The Chartreuse of Parma CHAPTER XXII

In the course of that day Fabrizio was assailed, several times over, by certain serious and disagreeable reflections. But as he heard the hours strike, each one of which brought him nearer to the moment of action, he felt himself grow brisk and cheerful. The duchess had written to him that the fresh air was sure to overcome him, and that he would hardly have got outside his prison before he would find it impossible to walk. In that case it would certainly be better to run the risk of being retaken than to throw himself from the top of a wall a hundred and eighty feet high. “If that misfortune overtakes me,” said Fabrizio to himself, “I will lie down close to the parapet; I will sleep for an hour, and I will start again. As I have sworn my oath to Clelia, I would rather fall from the top of a rampart, however high, than spend my life considering the taste of every bit of bread I eat. What horrible suffering there must be at the end when a man dies of poison! And Fabio Conti would make no bones about it; he would just give me the arsenic with which he kills the rats in his fortress.”

Toward midnight one of those thick white fogs which the Po sometimes casts over its banks rose over the town, and thence to the esplanade and the bastions, in the midst of which stands the great tower of the citadel. Fabrizio thought he perceived that the little acacias round the soldiers’ gardens, at the foot of the great wall below, were no longer visible. “This is capital!” thought he to himself.

A little after the stroke of half-past twelve the tiny lamp appeared in the aviary window. Fabrizio was ready; he crossed himself, then he fastened the thin rope which was to carry him down the twenty-five feet between his room and the platform on which the palace stood to his bed. He reached the roof of the guard-room occupied, since the previous night, by the two hundred extra men of whom we have spoken, without any mishap. Unluckily, at that hour—a quarter to one—the soldiers were not yet asleep, and while Fabrizio stepped stealthily over the great curved roof tiles he heard them saying that the devil was on their roof, and that they must try and shoot him with a musket. Some voices declared this wish to be exceedingly impious; others said that if they fired a shot without killing anything the governor would put them all in prison for having alarmed the garrison unnecessarily. All this fine discussion caused Fabrizio to hurry over the roof as quickly as he could, and thus make much more noise than he might have done. As a matter of fact, when he passed, clinging to his rope, in front of the windows, and fortunately for him, owing to the projection of the roof, some four or five feet away from them, they were all bristling with bayonets. Some people have declared that Fabrizio, who was always a wild fellow, took it into his head to play the devil’s part, and threw a handful of sequins to the soldiers. He certainly did scatter sequins all over the floor of his room and across the platform, as he passed from the Farnese Tower to the parapet, on the chance of their distracting the attention of the soldiers who might try to pursue him.

Once he had reached the platform, surrounded by sentries, who, as a rule, shouted a complete sentence, “All’s well round my post,” every quarter of an hour, he moved toward the western parapet, and looked about for the new stone.

What appears incredible, and might induce one to doubt the facts, if their consequences had not been witnessed by a whole city, is that the sentries along the parapet did not catch sight of Fabrizio and lay hands on him. It is true that the fog to which we have referred was beginning to rise, and Fabrizio has related that when he was on the platform the fog seemed to him to have reached half-way up the Farnese Tower. But it was not a thick fog, and he could clearly distinguish the sentries, some of whom were moving about. He used to add that, driven by some supernatural force, he placed himself boldly between two sentries, not very far from each other, and quietly unwound the long rope he was carrying slung round his body, and which got entangled twice over. It took him a long time to disentangle it, and lay it out upon the parapet. He could hear the soldiers talking all round him, and was quite resolved to stab the first who came near him. “I was not in the least agitated,” he used to add; “I seemed to myself to be performing some ceremony.”

At last he cleared his rope, and fastened it into an opening in the parapet, made for the rain-water to run through. Then he climbed on to the parapet, and prayed earnestly to God. Next, like a hero of the days of chivalry, he thought for an instant of Clelia. “What a different man I am,” said he to himself, “from the careless and libertine Fabrizio who came into this place nine months ago!” At last he began to let himself down the tremendous height. He moved mechanically, he said, as he would have done if he had been coming down before friends, in broad daylight, to win a wager. About midway he suddenly felt the strength in his arms fail; he even thinks he lost his grip of the rope for a moment. But he soon grasped it again. Perhaps, he said afterward, he held on to the brambles against which he was slipping and which tore him. Every now and then he felt a most agonizing pain between his shoulders, which almost took away his breath. The undulating motion was most trying; he was constantly being swung away from the rope against the brambles; he was touched by several birds of considerable size, which he disturbed, and which blundered against him as they flew away. He took the first of these for people in pursuit of him, who were descending from the citadel in the same manner, and made ready to defend himself. At last he reached the base of the great tower, unhurt, except that his hands were bleeding. He related that over the lower half of the tower the outward slope of the wall was of great assistance to him. He rubbed against it as he went down, and the plants growing between the stones held him up. When he reached the bottom he fell on an acacia in the soldiers’ gardens, which, looking at it from above, he had taken to be four or five feet high, but which really was fifteen or twenty. A drunken man who was sleeping under it took him for a robber. When Fabrizio fell out of this tree he almost put out his left arm. He began to hurry toward the rampart, but according to his own story his legs seemed made of wadding; he had no strength left. In spite of the danger he sat down, and drank a little brandy which still remained to him. For some minutes he slept, so soundly as not to remember where he was. When he woke up he thought he was in his room, and could not understand how it was he saw trees. At last the awful truth dawned on him. Instantly he moved toward the rampart, and reached it by a wide flight of steps. A sentry was snoring in his box close by. He found a cannon lying in the grass, and fastened his third rope to it. It was a little too short, and he fell into a muddy ditch, with about a foot of water in it. Just as he was getting up, and trying to make out where he was, he felt himself seized by two men; for a moment he was alarmed, but soon, close to his ear, and in a very low voice, he heard the words, “Ah, monsignore, monsignore!” He realized dimly that the men came from the duchess, and instantly he fainted dead away. A little while after he felt himself being carried by men who walked swiftly and silently. Then they stopped, which terrified him very much. But he had no strength either to speak or to open his eyes. He felt somebody embrace him, and suddenly he recognised the perfume of the duchess’s clothes. That perfume revived him; he was able to open his eyes and say “Ah, dearest friend!” and then he fainted again.

The faithful Bruno, with a squad of police officers, all devoted to the count, was waiting two hundred paces off. The count himself was hiding in a little house close to the spot where the duchess was waiting. He would not have hesitated, had it been necessary, to draw his sword, assisted by several half-pay officers, his own intimate friends. He considered himself bound to save Fabrizio’s life. He believed him to be in the most imminent danger, and felt the prince would have signed his pardon if he (Mosca) had not committed the folly of endeavouring to save his sovereign from writing another.

Ever since midnight the duchess, surrounded by men armed to the teeth, had been wandering up and down, in dead silence, close to the citadel ramparts. She could not stay quiet for an instant; she expected to have to fight to save Fabrizio from his pursuers. Her fervent imagination had inspired her with a hundred precautions, too long to mention here, and all of them incredibly imprudent. More than eighty persons are calculated to have been on foot that night, expecting to fight on some extraordinary occasion. Fortunately Ferrante and Ludovico were at the head of the business, and the Minister of Police was not hostile. But the count himself remarked that nobody betrayed the duchess, and, in his ministerial capacity, he knew nothing at all.

The duchess utterly lost her head when she saw Fabrizio. First of all she clasped him in her arms, and then, when she saw he was covered with blood, she grew beside herself with alarm. The blood had flowed from Fabrizio’s hands, but she thought he was dangerously hurt. Helped by one of her servants, she was taking off his coat, to dress his wounds, when Ludovico, who fortunately was present, insisted on placing the duchess and Fabrizio in one of the little carriages, which had been kept hidden in a garden near the gate of the city, and they started full gallop to get across the Po at Sacca. Ferrante, with twenty well-armed men, formed the rear-guard, and had staked his own life that he would stop all pursuit. The count did not leave the vicinity of the citadel—and then alone and on foot—till two hours later, when he saw that nothing was stirring. “Now,” said he, “I am steeped in high treason,” and he was half wild with joy.

Ludovico hit upon the excellent idea of putting a young surgeon attached to the duchess’s household, and who was very much of Fabrizio’s build, into a carriage.

“Fly,” said he to him, “toward Bologna! Blunder as much as ever you can, try to get yourself arrested, then refuse to give clear answers, and end by owning that you are Fabrizio del Dongo. Above all things, gain time. Use all your skill to be as stupid as you can. You will get off with a month’s imprisonment, and the duchess will give you fifty sequins.”

“Does anybody think of money when it’s a question of serving the duchess?”

Off he started, and was arrested some hours later, to the deep delight of General Fabio Conti and Rassi, who saw his barony take to itself wings and fly away together with Fabrizio’s peril.

It was not till six o’clock in the morning that the escape became known in the citadel, and it was ten before anybody dared tell the prince. So well had the duchess been served, that in spite of Fabrizio’s profound slumber, which she took for a dangerous fainting fit, and consequently stopped the carriage three times over, she was crossing the river in a boat as the clock struck four. Relays of horses awaited them on the farther bank; they drove two more leagues very swiftly, then they were stopped for more than an hour to verify their passports. The duchess had passports of every kind, both for herself and Fabrizio, but she was half mad that day; she took it into her head to give ten napoleons to the Austrian police official; she took his hand and burst into tears. The official, very much startled, did all his verification over again. They now took post-horses. The duchess paid so lavishly, that in a country, where every stranger is looked at doubtfully, she aroused universal suspicion. Once more Ludovico came to the rescue; he declared the duchess was mad with grief on account of the long-continued fever of young Count Mosca, the son of the Prime Minister of Parma, whom she was taking to Pavia, to consult the doctors there.

It was not till they were ten leagues beyond the Po that the prisoner thoroughly woke up. One of his shoulders was dislocated, and he was covered with abrasions. The duchess was still behaving in such an extraordinary fashion that the host of the village inn in which they dined thought he had to do with one of the imperial princesses, and would have rendered her the honours he believed to be her due, when Ludovico warned him that the princess would certainly have him thrown into prison if he ventured to have the bells rung.

At last, toward six o’clock in the evening, they reached Piedmontese soil. Not till then was Fabrizio in perfect safety. He was conveyed to a little village, standing off the high-road, his hands were dressed; he slept for a few hours longer.

It was at this village that the duchess indulged in an action which was not only a hateful one from the moral point of view, but the effect of which on the tranquillity of the remainder of her life was grievous in the extreme. Some weeks before Fabrizio’s escape, on a day when the whole of Parma had betaken itself to the citadel gates to try and catch sight of the scaffold being erected in the courtyard for his benefit, the duchess had shown Ludovico, who had become her household factotum, the secret whereby one of the stones forming the bottom of the famous reservoir attached to the Palazzo Sanseverina, that work of the thirteenth century to which we have already referred, might be driven out of its skilfully concealed iron bed. While Fabrizio was sleeping soundly in the little village tavern, the duchess sent for Ludovico. So strange were the glances she cast at him that he thought she had lost her reason.

“No doubt you expect me to give you several thousand francs,” said she. “Well, I am not going to do that. You are a poet; you would soon have squandered all the money. I shall give you the little property called the Ricciarda, a league from Casal Maggiore.” Beside himself with delight, Ludovico cast himself at her feet, protesting, in heartfelt accents, that it was not for the sake of earning money that he had helped to save Monsignore Fabrizio, and that he had always loved him with a special affection since the time when he had been third coachman to the duchess, and had had the honour of driving his carriage. When the man, who really was a faithful-hearted fellow, thought he had sufficiently encroached on this great lady’s time, he would have taken his leave, but she, with flashing eyes, said to him, “Stay here!”

She was walking silently up and down the tavern room, from time to time casting the most extraordinary glances on Ludovico. At last the man, perceiving no apparent end to her strange march, ventured to address his mistress:

“The signora has granted me such an excessive gift, so far beyond anything a poor man like myself could have imagined, and above all so immensely superior to the poor services I have had the honour of doing her, that I think I can not, in all conscience, keep the lands of the Ricciarda. I have the honour to return the property to the signora, and to entreat her to grant me a pension of four hundred francs a year.”

“How many times in your life,” said she to him, with the gloomiest air of pride, “how many times have you heard it said that I relinquished a plan I had once mentioned?”

Having said these words, the duchess walked up and down again for some minutes, then, stopping suddenly short, she cried:

“It is by accident, and because he won that little girl’s favour, that Fabrizio’s life has been saved. If he had not made himself charming he would have died; can you deny me that?” she cried, sailing down upon Ludovico, her eyes flashing with the darkest rage. Ludovico stepped several paces backward, and concluded she was certainly mad, a fact which inspired him with serious alarm regarding his ownership of the Ricciarda.

“Well, well,” said the duchess, changing suddenly to the gentlest and most cheerful tone, “I desire my good people at Sacca shall have a delightful day—one they shall remember for ages. You shall go back to Sacca. Have you any objection? Do you think you will be in any danger?”

“Very little, signora. Nobody in Sacca will ever let out that I have been in attendance on Monsignore Fabrizio, and besides, if I may venture to say so to the signora, I am longing to see my property of the Ricciarda. It seems so comical to me to be a landowner.”

“Your pleasure delights me. I think the tenant of the Ricciarda owes me some two or three years of his rent. I make him a present of one half of what he owes me; the other half of all his arrears I give to you, but on this condition: You will go to Sacca, you will say that the day after to-morrow is the fĂȘte day of one of my patron saints, and the night after your arrival you will have my house illuminated in the most splendid manner. Spare neither money nor pains. Recollect that this has to do with the greatest happiness of my life.

“I have been making ready for this illumination for a long time. For more than three months I have been collecting everything needful for this splendid festivity in the cellars of my house. I have deposited all the fireworks for a magnificent display in the gardener’s care. You will have them let off on the terrace facing the Po. There are eighty-nine great hogsheads of wine in my cellars. You will set up eighty-nine fountains running wine in my park. If a single bottle remains undrunk on the following day, I shall say you do not love Fabrizio. When the fountains of wine are running, and the illumination and the fireworks are in full swing, you will slip away cautiously, for it is possible, and that is my hope, that in Parma all these fine doings will be taken as an insult.”

“That is not possible only; it is certain. And it is certain, too, that Chief-Justice Rassi, who signed monsignore’s sentence, will be bursting with rage. And,” added Ludovico somewhat timidly, “if the signora desired to give her poor servant even a greater pleasure than that of receiving half the arrears of the Ricciarda, she would give me leave to play a little joke upon that same Rassi.”

“You’re a good fellow,” exclaimed the duchess, delighted. “But I absolutely forbid you to do anything at all to Rassi. I intend to have him publicly hanged at some future time. As for yourself, try not to get yourself arrested at Sacca; everything would be spoiled if I lost you.”

“Me, signora! Once I have said I am keeping the feast of one of the Signora Duchessa’s patron saints, you may be sure that if the police sent thirty gendarmes to interfere, not one of them would be on his horse by the time they reached the red cross in the middle of the village. They are not to be trifled with, those Sacca men—first-rate smugglers every one of them, and they worship the signora.”

“Well,” the duchess began again with a curiously offhand air, “while I give wine to my good people at Sacca, I want to drench the people of Parma. On the very night when my castle is lighted up, take the best horse in my stables, hurry off to my palace in Parma, and open the reservoir.”

“Ah, that’s a fine idea of the signora’s,” cried Ludovico in fits of laughter, “wine for the good folks at Sacca, water for the Parmese townsmen, who had made so certain, the wretches, that monsignore was going to be poisoned like poor L⸺.”

Ludovico could not get over his delight. The duchess watched his ecstasies with evident satisfaction. “Wine for the Sacca men,” he kept saying, “water for the Parmese! The signora doubtless knows, better than I do, that twenty years ago, when the reservoir was imprudently emptied, the water ran a foot deep in many of the streets of Parma.”

“And water for the Parmese,” answered the duchess, laughing. “The square before the citadel would have been crammed with people if Fabrizio’s head had been cut off.… Everybody calls him the great culprit.… But above all things, do it cunningly! Let no living being ever know that the inundation was your work, nor done by my order. Fabrizio, even the count himself, must remain in ignorance of this wild joke.… But I was forgetting my poor people at Sacca. Go you, and write a letter to my man of business, which I will sign. You will tell him he is to distribute a hundred sequins among the poor of Sacca, in honour of my patron saint, and that he is to take all your orders about the illumination, the fireworks, and the wine. Above all things, be sure there is not one full bottle in my cellars the next morning.”

“The signora’s steward will only find one difficulty. The signora has owned the castle now for five years, and she has not left ten poor persons in Sacca.”

“And water for the Parmese!” quoth the duchess, humming it like a tune. “How shall you carry out my joke?”

“I see my plan quite clearly. I shall start from Sacca at nine o’clock. At half past ten my horse will be at the inn of the Three Blockheads on the road to Casal Maggiore, and my property of the Ricciarda. At eleven I shall be in my room at the palace, and at a quarter past the townsfolk of Parma will have water, and more than they want of it, to drink the great culprit’s health. Ten minutes later I shall go out of the city by the Bologna road; as I pass it by I shall make a deep bow to the citadel on which monsignore’s bravery and the signora’s wit have just heaped dishonour. I shall take a country path with which I am well acquainted, and so I shall make my way back to the Ricciarda.”

Ludovico raised his eyes to the duchess’s face, and felt a thrill of terror. She was staring fixedly at the bare wall, six paces from her, and it must be acknowledged that there was something awful in her glance. “Ah, my poor land!” thought Ludovico to himself. “She certainly is mad.” The duchess looked at him and guessed his thought.

“Aha, Signor Ludovico, the great poet! You would like the gift in writing. Fetch me a sheet of paper.” Ludovico did not wait for a repetition of the injunction, and the duchess wrote out, in her own hand, a lengthy acknowledgment, antedated by twelve months, whereby she declared she had received the sum of eighty thousand francs from Ludovico San-Michele, and had given him the Ricciarda as security for that sum. If, at the expiration of twelve months, the duchess had not returned the said eighty thousand francs to Ludovico, the lands of the Ricciarda were to remain his property. “There is something fine,” said the duchess to herself, “in giving a faithful servant very nearly a third of all that remains to myself.”

“Hark!” said the duchess to Ludovico. “After you have played my joke with the reservoir I can only give you two days in which to enjoy yourself at Casal Maggiore. To insure the validity of the sale, you must say the business dates more than a year back. You must rejoin me at Belgirate, and that without any delay. Fabrizio may possibly go to England, and you must follow him thither.”

Early the next morning the duchess and Fabrizio were at Belgirate.

They settled themselves down in that enchanting village. But a mortal sorrow awaited the duchess on the shores of the beautiful Lago Maggiore. Fabrizio was an altered man. From the very first moments of his awakening out of the lethargic slumber which had followed on his flight, the duchess had perceived that something extraordinary was passing within his soul. The deep feeling which he hid with so much care was a somewhat strange one—it was nothing less than his despair at finding himself out of prison. He carefully abstained from confessing the cause of his sadness; that would have elicited questions which he did not choose to answer. “But,” said the duchess in her astonishment, “the hideous sensation, when hunger forced you to stave off inanition by eating some of the horrible food sent from the prison kitchen, the sensation—Is there any odd taste about this? Am I poisoning myself at this moment? Did not that feeling fill you with horror?”

“I thought of death,” replied Fabrizio, “just as I suppose soldiers think of it. It was a possibility, which I fully believed I should escape by my own skill.”

What an anxiety, what a grief was this to the duchess! She watched this being whom she adored, who had once been so unlike other men, so lively, so full of originality, a prey now to the deepest reverie. He preferred solitude even to the pleasure of talking over everything, in utter frankness, with the best friend he had in the world. His behaviour to the duchess was still kindly, attentive, full of gratitude. As in the old days, he would have given his life for her a hundred times over. But his heart was elsewhere. Often they sailed four or five leagues over the lovely lake without exchanging a word. Conversation, the chilly exchange of thought still possible to them, might, perhaps, have seemed agreeable to others. But they, and more especially the duchess, still recollected what their conversations had been before that fatal fray with Giletti had parted them. Fabrizio owed the duchess the story of the nine months he had spent in a hideous prison, and now it appeared that all he had to tell of that time amounted to a few short and unfinished phrases.

“This was sure to happen, sooner or later,” said the duchess to herself, drearily. “Sorrow has aged me, or else real love has come to him, and I only hold the second place in his heart.” Humbled, crushed, by this greatest of all possible sorrows, the duchess would sometimes murmur to herself, “If it had been Heaven’s will that Ferrante should have gone quite mad, or that his courage should have failed, it seems to me I should have been less wretched.” From that moment, this partial regret poisoned the duchess’s esteem for her own character. “So,” she mused bitterly, “I repent me now of a resolution I have once taken. I am no longer a Del Dongo.”

“Heaven willed it so,” she began again. “Fabrizio is in love, and what right have I to desire he should not be in love? Has one single word of love ever been exchanged between us?”

This thought, sensible as it was, prevented her from sleeping, and at last—this proves that age and a weakening soul had overtaken her, simultaneously with her hope of a condign vengeance—she was a hundred times more wretched at Belgirate than she had been at Parma. As to the identity of the person who had cast Fabrizio into so strange a reverie, there was no possibility of any reasonable doubt. Clelia Conti, that pious maiden, had deceived her father, since she had consented to make the garrison drunk, and Fabrizio never mentioned Clelia’s name. “But,” the duchess added, beating her breast in her despair, “if the garrison had not been intoxicated, all my inventiveness and all my care would have come to naught. Therefore it is she who has saved him.”

It was only with the most extreme difficulty that the duchess could induce Fabrizio to give her any details of the events of that night, which, so the duchess said to herself, “would otherwise have been the subject of never-ending conversation between us. In those happy days he would have talked all day long, and with incessant spirit and gaiety, about the veriest trifle it came into my head to suggest.”

As it was necessary to provide for every contingency, the duchess had established Fabrizio at the port of Locarno, a Swiss town at the end of the Lago Maggiore. Every day she fetched him, in a boat, for long expeditions on the lake. One day she took it into her head to go up to his room, and found the walls covered with a quantity of views of the city of Parma, for which he had sent to Milan, or even to Parma itself—that country which he should have held in detestation. His little sitting-room had been transformed into a studio, fitted with all the impedimenta of a water-colour artist, and she found him just finishing a third sketch of the Farnese Tower and the governor’s palace.

“All you need do now,” said she, with a look of vexation, “is to draw the portrait of that delightful governor who wanted to poison you, from memory. But now I come to think of it,” continued the duchess, “you really should write him a letter of apology for having taken the liberty of escaping and bringing ridicule upon his citadel.”

The poor lady little thought how truly she was speaking.

Fabrizio’s first care, the moment he had reached a place of safety, had been to indite General Fabio Conti a perfectly polite and, in a sense, a very ridiculous letter, in which he begged him to forgive him for having escaped, alleging, as his excuse, that he had been given reason to believe that a person occupying a subaltern position in the prison had been ordered to poison him. Fabrizio cared little what he wrote. His one hope was that the letter might fall under Clelia’s eyes, and his own face was wet with tears as he traced the words. He closed his epistle with a very whimsical phrase: he ventured to say that now he was at liberty, he very often regretted his little chamber in the Farnese Tower. This was the ruling thought of his letter, and he hoped Clelia would understand it. Still in a writing humour, and still hoping that a certain person might read what he wrote, Fabrizio penned his thanks to Don Cesare, the good-natured chaplain who had lent him theological books. A few days later Fabrizio persuaded the small bookseller at Locarno to travel to Milan, where this worthy, who was a friend of the celebrated book-fancier, Reina, bought him the most splendid editions to be discovered of the works lent him by Don Cesare. The kind chaplain received these books, with a fine letter telling him that the poor prisoner, in moments of impatience which might perhaps be forgiven him, had covered the margins of his books with absurd notes. He therefore besought him to replace those volumes in his library by these now despatched to him, with a most lively sense of gratitude.

Fabrizio was not exactly correct when he described his endless scribblings on the margins of a folio copy of the works of St. Jerome as “notes.” Hoping he might be able to send the book back to the good chaplain and exchange it for another, he had written on its margins, from day to day, a most careful journal of everything that happened to him in prison. These great events amounted to nothing but the expression of his ecstasies of divine love (the word divine was used instead of another, which he dared not write). Sometimes this “divine love” cast the prisoner into the deepest despair; then, again, a voice heard in the air would give him some hope, and lift him into transports of happiness. All this was written, fortunately, in prison ink, composed of wine, chocolate, and soot, and Don Cesare, when he put the volume of St. Jerome back on his library shelves, had scarcely glanced at it. If he had looked closely over the margins he would have become aware that one day the prisoner, believing himself to have been poisoned, was rejoicing in the thought that he was to die within forty paces of that which he had loved best in this world. But other eyes besides those of the kind-hearted chaplain had perused the page since Fabrizio’s escape. The beautiful idea of dying near the object of one’s love, expressed in a hundred different forms, was followed by a sonnet, which set forth that the soul, parted after hideous torments from the weak body which it had inhabited for the past three-and-twenty years, and impelled by that instinctive desire for happiness natural to everything which has had life, would not, even if the great Judge granted pardon for all its sins, betake itself to heaven, to join the angelic choir, the moment it obtained its freedom; but that, more happy after death than it had been in life, it would join itself to its earthly love, within a few paces of the prison in which it groaned so long. “Thus,” ran the last line of the sonnet, “I shall have found my paradise on earth.”

Although within the citadel of Parma Fabrizio was never mentioned, except as a vile traitor who had violated the most sacred laws, the worthy priest was delighted at the sight of these beautiful books, sent him by an unknown hand—for Fabrizio had been careful not to write for a few days after their arrival, lest the sight of his name should induce the indignant return of the whole consignment. Don Cesare did not mention this attention to his brother, who flew into a fury whenever Fabrizio’s name was spoken. But since the prisoner’s escape he had fallen back into all his former intimacy with his charming niece, and as he had at one time taught her a little Latin, he showed her the beautiful books he had received. This had been the traveller’s hope. Clelia suddenly reddened deeply; she had recognised Fabrizio’s handwriting. Long narrow pieces of yellow paper had been placed, like markers, in different parts of the volume, and how true is it that amidst the sordid money interests, and the cold and colourless vulgarity of the considerations which fill our lives, the acts inspired by a genuine passion seldom fail to produce their due effect! On this occasion, as though some favouring goddess led her by the hand, Clelia, guided by instinct, and by one overmastering thought, begged her uncle to allow her to compare his old copy of St. Jerome with that he had just received. How shall I describe the joy that brightened the gloomy sadness into which Fabrizio’s absence had plunged her, when she found, on the margins of the old St. Jerome, the sonnet of which we have spoken, and the recital, day by day, of the love she had inspired!

That very first day she knew the lines by heart, and sang them to herself, leaning on her own window, opposite that lonely one at which she had so often seen the tiny opening appear in the wooden screen. The screen in question had been taken down, to be produced in court, and used as a proof in an absurd trial which Rassi was now instituting against Fabrizio, who was accused of having escaped, or, as the Chief Justice put it, laughing himself, of having snatched himself from the clemency of a magnanimous prince.

Every step Clelia had taken caused her bitter remorse, and now that she was so unhappy, her self-reproach was all the deeper. She struggled to soften the blame she cast upon herself by recalling the vow she had made to the Madonna, when the general had been half poisoned, and renewed every day since—that she would never see Fabrizio again.

Fabrizio’s escape had made the general very ill, and besides, he had very nearly lost his post, when the prince, in his rage, discharged all the jailers in the Farnese Tower, and sent them as prisoners to the city jail. The general had been partly saved by the intercession of Count Mosca, who preferred having him shut up in the top of his citadel to having to deal with him as an active and intriguing rival in court circles.

It was during this fortnight of uncertainty as to the disgrace of the general, who was really ill, that Clelia found courage to perform the sacrifice of which she had spoken to Fabrizio. She had been clever enough to fall ill on that day of general rejoicing, which had also, as my readers recollect, been that of Fabrizio’s flight. The next day, again, she was ill, and, in a word, she managed so cleverly that, except for the jailer Grillo, whose special charge Fabrizio had been, not a soul suspected her complicity, and Grillo held his peace. But as soon as Clelia’s fears from this quarter were quieted, her legitimate remorse tortured her yet more cruelly. “What earthly reason,” said she to herself, “can possibly lessen the crime of a daughter who betrays her father?”

One evening, after having spent almost the whole day in the chapel, and in tears, she begged her uncle, Don Cesare, to come with her to the general, whose fits of rage now terrified her all the more because they were constantly mingled with curses of that abominable traitor Fabrizio.

When she reached her father’s presence she found courage to tell him that if she had always refused to give her hand to the Marchese Crescenzi it was because she felt no inclination toward him, and that she was convinced the union would not bring her happiness. At these words the general flew into a fury, and Clelia had considerable difficulty in speaking again. She added that if her father, tempted by the marchese’s fortune, thought himself obliged to give her a formal order to marry him, she was ready to obey. The general was quite taken aback by this conclusion, which he did not in the least expect. He ended, however, by being very much delighted. “So,” said he to his brother, “I shall not have to live in rooms on the second floor, after all, even if this scamp Fabrizio’s vile behaviour does cost me my place.”

Count Mosca took care to be very much shocked by the escape of “that good-for-nothing fellow Fabrizio,” and seized every opportunity of repeating Rassi’s vulgar phrase as to the dull behaviour of the young man who had turned his back on the sovereign’s clemency.

This witty remark, beloved by the smart set, did not take at all among the populace. The people, left to their own good sense, and though they held Fabrizio a very guilty man, admired the courage he had shown in climbing down from so great a height. There was not a soul about court who felt any admiration for his courage. As for the police, which was sorely humiliated by its mishap, it had officially discovered that twenty soldiers, bought over with money distributed by the duchess—that vilely ungrateful woman whose name could not be pronounced without a sigh—had brought Fabrizio four ladders, each forty-five feet long, and all bound together. Fabrizio had thrown down a rope, which had been fastened to these ladders, and his only exploit had been the very ordinary one of hauling them up. Certain notoriously imprudent Liberals, and among them a Doctor C⸺, an agent in the prince’s direct pay, added, and compromised themselves by saying so, that this merciless police had been so cruel as to cause eight of the soldiers who had abetted the ungrateful Fabrizio’s flight to be barbarously shot. Hence Fabrizio was blamed, even by genuine Liberals, because his foolhardiness had brought about the death of eight poor soldiers. Thus do small despots whittle down the value of public opinion.