The Chartreuse of Parma CHAPTER XXIII

Amidst the general storm of invective, Archbishop Landriani alone stood faithful to his young friend’s cause, and ventured, even at the princess’s court, to quote that maxim of jurisprudence, according to which the justification of an absent person must always be received with unprejudiced ears.

On the very morning after Fabrizio’s escape, several persons received a tolerable sonnet, which acclaimed his flight as one of the finest actions of the century, and likened Fabrizio to an angel descending upon earth on outspread wings. On the evening of the third day, every tongue in Parma was repeating a really magnificent piece of verse. This purported to be Fabrizio’s soliloquy as he swung himself down the rope, and reviewed the various incidents of his life. Two magnificent lines insured this second sonnet its proper place in public estimation. Every connoisseur recognised the hand of Ferrante Palla.

But at this point, I myself ought to fall into the epic style. What colours are bright enough to paint the torrents of indignation that submerged the hearts of all well-conditioned folk at the incredible news of the insolent illumination at Sacca! One shriek of horror went up against the duchess; even genuine Liberals thought she had risked the safety of the poor suspects in the various prisons in a most barbarous fashion, and unnecessarily exasperated the sovereign’s feelings. Count Mosca declared that only one course was left to the duchess’s old friends—they must forget her. The concert of execration was quite unanimous. Any stranger passing through the town must have been struck by the strength of public opinion. Still, in this country, where the delights of vengeance are thoroughly appreciated, the illuminations and the splendid fête given to over six thousand peasants in the park at Sacca had a huge success. Everybody in Parma was saying that the duchess had given a thousand sequins to her peasants, and this, it was added, explained the somewhat rough reception given the thirty gendarmes the police had been foolish enough to send into the village, thirty-six hours after the splendid festivities, and the general drunkenness which had followed on them, had come to an end. The gendarmes had been received with volleys of stones, had taken to flight, and two of them had been thrown into the river.

As to the bursting of the great reservoir at the Palazzo Sanseverina, that had hardly been noticed. A few streets had been flooded during the night, and in the morning people might have thought it had been raining. Ludovico had carefully broken the glass in one of the palace windows, which accounted for the entrance of the thieves, and a short ladder had actually been found hard by. Count Mosca was the only person who recognised the finger of his friend.

Fabrizio was quite resolved to get back to Parma as soon as he could. He sent Ludovico with a long letter to the archbishop, and that faithful servant came back to the first village in Piedmont—Sannazaro, to the west of Pavia—and there posted the Latin epistle addressed by the worthy prelate to his young friend. We must here add a detail, which, like many others, doubtless, may strike people as wearisome, in a country where caution is no longer necessary. The name “Fabrizio del Dongo” was never written; all letters intended for him were addressed to Ludovico San-Michele, either at Locarno in Switzerland, or at Belgirate in Piedmont. The envelope was made of coarse paper, it was clumsily sealed, the address was hardly legible, and occasionally adorned with additions worthy of a cook, and all these letters were antedated, by six days, from Naples.

From the Piedmontese village of Sannazaro, near Pavia, Ludovico hurried back to Parma. He was charged with a mission which Fabrizio regarded as of the utmost importance. He was ordered to do no less a thing than to send Clelia Conti a silken handkerchief, on which one of Petrarch’s sonnets had been printed. One word in the sonnet had, indeed, been altered. Clelia found it on her table, two days after she had received the thanks of the Marchese Crescenzi, who declared himself the happiest of men; and I need not describe the impression this mark of unfailing recollection produced upon her feelings.

Ludovico had received orders to collect every possible detail as to what was happening in the citadel. He it was who brought Fabrizio the sad news that the marriage with the Marchese Crescenzi appeared to be a settled thing. Hardly a day passed that he did not offer Clelia some form of festivity within the citadel walls. One decisive proof that the marriage was settled was that the marchese, who was excessively rich, and consequently, like most wealthy people in northern Italy, exceedingly stingy, was making huge preparations—and that, although he was marrying a dowerless girl. It is true that General Fabio Conti, whose vanity had been sorely stung by this remark—the first which occurred to all his fellow-countrymen—had just bought a landed property costing over three hundred thousand francs, and that, though he had nothing of his own, he had paid for it with ready money, presumably money belonging to the marquis. He had also given out that he bestowed the property on his daughter as a wedding gift. But the expenses of drawing up the deeds, and others, which came to more than twelve thousand francs, struck the Marchese Crescenzi, a man of very logical mind, as a very ridiculous outlay. He, on his part, was having magnificent hangings—admirably devised for delighting the eyes, by the famous Pallazzi, a Bolognese painter—woven at Lyons. These hangings, each of which bore some part of the Crescenzi family arms (the family, as all the world knows, is descended from the famous Roman Consul Crescentius, who lived in 985), were to furnish the seventeen saloons composing the ground floor of the marchese’s palace. The hangings, clocks, and chandeliers, delivered in Parma, cost over three hundred and fifty thousand francs. The value of the new mirrors, added to those the house already contained, reached two hundred thousand francs. With the exception of two rooms, famous as the work of Parmegiano, the greatest painter of that country next to the divine Correggio, all the apartments on the first and second floor were now occupied by the most famous Florentine and Milanese painters, who were adorning them with frescoes. Fokelberg, the great Swedish sculptor, Tenerani, from Rome, and Marchesi, from Milan, had been working for a year on ten bas-reliefs representing as many noble acts in the life of that truly great man Crescentius. Most of the ceilings, which were also painted in fresco, contained some allusion to his career. One particular ceiling—on which Hayez, of Milan, had depicted Crescentius received in the Elysian Fields by Francesco Sforza, Lorenzo the Magnificent, King Robert, the Tribune Cola di Rienzi, Macchiavelli, Dante, and the other great figures of the Middle Ages—was most generally admired. Expressed admiration for these elect beings was considered to hint scorn of the people in power at the moment.

All these splendid details absorbed the attention of the nobles and burghers of Parma, and wrung our hero’s heart, when he read them, related with artless admiration, in a long letter of over twenty pages which Ludovico had dictated to a customs-officer at Casal Maggiore.

“And I am so poor!” said Fabrizio to himself. “I have four thousand francs a year in all, and for everything. It is downright insolence for me to dare to be in love with Clelia Conti, for whom all these marvels are being prepared.”

One item in Ludovico’s letter, written in his own clumsy hand, informed his master that he had happened, one night, on poor Grillo, his former jailer, who had been thrown into prison and subsequently released, and who now bore all the appearance of a man who was hiding. Grillo had begged him, of his charity, to give him a sequin, and Ludovico had given him four in the duchess’s name. The former jailers, twelve of them, who had just been set at liberty, were making themselves ready to give the new men who had succeeded them a “knifing entertainment” (trattamento di coltellate) if they could contrive to come upon them outside the citadel. Grillo had reported that there was a serenade at the fortress every night, that the Signorina Clelia Conti looked very pale, was often ill, and other things of that sort. As a consequence of this absurd expression, Ludovico received orders, by return of post, to come back to Locarno. He came, and the details he supplied by word of mouth were still more distressing to Fabrizio’s feelings.

My readers may imagine how pleasant he made himself to the poor duchess; he would have died a thousand deaths rather than have pronounced the name of Clelia Conti in her presence.

The duchess loathed Parma, and to Fabrizio everything that reminded him of that city was at once sublime and tender.

Less than ever had the duchess forgotten her vengeance. She had been so happy before Giletti’s death, and now, what a fate was hers! She was living in constant expectation of a frightful event, not a word of which she dared mention to Fabrizio—she who, when she had made her arrangement with Ferrante, had dreamed that one day she would rejoice Fabrizio’s heart by assuring him that his day of vengeance would surely come.

My readers may conceive some idea of the agreeability of the conversations between Fabrizio and the duchess. The dreariest silence generally reigned between the two. To increase the enjoyment of their intercourse the duchess had allowed herself to be tempted into playing a trick upon her too beloved nephew. The count wrote to her almost every day. Apparently he still sent couriers, as in the first days of their love, for his letters always bore the postmark of some small Swiss town. The poor man taxed his wits so as not to speak too openly of his affection, and to devise amusing letters. All she did was to glance over them carelessly. What, alas, is the fidelity of a lover she esteems, to a woman whose heart is wrung by the coldness of the man she prefers!

In two months the duchess only sent him back one answer, and that was to request him to sound the princess, and find out whether, in spite of the insolent display of fireworks, a letter from the duchess would be well received. The letter he was to present, if he thought it wise, prayed the princess to appoint the Marchese Crescenzi to the post of lord in waiting to her Serene Highness, which had lately fallen vacant, and begged the position might be given him in consideration of his marriage. The duchess’s letter was a masterpiece, full of the tenderest respect, most perfectly expressed. Its courtier-like language did not contain a single word of which the consequences, even the most distant, could have been otherwise than agreeable to the princess, and the answer it elicited breathed a tender friendship, which separation was putting to the torture.

“My son and I,” wrote the princess, “have not had one fairly pleasant evening since your sudden departure. Has my dear duchess forgotten that it is to her I owe the fact that I have regained a consulting voice in the nomination of the officers of my household? Does she feel herself obliged to give reasons for appointing the marchese, as though her expressed desire were not the best of reasons to me? The marchese will have the post if I can do anything toward it, and in my heart there will always be a place—and the very first—for my delightful duchess. My son uses absolutely the same expressions—though indeed they are rather strong in the mouth of a great fellow of one-and-twenty—and begs you will send him specimens of the minerals of the valley of Orta, near Belgirate. You can address your letters to the count, who still detests you, and whom I love all the better on account of this sentiment. The archbishop, too, has remained faithful to you. We all hope to see you back some day; remember, that must be! The Marchesa Ghisleri, my mistress of the robes, is about to leave this world for a better one. The poor woman has given me a great deal of trouble, and she displeases me now by departing at such an unseasonable moment. Her illness makes me think of the name which I should once have found such pleasure in substituting for hers—if, indeed, I could have succeeded in obtaining this sacrifice of her independence from the unique being who, when she left us, carried away with her all the delights of my little court,” and so forth.

Thus, day after day, when the duchess met Fabrizio, she felt conscious of having done all that in her lay to hurry on the marriage which was driving him to despair, and they often spent four or five hours sailing together upon the lake, without uttering a single word to each other. Fabrizio’s kind-heartedness was complete and perfect, but he was thinking of other things, and his simple and artless mind supplied him with no subjects of conversation. The duchess saw this, and therein was her torture.

I have forgotten to relate, in its proper place, that the duchess had taken a house at Belgirate, a lovely village which fulfils all the promise of its name (the view of a beautiful curve of the lake). Out of the French window of the drawing-room, the duchess could step into her boat. She had chosen a very ordinary one, for which four rowers would have sufficed, but she hired twelve, and was careful to have one man from each of the villages in the neighbourhood of Belgirate. The third or fourth time she found herself in the middle of the lake, with all these well-chosen men about her, she signed to them to cease rowing.

“I look upon you all as my friends,” she said, “and I am going to trust you with a secret. My nephew Fabrizio has escaped from prison, and perhaps some treacherous attempt may be made to lay hands upon him, although he is on your lake, and in a free country. Keep your ears open, and warn me of everything you may hear. I give you leave to come into my room either by day or night.”

The men responded in the most enthusiastic manner; she had the talent of making herself loved. But she did not think there would be any question of trying to seize Fabrizio; it was for herself she was taking these precautions, and before she had given the fatal order to open the reservoir at the Palazzo Sanseverina, she would never have dreamed of them.

Prudence had also led her to hire Fabrizio’s lodging in the Port of Locarno. Every day he either came to see her, or she herself went to see him in Switzerland. The delights of their perpetual tête-à-tête may be gauged by the following detail. The marchesa and her daughters came to see them twice, and they were glad of the presence of these strangers—for ties of blood notwithstanding, a person who knows nothing of one’s dearest interests, and whom one does not see more than once a year, may fairly be called a stranger.

One night, the duchess, with the marchesa and her two daughters, was at Fabrizio’s rooms in Locarno. The archpriest of the neighbourhood and the village priest had both come to pay their respects to the ladies. The archpriest, who was interested in some commercial house, and kept himself informed of the current news, happened to say:

“The Prince of Parma is dead.”

The duchess turned very pale. She could hardly find courage to inquire, “Have you heard any details?”

“No,” replied the archpriest, “the report only mentions his death; but that is quite certain.”

The duchess looked at Fabrizio. “It was for him I did it,” she said to herself, “and I would have done a thousand times worse. And there he sits in front of me, utterly indifferent, and thinking of another woman!” It was beyond the duchess’s power to endure the dreadful thought; she swooned away. Every one hastened to her assistance, but when she came back to her senses she noticed that Fabrizio was far less perturbed than the two priests; he was dreaming, as usual. “He is thinking he will go back to Parma,” said the duchess to herself, “and perhaps that he will break off Clelia’s marriage with the marchese. But I shall know how to prevent that.” Then, recollecting the presence of the two ecclesiastics, she hastily added:

“He was a great prince, and has been sorely slandered. He is a sore loss to us all.”

The two priests took their leave, and the duchess, who longed to be alone, announced her intention of going to bed.

“No doubt,” said she to herself, “prudence forbids my returning to Parma for a month or two. But I feel I shall never have that patience; I suffer too much here. Fabrizio’s perpetual silence and absorption are more than my heart can bear. Who would have told me I ever could have felt weary of sailing alone with him over this beautiful lake! And just at the moment when, to avenge him, I have done more than I can ever tell him! After such a sight as that, death seems nothing at all. Now, indeed, I am paying for the ecstasies of happiness and childish delight I felt in my palace at Parma, when Fabrizio joined me there on his return from Naples. If I had said one word then, it would all have been settled; and perhaps, if he had been bound to me, he never would have thought of that little Clelia. But that word filled me with a horrible repugnance. Now she has the better of me, and what can be more natural? She is only twenty, and I, besides being altered by trouble and illness, am twice her age.… I must die, I must make an end of it! A woman of forty is nothing to any man, except those who have loved her in her youth. The only joys left to me now are those of vanity. And do they make life worth living? That’s another reason for going to Parma and amusing myself. If certain things happened, I should be put to death; well, what matter? I will die nobly, and just before the end, but not till then, I will tell Fabrizio, ‘Ungrateful boy, it was for you I did it!’… Yes, Parma is the only place where I can find occupation for what little life remains to me. I’ll play the great lady there. What a blessing it would be if I could find enjoyment, now, in the glories which used to make the Raversi sick with envy! In those days I only became aware of my happiness by seeing it mirrored in jealous eyes.… My vanity has one piece of good fortune. Except for the count, perhaps, not a soul can have guessed at what has cut my affections at their root.… I will love Fabrizio, I will devote myself to his fortunes, but he shall not break off Clelia’s marriage and marry her himself.… No, that shall never be!”

So far had the duchess proceeded in her melancholy soliloquy when she heard a great noise in the house.

“Hark!” she cried; “they are coming to arrest me! Ferrante has been taken and has confessed. Well, all the better. I shall have something to do; I must fight for my life. But to begin with, I mustn’t let them take me!”

Half dressed, the duchess fled to the bottom of her garden. She was just meditating climbing over a low wall, and escaping into the open country, when she caught sight of some one going into her room, and recognised Bruno, the count’s confidential man. He was alone with her maid. She approached the open window; the man was telling the maid about the wounds he had received. The duchess came back into her room, and Bruno, casting himself at her feet, besought her not to tell the count the absurd hour at which he had arrived.

“The moment the prince was dead,” he added, “the count sent orders to all the posting-houses that no horses were to be given to any Parmese subject; consequently I travelled as far as the Po with our own horses. But when we were getting off the ferry-boat my carriage was overturned, smashed up, and destroyed, and I was so seriously hurt that I could not ride, as it was my duty to have done.”

“Very good,” said the duchess, “it is three o’clock in the morning. I’ll say it is midday. But don’t you dare to contradict me!”

“That is like the signora’s usual kindness.”

In a literary work, politics play the part of a pistol shot in the middle of a concert—something rough and disagreeable, to which, nevertheless, we can not refuse our attention.

I am now going to speak of very ugly matters, concerning which, for more than one reason, I would gladly be silent. But I am compelled to refer to certain events which come within our purview, seeing they are connected with the lives of the persons I describe.

“But good God,” said the duchess to Bruno, “how did that great prince come by his death?”

“He went out to shoot birds of passage in the marshes by the river, a few leagues from Sacca. He fell into a hole, hidden by a tuft of grass; he was in a violent perspiration, and the cold struck him. He was conveyed to a lonely house, and there he died, within a few hours. Some declare that Signore Catena and Barone are dead too, and that the whole accident was caused by the saucepans in the peasant’s house, into which they were taken, being full of verdigris—they all breakfasted in that house. Then the hot-headed folk, the Jacobins, who say whatever suits them, talk about poison. I know that my friend Toto, one of the court servants, would have died but for the care lavished on him by a sort of lunatic who seemed to know a great deal about medicine, and made him use very strange remedies. But nobody talks about the prince’s death any more, and, indeed, he was a cruel man. When I was starting, the populace was collecting to murder Chief-Justice Rassi, and the people wanted to set the gates of the citadel on fire, so as to try and save the prisoners. But some people declared Fabio Conti would fire his cannon on them, while others vowed the gunners in the fortress had poured water on their gunpowder, and would not destroy their fellow-citizens. But here is something far more interesting: While the surgeon at Sandolaro was binding up my poor arm, a man came in from Parma, and told us that when the people saw Barbone, that clerk from the citadel, in the streets, they first of all thrashed him mercilessly, and then hanged him on the tree in the square, nearest to the citadel. Then they set out to destroy that fine statue of the prince that stands in the royal gardens, but the count sent for a battalion of the guard, drew it up in front of the statue, and sent the people word that no man who came into the garden should leave it alive, and then every one was frightened.

“But a very strange thing, which the man from Parma, a former gendarme, told me, over and over again, is that the count kicked General P⸺, the commandant of the prince’s guard, tore off his epaulettes, and had him marched out of the garden by two fusileers.”

“That’s just like the count!” exclaimed the duchess, in a transport of delight, which she would have thought impossible a moment previously. “He would never allow any one to insult our princess, and as for General P⸺, he was so devoted to his legitimate masters that he would never serve the usurper, whereas the count, whose feelings were less delicate, fought through all the Spanish campaigns, a thing which was often cast in his teeth at court.”

The duchess had opened the count’s letter, but over and over again she stopped reading it to question Bruno.

It was a very comical letter. The count used the most lugubrious language, and yet the most lively joy was evident in every word. He gave no details as to the manner of the prince’s death, and ended his letter with the following words:

“You will come back, of course, my dearest angel. But I would advise your waiting a day or two for the messenger whom the princess will send you, as I hope, either to-day or to-morrow. Your return must be as magnificent as your departure was bold.

“As to the great culprit, who is with you, I fully expect to have him tried by twelve judges, selected from every party in the state. But to punish the wretch as he deserves, I must first of all be in a position to make curl-papers out of the first sentence, if it exists.”

The count had reopened his letter:

“Here’s quite another business. I have just had cartridges served out to the two battalions of the guards. I am going to fight, and do my best to deserve that surname of ‘Cruel’ with which the Liberals have so long honoured me. That old mummy, General P⸺, has dared to talk in barracks of parleying with the populace, which is in a state of semi-revolt. I write this in the middle of the street. I go hence to the palace, which no one shall enter except across my dead body. Farewell! If I die, I die as I have lived, worshipping you in any case. Don’t forget to send for the three hundred thousand francs lodged in your name with D⸺ at Lyons.

“Here comes that poor devil Rassi, wigless and as pale as death; you’ve no idea what a figure he is. The populace is bent on hanging him. That would be too hard on him; he deserves to be drawn and quartered as well! He would have taken refuge in my palace, and has run after me into the street. I hardly know what to do with him.… I do not want to take him to the prince’s palace; that would bring about a revolt in that quarter. F⸺ will see whether I care for him. My first words to Rassi were, ‘I must have the sentence on Monsignore del Dongo, and all the copies you have of it, and you will tell all those shameless judges, who have brought about this revolt, that I will have them all hanged, and you, my friend, into the bargain, if they breathe a single word of this sentence, which has never existed.’ I am sending a company of grenadiers to the archbishop, in Fabrizio’s name. Farewell, dear angel. My house will be burned, and I shall lose those delightful pictures I have of you. I am hurrying off to the palace to get that vile General P⸺ cashiered. He is working for his own hand, flattering the populace as basely as he used to flatter the late prince. All these generals are frightened out of their wits; I think I’ll have myself appointed commander-in-chief.”

The duchess was spiteful enough not to send and rouse Fabrizio. She felt a glow of admiration for the count, which strongly resembled love. “All things considered,” said she to herself, “I really must marry him.” She wrote him instantly to that effect, and sent off one of her servants. That night the duchess had no time to feel unhappy.

The next day, toward noon, she saw a boat with six rowers swiftly cleaving the waters of the lake. Fabrizio and she soon recognised a man wearing the Prince of Parma’s livery. He was, in fact, one of his couriers, who, before he jumped on shore, called out to the duchess: “The revolt is put down.” This courier brought her several letters from the count, a charming missive from the princess, and a parchment decree from Prince Ranuzio-Ernest V which created her Duchess of San Giovanni, and appointed her Mistress of the Robes to the Princess-Mother. The young prince, who was learned in mineralogy, and whom she believed to be a simpleton, had been clever enough to write her a little note, but there was love at the end of it. The note began thus:

“The count says, my Lady Duchess, that he is pleased with me. As a matter of fact, I have faced a few musket shots beside him, and my horse was wounded. The fuss made over so small a thing has made me earnestly desire to be present at a real battle, so long as it be not against my own subjects. I owe everything to the count; all my generals, who know nothing of war, have behaved like hounds. I believe two or three of them have run away as far as Bologna. Since the day when a great and deplorable event called me to power, I have signed no decree which gives me so much pleasure as this, which appoints you my mother’s mistress of the robes. My mother and I have remembered that one day you admired the beautiful view from the Palazzetto San Giovanni, which once belonged to Petrarch—at least, so we are told. My mother desired to give you this little property, and I, not knowing what to give you, and not daring to offer you all that belongs to you already, have made you a duchess in my own country. I do not know whether you are so learned as to be aware that Sanseverina is a Roman title. I have just given the ribbon of my Order to our excellent archbishop, who has displayed a firmness very uncommon in a man of sixty-two. You will not be angry with me for having recalled all the banished ladies. I am told that in future I must never sign my name without having written the words ‘your affectionate.’ It vexes me that I should be thus made to squander an assurance which is not fully true, except when I write myself ‘your affectionate, Ranuzio-Ernest.’”

Who would not have thought, judging from this language, that the duchess was about to enjoy the highest favour? Nevertheless, she found something very odd in other letters from the count, which reached her two hours later. These advised her, without further explanation, to put off her return to Parma for a few days, and to write the princess word that she was exceedingly unwell. Notwithstanding, the duchess and Fabrizio started for Parma immediately after dinner; the duchess’s object, which, however, she did not admit to herself, was to hurry on the Marchese Crescenzi’s marriage. Fabrizio, for his part, performed the journey in a state of wild happiness, which seemed perfectly ridiculous to his aunt. He had hopes of seeing Clelia soon, and fully reckoned on carrying her off, in spite of herself, if that should be the only means of breaking off her marriage.

The journey of the duchess and her nephew was a very cheerful one. At the last posting station before Parma, Fabrizio stopped a moment to put on his churchman’s garb. As a rule he wore ordinary mourning dress. When he came back to the duchess’s room—

“There seems to me something very odd and inexplicable,” she said, “in the count’s letters. If you will be ruled by me you will stay here for a few hours. I’ll send you a messenger as soon as I have had a talk with the mighty minister.”

It was only very unwillingly that Fabrizio bowed to this sensible piece of advice. The count received the duchess with transports of joy worthy of a boy of fifteen, calling her “his wife.” It was long before he would talk of politics. When they came back, at last, to the dull realms of common sense—

“You did very wisely,” he said, “to prevent Fabrizio from arriving openly. There is a great reaction going on here. Just guess the name of the colleague the prince has imposed on me as Minister of Justice. Rassi, my dear soul, Rassi, whom I treated like the blackguard he is, on the day of our great excitements. By the way, I must warn you that everything that happened here has been suppressed. If you read our Gazette, you will perceive that a clerk at the citadel, of the name of Barbone, has been killed by a fall from a carriage. As for the sixty-odd rogues I had shot when they tried to wreck the prince’s statue in the gardens, they are all quite well, but they have gone on long journeys. Count Zurla, the Minister of the Interior, has personally visited each of these unlucky heroes’ homes, and has made over fifteen sequins to their family or friends, with strict orders to say that the dead man is travelling, and a very direct threat that any one who ventures to hint anybody has been killed will be forthwith shut up in prison. A man from my own office at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has been sent to the journalists of Milan and Turin, to prevent any mention of the ‘unfortunate event’—that’s the correct term—and this man is to go as far as Paris and London, so as to give an almost official denial to any newspaper reference to our disturbances. Another agent has gone toward Bologna and Florence. I shrug my shoulders.

“But the comical thing, at my age, is that I felt a flash of real enthusiasm when I was addressing the soldiers of the guard, and when I tore the epaulettes off that contemptible fellow, P⸺. At that moment I would have given my life for the prince without the smallest hesitation. I confess, now, it would have been a very silly way of ending it. At this moment the prince, kind-hearted young fellow as he is, would give a thousand crowns if I would die of some sickness. He dares not ask me to resign, as yet, but we see each other as seldom as possible, and I send him a quantity of small written reports, just as I did with the late prince after Fabrizio was imprisoned. By the way, I have not turned his sentence into curl-papers, for the excellent reason that that villain Rassi never gave it to me. That is why you have done so wisely to prevent Fabrizio from arriving publicly. The sentence is still valid. However, I do not believe Rassi would dare to arrest our nephew to-day. Still, he may possibly dare to do it within a fortnight. If Fabrizio absolutely insists on coming into the city, let him come and live in my house.”

“But what is the reason of all this?” exclaimed the astonished duchess.

“The prince has been persuaded that I give myself the airs of a dictator, and of the saviour of the country; that I want to lead him like a child, and even that, in speaking of him, I used those fatal words ‘that child.’ This may be true; I was very much excited that day. But, indeed, I really looked on him as a thorough man, because he was not frightened in face of the first musketry firing he had ever heard in his life. He is by no means a fool. His tone, indeed, is much better than his father’s, and—I can not say it too often—at the bottom of his heart he is both good and upright. But his honest young soul is stung when the story of some piece of rascality is told him, and he thinks his own nature must be vile to perceive such things. Think what his education has been.”

“Your Excellency should have remembered that he was to be our master some day, and should have placed a clever man about his person.”

“In the first place, we have the instance of the Abbé de Condillac, who was appointed by my predecessor, the Marchese di Felino, and turned his pupil into a very king of simpletons. He walked in religious processions, and in 1796 he failed to make terms with General Buonaparte, who would have tripled the size of his dominions. And in the second place, I never dreamed I should have been Prime Minister for ten successive years. Now that my mind is disabused of that idea—that is to say, for the last month—I am resolved to put together a million of francs before I leave this Bedlam I have saved, to its fate. But for me, Parma would have spent two months as a republic, with the poet Ferrante Palla as dictator!”

The duchess reddened at the words. The count knew nothing of that story.

“We are coming back, now, to the regular eighteenth-century monarchy, ruled by the confessor and the mistress. At heart, all the prince cares for is mineralogy—and perhaps, madam, for you! Since he has succeeded, his body-servant, whose brother, a fellow with nine months’ service, I have just made a captain—this body-servant, I say, has put an idea into his head that he ought to be the happiest of men, because his profile will appear on the coinage. That fine notion has brought boredom in its train.

“Now he must have an aide-de-camp to help him out of his boredom. Well, even if he were to offer me that precious million of money, which is so necessary to insure our comfort at Naples or Paris, I would not undertake to cure him of his boredom, and spend four or five hours every day in his Highness’s company. Besides, as I am cleverer than he is, he would think me a monster before the first month was out.

“The late prince was spiteful and envious, but he had fought as a soldier, and commanded troops, and that had given him a certain sense of deportment. There were the makings of a prince in him, and with him I could behave as a minister, whether good or bad. But with this honest son of his, in spite of all his candour and real kind-heartedness, I am obliged to resort to intrigue. I find myself the rival of the veriest old woman among his courtiers, and a rival in an inferior position, too, for I shall certainly despise scores of precautions which I ought to take. For instance, three days ago, one of those women who lay out clean towels in all his rooms contrived to mislay the key of one of the prince’s English writing-tables. Whereupon his Highness refused to attend to any of the business, the papers for which were in that particular receptacle. For twenty francs we might have had the board at the back of the writing-table removed, or have had the lock opened with a false key. But Ranuzio-Ernest V informed me that such a proceeding would give the court locksmith bad habits.

“So far he has never contrived to be of the same mind three days running. If the young prince had been born a marquis, with a large fortune, he would have been one of the most worthy men about his own court—a sort of Louis XVI. But how is that pious simplicity of his to escape all the skilful ambushes that surround him? Thus your friend the Raversi’s salon is more powerful than ever. Its frequenters have discovered that I, who had the populace fired on, and who was resolved, if necessary, to kill three thousand of them, sooner than permit any insult to the statue of the prince, who had been my master, am a violent Liberal; that I tried to get a constitution signed, and more stuff of the same kind. With such republican stories, these madmen would prevent us from enjoying even the best of monarchies.… You, madam, in fine, are the only existing member of that Liberal party at the head of which my enemies have placed me, of whom the prince has not spoken in harsh terms. The archbishop, who is still a perfectly upright man, is in thorough disgrace, because he used reasonable language about what I did on the unlucky day.

“On the day after that which was not then, as yet, known as ‘unlucky,’ while it was still true that a revolt had taken place, the prince told the archbishop that he was going to make me a duke, so that you might not have to take an inferior title when you married me. To-day, I fancy, it is Rassi, whom I ennobled for selling me the late prince’s secrets, who will be made a count. In face of such promotion as that, I should look like a fool.”

“And the poor prince will degrade himself.”

“No doubt of that. But, after all, he is master here, and in less than a fortnight, that fact will still the voice of ridicule. Therefore, dear duchess, let us do as we should do if we were playing tric-trac. Let us withdraw.”

“But we shall be anything but rich!”

“After all, neither you nor I need luxury. If you will give me a seat in your box at the San Carlo, and a horse to ride, I shall be more than content. It will never be the luxury, greater or less, in which we live, that will insure our position; it will be the pleasure the clever folk of the place may find in drinking a cup of tea in your drawing-room.”

“But,” replied the duchess, “what would have happened on the unlucky day if you had held yourself apart, as I trust you will do in future?”

“The troops would have fraternized with the populace, there would have been three days of killing and burning;—for it will be a century, yet, before a republic can cease to be an anomaly in this country. After that, a fortnight’s pillage, until two or three foreign regiments had been sent in to quell the disorder. Ferrante Palla was in the midst of the populace, as brave, and as raging mad, as usual. He had some dozen friends backing him up, no doubt, and out of that Rassi will make a fine conspiracy. One thing is certain; that, though he wore an incredibly tattered coat, he was distributing money by handsful in every direction.”

Astounded by all this news, the duchess hurried off to present her acknowledgments to the princess. The moment she entered the royal apartment, the lady-in-waiting presented her with the little gold key, to be worn at the waist, which is the symbol of supreme authority in that portion of the palace ruled by the princess. Clara Paolina lost no time in dismissing all her attendants. For the first moments after she was left alone with her friend, her manner and speech were neither of them absolutely frank. The duchess, who could not understand what this meant, was very cautious in her answers. At last the princess burst into tears, and throwing herself into the duchess’s arms, exclaimed:

“My misfortunes are beginning afresh. My son will treat me worse than his father did.”

“I’ll take good care he does not,” replied the duchess vehemently. “But in the first place,” she went on, “I must beg your Most Serene Highness to condescend to accept all my gratitude and my humblest duty.”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed the princess, alarmed at the thought of a possible resignation.

“What I mean is, that whenever your Most Serene Highness gives me leave to turn the shaking chin of yonder Chinese monster on the chimneypiece to the right, you will give me permission, too, to call things by their real names.”

“Is that all, my dear duchess?” exclaimed Clara Paolina, rising, and herself placing the monster’s chin in the required position. “Speak now, with perfect freedom,” she added, in the most gracious fashion.

“Madam,” replied the duchess, “your Highness has grasped the position perfectly. Both you and I are in a most dangerous position. Fabrizio’s sentence is not annulled. Consequently, whenever there is any desire to get rid of me, and insult you, he will be cast into prison again. Our position is as bad as ever it was. As regards myself personally, I am going to marry the count, and we shall settle at Naples or in Paris. The final stroke of ingratitude from which the count is suffering at the present moment, has thoroughly sickened him; and save for your Serene Highness’s sake, I should not advise him to have anything more to do with this mess, unless the prince were to give him an enormous sum of money. I will ask your Highness’s leave to explain that the count, who had a hundred and thirty thousand francs when he first entered politics, owns barely twenty thousand francs a year at the present time. In vain have I besought him, this ever so long, to consider his own pocket. During my absence he has picked a quarrel with the prince’s farmers-general, who were scoundrels. The count has replaced them by other scoundrels, who have given him eight hundred thousand francs.”

“What!” exclaimed the astonished princess. “Good heavens, how sorry I am to hear that!”

“Madam,” replied the duchess, with the most absolute coolness, “shall I turn the monster’s head to the left?”

“No, no, indeed!” exclaimed the princess; “but I am sorry that a man of the count’s character should have thought of gain of that description.”

“But for this theft he would have been despised by all honest folk.”

“Good God! can that be possible?”

“Madam,” replied the duchess, “except my friend the Marchese Crescenzi, who has four or five hundred thousand francs a year of his own, every soul in this place steals. And how should they not steal, in a country where gratitude for the greatest services does not last quite a month? Therefore the only real thing which outlives disgrace is money. Madam, I am about to venture on some terrible truths.”

“I give you leave,” said the princess with a deep sigh; “and yet they hurt me cruelly!”

“Well, then, madam, the prince, your son, a perfectly upright man, may make you far more wretched than his father did. The late prince’s nature was very much like that of other men. Our present sovereign is never sure of desiring the same thing for three days on end. Consequently, to be sure of him, one must live perpetually with him, and never let him speak to any one else. As this truth is not very difficult to divine, the new ultra party, led by those two wise heads, Rassi and the Marchesa Raversi, will endeavour to provide the prince with a mistress. This mistress will be given ‘carte blanche’ to make her own fortune, and to dispose of some inferior posts. But she will have to answer to the party for her master’s constant good-will.

“To be thoroughly well-established at your Highness’s court, I must have Rassi spurned and banished. Further, I must have Fabrizio tried by the most upright judges who can be found. If, as I hope, these judges recognise his innocence, it will be only natural to grant the archbishop’s wish that Fabrizio shall be his coadjutor, and his ultimate successor. If I fail, the count and I will forthwith retire. In that case I leave your Serene Highness this farewell advice: You must never forgive Rassi, and you must never leave your son’s dominions. So long as you keep near him, your good son will never do you any serious harm.”

“I have followed your arguments with all the attention they deserve,” replied the princess with a smile. “But am I, then, to undertake the care of finding a mistress for my son?”

“Not that, indeed, madam! But see to it that your drawing-room shall be the only one in which he finds amusement.”

On this subject the conversation ran on endlessly. The scales were falling from the eyes of the innocent and intelligent princess. The duchess sent a courier to Fabrizio, to tell him he might enter the city, but that he must conceal himself. Hardly any one saw him. Dressed as a peasant, he spent his whole time in the wooden booth which a chestnut seller had set up under the trees of the square, just opposite the citadel gates.