The Betrothed CHAPTER 19

As you pass by an ill-cultivated piece of land, you may sometimes see a weed – a fine growth of flowering dock, say – and you may wonder whether the seed from which it sprang was a product of the same field, or was blown there by the wind, or carried there by a bird; but you will never know the answer. In the same way we cannot tell whether it was from the natural resources of his own brain, or from a seed planted there by Attilio, that the old count raised the idea of making use of the Provincial to solve this knotty problem in the best possible way.

It was certainly no accident that Attilio had uttered those words. Though he had to reckon with the possibility that so openly expressed a suggestion would offend the old man’s touchy pride and so arouse his opposition, Attilio had still thought it best at least to give him an inkling of the possibility of this line of action, at least a sort of push in the direction he wished him to take. But in any case the action was so much in keeping with the old count’s natural inclinations, so clearly indicated by the circumstances, that we would be prepared to bet that he would have thought of it himself anyway. What mattered to him was that his nephew, a man of the same name as himself, should not have the worst of any struggle which took place – as this one unfortunately must – before the public eye. That was essential for the maintenance of his reputation as a man of power, which was so very dear to him. Any satisfaction which his nephew might be able to obtain on his own would be a cure worse than the disease, a seed-bed of future troubles. He must put a stop to anything of that sort by no matter what means, and without any loss of time. He could order Rodrigo to leave his estates immediately; but Rodrigo would not obey him; and even if he did so that would be a retreat, a yielding of ground by the family to the friars.

Injunctions, legal actions and the other terrors of the law had no effect against an opponent in that walk of life. The clergy – both ordained priests and lay brothers – were completely outside the jurisdiction of the state, and that applied not only to the persons concerned, but also to the buildings where they lived; as the reader must know, even if he is unlucky enough not to have read any other history besides that contained in the present work. The only possible step that could be taken against an adversary of that kind was to try to have him removed from the scene. The key to this was the Provincial, who had the power to order the friar to stay or to go as he pleased.

The Provincial and the old count had known each other for a very long time. They met infrequently, but always with a show of the warmest friendship, and with exaggerated assurances that each could rely on the other for any service in his power. A man who has many people under him is often easier to deal with than any one of them could be. Each of them only sees his own interest, only feels his own passions, only cares about his own affairs; whereas the man at the top can see a dozen different interrelations, a dozen possible consequences, all in a flash, together with a dozen varying interests, a dozen things to avoid, a dozen things to preserve. For this very reason, he can be manipulated in a dozen different ways.

Having considered everything very carefully, the old count invited the Provincial to dinner one day, and arranged for him to meet a set of fellow-guests who had been selected with extraordinary care and delicacy. There were one or two of the count’s relations – men who bore the highest titles, men whose family names were high titles in themselves, and whose manner alone, with their innate self-assurance, their lordly air of contempt, their way of speaking in the most familiar way of the loftiest matters, was enough to impose initially and continually renew, without any conscious effort, the ideas of their superiority and of their power. Then there were certain dependants of the host, linked to the family by hereditary feudal obligations, and to its head by a lifetime of humble service. They began to say ‘Yes’ as the soup was served, and they went on saying it with their tongues, their eyes, their ears, with their whole heads, their whole bodies and their whole souls, until by the time the fruit arrived you might well have forgotten the sound of the word ‘No’.

The guests had not been long at table when the old count introduced the subject of Madrid. There are many roads that lead to Rome, as the saying goes, but all roads led to Madrid for him. He spoke of the court, of the Count–Duke and of the ministers, of the Governor’s family; of the bull-fight, of which he could give an excellent description, since he had watched it from a very good seat. He spoke of the Escurial, and here again he could give an account of all its details, since one of the Count–Duke’s dependants had shown him round every corner of it. For some time the company, like the audience of a play, gave him all their attention. Then separate conversations sprang up; but he continued to speak on the same fascinating subject, privately now, to the Provincial, who was sitting next to him and let him go on and on with his story.

But the time came when the Provincial gave a little twist to the conversation, steering it away from Madrid, through a series of other courts, past a series of other dignitaries, until he reached Cardinal Barberini, who was the brother of the reigning Pope, Urban VIII, and was also one of his own Order, a Capuchin … The old count had to let his guest do the talking for a while, and listen to him, and remember that there were after all other people in the world than those who shed lustre on his own name.

When they rose from table, he invited the Provincial to come with him into another room.

Then two powers faced each other, two grey heads, two memories full of long experience. The noble lord offered a chair to the most reverend father, sat down himself, and began to speak:

‘In view of our old friendship, I felt I ought to have a word with your Reverence about a matter of common interest, which we ought to be able to clear up between the two of us without recourse to other channels which could so easily … So I’ll tell you quite honestly and frankly what the question is, and I’m sure we can reach agreement in a couple of minutes. Now tell me – isn’t there a certain Father Cristoforo of — at your monastery in Pescarenico?’

The Provincial nodded.

‘Now tell me something, quite frankly, your Reverence … this man … this Father Cristoforo … I don’t know him personally myself, mind you – though I do know quite a number of Capuchin fathers – admirable men, zealous, prudent and humble. I’ve been a friend of your order since I was a boy … But in every large family, there’s always someone … someone different … This Father Cristoforo, now; I know from certain reports that he’s a man … a man who’s a bit given to wrangling, who hasn’t quite got all the prudence, the restraint that … I’m sure he must have given your Reverence cause for concern more than once in the past.’

So that’s it! A piece of jobbery! thought the Provincial. But it’s my own fault. I knew quite well that that fellow Cristoforo was a man who should be kept on the move from one pulpit to another, and never left as much as six months in any one place – especially in country monasteries.

‘Oh!’ he said aloud. ‘I’m sorry to hear that my lord has such an opinion of Father Cristoforo. To the best of my knowledge, he’s a friar of exemplary conduct in the cloister, and much respected in the world outside as well.’

‘Yes, yes; I quite understand. Your Reverence has to … But I do think, as a sincere friend, that I should mention one thing, which your Reverence really ought to know … in fact, even if you know about it already, I think I should still be justified in drawing your attention to certain possible consequences; I only say “possible”, mind you, nothing more than that. This Father Cristoforo, now, is known to have extended his protection to a man from those parts … a man your Reverence will have heard of – the man who so scandalously escaped out of the hands of the police on that terrible St Martin’s Day, after committing … committing … in a word, Lorenzo Tramaglino!’

Oh dear! – thought the Provincial. ‘That’, he added aloud, ‘is something I had not heard. But my lord is very well aware that one part of our mission consists precisely in searching out lost sheep and bringing them back to …’

‘Yes, yes; of course. But extending protection to lost sheep of that particular kind! These are awkward questions, delicate matters …’ Here, instead of blowing out his cheeks and puffing, he pursed his lips and drew in the same quantity of air which he normally expelled in a puff. Then he went on: ‘I thought it would be as well to say a couple of words to your Reverence about these events, because if ever His Excellency … Some steps or other might be taken at Rome … I don’t know these things myself, of course … and then something might come back to you from there …’

‘I am deeply indebted to my lord for telling me this. But I am sure that if we go into the matter, we shall find that Father Cristoforo has had nothing to do with the man you mention, apart from trying to make him see the error of his ways. I know Father Cristoforo.’

‘I’m sure you know more than I do about his character before he took the habit, and about the exploits of his youth.’

‘But the glory of the habit is this, my lord, that a man who may have made himself notorious in secular life becomes another man when he puts it on. And ever since Father Cristoforo has worn the habit …’

‘There’s nothing I’d like to believe more – and I say that sincerely. I’d like to believe it. But there’s a proverb that sometimes turns out to be true – “The habit does not make the monk.”’

The proverb did not fit the case exactly; but the old count had hurriedly brought it out to replace another one which was on the tip of his tongue – something about wolves in sheep’s clothing.

‘I have examples in this case,’ he went on, ‘and I have proofs.’

‘If you have definite knowledge that this friar has done something wrong (as anyone may fall into error), I would be most grateful for information about it. Though unworthy, I am his superior. It is my task to correct, to find the remedy.’

‘Yes … well, I’ll tell you. Apart from this unpleasant business of his openly extending his protection to the man I mentioned, there’s another distasteful matter, which could … But I’m sure we can settle both things at the same time. The point is that the same Father Cristoforo has got himself at loggerheads with my nephew, Don Rodrigo.’

‘Oh dear! I’m sorry to hear that, very sorry indeed.’

‘My nephew is young, spirited, conscious of his rank, unused to provocation …’

‘It is certainly my duty to investigate the matter thoroughly. As I have already remarked to my lord, whose fair-mindedness, I know, is equal to his knowledge of the world, we are all flesh and blood, all subject to error … and that is true of both sides in every question. If Father Cristoforo has failed in his duty …’

‘Your Reverence … as I was saying just now, these are things to be settled here and now, between the two of us, and then forgotten. They’re the sort of things that you can make worse by stirring them up. You know what happens. These disputes, these wrangles, often start from the merest triviality; but then they go on, and on, and on … If you try to get to the bottom of them, either you never reach the end of it, or else a dozen new thorny questions arise as well. Better to nip it in the bud, most reverend father … yes, yes, nip it in the bud! My nephew’s a young man; and the friar, from what I hear, still has all the spirit, all the … the inclinations of a young man. So it’s up to us, who unfortunately aren’t quite so young – “unfortunately”’s the word for it, isn’t it, most reverend father?’

If there had been a spectator in the room at this moment, he would have felt as if he were watching a grand opera, in the middle of which a back-drop was prematurely hoisted, revealing one of the cast talking normally to a colleague, quite oblivious of the public. As the old count uttered the word ‘unfortunately’, his face, his gestures and his voice all became completely natural.

There was nothing contrived about it; it was perfectly true that he was sorry to be as old as he was. Not that he hankered after the amusements, the gaiety, the charm of youth – those wretched, stupid frivolities! The cause of his regret was something far more solid and important than that. He hoped to obtain a certain high appointment, when it fell vacant, and he was afraid that he was running out of time … If he got it, the world could rest assured that he would not mind being old any more, would not want anything else, and would die happy; as everyone who wants something very badly is sure he will do, once he gets his desire.

But we must let the old count finish his speech. ‘It’s up to us’, he continued, ‘to show a little sense on behalf of the young, and put things to rights when they have committed some blunder. Luckily there’s still time. The thing hasn’t made any stir so far; it’s still a case for principiis obsta1 – for taking the torch away from the thatch. Sometimes a man who is no good in one place, or causes some trouble there, turns out to be a great success somewhere else. Your Reverence will easily find the right niche for this friar. And we mustn’t forget that other matter, which might well cause suspicion to fall on him in circles where … where they might want him to be moved away from here. Now if you placed him somewhere a fair distance away, two birds could be killed with one stone. Everything would come right of itself; or rather nothing would ever have gone wrong …

This conclusion was the one that the Provincial had been expecting from the beginning of the old count’s speech. Yes, of course, he had been thinking, I can see what you’re after. It’s the usual story; You people take a dislike to some unfortunate friar, or one of you does; or perhaps he arouses your suspicion somehow; and then straight away, without seeing whether he’s right or wrong, his superior is expected to send him packing!

When the old count finished, with a long puff that had the value of a full stop, the Provincial said: ‘I understand very well what you mean; but before I take the steps you …’

‘It’s not really taking any steps at all, your Reverence. It’s something quite ordinary, quite natural. But if it isn’t done, and done soon, I foresee a whole mass of troubles, a whole saga of disasters. It only needs someone to do something silly – not my nephew, I don’t think it’ll be him; that’s what I’m there for – but at the stage the thing has reached, if we don’t nip it in the bud, at once, with a firm, precise hand, then it can’t be stopped, it can’t remain a secret, and then it won’t be only my nephew … it’s like stirring up a wasps’ nest, most reverend father. You know how it is; we are a family with connections that are …

‘Not to be overlooked,’ said the Provincial.

‘You know what I mean; they’re all people with rather special blood in their veins, people who in this world … count for something. The point of honour comes into it too; it becomes a matter that involves the whole family, and then … even the most peaceful of men … it would be a most heart-breaking thing for me to have to … to find myself in a position where … I’ve always had such an affection for the Capuchin fathers. Now you fathers, to go on doing the good work you have always done, greatly to the edification of the public … you need to have peace, to avoid strife, to keep on good terms with those who … and then, another thing, you all have relatives in the secular world, and these affairs that involve the point of honour, if they go on for more than a very short time, they start growing and branching out; they draw in … practically everybody. I happen to be in a certain position, where I have to think of appearances … His Excellency … my worthy colleagues … the whole thing would take on a collective aspect … especially in view of that other matter … you know how these things can develop.’

‘Well now,’ said the Provincial, ‘Father Cristoforo is one of our preachers, and I had been thinking, even before this … I’ve been asked for … but at this moment, in these circumstances, it might look like a punishment – a punishment without any proper investigation …’

‘Not a punishment, no, no, not a punishment at all – a far-sighted provision, an adjustment to suit the common convenience, to prevent the disastrous results of … but I think you understand me.’

‘Between my lord and myself, the matter will continue to be seen in those terms; I understand perfectly. But if the facts are as they were reported to you, I cannot think that the affair has remained unnoticed in the district. There are agitators and trouble-makers everywhere nowadays; or at best men whose ill-natured curiosity leads them to be delighted at the sight of a struggle between the gentry and the clergy. They sniff around, they put interpretations on the things they find, they gossip. Everyone has to think of appearances to some extent, and I, as a superior (though unworthy), have a positive duty in that respect … the honour of the habit is not a personal matter for me. It is something with which I have been entrusted … your nephew, my lord, if he is really as angry as you say, might take Father Cristoforo’s transfer as a satisfaction offered to himself, and … not exactly boast or triumph about it, but …’

‘Do you think there’s any risk of that, most reverend father? My nephew is a nobleman who in the world at large enjoys a consideration … the consideration properly due to his rank; but in front of me he’s like a schoolboy, and he’ll do just what I tell him – neither more nor less. In fact, I’ll go further; he needn’t know about it at all. We don’t have to account to anyone for what we say to one another! These are things arranged between ourselves, as old friends, and between ourselves they should remain. There’s no cause for concern here. I ought to know how to keep my mouth shut by now,’ he added, with a puff. ‘And as for gossip,’ he went on, ‘what can people say? A friar going off to preach in another district … it’s such a commonplace event! And anyway, people like ourselves who know … who can foresee … on whose shoulders so much … we shouldn’t bother too much about gossip and gossipers!’

‘It’s worth forestalling them, though, and it would be as well if your nephew did something to show … some sort of public demonstration of friendship … not for us personally, but for the honour of the habit …’

‘Yes, yes, of course; you’re absolutely right … but it’s really hardly necessary, for I know that the Capuchin fathers always get the cordial welcome they deserve from my nephew. He does it by natural inclination, for it runs in the family; and then he knows he’s acting in conformity with my wishes too. But anyway, in this case … you’re quite right … something extra is called for … leave it to me, most reverend father … I’ll tell him what to do … or rather I’ll have to put the thought in his mind tactfully, so that he doesn’t realize what has passed between us. I don’t want to go putting a plaster on a place where there isn’t a cut. As for the main thing that we’ve agreed about, the sooner it can be done the better. And if the niche you find for him is a good long way from here … to make quite sure …’

‘I have in fact just been asked for a preacher for Rimini, and it’s quite possible that I would have thought of Father Cristoforo anyway …’

‘Just the thing, just the thing! And when do you think …?’

‘Since it has to be done, it shall be done quickly.’

‘Yes, quickly, quickly, most reverend father. Better today than tomorrow. And if I can do anything,’ he went on, rising to his feet, ‘myself or my family, for our worthy Capuchin fathers …’

‘The kindness of your family is already known to us from long experience,’ said the Provincial, also rising, and walking to the door behind his conqueror.

‘We have put out a spark,’ said the count, stopping for a moment, ‘a spark which could have blown up into a disastrous fire, most reverend father. A couple of words between two old friends can solve a big problem sometimes.’

When he reached the door, he threw it open, and positively insisted that the Provincial should go through it before him. They went back into the other room and rejoined the rest of the company.

The old count put much study, great skill and many fine words into the conduct of these affairs; but the results were proportionate to the effort. The conversation we have just reported was enough to make Father Cristoforo travel from Pescarenico to Rimini on foot, which is a good long walk.

One evening a Capuchin from Milan arrived at Pescarenico with an envelope for the Father Superior. It contained an obedience2 for Father Cristoforo, bidding him go to Rimini, where he was to preach during Lent. The covering letter to the Father Superior instructed him to convey to the friar that he must not concern himself any more with any affairs that he might have in hand in the district he was leaving, nor must he keep up any correspondence with the people there. The friar who brought the message was to be his travelling companion. The Father Superior said nothing that evening. In the morning he sent for Father Cristoforo, and showed him the obedience. He then introduced him to the friar who was to go with him, and told him to fetch his scrip, his staff, his cloak and his girdle, and set out at once.

The reader can imagine what a blow this was for Father Cristoforo. The faces of Renzo, Lucia and Agnese at once swam before his eyes, and he silently exclaimed within himself. ‘Dear God, what will those poor folk do when I am gone?’ But then he raised his eyes to Heaven, and rebuked himself for little faith, for presumption in thinking that he could ever be indispensable. He crossed his hands over his breast, in token of submission, and bowed his head before the Father Superior, who took him on one side and gave him that other instruction; his words were words of advice, but the tone was one of command. Father Cristoforo went to his cell and picked up his scrip. He packed his breviary, his book of Lenten sermons and the bread of forgiveness3 into it, and girded his habit tightly about him with his leather belt. He said farewell to those of his fellow friars who were in the monastery at the time, asked the blessing of the Father Superior, and set off with his companion along the road he had been ordered to take.

We mentioned earlier that Don Rodrigo, more determined than ever to carry his brilliant enterprise through to the finish, had decided to seek the assistance of a terrifying helper. We cannot give this man’s name, nor that of his family, nor his title; we cannot even offer a guess at any of these things. This is all the stranger because the man is mentioned in several books – printed books that is – of that period. There is no doubt that the references are to the same person, from the complete identity of the facts described. But we find everywhere a determination to avoid giving his name, as if it might burn the writer’s pen, or even his fingers. When Francesco Rivola has to speak of this man, in his life of Cardinal Borromeo, he calls him ‘a certain lord, no less powerful in wealth than noble in birth’, and tells us no more. Giuseppe Ripamonti mentions him at greater length, in the fifth book of the fifth decade of his Storia Patria, but always calls him ‘a certain person’, ‘the former’, ‘the latter’, ‘this man’, or ‘that personage’.

‘I will report’ – he says in his elegant Latin, which we must translate as best we can – ‘the case of a certain person who, being one of the first among the great ones of the city, set up his residence on a country estate, situated on the frontier; and there, establishing his position by the number of his crimes, he held as of no account the judgements of the courts, the judges themselves and magistracies in general, and even the very Crown. He led a life of total independence. He harboured exiles, and had indeed been an exile himself, though later he returned home as if nothing had happened.’

We propose to borrow one or two other passages from Ripamonti, which may serve to confirm or elucidate the narrative of our anonymous author; to whom we now return.

To do whatever the laws forbade, or any other power opposed; to be judge and master in the affairs of others, in which he had no interest but the love of command; to be feared by everybody; to oppress those who were used to oppressing others – such had always been that man’s principal passions. From his boyhood the sight and the rumour of so much arrogant violence and aggressive rivalry, the spectacle of so many petty tyrants, had filled him with mixed feelings of anger and of impatient envy. As a young man, living in the city, he never missed an opportunity – he was more likely to create one – of encountering the most famous members of the swaggering persuasion, and of clashing with them, in order to try his strength against theirs, and to make them either treat him with due respect, or seek his friendship. He had more money and more followers than most of them, and was probably more daring and more determined than any. He reduced many of them to withdrawing from all rivalry with him, and did many of them various injuries. Many of them also became his friends; not on a footing of equality, but friends of the only kind he valued – subordinate companions, who admitted his superiority and always played second fiddle to him. But as it turned out, he too became a sort of agent or tool for his associates; for they also asked for the help of this powerful ally in their enterprises, and he could not refuse his assistance without damaging his reputation and failing to fulfil his chosen role. In the end he committed so many offences, some on his own account and some for the sake of other people, that his name, his relations, his friends and his own audacious courage were all insufficient to withstand the many powerful private hatreds and the official decrees that threatened him. He had to give way and go into exile. A striking passage of Ripamonti seems to refer to this episode: ‘Once he received the order to quit the country; see what secrecy and timid circumspection he used! He crossed the city on horseback, with a pack of hounds, to the sound of hunting horns; and when he passed the Governor’s palace, he left a series of insolent messages for His Excellency with the guard.’

While he was away, he did not cease to correspond with those friends of his, nor give up his dealings with them. And they remained united to him (to translate Ripamonti literally) ‘in a secret league of atrocious counsels and wicked deeds.’ It seems to have been at this time that he initiated certain new and infamous dealings with various high personages, about which the historian just quoted speaks with mysterious brevity. ‘Certain foreign princes also made use of his services for some assassinations of importance, and often sent him reinforcements of men from afar off to serve under his orders.’

He remained abroad for a period whose exact length is not known. Then perhaps the sentence of exile was lifted through the influence of some powerful intercession, or perhaps the man’s audacity served as his only passport – in any case he decided to return home. And return he did; though not to Milan itself, but to a castle4 on the frontier with Bergamo, which at that time, as everyone knows, was Venetian territory. ‘That house’, to quote Ripamonti again, ‘was a veritable hotbed of murderous plans. There were servants who had prices on their heads, and whose task was to cut off the heads of others; neither cooks nor scullions were exempt from the duty of murder; the very boys had bloody hands.’ Besides this happy band of immediate retainers, he had a further train of similar followers, according to Ripamonti, who were dispersed and quartered out at various points of the two states on the borders of which he lived, ever ready to carry out his orders.

All the local tyrants for a considerable distance around had been compelled at one time or another to make their choice between the friendship and the enmity of this tyrant in chief. But the first few who had tried to resist him had come out of it so badly that no one else felt inclined to make the same experiment again. Even by minding their own business, and keeping themselves to themselves, they found it impossible to stay clear of him. A messenger would arrive to say that such and such an enterprise must be abandoned, that such and such a debtor must not be harassed any more, or something of the sort; and then they had to reply either yes or no.

When one party to a dispute decided, with feudal submissiveness, to refer the matter to him, the other party was faced with the difficult choice of either accepting his judgement or opting to become his enemy – which was like opting for galloping consumption, as they used to say. Often men who were in the wrong came to him for a declaration that they were in the right. Often too men who were in the right came to him in order to stake a prior claim to that formidable advocacy, and thus deny it to their enemies. In either case they became especially dependent on him.

Occasionally the weak would come to him, after suffering oppression at the hands of some bully; and he would take the side of the weak, and force the bully to leave them alone, or to make reparation for the wrong he had done, or to apologize. If the bully resisted, he would drive him out of the district where he had played the tyrant, or exact a more summary and terrible penalty. In cases such as these, blessings might be called down on that abhorred and dreaded name for a time. For in those days there was no other public or private agency from which a man could expect any such act of … not of justice exactly, but any remedy or compensation at all. But more often – as a general rule, in fact – his power was exercised on behalf of evil intentions, atrocious revenges, or tyrannical caprice.

Yet the various uses of his power all produced the same effect. They filled men’s minds with a powerful impression of what he was ready to plan and achieve in total disregard of both right and wrong – those twin opponents which place so many obstacles in the way of men’s wishes, and so often make them abandon their enterprises. The fame of ordinary tyrants was generally limited to the small stretch of country where each of them held the upper hand. Every district had its own, and one petty despot was so like the next that there was no reason for people to concern themselves about any others besides the one on their own doorstep. But the fame of this man had already spread all over the territory of Milan. His life was already a subject of popular fable; his name had become associated with the idea of something strange, irresistible and legendary. There were suspicions everywhere about the activities of his allies and his hired assassins, which also helped to ensure that no one would ever forget about him in a hurry. It could only be a question of suspicions, for no one would openly confess to being a dependent of such a man. But any petty tyrant might easily be one of his allies, any thug might be one of his retainers. The very uncertainty of the matter made his influence seem vaster, more mysterious and more terrible. Every time strange bravoes, of exceptionally forbidding aspect, appeared in a district, every time some atrocious crime was committed, the authorship of which could not be immediately discovered or promptly guessed, it was always the same name that was put forward or muttered around – though the extraordinary circumspection (to use no harsher term) of our authorities compels us to call him ‘the Unnamed’.

From his lair to Don Rodrigo’s palace was no more than seven miles. Long before, when Don Rodrigo had inherited his present estate and his present despotic powers, he had had to admit that, if he were to live so near to such a formidable neighbour and still be a tyrant in his own right, he must be prepared either to wage war on the Unnamed, or come to terms with him. So he made him an offer of friendship, which was accepted – on the usual terms of course. Since then Don Rodrigo had been of service to him more than once – the manuscript gives no further details. On each occasion he had received in return an assurance of reciprocal aid whenever he might need it.

But Don Rodrigo was very careful to keep this friendship secret, or at least to conceal the closeness of the relationship and its true character. Don Rodrigo wanted to be a tyrant, of course; but not a completely barbarous one. For him despotism was a means, not an end in itself. He wanted to go on being free to live in the city, and enjoy the comforts, amusements and honours of civilized life. He consequently had to observe certain restraints, to consider the feelings of his family, to cultivate the friendship of high officials; to keep one hand on the scales of justice, so that he could incline them towards his own side if necessary, or whisk them out of sight; or even, in certain special circumstances, bang them down on the head of someone who was easier to get at in that way than by the use of private armed force. Now intimacy with a man like the Unnamed, and still more a definite alliance with such an avowed enemy of public order, would not have helped Don Rodrigo at all with those other interests of his. Least of all would it have helped him with his noble uncle.

To the extent that it was impossible to hide his friendship with the Unnamed, it could be passed off as an indispensable relationship with a man whose enmity would be too dangerous, and thus be excused as unavoidable. For if those who have the duty to protect us cannot or will not do so, they will end up by agreeing that we may take steps to protect ourselves up to a point. If they do not openly agree, they will close an eye to what is going on.

One morning Don Rodrigo rode out as if to go hunting, but with a small escort of bravoes on foot. Griso was at his side, and four other men walking behind. They took the road that led to the castle of the Unnamed.