by Paul Heyse
Night was far advanced and yet we three sat together in the cool
summer-house, conversing over some bottles of wine from Asti, which we
had discovered by a lucky chance, and were now emptying to the health
of our friend who had just returned from Italy. He was, by several
years, our senior, and had reached man's estate, when we first met him
twelve years ago, on our southern journey. His manly appearance, the
nobility of his demeanour, and a certain pensive charm in his smile had
attracted us from the first. His conversation, his universal knowledge,
and the unassuming way in which he displayed it, confirmed us in our
first impressions, and at the end of the three weeks, which we passed
together in Rome, we were united in as firm a friendship as ever
existed between men of such different ages. Then he suddenly left us;
he was summoned back to Geneva, where he was at the head of a large
During the succeeding years we never missed an opportunity of
meeting again, so he had not hesitated this time to take the longer
route through our town for the sake of spending twenty-four hours in
We found him unchanged in his outward appearance; he was still a
handsome man, his hair was hardly sprinkled with grey; his high
forehead was white and smooth, but he was more silent than formerly.
Sometimes he was so absent that he did not hear our questions, but
apparently absorbed in his own thoughts gazed at the wine-bubbles in
his glass, or holding a lump of ice to the candle watched it slowly
melting. We hoped to render him more communicative by making some
inquiries respecting his last journey, but finding that even this
favourite theme could not arouse him we left him to himself, and kept
up the conversation between us, happy to have him at least in the body
with us, and patiently waiting for the time when his spirit also should
In the meantime I poured forth all the ideas which had lately
occupied my mind. They were crude and superficial and would at any
other time have provoked a contradiction from our friend who was a
sharp and keen logician. The condition of the Italian theatre had given
occasion to this discussion. I maintained that it was not in any way
surprising if the Italians, in spite of all their pathos and passion,
could not equal the dramatic literature of Greece, England, and
Germany; nor does it stand higher in France and Spain, formerly so
renowned for dramatic glory. The temperament of the Latin races, their
nature and cultivation, are so restrained by conventionalities that the
tragic element which consists in concentrating all our interest in one
single individual is quite unintelligible to them. Nor do they venture
to liberate themselves from the trammels of form and give free course
to the spontaneous accents of nature which can alone awaken a tragic
awe in our hearts.
Like every conversation on elevated subjects which does not blindly
grope on the surface of a question, so the present one soon led us to
the discussion of the most mysterious depths of human nature.
Whilst Amadeus drew figures with his silver pencil in the spilt
wine, Otto warmly defended the conventionalism I had condemned, and
maintained that even fiction should be subjected to strict moral laws.
My proposition that the drama should deal with individual, and
exceptional cases, rather than with generalities, and exalt natural
laws above social ones, seemed to him pernicious and full of danger,
for, he said, the conception of a dramatic crime would then be like the
harbouring of a demon in our bosom, instigating to the contempt and
intolerance of every thing that clashed with our individual feelings
and passions. You would thereby destroy the whole social system, which
after all must have some reason for existing, in favour of the
boundless liberty of the individual. The only merit you appear to
recognize in poetry is that which is beyond the pale of every law. I
tried to make him understand that the point in question did not only
apply to the collision of the drama with outward forms; in a word that
heroic and noble souls were wont to solve the problems of duty,
otherwise than those timorous and commonplace formalists who are always
restrained by petty customs and considerations. Highly gifted natures,
who set an example proportionate to their inward strength and
greatness, extend by their actions the limits of the moral sphere; and
just so, the artist of genius breaks through, or at least extends the
limits that confine his art.
If those noble souls are often actuated by pride and excessive
self-reliance, do they not atone for it by their tragical end? at least
in the eyes of those formalists who regard life as the most precious of
gifts, and who for that reason will never engage in any action, or be
led away by any opinion, which according to the laws of society must
end in death. Such, however, as are capable of understanding the
thoughts and feelings by which those noble natures are impelled, will
never resign the right of exalting them, for they cannot be meted with
the common measure of morality. They who condemn as immoral, what in
our wretched and deficient social organisation ought only to be
considered as the sacred self-defence of free and strong characters,
will never be sensible of the beautiful, or sympathize with what is
generous, they will only discern what is profitable.
Thus had I spoken when suddenly Amadeus looked up from his reverie
and stretched out his hand to me across the table.
Thank you, he said, for these true and noble words you have
spoken; they have pleased me much. Amongst us there can be no
difference of opinion as to the fact that custom is not the true
standard of morality, and that the mission which poetry fulfils lies
beyond the pale of human ordinances. I only protest against your
assertion that the deficiency of great tragical poets in Italy is to be
accounted for by the conventional fetters which restrain the character
of the nation. As if capacity of mind, fancy, morality, and the sense
of the beautiful must necessarily be equally developed; as if the one
did not often outstrip the other.
If a great tragic genius, such as they once possessed in Alfieri
were to be born again to the Italians, the spirit of the nation would
not be slow to welcome him, and academic prejudices of style, could no
more keep their ground, than enforced conformity to the law can oppose
the rights and duties of a free born soul.
No, he continued, visibly moved, and the tears glistening in his
eyes, the hollow pathos of their tragedies is not the touchstone by
which we can judge the soul of that noble nation. I cannot hear you say
this without protesting against it, for if ever there existed a
self-dependent character, in feelings, and actions; that character was
my wife's, and she was an Italian.
He paused, while we sat mute and breathless with surprise. Though we
had always presumed ourselves to be well acquainted with him, and all
related to him, we now heard for the first time that he had been
married to a woman he so highly esteemed, and yet whose existence he
had concealed as one conceals a wrong. He rose and paced the narrow and
now dusky room, and we did not disturb him either by questions or
At last he stood still, and began in his deep and mellow voice: I
never told you this because the remembrance of it has always
overpowered me, and the mere recalling of these events caused me a
fever which laid me prostrate for a week. Still it always seemed to me
as if I were wronging you, when I used jestingly to evade your
railleries on my bachelorhood. Believe me, it was principally to
redress this wrong, that I sought your society when I this time
returned from my yearly visit to her grave. Let me therefore simply
tell you all that my heart dictates to me; but first I must open this
casement; the air here is so oppressive that I breathe with difficulty.
So, now, go on with your cigars and your wine, while I walk up and
A quarter of a century has passed since those events, yet they are
as present to my memory as if they had happened only yesterday; they
will not let me rest.
What he confessed to us in that night, till the day dawnedand even
then we could not partI wrote down the following day, keeping as much
as possible to his own words. Then I little thought that they were to
be his last ones, his last bequest. He had rightly judged of the power
these recollections still exercised over him; they brought on a fever,
which clung to him during his homeward journey, and was aggravated by
his exertions during a night conflagration, and a few weeks after our
meeting the news reached us that we had then seen him for the last
The following record is now doubly precious to me, and I can with
difficulty bring myself to allow indifferent eyes to peruse his secret.
Then again I feel it a duty to bring to light the strange fate of those
two hearts. Are not the expressions of noble and generous souls the
rightful property of humanity?...
* * * * *
I had reached my twenty-fifth year when my father died. Standing at
his death-bed, after witnessing his painful agony, it seemed to me that
ten years had passed over my head. My only sister who was very dear to
me, had shortly before married a young agent of our establishment, a
Frenchman, whose family had long ago settled at Geneva, and who now
entered into partnership with our firm.
He was like a brother to me, and so when he and my sister urged me
to travel for several months with the hope of rallying my depressed
spirits, I took their advice in this, as in all things, and set out on
my journey, the more readily that I felt how necessary to me was some
outward diversion to my thoughts.
The change of scene soon realized the hopes of my relations. Youth
and vitality were restored. I was again able to enjoy the beauties of
nature, and my taste for the fine arts, which had been awakened by my
former journeys through France and Germany and now found ample food in
Venice and Milan, whither I at first directed my steps, intending to
proceed southwards by slow journies.
Above all I was impatient to reach Florence. The marvels I expected
to find there caused me to look with indifference on the many beauties
of art which I met with on my way thither. Thus I reserved only one day
for Bologna, where I took a hasty survey of the churches and galleries
in the morning, and in the afternoon I drove out to the old convent of
St. Michele at Bosco, in order to quiet my conscience by obtaining a
complete view of the wonderful old town from the summit of the hill.
It was one of the hottest days in midsummer, and though I am
generally little affected by any temperature, yet the suffocating air
on that occasion completely overpowered and exhausted me. The road
which leads from St. Michele back to the town was entirely deserted.
Above the walls of the gardens the trees and bushes projected their
dusty boughs. The wheels of the carriage sank deeply into the burning
sand. The coachman drowsily nodded on his seat, and with difficulty
kept his balance. The tired horse crawled with drooping head and ears
along the edge of the road, in the hope of enjoying the scanty shade
which now and then was cast across it by a villa, or a garden-wall. I
had stretched out my weary limbs along the back seat of the carriage,
and after forming a tent above my head by means of my umbrella I fell
into a dose.
Suddenly I was roused from my repose by a rough blow on my face, as
if some overhanging bough had grazed me as I passed. I started up, and
looking around, discovered a blooming spray of pomegranate lying beside
me. Evidently it had been thrown at me over the neighbouring wall. The
movement I had made seemed to be a signal to the horse to stop. The
coachman quietly slept on, so I had ample leisure to examine the spot
from whence the branch had been thrown at me. I did so all the more
carefully that I had heard from behind the high garden wall a
suppressed girlish titter at the success of the merry trick. I was not
deceived; after waiting a few moments, standing upright in the
carriage, and stedfastly gazing at the wall, I perceived a curly head
shaded by a large florentine straw hat, arise from behind it. A pair of
dark eyes, sparkling with fun underneath the solemn eyebrows, turned
towards me, and seemed to regard me as some strange animal. But when I
raised the sprig of pomegranate, and pressing it to my lips, waved it
towards the young waylayer, a deep blush suffused her face, and in the
next moment the fair vision had disappeared, so that without the branch
in my hand I should probably have believed it to be a dream. I left the
carriage and pensively walked along the side of the wall, till I
reached a high trellised gate which closed the entrance to the garden.
Between the old iron bars of massive mediæval workmanship, I could
perceive a part of the grounds of the house which stood with closed
Venetian blinds among groups of elm-trees and acacias. I shook the lock
of the gate, but it would not open; my hand had already grasped the
bell rope, when I was seized with sudden shyness at the thought of
entering these strange premises. What a figure I should cut were I
asked the reason of my intrusion. So I contented myself with patiently
waiting for several minutes in the hope of once more seeing the
youthful thrower of sprigs. In the meantime I scanned the house, which
was in no way remarkable, as attentively as if I had intended to draw
it from memory. At last the heat of the sun became unbearable, and I
returned to my umbrella tent. This roused the coachman, he jerked the
reins and away we crawled; I with my head still turned backwards,
though no trace of the fair one was to be discovered.
When I reached the hotel of the three pilgrims, a heavy shower
freshened the oppressive air, and during the night the streets were so
deliciously cool and damp, that I never wearied of sauntering through
the long arcades, now stopping to drink a glass of iced water at some
coffee house; now admiring the portal of some church in the dim light
of the lamps. But in spite of the fatigue caused by this continual
walking and standing, I could find no rest till the morning dawned. I
would not believe that it was the fair young face that kept me awake,
though it continually rose before my eyes. I had always considered it a
fable that the spark from a single glance could set fire to the heart,
so I believed my restlessness to be caused by overstrained nerves.
The next morning however when my hotel bill which I had ordered the
evening before was brought to me, I perceived, now that departure was
at hand, how painful it was to tear myself, away. I became pensive;
then I suddenly recollected that a friend of our firm lived in Bologna
whom I ought to visit. Generally my conscience was not over sensitive
in these matters, but now it seemed to me that this civility was of
great importance. I also reproached myself for the superficial way in
which I had looked at Raphael's St. Cecilia, not to mention several
other sins of omission. I discovered that Bologna was a most remarkable
town, and that after all Florence would always remain within reach.
I finally succeeded in persuading myself that the pretty thrower of
flowers had not the slightest share in this sudden change in my plans.
Strange to say the outlines of her face, when I tried to recall them
vanished more, and more from my mind, and at last I could only remember
the expression of her eyes. During the day time while I fulfilled my
duties as a tourist, I did not feel any particular agitation, but when
the intense heat had subsided, and I directed my steps towards the
villa, as though it were a matter of course, I felt a strange
uneasiness, and I can even now recollect the songs which I sang to
raise my spirits.
I soon reached the spot and found everything just as I had seen it
yesterday. The house looked more cheerful, now that the Venetian blinds
were drawn up, and on the balcony stood a little dog, who when he saw
me stop at the gate, barked furiously. I could not muster courage to
ring the bell. It seemed as if a secret presentiment warned me, and I
almost wished never to see that fair face again, and to depart early
next morning with an unscathed heart. Nevertheless I once more walked
round the boundary wall which extended for some distance, and was
bordered on the further side by some peasants' huts, and a few fields
of maize, nowhere a living creature was to be seen. I had now reached a
point where a low hedge touched the garden wall; I could easily climb
upon it, and from thence overlook the garden. As nobody appeared. I
boldly ventured. The boughs of a large evergreen oak-tree projected
beyond the wall, and I hastily scrambled up and clung to the lowest
branch for support. I could not have chosen a better place; at a
distance of hardly fifty paces I saw on the parched up lawn which now
lay in the shade, two young girls who were playing at battle door and
shuttle cock quite unconscious of being watched. One of them wore a
white dress and the broad brimmed straw hat which I had remarked the
day before. She was of middle height with a figure as straight and
slender as a young poplar tree. She moved like a bird with a graceful
agility such as I fancied that I had never before seen. Her black hair
loosened by her lively movements, flowed freely over her shoulders. The
face was very pale, only lighted up by the eyes and teeth. Suddenly the
shuttlecock was thrown awkwardly, and she burst into a merry laugh
which made my heart throb violently, and the hedge appeared to tremble
under my feet. Her play fellow was dressed like her; only with less
elegance; she seemed to be of an inferior rank.
I hardly noticed her, I was wholly engrossed by her charming
companion. The way in which she lifted her arm to throw the
shuttlecock, the eager look in her eyes when she raised them to await
the coming one, her delight when the shuttlecock described a circuit in
the air, the shake of her head at any failure, every gesture was in
itself a picture of youthful charm and vigour.
I clearly felt that my fate was sealed, and for the first time in my
life I surrendered myself to the sensations which overpowered and
ensnared me. In the midst of this rapture, I considered how I could
draw nearer to her without startling her, when chanceno auspicious
fatecame to my aid. The shuttlecock, which had been sent up high into
the air, flew over the top of the oak-tree under which I was concealed,
and fell at some distance into the neighbouring fields. She looked
anxiously after it. I do not know whether she then perceived me, but
when I instantly sprang after it and re-appeared on the wall with it, I
noticed that her dark eyes turned towards the place where I had stood
with an astonished and displeased expression. The other girl shrieked,
and ran up to her, whispering something which I did not understand, but
I could see by her gestures that she urged her to immediate flight The
fair creature however did not listen to her, but waited quietly till it
should please the stranger to restore her property. When I delayed,
quite absorbed in my admiration, her face assumed a haughty and defiant
look, and she turned coldly from me. I held up the shuttlecock and with
a hasty gesture entreated her to remain. Then I took from my neck a
velvet ribbon, to which was attached a gold locket in the shape of a
heart containing my sister's hair, fastened them carefully to the
feathered ball, and threw it towards her. Fortunately it fell just at
her feet, and lay on the light gravel of the walk.
She took a few steps with a most stately air, and picked up the
shuttlecock; and noticing the locket she darted a quick and flashing
glance at me which pierced me to the very narrow.
Her companion approached her, and seemed to make some inquiry. She
did not answer, but silently put the shuttlecock and the trinket into
her pocket, and then with inimitable dignity, waved the shuttlecock
which she held in her hand towards me thanking me, as a princess might,
for an homage due to her.
Then she turned and walked slowly towards the house without once
I now had no further pretext for remaining perched on the wall, and
I dared not make another attempt to see her again on that day; and then
what would have been the use of it, had I not gained my point for the
present. She had evidently recognized me. My re-appearance sufficiently
expressed my feelings. I had laid my heart at her feet; she had
accepted it, and it was now in her possession. Ought I not to leave her
time to think over all this. I was so agitated that had I met her then,
I should only have been able to stammer out some confused words like a
person in a fever.
That night I slept but little, but in the course of my life I never
again lay awake and counted the hours with so much pleasure.
At day break I rose, entered the picture gallery as soon as it was
open and remained sitting before the St. Cecilia for full two hours.
There I searched my inmost soul as before a clear mirror. I felt that
the spark which had reached my heart was of the true heavenly fire, and
not a transitory illusion of the senses. Those two hours were
wonderfully sweet. It was an anticipation of future bliss and at the
same time an exceeding happiness as if she were sitting close to me,
and I felt her heart beating against mine. The St. Cecilia before me,
her eyes calmly turned heavenwards, could not have had a purer
foretaste of the celestial joys than I had that morning. Again I waited
till the time for the siesta had passed, before I turned my steps
towards the villa. But this time I did not content myself with merely
looking through the bars of the gate. I boldly pulled the bell and was
not even startled by the endless jingle it produced. The little dog
rushed, barking furiously, on the balcony, and out of a small side
door, which was next a larger glass one, issued a little man with
enormous grey moustachios which gave him a ridiculously martial
appearance. He approached the gate with evident astonishment at the
unexpected visit. I repeated the sentence without faltering which I had
rehearsed previously: I was a stranger and intended to publish a book
about Italy, and amongst the rest I wished to introduce a chapter on
the country houses of Bologna. So it was of great importance to me to
be allowed to examine this house. Particularly as it was built in the
old style, and was in many respects remarkable.
The old man did not seem to understand this. I am very sorry sir,
he replied, but I cannot admit you. The villa belongs to General
Alessandro T.... under whose command I served. I know your country
well, sir, I marched through Switzerland under Bonaparte. Afterwards
when all was at an end and my wounds became troublesome, my general
transferred me to this quiet post; and when he married for the second
time, he entrusted his daughter to my care, for you well know sir, how
it is when the daughter is handsomer than the young step-mother. So we
live here in great retirement, but the Signorina wants for nothing, for
her papa sends her some handsome present nearly every week; the best
masters come to teach her singing and languages, and my own daughter is
an excellent companion for her. Only she never goes up to town, her
step-mother does not care to have her there, but that does not distress
her, so long as her father is allowed to come and see her, once a
month. Every time he comes, he enjoins me over and over again to keep
his child as the apple of my eye. And on the Sundays when she goes to
hear mass, Nina and I accompany her and never lose sight of her. What
do you expect to see in this old house? I assure you it does not differ
in any respect from other villas, and nothing remarkable grows in the
garden. There is no need to put us in some book; what would my master
say to it. Possibly I might lose my situation notwithstanding my old
I tried to appease him, and succeeded if not with words, at least by
pressing a gold piece into his hand.
I see, he resumed, you are an honest young man, and would not be
the ruin of an old soldier. If you persist in your wish, I will lead
you through the house, so that you may satisfy your curiosity. I can do
so the more easily, that the Signorina is just now at her singing
lesson, so she will not know that I have admitted a stranger.
He unlocked the gate with a heavy key and preceeded me towards the
house. The ground floor partly consisted of a large cool hall, from
which the sun was shut out by closed Venetian blinds, and heavy
curtains. True to my assumed character, I begged him to let in some
light so that I might see the different paintings which hung on the
walls. They were all family portraits of little value; only one of them
which hung above the chimney piece engrossed my attention. This is the
mother of the Signorina, said the old man, I mean the real mother,
who has been dead these fifteen years. She was a handsome woman; the
people here called her the beautiful saint. Her daughter is very like
her, only she is more cheerful. She resembles a bird, who always merry,
hops up and down in its cage.
She seems to possess the voice of a bird, as well, I remarked,
with all the indifference I could assume, if that is hers which we now
hear above us.
You are right, said the old man. The director of the Opera in
town comes here twice a week. When her papa (il babbo he called
him) pays her his monthly visit, he always stays many hours, and she
sings all her new songs to him, and then the poor old gentleman feels
as happy as if he were in Paradise. He has not many joys, and without
that child he were better in another world.
What is the matter with him, I asked, is he ill?
As you take it; replied the old man, with a shrug of his
shoulders; I for my part would prefer death to such a life. For those
who knew him when he was still in the armythe giant of Giovanni de
Bologna on the market-place, does not look more high spirited, and
chivalrous, than did my generalAnd now! it breaks my heart to think
of it. The whole day long he sits in his arm-chair by the window, and
cuts out pictures or plays at dominoesIt seems as if he neither heard
nor saw, but when his wife speaks to him, he looks up timidly and nods
acquiescence to everything she says. Only with regard to the Signorina
he has remained the same, and is not easily to be deceived. Those who
attempted it would soon perceive that the old lion's paws have still
some strength left in them although his claws have been cut.
But how came he to sink into that melancholy condition?
No one knows. Many things have occurred in this house but the outer
world only whispers them. My belief is, that, that woman; I mean to say
her Excellency, the young Signora struck his heart a deadly blow and he
has never recovered from it. So he drags on the burden with which he
has loaded himself, as a resolute old soldier bears hunger and thirst
though he should dwindle to a shadow. Well, well, these are old stories
now, and cannot be altered.
During this conversation we had ascended the stair, and were
approaching the room from which the singing proceeded. The voice had a
crude inflexible sound; it was a high youthful even boyish soprano. It
seemed as if she sang only to give utterance to her thoughts perfectly
careless of the sound.
What is the Signorina's name? I asked, when we had reached the top
of the stairs.
Beatrice. We call her 'Bicetta.' Oh what a priceless heart is hers!
My Nina often says to me, 'Father,' she says, 'if the Signorina is to
wait for a husband worthy of her she will remain unmarried.' See here,
Sir; this is her sitting-room. There are her books. She often sits up
half the night, Nina says, and reads them in many languages. Adjoining
is the little bedroom where the two girls sleep. That picture there,
above her bed, represents my poor master in his General's uniform as he
used to lead us into action. That small figure in the background who
brandishes his musket is me, says the Signorina, and she has lately
added the grey moustachioes to give it more resemblance. But come away
Sir, there is nothing remarkable, in here, the furniture is old. The
General once wanted to furnish it anew, but the child would not hear of
it because everything had been left just as it was when her deceased
mother passed the first summer of her married life in this house. There
on the balcony she used of an evening to sit rocking her child's
cradle, and waiting for the return of her husband when he had gone to
town on business.
I stept out strangely moved and stooped to caress the little dog who
wagged his tail and licked my hand. Every word which the faithful old
man spoke added fuel to the fire which burnt in my breast, and the
voice in the adjoining room fanned the flame with its breath.
Fearing to betray myself, I talked of the way in which the grounds
were laid out, about the inlaid table of mosaic work, which stood in
the middle of the room; of the faded fresco painting on the ceiling. I
could not tear myself away though my guide grew impatient.
Suddenly the singing ceased; the door was thrown open, and she
appeared on the threshold, holding a sheet of music in her hand. She
had never been so near me, yet I did not discern her features more
distinctly than I had done before.
Everything seemed to dance before my eyes I only remarked at the
first glance that she wore my locket round her neck.
The old man started back at her appearance and stammered out some
clumsy excuse, at the same time stealthily pulling at my coat.
Never mind, Fabio, she said, you can shew the gentleman all over
the house, and through the grounds, if he cares to see them. Then
turning to her companion, who sat on a low chair with some embroidery
in her hand; You can go with them, Nina. But stay I will first tell
you something. She whispered some words to her, her eyes always fixed
on me, and then bowed gracefully, to me, who could not utter a word. In
so doing she pressed her right hand as if involuntarily on her locket,
then returned to her singing-master, who had watched this interlude
with curious eyes, and the lesson was quietly resumed whilst we three
ascended the next flight of stairs. The old man's daughter walked
before us and at every turn of the steps, she examined me with a
pensive look but did not speak a word. Only when we had entered the
garden, she said to her father: Bicetta charged me to pluck two
oranges for the gentleman. She thought he might be thirsty after his
long walk. We will pass by the fountain where they are ripest. I
followed them as if in a trance, and looked up at the house towards the
window from whence we could still hear her voice. The blind was
partially drawn up, so I could perceive her standing in the apartment.
I fancied that she turned, and followed me with her eyes. Nina also
looked up, and then at me. I did not care to hide my feelings from her,
I even wished to make them known to her. But as her father was present
I could only whisper to her, when we reached the gate and she gave me
the oranges: Express my thanks to the Signorina, and tell her that she
will hear more of me. Give back one of these oranges to her, and tell
her when she eats it....
But before I could finish the sentence the old man came close to us.
He took leave of me with much less amiability than he had admitted me.
I repeated my promise not to betray him, but another suspicion
seemed to weigh on his mind, for his honest face remained gloomy.
I passed the night in writing a long letter in which I disclosed to
her the state of my feelings and placed my future happiness in her
hands. Even in those moments of absorbing passion the step which I was
blindly taking appeared to me somewhat wild and romantic, but I took up
the orange which lay beside me on the table, pressed it to my lips, and
closing my eyes represented her to my imagination as she stood on the
threshold, gave me that long and loving look, and bowed laying her hand
on the locket.
After having written the letter I slept very quietly, and only awoke
when it was broad daylight. I again waited for the approach of evening
before I took the decisive walk as my own letter carrier.
Fortune smiled on me. I had composed a most impressive speech, with
which I hoped to persuade the old man in case he refused to deliver the
letter. But this time Nina came to open the gate. The intelligent girl
did not seem the least astonished at my reappearance. She took the
letter unhesitatingly, but when I asked her if she thought the
Signorina would send an answer, she assumed a diplomatic tone, and
said: Who can tell? I told her that I would return to-morrow at the
same hour, and begged her to await me at the gate, so that I need not
ring the bell and let her father into the secret.
My father! she exclaimed laughingly. We are not afraid of him.
Bicetta need only smile on him and then she can twist him round her
little finger in spite of his savage airCome somewhat later
to-morrow; we have our drawing lesson just at this hour, and cannot
send away the master for your sake. Will you do so?
A carriage now rapidly approached the gate. I had just time to
whisper yes to the girl before she silently vanished. Then I hastened
away for I did not wish to be seen before that gate.
The carriage drew up before the house and my greybearded friend, the
steward, jumped from his seat beside the coachman and assisted a tall
white haired old gentleman to descend from the carriage. I recognized
him at once to be Beatrice's father from the resemblance of their
features. He walked with unsteady steps, stooping forward, and rubbing
his hands, while a delighted smile overspread his countenance. A
footman took a basket of flowers, and several parcels from the
carriage, and carried them after him. I pressed close to the wall so
that I escaped notice, and at the same time could watch the whole
scene. Before the bell had been rung, the door flew open, and the
slender white figure of Bicetta clung to her father, who threw his arms
round her neck with a touching tenderness, and partly walking partly
carried by him she disappeared into the house with the old gentleman.
The others followed, and with a pang of envy I saw the gate close
behind them. How the remaining hours of that day, and the following
night passed I know not. It seemed to me that a constant twilight
surrounded me, a sweet lethargy overpowered me, and a celestial harmony
filled my soul. Strange to say though I generally felt little assurance
in my intercourse with women notwithstanding my reputation as a good
looking young fellow, this time I confidently awaited the decision of
my fate, no more doubting that I possessed her heart than I doubted
that the sun would rise on the morrow. Only the hours that must pass
before I could hear it from her own lips, appeared endless to me. I
must here mention an adventure which I had next day in one of the
churches. As I roved about the streets hoping by continual movement to
restrain my impatience, almost unconsciously I entered a church.
Neither paintings, nor pillars, nor the people who knelt before the
altars could awaken any interest in me at that moment. My thoughts were
far away, and I even forgot to tread softly though mass was going on,
till the angry mutterings of ah old woman made me aware of my unseemly
behaviour. So I stood still behind a pillar, and listened to the music
of the organ and the tinkling of the bells, and inhaled the smoke of
As I absently surveyed the kneeling multitudeI, the son of a rigid
calvinist, of course abstained from that devout practice.I remarked
on one of the more retired chairs, just in front of me, a pair of dark
blue eyes, underneath a white brow, surrounded by auburn curls. Those
eyes were fastened on me, and never changed their direction during the
I confess that at any other time I would have replied to that mute
appeal, but on that morning I was perfectly insensible to any
allurement, and should probably have left the church if I had not
feared to cause a second disturbance. When mass was ended, the handsome
woman hastily rose, drew her lace veil over her head, and walked
straight up to me. Her figure was faultless, perhaps somewhat too
plump, but the agile grace of her movements gave her a very youthful
appearance. In the white ungloved hand which held her veil together,
she carried a small fan with a mother of pearl handle. When she was
close to me, she partly opened this fan, and moved it carelessly,
whilst her eyes were fixed on mine with a quiet but significant gaze.
When I appeared not to understand her, she tossed up her head, smiled
haughtily, so that her white even teeth glittered, and rustled past me.
A moment later I had forgotten this interlude; yet all my joy had
suddenly vanished. As the evening approached, I felt more and more
uneasy, and when the appointed hour struck I dragged myself towards the
villa like a criminal who is to appear before his judge. I started back
when instead of Nina, whom I had expected I found her father waiting
for me at the gate. But the old man though he looked very morose,
nodded when I appeared and beckoned to me to approach. You have
written to the Signorina, he said, with a shake of his head, why have
you done so? If I had thought you would do such a thing, you should
never with my consent have entered the house. Oh, my poor dear
Masterafter all my promises to himand who knows what will be the
end of it. I dare not think of it all.
Dear old friend, I replied, nothing shall be done behind your
back. Had you been at home yesterday, I would certainly have given you
the letter, and as for that, you could have read it and convinced
yourself that my intentions are most honourable. But tell me, for
heaven's sake? ....
Come now, he interrupted, do not let us waste our time. You are
an honourable young man, and besides, how can such a poor old fool as I
am, prevent these things, even if I tried it. Believe me, sir, she is
the mistress, in spite of her youth. When she says: 'I will!' no one
can resist her. Now, she will see you; she wishes to speak to you
All my senses reeled at these words; I had hardly dared to hope for
a letter and now this!
The old man himself seemed moved when I impetuously pressed his
hand. He led me towards the house, and as on the previous occasion we
entered by the side-door into the large hall on the groundfloor. This
time all the curtains and jalousies were opened, to let in the red glow
of the setting sun; two chairs stood opposite the chimney, and from one
of them the figure of the girl, so dear to me, arose and took a few
steps towards me. She held a book in her hand and between its leaves I
saw my letter. Her abundant hair was tied up this time and a black
ribbon was twined through it. On her neck I again noticed my locket.
Fabio, she said, open the door towards the garden, and wait on
the terrace in case I should have some orders for you.
The old man bowed respectfully, and obeyed. In the meantime we stood
motionless beside each other, and my heart beat so violently that I
could not utter a word. Her eyes were fixed on mine with a grave
expression partly of inquiry, and partly of wonder.
A last she regained her full composure, and appeared to understand
what a moment before had been unintelligible to her. She stretched out
her hand which I eagerly seized, but dared not press to my lips.
Come and sit down beside me, she said, I have much to tell you.
Do you see this portrait before us? It is my mother's; she died long
ago. When I got your letter I sat down before her and asked her what
answer I ought to give you. It seemed to me that she assented to
nothing but the truth. And the truth is, that from the moment I saw you
in the carriage, all my thoughts went with you, and there they will
remain till I die. I cannot express what I felt at these simple words.
I fell on my knees before her, seized both her hands and covered them
with kisses and tears.
Why do you weep, she asked and tried to raise me. Are you not
happy? I am full of joyfulness. I have suffered much, but now all is
blotted out. Now I only know that we are firmly united and I can never
again be unhappy.
She rose, I sprang up. Intoxicated with joy, I tried to press her to
my heart, but she gently stepped back.
No, Amadeus, she said, that must not be. You now know that I am
yours, and will never be taken from you by any other man; but let us be
calm. I have considered the matter during the long night that has
passed. You cannot come here any more. I have promised it to poor
Fabio. This is the first, and the last time that we meet here. If you
repeated your visit I should soon have no other will but yours, and I
will never dishonour my father's name. Listen, you must go to him, you
will find no difficulty in introducing yourself in his house, so many
young men, she added with a sigh, even perfect strangers are received
there. When he knows you more intimately, and has given you his
confidence, then demand my hand. You may also tell him that we know
each other and that I will never marry any other than you: All the rest
leave to me, and above all promise not to speak of this to my
stepmother; she does not love me, does not wish me to be happy. Oh,
Amadeus, is it possible that you can love me as much as I love you? Did
you not feel the first time we met, as if a flash of lightning had
fallen from heaven, as if the earth trembled and the trees and bushes
were on fire! I do not know how it occurred to me to throw a branch of
blossoms on the stranger who slept underneath his umbrella. I could not
even see your face; it was a childish trick, and I repented if it a
moment later; yet an irresistible impulse made me look once more over
the wall, and then when I saw you standing in the carriage and waving
the branch of pomegranate blossoms towards me, I was seized as with a
fever and from that moment you have always been before me whatever I
I had led her back to her chair, and holding her hand in mine, I
told her how I had passed the last few days. She did not look at me
while I spoke so that I could only see her fair profile. Every part of
her face, even the pure and spiritual palor of her complexion, and the
violet shade under her eyes, were full of expression. Then I too became
silent, and felt the warm blood rush through the delicate veins of the
small hand that lay clasped in mine.
Old Fabio discreetly looked in, and asked if we wished for some
Later, she replied, or are you now thirsty, Amadeus?
To drink from your lips, I whispered.
She shook her head, and looked grave, as she knit her finely
You do not love me, I said.
Far too well, she replied with a sigh.
Then she rose. Let us walk round the garden, she said, before the
sun is quite set. I will pluck some oranges for you. This time I need
not bid Nina do so.
So we walked on, and she holding fast by my hand, asked me about my
country, my parents, and if the hair in the locket were my own. When I
told her that my sister had given it to me, she enquired after her. We
will go and see her, she said, she must love me, for I already love
her. But we cannot stay there. My father cannot live without me, I am
his only joy. You will come to Bologna with me, will you not? I
promised all she desired. Nothing seemed impossible to me now that one
miracle had been performed, and she looked upon me with the eyes of
love. After that she became exceedingly merry, and we laughed and
chatted as happy as children, and ended by throwing oranges at each
other. Come, she said, let us have a game at battledore and
shuttlecock. Nina shall play with us, though she almost makes me
jealous, by constantly speaking of you. See, how she slips away, as if
she feared to disturb us. Might not heaven, and earth, and all mankind
listen to what we say?
She called her companion, and the good girl came up to us, gave me
her hand and said: I hope, you will deserve your happiness. I would
have grudged her to any man but you. If you do not make her happy,
Signor Amadeo, then beware!
This menace was accompanied by so vehement and tragic a gesture that
we both laughed, and she herself joined us.
On the lawn, where I had seen the girls at their play, we now all
three threw the feathered balls, and were soon as much engrossed with
our game, as if we had never had any more serious thought in our lives,
and had not decided on all our future happiness an hour before.
Papa Fabio did not appear again. When the shade grew deeper the two
girls accompanied me to the gate. I was dismissed without a kiss from
those dear and lovely lips. I could only seize her hand through the
bars and press a parting kiss on it.
What an evening! what a night! The people of the hotel probably
thought I was somewhat crackbrained, or an Englishman, which in their
eyes comes much to the same thing.
On my way back I bought a large basket full of flowers which was
carried after me by the flower-girl. These I strewed about my room. I
ordered several bottles of wine, and threw a five franc-piece to a
violin-player in the street. Then I went to sleep in the refreshing
night air which entered by the open windows. I still remember the
sensations I had during my sleep, as if the vibration of the
terrestrial globe as it proceeded on its aerial course were re-echoed
by the pulsations of my heart.
Not till the following morning did I remember that some obstacles
had to be surmounted before I could take possession of what was already
mine. I must get introduced to her father; and would he confide in me
with the same readiness that his daughter had done? Whilst I sauntered
through the arcades of Bologna considering these matters, propitious
fortune again came to my aid. I met the correspondent of our firm whom
I had visited the second day after my arrival; he was greatly
surprised, as he did not expect to find me still in Bologna. I alleged
some news I had received from my brother-in-law, as an excuse for my
prolonged stay. I said that a plan had been formed to found a branch
establishment of our business in Italy, with particular reference to
Bologna. My departure was necessarily delayed for an indefinite period,
and in the meantime it was my duty to form acquaintances in town.
Amongst the names of other distinguished families, I mentioned the
General's. Our friend did not know him personally, but a young cousin
of his, a priest was a frequent visitor at his house, and would
willingly introduce me. But beware of the dangerous eyes of the lady
of the house, he continued, for though she has not the reputation of
treating her admirers with much cruelty, yet your attentions would be
wasted, for the young count her present adorer, does not seem at all
inclined to relinquish his conquest.
I joined in this bantering as well as I could, and we then made
arrangements for an introduction.
In the evening of the same day I met the young priest by appointment
at one of the Cafés, and he then accompanied me to the general's house
which was situated in a very quiet street. It was a Palazzo of very
unpretending exterior, but furnished most luxuriously within. Thick
carpets covered the corridors through which we passed to reach the
apartment where every night a small circle of habitués assembled.
Prelates of every rank, military men, several patricians, but only
men, formed the society. The young abbate never tired of expatiating on
the happiness of the fortunate mortals who were admitted to the
intimacy of that house. What a woman, he sighed. He seemed to hope
that his turn would also come some day.
When I entered I first perceived the old General. He sat in an
arm-chair, and opposite to him an old canon; between them stood a small
table on which they were playing at dominoes. On a low stool beside the
general lay a pair of scissors and some sheets of paper, on which were
depicted little soldiers; these he cut out, when he could not find a
partner for his game. A lamp hung above him, and in the full light, I
again remarked the astonishing likeness of his features to those of
Beatrice. I had hardly spoken a few polite words to the old gentleman,
who responded to them with a childish and good-natured smile, when my
companion hurried me away. I followed him into a small boudoir, where
the lady of the house was reclining on a couch, while a tall much
adorned young coxcomb sat on a rocking chair by her side; they both of
them seemed rather bored by this tête-à-tête. He was languidly turning
over the leaves of an album, and the fair lady embroidering some many
coloured cushion, and now and then she caressed with the point of her
brocaded slipper a large Angora cat which lay at her feet.
By the subdued light of the sconces, reflected by numberless
mirrors, I did not at first recognize in the lady before me the fair
devotee of that morning in church, although the same mother of pearl
fan lay on a table near her.
She was more quick sighted than I, and started up so vehemently at
my approach, that she lost her comb and her abundant hair fell over her
shoulders. The cat awoke and purred, the tall young man cast a piercing
look at me, and I myself was so startled as I recognized her, that I
was most thankful for my little companion's volubility. She remained
silent for a while, and looked at me with that same stedfast
gazewhich had made me feel uncomfortable in the church.
Only when she observed the rudeness of the count, who tried to
ignore my presence, her face grew more animated. In a low caressing
voice, which was the most youthful part of her, she invited me, after
dislodging the cat, to sit down beside her. Then turning towards the
young man; You can look over the music which I received to-day from
Florence, count, I will sing afterwards and you can accompany me.
The young exquisite seemed inclined to rebel, but a severe look from
her blue eyes subdued him, and we soon heard him strike some accords on
the piano in the outer saloon.
The young abbate was employed in cutting the leaves of some new
French novel, so I alone was left to court our fair hostess. Heaven
knows I envied them, and above all the old canon at his game of
dominoes. From the first words I exchanged with this woman, I felt an
invincible dislike to her, which increased in proportion to the efforts
she made to attract me. I had to summon all my prudence to keep up an
appearance of politeness, and to listen attentively to her remarks. My
thoughts were far away in the saloon of the villa, and between those
glib and clever words, I still heard the soft voice of my darling and
saw her eyes fixed on mine with a sad expression.
In spite of this absence of mind and heart, the fair lady did not
appear to be displeased with my first attempt. She probably imputed my
embarrassment to a very different cause, and the fact that I had sought
to be introduced in her house, she certainly construed in her favour.
She praised my fluency in the Italian language, but remarked that I
had a Piemontese accent, that I could not find a better opportunity of
correcting this, than by frequently joining her friendly circle. Then
she begged me to consider her house as my own, provided my evenings
were not otherwise engaged. She had melancholy duties to perform, she
said with a sigh, and a glance towards the adjoining room, from whence
was heard the good natured laughter of the old gentleman as he had won
his game. Her life, she continued, only began with the evening hours; I
certainly was very young, and the society of a sad woman, grown grave
before her time, would hardly attract me. But so sincere a friend as I
should find in her was worth some sacrifice. I greatly resembled one of
her brothers, who had been very dear to her, and whom she had early
lost. She had noticed this likeness in the church, and for this reason,
she warmly thanked me for my present visit. She cast down her eyes with
well assumed embarrassment and then with a smile stretched out her hand
to me which I slightly touched with my lips. As a pledge of
friendship, she said in an undertone.Fortunately some new arrivals
spared me an answer which could not have been sincere. The new comers
were dignitaries of the church, men of the world, who treated me, as
they would an old acquaintance. The count also returned and whispered a
few words to her. She arose and we all followed her into the saloon
where the piano stood. She sang the new airs and her Cicisbeo
Her fine voice poured forth trills and cadences and I could remark
that between times she glanced towards the dark corner where I leaned
against the wall, and mechanically joined in the general applause, at
the end of every song.
My thoughts wandered to the villa where I had heard another voice so
dear to me. Liveried servants entered noiselessly, and offered ices and
sorbets on small silver trays; the music ceased and an animated
conversation commenced. The old general now appeared leaning on his
stick, and seemed delighted at having won six games consecutively. He
asked me if I ever played at dominoes, and on my replying in the
affirmative, he invited me to return next evening, and try my luck with
him. He then called his valet as it was his usual hour for retiring to
rest. This was the signal for departure. I obtained a significant smile
from the lady of the house, and I hastened to leave the rooms before
the rest of the company. I longed for solitude to shake off the
unpleasant impressions of the evening. Yet I could not get rid of these
sensations till next day at dusk, when I again directed my steps
towards the villa. I well knew that I should not be admitted, but I
hoped, between the bars of the gate, to catch a glimpse of her dress or
of the ribbon on her straw-hat.
I found her on the balcony alone, and her eyes were turned towards
the road as if she expected me. For a short while we were contented to
express our feelings by looks and gestures. Then she signalled to me
that she would come down, and a moment later she issued from the
lateral door, and approached me blushing with love and happiness. She
gave me her hand between the bars, but when I asked her if she would
not admit me, she shook her head gravely, and laying her hand on her
heart, she said, Are you not here, nevertheless? We were soon engaged
in exchanging sweet and childish words of love, till I told her of my
yesterday's visit to her father. When I spoke affectionately of him,
she suddenly seized my hand, and before I could prevent it had pressed
it to her lips. I did not mention his wife, and her unseemly behaviour.
She understood my silence. Return to him, she said, and do all you
can to please him; he cannot fail to love you. Finally, when I begged
her for a kiss, she approached her cheek to the bars, but hearing the
trot of a horse coming down the road, she speedily fled. So I had to
leave her with an unsatisfied longing in my heart. I confess that for
the first time I doubted the strength of her love. I knew how strictly
girls in Italy keep back their feelings, only to give them more free
course when they are once married. But why grudge me a kiss from her
lips even when separated by the bars of a gate. Then again I thought of
all she had said to me, and of the looks which had accompanied her
words and felt tranquilized.
Of course in the evening I punctually appeared in the General's
rooms, and he ordered me at once to the dominoe table. The company was
much less numerous than the day before. The old canon when I took his
place retired to a niche near the window, and was soon snoring
This time the lady of the house did not remain in the boudoir, but
sat on a sofa not far from our table, greatly to the annoyance of her
adorer who sat sulkily opposite to her. She had given him a novel, and
she bade him read to her. He made many blunders, and last threw down
the book with an oath, common in this country but certainly not fit for
drawing room society.
The lady then rose and beckoned to him to follow her into the next
room, where a passionate but whispered dispute took place. We heard
that she threatened never to receive him in her house again unless he
altered his behaviour.
The old gentleman who had been very happy at is success in the game,
listened for a moment. What can be the matter? he asked. I shrugged
my shoulders. A strangely anxious look passed over his face. He sighed,
and for a moment seemed irresolute as to whether or not he ought to
interfere. Then he sank back in his chair, and appeared to be lost in
dreams. The canon awoke, took a pinch of snuff and offered his
snuff-box to the General; this restored his equilibrium, and we resumed
our game. When I at last rose to depart, he begged me to return soon;
he preferred me as a partner, to the old canon. These words were spoken
in a most amiable tone and accompanied by a cordial pressure of the
hand. Altogether in spite of his weaknesses, he still retained the
manners of a gentleman of the old school. His wife dismissed me more
coldly than the night before, but this seemed to me to be only for the
count's sake with whom in the meantime a reconciliation had taken
I was right. The following evening, when the count was prevented by
some excursion from appearing at his usual post, her efforts to lure me
into her nets were redoubled. I assumed the character of an
unsuspecting young man who from sheer respect neither hears, nor sees,
nor understands anything, but she was evidently not duped by it.
Probably the unsuccessfulness of her efforts provoked her, and incited
her to conquer at any price my real or feigned coldness. She was so
carried away by her vexation that she lost all command of her feelings,
and could not master them even when the count returned. Of course all
the rest of the company noticed how matters stood. The correspondent of
our house did not neglect to inform me of the rumours which were
current in the town. He congratulated me on my good fortune, and little
guessed how uncomfortable I felt at his words. I perceived that I must
no longer delay in declaring my real intentions.
A conversation I had with the young count precipitated this
One evening when I returned to my hotel I found him waiting for me.
He saluted me with frigid politeness and requested me in a curt, and
concise manner either to discontinue my visits at the General's house,
or to expect an encounter of a different nature. Being a stranger I was
probably unacquainted with the customs of the country, otherwise he
would not have taken the trouble of giving me warning.
I begged him to wait twenty-four hours, and he would then perceive
how absurd was any idea of rivalry between us. He looked surprised, but
as I did not give any further explanation, he bowed and departed.
Early the next morning, for I knew the old gentleman was up betimes,
I asked for an interview with him, and was ushered into his bed-room,
where he sat smoking a long Turkish pipe. He was rummaging in several
card boxes in which all his treasures consisting of cut out pictures
lay around him. When he saw me he stretched out his hand with evident
pleasure, thanked me for visiting him in the morning, and offered me a
pipe. When I declined this he pressed me to accept as a token of
remembrance several cut out soldiers on which he set particular store.
I felt heavy at heart when I reflected that my future happiness
depended on this poor old man. But to my astonishment the expression of
his face completely changed when I mentioned his daughter. He became
grave and silent, and only the intent look in his eyes betrayed, that
even on this theme, he could with difficulty collect his thoughts, I
concealed nothing from him. Beginning with our first meeting, I related
every circumstance up to the last hours. He now and then nodded
acquiescence, and when I told him of my love for her his eyes glistened
and he raised them heavenward with a deep emotion which shed a sort of
glory over his features.
Then I spoke to him of my circumstances and expressed the very
natural wish to take my young wifeprovided he should entrust his
child to meto my own home; assuring him however, that I was quite
willing to remain in his neighbourhood for several years, as I could
never tear her from him. He seized both my hands when I said this, and
pressed them with more vigour than I could have believed possible in so
weak and worn out an old man. Then he drew me into his arms, and
without a word kissed me till his strength failed him, and he sank back
into his chair. After remaining so for a few moments he made a sign to
me to help him to rise, and when he had regained his feet, he said: I
entrust this treasure to you my son, and thank my God, that I have
lived to see this day. Come we will go and tell it to my wife. From the
first moment I saw you I felt sure that you had a kind heart. If I had
ten daughters I could not see them better provided for. But did you
ever see such a naughty child? Fie, fie, Bicetta! meeting a lover when
your old babbo's back is turned, but they are all alike when love is in
question, and where their heart is concerned they are not to be
trusted, no, not one!
He sighed and his face took an expression partly of anxiety, partly
of sorrow. Perhaps some recollection troubled his mind. A moment after
he again embraced me, pulled my hair, called me a traitor and a
hypocrite, and finally seizing my hand, he drew me towards his wife's
apartment, which was situated at the other side of the house.
In the ante-room a maid advanced to meet us; she looked at me with
wondering eyes, and only admitted the General to her mistress' room,
after having first announced him. She then begged me to wait as her
mistress was not yet dressed for receiving. I heartily rejoiced at
this, though the time I had to wait seemed interminable.
I could not distinguish what was said in the adjoining room, but the
General spoke in a louder and more commanding tone than I had ever
heard from him before. A long and hurried whispering followed, till at
last the door opened, and the General issued forth erect, and
triumphant as if he had won a battle.
Beatrice is yours my son, the affair is decided. My wife sends her
best wishes to you! At first she made some ridiculous objections. You
see a cousin of ours, a young fop who is now in Rome, said to her
before he left. 'Keep Bicetta for me, I will marry her on my return.'
This was only in fun, but you and I, we are in earnest, so you shall
have her Amadeo. It is true, he continued, with a sigh, that I let
many things take their course, I am an old man, and the reins often
drop from my hands, but on some occasions Amadeo, I take up arms again
and then I am not to be daunted. I now solemnly promise you that
Beatrice shall be yours. Come back this evening; you will find her
here. Embrace me my son, make her happy; she deserves to be rewarded a
thousand fold for the love she bears her old father.
He only left me at the top of the stairs after folding me once more
in his arms.
When I returned in the evening, I found the house brilliantly
illuminated. In the ante-room many people were assembled who eyed me
with curiosity. In the drawing-room the old General sat in his usual
place, and the Canon opposite to him, but to-day the dominoes lay
untouched on the marble table, for on her father's knees sat his
daughter, simply dressed, without any ornaments, only pomegranate
blossoms in her hair. Her arms were twined round the old man's neck as
if she felt uneasy in this society, and took refuge with her only
friend. When she saw me enter, she glided from her seat and stood
motionless as a statue before me till I took her hand. She cast a rapid
glance at the sofa where her step-mother sat, brilliantly attired, her
hair flowing over her beautiful bare shoulders, her round white arm
reclining on a crimson cushion. She evidently intended to outshine the
slender maidenly beauty of the young girl. At her side sat the tall
young count, who had now recovered the phlegmatic insolence of a
supreme sovereign. He nodded to me with a gracious condescension.
When I turned towards them holding my betrothed by the hand, I
noticed a sudden palor on the woman's face, but she greeted, and
congratulated me with a most winning smile; offered me her hand to
kiss, and then embraced Bicetta who submitted to it with an impassive
face; only the trembling of her hand told me what she felt.
After this we had to receive the congratulations of the company, and
I admired my darling who stood the flow of shallow words with which she
was overwhelmed with perfect calmness. The General contemplated her
with an expression of great delight. He bade us sit down in the
embrasure of one of the windows, where two chairs had been placed near
each other, and then he proceeded to his game with Don Vigilio.
Bicetta and I soon forgot all around us. The hum of conversation did
not reach us. The dim light of a lamp which swung on a chain across the
street was bright enough for me to drink the deep draught of love from
the eyes of my beloved, and from her enchanting smile. On that evening
the company dispersed later than usual. Champagne was drunk, and an old
archbishop who was passing through the town on one of his pastoral
tours proposed the health of the betrothed. The venerable old man was
particularly affectionate to me. He made me take a seat in his carriage
and insisted on driving me back to my hotel. But hardly had we been a
moment alone together, when the reason for this remarkable
condescension appeared. You are a Lutheran? he asked. I assented, and
he continued with a benign smile; You will not remain so. The great
earthy happiness you have found here, will lead you to a higher bliss.
Come to see me to-morrow, and we can talk more about this.
I did not fail to appear, but he could not force me one step from
the path which I had traced for myself. I demanded the same liberty of
faith which I conceded to my wife. With regard to the children, she
might decide for them, till they had reached the age when they could
judge for themselves what was necessary to the welfare of their souls.
The artful old priest seemed well pleased with this beginning, and to
rely on the future.As he was forced to leave the town, he committed
me to the care of a younger keeper of souls; a member of a religious
order, who set about the affair much more vehemently and clumsily so
that to prevent further unpleasantness, I broke off all intercourse
with him. This, I could perceive in the faces of certain of the
frequenters of my future parent's house, was greatly taken amiss, but
as the General's cordial manner remained the same, and the mistress of
the house continued to shew me a cool amiability, I bore it with great
My betrothed, who was aware of my feelings, fully coincided in my
desire to cut short any further attempt of this kind. What can they
mean by it? she said. There is only one heaven and one hell for us;
is it not so Amadeo? If I entered Paradise and found you not there, my
soul would turn back, and not rest till it had found yours. When she
spoke thus it seemed to me that I saw heaven open before me, and I
could not believe that any danger threatened our future happiness, or
even that any delay was possible.
The wedding was fixed for October. I had made up my mind to bear
this interval of two months with all the patience I could muster. Only
one thing made me uneasy; I had announced my betrothal to my sister,
and brother-in-law, and had not received one line in return.
I knew them too well to fear any objection on their part; only some
illness or some sorrow which they wished to keep from me could account
for this silence. So in spite of the happiness which smiled upon me, I
grew more and more uneasy. At last after three weeks of feverish
impatience, the longed for letter from my brother-in-law arrived. He
wrote that my sister Blanche had been dangerously ill after her
confinement, and that the state of her health was still so precarious
that he had not ventured to agitate her by the news of my engagement.
If it were possible, it would greatly relieve him if I could come home
for a short while.
You must go, said Bicetta when I had silently handed her the
letter. You must leave this to-morrow. I will try and bear your
absence as well as I can. But you must write to me when you arrive,
write to me as often as you are able. How I long to go with you. But of
course that is impossible. Give my love to Blanche; tell her that she
already lives in my heart, and give her this kiss from her sister.
She passionately threw her arms round my neck and pressed her lips
to mine. It was the first kiss she had granted me. Even when I had met
her alone, and entreated her both jestingly and earnestly not to be so
cruel, she had always remained inexorable. How often had I not felt
hurt at this reserve, but then she had only to speak a word, or to
stretch out her hand with that indescribable smile of hers, and my
doubts and displeasure vanished.
I departed with the full persuasion that I should find nothing
changed on my return. The old general took leave of me with evident
distress; he could not cease to press me in his arms. His wife shewed
great interest in the illness of my sister, and so completely deceived
me that on my way home, I reproached myself for my former injustice
towards her, and mentally begged her pardon.
Part of my luggage remained at the villa which had been my
habitation during the last weeks of my betrothal; Old Fabio and my
friend Nina faithfully ministering to my wants. I felt sure of
returning in less than a month, and hoped to bring back with me my
sister and her husband to the wedding. Nina in the meantime went up to
town to keep Beatrice company.
Everything seemed to be arranged for the best, and this short
separation to be a sacrifice to the jealous gods before I was allowed
to enjoy complete happiness.
At home I found matters better than I had imagined during the
anxious hours of my long journey. Blanche was out of danger, and it
seemed as if the pleasure of seeing me again and the joyful news I
brought her, hastened her recovery. Their accompanying me to Bologna
however was out of the question. My sister could not leave her child,
and my brother-in-law was detained by our business which had lately so
much increased that we could not both be spared. Yet they hastened my
departure, and indeed as matters stood my visit caused them more
anxiety than pleasure, for in spite of our firm resolve to write to
each other as often as we could, and though I faithfully adhered to my
promise of never missing a single post, yet not a line had reached me
from Bologna. During the first week of my stay I was inexhaustible in
finding some natural cause for her silence. But when I had remained a
fortnight at Geneva without a word either from my betrothed or any
member of her family, I was tormented with anxiety. My only comfort was
that no great misfortune could have happened to her without our
correspondent in Bologna informing me of it, but then again, how could
I know that he had not left Bologna, and should any letters have been
lost or intercepted, might not his too have been among the number?
I felt that I must start for Bologna if I did not wish to go mad.
The state of my feelings as I travelled day and night is not to be
described. As I saw my face in the glass when I stopped to arrange my
disordered toilet before entering Bologna, I started back. It was
certainly not the face of a happy bridegroom, such as I had hoped to
It was early in the morning when my travelling carriage dashed along
the well known road. I called to the postillion to pull up at the
trellised gate of the villa. I jumped out with tottering knees, and
rang the bell violently. Some time elapsed before my dear old friend
Fabio appeared at the door. When he recognised me he started and
without taking time to button his old waistcoat across his naked chest,
he rushed to meet me with so disturbed a face that I called out in an
agony: She is dead!
He shook his head and hastily unlocked the gate, but the fright had
completely taken away his breath, so that I could only draw out word by
word, a scanty unconnected explanation from him. He observed my pale
face and worn out looks, and wished to spare me, instead of which he
only cruelly tormented me by his dilatoriness. With many things which
had been schemed in the dark, he was unacquainted, for he had only
learnt the main points from Nina. I who well knew the actors never for
a moment doubted who had taken the principal parts in this fiendish
intrigue. Hardly had I left Bologna when that cousin from Rome
appeared, and brought forward his imaginary claim to the hand of my
Had he come by order, or would he have arrived of his own accord
even had I not been absent I never knew. He cut a sorry figure Fabio
said. A life of gambling, revels, and adventures had considerably
reduced his fortune, but being the nephew of a cardinal, and of the old
nobility, he was still considered a good match. Bicetta had always
disliked him. He (Fabio) remembered that she had once boxed his ears
for having ventured to kiss his little cousin. Upon which he had
laughingly vowed to make her pay for it once she was his wife. Now the
time had arrived when he hoped to realize his threat. The step-mother
and all those who had most authority were on his side. They had
frightened the poor old general by predicting for him all the torments
of hell, if he married his only child to a heretic, till they had
subdued and silenced him. But whenever he looked at Bicetta his eyes
filled with tears, and he would sit for hours in his arm-chair, and sob
like a child. He never spoke to his wife for he knew that she was at
the bottom of it all.
And Beatrice? I asked, half maddened with rage and pain.
Ah Bicetta, replied the old man, who can understand her! At first
when they urged her to renounce her heretic lover, she had answered: 'I
have pledged my faith to him in the sight of God, and I will keep it
though I should die for it;' so they could not persuade her. Then when
her cousin had come to pay his court to her, she had calmly told him:
'Don't trouble yourself Richino it is perfectly useless; even had I
never seen Amadeo I should never have loved you.' Then when he
attempted to take her hand and to play the gallant to her, she drew
herself up and said in the hearing of Nina: 'Miserable coward to lay
hands on another's property! Go I despise you.' She would not see him
after that yet she never sheds a tear though the marriage is decided
on, and she has quite left off begging and entreating her father, her
step-mother, or any one, even God I dare say. She no more received your
letters, than you did hers which I posted myself. It seems that the
officials at the post-office know what is expected of them when the
nephew of a cardinal wishes to carry off the bride of a foreigner.
Still it is surprising that she should have resigned herself so quickly
for she cannot possibly doubt your fidelity. Nina told me that they
threatened to shut her up in a convent if she did not marry her cousin,
and certainly a convent is not the proper place for our Bicetta, yet I
should have thought it preferable to a marriage with that man, when her
whole heart belongs to you. I for my part cannot make her out, and my
daughter too is in a perpetual state of amazement.
So the good old man rambled on without venturing to look at me,
whilst I lay completely stunned on one of the chairs opposite the
chimney. It was the same in which we had sat our hands clasped in one
another's the first evening of our betrothal. I was quite incapable of
thought; every feeling even of love or of hate seemed paralyzed within
me and all vitality to have ceased, as the movement of a watch stops
when a blow has broken the spring. After a long pause I recovered my
composure sufficiently to ask when the marriage was to take place.
This afternoon, replied the old man in a timid voice. Then I started
up, brought to my senses by the nearness of this fearful and decisive
event. Old Fabio seized my hands, and looked anxiously into my face.
Merciful heavens! he exclaimed, what are you doing. You know not
how powerful they are. If you were to appear openly in the streets, who
knows whether you would outlive the night.
I will go in disguise, I will stand face to face with this
scoundrel, and tell him that one of us must die. You surely have a pair
of trooper's pistols in good condition. They are all I shall want.
Leave me now.
First you must shoot me with them, he said, and clung so firmly to
my arm, that I saw no possibility of freeing myself from his grasp
without using force. Think of Bicetta, he continued, what would she
say to it. You are right, I replied, and felt as if I were again
deprived of all energy. I know not what she would say, but I will
know, or I shall go mad. Let go my arm, and give me my hat. I will go
to her; I will burst open the doors which keep her from me, and when
once I have seen her then come what may.
But he would not let me go. He led me back to my chair and said,
you must surely be persuaded that no one so sincerely desires yours,
and the Signorina's, and the old general's welfare as old Fabio, so you
must listen to his advice, and not rush headlong to your own
destruction. If you imagine that you can reach her apartment, you are
greatly mistaken. The house is filled with servants on account of the
wedding, and you would fare ill if you desired to see the bride with
this face. Let me go to her; they cannot forbid me the entrance,
although the Signora does not regard me with favourable eyes. If it
should come to the worst, I can always send for my daughter; so if you
will write a few lines I promise to deliver them, and they will
certainly reach their destination with more safety than by the papal
posts. Sit down here by this window and write a few lines and if I am
not greatly mistaken in our Bicetta she will answer them. He ran to
fetch me writing materials, but I was in such a wretched state that I
could not even hold a pen, and the fury which raged within me drowned
Never mind, said the old man, there is no need to write. Is it
not sufficient that she hears you have come? If she then still consents
to this marriage, hundreds of letters would be of no avail.
With this he left me, but first I had to give him my word that I
would not leave the house, which was now completely deserted, and that
I would open the door to no one but him.
By this time day had dawned, and after bringing me some wine to
strengthen me, the old man departed, and I remained alone in the
death-like stillness of the houseI could not rest; I dragged myself
into the garden, to the orange-tree of whose fruit she had given me,
and to the pomegranate the blossoms of which had been her first love
token to me. She was always before me, and the more clearly she
appeared to me the less could I understand her apparent oblivion.
Though I was greatly exhausted by my night's journey, yet I could
not swallow a morsel of bread nor drink the wine, but I sucked the
juice of an orange, and felt so revived that I seemed to have imbibed
hope and comfort with it. Then I returned to the house, ascended the
stairs and slowly walked through all the apartments. In her little room
all remained as she had left it; even the book which she had last read
was still open on the table. I began to read from the same page where
she had left off. It was an edition of the Canzone di Petrarca and I
felt soothed and refreshed by their gentle harmony. I shoved a low
chair into the balcony (it was the same on which she had sat as a child
while playing with her dolls), and threw myself into it with the book
in my hand. But after each verse my eyes wandered along the road in the
hope of seeing a messenger appear. I had grown calmer however, and no
longer dreaded the decision of my fate, yet I started wildly when the
old man appeared.
What news do you bring me, I called to him. But I knew all when I
saw his sorrowful countenance, as he turned towards me, and I rushed
down the stair case with, trembling knees. Read this, he said;
perhaps you will understand what it all means.
I tore the paper from his hand. On it were hastily scrawled these
words: My own dear love, what I am going to do, had to be done; do not
try to prevent it, only trust in me. I shall never be another's. You
will understand all when we meet again, and perhaps that may be before
long. Whatever happens I am yours only for ever and ever. On the edge
of the paper was added, Remain concealed. If you are found out, all is
Whilst I continued to stare at these few lines, the old man told me
that he had not seen her himself. Nina had been the messenger between
them; but even from her, he could not find out what he wanted to hear.
She only told him that the Signorina had not shown the least
astonishment at the news of my return. I have long expected him, was
all she said; and while her maid was bringing in her bridal attire, she
had written the note quickly, standing at the window. Then she had
charged Nina to enjoin the greatest secrecy on her father, and to tell
him to take care of me. After that she quietly proceeded to unfasten
her hair which had to be dressed for the wedding. She wrote these
lines, Nina added, with the calmness of a person who is unable to
live any longer for the very agony of his pain, and writes down his
dying wish. She had always thought she knew her as well as she knew
herself, but in these last days she was a perfect mystery to her.
Was it not the same with me? I who had fancied that I understood her
better than any one else, could I understand her now, though I read the
lines she had addressed to me over and over again a hundred times. Why
if she would not belong to any one but me, why did she not fly to me,
or take refuge in a convent till I had found means to liberate her. Why
did not the boldest and most adventurous scheme appear natural and easy
to her, rather than resignation to the fate which was forced on her,
and to the bearing quietly those hateful fetters which death alone
could tear asunder.
Still there was something in those simple words which sustained me,
when I was on the point of despairing, and which silenced me when I was
on the point of giving vent to a burst of indignation or despondency. I
even slept a few hours, and could swallow a few morsels which my
faithful attendant had prepared for me. Not a word passed between us;
only when the hour of the wedding approached we had a violent dispute.
I insisted on attending it, and he opposed this to the utmost. At last
when he saw that my resolution was not to be shaken, he brought some of
his clothes and helped me to muffle myself up in them, and then pulled
an old torn straw-hat, which he generally wore in the garden, over my
eyes. I will accompany you Signor Amadeo, for I fear that you will lose
all command over yourself, and that you will require some one to
restrain you. He might have proved right had not the wedding guests,
and the bridal couple entered the church before we reached it, and the
crowd been so great that they stood pressed together, spreading over
the Piazza far beyond the church portal.
I bitterly reproached the old man for having deceived me with regard
to the hour, but he vehemently asserted his innocence, and his
ignorance of the hour.
So we waited amongst the crowd, and the sound of the bells, which
were ringing loudly, lulled me into my former state of dull torpor.
Suddenly the cry arose: Here they come! I should have sunk down had
not Fabio supported me. I kept myself up, so to speak, by fastening my
eyes to the church door, whence she was to issue forth. When she at
last appeared I was surprised that I could bear the sight, that it even
calmed me, although her husband was walking beside her. He was just the
man I had expected to see from Fabio's description. A creature I could
have felled to the ground at one blow. A smile hovered on his worn
features which made my blood boil. He nodded with a triumphant, and
lofty air to the people around him, and stroked the fair moustache on
his thin upper lip.
She passed through the crowd without looking up, the expression of
her face was inscrutable, and her eyes were veiled by her long lashes.
A child offered her a bunch of flowers; she took it into her arms, and
kissed it, and I could even perceive a smile on her lips. Had not the
distance been so great, and Fabio watching me I should have pushed my
way through the crowd, and asked her how she dared to smile on such a
day. But the smile had vanished while I was reflecting on it.
They got into their carriage, and drove off, followed by the parents
of the bride. The old General bending under the weight of his grief, at
the side of his proud young wife. Then came all the dignitaries of the
church who frequented the house.
The Archbishop performed the ceremony, said an old woman beside
me. She would not marry him at first, but they say that the holy
father himself urged her to it. Nothing more has been heard about that
other one, the Lutheran.Aye, aye, replied another woman; it seems
that his sister has died, that is the just penalty for refusing to
abjure his heresy.And so their foolish talk went on around me. Fabio
dragged me away, and led me by a bye path back to the villa. I let him
do as he pleased with me; all my strength had left me. I was as
unconscious of my actions as a man in a fever, or a sleep walker.
Even now, when I reflect on the past, I cannot understand how I bore
that day. My nature, generally so impetuous, appeared to be completely
subdued by the great bodily exhaustion caused by that hurried and
sleepless journey from Geneva, and I submitted unresistingly to these
When I reached the villa, I staggered blindly. Fabio forced me to
swallow several glasses of strong wine in such rapid succession that I
at last sank insensible to the ground.
When I recovered my senses, night had come on, and it was some time
before I could recollect where I was, and what had occurred. The clear
sky could be seen through the high panes of the glass door, and the
faint light of the new moon fell on the portrait of Beatrice's mother,
who I fancied looked sadly down at me from her place above the chimney.
Then only everything came back to my memory; then I remembered how
terrible was the significance of this night, and what future these
hours foreboded. Then a fearful agony overwhelmed me, and I was brought
to the verge of madness. I cried out aloud and the unearthly sound of
my voice as it echoed through the desolate house terrified me. I threw
myself down on the cold stone floor of the hall, and there I lay
writhing, pressing my face against the ground, and tearing my hair as
if bodily pain could stifle the despair which raged within me. Every
thought which sprung up in me, I willfully thrust back into the general
whirlpool which darkened and confused my mind. I would feel nothing,
think of nothing, but the terrible certainty that my heart's treasure
was now in another's possession; I could not cease from piercing my
heart with this thought, as though it were a poisoned dagger that would
make it bleed to death. At last worn out with this self destructive
frenzy I lay motionless in the dust. The cold stones of the floor
cooled my burning brow, and my tears ceased to flow. After some time, I
roused myself sufficiently to regain my tottering feet, and to crawl
into the garden. At the fountain underneath the evergreen oaks I washed
the tears and the dust from my face, and took a deep draught of the
tepid water, which nevertheless cooled my blood.
I now considered what remained for me to do, but could not come to
any resolution. One thing, however, I determined on. I would write to
her the next day, and implore her to end this dreadful uncertainty; to
rend asunder the last tie which bound me to her. Then I remembered the
words of her note, but of what avail were they now to me? Now that I
had seen her come out of the church, and that day, and part of the
night had passed without bringing me any comfort.
When I heard the clock strike midnight, and the moon disappeared I
could no longer bear the awful stillness of the garden, and I returned
to the hall. I lighted a candle and placed it on the mantlepiece; then
I drew a chair near it, took a small volume of Dante from my pocket,
and was soon deeply engaged in perusing the most gloomy and despairing
canto of his Inferno.
I had remained thus about an hour, when suddenly I thought I heard
the key turned in the lock of the garden gate. My hair stood on end. I
fancied in the first moment of terror that my poor darling had
destroyed herself, and that her restless spirit now sought me to suck
my heart's blood; but the next moment I had shaken off these senseless
ideas, and regained my composure. I arose and listened attentively in
the stillness of the night.
The garden gate was opened. I heard steps on the gravel walksome
one sought for the handle of the hall door; it opened and a youth in a
black cloak and hat appeared on the threshold. Suddenly the hat fell
back from the brow, and I recognized Beatrice. With a cry of joy we
rushed into each other's arms, and clung to one another as though we
could never be torn asunder nor our lips ever parted.
At last she disengaged herself from my embrace, and her tearful eyes
turned on me with a sad mute gaze. How pale thou art! she said; and
this is all my doing. But now it is all at an end. I have kept my word.
Here I am your own wife, and never another's, though I should suffer
for it in this world, and in the next. Oh! Amadeo, why is this world so
full of wicked people; why do they sully the purest, and revile the
most sacred feelings! Why do they force us to lie, and to perjure
ourselves in the very sight of God. We must say yes, with our
lips, while our hearts say no. They have brought me to this,
that I can only choose between two sins: either to deliver myself up to
a man whom I despise, or to slink like a thief in the night to one who
in the eyes of the world can never be mine. But God metes with another
measure than these cruel and selfish people; is it not so, Amadeo? He
cannot bid me break my faith to you. He never meant our destruction. I
imprisoned in a convent, and you alone in the world, without love, or
joy. He has destined you for me, and me for you, and now I am yours for
ever. That other one dared not touch me. When we were left alone
together, I said to him: 'If you ever try to approach me, to-day or at
any other time, you will have been my murderer, for I have vowed before
God not to survive the hour in which you dare to claim your right on
me. I told you this before our marriage and you still insisted on its
accomplishment. You then carried the point, now it is my turn.'
So I left him, and shut myself up in my room till I knew that every
one in the house was asleep. Nina then brought me this disguise, and
now I am here, Amadeo! The happiness of being yours would be too great
if I had not to strive and suffer for it.
She clung to my neck and hid her glowing face on my breast. All the
ardour and passion which she had repressed with maidenly pride, and had
not even betrayed by a look, now burst forth in a sudden flame, and
threatened to set my whirling brain on fire.
When we had at last recovered our power of thought, and speech, she
told me what had occurred after my departure; the intrigues of her
step-mother, the helpless efforts of her father to defend himself, and
his child, against the ascendency of the clergy; her useless attempts
to disarm and confound her enemy by the most unshaken sincerity. At
last, when she perceived that they would mercilessly separate her from
her father, and shut her up in a distant convent, from whence no letter
from her could reach me, she suddenly determined on apparent submission
to every thing for the sake of saving herself and me. And, in fact,
they only desired an outward victory. What do they care whether my soul
is lost or not, she continued. Did they ever blame the woman who
bears my poor father's name for indulging all her passions freely? They
are all of them the slaves of appearances, and they cannot bear to look
truth in the face, for it would put them to confusion. Oh! Amadeo, how
often did I form the resolution to fly to you, and then declare openly
that I am your wife, and shall be so to eternity. But you do not know
how powerful they are. Even if we started this very moment, and
travelled day and night they would overtake us, and that would be
certain death to you. Then my poor dear father also, he would not
survive the separation, and such a one, from me. But do not grieve my
love, we are now united and those who know our secret are faithful.
Pardon me, for not telling you of my coming in my note of this morning,
but I knew not for certain whether I should be able to accomplish my
plan, or whether that wretch might not strike me to the ground on my
refusal to acknowledge him as my master. And if I then had staid away,
should you not have suffered greater tortures than in this uncertainty?
You knew that I had pledged myself to you, and that I would keep my
word; that I would be faithful to you, and never belong to any man but
you.I will return to you every night. The porter who is an honest
fellow, hates his present master, but would have died for you.
She noticed that in spite of my happiness; my wife sitting on my
knee, that I was silent and thoughtful. Why are you so sad? she
That we must obtain by fraud what is ours by right, I replied.
That we must hide in darkness, and mystery as if we committed a crime
in keeping our vows!
Do not think of that, she said, and passed her hand across my
forehead. The future is unknown to us; we are only certain of the
present hour, and of our own hearts. Why should we not thank God for
it. He surely knows that it is best so. Come now; I am not going to sit
here as your lady love with my hands folded, and leave it to others to
minister to you. You must be half famished, and I too am hungry. I have
tasted nothing since last night. I remember perfectly where Fabio keeps
his provisions. I will go and prepare a wedding feast which will be
more joyful than the last one was, where I saw that every drop of wine
was turned to gall for my poor father.
She rose, and hastened to the cellar, and larder. In the meantime I
pushed a small table into the middle of the room, and lighted up all
the bits of candle which remained in the dusty chandeliers. When she
returned with the plates and glasses, she stopped on the threshold with
a joyful exclamation. Then she laid the table and filled the glasses
with her own hands from the heavy wicker bottle. Come, she said, let
us drink to our future happiness, if your sister were but here I should
desire no other wedding banquet. After drinking this toast, she waited
on me, helping me to the cold meat and olives, persuading me to eat,
and doing the honours like a good little housewife. To please her I
swallowed some morsels though I felt no hunger. She too would hardly
take anything till I began to feed her like a child holding the
choicest morsels to her lips, then she laughingly opened them and
complied with my request.
Now I have had enough, she said, rising. I must provide a better
couch for you than these cushions on the floor. Fabio never thinks
about such things. An old soldier like him hardly perceives whether he
is lying on the bare ground or on a feather-bed. To be sure the wisest
thing for you will be to take possession of my little room upstairs,
instead of remaining here where any body can look in, and betray you.
She took my arm and conducted me thither after we had put out all the
lights. As we passed Fabio's closet, I stopped to listen if he moved.
Don't mind him, she whispered; he knows that I am here. A short
while ago, when I fetched the wine, I met him coming from the garden,
where he had plucked the fruit for our wedding feast. He was nearly
beside himself with joy on seeing me; he wept, and kissed my hands. Now
he does not appear, for fear of disturbing us.
The day had not dawned when she reminded me that we must part. I
insisted on accompanying her back to town, and when she saw the
disguise in which I had ventured out the day before, she consented. She
pulled her broad brimmed hat over her eyes and I wrapped her up in her
large cloak. We then left the house, and proceeded in the direction of
the town. We met not a soulno lights burned either in the houses or
in the streetsthe morning star sparkled alone in the pale azure of
the sky. A cool breeze came from the North. We hardly spoke a word
during our walk. My heart was oppressed, and she too when the moment of
separation approached, seemed to feel, for the first time, how
unnatural was our position. When we reached the house, she clasped me
in her arms with tears in her eyes and held me so for a while before
giving the appointed signal to the porter. Expect me to-morrow, she
whispered, and disengaging herself from my neck she glided through the
half open door, and I was once more alone in the darkness.
A bitter feeling came over me. So I had to resign her again, my own,
my bride, who had vowed to belong to no one but me; to leave her at the
threshold of a stranger's house, whose door was for ever closed to me.
Here I had to stand at the entrance, and if the master of the house
appeared, should have to hide in a corner, as a thief from the bailiff.
What would be the end of it? Would a life of so full of bye ways and
mysteries be endurable. Can that be called happiness which can only be
obtained at the price of daily torment, and anxiety?
Before I reached the villa I had firmly resolved to put an end to
this insufferable position. From that moment I felt easy at heart, and
as I walked along the deserted road, could fully rejoice in the
unalloyed happiness which had been granted me, and I considered in its
minutest details how the plan which was to unite us for ever was to be
In the garden of the villa I found the old man at work. I apprized
him of my scheme, and though he thought the execution of it would be
more difficult than I expected, he willingly agreed to do all I asked
of him, and this was no slight sacrifice at his age, the more so that
he would have to part with his daughter. But where Bicetta's happiness
was concerned, he had no will of his own.
We both spent the day in preparations. More than once, while taking
our measures, I had occasion to admire the circumspection, and the
foresight of the old soldier. During the afternoon I slept, and at ten
o'clock at night, I was stationed at the gate of the town through which
she had to come. We had not settled that I was to meet her, so when I
stepped out of my lurking place, she started back but instantly
recognizing me as I pushed back my hat she gave me her still trembling
hand, from underneath her cloak. So we walked along gazing at each
other in silence, for we met several tardy wayfarers who were returning
to the town, and feared to awaken their suspicion should they hear a
soft woman's voice underneath that broad brimmed hat only when we had
reached the villa, and its comfortable hall where lights were burning,
and a rustic meal had been prepared for us by Fabio, she again talked
freely. She told me how she had passed the day, how long and dreary it
had appeared to her. Richino had treated her with a rigid coldness,
hoping to mortify her by it, and to force her to make some advances,
but before the world, her parents and their numberless visitors, he had
assumed the manners of a happy young husband. In the evening however,
he had bowed to her without a word, and had withdrawn to his apartment.
This cannot last, I suddenly said, after a long silence; It is as
unworthy of you, as it is of me. We must put an end to it. Your
decision alone is wanting. Mine is already formed.
Amadeo! she exclaimed, and her eyes turned towards me with a
wondering look. What can you mean? Separation! Oh death rather than
No, I replied, fear not; I do not demand what is impossible to me
as well as to you. Leave thee my wife, my second self, truly that would
be death! But our present existence, is it not worse than death? A life
which must in time, kill the soul's freedom and dignity, and will
sooner or later cause our ruin. But even if it did succeed, which is
most improbable, if I could remain here concealed year after year, in
what a wretched state should I not drag through the weary days; idle
and solitary cut off from all society but yours; condemned to an
aimless, useless life, consumed by the torture of an obscure, and
worthless existence. But even if, in more favourable circumstances, I
could openly come to your horse as your declared lover I would not do
it; I could not brook this state of ambiguity and falsehood. I must be
able to acknowledge my feelings, and openly take possession of what is
mine. Do you now understand me my darling?
She nodded, and her eyes were pensively fixed on the ground.I
know how painful it will be for you, I continued, and took her cold
and lifeless hand in mine, You feel that you must leave your father,
perhaps for ever, if he cannot summon courage enough to follow us; You
must leave your country, and all that is dear to you, and has taken
root in your heart from childhood upwards. You can no longer kneel in
the church on the same spot where your mother once prayedYou dread
the strange country all the more, that you will have to enter it as a
fugitive, and not with the rejoicings and honours due to a bride. You
imagine that you would not dare to lift up your eyes to those who love
you. Is it not so Beatrice?
She again nodded; then she looked up to me and said, I will bear
all if it can make you happy.
My own love, I resumed clasping her in my arms; You have full
confidence in me, have you not? You believe that I have carefully
considered what I owe to you, and to myself, and that I would not
shrink from any sacrifice so long as my honour is not concerned, and
that it does not lower me in your eyes. There is but one way of escape
possible from all the snares and fetters which our enemies have thrown
around us. You said truly that flight with the swiftest horses would
not save us: no, we must set about it with more caution, if we do not
wish to be overtaken. I have spoken to Fabio, he knows all the ways to
Ancona as thoroughly as he knows this garden. He will be our guide. We
shall travel on foot, dressed as peasants and only at night, once
there, we shall embark for Venice. Fabio too leaves all that is dear
and valuable to him, only for our sakes, in order that he may assist us
to recover our freedom and happiness. Are you courageous enough
Beatrice? Do you feel strong enough to undertake this journey at your
I will follow you all over the world, she said, and pressed my
hand; You shall have no cause to complain; I can do all you expect of
I embraced her with great emotion. Come, then, I said; let us take
some food to strengthen us for the journey.
To-night Amadeo? I implore you with all my heart, ask anything of
me, but that I should leave this without once more seeing my poor
father, without the sacred memorials of my mother which I keep at home.
I promise you that nothing shall alter my resolution, not a tear shall
betray me, when I kiss my father for the last time. I feel that without
that, without bidding him at least a mute farewell I should find no
rest, and the longing for home would kill me. As yet, we risk nothing.
No one knows that you are here, no one sees me coming, or going. I
shall not even acquaint Nina with our plan. To-morrow evening when I
leave my home, it shall be for ever; that I promise you. Grant me only
these few hours, and then, I shall be as entirely yours, as if I had
fallen from heaven into your arms, and had no other home than your
heart. She looked at me with an imploring expression which I could not
resist, although I felt uneasy at the slightest delay. I gave way to
her entreaties, and her gaiety then returned, and soon banished every
care from my mind. We supped together; Fabio waited on us, and not a
word more was said of our project. I then sent Fabio to his bed, and
brought in the dessert myself, and a bottle of sweet wine which she
liked to drink only a thimble full of, at a time, but even a few drops
of it sufficed to give her pale cheeks a rosy tint. Who could have seen
us, joyous as we were together, and have believed that we had obtained
these brief hours of happiness by stealth, and were enjoying them
She then drew me into the garden. Let me bid farewell to all my
friends, to the pomegranate, the orange trees, the fountain. To-morrow
there will not be time for it. We walked arm in arm into the garden.
She drank once more from the marble fountain, put a few oranges in her
pocket, and plucked a spray from the pomegranate. These must go with
me, she observed, in your home in the north, these things do not
grow. I shall soon learn to do without them. And this
shuttlecock,-she picked it up as she saw it lying forgotten in the
grass, I will not leave behind. Our children, she whispered, and drew
close to me, shall play with it, and you will tell them how you
exchanged your heart for one of these feathery balls.
We had now reached the place where I had once looked over the wall.
There underneath the spreading branches of the trees, the sward had
remained fresh, and soft, and the air was pure, and free from dust.
Let us pass the remainder of the night here, I said, I will bring
some cushions from the house. I returned and brought a few, and also a
cloak for Beatrice. She wrapped herself up in it and soon slept calmly,
but it was long before I could find repose. I listened to her gentle
breathing, and gazed at her sweet face, with the closed eyes up-turned
to the grey sky. She murmured some indistinct words in a dream. I could
not understand them, but their soft tone still lingers in my ear.
At last I too slept; I know not for how many hours. When I awoke,
the day had not yet dawned, but she was gone. A sudden fear seized me,
why had she left me? I jumped up to ascertain whether Fabio, at least,
had accompanied her. Hardly had I taken a few steps, when I heard the
bell at the garden gate pulled violently. In that moment a fearful
foreboding came over me, and forgetting all prudence, I dashed across
the garden, and round the house towards the gate. Nevertheless old
Fabio had reached it before me, and when I turned the corner, I saw him
trying to lift up a dark figure which had sunk down at the entrance of
Beatrice! I cried and rushed to the spot. When I reached it, she
just opened her eyes again, and supported by Fabio, she turned towards
me with a look of intense anguish and despair, but directly she tried
to smile again. It is nothing Amadeo, she gasped out with a great
effort, her hand pressed to her heart. Do not be alarmed, I do not
feel much pain. Are you vexed that I left, without awaking you? You
slept so quietly, and I thought there was no danger. How could he have
discovered that you were concealed here? Yes to be sure, I forgot to
tell you what Richino said to me yesterday at table; he spoke in French
to prevent the people from understanding him: 'Do you believe in
ghosts, Madame? If such things exist, they are welcome to roam about,
but if living creatures take it into their heads to play the
revenants, upon my honour, I will take good care that they are soon
turned into real phantoms.'
I fancied that these were only idle words. Alas, Amadeo, now I
cannot travel with you; you will have to go alone, and in this very
hour. Those two who were on the watch outside the garden gate,
certainly expected you to pass. They called to me when I was ten paces
distant from the gate, and asked for my name. I gave no answer, so they
did what had been ordered them. They did not succeed however; see I can
still walk and even speak. Leave me here and do not be uneasy on my
account. I shall not die. When I hear that you are in safety then I
will follow you. Go my darling husbandbefore the break of dayGive
me your handkiss me.
Her voice grew faint; her knees could no longer support her. We
carried her, insensible, into the hall, and laid her on a low couch.
When we pushed back her cloak, and opened her coat, the blood streamed
over our hands. I bent over her; she heaved a deep sigh, looked at me
once again, and sunk back to rise no more.
Let me pass over that morning in silence.
When the sun shone through the glass door, it found me still
kneeling beside her couch, and gazing on her pale face. Old Fabio
crouched in a corner, and sobbed.
Suddenly we heard her name called from without. Nina rushed in, and
with a loud cry, threw herself on the corpse. By her demeanour it
seemed as if she had been struck a deadly blow. Then in the midst of
her convulsive sorrow, she roused herself, and turning me she said,
You must escape; I hastened hither to caution you and Beatrice. A
short while ago Richino entered her bedroom and sought her. I know now
for what reason; it was to tell her that the man she loved was dead. He
hardly expected it to end as it has done. When he perceived that she
was not in her room, he turned pale as death, and went away. But
believe me, he will come to seek her here, and if he finds those
dreadful marks on the pathlisten! I hear footsteps approachingthey
are his. Fly! they forebode death to you. I replied not, but rose and
stood by the couch of my dead wife.
The door opened and he entered ...
Whatever he had meant to say, the sight before him turned him to
stone. He staggered back, and clung to the door post for support. His
cadaverous face was distorted by helpless horror. I saw that he
struggled in vain for breath.
What do you seek here? I said at last. You hoped to find me lying
covered with blood; your servants did your bidding promptly, but
unfortunately they mistook the person. So you are disappointed of your
malignant pleasure. You could not crown your deed by awakening this
unhappy woman, of whose heart not a particle was yours, with the
tidings that her lover was dead, and would never return. What hinders
me, I continued, approaching him, and clenching my hands with rage,
and maddening pain. What hinders me from crushing you beneath my feet,
and casting you out of the house, so that you should no longer pollute
with your breath this sacred dwelling of the dead. If you had loved
her, miserable scoundrel, if you could extenuate your deed by a human
passionbut you would have taken possession of her, you would have
abased this noble soul to your own level, only for the sake of
gratifying your low desires, and because you were incited by others.
Go, I say, hide your face in eternal darkness. Assassin! I swear that
if you dare to stretch out your hand towards the dead, or cast your
eyes on her once again, I will tear you to pieces with my own hands!
Away with you!
In the midst of this outburst of my fury, I was silenced by the
expression of his face, on which an expression of intense pain
appeared. It seemed as if the ground reeled underneath him, as if it
were going to burst asunder and devour him. He did not look at any one;
he tried to raise his head, but sank down on the threshold completely
overcome and remained so for several minutes. I had to avert a sort of
pity, which I should have deemed a crime. When I had regained
sufficient composure to say a few last words to him, I saw him totter
like a drunken man towards the gate, and leave the garden.
I then allowed Nina to take off Beatrice's man's clothes, and to
dress her in the same white gown in which I had first seen her. There
she lay smiling peacefully amongst the flowers which her faithful
attendant had brought from the garden and the conservatory, and so she
remained during the day. Nina had just concluded this last act of
friendship, when we heard a carriage approach the gate. Her father sat
in it, pale, and with an insane smile hovering on his withered lips.
Fabio, with scalding tears, assisted him to leave the carriage, and led
him into the hall. When he saw his child surrounded by the apparel of
death he dropped silently on his knees, and pressed his forehead on her
folded hands. When at last we tried to raise him, we found that a
paralysis of the heart had compassionately united him to his darling.
In the following night we buried them both. No one was present but
Fabio, and Nina. Don Vigilio pronounced the benediction on the dead. He
told me afterwards that Richino had appointed it so, and had given
orders that all my requests were to be complied with as if I were
master of the house. He had received no visitors, and after a violent
scene with his mother-in-law, had on the same day left Bologna for
The widow of the General entered a convent for the time of her
mourning. I for my part when the earth had closed over the two coffins,
took horse, and before the day had dawned was on my way to Florence.
A year after, I read in the papers that the widow of the General had
married the young count, her faithful admirer. But though I often
returned to Bologna to visit the grave of my wife I never saw either of