I Promessi Sposi, by Alessandro Manzoni

Chapter 13

THE UNFORTUNATE superintendent was at this moment digesting a poor and scanty dinner, unwillingly eaten with a little stale bread, and awaiting, with much suspense, the termination of this storm, far from suspecting that it was about to fall with such violence upon his own head. Some benevolent person preceded the crowd in urging haste, and entered the house to warn him of his pressing danger. The servants, already attracted to the door by the noise, were looking with much alarm up the street, in the direction of the approaching tumult. While listening to the warning, the vanguard came in sight; they ran in haste and terror to inform their master, and while he was deliberating whether he should fly, and how he should accomplish it, some one else arrived to tell him there was no longer time for flight. Scarcely was there time for the servants to secure the door. They, however, barred and locked it, and then ran to fasten the windows, as when a violent storm is threatening, and the hail is expected to come down every moment. The increasing howls of the people, falling like a thunderclap, resounded through the empty yard; every corner of the house re-echoed it: and in the midst of the tremendous and mingled uproar, were heard, loudly and repeatedly, the blows of stones upon the door.

‘The superintendent! The tyrant! The fellow who would starve us! We’ll have him, dead or alive!’

The poor man wandered from room to room, pale and almost breathless with terror, striking his hands together, commending himself to God, and imploring his servants to stand firm, and find him some way of making his escape. But how, and where? He ascended to the garret, and there, through an aperture between the ceiling and the tiles, looked anxiously into the street, and saw it swarming with the enraged populace; more terrified than ever, he then withdrew to seek the most secure and secret hiding-place he could find. Here he crouched down and listened whether the awful burst of fury would ever subside, and the tumult ever abate; but hearing that the uproar rather became more savage and outrageous, and the blows against the door more rapidly repeated, his heart sank within him, and he hastily stopped his ears. Then, as if beside himself, gnashing his teeth and distorting his countenance, he impetuously extended his arms, and shook his fists, as if he would keep the door secure in spite of all the pushes and blows. At last, in absolute despair, he sank down upon the floor, and remained terrified and almost insensible, expecting his death.

Renzo found himself this time in the thickest of the confusion, not now carried there by the throng, but by his own deliberate will. At the first proposal of blood-shedding, he felt his own curdle within him; as to the plundering, he had not exactly determined whether, in this instance, it were right or wrong; but the idea of murder aroused in him immediate and unfeigned horror. And although, by that fatal submission of excited minds to the excited affirmations of the many, he felt as fully persuaded that the superintendent was an oppressive villain, as if he had known, with certainty and minuteness, all that the unhappy man had done, omitted, and thought; yet he had advanced among the foremost, with a determined intention of doing his best to save him. With this resolution, he had arrived close to the door which was assailed in a hundred ways. Some, with flints, were hammering at the nails of the lock to break it open; others, with stakes, chisels, and hammers, set to work with more method and regularity. Others, again, with sharp stones, blunted knives, broken pieces of iron, nails, and even their finger-nails, if they had nothing else, pulled down the plaster and defaced the walls, and laboured hard to loosen the bricks by degrees, so as to make a breach. Those who could not lend a hand, encouraged the others by their cries; but, at the same time, by the pressure of their persons they contributed to impede the work already considerably obstructed by the disorderly contentions of the workers: for, by the favour of Heaven, it sometimes happens in evil undertakings, as too often in good, that the most ardent abettors of a work become its greatest impediments.

The first magistrates who had notice of the insurrection immediately sent off to the commander of the castle, which then bore the name of Porta Giovia, for the assistance of some troops; and he quickly despatched a band of men. But what with the information, and the orders, and the assembling, and getting on their way, and their march, the troops did not arrive till the house was completely surrounded by an immense army of besiegers and they, therefore, halted at a sufficient distance from it, at the extremity of the crowd. The officer who commanded them knew not what course to pursue. Here was nothing but an assembly of idle and unarmed people, of every age and both sexes. On orders being given to disperse and make way, they replied by a deep and prolonged murmur; but no one moved. To fire down upon the crowd seemed to the officer not only a cruel, but a dangerous, course, which, while it offended the less formidable, would irritate the more violent: beside, he had received no such instructions. To push through this first assembly, overthrow them right and left, and go forward to carry war where it was given, would have been the best; but how to succeed was the point. Who knew whether the soldiers would be able to proceed, united and in order? For if, instead of breaking through the crowd, they should be routed on entering, they would be left to the mercy of the people, after having exasperated them. The irresolution of the commander, and the inactivity of the soldiers, appeared, whether justly or not, to proceed from fear. Those who stood next to them contented themselves with looking them in the face with an air, as the Milanese say, of I-don’t-care-for-you; those who stood a little farther off, could not refrain from provoking them, by making faces at them, and by cries of mockery; farther on, few knew or cared who was there; the spoilers continued to batter the wall, without any other thought than of succeeding quickly in their undertaking; the spectators ceased not to animate them with shouts.

Amongst these appeared one, who was himself a spectacle, an old and half-starved man, who, rolling about two sunken and fiery eyes, composing his wrinkled face to a smile of diabolical complacency, and with his hands raised above his infamous, hoary head, was brandishing in the air a hammer, a rope, and four large nails, with which he said he meant to nail the vicar to the posts of his own door, alive as he was.

‘Fie upon you! for shame!’ burst forth from Renzo, horrified at such words, and at the sight of so many faces betokening approbation of them; at the same time encouraged by seeing others, who, although silent, betrayed in their countenances the same horror that he felt. ‘For shame! Would you take the executioner’s business out of his hand? Murder a Christian! How can you expect that God will give us food, if we do such wicked things? He will send us thunder-bolts instead of bread!”

‘Ah, dog! traitor to his country!’ cried one of those who could hear, in the uproar, these sacred words, turning to Renzo, with a diabolical countenance. ‘Wait, wait! He is a servant of the superintendent’s, dressed like a peasant; he is a spy; give it him! give it him!’ A hundred voices echoed the cry. ‘What is it? where is he? who is he? — A servant of the superintendent! — A spy! — The superintendent disguised as a peasant, and making his escape! — Where is he? where is he? give it him! give it him!’

Renzo became dumb, shrank into a mere nothing, and endeavoured to make his escape; some of his neighbours helped him to conceal himself, and, by louder and different cries, attempted to drown these adverse and homicidal shouts. But what was of more use to him than anything else, was a cry of ‘Make way, make way!’ which was heard close at hand: ‘Make way! here is help: make way; ho, hey!’

What was it? It was a long ladder, that some persons were bringing to rear against the house, so as to gain an entrance through one of the windows. But by great good fortune this means, which would have rendered the thing easy, was not, in itself, so easy of execution. The bearers, who at each end, and here and there at intervals, supported it, pushed it about and impeded by the crowd, reeled to and fro like waves; one, with his head between two steps and the sides resting on his shoulders, groaned beneath the weight, as under a galling yoke; another was separated from his burden by a violent push; the abandoned machine bruised heads, shoulders, and arms: and the reader must imagine the complaints and murmurs of those who thus suffered. Others, raising the dead weight with their hands, crept underneath it, and carried it on their backs, crying, ‘It is our turn; let us go!’ The fatal machine advanced by bounds and exchanges — now straightforward, now obliquely. It came, however, in time to distract and divert the attention of Renzo’s persecutors, and he profited by this confusion within confusion; creeping quietly along at first, and then elbowing his way as well as he could, he withdrew from the post where he found himself in such a perilous situation, with the intention of making the best of his escape from the tumult, and of going, in real earnest, to find or to wait for Father Bonaventura.

All on a sudden, a movement, begun at one extremity, extended itself through the crowd, and a cry was echoed from mouth to mouth, in chorus: ‘Ferrer! Ferrer!’ Surprise, expressions of favour or contempt, joy and anger, burst forth wherever the name was heard: some echoed it, some tried to drown it; some affirmed, some denied, some blessed, some cursed.

‘Is Ferrer here? — It isn’t true, it isn’t true! — Yes, yes! long live Ferrer; he who gives bread at a low price! — No, no! — He’s here, he’s here, in his carriage. — What is this fellow going to do? Why does he meddle in it? We don’t want anybody! — Ferrer! long live Ferrer! the friend of poor people! he’s come to take the superintendent to prison. — No, no: we will get justice ourselves: back, back! — Yes, yes! Ferrer! let Ferrer come! off with the superintendent to prison!’

And everybody, standing on tiptoe, turned towards the part where the unexpected new arrival was announced. But everybody rising, they saw neither more nor less than if they had all remained standing as they were; yet so it was: all arose.

In fact, at the extremity of the crowd, on the opposite side to where the soldiers were stationed, Antonio Ferrer, the high chancellor, was approaching in his carriage; feeling conscious, probably, that by his mistakes and obstinacy, he was the cause, or, at any rate, the occasion, of this outbreak, he now came to try and allay it, and to avert, at least, the most terrible and irreparable effects: he came, in short, to employ worthily a popularity unworthily acquired.

In popular tumults there is always a certain number of men, who, either from overheated passions, or from fanatical persuasion, or from wicked designs, or from an execrable love of destruction, do all they can to push matters to the worst; they propose or send the most inhuman advice, and fan the flame whenever it seems to be sinking: nothing is ever too much for them, and they wish for nothing so much as that the tumult should have neither limits nor end. But, by way of counterpoise, there is always a certain number of very different men, who, perhaps, with equal ardour and equal perseverance, are aiming at a contrary effect: some influenced by friendship or partiality for the threatened objects; others, without further impulse than that of a pious and spontaneous horror of bloodshed and atrocious deeds. Heaven blesses such. In each of these two opposite parties, even without antecedent concert, conformity of inclination creates an instantaneous agreement in operation. Those who make up the mass, and almost the materials of the tumult besides, are a mixed body of men, who, more or less, by infinite gradations, hold to one or the other extreme: partly incensed, partly knavish, a little inclined to a sort of justice, according to their idea of the word, a little desirous of witnessing some grand act of villainy; prone to ferocity or compassion, to adoration or execration, according as opportunities present themselves of indulging to the full one or other of these sentiments; craving every moment to know, to believe, some gross absurdity or improbability, and longing to shout, applaud, or revile in somebody’s train. ‘Long live,’ and ‘Down with,’ are the words most readily uttered; and he who has succeeded in persuading them that such an one does not deserve to be quartered, has need of very few words to convince them that he deserves to be carried in triumph: actors, spectators, instruments, obstacles, whichever way the wind blows; ready even to be silent, when there is no longer any one to give them the word; to desist, when instigators fail; to disperse, when many concordant and uncontradicted voices have pronounced, ‘Let us go;’ and to return to their own homes, demanding of each other — What has happened? Since, however, this body has, hence, the greatest power, nay, is, in fact, the power itself; so, each of the two active parties uses every endeavour to bring it to its own side, to engross its services: they are, as it were, two adverse spirits, struggling which shall get possession of, and animate, this huge body. It depends upon which side can diffuse a cry the most apt to excite the passions, and direct their motions in favour of its own schemes; can most seasonably find information which will arouse or allay their indignation, and excite either their terror or their hopes; and can give the word, which, repeated more and more vehemently, will at once express, attest, and create the vote of the majority in favour of one or the other party.

All these remarks are intended as an introduction to the information that, in the struggle of the two parties who were contending for the suffrages of the populace crowded around the house of the superintendent, the appearance of Antonio Ferrer instantly gave a great advantage to the more moderate side, which had evidently been kept in awe, and, had the succour been a little longer delayed, would have had neither power nor scope for combat. This person was acceptable to the multitude on account of the tariff of his own appointment, which had been so favourable to purchasers, and also for his heroic resistance to every argument on the contrary side. Minds already thus biased were now more than ever captivated by the bold confidence of the old man, who, without guards or retinue, ventured thus to seek and confront an angry and ungoverned multitude. The announcement also that he came to take the superintendent prisoner produced a wonderful effect: so that the fury entertained towards the unfortunate man, which would have been rendered more violent, whoever had come to oppose it without making any concessions, was now, with this promise of satisfaction, and, to use a Milanese expression, with this bone in their mouth, a little allayed, and made way for other and far different sentiments which pervaded the minds of the greater part of the crowd.

The favourers of peace, having recovered their breath, seconded Ferrer in a hundred ways: those who were next to him, by exciting and re-exciting the cries of general applause by their own, and endeavouring at the same time to repulse the people so as to make a clear passage for the carriage; the others, by applauding, repeating, and spreading his words, or what appeared to them the best he could utter by silencing the furious and obstinate, and turning against them the new passions of the fickle assembly. ‘Who is there that won’t say, “Long live Ferrer?” Don’t you wish bread to be sold cheap, eh? They are all rascals who don’t wish for justice like Christians: they want to make as much noise as they can, to let the vicar escape. To prison with the vicar! Long live Ferrer! Make room for Ferrer!’ As those who talked in this strain continued to increase, the courage of the opposite party rapidly cooled; so that the former proceeded from reprimands so far as to lay hands upon the demolishers, to repulse them, and even to snatch the weapons from their grasp. These grumbled, threatened, and endeavoured to regain their implements; but the cause of blood had given way, and the predominating cries were —‘Prison! Justice! Ferrer!’ After a little struggle, they were driven back: the others possessed themselves of the door, both to defend it from further assaults, and to secure access for Ferrer; and some of them, calling to those within (apertures for such a purpose were not wanting) informed them of the assistance that had arrived, and bid them get the superintendent ready, ‘to go directly . . . to prison, ehem, do you hear!’

‘Is this the Ferrer who helps to make out proclamations?’ demanded our friend, Renzo, of a new neighbour, remembering the Vidit Ferrer that the doctor had pointed out to him at the bottom of one of these edicts, and which he had resounded so perseveringly in his ears.

‘Yes; the high chancellor,’ was the reply.

‘He is a worthy man, isn’t he?’

‘More than that! it is he who fixed bread at a low price; and they wouldn’t have it so; and now he is come to take the superintendent prisoner, who has not dealt justice to us.’

It is unnecessary to say that Renzo was instantly for Ferrer. He wished to get a sight of him directly, but this was no easy matter; yet, with the help of sundry breastings and elbowings, like a true Alpine, he succeeded in forcing a passage and reaching the foremost ranks next to the side of the carriage.

The vehicle had proceeded a little way into the crowd, and was at this moment at a stand-still, by one of those inevitable impediments so frequent in a journey of this sort. The aged Ferrer presented himself now at one window of the carriage, now at another with a countenance full of humility, affability, and benevolence — a countenance which he had always reserved, perchance he should ever have an interview with Don Filippo IV.; but he was compelled to display it also on this occasion. He talked too; but the noise and murmur of so many voices, and the Long lives which were addressed to him, allowed only few of his words to be heard. He therefore had recourse to gestures, now laying his fingers on his lips to receive a kiss, which his hands, on quickly extending them, distributed right and left, as an acknowledgment of thanks for these public demonstrations of kindness; now spreading them and waving them slowly outside the windows to beg a little room; now politely lowering them to request a moment’s silence. When he had partly succeeded in obtaining it, the nearest to the carriage heard and repeated his words: ‘Bread, abundance: I come to give you justice: a little room, if you please.’ Then overcome, and, as it were, smothered with the buzzing of so many voices, the sight of so many crowded faces, and the consciousness of so many eyes fixed upon him, he drew back for a moment, puffed out his cheeks, sent forth a long-drawn breath, and said to himself, Por mi vida, que de gente!1

‘Long live Ferrer! Don’t be afraid. You are a worthy man. Bread, bread!’

‘Yes: bread, bread,’ replied Ferrer; ‘abundance; I promise you,’ and he laid his hand on his heart. ‘A little room,’ added he, in his loudest voice: ‘I am coming to take him to prison, and give him just punishment:’ continuing, in an under-tone, ‘si està culpable.’2 Then bending forward towards the coachman, he said, hastily, ‘Adelante, Pedro, si puedes.’3

The driver himself also smiled with gracious condescension on the multitudes, as if he were some great personage; and, with ineffable politeness, waved his whip slowly to the right and left, to beg his incommodious neighbours to restrain themselves, and retire a little on either side. ‘Be good enough, gentlemen,’ said he, at last, ‘to make a little room, a very little; just enough to let us pass.’

The most active and benevolent now exerted themselves to make the passage so courteously requested; some before the horses made the people retire by civil words, by putting their hands on their breasts, and by sundry gentle pushes: ‘There, there, a little room, gentlemen.’ Others pursued the same plan at the sides of the carriage, so that it might proceed without crushing toes, or infringing upon mustachios; for, besides injury to others, these accidents would expose the reputation of Antonio Ferrer to great risk.

After having stood a few moments admiring the behaviour of the old man, who, though agitated by perplexity and overcome with fatigue, was yet animated with solicitude, and adorned, so to say, with the hope of rescuing a fellow-creature from mortal anguish, Renzo put aside every thought of going away, and resolved to lend a hand to Ferrer, and not to leave him until he had obtained his purpose. No sooner said than done; he joined with the rest in endeavouring to clear a passage, and certainly was not among the least efficient. A space was cleared: ‘Now come forward,’ said more than one to the coachman, retiring or going before to make room further on. ‘Adelante, presto, con juicio,’4said his master, and the carriage moved on. Ferrer, in the midst of salutations which he lavished at random on the multitude, returned many particular acknowledgments with a smile of marked notice, to those who he saw interesting themselves for him; and of these smiles more than one fell to Renzo’s share, who indeed merited them, and rendered more assistance to the high chancellor that day than the bravest of his secretaries could have done. The young mountaineer, delighted with these marks of distinction, almost fancied he had made acquaintance with Antonio Ferrer.

The carriage, once more on its way, continued to advance, more or less slowly, and not without some further trifling delays. The distance to be traversed was not perhaps above a stone’s throw; but with respect to the time it occupied, it might have appeared a little journey even to one who was not in such urgent haste as Ferrer. The crowds moved onward, before, behind, and on each side of the carriage, like the mighty billows around a vessel advancing through the midst of a storm. The noise was more shrill, more discordant, more stunning, even than the whistling and howling of a storm itself. Ferrer, looking out first at one side and then at the other, beckoning and making all sorts of gestures to the people, endeavoured to catch something to which he might accommodate his replies; he tried as well as he could to hold a little dialogue with this crowd of friends; but it was a difficult task, the most difficult, perhaps, that he had yet met with during so many years of his high chancellorship. From time to time, however, a single word, or occasionally some broken sentence, repeated by a group in his passage, made itself heard, as the report of a large squib is heard above the continued crackling and whizzing of a display of fireworks. Now endeavouring to give a satisfactory answer to these cries, now loudly ejaculating the words that he knew would be most acceptable, or that some instant necessity seemed to require, he, too, continued to talk the whole way. ‘Yes, gentlemen; bread, abundance — I will conduct him to prison: he shall be punished —si està culpable. Yes, yes: I will command: bread at a low price. A si es . . . . So it is, I mean to say: the King our master would not wish such faithful subjects to suffer from hunger. Ox! ox! guardaos: take care we do not hurt you, gentlemen. Pedro, adelante, con juicio. Plenty, plenty! A little room, for pity’s sake. Bread, bread. To prison, to prison. What?’ then demanded he of one who had thrust half his body through the window to shout in his ear some advice or petition or applause, or whatever it might be. But he, without having time to hear the ‘what?’ was forcibly pulled back by one who saw him on the point of being run over by the wheels. With such speeches and replies, amongst incessant acclamations, and some few grumbles of opposition, which were distinguishable here and there, but were quickly silenced, Ferrer at last reached the house, principally by the aid of these good auxiliaries.

The rest, who, as we have before related, were already here with the same good intentions, had in the mean while laboured to make and maintain a clear space. They begged, exhorted, threatened; and stamping, trampling, and pacing up and down, with that increased ardour and renewed strength which the near approach of a desired result usually excites, had succeeded in dividing the crowd into two, and then in repressing the two parties, so that when the carriage stopped before the door, there was left between it and the house a small empty space. Renzo, who, by acting a little both as a scout and guide, had arrived with the carriage, managed to place himself in one of the two frontiers of worthy people, who served at once both as wings to the carriage, and as a rampart to the too eager crowd of gazing by-standers. And helping to restrain one of these with his own powerful shoulders, he was also conveniently placed for seeing.

Ferrer drew a long deep breath on perceiving this small open space, and the door still shut. ‘Shut,’ here means not open; for, as to the rest, the hinges were almost wrenched out of the pillars; the door-posts shivered to pieces, crushed, forced, and dissevered; and through a large hole in the door might be seen a piece of a chain, twisted, bent, and almost broken in two, which, if we may say so, still held them together. Some kind-hearted person had placed himself at this opening to call to those within; another ran to let down the steps of the carriage: the old man rose, put out his head, and laying his right hand on the arm of this worthy assistant, came out and stood on the top step.

The crowd on each side stretched themselves up to see him: a thousand faces, a thousand beards pressed forward; and the general curiosity and attention produced a moment of general silence. Ferrer, standing for that moment on the step, cast a glance around, saluted the people with a bow, as if from a rostrum, and laying his left hand on his heart, cried: ‘Bread and justice;’ then bold, upright, and in his robes, he descended amidst acclamations which rent the skies.

Those within had, in the mean while, opened the door, or, to speak more correctly, had finished the work of wresting out the chain, together with the already more than half-loosened staples. They made an opening, to admit so ardently-desired a guest, taking, however, great care to limit the aperture to a space that his person would occupy. ‘Quick, quick,’ said he: ‘open it wide, and let me in: and you, like brave fellows, keep back the people; don’t let them follow me, for Heaven’s sake! Make ready a passage, for by and by . . . Eh! eh! gentlemen, one moment,’ said he to those within: ‘softly with this door, let me pass: oh! my ribs: take care of my ribs. Shut it now: no, eh! eh! my gown, my gown!’ It would have remained caught in the door, if Ferrer had not dexterously withdrawn the train, which disappeared from the outside like the tail of a snake that slips into a hiding-place when pursued.

The door pushed to, and closed as it best could be, was then propped up with bars within. Outside, those who constituted them-selves Ferrer’s body-guard laboured with shoulders, arms, and cries, to keep the space clear, praying from the bottom of their hearts that he would be expeditious.

‘Be quick, be quick,’ said he, also, as he stood within the portico, to the servants who had gathered round him, and who, almost out of breath, were exclaiming: ‘Blessings on you! ah, your Excellency! oh, your Excellency! uh, your Excellency!’

‘Quick, quick,’ repeated Ferrer; ‘where is this poor man?’

The superintendent came down-stairs, half dragged along, and half carried by his servants, as white as a sheet. When he saw his kind helper, he once more breathed freely; his pulse again beat, a little life returned into his limbs, and a little colour into his cheeks: he hastened towards Ferrer, saying, ‘I am in the hands of God and your Excellency. But how shall we get out of this house? It is surrounded by the mob, who desire my death.’

‘Venga con migo usted,5 and be of good courage: my carriage is outside; quick, quick!’ And taking his hand, he led him towards the door, doing his best to encourage him: but in his heart thinking, Aqui està el busillis! Dios nos valga!6

The door opened; Ferrer led the way, followed by his companion, who, creeping along, clung to the toga of his deliverer, like a little child to its mother’s gown. Those who had kept the space clear, now raised their hands and hats so as to form a kind of net or cloud to screen the superintendent from the perilous gaze of the populace, and allow him to enter the carriage, where he concealed himself, by crouching in a corner. Ferrer then got in, and the door was shut. The people knew or guessed what had happened, and sent forth a confused shout of applauses and imprecations.

It may seem that the most difficult and hazardous part of the journey still remained to be performed; but the public desire of letting the superintendent be carried to prison, was sufficiently evident; and during the stay of the chancellor in the house, many of those who had facilitated his arrival had so busied themselves in preparing and maintaining a passage through the midst of the crowd, that on its return the carriage could proceed at a quicker pace, and without further delays. As fast as it advanced, the two crowds, repelled on both sides, fell back and mingled again behind it.

As soon as Ferrer had seated himself, he bent down, and advised the vicar to keep himself well concealed in the corner, and not show himself for Heaven’s sake; but there was no necessity for this warning. He, on the contrary, was obliged to display himself at the window, to attract and engage the attention of the multitude: and through the whole course of this drive he was occupied, as before, in making, to his changeable audience, the most lengthened and most unconnected harangue that ever was uttered; only interrupting it occasionally with some Spanish word or two, which he turned to whisper hastily in the ear of his squatting companion. ‘Yes, gentlemen, bread and justice. To the castle, to prison, under my guard. Thank you, thank you; a thousand thanks. No, no; he shall not escape! Por ablandarlos.7 It is too just; we will examine, we will see. I also wish you well, gentlemen. A severe punishment. Esto lo digo por su bien.8 A just tariff, a fair limit, and punishment to those who would starve you. Stand aside, I beg of you. — Yes, yes, I am an honest man, a friend of the people. He shall be punished. It is true, he is a rogue, a rascal. Perdone usted!9 It will go ill with him, it will go ill with him . . . Si està culpable.10 Yes, yes; we will make the bakers plough straightforward. Long live the king, and the good Milanese, his most faithful subjects! It is bad, very bad. Animo; estamos ya quasi afuera.’11

They had, in fact, traversed the thickest part of the crowd, and were now just on the point of issuing into the open street. Here Ferrer, as he began to give his lungs a little rest, met his tardy allies, those Spanish soldiers, who, towards the end, had not been quite useless, since, supported and directed by some citizen, they had assisted to disperse a few of the mob in quiet, and to keep open a passage for the final exit. On the arrival of the carriage, they made way and presented arms to the high chancellor, who returned the acknowledgment by a bow to the right and left; and to the officer who approached nearer to salute him, he said, accompanying the words with a wave of his right hand ‘Beso á usted las manos;’12which the officer took for what it really meant — You have given me fine assistance! In reply, he made another low bow, and shrugged his shoulders. It would have been appropriate enough to add, Cedant arma togæ, but Ferrer was not at that moment in a humour for quotations; and had he been, his words would have been wasted on the winds, for the officer did not understand Latin.

Pedro regained his ancient spirit in passing between these two files of puppets and these muskets so respectfully elevated. Having recovered from his consternation, he remembered who he was, and whom he was driving; and shouting ‘Ohey! ohey!’ without the addition of other complimentary speeches to the mob, now sufficiently reduced in number to allow of his venturing on such treatment, he whipped on his horses, and took the road towards the castle.

‘Levantese, levantese; estamos afuera,’13 said Ferrer to the superintendent, who, reassured by the cessation of the cries, by the rapid motion of the carriage, and by these words, uncovered and stretched himself, rose, and recovering himself a little, began to overwhelm his liberator with thanks. Ferrer, after having condoled with him on his perilous situation, and congratulated him on his safety, exclaimed, running the palm of his hand over his bald pate, ‘Ah, que dirá de esto su Excelencia,14 who is already beside himself, for this cursed Casale, that won’t surrender? Que dirá el Conde Duque,15 who starts with fear if a leaf makes more noise than usual? Que dirá el Rey nuestro señor,16 who will be sure to hear something of a great tumult? And when will it be over? Dios lo sabe.17

‘Ah! as to myself, I will meddle no more in the business,’ said the superintendent: ‘I wash my hands of it; I resign my office into your Excellency’s hands, and will go and live in a cave, or on a mountain, like a hermit, far, far away from this inhuman rabble.’

‘Usted will do what is best por el servicio de su Magestad,18 gravely replied the chancellor.

‘His Majesty does not desire my death,’ answered the superintendent. ‘In a cave, in a cave, far from these people.’ What followed afterwards upon this proposal is not recorded by our author, who, after accompanying the poor man to the castle, makes no further mention of his proceedings.

1 Upon my life, what a crowd!

2 If he be guilty.

3 Go on, Peter, if you can.

4 Forward, quickly, but carefully.

5 Come with me, sir.

6 Here is the difficult point. God help us!

7 It is to coax them.

8 I say this for your good.

9 Excuse me, sir.

10 If he be guilty.

11 Courage! we are almost out of danger.

12 Your servant, sir: literally, ‘I kiss your hand.’

13 Get up, get up; we are out of danger.

14 What will his Excellency say of this?

15 What will the Count Duke say?

16 What will the King our master say?

17 God knows.

18 You will do, sir, what is best for the service of his Majesty.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/manzoni/alessandro/i-promessi-sposi/chapter13.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:10