paper and a pencil.”

As Fabrizio had hoped, the excessive terror he had read in Clelia’s face prevented the young girl from breaking off their conversation after his bold declaration that he loved her. All she did was to look very much displeased. Fabrizio was clever enough to add: “There is so much wind to-day that I can hardly make out the counsels you are good enough to give me as you sing; the noise of the piano drowns your voice. What is the poison of which you speak?”

At his words all the young girl’s alarm broke out afresh; she began hastily writing large letters in ink on pages which she tore out of a book, and Fabrizio was beside himself with delight at seeing the method of correspondence he had so vainly begged, established at last, after three months of effort. He carefully clung to the little deception which had served his purpose so well. What he wanted to do was to write letters, and he kept pretending he could not catch the sense of the words, the letters of which Clelia held up to his gaze one after the other.

She was obliged to leave the aviary and hurry to her father. Her greatest terror was that he might come to look for her there. His suspicious instinct would have been very much offended by the close vicinity of the aviary window to the screen concealing that of the prisoner’s room. It had occurred to Clelia herself, a few minutes previously, when Fabrizio’s non-appearance was causing her such mortal anxiety, that a piece of paper wrapped round a small stone might be thrown over the top of the screen. If, by good luck, the jailer in charge of Fabrizio should not happen to be in his room, this would be a quite reliable method of correspondence.

Our prisoner lost no time in fashioning a kind of line out of some of his under-linen, and a little after nine o’clock in the evening he distinctly heard a slight tapping on the boxes of the orange trees under his window. He let down his line, and brought up, fastened to the end of it, a very long, thin cord, by means of which he drew up, to begin with, a supply of chocolate, and then, to his inexpressible satisfaction, a roll of paper and a pencil. In vain did he drop his cord down again; nothing more was sent up. Probably the sentries had approached the neighbourhood of the orange trees. But he was beside himself with delight. He instantly wrote an endless letter to Clelia, and the moment it was finished he fastened it to his line and let it down. For more than three hours he waited vainly for her to come and take it, and several times he drew it up again to alter expressions in it. “If Clelia does not see my letter to-night,” he thought, “while she is still softened by her idea about the poison, she may, when morning comes, utterly refuse to receive any letter from me at all.”

The real truth was that Clelia had not been able to get out of going down into the town with her father. This idea occurred to Fabrizio when he heard the general’s carriage drive up, about half an hour after midnight. He knew the sound of his horses’ feet. What was his joy when, a few minutes after he had heard the sentries salute the general as he crossed the terrace, he felt a tremor shake the cord, which he had kept wound about his arm. Something very heavy was being fastened to the end of it. Two slight pulls gave him the signal to draw it up. He had some difficulty in getting the heavy object past a very projecting cornice that ran below his window.

The object he had found it so difficult to draw up was a bottle filled with water, wrapped in a shawl. In a passion of delight the poor young fellow, who had lived so long in such complete solitude, covered the shawl with kisses. But no words of mine can depict his emotion when, after all those many days of disappointed hope, his eyes fell on a little scrap of paper, fastened to the shawl with a pin.

“Drink no water but this; live on the chocolate. To-morrow I will make every effort to send you up some bread. I will mark it all over with little crosses in ink.

“It is a horrible thing to say, but you must be told, that Barbone may possibly be sent here to poison you. How comes it that you have not felt the subject of your pencil letter must be most displeasing to me? And, indeed, I would not write to you at all but for the excessive danger that threatens us. I have just seen the duchess; she is very well, and so is the count. But she has grown much thinner. Do not write to me again upon that subject. Do you want me to be angry with you?”

It required a great effort of virtue on Clelia’s part to write the last line but one of her note. Everybody about court was declaring that the Duchess Sanseverina was beginning to feel a great regard for Count Baldi, that very good-looking young man who had been the Marchesa Raversi’s friend. One point was quite certain—he had broken in the most scandalous fashion with the aforementioned marchesa, who had been a mother to him for six years, and had established his social position. Clelia had been obliged to write her hasty note twice over, because in the first copy she had allowed something of the new love affair ascribed to the duchess by public spite to appear.

“What a mean creature I am,” she exclaimed, “to speak evil of the woman he loves to Fabrizio!”

The next morning, long before daylight, Grillo entered Fabrizio’s room, put down a rather heavy parcel, and disappeared without a word. The bundle contained a good-sized loaf of bread, covered all over with little pen-and-ink crosses. Fabrizio covered them with kisses; he was very much in love. With the loaf he found a “rouleau,” containing six thousand francs in sequins, wrapped in numerous paper coverings, and finally a beautiful new breviary. On the margin of the book the following words had been traced, in a handwriting he was beginning to know:

“Poison! Beware of water, of wine, of everything! Live on chocolate; try to make the dog eat the dinner you will not touch. Do not betray your suspicions. The enemy would seek out some other means. Let there be no imprudence, in God’s name, and no carelessness!”

Fabrizio immediately removed the precious words, which might have compromised Clelia, and, tearing a great number of leaves out of the breviary, he made up several alphabets, each letter clearly written with charcoal crushed up and moistened with wine. These alphabets were dry by the time a quarter to twelve struck, and Clelia made her appearance two paces from the aviary window. “Now,” said Fabrizio to himself, “the great thing is to get her to make use of them.” But by good luck, she had many things to tell the young prisoner about the attempt to poison him. A dog belonging to the servant girls had died after eating of a dish which had been cooked for Fabrizio. So that Clelia, far from objecting to the use of alphabets, had prepared a splendid one of her own, written in ink. The conversation thus carried on—not a very easy matter during the first few minutes—lasted no less than an hour and a half; that is to say, for as long as Clelia could stay in the aviary. Two or three times, when Fabrizio ventured on forbidden subjects, she deigned him no answer, and turned away for a moment to bestow some necessary care upon her birds.

Fabrizio had induced her to promise that at night, when she sent him water, she would also send him one of her own alphabets, written in ink, which was much more easily deciphered. He did not fail to write her a very long letter, from which he was careful to exclude all expression of tenderness, or any, at all events, likely to give offence. This method proved successful, and his letter was accepted. When their alphabet conversation began next day Clelia did not reproach him. She told him the danger of poison was growing less; the serving-men who made love to the governor’s kitchen-maids had fallen upon Barbone and half murdered him. He would probably not venture to reappear in the kitchens. Clelia confessed that for Fabrizio’s sake she had dared to steal an antidote in her father’s possession; this she would send him. The great point was that he should instantly reject any food the taste of which was unusual.

Clelia had questioned Don Cesare very closely, without being able to discover the source of the six thousand sequins Fabrizio had received. But in any case it was an excellent sign; his captors’ severity was softening.

This poison episode advanced our prisoner’s business mightily. He could not, indeed, extract the slightest confession of anything like love. But he had the delight of living on the most intimate terms with Clelia. Every morning, and sometimes in the evenings, too, they held a long conversation with their alphabets. Every night at nine o’clock, Clelia accepted a long letter, and sometimes returned a few words in reply. She sent him up the newspaper and a few books, and Grillo had been coaxed into bringing Fabrizio wine and bread, with which he was supplied every day by Clelia’s waiting-maid. The jailer had concluded that the governor was not in agreement with the persons who had sent Barbone to poison the young monsignore, and he, as well as his comrades, was heartily glad of it, for it had become a proverb in the prison that if a man only looked Monsignore del Dongo in the face he was sure to give him money.

Fabrizio had grown very pallid. The total absence of exercise tried his health, but except for that, he had never been so happy in his life. The tone of his conversations with Clelia was intimate, and sometimes very merry. The only moments in Clelia’s life that were not embittered by terrible forebodings and remorse were those she spent talking to him.

One day she was so imprudent as to say:

“I admire your delicacy. As I am the governor’s daughter, you never speak to me of your desire to recover your liberty.”

“That is because I have no such ridiculous desire,” replied Fabrizio. “If I once got back to Parma how should I ever see you? And life would be unendurable to me, henceforth, if I could not tell you all my thoughts.… No, not exactly all my thoughts. You take good care of that. But, after all, in spite of your unkindness, to live without seeing you every day would be far worse suffering to me than this imprisonment. I never was so happy in my life. Is it not comical that my happiness should have been waiting for me in a prison?”

“There are a great many things to be said upon that subject,” replied Clelia, suddenly growing very grave, and almost gloomy.

“What!” cried Fabrizio in great alarm, “am I in danger of losing that little corner I have won in your heart, the only happiness I have in all the world?”

“Yes,” she replied. “I have every reason to think you are not acting honestly by me, although in the world you are considered a very honourable man. But I will not go into this matter to-day.”

This curious confidence made that day’s conversation very awkward, and tears often stood in the eyes of both speakers.

Chief-Justice Rassi still pined to change his name. He was very weary of the one he had made himself, and longed to be called the Baron Riva. Count Mosca, on his side, was working, with all the skill he possessed, to feed the venal judge’s passion for his barony, and to double the prince’s mad hope of making himself constitutional King of Lombardy. These were the only two methods of delaying Fabrizio’s execution he had been able to discover.

The prince kept saying to Rassi: “A fortnight’s despair, and a fortnight’s hope. By patiently carrying out this treatment we shall contrive to break down that haughty woman’s temper. It is this alternation of gentleness and severity which is used to break in the most unmanageable horses. Apply the caustic with a steady hand.”

So every fortnight a fresh report of Fabrizio’s approaching death spread over Parma. Each of these stories plunged the unhappy duchess into the deepest despair. Faithful to her resolve not to drag the count down into her own ruin, she would only see him twice in the month. But her cruelty to the poor man was punished by the continual alternations of hope and dark despair in which her own life was spent. In vain did Count Mosca, in spite of the bitter jealousy caused him by the attentions of the good-looking Baldi, write to the duchess when he could not see her, and acquaint her with all the information he owed to the future Baron Riva. To make a stand against the horrible reports concerning Fabrizio, which were in such constant circulation, the duchess should have spent all her time with a clever and kind-hearted man such as Mosca. Baldi’s stupidity, which left her alone with her own thoughts, rendered existence hideous to her, and the count could not succeed in inspiring her with his own reasons for hope.

By means of certain ingenious pretexts the minister induced the prince to consent to send the documents concerning all the very complicated intrigues which, according to Ranuzio Ernest IV’s wild hope, were to make him constitutional King of Lombardy, to the house of an accomplice near Sarono, in the very middle of that fair country.

More than a score of these very compromising papers were either in the prince’s own hand or bore his signature, and the count intended, if Fabrizio’s life should be seriously threatened, to inform his Highness that he was about to place these proofs in the hands of a great Power which could crush him with a word.

Count Mosca thought himself sure of the future Baron Riva. Poison was the only thing he feared. Barbone’s attempt had greatly alarmed him—to such a point, indeed, that he had made up his mind to risk what looked like an act of madness. One morning he drove to the citadel gate, and sent for General Fabio Conti, who came down to him on the bastion above the gate. As they walked up and down in friendly fashion, the count did not hesitate to say, after a little preface, which, though civil enough, was decidedly bitter-sweet:

“If Fabrizio should die in any suspicious manner, his death may be ascribed to me, and I should bear the reputation of a jealous fool. That would make me look utterly ridiculous, a thing to which I am resolved never to submit. Therefore, if he should die of any sickness, I shall kill you with my own hands to clear myself; of that you may be perfectly certain.”

General Fabio Conti made a very fine answer, and talked big about his courage. But he never forgot the look the count had given him as he spoke.

A few days later, and as if he had arranged it with the count, Chief-Justice Rassi ventured on an imprudence very remarkable in such a man. The public scorn which clung to his name and made it a proverb with the lowest of the populace, was sickening him, now that he had a reasonable hope of escaping it. He forwarded General Fabio Conti an official copy of the sentence condemning Fabrizio to twelve years in the citadel. Legally speaking, this ought to have been done the very morning after Fabrizio entered the prison. But what was unheard of in Parma, that country of secret measures, was that the justiciary should have ventured on such a step without an express order from the sovereign. For what hope could there be of doubling the duchess’s terrors every fortnight, and so breaking down her haughty temper, as the prince expressed it, once an official copy of the sentence had passed out of the office of the Ministry of Justice? On the evening before the day on which General Fabio Conti received Chief-Justice Rassi’s official letter he was informed that Barbone, the clerk, had been thoroughly thrashed on his way back to the citadel, rather late at night. From this he concluded that there was no longer any desire in high quarters to get rid of Fabrizio, and by an instinct of prudence which saved Rassi from the immediate consequences of his folly, he did not mention the transmission of the official copy of the prisoner’s sentence at his next audience with the prince. The count, mercifully for the poor duchess’s peace of mind, had discovered that Barbone’s clumsy attempt had been inspired solely by his own private vengeance, and it was he who had provided the clerk with the warning to which we have just referred. It was a pleasant surprise for Fabrizio, when, after a hundred and thirty-five days in his somewhat cramped cage, Don Cesare, the worthy chaplain, came one Thursday to take him for a walk on the leads of the Farnese Tower. Before Fabrizio had been there for ten minutes, the fresh air overcame him, and he fainted away. Don Cesare made this incident a pretext for allowing him half an hour’s walk every day. This was a folly. The frequent outings soon restored our hero to a strength which he abused.

Several more serenades were given. The only reason that induced the punctilious governor to permit them was that they helped to bind his daughter Clelia, whose character alarmed him, to the Marchese Crescenzi. He had an uneasy feeling that there was nothing in common between himself and his daughter, and lived in perpetual dread of some freak on her part. She might take refuge in a convent, and then he would be helpless. Otherwise the general had his fears that all this music, the sound of which must reach the deepest dungeons reserved to the blackest Liberals, might screen the making of signals. He was jealous, too, of the musicians on their own account. Therefore, the moment the serenade was over, they were locked up in those great, low-ceilinged rooms of the governor’s palace which were used as offices by his staff in the daytime, and the doors were not opened till broad daylight the next morning. The governor himself stood on the “Bridge of the Slave” while the men were searched in his presence, and never restored them to liberty without telling them, several times over, that he would instantly hang any man who dared to undertake to carry the most trifling message to any prisoner. It was well known that in his terror of displeasing the prince he was certain to keep his word; so, to overcome their horror of the night’s imprisonment, Crescenzi was obliged to pay his musicians triple fees. All the duchess could wring out of the cowardice of one of these men, and this with great difficulty, was that he should carry a letter in, and give it to the governor. The letter was addressed to Fabrizio, and deplored the sad fact that during the five months he had been in prison his friends outside had never been able to establish the smallest correspondence with him.

When the musician entered the citadel he cast himself at General Fabio Conti’s feet, and confessed that a priest, a stranger to him, had so insisted on his taking charge of a letter addressed to Signor del Dongo, that he had not ventured to refuse, but that, faithful to his duty, he now hastened to place it in his Excellency’s hands.

His Excellency was highly flattered. He knew how great the duchess’s resources were, and was terribly afraid of being fooled by her. In his joy the general carried the letter to the prince, who was equally delighted.

“Then the firmness of my government has avenged me at last! For five months that haughty woman has been in anguish. But one of these days we will build a scaffold, and her wild imagination will not fail to convince her it is for young Del Dongo.”