The Chartreuse of Parma CHAPTER XXVI

The only moments when Fabrizio’s deep sadness knew a little respite were those he spent lurking behind a glass pane which he had substituted for one of the oiled-paper squares in the window of his lodging, opposite the Palazzo Cantarini, to which mansion, as my readers know, Clelia had retired. On the few occasions, since he had left the fortress, on which he had caught sight of her, he had been profoundly distressed by a striking change in her appearance, from which he augured very ill. Since Clelia’s one moment of weakness her face had assumed a most striking appearance of nobility and gravity. It might have been that of a woman of thirty. In this extraordinary change of expression Fabrizio recognised the reflection of some deep-seated resolution. “Every moment of the day,” said he to himself, “she is swearing to herself that she will keep her vow to the Madonna, and never look at me again.”

Fabrizio only guessed at part of Clelia’s misery. She knew that her father, who had fallen into the direst disgrace, would never be able to return to Parma and reappear at the court (without which life was impossible to him) until she married the Marchese Crescenzi. She wrote her father word that she desired to be married. The general was then lying ill from worry at Turin. This fateful decision had aged her by ten years.

She was quite aware that Fabrizio had a window facing the Palazzo Cantarini, but only once had she been so unfortunate as to look at him. The moment she caught sight of the turn of a head or the outline of a figure the least resembling his, she instantly closed her eyes. Her deep piety, and her trust in the Madonna’s help, were to be her only support for the future. She had to endure the sorrow of feeling no esteem for her father; her future husband’s character she took to be perfectly commonplace, and suited to the dominant feelings of the upper ranks of society. To crown it all, she adored a man whom she must never see again, and who, nevertheless, had certain claims upon her. Taking it altogether, her fate seemed to her the most miserable that could be conceived, and it must be acknowledged that she was right. The moment she was married she ought to have gone to live two hundred leagues from Parma.

Fabrizio was acquainted with the extreme modesty of Clelia’s character; he knew how much any unusual step, the discovery of which might cause comment, was certain to displease her. Nevertheless, driven to distraction by his own sadness, and by seeing Clelia’s eyes so constantly turned away from him, he ventured to try to buy over two of the servants of her aunt, the Countess Cantarini. One day, as dusk was falling, Fabrizio, dressed like a respectable countryman, presented himself at the door of the palace, at which one of the servants he had bribed was awaiting him. He announced that he had just arrived from Turin with letters for Clelia from her father. The servant took up his message, and then conducted him into a huge antechamber on the first floor. In this apartment Fabrizio spent what was perhaps the most anxious quarter of an hour in his whole life. If Clelia repulsed him he could never hope to know peace again. “To cut short the wearisome duties with which my new position overwhelms me,” he mused, “I will rid the Church of an indifferent priest, and will take refuge, under a feigned name, in some Carthusian monastery.” At last the servant appeared, and told him the Signorina Clelia was willing to receive him.

Our hero’s courage quite failed him as he climbed the staircase to the second floor, and he very nearly fell down from sheer fright.

Clelia was sitting at a little table, on which a solitary taper was burning. No sooner did she recognise Fabrizio, under his disguise, than she rushed away, and hid herself at the far end of the drawing-room. “This is how you care for my salvation,” she cried, hiding her face in her hands. “Yet you know that when my father was at the point of death from poison, I made a vow to the Madonna that I would never see you. That vow I have never broken except on that one day—the most wretched of my life—when my conscience commanded me to save you from death. I do a great deal when, by putting a forced and, no doubt, a wicked interpretation on my vow, I consent even to listen to you.”

Fabrizio was so astounded by this last sentence that, for a few seconds, he was incapable even of rejoicing over it. He had expected to see Clelia rush away in the most lively anger. But at last he recovered his presence of mind, and blew out the candle. Although he believed he had understood Clelia’s wishes, he was trembling with alarm as he moved toward the far end of the drawing-room, where she had taken refuge behind a sofa. He did not know whether she might not take it ill if he kissed her hand. Throbbing with passion, she cast herself into his arms.

“Dearest Fabrizio,” she said, “how slow you have been in coming! I can only speak to you for a few moments, for even that is certainly a great sin, and when I promised that I would never see you again, there is no doubt I understood myself to promise that I would never speak to you either. But how can you punish my poor father’s vengeful thought so barbarously? For, after all, he was nearly poisoned, first, to facilitate your flight. Should you not have done something for me, who risked my fair fame to save you? Besides, now you are altogether bound to the priestly life, you could not marry me, even if I found means of getting rid of this detestable marchese. And then, how could you dare to attempt to see me in full daylight, on the day of that procession, and thus violate my holy vow to the Madonna, in the most shocking manner?”

Beside himself with surprise and happiness, Fabrizio clasped her closely in his arms.

A conversation which had to begin by explaining so many things was necessarily a long one. Fabrizio told Clelia the exact truth as to her father’s banishment. The duchess had had nothing whatever to do with it, for the very good reason that she had never thought, for a single instant, that the idea of poison had emanated from General Conti. She had always believed that to be a witticism on the part of the Raversi faction, which was bent on driving out Count Mosca. His long dissertation on this historical fact made Clelia very happy; she had been wretched at the thought that it was her duty to hate any one belonging to Fabrizio, and she no longer looked on the duchess with a jealous eye.

The happiness consequent on that evening’s meeting only lasted a few days.

The worthy Don Cesare arrived from Turin, and found courage, in his perfect single-heartedness, to seek the presence of the duchess. After having obtained her word that she would not betray the confidence he was about to repose in her, he confessed that his brother, misled by a false idea of honour, and believing himself defied and ruined in public opinion by Fabrizio’s escape, had believed himself bound to seek for vengeance.

Before Don Cesare had talked for two minutes his cause was won; his absolute honesty had touched the duchess, who was not accustomed to such exhibitions; its novelty delighted her.

“Hurry on the marriage of the general’s daughter with the Marchese Crescenzi, and I give you my word of honour that I will do everything I can to have the general received as if he were coming back from an ordinary journey. I will ask him to dinner myself. Will that satisfy you? No doubt there will be a stiffness at first, and the general must not be too hasty about asking to be reappointed governor of the citadel. But you know my regard for the marchese; I shall bear no grudge against his father-in-law.”

Armed with these assurances, Don Cesare sought his niece, and told her that her father’s life lay in her hands; he had fallen ill from sheer despair, not having appeared at any court for several months.

Clelia insisted on going to see her father, who was hiding under a false name in a village near Turin; for he had taken it into his head that the court of Parma would request his extradition, with the object of bringing him to trial. She found him in bed, ill, and almost out of his mind. That very night she wrote a letter to Fabrizio, breaking with him forever. On receiving the letter, Fabrizio, whose character was growing very like that of his mistress, went into retreat at the Convent of Velleia, in the mountains, some thirty leagues from Parma. Clelia had written him a letter that covered ten pages. She had solemnly sworn she would never marry the marchese without his consent. That consent she now besought, and Fabrizio granted it in a letter written from his retreat at Velleia, and breathing the purest friendship.

When Clelia received this letter—the friendly tone of which nettled her, we must acknowledge—she herself fixed her wedding-day, and the festivities connected with it added to the splendour which rendered the court of Parma specially noticeable that winter.

Ranuzio-Ernest V was a miser at heart, but he was desperately in love, and he hoped to keep the duchess permanently at his court. He begged his mother’s acceptance of a considerable sum of money, to be spent in entertaining. The mistress of the robes made admirable use of this addition to the royal income; the festivities at Parma that winter recalled the best days of the Milanese court, and of Prince Eugène, that lovable viceroy of Italy, the memory of whose goodness has endured so long.

The archbishop’s coadjutor had been recalled to Parma by his duties. But he gave out that, from religious motives, he should continue to live in retirement in the small apartment in the archiepiscopal palace which his protector, Monsignore Landriani, had insisted on his accepting, and thither he retired, with one servant only. He was not present, therefore, at any of the brilliant court entertainments, and this fact earned him a most saintly reputation in Parma, and all over his future diocese. An unexpected result of this retirement, which had been inspired solely by Fabrizio’s profound and hopeless sadness, was that the worthy archbishop, who had always loved him, and who, in fact, had been the person who had first thought of having him appointed coadjutor, began to feel a little jealous. The archbishop, and very rightly, conceived it his duty to attend all the court functions, according to the usual Italian custom. On these occasions he wore his gala costume, very nearly the same as that in which he appeared in his cathedral choir. The hundreds of servants gathered in the pillared anteroom of the palace never failed to rise and crave the archbishop’s blessing as he passed, and he, as invariably, condescended to stop and bestow it. It was during one of these moments of solemn silence that Monsignore Landriani heard a voice saying: “Our archbishop goes to balls, and Monsignore del Dongo never goes out of his room.”

From that moment the immense favour in which Fabrizio had stood at the archiepiscopal palace came to an end. But he was able, now, to stand on his own feet. The behaviour which had only been actuated by the despair into which Clelia’s marriage had cast him, was taken to be the result of his simple and lofty piety, and devout folk read the translation of his family genealogy, which exemplified the most ridiculous vanity, as though it were an edifying work. The booksellers published a lithographed edition of his picture, which was bought up in a few days, and more especially by the lower classes. The engraver, out of ignorance, surrounded Fabrizio’s portrait with several adornments, which should only have appeared on the portrait of a bishop, and to which a coadjutor could lay no claim. The archbishop saw one of these pictures, and his fury exceeded all bounds. He sent for Fabrizio, and spoke to him in the harshest manner, and in terms which his rage occasionally rendered very coarse. Fabrizio had no difficulty, as my readers will readily believe, in behaving as Fénelon would have done in such a case. He listened to the archbishop with all possible humility and respect, and when the prelate ceased speaking, he told him the whole story of the translation of the genealogy by Count Mosca’s orders, at the time of his first imprisonment. It had been published for worldly ends—such, indeed, as had seemed to him (Fabrizio), by no means suited for a man in his position. As to the portrait, he had had as little to do with the second edition as with the first. During his retreat the bookseller had sent him twenty-four copies of this second edition addressed to the archiepiscopal palace. He had sent his servant to buy a twenty-fifth copy, and having thus discovered that the price of each to be thirty sous, he had sent a hundred francs in payment for the first twenty-four portraits.

All these arguments, though put forward in the most reasonable manner, by a man whose heart was full of sorrow of a very different kind, increased the archbishop’s fury to madness. He even went so far as to accuse Fabrizio of hypocrisy.

“This is what comes of being a common man,” said Fabrizio to himself, “even when he is clever.”

He had a more serious trouble at that moment, in the shape of his aunt’s letters, which absolutely insisted on his returning to his rooms at the Palazzo Sanseverina, or, at all events, on his coming occasionally to see her. In that house Fabrizio felt he was certain to hear talk of the Marchese Crescenzi’s splendid entertainments in honour of his marriage, and he was not sure he would be able to endure this without making an exhibition of himself.

When the marriage ceremony took place, Fabrizio had already kept utter silence for a week, after having commanded his servant, and those persons in the archbishop’s palace with whom he had to do, never to open their lips to him.

When Archbishop Landriani became aware of this fresh piece of affectation he sent for Fabrizio much oftener than was his wont, and insisted on holding lengthy conversations with him. He even made him confer with certain of his country canons, who complained that the archbishop had contravened their privileges. Fabrizio took all this with the perfect indifference of a man whose head is full of other things. “I should do much better,” thought he, “to turn Carthusian. I should be less wretched among the rocks at Velleia.”

He paid a visit to his aunt, and could not restrain his tears when he kissed her. He was so altered, his eyes, which his excessive thinness made look larger than ever, seeming ready to start out of his head, and his whole appearance, in his threadbare black cassock, was so miserable and wretched, that at her first sight of him the duchess could hardly help crying too. But a moment later, when she had told herself it was Clelia’s marriage that had so sorely changed this handsome young fellow, her feelings were as fierce as those of the archbishop, though more skilfully concealed. She was cruel enough to dilate at length on various picturesque details which had marked the Marchese Crescenzi’s delightful entertainments. Fabrizio made no reply, but his eyes closed with a little convulsive flutter, and he turned even paler than before, which at first sight would have been taken to be impossible. At such moments of excessive misery his pallor took a greenish tint.

Count Mosca came into the room, and the sight he beheld (and which appeared to him incredible) cured him, once for all, of that jealousy of Fabrizio which he had never ceased to feel. This gifted man made the most delicate and ingenious endeavours to rouse Fabrizio to some interest in mundane affairs. The count had always felt an esteem, and a certain regard for him. This regard, being no longer counterbalanced by jealousy, deepened into something approaching devotion. “He really has paid honestly for his fine position,” said Mosca to himself, as he summed up Fabrizio’s misfortunes. On pretext of showing him the Parmegiano, which the prince had sent the duchess, the count drew Fabrizio apart.

“Hark ye, my friend, let us speak as man to man. Can I serve you in any way? You need not fear I shall question you. But tell me, would money be of any use to you? Can interest serve you in any fashion? Speak out; you may command me—or, if you prefer it, write to me.”

Fabrizio embraced him affectionately, and talked about the picture.

“Your behaviour is a masterpiece of the most skilful policy,” said the count, returning to an ordinary light conversational tone. “You are laying up a most admirable future for yourself. The prince respects you. The populace venerates you. Your threadbare black suit keeps Archbishop Landriani awake o’ nights. I have some acquaintance with political business, and I vow I don’t know what advice I could give you to improve it. Your first step in society, made at five-and-twenty, has placed you in a position that is absolutely perfect. You are very much talked about at court. And do you know to what it is you owe a distinction which, at your age, is unique? To your threadbare black garments. The duchess and I, as you know, are in possession of the house Petrarch once owned, which stands on a beautiful hill in the forest, close to the river. It has struck me that if ever the small spites of envious folk should weary you, you might become Petrarch’s successor, and his renown would set off yours.” The count was racking his brains to bring a smile to the wasted melancholy face. But he could not do it. What made the alteration in Fabrizio’s countenance all the more striking was that until quite lately its fault, if it possessed one, had been its occasionally unseasonable expression of sensuous enjoyment and gay delight.

The count did not allow him to depart without telling him that in spite of the retirement in which he was living, it might look somewhat affected if he did not put in an appearance at court on the following Saturday—the princess-mother’s birthday. The words went through Fabrizio like a dagger thrust. “Good God!” thought he, “what possessed me to enter this house?” He could not think of the meeting he might have to face at court, without a shudder. The thought of it overrode all others. He made up his mind that his only remaining chance was to reach the palace at the very moment when the doors of the reception rooms were thrown open.

As a matter of fact, Monsignore del Dongo’s name was one of the first to be announced at the great state entertainment, and the princess received him with all imaginable courtesy. Fabrizio kept his eyes on the clock, and as soon as the hand pointed to the twentieth minute of his visit, he rose to take his leave. But just at that moment the prince entered his mother’s apartment. After paying him his duty, Fabrizio was skilfully edging toward the door, when to his great discomfiture, one of those trifles of court etiquette with the use of which the mistress of the robes was so well acquainted, was suddenly sprung upon him. The chamberlain in waiting ran after him to say he had been named to join the prince’s whist party. This, at Parma, is an excessive honour, far transcending the rank the archbishop’s coadjutor occupies in society. To play whist with the sovereign would be a special honour for the archbishop himself. Fabrizio felt the chamberlain’s words go through him like a dart, and mortally as he hated any public scene, he very nearly told him he had been seized with a sudden attack of giddiness. But it occurred to him that this would expose him to questions, and complimentary condolences, even more intolerable than the game of cards would be. He hated to open his mouth that day.

Luckily, the superior general of the Franciscan Friars happened to be among the important personages who had come to offer their congratulations to the princess. This monk, a very learned man, and worthy follower of Fontana and Duvoisin, had taken his stand in a distant corner of the reception room. Fabrizio placed himself in front of him, turning round so as not to see the doorway into the room, and began talking theology with him. But he could not prevent himself from hearing the Marchese and Marchesa Crescenzi announced. Contrary to his own expectation, Fabrizio experienced a sensation of violent anger.

“If I were Borso Valserra” (one of the first Sforza’s generals), said he to himself, “I should go over and stab that dull marchese, with the very ivory-handled dagger Clelia gave me on that blessed day, and I would teach him to have the insolence of showing himself with his marchesa anywhere in my presence.” His face had altered so completely that the superior general of the Franciscans said to him:

“Is your Excellency ill?”

“I have a frightful headache … the light hurts me … and I am only staying on because I have been desired to join the prince’s whist party.”

At these words the superior general of the Franciscans, who was a man of the middle class, was so taken aback, that, not knowing what else to do, he began bowing to Fabrizio, who, on his side, being far more agitated than the superior general, fell to talking with the most extraordinary volubility. He noticed that a great silence had fallen on the room behind him, but he would not look round. Suddenly the bow of a violin was rapped against a desk, some one played a flourish, and the famous singer, Signora P⸺, sang Cimarosa’s once celebrated air, Quelle pupille tenere. Fabrizio stood his ground for the first few bars. But soon his anger melted within him, and he felt an intense longing for tears. “Good God,” he thought, “what an absurd scene! and with my priestly habit, too!” He thought it wiser to talk about himself.

“These violent headaches of mine, when I fight against them as I am doing to-night,” said he to the superior general of the Franciscans, “always end in crying fits, which might give rise to ill-natured comment, in the case of a man of our calling. So I beseech your most illustrious reverence will give me leave to look at you while I weep, and will make no remark on my condition.”

“Our provincial at Catanara suffers from just the very same discomfort,” said the general of the Franciscans, and he began a long story in an undertone.

The absurdity of the tale, which involved a recital of everything the provincial ate at his evening meal, made Fabrizio smile, a thing he had not done for many a day. But he soon ceased listening to the superior general. Signora P⸺ was singing, in the most divine fashion, an air by Pergolese (the princess had a fondness for old-fashioned music). There was a slight noise three paces from Fabrizio. For the first time that evening he turned his head. The chair which had scraped on the parquet floor was occupied by the Marchesa Crescenzi, whose eyes, swimming with tears, met Fabrizio’s, which were in no better case. The marchesa bowed her head. For some seconds Fabrizio went on gazing at her. He was studying that diamond-laden head. But his eyes were full of anger and disdain. Then, repeating to himself, “And my eyes shall never look on thee again,” he turned back to the superior general and said:

“My complaint is coming on again, worse than ever.”

And, indeed, for over half an hour Fabrizio wept abundantly. Fortunately, one of Mozart’s symphonies—vilely played, as they generally are in Italy—came to his rescue, and helped to dry his tears.

He held his ground, and never looked toward the Marchesa Crescenzi. But Signora P⸺ began to sing again, and Fabrizio’s soul, relieved by the tears he had shed, passed into a state of perfect calm. Then life looked different to him. “How can I expect,” he mused, “to be able to forget her at the very outset? Would that be possible?” Then the idea occurred to him: “Can I possibly be more wretched than I have been for the last two months? And if nothing can increase my misery, why should I deny myself the pleasure of seeing her? She has forgotten her vows, she is fickle—is not every woman fickle? But who can deny her heavenly beauty? A glance of hers throws me into an ecstasy, and I have to do myself violence even to look at other women, who are supposed to be the loveliest of their sex. Well, why should I not enjoy that ecstasy? At all events, it will give me a moment’s respite.”

Fabrizio knew something of mankind, but as regards passion he was without experience. Otherwise he would have told himself that the momentary delight in which he was about to indulge would stultify all the efforts he had been making for the past two months to forget Clelia.

The poor lady had only attended the reception under her husband’s compulsion. She would have departed, after the first half-hour, on the score of illness. But the marchese assured her that to send for her carriage and drive away, while many other carriages were still driving up, would be a most unusual proceeding, and might even be taken as an indirect criticism of the entertainment offered by the princess.

“As lord in waiting,” the marchese went on, “I am bound to remain in the room, at the princess’s orders, until all the guests have retired. There may, and there no doubt will, be orders to be given to the servants—they are so careless. Would you have me allow a mere equerry to usurp this honour?”

Clelia submitted. She had not seen Fabrizio. She still hoped he might not be present at the reception. But just as the concert was beginning, when the princess gave the ladies permission to be seated, Clelia, who was anything but pushing in such matters, allowed herself to be shouldered out of the best seats, near the princess, and was forced to seek a chair at the back of the room, in the very distant corner to which Fabrizio had retired. When she reached her seat the dress of the Franciscan superior general, an unusual one in such company, caught her attention, and at first she did not notice the slight man in a plain black coat who was talking to him. Yet a certain secret impulse made her rivet her eyes on that person.

“Every man here is in uniform, or wears a richly embroidered coat. Who can that young man in the plain black suit be?” She was gazing at him attentively, when a lady, passing to a seat near her, jerked her chair. Fabrizio turned his head. So altered was he that she did not recognise him. She said to herself at first: “Here is somebody who is like him. It must be his elder brother. But I thought he was only a few years older, and this man must be five-and-forty.” Suddenly she recognised him by the way his lips moved.

“Poor fellow, how he has suffered!” she thought. And she bowed her head, not on account of her vow, but crushed by her misery. Her heart was swelling with pity. He had not looked anything like that, even after he had been shut up nine months in prison. She did not look at him again. But though her eyes were not exactly turned toward him, she was conscious of his every movement.

When the concert came to an end, she saw him go over to the prince’s card-table, which was set out a few paces from the throne. When she saw Fabrizio thus removed some distance from her she breathed more freely.

But the Marchese Crescenzi had been very much disturbed at seeing his wife banished so far from the throne. He spent the whole evening trying to persuade a lady who was sitting three chairs from the princess, and whose husband was under pecuniary obligations to himself, that she had better change places with the marchesa. The poor lady objected, as was natural. Then he went and fetched the husband, who owed him money. This gentleman made his better-half listen to the dreary voice of reason, and at last the marchese had the pleasure of arranging the exchange, and went to fetch his wife. “You are always far too retiring,” he said. “Why do you walk about with your eyes cast down? You will be taken for one of these middle-class women who are astonished at finding themselves here, and whom everybody else is astounded to see. That crazy woman the mistress of the robes is always doing that sort of thing. And then they talk about checking the progress of Jacobinism! Recollect that your husband holds the highest position of any man at the princess’s court. And supposing the republicans should succeed in pulling down the court, and even the nobility, your husband would still be the richest man in this country. That is a notion you do not consider half enough.”

The chair in which the marchese had the pleasure of seating his wife stood not more than six paces from the prince’s card-table. Clelia could only see Fabrizio’s profile, but she was so struck by his thinness, and especially by his air of utter indifference to anything that might happen to him in this world—he, who in old days had his word to say about every incident that occurred—that she ended by coming to the frightful conclusion that Fabrizio was completely altered, that he had forgotten her, and that his extreme emaciation must result from the severe fasting his piety had enjoined. Clelia was confirmed in this sad conviction by the conversation of all who sat near her. The coadjutor’s name was on every tongue; every one was seeking the reason of the special favour which had been shown him. How was it that he, young as he was, had been admitted to the prince’s card-table? A great effect was produced by the indifferent politeness and haughty air with which he dealt his cards, even when he cut them for his Highness.

“It really is incredible,” exclaimed the old courtiers. “The favour his aunt enjoys has quite turned his head.… But Heaven be thanked, that will not last long! Our sovereign does not like people who assume such airs of superiority.” The duchess went up to the prince, and the courtiers, who remained at a respectful distance from the card-table, so that they could only catch a few chance words of the prince’s conversation, noticed that Fabrizio flushed deeply. “No doubt,” thought they, “his aunt has chidden him for his fine show of indifference.” Fabrizio had just overheard Clelia’s voice; she was answering the princess, who, in her progress round the room, had addressed a few words to the wife of her lord in waiting. At last the moment came when Fabrizio had to change his place at the whist-table. This brought him exactly opposite Clelia, and several times he gave himself up to the delight of looking at her. The poor marchesa, feeling his eyes upon her, quite lost countenance. Several times she forgot what she owed her vow, and in her longing to read Fabrizio’s heart, she fixed her eyes upon his face.

When the prince had finished playing, the ladies rose to go into the supper room. There was some little confusion, and Fabrizio found himself close to Clelia. His resolution was still strong, but he happened to recognise a very slight perfume which she was in the habit of putting in her dress, and this sensation overmastered all his determination. He drew near her, and murmured, in an undertone, and as if to himself, two lines out of the sonnet from Petrarch which he had sent her printed on a silken handkerchief from the Lago Maggiore. “How great was my happiness when the outer world thought me wretched! and now, how altered is my fate!”

“No, he has not forgotten me,” thought Clelia in a passion of joy. “That noble heart is not unfaithful.”

“Non! vous ne me verrez jamais changer

Beaux yeux, qui m’avez appris à aimer!”

She ventured to say these two lines from Petrarch to herself.

Immediately after supper the princess retired. The prince had followed her to her own apartments, and did not reappear in the reception-room. As soon as this news spread, every one tried to go away at once, and confusion reigned supreme in all the anterooms. Clelia found herself quite near Fabrizio. The deep misery of his expression filled her with pity. “Let us forget the past,” she said, “and keep this in memory of our friendship.” As she said the word she put out her fan, so that he might take it.

In one moment everything changed to Fabrizio’s eyes. He was another man. The very next morning he announced that his retreat was at an end, and went back to his splendid rooms in the Palazzo Sanseverina.

The archbishop said, and believed, that the favour the prince had shown Fabrizio by summoning him to his card-table had turned the new-fledged saint’s head. The duchess perceived that he had come to an understanding with Clelia. That thought, which increased twofold the pain of the memory of her own fatal promise, made her finally resolve to absent herself for a while. People were astonished at her folly. “What! Leave court at the very moment when her favour appeared to know no limits!”

The count, who was perfectly happy now that he was satisfied there was no love between Fabrizio and the duchess, said to his friend: “This new prince of ours is the very incarnation of virtue, but I once called him ‘that child.’ Will he never forgive me? I only see one means of thoroughly regaining my credit with him, and that is by absence. I will make myself perfectly charming and respectful, and then I will fall ill, and ask leave to retire. You will grant me permission to do so, now that Fabrizio’s fortunes are assured. But,” he added, with a laugh, “will you make the immense sacrifice of changing the high and mighty title of duchess for a much humbler one, for my sake? I am entertaining myself by leaving all the business here in a state of the most inextricable confusion. I had four or five hard-working men in my various ministries; I had them all pensioned off, two months ago, because they read the French newspapers, and I have replaced them with first-class simpletons.”

“Once we are gone, the prince will find himself in such difficulties that, in spite of his horror of Rassi’s character, I have no doubt he will be obliged to recall him, and I only await my orders from the tyrant who rules my fate to write the most affectionate and friendly letter to my friend Rassi, and tell him I have every reason to hope his merits will soon be properly recognised.”