The Betrothed CHAPTER 29

Some old friends of ours were among the poor terrified inhabitants of the district of Lecco.

News that the army had marched, that it was near at hand, and of its behaviour all arrived together; and to miss seeing Don Abbondio on that day was to miss a fresh insight into the nature of perplexity and terror.

‘They’re coming!’ – ‘Thirty thousand of them!’ – ‘Forty thousand!’ – ‘Fifty thousand!’ – ‘They’re fiends!’ – ‘They’re heretics!’ – ‘They’re antichrists!’ – ‘They’ve sacked Cortenuova!’ – ‘They’ve burnt Primaluna!’ – ‘They’re destroying Introbbio, Pasturo, and Barsio!’ – ‘They’re in Balabbio already!’ – ‘They’ll be here tomorrow!’

Such was the news that passed from mouth to mouth, with much dashing here and there, much buttonholing of neighbours in the street, much hasty consultation, much hesitation between running away and staying in the village, much assembling of women on corners, much tearing of hair.

Don Abbondio made up his mind to run away, made it up more quickly and more firmly than anyone else; but he saw insuperable obstacles and appalling dangers in every alternative refuge and every alternative route.

‘What can we do?’ he exclaimed. ‘Where can we go?’

The mountains, apart from the difficulty of getting there, were far from safe. Everyone knew that German soldiers could climb like goats, when they had any indication, or any hope, that there was booty to be had in the hills. The lake was stormy, with a high wind blowing; and moreover most of the boatmen had already taken their vessels over to the other side, being afraid that they would be pressed into carrying soldiers or their equipment. The few boats that were left sailed off later overloaded with passengers; and between the storm and the weight they were carrying they were thought to be in danger of sinking at any moment.

It was impossible to find a trap, a horse, or any other means of transport for a longer journey, to take you right off the army’s route; and Don Abbondio was not up to a very long journey on foot. Besides, he was afraid of being overtaken on the road. The territory of Bergamo was not so far away that his legs could not have got him there in one march; but it was known that a contingent of cappelletti1 had been hurriedly sent down from Bergamo to patrol the frontier and protect it against the imperial troops, and the cappelletti were fiends in human shape, just like the Germans, and were behaving as badly as possible on their side of the border.

Poor Don Abbondio trotted from room to room, with rolling eyes, beside himself with fear; he followed Perpetua around the house, hoping to reach some conclusion with her assistance. But she was busy sorting out the best things in the building and hiding them in the attic or in various dark corners; breathless and preoccupied, she would dash past him with handfuls or armfuls of stuff, and reply,

‘I’ve nearly finished getting all this put safely away, and when I have we’ll just do the same as everyone else.’

Don Abbondio wanted to stop her for a moment and discuss the various alternatives with her. But Perpetua, what with all she had to do, and the little time she had to do it, and the terror in her own heart, and her fury at the terror in her master’s, was now in a less tractable mood than ever before.

‘Other people are managing, and we’ll manage too!’ she said. ‘Excuse me, sir, but you don’t seem able to do anything but get in the way. Don’t you realize that other people have skins to save as well as yourself? Do you think the soldiers are coming here to make war on you in particular? You might give me a hand, at a time like this, instead of whining and getting under my feet.’

With these and similar replies, she kept him out of her way. She had already decided that as soon as she had completed the urgent and confused business in hand she would grab him by the arm, like a small boy, and drag him up to the top of the nearest mountain.

Left to himself, Don Abbondio looked out of the window, and watched and listened. When he saw anyone go by, he called out in a half-whining, half-reproachful voice:

‘Do your curé the kindness of finding him a horse, or a mule, or a donkey. Can it really be that no one will help me? What people there are in this place! Wait for me anyway; wait till I can come with you! Wait till there are fifteen or twenty of you, and then you can take me with you, and I won’t be left alone. Do you really want to leave me to the mercy of those swine? Don’t you realize that most of them are Lutherans, who regard it as a meritorious action to cut a priest’s throat? Do you want to leave me here to martyrdom? What people there are here; Heaven help me!’

But to whom were these words addressed? To men who were going past bent under the weight of their poor belongings, thinking about the things they had had to leave in their houses, driving their poor cattle before them, leading children who were also laden to the limit of what they could carry, and wives holding in their arms children who were too young to walk. Some strode on without replying or looking up. Some said: ‘Why, your Honour, you’ll have to do the best you can, like the rest of us; you’re lucky not to have a family to worry about. You’ll have to look after yourself, and find your own solution.’

‘Heaven help me then!’ cried Don Abbondio. ‘What people these are! What hard hearts! There’s no true charity in them at all. Each of them thinks of himself, and not one of them thinks of me!’

He began to look for Perpetua again.

‘By the way!’ said the housekeeper. ‘What about the money?’

‘What are we to do?’

‘Give it to me, and I’ll go and bury it in the back garden, with the best silver.’

‘But …’

‘No buts about it; let me have it now. Keep a little in your pocket for emergencies, and leave the rest to me.’

Don Abbondio went obediently to his money-box and got out his little hoard of cash. He gave it to Perpetua, who said, ‘I’ll bury it in the garden, then, at the foot of the fig-tree,’ and went off.

She came back presently with a flat basket containing food for the journey, and an empty pannier into which she quickly packed a little of her own linen and her master’s.

‘There’s one thing you can carry yourself,’ she said, ‘and that’s your breviary!’

‘But where are we to go?’

‘Where’s everyone else going? Let’s get on the road, first of all, and then we’ll hear what they’ve got to say, and see what’s the best thing to do.’

Just then in came Agnese, with a small pannier slung on her back, and with the air of someone who has an important suggestion to make.

Agnese had soon resolved not to await the arrival of those unwelcome guests in her own home, alone as she was, and still in possession of some of the scudi provided by the Unnamed; but at first she had been puzzled where to take refuge. The remains of that stock of gold coins, which had been so useful to her during the months of famine, were in fact the main cause of her perplexity and indecision; for she had heard that those who had money had been the most shockingly ill-treated of all in the villages through which the soldiers had passed – exposed both to the violence of the invaders and the treachery of the local inhabitants.

It was true that she had told no one but Don Abbondio about the wealth which had, as she said, fallen from Heaven into her lap. When she wanted to change a scudo, from time to time, she had asked the curé to do it for her – always leaving him part of the proceeds to give to someone poorer than herself. But hidden money generally keeps its owner in a constant state of worried suspicion about the possible suspicions of other people – especially if he is not used to handling a lot of cash. She too had gone round hiding away as best she could the things that she could not carry with her, and as she thought about the scudi, which were sewn into her bodice, she remembered that the Unnamed had sent her, together with the money, the most generous offer of any kind of help he could render. She remembered all she had heard about his castle, and how it was in such a strong place that you’d need wings to get in there if the owner didn’t want you to; and she decided to go and ask the Unnamed for shelter. Then she wondered how she could prove her identity to the gentleman; and she at once thought of Don Abbondio, who had been very friendly to her ever since he had had that talk with the Archbishop – all the more genuinely friendly because there was no risk now of such an attitude getting him into trouble with anyone, and because Renzo and Lucia were both far away, and so unable to make any demands on his services, which might have put his friendliness to a severe test. Agnese reflected that the poor curé would probably be even more perplexed and terrified than herself in this embroiled situation, and thought that he might well be very pleased with her plan; and so she had come to tell him about it. She found him with Perpetua, and made the suggestion to both of them together.

‘What do you say to that, Perpetua?’ asked Don Abbondio.

‘I say it’s an inspiration straight from Heaven, and don’t let’s lose any time, and let’s get moving!’

‘But then later on …’

‘But then later on, when we get there, we shall be very well off. We know about that gentleman, how all he cares about now is doing good to his neighbour; and so he’ll be glad enough to give us shelter. Right on the frontier like that, and halfway up in the sky, you won’t find any soldiers there. And then, later on, we’ll have something to eat; while in the mountains, once we’d finished this small gift of God,’ said Perpetua, putting the food into the pannier on top of the linen, ‘we’d have been in trouble for sure.’

‘Yes, yes, that wonderful conversion … but is it a genuine conversion?’

‘How can you doubt that, after all that we know has happened, and after what you’ve seen with your own eyes?’

‘And if we were to walk into a trap?’

‘A trap, sir? What trap? With all these if and buts, we’ll never get anywhere, sir, if you’ll pardon my saying so … Well done, Agnese! It was a good idea that came into your head.’

Perpetua put the pannier on a table, stuck her arms through the straps, and got it up on her back.

‘Couldn’t we find a man who’d come with us, to act as escort to his priest?’ said Don Abbondio. ‘If we happened to meet a ruffian – and there are plenty of them around unfortunately – what help could you two give me?’

‘There’s another trick for wasting time!’ cried Perpetua. ‘Going to look for a man at a time like this? You won’t find one who hasn’t plenty to do at the moment looking after his own affairs. Take heart, sir! Get your breviary and your hat, and let’s go!’

Don Abbondio disappeared, and came back a moment later, with his hat on his head, his breviary under his arm, and his staff in his hand. All three of them went out by a side door, which opened on to the square. Perpetua locked it behind her, more as a formality than for any faith she had in that lock or that woodwork, and put the key in her pocket.

Don Abbondio cast a glance in passing at the church, and muttered to himself – It’s for the villagers to protect it – it’s there for their benefit. If they care about their church, they’ll do something about it; if not, so much the worse for them.

They set off across the fields, very quietly, each of them thinking his own thoughts. They looked round them cautiously, especially Don Abbondio, to see if any suspicious figures would appear, or anything else out of the ordinary. But they met nobody; those who were not indoors guarding their houses, packing up, or hiding their valuables, were already on the roads that led directly to the mountains.

Don Abbondio sighed and sighed again, let out an exclamation or two, and then began to grumble in a more connected manner. He complained about the Duke of Nevers, who could just as well have stayed in France and lived like a prince (which he was); but nothing would suit him but to be Duke of Mantua as well, against the wishes of the whole world. He complained about the Emperor, who ought to have shown more sense on behalf of the others, and to have let things take their course, and not to make such an issue of minor points, since he’d still be Emperor at the end of the day whether Tom, Dick or Harry were Duke of Mantua. But most of all Don Abbondio grumbled at the Governor, whose job it was to keep the common scourges of mankind away from the duchy, and who did all he could to attract them there, just for the pleasure of having a war.

‘It’s a pity those fine gentlemen aren’t here now, to see and feel what the pleasures of war are like!’ he said. ‘They have much to answer for. But meanwhile the people who suffer are the innocent.’

‘Oh, leave those Governors and Emperors of yours alone, for you won’t find them coming to help you!’ said Perpetua. ‘It’s just a lot of your talk, sir, if you’ll excuse me saying so, which doesn’t do any good at all. Now what worries me is this …’

‘Yes? Yes? What is it?’

They had now gone far enough along the road for Perpetua to think over at leisure the efforts she had made in such haste to hide everything, and she began to bemoan the fact that she had forgotten one item and only half hidden another; here she had left a clue that might help the robbers, there she had …

‘Bravo, Perpetua!’ interrupted Don Abbondio, who was now sufficiently sure of his personal safety to begin worrying about his possessions. ‘Splendid! So that’s what you did! You must have lost your head completely.’

‘What!’ cried Perpetua, stopping for a moment and putting her hands on her hips, as well as the pannier on her back would let her. ‘Are you going to say it was my fault, when it was you who made me lose my head, instead of helping me and encouraging me? Why, I took more trouble over the things that belonged to the house than over my stuff. I had no one to help me; I had to play the parts of Mary and Martha at once. If anything goes wrong, I can’t help it. I’ve done my duty and more than my duty.’

Agnese interrupted these disputes with remarks about her own troubles. It was not so much the personal inconvenience and the damage to her property that she minded, as losing all hope of an early reunion with Lucia. For, as the reader may remember, the two women had arranged to meet again that very autumn; and it was not to be thought that Donna Prassede would come up to that district for the country holiday season in those circumstances. In fact, if she had been there already, she would certainly have left her country seat in a hurry, as the other gentry were doing.

The sight of the places through which they passed made these thoughts more vivid, and increased Agnese’s unhappiness. They had left the byways now, and were on the main road along which the poor woman had travelled when she brought her daughter home – for so brief a stay! – after the time they had spent together in the tailor’s house. And now the village where he lived was already in sight.

‘We must go and see those good people,’ said Agnese.

‘And we must have a bit of a rest; I’m beginning to get tired of this pannier,’ said Perpetua. ‘We’ll have something to eat as well.’

‘So long as we don’t waste too much time,’ added Don Abbondio. ‘Remember that we’re not travelling for pleasure.’

They were received with open arms. Their hosts were genuinely glad to see them, because they were the living reminder of a good deed. Be kind to as many people as you can, says our anonymous author, and you’ll find faces you are glad to see wherever you go.

As she embraced the tailor’s wife, Agnese broke out into a flood of tears, which did her a great deal of good. She could reply only with sobs to the questions about Lucia from both man and wife that followed.

‘Lucia’s better off than we are,’ said Don Abbondio. ‘She’s in Milan, out of danger, and far away from this work of the devil.’

‘So you’ve had to run for it, you and these good people, have you, your Reverence?’ said the tailor.

‘We certainly have!’ said master and servant together.

‘I’m sorry for you then.’

‘We’re on our way to the castle of …,’ said Don Abbondio.

‘A very good idea; you’ll be as safe there as you’d be in church.’

‘But aren’t you afraid to stay here?’ said the curé.

‘Well, sir, I’ll tell you what I think. The soldiers won’t come here for enlodgement (which is the correct term, as you realize, of course); it’s too far off their route, thank God. At the very worst, we might get a passing raid – pray Heaven we don’t! But there’s time enough; and first we must hear some more news from the unfortunate villages where they’re going to stop for the night.’

So the three travellers decided to stop there for a little and get their breath back. As it was dinner-time, the tailor said: ‘Well, good sir, good ladies, you must honour my poor table, such as it is; pot luck, you know, and good will the main dish!’

Perpetua replied that they had brought something to eat with them. After a little ceremony on each side, they agreed to pool their resources and dine together.

The children joyfully gathered round their old friend Agnese. But the tailor quickly gave them their instructions. One little girl (the same who had taken the food round to the widow and her children, if you remember the episode) was told to get four of the early chestnuts which had been put away in a corner, to remove the spiny outer husks, and to put them on to roast.

‘And you, now,’ he said to one of the boys, ‘go out into the garden and give the peach tree enough of a shake to bring down four peaches, and bring them here – all of them mind! And you’, he added, turning to another boy, ‘get up the fig-tree and pick four of the ripest figs. You know how to do that – a bit too well, I should say.’

The tailor went off to tap a small barrel of wine that he had, and his wife went to fetch some table linen. Perpetua got out her provisions, and the table was laid, with a napkin and a majolica plate in the place of honour for Don Abbondio, and with cutlery that Perpetua had brought in her pannier. They sat down to their meal; and if they were not an outstandingly cheerful gathering, they were at least more so than any of them had expected to be on that particular day.

‘What do you say about all this turmoil, your Reverence?’ said the tailor. ‘I feel as if I were reading the story of the Saracens in France.’

‘Why, what can I say about it? As if I hadn’t had enough bad luck already!’

‘But you’ve chosen a good place to go; no one will ever be able to force his way into that castle. And you’ll have company, for we’ve heard of a lot of people taking refuge there, and more on the way.’

‘I hope we shall be well received. I know that worthy lord; and last time I had the honour of his company he behaved like a perfect gentleman,’ said the priest.

‘And he sent me a message through His Grace the Archbishop,’ said Agnese, ‘to tell me that if ever I needed help, I had only to go and see him.’

‘Yes, yes! A wonderful conversion indeed!’ said Don Abbondio. ‘And permanent, I’m told. No signs of backsliding, eh?’

The tailor began to talk at length about the holy life that the Unnamed was now leading, and how he was now a benefactor and an example to the neighbourhood, instead of being its scourge, as before.

‘And what about the people he had with him – all those retainers of his?’ said Don Abbondio, who had heard a good deal about all this before, but could never have enough reassurance.

‘Most of them have gone,’ said the tailor, ‘and those that are left have changed their ways, more than you’d believe possible. That castle has turned into a real. Thebais; 2 you know what I mean, sir.’

Then Agnese had something to say about the Cardinal. ‘What a great man!’ she exclaimed. ‘What a truly great man! It’s a pity he passed through in such a hurry that I didn’t have time to do anything to show my respect for him. How I’d love to have another chance to speak to him, more at leisure!’

When they got up from table, the tailor showed her a picture of the Archbishop, a print which he had tacked on to one of the doors, out of admiration for the man, and also so that he could say to his visitors, ‘It’s a very poor likeness, as I can tell you, since I’ve had the opportunity to see the Cardinal himself, as near as I am to you, in this very room.’

‘Why, is that really meant to be His Grace, that thing there?’ said Agnes. ‘The robes are like enough, but …’

‘It’s not a good likeness at all, is it? said the tailor. ‘That’s just what I always say myself. And we know, don’t we? But at least it’s got his name on it; so it is something to remember him by.’

Don Abbondio was anxious to get on with the journey. The tailor promised to find a cart to take them to the foot of the slope that led up to the castle. He went off to look for one, and came back in a few minutes to say that it was coming. Then he turned to Don Abbondio, and said,

‘You know, your Reverence, if by any chance you’d like to take something to read up there with you, to pass the time, I could help you, though I’m a poor man, for I read a bit myself, for my own amusement. They aren’t really books for the likes of you, of course; nothing in Latin. But if you’d like one of them …’

‘Thank you, thank you,’ said Don Abbondio, ‘but at times like this it’s all I can do to get through the reading I have to do as a duty.’

Thanks were offered and politely turned aside; farewells and good wishes were exchanged; the travellers were invited to come back and promised to do so on their return journey; and meanwhile the cart had arrived and was standing outside the front door. They put in their panniers and climbed up themselves, and began the second half of their journey with rather more comfort and peace of mind than the first.

What the tailor had said about the Unnamed was perfectly true. From the day on which we last met him, he had continued to follow the course he had chosen – compensating people for the harm he had done them, seeking peace with all men, helping the poor, and always doing good as opportunity offered. He had once demonstrated his courage by attacking others and defending himself; now he demonstrated it by doing neither of those things. He went about alone and unarmed, open to every sort of retaliation for his many past acts of violence. He was convinced that it would be a further act of violence to use force in his own defence, when he was so deeply in the wrong with so many people. Any wrong that might be done to him would indeed be a wrong to God, he said, but in relation to himself it would be an act of just retribution; and he had less right than anyone to punish such a wrong.

But for all that, he remained as free from attack as he had been when his safety was protected by so many weapons, so many strong arms – including his own. The memory of his previous ferocity and the sight of his present meekness might have been thought to provide both motive and opportunity for revenge; but in fact they combined to win him a lasting admiration which was his main safeguard. This was the man whom no one had been able to humble, and who had humbled himself. Old rancours, originally caused by his contempt for others and their fear of him, vanished at the sight of that new humility. His victims had obtained, against all expectation and without any danger to themselves, a satisfaction of a kind which they could never have hoped for from the most successful act of vengeance – the satisfaction of seeing a man of that stamp repent of the wrongs he had done, and, in a sense, join in the indignation he had caused. There were many whose keenest and bitterest grief, endured for many years past, had been the absence of any prospect of ever being stronger than their tyrant so that they could exact retribution for an injury – but when they met him walking alone, unarmed, and clearly unprepared to resist attack, they felt no inclination to do anything but applaud.

In his voluntary humiliation his expression and bearing had, quite unknown to himself, taken on a fresh distinction and nobility; for his contempt for every kind of danger was even clearer to see than before. Even the most brutal and most furious of his enemies was restrained and controlled by the public veneration for that repentant and kindly figure. Often, indeed, he found some difficulty in avoiding embarrassing demonstrations of public enthusiasm. He had to be careful not to let his inner feelings of repentance show too clearly in his face or bearing; not to humble himself too far, for fear of being too greatly exalted. He had taken the lowliest seat in the church for his own, and there was no risk that anyone would take it from him; that would have been like usurping a place of honour. To insult that man, or even to treat him with disrespect, would have been regarded as not merely insolent and cowardly, but sacrilegious. Even those who were mainly restrained by public opinion shared these feelings to some extent themselves.

The same reasons, among others, saved him from retribution at the hands of the forces of public justice, and won him safety – though he cared little enough about that – from that quarter too. His rank and the power of his family had always had some protective value for him, and were all the more effective now that the praise earned by his exemplary conduct and the glory of his conversion were added to that celebrated but infamous name. The magistrates and the most eminent nobles had shown their pleasure at the conversion just as openly as the common people, and it would have been a strange thing if they had gone on to take harsh measures against the object of so many congratulations. Besides this, authorities which were occupied with a perpetual and often unsuccessful war against rebellions which were still full of life, or breaking out afresh, might well be glad enough to find themselves rid of the most dangerous and uncontrollable of all those revolts, without going on to look for more trouble; all the more so since that conversion led to reparation being made such as the authorities were often unable to enforce, and indeed seldom demanded.

To persecute a saint hardly seemed the best way to wipe out the shame of failing to get the better of a criminal; and the effect of punishing him could only be to dissuade others from following his example. Probably the part played by the Cardinal in the conversion, and the association of his revered name with that of the convert, served the Unnamed as a consecrated shield. The state of public affairs and the climate of thought at that time were such that there was a strange relationship between Church and State, which often came to blows, yet never aimed at each other’s destruction. They always mingled expressions of gratitude and protestations of deference with their acts of hostility. They often in fact pursued a common aim without ever making peace with one another. And so it could well be that a man who had reconciled himself with the Church might find his offences deliberately forgotten, if not formally forgiven, by the State, in cases where the Church had acted alone to secure an end desired by both of them.

If the Unnamed had been brought low by some external force, nobles and people would have raced each other for a chance of trampling on his prostrate form; but as he abased himself voluntarily, he was spared by all, and honoured by many.

There were of course many others who could hardly be pleased by that amazing conversion – all his paid servants in crime, all his companions in crime, who lost powerful support on which they had come to rely; all who suddenly found that the threads of a long-prepared net were broken, perhaps at the very moment when they expected to hear that the trap had closed. But we have already seen how the thugs who were with him at the time of his conversion had reacted on hearing the news from his own lips. They had shown astonishment, pain, depression, rage – every possible response, in short, except contempt or hatred. The same was true of the agents he kept here and there, and of his accomplices in high places, when they heard the unwelcome news; and for the same reasons in every case. There was a great deal more hostility towards the Cardinal, as Ripamonti tells in the chapter already quoted. They regarded him as a man who had interfered in their plans with the sole object of disrupting them; whereas the Unnamed had at least wanted to save his own soul, and no one could complain about that.

Most of the bravoes in the castle had been unable to settle down under the’ new régime; and as there was no prospect of it changing, they gradually drifted away. Some must have looked for a new master, perhaps among the old friends of the man they were leaving; some must have enrolled in one or other of the units then being raised by Spain, or Mantua, or one of the other belligerent states; others must have taken to the highways and waged war on society in a small way on their own account, or contented themselves with other kinds of freelance petty crime. And much the same must have happened to those who had served him in various other places. Most of those who had reconciled themselves to the change – or perhaps welcomed it – were natives of the valley; they went back to work in the fields, or to the trades that they had learnt in their youth and then abandoned. Others, who came from farther afield, stayed on in the castle as servants. Of those who stayed, all alike seemed to have been rebaptized at the same time as their master, and went about their business as he did, neither giving nor receiving offence, unarmed and treated with respect.

But when the Germans came, fugitives from villages which had been invaded or threatened with invasion began to arrive at the castle in search of shelter; and the Unnamed was delighted to find that his fortress could be regarded as a desirable refuge by the weak, who had for so long gazed at it from afar in abject terror. He received the exiles with expressions of gratitude rather than mere courtesy. He let it be known that his house was open to all who wished to take shelter there, and at once set himself to the task of putting not only the castle, but the whole valley into a state of defence, in case the German soldiers or the cappelletti tried to break in and treat it in their usual way. He summoned the servants that had stayed with him, who were few in number but of great worth, like the verses of Torti, 3 and addressed them on the subject of the wonderful opportunity that God had sent to them, and to himself, to help their neighbours, whom they had oppressed and terrorized in the past. With that natural tone of command which expresses full certainty of prompt compliance, he told them in general terms what he intended them to do, and instructed them especially how they should conduct themselves so as to ensure that the refugees would see them as friends and protectors and nothing else.

He sent up to the attic where all the fire-arms, the swords and daggers, the halberds and pikes had been lying piled up for some considerable time, and had them brought down and distributed. He announced to the tenants and the other peasants down in the valley that all those who wished might come up to the castle and bring their weapons with them; and he gave weapons to those who had none. He chose some of the men to be captains, with others under their command, and appointed them to hold various points in the valley, at its entrance and elsewhere; and at the doors of the castle and on the slope leading up to it. He gave them regular periods of guard duty and times for relief, as in a camp – as had also been the custom in that very castle in his unregenerate days.

In one corner of the same attic lay the Unnamed’s own weapons, apart from the others – his famous carbine, and various muskets, rapiers, heavy swords, pistols, daggers and poignards, either lying on the ground, or leant against the wall. None of the servants would touch them, but they all agreed to go together to their master and ask him which of the weapons they should bring down for him now.

‘None,’ he replied.

Whether he had taken a vow, or merely a resolution, the fact is that he remained permanently unarmed, at the head of what amounted to a military garrison.

At the same time he had set a number of other servants and retainers, both men and women, to work to provide lodging in the castle for as many people as possible: making up beds, laying out straw mattresses and quilts in the rooms and halls that were to serve as dormitories. And he ordered in large stocks of provisions, to take that burden from the guests that God might send him, and who were in fact arriving in increasing numbers every day. He himself in the meantime was never still; he was in and out of the castle, up and down the slope, touring the valley, establishing, reinforcing and inspecting defensive posts; seeing everything and letting himself be seen; setting things in order and keeping them so with a word, with a look, or by his mere presence. At the castle or in the streets he always had a word of warm welcome for new arrivals – all of whom, whether they had seen him before or not, looked at him in happy astonishment, forgetting for the moment all the sufferings and terrors that had made them come so far. And they turned and gazed after him when he left them and continued on his way.