The Chartreuse of Parma CHAPTER XV

Two hours later, poor unlucky Fabrizio, securely handcuffed, and fastened by a long chain to his own sediola, into which he had been thrust, started for the citadel at Parma, under the guard of eight gendarmes. These men had been ordered to collect all the gendarmes stationed in the villages through which the procession might pass as they went along, and the podestà himself attended the important prisoner. Toward seven o’clock in the evening the sediola, escorted by all the little boys in Parma, and guarded by thirty gendarmes, was driven across the beautiful promenade, past the little palace in which the Fausta had lived a few months previously, and stopped before the outer gate of the citadel just as General Fabio Conti and his daughter were about to issue from it. The governor’s carriage stopped before reaching the drawbridge, to allow the sediola to which Fabrizio was bound to pass across it. The general at once shouted orders to close the citadel gate, and hastened down to the doorkeeper’s office to make inquiries. He was more than a little surprised when he recognised the prisoner, whose limbs had grown quite stiff from being bound to the sediola during the long journey. Four gendarmes had picked him up, and were carrying him to the jailer’s office. “It appears, then,” said the self-sufficient governor to himself, “that the celebrated Fabrizio del Dongo, the man to whom the best society in Parma has seemingly sworn to devote its whole thoughts for the past year, is in my power.”

The general had met him a score of times—at court, in the duchess’s house, and elsewhere—but he took good care to make no sign of recognition; he would have been afraid of compromising himself.

“Draw up a most circumstantial report of the prisoner’s delivery into my hands by the worthy podestà of Castelnovo,” he called out to the prison clerk.

Barbone, the clerk in question, a most alarming-looking person, with his huge beard and generally martial air, began to look even more self-important than usual; he might have been taken for a German jailer. Believing that it was the Duchess Sanseverina’s influence which had prevented his master, the governor, from becoming Minister of War, he was even more insolent than usual to this particular prisoner, addressing him in the second person plural, which, in Italy, is the tense used in speaking to servants. “I am a prelate of the Holy Roman Church,” said Fabrizio steadily, “and grand vicar of this diocese; my birth alone entitles me to respect.”

“I know nothing about that,” replied the clerk impudently. “Prove your assertions by producing the patents which give you a right to those highly respectable titles.” Fabrizio had no patents to show, and held his peace. General Fabio Conti, standing beside the clerk, watched him write without raising his own eyes to the prisoner’s face, so that he might not be obliged to say he really was Fabrizio del Dongo.

Suddenly Clelia Conti, who was waiting in the carriage, heard a terrible noise in the guard-room. Barbone, after writing an insolent and very lengthy description of the prisoner’s person, had ordered him to open his clothes, so that he might verify and note down the number and condition of the scratches he had received in his affair with Giletti.

“I can not,” said Fabrizio with a bitter smile. “I am not in a position to obey this gentleman’s orders; my handcuffs prevent it.”

“What!” cried the general; “the prisoner is handcuffed inside the fortress! That’s against the rules; there must be a distinct order. Take off the handcuffs!”

Fabrizio looked at him. “Here’s a pretty Jesuit,” thought he to himself; “for the last hour he has been looking at me in these handcuffs, which make me horribly uncomfortable, and now he pretends to be astonished.”

The gendarmes at once removed the handcuffs. They had just found out that Fabrizio was the Duchess Sanseverina’s nephew, and lost no time in treating him with a honeyed politeness which contrasted strongly with the clerk’s rudeness. This seemed to annoy the clerk, and he said to Fabrizio, who had not moved:

“Now then, make haste. Show us those scratches poor Giletti gave you at the time of his murder.”

With a bound Fabrizio sprang upon the clerk, and gave him such a cuff that Barbone fell off his chair across the general’s legs. The gendarmes seized Fabrizio’s arms, but he did not move. The general himself, and the gendarmes who were close to him, hastily picked up the clerk, whose face was streaming with blood. Two others, who were standing a little farther off, ran to shut the office door, thinking the prisoner was trying to escape. The non-commissioned officer in command was convinced young Del Dongo could not make any very successful attempt at flight, seeing he was now actually within the citadel, but at any rate, with the instincts of his profession, and to prevent any scuffle, he moved over to the window. Opposite this open window, and about two paces from it, the general’s carriage was drawn up. Clelia had shrunk far back within it, so as to avoid witnessing the sad scene that was being enacted in the office. When she heard all the noise she looked out.

“What is happening?” said she to the officer.

“Signorina, it is young Fabrizio del Dongo, who has just cuffed that impudent rascal Barbone.”

“What! is it Signor del Dongo who is being taken to prison?”

“Why, there’s no doubt about that,” said the officer. “It’s on account of the poor fellow’s high birth that there is so much ceremony. I thought the signorina knew all about it.” Clelia continued to look out of the carriage window. Whenever the gendarmes round the table scattered a little she could see the prisoner.

“Who would have dreamed,” thought she, “when I met him on the road near the Lake of Como, that the very next time I saw him he would be in this sad position? He gave me his hand then, to help me into his mother’s coach. Even then he was with the duchess. Can their love story have begun at that time?”

My readers must be informed that the Liberal party, led by the Marchesa Raversi and General Conti, affected an absolute belief in the tender relations supposed to exist between Fabrizio and the duchess; and the gullibility of Count Mosca, whom it loathed, was a subject of never-ending pleasantry on its part.

“Well,” thought Clelia, “here he is a prisoner, and the captive of his enemies. For, after all, Count Mosca, even if one takes him to be an angel, must be delighted at seeing him caught.”

A peal of loud laughter burst forth in the guard-room.

“Jacopo,” said she to the officer, in a trembling voice, “what can be happening?”

“The general asked the prisoner angrily why he struck Barbone, and Monsignore Fabrizio answered very coldly: ‘He called me a murderer; let him show the patents which authorize him to give me that title,’ and then everybody laughed.”

Barbone’s place was taken by a jailer who knew how to write.

Clelia saw the clerk come out of the guard-room, mopping up the blood that streamed from his hideous face with his handkerchief; he was swearing like a trooper. “That d—d Fabrizio,” he shouted at the top of his voice, “shall die by no hand but mine! I’ll cheat the executioner of his job,” and so forth. He had stopped short between the guard-room window and the carriage to look at Fabrizio, and his oaths grew louder and deeper.

“Be off with you!” said the officer; “you’ve no business to swear in that way before the signorina.” Barbone raised his head to glance into the carriage; his eyes and Clelia’s met, and she could not restrain an exclamation of horror. She had never had so close a view of so vile a countenance. “He will kill Fabrizio,” said she to herself. “I must warn Don Cesare.”

This was her uncle, one of the most respected priests in the town. His brother, General Conti, had obtained him the appointment of steward and chief chaplain of the prison.

The general got back into the carriage. “Would you rather go home?” said he to his daughter, “or sit and wait for me, perhaps for a long time, in the courtyard of the palace? I must go and report all this to the sovereign.”

Fabrizio, escorted by the gendarmes, was just leaving the guard-room to go to the room allotted to him. Clelia was looking out of the carriage; the prisoner was quite near her. Just at that moment she answered her father’s question in these words: “I will go with you.” Fabrizio, hearing them spoken so close to him, raised his eyes, and met the young girl’s glance. The thing that struck him most was the expression of melancholy on her face. “How beautiful she has grown since we met at Como!” he thought. “What deep thoughtfulness in her expression! Those who compare her with the duchess are quite right. What an angelic face!”

Barbone, the gory clerk, who had his own reasons for keeping near the carriage, stopped the three gendarmes in charge of Fabrizio with a gesture, and then, slipping round the back of the carriage so as to get to the window on the general’s side, he said: “As the prisoner has used violence within the citadel, would it not be well to put the handcuffs on him for three days, by virtue of Article 157 of the regulations?”

“Go to the devil!” shouted the general, who saw difficulties ahead of him in connection with this arrest. He could not afford to drive either the duchess or Count Mosca to extreme measures, and besides, how was the count likely to take this business? After all, the murder of a man like Giletti was a mere trifle, and would have been nothing at all but for the intrigue that had been built upon it.

During this short dialogue, Fabrizio stood, a superb figure, amid the gendarmes. Nothing could exceed the pride and nobility of his mien. His delicate, well-cut features, and the scornful smile which hovered on his lips, contrasted delightfully with the common appearance of the gendarmes who stood round him. But all that, so to speak, was only the external part of his expression. Clelia’s celestial beauty transported him with delight, and his eyes spoke all his surprise. She, lost in thought, had not withdrawn her head from the window. He greeted her with the most deferential of half smiles, and then, after an instant—

“It strikes me, signorina, that some time ago, and near a lake, I had the honour of meeting you, attended by gendarmes.”

Clelia coloured, and was so confused that she could not find a word in reply. “How noble he looked among those rough men!” she had been saying to herself, just when he spoke to her. The deep pity, and we might almost say emotion, that overwhelmed her, deprived her of the presence of mind which should have helped her to discover an answer. She became aware of her own silence, and blushed still more deeply. Just at this moment the bolts of the great gate of the citadel were shot back with much noise. Had not his Excellency’s carriage been kept waiting for a minute at least? So great was the echo under the vaulted roof that even if Clelia had thought of any reply, Fabrizio would not have been able to hear her words.

Whirled away by the horses, which had broken into a gallop as soon as they had crossed the drawbridge, Clelia said to herself, “He must have thought me very absurd”; and then suddenly she added: “Not absurd only. He must have thought me a mean-souled creature. He must have fancied I did not return his salutation because he is a prisoner, and I am the governor’s daughter.”

This idea threw the high-minded young girl into despair. “What makes my behaviour altogether degrading,” she added, “is that when we first met, long ago, and also attended by gendarmes, as he said, it was I who was a prisoner, and he rendered me a service—and helped me out of a great difficulty. Yes, I must acknowledge it; my behaviour lacks nothing; it is full of vulgarity and ingratitude. Alas, for this poor young fellow! Now that misfortune has overtaken him, every one will be ungrateful to him. I remember he said to me then, ‘Will you remember my name at Parma?’ How he must despise me now! I might so easily have said a civil word. Yes, I must acknowledge it, my conduct to him has been abominable. But for his mother’s kindly offer to take me in her carriage, I should have had to walk after the gendarmes through the dust, or, which would have been far worse, to ride on horseback behind one of the men. Then it was my father who was arrested, and I who was defenceless. Yes, indeed, there is nothing lacking to my behaviour, and how bitterly such a being as he must have felt it! What a contrast between his noble face and my actions! what dignity! what composure! How like a hero he looked, surrounded by his vile enemies! I can understand the duchess’s passion for him now. If this is the effect he produces in the midst of a distressing event, which must lead to terrible results, what must he be when his heart is full of happiness?”

The governor’s carriage waited for more than an hour in the courtyard of the palace, and yet, when the general came down from the prince’s study, Clelia did not think he had stayed too long.

“What is his Highness’s will?” inquired Clelia.

“His lips said ‘imprisonment,’ but his eyes said ‘death.’”

“Death! Great God!” exclaimed Clelia.

“Come, come! hold your tongue,” said the general angrily. “What a fool I am to answer a child’s questions!”

Meanwhile Fabrizio had climbed the three hundred and eighty steps which led to the Farnese Tower, a new prison built at an immense height on the platform of the great tower. He never gave one thought—one distinct thought, at all events—to the great change which had just taken place in his life. “What eyes!” he kept saying to himself. “How much they express! what depths of pity! She seemed to be saying: ‘Life is such a vale of misery; don’t grieve too much over what happens to you. Are we not sent here on earth to be unhappy?’ How those lovely eyes of hers gazed at me, even when the horses moved forward so noisily under the arch!”

Fabrizio was quite forgetting to be miserable.

That night Clelia accompanied her father to several great houses. In the earlier part of the evening nobody knew anything about the arrest of the great culprit—this was the name the courtiers bestowed on the rash and unlucky young man only two hours later. That evening it was noticed that Clelia’s face showed more animation than usual. Now animation, the air of taking an interest in what was going on about her, was the one thing generally wanting to this beautiful creature. When comparisons were drawn between her beauty and that of the duchess, it was this unmoved appearance, this look of being above everything, which turned the scale in her rival’s favour. In England or France, the homes of vanity, this opinion would probably have been completely reversed. Clelia Conti was a young girl, too slight as yet to permit of her being compared to Guido’s exquisite figures; we will not conceal the fact that, according to the rules of antique beauty, her features were somewhat too strongly marked. Her lips, for instance, exquisitely graceful as their outline was, were somewhat too full.

The delightful peculiarity of her face, that shone with the artless charm and celestial impress of the noblest nature, was that, in spite of its rare and most extraordinary beauty, it bore no resemblance whatever to the heads of the old Greek statues. The beauty of the duchess, on the contrary, was almost too much on the lines of the recognised ideal, and her essentially Lombard type recalled the voluptuous smile and tender melancholy of Leonardo da Vinci’s pictures of the fair Herodias. While the duchess was sprightly, bubbling over with wit and merriment, interesting herself personally, if I may so say, in every subject which the current of conversation brought before her mental eye, Clelia, to an equal extent, was calm and slow to betray emotion—either because she scorned her surroundings, or because she regretted some absent dream. For a long time it had been believed she would end by embracing the religious life. She was now twenty. She disliked going to balls, and when she did accompany her father to such gatherings, she did it in obedience to his command, and in order to serve the interests of his ambition.

“Will it really never be possible for me,” the vulgar-minded general would often think, “to turn this daughter of mine, the most beautiful and the most virtuous creature in our sovereign’s dominions, to some account for my own advancement? My life is too isolated; I have nobody but her in the whole world, and a family which would give me social support is a necessity to me, in order that in a certain number of houses my worth, and, above all, my fitness for ministerial functions, may be accepted as the indispensable basis of every political argument. Well, my daughter—beautiful, good, and pious as she is—loses her temper whenever any young man in a good position about court attempts to induce her to accept his advances. As soon as the suitor is dismissed, she takes a less gloomy view of his character, and she is almost gay until another marrying man puts in an appearance. The handsomest man at court, Count Baldi, paid his addresses, and failed to please her. The wealthiest man in his Highness’s dominions, the Marchese Crescenzi, has succeeded him. She vows he would make her wretched.”

At other times the general would muse thus: “There is no doubt about it, my daughter’s eyes are much finer than the duchess’s, especially because their expression now and then is infinitely deeper. But when is that splendid expression of hers to be seen? Never in a drawing-room, where it might make her fortune, but when we are out of doors, and she is moved to pity, for instance, by the sufferings of some wretched rustic. ‘Pray keep some memory of that splendid glance for the drawing-rooms in which we shall appear to-night,’ I sometimes say to her. Not a bit of it. If she does condescend to go out with me, her pure and noble countenance bears a somewhat haughty, and anything but encouraging, expression of passive obedience.” The general had spared no pains, as my readers will perceive, to provide himself with a suitable son-in-law. But he spoke the truth.

Courtiers, having nothing to look at within their own souls, are very observant of external matters. The Parmese courtiers had remarked that it was especially when Clelia could not persuade herself to cast off her beloved reveries, and feign interest in outside things, that the duchess was fond of hovering near her, and tried to make her talk. Clelia had fair hair, which contrasted, very softly, with her delicate colouring, somewhat too pale, as a general rule. A careful observer would have judged, from the very shape of her forehead, that her look of dignity, and her general demeanour, so far above any vulgar seeking after graceful effect, were the outcome of her profound indifference to all vulgar things. They arose from an absence of any interest in anything—not from any incapacity for such interest. Since her father had held the governorship of the citadel, Clelia had lived happy, or, at all events, free from sorrow, in her rooms in that lofty building. The huge number of steps leading to the governor’s palace, which stood on the terrace of the great tower, kept away tiresome visitors, and for this reason Clelia enjoyed a quite conventual freedom. This almost constituted the ideal of happiness which she had once thought of seeking in the religious life. A sort of horror seized her at the very idea of placing her beloved solitude, and her inmost thoughts, at the mercy of a young man whose title of “husband” would give him the right to disturb her whole inner life. If her solitude had not brought her happiness, it had at all events enabled her to avoid sensations which would have been too painful.

The day Fabrizio had been taken to the fortress, the duchess met Clelia at a party given by the Minister of the Interior, Count Zurla. There was a ring of admirers round them. That evening, Clelia looked even more beautiful than the duchess. There was a look in the young girl’s eyes, so strange, so deep, as to be well-nigh indiscreet. There was pity in that look. There was indignation, too, and anger. The gay talk and brilliant fancies of the duchess seemed at moments to throw Clelia into a state of distress which almost amounted to horror. “What sobs and moans that poor woman will pour out when she hears that her lover—that noble-hearted and noble-looking young man—has been cast into prison! And the sovereign’s eyes, that condemned him to death. Oh, absolute power, when wilt thou cease to crush our Italy? Oh, vile, base beings! And I—I am a jailer’s daughter; and I did not fail to act up to that noble part when I would not condescend to answer Fabrizio. And once he was my benefactor! What can he think of me now, as he sits alone in his room, beside his little lamp?”

Sickened by the thought, Clelia gazed, with horror in her eyes, round the minister’s splendidly lighted rooms.

“Never,” whispered the circle of courtiers who gathered round the two reigning beauties, and strove to join in their conversation, “never have they talked together so eagerly, and at the same time with such an air of intimacy. Can it be that the duchess, who is always trying to soothe the hatreds roused by the Prime Minister, has pitched on some great marriage for Clelia?” This conjecture was strengthened by a circumstance which had never, hitherto, been noticed at court. There was more light, so to speak, more passion, in the young girl’s eyes than in those of the lovely duchess. She, on her side, was astonished, and to her credit we may say it, delighted, by the new charms she was discovering in the youthful recluse. For over an hour she had been gazing at her with a pleasure such as is not often felt at the sight of a rival.

“But what can be happening?” wondered the duchess. “Never has Clelia looked so lovely, and I may say, so touching. Can it be that her heart has spoken?… But if it be so, her love is an unhappy one; there is a gloomy pain at the bottom of this new-found animation.… But an unhappy love keeps silence. Is she trying to tempt back some faithless swain by her social successes?” And the duchess scrutinized all the young men standing round. She noted no very striking expression in any one of them. They all wore the same appearance of more or less self-satisfied conceit. “There is some miracle here,” thought the duchess, nettled at not being able to guess what it all meant. “Where is Count Mosca, that cleverest of beings? No, I am not mistaken. Clelia certainly does look at me as if I had roused quite a new sense of interest in her. Is it the result of the bestowal of some order on that crawling courtier, her father? I fancied her young and high-souled nature incapable of descending to matters of pecuniary gain. Can General Fabio Conti have any important request to make to the count?”

Toward ten o’clock one of the duchess’s friends came up to her and murmured something in a low voice. She turned very white. Clelia took her hand, and ventured to squeeze it.

“I thank you, and now I understand you.… You have a noble heart,” said the duchess with a great effort. She was hardly able to say the few words. She smiled profusely at the lady of the house, who left her seat to conduct her to the door of the outer drawing-room. Such an honour was due to princesses of the blood only, and the duchess felt its cruel irony in connection with her present position. So she smiled and smiled to the Countess Zurla; but though she tried desperately hard, she could not articulate a single word.

Clelia’s eyes filled with tears as she watched the duchess pass out of the rooms, crowded with all the most brilliant society of the city. “What will become of that poor woman,” she thought, “when she finds herself alone in her carriage? It would be indiscreet of me to offer to go with her. I dare not.… How it would console the poor prisoner, sitting in some miserable room, if he could know how deeply he is loved! Into what horrible solitude they have cast him! And we are here, in these brightly lighted rooms. It is monstrous! Could I find means of sending him a line? Good heavens! That would be to betray my father. His position between the two parties is so delicate. What will become of him if he exposes himself to the hatred of the duchess, who rules the Prime Minister, the master of three parts of the business of the state? And then, the prince keeps a close eye on everything that happens in the fortress, and he will have no joking on that subject. Terror makes people cruel.… In any case, Fabrizio” (Clelia had ceased saying Monsignore del Dongo) “is far more to be pitied.… He has much more at stake than the mere danger of losing a lucrative appointment. And the duchess!… What a frightful passion love is! And yet all these liars in society talk of it as a source of happiness. One hears old women pitied because they can no longer feel love nor inspire it. Never shall I forget what I have just seen—that sudden change. How the duchess’s eyes, so lovely, so shining, grew sad and dim after the Marchese N⸺ whispered those fatal words in her ear! Fabrizio must be very worthy to be so much loved.”

Amid these very serious reflections, which quite filled Clelia’s mind, the complimentary remarks around her were more offensive to her than ever. To escape them she moved toward an open window, half shaded by a silken curtain. She had a hope that no one would dare to follow her into this retreat. The window opened on a little grove of orange trees, planted in the ground; as a matter of fact, it was necessary to roof them over every winter. Clelia breathed the perfume of the flowers with the greatest delight, and with this enjoyment, a certain amount of peace came back into her heart. “I thought him a very noble-looking fellow,” she mused. “But imagine his inspiring so remarkable a woman with such a passion! She has had the glory of refusing the prince’s own advances; and if she had condescended to desire it she might have been the queen of these dominions. My father says that the sovereign’s passion was so great that he would have married her if ever he had been free. And this love of hers for Fabrizio has lasted so long. For it is quite five years since we met them near the Lake of Como. Yes, quite five years,” she reiterated after a moment’s thought. “It struck me even then, when so many things were unperceived by my childish eyes. How both those ladies seemed to admire Fabrizio!”

Clelia noticed with delight that none of the young men who were so eager to talk to her had ventured to come near her balcony. One of them, the Marchese Crescenzi, had made a few steps in her direction, and then had stopped beside a card-table. “If only,” she said, “I could see some pretty orange trees like these out of my window in the palace in the fortress—the only one which has any shade at all—my thoughts might be less sad. But there is nothing to be seen but those great hewn stones of the Farnese Tower. Ah!” she said, starting, “perhaps that is where they have put him! How I long for a talk with Don Cesare; he will be less strict than the general. My father will certainly tell me nothing as we drive back to the fortress, but I shall get everything out of Don Cesare. I have some money. I might buy a few orange trees, and set them under the window of my aviary, so that they would prevent me from seeing the great walls of the Farnese Tower. How much more I shall hate them now that I know one of the persons shut up within them!… Yes, this is the third time I have seen him: once at court, at the princess’s birthday ball; to-day, standing with three gendarmes round him, while that horrible Barbone was asking that the handcuffs might be put upon him; and then that time at the Lake of Como—that is quite five years ago. What a young rascal he looked then! How he looked at the gendarmes, and how strangely his mother and his aunt looked at him! There was some secret that day, certainly—something they were hiding among themselves. I had an idea at the time that he, too, was afraid of the gendarmes.” Clelia shuddered. “But how ignorant I was! No doubt, even then, the duchess was interested in him.… How he made us laugh after a few minutes when, in spite of their evident anxiety, the two ladies had grown somewhat accustomed to a stranger’s presence!… And this evening I could not answer anything he said to me.… Oh, ignorance and timidity, how often you resemble the vilest things on earth! And that is my case even now, when I am past twenty.… I was quite right to think of taking the veil—I am really fit for nothing but the cloistered life. ‘Worthy daughter of a jailer,’ he must have said to himself. He despises me, and as soon as he is able to write to the duchess he will tell her of my unkindness, and the duchess will think me a very deceitful girl, for this evening she may have believed I was full of sympathy for her misfortune.”

Clelia perceived that somebody was drawing near, with the apparent intention of standing beside her on the iron balcony in front of the window. This vexed her, though she reproached herself for the feeling. The dreams thus disturbed were not devoid of a certain quality of sweetness. “Here comes some intruder. I’ll give him a cold reception,” she thought. She turned her head with a scornful glance, and perceived the archbishop’s timorous figure edging toward her balcony by almost invisible degrees. “This holy man has no knowledge of the world,” thought Clelia to herself. “Why does he come and disturb a poor girl like me? My peace is the only thing I have!” She was greeting him with a respect not untinged with haughtiness when the prelate spoke:

“Signorina, have you heard the dreadful news?”

The expression of the young girl’s eyes had completely changed already, but, obedient to her father’s instructions, reiterated a hundred times over, she replied, with an air of ignorance which her eyes utterly belied:

“I have heard nothing, monsignore.”

“My chief grand vicar, poor Fabrizio del Dongo, who is no more guilty of the death of that ruffian Giletti than I am, has been carried off from Bologna, where he was living under the name of Giuseppe Bossi, and shut up in your citadel. He arrived there chained to the carriage which brought him. A kind of jailer of the name of Barbone, who was pardoned years ago, after having murdered one of his own brothers, tried to use personal violence to Fabrizio, but my young friend is not a man to endure an insult. He threw the vile fellow on the ground, and was immediately carried down to a dungeon, twenty feet below the earth, with handcuffs on his wrists.”

“Not handcuffs. No.”

“Ah, you know something,” exclaimed the archbishop, and the old man’s features lost their expression of deep despondency; “but before all things, since somebody might come near this balcony, and interrupt us, would you do me the charity of giving Don Cesare this pastoral ring of mine with your own hands?” The young girl had taken the ring and did not know where to bestow it so as to avoid the risk of losing it. “Put it on your thumb,” said the archbishop, and he slipped it on himself. “May I rely on your giving him this ring?”

“Yes, monsignore.”

“Will you promise me secrecy as to what I am going to add, even if you should not think it proper to grant my request?”

“Yes, indeed, monsignore,” replied the young girl, alarmed by the grave and gloomy aspect assumed by the old man. “Our honoured archbishop,” she added, “can give me no orders that are not worthy of himself and of me.”

“Tell Don Cesare that I recommend my adopted son to his care. I know that the police officers who carried him off did not even give him time to take his breviary; I beg Don Cesare to give him his own, and if your uncle will send to-morrow to the palace, I undertake to replace the book given by him to Fabrizio. I also beg Don Cesare to pass on the ring, now on your pretty hand, to Monsignore del Dongo.” The archbishop was here interrupted by General Fabio Conti, who came to fetch his daughter and take her to her carriage. A short conversation ensued, during which the prelate showed himself to be not devoid of cunning. Without referring in the smallest degree to the newly made prisoner, he contrived that the current of talk should lead up to his own enunciation of certain political and moral sentiments, as, for instance: “There are certain critical moments in court life which decide the existence of important personages for considerable periods. It would be eminently imprudent to transform a condition of political coolness, which is a frequent and very simple result of party opposition, into a personal hatred.” Then the archbishop, somewhat carried away by the great grief which this unexpected arrest had occasioned him, went so far as to say that while a man must certainly preserve the position he enjoyed, it would be wanton imprudence to bring down desperate hatreds on his own head by allowing himself to be drawn into certain things which never could be forgotten.

When the general was in his coach with his daughter—

“These may be called threats,” he cried. “Threats, to a man like me!” Not another word was exchanged between father and daughter during their twenty minutes’ drive.

When Clelia had received the pastoral ring from the archbishop, she had fully determined that when she was in the carriage with her father she would speak to him of the trifling service the prelate had asked of her. But when she heard the word “threats,” and the furious tone in which it was uttered, she became convinced that her father would intercept the message. She hid the ring with her left hand and clasped it passionately. All the way from the minister’s house to the citadel she kept asking herself whether it would be a sin not to speak to her father. She was very pious, very timid, and her heart, usually so quiet, was throbbing with unaccustomed violence. But the challenge of the sentinel on the rampart above the gate rang out over the approaching carriage before Clelia could pitch on words appropriate to persuade her father not to refuse, so great was her fear that he might do so. Neither could she think of any as she climbed the three hundred and eighty steps which led up to the governor’s palace.

She lost no time in speaking to her uncle; he scolded her, and refused to have anything to do with the business.