F. MARION CRAWFORD
AUTHOR OF "MR. ISAACS," "DR. CLAUDIUS," "ZOROASTER," "A TALE OF A LONELY PARISH," ETC.
THIS SECOND PART OF "SARACINESCA" IS LOVINGLY DEDICATED
Two years of service in the Zouaves had wrought a change in Anastase Gouache, the painter. He was still a light man, nervously built, with small hands and feet, and a delicate face; but constant exposure to the weather had browned his skin, and a life of unceasing activity had strengthened his sinews and hardened his compact frame. The clustering black curls were closely cropped, too, while the delicate dark moustache had slightly thickened. He had grown to be a very soldierly young fellow, straight and alert, quick of hand and eye, inured to that perpetual readiness which is the first characteristic of the good soldier, whether in peace or war. The dreamy look that was so often in his face in the days when he sat upon a high stool painting the portrait of Donna Tullia Mayer, had given place to an expression of wide-awake curiosity in the world's doings.
Anastase was an artist by nature and no amount of military service could crush the chief aspirations of his intelligence. He had not abandoned work since he had joined the Zouaves, for his hours of leisure from duty were passed in his studio. But the change in his outward appearance was connected with a similar development in his character. He himself sometimes wondered how he could have ever taken any interest in the half-hearted political fumbling which Donna Tullia, Ugo Del Ferice, and others of their set used to dignify by the name of conspiracy. It seemed to him that his ideas must at that time have been deplorably confused and lamentably unsettled. He sometimes took out the old sketch of Madame Mayer's portrait, and setting it upon his easel, tried to realise and bring back those times when she had sat for him. He could recall Del Ferice's mock heroics, Donna Tullia's ill-expressed invectives, and his own half-sarcastic sympathy in the liberal movement; but the young fellow in an old velveteen jacket who used to talk glibly about the guillotine, about stringing-up the clericals to street-lamps and turning the churches into popular theatres, was surely not the energetic, sunburnt Zouave who had been hunting down brigands in the Samnite hills last summer, who spent three-fourths of his time among soldiers like himself, and who had pledged his honour to follow the gallant Charette and defend the Pope as long as he could carry a musket.
There is a sharp dividing line between youth and manhood. Sometimes we cross it early, and sometimes late, but we do not know that we are passing from one life to another as we step across the boundary. The world seems to us the same for a while, as we knew it yesterday and shall know it to-morrow. Suddenly, we look back and start with astonishment when we see the past, which we thought so near, already vanishing in the distance, shapeless, confused, and estranged from our present selves. Then, we know that we are men, and acknowledge, with something like a sigh, that we have put away childish things.
When Gouache put on the gray jacket, the red sash and the yellow gaiters, he became a man and speedily forgot Donna Tullia and her errors, and for some time afterwards he did not care to recall them. When he tried to remember the scenes at the studio in the Via San Basilio, they seemed very far away. One thing alone constantly reminded him disagreeably of the past, and that was his unfortunate failure to catch Del Ferice when the latter had escaped from Rome in the disguise of a mendicant friar. Anastase had never been able to understand how he had missed the fugitive. It had soon become known that Del Ferice had escaped by the very pass which Gouache was patrolling, and the young Zouave had felt the bitterest mortification in losing so valuable and so easy a prey. He often thought of it and promised himself that he would visit his anger on Del Ferice if he ever got a chance; but Del Ferice was out of reach of his vengeance, and Donna Tullia Mayer had not returned to Rome since the previous year. It had been rumoured of late that she had at last fulfilled the engagement contracted some time earlier, and had consented to be called the Contessa Del Ferice; this piece of news, however, was not yet fully confirmed. Gouache had heard the gossip, and had immediately made a lively sketch on the back of a half-finished picture, representing Donna Tullia, in her bridal dress, leaning upon the arm of Del Ferice, who was arrayed in a capuchin's cowl, and underneath, with his brush, he scrawled a legend, "Finis coronat opus."
It was nearly six o'clock in the afternoon of the 23d of September. The day had been rainy, but the sky had cleared an hour before sunset, and there was a sweet damp freshness in the air, very grateful after the long weeks of late summer. Anastase Gouache had been on duty at the Serristori barracks in the Borgo Santo Spirito and walked briskly up to the bridge of Sant' Angelo. There was not much movement in the streets, and the carriages were few. A couple of officers were lounging at the gate of the castle and returned Gouache's salute as he passed. In the middle of the bridge he stopped and looked westward, down the short reach of the river which caught a lurid reflection of the sunset on its eddying yellow surface. He mused a moment, thinking more of the details of his duty at the barracks than of the scene before him. Then he thought of the first time he had crossed the bridge in his Zouave uniform, and a faint smile flickered on his brown features. It happened almost every day that he stopped at the same place, and as particular spots often become associated with ideas that seem to belong to them, the same thought almost always recurred to his mind as he stood there. Then followed the same daily wondering as to how all these things were to end; whether he should for years to come wear the red sash and the yellow gaiters, a corporal of Zouaves, and whether for years he should ask himself every day the same question. Presently, as the light faded from the houses of the Borgo, he turned away with an imperceptible shrug of the shoulders and continued his walk upon the narrow pavement at the side of the bridge. As he descended the step at the end, to the level of the square, a small bright object in a crevice of the stones attracted his attention. He stooped and picked it up.
It was a little gold pin, some two inches long, the head beaten out and twisted into the shape of the letter C. Gouache examined it attentively, and saw that it must have been long used, for it was slightly bent in more than one place as though it had often been thrust through some thick material. It told no other tale of its possessor, however, and the young man slipped it into his pocket and went on his way, idly wondering to whom the thing belonged. He reflected that if he had been bent on any important matter he would probably have considered the finding of a bit of gold as a favourable omen; but he was merely returning to his lodging as usual, and had no engagement for the evening. Indeed, he expected no event in his life at that time, and following the train of his meditation he smiled a little when he thought that he was not even in love. For a Frenchman, nearly thirty years of age, the position was an unusual one enough. In Gouache's case it was especially remarkable. Women liked him, he liked them, and he was constantly in the society of some of the most beautiful in the world. Nevertheless, he turned from one to another and found a like pleasure in the conversation of them all. What delighted him in the one was not what charmed him most in the next, but the equilibrium of satisfaction was well maintained between the dark and the fair, the silent beauty and the pretty woman of intelligence. There was indeed one whom he thought more noble in heart and grander in symmetry of form and feature, and stronger in mind than the rest; but she was immeasurably removed from the sphere of his possible devotion by her devoted love of her husband, and he admired her from a distance, even while speaking with her.
As he passed the Apollo theatre and ascended the Via di Tordinona the lights were beginning to twinkle in the low doorways, and the gas-lamps, then a very recent innovation in Rome, shone out one by one in the distance. The street is narrow, and was full of traffic, even in the evening. Pedestrians elbowed their way along in the dusk, every now and then flattening themselves against the dingy walls to let a cab or a carriage rush past them, not without real risk of accident. Before the deep, arched gateway of the Orso, one of the most ancient inns in the world, the empty wine- carts were getting ready for the return journey by night across the Campagna, the great bunches of little bells jingling loudly in the dark as the carters buckled the harness on their horses' backs.
Just as Gouache reached this place, the darkest and most crowded through which he had to pass, a tremendous clatter and rattle from the Via dell' Orso made the hurrying people draw back to the shelter of the doorsteps and arches. It was clear that a runaway horse was not far off. One of the carters, the back of whose waggon was half-way across the opening of the street, made desperate efforts to make his beast advance and clear the way; but the frightened animal only backed farther up. A moment later the runaway charged down past the tail of the lumbering vehicle. The horse himself just cleared the projecting timbers of the cart, but the cab he was furiously dragging caught upon them while going at full speed and was shivered to pieces, throwing the horse heavily upon the stones, so that he slid along several feet on his head and knees with the fragments of the broken shafts and the wreck of the harness about him. The first man to spring from the crowd and seize the beast's head was Anastase. He did not see that the same instant a large private carriage, drawn by a pair of powerful horses, emerged quickly from the Vicolo dei Soldati, the third of the streets which meet the Via di Tordinona at the Orso. The driver, who owing to the darkness had not seen the disaster which had just taken place, did his best to stop in time; but before the heavy equipage could be brought to a stand Anastase had been thrown to the ground, between the hoofs of the struggling cab- horse and the feet of the startled pair of bays. The crowd closed in as near as was safe, while the confusion and the shouts of the people and the carters increased every minute.
The coachman of the private carriage threw the reins to the footman and sprang down to go to the horses' heads.
"You have run over a Zouave!" some one shouted from the crowd.
"Meno male! Thank goodness it was not one of us!" exclaimed another voice.
"Where is he? Get him out, some of you!" cried the coachman as he seized the reins close to the bit.
By this time a couple of stout gendarmes and two or three soldiers of the Antibes legion had made their way to the front and were dragging away the fallen cab-horse. A tall, thin, elderly gentleman, of a somewhat sour countenance, descended from the carriage and stooped over the injured soldier.
"It is only a Zouave, Excellency," said the coachman, with a sort of sigh of relief.
The tall gentleman lifted Gouache's head a little so that the light from the carriage-lamp fell upon his face. He was quite insensible, and there was blood upon his pale forehead and white cheeks. One of the gendarmes came forward.
"We will take care of him, Signore," he said, touching his three- cornered hat. "But I must beg to know your revered name," he added, in the stock Italian phrase. "Capira—I am very sorry—but they say your horses—"
"Put him into my carriage," answered the elderly gentleman shortly. "I am the Principe Montevarchi."
"But, Excellency—the Signorina—-" protested the coachman. The prince paid no attention to the objection and helped the gendarme to deposit Anastase in the interior of the vehicle. Then he gave the man a silver scudo.
"Send some one to the Serristori barracks to say that a Zouave has been hurt and is at my house," he said. Therewith he entered the carriage and ordered the coachman to drive home.
"In heaven's name, what has happened, papa?" asked a young voice in the darkness, tremulous with excitement.
"My dear child, there has been an accident in the street, and this young man has been wounded, or killed—"
"Killed! A dead man in the carriage!" cried the young girl in some terror, and shrinking away into the corner.
"You should really control your nerves, Faustina," replied her father in austere tones. "If the young man is dead, it is the will of Heaven. If he is alive we shall soon find it out. Meanwhile I must beg you to be calm—to be calm, do you understand?"
Donna Faustina Montevarchi made no answer to this parental injunction, but withdrew as far as she could into the corner of the back seat, while her father supported the inanimate body of the Zouave as the carriage swung over the uneven pavement. In a few minutes they rolled beneath a deep arch and stopped at the foot of a broad marble staircase.
"Bring him upstairs carefully, and send for a surgeon," said the prince to the men who came forward. Then he offered his arm to his daughter to ascend the steps, as though nothing had happened, and without bestowing another look on the injured soldier.
Donna Faustina was just eighteen years old, and had only quitted the convent of the Sacro Cuore a month earlier. It might have been said that she was too young to be beautiful, for she evidently belonged to that class of women who do not attain their full development until a later period. Her figure was almost too slender, her face almost too delicate and ethereal. There was about her a girlish look, an atmosphere of half-saintly maidenhood, which was not so much the expression of her real nature as the effect produced by her being at once very thin and very fresh. There was indeed nothing particularly angelic about her warm brown eyes, shaded by unusually long black lashes; and little wayward locks of chestnut hair, curling from beneath the small round hat of the period, just before the small pink ears, softened as with a breath of worldliness the grave outlines of the serious face. A keen student of women might have seen that the dim religious halo of convent life which still clung to the young girl would soon fade and give way to the brilliancy of the woman of the world. She was not tall, though of fully average height, and although the dress of that time was ill-adapted to show to advantage either the figure or the movements, it was evident, as she stepped lightly from the carriage, that she had a full share of ease and grace. She possessed that unconscious certainty in motion which proceeds naturally from the perfect proportion of all the parts, and which exercises a far greater influence over men than a faultless profile or a dazzling skin.
Instead of taking her father's arm, Donna Faustina turned and looked at the face of the wounded Zouave, whom three men had carefully taken from the carriage and were preparing to carry upstairs. Poor Gouache was hardly recognisable for the smart soldier who had crossed the bridge of Sant' Angelo half an hour earlier. His uniform was all stained with mud, there was blood upon his pale face, and his limbs hung down, powerless and limp. But as the young girl looked at him, consciousness returned, and with it came the sense of acute suffering. He opened his eyes suddenly, as men often do when they revive after being stunned, and a short groan escaped from his lips. Then, as he realised that he was in the presence of a lady, he made an effort as though to release himself from the hands of those who carried him, and to stand upon his feet.
"Pardon me, Madame," he began to say, but Faustina checked him by a gesture.
Meanwhile old Montevarchi had carefully scrutinised the young man's face, and had recognised him, for they had often met in society.
"Monsieur Gouache!" he exclaimed in surprise. At the same time he made the men move on with their burden.
"You know him, papa?" whispered Donna Faustina as they followed together. "He is a gentleman? I was right?"
"Of course, of course," answered her father. "But really, Faustina, had you nothing better to do than to go and look into his face? Imagine, if he had known you! Dear me! If you begin like this, as soon as you are out of the convent—"
Montevarchi left the rest of the sentence to his daughter's imagination, merely turning up his eyes a little as though deprecating the just vengeance of heaven upon his daughter's misconduct.
"Really, papa—" protested Faustina.
"Yes—really, my daughter—I am much surprised," returned her incensed parent, still speaking in an undertone lest the injured man should overhear what was said.
They reached the head of the stairs and the men carried Gouache rapidly away; not so quickly, however, as to prevent Faustina from getting another glimpse of his face. His eyes were open and met hers with an expression of mingled interest and gratitude which she did not forget. Then he was carried away and she did not see him again.
The Montevarchi household was conducted upon the patriarchal principle, once general in Rome, and not quite abandoned even now, twenty years later than the date of Gouache's accident. The palace was a huge square building facing upon two streets, in front and behind, and opening inwards upon two courtyards. Upon the lower floor were stables, coach-houses, kitchens, and offices innumerable. Above these there was built a half story, called a mezzanino—in French, entresol, containing the quarters of the unmarried sons of the house, of the household chaplain, and of two or three tutors employed in the education of the Montevarchi grandchildren. Next above, came the "piano nobile," or state apartments, comprising the rooms of the prince and princess, the dining-room, and a vast suite of reception-rooms, each of which opened into the next in such a manner that only the last was not necessarily a passage. In the huge hall was the dais and canopy with the family arms embroidered in colours once gaudy but now agreeably faded to a softer tone. Above this floor was another, occupied by the married sons, their wives and children; and high over all, above the cornice of the palace, were the endless servants' quarters and the roomy garrets. At a rough estimate the establishment comprised over a hundred persons, all living under the absolute and despotic authority of the head of the house, Don Lotario Montevarchi, Principe Montevarchi, and sole possessor of forty or fifty other titles. From his will and upon his pleasure depended every act of every member of his household, from his eldest son and heir, the Duca di Bellegra, to that of Pietro Paolo, the under-cook's scullion's boy. There were three sons and four daughters. Two of the sons were married, to wit, Don Ascanio, to whom his father had given his second title, and Don Onorato, who was allowed to call himself Principe di Cantalupo, but who would have no legal claim to that distinction after his father's death. Last of the three came Don Carlo, a young fellow of twenty years, but not yet emancipated from the supervision of his tutor. Of the daughters, the two eldest, Bianca and Laura, were married and no longer lived in Rome, the one having been matched with a Neapolitan and the other with a Florentine. There remained still at home, therefore, the third, Donna Flavia, and the youngest of all the family, Donna Faustina. Though Flavia was not yet two and twenty years of age, her father and mother were already beginning to despair of marrying her, and dropped frequent hints about the advisability of making her enter religion, as they called it; that is to say, they thought she had better take the veil and retire from the world.
The old princess Montevarchi was English by birth and education, but thirty-three years of life in Rome had almost obliterated all traces of her nationality. That all-pervading influence, which so soon makes Romans of foreigners who marry into Roman families, had done its work effectually. The Roman nobility, by intermarriage with the principal families of the rest of Europe, has lost many Italian characteristics; but its members are more essentially Romans than the full-blooded Italians of the other classes who dwell side by side with the aristocracy in Rome.
When Lady Gwendoline Fontenoy married Don Lotario Montevarchi in the year 1834, she, no doubt, believed that her children would grow up as English as she herself, and that her husband's house would not differ materially from an establishment of the same kind in England. She laughed merrily at the provisions of the marriage contract, which even went so far as to stipulate that she was to have at least two dishes of meat at dinner, and an equivalent on fast-days, a drive every day—the traditional trottata—two new gowns every year, and a woman to wait upon her. After these and similar provisions had been agreed upon, her dowry, which was a large one for those days, was handed over to the keeping of her father-in-law and she was duly married to Don Lotario, who at once assumed the title of Duca di Bellegra. The wedding journey consisted of a fortnight's retirement in the Villa Montevarchi at Frascati, and at the end of that time the young couple were installed under the paternal roof in Rome. Before she had been in her new abode a month the young Duchessa realised the utter hopelessness of attempting to change the existing system of patriarchal government under which she found herself living. She discovered, in the first place, that she would never have five scudi of her own in her pocket, and that if she needed a handkerchief or a pair of stockings it was necessary to obtain from the head of the house not only the permission to buy such necessaries, but the money with which to pay for them. She discovered, furthermore, that if she wanted a cup of coffee or some bread and butter out of hours, those things were charged to her daily account in the steward's office, as though she had been in an inn, and were paid for at the end of the year out of the income arising from her dowry. Her husband's younger brother, who had no money of his own, could not even get a lemonade in his father's house without his father's consent.
Moreover, the family life was of such a nature as almost to preclude all privacy. The young Duchessa and her husband had their bedroom in the upper story, but Don Lotario's request that his wife might have a sitting-room of her own was looked upon as an attempt at a domestic revolution, and the privilege was only obtained at last through the formidable intervention of the Duke of Agincourt, the Duchessa's own father. All the family meals, too, were eaten together in the solemn old dining-hall, hung with tapestries and dingy with the dust of ages. The order of precedence was always strictly observed, and though the cooking was of a strange kind, no plate or dish was ever used which was not of solid silver, battered indeed, and scratched, and cleaned only after Italian ideas, but heavy and massive withal. The Duchessa soon learned that the old Roman houses all used silver plates from motives of economy, for the simple reason that metal did not break. But the sensible English woman saw also that although the most rigid economy was practised in many things, there was lavish expenditure in many departments of the establishment. There were magnificent horses in the stables, gorgeously gilt carriages in the coach-houses, scores of domestics in bright liveries at every door. The pay of the servants did not, indeed, exceed the average earnings of a shoe-black in London, but the coats they wore were exceeding glorious with gold lace.
It was clear from the first that nothing was expected of Don Lotario's wife but to live peaceably under the patriarchal rule, making no observations and offering no suggestions. Her husband told her that he was powerless to introduce any changes, and added, that since his father and all his ancestors had always lived in the same way, that way was quite good enough for him. Indeed, he rather looked forward to the time when he should be master of the house, having children under him whom he might rule as absolutely and despotically as he was ruled himself.
In the course of years the Duchessa absorbed the traditions of her new home, so that they became part of her, and as everything went on unchanged from year to year she acquired unchanging habits which corresponded with her surroundings. Then, when at last the old prince and princess were laid side by side in the vault of the family chapel and she was princess in her turn, she changed nothing, but let everything go on in the same groove, educating her children and managing them, as her husband had been educated and as she herself had been managed by the old couple. Her husband grew more and more like his father, punctilious, rigid; a strict observant in religious matters, a pedant in little things, prejudiced against all change; too satisfied to desire improvement, too scrupulously conscientious to permit any retrogression from established rule, a model of the immutability of an ancient aristocracy, a living paradigm of what always had been and a stubborn barrier against all that might be.
Such was the home to which Donna Faustina Montevarchi returned to live after spending eight years in the convent of the Sacro Cuore. During that time she had acquired the French language, a slight knowledge of music, a very limited acquaintance with the history of her own country, a ready memory for prayers and litanies—and her manners. Manners among the Italians are called education. What we mean by the latter word, namely, the learning acquired, is called, more precisely, instruction. An educated person means a person who has acquired the art of politeness. An instructed person means some one who has learnt rather more than the average of what is generally learnt by the class of people to whom he belongs. Donna Faustina was extremely well educated, according to Roman ideas, but her instruction was not, and was not intended to be, any better than that imparted to the young girls with whom she was to associate in the world.
As far as her character was concerned, she herself knew very little of it, and would probably have found herself very much embarrassed if called upon to explain what character meant. She was new and the world was very old. The nuns had told her that she must never care for the world, which was a very sinful place, full of thorns, ditches, pitfalls and sinners, besides the devil and his angels. Her sister Flavia, on the contrary, assured her that the world was very agreeable, when mamma happened to go to sleep in a corner during a ball; that all men were deceivers, but that when a man danced well it made no difference whether he were a deceiver or not, since he danced with his legs and not with his conscience; that there was no happiness equal to a good cotillon, and that there were a number of these in every season; and, finally, that provided one did not spoil one's complexion one might do anything, so long as mamma was not looking.
To Donna Faustina, these views, held by the nuns on the one hand and by Flavia on the other, seemed very conflicting. She would not, indeed, have hesitated in choosing, even if she had been permitted any choice; for it was clear that, since she had seen the convent side of the question, it would be very interesting to see the other. But, having been told so much about sinners, she was on the look-out for them, and looked forward to making the acquaintance of one of them with a pardonable excitement. Doubtless she would hate a sinner if she saw one, as the nuns had taught her, although the sinner of her imagination was not a very repulsive personage. Flavia probably knew a great many, and Flavia said that society was very amusing. Faustina wished that the autumn months would pass a little more quickly, so that the carnival season might begin.
Prince Montevarchi, for his part, intended his youngest daughter to be a model of prim propriety. He attributed to Flavia's frivolity of behaviour the difficulty he experienced in finding her a husband, and he had no intention of exposing himself to a second failure in the case of Faustina. She should marry in her first season, and if she chose to be gay after that, the responsibility thereof might fall upon her husband, or her father- in-law, or upon whomsoever it should most concern; he himself would have fulfilled his duty so soon as the nuptial benediction was pronounced. He knew the fortune and reputation of every marriageable young man in society, and was therefore eminently fitted for the task he undertook. To tell the truth, Faustina herself expected to be married before Easter, for it was eminently fitting that a young girl should lose no time in such matters. But she meant to choose a man after her own heart, if she found one; at all events, she would not submit too readily to the paternal choice nor appear satisfied with the first tolerable suitor who should be presented to her.
Under these circumstances it seemed probable that Donna Faustina's first season, which had begun with the unexpected adventure at the corner of the old Orso, would not come to a close without some passage of arms between herself and her father, even though the ultimate conclusion should lead to the steps of the altar.
The men carried the wounded Zouave away to a distant room, and Faustina entered the main apartments by the side of the old prince. She sighed a little as she went.
"I hope the poor man will get well!" she exclaimed.
"Do not disturb your mind about the young man," answered her father. "He will be attended by the proper persons, and the doctor will bleed him and the will of Heaven will be done. It is not the duty of a well-conducted young woman to be thinking of such things, and you may dismiss the subject at once."
"Yes, papa," said Faustina submissively. But in spite of the dutiful tone of voice in which she spoke, the dim light of the tall lamps in the antechambers showed a strange expression of mingled amusement and contrariety in the girl's ethereal face.
"You know Gouache?" asked old Prince Saracinesca, in a tone which implied that he had news to tell. He looked from his daughter-in- law to his son as he put the question, and then went on with his breakfast.
"Very well," answered Giovanni. "What about him?"
"He was knocked down by a carriage last night. The carriage belonged to Montevarchi, and Gouache is at his house, in danger of his life."
"Poor fellow!" exclaimed Corona in ready sympathy. "I am so sorry! I am very fond of Gouache."
Giovanni Saracinesca, known to the world since his marriage as Prince of Sant' Ilario, glanced quickly at his wife, so quickly that neither she nor the old gentleman noticed the fact.
The three persons sat at their midday breakfast in the dining-room of the Palazzo Saracinesca. After much planning and many discussions the young couple had determined to take up their abode with Giovanni's father. There were several reasons which had led them to this decision, but the two chief ones were that they were both devotedly attached to the old man; and secondly, that such a proceeding was strictly fitting and in accordance with the customs of Romans. It was true that Corona, while her old husband, the Duca d'Astrardente, was alive, had grown used to having an establishment exclusively her own, and both the Saracinesca had at first feared that she would be unwilling to live in her father-in- law's house. Then, too, there was the Astrardente palace, which, could not lie shut up and allowed to go to ruin; but this matter was compromised advantageously by Corona's letting it to an American millionaire who wished to spend the winter in Rome. The rent paid was large, and Corona never could have too much money for her improvements out at Astrardente. Old Saracinesca wished that the tenant might have been at least a diplomatist, and cursed the American by his gods, but Giovanni said that his wife had shown good sense in getting as much as she could for the palace.
"We shall not need it till Orsino grows up—unless you marry again," said Sant' Ilario to his father, with a laugh.
Now, Orsino was Giovanni's son and heir, aged, at the time of this tale, six months and a few days. In spite of his extreme youth, however, Orsino played a great and important part in the doings of the Saracinesca household. In the first place, he was the heir, and the old prince had been found sitting by his cradle with an expression never seen in his face since Giovanni had been a baby. Secondly, Orsino was a very fine child, swarthy of skin, and hard as a tiger cub, yet having already his mother's eyes, large, coal- black and bright, but deep and soft withal. Thirdly, Orsino had a will of his own, admirably seconded by an enormous lung power. Hot that he cried, when he wanted anything. His baby eyes had not yet been seen to shed tears. He merely shouted, loud and long, and thumped the sides of his cradle with his little clenched fists, or struck out straight at anybody who chanced to be within reach. Corona rejoiced in the child, and used to say that he was like his grandfather, his father and his mother all put together. The old prince thought that if this were true the boy would do very well; Corona was the most beautiful dark woman of her time; he himself was a sturdy, tough old man, though his hair and beard were white as snow, and Giovanni was his father's ideal of what a man of his race should be. The arrival of the baby Orsino had been an additional argument in favour of living together, for the child's grandfather could not have been separated from him even by the quarter of a mile which lay between the two palaces.
And so it came to pass that they all dwelt under the same roof, and were sitting together at breakfast on the morning of the 24th of September, when the old prince told them of the accident which had happened to Gouache.
"How did you hear the news?" asked Giovanni.
"Montevarchi told me this morning. He was very much disturbed at the idea of having an interesting young man in his house, with Plavia and Faustina at home." Old Saracinesca smiled grimly.
"Why should that trouble him?" inquired Corona.
"He has the ancient ideas," replied her father-in-law.
"Yes Flavia, after all—"
"I shall be curious to see how the other one turns out," remarked Giovanni. "There seems to be a certain unanimity in our opinion of Flavia. However, I daresay it is mere gossip, and Casa Montevarchi is not a gay place for a girl of her age."
"Not gay? How do you know?" asked the old prince. "Does the girl want Carnival to last till All Souls'? Did you ever dine there, Giovannino?"
"No—nor any one else who is not a member of the most Excellent Casa Montevarchi."
"Then how do you know whether it is gay or not?"
"You should hear Ascanio Bellegra describe their life," retorted Giovanni.
"And I suppose you describe your life to him, in exchange?" Prince Saracinesca was beginning to lose his temper, as he invariably did whenever he could induce his son to argue any question with him. "I suppose you deplore each other's miserable condition. I tell you what I think, Giovanni. You had better go and live in Corona's house if you are not happy here."
"It is let," replied Giovanni with imperturbable calm, but his wife bit her lip to control her rising laughter.
"You might travel," growled the old gentleman.
"But I am very happy here."
"Then what do you mean by talking like that about Casa Montevarchi?"
"I fail to see the connection between the two ideas," observed Giovanni.
"You live in precisely the same circumstances as Ascanio Bellegra. I think the connection is clear enough. If his life is sad, so is yours." "For downright good logic commend me to my beloved father!" cried Giovanni, breaking into a laugh at last.
"A laughing-stock for my children! I have come to this!" exclaimed his father gruffly. But his features relaxed into a good-humoured smile, that was pleasant to see upon his strong dark face.
"But, really, I am very sorry to hear this of poor Gouache," said Corona at last, returning to the original subject of their conversation. "I hope it is nothing really dangerous."
"It is always dangerous to be run over by a carriage," answered Giovanni. "I will go and see him, if they will let me in."
At this juncture Orsino was brought in by his nurse, a splendid creature from Saracinesca, with bright blue eyes and hair as fair as any Goth's, a contrast to the swarthy child she carried in her arms. Immediately the daily ovation began, and each of the three persons began to worship the baby in an especial way. There was no more conversation, after that, for some time. The youngest of the Saracinesca absorbed the attention of the family. Whether he clenched his little fists, or opened his small fat fingers, whether he laughed and crowed at his grandfather's attempts to amuse him, or struck his nurse's rosy cheeks with his chubby hands, the result was always applause and merriment from those who looked on. The scene recalled Joseph's dream, in which the sheaves of his brethren bowed down to his sheaf.
After a while, however, Orsino grew sleepy and had to be taken away. Then the little party broke up and separated. The old prince went to his rooms to read and doze for an hour. Corona was called away to see one of the numberless dressmakers whose shadows darken the beginning of a season in town, and Giovanni took his hat and went out.
In those days young men of society had very little to do. The other day a German diplomatist was heard to say that Italian gentlemen seemed to do nothing but smoke, spit, and criticise. Twenty years ago their manners might have been described less coarsely, but there was even more truth in the gist of the saying. Not only they did nothing. There was nothing for them to do. They floated about in a peaceful millpool, whose placid surface reflected nothing but their own idle selves, little guessing that the dam whereby their mimic sea was confined, would shortly break with a thundering crash and empty them all into the stream of real life that flowed below. For the few who disliked idleness there was no occupation but literature, and literature, to the Roman mind of 1867, and in the Roman meaning of the word, was scholarship. The introduction to a literary career was supposed to be obtained only by a profound study of the classics, with a view to avoiding everything classical, both in language and ideas, except Cicero, the apostle of the ancient Roman Philistines; and the tendency to clothe stale truisms and feeble sentiments in high-sounding language is still found in Italian prose and is indirectly traceable to the same source. As for the literature of the country since the Latins, it consisted, and still consists, in the works of the four poets, Dante, Tasso, Ariosto, and Petrarch. Leopardi is more read now than then, but is too unhealthily melancholy to be read long by any one. There used to be Roman princes who spent years in committing to memory the verses of those four poets, just as the young Brahman of to-day learns to recite the Rig Veda. That was called the pursuit of literature.
The Saracinesca were thought very original and different from other men, because they gave some attention to their estates. It seemed very like business to try and improve the possessions one had inherited or acquired by marriage, and business was degradation. Nevertheless, the Saracinesca were strong enough to laugh at other people's scruples, and did what seemed best in their own eyes without troubling themselves to ask what the world thought. But the care of such matters was not enough to occupy Giovanni all day. He had much time on his hands, for he was an active man, who slept little and rarely needed rest. Formerly he had been used to disappear from Rome periodically, making long journeys, generally ending in shooting expeditions in some half- explored country. That was in the days before his marriage, and his wanderings had assuredly done him no harm. He had seen much of the world not usually seen by men of his class and prejudices, and the acquaintance he had thus got with things and people was a source of great satisfaction to him. But the time had come to give up all this. He was now not only married and settled in his own home, but moreover he loved his wife with his whole heart, and these facts were serious obstacles against roughing it in Norway, Canada, or Transylvania. To travel with Corona and little Orsino seemed a very different matter from travelling with Corona alone. Then there was his father's growing affection for the child, which had to be taken into account in all things. The four had become inseparable, old Saracinesca, Giovanni, Corona, and the baby.
Now Giovanni did not regret his old liberty. He knew that he was far happier than he had ever been in his life before. But there were days when the time hung heavily on his hands and his restless nature craved some kind of action which should bring with it a generous excitement. This was precisely what he could not find during the months spent in Rome, and so it fell out that he did very much what most young men of his birth found quite sufficient as an employment; he spent a deal of time in strolling where others strolled, in lounging at the club, and in making visits which filled the hours between sunset and dinner. To him this life was new, and not altogether tasteful; but his friends did not fail to say that Giovanni had been civilised by his marriage with the Astrardente, and was much less reserved than he had formerly been.
When Corona went to see the dressmaker, Giovanni very naturally took his hat and went out of the house. The September day was warm and bright, and in such weather it was a satisfaction merely to pace the old Roman streets in the autumn sun. It was too early to meet any of his acquaintance, and too soon in the season for any regular visiting. He did not know what to do, but allowed himself to enjoy the sunshine and the sweet air. Presently, the sight of a couple of Zouaves, talking together at the corner of a street, recalled to his mind the accident which had happened to Gouache. It would be kind to go and see the poor fellow, or, at least, to ask after him. He had known him for some time and had gradually learned to like him, as most people did who met the gifted artist day after day throughout the gaiety of the winter.
At the Palazzo Montevarchi Giovanni learned that the princess had just finished breakfast. He could hardly ask for Gouache without making a short visit in the drawing-room, and he accordingly submitted, regretting after all that he had come. The old princess bored him, he did not know Faustina, who was just out of the convent, and Flavia, who amused many people, did not amuse him in the least. He inwardly rejoiced that he was married, and that his visit could not be interpreted as a preliminary step towards asking for Flavia's hand.
The princess looked up with an expression of inquiry in her prominent blue eyes, as Sant' Ilario entered. She was stout, florid, and not well dressed. Her yellow hair, already half gray, for she was more than fifty years old, was of the unruly kind, and had never looked neat even in her best days. Her bright, clear complexion saved her, however, as it saves hundreds of middle-aged Englishwomen, from that look of peculiar untidiness which belongs to dark-skinned persons who take no trouble about their appearance or personal adornment. In spite of thirty-three years of residence in Rome, she spoke Italian with a foreign accent, though otherwise correctly enough. But she was nevertheless a great lady, and no one would have thought of doubting the fact. Fat, awkwardly dressed, of no imposing stature, with unmanageable hair and prominent teeth, she was not a person to be laughed at. She had what many a beautiful woman lacks and envies—natural dignity of character and manner, combined with a self-possession which is not always found in exalted personages. That repose of manner which is commonly believed to be the heirloom of noble birth is seen quite as often in the low-born adventurer, who regards it as part of his stock-in-trade; and there are many women, and men too, whose position might be expected to place them beyond the reach of what we call shyness, but who nevertheless suffer daily agonies of social timidity and would rather face alone a charge of cavalry than make a new acquaintance. The Princess Montevarchi was made of braver stuff, however, and if her daughters had not inherited all her unaffected dignity they had at least received their fair share of self-possession. When Sant' Ilario entered, these two young ladies, Donna Flavia and Donna Faustina, were seated one on each side of their mother. The princess extended her hand, the two daughters held theirs demurely crossed upon their knees. Faustina looked at the carpet, as she had been taught to do in the convent. Flavia looked up boldly at Giovanni, knowing by experience that her mother could not see her while greeting the visitor. Sant' Ilario muttered some sort of civil inquiry, bowed to the two young ladies and sat down.
"How is Monsieur Gouache?" he asked, going straight to the point. He had seen the look of surprise on the princess's face as he entered, and thought it best to explain himself at once.
"Ah, you have heard? Poor man! He is badly hurt, I fear. Would you like to see him?"
"Presently, if I may," answered Giovanni. "We are all fond of Gouache. How did the accident happen?"
"Faustina ran over him," said Flavia, fixing her dark eyes on Giovanni and allowing her pretty face to assume an expression of sympathy—for the sufferer. "Faustina and papa," she added.
"Flavia! How can you say such things!" exclaimed the princess, who spent a great part of her life in repressing her daughter's manner of speech.
"Well, mamma—it was the carriage of course. But papa and Faustina were in it. It is the same thing."
Giovanni looked at Faustina, but her thin fresh face expressed nothing, nor did she show any intention of commenting on her sister's explanation. It was the first time he had seen her near enough to notice her, and his attention was arrested by something in her looks which surprised and interested him. It was something almost impossible to describe, and yet so really present that it struck Sant' Ilario at once, and found a place in his memory. In the superstitions of the far north, as in the half material spiritualism of Polynesia, that look has a meaning and an interpretation. With us, the interpretation is lost, but the instinctive persuasion that the thing itself is not wholly meaningless remains ineradicable. We say, with a smile at our own credulity, "That man looks as though he had a story," or, "That woman looks as though something odd might happen to her." It is an expression in the eyes, a delicate shade in the features, which speak of many things which we do not understand; things which, if they exist at all, we feel must be inevitable, fatal, and beyond human control. Giovanni looked and was surprised, but Faustina said nothing.
"It was very good of the prince to bring him here," remarked Sant' Ilario.
"It was very unlike papa," exclaimed Flavia, before her mother could answer. "But very kind, of course, as you say," she added, with a little smile. Flavia had a habit of making rather startling remarks, and of then adding something in explanation or comment, before her hearers had recovered breath. The addition did not always mend matters very much.
"Do not interrupt me, Flavia," said her mother, severely.
"I beg your pardon, were you speaking, mamma?" asked the young girl, innocently.
Giovanni was not amused by Flavia's manners, and waited calmly for the princess to speak.
"Indeed," said she, "there was nothing else to be done. As we had run over the poor man—"
"The carriage—" suggested Flavia. But her mother took no notice of her.
"The least we could do, of course, was to bring him here. My husband would not have allowed him to be taken to the hospital."
Flavia again fixed her eyes on Giovanni with a look of sympathy, which, however, did not convey any very profound belief in her father's charitable intentions.
"I quite understand," said Giovanni. "And how has he been since you brought him here? Is he in any danger?"
"You shall see him at once," answered the princess, who rose and rang the bell, and then, as the servant's footsteps were heard outside, crossed the room to meet him at the door.
"Mamma likes to run about," said Flavia, sweetly, in explanation. Giovanni had risen and made as though he would have been of some assistance.
The action was characteristic of the Princess Montevarchi. An Italian woman would neither have rung the bell herself, nor have committed such an imprudence as to turn her back upon her two daughters when there was a man in the room. But she was English, and a whole lifetime spent among Italians could not extinguish her activity; so she went to the door herself. Faustina's deep eyes followed her mother as though she were interested to know the news of Gouache.
"I hope he is better," she said, quietly.
"Of course," echoed Flavia, "So do I. But mamma amuses me so much! She is always in a hurry."
Faustina made no answer, but she looked at Sant' Ilario, as though she wondered what he thought of her sister. He returned her gaze, trying to explain to himself the strange attraction of her expression, watching her critically as he would have watched any new person or sight. She did not blush nor avoid his bold eyes, as he would have expected had he realised that he was staring at her.
A few minutes later Giovanni found himself in a narrow, high room, lighted by one window, which showed the enormous thickness of the walls in the deep embrasure. The vaulted ceiling was painted in fresco with a representation of Apollo in the act of drawing his bow, arrayed for the time being in his quiver, while his other garments, of yellow and blue, floated everywhere save over his body. The floor of the room was of red bricks, which had once been waxed, and the furniture was scanty, massive and very old. Anastase Gouache lay in one corner in a queer-looking bed covered with a yellow damask quilt the worse for a century or two of wear, upon which faded embroideries showed the Montevarchi arms surmounted by a cardinal's hat. Upon a chair beside the patient lay the little heap of small belongings he had carried in his pocket when hurt, his watch and purse, his cigarettes, his handkerchief and a few other trifles, among which, half concealed by the rest, was the gold pin he had picked up by the bridge on the previous evening. There was a mingled smell of dampness and of stale tobacco in the comfortless room, for the windows were closely shut, in spite of the bright sunshine that flooded the opposite side of the street.
Gouache lay on his back, his head tied up in a bandage and supported by a white pillow, which somehow conveyed the impression of one of those marble cushions upon which in old-fashioned monuments the effigies of the dead are made to lean in eternal prayer, if not in eternal ease. He moved impatiently as the door opened, and then recognising Giovanni, he hailed him in a voice much more lively and sonorous than might have been expected.
"You, prince!" he cried, in evident delight. "What saint has brought you?"
"I heard of your accident, and so I came to see if I could do anything for you. How are you?"
"As you see," replied Gouache. "In a hospitable tomb, with my head tied up like an imperfectly-resurrected Lazarus. For the rest there is nothing the matter with me, except that they have taken away my clothes, which is something of an obstacle to my leaving the house at once. I feel as if I had been in a revolution and had found myself on the wrong side of the barricade—nothing worse than that."
"You are in good spirits, at all events. But are you not seriously hurt?"
"Oh, nothing—a broken collar-bone somewhere, I believe, and some part of my head gone—I am not quite sure which, and a bad headache, and nothing to eat, and a general sensation as though somebody had made an ineffectual effort to turn me into a sausage."
"What does the doctor say?"
"Nothing. He is a man of action. He bled me because I had not the strength to strangle him, and poured decoctions of boiled grass down my throat because I could not speak. He has fantastic ideas about the human body."
"But you will have to stay here several days," said Giovanni, considerably amused by Gouache's view of his own case.
"Several days! Not even several hours, if I can help it."
"Things do not go so quickly in Rome. You must be patient."
"In order to starve, when there is food as near as the Corso?" inquired the artist. "To be butchered by a Roman phlebotomist, and drenched with infusions of hay by the Principessa Montevarchi, when I might be devising means of being presented to her daughter? What do you take me for? I suppose the young lady with the divine eyes is her daughter, is she not?"
"You mean Donna Faustina, I suppose. Yes. She is the youngest, just out of the Sacro Cuore. She was in the drawing-room when I called just now. How did you see her?"
"Last night, as they brought me upstairs, I was lucky enough to wake up just as she was looking at me. What eyes! I can think of nothing else. Seriously, can you not help me to get out of here?"
"So that you may fall in love with Donna Faustina as soon as possible, I suppose," answered Giovanni with a laugh. "It seems to me that there is but one thing to do, if you are really strong enough. Send for your clothes, get up, go into the drawing-room and thank the princess for her hospitality."
"That is easily said. Nothing is done in this house without the written permission of the old prince, unless I am much mistaken. Besides, there is no bell. I might as well be under arrest in the guard-room of the barracks. Presently the doctor will come and bleed me again and the princess will send me some more boiled grass. I am not very fat, as it is, but another day of this diet will make me diaphanous—I shall cast no shadow. A nice thing, to be caught without a shadow on parade!"
"I will see what I can do," said Giovanni, rising. "Probably, the best thing would be to send your military surgeon. He will not be so tender as the other leech, but he will get you away at once. My wife wished me to say that she sympathised, and hoped you might soon be well."
"My homage and best thanks to the princess," answered Gouache, with a slight change of tone, presumably to be referred to his sense of courtesy in speaking of the absent lady.
So Giovanni went away, promising to send the surgeon at once. The latter soon arrived, saw Gouache, and was easily persuaded to order him home without further delay. The artist-soldier would not leave the house without thanking his hostess. His uniform had been cleansed from the stains it had got in the accident, and his left arm was in a sling. The wound on his head was more of a bruise than a cut, and was concealed by his thick black hair. Considering the circumstances he presented a very good appearance. The princess received him in the drawing-room, and Flavia and Faustina were with her, but all three were now dressed to go out, so that the interview was necessarily a short one.
Gouache made a little speech of thanks and tried to forget the decoction of mallows he had swallowed, fearing lest the recollection should impart a tone of insincerity to his expression of gratitude. He succeeded very well, and afterwards attributed the fact to Donna Faustina's brown eyes, which were not cast down as they had been when Sant' Ilario had called, but appeared on the contrary to contemplate the new visitor with singular interest.
"I am sure my husband will not approve of your going so soon," said the princess in somewhat anxious tones. It was almost the first time she had ever known any step of importance to be taken in her house without her husband's express authority.
"Madame," answered Gouache, glancing from Donna Faustina to his hostess, "I am in despair at having thus unwillingly trespassed upon your hospitality, although I need not tell you that I would gladly prolong so charming an experience, provided I were not confined to solitude in a distant chamber. However, since our regimental surgeon pronounces me fit to go home, I have no choice but to obey orders. Believe me, Madame, I am deeply grateful to yourself as well as to the Principe Montevarchi for your manifold kindnesses, and shall cherish a remembrance of your goodness so long as I live."
With these words Gouache bowed as though he would be gone and stood waiting for the princess's last word. But before her mother could speak, Faustina's voice was heard.
"I cannot tell you how dreadfully we feel—papa and I—at having been the cause of such a horrible accident! Is there nothing we can do to make you forget it?"
The princess stared at her daughter in the utmost astonishment at her forwardness. She would not have been surprised if Flavia had been guilty of such imprudence, but that Faustina should thus boldly address a young man who had not spoken to her, was such a shock to her belief in the girl's manners that she did not recover for several seconds. Anastase appreciated the situation, for as he answered, he looked steadily at the mother, although his words were plainly addressed to the brown-eyed beauty.
"Mademoiselle is too kind. She exaggerates. And yet, since she has put the question, I will say that I should forget my broken bones very soon if I might be permitted to paint Mademoiselle's portrait. I am a painter," he added, in modest explanation.
"Yes," said the princess, "I know. But, really—this is a matter which would require great consideration—and my husband's consent—and, for the present—-"
She paused significantly, intending to convey a polite refusal, but Gouache completed the sentence.
"For the present, until my bones are mended, we will not speak of it. When I am well again I will do myself the honour of asking the prince's consent myself."
Flavia leaned towards her mother and whispered into her ear. The words were quite audible, and the girl's dark eyes turned to Gouache with a wicked laugh in them while she was speaking.
"Oh, mamma, if you tell papa it is for nothing he will be quite delighted!"
Gouache's lip trembled as he suppressed a smile, and the elderly princess's florid cheeks flushed with annoyance.
"For the present," she said, holding out her hand rather coldly, "we will not speak of it. Pray let us know of your speedy recovery, Monsieur Gouache."
As the artist took his leave he glanced once more at Donna Faustina. Her face was pale and her eyes flashed angrily. She, too, had heard Flavia's stage whisper and was even more annoyed than her mother. Gouache went his way toward his lodging in the company of the surgeon, pondering on the inscrutable mysteries of the Roman household of which he had been vouchsafed a glimpse. He was in pain from his head and shoulder, but insisted that the walk would do him good and refused the cab which his companion had brought. A broken collar-bone is not a dangerous matter, but it can be very troublesome for a while, and the artist was glad to get back to his lodgings and to find himself comfortably installed in an easy chair with something to eat before him, of a more substantial nature than the Principessa Montevarchi's infusions of camomile and mallows.
While Giovanni was at the Palazzo Montevarchi, and while Corona was busy with her dressmakers, Prince Saracinesca was dozing over the Osservatore Romano in his study. To tell the truth the paper was less dull than usual, for there was war and rumour of war in its columns. Garibaldi had raised a force of volunteers and was in the neighbourhood of Arezzo, beginning to skirmish with the outlying posts of the pontifical army along the frontier. The old gentleman did not know, of course, that on that very day the Italian Government was issuing its proclamation against the great agitator, and possibly if he had been aware of the incident it would not have produced any very strong impression upon his convictions. Garibaldi was a fact, and Saracinesca did not believe that any proclamations would interfere with his march unless backed by some more tangible force. Even had he known that the guerilla general had been arrested at Sinalunga and put in confinement as soon as the proclamation had appeared, the prince would have foreseen clearly enough that the prisoner's escape would be only a question of a few days, since there were manifold evidences that an understanding existed between Ratazzi and Garibaldi of much the same nature as that which in 1860 had been maintained between Garibaldi and Cavour during the advance upon Naples. The Italian Government kept men under arms to be ready to take advantage of any successes obtained by the Garibaldian volunteers, and at the same time to suppress the republican tendencies of the latter, which broke out afresh with every new advance, and disappeared, as by magic, under the depressing influence of a forced retreat.
The prince knew all these things, and had reflected upon them so often that they no longer afforded enough interest to keep him awake. The warm September sun streamed into the study and fell upon the paper as it slowly slipped over the old gentleman's knees, while his head sank lower and lower on his breast. The old enamelled clock upon the chimney-piece ticked more loudly, as clocks seem to do when people are asleep and they are left to their own devices, and a few belated flies chased each other in the sunbeams.
The silence was broken by the entrance of a servant, who would have withdrawn again when he saw that his master was napping, had not the latter stirred and raised his head before the man had time to get away. Then the fellow came forward with an apology and presented a visiting-card. The prince stared at the bit of pasteboard, rubbed his eyes, stared again, and then laid it upon the table beside him, his eyes still resting on the name, which seemed so much to surprise him. Then he told the footman to introduce the visitor, and a few moments later a very tall man entered the room, hat in hand, and advanced slowly towards him with the air of a person who has a perfect right to present himself but wishes to give his host time to recognise him.
The prince remembered the newcomer very well. The closely-buttoned frock-coat showed the man's imposing figure to greater advantage than the dress in which Saracinesca had last seen him, but there was no mistaking the personality. There was the same lean but massive face, broadened by the high cheekbones and the prominent square jaw; there were the same piercing black eyes, set near together under eyebrows that met in the midst of the forehead, the same thin and cruel lips, and the same strongly-marked nose, set broadly on at the nostrils, though pointed and keen. Had the prince had any doubts as to his visitor's identity they would have been dispelled by the man's great height and immense breadth of shoulder, which would have made it hard indeed for him to disguise himself had he wished to do so. But though very much surprised, Saracinesca had no doubts whatever. The only points that were new to him in the figure before him were the outward manner and appearance, and the dress of a gentleman.
"I trust I am not disturbing you, prince?" The words were spoken in a deep, clear voice, and with a notable southern accent.
"Not at all. I confess I am astonished at seeing you in Rome. Is there anything I can do for you? I shall always be grateful to you for having been alive to testify to the falsehood of that accusation made against my son. Pray sit down. How is your Signora? And the children? All well, I hope?"
"My wife is dead," returned the other, and the grave tones of his bass voice lent solemnity to the simple statement.
"I am sincerely sorry—" began the prince, but his visitor interrupted him.
"The children are well. They are in Aquila for the present. I have come to establish myself in Rome, and my first visit is naturally to yourself, since I have the advantage of being your cousin."
"Naturally," ejaculated Saracinesca, though his face expressed considerable surprise.
"Do not imagine that I am going to impose myself upon you as a poor relation," continued the other with a faint smile. "Fortune has been kind to me since we met, perhaps as a compensation for the loss I suffered in the death of my poor wife. I have a sufficient independence and can hold my own."
"I never supposed—"
"You might naturally have supposed that I had come to solicit your favour, though it is not the case. When we parted I was an innkeeper in Aquila. I have no cause to be ashamed of my past profession. I only wish to let you know that it is altogether past, and that I intend to resume the position which my great- grandfather foolishly forfeited. As you are the present head of the family I judged that it was my duty to inform you of the fact immediately."
"By all means. I imagined this must be the case from your card. You are entirely in your rights, and I shall take great pleasure in informing every one of the fact. You are the Marchese di San Giacinto, and the inn at Aquila no longer exists."
"As these things must be done, once and for always, I have brought my papers to Rome," answered the Marchese. "They are at your disposal, for you certainly have a right to see them, if you like. I will recall to your memory the facts of our history, in case you have forgotten them."
"I know the story well enough," said Saracinesca. "Our great- grandfathers were brothers. Yours went to live in Naples. His son grew up and joined the French against the King. His lands were forfeited, he married and died in obscurity, leaving your father, his only son. Your father died young and you again are his only son. You married the Signora Felice—"
"Baldi," said the Marchese, nodding in confirmation of the various statements.
"The Signora Felice Baldi, by whom you have two children—"
"Two boys. And the Signora Marchesa, I grieve to hear, is dead. Is that accurate?"
"Perfectly. There is one circumstance, connected with our great- grandfathers, which you have not mentioned, but which I am sure you remember."
"What is that?" asked the prince, fixing his keen eyes on his companion's face.
"It is only this," replied San Giacinto, calmly. "My great- grandfather was two years older than yours. You know he never meant to marry, and resigned the title to his younger brother, who had children already. He took a wife in his old age, and my grandfather was the son born to him. That is why you are so much older than I, though we are of the same generation in the order of descent."
"Yes," assented the prince. "That accounts for it. Will you smoke?"
Giovanni Saracinesca, Marchese di San Giacinto, looked curiously at his cousin as he took the proffered cigar. There was something abrupt in the answer which attracted his attention and roused his quick suspicions. He wondered whether that former exchange of titles, and consequent exchange of positions were an unpleasant subject of conversation to the prince. But the latter, as though anticipating such a doubt in his companion's mind, at once returned to the question with the boldness which was natural to him.
"There was a friendly agreement," he said, striking a match and offering it to the Marchese. "I have all the documents, and have studied them with interest. It might amuse you to see them, some day."
"I should like to see them, indeed," answered San Giacinto. "They must be very curious. As I was saying, I am going to establish myself in Rome. It seems strange to me to be playing the gentleman—it must seem even more odd to you."
"It would be truer to say that you have been playing the innkeeper," observed the prince, courteously. "No one would suspect it," he added, glancing at his companion's correct attire.
"I have an adaptable nature," said the Marchese, calmly. "Besides, I have always looked forward to again taking my place in the world. I have acquired a little instruction—not much, you will say, but it is sufficient as the times go; and as for education, it is the same for every one, innkeeper or prince. One takes off one's hat, one speaks quietly, one says what is agreeable to hear—is it not enough?"
"Quite enough," replied the prince. He was tempted to smile at his cousin's definition of manners, though he could see that the man was quite able to maintain his position. "Quite enough, indeed, and as for instruction, I am afraid most of us have forgotten our Latin. You need have no anxiety on that score. But, tell me, how comes it that, having been bred in the south, you prefer to establish yourself in Rome rather than in Naples? They say that you Neapolitans do not like us."
"I am a Roman by descent, and I wish to become one in fact," returned the Marchese. "Besides," he added, in a peculiarly grave tone of voice, "I do not like the new order of things. Indeed, I have but one favour to ask of you, and that is a great one."
"Anything in my power—"
"To present me to the Holy Father as one who desires to become his faithful subject. Could you do so, do you think, without any great inconvenience?"
"Eh! I shall be delighted! Magari!" answered the prince, heartily. "To tell the truth, I was afraid you meant to keep your Italian convictions, and that, in Rome, would be against you, especially in these stormy days. But if you will join us heart and soul you will be received with open arms. I shall take great pleasure in seeing you make the acquaintance of my son and his wife. Come and dine this evening."
"Thank you," said the Marchese. "I will not fail."
After a few more words San Giacinto took his leave, and the prince could not but admire the way in which this man, who had been brought up among peasants, or at best among the small farmers of an outlying district, assumed at once an air of perfect equality while allowing just so much of respect to appear in his manner as might properly be shown by a younger member to the head of a great house. When he was gone Saracinesca rang the bell.
"Pasquale," he said, addressing the old butler who answered the summons, "that gentleman who is just gone is my cousin, Don Giovanni Saracinesca, who is called Marchese di San Giacinto. He will dine here this evening. You will call him Eccellenza, and treat him as a member of the family. Go and ask the princess if she will receive me."
Pasquale opened his mental eyes very wide as he bowed and left the room. He had never heard of this other Saracinesca, and the appearance of a new member of the family upon the scene, who must, from his appearance, have been in existence between thirty and forty years, struck him as astonishing in the extreme; for the old servant had been bred up in the house from a boy and imagined himself master of all the secrets connected with the Saracinesca household.
He was, indeed, scarcely less surprised than his master who, although he had been aware for some time past that Giovanni Saracinesca existed and was his cousin, had never anticipated the event of his coming to Rome, and had expected still less that the innkeeper would ever assume the title to which he had a right and play the part of a gentleman, as he himself had expressed it. There was a strange mixture of boldness and foresight in the way the old prince had received his new relation. He knew the strength of his own position in society, and that the introduction of a humble cousin could not possibly do him harm. At the worst, people might laugh a little among themselves and remark that the Marchese must be a nuisance to the Saracinesca. On the other hand, the prince was struck from the first with the air of self-possession which he discerned in San Giacinto, and foresaw that the man would very probably play a part in Roman life. He was a man who might be disliked, but who could not be despised; and since his claims to consideration were undeniably genuine, it seemed wiser to accept him from the first as a member of the family and unhesitatingly to treat him as such. After all, he demanded nothing to which he had not a clear right from the moment he announced his intention of taking his place in the world, and it was certainly far wiser to receive him cordially at once, than to draw back from acknowledging the relationship because he had been brought up in another sphere.
This was the substance of what Prince Saracinesca communicated to his daughter-in-law a few minutes later. She listened patiently to all he had to say, only asking a question now and then in order to understand more clearly what had happened. She was curious to see the man whose name had once been so strangely confounded with her husband's by the machinations of the Conte Del Ferice and Donna Tullia Mayer, and she frankly confessed her curiosity and her satisfaction at the prospect of meeting San Giacinto that evening. While she was talking with the prince, Giovanni unexpectedly returned from his walk. He had turned homewards as soon as he had sent the military surgeon to Gouache. "Well, Giovannino," cried the old gentleman, "the prodigal innkeeper has returned to the bosom of the family."
"Your worthy namesake, and cousin, Giovanni Saracinesca, formerly of Aquila."
"Does Madame Mayer want to prove that it is he who has married Corona?" inquired Sant 'Ilario with a laugh.
"No, though I suppose he is a candidate for marriage. I never was more surprised in my life. His wife is dead. He is rich, or says he is. He has his card printed in full, 'Giovanni Saracinesca, Marchese di San Giacinto,' in the most correct manner. He wears an excellent coat, and announces his intention of being presented to the Pope and introduced to Roman society."
Sant' Ilario stared incredulously at his father, and then looked inquiringly at his wife as though to ask if it were not all a jest. When he was assured that the facts were true he looked grave and slowly stroked his pointed black beard, a gesture which was very unusual with him, and always accompanied the deepest meditation.
"There is nothing to be done but to receive him into the family," he said at last. "But I do not wholly believe in his good intentions. We shall see. I shall be glad to make his acquaintance."
"He is coming to dinner."
The conversation continued for some time and the arrival of San Giacinto was discussed in all its bearings. Corona took a very practical view of the question, and said that it was certainly best to treat him well, thereby relieving her father-in-law of a considerable anxiety. He had indeed feared lest she should resent the introduction of a man who might reasonably be supposed to have retained a certain coarseness of manner from his early surroundings, and he knew that her consent was all-important in such a case, since she was virtually the mistress of the house. But Corona regarded the matter in much the same light as the old gentleman himself, feeling that nothing of such a nature could possibly injure the imposing position of her husband's family, and taking it for granted that no one who had good blood in his veins could ever behave outrageously. Of all the three, Sant' Ilario was the most silent and thoughtful, for he feared certain consequences from the arrival of this new relation which did not present themselves to the minds of the others, and was resolved to be cautious accordingly, even while appearing to receive San Giacinto with all due cordiality. Later in the day he was alone with his father for a few minutes.
"Do you like this fellow?" he asked, abruptly.
"No," answered the prince.
"Neither do I, though I have not seen him."
"We shall see," was the old gentleman's answer.
The evening came, and at the appointed hour San Giacinto was announced. Both Corona and her husband were surprised at his imposing appearance, as well as at the dignity and self-possession he displayed. His southern accent was not more noticeable than that of many Neapolitan gentlemen, and his conversation, if neither very brilliant nor very fluent, was not devoid of interest. He talked of the agricultural condition of the new Italy, and old Saracinesca and his son were both interested in the subject. They noticed, too, that during dinner no word escaped him which could give any clue to his former occupation or position, though afterwards, when the servants were not present, he alluded more than once with a frank smile to his experiences as an innkeeper. On the whole, he seemed modest and reserved, yet perfectly self-possessed and conscious of his right to be where he was.
Such conduct on the part of such a man did not appear so surprising to the Saracinesca household, as it would have seemed to foreigners. San Giacinto had said that he had an adaptable character, and that adaptability is one of the most noticeable features of the Italian race. It is not necessary to discuss the causes of this peculiarity. They would be incomprehensible to the foreigner at large, who never has any real understanding of Italians. I do not hesitate to say that, without a single exception, every foreigner, poet or prose-writer, who has treated of these people has more or less grossly misunderstood them. That is a sweeping statement, when it is considered that few men of the highest genius in our century have not at one time or another set down upon paper their several estimates of the Italian race. The requisite for accurately describing people, however, is not genius, but knowledge of the subject. The poet commonly sees himself in others, and the modern writer upon Italy is apt to believe that he can see others in himself. The reflection of an Italian upon the mental retina of the foreigner is as deceptive as his own outward image is when seen upon the polished surface of a concave mirror; and indeed the character studies of many great men, when the subject is taken from a race not their own, remind one very forcibly of what may be seen by contemplating oneself in the bowl of a bright silver spoon. To understand Italians a man must have been born and bred among them; and even then the harder, fiercer instinct, which dwells in northern blood, may deceive the student and lead him far astray. The Italian is an exceedingly simple creature, and is apt to share the opinion of the ostrich, who ducks his head and believes his whole body is hidden. Foreigners use strong language concerning the Italian lie; but this only proves how extremely transparent the deception is. It is indeed a singular fact, but one which may often be observed, that two Italians who lie systematically will frequently believe each other, to their own ruin, with a childlike faith rarely found north of the Alps. This seems to me to prove that their dishonesty has outgrown their indolent intelligence; and indeed they deceive themselves nearly as often as they succeed in deceiving their neighbours. In a country where a lie easily finds credence, lying is not likely to be elevated to the rank of a fine art. I have often wondered how such men as Cesare Borgia succeeded in entrapping their enemies by snares which a modern northerner would detect from the first and laugh to scorn as mere child's play.
There is an extraordinary readiness in Italians to fit themselves and their lives to circumstances whenever they can save themselves trouble by doing so. Their constitutions are convenient to this end, for they are temperate in most things and do not easily fall into habits which they cannot change at will. The desire to avoid trouble makes them the most courteous among nations; and they are singularly obliging to strangers when, by conferring an obligation, they are able to make an acquaintance who will help them to pass an idle hour in agreeable conversation. They are equally surprised, whether a stranger suspects them of making advances for the sake of extracting money from him, or expresses resentment at having been fraudulently induced to part with any cash. The beggar in the street howls like a madman if you refuse an alms, and calls you an idiot to his fellow-mendicant if you give him five centimes. The servant says in his heart that his foreign employer is a fool, and sheds tears of rage and mortification when his shallow devices for petty cheating are discovered. And yet the servant, the beggar, the shopkeeper, and the gentleman, are obliging sometimes almost to philanthropy, and are ever ready to make themselves agreeable.
The Marchese di San Giacinto differed from his relations, the Saracinesca princes, in that he was a full-blooded Italian, and not the result of a cosmopolitan race-fusion, like so many of the Roman nobles. He had not the Roman traditions, but, on the other hand, he had his full share of the national characteristics, together with something individual which lifted him above the common herd in point of intelligence and in strength. He was a noticeable man; all the more so because, with many pleasant qualities, his countrymen rarely possess that physical and mental combination of size, energy, and reserve, which inspires the sort of respect enjoyed by imposing personages.
As he sat talking with the family after dinner on the evening of his first introduction to the household what passed in his mind and in the minds of his hosts can be easily stated.
Sant' Ilario, whose ideas were more clear upon most subjects than those of his father or his wife, said to himself that he did not like the man; that he suspected him, and believed he had some hidden intention in coming to Rome; that it would be wise to watch him perpetually and to question everything he did; but that he was undeniably a relation, possessing every right to consideration, and entitled to be treated with a certain familiarity; that, finally and on the whole, he was a nuisance, to be borne with a good grace and a sufficient show of cordiality.
San Giacinto, for his part, was deeply engaged in maintaining the exact standard of manners which he knew to be necessary for the occasion, and his thoughts concerning his relatives were not yet altogether defined. It was his intention to take his place among them, and he was doing his best to accomplish this object as speedily and quietly as possible. He had not supposed that princes and princesses were in any way different from other human beings except by the accidents of wealth and social position. Master of these two requisites there was no reason why he should not feel as much at home with the Saracinesca as he had felt in the society of the mayor and municipal council of Aquila, who possessed those qualifications also, though in a less degree. The Saracinesca probably thought about most questions very much as he himself did, or if there were any difference in their mode of thinking it was due to Roman prejudice and tradition rather than to any peculiarity inherent in the organisation of the members of the higher aristocracy. If he should find himself in any dilemma owing to his ignorance of social details he would not hesitate to apply to the prince for information, since it was by no means his fault if he had been brought up an innkeeper and was now to be a nobleman. His immediate object was to place himself among his equals, and his next purpose was to marry again, in his new rank, a woman of good position and fortune. Of this matter he intended to speak to the prince in due time, when he should have secured the first requisite to his marriage by establishing himself firmly in society. He meant to apply to the prince, ostensibly as to the head of the family, thereby showing a deference to that dignity, which he supposed would be pleasing to the old gentleman; but he had not forgotten in his calculations the pride which old Saracinesca must naturally feel in his race, and which would probably induce him to take very great pains in finding a suitable wife for San Giacinto rather than permit the latter to contract a discreditable alliance.
San Giacinto left the house at half-past nine o'clock, under the pretext of another engagement, for he did not mean to weary his relations with too much of his company in the first instance. When he was gone the three looked at each other in silence for some moments.
"He has surprisingly good manners, for an innkeeper," said Corona at last. "No one will ever suspect his former life. But I do not like him."
"Nor I," said the prince.
"He wants something," said Sant' Ilario. "And he will probably get it," he added, after a short pause. "He has a determined face."
Anastase Gouache recovered rapidly from his injuries, but not so quickly as he wished. There was trouble in the air, and many of his comrades were already gone to the frontier where the skirmishing with the irregular volunteers of Garibaldi's guerilla force had now begun in earnest. To be confined to the city at such a time was inexpressibly irksome to the gallant young Frenchman, who had a genuine love of fighting in him, and longed for the first sensation of danger and the first shower of whistling bullets. But his inactivity was inevitable, and he was obliged to submit with the best grace he could, hoping only that all might not be over before he was well enough to tramp out and see some service with his companions-in-arms.
The situation was indeed urgent. The first article of the famous convention between France and Italy, ratified in September, 1864, read as follows:—
"Italy engages not to attack the actual territory of the Holy Father, and to prevent, even by force, all attack coming from outside against such territory."
Relying upon the observance of this chief clause, France had conscientiously executed the condition imposed by the second article, which provided that all French troops should be withdrawn from the States of the Church. The promise of Italy to prevent invasion by force applied to Garibaldi and his volunteers. Accordingly, on the 24th of September, 1867, the Italian Government issued a proclamation against the band and its proceedings, and arrested Garibaldi at Sinalunga, in the neighbourhood of Arezzo. This was the only force employed, and it may be believed that the Italian Government firmly expected that the volunteers would disperse as soon as they found themselves without a leader; and had proper measures been taken for keeping the general in custody this would in all probability have followed very shortly, as his sons, who were left at large, did not possess any of their father's qualifications for leadership. Garibaldi, however, escaped eighteen days later, and again joined his band, which had meanwhile been defeated by the Pope's troops in a few small engagements, and had gained one or two equally insignificant advantages over the latter. As soon as it was known that Garibaldi was again at large, a simultaneous movement began, the numerous Garibaldian emissaries who had arrived in Rome stirring up an attempt at insurrection within the city, while Garibaldi himself made a bold dash and seized Monte Rotondo, another force at the same time striking at Sutbiaco, which, by a strange ignorance of the mountains, Garibaldi appears to have believed to be the southern key to the Campagna. In consequence of the protestations of the French minister to the court of Italy, and perhaps, too, in consequence of the approach of a large body of French troops by sea, the Italian Government again issued a proclamation against Garibaldi, who, however, remained in his strong position at Monte Rotondo. Finally, on the 30th of October, the day on which the French troops re-entered Rome, the Italians made a show of interfering in the Pope's favour, General Menatiea authorising the Italian forces to enter the Papal States in order to maintain order. They did not, however, do more than make a short advance, and no active measures were taken, but Garibaldi was routed on the 3d and 4th of November by the Papal forces, and his band being dispersed the incident was at an end. But for the armed intervention of France the result would have been that which actually came about in 1870, when, the same Convention being still valid, the French were prevented by their own disasters from sending a force to the assistance of the Pope.
It is not yet time to discuss the question of the annexation of the States of the Church to the kingdom of Italy. It is sufficient to have shown that the movement of 1867 took place without any actual violation of the letter of the Convention. The spirit in which the Italian Government acted might be criticised at length. It is sufficient however to notice that the Italian Government was, as it still is, a parliamentary one; and to add that parliamentary government, in general, exhibits its weakest side in the emergency of war, as its greatest advantages are best appreciated in times of peace. In the Italian Parliament of that day, as in that of the present time, there was a preponderance of representatives who considered Rome to be the natural capital of the country, and who were as ready to trample upon treaties for the accomplishment of what they believed a righteous end, as most parliaments have everywhere shown themselves in similar circumstances. That majority differed widely, indeed, in opinion from Garibaldi and Mazzini, but they conceived that they had a right to take full advantage of any revolution the latter chanced to bring about, and that it was their duty to their country to direct the stream of disorder into channel which should lead to the aggrandisement of Italy, by making use of Italy's standing army. The defenders of the Papal States found themselves face to face, not with any organised and disciplined force, but with a horde of brutal ruffians and half-grown lads, desperate in that delight of unbridled license which has such attractions for the mob in all countries; and all alike, Zouaves, native troops and Frenchmen, were incensed to the highest degree by the conduct of their enemies. It would be absurd to make the Italian Government responsible for the atrocious defiling of churches, the pillage and the shocking crimes of all sorts, which marked the advance or retreat of the Garibaldians; but it is equally absurd to deny that a majority of the Italians regarded these doings as a means to a very desirable end, and, if they had not been hindered by the French, would have marched a couple of army corps in excellent order to the gates of Rome through the channel opened by a mob of lawless insurgents.
Anastase Gouache was disgusted with his state of forced inaction as he paced the crowded pavement of the Corso every afternoon for three weeks after his accident, smoking endless cigarettes, and cursing the fate which kept him an invalid at home when his fellow-soldiers were enjoying themselves amidst the smell of gunpowder and the adventures of frontier skirmishing. It was indeed bad luck, he thought, to have worn the uniform during nearly two years of perfect health and then to be disabled just when the fighting began. He had one consolation, however, in the midst of his annoyance, and he made the most of it. He had been fascinated by Donna Faustina Montevarchi's brown eyes, and for lack of any other interest upon which to expend his energy he had so well employed his time that he was now very seriously in love with that young lady. Among her numerous attractions was one which had a powerful influence on the young artist, namely, the fact that she was, according to all human calculations, absolutely beyond his reach. Nothing had more charm for Gouache, as for many gifted and energetic young men, than that which it must require a desperate effort to get, if it could be got at all. Frenchmen, as well as Italians, consider marriage so much in the light of a mere contract which must be settled between notaries and ratified by parental assent, that to love a young girl seems to them like an episode out of a fairy tale, enchantingly novel and altogether delightful. To us, who consider love as a usual if not an absolutely necessary preliminary to marriage, this point of view is hardly conceivable; but it is enough to tell a Frenchman that you have married your wife because you loved her, and not because your parents or your circumstances arranged the match for you, to hear him utter the loudest exclamations of genuine surprise and admiration, declaring that his ideal of happiness, which he considers of course as quite unattainable, would be to marry the woman of his affections. The immediate result of a state in which that sort of bliss is considered to be generally beyond the grasp of humanity has been to produce the moral peculiarities of the French novel, of the French play, and of the French household, as it is usually exhibited in books and on the stage.
The artist-Zouave was made of determined stuff. It was not for nothing that he had won the great prize which brought him to the Academy in Rome, nor was it out of mere romantic idleness that he had thrown over the feeble conspiracies of Madame Mayer and her set in order to wear a uniform. He had profound convictions, though he was not troubled with any great number of them. Each new one which took hold of him marked an epoch in his young life, and generally proved tenacious in proportion as he had formerly regarded it as absurd; and it was a proof of the sound balance of his mind that the three or four real convictions which he had accumulated during his short life were in no way contradictory to each other. On the contrary, each one seemed closely bound up with the rest, and appeared to bring a fresh energy to that direct action which, with Anastase, was the only possible result of any belief whatsoever.
There was therefore a goodly store of logic in his madness, and though, like Childe Harold, he had sighed to many, and at present loved but one, yet he was determined, if it were possible, that this loved one should be his; seeing that to sigh for anything, and not to take it if it could be taken, was the part of a boy and not of a strong man. Moreover, although the social difficulties which lay in his way were an obstacle which would have seemed insurmountable to many, there were two considerations which gave Anastase some hope of ultimate success. In the first place Donna Faustina herself was not indifferent; and, secondly, Anastase was no longer the humble student who had come to Rome some years earlier with nothing but his pension in his pocket and his talent in his fingers. He was certainly not of ancient lineage, but since he had attained that position which enabled him to be received as an equal in the great world, and had by his skill accumulated a portion of that filthy lucre which is the platform whereon society moves and has its exclusive being, he had the advantage of talking to Donna Faustina, wherever he met her, in spite of her father's sixty-four quarterings. Nor did those meetings take place only under the auspices of so much heraldry and blazon, as will presently appear.
At that period of the year, and especially during such a time of disturbance, there was no such thing as gaiety possible in Rome. People met quietly in little knots at each other's houses and talked over the state of the country, or walked and drove as usual in the villas and on the Pincio. When society cannot be gay it is very much inclined to grow confidential, to pull a long face, and to say things which, if uttered above a whisper, would be considered extremely shocking, but which, being communicated, augmented, criticised, and passed about quickly without much noise, are considered exceedingly interesting. When every one is supposed to be talking of politics it is very easy for every one to talk scandal, and to construct neighbourly biography of an imaginary character which shall presently become a part of contemporary history. On the whole, society would almost as gladly do this as dance. In those days of which I am speaking, therefore, there were many places where two or three, and sometimes as many as ten, were gathered together in council, ostensibly for the purpose of devising means whereby the Holy Father might overcome his enemies, though they were very often engaged in criticising the indecent haste exhibited by their best friends in yielding to the wiles of Satan.
There were several of these rallying points, among which may be chiefly noticed the Palazzo Valdarno, the Palazzo Saracinesca, and the Palazzo Montevarchi. In the first of these three it may be observed in passing that there was a division of opinion, the old people being the most rigid of conservatives, while the children declared as loudly as they dared that they were for Victor Emmanuel and United Italy. The Saracinesca, on the other hand, were firmly united and determined to stand by the existing order of things. Lastly, the Montevarchi all took their opinions from the head of the house, and knew very well that they would submit like sheep to be led whichever way was most agreeable to the old prince. The friends who frequented those various gatherings were of course careful to say whatever was most sure to please their hosts, and after the set speeches were made most of them fell to their usual occupation of talking about each other.
Gouache was an old friend of the Saracinesca, and came whenever he pleased; since his accident, too, he had become better acquainted with the Montevarchi, and was always a welcome guest, as he generally brought the latest news of the fighting, as well as the last accounts from France, which he easily got through his friendship with the young attaches of his embassy. It is not surprising therefore that he should have found so many opportunities of meeting Donna Faustina, especially as Corona di Sant' Ilario had taken a great fancy to the young girl and invited her constantly to the house.