The Chartreuse of Parma CHAPTER XIII

The unexpected appearance of this charming young person drove every serious thought away. Fabrizio lived on at Bologna with a sense of the deepest delight and security. His artless propensity to find happiness in anything which filled his life, betrayed itself in his letters to the duchess, and to such a point as to annoy her.

Fabrizio hardly noticed it; only he noted in abbreviated signs on the dial plate of his watch, “When I write to the duchess I must never say ‘when I was a prelate, when I was a churchman’—it vexes her.” He had bought a pair of ponies, with which he was very much pleased, and harnessed them to a hired chaise whenever little Marietta had a fancy to go and see one of the delightful spots in the neighbourhood of Bologna. Almost every evening he drove her to the Reno Cascade. On the way back he would stop at the house of the good-natured Crescentini, who rather believed himself to be Marietta’s father.

“Faith,” said Fabrizio to himself, “if this be the café life which struck me as being so absurd for any serious man to lead, I did wrong to turn up my nose at it.” He forgot that he never went near a café except to read the Constitutionnel, and that as he was utterly unknown to any one in Bologna, the pleasures of vanity had nothing to do with his present state of felicity. When he was not with little Marietta, he was to be seen at the observatory, where he was attending a course of astronomy. The professor had taken a great fancy to him, and Fabrizio would lend him his horses on a Sunday, so that he and his wife might go and ruffle it in the Corso of the Montagnola.

He had a horror of making any one unhappy, however unworthy the person might be. Marietta would not hear of his seeing the mamaccia, but one day, when she was in church, he went up to the old woman’s room. She flushed with anger when she saw him enter. “I must play the Del Dongo here,” said Fabrizio to himself. “How much does Marietta earn a month when she has an engagement?” he called out, with very much the same air as that with which a self-respecting young Parisian takes his seat in the balcon at the Opéra Bouffe.

“Fifty crowns.”

“You lie, as usual. Tell me the truth, or, by God, you’ll not get a centime.”

“Well, she was earning twenty-two crowns in our company at Parma, when we were so unlucky as to meet you. I earned twelve crowns, and we each gave Giletti, our protector, a third of our earnings; on that Giletti made Marietta a present almost every month—something like two crowns——”

“You lie again; you only earned four crowns. But if you are good to Marietta, I will engage you as if I were an impresario. You shall have twelve crowns for yourself every month, and twenty-two for her, but if I see her eyes red once I shall go bankrupt.”

“You’re mighty proud of yourself! Well, let me tell you, your fine generosity is ruining us,” rejoined the old woman furiously. “We are losing l’avviamento [our custom]. When we have the crushing misfortune of losing your Excellency’s protection, no comedy company will know anything about us. They will all be full, we shall find no engagement, and, thanks to you, we shall die of hunger.”

“Go to the devil!” said Fabrizio, departing.

“I will not go to the devil, you ungodly wretch! But I will go straight to the police, and they shall know from me that you are a monsignore who has cast away his cassock, and that Giuseppe Bossi is no more your name than it’s mine.”

Fabrizio had already descended several steps; he turned and came back. “In the first place, the police probably know my real name better than you do. But, if you venture to denounce me, if you dare to do anything so infamous,” he said very seriously, “Ludovico will talk to you, and it will not be six knife thrusts that you will have in your old carcass, but four times six, and you will spend six months in hospital, and without tobacco.”

The hag turned pale, rushed at Fabrizio’s hand, and tried to kiss it.

“I accept what you are ready to do for me and Marietta thankfully; you looked so good-natured that I took you for a simpleton. And consider this well; other people might make the same mistake. I would advise you to look more like a great gentleman, as a rule.” Then she added, with the most admirable impudence, “You will think over this piece of good advice, and, as winter is not far off, you will make Marietta and me each a present of a good coat of that fine English stuff in the big shop on the Piazza San Petronio.”

The pretty Marietta’s love offered Fabrizio all the charms of the most tender friendship, and this made him think of the happiness of the same description he might have found in the company of the duchess.

“But is it not a very comical thing,” said he to himself, “that I am not capable of that exclusive and passionate preoccupation which men call love? Amid all my chance liaisons, at Novara or at Naples, did I ever meet a woman whose presence I preferred, even in the earliest days, to a ride on a good-looking horse that I had never mounted before? Can it be,” he added, “that what is called ‘love’ is yet another lie? I love, of course, just as I am hungry at six o’clock in the evening. Can it be that this somewhat vulgar propensity is what these liars have lifted into the love of Othello and the love of Tancred? Or must I believe that my organization is different from that of other men. What if no passion should ever touch my heart? That would be a strange fate!”

At Naples, especially toward the close of his residence there, Fabrizio had met women who, proud of their rank, their beauty, and the worldly position of the adorers they had sacrificed to him, had tried to govern him. At the very first inkling of their plans Fabrizio had broken with them in the promptest and most scandalous manner. “Now,” said he, “if I ever allow myself to be carried away by the pleasure, no doubt a very keen one, of being on good terms with that pretty woman known as the Duchess Sanseverina, I am exactly like the blundering Frenchman who killed the hen that laid the golden eggs. To the duchess I owe the only happiness with which a tender feeling has ever inspired me. My affection for her is my life; and besides, apart from her what am I? A miserable exile condemned to a hand-to-mouth existence, in a ruinous castle near Novara. I remember that when the great autumn rains came I used to be obliged to fasten an umbrella over the head of my bed, for fear of accidents. I used to ride the agent’s horses, and he just allowed it out of respect for my blue blood (and my muscular strength). But he was beginning to think I had stayed there too long. My father allowed me twelve hundred francs a year, and thought himself damned because he was supporting a Jacobin. My poor mother and my sisters went without gowns so as to enable me to make some trifling presents to my mistresses. This kind of generosity used to wring my heart, and besides, my state of penury was beginning to be suspected, and the young noblemen in the neighbourhood would soon have been pitying me. Sooner or later some coxcomb would have betrayed his scorn for a poor and unsuccessful Jacobin, for in their eyes I was nothing else. I should have bestowed or received some hearty sword thrust, which would have brought me to the fortress of Fenestrella or forced me to take refuge in Switzerland once more—still with my twelve hundred francs a year. To the duchess I owe the happiness of having escaped all these ills, and further, she it is who feels for me those transports of affection which I ought to feel for her.

“Instead of the ridiculous and shabby existence which would have turned me into that sorry animal, a fool, I have spent four years in a great city, and with an excellent carriage, which has prevented me from feeling envy, and other low provincial sentiments. This aunt, in her extreme kindness, is always scolding me because I do not draw enough money from her banker. Shall I spoil this admirable position forever? Shall I lose the only friend I have in the world? All I have to do is to tell her a lie, and say to a charming woman, who probably has not her equal in the world, and for whom I have the most passionate regard, ‘I love you.’ This from me, who do not know what real love means! She would spend whole days reproaching me with the absence of those transports which I have never known. Now, Marietta, who can not see into my heart, and who takes a caress for an outburst of passion, thinks me madly in love with her, and believes herself the happiest of living women.

“As a matter of fact, the only slight acquaintance that I have ever had with that tender absorption which is, I believe, denominated love, was for that young girl Aniken, at the inn at Zonders, near the Belgian frontier.”

It is with much regret that we must here relate one of Fabrizio’s worst actions. In the midst of his tranquil life, a foolish sting to his vanity took possession of the heart which love could not vanquish, and carried him quite off his feet. Living in Bologna at the same time as himself, was the celebrated Fausta F⸺, undoubtedly one of the first singers of our time, and perhaps the most capricious woman ever seen. The gifted Venetian poet Burati had written a famous satirical sonnet concerning her, which, at that time, was in the mouth of every one, from princes to the lowest urchins in the street:—

“To will and not to will, to adore and detest in one and the same day, to find no happiness save in inconstancy, to scorn that which the world adores, so long as the world adores it—Fausta has all these faults and many more. Wherefore, never cast your eyes upon the serpent; if once thou seest her, oh, imprudent man, all her caprices are forgotten. If thou hast the happiness of hearing her, thou forgettest even thyself, and love, at that moment, makes of thee what Circe once made the comrades of Ulysses.”

Just at that moment this miracle of beauty was so fascinated by the huge whiskers and overweening insolence of the young Count M⸺ that even his abominable jealousy did not revolt her. Fabrizio saw the count in the streets of Bologna, and was nettled by the air of superiority with which he swaggered along the pavements, and graciously condescended to show off his charms before the public. The young man was very rich, believed he might venture anything, and as his prepotenzi had earned him several threats, he hardly ever appeared unaccompanied by eight or ten buli (a sort of ruffian) who wore his liveries, and came from his property near Brescia.

Once or twice, when he had chanced to hear the Fausta sing, Fabrizio had crossed glances with the doughty count. He was astonished by the angelic sweetness of her voice; he had never dreamed of anything like it. It gave him sensations of supreme delight, a fine contrast to the placidity of his existence. “Can this, at last, be love?” said he to himself. Full of curiosity to feel the passion, and amused, too, by the idea of braving the count, who looked far more threatening than any drum-major, our hero committed the childish folly of appearing much too frequently in front of the Palazzo Tanari, in which the count had installed the Fausta.

One day, toward nightfall, Fabrizio, who was trying to make Fausta look at him, was greeted by shrieks of laughter, evidently intentional, from the count’s buli, who were standing round the door of the palace. He hurried home, armed himself well, and returned.

Fausta, hidden behind her sun-blinds, was expecting this return, and noted it down to his credit. The count, who was jealous of everybody on earth, became especially jealous of Signor Giuseppe Bossi, and indulged in all sorts of absurd threats, whereupon our hero sent him a letter every morning containing nothing but these words: “Signor Giuseppe Bossi destroys vermin, and lives at the Pellegrino, in the Via Larga, No. 79.”

Count M⸺, inured to the respect ensured him everywhere by his great fortune, his blue blood, and the bravery of his thirty serving-men, refused to understand the language of the little note.

Fabrizio wrote more notes to the Fausta. M⸺ set spies upon his rival, who was not, perhaps, unpleasing to the lady. He first of all learned his real name, and that, for the moment, at all events, he did not dare to show his face in Parma. A few days later Count M⸺, with his buli, his splendid horses, and Fausta, all departed to Parma.

Fabrizio, warming to the game, followed them next morning. In vain did the faithful Ludovico remonstrate pathetically with him. Fabrizio would not listen, and Ludovico, who was a brave man himself, admired him for it. Besides, this journey would bring him nearer his own pretty mistress at Casal-Maggiore. By Ludovico’s care, eight or ten old soldiers who had served in Napoleon’s regiments, entered Signor Giuseppe Bossi’s service, nominally as servants.

“If,” said Fabrizio to himself, “when I commit this folly of going after the Fausta, I only hold no communication with the Minister of Police, Count Mosca, nor with the duchess, I risk no one but myself. Later on I will tell my aunt that I did it all in search of love, that beautiful thing that I have never been able to discover. The fact is that I do think about Fausta, even when I don’t see her; but is it the memory of her voice that I love, or is it her person?”

As he had given up all thoughts of the Church as a career, Fabrizio had grown moustaches and whiskers almost as tremendous as those of Count M⸺, and these somewhat disguised him. He established his headquarters, not at Parma—that would have been too imprudent—but in a village hard by, on the road to Sacca, where his aunt’s country house was situated. Advised by Ludovico, he gave himself out in the village as the valet of a very eccentric English nobleman who spent a hundred thousand francs a year on sport, and who was shortly to arrive from the Lake of Como, where he was detained by the trout-fishing.

Fortunately the pretty little palace which Count M⸺ had hired for the fair Fausta stood at the southernmost end of the town of Parma, and just on the Sacca road, and Fausta’s windows looked on to the fine avenues of tall trees which stretch away below the high tower of the citadel.

Fabrizio was not known in that lonely quarter of the town. He did not fail to have Count M⸺ followed, and one day, when he had just left the exquisite singer’s house, Fabrizio was bold enough to appear in the street in broad daylight. He was well armed, indeed, and mounted on an excellent horse. Musicians, such as are constantly found in the Italian streets, and who occasionally are very good indeed, ranged themselves with their instruments under the Fausta’s windows, and, after some introductory chords, sang, very fairly, a cantata in her honour. Fausta appeared at the window, and her attention was easily caught by a very courteous young gentleman, who first of all saluted her, and then began to bombard her with most significant glances. In spite of the exaggeratedly English dress Fabrizio had donned, she soon recognised the sender of the passionate letters which had brought about her departure from Bologna. “This is a strange being,” said she to herself. “I fancy I am going to fall in love with him. I have a hundred louis in my pocket. I can very well afford to break with the terrible count. He really has no intelligence, and there is nothing novel about him; the only thing that rather entertains me is the frightful appearance of his followers.”

The next morning Fabrizio, having heard that the Fausta went to mass every day about eleven o’clock, in that very church of San Giovanni which contained the tomb of his great-uncle, the Archbishop Ascanio del Dongo, ventured to follow her there. It must be said that Ludovico had provided him with a fine English wig of the brightest red hair. À propos to the colour of these locks—that of the flame which devoured his heart—he wrote a sonnet which delighted the Fausta. An unknown hand had laid it carefully on her piano. This manœuvring went on for quite a week, but Fabrizio felt that in spite of all his various efforts, he was making no real progress.

Fausta refused to receive him. He had overdone his eccentricity, and she has since acknowledged that she was afraid of him. Fabrizio still retained a faint hope of arriving at the sensation which is known as love, but in the meanwhile, he was very often sorely bored.

“Sir, let us take ourselves off,” said Ludovico to him over and over again. “You are not the least in love; your coolness and reasonableness are quite hopeless, and besides, you make no progress whatsoever. Let us decamp, for very shame.”

In the first flush of disgust, Fabrizio was on the very point of departing. Then he heard that the Fausta was to sing at the Duchess Sanseverina’s house. “Perhaps that sublime voice will really set my heart on fire at last,” thought he, and he actually dared to introduce himself, in disguise, into his aunt’s palace, where every one knew him.

The emotion of the duchess may be imagined, when, quite toward the end of the concert, she noticed a man in a chasseur’s livery standing near the door of the great drawing-room; something in his appearance stirred her memory. She sought Count Mosca, and it was not until then that he informed her of Fabrizio’s extraordinary and really incomprehensible folly. He took the matter very well—this love for somebody who was not the duchess was very agreeable to him—and the count, who, politics apart, was a man of perfect honour, acted on the maxim that his own happiness depended entirely on that of the duchess. “I will save him from himself,” said he to his friend. “Imagine our enemies’ delight if he were arrested in this very palace! So I have posted a hundred men of my own in the house, and it was on this account that I asked you to give me the keys of the great water-tank. He gives himself out as being desperately in love with the Fausta, and hitherto he has not been able to carry her off from Count M⸺, who gives the giddy creature all the luxuries of a queen.”

The liveliest sorrow was painted on the features of the duchess.

Fabrizio was nothing more than a libertine, then—incapable of any tender or serious feeling! “And not to see us! That is what I shall never be able to forgive him,” she said at last. “And I, who am writing to him every day, to Bologna——”

“I give him great credit for his self-restraint,” said the count. “He does not desire to compromise us by his freak, and it will be very amusing to hear his account of it later.”

The Fausta was too giddy-pated to be able to hold her tongue about anything which occupied her thoughts. The morning after the concert, during which she had sung all her airs at the tall young man dressed as a chasseur, she referred, in conversation with the count, to an unknown and attentive individual. “Where do you see him?” inquired the count in a fury. “In the streets, in church,” replied the Fausta, in confusion. She immediately tried to repair her imprudence, or at all events to remove any idea which could recall Fabrizio’s person. She launched into an endless description of a tall red-haired young man with blue eyes, some very rich and clumsy Englishman, doubtless, or else some prince. At this word the count, the definiteness of whose impressions was their only virtue, jumped to the conclusion—a delightful one for his vanity—that his rival was none other than the hereditary Prince of Parma. This poor melancholy youth, watched over by five or six governors, sub-governors, tutors, etc., who never allowed him to go out without holding a preliminary council, was in the habit of casting strange looks at every decent-looking woman whom he was allowed to approach. At the duchess’s concert he had been seated, as his rank demanded, in front of all the other auditors, in a separate arm-chair, and three paces from the fair Fausta, and had gazed at her in a manner which had caused excessive vexation to the count. This delightful piece of wild vanity, the idea of having a prince for his rival, entertained Fausta vastly, and she amused herself by strengthening it with a hundred details, imparted in the most apparently artless fashion.

“Is your family,” said she to the count, “as old as that of the Farnese, to which this young man belongs?”

“As old! What do you mean? There are no bastards in my family.”[5]

It so fell out that Count M⸺ never could get a clear view of his pretended rival, and this confirmed his flattering conviction that he had a prince for his antagonist. As a matter of fact, Fabrizio, when the necessities of his enterprise did not summon him to Parma, spent his time in the woods near Sacca, and on the banks of the Po. Count M⸺ had grown more haughty than ever, but far more prudent, too, since he had believed himself to be disputing Fausta’s affections with a prince. He besought her very earnestly to behave with the utmost reserve in everything she did.

After casting himself at her feet, like a jealous and passionate lover, he told her very plainly that his honour demanded that she should not be duped by the young prince.

“Excuse me,” she replied. “I should not be his dupe if I loved him. I have never yet seen a prince at my feet.”

“If you yield,” he responded, with a haughty look, “I may not, perhaps, be able to avenge myself on the prince, but vengeance I will have, you may be certain,” and he went out, banging the doors behind him. Had Fabrizio made his appearance at that moment, he would have won his cause.

“If you value your life,” said Count M⸺ to her that evening, as he took leave of her after the play, “see to it that I never find out that the young prince has entered your house. I can do nothing to him, but s’death, madam, do not force me to remember that I can do anything I please to you!”

“Ah, my little Fabrizio,” exclaimed the Fausta, “if I only knew where to lay my hand on you!”

Wounded vanity may drive a wealthy young man, who has been surrounded by flatterers since his birth, into many things. The very real passion with which the Fausta had inspired Count M⸺ burned up again furiously. The dangerous prospect of a struggle with the only son of the sovereign in whose country he was sojourning did not daunt him, and at the same time he was not clever enough to make any attempt to get a sight of the prince, or at least have him followed. As he could discover no other method of attack, M⸺ ventured on the idea of making him look ridiculous. “I shall be banished forever from the dominion of Parma,” said he. “Well, what matter?”

If he had made any attempt to reconnoitre the enemy’s position, Count M⸺ would have discovered that the poor young prince never went out of doors except in the company of three or four old men, the tiresome guardians of official etiquette, and that the only pleasure of his own choice in which he was allowed to indulge, was his taste for mineralogy. Both in the daytime, and at night, the little Palazzo occupied by Fausta, and to which the best company in Parma crowded, was surrounded by watchers. M⸺ was kept informed, hour by hour, of what she was doing, and especially of what was done by those about her. One point, at least, was praiseworthy, in the precautions taken by the jealous man—the lady, whimsical as she was, had no suspicion, at first, of the increasing watchfulness about her. All Count M⸺’s agents reported that a very young man, wearing a wig of red hair, constantly appeared under the Fausta’s windows, but every time in some fresh disguise. “Clearly that is the young prince,” said M⸺ to himself; “otherwise why should he disguise himself? Egad, I am not the man to make way for him! But for the usurpations of the Venetian republic I should now be a reigning prince like him.”

On San Stefano’s Day the spies’ reports grew more gloomy; they seemed to indicate that the Fausta was beginning to respond to her unknown admirer’s attentions. “I might depart instantly, and take the woman with me,” said M⸺ to himself, “but I fled from Bologna before Del Dongo. Here I should flee before a prince, and what would the young man say? He might think he had contrived to frighten me, and on my soul, my family is as good as his!”

M⸺ was beside himself with rage, and to crown his misery, his great object was to prevent his jealousy from making him look ridiculous in the eyes of Fausta, with whose jeering disposition he was well acquainted. Therefore, on San Stefano’s Day, after having spent an hour with her, and received a welcome which seemed to him the very acme of falsehood, he left her, toward eleven o’clock, when she was dressing to go and hear mass at the Church of San Giovanni. Count M⸺ returned to his rooms, put on the shabby black dress of a young theological student, and hurried off to San Giovanni. He chose out a place behind one of the tombs which adorned the third chapel on the right. Under the arm of a cardinal, who was represented kneeling on this tomb, he could see everything that went on in the church. The statue blocked the light within the chapel, and concealed him very sufficiently. Soon he saw Fausta enter, looking more beautiful than ever. She was in full dress, and twenty admirers of the highest rank attended her. Smiles and delight shone on her lips and in her eyes. “Clearly,” thought the unhappy man, “she is expecting to meet the man she loves, and whom, thanks to me, she has perhaps not been able to see for a long time.”

Suddenly the liveliest expression of happiness shone in Fausta’s eyes. “My rival is here,” said M⸺ to himself, and the fury of his wounded vanity knew no bounds. “What am I doing here, acting as counter-weight to a young prince who puts on disguises?” But, hard as he tried, he could not discover the rival whom his hungry glance sought on every side. Every instant the Fausta, after looking all round the church, would fix her eyes, heavy with love and happiness, on the dark corner in which M⸺ stood concealed. In a passionate heart, love is apt to exaggerate the very slightest things, and deduce consequences of the most ridiculous nature. Thus, poor M⸺ ended by persuading himself that the Fausta had caught sight of him, and that, having perceived his mortal jealousy, in spite of his desperate efforts to conceal it, she was seeking, by her tender glances, at once to reproach and to console him.

The cardinal’s tomb, behind which he had taken up his post of observation, was raised some four or five feet above the marble pavement of San Giovanni. When, toward one o’clock, the fashionable mass was brought to a close, most of the congregation departed, and the Fausta dismissed the city beaux on the pretext that she desired to perform her devotions. She remained kneeling on her chair, and her eyes, which had grown softer and more brilliant than ever, rested on M⸺. Now that only a few persons remained in the church, she did not take the trouble of looking all round it before allowing them to dwell with delight on the cardinal’s statue. “What delicacy!” said Count M⸺, who thought she was gazing at him. At last the Fausta rose and went quickly out of church, after having made some curious motions with her hands.

M⸺, drunk with love, and almost wholly cured of his foolish jealousy, was leaving his place to fly to his mistress’s palace and overwhelm her with his gratitude, when, as he passed in front of the cardinal’s tomb, he noticed a young man all in black. This fatal being had remained kneeling close against the epitaph on the tomb in such a position that the lover’s jealous eyes had passed over his head, and so failed to catch sight of him.

The young man rose, moved quickly away, and was instantly surrounded by seven or eight rather awkward and odd-looking fellows, who seemed to belong to him. M⸺ rushed after him, but, without any too evident effort, the clumsy men, who seemed to be protecting his rival, checked his progress in the little procession necessitated by the wooden screen round the entrance door. When, at last, he got out into the street behind them, he had only time to see the door of a sorry-looking carriage, which, by an odd contrast, was drawn by two excellent horses, swiftly closed, and in a moment it was out of sight.

He went home, choking with fury. He was soon joined by his spies, who coolly informed him that on that day the mysterious lover, disguised as a priest, had knelt very devoutly close up against a tomb standing at the entrance of a dark chapel in the Church of San Giovanni; that the Fausta had remained in the church until it was almost empty, and that she had then swiftly exchanged certain signs with the unknown person, making something like crosses with her hands. M⸺ rushed to the faithless woman’s house. For the first time she could not conceal her confusion. With all the lying simplicity of a passionate woman, she related that she had gone to San Giovanni as usual, but had not seen her persecutor there. On these words M⸺, beside himself, told her she was the vilest of creatures, related all he had seen himself, and, as the more bitterly he accused her, the more boldly she lied to him, he drew his dagger and would have fallen upon her. With the most perfect calmness the Fausta said:

“Well, everything you complain of is perfectly true, but I have tried to hide it from you, so as to prevent your boldness from carrying you into mad plans of vengeance which may be the ruin of us both. Let me tell you, once for all, I take this man who persecutes me with his attentions to be one who will find no obstacle to his will, in this country, at all events.” Then, having skilfully reminded M⸺ that, after all, he had no rights over her, the Fausta ended by saying that she should probably not go again to the Church of San Giovanni. M⸺ was desperately in love; it was possible that a touch of coquetry might have mingled with prudence in the young woman’s heart. He felt himself disarmed. He thought of leaving Parma; the young prince, powerful as he was, would not be able to follow him, or, if he followed him, he would be no more than his equal. Then his pride reminded him once more that such a departure would always look like flight, and Count M⸺ forbade himself to think of it again.

“He has not an idea of my little Fabrizio’s existence,” thought the delighted singer. “And now we shall be able to laugh at him most thoroughly.”

Fabrizio had no suspicion of his own good fortune. The next morning, when he saw the fair lady’s windows all carefully closed, and could not catch sight of her anywhere, the joke began to strike him as lasting rather too long. His conscience began to prick him. “Into what a position am I putting poor Count Mosca, the Minister of Police? He will be taken for my accomplice, and my coming to this country will be the ruin of his fortunes. But if I give up a plan I have followed for so long, what will the duchess say when I tell her of my attempts at love-making?”

One night when, feeling sorely inclined to give up the game, he thus reasoned with himself, as he prowled up and down under the great trees which divide the palace in which Fausta was living from the citadel, he became aware that he was being followed by a spy of exceedingly small stature. In vain did he walk through several streets in his endeavour to get away from him. He could not shake off the tiny form which seemed to dog his steps. Losing patience at last, he moved quickly into a lonely street, running along the river, in which his servants were lying in wait. At a signal from him they sprang upon the poor little spy, who threw himself at their feet. It turned out to be Bettina, the Fausta’s waiting-woman. After three days of boredom and retirement she had disguised herself in man’s attire, to escape Count M⸺’s dagger—which both she and her mistress greatly dreaded—and had undertaken to come and tell Fabrizio that he was passionately loved and intensely longed for, but that any reappearance at the Church of San Giovanni was quite impossible. “It was high time,” thought Fabrizio to himself. “Well done, my obstinacy!”

The little waiting-woman was exceedingly pretty, a fact which soon weaned Fabrizio from his communings with morality. She informed him that the public promenade and all the streets through which he had passed that evening, were carefully, though secretly, guarded by spies in the count’s pay. They had hired rooms on the ground floor and on the first floor, and, hidden behind the window shutters, they watched everything that went on in the streets, even those which seemed the loneliest, and heard everything that was said.

“If the spies had recognised my voice,” said little Bettina, “I should have been stabbed without mercy as soon as I got home, and my poor mistress with me, perhaps.” Fabrizio thought her terror increased her charms.

“Count M⸺,” she added, “is furious, and my mistress knows he is capable of anything.… She bade me tell you that she wishes she were with you, and a hundred leagues from here.”

Then she told the story of all that had happened on San Stefano’s Day and of the fury of the count, who had not missed one of the loving glances and signs which the Fausta, who had been quite beside herself with passion that day, had bestowed on Fabrizio. The count had unsheathed his dagger, had caught hold of Fausta by the hair, and but for her presence of mind would certainly have killed her.

Fabrizio conducted the pretty waiting-maid to a lodging he had hard by. He told her that he was the son of a great Turinese nobleman who chanced to be at Parma at that moment, and that therefore he was obliged to act with the greatest caution. Bettina answered laughingly that he was a much greater man than he chose to appear. It was some time before our hero contrived to understand that the charming girl took him for no less a person than the hereditary prince himself. The Fausta was beginning to take alarm, and also to care for Fabrizio. She had resolved not to tell her waiting-maid his real name, and had spoken of him to her as “the prince.” Fabrizio ended by confessing to the pretty girl that she had guessed aright. “But if my name is noised abroad,” he added, “in spite of my great passion for your mistress, of which I have given her so many proofs, I shall not be able to see her any more; and my father’s ministers, those spiteful wretches whom I shall one day send about their business, will not fail to give her instant orders to clear out of the country which she has hitherto embellished by her presence.”

Toward morning, Fabrizio and the fair waiting-maid laid several plans for meeting, so as to enable him to get to Fausta. He sent for Ludovico and another of his men, a very cunning fellow, who arrived at an understanding with Bettina, while he was writing the most exaggerated letter to Fausta. Tragic exaggeration quite fitted in with the situation, and Fabrizio used it without stint. It was not till daybreak that he parted with the pretty waiting-maid, who was highly delighted with the treatment she had received at the hands of the young prince.

A hundred times over they had agreed that now the Fausta had entered into communication with her lover, he was not to appear under the windows of the little palace until she was able to admit him, when he would be duly warned. But Fabrizio, who was now in love with Bettina and believed himself near success with Fausta, could not stay quietly in his village two leagues from Parma. Toward midnight on the morrow, he came on horseback, with a sufficient train of servants, and sang, under the Fausta’s windows, an air then fashionable, to which he had put words of his own. “Is not this a common practice among lovers?” said he to himself.

Now that the Fausta had given him to understand that she desired a meeting, this long pursuit seemed very wearisome to Fabrizio. “No, this is not love,” said he to himself as he sang, not particularly well, under the windows of the little palace. “Bettina seems to me a hundred times more attractive than Fausta, and it is she whom I should best like to see at this moment.” He was returning to his village, feeling rather bored, when, about five hundred paces from Fausta’s palace, he was sprung upon by some fifteen or twenty men. Four of them seized his horse’s bridle, two others took hold of his arms. Ludovico and Fabrizio’s bravi were attacked, but contrived to escape, and several pistols were fired. The whole affair was over in an instant. Then, as though by magic, and in the twinkling of an eye, fifty men, bearing lighted torches, appeared in the street, every man well armed. Fabrizio, in spite of the people who were holding him, had jumped off his horse, and struggled fiercely to get free. He even wounded one of the men, who was holding his arms in a vice-like grasp, but he was very much astonished to hear the fellow say, in the most respectful tone:

“Your Highness will give me a good pension for this wound, and that will be far better for me than to fall into the crime of high treason by drawing my sword against my prince.”

“Now here comes the chastisement of my folly,” thought Fabrizio. “I shall have damned myself for a sin which did not even strike me as attractive.”

Hardly had the attempted scuffle come to an end, when several lackeys, dressed in magnificent liveries, brought forward a sedan-chair, gilt and painted in a most extraordinary manner. It was one of those grotesque conveyances used by masks during carnival time. Six men, dagger in hand, requested “his Highness” to get in, saying the cold night air might hurt his voice. The most respectful forms of address were used, and the title “prince” was constantly repeated, and almost shouted aloud. The procession began to move on. Fabrizio counted more than fifty men carrying lighted torches down the street. It was about one o’clock in the morning, all the world was looking out of window, there was a certain solemnity about the whole affair. “I was afraid Count M⸺ might treat me to dagger thrusts,” said Fabrizio to himself, “but he contents himself with making game of me. I should not have accused him of so much taste. But does he really believe he has to do with the prince? If he knows I am only Fabrizio, I must beware of the stiletto.”

The fifty torch-bearers and the twenty armed men, having made a long halt under the Fausta’s windows, paraded up and down in front of the finest palaces in the city. From time to time the major-domos who walked by the side of the sedan-chair inquired whether “his Highness” had any orders to give them. Fabrizio did not lose his head. He could see by the torch-light that Ludovico and his men were following the procession as closely as they could. Fabrizio argued to himself: “Ludovico has only eight or ten men; he does not dare to attack.” From within his sedan-chair Fabrizio saw plainly enough that the people charged with the execution of this doubtful joke were armed to the teeth. He affected to laugh with the major-domos in attendance on him. After more than two hours of this triumphal march he perceived that they were about to cross the street in which the Palazzo Sanseverina stood. Just as they passed by the street leading to the palace he suddenly opened the door in the front of the chair, jumped over one of the staves, overthrew one of the footmen, who thrust his torch into his face, with a dagger thrust, received one himself in the shoulder, a second footman singed his beard with his lighted torch, and finally, Fabrizio reached Ludovico, to whom he shouted, “Kill! kill every one who carries a torch!” Ludovico hacked with his sword, and saved him from two men who were trying to pursue him. Fabrizio rushed up to the entrance of the Palazzo Sanseverina. The porter, in his curiosity, had opened the little door three feet high, set in the large one, and was staring in astonishment at the great train of torches. Fabrizio bounded through the tiny door, slammed it behind him, ran to the garden, and escaped by another door opening on to a deserted street. An hour later he was beyond the city walls; when day broke he was over the frontier into the state of Modena, and in perfect safety; by the evening he was back in Bologna. “Here’s a pretty expedition!” said he to himself. “I have not even succeeded in getting speech with my flame.” He lost no time about writing letters of excuse to the count and to the duchess, prudent missives which, though they described his emotions, furnished no clew that any enemy could lay hold of. “I was in love with love,” he wrote to the duchess. “I have done everything in the world to make its acquaintance. But nature, it appears, has refused me a heart capable of love and melancholy; I can not rise above vulgar enjoyment, etc.” The stir this adventure made in Parma can not be described. The mystery of it whetted the general curiosity. Numbers of people had seen the torches and the sedan-chair, but who was the man who had been carried off and treated with such formal ceremony? No well-known personage was missing from the city on the following day.

The humble folk living in the street in which the prisoner made his escape declared they had seen a corpse. But when broad daylight came, and the inhabitants ventured to emerge from their houses, the only trace of the struggle they could discover was the quantity of blood which stained the paving stones. More than twenty thousand sightseers visited the street during the day. The dwellers in Italian towns are accustomed to see strange sights, but the how and why is always clearly known to them. What annoyed the Parmese about this incident, was that even a whole month after, when the torch-light procession had ceased to be the only subject of general conversation, no one, thanks to Count Mosca’s prudence, had been able to discover the name of the rival who would fain have carried the Fausta off from Count M⸺. This jealous and vindictive lover had taken to flight as soon as the procession had set forth on its way. By the count’s orders, the Fausta was shut up in the citadel. The duchess was vastly entertained by a little piece of injustice in which the count was forced to indulge, to check the curiosity of the prince, who might otherwise have tried to discover Fabrizio’s name.

A learned man had just arrived at Parma from the north, with the intention of writing a history of the middle ages. He was searching for manuscripts in various libraries, and the count had given him all possible facilities. But this learned man, who was still very young, was of an irascible temper. He fancied, for instance, that every soul in Parma desired to turn him into ridicule. It is true that the street boys did occasionally run after him, attracted by the waving locks of pale red hair which he proudly displayed. This learned gentleman believed that his innkeeper charged him abnormal prices for everything, and he would never pay for the most trifling article without looking up its price in Mrs. Starke’s Travels, a book which has reached its twentieth edition, because it gives the prudent Englishman the price of a turkey, an apple, a glass of milk, and so forth.

On the very evening of the day on which Fabrizio had taken his involuntary part in the torch-light procession, the red-haired savant fell into a rage at his inn, and pulled a pair of pocket pistols out of his pocket to take vengeance on a camérier who had asked him two sous for an inferior peach. He was immediately arrested, for it is a great crime, in Parma, to carry pocket pistols.

As this irascible gentleman was tall and thin, it occurred to the count, next morning, to pass him off on the prince as the foolhardy being who had endeavoured to carry off the Fausta, and on whom a trick had been played by her lover. In Parma the punishment for carrying pocket pistols is three years at the galleys, but the penalty is never exacted. After a fortnight in prison, during which he saw nobody but a lawyer, who filled him with the deepest terror of the abominable laws directed by the cowardice of the people in power against the bearers of concealed weapons, he was visited by a second lawyer, who told him the story of the mock procession in which Count M⸺ had forced a rival, whose identity had not been discovered, to bear a part. “The police do not want to confess to the prince that they can not find out who this rival is. Say that you desired to find favour in the Fausta’s eyes, that fifty rascals laid hands on you while you were singing beneath her windows, and that you were carried about in a sedan-chair for an hour by people who only spoke to you in a most respectful manner. There is nothing humiliating about this avowal, and one word is all that is asked of you. The instant you say it, and get the police out of this difficulty, you will be put into a post-chaise, taken to the frontier, and allowed to depart in peace.”

For a whole month the learned man held out. Two or three times over, the prince was on the point of having him brought before the Minister of the Interior, and himself presiding at the examination. But he had forgotten all about it before the historian, wearied out, made up his mind to confess everything, and was conducted to the frontier. The prince remained convinced that Count M⸺’s rival possessed a mass of red hair.

Three days after the procession, while Fabrizio, with his faithful Ludovico, in his hiding-place at Bologna, was plotting means of discovering Count M⸺, he learned that the count was in hiding, too, in a mountain village on the road to Florence, and that only three of his buli were with him. Next day, as he was returning from a ride, the count was seized by eight masked men, who informed him they were police agents from Parma. He was conducted, after his eyes had been bandaged, to an inn some two leagues farther up in the mountains, where he was received with every attention, and found a liberal supper ready. The best Italian and Spanish wines were served.

“Pray, am I a state prisoner?” inquired the count.

“Not the least in the world,” was the polite response of Ludovico, who wore a mask. “You have insulted a private individual by venturing to have him carried about in a sedan-chair. To-morrow morning he means to fight a duel with you. If you kill him, you will be provided with money and good horses, and there will be relays ready for you all the way to Genoa.”

“What may this ruffian’s name be?” quoth the count in a rage.

“His name is Bombace. You will have the choice of weapons, and good seconds, thoroughly loyal men; but one or the other of you must die.”

“It’s a murder, then!” cried Count M⸺ in alarm.

“God forbid! It is simply a duel to the death, with a young man whom you carried about the streets of Parma in the middle of the night, and who would be dishonoured if you lived on. The earth is not large enough for both of you. Therefore do your best to kill him. You will have swords, pistols, rapiers—all the weapons it has been possible to collect within a few hours, for time is precious; the Bolognese police are very diligent, as you know, and there must be no interference with this duel, for the sake of the honour of this young man, whom you have turned into ridicule.”

“But if the young man is a prince?”

“He is a private individual, like yourself, and indeed a much less rich man than you. But he is resolved to fight to the death, and he will force you to fight, I warn you.”

“I am not afraid of anything on earth,” exclaimed Count M⸺.

“That is what your adversary most earnestly desires,” replied Ludovico. “Make yourself ready to defend your life to-morrow, very early in the morning; to be attacked by a man who has good reason to be furious with you, and who will not spare you. I tell you again, you will have the choice of weapons, and now, make your will!”

About six o’clock the next morning, Count M⸺’s breakfast was served. Then one of the doors of the room in which he had been kept was opened, and he was requested to enter the courtyard of a country inn. This court was surrounded with tolerably high hedges and walls, and all the entrances had been carefully closed.

On a table in one corner, which the count was requested to approach, stood several bottles of wine and brandy, two pistols, two rapiers, two swords, paper, and ink. About a score of peasants were at the windows of the tavern, which looked on to the yard. The count besought their pity. “These people want to murder me,” he cried; “save my life!”

“You are deceived, or else you desire to deceive,” shouted Fabrizio, who was standing in the opposite corner of the courtyard, beside a table covered with weapons. He had taken off his coat, and his face was hidden under one of those wire masks used in fencing-rooms.

“I advise you,” added Fabrizio, “to put on the wire mask you will find beside you, and then advance either with a rapier or with pistols. As you were told yesterday morning, you have the choice of weapons.” The count made endless difficulties, and seemed very unwilling to fight. Fabrizio, on his side, was afraid the police would arrive, although they were up in the mountains, and five full leagues from Bologna. He ended by hurling such frightful insults at his rival, that he had the satisfaction of goading Count M⸺ into fury. He snatched up a rapier, and advanced upon Fabrizio. The beginning of the fight was somewhat slack.

After a few minutes it was interrupted by a great noise. Our hero had been quite conscious that he was undertaking an enterprise which might be made a subject of reproach, or at all events of slanderous imputations upon him, all through his life. He had sent Ludovico into the fields to beat up witnesses. Ludovico gave money to some strangers who were working in a neighbouring wood, and they hurried up, shouting, under the impression that they were expected to kill an enemy of the man who had paid them. When they reached the inn, Ludovico begged them to watch with all their eyes, and see whether either of the young men did anything treacherous, or took any unfair advantage of the other.

The fight, which had been checked for a moment by the peasants’ shouts, again hung fire. Once more Fabrizio rained insults on the count’s self-conceit. “Signor Conte,” he cried, “when you are insolent, you must be brave as well. I know that is a hard matter for you; you would far rather pay other people to be brave.” The count, stung to fresh fury, yelled out that he had been a constant frequenter of the fencing school at Naples, kept by the famous Battistino, and that he would soon chastise his opponent’s impudence. Now that Count M⸺’s fury had revived, he fought with tolerable resolution, but this did not prevent Fabrizio from giving him a fine sword thrust in the chest, which kept him several months in bed. As Ludovico bent over the count to put a temporary bandage on his wound, he whispered in his ear, “If you dare to let the police know of this duel, I will have you stabbed in your bed.”

Fabrizio fled to Florence. As he had remained in hiding at Bologna, it was not till he reached Florence that he received all the duchess’s reproachful letters. She could not forgive him for coming to her concert, and not attempting to obtain speech of her. Fabrizio was delighted with Count Mosca’s letters; they breathed frank friendship and the noblest feelings. He guessed that the count had written to Bologna to dispel the suspicions of him which the duel might have caused. The police behaved with perfect justice. It reported that two strangers, only one of whom, the wounded man, was recognised (Count M⸺), had fought with rapiers in the presence of more than thirty peasants, joined, toward the end of the fight, by the village priest, who had unsuccessfully endeavoured to separate the combatants. As the name of Giuseppe Bossi had never been mentioned, Fabrizio ventured, before two months were out, to return to Bologna, more convinced than ever that he was fated never to make acquaintance with the noble and intellectual side of love. This he did himself the pleasure of explaining to the duchess, in very lengthy terms. He was very tired of his lonely life, and passionately longed to go back to the delightful evenings he had spent with his aunt and the count. He had not tasted the delights of good company since he had parted from them.

“I have brought so much worry upon myself on account of the love I had hoped to enjoy, and of the Fausta,” wrote he to the duchess, “that now, if her fancy still turned my way, I would not ride twenty leagues to claim the fulfilment of her bond. Therefore, have no fear, as you say you have, that I may go to Paris, where I see she is appearing with the most brilliant success. I would ride any possible number of leagues to spend an evening with you and with the count, who is always so good to his friends.”

[5] Pietro Luigi, the first sovereign of the Farnese family, so famous for his virtues, was, as is well known, the natural son of Pope Paul III.