The only moments in which Fabrizio had any chance of escaping from his profound melancholy were those which he spent hidden behind a pane, the glass of which he had had replaced by a sheet of oiled paper, in the window of his apartment opposite the palazzo Contarmi, in which, as we know, Clelia had taken refuge; on the few occasions on which he had seen her since his leaving the citadel, he had been profoundly distressed by a striking change, and one that seemed to him of the most evil augury. Since her fall, Clelia’s face had assumed a character of nobility and seriousness that was truly remarkable; one would have called her a woman of thirty. In this extraordinary change, Fabrizio caught the reflexion of some firm resolution. “At every moment of the day,” he said to himself, “she is swearing to herself to be faithful to the vow she made to the Madonna, and never to see me again.”
Fabrizio guessed a part only of Clelia’s miseries; she knew that her father, having fallen into deep disgrace, could not return to Parma and reappear at court (without which life for him was impossible) until the day of her marriage to the Marchese Crescenzi; she wrote to her father that she desired this marriage. The General had then retired to Turin, where he was ill with grief. Truly, the counter-effect of that desperate remedy had been to add ten years to her age.
She had soon discovered that Fabrizio had a window opposite the palazzo Contarmi; but only once had she had the misfortune to behold him; as soon as she saw the poise of a head or a man’s figure that in any way resembled his, she at once shut her eyes. Her profound piety and her confidence in the help of the Madonna were from then onwards her sole resources. She had the grief of feeling no respect for her father; the character of her future husband seemed to her perfectly lifeless and on a par with the emotional manners of high society; finally she adored a man whom she must never see again, and who at the same time had certain rights over her. She would need, after her marriage, to go and live two hundred leagues from Parma.
Fabrizio was aware of Clelia’s intense modesty, he knew how greatly any extraordinary enterprise, that might form a .subject for gossip, were it discovered, was bound to displease her. And yet, driven to extremes by the excess of his melancholy and by Clelia’s constantly turning away her eyes from him, he made bold to try to purchase two of the servants of Signora Contarini, her aunt. One day, at nightfall, Fabrizio, dressed as a prosperous countryman, presented himself at the door of the palazzo, where one of the servants whom he had bribed was waiting for him; he announced himself as coming from Turin and bearing letters for Clelia from her father. The servant went to deliver the message, and took him up to an immense ante-room on the first floor of the palazzo. It was here that Fabrizio passed what was perhaps the most anxious quarter of an hour in his life. If Clelia rejected him, there was no more hope of peace for his mind. “To put an end to the incessant worries which my new dignity heaps upon me, I shall remove from the Church an unworthy priest, and, under an assumed name, seek refuge in some Charterhouse.” At length the servant came to inform him that Signorina Clelia Conti was willing to receive him. Our hero’s courage failed him completely; he almost collapsed with fear as he climbed the stair to the second floor.
Clelia was sitting at a little table on which stood a single candle. No sooner had she recognised Fabrizio under his disguise than she rose and fled, hiding at the far end of the room.
“This is how you care for my salvation!” she cried to him, hiding her face in her hands. “You know very well, when my father was at the point of death after taking poison, I made a vow to the Madonna that I would never see you. I have never failed to keep that vow save on that day, the most wretched day of my life, when I felt myself bound by conscience to snatch you from death. It is already far more than you deserve if, by a strained and no doubt criminal interpretation of my vow, I consent to listen to you.”
This last sentence so astonished Fabrizio that it took him some moments to grasp its joyful meaning. He had expected the most fiery anger, and to see Clelia fly from the room; at length his presence of mind returned, and he extinguished the one candle. Although he believed that he had understood Clelia’s orders, he was trembling all over as he advanced towards the end of the room, where she had taken refuge behind a sofa; he did not know whether it would offend her if he kissed her hand; she was all tremulous with love and threw herself into his arms.
“Dear Fabrizio,” she said to him, “how long you have been in coming! I can only speak to you for a moment, for I am sure it is a great sin; and when I promised never to see you, I am sure I meant also to promise not to hear you speak. But how could you pursue with such barbarity the idea of vengeance that my poor father had? For, after all, it was he who was first nearly poisoned to assist your escape. Ought you not to do something for me, who have exposed my reputation to such risks in order to save you? And besides you are now bound absolutely in Holy Orders; you could not marry me any longer, even though I should find a way of getting rid of that odious Marchese. And then how did you dare, on the afternoon of the procession, have the effrontery to look at me in broad daylight, and so violate, in the most flagrant fashion, the holy promise that I had made to the Madonna?”
Fabrizio clasped her in his arms, carried out of himself by his surprise and joy.
A conversation which began with such a quantity of things to be said could not finish for a long time. Fabrizio told her the exact truth as to her father’s banishment; the Duchessa had had no part in it whatsoever, for the simple reason that she had never for a single instant believed that the idea of poison had originated with General Conti; she had always thought that it was a little game on the part of the Raversi faction, who wished to drive Conte Mosca from Parma. This historical truth developed at great length made Clelia very happy; she was wretched at having to hate anyone who belonged to Fabrizio. Now she no longer regarded the Duchessa with a jealous eye.
The happiness established by this evening lasted only a few days.
The worthy Don Cesare arrived from Turin; and, taking courage in the perfect honesty of his heart, ventured to send in his name to the Duchessa. After asking her to give him her word that she would not abuse the confidence he was about to repose in her, he admitted that his brother, led astray by a false point of honour, and thinking himself challenged and lowered in public opinion by Fabrizio’s escape, had felt bound to avenge himself.
Don Cesare had not been speaking for two minutes before his cause was won: his perfect goodness had touched the Duchessa, who was by no means accustomed to such a spectacle. He appealed to her as a novelty.
“Hasten the marriage between the General’s daughter and the Marchese Crescenzi, and I give you my word that I will do all that lies in my power to ensure that the General is received as though he were returning from a tour abroad. I shall invite him to dinner; does that satisfy you? No doubt there will be some coolness at the beginning, and the General must on no account be in a hurry to ask for his place as governor of the citadel. But you know that I have a friendly feeling for the Marchese, and I shall retain no rancour towards his father-in-law.”
Fortified by these words, Don Cesare came to tell his niece that she held in her hands the life of her father, who was ill with despair. For many months past he had not appeared at any court.
Clelia decided to go to visit her father, who was hiding under an assumed name in a village near Turin; for he had supposed that the court of Parma would demand his extradition from that of Turin, to put him on his trial. She found him ill and almost insane. That same evening she wrote Fabrizio a letter threatening an eternal rupture. On receiving this letter, Fabrizio, who was developing a character closely resembling that of his mistress, went into retreat in the convent of Velleja, situated in the mountains, ten leagues from Parma. Clelia wrote him a letter of ten pages: she had sworn to him, before, that she would never marry the Marchese without his consent; now she asked this of him, and Fabrizio granted it from his retreat at Valleja, in a letter full of the purest friendship.
On receiving this letter, the friendliness of which, it must be admitted, irritated her, Clelia herself fixed the day of her wedding, the festivities surrounding which enhanced still further the brilliance with which the court of Parma, that winter, shone.
Ranuccio–Ernesto V was a miser at heart; but he was desperately in love, and he hoped to establish the Duchessa permanently at his court; he begged his mother to accept a very considerable sum of money, and to give entertainments. The Grand Mistress contrived to make an admirable use of this increase of wealth; the entertainments at Parma, that winter, recalled the great days of the court of Milan and of that charming Prince Eugène, Viceroy of Italy, whose virtues have left so lasting a memory.
His duties as Coadjutor had summoned Fabrizio back to Parma; but he announced that, for spiritual reasons, he would continue his retreat in the small apartment which his protector, Monsignor Landriani, had forced him to take in the Archbishop’s Palace; and he went to shut himself up there, accompanied by a single servant. Thus he was present at none of the brilliant festivities of the court, an abstention which won for him at Parma, and throughout his future diocese, an immense reputation for sanctity. An unforeseen consequence of this retreat, inspired in Fabrizio solely by his profound and hopeless sorrow, was that the good Archbishop Landriani, who had always loved him, began to be slightly jealous of him. The Archbishop felt it his duty (and rightly) to attend all the festivities at court, as is the custom in Italy. On these occasions he wore a ceremonial costume, which was, more or less, the same as that in which he was to be seen in the choir of his Cathedral. The hundreds of servants gathered in the colonnaded ante-chamber of the Palace never failed to rise and ask for a blessing from Monsignore, who was kind enough to stop and give it them. It was in one of these moments of solemn silence that Monsignor Landriani heard a voice say: “Our Archbishop goes out to bails, and Monsignor del Dongo never leaves his room!”
>From that moment the immense favour that Fabrizio had enjoyed in the Archbishop’s Palace was at an end; but he could now fly with his own wings. All this conduct, which had been inspired only by the despair in which Clelia’s marriage plunged him, was regarded as due to a simple and sublime piety, and the faithful read, as a work of edification, the translation of the genealogy of his family, which reeked of the most insane vanity. The booksellers prepared a lithographed edition of his portrait, which was bought up in a few days, and mainly by the humbler classes; the engraver, in his ignorance, had reproduced round Fabrizio’s portrait a number of the ornaments which ought only to be found on the portraits of Bishops, and to which a Coadjutor could have no claim. The Archbishop saw one of these portraits, and his rage knew no bounds; he sent for Fabrizio and addressed him in the harshest words, and in terms which his passion rendered at times extremely coarse. Fabrizio required no effort, as may well be imagined, to conduct himself as Fénelon would have done in similar circumstances; he listened to the Archbishop with all the humility and respect possible; and, when the prelate had ceased speaking, told him the whole story of the translation of the genealogy made by Conte Mosca’s orders, at the time of his first imprisonment. It had been published with a worldly object, which had always seemed to him hardly befitting a man of his cloth. As for the portrait, he had been entirely unconcerned with the second edition, as with the first; and the bookseller having sent to him, at the Archbishop’s Palace, during his retreat, twenty-four copies of this second edition, he had sent his servant to buy a twenty-fifth; and, having learned in this way that the portrait was being sold for thirty soldi, he had sent a hundred francs in payment of the twenty-four copies.
All these arguments, albeit set forth in the most reasonable terms by a man who had many other sorrows in his heart, lashed the Archbishop’s anger to madness; he went so far as to accuse Fabrizio of hypocrisy.
“That is what these common people are like,” Fabrizio said to himself, “even when they have brains!”
He had at the time a more serious anxiety; this was his aunt’s letters, in which she absolutely insisted on his coming back to occupy his apartment in the palazzo Sanseverina, or at least coming to see her sometimes. There Fabrizio was certain of hearing talk of the splendid festivities given by the Marchese Crescenzi on the occasion of his marriage; and this was what he was not sure of his ability to endure without creating a scene.
When the marriage ceremony was celebrated, for eight whole days in succession Fabrizio vowed himself to the most complete silence, after ordering his servant and the members of the Archbishop’s household with whom he had any dealings never to utter a word to him.
Monsignor Landriani having learned of this new affectation sent for Fabrizio far more often than usual, and tried to engage him in long conversations; he even obliged him to attend conferences with certain Canons from the country, who complained that the Archbishop had infringed their privileges. Fabrizio took all these things with the perfect indifference of a man who has other thoughts on his mind. “It would be better for me,” he thought, “to become a Carthusian; I should suffer less among the rocks of Velleja.”
He went to see his aunt, and could not restrain his tears as he embraced her. She found him so greatly altered, his eyes, still more enlarged by his extreme thinness, had so much the air of starting from his head, and he himself presented so pinched and unhappy an appearance, that at this first encounter the Duchessa herself could not restrain her tears either; but a moment later, when she had reminded herself that all this change in the appearance of this handsome young man had been caused by Clelia’s marriage, her feelings were almost equal in vehemence to those of the Archbishop, although more skilfully controlled. She was so barbarous as to discourse at length of certain picturesque details which had been a feature of the charming entertainments given by the Marchese Crescenzi. Fabrizio made no reply; but his eyes closed slightly with a convulsive movement, and he became even paler than he already was, which at first sight would have seemed impossible. In these moments of keen grief, his pallor assumed a greenish hue.
Conte Mosca joined them, and what he then saw, a thing which seemed to him incredible, finally and completely cured him of the jealousy which Fabrizio had never ceased to inspire in him. This able man employed the most delicate and ingenious turns of speech in an attempt to restore to Fabrizio some interest in the things of this world. The Conte had always felt for him a great esteem and a certain degree of friendship; this friendship, being no longer counterbalanced by jealousy, became at that moment almost devotion. “There’s no denying it, he has paid dearly for his fine fortune,” he said to himself, going over the tale of Fabrizio’s misadventures. On the pretext of letting him see the picture by the Parmigianino which the Prince had sent to the Duchessa, the Conte drew Fabrizio aside.
“Now, my friend, let us speak as man to man: can I help you in any way? You need not be afraid of any questions on my part; still, can money be of use to you, can power help you? Speak, I am at your orders; if you prefer to write, write to me.”
Fabrizio embraced him tenderly and spoke of the picture.
“Your conduct is a masterpiece of the finest policy,” the Conte said to him, returning to the light tone of their previous conversation; “you are laying up for yourself a very agreeable future, the Prince respects you, the people venerate you, your little-worn black coat gives Monsignor Landriani some bad nights. I have some experience of life, and I can swear to you that I should not know what advice to give you to improve upon what I see. Your first step in the world at the age of twenty-five has carried you to perfection. People talk of you a great deal at court; and do you know to what you owe that distinction, unique at your age? To the little-worn black coat. The Duchessa and I have at our disposal, as you know, Petrarch’s old house on that fine slope in the middle of the forest, near the Po; if ever you are weary of the little mischief-makings of envy, it has occurred to me that you might be the successor of Petrarch, whose fame will enhance your own.” The Conte was racking his brains to make a smile appear on that anchorite face, but failed. What made the change more striking was that, before this latest phase, if Fabrizio’s features had a defect, it was that of presenting sometimes, at the wrong moment, an expression of gaiety and pleasure.
The Conte did not let him go without telling him that, notwithstanding his retreat, it would be perhaps an affectation if he did not appear at court the following Saturday, which was the Princess’s birthday. These words were a dagger-thrust to Fabrizio. “Great God!” he thought, “what have I let myself in for here?” He could not think without shuddering of the meeting that might occur at court. This idea absorbed every other; he thought that the only thing left to him was to arrive at the Palace at the precise moment at which the doors of the rooms would be opened.
And so it happened that the name of Monsignor del Dongo was one of the first to be announced on the evening of the gala reception, and the Princess greeted him with the greatest possible distinction. Fabrizio’s eyes were fastened on the clock, and, at the instant at which it marked the twentieth minute of his presence in the room, he was rising to take his leave, when the Prince joined his mother. After paying his respects to him for some moments, Fabrizio was again, by a skilful stratagem, making his way to the door, when there befell at his expense one of those little trifling points of court etiquette which the Grand Mistress knew so well how to handle: the Chamberlain in waiting ran after him to tell him that he had been put down to make up the Prince’s table at whist. At Parma this was a signal honour, and far above the rank which the Coadjutor held in society. To play whist with the Prince was a marked honour even for the Archbishop. At the Chamberlain’s words Fabrizio felt his heart pierced, and although a lifelong enemy of anything like a scene in public, he was on the point of going to tell him that he had been seized with a sudden fit of giddiness; but he reflected that he would be exposed to questions and polite expressions of sympathy, more intolerable even than the game. That day he had a horror of speaking.
Fortunately the General of the Friars Minor happened to be one of the prominent personages who had come to pay their respects to the Princess. This friar, a most learned man, a worthy rival of the Fontanas and the Duvoisins, had taken his place in a far corner of the room: Fabrizio took up a position facing him, so that he could not see the door, and began to talk theology. But he could not prevent his ear from hearing a servant announce the Signor Marchese and Signora Marchesa Crescenzi. Fabrizio, to his surprise, felt a violent impulse of anger.
“If I were Borso Valserra,” he said to himself (this being one of the generals of the first Sforza), “I should go and stab that lout of a Marchese, and with that very same dagger with the ivory handle which Clelia gave me on that happy day, and I should teach him to have the insolence to present himself with his Marchesa in a room in which I am.”
His expression altered so greatly that the General of the Friars Minor said to him:
“Does Your Excellency feel unwell?”
“I have a raging headache . . . these lights are hurting me . . . and I am staying here only because I have been put down for the Prince’s whist-table.”
On hearing this the General of the Friars Minor, who was of plebeian origin, was so disconcerted that, not knowing what to do, he began to bow to Fabrizio, who, for his part, far more seriously disturbed than the General, started to talk with a strange volubility: he noticed that there was a great silence in the room behind him, but would not turn round to look. Suddenly a baton tapped a desk; a ritornello was played, and the famous Signora P—— sang that air of Cimarosa, at one time so popular: Quelle pupille tenere!
Fabrizio stood firm throughout the opening bars, but presently his anger melted away, and he felt a compelling need to shed tears. “Great God!” he said to himself, “what a ridiculous scene! and with my cloth, too!” He felt it wiser to talk about himself.
“These violent headaches, when I do anything to thwart them, as I am doing this evening,” he said to the General of the Minorites, “end in floods of tears which provide food for scandal in a man of our calling; and so I request Your Illustrious Reverence to allow me to look at him while I cry, and not to pay any attention.”
“Our Father Provincial at Catanzaro suffers from the same disability,” said the General of the Minorites. And he began in an undertone a long narrative.
The absurdity of this story, which included the details of the Father Provincial’s evening meals, made Fabrizio smile, a thing which had not happened to him for a long time; but presently he ceased to listen to the General of the Minorites. Signora P—— was singing, with divine talent, an air of Pergolese (the Duchessa had a fondness for old music). She was interrupted by a slight sound, a few feet away from Fabrizio; for the first time in the evening, he turned his head, to look. The chair that had been the cause of this faint creak in the woodwork of the floor was occupied by the Marchesa Crescenzi whose eyes, filled with tears, met the direct gaze of Fabrizio’s which were in much the same state. The Marchesa bent her head; Fabrizio continued to gaze at her for some moments: he made a thorough study of that head loaded with diamonds; but his gaze expressed anger and disdain. Then, saying to himself: “and my eyes shall never look upon you,” he turned back to his Father General, and said to him:
“There, now, my weakness is taking me worse than ever.”
And indeed, Fabrizio wept hot tears for more than half an hour. Fortunately, a Symphony of Mozart, horribly mutilated, as is the way in Italy, came to his rescue and helped him to dry his tears.
He stood firm and did not turn his eyes towards the Marchesa Crescenzi; but Signora P—— sang again, and Fabrizio’s soul, soothed by his tears, arrived at a state of perfect repose. Then life appeared to him in a new light. “Am I pretending,” he asked himself, “to be able to forget her in the first few moments? Would such a thing be possible?” The idea came to him: “Can I be more unhappy than I have been for the last two months? Then, if nothing can add to my anguish, why resist the pleasure of seeing her? She has forgotten her vows; she is fickle: are not all women so? But who could deny her a heavenly beauty? She has a look in her eyes that sends me into ecstasies, whereas I have to make an effort to force myself to look at the women who are considered the greatest beauties! Very well, why not let myself be enraptured? It will be at least a moment of respite.”
Fabrizio had some knowledge of men, but no experience of the passions, otherwise he would have told himself that this momentary pleasure, to which he was about to yield, would render futile all the efforts that he had been making for the last two months to forget Clelia.
That poor woman would not have come to this party save under compulsion from her husband; even then she wished to slip away after half an hour, on the excuse of her health, but the Marchese assured her that to send for her carriage to go away, when many carriages were still arriving, would be a thing absolutely without precedent, which might even be interpreted as an indirect criticism of the party given by the Princess.
“In my capacity as Cavaliere d’onore,” the Marchese added, “I have to remain in the drawing-room at the Princess’s orders, until everyone has gone. There may be and no doubt will be orders to be given to the servants, they are so careless! And would you have a mere Gentleman Usher usurp that honour?”
Clelia resigned herself; she had not seen Fabrizio; she still hoped that he might not have come to this party. But at the moment when the concert was about to begin, the Princess having given the ladies leave to be seated, Clelia, who was not at all alert in that sort of thing, let all the best places near the Princess be snatched from her, and was obliged to go and look for a chair at the end of the room, in the very corner to which Fabrizio had withdrawn. When she reached her chair, the costume, unusual in such a place, of the General of the Friars Minor caught her eye, and at first she did not observe the other man, slim and dressed in a plain black coat, who was talking to him; nevertheless a certain secret impulse brought her gaze to rest on this man. “Everyone here is wearing uniform, or a richly embroidered coat: who can that young man be in such a plain black coat?” She was looking at him, profoundly attentive, when a lady, taking her seat beside her, caused her chair to move. Fabrizio turned his head: she did not recognise him, he had so altered. At first she said to herself: “That is like him, it must be his elder brother; but I thought there were only a few years between them, and that is a man of forty.” Suddenly she recognised him by a movement of his lips.
“Poor man, how he has suffered!” she said to herself. And she bent her head, bowed down by grief, and not in fidelity to her vow. Her heart was convulsed with pity; “after nine months in prison, he did not look anything like that.” She did not look at him again; but, without actually turning her eyes in his direction, she could see all his movements.
After the concert, she saw him go up to the Prince’s card-table, placed a few feet from the throne; she breathed a sigh of relief when Fabrizio was thus removed to a certain distance from her.
But the Marchese Crescenzi had been greatly annoyed to see his wife relegated to a place so far from the throne; all evening he had been occupied in persuading a lady seated three chairs away from the Princess, whose husband was under a financial obligation to him, that she would do well to change places with the Marchesa. The poor woman resisting, as was natural, he went in search of the debtor husband, who let his better half hear the sad voice of reason, and finally the Marchese had the pleasure of effecting the exchange; he went to find his wife. “You are always too modest,” he said to her. “Why walk like that with downcast eyes? Anyone would take you for one of those cits’ wives astonished at finding themselves here, whom everyone else is astonished, too, to see here. That fool of a Grand Mistress does nothing else but collect them! And they talk of retarding the advance of Jacobinism! Remember that your husband occupies the first position, among the gentlemen, at the Princess’s court; and that even should the Republicans succeed in suppressing the court, and even the nobility, your husband would still be the richest man in this State. That is an idea which you do not keep sufficiently in your head.”
The chair on which the Marchese had the pleasure of installing his wife was but six paces from the Prince’s card-table: she saw Fabrizio only in profile, but she found him grown so thin, he had, above all, the air of being so far above everything that might happen in this world, he who before would never let any incident pass without making his comment, that she finally arrived at the terrible conclusion: Fabrizio had altogether changed; he had forgotten her; if he had grown so thin, that was the effect of the severe fasts to which his piety subjected him. Clelia was confirmed in this sad thought by the conversation of all her neighbours: the name of the Coadjutor was on every tongue; they sought a reason for the signal favour which they saw conferred upon him: for him, so young, to be admitted to the Prince’s table! They marvelled at the polite indifference and the air of pride with which he threw down his cards, even when he had His Highness for a partner.
“But this is incredible!” cried certain old courtiers; “his aunt’s favour has quite turned his head. . . . But, mercifully, it won’t last; our Sovereign does not like people to put on these little airs of superiority.” The Duchessa approached the Prince; the courtiers, who kept at a most respectful distance from the card-table, so that they could hear only a few stray words of the Prince’s conversation, noticed that Fabrizio blushed deeply. “His aunt has been teaching him a lesson,” they said to themselves, “about those grand airs of indifference.” Fabrizio had just caught the sound of Clelia’s voice, she was replying to the Princess, who, in making her tour of the ball-room, had addressed a few words to the wife of her Cavaliere d’onore. The moment arrived when Fabrizio had to change his place at the whist-table; he then found himself directly opposite Clelia, and gave himself up repeatedly to the pleasure of contemplating her. The poor Marchesa, feeling his gaze rest upon her, lost countenance altogether. More than once she forgot what she owed to her vow: in her desire to read what was going on in Fabrizio’s heart, she fixed her eyes on him.
The Prince’s game ended, the ladies rose to go into the supper-room. There was some slight confusion. Fabrizio found himself close to Clelia; his mind was still quite made up, but he happened to recognise a faint perfume which she used on her clothes; this sensation overthrew all the resolutions that he had made. He approached her and repeated, in an undertone and as though he were speaking to himself, two lines from that sonnet of Petrarch which he had sent her from Lake Maggiore, printed on a silk handkerchief:
“Nessum visse giammai più di me lieto;
Nessun vive più tristo e giorni e notti.”
“No, he has not forgotten me,” Clelia told herself with a transport of joy. “That fine soul is not inconstant!”
“Esser pò in prima ogni impossibil cosa
Ch’altri che morte od ella sani il colpo
Ch’Amor co’ suoi begli occhi al cor m’impresse,”
Clelia ventured to repeat to herself these lines of Petrarch.
The Princess withdrew immediately after supper; the Prince had gone with her to her room and did not appear again in the reception rooms. As soon as this became known, everyone wished to leave at once; there was complete confusion in the ante-rooms; Clelia found herself close to Fabrizio; the profound misery depicted on his features moved her to pity. “Let us forget the past,” she said to him, “and keep this reminder of friendship.” As she said these words, she held out her fan so that he might take it.
Everything changed in Fabrizio’s eyes; in an instant he was another man; the following day he announced that his retreat was at an end, and returned to occupy his magnificent apartment in the palazzo Sanseverina. The Archbishop said, and believed, that the favour which the Prince had shewn him in admitting him to his game had completely turned the head of this new saint: the Duchessa saw that he had come to terms with Clelia. This thought, coming to intensify the misery that was caused her by the memory of a fatal promise, finally decided her to absent herself for a while. People marvelled at her folly. What! Leave the court at the moment when the favour that she enjoyed appeared to have no bounds! The Conte, perfectly happy since he had seen that there was no love between Fabrizio and the Duchessa, said to his friend: “This new Prince is virtue incarnate, but I have called him that boy: will he ever forgive me? I can see only one way of putting myself back in his good books, that is absence. I am going to shew myself a perfect model of courtesy and respect, after which I shall be ill, and shall ask leave to retire. You will allow me that, now that Fabrizio’s fortune is assured. But will you make me the immense sacrifice,” he added, laughing, “of exchanging the sublime title of Duchessa for another greatly inferior? For my own amusement, I am leaving everything here in an inextricable confusion; I had four or five workers in my various Ministries, I placed them all on the pension list two months ago, because they read the French newspapers; and I have filled their places with blockheads of the first order.
“After our departure, the Prince will find himself in such difficulties that, in spite of the horror that he feels for Rassi’s character, I have no doubt that he will be obliged to recall him, and I myself am only awaiting an order from the tyrant who disposes of my fate to write a letter of tender friendship to my friend Rassi, and tell him that I have every reason to hope that presently justice will be done to his merits.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13