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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
The celebrated painter Salvator Rosa comes to Rome, and is attacked by a dangerous illness. What befalls him in this illness.
Celebrated people commonly have many ill things said of them, whether well-founded or not And no exception was made in the case of that admirable painter Salvator Rosa, whose living pictures cannot fail to impart a keen and characteristic delight to those who look upon them.
At the time that Salvator’s fame was ringing through Naples, Rome, and Tuscany — nay, through all Italy, and painters who were desirous of gaining applause were striving to imitate his peculiar and unique style, his malicious and envious rivals were laboring to spread abroad all sorts of evil reports intended to sully with ugly black stains the glorious splendor of his artistic fame. They affirmed that he had at a former period of his life belonged to a company of banditti,1 and that it was to his experiences during this lawless time that he owed all the wild, fierce, fantastically-attired figures which he introduced into his pictures, just as the gloomy fearful wildernesses of his landscapes — the selve selvagge (savage woods)— to use Dante’s expression, were faithful representations of the haunts where they lay hidden. What was worse still, they openly charged him with having been concerned in the atrocious and bloody revolt which had been set on foot by the notorious Masaniello2 in Naples. They even described the share he had taken in it, down to the minutest details.
The rumor ran that Aniello Falcone,3 the painter of battle-pieces, one of the best of Salvator’s masters, had been stung into fury and filled with bloodthirsty vengeance because the Spanish soldiers had slain one of his relatives in a hand-to-hand encounter. Without delay he leagued together a band of daring spirits, mostly young painters, put arms into their hands, and gave them the name of the “Company of Death.” And in truth this band inspired all the fear and consternation suggested by its terrible name. At all hours of the day they traversed the streets of Naples in little companies, and cut down without mercy every Spaniard whom they met. They did more — they forced their way into the holy sanctuaries, and relentlessly murdered their unfortunate foes whom terror had driven to seek refuge there. At night they gathered round their chief, the bloody-minded madman Masaniello,4 and painted him by torchlight, so that in a short time there were hundreds of these little pictures5 circulating in Naples and the neighbourhood.
This is the ferocious band of which Salvator Rosa was alleged to have been a member, working hard at butchering his fellow-men by day, and by night working just as hard at painting. The truth about him has however been stated by a celebrated art-critic, Taillasson,6 I believe. His works are characterised by defiant originality, and by fantastic energy both of conception and of execution. He delighted to study Nature, not in the lovely attractiveness of green meadows, flourishing fields, sweet-smelling groves, murmuring springs, but in the sublime as seen in towering masses of rock, in the wild sea-shore, in savage inhospitable forests; and the voices that he loved to hear were not the whisperings of the evening breeze or the musical rustle of leaves, but the roaring of the hurricane and the thunder of the cataract. To one viewing his desolate landscapes, with the strange savage figures stealthily moving about in them, here singly, there in troops, the uncomfortable thoughts arise unbidden, “Here’s where a fearful murder took place, there’s where the bloody corpse was hurled into the ravine,” etc.
Admitting all this, and even that Taillasson is further right when he maintains that Salvator’s “Plato,” nay, that even his “Holy St. John proclaiming the Advent of the Saviour in the Wilderness,” look just a little like highway robbers — admitting this, I say, it is nevertheless unjust to argue from the character of the works to the character of the artist himself, and to assume that he, who represents with lifelike fidelity what is savage and terrible, must himself have been a savage, terrible man. He who prates most about the sword is often he who wields it the worst; he who feels in the depths of his soul all the horrors of a bloody deed, so that, taking the palette or the pencil or the pen in his hand, he is able to give living form to his feelings, is often the one least capable of practising similar deeds. Enough! I don’t believe a single word of all those evil reports, by which men sought to brand the excellent Salvator an abandoned murderer and robber, and I hope that you, kindly reader, will share my opinion. Otherwise, I see grounds for fearing that you might perhaps entertain some doubts respecting what I am about to tell you of this artist; the Salvator I wish to put before you in this tale — that is, according to my conception of him — is a man bubbling over with the exuberance of life and fiery energy, but at the same time a man endowed with the noblest and most loyal character — a character, which, like that of all men who think and feel deeply, is able even to control that bitter irony which arises from a clear view of the significance of life. I need scarcely add that Salvator was no less renowned as a poet and musician than as a painter. His genius was revealed in magnificent refractions. I repeat again, I do not believe that Salvator had any share in Masaniello’s bloody deeds; on the contrary, I think it was the horrors of that fearful time which drove him from Naples to Rome, where he arrived a poor poverty-stricken fugitive, just at the time that Masaniello fell.
Not over well dressed, and with a scanty purse containing not more than a few bright sequins7 in his pocket, he crept through the gate just after nightfall. Somehow or other, he didn’t exactly know how, he wandered as far as the Piazza Navona. In better times he had once lived there in a large house near the Pamfili Palace. With an ill-tempered growl, he gazed up at the large plate-glass windows glistening and glimmering in the moonlight “Hm!” he exclaimed peevishly, “it’ll cost me dozens of yards of coloured canvas before I can open my studio up there again.” But all at once he felt as if paralysed in every limb, and at the same moment more weak and feeble than he had ever felt in his life before. “But shall I,” he murmured between his teeth as he sank down upon the stone steps leading up to the house door, “shall I really be able to finish canvas enough in the way the fools want it done? Hm! I have a notion that that will be the end of it!”
A cold cutting night wind blew down the street. Salvator recognised the necessity of seeking a shelter. Rising with difficulty, he staggered on into the Corso,8 and then turned into the Via Bergognona. At length he stopped before a little house with only a couple of windows, inhabited by a poor widow and her two daughters. This women had taken him in for little pay the first time he came to Rome, an unknown stranger noticed of nobody; and so he hoped again to find a lodging with her, such as would be best suited to the sad condition in which he then was.
He knocked confidently at the door, and several times called out his name aloud. At last he heard the old woman slowly and reluctantly wakening up out of her sleep. She shuffled to the window in her slippers, and began to rain down a shower of abuse upon the knave who was come to worry her in this way in the middle of the night; her house was not a wine-shop, &c., &c. Then there ensued a good deal of cross-questioning before she recognised her former lodger’s voice; but on Salvator’s complaining that he had fled from Naples and was unable to find a shelter in Rome, the old dame cried, “By all the blessed saints of Heaven! Is that you, Signor Salvator? Well now, your little room up above, that looks on to the court, is still standing empty, and the old fig-tree has pushed its branches right through the window and into the room, so that you can sit and work like as if you was in a beautiful cool arbour. Ay, and how pleased my girls will be that you have come back again, Signor Salvator. But, d’ye know, my Margarita’s grown a big girl and fine-looking? You won’t give her any more rides on your knee now. And — and your little pussy, just fancy, three months ago she choked herself with a fish-bone. Ah well, we all shall come to the grave at last. But, d’ye know, my fat neighbour, who you so often laughed at and so often painted in such funny ways — d’ye know, she did marry that young fellow, Signor Luigi, after all. Ah well! nozze e magistrati sono da dio destinati (marriages and magistrates are made in heaven) they say.”
“But,” cried Salvator, interrupting the old woman, “but, Signora Caterina, I entreat you by the blessed saints, do, pray, let me in, and then tell me all about your fig-tree and your daughters, your cat and your fat neighbour — I am perishing of weariness and cold.”
“Bless me, how impatient we are,” rejoined the old dame; “Chi va piano va sano, chi va presto more lesto (more haste less speed, take things cool and live longer), I tell you. But you are tired, you are cold; where are the keys? quick with the keys!”
But the old woman still had to wake up her daughters and kindle a fire — but oh! she was such a long time about it — such a long, long time. At last she opened the door and let poor Salvator in; but scarcely had he crossed the threshold than, overcome by fatigue and illness, he dropped on the floor as if dead. Happily the widow’s son, who generally lived at Tivoli, chanced to be at his mother’s that night He was at once turned out of his bed to make room for the sick guest, which he willingly submitted to.
The old woman was very fond of Salvator, putting him, as far as his artistic powers went, above all the painters in the world; and in everything that he did she also took the greatest pleasure. She was therefore quite beside herself to see him in this lamentable condition, and wanted to run off to the neighbouring monastery to fetch her father confessor, that he might come and fight against the adverse power of the disease with consecrated candles or some powerful amulet or other. On the other hand, her son thought it would be almost better to see about getting an experienced physician at once, and off he ran there and then to the Spanish Square, where he knew the distinguished Doctor Splendiano Accoramboni dwelt. No sooner did the doctor learn that the painter Salvator Rosa lay ill in the Via Bergognona than he at once declared himself ready to call early and see the patient.
Salvator lay unconscious, struck down by a most severe attack of fever. The old dame had hung up two or three pictures of saints above his bed, and was praying fervently. The girls, though bathed in tears, exerted themselves from time to time to get the sick man to swallow a few drops of the cooling lemonade which they had made, whilst their brother, who had taken his place at the head of the bed, wiped the cold sweat from his brow. And so morning found them, when with a loud creak the door opened, and the distinguished Doctor Splendiano Accoramboni entered the room.
If Salvator had not been so seriously ill that the two girls’ hearts were melted in grief, they would, I think, for they were in general frolicsome and saucy, have enjoyed a hearty laugh at the Doctor’s extraordinary appearance, instead of retiring shyly, as they did, into the corner, greatly alarmed. It will indeed be worth while to describe the outward appearance of the little man who presented himself at Dame Caterina’s in the Via Bergognona in the grey of the morning. In spite of all his excellent capabilities for growth, Doctor Splendiano Accoramboni had not been able to advance beyond the respectable stature of four feet Moreover, in the days of his youth, he had been distinguished for his elegant figure, so that, before his head, always indeed somewhat ill-shaped, and his big cheeks, and his stately double chin had put on too much fat, before his nose had grown bulky and spread owing to overmuch indulgence in Spanish snuff, and before his little belly had assumed the shape of a wine-tub from too much fattening on macaroni, the priestly cut of garments, which he at that time had affected, had suited him down to the ground. He was then in truth a pretty little man, and accordingly the Roman ladies had styled him their caro puppazetto (sweet little pet).
That however was now a thing of the past. A German painter, seeing Doctor Splendiano walking across the Spanish Square, said — and he was perhaps not far wrong — that it looked as if some strapping fellow of six feet or so had walked away from his own head, which had fallen on the shoulders of a little marionette clown, who now had to carry it about as his own. This curious little figure walked about in patchwork — an immense quantity of pieces of Venetian damask of a large flower pattern that had been cut up in making a dressing-gown; high up round his waist he had buckled a broad leather belt, from which an excessively long rapier hung; whilst his snow-white wig was surmounted by a high conical cap, not unlike the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square. Since the said wig, like a piece of texture all tumbled and tangled, spread out thick and wide all over his back, it might very well be taken for the cocoon out of which the fine silkworm had crept.
The worthy Splendiano Accoramboni stared through his big, bright spectacles, with his eyes wide open, first at his patient, then at Dame Caterina. Calling her aside, he croaked with bated breath, “There lies our talented painter Salvator Rosa, and he’s lost if my skill doesn’t save him, Dame Caterina. Pray tell me when he came to lodge with you? Did he bring many beautiful large pictures with him?”
“Ah! my dear Doctor,” replied Dame Caterina, “the poor fellow only came last night. And as for pictures — why, I don’t know nothing about them; but there’s a big box below, and Salvator begged me to take very good care of it, before he became senseless like what he now is. I daresay there’s a fine picture packed in it, as he painted in Naples.”
What Dame Caterina said was, however, a falsehood; but we shall soon see that she had good reasons for imposing upon the Doctor in this way.
“Good! Very good!” said the Doctor, simpering and stroking his beard; then, with as much solemnity as his long rapier, which kept catching in all the chairs and tables he came near, would allow, he approached the sick man and felt his pulse, snorting and wheezing, so that it had a most curious effect in the midst of the reverential silence which had fallen upon all the rest. Then he ran over in Greek and Latin the names of a hundred and twenty diseases that Salvator had not, then almost as many which he might have had, and concluded by saying that on the spur of the moment he didn’t recollect the name of his disease, but that he would within a short time find a suitable one for it, and along therewith, the proper remedies as well. Then he took his departure with the same solemnity with which he had entered, leaving them all full of trouble and anxiety.
At the bottom of the steps the Doctor requested to see Salvator’s box; Dame Caterina showed him one — in which were two or three of her deceased husband’s cloaks now laid aside, and some old worn-out shoes. The Doctor smilingly tapped the box, on this side and on that, and remarked in a tone of satisfaction “We shall see! we shall see!” Some hours later he returned with a very beautiful name for his patient’s disease, and brought with him some big bottles of an evil-smelling potion, which he directed to be given to the patient constantly. This was a work of no little trouble, for Salvator showed the greatest aversion for — utter loathing of the stuff, which looked, and smelt, and tasted, as if it had been concocted from Acheron itself. Whether it was that the disease, since it had now received a name, and in consequence really signified something, had only just begun to put forth its virulence, or whether it was that Splendiano’s potion made too much of a disturbance inside the patient — it is at any rate certain that the poor painter grew weaker and weaker from day to day, from hour to hour. And notwithstanding Doctor Splendiano Accoramboni’s assurance that, after the vital process had reached a state of perfect equilibrium, he would give it a new start like the pendulum of a clock, they were all very doubtful as to Salvator’s recovery, and thought that the Doctor had perhaps already given the pendulum such a violent start that the mechanism was quite impaired.
Now it happened one day that when Salvator seemed scarcely able to move a finger he was suddenly seized with the paroxysm of fever; in a momentary accession of fictitious strength he leapt out of bed, seized the full medicine bottles, and hurled them fiercely out of the window. Just at this moment Doctor Splendiano Accoramboni was entering the house, when two or three bottles came bang upon his head, smashing all to pieces, whilst the brown liquid ran in streams all down his face, and wig, and ruff. Hastily rushing into the house, he screamed like a madman, “Signer Salvator has gone out of his mind, he’s become insane; no skill can save him now, he’ll be dead in ten minutes. Give me the picture, Dame Caterina, give me the picture — it’s mine, the scanty reward of all my trouble. Give me the picture, I say.”
But when Dame Caterina opened the box, and Doctor Splendiano saw nothing but the old cloaks and torn shoes, his eyes spun round in his head like a pair of fire-wheels; he gnashed his teeth; he stamped; he consigned poor Salvator, the widow, and all the family to the devil; then he rushed out of the house like an arrow from a bow, or as if he had been shot from a cannon.
After the violence of the paroxysm had spent itself, Salvator again relapsed into a death-like condition. Dame Caterina was fully persuaded that his end was really come, and away she sped as fast as she could to the monastery, to fetch Father Boniface, that he might come and administer the sacrament to the dying man. Father Boniface came and looked at the sick man; he said he was well acquainted with the peculiar signs which approaching death is wont to stamp upon the human countenance, but that for the present there were no indications of them on the face of the insensible Salvator. Something might still be done, and he would procure help at once, only Doctor Splendiano Accoramboni with his Greek names and infernal medicines was not to be allowed to cross the threshold again. The good Father set out at once, and we shall see later that he kept his word about sending the promised help.
Salvator recovered consciousness again; he fancied he was lying in a beautiful flower-scented arbour, for green boughs and leaves were interlacing above his head. He felt a salutary warmth glowing in his veins, but it seemed to him as if somehow his left arm was bound fast “Where am I?” he asked in a faint voice. Then a handsome young man, who had stood at his bedside, but whom he had not noticed until just now, threw himself upon his knees, and grasping Salvator’s right hand, kissed it and bathed it with tears, as he cried again and again, “Oh! my dear sir! my noble master! now it’s all right; you are saved, you’ll get better.”
“But do tell me”— began Salvator, when the young man begged him not to exert himself, for he was too weak to talk; he would tell him all that had happened. “You see, my esteemed and excellent sir,” began the young man, “you see, you were very ill when you came from Naples, but your condition was not, I warrant, by any means so dangerous but that a few simple remedies would soon have set you, with your strong constitution, on your legs again, had you not through Carlos’s well-intentioned blunder in running off for the nearest physician fallen into the hands of the redoubtable Pyramid Doctor, who was making all preparations for bringing you to your grave.”
“What do you say?” exclaimed Salvator, laughing heartily, notwithstanding the feeble state he was in. “What do you say? — the Pyramid Doctor? Ay, ay, although I was very ill, I saw that the little knave in damask patchwork, who condemned me to drink his horrid, loathsome devil’s brew, wore on his head the obelisk from St. Peter’s Square — and so that’s why you call him the Pyramid Doctor?”
“Why, good heavens!” said the young man, likewise laughing, “why, Doctor Splendiano Accoramboni must have come to see you in his ominous conical nightcap; and, do you know, you may see it flashing every morning from his window in the Spanish Square like a portentous meteor. But it’s not by any means owing to this cap that he’s called the Pyramid Doctor; for that there’s quite another reason. Doctor Splendiano is a great lover of pictures, and possesses in truth quite a choice collection, which he has gained by a practice of a peculiar nature. With eager cunning he lies in wait for painters and their illnesses. More especially he loves to get foreign artists into his toils; let them but eat an ounce or two of macaroni too much, or drink a glass more Syracuse than is altogether good for them, he will afflict them with first one and then the other disease, designating it by a formidable name, and proceeding at once to cure them of it. He generally bargains for a picture as the price of his attendance; and as it is only specially obstinate constitutions which are able to withstand his powerful remedies, it generally happens that he gets his picture out of the chattels left by the poor foreigner, who meanwhile has been carried to the Pyramid of Cestius, and buried there. It need hardly be said that Signor Splendiano always picks out the best of the pictures the painter has finished, and also does not forget to bid the men take several others along with it. The cemetery near the Pyramid of Cestius is Doctor Splendiano Accoramboni’s corn-field, which he diligently cultivates, and for that reason he is called the Pyramid Doctor. Dame Caterina had taken great pains, of course with the best intentions, to make the Doctor believe that you had brought a fine picture with you; you may imagine therefore with what eagerness he concocted his potions for you. It was a fortunate thing that in the paroxysm of fever you threw the Doctor’s bottles at his head, it was also a fortunate thing that he left you in anger, and no less fortunate was it that Dame Caterina, who believed you were in the agonies of death, fetched Father Boniface to come and administer to you the sacrament. Father Boniface understands something of the art of healing; he formed a correct diagnosis of your condition and fetched me”——
“Then you also are a doctor?” asked Salvator in a faint whining tone.
“No,” replied the young man, a deep blush mantling his cheeks, “no, my estimable and worthy sir, I am not in the least a doctor like Signor Splendiano Accoramboni; I am however a chirurgeon. I felt as if I should sink into the earth with fear — with joy — when Father Boniface came and told me that Salvator Rosa lay sick unto death in the Via Bergognona, and required my help. I hastened here, opened a vein in your left arm, and you were saved. Then we brought you up into this cool airy room that you formerly occupied. Look, there’s the easel which you left behind you; yonder are a few sketches which Dame Caterina has treasured up as if they were relics. The virulence of your disease is subdued; simple remedies such as Father Boniface can prepare is all that you want, except good nursing, to bring back your strength again. And now permit me once more to kiss this hand — this creative hand that charms from Nature her deepest secrets and clothes them in living form. Permit poor Antonio Scacciati to pour out all the gratitude and immeasurable joy of his heart that Heaven has granted him to save the life of our great and noble painter, Salvator Rosa.” Therewith the young surgeon threw himself on his knees again, and, seizing Salvator’s hand, kissed it and bathed it in tears as before.
“I don’t understand,” said the artist, raising himself up a little, though with considerable difficulty, “I don’t understand, my dear Antonio, what it is that is so especially urging you to show me all this respect. You are, you say, a chirurgeon, and we don’t in a general way find this trade going hand in hand with art ——”
“As soon,” replied the young man, casting down his eyes, “as soon as you have picked up your strength again, my dear sir, I have a good deal to tell you that now lies heavy on my heart.”
“Do so,” said Salvator; “you may have every confidence in me — that you may, for I don’t know that any man’s face has made a more direct appeal to my heart than yours. The more I look at you the more plainly I seem to trace in your features a resemblance to that incomparable young painter — I mean Sanzio.”9 Antonio’s eyes were lit up with a proud, radiant light — he vainly struggled for words with which to express his feelings.
At this moment Dame Caterina appeared, followed by Father Boniface, who brought Salvator a medicine which he had mixed scientifically according to prescription, and which the patient swallowed with more relish and felt to have a more beneficial effect upon him than the Acheronian waters of the Pyramid Doctor Splendiano Accoramboni.
1 Respecting the facts of Salvator Rosa’s life there exists more than one disputed statement; and of these perhaps the most disputed is his share of complicity (if any) in the evil doings of Calabrian banditti. Poor, and of a wild and self-willed disposition, but with a strong and independent character, he was unable to find a suitable master in Naples, so, at the age of eighteen, he set out to study the lineaments of nature face to face, and spent some time amidst the grand and savage scenery of Calabria. Here it is certain that he came into contact with the banditti who haunted those wild regions. He is alleged to have been taken prisoner by a band, and to have become a member of the troop. Accepting this as true, we may perhaps charitably believe that he was prompted not so much by a regard for his own safety, as by the wish to secure a rare opportunity for studying his art unhindered, and also charitably hope that the accusations of his enemies, that he actively participated in the deeds of his companions, are unfounded, or, at any rate, exaggerations. It may be remarked that the “Life and Times of Salvator Rosa” by Lady Morgan (1824) is admittedly a romance rather than an accurate and faithful biography.
2 Masaniello, a poor fisherman of Naples, was for a week in July, 1647, absolute king of his native city. At that time Naples was subject to the crown of Spain. The people, provoked by the exasperating rapacity and extortion of the Viceroy of the King of Spain, rose in rebellion, choosing Masaniello as their captain and leader.
3 Aniello Falcone (1600–65), teacher of Salvator Rosa and founder of the Compagnia della Morte, painted battle-pieces which bear a high reputation. His works are said to be scarce and much sought after.
4 At first the young fisherman administered stern but impartial justice; but afterwards his mind seems to have reeled under the intense excitement and strain of his position, and he began to act the part of an arbitrary and cruel tyrant. Several hundreds of persons are said to have been put to death by his order during the few days he held power.
5 Amongst them more than one by Salvator himself.
6 A French painter and writer on painting; was born near Bordeaux in 1746, and died at Paris in 1809. Besides other works he wrote Observations sur quelques grands peintres (1807).
7 The sequin was a gold coin of Venice and Tuscany, worth about 9s. 3d. It is sometimes used as equivalent to ducat (see note p. 98).
8 The Corso is a wide thoroughfare running almost north and south from the Piazza del Popolo, a square on the north side of Rome, to the centre of the city. It is in the Corso that the horse-races used to take place during the Carnival.
9 The great painter Sanzio Raphael.
By Salvator Rosa’s intervention Antonio Scacciati attains to a high honour. Antonio discloses the cause of his persistent trouble to Salvator, who consoles him and promises to help him.
And Antonio’s words proved true. The simple but salutary remedies of Father Boniface, the careful nursing of good Dame Caterina and her daughters, the warmer weather which now came — all cooperated so well together with Salvator’s naturally robust constitution that he soon felt sufficiently well to think about work again; first of all he designed a few sketches which he thought of working out afterwards.
Antonio scarcely ever left Salvator’s room; he was all eyes when the painter drew out his sketches; whilst his judgment in respect to many points showed that he must have been initiated into the secrets of art.
“See here,” said Salvator to him one day, “see here, Antonio, you understand art matters so well that I believe you have not merely cultivated your excellent judgment as a critic, but must have wielded the brush as well.”
“You will remember,” rejoined Antonio, “how I told you, my dear sir, when you were just about coming to yourself again after your long unconsciousness, that I had several things to tell you which lay heavy on my mind. Now is the time for me to unfold all my heart to you. You must know then, that though I am called Antonio Scacciati, the chirurgeon, who opened the vein in your arm for you, I belong also entirely to art — to the art which, after bidding eternal farewell to my hateful trade, I intend to devote myself for once and for all.”
“Ho! ho!” exclaimed Salvator, “Ho! ho! Antonio, weigh well what you are about to do. You are a clever chirurgeon, and perhaps will never be anything more than a bungling painter all your life long; for, with your permission, as young as you are, you are decidedly too old to begin to use the charcoal now. Believe me, a man’s whole lifetime is scarce long enough to acquire a knowledge of the True — still less the practical ability to represent it.”
“Ah! but, my dear sir,” replied Antonio, smiling blandly, “don’t imagine that I should now have come to entertain the foolish idea of taking up the difficult art of painting had I not practised it already on every possible occasion from my very childhood. In spite of the fact that my father obstinately kept me away from everything connected with art, yet Heaven was graciously pleased to throw me in the way of some celebrated artists. I must tell you that the great Annibal1 interested himself in the orphan boy, and also that I may with justice call myself Guido Reni’s2 pupil.”
“Well then,” said Salvator somewhat sharply, a way of speaking he sometimes had, “well then, my good Antonio, you have indeed had great masters, and so it cannot fail but that, without detriment to your surgical practice, you must have been a great pupil. Only I don’t understand how you, a faithful disciple of the gentle, elegant Guido, whom you perhaps outdo in elegance in your own pictures — for pupils do do those sort of things in their enthusiasm — how you can find any pleasure in my productions, and can really regard me as a master in the Art.”
At these words, which indeed sounded a good deal like derisive mockery, the hot blood rushed into the young man’s face.
“Oh, let me lay aside all the diffidence which generally keeps my lips closed,” he said, “and let me frankly lay bare the thoughts I have in my mind. I tell you, Salvator, I have never honoured any master from the depths of my soul as I do you. What I am amazed at in your works is the sublime greatness of conception which is often revealed You grasp the deepest secrets of Nature: you comprehend the mysterious hieroglyphics of her rocks, of her trees, and of her waterfalls, you hear her sacred voice, you understand her language, and possess the power to write down what she has said to you. Verily I can call your bold free style of painting nothing else than writing down. Man alone and his doings does not suffice you; you behold him only in the midst of Nature, and in so far as his essential character is conditioned by natural phenomena; and in these facts I see the reason why you are only truly great in landscapes, Salvator, with their wonderful figures. Historical painting confines you within limits which clog your imagination to the detriment of your genius for reproducing your higher intuitions of Nature.”
“That’s talk you’ve picked up from envious historical painters,” said Salvator, interrupting his young companion; “like them, Antonio, you throw me the choice bone of landscape-painting that I may gnaw away at it, and so spare their own good flesh. Perhaps I do understand the human figure and all that is dependent upon it. But this senseless repetition of others’ words”——
“Don’t be angry,” continued Antonio, “don’t be angry, my good sir; I am not blindly repeating anybody’s words, and I should not for a moment think of trusting to the judgment of our painters here in Rome at any rate. Who can help greatly admiring the bold draughtsmanship, the powerful expression, but above all the living movement of your fingers? It’s plain to see that you don’t work from a stiff, inflexible model, or even from a dead skeleton form; it is evident that you yourself are your own breathing, living model, and that when you sketch or paint, you have the figure you want to put on your canvas reflected in a great mirror opposite to you.”
“The devil! Antonio,” exclaimed Salvator, laughing, “I believe you must often have had a peep into my studio when I was not aware of it, since you have such an accurate knowledge of what goes on within.”
“Perhaps I may,” replied Antonio; “but let me go on. I am not by a long way so anxious to classify, the pictures which your powerful mind suggests to you as are those pedantic critics who take such great pains in this line. In fact, I think that the word ‘landscape,’ as generally employed, has but an indifferent application to your productions; I should prefer to call them historical representations in the highest sense of the word. If we fancy that this or the other rock or this or the other tree is gazing at us like a gigantic being with thoughtful earnest eyes, so again, on the other hand, this or the other group of fantastically attired men resembles some remarkable stone which has been endowed with life; all Nature, breathing and moving in harmonious unity, lends accents to the sublime thought which leapt into existence in your mind. This is the spirit in which I have studied your pictures, and so in this way it is, my grand and noble master, that I owe to you my truer perceptions in matters of art. But pray don’t imagine that I have fallen into childish imitation. However much I would like to possess the free bold pencil that you possess, I do not attempt to conceal the fact that Nature’s colours appear to me different from what I see them in your pictures. Although it is useful, I think, for the sake of acquiring technique, for the pupil to imitate the style of this or that master, yet, so soon as he comes to stand in any sense on his own feet, he ought to aim at representing Nature as he himself sees her. Nothing but this true method of perception, this unity with oneself, can give rise to character and truth. Guido shared these sentiments; and that fiery man Preti,3 who, as you are aware, is called Il Calabrese — a painter who certainly, more than any other man, has reflected upon his art — also warned me against all imitation. Now you know, Salvator, why I so much respect you, without imitating you.”
Whilst the young man had been speaking, Salvator had kept his eyes fixed unchangeably upon him; he now clasped him tumultuously to his heart.
“Antonio,” he then said, “what you have just now said are wise and thoughtful words. Young as you are, you are nevertheless, so far as the true perception of art is concerned, a long way ahead of many of our old and much vaunted masters, who have a good deal of stupid foolish twaddle about their painting, but never get at the true root of the matter. Body alive, man! When you were talking about my pictures, I then began to understand myself for the first time, I believe; and because you do not imitate my style — do not, like a good many others, take a tube of black paint in your hand, or dab on a few glaring colours, or even make two or three crippled figures with repulsive faces look up from the midst of filth and dirt, and then say, ‘There’s a Salvator for you!’— just for these very reasons I think a good deal of you. I tell you, my lad, you’ll not find a more faithful friend than I am — that I can promise you with all my heart and soul.”
Antonio was beside himself with joy at the kind way in which the great painter thus testified to his interest in him. Salvator expressed an earnest desire to see his pictures. Antonio took him there and then to his studio.
Salvator had in truth expected to find something fairly good from the young man who spoke so intelligently about art, and who, it appeared, had a good deal in him; but nevertheless he was greatly surprised at the sight of Antonio’s fine pictures. Everywhere he found boldness in conception, and correctness in drawing; and the freshness of the colouring, the good taste in the arrangement of the drapery, the uncommon delicacy of the extremities, the exquisite grace of the heads, were all so many evidences that he was no unworthy pupil of the great Reni. But Antonio had avoided this master’s besetting sin of an endeavour, only too conspicuous, to sacrifice expression to beauty. It was plain that Antonio was aiming to reach Annibal’s strength, without having as yet succeeded.
Salvator spent some considerable time of thoughtful silence in the examination of each of the pictures. Then he said, “Listen, Antonio: it is indeed undeniable that you were born to follow the noble art of painting. For not only has Nature endowed you with the creative spirit from which the finest thoughts pour forth in an inexhaustible stream, but she has also granted you the rare ability to surmount in a short space of time the difficulties of technique. It would only be false flattery if I were to tell you that you had yet advanced to the level of your masters, that you are yet equal to Guido’s exquisite grace or to Annibal’s strength; but certain I am that you excel by a long way all the painters who hold up their heads so proudly in the Academy of St. Luke4 here — Tiarini,5 Gessi,6 Sementa,7 and all the rest of them, not even excepting Lanfranco8 himself, for he only understands fresco-painting. And yet, Antonio, and yet, if I were in your place, I should deliberate awhile before throwing away the lancet altogether, and confining myself entirely to the pencil That sounds rather strange, but listen to me. Art seems to be having a bad time of it just now, or rather the devil seems to be very busy amongst our painters now-a-days, bravely setting them together by the ears. If you cannot make up your mind to put up with all sorts of annoyances, to endure more and more scorn and contumely in proportion as you advance in art, and as your fame spreads to meet with malicious scoundrels everywhere, who with a friendly face will force themselves upon you in order to ruin you the more surely afterwards — if you cannot, I say, make up your mind to endure all this — let painting alone. Think of the fate of your teacher, the great Annibal, whom a rascally band of rivals malignantly persecuted in Naples, so that he did not receive one single commission for a great work, being everywhere rejected with contempt; and this is said to have been instrumental in bringing about his early death. Think of what happened to Domenichino9 when he was painting the dome of the chapel of St. Januarius. Didn’t the villains of painters — I won’t mention a single name, not even the rascals Belisario10 and Ribera11 — didn’t they bribe Domenichino’s servant to strew ashes in the lime? So the plaster wouldn’t stick fast on the walls, and the painting had no stability. Think of all that, and examine yourself well whether your spirit is strong enough to endure things like that, for if not, your artistic power will be broken, and along with the resolute courage for work you will also lose your ability.”
“But, Salvator,” replied Antonio, “it would hardly be possible for me to have more scorn and contumely to endure, supposing I took up painting entirely and exclusively, then I have already endured whilst merely a chirurgeon. You have been pleased with my pictures, you have indeed! and at the same time declared from inner conviction that I am capable of doing better things than several of our painters of the Academy. But these are just the men who turn up their noses at all that I have industriously produced, and say contemptuously, ‘Do look, here’s our chirurgeon wants to be a painter!’ And for this very reason my resolve is only the more unshaken; I will sever myself from a trade that grows with every day more hateful. Upon you, my honoured master, I now stake all my hopes. Your word is powerful; if you would speak a good word for me, you might overthrow my envious persecutors at a single blow, and put me in the place where I ought to be.”
“You repose great confidence in me,” rejoined Salvator. “But now that we thoroughly understand each other’s views on painting, and I have seen your works, I don’t really know that there is anybody for whom I would rather take up the cudgels than for you.”
Salvator once more inspected Antonio’s pictures, and stopped before one representing a “Magdalene at the Saviour’s feet,” which he especially praised.
“In this Magdalene,” he said, “you have deviated from the usual mode of representation. Your Magdalene is not a thoughtful virgin, but a lovely artless child rather, and yet she is such a marvellous child that hardly anybody else but Guido could have painted her. There is a unique charm in her dainty figure; you must have painted with inspiration; and, if I mistake not, the original of this Magdalene is alive and to be found in Rome. Come, confess, Antonio, you are in love!”
Antonio’s eyes sought the ground, whilst he said in a low shy voice, “Nothing escapes your penetration, my dear sir; perhaps it is as you say, but do not blame me for it. That picture I set the highest store by, and hitherto I have guarded it as a holy secret from all men’s eyes.”
“What do you say?” interrupted Salvator. “None of the painters here have seen your picture?”
“No, not one,” was Antonio’s reply.
“All right then, Antonio,” continued Salvator, his eyes sparkling with delight “Very well then, you may rely upon it, I will overwhelm your envious overweening persecutors, and get you the honour you deserve. Intrust your picture to me; bring it to my studio secretly by night, and then leave all the rest to me. Will you do so?”
“Gladly, with all my heart,” replied Antonio. “And now I should very much like to talk to you about my love-troubles as well; but I feel as if I ought not to do so today, after we have opened our minds to each other on the subject of art. I also entreat you to grant me your assistance both in word and deed later on in this matter of my love.”
“I am at your service,” said Salvator, “for both, both when and where you require me.” Then as he was going away, he once more turned round and said, smiling, “See here, Antonio, when you disclosed to me the fact that you were a painter, I was very sorry that I had spoken about your resemblance to Sanzio. I took it for granted that you were as silly as most of our young folk, who, if they bear but the slightest resemblance in the face to any great master, at once trim their beard or hair as he does, and from this cause fancy it is their business to imitate the style of the master in their art achievements, even though it is a manifest violation of their natural talents to do so. Neither of us has mentioned Raphael’s name, but I assure you that I have discerned in your pictures clear indications that you have grasped the full significance of the inimitable thoughts which are reflected in the works of this the greatest of the painters of the age. You understand Raphael, and would give me a different answer from what Velasquez12 did when I asked him not long ago what he thought of Sanzio. ‘Titian,’ he replied, ‘is the greatest painter; Raphael knows nothing about carnation.’ This Spaniard, methinks, understands flesh but not criticism; and yet these men in St. Luke elevate him to the clouds because he once painted cherries which the sparrows picked at.”13
It happened not many days afterwards that the Academicians of St. Luke met together in their church to prove the works which had been announced for exhibition. There too Salvator had sent Scacciati’s fine picture. In spite of themselves the painters were greatly struck with its grace and power; and from all lips there was heard nothing but the most extravagant praise when Salvator informed them that he had brought the picture with him from Naples, as the legacy of a young painter who had been cut off in the pride of his days.
It was not long before all Rome was crowding to see and admire the picture of the young unknown painter who had died so young; it was unanimously agreed that no such work had been done since Guido Reni’s time; some even went so far in their just enthusiasm as to place this exquisitely lovely Magdalene before Guido’s creations of a similar kind. Amongst the crowd of people who were always gathered round Scacciati’s picture, Salvator one day observed a man who, besides presenting a most extraordinary appearance, behaved as if he were crazy. Well advanced in years, he was tall, thin as a spindle, with a pale face, a long sharp nose, a chin equally as long, ending moreover in a little pointed beard, and with grey, gleaming eyes. On the top of his light sand-coloured wig he had set a high hat with a magnificent feather; he wore a short dark red mantle or cape with many bright buttons, a sky-blue doublet slashed in the Spanish style, immense leather gauntlets with silver fringes, a long rapier at his side, light grey stockings drawn up above his bony knees and gartered with yellow ribbons, whilst he had bows of the same sort of yellow ribbon on his shoes.
This remarkable figure was standing before the picture like one enraptured: he raised himself on tiptoe; he stooped down till he became quite small; then he jumped up with both feet at once, heaved deep sighs, groaned, nipped his eyes so close together that the tears began to trickle down his cheeks, opened them wide again, fixed his gaze immovably upon the charming Magdalene, sighed again, lisped in a thin, querulous, mutilated voice, “Ah! carissima — benedettissima! Ah! Marianna — Mariannina — bellissima,” &c. (“Oh! dearest — most adored! Ah! Marianna — sweet Marianna! my most beautiful!”) Salvator, who had a mad fancy for such oddities, drew near to the old fellow, intending to engage him in conversation about Scacciati’s work, which seemed to afford him so much exquisite delight Without paying any particular heed to Salvator, the old gentleman stood cursing his poverty, because he could not give a million sequins for the picture, and place it under lock and key where nobody could set their infernal eyes upon it. Then, hopping up and down again, he blessed the Virgin and all the holy saints that the reprobate artist who had painted the heavenly picture which was driving him to despair and madness was dead.
Salvator concluded that the man either was out of his mind, or was an Academician of St. Luke with whom he was unacquainted.
All Rome was full of Scacciati’s wonderful picture; people could scarcely talk about anything else, and this of course was convincing proof of the excellence of the work. And when the painters were again assembled in the church of St. Luke, to decide about the admission of certain other pictures which had been announced for exhibition, Salvator Rosa all at once asked, whether the painter of the “Magdalene at the Saviour’s Feet” was not worthy of being admitted a member of the Academy. They all with one accord, including even that hairsplitter in criticism, Baron Josépin,14 declared that such a great artist would have been an ornament to the Academy, and expressed their sorrow at his death in the choicest phrases, although, like the crazy old man, they were praising Heaven in their hearts that he was dead. Still more, they were so far carried away by their enthusiasm that they passed a resolution to the effect that the admirable young painter whom death had snatched away from art so early should be nominated a member of the Academy in his grave, and that masses should be read for the benefit of his soul in the church of St. Luke. They therefore begged Salvator to inform them what was the full name of the deceased, the date of his birth, the place where he was born, &c.
Then Salvator rose and said in a loud voice, “Signors, the honour you are anxious to render to a dead man you can more easily bestow upon a living man who walks in your midst. Learn that the ‘Magdalene at the Saviour’s Feet’— the picture which you so justly exalt above all other artistic productions that the last few years have given us, is not the work of a dead Neapolitan painter as I pretended (this I did simply to get an unbiassed judgment from you); that painting, that masterpiece, which all Rome is admiring, is from the hand of Signor Antonio Scacciati, the chirurgeon.”
The painters sat staring at Salvator as if suddenly thunderstruck, incapable of either moving or uttering a single sound. He, however, after quietly exulting over their embarrassment for some minutes, continued, “Well now, signors, you would not tolerate the worthy Antonio amongst you because he is a chirurgeon; but I think that the illustrious Academy of St. Luke has great need of a surgeon to set the limbs of the many crippled figures which emerge from the studios of a good many amongst your number. But of course you will no longer scruple to do what you ought to have done long ago, namely, elect that excellent painter Antonio Scacciati a member of the Academy.”
The Academicians, swallowing Salvator’s bitter pill, feigned to be highly delighted that Antonio had in this way given such incontestable proofs of his talent, and with all due ceremony nominated him a member of the Academy.
As soon as it became known in Rome that Antonio was the author of the wonderful picture he was overwhelmed with congratulations, and even with commissions for great works, which poured in upon him from all sides. Thus by Salvator’s shrewd and cunning stratagem the young man emerged all at once out of his obscurity, and with the first real step he took on his artistic career rose to great honour.
Antonio revelled in ecstasies of delight. So much the more therefore did Salvator wonder to see him, some days later, appear with his face pale and distorted, utterly miserable and woebegone. “Ah! Salvator!” said Antonio, “what advantage has it been to me that you have helped me to rise to a level far beyond my expectations, that I am now overwhelmed with praise and honour, that the prospect of a most successful artistic career is opening out before me? Oh! I am utterly miserable, for the picture to which, next to you, my dear sir, I owe my great triumph, has proved the source of my lasting misfortune.”
“Stop!” replied Salvator, “don’t sin against either your art or your picture. I don’t believe a word about the terrible misfortune which, you say, has befallen you. You are in love, and I presume you can’t get all your wishes gratified at once, on the spur of the moment; that’s all it is. Lovers are like children; they scream and cry if anybody only just touches their doll. Have done, I pray you, with that lamentation, for I tell you I can’t do with it. Come now, sit yourself down there and quietly tell me all about your fair Magdalene, and give me the history of your love affair, and let me know what are the stones of offence that we have to remove, for I promise you my help beforehand. The more adventurous the schemes are which we shall have to undertake, the more I shall like them. In fact, my blood is coursing hotly in my veins again, and my regimen requires that I engage in a few wild pranks. But go on with your story, Antonio, and as I said, let’s have it quietly without any sighs and lamentations, without any Ohs! and Ahs!”
Antonio took his seat on the stool which Salvator had pushed up to the easel at which he was working, and began as follows:—
“There is a high house in the Via Ripetta,15 with a balcony which projects far over the street so as at once to strike the eye of any one entering through the Porta del Popolo, and there dwells perhaps the most whimsical oddity in all Rome — an old bachelor with every fault that belongs to that class of persons — avaricious, vain, anxious to appear young, amorous, foppish. He is tall, as thin as a switch, wears a gay Spanish costume, a sandy wig, a conical hat, leather gauntlets, a rapier at his side”——
“Stop, stop!” cried Salvator, interrupting him, “excuse me a minute or two, Antonio.” Then, turning about the picture at which he was painting, he seized his charcoal and in a few free bold strokes sketched on the back side of the canvas the eccentric old gentleman whom he had seen behaving like a crazed man in front of Antonio’s picture.
“By all the saints!” cried Antonio, as he leapt to his feet, and, forgetful of his unhappiness, burst out into a loud laugh, “by all the saints! that’s he! That’s Signor Pasquale Capuzzi, whom I was just describing, that’s he to the very T.”
“So you see,” said Salvator calmly, “that I am already acquainted with the worthy gentleman who most probably is your bitter enemy. But go on.”
“Signor Pasquale Capuzzi,” continued Antonio, “is as rich as Cr[oe]sus, but at the same time, as I just told you, a sordid miser and an incurable coxcomb. The best thing about him is that he loves art, particularly music and painting; but he mixes up so much folly with it all that even in these things there’s no getting on with him. He considers himself the greatest musical composer in the world, and that there’s not a singer in the Papal choir who can at all approach him. Accordingly he looks down upon our old Frescobaldi16 with contempt; and when the Romans talk about the wonderful charm of Ceccarelli’s voice, he informs them that Ceccarelli knows as much about singing as a pair of top-boots, and that he, Capuzzi, knows which is the right way to fascinate the public. But as the first singer of the Pope bears the proud name of Signor Odoardo Ceccarelli di Merania, so our Capuzzi is greatly delighted when anybody calls him Signor Pasquale Capuzzi di Senigaglia; for it was in Senigaglia17 that he was born, and the popular rumour goes that his mother, being startled at sight of a sea-dog (seal) suddenly rising to the surface, gave birth to him in a fisherman’s boat, and that accounts, it is said, for a good deal of the sea-cur in his nature. Several years ago he brought out an opera on the stage, which was fearfully hissed; but that hasn’t cured him of his mania for writing execrable music. Indeed, when he heard Francesco Cavalli’s18 opera Le Nozze di Feti e di Peleo, he swore that the composer had filched the sublimest of the thoughts from his own immortal works, for which he was near being thrashed and even stabbed. He still has a craze for singing arias, and accompanies his hideous squalling on a wretched jarring, jangling guitar, all out of tune. His faithful Pylades is an ill-bred dwarfish eunuch, whom the Romans call Pitichinaccio. There is a third member of the company — guess who it is? — Why, none other than the Pyramid Doctor, who kicks up a noise like a melancholy ass and yet fancies he’s singing an excellent bass, quite as good as Martinelli of the Papal choir. Now these three estimable people are in the habit of meeting in the evening on the balcony of Capuzzi’s house, where they sing Carissimi’s19 motets, until all the dogs and cats in the neighbourhood round break out into dirges of miawing and howling, and all their neighbours heartily wish the devil would run away with all the blessed three.
“With this whimsical old fellow, Signor Pasquale Capuzzi, of whom my description will have enabled you to form a tolerably adequate idea, my father lived on terms of intimacy, since he trimmed his wig and beard. When my father died, I undertook this business; and Capuzzi was in the highest degree satisfied with me, because, as he once affirmed, I knew better than anybody else how to give his moustaches a bold upward twirl; but the real reason was because I was satisfied with the few pence with which he rewarded me for my pains. But he firmly believed that he more than richly indemnified me, since, whilst I was trimming his beard, he always closed his eyes and croaked through an aria from his own compositions, which, however, almost split my ears; and yet the old fellow’s crazy gestures afforded me a good deal of amusement, so that I continued to attend him. One day when I went, I quietly ascended the stairs, knocked at the door, and opened it, when lo, there was a girl — an angel of light, who came to meet me. You know my Magdalene; it was she. I stood stock still, rooted to the spot. No, Salvator, you shall have no Ohs! and Ahs! Well, the first sight of this, the most lovely maiden of her sex, enkindled in me the most ardent passionate love. The old man informed me with a smirk that the young lady was the daughter of his brother Pietro, who had died at Senigaglia, that her name was Marianna, and that she was quite an orphan; being her uncle and guardian, he had taken her into his house. You can easily imagine that henceforward Capuzzi’s house was my Paradise. But no matter what devices I had recourse to, I could never succeed in getting a téte-à-téte with Marianna, even for a single moment. Her glances, however, and many a stolen sigh, and many a soft pressure of the hand, resolved all doubts as to my good fortune. The old man divined what I was after — which was not a very difficult thing for him to do. He informed me that my behaviour towards his niece was not such as to please him altogether, and he asked me what was the real purport of my attentions. Then I frankly confessed that I loved Marianna with all my heart, and that the greatest earthly happiness I could conceive was a union with her. Whereupon Capuzzi, after measuring me from top to toe, burst out in a guffaw of contempt, and declared that he never had any idea that such lofty thoughts could haunt the brain of a paltry barber. I was almost boiling with rage; I said he knew very well that I was no paltry barber but rather a good surgeon, and, moreover, in so far as concerned the noble art of painting, a faithful pupil of the great Annibal Caracci and of the unrivalled Guido Reni. But the infamous Capuzzi only replied by a still louder guffaw of laughter, and in his horrible falsetto squeaked, ‘See here, my sweet Signor barber, my excellent Signor surgeon, my honoured Annibal Caracci, my beloved Guido Reni, be off to the devil, and don’t ever show yourself here again, if you don’t want your legs broken.’ Therewith the cranky, knock-kneed old fool laid hold of me with no less an intention than to kick me out of the room, and hurl me down the stairs. But that, you know, was past everything. With ungovernable fury I seized the old fellow and tripped him up, so that his legs stuck uppermost in the air; and there I left him screaming aloud, whilst I ran down the stairs and out of the house-door; which, I need hardly say, has been closed to me ever since.
“And that’s how matters stood when you came to Rome and when Heaven inspired Father Boniface with the happy idea of bringing me to you. Then so soon as your clever trick had brought me the success for which I had so long been vainly striving, that is, when I was accepted by the Academy of St. Luke, and all Rome was heaping up praise and honour upon me to a lavish extent, I went straightway to the old gentleman and suddenly presented myself before him in his own room, like a threatening apparition. Such at least he must have thought me, for he grew as pale as a corpse, and retreated behind a great table, trembling in every limb. And in a firm and earnest way I represented to him that it was not now a paltry barber or a surgeon, but a celebrated painter and Academician of St. Luke, Antonio Scacciati, to whom he would not, T hoped, refuse the hand of his niece Marianna. You should have seen into what a passion the old fellow flew. He screamed; he flourished his arms about like one possessed of devils; he yelled that I, a ruffianly murderer, was seeking his life, that I had stolen his Marianna from him since I had portrayed her in my picture, and it was driving him mad, driving him to despair, for all the world, all the world, were fixing their covetous, lustful eyes upon his Marianna, his life, his hope, his all; but I had better take care, he would burn my house over my head, and me and my picture in it. And therewith he kicked up such a din, shouting, ‘Fire! Murder! Thieves! Help!’ that I was perfectly confounded, and only thought of making the best of my way out of the house.
“The crackbrained old fool is over head and ears in love with his niece; he keeps her under lock and key; and as soon as he succeeds in getting dispensation from the Pope, he will compel her to a shameful alliance with himself. All hope for me is lost!”
“Nay, nay, not quite,” said Salvator, laughing, “I am of opinion that things could not be in a better form for you, Marianna loves you, of that you are convinced; and all we have to do is to get her out of the power of that fantastic old gentleman, Signor Pasquale Capuzzi. I should like to know what there is to hinder a couple of stout enterprising fellows like you and me from accomplishing this. Pluck up your courage, Antonio. Instead of bewailing, and sighing, and fainting like a lovesick swain, it would be better to set to work to think out some plan for rescuing your Marianna. You just wait and see, Antonio, how finely we’ll circumvent the old dotard; in such like emprises, the wildest extravagance hardly seems to me wild enough. I’ll set about it at once, and learn what I can about the old man, and about his usual habits of life. But you must not be seen in this affair, Antonio. Go away quietly home, and come back to me early tomorrow morning, then we’ll consider our first plan of attack.”
Herewith Salvator shook the paint out of his brush, threw on his mantle, and hurried to the Corso, whilst Antonio betook himself home as Salvator had bidden him — his heart comforted and full of lusty hope again.
1 Annabale Caracci, a painter of Bologna of the latter half of the sixteenth century. His most celebrated work is a series of frescoes on mythological subjects in the Farnese Palace at Rome. Along with his cousin Lodovico and his brother Agostino he founded the so-called Eclectic School of Painting; their maxim was that “accurate observation of Nature should be combined with judicious imitation of the best masters.” The Caracci enjoyed the highest reputation amongst their contemporaries as teachers of their art. Annibale died in 1609; Masaniello’s revolt occurred, as already mentioned, in 1647; Antonio must therefore have been at least fifty years of age. This however is not the only anachronism that Hoffmann is guilty of.
2 The well-known painter Guido, born in 1575 and died in 1642. He early excited the envy of Annibale Caracci.
3 Mattia Preti, known as Il Cavaliere Calabrese, from his having been born in Calabria. He was a painter of the Neapolitan school and a pupil of Lanfranco, and lived during the greater part of the seventeenth century. Owing to his many disputes and quarrels he was more than once compelled to flee for his life.
4 The Accademia di San Luca, a school of art, founded at Rome about 1595, Federigo Zuccaro being its first director.
5 Alessandro Tiarini (1577–1668) of Bologna, was a pupil of the Caracci.
6 Giovanni Francesco Gessi (1588–1649), sometimes called “The second Guido,” was a pupil of Guido.
7 Sementi or Semenza (1580–1638), also a pupil of Guido.
8 Giovanni Lanfranco (1581–1647), studied first under Agostino Caracci. He was the first to encourage the early genius of Salvator Rosa.
9 Zampieri Domenichino (1581–1641) was a pupil of the Caracci. The work here referred to is a series of frescoes, which he did not live to quite finish, representing the events of the life of St. Januarius, in the chapel of the Tesoro of the cathedral at Naples, which he began in 1630.
The malicious spite which the text attributes to the rivals of Domenichino is not at all exaggerated. There did really exist a so-called “Cabal of Naples,” consisting chiefly of the painters Corenzio, Ribera, and Caracciolo, who leagued together to shut out all competition from other artists; and their persecution of the Bolognese Domenichino is well known. Often on returning to his work in the morning he found that some one had obliterated what he had done on the previous day.
Not only have we a faithful picture of the Italian artist’s life in the middle of the seventeenth century depicted in this tale, but the actual facts of the lives of Salvator Rosa, of Preti, of the Caracci, as well as the existence of Falcone’s Compagnia della Morte, furnish ample materials and illustrations of the wild lives they did lead, of their jealousies and heartburnings, of their quarrelsomeness and revengefulness. They seem to have been ready on all occasions to exchange the brush for the sword. They were filled to overflowing with restless energy. The atmosphere of the age they lived in was highly charged with vigour of thought and an irrepressible vitality for artistic production. Under the conditions which these things suppose the artists of that age could not well have been otherwise than what they were.
10 Belisario Corenzio, a Greek (1558–1643). “Envious, jealous, cunning, treacherous, quarrelsome, he looked upon all other painters as his enemies.”
11 Giuseppe Ribera, called Il Spagnoletto, a Spaniard by birth (1589), was a painter of the Neapolitan school, and delighted in horrible and gloomy subjects. He died in 1656.
12 Don Diego Velazquez de Silva, the great Spanish painter, born in 1599, died in 1660. He twice visited Italy and Naples, in 1629–31 and in 1648–51, and was for a time intimate with Ribera.
13 This suggests the legend of Quentin Massys of Antwerp and the fly, or the still older, but perhaps not more historical story of the Greek painters, Zeuxis and the bunch of grapes, which the birds came to peck at, and Parrhasius, whose curtain deceived even Zeuxis himself.
14 Giuseppe Cesari, colled Josépin or the Chevalier d’Arpin, a painter of the Roman school, born in 1560 or 1568, died in 1640. He posed as an artistic critic in Rome during the later years of his life, and his judgment was claimed by his friends to be authoritative and final in all matters connected with art.
15 In a previous note it was stated that the Via del Corse ran from the Piazza del Popolo southwards to the centre of the city of Rome. Besides this street there are two others which run from the same square in almost the same direction, the Via di Ripetta and the Via del Babuino, the former being to the west of the Via del Corso and the latter to the east, and each gradually gets more distant from the Via del Corso the farther it recedes from the Square. On the opposite side of the Piazza del Popolo is the Porta del Popolo.
16 Girolamo Frescobaldi, the most distinguished organist of the seventeenth century, born about 1587 or 1588. He early won a reputation both as a singer and as an organist.
17 Senigaglia or Senigallia, a town on the Adriatic, in the province of Ancona.
18 Pietro Francesco Cavalli, whose real name was Caletti–Bruni. He was organist at St. Mark’s at Venice for about thirty-six years (1640–1676). He composed both for the Church and for the stage.
19 Giacomo Carissimi, attached during the greater part of his life to the church of San Apollinaris at Rome. He died in 1674. He did much for musical art, perfecting recitative and advancing the development of the sacred cantata. His accompaniments are generally distinguished for “lightness and variety.”
Signor Pasquale Capuzzi turns up at Salvator Rosa’s studio. What takes place there. The cunning scheme which Rosa and Scacciati carry out, and the consequences of the same.
Next morning Salvator, having in the meantime inquired into Capuzzi’s habits of life, very greatly surprised Antonio by a description of them, even down to the minutest details.
“Poor Marianna,” said Salvator, “leads a sad life of it with the crazy old fellow. There he sits sighing and ogling the whole day long, and, what is worse still, in order to soften her heart towards him, he sings her all and sundry love ditties that he has ever composed or intends to compose. At the same time he is so monstrously jealous that he will not even permit the poor young girl to have the usual female attendance, for fear of intrigues and amours, which the maid might be induced to engage in. Instead, a hideous little apparition with hollow eyes and pale flabby cheeks appears every morning and evening to perform for sweet Marianna the services of a tiring-maid. And this little apparition is nobody else but that tiny Tomb Thumb of a Pitichinaccio, who has to don female attire. Capuzzi, whenever he leaves home, carefully locks and bolts every door; besides which there is always a confounded fellow keeping watch below, who was formerly a bravo, and then a gendarme, and now lives under Capuzzi’s rooms. It seems, therefore, a matter almost impossible to effect an entrance into his house, but nevertheless I promise you, Antonio, that this very night you shall be in Capuzzi’s own room and shall see your Marianna, though this time it will only be in Capuzzi’s presence.”
“What do you say?” cried Antonio, quite excited; “what do you say? We shall manage it to-night? I thought it was impossible.”
“There, there,” continued Salvator, “keep still, Antonio, and let us quietly consider how we may with safety carry out the plan which I have conceived. But in the first place I must tell you that I have already scraped an acquaintance with Signor Pasquale Capuzzi without knowing it. That wretched spinet, which stands in the comer there, belongs to the old fellow, and he wants me to pay him the preposterous sum of ten ducats1 for it. When I was convalescent I longed for some music, which always comforts me and does me a deal of good, so I begged my landlady to get me some such an instrument as that Dame Caterina soon ascertained that there was an old gentleman living in the Via Ripetta who had a fine spinet to sell I got the instrument brought here. I did not trouble myself either about the price or about the owner. It was only yesterday evening that I learned quite by chance that the gentleman who intended to cheat me with this rickety old thing was Signor Pasquale Capuzzi. Dame Caterina had enlisted the services of an acquaintance living in the same house, and indeed on the same floor as Capuzzi — and now you can easily guess whence I have got all my budget of news.”
“Yes,” replied Antonio, “then the way to get in is found; your landlady”——
“I know very well, Antonio,” said Salvator, cutting him short, “I know what you’re going to say. You think you can find a way to your Marianna through Dame Caterina. But you’ll find that we can’t do anything of that sort; the good dame is far too talkative; she can’t keep the least secret, and so we can’t for a single moment think of employing her in this business. Now just quietly listen to me. Every evening when it’s dark Signor Pasquale, although it’s very hard work for him owing to his being knock-kneed, carries his little friend the eunuch home in his arms, as soon as he has finished his duties as maid. Nothing in the world could induce the timid Pitichinaccio to set foot on the pavement at that time of night. So that when”——
At this moment somebody knocked at Salvator’s door, and to the consternation of both, Signor Pasquale stepped in in all the splendour of his gala attire. On catching sight of Scacciati he stood stock still as if paralysed, and then, opening his eyes wide, he gasped for air as though he had some difficulty in breathing. But Salvator hastily ran to meet him, and took him by both hands, saying, “My dear Signor Pasquale, your presence in my humble dwelling is, I feel, a very great honour. May I presume that it is your love for art which brings you to me? You wish to see the newest things I have done, perchance to give me a commission for some work. Pray in what, my dear Signor Pasquale, can I serve you?”
“I have a word or two to say to you, my dear Signor Salvator,” stammered Capuzzi painfully, “but — alone — when you are alone. With your leave I will withdraw and come again at a more seasonable time.”
“By no means,” said Salvator, holding the old gentleman fast, “by no means, my dear sir. You need not stir a step; you could not have come at a more seasonable time, for, since you are a great admirer of the noble art of painting, and the patron of all good painters, I am sure you will be greatly pleased for me to introduce to you Antonio Scacciati here, the first painter of our time, whose glorious work — the wonderful ‘Magdalene at the Saviour’s Feet’— has excited throughout all Rome the most enthusiastic admiration. You too, I need hardly say, have also formed a high opinion of the work, and must be very anxious to know the great artist himself.”
The old man was seized with a violent trembling; he shook as if he had a shivering fit of the ague, and shot fiery wrathful looks at poor Antonio. He however approached the old gentleman, and, bowing with polished courtesy, assured him that he esteemed himself happy at meeting in such an unexpected way with Signor Pasquale Capuzzi, whose great learning in music as well as in painting was a theme for wonder not only in Rome but throughout all Italy, and he concluded by requesting the honour of his patronage.
This behaviour of Antonio, in pretending to meet the old gentleman for the first time in his life, and in addressing him in such flattering phrases, soon brought him round again. He forced his features into a simpering smile, and, as Salvator now let his hands loose, gave his moustache an elegant upward curl, at the same time stammering out a few unintelligible words. Then, turning to Salvator, he requested payment of the ten ducats for the spinet he had sold him.
“Oh! that trifling little matter we can settle afterwards, my good sir,” was Salvator’s answer. “First have the goodness to look at this sketch of a picture which I have drawn, and drink a glass of good Syracuse whilst you do so.” Salvator meanwhile placed his sketch on the easel and moved up a chair for the old gentleman, and then, when he had taken his seat, he presented him with a large and handsome wine-cup full of good Syracuse — the little pearl-like bubbles rising gaily to the top.
Signor Pasquale was very fond of a glass of good wine — when he had nothing to pay for it; and now he ought to have been in an especially happy frame of mind, for, besides nourishing his heart with the hope of getting ten ducats for a rotten, worn-out spinet, he was sitting before a splendid, boldly-designed picture, the rare beauty of which he was quite capable of estimating at its full worth. And that he was in this happy frame of mind he evidenced in divers way; he simpered most charmingly; he half closed his little eyes; he assiduously stroked his chin and moustache; and lisped time after time, “Splendid! delicious!” but they did not know to which he was referring, the picture or the wine.
When he had thus worked himself round into a quiet cheerful humour, Salvator suddenly began —“They tell me, my dear sir, that you have a most beautiful and amiable niece, named Marianna — is it so? All the young men of the city are so smitten with love that they stupidly do nothing but run up and down the Via Ripetta, almost dislocating their necks in their efforts to look up at your balcony for a sight of your sweet Marianna, to snatch a single glance from her heavenly eyes.”
Suddenly all the charming simpers, all the good humour which had been called up into the old gentleman’s face by the good wine, were gone. Looking gloomily before him, he said sharply, “Ah! that’s an instance of the corruption of our abandoned young men. They fix their infernal eyes, there probate seducers, upon mere children. For I tell you, my good sir, that my niece Marianna is quite a child, quite a child, only just outgrown her nurse’s care.”
Salvator turned the conversation upon something else; the old gentleman recovered himself. But just as he, his face again radiant with sunshine, was on the point of putting the full wine-cup to his lips, Salvator began anew. “But pray tell me, my dear sir, if it is indeed true that your niece, with her sixteen summers, really has such beautiful auburn hair, and eyes so full of heaven’s own loveliness and joy, as has Antonio’s ‘Magdalene?’ It is generally maintained that she has.”
“I don’t know,” replied the old gentleman, still more sharply than before, “I don’t know. But let us leave my niece in peace; rather let us exchange a few instructive words on the noble subject of art, as your fine picture here of itself invites me to do.”
Always when Capuzzi raised the wine-cup to his lips to take a good draught, Salvator began anew to talk about the beautiful Marianna, so that at last the old gentleman leapt from his chair in a perfect passion, banged the cup down upon the table and almost broke it, screaming in a high shrill voice, “By the infernal pit of Pluto! by all the furies! you will turn my wine into poison — into poison I tell you. But I see through you, you and your fine friend Signor Antonio, you think to make sport of me. But you’ll find yourselves deceived Pay me the ten ducats you owe me immediately, and then I will leave you and your associate, that barber-fellow Antonio, to make your way to the devil.”
Salvator shouted, as if mastered by the most violent rage, “What! you have the audacity to treat me in this way in my own house! Do you think I’m going to pay you ten ducats for that rotten box; the woodworms have long ago eaten all the goodness and all the music out of it? Not ten — not five — not three — not one ducat shall you have for it, it’s scarcely worth a farthing. Away with the tumbledown thing!” and he kicked over the little instrument again and again, till the strings were all jarring and jangling together.
“Ha!” screeched Capuzzi, “justice is still to be had in Rome; I will have you arrested, sir — arrested and cast into the deepest dungeon there is,” and off he was rushing out of the room, blustering like a hailstorm. But Salvator took fast hold of him with both hands, and drew him down into the chair again, softly murmuring in his ear, “My dear Signor Pasquale, don’t you perceive that I was only jesting with you? You shall have for your spinet, not ten, but thirty ducats cash down.” And he went on repeating, “thirty bright ducats in ready money,” until Capuzzi said in a faint and feeble voice, “What do you say, my dear sir? Thirty ducats for the spinet without its being repaired?” Then Salvator released his hold of the old gentleman, and asserted on his honour that within an hour the instrument should be worth thirty — nay, forty ducats, and that Signor Pasquale should receive as much for it.
Taking in a fresh supply of breath, and sighing deeply, the old gentleman murmured, “Thirty — forty ducats!” Then he began, “But you have greatly offended me, Signor Salvator”—— “Thirty ducats,” repeated Salvator. Capuzzi simpered, but then began again, “But you have grossly wounded my feelings, Signor Salvator”—— “Thirty ducats,” exclaimed Salvator, cutting him short; and he continued to repeat, “Thirty ducats! thirty ducats!” as long as the old gentleman continued to sulk — till at length Capuzzi said, radiant with delight, “If you will give me thirty — I mean forty ducats for the spinet, all shall be forgiven and forgotten, my dear sir.”
“But,” began Salvator, “before I can fulfil my promise, I still have one little condition to make, which you, my honoured Signor Pasquale Capuzzi di Senigaglia, can easily grant. You are the first musical composer in all Italy, besides being the foremost singer of the day. When I heard in the opera Le Nozze di Teti e Peleo the great scene which that shameless Francesco Cavalli has thievishly taken from your works, I was enraptured. If you would only sing me that aria whilst I put the spinet to rights you would confer upon me a pleasure than which I can conceive of none more enjoyable.”
Puckering up his mouth into the most winning of smiles, and blinking his little grey eyes, the old gentleman replied, “I perceive, my good sir, that you are yourself a clever musician, for you possess taste and know how to value the deserving better than these ungrateful Romans. Listen — listen — to the aria of all arias.”
Therewith he rose to his feet, and, stretching himself up to his full height, spread out his arms and closed both eyes, so that he looked like a cock preparing to crow; and he at once began to screech in such a way that the walls rang again, and Dame Caterina and her two daughters soon came running in, fully under the impression that such lamentable sounds must betoken some accident or other. At sight of the crowing old gentleman they stopped on the threshold utterly astonished; and thus they formed the audience of the incomparable musician Capuzzi.
Meanwhile Salvator, having picked up the spinet and thrown back the lid, had taken his palette in hand, and in bold firm strokes had begun on the lid of the instrument the most remarkable piece of painting that ever was seen. The central idea was a scene from Cavalli’s opera Le Nozze di Teti, but there was a multitude of other personages mixed up with it in the most fantastic way. Amongst them were the recognisable features of Capuzzi, Antonio, Marianna (faithfully reproduced from Antonio’s picture), Salvator himself, Dame Caterina and her two daughters — and even the Pyramid Doctor was not wanting — and all grouped so intelligently, judiciously, and ingeniously, that Antonio could not conceal his astonishment, both at the artist’s intellectual power as well as at his technique.
Meanwhile old Capuzzi had not been content with the aria which Salvator had requested him to give, but, carried away by his musical madness, he went on singing or rather screeching without intermission, working his way through the most awful recitatives from one execrable scene to another. He must have been going on for nearly two hours when he sank back in his chair, breathless, and with his face as red as a cherry. And just at this same time also Salvator had so far worked out his sketch that the figures began to wear a look of vitality, and the whole, viewed at a little distance, had the appearance of a finished work.
“I have kept my word with respect to the spinet, my dear Signer Pasquale,” breathed Salvator in the old man’s ear. He started up as if awakening out of a deep sleep. Immediately his glance fell upon the painted instrument, which stood directly opposite him. Then, opening his eyes wide as if he saw a miracle, and jauntily throwing his conical hat on the top of his wig, he took his crutch-stick under his arm, made one bound to the spinet, tore the lid off the hinges, and holding it above his head, ran like a madman out of the room, down the stairs, and away, away out of the house altogether, followed by the hearty laughter of Dame Caterina and both her daughters.
“The old miser,” said Salvator, “knows very well that he has only to take yon painted lid to Count Colonna or to my friend Rossi and he will at once get forty ducats for it, or even more.”
Salvator and Antonio then both deliberated how they should carry out the plan of attack which was to be made when night came. We shall soon see what the two adventurers resolved upon, and what success they had in their adventure.
As soon as it was dark, Signer Pasquale, after locking and bolting the door of his house, carried the little monster of an eunuch home as usual. The whole way the little wretch was whining and growling, complaining that not only did he sing Capuzzi’s arias till he got catarrh in the throat and burn his fingers cooking the macaroni, but he had now to lend himself to duties which brought him nothing but sharp boxes of the ear and rough kicks, which Marianna lavishly distributed to him as soon as ever he came near her. Old Capuzzi consoled him as well as he could, promising to provide him an ampler supply of sweetmeats than he had hitherto done; indeed, as the little man would nohow cease his growling and querulous complaining, Pasquale even laid himself under the obligation to get a natty abbot’s coat made for the little torment out of an old black plush waistcoat which he (the dwarf) had often set covetous eyes upon. He demanded a wig and a sword as well. Parleying upon these points they arrived at the Via Bergognona, for that was where Pitichinaccio dwelt, only four doors from Salvator.
The old man set the dwarf cautiously down and opened the street door; and then, the dwarf on in front, they both began to climb up the narrow stairs, which were more like a rickety ladder for hens and chickens than steps for respectable people. But they had hardly mounted half way up when a terrible racket began up above, and the coarse voice of some wild drunken fellow was heard cursing and swearing, and demanding to be shown the way out of the damned house. Pitichinaccio squeezed himself close to the wall, and entreated Capuzzi, in the name of all the saints, to go on first. But before Capuzzi had ascended two steps, the fellow who was up above came tumbling headlong downstairs, caught hold of the old man, and whisked him away like a whirlwind out through the open door below into the middle of the street. There they both lay — Capuzzi at bottom and the drunken brute like a heavy sack on top of him. The old gentleman screamed piteously for help; two men came up at once and with considerable difficulty freed him from the heavy weight lying upon him; the other fellow, as soon as he was lifted up, reeled away cursing.
“Good God! what’s happened to you, Signor Pasquale? What are you doing here at this time of night? What big quarrel have you been getting mixed up in in that house there?” thus asked Salvator and Antonio, for that is who the two men were.
“Oh, I shall die!” groaned Capuzzi; “that son of the devil has crushed all my limbs; I can’t move.”
“Let me look,” said Antonio, feeling all over the old gentleman’s body, and suddenly he pinched his right leg so sharply that Capuzzi screamed out aloud.
“By all the saints!” cried Antonio in consternation, “by all the saints! my dear Signer Pasquale, you’ve broken your right leg in the most dangerous place. If you don’t get speedy help you will within a short time be a dead man, or at any rate be lame all your life long.”
A terrible scream escaped the old man’s breast. “Calm yourself, my dear sir,” continued Antonio, “although I’m now a painter, I haven’t altogether forgotten my surgical practice. We will carry you to Salvator’s house and I will at once bind up”——
“My dear Signor Antonio,” whined Capuzzi, “you nourish hostile feelings towards me, I know.” “But,” broke in Salvator, “this is now no longer the time to talk about enmity; you are in danger, and that is enough for honest Antonio to exert all his skill on your behalf. Lay hold, friend Antonio.”
Gently and cautiously they lifted up the old man between them, him screaming with the unspeakable pain caused by his broken leg, and carried him to Salvator’s dwelling.
Dame Caterina said that she had had a foreboding that something was going to happen, and so she had not gone to bed. As soon as she caught sight of the old gentleman and heard what had befallen him, she began to heap reproaches upon him for his bad conduct. “I know,” she said, “I know very well, Signor Pasquale, who you’ve been taking home again. Now that you’ve got your beautiful niece Marianna in the house with you, you think you’ve no further call to have women-folk about you, and you treat that poor Pitichinaccio most shameful and infamous, putting him in petticoats. But look to it. Ogni carne ha il suo osso (Every house has its skeleton). Why if you have a girl about you, don’t you need women-folk? Fate il passo secondo la gamba (Cut your clothes according to your cloth), and don’t you require anything either more or less from your Marianna than what is right. Don’t lock her up as if she were a prisoner, nor make your house a dungeon. Asino punto convien che trotti (If you are in the stream, you had better swim with it); you have a beautiful niece and you must alter your ways to suit her, that is, you must only do what she wants you to do. But you are an ungallant and hard-hearted man, ay, and even in love, and jealous as well, they say, which I hope at your years is not true. Your pardon for telling you it all straight out, but chi ha nel petto fiele non puo sputar miele (when there’s bile in the heart there can’t be honey in the mouth). So now, if you don’t die of your broken leg, which at your great age is not at all unlikely, let this be a warning to you; and leave your niece free to do what she likes, and let her marry the fine young gentleman as I know very well.”
And so the stream went on uninterruptedly, whilst Salvator and Antonio cautiously undressed the old gentleman and put him to bed. Dame Caterina’s words were like knives cutting deeply into his breast; but whenever he attempted to intervene, Antonio signed to him that all speaking was dangerous, and so he had to swallow his bitter gall. At length Salvator sent Dame Caterina away, to fetch some ice-cold water that Antonio wanted.
Salvator and Antonio satisfied themselves that the fellow who had been sent to Pitichinaccio’s house had done his duty well. Notwithstanding the apparently terrible fall, Capuzzi had not received the slightest damage beyond a slight bruise or two. Antonio put the old gentleman’s right foot in splints and bandaged it up so tight that he could not move. Then they wrapped him up in cloths that had been soaked in ice-cold water, as a precaution, they alleged, against inflammation, so that the old gentleman shook as if with the ague.
“My good Signor Antonio,” he groaned feebly, “tell me if it is all over with me. Must I die?”
“Compose yourself,” replied Antonio. “If you will only compose yourself, Signor Pasquale! As you have come through the first dressing with so much nerve and without fainting, I think we may say that the danger is past; but you will require the most attentive nursing. At present we mustn’t let you out of the doctor’s sight.”
“Oh! Antonio,” whined the old gentleman, “you know how I like you, how highly I esteem your talents. Don’t leave me. Give me your dear hand — so! You won’t leave me, will you, my dear good Antonio?”
“Although I am now no longer a surgeon,” said Antonio, “although I’ve quite given up that hated trade, yet I will in your case, Signor Pasquale, make an exception, and will undertake to attend you, for which I shall ask nothing except that you give me your friendship, your confidence again. You were a little hard upon me”——
“Say no more,” lisped the old gentleman, “not another word, my dear Antonio”——
“Your niece will be half dead with anxiety,” said Antonio again, “at your not returning home. You are, considering your condition, brisk and strong enough, and so as soon as day dawns we’ll carry you home to your own house. There I will again look at your bandage, and arrange your bed as it ought to be, and give your niece her instructions, so that you may soon get well again.”
The old gentleman heaved a deep sigh and closed his eyes, remaining some minutes without speaking. Then, stretching out his hand towards Antonio, he drew him down close beside him, and whispered, “It was only a jest that you had with Marianna, was it not, my dear sir? — one of those merry conceits that young folks have”——
“Think no more about that, Signor Pasquale,” replied Antonio. “Your niece did, it is true, strike my fancy; but I have now quite different things in my head, and — to confess honestly to it — I am very pleased that you did return a sharp answer to my foolish suit. I thought I was in love with your Marianna, but what I really saw in her was only a fine model for my ‘Magdalene.’ And this probably explains how it is that, now that my picture is finished, I feel quite indifferent towards her.”
“Antonio,” cried the old man, in a strong voice, “Antonio, you glorious fellow! What comfort you give me — what help — what consolation! Now that you don’t love Marianna I feel as if all my pain had gone.”
“Why, I declare, Signor Pasquale,” said Salvator, “if we didn’t know you to be a grave and sensible man, with a true perception of what is becoming to your years, we might easily believe that you were yourself by some infatuation in love with your niece of sixteen summers.”
Again the old gentleman closed his eyes, and groaned and moaned at the horrible pain, which now returned with redoubled violence.
The first red streaks of morning came shining in through the window. Antonio announced to the old gentleman that it was now time to take him to his own house in the Via Ripetta. Signor Pasquale’s reply was a deep and piteous sigh. Salvator and Antonio lifted him out of bed and wrapped him in a wide mantle which had belonged to Dame Caterina’s husband, and which she lent them for this purpose. The old gentleman implored them by all the saints to take off the villainous cold bandages in which his bald head was swathed, and to give him his wig and plumed hat. And also, if it were possible, Antonio was to put his moustache a little in order, that Marianna might not be too much frightened at sight of him.
Two porters with a litter were standing all ready before the door. Dame Caterina, still storming at the old man, and mixing a great many proverbs in her abuse, carried down the bed, in which they then carefully packed him; and so, accompanied by Salvator and Antonio, he was taken home to his own house.
No sooner did Marianna see her uncle in this wretched plight than she began to scream, whilst a torrent of tears gushed from her eyes; without noticing her lover, who had come along with him, she grasped the old man’s hands and pressed them to her lips, bewailing the terrible accident that had befallen him — so much pity had the good child for the old man who plagued and tormented her with his amorous folly. Yet at this same moment the inherent nature of woman asserted itself in her; for it only required a few significant glances from Salvator to put her in full possession of all the facts of the case. Now, for the first time, she stole a glance at the happy Antonio, blushing hotly as she did so; and a pretty sight it was to see how a roguish smile gradually routed and broke through her tears. Salvator, at any rate, despite the “Magdalene,” had not expected to find the little maiden half so charming, or so sweetly pretty as he now really discovered her to be; and, whilst almost feeling inclined to envy Antonio his good fortune, he felt that it was all the more necessary to get poor Marianna away from her hateful uncle, let the cost be what it might.
Signor Pasquale forgot his trouble in being received so affectionately by his lovely niece, which was indeed more than he deserved. He simpered and pursed up his lips so that his moustache was all of a totter, and groaned and whined, not with pain, but simply and solely with amorous longing.
Antonio arranged his bed professionally, and, after Capuzzi had been laid on it, tightened the bandage still more, at the same time so muffling up his left leg as well that he had to lay there motionless like a log of wood. Salvator withdrew and left the lovers alone with their happiness.
The old gentleman lay buried in cushions; moreover, as an extra precaution, Antonio had bound a thick piece of cloth well steeped in water round his head, so that he might not hear the lovers whispering together. This was the first time they unburdened all their hearts to each other, swearing eternal fidelity in the midst of tears and rapturous kisses. The old gentleman could have no idea of what was going on, for Marianna ceased not, frequently from time to time, to ask him how he felt, and even permitted him to press her little white hand to his lips.
When the morning began to be well advanced, Antonio hastened away to procure, as he said, all the things that the old gentleman required, but in reality to invent some means for putting him, at any rate for some hours, in a still more helpless condition, as well as to consult with Salvator what further steps were then to be taken.
1 The first silver ducat is believed to have been struck in 1140 by Roger II., Norman king of Sicily; and ducats have been struck constantly since the twelfth century, especially at Venice (see Merchant of Venice ). They have varied considerably both in weight and fineness, and consequently in value, at different times and places. Ducats have been struck in both gold and silver. The early Venetian silver ducat was worth about five shillings. The name is said, according to one account, to have been derived from the last word of the Latin legend found on the earliest Venetian gold coins:— Sit tibi, Christe, datus, quem tu regis, ducatus (duchy); according to another account it is taken from “il ducato,” the name generally applied to the duchy of Apulia.
Of the new attack made by Salvator Rosa and Antonio Scacciati upon Signer Pasquale Capuzzi and upon his company, and of what further happens in consequence.
Next morning Antonio came to Salvator, melancholy and dejected.
“Well, what’s the matter?” cried Salvator when he saw him coming, “what are you hanging your head about? What’s happened to you now, you happy dog? can you not see your mistress every day, and kiss her and press her to your heart?”
“Oh! Salvator, it’s all over with my happiness, it’s gone for ever,” cried Antonio. “The devil is making sport of me. Our stratagem has failed, and we now stand on a footing of open enmity with that cursed Capuzzi.”
“So much the better,” said Salvator; “so much the better. But come, Antonio, tell me what’s happened.”
“Just imagine, Salvator,” began Antonio, “yesterday when I went back to the Via Ripetta after an absence of at the most two hours, with all sorts of medicines, whom should I see but the old gentleman standing in his own doorway fully dressed. Behind him was the Pyramid Doctor and the deuced exgendarme, whilst a confused something was bobbing about round their legs. It was, I believe, that little monster Pitichinaccio. No sooner did the old man get sight of me than he shook his fist at me, and began to heap the most fearful curses and imprecations upon me, swearing that if I did but approach his door he would have all my bones broken. ‘Be off to the devil, you infamous barber-fellow,’ he shrieked; ‘you think to outwit me with your lying and knavery. Like the very devil himself, you lie in wait for my poor innocent Marianna, and fancy you are going to get her into your toils — but stop a moment! I will spend my last ducat to have the vital spark stamped out of you, ere you’re aware of it. And your fine patron, Signor Salvator, the murderer — bandit — who’s escaped the halter — he shall be sent to join his captain Masaniello in hell — I’ll have him out of Rome; that won’t cost me much trouble.’
“Thus the old fellow raged, and as the damned exgendarme, incited by the Pyramid Doctor, was making preparations to bear down upon me, and a crowd of curious onlookers began to assemble, what could I do but quit the field with all speed? I didn’t like to come to you in my great trouble, for I know you would only have laughed at me and my inconsolable complaints. Why, you can hardly keep back your laughter now.”
As Antonio ceased speaking, Salvator did indeed burst out laughing heartily.
“Now,” he cried, “now the thing is beginning to be rather interesting. And now, my worthy Antonio, I will tell you in detail all that took place at Capuzzi’s after you had gone. You had hardly left the house when Signor Splendiano Accoramboni, who had learned — God knows in what way — that his bosom-friend, Capuzzi, had broken his right leg in the night, drew near in all solemnity, with a surgeon. Your bandage and the entire method of treatment you have adopted with Signor Pasquale could not fail to excite suspicion. The surgeon removed the splints and bandages, and they discovered, what we both very well know, that there was not even so much as an ossicle of the worthy Capuzzi’s right foot dislocated, still less broken. It didn’t require any uncommon sagacity to understand all the rest.”
“But,” said Antonio, utterly astonished, “but my dear, good sir, do tell me how you have learned all that; tell me how you get into Capuzzi’s house and know everything that takes place there.”
“I have already told you,” replied Salvator, “that an acquaintance of Dame Caterina lives in the same house, and moreover, on the same floor as Capuzzi. This acquaintance, the widow of a wine-dealer, has a daughter whom my little Margaret often goes to see. Now girls have a special instinct for finding out their fellows, and so it came about that Rose — that’s the name of the wine-dealer’s daughter — and Margaret soon discovered in the living-room a small vent-hole, leading into a dark closet that adjoins Marianna’s apartment. Marianna had been by no means inattentive to the whispering and murmuring of the two girls, nor had she failed to notice the vent-hole, and so the way to a mutual exchange of communications was soon opened and made use of. Whenever old Capuzzi takes his afternoon nap the girls gossip away to their heart’s content. You will have observed that little Margaret, Dame Caterina’s and my favourite, is not so serious and reserved as her elder sister, Anna, but is an arch, frolicsome, droll little thing. Without expressly making mention of your love-affair I have instructed her to get Marianna to tell her everything that takes place in Capuzzi’s house. She has proved a very apt pupil in the matter; and if I laughed at your pain and despondency just now it was because I knew what would comfort you, knew I could prove to you that the affair has now taken a most favourable turn. I have quite a big budget full of excellent news for you.”
“Salvator!” cried Antonio, his eyes sparkling with joy, “how you cause my hopes to rise! Heaven be praised for the vent-hole. I will write to Marianna; Margaret shall take the letter with her”——
“Nay, nay, we can have none of that, Antonio,” replied Salvator. “Margaret can be useful to us without being your love-messenger exactly. Besides, accident, which often plays many fine tricks, might carry your amorous confessions into old Capuzzi’s hands, and so bring an endless amount of fresh trouble upon Marianna, just at the very moment when she is on the point of getting the lovesick old fool under her thumb. For listen to what then happened. The way in which Marianna received the old fellow when we took him home has quite reformed him. He is fully convinced that she no longer loves you, but that she has given him at least one half of her heart, and that all he has to do is to win the other half. And Marianna, since she imbibed the poison of your kisses, has advanced three years in shrewdness, artfulness, and experience. She has convinced the old man, not only that she had no share in our trick, but that she hates our goings-on, and will meet with scorn every device on your part to approach her. In his excessive delight the old man was too hasty, and swore that if he could do anything to please his adored Marianna he would do it immediately, she had only to give utterance to her wish. Whereupon Marianna modestly asked for nothing except that her zio carissimo (dearest uncle) would take her to see Signor Formica in the theatre outside the Porta del Popolo. This rather posed Capuzzi; there were consultations with the Pyramid Doctor and with Pitichinaccio; at last Signor Pasquale and Signor Splendiano came to the resolution that they really would take Marianna to this theatre tomorrow. Pitichinaccio, it was resolved, should accompany them in the disguise of a handmaiden, to which he only gave his consent on condition that Signor Pasquale would make him a present, not only of the plush waistcoat, but also of a wig, and at night would, alternately with the Pyramid Doctor, carry him home. That bargain they finally made; and so the curious leash will certainly go along with pretty Marianna to see Signor Formica tomorrow, in the theatre outside the Porta del Popolo.”
It is now necessary to say who Signor Formica was, and what he had to do with the theatre outside the Porta del Popolo.
At the time of the Carnival in Rome, nothing is more sad than when the theatre-managers have been unlucky in their choice of a musical composer, or when the first tenor at the Argentina theatre has lost his voice on the way, or when the male prima donna1 of the Valle theatre is laid up with a cold — in brief, when the chief source of recreation which the Romans were hoping to find proves abortive, and then comes Holy Thursday and all at once cuts off all the hopes which might perhaps have been realized It was just after one of these unlucky Carnivals — almost before the strict fast-days were past, when a certain Nicolo Musso opened a theatre outside the Porta del Popolo, where he stated his intention of putting nothing but light impromptu comic sketches on the boards. The advertisement was drawn up in an ingenious and witty style, and consequently the Romans formed a favourable preconception of Musso’s enterprise; but independently of this they would in their longing to still their dramatic hunger have greedily snatched at any the poorest pabulum of this description. The interior arrangements of the theatre, or rather of the small booth, did not say much for the pecuniary resources of the enterprising manager. There was no orchestra, nor were there boxes. Instead, a gallery was put up at the back, where the arms of the house of Colonna were conspicuous — a sign that Count Colonna had taken Musso and his theatre under his especial protection. A platform of slight elevation, covered with carpets and hung round with curtains, which, according to the requirements of the piece, had to represent a wood or a room or a street — this was the stage. Add to this that the spectators had to content themselves with hard uncomfortable wooden benches, and it was no wonder that Signor Musso’s patrons on first entering were pretty loud in their grumblings at him for calling a paltry wooden booth a theatre. But no sooner had the first two actors who appeared exchanged a few words together than the attention of the audience was arrested; as the piece proceeded their interest took the form of applause, their applause grew to admiration, their admiration to the wildest pitch of enthusiastic excitement, which found vent in loud and continuous laughter, clapping of hands, and screams of “Bravo! Bravo!”
And indeed it would not have been very easy to find anything more perfect than these extemporised representations of Nicolo Musso; they overflowed with wit, humour, and genius, and lashed the follies of the day with an unsparing scourge. The audience were quite carried away by the incomparable characterisation which distinguished all the actors, but particularly by the inimitable mimicry of Pasquarello,2 by his marvellously natural imitations of the voice, gait, and postures of well-known personages. By his inexhaustible humour, and the point and appositeness of his impromptus, he quite carried his audience away. The man who played the rôle of Pasquarello, and who called himself Signor Formica, seemed to be animated by a spirit of singular originality; often there was something so strange in either tone or gesture, that the audience, even in the midst of the most unrestrained burst of laughter, felt a cold shiver run through them. He was excellently supported by Dr. Gratiano,3 who in pantomimic action, in voice, and in his talent for saying the most delightful things mixed up with apparently the most extravagant nonsense, had perhaps no equal in the world. This rôle was played by an old Bolognese named Maria Agli. Thus in a short time all educated Rome was seen hastening in a continuous stream to Nicolo Musso’s little theatre outside the Porta del Popolo, whilst Formica’s name was on everybody’s lips, and people shouted with wild enthusiasm, “Oh! Formica! Formica benedetto! Oh! Formicissimo! ”— not only in the theatre but also in the streets. They regarded him as a supernatural visitant, and many an old lady who had split her sides with laughing in the theatre, would suddenly look grave and say solemnly, “Scherza coi fanti e lascia star santi ” (Jest with children but let the saints alone), if anybody ventured to say the least thing in disparagement of Formica’s acting. This arose from the fact that outside the theatre Signor Formica was an inscrutable mystery. Never was he seen anywhere, and all efforts to discover traces of him were vain, whilst Nicolo Musso on his part maintained an inexorable silence respecting his retreat.
And this was the theatre that Marianna was anxious to go to.
“Let us make a decisive onslaught upon our foes,” said Salvator; “we couldn’t have a finer opportunity than when they’re returning home from the theatre.” Then he imparted to Antonio the details of a plan, which, though appearing adventurous and daring, Antonio nevertheless embraced with joy, since it held out to him a prospect that he should be able to carry off his Marianna from the hated old Capuzzi. He also heard with approbation that Salvator was especially concerned to chastise the Pyramid Doctor.
When night came, Salvator and Antonio each took a guitar and went to the Via Ripetta, where, with the express view of causing old Capuzzi annoyance, they complimented lovely Marianna with the finest serenade that ever was heard. For Salvator played and sang in masterly style, whilst Antonio, as far as the capabilities of his fine tenor would allow him, almost rivalled Odoardo Ceccarelli. Although Signor Pasquale appeared on the balcony and tried to silence the singers with abuse, his neighbours, attracted to their windows by the good singing, shouted to him that he and his companions howled and screamed like so many cats and dogs, and yet he wouldn’t listen to good music when it did come into the street; he might just go inside and stop up his ears if he didn’t want to listen to good singing. And so Signor Pasquale had to bear nearly all night long the torture of hearing Salvator and Antonio sing songs which at one time were the sweetest of love-songs and at another mocked at the folly of amorous old fools. They plainly saw Marianna standing at the window, notwithstanding that Signor Pasquale besought her in the sweetest phrases and protestations not to expose herself to the noxious night air.
Next evening the most remarkable company that ever was seen proceeded down the Via Ripetta towards the Porta del Popolo. All eyes were turned upon them, and people asked each other if these were maskers left from the Carnival. Signor Pasquale Capuzzi, spruce and smug, all elegance and politeness, wearing his gay Spanish suit well brushed, parading a new yellow feather in his conical hat, and stepping along in shoes too little for him, as if he were walking amongst eggs, was leading pretty Marianna on his arm; her slender figure could not be seen, still less her face, since she was smothered up to an unusual extent in her veil and wraps. On the other side marched Doctor Splendiano Accoramboni in his great wig, which covered the whole of his back, so that to look at him from behind there appeared to be a huge head walking along on two little legs. Close behind Marianna, and almost clinging to her, waddled the little monster Pitichinaccio, dressed in fiery red petticoats, and having his head covered all over in hideous fashion with bright-coloured flowers.
This evening Signor Formica outdid himself even, and, what he had never done before, introduced short songs into his performance, burlesquing the style of certain well-known singers. Old Capuzzi’s passion for the stage, which in his youth had almost amounted to infatuation, was now stirred up in him anew. In a rapture of delight he kissed Marianna’s hand time after time, and protested that he would not miss an evening visiting Nicolo Musso’s theatre with her. Signor Formica he extolled to the very skies, and joined hand and foot in the boisterous applause of the rest of the spectators. Signor Splendiano was less satisfied, and kept continually admonishing Signor Capuzzi and lovely Marianna not to laugh so immoderately. In a single breath he ran over the names of twenty or more diseases which might arise from splitting the sides with laughing. But neither Marianna nor Capuzzi heeded him in the least. As for Pitichinaccio, he felt very uncomfortable. He had been obliged to sit behind the Pyramid Doctor, whose great wig completely overshadowed him. Not a single thing could he see on the stage, nor any of the actors, and was, moreover, repeatedly bothered and annoyed by two forward women who had placed themselves near him. They called him a dear, comely little lady, and asked him if he was married, though to be sure, he was very young, and whether he had any children, who they dare be bound were sweet little creatures, and so forth. The cold sweat stood in beads on poor Pitichinaccio’s brow; he whined and whimpered, and cursed the day he was born.
After the conclusion of the performance, Signor Pasquale waited until the spectators had withdrawn from the theatre. The last light was extinguished just as Signor Splendiano had lit a small piece of a wax torch at it; and then Capuzzi, with his worthy friends and Marianna, slowly and circumspectly set out on their return journey.
Pitichinaccio wept and screamed; Capuzzi, greatly to his vexation, had to take him on his left arm, whilst with the right he led Marianna. Doctor Splendiano showed the way with his miserable little bit of torch, which only burned with difficulty, and even then in a feeble sort of a way, so that the wretched light it cast merely served to reveal to them the thick darkness of the night.
Whilst they were still a good distance from the Porta del Popolo they all at once saw themselves surrounded by several tall figures closely enveloped in mantles. At this moment the torch was knocked out of the Doctor’s hand, and went out on the ground. Capuzzi, as well as the Doctor, stood still without uttering a sound. Then, without their knowing where it came from, a pale reddish light fell upon the muffled figures, and four grisly skulls riveted their hollow ghastly eyes upon the Pyramid Doctor. “Woe — woe — woe betide thee, Splendiano Accoramboni!” thus the terrible spectres shrieked in deep, sepulchral tones. Then one of them wailed, “Do you know me? do you know me, Splendiano? I am Cordier, the French painter, who was buried last week, and whom your medicaments brought to his grave.” Then the second, “Do you know me, Splendiano? I am Küfner, the German painter, whom you poisoned with your infernal electuary.” Then the third, “Do you know me, Splendiano? I am Liers, the Fleming, whom you killed with your pills, and whose brother you defrauded of a picture.” Then the fourth, “Do you know me, Splendiano? I am Ghigi, the Neapolitan painter, whom you despatched with your powders.” And lastly all four together, “Woe — woe — woe upon thee, Splendiano Accoramboni, cursed Pyramid Doctor! We bid you come — come down to us beneath the earth. Away — away — away with you! Hallo! hallo!” and so saying they threw themselves upon the unfortunate Doctor, and, raising him in their arms, whisked him away like a whirlwind.
Now, although Signor Pasquale was a good deal overcome by terror, yet it is surprising with what remarkable promptitude he recovered courage so soon as he saw that it was only his friend Accoramboni with whom the spectres were concerned. Pitichinaccio had stuck his head, with the flower-bed that was on it, under Capuzzi’s mantle, and clung so fast round his neck that all efforts to shake him off proved futile.
“Pluck up your spirits,” Capuzzi exhorted Marianna, when nothing more was to be seen of the spectres or of the Pyramid Doctor; “pluck up your spirits, and come to me, my sweet little ducky bird! As for my worthy friend Splendiano, it’s all over with him. May St. Bernard, who also was an able physician and gave many a man a lift on the road to happiness, may he help him, if the revengeful painters whom he hastened to get to his Pyramid break his neck! But who’ll sing the bass of my canzonas now? And this booby, Pitichinaccio, is squeezing my throat so, that, adding in the fright caused by Splendiano’s abduction, I fear I shall not be able to produce a pure note for perhaps six weeks to come. Don’t be alarmed, my Marianna, my darling! It’s all over now.”
She assured him that she had quite recovered from her alarm, and begged him to let her walk alone without support, so that he could free himself from his troublesome pet. But Signor Pasquale only took faster hold of her, saying that he wouldn’t suffer her to leave his side a yard in that pitch darkness for anything in the world.
In the very same moment as Signor Pasquale, now at his ease again, was about to proceed on his road, four frightful fiend-like figures rose up just in front of him as if out of the earth; they wore short flaring red mantles and fixed their keen glittering eyes upon him, at the same time making horrible noises — yelling and whistling. “Ugh! ugh! Pasquale Capuzzi! You cursed fool! You amorous old devil! We belong to your fraternity; we are the evil spirits of love, and have come to carry you off to hell — to hell-fire — you and your crony Pitichinaccio.” Thus screaming, the Satanic figures fell upon the old man. Capuzzi fell heavily to the ground and Pitichinaccio along with him, both raising a shrill piercing cry of distress and fear, like that of a whole troop of cudgelled asses.
Marianna had meanwhile torn herself away from the old man and leapt aside. Then one of the devils clasped her softly in his arms, whispering the sweet glad words, “O Marianna! my Marianna! At last we’ve managed it! My friends will carry the old man a long, long way from here, whilst we seek a better place of safety.”
“O my Antonio!” whispered Marianna softly.
But suddenly the scene was illuminated by the light of several torches, and Antonio felt a stab in his shoulder. Quick as lightning he turned round, drew his sword, and attacked the fellow, who with his stiletto upraised was just preparing to aim a second blow. He perceived that his three companions were defending themselves against a superior number of gendarmes. He managed to beat off the fellow who had attacked him, and joined his friends. Although they were maintaining their ground bravely, the contest was yet too unequal; the gendarmes would infallibly have proved victorious had not two others suddenly ranged themselves with a shout on the side of the young men, one of them immediately cutting down the fellow who was pressing Antonio the hardest.
In a few minutes more the contest was decided against the police. Several lay stretched on the ground seriously wounded; the rest fled with loud shouts towards the Porta del Popolo.
Salvator Rosa (for he it was who had hastened to Antonio’s assistance and cut down his opponent) wanted to take Antonio and the young painters who were disguised in the devils’ masks and there and then pursue the gendarmes into the city.
Maria Agli, however, who had come along with him, and, notwithstanding his advanced age, had tackled the police as stoutly as any of the rest, urged that this would be imprudent, for the guard at the Porta del Popolo would be certain to have intelligence of the affair and would arrest them. So they all betook themselves to Nicolo Musso, who gladly received them into his narrow little house not far from the theatre. The artists took off their devils’ masks and laid aside their mantles, which had been rubbed over with phosphorus, whilst Antonio, who, beyond the insignificant scratch on his shoulder, was not wounded at all, exercised his surgical skill in binding up the wounds of the rest — Salvator, Agli, and his young comrades — for they had none of them got off without being wounded, though none of them in the least degree dangerously.
The adventure, notwithstanding its wildness and audacity, would undoubtedly have been successful, had not Salvator and Antonio overlooked one person, who upset everything. The ci-devant bravo and gendarme Michele, who dwelt below in Capuzzi’s house, and was in a certain sort his general servant, had, in accordance with Capuzzi’s directions, followed them to the theatre, but at some distance off, for the old gentleman was ashamed of the tattered reprobate. In the same way Michele was following them homewards. And when the spectres appeared, Michele who, be it remarked, feared neither death nor devil, suspecting that something was wrong, hurried back as fast as he could run in the darkness to the Porta del Popolo, raised an alarm, and returned with all the gendarmes he could find, just at the moment when, as we know, the devils fell upon Signor Pasquale, and were about to carry him off as the dead men had the Pyramid Doctor.
In the very hottest moment of the fight, one of the young painters observed distinctly how one of the fellows, taking Marianna in his arms (for she had fainted), made off to the gate, whilst Signor Pasquale ran after him with incredible swiftness, as if he had got quicksilver in his legs. At the same time, by the light of the torches, he caught a glimpse of something gleaming, clinging to his mantle and whimpering; no doubt it was Pitichinaccio.
Next morning Doctor Splendiano was found near the Pyramid of Cestius, fast asleep, doubled up like a ball and squeezed into his wig, as if into a warm soft nest. When he was awakened, he rambled in his talk, and there was some difficulty in convincing him that he was still on the surface of the earth, and in Rome to boot. And when at length he reached his own house, he returned thanks to the Virgin and all the saints for his rescue, threw all his tinctures, essences, electuaries, and powders out of the window, burnt his prescriptions, and vowed to heal his patients in the future by no other means than by anointing and laying on of hands, as some celebrated physician of former ages, who was at the same time a saint (his name I cannot recall just at this moment), had with great success done before him. For his patients died as well as the patients of other people, and then they already saw the gates of heaven open before them ere they died, and in fact everything else that the saint wanted them to see.
“I can’t tell you,” said Antonio next day to Salvator, “how my heart boils with rage since my blood has been spilled. Death and destruction overtake that villain Capuzzi! I tell you, Salvator, that I am determined to force my way into his house. I will cut him down if he opposes me and carry off Marianna.”
“An excellent plan!” replied Salvator, laughing. “An excellent plan! Splendidly contrived! Of course I presume you have also found some means for transporting Marianna through the air to the Spanish Square, so that they shall not seize you and hang you before you can reach that place of refuge. No, my dear Antonio, violence can do nothing for you this time. You may lay your life on it too that Signor Pasquale will now take steps to guard against any open attack. Moreover, our adventure has made a good deal of noise, and the irrepressible laughter of the people at the absurd way in which we have read a lesson to Splendiano and Capuzzi has roused the police out of their light slumber, and they, you may be sure, will now exert all their feeble efforts to entrap us. No, Antonio, let us have recourse to craft. Con arte e con inganno si vive mezzo l’anno, con inganno e con arte si vive l’altra parte (If cunning and scheming will help us six months through, scheming and cunning will help us the other six too), says Dame Caterina, nor is she far wrong. Besides, I can’t help laughing to see how we’ve gone and acted for all the world like thoughtless boys, and I shall have to bear most of the blame, for I am a good bit older than you. Tell me now, Antonio, supposing our scheme had been successful, and you had actually carried off Marianna from the old man, where would you have fled to, where would you have hidden her, and how would you have managed to get united to her by the priest before the old man could interfere to prevent it? You shall, however, in a few days, really and truly run away with your Marianna. I have let Nicolo Musso as well as Signor Formica into all the secret, and in common with them devised a plan which can scarcely fail. So cheer up, Antonio; Signor Formica will help you.”
“Signor Formica?” replied Antonio in a tone of indifference which almost amounted to contempt. “Signor Formica! In what way can that buffoon help me?”
“Ho! ho!” laughed Salvator. “Please to bear in mind, I beg you, that Signor Formica is worthy of your respect. Don’t you know that he is a sort of magician who in secret is master of the most mysterious arts? I tell you, Signor Formica will help you. Old Maria Agli, the clever Bolognese Doctor Gratiano, is also a sharer in the plot, and will, moreover, have an important part to play in it. You shall abduct your Marianna, Antonio, from Musso’s theatre.”
“You are flattering me with false hopes, Salvator,” said Antonio. “You have just now said yourself that Signor Pasquale will take care to avoid all open attacks. How can you suppose then, after his recent unpleasant experience, that he can possibly make up his mind to visit Musso’s theatre again?”
“It will not be such a difficult thing as you imagine to entice the old man there,” replied Salvator. “What will be more difficult to effect, will be, to get him in the theatre without his satellites. But, be that as it may, what you have now got to do, Antonio, is to have everything prepared and arranged with Marianna, so as to flee from Rome the moment the favourable opportunity comes. You must go to Florence; your skill as a painter will, after your arrival, in itself recommend you there; and you shall have no lack of acquaintances, nor of honourable patronage and assistance — that you may leave to me to provide for. After we have had a few days’ rest, we will then see what is to be done further. Once more, Antonio — live in hope; Formica will help you.”
1 Female parts continued to be played by boys in England down to the Restoration (1660). The practice of women playing in female parts was introduced somewhat earlier in Italy, but only in certain kinds of performances.
2 This word is undoubtedly connected with Pasquillo (a satire), or with Pasquino, a Roman cobbler of the fifteenth century, whose shop stood near the Braschi Palace, near the Piazza Navona. He lashed the follies of his day, particularly the vices of the clergy, with caustic satire, scathing wit, and bitter stinging irony. After his death his name was transferred to a mutilated statue, upon which such satiric effusions continued to be fastened.
Pasquarello would thus combine the characteristics of the English clown with those of the Roman Pasquino.
3 Doctor Gratiano, a character in the popular Italian theatre called Commedia dell’ Arte, was represented as a Bolognese doctor, and wore a mask with black nose and forehead and red cheeks. His rôle was that of a “pedantic and tedious poser.”
Of the new mishap which befalls Signor Pasquale Capussi. Antonio Scacciati successfully carries out his plan in Nicolo Musso’s theatre, and flees to Florence.
Signor Pasquale was only too well aware who had been at the bottom of the mischief that had happened to him and the poor Pyramid Doctor near the Porta del Popolo, and so it may be imagined how enraged he was against Antonio, and against Salvator Rosa, whom he rightly judged to be the ringleader in it all. He was untiring in his efforts to comfort poor Marianna, who was quite ill from fear — so she said; but in reality she was mortified that the scoundrel Michele with his gendarmes had come up, and torn her from her Antonio’s arms. Meanwhile Margaret was very active in bringing her tidings of her lover; and she based all her hopes upon the enterprising mind of Salvator. With impatience she waited from day to day for something fresh to happen, and by a thousand petty tormenting ways let the old gentleman feel the effects of this impatience; but though she thus tamed his amorous folly and made him humble enough, she failed to reach the evil spirit of love that haunted his heart. After she had made him experience to the full all the tricksy humours of the most wayward girl, and then suffered him just once to press his withered lips upon her tiny hand, he would swear in his excessive delight that he would never cease fervently kissing the Pope’s toe until he had obtained dispensation to wed his niece, the paragon of beauty and amiability. Marianna was particularly careful not to interrupt him in these outbreaks of passion, for by encouraging these gleams of hope in the old man’s breast she fanned the flame of hope in her own, for the more he could be lulled into the belief that he held her fast in the indissoluble chains of love, the more easy it would be for her to escape him.
Some time passed, when one day at noon Michele came stamping upstairs, and, after he had had to knock a good many times to induce Signor Pasquale to open the door, announced with considerable prolixity that there was a gentleman below who urgently requested to see Signor Pasquale Capuzzi, who he knew lived there.
“By all the blessed saints of Heaven!” cried the old gentleman, exasperated; “doesn’t the knave know that on no account do I receive strangers in my own house?”
But the gentleman was of very respectable appearance, reported Michele, rather oldish, talked well, and called himself Nicolo Musso.
“Nicolo Musso,” murmured Capuzzi reflectively; “Nicolo Musso, who owns the theatre beyond the Porta del Popolo; what can he want with me?” Whereupon, carefully locking and bolting the door, he went downstairs with Michele, in order to converse with Nicolo in the street before the house.
“My dear Signor Pasquale,” began Nicolo, approaching to meet him, and bowing with polished ease, “that you deign to honour me with your acquaintance affords me great pleasure. You lay me under a very great obligation. Since the Romans saw you in my theatre — you, a man of the most approved taste, of the soundest knowledge, and a master in art, not only has my fame increased, but my receipts have doubled. I am therefore all the more deeply pained to learn that certain wicked wanton boys made a murderous attack upon you and your friends as you were returning from my theatre at night. But I pray you, Signor Pasquale, by all the saints, don’t cherish any grudge against me or my theatre on account of this outrage, which shall be severely punished. Don’t deprive me of the honour of your company at my performances!”
“My dear Signor Nicolo,” replied the old man, simpering, “be assured that I never enjoyed myself more than I did when I visited your theatre. Your Formica and your Agli — why, they are actors who cannot be matched anywhere. But the fright almost killed my friend Signor Splendiano Accoramboni, nay, it almost proved the death of me — no, it was too great; and though it has not made me averse from your theatre, it certainly has from the road there. If you will put up your theatre in the Piazza del Popolo, or in the Via Babuina, or in the Via Ripetta, I certainly will not fail to visit you a single evening; but there’s no power on earth shall ever get me outside the Porta del Popolo at night-time again.”
Nicolo sighed deeply, as if greatly troubled. “That is very hard upon me,” said he then, “harder perhaps than you will believe, Signor Pasquale. For unfortunately — I had based all my hopes upon you. I came to solicit your assistance.”
“My assistance?” asked the old gentleman in astonishment “My assistance, Signor Nicolo? In what way could it profit you?”
“My dear Signor Pasquale,” replied Nicolo, drawing his handkerchief across his eyes, as if brushing away the trickling tears, “my most excellent Signor Pasquale, you will remember that my actors are in the habit of interspersing songs through their performances. This practice I was thinking of extending imperceptibly more and more, then to get together an orchestra, and, in a word, at last, eluding all prohibitions to the contrary, to establish an opera-house. You, Signor Capuzzi, are the first composer in all Italy; and we can attribute it to nothing but the inconceivable frivolity of the Romans and the malicious envy of your rivals that we hear anything else but your pieces exclusively at all the theatres. Signor Pasquale, I came to request you on my bended knees to allow me to put your immortal works, as far as circumstances will admit, on my humble stage.”
“My dear Signor Nicolo,” said the old gentleman, his face all sunshine, “what are we about to be talking here in the public street? Pray deign to have the goodness to climb up one or two rather steep flights of stairs. Come along with me up to my poor dwelling.”
Almost before Nicolo got into the room, the old gentleman brought forward a great pile of dusty music manuscript, opened it, and, taking his guitar in his hands, began to deliver himself of a series of frightful high-pitched screams which he denominated singing.
Nicolo behaved like one in raptures. He sighed; he uttered extravagant expressions of approval; he exclaimed at intervals, “Bravo! Bravissimo! Benedettissimo Capuzzi! ” until at last he threw himself at the old man’s feet as if utterly beside himself with ecstatic delight, and grasped his knees. But he nipped them so hard that the old gentleman jumped off his seat, calling out with pain, and saying to Nicolo, “By the saints! Let me go, Signor Nicolo; you’ll kill me.”
“Nay,” replied Nicolo, “nay, Signor Pasquale, I will not rise until you have promised that Formica may sing in my theatre the day after tomorrow the divine arias which you have just executed.”
“You are a man of taste,” groaned Pasquale — “a man of deep insight. To whom could I better intrust my compositions than to you? You shall take all my arias with you. Only let me go. But, good God! I shall not hear them — my divine masterpieces! Oh! let me go, Signor Nicolo.”
“No,” cried Nicolo, still on his knees, and tightly pressing the old gentleman’s thin spindle-shanks together, “no, Signor Pasquale, I will not let you go until you give me your word that you will be present in my theatre the night after tomorrow. You need not fear any new attack! Why, don’t you think that the Romans, once they have heard your work, will bring you home in triumph by the light of hundreds of torches? But in case that does not happen, I myself and my faithful comrades will take our arms and accompany you home ourselves.”
“You yourself will accompany me home, with your comrades?” asked Pasquale; “and how many may that be?”
“Eight or ten persons will be at your command, Signor Pasquale. Do yield to my intercession and resolve to come.”
“Formica has a fine voice,” lisped Pasquale. “How finely he will execute my arias.”
“Do come, oh! do come!” exhorted Nicolo again, giving the old gentleman’s knees an extra grip.
“You will pledge yourself that I shall reach my own house without being molested?” asked the old gentleman.
“I pledge my honour and my life,” was Nicolo’s reply, as he gave the knees a still sharper grip.
“Agreed!” cried the old gentleman; “I will be in your theatre the day after tomorrow.”
Then Nicolo leapt to his feet and pressed Pasquale in so close an embrace that he gasped and panted quite out of breath.
At this moment Marianna entered the room. Signor Pasquale tried to frighten her away again by the look of resentment which he hurled at her; she, however, took not the slightest notice of it, but going straight up to Musso, addressed him as if in anger — “It is in vain for you, Signor Nicolo, to attempt to entice my dear uncle to go to your theatre. You are forgetting that the infamous trick lately played by some reprobate seducers, who were lying in wait for me, almost cost the life of my dearly beloved uncle, and of his worthy friend Splendiano; nay, that it almost cost my life too. Never will I give my consent to my uncle’s again exposing himself to such danger. Desist from your entreaties, Nicolo. And you, my dearest uncle, you will stay quietly at home, will you not, and not venture out beyond the Porta del Popolo again at night-time, which is a friend to nobody?”
Signor Pasquale was thunderstruck. He opened his eyes wide and stared at his niece. Then he rewarded her with the sweetest endearments, and set forth at considerable length how that Signor Nicolo had pledged himself so to arrange matters as to avoid every danger on the return home.
“None the less,” said Marianna, “I stick to my word, and beg you most earnestly, my dearest uncle, not to go to the theatre outside the Porta del Popolo. I ask your pardon, Signor Nicolo, for speaking out frankly in your presence the dark suspicion that lurks in my mind. You are, I know, acquainted with Salvator Rosa and also with Antonio Scacciati. What if you are acting in concert with our enemies? What if you are only trying with evil intent to entice my dear uncle into your theatre in order that they may the more safely carry out some fresh villainous scheme, for I know that my uncle will not go without me?”
“What a suspicion!” cried Nicolo, quite alarmed. “What a terrible suspicion, Signora! Have you such a bad opinion of me? Have I such an ill reputation that you conceive I could be guilty of this the basest treachery? But if you think so unfavourably of me, if you mistrust the assistance I have promised you, why then let Michele, who I know rescued you out of the hands of the robbers — let Michele accompany you, and let him take a large body of gendarmes with him, who can wait for you outside the theatre, for you cannot of course expect me to fill my auditorium with police.”
Marianna fixed her eyes steadily upon Nicolo’s, and then said, earnestly and gravely, “What do you say? That Michele and gendarmes shall accompany us? Now I see plainly, Signor Nicolo, that you mean honestly by us, and that my nasty suspicion is unfounded. Pray forgive me my thoughtless words. And yet I cannot banish my nervousness and anxiety about my dear uncle; I must still beg him not to take this dangerous step.”
Signor Pasquale had listened to all this conversation with such curious looks as plainly served to indicate the nature of the struggle that was going on within him. But now he could no longer contain himself; he threw himself on his knees before his beautiful niece, seized her hands, kissed them, bathed them with the tears which ran down his cheeks, exclaiming as if beside himself, “My adored, my angelic Marianna! Fierce and devouring are the flames of the passion which burns at my heart Oh! this nervousness, this anxiety — it is indeed the sweetest confession that you love me.” And then he besought her not to give way to fear, but to go and listen in the theatre to the finest arias which the most divine of composers had ever written.
Nicolo too abated not in his entreaties, plainly showing his disappointment, until Marianna permitted her scruples to be overcome; and she promised to lay all fear aside and accompany the best and dearest of uncles to the theatre outside the Porta del Popolo. Signor Pasquale was in ectasies, was in the seventh heaven of delight. He was convinced that Marianna loved him; and he now might hope to hear his music on the stage, and win the laurel wreath which had so long been the vain object of his desires; he was on the point of seeing his dearest dreams fulfilled. Now he would let his light shine in perfect glory before his true and faithful friends, for he never thought for a moment but that Signor Splendiano and little Pitichinaccio would go with him as on the first occasion.
The night that Signor Splendiano had slept in his wig near the Pyramid of Cestius he had had, besides the spectres who ran away with him, all sorts of sinister apparitions to visit him. The whole cemetery was alive, and hundreds of corpses had stretched out their skeleton arms towards him, moaning and wailing that even in their graves they could not get over the torture caused by his essences and electuaries. Accordingly the Pyramid Doctor, although he could not contradict Signor Pasquale that it was only a wild freakish trick played upon him by a parcel of godless boys, grew melancholy; and, albeit not ordinarily superstitiously inclined, he yet now saw spectres everywhere, and was tormented by forebodings and bad dreams.
As for Pitichinaccio, he could not be convinced that they were not real devils come straight from the flames of hell who had fallen upon Signor Pasquale and upon himself, and the bare mention of that dreadful night was enough to make him scream. All the asseverations of Signor Pasquale that there had been nobody behind the masks but Antonio Scacciati and Salvator Rosa were of none effect, for Pitichinaccio wept and swore that in spite of his terror and apprehension he had clearly recognised both the voice and the behaviour of the devil Fanfarelli in the one who had pinched his belly black and blue.
It may therefore be imagined what an almost endless amount of trouble it cost Signor Pasquale to persuade the two to go with him once more to Nicolo Musso’s theatre. Splendiano was the first to make the resolve to go — after he had procured from a monk of St. Bernard’s order a small consecrated bag of musk, the perfume of which neither dead man nor devil could endure; with this he intended to arm himself against all assaults. Pitichinaccio could not resist the temptation of a promised box of candied grapes, but Signor Pasquale had besides expressly to give his consent that he might wear his new abbot’s coat, instead of his petticoats, which he affirmed had proved an immediate source of attraction to the devil.
What Salvator feared seemed therefore as if it would really take place; and yet his plan depended entirely, he continued to repeat, upon Signor Pasquale’s being in Nicolo’s theatre alone with Marianna, without his faithful satellites. Both Antonio and Salvator greatly racked their brains how they should prevent Splendiano and Pitichinaccio from going along with Signor Pasquale. Every scheme that occurred to them for the accomplishment of this desideratum had to be given up owing to want of time, for the principal plan in Nicolo’s theatre had to be carried out on the evening of the following day.
But Providence, which often employs the most unlikely instruments for the chastisement of fools, interposed on behalf of the distressed lovers, and put it into Michele’s head to practise some of his blundering, thus accomplishing what Salvator and Antonio’s craft was unable to accomplish.
That same night there was heard in the Via Ripetta before Signor Pasquale’s house such a chorus of fearful screams and of cursing and raving and abuse that all the neighbours were startled up out of their sleep, and a body of gendarmes, who had been pursuing a murderer as far as the Spanish Square, hastened up with torches, supposing that some fresh deed of violence was being committed. But when they, and a crowd of other people whom the noise had attracted, came upon the anticipated scene of murder, they found poor little Pitichinaccio lying as if dead on the ground, whilst Michele was thrashing the Pyramid Doctor with a formidable bludgeon. And they saw the Doctor reel to the floor just at the moment when Signor Pasquale painfully scrambled to his feet, drew his rapier, and furiously attacked Michele. Round about were lying pieces of broken guitars. Had not several people grasped the old man’s arm he would assuredly have run Michele right through the heart. The exbravo, on now becoming aware by the light of the torches whom he had been molesting, stood as if petrified, his eyes almost starting out of his heady “a painted desperado, on the balance between will and power,” as it is said somewhere. Then, uttering a fearful scream, he tore his hair and begged for pardon and mercy. Neither the Pyramid Doctor nor Pitichinaccio was seriously injured, but they had been so soundly cudgelled that they could neither move nor stir, and had to be carried home.
Signor Pasquale had himself brought this mishap upon his own shoulders.
We know that Salvator and Antonio complimented Marianna with the finest serenade that could be heard; but I have forgotten to say that to the old gentleman’s very exceeding indignation they repeated it during several successive nights. At length Signor Pasquale whose rage was kept in check by his neighbours, was foolish enough to have recourse to the authorities of the city, urging them to forbid the two painters to sing in the Via Ripetta. The authorities, however, replied that it would be a thing unheard of in Rome to prevent anybody from singing and playing the guitar where he pleased, and it was irrational to ask such a thing. So Signor Pasquale determined to put an end to the nuisance himself, and promised Michele a large reward if he seized the first opportunity to fall upon the singers and give them a good sound drubbing. Michele at once procured a stout bludgeon, and lay in wait every night behind the door. But it happened that Salvator and Antonio judged it prudent to omit their serenading in the Via Ripetta for some nights preceding the carrying into execution of their plan, so as not to remind the old gentleman of his adversaries. Marianna remarked quite innocently that though she hated Antonio and Salvator, yet she liked their singing, for nothing was so nice as to hear music floating upwards in the night air.
This Signor Pasquale made a mental note of, and as the essence of gallantry purposed to surprise his love with a serenade on his part, which he had himself composed and carefully practised up with his faithful friends. On the very night preceding that in which he was hoping to celebrate his greatest triumph in Nicolo Musso’s theatre, he stealthily slipped out of the house and went and fetched his associates, with whom he had previously arranged matters. But no sooner had they sounded the first few notes on their guitars than Michele, whom Signor Pasquale had thoughtlessly forgotten to apprise of his design, burst forth from behind the door, highly delighted at finding that the opportunity which was to bring him in the promised reward had at last come, and began to cudgel the musicians most unmercifully, with the results of which we are already acquainted. Of course there was no further mention made of either Splendiano or Pitichinaccio’s accompanying Signor Pasquale to Nicolo’s theatre, for they were both confined to their bed beplastered all over. Signor Pasquale, however, was unable to stay away, although his back and shoulders were smarting not a little from the drubbing he had himself received; every note in his arias was a cord which drew him thither with irresistible power.
“Well now,” said Salvator to Antonio, “since the obstacle which we took to be insurmountable has been removed out of our way of itself, it all depends now entirely upon your address not to let the favourable moment slip for carrying off your Marianna from Nicolo’s theatre. But I needn’t talk, you’ll not fail; I will greet you now as the betrothed of Capuzzi’s lovely niece, who in a few days will be your wife. I wish you happiness, Antonio, and yet I feel a shiver run through me when I think upon your marriage.”
“What do you mean, Salvator?” asked Antonio, utterly astounded.
“Call it a crotchet, call it a foolish fancy, or what you will, Antonio,” rejoined Salvator — “at any rate I love the fair sex; but there is not one, not even she on whom I foolishly dote, for whom I would gladly die, but what excites in my heart, so soon as I think of a union with her such as marriage is, a suspicion that makes me tremble with a most unpleasant feeling of awe. That which is inscrutable in the nature of woman mocks all the weapons of man. She whom we believe to have surrendered herself to us entirely, heart and soul, whom we believe to have unfolded all her character to us, is the first to deceive us, and along with the sweetest of her kisses we imbibe the most pernicious of poisons.”
“And my Marianna?” asked Antonio, amazed.
“Pardon me, Antonio,” continued Salvator, “even your Marianna, who is loveliness and grace personified, has given me a fresh proof of how dangerous the mysterious nature of woman is to us. Just call to mind what was the behavior of that innocent, inexperienced child when we carried her uncle home, how at a single glance from me she divined everything — everything, I tell you, and, as you yourself admitted, proceeded to play her part with the utmost sagacity. But that is not to be at all compared with what took place on the occasion of Musso’s visit to the old gentleman. The most practised address, the most impenetrable cunning — in short, all the inventive arts of the most experienced woman of the world could not have done more than little Marianna did, in order to deceive the old gentleman with perfect success. She could not have acted in any better way to prepare the road for us for any kind of enterprise. Our feud with the cranky old fool — any sort of cunning scheme seems justified, but — come, my dear Antonio, never mind my fanciful crotchets, but be happy with your Marianna; as happy as you can.”
If a monk had taken his place beside Signor Pasquale when he set out along with his niece to go to Nicolo Musso’s theatre, everybody would have thought that the strange pair were being led to execution. First went valiant Michele, repulsive in appearance, and armed to the teeth; then came Signor Pasquale and Marianna, followed by fully twenty gendarmes.
Nicolo received the old gentleman and his lady with every mark of respect at the entrance to the theatre, and conducted them to the seats which had been reserved for them, immediately in front of the stage. Signor Pasquale felt highly flattered by this mark of honour, and gazed about him with proud and sparkling eyes, whilst his pleasure, his joy, was greatly enhanced to find that all the seats near and behind Marianna were occupied by women alone. A couple of violins and a bass-fiddle were being tuned behind the curtains of the stage; the old gentleman’s heart beat with expectation; and when all at once the orchestra struck up the ritornello of his work, he felt an electric thrill tingling in every nerve.
Formica came forward in the character of Pasquarello, and sang — sang in Capuzzi’s own voice, and with all his characteristic gestures, the most hopeless aria that ever was heard. The theatre shook with the loud and boisterous laughter of the audience. They shouted; they screamed wildly, “O Pasquale Capuzzi! Our most illustrious composer and artist! Bravo! Bravissimo!” The old gentleman, not perceiving the ridicule and irony of the laughter, was in raptures of delight. The aria came to an end, and the people cried “Sh! sh!” for Doctor Gratiano, played on this occasion by Nicolo Musso himself, appeared on the stage, holding his hands over his ears and shouting to Pasquarello for goodness’ sake to stop his ridiculous screeching.
Then the Doctor asked Pasquarello how long he had taken to the confounded habit of singing, and where he had got that execrable piece from.
Whereupon Pasquarello replied, that he didn’t know what the Doctor would have; he was like the Romans, and had no taste for real music, since he failed to recognise the most talented of musicians. The aria had been written by the greatest of living composers, in whose service he had the good fortune to be, receiving instruction in both music and singing from the master himself.
Gratiano then began guessing, and mentioned the names of a great number of well-known composers and musicians, but at every distinguished name Pasquarello only shook his head contemptuously.
At length Pasquarello said that the Doctor was only exposing gross ignorance, since he did not know the name of the greatest composer of the time. It was no other than Signor Pasquale Capuzzi, who had done him the honour of taking him into his service. Could he not see that he was the friend and servant of Signor Pasquale?
Then the Doctor broke out into a loud long roar of laughter, and cried. What! Had he (Pasquarello) after running away from him (the Doctor), with whom, besides getting his wages and food, he had had his palm tickled with many a copper, had he gone and taken service with the biggest and most inveterate old coxcomb who ever stuffed himself with macaroni, to the patched Carnival fool who strutted about like a satisfied old hen after a shower of rain, to the snarling skinflint, the love-sick old poltroon, who infected the air of the Via Ripetta with the disgusting bleating which he called singing? &c., &c.
To which Pasquarello, quite incensed, made reply that it was nothing but envy which spoke in the Doctor’s words; he (Pasquarello) was of course speaking with his heart in his mouth (parla col cuore in mano ); the Doctor was not at all the man to pass an opinion upon Signor Pasquale Capuzzi di Senigaglia; he was speaking with his heart in his mouth. The Doctor himself had a strong tang of all that he blamed in the excellent Signor Pasquale; but he was speaking with his heart in his mouth; he (Pasquarello) had himself often heard fully six hundred people at once laugh most heartily at Doctor Gratiano, and so forth. Then Pasquarello spoke a long panegyric upon his new master, Signor Pasquale, attributing to him all the virtues under the sun; and he concluded with a description of his character, which he portrayed as being the very essence of amiability and grace.
“Heaven bless you, Formica!” lisped Signor Capuzzi to himself; “Heaven bless you, Formica! I perceive you have designed to make my triumph perfect, since you are upbraiding the Romans for all their envious and ungrateful persecution of me, and are letting them know who I really am.”
“Ha! here comes my master himself,” cried Pasquarello at this moment, and there entered on the stage — Signor Pasquale Capuzzi himself, just as he breathed and walked, his very clothes, face, gestures, gait, postures, in fact so perfectly like Signor Capuzzi in the auditorium, that the latter, quite aghast, let go Marianna’s hand, which hitherto he had held fast in his own, and tapped himself, his nose, his wig, in order to discover whether he was not dreaming, or seeing double, whether he was really sitting in Nicolo Musso’s theatre and dare credit the miracle.
Capuzzi on the stage embraced Doctor Gratiano with great kindness, and asked how he was. The Doctor replied that he had a good appetite, and slept soundly, at his service (per servirlo ); and as for his purse — well, it was suffering from a galloping consumption. Only yesterday he had spent his last ducat for a pair of rosemary-coloured stockings for his sweetheart, and was just going to walk round to one or two bankers to see if he could borrow thirty ducats”——
“But how can you pass over your best friends?” said Capuzzi. “Here, my dear sir, here are fifty ducats, come take them.”
“Pasquale, what are you about?” said the real Capuzzi in an undertone.
Dr. Gratiano began to talk about a bond and about interest; but Signor Capuzzi declared that he could not think of asking for either from such a friend as the Doctor was.
“Pasquale, have you gone out of your senses?” exclaimed the real Capuzzi a little louder.
After many grateful embraces Doctor Gratiano took his leave. Now Pasquarello drew near with a good many bows, and extolled Signor Capuzzi to the skies, adding, however, that his purse was suffering from the same complaint as Gratiano’s, and he begged for some of the same excellent medicine that had cured his. Capuzzi on the stage laughed, and said he was pleased to find that Pasquarello knew how to turn his good humour to advantage, and threw him several glittering ducats.
“Pasquale, you must be mad, possessed of the devil,” cried the real Capuzzi aloud. He was bidden be still.
Pasquarello went still further in his eulogy of Capuzzi, and came at last to speak, of the aria which he (Capuzzi) had composed, and with which he (Pasquarello) hoped to enchant everybody. The fictitious Capuzzi clapped Pasquarello heartily on the back, and went on to say that he might venture to tell him (Pasquarello), his faithful servant, in confidence, that in reality he knew nothing whatever of the science of music, and in respect to the aria of which he had just spoken, as well as all pieces that he had ever composed, why, he had stolen them out of Frescobaldi’s canzonas and Carissimi’s motets.
“I tell you you’re lying in your throat, you knave,” shouted the Capuzzi off the stage, rising from his seat. Again he was bidden keep still, and the woman who sat next him drew him down on the bench.
“It’s now time to think about other and more important matters,” continued Capuzzi on the stage. He was going to give a grand banquet the next day, and Pasquarello must look alive and have everything that was necessary prepared. Then he produced and read over a list of all the rarest and most expensive dishes, making Pasquarello tell him how much each would cost, and at the same time giving him the money for them.
“Pasquale! You’re insane! You’ve gone mad! You good-for-nothing scamp! You spendthrift!” shouted the real Capuzzi at intervals, growing more and more enraged the higher the cost of this the most nonsensical of dinners rose.
At length, when the list was finished, Pasquarello asked what had induced him to give such a splendid banquet.
“To-morrow will be the happiest and most joyous day of my life,” replied the fictitious Capuzzi. “For know, my good Pasquarello, that I am going to celebrate tomorrow the auspicious marriage of my dear niece Marianna. I am going to give her hand to that brave young fellow, the best of all artists, Scacciati.”
Hardly had the words fallen from his lips when the real Capuzzi leapt to his feet, utterly beside himself, quite out of his mind, his face all aflame with the most fiendish rage, and doubling his fists and shaking them at his counterpart on the stage, he yelled at the top of his voice, “No, you won’t, no, you won’t, you rascal! you scoundrel, you — Pasquale! Do you mean to cheat yourself out of your Marianna, you hound? Are you going to throw her in the arms of that scoundrel — sweet Marianna, thy life, thy hope, thy all? Ah! look to it! Look to it! you infatuated fool. Just remember what sort of a reception you will meet with from yourself. You shall beat yourself black and blue with your own hands, so that you will have no relish to think about banquets and weddings!”
But the Capuzzi on the stage doubled his fists like the Capuzzi below, and shouted in exactly the same furious way, and in the same high-pitched voice, “May all the spirits of hell sit at your heart, you abominable nonsensical Pasquale, you atrocious skinflint — you love-sick old fool — you gaudy tricked-out ass with the cap and bells dangling about your ears. Take care lest I snuff out the candle of your life, and so at length put an end to the infamous tricks which you try to foist upon the good, honest, modest Pasquale Capuzzi.”
Amidst the most fearful cursing and swearing of the real Capuzzi, the one on the stage dished up one fine anecdote after the other about him.
“You’d better attempt,” shouted at last the fictitious Capuzzi, “you only dare, Pasquale, you amorous old ape, to interfere with the happiness of these two young people, whom Heaven has destined for each other.”
At this moment there appeared at the back of the stage Antonio Scacciati and Marianna locked in each other’s arms. Albeit the old gentleman was at other times somewhat feeble on his legs, yet now fury gave him strength and agility. With a single bound he was on the stage, had drawn his sword, and was charging upon the pretended Antonio. He found, however, that he was held fast behind. An officer of the Papal guard had stopped him, and said in a serious voice, “Recollect where you are, Signor Pasquale; you are in Nicolo Musso’s theatre. Without intending it, you have today played a most ridiculous rôle . You will not find either Antonio or Marianna here.” The two persons whom Capuzzi had taken for his niece and her lover now drew near, along with the rest of the actors. The faces were all completely strange to him. His rapier escaped from his trembling hand; he took a deep breath as if awakening out of a bad dream; he grasped his brow with both hands; he opened his eyes wide. The presentiment of what had happened suddenly struck him, and he shouted, “Marianna!” in such a stentorian voice that the walls rang again.
But she was beyond reach of his shouts. Antonio had taken advantage of the opportunity whilst Pasquale, oblivious of all about him and even of himself, was quarrelling with his double, to make his way to Marianna, and back with her through the audience, and out at a side door, where a carriage stood ready waiting; and away they went as fast as their horses could gallop towards Florence.
“Marianna!” screamed the old man again, “Marianna! she is gone. She has fled. That knave Antonio has stolen her from me. Away! after them! Have pity on me, good people, and take torches and help me to look for my little darling. Oh! you serpent!”
And he tried to make for the door. But the officer held him fast, saying, “Do you mean that pretty young lady who sat beside you? I believe I saw her slip out with a young man — I think Antonio Scacciati — a long time ago, when you began your idle quarrel with one of the actors who wore a mask like your face. You needn’t make a trouble of it; every inquiry shall at once be set on foot, and Marianna shall be brought back to you as soon as she is found. But as for yourself, Signor Pasquale, your behaviour here and your murderous attempt upon the life of that actor compel me to arrest you.”
Signor Pasquale, his face as pale as death, incapable of uttering a single word or even a sound, was led away by the very same gendarmes who were to have protected him against masked devils and spectres. Thus it came to pass that on the selfsame night on which he had hoped to celebrate his triumph, he was plunged into the midst of trouble and of all the frantic despondency which amorous old fools feel when they are deceived.
Salvator Rosa leaves Rome and goes to Florence. Conclusion of the history.
Everything here below beneath the sun is subject to continual change; and perhaps there is nothing which can be called more inconstant than human opinion, which turns round in an everlasting circle like the wheel of fortune. He who reaps great praise today is overwhelmed with biting censure tomorrow; today we trample under foot the man who tomorrow will be raised far above us.
Of all those who in Rome had ridiculed and mocked at old Pasquale Capuzzi, with his sordid avarice, his foolish amorousness, his insane jealousy, who did not wish poor tormented Marianna her liberty? But now that Antonio had successfully carried off his mistress, all their ridicule and mockery was suddenly changed into pity for the old fool, whom they saw wandering about the streets of Rome with his head hanging on his breast, utterly disconsolate. Misfortunes seldom come singly; and so it happened that Signor Pasquale, soon after Marianna had been taken from him, lost his best bosom-friends also. Little Pitichinaccio choked himself in foolishly trying to swallow an almond-kernel in the middle of a cadenza; but a sudden stop was put to the life of the illustrious Pyramid Doctor Signor Splendiano Accoramboni by a slip of the pen, for which he had only himself to blame. Michele’s drubbing made such work with him that he fell into a fever. He determined to make use of a remedy which he claimed to have discovered, so, calling for pen and ink, he wrote down a prescription in which, by employing a wrong sign, he increased the quantity of a powerful substance to a dangerous extent. But scarcely had he swallowed the medicine than he sank back on the pillows and died, establishing, however, by his own death in the most splendid and satisfactory manner the efficacy of the last tincture which he ever prescribed.
As already remarked, all those whose laughter had been the loudest, and who had repeatedly wished Antonio success in his schemes, had now nothing but pity for the old gentleman; and the bitterest blame was heaped, not so much upon Antonio, as upon Salvator Rosa, whom, to be sure, they regarded as the instigator of the whole plan.
Salvator’s enemies, of whom he had a goodly number, exerted all their efforts to fan the flame. “See you,” they said, “he was one of Masaniello’s doughty partisans, and is ready to turn his hand to any deed of mischief, to any disreputable enterprise; we shall be the next to suffer from his presence in the city; he is a dangerous man.”
And the jealous faction who had leagued together against Salvator did actually succeed in stemming the tide of his prosperous career. He sent forth from his studio one picture after the other, all bold in conception, and splendidly executed; but the so-called critics shrugged their shoulders, now pointing out that the hills were too blue, the trees too green, the figures now too long, now too broad, finding fault everywhere where there was no fault to be found, and seeking to detract from his hard-earned reputation in all the ways they could think of. Especially bitter in their persecution of him were the Academicians of St. Luke, who could not forget how he took them in about the surgeon; they even went beyond the limits of their own profession, and decried the clever stanzas which Salvator at that time wrote, hinting very plainly that he did not cultivate his fruit on his own garden soil, but plundered that of his neighbours. For these reasons, therefore, Salvator could not manage to surround himself with the splendour which he had lived amidst formerly in Rome. Instead of being visited by the most eminent of the Romans in a large studio, he had to remain with Dame Caterina and his green fig-tree; but amid these poor surroundings he frequently found both consolation and tranquillity of mind.
Salvator took the malicious machinations of his enemies to heart more than he ought to have done; he even began to feel that an insidious disease, resulting from chagrin and dejection, was gnawing at his vitals. In this unhappy frame of mind he designed and executed two large pictures which excited quite an uproar in Rome. Of these one represented the transitoriness of all earthly things, and in the principal figure, that of a wanton female bearing all the indications of her degrading calling about her, was recognised the mistress of one of the cardinals; the other portrayed the Goddess of Fortune dispensing her rich gifts. But cardinals’ hats, bishops’ mitres, gold medals, decorations of orders, were falling upon bleating sheep, braying asses, and other such like contemptible animals, whilst well-made men in ragged clothes were vainly straining their eyes upwards to get even the smallest gift. Salvator had given free rein to his embittered mood, and the animals’ heads bore the closest resemblance to the features of various eminent persons. It is easy to imagine, therefore, how the tide of hatred against him rose, and that he was more bitterly persecuted than ever.
Dame Caterina warned him, with tears in her eyes, that as soon as it began to be dark she had observed suspicious characters lurking about the house and apparently dogging his every footstep. Salvator saw that it was time to leave Rome; and Dame Caterina and her beloved daughters were the only people whom it caused him pain to part from. In response to the repeated invitations of the Duke of Tuscany,1 he went to Florence; and here at length he was richly indemnified for all the mortification and worry which he had had to struggle against in Rome, and here all the honour and all the fame which he so truly deserved were freely conferred upon him. The Duke’s presents and the high prices which he received for his pictures soon enabled him to remove into a large house and to furnish it in the most magnificent style. There he was wont to gather round him the most illustrious authors and scholars of the day, amongst whom it will be sufficient to mention Evangelista Toricelli,2 Valerio Chimentelli, Battista Ricciardi, Andrea Cavalcanti, Pietro Salvati, Filippo Apolloni, Volumnio Bandelli, Francesco Rovai. They formed an association for the prosecution of artistic and scientific pursuits, whilst Salvator was able to contribute an element of whimsicality to the meetings, which had a singular effect in animating and enlivening the mind. The banqueting-hall was like a beautiful grove with fragrant bushes and flowers and splashing fountains; and the dishes even, which were served up by pages in eccentric costumes, were very wonderful to look at, as if they came from some distant land of magic. These meetings of writers and savans in Salvator Rosa’s house were called at that time the Accademia de’ Percossi.
Though Salvator’s mind was in this way devoted to science and art, yet his real true nature came to life again when he was with his friend Antonio Scacciati, who, along with his lovely Marianna, led the pleasant sans souci life of an artist. They often recalled poor old Signor Pasquale whom they had deceived, and all that had taken place in Nicolo Musso’s theatre. Antonio asked Salvator how he had contrived to enlist in his cause the active interest not only of Musso but of the excellent Formica, and of Agli too. Salvator replied that it had been very easy, for Formica was his most intimate friend in Rome, so that it had been a work of both pleasure and love to him to arrange everything on the stage in accordance with the instructions Salvator gave him. Antonio protested that, though still he could not help laughing over the scene which had paved the way to his happiness, he yet wished with all his heart to be reconciled to the old gentleman, even if he should never touch a penny of Marianna’s fortune, which the old gentleman had confiscated; the practice of his art brought him in a sufficient income. Marianna too was often unable to restrain her tears when she thought that her father’s brother might go down to his grave without having forgiven her the trick which she had played upon him; and so Pasquale’s hatred overshadowed like a dark cloud the brightness of their happiness. Salvator comforted them both — Antonio and Marianna — by saying that time had adjusted still worse difficulties, and that chance would perhaps bring the old gentleman near them in some less dangerous way than if they had remained in Rome, or were to return there now.
We shall see that a prophetic spirit spoke in Salvator.
A considerable time elapsed, when one day Antonio burst into Salvator’s studio breathless and pale as death. “Salvator!” he cried, “Salvator, my friend, my protector! I am lost if you do not help me. Pasquale Capuzzi is here; he has procured a warrant for my arrest for the seduction of his niece.”
“But what can Signor Pasquale do against you now?” asked Salvator. “Have you not been united to Marianna by the Church?”
“Oh!” replied Antonio, giving way completely to despair, “the blessing of the Church herself cannot save me from ruin. Heaven knows by what means the old man has been able to approach the Pope’s nephew.3 At any rate the Pope’s nephew has taken the old man under his protection, and has infused into him the hope that the Holy Father will declare my marriage with Marianna to be null and void; nay, yet further, that he will grant him (the old man) dispensation to marry his niece.”
“Stop!” cried Salvator, “now I see it all; now I see it all. What threatens to be your ruin, Antonio, is this man’s hatred against me. For I must tell you that this nephew of the Pope’s, a proud, coarse, boorish clown, was amongst the animals in my picture to whom the Goddess of Fortune is dispensing her gifts. That it was I who helped you to win your Marianna, though indirectly, is well known, not only to this man, but to all Rome — which is quite reason enough to persecute you since they cannot do anything to me. And so, Antonio, having brought this misfortune upon you, I must make every effort to assist you, and all the more that you are my dearest and most intimate friend. But, by the saints! I don’t see in what way I can frustrate your enemies’ little game”——
Therewith Salvator, who had continued to paint at a picture all the time, laid aside brush, palette, and maulstick, and, rising up from his easel, began to pace the room backwards and forwards, his arms crossed over his breast, Antonio meanwhile being quite wrapt up in his own thoughts, and with his eyes fixed unchangeably upon the floor.
At length Salvator paused before him and said with a smile, “See here, Antonio, I cannot do anything myself against your powerful enemies, but I know one who can help you, and who will help you, and that is — Signor Formica.”
“Oh!” said Antonio, “don’t jest with an unhappy man, whom nothing can save.”
“What! you are despairing again?” exclaimed Salvator, who was now all at once in the merriest humour, and he laughed aloud. “I tell you, Antonio, my friend Formica shall help you in Florence as he helped you in Rome. Go away quietly home and comfort your Marianna, and calmly wait and see how things will turn out. I trust you will be ready at the shortest notice to do what Signor Formica, who is really here in Florence at the present time, shall require of you.” This Antonio promised most faithfully, and hope revived in him again, and confidence.
Signor Pasquale Capuzzi was not a little astonished at receiving a formal invitation from the Accademia de’ Percossi. “Ah!” he exclaimed, “Florence is the place then where a man’s merits are recognised, where Pasquale Capuzzi di Senigaglia, a man gifted with the most excellent talents, is known and valued.” Thus the thought of his knowledge and his art, and the honour that was shown him on their account, overcame the repugnance which he would otherwise have felt against a society at the head of which stood Salvator Rosa. His Spanish gala-dress was more carefully brushed than ever; his conical hat was equipped with a new feather; his shoes were provided with new ribbons; and so Signor Pasquale appeared at Salvator’s as brilliant as a rose-chafer,4 and his face all sunshine. The magnificence which he saw on all sides of him, even Salvator himself, who had received him dressed in the richest apparel, inspired him with deep respect, and, after the manner of little souls, who, though at first proud and puffed up, at once grovel in the dust whenever they come into contact with what they feel to be superior to themselves, Pasquale’s behaviour towards Salvator, whom he would gladly have done a mischief to in Rome, was nothing but humility and submissive deference.
So much attention was paid to Signor Pasquale from all sides, his judgment was appealed to so unconditionally, and so much was said about his services to art, that he felt new life infused into his veins; and an unusual spirit was awakened within him, so that his utterances on many points were more sensible than might have been expected. If it be added that never in his life before had he been so splendidly entertained, and never had he drunk such inspiriting wine, it will readily be conceived that his pleasure was intensified from moment to moment, and that he forgot all the wrong which had been done him at Rome as well as the unpleasant business which had brought him to Florence. Often after their banquets the Academicians were wont to amuse themselves with short impromptu dramatic representations, and so this evening the distinguished playwright and poet Filippo Apolloni called upon those who generally took part in them to bring the festivities to a fitting conclusion with one of their usual performances. Salvator at once withdrew to make all the necessary preparations.
Not long afterwards the bushes at the farther end of the banqueting-hall began to move, the branches with their foliage were parted, and a little theatre provided with seats for the spectators became visible.
“By the saints!” exclaimed Pasquale Capuzzi, terrified, “where am I? Surely that’s Nicolo Musso’s theatre.”
Without heeding his exclamation, Evangelista Toricelli and Andrea Cavalcanti — both of them grave, respectable, venerable men — took him by the arm and led him to a seat immediately in front of the stage, taking their places on each side of him.
This was no sooner done than there appeared on the boards — Formica in the character of Pasquarello.
“You reprobate, Formica!” shouted Pasquale, leaping to his feet and shaking his doubled fist at the stage. Toricelli and Cavalcanti’s stern, reproving glances bade him sit still and keep quiet.
Pasquarello wept and sobbed, and cursed his destiny, which brought him nothing but grief and heart-breaking, declared he didn’t know how he should ever set about it if he wanted to laugh again, and concluded by saying that if he could look upon blood without fainting, he should certainly cut his throat, or should throw himself in the Tiber if he could only let that cursed swimming alone when he got into the water.
Doctor Gratiano now joined him, and inquired what was the cause of his trouble.
Whereupon Pasquarello asked him whether he did not know anything about what had taken place in the house of his master, Signor Pasquale Capuzzi di Senigaglia, whether he did not know that an infamous scoundrel had carried off pretty Marianna, his master’s niece?
“Ah!” murmured Capuzzi, “I see you want to make your excuses to me, Formica; you wish for my pardon — well, we shall see.”
Doctor Gratiano expressed his sympathy, and observed that the scoundrel must have gone to work very cunningly to have eluded all the inquiries which had been instituted by Capuzzi.
“Ho! ho!” rejoined Pasquarello. “The Doctor need not imagine that the scoundrel, Antonio Scacciati, had succeeded in escaping the sharpness of Signor Pasquale Capuzzi, supported as he was, moreover, by powerful friends. Antonio had been arrested, his marriage with Marianna annulled, and Marianna herself had again come into Capuzzi’s power.
“Has he got her again?” shouted Capuzzi, beside himself; “has he got her again, good Pasquale? Has he got his little darling, his Marianna? Is the knave Antonio arrested? Heaven bless you, Formica!”
“You take a too keen interest in the play, Signor Pasquale,” said Cavalcanti, quite seriously. “Pray permit the actors to proceed with their parts without interrupting them in this disturbing fashion.”
Ashamed of himself, Signor Pasquale resumed his seat, for he had again risen to his feet.
Doctor Gratiano asked what had taken place then.
A wedding, continued Pasquarello, a wedding had taken place. Marianna had repented of what she had done; Signor Pasquale had obtained the desired dispensation from the Holy Father, and had married his niece.
“Yes, yes,” murmured Pasquale Capuzzi to himself, whilst his eyes sparkled with delight, “yes, yes, my dear, good Formica; he will marry his sweet Marianna, the happy Pasquale. He knew that the dear little darling had always loved him, and that it was only Satan who had led her astray.”
“Why then, everything is all right,” said Doctor Gratiano, “and there’s no cause for lamentation.”
Pasquarello began, however, to weep and sob more violently than before, till at length, as if overcome by the terrible nature of his pain, he fainted away. Doctor Gratiano ran backwards and forwards in great distress, was so sorry he had no smelling-bottle with him, felt in all his pockets, and at last produced a roasted chestnut, and put it under the insensible Pasquarello’s nose. He at once recovered, sneezing violently, and begging him to attribute his faintness to his weak nerves, he related how that, immediately after the marriage, Marianna had been afflicted with the saddest melancholy, continually calling upon Antonio, and treating the old gentleman with contempt and aversion. But the old fellow, quite infatuated by his passion and jealousy, had not ceased to torment the poor girl with his folly in the most abominable way. And here Pasquarello mentioned a host of mad tricks which Pasquale had done, and which were really current in Rome about him. Signor Capuzzi sat on thorns; he murmured at intervals, “Curse you, Formica! You are lying! What evil spirit is in you?” He was only prevented from bursting out into a violent passion by Toricelli and Cavalcanti, who sat watching him with an earnest gaze.
Pasquarello concluded his narration by telling that Marianna had at length succumbed to her unsatisfied longing for her lover, her great distress of mind, and the innumerable tortures which were inflicted upon her by the execrable old fellow, and had died in the flower of her youth.
At this moment was heard a mournful De profundis sung by hollow, husky voices, and men clad in long black robes appeared on the stage, bearing an open coffin, within which was seen the corpse of lovely Marianna wrapped in white shrouds. Behind it came Signor Pasquale Capuzzi in the deepest mourning, feebly staggering along and wailing aloud, beating his breast, and crying in a voice of despair, “O Marianna! Marianna!”
So soon as the real Capuzzi caught sight of his niece’s corpse he broke out into loud lamentations, and both Capuzzis, the one on the stage and the one off, gave vent to their grief in the most heartrending wails and groans, “O Marianna! O Marianna! O unhappy me! Alas! Alas for me!”
Let the reader picture to himself the open coffin with the corpse of the lovely child, surrounded by the hired mourners singing their dismal De profundis in hoarse voices, and then the comical masks of Pasquarello and Dr. Gratiano, who were expressing their grief in the most ridiculous gestures, and lastly the two Capuzzis, wailing and screeching in despair. Indeed, all who were witnesses of the extraordinary spectacle could not help feeling, even in the midst of the unrestrained laughter they had burst out into at sight of the wonderful old gentleman, that their hearts were chilled by a most uncomfortable feeling of awe.
Now the stage grew dark, and it thundered and lightened, and there rose up from below a pale ghostly figure, which bore most unmistakably the features of Capuzzi’s dead brother, Pietro of Senigaglia, Marianna’s father.
“O you infamous brother, Pasquale! what have you done with my daughter? what have you done with my daughter?” wailed the figure, in a dreadful and hollow voice. “Despair, you atrocious murderer of my child. You shall find your reward in hell.”
Capuzzi on the stage dropped on the floor as if struck by lightning, and at the same moment the real Capuzzi reeled from his seat unconscious. The bushes rustled together again, and the stage was gone, and also Marianna and Capuzzi and the ghastly spectre Pietro. Signor Pasquale Capuzzi lay in such a dead faint that it cost a good deal of trouble to revive him.
At length he came to himself with a deep sigh, and, stretching out both hands before him as if to ward off the horror that had seized him, he cried in a husky voice, “Leave me alone, Pietro.” Then a torrent of tears ran down his cheeks, and he sobbed and cried, “Oh! Marianna, my darling child — my — my Marianna.” “But recollect yourself,” said now Cavalcanti, “recollect yourself, Signor Pasquale, it was only on the stage that you saw your niece dead. She is alive; she is here to crave pardon for the thoughtless step which love and also your own inconsiderate conduct drove her to take.”
And Marianna, and behind her Antonio Scacciati, now ran forward from the back part of the hall and threw themselves at the old gentleman’s feet — for he had meanwhile been placed in an easy chair. Marianna, looking most charming and beautiful, kissed his hands and bathed them with scalding tears, beseeching him to pardon both her and Antonio, to whom she had been united by the blessing of the Church.
Suddenly the hot blood surged into the old man’s pallid face, fury flashed from his eyes, and he cried in a half-choked voice, “Oh! you abominable scoundrel! You poisonous serpent whom I nourished in my bosom!” Then old Toricelli, with grave and thoughtful dignity, put himself in front of Capuzzi, and told him that he (Capuzzi) had seen a representation of the fate that would inevitably and irremediably overtake him if he had the hardihood to carry out his wicked purpose against Antonio and Marianna’s peace and happiness. He depicted in startling colours the folly and madness of amorous old men, who call down upon their own heads the most ruinous mischief which Heaven can inflict upon a man, since all the love which might have fallen to their share is lost, and instead hatred and contempt shoot their fatal darts at them from every side.
At intervals lovely Marianna cried in a tone that went to everybody’s heart, “O my uncle, I will love and honour you as my own father; you will kill me by a cruel death if you rob me of my Antonio.” And all the eminent men by whom the old gentleman was surrounded cried with one accord that it would not be possible for a man like Signor Pasquale Capuzzi di Senigaglia, a patron of art and himself an artist, not to forgive the young people, and assume the part of father to the most lovely of ladies, not possible that he could refuse to accept with joy as his son-inlaw such an artist as Antonio Scacciati, who was highly esteemed throughout all Italy and richly crowned with fame and honour.
Then it was patent to see that a violent struggle went on within the old gentleman. He sighed, moaned, clasped his hands before his face, and, whilst Toricelli was continuing to speak in a most impressive manner, and Marianna was appealing to him in the most touching accents, and the rest were extolling Antonio all they knew how, he kept looking down — now upon his niece, now upon Antonio, whose splendid clothes and rich chains of honour bore testimony to the truth of what was said about the artistic fame he had earned.
Gone was all rage out of Capuzzi’s countenance; he sprang up with radiant eyes, and pressed Marianna to his heart, saying, “Yes, I forgive you, my dear child; I forgive you, Antonio. Far be it from me to disturb your happiness. You are right, my worthy Signor Toricelli; Formica has shown me in the tableau on the stage all the mischief and ruin that would have befallen me had I carried out my insane design. I am cured, quite cured of my folly. But where is Signor Formica, where is my good physician? let me thank him a thousand times for my cure; it is he alone who has accomplished it. The terror that he has caused me to feel has brought about a complete revolution within me.”
Pasquarello stepped forward. Antonio threw himself upon his neck, crying, “O Signor Formica, you to whom I owe my life, my all — oh! take off this disfiguring mask, that I may see your face, that Formica may not be any longer a mystery to me.”
Pasquarello took off his cap and his artificial mask, which looked like a natural face, since it offered not the slightest hindrance to the play of countenance, and this Formica, this Pasquarello, was transformed into — Salvator Rosa.5
“Salvator!” exclaimed Marianna, Antonio, and Capuzzi, utterly astounded.
“Yes,” said that wonderful man, “it is Salvator Rosa, whom the Romans would not recognise as painter and poet, but who in the character of Formica drew from them, without their being aware of it, almost every evening for more than a year, in Nicolo Musso’s wretched little theatre, the most noisy and most demonstrative storms of applause, from whose mouth they willingly took all the scorn, and all the satiric mockery of what is bad, which they would on no account listen to and see in Salvator’s poems and pictures. It is Salvator Formica who has helped you, dear Antonio.”
“Salvator,” began old Capuzzi, “Salvator Rosa, albeit I have always regarded you as my worst enemy, yet I have always prized your artistic skill very highly, and now I love you as the worthiest friend I have, and beg you to accept my friendship in return.”
“Tell me,” replied Salvator, “tell me, my worthy Signor Pasquale, what service I can render you, and accept my assurances beforehand, that I will leave no stone unturned to accomplish whatever you may ask of me.”
And now the genial smile which had not been seen upon Capuzzi’s face since Marianna had been carried off, began to steal back again. Taking Salvator’s hand he lisped in a low voice, “My dear Signor Salvator, you possess an unlimited influence over good Antonio; beseech him in my name to permit me to spend the short rest of my days with him, and my dear daughter Marianna, and to accept at my hands the inheritance left her by her mother, as well as the good dowry which I was thinking of adding to it. And he must not look jealous if I occasionally kiss the dear sweet child’s little white hand; and ask him — every Sunday at least when I go to Mass, to trim up my rough moustache, for there’s nobody in all the wide world understands it so well as he does.”
It cost Salvator an effort to repress his laughter at the strange old man; but before he could make any reply, Antonio and Marianna, embracing the old gentleman, assured him that they should not believe he was fully reconciled to them, and should not be really happy, until he came to live with them as their dear father, never to leave them again. Antonio added that not only on Sunday, but every other day, he would trim Capuzzi’s moustache as elegantly as he knew how, and accordingly the old gentleman was perfectly radiant with delight. Meanwhile a splendid supper had been prepared, to which the entire company now turned in the best of spirits.
In taking my leave of you, beloved reader, I wish with all my heart that, whilst you have been reading the story of the wonderful Signor Formica, you have derived as much pure pleasure from it as Salvator and all his friends felt on sitting down to their supper.
1 This was Ferdinand II., a member of the illustrious Florentine family of the Medici. He upheld the family tradition by his liberal patronage of science and letters.
2 Evangelista Torricelli, the successor of the great Galileo in the chair of philosophy and mathematics at Florence, is inseparably associated with the discovery that water in a suction-pump will only rise to the height of about thirty-two feet. This paved the way to his invention of the barometer in 1643.
Other members of the Accademia de’ Percossi were Dati, Lippi, Viviani, Bandinelli, &c.
3 An allusion to the well-known nepotism of the Popes. The man here mentioned is one of the Barberini, nephew of Pope Urban VIII.
4 Cetonia aurata, L., called also the gold-chafer; it is coloured green and gold.
5 The painter Salvator Rosa did really play at Rome the rôle of Pasquarello here attributed to him; but it was on the occasion of his second visit to the Eternal City about 1639. On the other hand, it was after 1647 (the year of Masaniello’s revolt at Naples) that Salvator again came to Rome (the third visit), where he stayed until he was obliged to flee farther, namely, to Florence, in consequence of the two pictures already mentioned. It seems evident therefore that Hoffmann has not troubled himself about his dates, or strict historical fidelity, but seems rather to have combined the incidents of the painter’s two visits to Rome — i.e., his second and his third visit.
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