The last word was scarcely out of his mouth when Trombin dashed forward, and, dropping his rapier at the same time, threw his arms round the courtier's knees; he flung him over his shoulder like a sack of flour, ran with him to the open window and dropped him out.
Whether he meant to kill him, or did not care what became of him, is not certain, but Trombin was a gentleman who generally kept his head, even when he seemed to be most excited; and it is certain that, instead of falling some four or five yards directly to the ground, Don Alberto found himself clinging to the ladder halfway down. It turned sideways with his weight, slowly at first, and fell with a clatter on the drip-stones, when his feet were already touching the ground. He was dizzy, the tumble had bruised his shins, and he had sprained his hands a little, but he was otherwise unhurt, and the blood on his wristbands and collar was from the scratch on Ortensia's arm.
For a few seconds he steadied himself against the corner of the house where he had fallen with the ladder. Then he began to make his way towards the door in the vineyard wall, and when he had walked thirty or forty yards he stood still, whistled twice, and waited for an answer. But none came.
He had, in fact, sent his own valet and a running footman to the Lateran to follow him and Tommaso, and to note the house they entered. The runner was then to hasten back to the Basilica, where Don Alberto's coach was waiting, and was to come to the house with it, or to the nearest point it could reach. The footman was the most famous runner in Roman lackeydom and boasted that he could always cover a mile in five minutes, up hill and down and over the worst roads, and in a shorter time on a smooth and level path. As for the coach, it could drive to the very door of the little house; for the Via di Santa Sabina had always been practicable for vehicles, because it led to the castle of the Savelli, which was then partly in ruins and partly turned into a Dominican monastery. So all was well planned, and Don Alberto's valet was to hide near the last door his master entered in case the latter needed help.
Yet when Altieri whistled softly there was no answer. He went on twenty paces farther and whistled again, with the same result. He reached the door in the wall, and whistled a third time, peering into the gloom amongst the vines. At last he went out into the road, determined to go away on foot and alone, rather than to risk another interview with the quick-tempered man who had thrown him out of the window.
He went away on foot, indeed, but neither alone nor unaided; for he had no sooner stepped out of the door than a most unpleasant and unexpected thing happened. To his surprise and mortification, not to mention the pain he felt, an iron hand caught him by the back of his collar and ran him down the hill at the double-quick, encouraging his speed with a hearty kick at every third step or so. He ran by the house in a moment, being positively kicked past the door, and he ran on to the gate of the Jewish cemetery, whence the mules had now disappeared, and the boot of his implacable driver almost lifted him off his feet. The hand that held him was like iron, and the foot felt very like it too. Down the hill he was forced to run, till suddenly, at the turn near the bottom, where the road is wider, he came upon his own coach on its way up.
Then the kicking ceased indeed, but the hand did not relax its hold, while the coachman stopped his horses at the sound of quick footsteps just ahead. An instant later Don Alberto's tormentor had opened the coach, flung him up inside, and slammed the door on him.
'Palazzo Altieri!' cried a voice the courtier had heard only once before. 'Be quick! Your master is ill!'
The running footman had already dropped to the ground from behind, and was at the open carriage window in an instant, springing upon the step for orders. But Don Alberto was exhausted and had sunk back in the cushioned seat, panting for breath and aching, not only in every joint, but elsewhere.
'Home!' he managed to say, as he saw the footman's head at the window.
There was just room in the road to turn, and a few seconds later the carriage was rumbling along over the bad road towards the paved streets of the city, while its only inmate slowly recovered his breath and made attempts in the dark to repair the disorder of his dress before he reached his palace. But that was not easy, for he had dropped his cloak in the struggle with Ortensia and had lost his hat in falling with the ladder; moreover, his collar and wristbands were covered with blood, and his usually smooth hair looked like a wild man's. Last, and perhaps least in his estimation, he had given a thousand crowns, in the shape of two hundred and fifty gold ducats of Naples, for the pleasure of being half-strangled by a young woman, thrown out of the window by her rescuer, and finally kicked downhill for a distance of at least two hundred and fifty yards by an unseen boot. As an equivalent for so much money these mishaps were unsatisfactory; but what the sufferer now most desired was to save some remnant of his dignity before his servants, and then to be avenged on those who had so signally frustrated his plans.
He was disappointed in the first of these wishes, at all events, for when he was helped from his carriage by the porter and the running footman at the foot of the grand staircase, he found himself face to face with Alessandro Stradella, who was as pale as his own collar and half mad with anxiety. One glance told the musician that Altieri had been worsted in an adventure, which, he was sure, could only be accounted for by Ortensia's disappearance.
'Where is my wife?' asked Stradella, standing in the way on the step.
Don Alberto was surprised and angry, and his shame at being seen in such plight, in his own house, overcame any prudence or self-control he had left. Besides, he felt himself sufficiently defended by his servants.
'Your wife?' he said, trying to push Stradella aside. 'She is in a little house near the Lateran, with her lover!'
With the ringing insult, the Sicilian's open hand struck Don Alberto such a blow across the face that he staggered back against the carriage step, the blood spurting from his nose and lips.
But almost at the same instant Gaetano, the big porter, and the athletic footman threw themselves bodily upon Stradella, shouting for help at the same time. Stablemen and grooms came running from the courtyard at the cry, and the singer was overpowered in a few moments, though he struggled fiercely, not so much for his freedom as to strike Don Alberto again.
'Call the watch,' said the latter, staunching his blood with a lace handkerchief as well as he could. 'You are all witnesses. He can be taken to Tor di Nona in my carriage.'
Thereupon, with more dignity than might have been expected of a young dandy in such a condition, he turned and went slowly up the broad stone stairs, holding his handkerchief to his mouth. He expected his valet to meet him at his door, but the man was not there: as a matter of fact he was then lying on his back on a tombstone in the Jewish cemetery, bound hand and foot, and securely gagged; and while he contemplated the stars, he felt much too cool for his comfort. For Gambardella had come upon him lurking near the door in the wall, after Tommaso had passed with Altieri, and the Bravo had made short work of his liberty, returning to the door in the wall just in time to catch Don Alberto as he came out.
Don Alberto's commands were law at all times in his father's palace, and on the present occasion the wrath of the whole establishment was on his side. Moreover, to strike the nephew of both Popes in the face and call him a liar was an offence which would have sent the noblest patrician in Rome to a dungeon in Sant' Angelo, if not to the galleys of Civita Vecchia.
It was therefore not surprising that Stradella should find himself in Tor di Nona within the hour, solidly chained to the wall in a dark cell; and so he was left to reflect upon the consequences of his rashness, though not to regret it, if indeed his gnawing anxiety for Ortensia left him room to think of anything else.
When Trombin had dropped Don Alberto upon the ladder, to take the chances of a bad fall, he looked down to see what happened, and being satisfied that the courtier was not much hurt, he turned at once to Ortensia; for if young Altieri had broken his neck, it might have been necessary to hasten what was to take place next. As for anything the courtier might do on the spur of the moment, Trombin knew that Gambardella and Tommaso were in the vineyard, ready to stop any mischief.
Ortensia was lying by the wall where she had fallen, but was regaining consciousness, for her limbs stirred now and then, and as the Bravo looked at her she opened her eyes and turned her head.
'Coward!' she said faintly, as what had happened began to dawn upon her and the recollection of the furious struggle came back. 'Coward!' she repeated, closing her eyes as Trombin dropped beside her on one knee.
'I have thrown him out of the window,' he said quietly.
She opened her eyes wide now, stared at him and recognised him, though as in a dream. Then she tried to raise herself on her elbow, and instantly he helped her; and feeling the strength of his arm, she got upon her feet, though with more assistance from him than she knew. He led her to a stiff little sofa at the other end of the room, picked up Don Alberto's cloak, rolled it into a pillow for her, and made her lie down. She had almost lost consciousness again with the effort of walking so far.
He saw the deep scratch on her arm, from which a few drops of blood were still slowly oozing, and he fetched a basin with cold water and a towel from the bedroom, and bathed the slight wound, binding it up afterwards with his lawn handkerchief, for he was skilled in such matters. Ortensia smiled faintly, without opening her eyes; but he, with the strangest expression in the world, drew in his lips till his mouth almost disappeared; and he fixed his round eyes on the shapely arm he was dressing, and touched it with a sort of wonder. For there was a secret side of his character which even his friend Gambardella did not know, any more than Trombin knew his companion's own love-story.
When Trombin said that he was a susceptible creature, full of sentiment, he was telling the truth, though his friend had never believed it. He loved all women in general, and seemed able to love a number of them in particular in close succession. Gambardella saw this, and exercised his wit upon the weakness; but what he never saw and could not guess was that his fellow-cut-throat was as shy and timid as a schoolboy in the presence of his sweetheart for the time being, whether she were of low degree or of the burgher class, above which Trombin had never aspired till he had seen Ortensia. The reckless Bravo, the perpetrator of a score of atrocious crimes, the absolutely intrepid swordsman, would blush like a girl, and stand speechless and confused when he was alone for the first time with a pretty girl or a buxom dame whose mere side-glance made the blood tingle in his neck. Moreover, many women know that there are plenty of such men in the world; and I dare say that more than one man may read these lines who has faced the extremest danger without a quickened pulse, but has collapsed like a scared child before a girl of eighteen or a cool-handed widow of eight-and-twenty. Oddly enough, those are not the men whom women love least, explain it how you will.
So Trombin, who had talked of carrying off Ortensia with even more assurance than Don Alberto himself, and had just found her senseless on the floor after he had put her assailant to flight, could no more have had the boldness to kiss the white arm he was dressing so tenderly and skilfully than young Altieri had found courage to fight him when he had suddenly appeared through the window, rapier in hand and glaring like a panther.
Meanwhile Ortensia came quite to herself, looked at him quietly, and thanked him.
'Where is he gone?' she asked, for she had not realised what he had said when he had first answered her.
As he met her eyes Trombin's white forehead blushed, and he stepped back, taking away the basin and towel he had used in washing her wound.
'Out of the window, gracious lady,' he said, as he disappeared into the next room.
'Out of the window!' cried Ortensia in astonishment. 'Is he dead?'
'No, alive and well,' answered Trombin from the distance. 'But I hear something at this very moment,' he added, coming back empty-handed and trying the front window, as if he did not know that it was fastened with nails.
He laid his ear to the crack, and held out one hand to keep Ortensia silent.
'Yes,' he whispered an instant later, loud enough for her to hear. 'Yes—it is the sound of kicking and running—some one is kicking some one else down the hill—it is gone now!'
He stood upright again and looked round at Ortensia, whose face betrayed her anxiety, now that she was fully conscious.
'Who can it be?' she asked.
'Most gentle lady,' answered Trombin, 'I do not know, but I suspect, pray, hope, and inwardly believe that the patient, if I may so call him, was Don Alberto, and the kicker was very likely my friend Gambardella.'
'But you were to have brought my husband here! Your friend told me so!'
Ortensia's memory came back completely at Gambardella's name, and she slipped her feet from the sofa to the floor and sat up suddenly. Trombin was, of course, prepared for the question with a plausible story, but he could never count on his presence of mind when he was in love and alone for the first time with the object of his affections.
'Madam,' he answered, 'the truth is—or, as I may say, the facts in the case are——' he stammered and stopped, for the lovely Venetian had risen and was beside him already, her frightened eyes very near his, and her hand on his sleeve. His heart beat like a scared bird's and his head was whirling.
'Where is my husband?' cried Ortensia in wild anxiety. 'Something has happened to him, and you are afraid to tell me! For heaven's sake——'
It had never been in Trombin's nature to be rough with a woman. In the two or three cases in which he had been concerned in 'removing' a lady, obnoxious to her husband or relations, he had been accused by his companion of being soft-hearted; but while Ortensia was speaking he was in such a state of rapt adoration that he quite forgot to listen to what she said; and instead of answering when she waited for his reply, he took the hand that lay on his sleeve in his, with such a gentle and sympathetic touch that she did not resist, even when he raised it to his ridiculous little mouth and kissed it delicately, with an air of respectful devotion that would not have offended a saint.
Nor was Ortensia offended; but she was frightened out of her mind by his manner, for it was as if he were already condoling with her, and offering his faithful service, before telling her the awful truth.
'He is dead!' she cried, breaking from him and pressing both hands to her temples in mad grief.
She would have fallen against the table, if Trombin had not caught her and held her up. He understood instantly how she had mistaken his action, and what the question had been which he had not heard.
'No, no!' he cried energetically. 'He is alive and well! He insisted on going back to the palace to wait for Don Alberto when he came home from the Lateran to catch you in your rooms! Instead, the villain tracked you here and got in. It was Tommaso's fault for leaving the back door open to the vineyard, and Altieri fastened it inside, so I broke in through the window to save you! We had nailed all the windows fast for your safety!'
Ortensia leaned back against the table and looked straight at him. He could tell the most amazing untruths with perfect coolness, but just now he was so very near the truth that his worst enemy would have believed him. Untruthful people often have a shifty glance, but the truly accomplished liar is he whose clear and limpid eye meets yours trustfully and sadly, while he tells you falsehoods that would make the Father of Lies himself look grave. The immediate result of Trombin's words was that Ortensia could almost have thrown her arms round his neck in her joy.
'Take me to him!' she cried, forgetting everything else. 'Take me to him! Come!' She tried to drag him towards the door in her haste, but he quietly resisted her.
'We must wait for Gambardella,' he said. 'Besides, you will have to trust your husband to settle matters with Don Alberto without you. He is far more likely to be prudent if they meet alone than if you are beside him——'
Ortensia's face fell, for she saw that Trombin did not mean to let her leave the house at once.
'But Don Alberto can do anything,' she pleaded, with clear foresight of Stradella's temper and consequent danger. 'My husband will accuse him, and will be furiously angry! He will not hesitate to strike him, or to fight him in his own house! And then Don Alberto will have him imprisoned!'
It was, in fact, what was about to happen, and what Trombin himself expected. On the other hand, Don Alberto knew very well where the house was to which he had been taken by Tommaso, for he was a Roman, and every yard of the road was familiar to him. Within less than an hour it was more than likely that he would send a force of sbirri to besiege the house, men who would not hesitate to break down the doors if they were not admitted, and by no means so easy to frighten away as the clumsily armed watchmen whom the Bravi had put to flight. The only possible safety for the Bravi lay in leaving the place with Ortensia before such a thing happened. The post-carriage in which Trombin meant to carry her off that very night was waiting not far away in charge of a well-paid stable hand, and Tommaso and Gambardella had only to bring it to the door. The stableman was then to take back the two mules, and the coach would leave the city at once, by Porta San Lorenzo, while Ortensia would suppose that she was being taken to the Palazzo Altieri or to some new place of safety. The plan was well laid, for it would be easy for Gambardella to make Stradella believe that his wife had been spirited away by Don Alberto's agents, and that Trombin had followed on horseback in hot pursuit. Stradella would lose no time, and would certainly accept Gambardella's assistance in the chase; and in due time husband and wife would reach Venice separately and fall into the respective traps the Bravi had ready for them.
All this might succeed easily enough by the liberal use of money, and under the protection of the pardons and passports the two cut-throats had in their possession; but it was clear that no time was to be lost, and while Trombin's gaze lingered on Ortensia's lovely face, he was anxiously listening for his friend's knock below, and he did not even attempt to answer her last speech with reassuring words.
'We cannot move without Gambardella,' he said, speaking in a low tone now, lest any sound from without should escape his hearing.
It came a moment later, and Trombin hastened to the door at the head of the stairs; it was locked, however, and the key was in Don Alberto's pocket, as Ortensia quickly explained. But such a trifle as an ordinary door that was fastened was not likely to stop a man who had lately smashed in a strong window-frame with his fists and his shoulder. He drew back one step, raised his heel to the level of the lock, and smashed it as if it had been made of egg-shells. The door flew open and he ran down the steps to undo the chain. Seeing that her shadow kept the light from the stairs and the vestibule, Ortensia drew back on one side of the entrance, expecting that Trombin would come up at once with Gambardella. Instead, the two stood talking in low tones on the threshold of the front door.
In a few moments it was clear to Ortensia that some disagreement had arisen between the friends. Their voices grew a little louder, so that Ortensia could hear about half of what they said. It was clear that Gambardella was refusing to do something which Trombin insisted with rising temper, while the other grew colder and more obstinate every moment.
'Altieri's thousand crowns,' she heard Gambardella say distinctly; and then, in broken words, '... more than enough ... morning ... the Neapolitan frontier ... leave her here ...'
'Judas!' cried Trombin very audibly, and clearly in a rage.
'At your service,' answered Gambardella, 'and instead of thirty pieces of silver, I fling a thousand in your face! You shall not have her!'
Ortensia heard a sort of chinking thud, as if a heavy purse had fallen on the stones. This was instantly followed by a scuffle, and she knew that the two men had closed and were wrestling. The whole truth had flashed upon her through the few words they had exchanged, or enough of it to prove that young Altieri had not calumniated the men she had thought her friends when he had called them Bravi.
Her heart stood still for an instant, while she looked round for some means of escape. No sound of voices now came up from below, but only the shuffling of feet and the hard-drawn breath of men wrestling in the dark. She ran to the window and looked out, thinking that the ladder was still there, and then, seeing that it was gone, she peered into the gloom. Perhaps she could let herself down by her hands and then drop to the ground. At any moment one of the Bravi might come up again and seize her.
She listened for a moment before trying it. The sound of the struggle had ceased, and all was still again; very cautiously she crept to the door and listened again, but there was not a breath. She ventured to look down the stairs, keeping her body on one side, and she saw that the vestibule was empty, and now her quick hearing caught the sound of shuffling footsteps in the road outside; the noise was decreasing already, as if the two men were moving down the hill in their furious fight. The house was empty for a moment, Trombin had spoken of a back door opening to the vineyard, and she saw her chance.
She ran downstairs, almost falling in her haste, and as she reached the floor she stepped upon something that yielded with a chinking sound. It was the purse containing the thousand crowns in ducats, and she thrust it into her bosom without hesitation. A cool draught of air from under the stairs guided her to the back entrance, which was not closed, as Trombin had said it was, but wide open. She was out of doors in an instant, and in the starlight she could just see a broad path that led straight through the vineyard from the little house. She gathered up her silk skirts with both hands, and ran for her life.
Almost at the same moment Gambardella, who was the lighter man, threw Trombin heavily on his back in the dust, and at once proceeded to kneel on his chest.
At sunrise Ortensia wearily climbed the steep ascent that led up to the Quirinal Palace, leaning on Cucurullo's arm, and wearing his short brown cloak to cover her dress as much as possible. A few words will be enough to explain what had happened in the night. After waiting two hours and more at Santa Prassede with the things he had brought, Cucurullo had come back to the Palazzo Altieri, suspecting an accident, or at least a misunderstanding. It was not till he had knocked again and again that the porter had opened the little postern in the great wooden gate, and seeing who was there had hastily explained that Stradella was in prison for having struck Don Alberto on the nose, at the foot of the grand staircase, and that, after this, he, Gaetano the porter, had not the courage to admit any one belonging to the musician's household. He was very sorry, and said so, being much afraid of the Evil Eye if the hunchback should be angry; but he was even more afraid of Don Alberto. Cucurullo, who had been prepared for trouble, bowed his head, and said he would wait outside till morning. Gaetano offered, as a great favour, to take the things he carried and hide them in his lodge, a kindness which Cucurullo readily accepted.
As for Ortensia, she did not know where she had been, and it was not till she had wandered for hours in the desolate regions between Santa Maria in Cosmedin, San Gregorio, and the Colosseum, that she at last struck into the Campo Vaccino, which was the open field under which the Roman Forum then lay buried. By the first faint light she recognised the tower of the Capitol, and in less than a quarter of an hour after that she found Cucurullo sitting on one of the stone chain-posts outside the Palazzo Altieri, his two long legs hanging down almost to the pavement, and his humped body looking like a large ball covered with a short brown cloak, and surmounted by a servant's high-crowned black felt hat with a wide brim. He was not asleep, for he hardly ever slept, and he knew his mistress's light step before he saw her at his elbow. In a moment he had explained what had happened, as far as he knew the truth, from the moment when he had left her getting into the carriage with Gambardella.
Her mind was made up in a flash; she would go directly to the Pope himself, and if he would not see her, she would insist on seeing Cardinal Paluzzo Altieri. He would not refuse her an audience, if she sent up her name with a message to say that she had found something of great value that belonged to him. As for taking any rest before going to the Quirinal, she literally had not where to lay her head; but she was young and strong, and would not realise how tired she was till the strain of her anxiety was over, and she was borne up by love, which is quite the most wonderful elixir in the world against all weariness of mind or body. Nevertheless she leaned on Cucurullo's arm as they climbed the ascent, for it was very steep, and the last part of it was the long flight of steps which still leads up from the Tre Cannelle and comes out close to the little church of San Silvestro, where the great and good Vittoria Colonna once met Michelangelo.
The doors of the Quirinal Palace were opened at sunrise, and two sentries of the Swiss Guard paced up and down before the entrance, their breastplates and halberds gleaming in the morning sun. They did not stop Ortensia, who saw their sergeant standing just within, very magnificent in his full-dress uniform; for it was the Feast of Saint John, and Midsummer Day, and one of the great festivals of the year, though not so solemn a one as that of Saint Peter which comes five days later, on the twenty-ninth.
The Swiss sergeant was gravely civil and answered Ortensia as politely as he could, considering how imperfectly he knew the Italian language. His Holiness? No. The Pope was far from well and had not left his room for a week. His Eminence? It might be possible in an hour. The Cardinal was an early riser, and was to pontificate at high mass in the Lateran. The sergeant could send a soldier to the major domo's office by and by, but no one would be stirring upstairs for at least another hour. The gracious lady seemed tired; would she wait in the sergeant's own room? It was at her disposal.
Ortensia accepted gratefully, and the big, fair-haired, wooden-faced Swiss opened the door for her, pointed to a sort of settle on which she could rest, and told Cucurullo to wait in the guard-room. The sergeant himself would call her as soon as the major-domo's office was open. He saluted her with stiff politeness and went away.
Even then she did not realise that she was tired, and instead of stretching herself on the settee, as she might have done, she sat bolt upright on the edge of it, staring at the door that had just been shut, as if she expected the sergeant to come back at once. Yet she was not conscious of the passage of time, and her intense anxiety centred in her coming interview with the Cardinal rather than in any present longing for the sergeant's quick return. In her mind she went over what she was going to say, and tried to put together the Cardinal's probable replies. She meant to ask for immediate liberty for her husband, or immediate imprisonment for herself with him. Nothing could be simpler; if the great man refused to grant either, leaving her at liberty, she would risk everything and appeal to the Venetian Ambassador.
She had not changed her position once in three-quarters of an hour when the door opened again, and the sergeant most respectfully invited her to go with him. His Eminence had been informed that she was below and wished to see her at once. She remembered nothing after that, till she found herself in a small sunny room hung with red damask and furnished in the same colour. The Cardinal sat in a high-backed chair at a magnificent polished writing-table, on which stood a crucifix having the sacred figure carved apparently from a single gigantic amethyst; the inkstand, pen-tray, and sand-boxes were also gilt, and made a glittering show in the bright sunshine that poured through the open window.
Cardinal Altieri was a grey-haired man with steely eyes set near together, the strong lean face of a fighter, and the colourless complexion of most high ecclesiastics, who are generally what the physicians of that day called 'saturnians.' He held out a large, hard, white hand, with a ring in which was set an engraved amethyst, Ortensia touch the stone with her lips, and he motioned to her to be seated in a comfortable chair at his left.
'I know everything,' he said quietly. 'I always do.'
The comprehensiveness of this sweeping statement might have made Ortensia smile at any other time. But she was staggered by it now, and forgot the speech she had prepared. On the face of it, to tell anything to a man who knew everything was superfluous. She reflected a moment, and he took advantage of her silence to speak again in the same calm tone.
'You sent me word that you had found something of value belonging to me, madam. I shall be glad to receive it, but, in the first place, I have the honour of returning to you some of your own property, which you left last night in a little house in the Via di Santa Sabina.'
As he spoke the last words he put down his right hand on the side away from her and brought up a long veil, a silver hairpin, and one white doeskin glove all together.
'That is all, I believe,' he said, with a very faint smile. 'If you left anything else there, I will order a more careful search to be made. I may add that there were stains of blood on the floor and one of the walls, and as you do not appear to be wounded, madam, the inference is——'
Before he could explain his inference, Ortensia stretched out her arm from beneath the cloak she wore, and showed him that it was bound up in a blood-stained handkerchief; for the small cut had been deep. With her other hand she took the purse from within her dress and held it out to the Cardinal.
'A thousand crowns in gold ducats,' she said, 'which your Eminence's nephew paid two Bravi for the privilege of giving me this scratch. But they cheated him and drove him away and then quarrelled, and fought about which should have me for his share. I escaped from the house while they were fighting outside, I stepped on this purse and I picked it up, being sure that the money belonged to you, and there it is! In return, I ask for my husband's liberty.'
She saw from his face that he was much surprised, and that what she had just told him had produced a decided effect in her favour; for it is almost needless to say that the account of the affair which Don Alberto had dictated to his secretary and had sent to his uncle late on the previous evening gave a very different view of the case. According to the young man, Ortensia had met him of her own accord, deliberately enticing him into an ambush from which he had barely escaped with his life, only to be insulted and struck in the face by her husband, who was, of course, acquainted with the whole plan.
The Cardinal examined the purse minutely, then opened it and looked at the contents. He guessed that the value of the gold must be about a thousand crowns, as Ortensia had said it was. During this time she quietly arranged her veil on her head, fastening it with the long silver pin, and then put on the glove he had restored to her. At last he looked up and spoke.
'Where one knows everything,' he observed, 'it is impossible not to be surprised at the lamentable ignorance in which most people live. For instance, if I had not this demonstration of the fact, which agrees well with my own knowledge, I should find it hard to believe that you and your husband could have been foolish enough to make friends with the very men whom your uncle the Senator Pignaver had sent to murder you.'
'We were deceived, Eminence,' answered Ortensia. 'I need not tell you how, since everything is known to you. All I ask is my husband's liberty.'
'Your husband, madam, appears to have broken my nephew's nose,' replied the Cardinal, with the utmost gravity. 'Moreover, Alberto is not only my own nephew by blood, but His Holiness's also, both in fact, as the son of the Pope's niece, Donna Lucia, and also by formal adoption. I doubt whether His Holiness will easily overlook such an offence. To break the nose of a Pope's nephew, madam, is a serious matter. I would have you understand that.'
'Then send me to prison with my husband!' cried Ortensia desperately.
The Cardinal slowly rubbed his pale chin with his amethyst ring, and looked at her.
'There may be an alternative to that somewhat extreme course,' he observed. 'Calm yourself, I beg of you, and I will see His Holiness as soon as possible. In the meantime, it would be well for you to take some rest.'
'Rest!' Ortensia exclaimed. 'How can I rest while he is in prison, unless I can be near him?'
'I cannot see the connection of ideas,' the Cardinal answered coldly.
He looked at her with some curiosity, for he had never been in love with anything but power since he had first gone to school.
He rang a gilt bell that stood beside the gilt inkstand, and a grey-haired priest, still unshaven and shabbily dressed, came at the call. His face was as yellow as common beeswax, and his little eyes were bloodshot. The Cardinal pushed the purse across the polished mahogany.
'Count that money,' he said briefly, and opening the drawer of the table he took out a sheet of paper and began to write, while the shabby secretary counted out the gold in the palm of his hand, as if he were used to doing it.
The letter was not long, and the Cardinal read it over to himself with evident care before folding it. He even smiled faintly, as he had done when he had returned Ortensia's things. He turned in the top and bottom of the sheet so that the edges just met, and after creasing the bends with his large pale thumb-nail he doubled the folded paper neatly, and then turned up the ends and slipped one into the other.
'Seal it with a wafer when you have done counting,' he said, tossing the letter to the priest, for he detested the taste of sealing-wafers, and, moreover, thought that the red colouring matter in them was bad for the stomach. 'How much money is there?' he asked, seeing that the secretary had finished his task.
'Two hundred and fifty gold ducats, Eminence,' answered the latter, and his dirty crooked fingers poured the gold back into the leathern purse.
When that was done, and the wet wafer had been slipped into its place and pressed, the secretary handed the letter to the Cardinal for him to address it. Instead of doing so at once, however, he turned to Ortensia, who had been watching the proceedings in silent anxiety.
'Madam,' the great man began, in a suave tone, 'knowing everything, as I do, you may well imagine that I am anxious to spare you the grief of seeing your husband condemned to the galleys.'
'The galleys!' cried Ortensia in extreme terror. 'Merciful heavens!'
The Cardinal went on speaking with the utmost coolness and without heeding her emotion.
'If what my nephew believed last night could be proved true, madam, your husband's neck would be in great danger, and you yourself would probably spend several years in a place of solitude and penance.'
Ortensia's horror increased, and she could no longer speak.
'Yes, madam,' continued the Cardinal inexorably, 'I have no hesitation in saying so. My nephew believed that you and your husband had purposely enticed him to a clandestine meeting with you, in order to have him thrown out of a window, at the imminent risk of his life, and otherwise maltreated by hired ruffians. It was little short of a miracle that he reached his home alive, and he had no sooner stepped from his carriage than your husband put the finishing stroke to the series of atrocities by breaking his nose. I do not say that this was a blow at the Church, madam, but it was a violent blow at the authority of the Pope's government. I take it that a blow which can break a man's nose is a violent blow. That is the argument for the prosecution.'
Ortensia stared wildly at the colourless face and the steely eyes that met her own.
'Happily,' the Cardinal went on, after a short but impressive pause, 'my nephew does not know everything. There are some arguments for the defence: that purse is a good one, madam, and the wound you have received is better; my own universal knowledge fills the lacunae that are left, so far as concerns what happened at the house in Via di Santa Sabina. Two Bravi, who have undertaken to murder you, thought they could earn an additional thousand crowns by selling you to my nephew, whose admiration for you is unhappily a matter of notoriety. Their plan was then to drive him away, after which one of them was to carry you off, while the other remained behind to murder your husband. Fortunately for you they quarrelled, you made your escape, and your excellent good sense made you come directly to me, which, in the case of a lady of your noble birth, is a clear proof of innocence. Moreover, I know it to be true that the two Bravi were found fighting desperately in the street during the night, but when the watch fell upon them to separate them they turned their swords against the officers of the law and sent the cowardly pack flying, though not one of the fellows had anything worse than a pin-prick to show. Your former friends are very accomplished swordsmen, madam! That is the argument for your defence, and it satisfies me.'
'Thank heaven!' exclaimed Ortensia, whose face had relaxed while he had been speaking. 'Then my husband will be let out, after all!'
'That depends on His Holiness, not on me,' answered the churchman. 'It may depend on your husband himself. Your friends'—he emphasised the word with a cool smile—'your friends the Bravi are responsible for everything except my nephew's broken nose, but that is a serious matter enough. Bertini'—he turned to the secretary—'you may go. I wished you to hear what I have just said. Order one of my own chairs to be ready to take this lady to the palace in five minutes.'
Bertini bowed and left the room. It was not until the door was shut that the Cardinal spoke again.
'His Holiness expressed to me only last night his august desire to hear your husband sing, and regretted his inability to go to the Lateran for that purpose. His Holiness has now spent a good night and it may be hoped that he will be able to rise this afternoon. Your husband shall have an opportunity of singing to him before supper. That is all I can manage for him. He must do the rest.'
'Thank you, thank you!' cried Ortensia gratefully. 'Only——'
'How will he be able to sing, after such a night, if he is kept in prison? He will have a sore throat from the dampness, he will be worn out with anxiety, and weak for want of food! What chance can he possibly have of moving the Pope to pity?'
'I have attended to that, madam,' the Cardinal answered, tapping the letter that lay under his hand. 'The Maestro shall lack nothing which can restore his strength and his voice.'
He rang his little bell twice in quick succession, and at the same time he wrote an address on the folded paper. A man in black entered before he had finished. Then he scattered red sand on the writing, and poured it back into the sand-box.
'To Tor di Nona,' he said. 'Tell the messenger to gallop.'
The man was gone in an instant.
'You will find a chair downstairs,' the churchman said. 'The men are to take you to your apartment in my palace.'
'But if the porter——' Ortensia began to object.
'He will hardly venture to turn my liveries from my own door, madam. Go to your rooms and rest. You will find that your maid has left you. She fled in terror last night, and left Rome an hour ago in the coach for Naples. I saw no reason for having her stopped, but if she has robbed you I will have her taken. Your husband has a queer hunch-backed man-servant called Cucurullo; he looks like Guidi, I remember, the young poet who ran away from our royal guest the other day.'
The Cardinal smiled vaguely, and rubbed his chin with his ring.
'He is downstairs,' Ortensia said. 'He is a good creature,' she added quickly, fearing lest the great man was about to tell her something to Cucurullo's discredit.
'An excellent fellow,' the Cardinal assented readily. 'I was going to say that if your husband wished to part with him, I should be glad to take him into my service. You will not suspect me of entertaining any foolish superstition about the good fortune which hunchbacks are supposed to bring with them, I am sure! That is ridiculous. Besides, I would not for the world displease the poor fellow, if my suggestion were not agreeable to him, as well as to your husband, madam, believe me!'
Even in her anxiety Ortensia was inclined to smile, for it was clear that the master of Rome believed in the deformed man's supernatural gift as profoundly as any beggar in the street who tried to touch the hump unnoticed.
'I will speak with my husband about it,' Ortensia said. 'Only let me see him,' she added, in a pleading tone.
'For the present, madam, I have done all I can, except to promise you that if His Holiness is well enough to hear the Maestro sing, you shall be present. Meanwhile, you must go home, and remain in your rooms till I send for you.'
He held out his ring for her to kiss, and she saw that she must go.
'I thank your Eminence with all my heart,' she said, and with a deep courtesy she turned and left the room.
Her heart was lighter than when she had entered it, for though she did not like the Cardinal, who was liked by few, she could not help believing that he was in earnest in all he had said, and really meant to give Stradella the only chance left to him of escaping some heavy penalty for his hastiness. But she longed to see him more than ever, and to repeat all she had just heard exactly as it had been said.
As she retraced her steps from the study to the stairs, accompanied by a servant who showed her the way, she looked about her in surprise, for she had not the slightest recollection of anything she now saw, and was amazed at the distance she had traversed without noticing anything. She could have sworn that she had gone up by an ordinary staircase, but instead, it was a winding one, and everything else she saw surprised her in the same way.
Cucurullo was standing beside the large sedan chair with the four porters who wore the Cardinal's livery of scarlet and gold. Two of them were to carry her, while one walked before and the fourth followed behind, both the latter being ready to take their turns as bearers at regular intervals.
When they reached the palace a quarter of an hour later, they did not even pause at the lodge, and it was with considerable astonishment that Gaetano saw Ortensia enter in such state, followed by Cucurullo, who smiled pleasantly as he passed.
Ortensia stepped from the chair at her own door and thanked the men, for she had nothing to give them; but the hunchback always had money, and when he had unlocked the door he handed them a silver florin with an air as grand as if he had been at least the seneschal of the palace.
Ortensia went on to the sitting-room, still almost unconscious of being tired; but she had hardly entered, followed closely by Cucurullo, when her knees suddenly gave way under her, her head swam, and she had barely time to stagger to the long sofa before she fainted away, utterly worn out with fatigue and emotion.
She came to herself before long, and Cucurullo was leaning over her and cooling her forehead and temples with a handkerchief soaked with Felsina water. But she only sighed as she recognised him, and then he saw that she fell peacefully asleep, just as she lay. He drew the blinds closer together to darken the room, and went off to shave himself and restore his usually neat and clean appearance, which had suffered somewhat during a whole night spent out of doors.
But Ortensia was outwardly in a far worse plight as she lay sleeping on the hard sofa, for her pretty silk skirt was soiled and torn at the edges, her little kid shoes were splashed with mud, covered with dust, and half worn out by her walking in rough places; the blood-stained handkerchief on her arm told its own tale, too, and her glorious hair was all disordered and tangled. Yet, somehow, she was not a whit less beautiful than when she had left the house with her husband on the previous afternoon fresh from Pina's skilful hands.
She was dreaming of Stradella now, after she had been asleep more than four hours, and the sun outside was high and hot. It was not a vision of terror, either, or of tormenting anxiety; she thought he had come back to her, and that it had all been a mistake, or a bad dream within the present sweet one; for he was just the same as when she had seen him last, his gaze was clear and loving, his touch was tender, and when his lips met hers——
She awoke with a startled cry of joy, and it was all true; for he was kneeling beside her, and she felt his kiss before her eyes opened to see themselves in his. It had all been a bad dream that had turned to a sweet one and ended in the delicious truth. He had not left her since she had rested there, on that same sofa after dinner, and they had not yet been to the Lateran—it was still yesterday.
Then she remembered, and put down her feet to the pavement as she sat up in his arms, and framed his face in her hands, pushing it a little away from her to see it better.
No; he was himself, his straight dark hair was neatly combed, his cheek was smooth and fresh and cool, his collar was spotless and lay over his dark coat just as it always did. She was either still asleep and dreaming, or she had dreamed every terror she remembered. To be sure that she was awake, she opened and shut her eyes several times very quickly, and then gazed at him in sweet surprise.
'Beloved, am I awake? I do not understand——'
Instead of answering her in words, he kissed her again, and the long thrill that made her quiver from head to foot told her that she was indeed awake.
Presently they began to talk, and each told what the other could not know, till there was nothing more to tell; moreover, Ortensia's tale was by far the longer, and Stradella's eyes darkened more than once at what he heard, but whenever she saw that look in his face, she kissed it away, and told him that they were safe now, if only he could sing to the Pope to-day as he had sung yesterday for her in the Lateran.
'But what can I sing?' he asked.
'"Lord have mercy on us!"' answered Ortensia, almost laughing. 'That must be the meaning of the song, at all events.'
'A miserere?' Stradella was surprised at the suggestion, for old men do not usually like dirges.
'No, sweetheart, I did not mean that! It must not be in Latin, but in Italian, an appeal from you, as a man who has committed a fault, to the Pope, as a sovereign, who has power to forgive it if he will.'
'Do you mean that I am to compose the words and the music between now and sunset?' asked the musician, somewhat startled.
'Why not? Did you not compose the greatest love song you ever wrote in a few hours, and for me? What is the use of being a man of genius, my beloved? Just for that, and nothing else!'
'But I am not a man of genius! And I have spent the night in prison!'
'You look as fresh as a May morning!' laughed Ortensia. 'Whereas I am all bedraggled, and scratched, and dishevelled, and everything I should not be.'
'I dressed while you were sleeping,' answered Stradella. 'There was plenty of time!'
'Do you mean to say that you had the inhuman cruelty not to wake me the instant you came home? And you pretend to love me! I shall never believe you again. But that only proves that you are a man of genius, as I said—you have not half a heart amongst you, you great artists! But I will have my revenge, for I shall go to my own room, and shut myself up and make myself fit to be seen, while you compose your song!'
'And who will dress your beautiful hair now that Pina has run away?' laughed Stradella.
'I will. And if I cannot, a certain man of genius, called Alessandro Stradella, may try his hand at it!'
She ran away laughing, but he caught her before she reached her own door, and though she struggled, he kissed her on her neck, just where the red-gold ringlets grew, low down behind her little ear. They behaved like a pair of runaway lovers, as they were.
But when he was alone his face grew grave and thoughtful, for he knew there was great danger still. He had been sent home under a guard, a prisoner still, and there were sentinels outside both doors of the apartment, who would be relieved at intervals all day, till the time came for him to be taken to the Quirinal. He might have been somewhat reassured if he had known that Don Alberto himself was also under arrest in his bedroom, by the Cardinal's orders; and he might have felt some satisfaction if he could have seen his enemy's injured nose, swollen to an unnatural size and covered with sticking-plaster, and if he could have also realised that it still hurt quite dreadfully; but, on the other hand, these latter palliative circumstances were likely to make the real trouble even worse, since that same nose was not to be classed with common noses, but as a nasus nepotis Pontificis, that is, nepotic, belonging to a Pope's nephew, and therefore quasi-pontifical, and not to be pulled, struck, or otherwise maltreated with impunity.
Nevertheless, Stradella forgot all about the injured feature and its possessor in a few minutes, when he had tuned his lute and was sitting by the table with a sheet of music and a pen at his elbow, for he thought aloud in soft sounds that often ceased at first and then began again, but little by little linked themselves together in a melody that has not perished to this day; and with the music the words came, touchingly simple, but heart-felt as an angel's tears.
Ortensia heard his voice through the door, and listened, half dressed, with a happy smile; for she knew the moods of his genius better than he knew them himself, and she understood that the song he was weaving with voice and lute would be worthy of him, as it is; for in the growth of music, the fine art, his masterpiece of oratorio are left behind and forgotten, being too thin and primitive for an age that began with Beethoven and ended in Richard Wagner; but his songs have not lost their hold on those simpler natures that are still responsive to a melody and vibrate to a perfect human voice.
It was late in the afternoon when Stradella had finished his work, and the last note and rest of 'Pieta Signore' were written down. The two had dined on the supper which Pina and Cucurullo had prepared for them on the previous evening, and in the warm hours Ortensia had fallen asleep again for a little while, still listening to the song and hearing it in her dreams. But when Stradella was sure that nothing more was to be changed, she opened her eyes wide and got up; and she came and knelt at his knees as she had done on that last night in the balcony of the old inn; and then he sang what he had composed, from first to last, in a voice that just filled her ears when it was loudest, and still echoed in her heart when it sank to a mere breath. When he was silent at last there were tears in her eyes, and she kissed his hand as it lay passive on the silent strings of the lute, while he bent down over her and his lips touched her hair.
They had not much time left after that, as it seemed to them, when they remembered it all and looked back on one of the happiest days in their young lives. The last time they kissed was when they were ready to go downstairs to the carriage that was waiting to take them to the Quirinal. Strange to say, Stradella felt a little faint then, and his heart was beating almost painfully, whereas Ortensia was quite calm and confident, and smiled at the two sbirri in black who were ready on the landing to escort the prisoners to the Cardinal's presence.
They were there at last, in a spacious room where everything was either white, or gilded, or of gold, the walls, the furniture, the big fireplace, the heavy carpet spread on the marble floor, where the Pope sat in his gilded chair, himself all in white, with a small white silk skullcap set far back on his silvery hair. His face was almost white, too, and the short beard on his chin was like snow, for he was over eighty years of age, thin, and in ill-health; but the face was kindly, with soft dark eyes that still had life in them; and the shadow of a smile flickered round the faded lips as Stradella and Ortensia knelt together at his feet.
On his left side stood Cardinal Altieri, erect and motionless in his purple cassock with red buttons, and his scarlet silk cloak. His face was grave and inscrutable.
'Holy Father,' he had said, as the pair knelt down, 'these are the prisoners who implore your pardon.'
That was all he said, and for some moments the Pope did not speak, though he nodded his snowy head twice, in answer to the Cardinal's words, and his gentle eyes looked from the one young face to the other as if reading the meaning of each.
'You sang to me a year ago, my son,' he said at length to Stradella. 'Go now and stand a little way off and make music, for though I am old I hear well; and do your best, for I will be your judge. If I find you have even greater mastery than last year, your skill shall atone for your rude handling of my nephew; but if you sing less well, you must have an opportunity of practising and perfecting your art in solitude for a few months.'
If Stradella had dared to glance at the kindly face just then, he would certainly have noticed how the dark eyes brightened, and almost twinkled. But Ortensia, being a woman, and still full of girlhood's innocent daring, was boldly looking up at the Pope while he spoke; and he smiled at her, and one shadowy hand went out and rested on the black veil she had pinned upon her hair.
'Go and stand near your husband while he sings to me,' he said. 'You will give him courage, I am sure!'
The two rose together, and Stradella took up the lute he had laid beside him on the floor when he had knelt down at the Pope's feet. He and Ortensia stepped back half-a-dozen paces, and the musician stood still, but Ortensia moved a little farther away and to one side. The windows were wide open to the west, and the rich evening light flooded the white and gold room, and illumined the figure of the aged Pope, the strong features of the tall grey-haired Cardinal beside him, and the two young faces of the singer and his wife.
Stradella's heart beat fast and faintly, and his fingers trembled when they touched the strings and made the first minor chord. As long as he lived he remembered how at that very moment two swallows shot by the open window, uttering their eager little note; the room swam with him, and he thought he was going to reel and fall. For a moment he saw nothing and knew nothing, except that he had reached the end of the short prelude on the lute, and that he must find voice to sing for his liberty and Ortensia's, if not for his life.
The first words broke from his chilled lips in a low cry of despair, so strange and moving, and yet so musical, that the Cardinal started visibly, and the Pope raised his white head and looked slowly down the room, as if some suffering creature must be there at the very point of death, and crying low for pity and forgiveness. Even Ortensia, who had heard all, could not believe her ears, though she knew her husband's genius well.
'Signor pieta——' he sang again.
Fear was gone now, but art poured out the appeal for pardon with supreme power to move, roused to outdo itself, perhaps, by that first piteous cry that had broken from the master-singer's lips. The plaintive notes floated on the golden air as if a culprit spirit were pleading for forgiveness at the gates of paradise, a wonder to hear.
Ortensia held her breath, her eyes fixed on the aged Pontiff's rapt face; for he was gazing at the singer while he listened to a strain such as he had never heard in all his eighty years of life; and his kind old eyes were dewy with compassion.
The last note lingered on the air and died away, and there was silence in the great room while one might have counted ten. Then the shadowy white hand was slowly stretched out in a beckoning gesture, and the Pope spoke.
'Come,' he said, 'you are forgiven.'
They came and knelt at his feet again, and he, leaning forward in his great chair, bent his head towards them.
'You were pardoned in my heart already, my son,' he said to Stradella, 'for I have been told the truth, and the provocation you suffered was great. Go free, and fear nothing, for while you dwell under our care in Rome you shall be as safe as I who speak to you. Go free, and use the great gift you have received from heaven to raise men's hearts heavenwards, as you have raised mine to-day.'
He gave his hand to Stradella and then to Ortensia, and they kissed the great ring with devout gratitude, deeply touched by his words. Then he spoke again, and still more kindly.
'Will you ask anything of me before you go?'
'Your blessing on us, as man and wife, Holy Father,' Stradella answered.
'Most willingly, my children.'
With fatherly tenderness he joined their right hands under his left, and then, lifting his right above their bowed heads, and looking up, he blessed them very solemnly.
* * * * *
I shall tell no more, but leave the singer and his young wife to their happiness. If any one would know the end that followed years afterwards, he will find it in chronicles that are in almost every great library. I shall only say that while those two lived they loved, as few have, and that Stradella's fame was greater when he breathed his last than it had ever been before; and in Italy he is not forgotten yet.
But whether Trombin and Gambardella will ever stroll into the story-teller's dreamland again, and act other parts, he himself cannot surely tell, nor does he know whether they will be welcome if they come. Their names are not in the chronicles, as Stradella's and Ortensia's are, as well as Pignaver's. The Venetian nobleman 'sent certain assassins,' and that is all we know; and as for the names and faces and figures I have given to the Bravi, I found them beyond the borders of truth in the delicious Gardens of Irresponsibility, where many strange people dwell together, who might be real, and may be alive some day, but who have not yet made up their minds to exchange the flowery paths of fiction for the stony roads and dusty lanes of this working-day world.
Mr. F. MARION CRAWFORD'S NOVELS
THE SARACINESCA SERIES
In the binding of the Uniform Edition, each, $1.50
"The work has two distinct merits, either of which would serve to make it great,—that of telling a perfect story in a perfect way, and of giving a graphic picture of Roman society in the last days of the Pope's temporal power.... The story is exquisitely told."—Boston Traveler.
Sant' Ilario. A Sequel to "Saracinesca"
"A singularly powerful and beautiful story.... It fulfils every requirement of artistic fiction. It brings out what is most impressive in human action, without owing any of its effectiveness to sensationalism or artifice. It is natural, fluent in evolution, accordant with experience, graphic in description, penetrating in analysis, and absorbing in interest."—New York Tribune.
Don Orsino. A Sequel to "Sant' Ilario"
"Perhaps the cleverest novel of the year.... There is not a dull paragraph in the book, and the reader may be assured that once begun, the story of Don Orsino will fascinate him until its close."—The Critic.
"To Mr. Crawford's Roman novels belongs the supreme quality of uniting subtly drawn characters to a plot of uncommon interest."—Chicago Tribune.
"Mr. Crawford is the novelist born ... a natural story-teller, with wit, imagination, and insight added to a varied and profound knowledge of social life."—The Inter-Ocean, Chicago.
Casa Braccio. In two volumes, $2.00. Illustrated by A. Castaigne.
"Mr. Crawford's books have life, pathos, and insight; he tells a dramatic story with many exquisite touches."—New York Sun.
The White Sister
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Mr. F. MARION CRAWFORD'S NOVELS
NOVELS OF ROMAN SOCIAL LIFE
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A Roman Singer
"One of the earliest and best works of this famous novelist.... None but a genuine artist could have made so true a picture of human life, crossed by human passions and interwoven with human weakness. It is a perfect specimen of literary art."—The Newark Advertiser.
"We have repeatedly had occasion to say that Mr. Crawford possesses in an extraordinary degree the art of constructing a story. It is as if it could not have been written otherwise, so naturally does the story unfold itself, and so logical and consistent is the sequence of incident after incident. As a story, Marzio's Crucifix is perfectly constructed."—New York Commercial Advertiser.
Heart of Rome. A Tale of the Lost Water
"Mr. Crawford has written a story of absorbing interest, a story with a genuine thrill in it; he has drawn his characters with a sure and brilliant touch, and he has said many things surpassingly well."—New York Times Saturday Review.
Cecilia. A Story of Modern Rome
"That F. Marion Crawford is a master of mystery needs no new telling.... His latest novel, Cecilia, is as weird as anything he has done since the memorable Mr. Isaacs.... A strong, interesting, dramatic story, with the picturesque Roman setting beautifully handled as only a master's touch could do it."—Philadelphia Evening Telegraph.
Whosoever Shall Offend
"It is a story sustained from beginning to end by an ever increasing dramatic quality."—New York Evening Post.
"The imaginative richness, the marvellous ingenuity of plot, the power and subtlety of the portrayal of character, the charm of the romantic environment,—the entire atmosphere, indeed,—rank this novel at once among the great creations."—The Boston Budget.
"The four characters with whose fortunes this novel dealt are, perhaps, the most brilliantly executed portraits in the whole of Mr. Crawford's long picture gallery, while for subtle insight into the springs of human passion and for swift dramatic action none of the novels surpasses this one."—The News and Courier.
A Lady of Rome
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Mr. F. MARION CRAWFORD'S NOVELS
Mr. Crawford has no equal as a writer of brilliant cosmopolitan fiction, in which the characters really belong to the chosen scene and the story interest is strong. His novels possess atmosphere in a high degree.
Mr. Isaacs (India)
Its scenes are laid in Simla, chiefly. This is the work which first placed its author among the most brilliant novelists of his day.
Greifenstein (The Black Forest)
"... Another notable contribution to the literature of the day. It possesses originality in its conception and is a work of unusual ability. Its interest is sustained to the close, and it is an advance even on the previous work of this talented author. Like all Mr. Crawford's work, this novel is crisp, clear, and vigorous, and will be read with a great deal of interest."—New York Evening Telegram.
"It is a drama in the force of its situations and in the poetry and dignity of its language; but its men and women are not men and women of a play. By the naturalness of their conversation and behavior they seem to live and lay hold of our human sympathy more than the same characters on a stage could possibly do."—The New York Times.
The Witch of Prague (Bohemia)
"A fantastic tale," illustrated by W. J. Hennessy.
"The artistic skill with which this extraordinary story is constructed and carried out is admirable and delightful.... Mr. Crawford has scored a decided triumph, for the interest of the tale is sustained throughout.... A very remarkable, powerful, and interesting story."—New York Tribune.
Paul Patoff (Constantinople)
"Mr. Crawford has a marked talent for assimilating local color, not to make mention of a broader historical sense. Even though he may adopt, as it is the romancer's right to do, the extreme romantic view of history, it is always a living and moving picture that he evolves for us, varied and stirring."—New York Evening Post.
"No living writer can surpass Mr. Crawford in the construction of a complicated plot and the skilful unravelling of the tangled skein."—Chicago Record-Herald.
"He has gone back to the field of his earlier triumphs, and has, perhaps, scored the greatest triumph of them all."—New York Herald.
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Mr. F. MARION CRAWFORD'S NOVELS
In the binding of the new Uniform Edition, each, $1.50
Via Crucis. A Romance of the Second Crusade. Illustrated by Louis Loeb
"Via Crucis ... A tale of former days, possessing an air of reality and an absorbing interest such as few writers since Scott have been able to accomplish when dealing with historical characters."—Boston Transcript.
In the Palace of the King (Spain)
"In the Palace of the King is a masterpiece; there is a picturesqueness, a sincerity which will catch all readers in an agreeable storm of emotion, and even leave a hardened reviewer impressed and delighted."—Literature, London.
With the Immortals
"The strange central idea of the story could have occurred only to a writer whose mind was very sensitive to the current of modern thought and progress, while its execution, the setting it forth in proper literary clothing, could be successfully attempted only by one whose active literary ability should be fully equalled by his power of assimilative knowledge both literary and scientific, and no less by his courage and capacity for hard work. The book will be found to have a fascination entirely new for the habitual reader of novels. Indeed, Mr. Crawford has succeeded in taking his readers quite above the ordinary plane of novel interest."—Boston Advertiser.
Children of the King (Calabria)
"One of the most artistic and exquisitely finished pieces of work that Crawford has produced. The picturesque setting, Calabria and its surroundings, the beautiful Sorrento and the Gulf of Salerno, with the bewitching accessories that climate, sea, and sky afford, give Mr. Crawford rich opportunities to show his rare descriptive powers. As a whole the book is strong and beautiful through its simplicity, and ranks among the choicest of the author's many fine productions."—Public Opinion.
A Cigarette Maker's Romance and Khaled, a Tale of Arabia (Munich)
"Two gems of subtle analysis of human passion and motive."—Times.
"The interest is unflagging throughout. Never has Mr. Crawford done more brilliant realistic work than here. But his realism is only the case and cover for those intense feelings which, placed under no matter what humble conditions, produce the most dramatic and the most tragic situations.... This is a secret of genius, to take the most coarse and common material, the meanest surroundings, the most sordid material prospects, and out of the vehement passions which sometimes dominate all human beings to build up with these poor elements, scenes and passages the dramatic and emotional power of which at once enforce attention and awaken the profoundest interest."—New York Tribune.
Dr. Cooper, in The Bookman, once gave to Mr. Crawford the title which best marks his place in modern fiction: "the prince of storytellers."
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Mr. F. MARION CRAWFORD'S NOVELS
WITH SCENES LAID IN ENGLAND AND AMERICA
In the binding of the Uniform Edition
A Tale of a Lonely Parish
"It is a pleasure to have anything so perfect of its kind as this brief and vivid story.... It is doubly a success, being full of human sympathy, as well as thoroughly artistic in its nice balancing of the unusual with the commonplace, the clever juxtaposition of innocence and guilt, comedy and tragedy, simplicity and intrigue."—Critic.
Dr. Claudius. A True Story
The scene changes from Heidelberg to New York, and much of the story develops during the ocean voyage.
"There is a satisfying quality in Mr. Crawford's strong, vital, forceful stories."—Boston Herald.
An American Politician. The scenes are laid in Boston
"It need scarcely be said that the story is skilfully and picturesquely written, portraying sharply individual characters in well-defined surroundings."—New York Commercial Advertiser.
The Three Fates
"Mr. Crawford has manifestly brought his best qualities as a student of human nature and his finest resources as a master of an original and picturesque style to bear upon this story. Taken for all in all, it is one of the most pleasing of all his productions in fiction, and it affords a view of certain phases of American, or perhaps we should say of New York, life that have not hitherto been treated with anything like the same adequacy and felicity."—Boston Beacon.
"Full enough of incident to have furnished material for three or four stories.... A most interesting and engrossing book. Every page unfolds new possibilities, and the incidents multiply rapidly."—Detroit Free Press.
"We are disposed to rank Marion Darche as the best of Mr. Crawford's American stories."—The Literary World.
Katharine Lauderdale The Ralstons. A Sequel to "Katharine Lauderdale"
"Mr. Crawford at his best is a great novelist, and in Katharine Lauderdale we have him at his best."—Boston Daily Advertiser.
"A most admirable novel, excellent in style, flashing with humor, and full of the ripest and wisest reflections upon men and women."—The Westminster Gazette.
"It is the first time, we think, in American fiction that any such breadth of view has shown itself in the study of our social framework."—Life.
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Mr. F. MARION CRAWFORD'S
LATER NOVELS—THE SINGER TRILOGY
Three novels, each an independent, interesting episode from the life of Margaret Donne, the fascinating English girl who later became the most famous lyric soprano of her day.
Each, illustrated, $1.50
tells of its heroine's student days, of the conflicting claims of lovers and a career; of a retired opera singer in Paris whose portrait alone makes the book one to be treasured by those who know; and, in brief, of a girl's first glimpse of the great unknown world beyond the footlights.
"Mr. Crawford is at his best in this romance. He tells an absorbing story, and he places at the centre of it a woman whose character is full of interest.... It is a dramatic beginning, and Mr. Crawford goes on as he begins ... the whole tangled business becomes more and more exciting and we follow the Primadonna through the proceedings with breathless interest."—New York Tribune.
The Diva's Ruby
"F. Marion Crawford is one of the few writers who have mastered the art of writing sequels that are as vital and as absorbing as the original novels ... sequels wherein the finding of a character mentioned in an earlier story gives us the full delight of meeting an old friend.... This delicate paradoxical evolution ... is art, clean, deft, easy, dexterous art. There are not half a dozen men in literature to-day who could do these things consistently."—New York Times Review.
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Mr. JAMES LANE ALLEN'S NOVELS
Each, cloth, 12mo, $1.50
The Choir Invisible
This can also be had in a special edition illustrated by Orson Lowell, $2.50
"One reads the story for the story's sake, and then re-reads the book out of pure delight in its beauty. The story is American to the very core.... Mr. Allen stands to-day in the front rank of American novelists. The Choir Invisible will solidify a reputation already established and bring into clear light his rare gifts as an artist. For this latest story is as genuine a work of art as has come from an American hand."—HAMILTON MABIE in The Outlook.
The Reign of Law. A Tale of the Kentucky Hempfields
"Mr. Allen has a style as original and almost as perfectly finished as Hawthorne's, and he has also Hawthorne's fondness for spiritual suggestion that makes all his stories rich in the qualities that are lacking in so many novels of the period.... If read in the right way, it cannot fail to add to one's spiritual possessions."—San Francisco Chronicle.
The Mettle of the Pasture
"It may be that The Mettle of the Pasture will live and become a part of our literature; it certainly will live far beyond the allotted term of present-day fiction. Our principal concern is that it is a notable novel, that it ranks high in the range of American and English fiction, and that it is worth the reading, the re-reading, and the continuous appreciation of those who care for modern literature at its best."—By E. F. E. in the Boston Transcript.
Summer in Arcady. A Tale of Nature Cloth, $1.25
"This story by James Lane Allen is one of the gems of the season. It is artistic in its setting, realistic and true to nature and life in its descriptions, dramatic, pathetic, tragic, in its incidents; indeed, a veritable masterpiece that must become classic. It is difficult to give an outline of the story; it is one of the stories which do not outline; it must be read."—Boston Daily Advertiser.
The Blue Grass Region of Kentucky $1.50 Flute and Violin, and Other Kentucky Tales $1.50 The Bride of the Mistletoe $1.25 A Kentucky Cardinal. Illustrated $1.00 Aftermath. A Sequel to "A Kentucky Cardinal" $1.00
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY PUBLISHERS, 64-66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK
Mr. ROBERT HERRICK'S NOVELS
Cloth, extra, gilt tops, each $1.50
Mr. W. D. Howells says in The North American Review: "What I should finally say of his work is that it is more broadly based than that of any other American novelist of his generation.... Mr. Herrick's fiction is a force for the higher civilization which to be widely felt needs only to be widely known."
The Gospel of Freedom
"A novel that may truly be called the greatest study of social life, in a broad and very much up-to-date sense, that has ever been contributed to American fiction."—Chicago Inter-Ocean.
The Web of Life
"It is strong in that it faithfully depicts many phases of American life, and uses them to strengthen a web of fiction, which is most artistically wrought out."—Buffalo Express.
Jock o' Dreams, or the Real World
"The title of the book has a subtle intention. It indicates, and is true to the verities in doing so, the strange dreamlike quality of life to the man who has not yet fought his own battles, or come into conscious possession of his will—only such battles bite into the consciousness."—Chicago Tribune.
The Common Lot
"It grips the reader tremendously.... It is the drama of a human soul the reader watches ... the finest study of human motive that has appeared for many a day."—The World To-day.
The Memoirs of an American Citizen. Illustrated with about fifty drawings by F. B. Masters.
"Mr. Herrick's book is a book among many, and he comes nearer to reflecting a certain kind of recognizable, contemporaneous American spirit than anybody else has yet done."—New York Times.
"An able book, remarkably so, and one which should find a place in the library of any woman who is not a fool."—Editorial in The New York American.
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Transcriber's Note: Typographical errors corrected in text: Page 30: changed Venetion to Venetian Page 60: changed businesslike to business-like Page 153: changed guardroom to guard-room Page 299: changed made to make Page 337: changed shodowy to shadowy Page 358: changed particularlly to particularly