From "The Italian Novelists" translated from the originals with Critical and Biographical Notices by Thomas Roscoe; Frederick Warne and Co.; London; [undated edition, c. 1900, first published, c. 1824]; pp. 473-496.
In the year 1622 he executed several diplomatic commissions of great importance under the pontificate of Gregory XV.; and while at Naples he was elected a member of the academy of the Oziosi, or Idlers, an honour to which he could lay little claim. Subsequently he was employed as a minister and ambassador at different courts, in all which he greatly distinguished himself, besides finding time to fight two more duels and to compose the volume of novels which has afforded us the pleasure of doing some justice to his manifold merits, and presenting the reader with a specimen or two. Their author died in the year 1663, in an academy entitled Degli Incogniti, of which he was a member; and, though enjoying the title of a marquess, according to Mazzuchelli, by the ingratitude of princes fell a victim to neglect and penury.
* Il Porto, Novelle più vere, che finte. In Venezia, per gli Eredi di Francesco Scorti, 1664, 12mo. Sono XII. Novelle che si fingono raccontate da alcuni Passageri sopra una nave mentre questa era vicina per entrare in porto.
† Scrittori d’Italia, tom. ii. pp. 11, 12, 64.
Even when there was a prospect of some accommodation between the parties, it was stipulated by Messer Marino Zeno, Podesta of Verona, that Rolando, as cut off from all reconciliation, should not be included in it, a proposal which the Sambonifacci, much to their honour, rejected, refusing thus to abandon their new friend. The most unbounded attachment and confidence subsisted likewise between the lovely Eufemia and her consort; and such was her affection, that she even insisted upon accompanying him in his campaigns. On their return into Verona, the Guelfs elected the Count Ricciardo Sambonifaccio for their Podesta, and soon after they were involved in a war against Salinguerra, Podesta of Ferrara, undertaken by the latter at the instigation of his brother. His name was Rinaldo, and he had formerly indulged a passion for the fair Eufemia while staying at Verona, and had offered her his hand, which was refused on account of his connection with the Ghibellines. When he heard, however, that she had been bestowed upon one of the same party, his rage knew no bounds; he left no means untried to inflame the leaders of the Ghibellines against the people of Verona, and disguising his private animosity, as too frequently happens, under public motives, he succeeded in raising many armed bands, which he united to the forces of the Ghibellines. With these he marched towards Verona, and, after several warm engagements, with variable success, the army of the Guelfs was routed in a general conflict, and many of the chief leaders and gentlemen of Verona, together with the beautiful Eufemia, were carried prisoners into the enemy’s camp. Though Rolando made the most desperate efforts to turn the fortune of the day, he was overpowered by numbers and compelled to fly; while his foe, returning 478 with his fair prize to Ferrara, immediately repaired to the palace of his brother, the Podesta. There, on delivering an account of the prisoners, he informed him that he had only one favour to ask, which, without requiring to know it, Salinguerra very easily granted him. Rinaldo then acquainted him with his capture of Eufemia, upon which his brother, suddenly changing his tone, begged to remind him of the possibility of a treaty at some future period with the Veronese, and that therefore they ought to conduct themselves with caution; that he would willingly intrust him with the care of all the prisoners, provided he would be at any time prepared to make exchange or restitution when their names were called over. “Impose what conditions you please,” replied the wily Rinaldo, fearful lest his brother should penetrate into his motives; “only grant me the favour I request.” “On the condition,” rejoined Salinguerra, “of permitting me to behold the person whom you wish to retain.” “There is no necessity for that,” said his brother. “But I must insist upon that, Rinaldo; it is my bounden duty, in the office I fill, to myself and to the people. I cannot and will not dispense with it.” Rinaldo was, upon this, compelled to bring forward the beautiful Eufemia, who immediately fell at Salinguerra’s feet, crying, “Have pity on me, noble lord! Have pity on the most unfortunate of captives! I know it is my duty to submit; but surely courtesy and honour are not banished from your breast. Let the vanquished appeal not in vain to the victor, or give me death, rather than yield me a slave into any hands save those of the public; for my noble friends would rather see me dead before their eyes than intrusted to any private charge.” Affected by the grief which she manifested, Salinguerra, turning towards his brother, said, “It is true I gave my promise that you should reserve for yourself one of the prisoners; but in regard to this young lady, I trust you will not think I forfeit it when I say that I dare not permit you to retain possession of her, nor can I surmise how she should have been found in the company of heroes in the field. If nobly sharing the fortunes of a lover or a husband, her claims to our protection must be held sacred. Besides, you have in part deceived me in your representations. No, Rinaldo, I cannot venture to give you unlimited power over her.” Embracing his knees, the sweet lady could only weep her thanks, while the rising colour and the flashing eye told the ill-suppressed rage which shook the soul of his brother. “Do you doubt me?” he cried; “do you tell me to my face that you dare to doubt her safety or my honour? Then I swear I will not be juggled out of my just rights: I will have them; I will hold you to your promise. She is mine by the laws of war. I took her bearing arms; with my own hand I took her captive, at the side of her husband. And recollect, Salinguerra, that your command here does not extend beyond the bounds of justice; she is mine, I say, to liberate or to exchange, according to the fortunes of war, and I will allow no man to interfere. Dare to retain her, and I will appeal to the justice of our courts, and should they fail me, I will enforce my own rights,” laying his hand upon his sword, “as I have before enforced them.” “It is well,” replied Salinguerra, “that you are in love, and are my brother, and may therefore use as many warm words as you please; 479 but, at the same time, I am chief magistrate here, and as such, young signor, must exact your obedience. If you feel yourself aggrieved in consequence, you may appeal to the commune of Ferrara, just alike to all.” And at this moment, when Rinaldo’s passion nearly choked his words, a trumpet was heard at the palace gate, and an immediate audience was requested of the Podesta. “To the most mighty military champion and upright judge of this city, Rolando Crescenzi, noble citizen of Verona, sends greeting, with the authority of Count Ricciardo Sambonifaccio, Podesta, to learn by word of mouth from the present messenger whether among the noble Veronese prisoners is to be found a lady named Eufemia, daughter of Pietro Maladura, who, braving sharing her husband’s misfortunes and following him into the field, is supposed to have been taken captive by his enemies. Her wounded husband, unable to afford her succour, now sends, offering worthy exchange or ransom, nothing doubting to obtain justice from the courtesy of brave cavaliers, who war not against women, and who nobly bury private feuds in the public laws of honour and humanity. He, moreover, doubts not but she will in the meanwhile be treated with all the respect and tenderness due to her sex and station, respected even by the most barbarous nations in the world.” To this embassy Salinguerra replied, “Go, return to those that sent you; say that the lady is in good hands, and will be cherished and honoured as such a lady ought to be; that, moreover, the Podesta will shortly take measures with the council to fix upon her ransom or exchange, not having at this time ascertained what number and quality of his own party remain in your hands. You may now see and speak with the lady, who will afterwards be intrusted to the hands of one of the most honourable matrons in the city.” While Eufemia was engaged with the messenger, Salinguerra, turning towards his brother, said in a mild and conciliatory tone, “You see, dear Rinaldo, this is no question of a mere girl and a common love affair. The lady is the wife of a noble cavalier related to one of the first families of Verona; and you ought never, knowing such to be the fact, to have requested me to yield her to you, a step which would have drawn down equal infamy upon you and upon her husband. Though he be our enemy, he is a public enemy, and he is no longer your rival, inasmuch as her father, after refusing your suit, has conferred her upon another.” Rinaldo was silent, but rage and disappointment were struggling in his breast, as he turned away with an expression of contempt and indignation.
In the meantime, Eufemia, having tenderly inquired after her consort’s health, his wounds, and what were the exact words he had sent to her, dismissed his messenger with the following tender remembrances: “Tell my dear lord the joy you have here witnessed on our hearing that he was safe and likely to do well. Say, that under all our misfortunes, the good wishes of our fellow-citizens are with us; that for his sake I will patiently bear my captivity; and that I never cease to think of him, and to pray for him, trusting to rejoin him soon.”
At these words, Rinaldo, biting his lips with bitter jealousy and rage, rushed out of the palace; while Salinguerra, ordering the rest of the prisoners to be properly disposed of, assigned apartments to Eufemia 480 under his own roof, until he had acquainted a noble lady, Madonna Lavinia Trotti, with his purpose of placing her under her charge. She was a widow, related to one of the most distinguished families in the place, whose kindness and humanity were well known to the Podesta; and on conveying the lady thither, she was received and treated with the utmost tenderness and affection, even as if she had been a daughter. Madonna Lavinia gave her several noble apartments suited to her rank, overlooking some beautiful grounds and gardens, and one of her favourite maids, called Bianca, to attend upon her, This girl was of a lively and agreeable turn, although her mistress was much devoted to works of charity and devotion.
Rinaldo, who had continued to keep a strict watch upon the motions of his fair captive, was greatly disturbed when he heard she had been consigned to the care of a lady of such well-known piety and integrity, but he could not prevail upon himself to abandon the enterprise. While he was devising some plan by which he might get her into his power, he affected perfect reconciliation with his brother. He had already engaged in his confidence one of his own knights, of the name of Tarquinio, of specious person and manners, and a creature every way adapted to his purpose. After stating the whole affair, and exclaiming against the injustice of his brother, Rinaldo consulted with him in regard to the manner in which he might best proceed. Tarquinio having considered for some time, at length informed him that he could point out the means of recovering the lady, were he resolved to assist him in the task; for without mutual support they would both run great risk of certain destruction. “If you flinch not in the moment of danger, my lord, you may depend both upon me and upon my friends, who are always prepared to go through with the affair which is intrusted to them.” “Doubt me not, villain,” cried Rinaldo; “for I care not though the sky fall, so I revenge myself upon my enemies and obtain possession of my wishes.” “I have only two things to request, then,” said his friend, “that you will, if possible, delay the time of her ransom, and fix upon the place where you would wish her to be conducted, and I will take care to inform you when she arrives there.” “Do this,” cried Rinaldo, embracing him in the fervour of his gratitude; “do this, and you shall thenceforth stand nearer to me than my best friend or brother.” The strength of his passion and his desire of revenge led him thus to sacrifice his honour and his dignity, placing himself in the power of a wretch, who was henceforth to be no longer his servant, but his equal. In pursuance of his design, Rinaldo won over to his interests, though without betraying his motives, several of the leading characters in the city. He had sufficient influence to persuade them that the Veronese were endeavouring to tamper with his brother, and to recover, without a fair remuneration, the prisoners whom he had captured in the last battle, especially a young amazon who had been mad enough to follow her husband into the field. “Were such an advantage rightly applied, on the other hand, we might soon bring the Veronese to a more submissive deportment, the lady being the consort of one of the favourite leaders of the Guelfs, and a daughter of the celebrated house of Sambonifaccio. If you are really interested, then, in the welfare of our 481 country, you will consult with your colleagues and the whole commune, and unite in opposing the Podesta’s design of delivering her up with the other prisoners, without adequate concessions on the part of the Guelfs.”
When he ceased, the citizens expressed their gratitude for the kind interest he took in their concerns, pledging themselves to make effectual opposition to the policy of his brother, and refuse their consent to the delivery of the prisoners. Having assembled the council, therefore, M. Tedele il Nasillo proposed that no exchange or ransom of prisoners should take place without the general consent of the commune; and such was the influence of the rest of his party, that it was carried in spite of the opposition made by the friends of the Podesta. The latter thus found himself unable to proceed with the negotiation entered into with the Veronese, and he complained bitterly against Nasillo and the withdrawing of the confidence reposed in him by the council. But it was in vain that he now made his appeal; suspicions respecting his motives had been excited, and a popular feeling against his measures was studiously kept up. He was reminded that his office would soon expire, that he would not be permitted to cast imputations upon the commune, and that he must submit his further measures to the revision of the council.
In this way, just as he had concluded to deliver up the beautiful Eufemia to her friends, he found his hands tied, and he had the additional mortification of being accused by them of having forfeited his promise. In the meanwhile Tarquinio had already succeeded in obtaining the ear of her favourite maid Bianca, and, unknown to her noble mistress, had contrived, in several secret interviews, to possess himself of her affections. This he soon followed up by solemn promises of marriage, until, having at length acquired sufficient influence, he prevailed upon her, under threats of deserting her, to enter into his interests, and to forward his employer’s views of carrying off the beautiful Eufemia. Whatever reluctance and horror she expressed at the design, she was nevertheless shortly compelled, as the slave and victim of her tyrannical master, to obey the directions which he chose to give. It was resolved, then, that she should do all in her power to persuade Eufemia that her liberty was near at hand, while Rinaldo himself was to counterfeit an order from his brother to the captain of the guard, commanding him to deliver up certain of the prisoners to be conducted under military escort, together with Eufemia, who, at the sight of her fellow-citizens, might thus be induced to put herself under their protection. It was further agreed that they should be taken to the quarters of Rinaldo, near one of the city gates, under his custody. With this view, when everything was arranged, at the appointed hour he despatched one of his own captains, in whom he knew he could confide, at the head of a company, along with some other prisoners, to the residence of Donna Lavinia. She was prepared to expect their arrival; the officer displayed his commission as if appointed by the Podesta, and the false Bianca stood in waiting, the ready instrument of their imposture, to encourage her young mistress, in order more surely to betray her into the hands of her destroyers. 482 Observing also the Veronese prisoners, she did not offer the slightest resistance, being told that they were to accompany her to Verona, where they were to be exchanged for other prisoners of rank; and her kind hostess, feeling assured of her safety under such an escort, took a tender farewell, and consigned her fair guest to their care. Departing, then, in company with Bianca, about nightfall, they soon arrived at the city gate, whence, as soon as he had heard of the success of his project, Rinaldo, with his creature Tarquinio, had just before set out, intending to join the prisoners on the road. Thus, apparently surrounded by her friends, the lady was led forth, the bridge was ordered to be raised, the gates to be closed, and the victim of treachery was consigned into the power of her husband’s bitterest foe. Having joined the party a few miles distant from the city, they proceeded under his orders at a rapid pace with a view of reaching his castle beyond Vanguardia, although it was now nearly midnight. The scenery around was often strikingly grand and beautiful; the moon had risen in her full splendour; Eufemia was absorbed in tender thoughts of a reunion with her friends, but Rinaldo felt no touches of compassion or remorse. They had now arrived on the outskirts of his own domain, where, leaving the great road towards Verona, the lady was to be torn from her fellow-prisoners, and borne to the fatal castle, which already appeared in view. The rest were to proceed forwards to Verona; and, without a word being spoken, they were preparing to turn into a new path, when the sound of horses’ feet in another direction was heard fast approaching. Not being in the least apprehensive of danger from the side of Verona, as that state was on the eve of concluding a treaty with the Ferrarese, and confident in his numbers, Rinaldo commanded the party to halt. Finding the road lined with a band of armed troopers, they drew up at their leader’s voice, who advanced to parley with the opposite chief. Rinaldo likewise advanced, and what were his feelings, on lifting up his vizor, to confront the husband of his intended victim on that very spot! For a moment they gazed earnestly upon each other, when Rolando beginning the first to speak, they were interrupted by a cry of joyful surprise, ‘That is my wife’s voice,” exclaimed Rolando; “let me listen to her’;” and supposing she was under an honourable escort intended to convey her to her friends, he stretched forth his hand with an expression of the utmost gratitude towards Rinaldo and prepared to pass by. But he was soon wofully undeceived, for the latter ordering a charge, and the next moment drawing his sword, dealt him a severe blow, which bent him to his saddle-bow, while his party commenced a ferocious attack. It was received with unshrinking courage and resolution by the companions of Rolando, exasperated at beholding the savage and uncourteous action of his enemy, and a fierce struggle ensued by the light of the moon for the possession of the road. There were nearly one hundred men engaged on each side, and as the conflict became warmer, Rinaldo commanded his captain to bear Eufemia to the castle, an order which seemed to redouble the courage and the exertions of the other party, by this time headed by Rolando, taking ample revenge for the insult he had suffered, and goaded almost to madness 483 at the sight of the troopers bearing their beauteous prize away. He had now nearly reached the spot where she was, and Rinaldo’s band receded farther and farther, until at length they wavered and gave way. Still Rinaldo attempted to make head, in order to give time to secure his prize; but Rolando, retreating a short way to obtain ground, returned at a gallant charge, and breaking through the midst of them, overtook the captive lady before they had yet borne her into the castle, the gates of which were thrown open at his approach, it being the hour when Rinaldo was expected. He entered, then, and took possession of his enemy’s castle, already prepared as the scene of his own dishonour; and here for the first time his beloved Eufemia, recovered from the anguish of her fears, fell upon his neck and wept. But they were not bitter tears, for love, honour, and happiness were now hers, restored to her when on the very brink of destruction, and doubly cherished from being enjoyed in the intended scene of her disgrace. But what were the feelings of rage and disappointment on the side of Rinaldo, on returning with his scattered troops, and finding himself debarred from entrance into his own castle, now in full possession of his enemy, along with the prize for which he had risked so much. In vain did he summon the warder and the watch; in vain did he lead his men forward to the attack, his rival was too powerful and secure; and after many ineffectual attempts, he was compelled to retrace his way back to his camp near Ferrara, where he might furnish himself with fresh succours to reduce his foe.
He accordingly made his appearance before the castle with a large force on the ensuing day, but he was then too late. Rolando had already set out with the beautiful Eufemia towards Verona, accompanied by his armed bands, after having celebrated his reunion with his fair lady at his enemy’s expense, sitting down with his followers to a magnificent feast prepared before his arrival. Thus, in addition to the loss of the object of his pursuit, Rinaldo had the further mortification of being taken in his own snares, being charged with treachery towards his own party by delivering up their prisoners, an offence for which he was banished from his native city of Ferrara.
Nor was Rolando himself much more fortunate after his return to Verona. He was accused, both by the people of that place and by the Ferrarese, of having corrupted the fidelity of the public officers as well as their commander, in order to secure the safety of his own wife — a circumstance which gave rise to fresh dissensions between the parties when on the eve of accommodation. The state of Verona, moreover, brought accusations against Salinguerra, brother to Rinaldo, of having connived at the abduction of Eufemia before the ratification of peace, to gratify the licentious passion of the latter. When both states were about to appeal once more to arms, the people of Mantua interfered, proposing that Rolando, as well as Rinaldo, should be banished, and that their lives should be declared forfeited in their respective states. Thus the lovely and noble-minded Eufemia was plunge into new misfortunes. Her family petitioned the council of Verona that she might be separated from her consort and forcibly restrained from following a traitor and an outcast into foreign lands. 484 The state, however, refused to interfere; while she, having only a few hours to consider whether she should retain possession of the luxury and enjoyments of a court or become the companion of a poor forsaken exile, came to the virtuous resolution of embracing the latter lot. Before her relatives were aware of her intention or could take measures to prevent it, she was already on her way from her native land, accompanied by her only friend, for whom she had sacrificed so much.
No complaint ever escaped her lips; she shared the exile’s sufferings, she soothed his indignation and anguish of mind, and she fanned his feverish brow. “Only love me,” she would say; “love me as you have ever loved me, and there is nothing I cannot bear for your sake!” And with these words upon her lips, after innumerable privations and sufferings, she gently resigned her pure and constant spirit in his arms.
We must now return to Ansaldo, who, in the utmost eagerness and agitation, proceeded the next morning to the priest’s abode, desirous of informing his fair culprit of the dangerous situation of Constanzo. The surgeon had declared there was no hope for him; and though he ought to have felt greatly shocked at such tidings, and desirous, like the good priest, of breaking off all communication with the prisoner, yet such was the impression that her charms had produced, that he felt something very like pleasure at the idea of her being thus consigned to his care, and at being enabled, perhaps, to penetrate into the motives of her strange conduct. What was his surprise and indignation, then, to find that she was gone! The good father, alarmed at his excessive rage and emotion, affected complete ignorance of her disappearance, declaring that she must have escaped from her window during the night; and that he was well assured she was a witch, an emissary of the devil, and no real woman; for he had never passed such a night in his life. In spite of Ansaldo’s threats to extort further confession, he persisted in this story, so far from satisfactory to the young lover’s feelings, whose mind was filled with the most distressing apprehensions. Still, however, having no proofs to the contrary, he was compelled to rest satisfied with the story, such as it was; and after engaging the priest to assist in the recovery of the fair culprit, he was again called to the dying couch of Constanzo.
“I wish,” said this unhappy martyr of woman’s scorn, as Ansaldo drew nigh, “I wish before I depart, as I shortly must, to acquaint you, as a friend, with some circumstances of my life. It is true that I perish by the hand of one who professed to love me as dearly as her own life, and who was once mistress of my soul. Though aware of her strange and fickle disposition, I still confided in her attachment, and could not possibly have contemplated what has happened. Deign to listen then to our singular history, and you will be enabled to judge how far I am to blame; for though I have erred, there is much palliation for my conduct.”
“Eurispe is a noble lady of Cosenza, sole heiress to a rich family, and was early sacrificed to the views of ambition in a union with a man of high rank, much older than herself. Such likewise were his infirmities, that happily for her he died within a few months after his marriage, leaving her the mistress of an immense fortune. Thus freed at length from the influence and restraint of her family, she continued to lead a single life from her fifteenth to her eighteenth year, devoting herself to noble and charitable pursuits, and loved and honoured by all in her vicinity. It was at this period I became acquainted with her. 489 During a commercial voyage I had the misfortune to fall a captive to that celebrated but detested corsair, Amurat Rais; and after encountering various hardships, I was at length offered to sale, and purchased by a foreign merchant, whose affairs soon afterwards carried him into Calabria. He was induced to allow me to accompany him by the offer of two hundred crowns, to be paid on my arrival, in addition to what else he might obtain for my ransom. We disembarked at Cosenza, where Eurispe, having seen and taken compassion on me, kindly paid down the sum required, and took me into her service. Such was my gratitude, that though she would have permitted me to resume my affairs and return to my native place, I found it impossible. For my gratitude and respect soon ripened into a deeper feeling, and though I scarcely ventured to confess it even to my own heart, that heart, in spite of me, began to beat tumultuously when it caught even the sound of the approaching footsteps of my bright and honoured lady. You have seen her, but you cannot now form an idea of her noble and charming manners, and of the surpassing beauty, both of her mind and person. Soon I had the happiness to obtain her confidence in the management of her affairs. I became the steward of her fortune, the happy medium of her numerous pious and charitable benefactions to the country around. Never, however, did I venture to breathe a word, or to raise my eyes to hers, beyond the immediate scope of my duties; but I suffered dreadfully as I became more deeply and truly attached. When did love such as mine listen to reason or summon courage to abandon the scene of its sorrows — the sweet and bitter pleasure of gazing on the object it must never possess? I could not quite repress the grief at my heart; sighs escaped me in her presence; I madly gazed on her whenever I thought myself unseen; and well might the poet of love exclaim: —
For truly in a short while she appeared to become aware of my unhappy passion, though she neither reproached nor admonished me. Surprised and delighted beyond measure, hope for the first time sent the blood tingling through my veins, and I dared to look up, though still in fear and silence. About this time, however, an incident occurred which put my resolution of burying my griefs in my own bosom to a severer trial than any I had yet borne. A young cavalier who resided near became more and more frequent in his visits; he admired her beauty, but he considered her fortune a still higher prize. He was not really in love with her, and this she appeared at length to have discovered, and gave him his dismissal. But he would not take this as a final denial, and continued to haunt her residence in such a manner, that I was fearful he would in the end succeed in his project. As I was late one evening indulging in bitter fancies, a person arriving on horseback was announced, and on his being shown into the room where I was sitting, I had the pain of beholding my haughty rival. With an air of ease and freedom he entreated hospitality for the night, pleading the lateness of the hour; upon which, turning from him with 490 a feeling of bitter jealousy, I went to acquaint the lady. My anguish was visible on my countenance; and I had the mortification to hear her say that she feared in common courtesy she could not refuse him. I thought she blushed deeply as she said so; and bursting into sudden passion, I exclaimed, ‘Then first permit me to leave the house.’ ‘No, that must not be,’ she replied; ‘I cannot spare you, for I am going myself. You will attend me as far as my friendly neighbour’s, and inform the gentleman on your return that I am on a visit there, and too unwell to see him.’ I bowed in delighted emotion to the earth: I thought I should have fallen at her feet and blessed her; for she had removed a load of wretchedness from my soul; and with a joyous and triumphant air I hastened to rejoin the cavalier.
“With what secret pleasure did I deliver the lady’s message and answer the thousand questions which he addressed to me! Whether he perceived this I know not; but though I now made myself the best company in the world, and treated him with all the delicacies the house could afford, I failed to make myself agreeable. He seemed hurt that I ventured to sit down to supper with him; he began to frown, and to regard me with no very pleasant looks; until observing that I took no notice of them, he began to hazard sarcastic remarks, inquiring whether, in my capacity of steward, I did not find that house-dogs, when caressed, were apt to become too familiar. ‘Certainly,’ I said, ‘there is great difference between men and dogs, the one being fond of bones and the other of reputation.’ ‘It follows, then,’ replied my polite guest, ‘that he who enters into service without regard to his reputation acts beneath himself, and is unworthy even of a menial’s situation.’ ‘Ah!’ I cried, suddenly plucking forth my rapier in the impulse of passion, ‘were you not here under my honoured lady’s roof, I would stab you to the heart. Insult me if you please; but dare to introduce her pure and unstained name, and it shall be the last word you will ever speak.’ Instead of meeting the fierce indignation with which I spoke in as fierce a tone, to my surprise he became somewhat softened; when turning away with a feeling of unutterable contempt, I left him alone to his own cogitations. In the morning, when breakfast was announced, it was found that he had taken his departure early; not very long afterwards we heard that he had left the country, and finally, that he had been assassinated on his route from Cosenza towards Lucca, most probably without making any defence, for he certainly could never have fallen in a duel. Freed from this despicable rival, I became somewhat bolder in my pretensions; my eyes began to reveal what my tongue refused to tell; and instead of hating me, I thought that hers seemed to invite me to give my looks a language. I was one day engaged in rendering her an account of some sums of money which had lately passed through my hands; but such was my trepidation, such my wish of discovering the sentiments I entertained of her, that I repeated the same errors over and over; until, half angry and half laughing at my perplexity, she asked me if I had really run mad. ‘I fear I have long been so,’ I replied, ‘and it will not be long before you will have to send me to an asylum; and you will have’ —— Here my voice failed me, and I could 491 say no more. ‘And I shall have to answer for it; is that what you mean, Constanzo?’ ‘You have said it,’ I replied, ‘and you ought not to make so light of it, I assure you. It were better I should leave your service at once. I have resources of my own. I am neither poor nor ignoble.’ ‘Ah! Constanzo, did I ever think, did I ever say you were?’ Her face became crimson when she had uttered this; but suddenly checking herself, she added, ‘I am not often used to jest in this way, and it is perhaps not very becoming either in you or in myself.’
“As I had at length, however, mastered the subject, I soon summoned courage enough to proceed. ‘The fault, most honoured lady, lies more in your beauty than in me. I have fought with my feelings long and terribly. I have tried to remain reasonable; but it is vain to deny it. I have loved, I have sorrowed, I have despaired, and I must meet with mercy, or I must cease to exist.’ Uttering this, I fell at her feet, and covered her hands with my kisses and my tears. ‘You are mad, indeed,’ she exclaimed, as she attempted to assume a tone of anger, though she scarcely struggled to withdraw her hands. ‘It is done,’ I cried; ‘condemn, reproach me as you will, but do not drive me from your presence.’ ‘If you loved me,’ she answered, ‘you could not talk of leaving me, nor could I afford to lose your service; but,’ she continued, resuming her composure, ‘I shall never permit the repetition of such a scene; for you own sake I shall not; you must try to banish so absurd an idea. But it is a mere fancy, and therefore I pardon you this time, on the condition that you never breathe a syllable of the like again.’ Her voice trembled, however, and not with anger, as she uttered these commands, out of a feeling of pride and dignity, which had yet to contend with a superior foe. Though promising obedience, I was now too happy and triumphant to observe it, and even without resuming the conversation, I daily made such visible progress in her affections, as soon to induce her to feel pleasure in acknowledging me for her lover with her own lips. Soon I insisted on her repeating, for the thousandth time, that she loved me, and was happy in my having owned that I loved her in return.
Such being our mutual attachment, it was resolved, in order to avoid the least occasion for remark, to sanction it with our union almost immediately; Eurispe proposing to dispose of the estates at Cosenza, and to retire for a season to a delicious residence in the vicinity of Puggia, out of reach of the invidious observations with which she was aware we should be unjustly assailed. Just at this period, however, it was our ill fortune that a widow lady, with her daughter, a very beautiful and accomplished girl, arrived at Cosenza on their way from Sicily; an event which entirely altered the colour of our destiny. I had heard, I had seen much of the fickleness of women, but such an instance as that I am about to record could never have entered into my comprehension. The knowledge that these ladies were in misfortune was enough to induce Eurispe to offer them a home, and to lavish upon them every consolation and comfort in her power to bestow. But grief and sickness had already made inroads too deep on the health of the mother to admit of much alleviation. 492 She continued gradually to sink; all her dying thoughts were wrapt up in her daughter, and expressing her deep gratitude for our kindness, she tenderly recommended her poor girl to our protection, and soon after expired.
“With a sister’s affection, then, my adored Eurispe received the beautiful Lesbia to her arms, and like a sister she made her the partner of everything she possessed. Their acquaintance ripened into the strictest intimacy, and Eurispe no longer talked of disposing of her estate. She began, indeed, to give me some reason to complain. She delayed, under a thousand pretexts, to fulfil her immediate promise of yielding me her hand. I took the alarm, and became more earnest and urgent, fearful that fortune was about to abandon me when just on the consummation of all my dearest wishes. Still she delayed. She would no longer listen to my complaints; and I was compelled to dissemble the disappointment and anguish of my heart. One evening as I was beginning to press the subject, she interrupted me by alluding to the beauty and accomplishments of her fair charge, and after dwelling upon them for some time she added, ‘What think you, Constanzo, will Lesbia say? what will the world say of us, if we proceed, in spite of all difficulties and inequalities, to seal our attachment at the altar? I know you to be fully deserving of my affection, but I fear for my reputation, to which every one, you are aware, sacrifices so much. Let us consider, then, while there is yet time; let us see that we are not preparing future unhappiness for each other. Under all circumstances I think it would be the wiser and the safer plan that you should try to forget me, and to love my gentle Lesbia, upon whim I will confer such a dowry as will leave you no reason to repent. I shall thus, I am sure, escape much scandal and ill usage; for the world never pardons such an error, and I dare not commit it.’ I grew pale and trembled with emotion as she spoke; I beheld the promised delights of love and fortune fading from my view. What was Lesbia to me? Unknown, uncared for! what was all the world beside? For some moments I could not speak; but laying my head upon my hand, I sighed deeply. ‘Well might Fortune,’ at length I cried, ‘be likened unto a woman — a woman in fickleness, such as you. Oh, cruel as you have been, to raise me, Eurispe, from the earth into the very heaven of love, only to precipitate me into the depths of despair. You tell me to love Lesbia; that you will give us your fortune; but it is not your fortune I love, it is you. Do you think I can so easily change, and transfer my affections as readily as my dress? No, I were then unworthy both of her and you. You snatched me out of misfortune, it is true; but you would now, by depriving me of ineffable hopes, by tearing me from yourself, plunge me into greater misery than I have yet suffered, and destroy all my happiness upon earth.’ ‘But such love is a folly,’ she cried, ‘why indulge it? To be happy we must be reasonable. And I do not deprive you of myself, for I give you fortune; your love, I fear, would soon be over; but fortune will last when love is gone. I begin to see that our attachment was an idle and childish thing from the first; and if I give you Lesbia, you can have no reason to complain. Think of it, and think wisely. I love you, or I have 493 loved you; but we must submit to the voice of reason, and no longer think of playing the fool.’
“As she said this in a hard and careless tone, she precipitately left the room leaving me to no very agreeable reflections, of which indignation was not the least. In the sudden revulsion of my feelings I could have sought the side of the fair Lesbia; I could have wished, by lavishing the most tender attentions, to give the faithless and heartless one a pang of jealousy, and make her feel something of the pain I endured. What strange motive could have actuated her? was it mere fickleness, scorn, or jealousy? Surely, I thought, I could have given her no reason for the latter, though I had more than once remarked, in conversing together, that she jested on the subject in the presence of Lesbia; that she had her eye upon us, and that she might probably entertain an idea of trying the stability of my affection — for such, I had heard, was the simulation and subtlety of love. When this struck me, I came to the resolution of persevering in a virtuous and constant line of action, and by this conduct at least to merit the love and confidence of one whom I feared I could not forget.
“With this view I resolved to be perfectly open and sincere with her, and the next day went to her to inform her how impossible it was that I could be obedient to her wishes. ‘Did I try to forget you, it would be in vain, and still more so to turn my affections elsewhere. Permit me, my dear lady, to remain, therefore, with you, to try to merit your approbation of my conduct, if I can no longer retain your affection; and if you repent the kindness, the sweet hopes and promises you have lavished on me, do not, at least, deprive me of your society. For, believe me, I shall either succeed in recovering your affections, or soon end my sorrowful days as I wish to do.’ ‘Indeed, Constanzo,’ she replied, ‘I wish you to stay with me; I do not at all regret the kindness and affection I have lavished on you, for I am still as much attached to you as ever, and nothing but an imperative sense of duty could prevent me could prevent me from sealing my affection at the altar. I would willingly give you my hand, but the world will not have it so; it requires equality of rank at least in the husband, or it will asperse the fair fame of her who raises him to her own standard. And even if we had left Cosenza, as we intended, it would have pursued us with its taunts and mockery, would have said we were ashamed of our errors, and blasted our future happiness whithersoever we had turned. It is better, then, as it is; and if you truly love me, you will strive to bury what has passed in oblivion, and keep it from the world.’ ‘And this I could have done,’ I made answer, ‘had you not flattered me with other hopes, Eurispe; but you have received and returned my vows; I am no longer master of my affections, and I take Love to witness that I cannot and will not permit you to retract. We have given our mutual consent; by mutual consent alone, then, can we become disunited. Whether Love be a divinity or not, I cannot tell; but I feel something like his divinity within me, allied to every thing that is noble, and perfect, and pure in its nature. Its divinity, besides, is said to be immortal, and I cannot cease to love you at pleasure.’ ‘But you must be obedient; you promised me that you would, Constanzo.’ ‘Yes, but 494 you first promised to be mine; and it is I only who have to complain.’ ‘If your love be so true and perfect, then,’ she returned, ‘continue to love me thus virtuously; be satisfied that I esteem and value you, but let us venture no further to unite our lot in one.’ ‘It may be easy for you,’ I replied, ‘to talk and even to act in this manner, faithless and cold-hearted as you are; but to me there is death even in the thought. You are become very strange and casuistical of late, and unusually afraid of the opinion of the world; and had I not more confidence in you than you appear to have in me, I should say that you had formed some new attachment, and wished to be rid of me altogether.’ ‘No,’ exclaimed Eurispe, a little piqued, ‘I have formed no new attachment; though it is true that I wish to recall my promise, on the condition of settling a very sufficient fortune upon my Lesbia, which you may accept or refuse at your own pleasure;’ and having said this, she again turned somewhat coldly from me.
“Disappointed pride, jealousy, and revenge now all took possession of my soul at once; and in the hopes that I might perhaps awaken some degree of pain by exciting her jealousy and affection, I resolved to obey her, and to devote my whole attention to Lesbia. In this view I exerted all my powers of pleasing to the uttermost, I lavished upon her the most delicate attentions, striving to make myself the most agreeable to her in the presence of Eurispe, to whom I affected to praise her incessantly. Eurispe seemed, however, to regard my conduct with indifference, preserving the same kind and conciliating manners towards Lesbia, and rather encouraging our apparent intimacy. But bitterly did we both repent this error; for having assumed, not with impunity, the character of the fair Lesbia’s lover, it was soon my fate to become gradually enamoured of her attractions, thus showing my obedience to the orders of my mistress. Nor did my attentions seem at all disagreeable to her; in a little while she returned my affection; and it was agreed by Eurispe that our nuptials should be immediately celebrated. From this time the proud Eurispe seemed to treat me on terms of nearer equality; the time stipulated for my service since she redeemed me from captivity was expired, and possessing some little fortune of my own, besides what she settled on Lesbia, we considered ourselves extremely fortunate in our union. Nor had we any reason for some period to repent of it, for Lesbia loved me most truly and tenderly, her virtues and attractions soon won my whole heart, and we were as perfectly happy as we wished to be.
“But our happiness was doomed to be of short continuance; the manners of our fair hostess became colder, she sought to avoid our society, and appeared hurt at witnessing our mutual regard for each other. Her conduct soon became extremely variable; she was either absorbed in sorrow or affected the liveliest spirits imaginable: she would treat us with contempt and unkindness, or lavish upon us the warmest expressions of favour. It was now I dreaded any feelings of uneasiness or jealousy at our union as much as I had before wished to excite them. She was often strange and harsh towards my Lesbia; her dislike to her seemed to increase, while her manner towards me was more flattering. She even sought my society in her absence; she 495 grew pale, blushed at my approach, and sometimes she burst into tears. The full extent of our calamity now opened upon me, for tenderly and passionately did I love my wife; I had forgotten Eurispe. Without communicating my suspicions to Lesbia, I pressed our immediate departure; but of this our fair hostess would not hear; she was even extremely hurt and angry at the proposal. Indeed, whenever I recurred to the subject, she seemed more desirous than ever of conciliating me: she flattered me and tried to win my attention, while she assumed the utmost coldness and indifference on the approach of my wife. Fortunately Lesbia was thus unacquainted with my unhappiness, for I wished to spare her the pain of witnessing the grief of our benefactress. But what a fate was mine! to behold her whom I had loved, but who had broken her vows and repaid my love with scorn, the victim of her own infidelity. Deeply indebted to her as I was, could I behold her thus suffering for my sake? yet, could I consent to plunge her and myself into still greater misfortunes? We were already on the brink of a precipice, for her affection became daily more evident; it was my Lesbia only who stood between us and destruction, Eurispe no longer attempting to conceal from me the warmth of her feelings. It was now her turn to meet with the coolness and indifference she had formerly shown to me, and to taste something of the bitter fruits of faithless and unrequited affection. But she was too passionate and impatient to submit to the ordeal, too weak to conquer; and after vainly appealing to my love and to my compassion, she began to upbraid me. I then gently reminded her that it was her own work, and the result of her express injunction, however reluctantly I had submitted to it. That, moreover, it would be base and cruel to desert and sacrifice, as she proposed, my beautiful Lesbia, by plunging ourselves into irremediable wretchedness and ruin. Passion, indignation, and grief seemed to struggle for utterance in her reply, as she declared that she had never disowned her love for me; that I knew she had always continued attached to me, in spite of her exertions to act consistently with her duty; and that I had made her words a pretext for breaking with her. ‘Every word, every look you give to Lesbia,’ she continued, ‘is justly my own, and yet you refuse to restore to me even a portion of what you have robbed me of. Your happiness is injustice, it is ingratitude, it is death to me!’ ’You grieve me to the heart, my dear lady and benefactress,’ I replied, ’for with your own you have destroyed my hopes of happiness for ever. But think how unworthy I ever was of possessing you; let the same pride and dignity which led you to abandon me support you now. Think how many noble motives, how many great objects you have yet to live for; live, then, and bestow our hand upon some more fortunate and deserving being. Assert once more your pride and dignity, the same prudence and greatness of soul that you have ever shown; recollect who you are and what the world expects from you!’ Though somewhat harsh, I thought it quite requisite to speak in the manner I did. It brought the blood in tides of crimson to her cheeks; her neck, her temple, and her very finger-ends seemed to burn with a sense of shame and indignation. Yet my words had the desired effect: the sudden revulsion 496 of her feelings, as in my own case, now brought to her support a deep sense of scorn and hatred. But dearly, you see, have I paid for my strict adherence to duty, to honour, and to integrity. For, heaping upon me the most bitter and opprobrious epithets, she left me, invoking maledictions on my head; and I saw no more of her until I found her standing near you, signor, on the beach of Genoa, whither my evil genius brought me in pursuit of her. On the ensuing morning, I found also a letter on my toilet, with these simple words: ‘O Constanzo! you have triumphed over, you have trampled on my very soul; you have ruined me in my own opinion for ever. How have I deserved it? My fortune, with everything I had, I laid at your feet. I redeemed you from captivity, I gave you my home, I would have given you myself; but could you not bear with a woman’s waywardness and fickle humour, even for a season? I erred from a sense of duty; I thought I could have forgotten you; yet surely you might have delayed to seal my fate a little longer. Wretch as I am, that I ever loved you! But I hate, and will punish myself sufficiently for it: then seek me not, ask no more of me, for Eurispe will never return!’
“I immediately, however, set out in quest of her, filled with the most sad and fatal forebodings, and you see the result. Yet little did I think I was taking leave of my Lesbia for the last time, nor could I imagine that Eurispe would have carried her revenge so far. But it is done, it is too late to repine,” continued the dying Constanzo; ‘I have only to thank you, dear signor, for your humanity, and to make my peace with Heaven. Bear my dear love to my wife, and say” —— But here his voice failed him, and, heaving a deep sigh, he expired.