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, 1824]; pp. 189-201.
Among the various editions of the novel here mentioned, Poggiali, to whom we are last of all indebted for its reappearance, enumerates only three, all of which are extremely rare. Two of them formed part of the Borromeo collection, and are enumerated in the valuable catalogue of the Count’s library; the one is without date, printed in 8vo, and the other bears that of Venice, 1515, also in 8vo, by Giorgio de’ Rusconi. Yet no mention of the work appears in Haym’s “Bibliotheca Italiana,” any more than in other bibliographers, a circumstance that still further confirms the extreme rarity of these editions. The one first produced at Sienna, pronounced the most genuine by Poggiali, and which was revised and corrected by his hand with the most scrupulous care and judgment, has been adopted as the model of the following translation. Nor do we deem ourselves lightly indebted to Signor Poggiali, whose accuracy and diligence of research at once presented us with and improved the original production, by freeing it from those errors, both of orthography and language, with which all the earlier editions abounded. We cannot refrain, in conclusion, from presenting the reader with a beautiful sonnet, prefixed by the author to the argument of his work.
O tu che leggerai l’opera mia
Studia ogni ingiuria voler perdonare,
Ed oltre a questo mai non indugiare
D’usar sempre a ciascuno cortesia.
Anselmo Salimben ti fe la via,
E Carlo Montanin non sa restare
Di render cambio del bene operare,
Che dette ad altri Angelica in balia.
Ogni animo gentil ben volontieri
Perdona, e rende sempre ben per male,
Ne mai consente a nullo stran pensieri.
Se vuoi salire a le superne scale,
Pensa che Cristo pregò pe’ Guidei,
Ed appo lui quanto ’l perdonar vale.
After all the losses of his family, Carlo was still in possession of a beautiful estate in Val di Strove, worth at least a thousand florins, and upon this he contrived, with some difficulty, to support his sister, and maintain some vestige of the decayed splendour of their ancestors. And while he thus continued to display the nobility of his birth rather by his manners and conversation than by any external show of pomp, Anselmo, the rival of his house, had extended his possessions, and 194 resided within a short distance of Carlo. In this way he first beheld the lovely Angelica, and finding the sweetness and elegance of her manners to surpass even the beauty of her person, he gradually and almost inadvertently became attached to her. Yet, on account of the enmity that had so long subsisted between the families, which, though it had ceased from acts of decided aggression, had never given place to renewed intercourse, he cautiously concealed his passion even from his most intimate friends. About this period, one of the most powerful citizens in the state becoming desirous of adding Carlo’s little patrimony to his own domains, applied for the purchase of it, offering him the sum of a thousand ducats. But he refused to listen to the proposal, as well on account of its being the last remaining seat of his ancestors, as from its affording a subsistence for his sister: he himself having never been instructed in commerce or any branch of the mechanic arts. Irritated at this refusal, the disappointed citizen laid a plot against Carlo, in which, by the vilest intrigues, he succeeded in rendering him suspected by the Government, accusing him of a conspiracy, which led to his immediate arrest. And had it not been for the affected humanity of his betrayer, who, the better to succeed in his purpose, commuted his sentence for a thousand florins, he would instantaneously have suffered death. These were to be paid, however, within fifteen days; and the former sentence, in case of failure, was to be executed without further appeal. On finding himself reduced to such extreme necessity, and unable to provide the amount of the fine by any other means, Carlo sent word by one of the city brokers to the wily citizen that he was desirous of disposing of his property, even at a thousand florins, the sum for which he had been unjustly condemned. But, more avaricious than prudent, his relentless enemy, believing that he had him now in his power, would offer no more than seven hundred for what he formerly wished to give a thousand. When the commissioner brought back this answer, Carlo, incensed at his cupidity, and reflecting that it was all upon which his unhappy sister had to rely in the world, came to the noble resolution of dying innocently, and reserving what he could for her, rather than by reducing her to poverty endanger her honour and that of his house.
With this view, having sent his commissioner away, he quietly awaited the period of his doom, expecting little from his maternal relatives, who, though wealthy, were unwilling to move in an affair in which he had been pronounced guilty of a conspiracy against the state, and by which they might bring down suspicion upon themselves. The term fixed for his execution, therefore, being arrived, it happened that on the very morning he was to suffer, his more powerful neighbour and ancient rival, Anselmo, in going from his villa, passed near Carlo’s house, whence he observed several women coming out, apparently in profound grief and lamentation. Upon making further inquiry, he was informed that the brother of one of the young ladies was that day condemned to suffer death, in consequence of his inability to pay a fine of a thousand florins, and the last of the fifteen days allowed him had just expired. Possessed at once of a noble and intelligent mind, Anselmo directly penetrated into Carlo’s motives for 195 refusing to save his life out of regard to his sister’s interest and safety, and learning exactly the circumstances in which he was placed, he retired to his own house in order to reflect upon the course he should pursue. Closing the door of his study, he proceeded to revolve the following reasons in his mind, observing to himself: “The time is at length come when Fortune is about to present a stronger temptation to my honour than even my own passions have ever done. Carlo Montanini, whose family has so long borne a mortal hatred to my house, is at last found guilty, even unto death, by our republic; and my revenge and that of my injured ancestors is at its climax. But more than this, happy Anselmo!” he continued, “awaits thee now. For since thou hast unwittingly made thyself a slave to the bright beauties of a poor girl, here an occasion offers for suing to her, at length, upon thine own terms; as her brother’s head will no sooner be lain in the dust than she will become a dependent creature, and more easily inclined to listen to all thy wishes. Welcome Fortune, then, with a bold and joyous spirit; let her have her way, and let Carlo be numbered with the dead!” But suddenly checking himself, he cried: “Ah! wretch that I am! that such thoughts should find a place in my soul. Shame light upon me if I blush not to indulge them! Do I not well know that there are only two courses for kind and magnanimous spirits to pursue — the one, to revenge every injury, however slight or great, by one’s own hand; the other, to show more magnanimity, by wholly despising and forgiving the author of it? The former of these I have already neglected to do, and the latter I am about to omit, though it is yet in my power. Have I not, moreover, seen, ungrateful as I am, how the sweet Angelica has forgiven all the calamities heaped upon her by our house, has always expressed the gentlest and noblest sentiments, and always shown me the forgiving kindness and manners of a suffering angel? No! shame to my noble birth were I capable of beholding such an one deserted and deprived of her dearest relative, a fond and only brother, when a few paltry florins would restore him again to her happy bosom. To know this, and to neglect it, would be to exhibit the meanness of the most avaricious of wretches, rather than the bearing of a gentleman. And what if her family once injured mine? Would it not still be better and nobler far to display the conduct of a reasonable being, not of an unrelenting and savage foe? Her brother never insulted me; it is enough that his ancestors paid the price of the wrong they wrought. If I may indeed boast myself of honourable birth and favoured by Fortune, I ought not to prove myself unworthy of both by forgetting those who are in want of the latter.”
Upon uttering these last words, Anselmo had already adopted the virtuous resolution of assisting the unhappy Carlo, and snatching up the sum of a thousand gold ducats, he hastened with them to the chamberlain appointed to receive the fines of condemned prisoners. “Behold,” he said, “a thousand gold ducats to pay the fine owing by Carlo Montanini; be quick, and give me a receipt, that he may be restored ere yet too late to his liberty!” And he even refused to take the difference between the ducats and the thousand florins, in order to 196 be more speedily furnished with a ticket from the chamberlain to procure Carlo’s release. This being done, he mounted his horse and proceeded back to his own villa, while a domestic on whom he could rely hastened to deliver to the governor of the prison the receipt of the money paid, who, as soon as he received it, ordered Carlo to be brought into his presence. The latter, supposing it was the confessor who had arrived to prepare him for his final hour, inquired of the governor the reason of his summons. “I summon you, Carlo,” said the other, “to witness the order for your release, which I hold here in my hand; the prison doors are no longer closed upon you; to go or stay remains wholly at your pleasure.” Overwhelmed with wonder and delight at these words, Carlo stood fixed to the spot like a statue. “By whose means,” he at length faintly uttered, “am I become free?” Pleading total ignorance of this, the governor could merely state that a servant had waited upon him with the receipt, but whose he could not tell. In equal ignorance, Carlo, leaving the prison, returned home, where, not arriving until towards midnight, he found the entrance closed; but hearing his sister’s voice loud in lamentation, he exclaimed in a tone of affectionate surprise, “Let me come in, my dear Angelica; it is your brother Carlo who calls.” Seized with the utmost surprise and joy, she flew to the door, and felt herself clasped in her brother’s arms — a brother she had just been mourning for as dead. Several of her young friends, who had hastened to her in these unhappy moments, now participated in her joy, pointing out Carlo to their relations as he who had been lost, but was now found, the prisoner liberated from his doom. At these tidings the house of Carlo was soon filled with friends and relatives, such as they had shown themselves, who part excusing and part congratulating one another, were nevertheless compelled to confess that to none of their efforts was Carlo indebted for relief. He could with difficulty refrain from an expression of contempt and surprise on hearing what he could have so ill have believed, and thought it ages until he should be able to discover the author of his renewed existence.
Early the next morning, then, he proceeded to the chamberlain before mentioned, inquiring with as much indifference as he could assume if he happened to know the person who had advanced the thousand florins. “Messer Carlo,” replied the other, “I believe I can satisfy you: Anselmo di Messer Salimbene it was who called and paid a thousand florins here for you yesterday, insisting on your immediate release. Moreover, he would not even stop to receive the difference, observing that it was your wish to pay in full a thousand ducats; but if you now wish to receive the surplus, it is here at your service.” “If this be so,” replied Carlo, “the affair is all right; I am come for no kind of restitution;” and he took his leave.
“Is not this a little strange?” he observed, as he walked homewards: “what can be the object of it? I must think of this.” Then recalling Anselmo’s manner towards his sister when they had happened to meet, it struck him that there was something peculiar in it, though he had never thought of it before; and again recurring to their long and fatal enmity, he could discover nothing by which he 197 himself could have given occasion for so very unexpected and generous a return. Gifted as he was with equal penetration and discretion, he then concluded that nothing less than a devoted passion for his sister could account for such an instance of liberality on Anselmo’s part; and the more so, as he knew that in noble and well-governed minds such a passion is kept more under the control of prudence, grace, and courtesy, displaying its strength only in the noblest acts. Feeling assured, therefore, that Anselmo had restored him to life for the sake of Angelica, he felt, also, that both his own and that of Angelica ought to remain at the future disposal of their benefactor, who, though their ancient foe, had watched over them like a guardian angel when the world and their friends had deserted them. Under the impression of these feelings, he longed for an interview with Anselmo at Sienna before communicating his sentiments to any other person except his own sister.
As soon, therefore, as he knew their benefactor had returned to the city, he went to his sister Angelica, and taking her aside, thus addressed her: ‘I am sure I need not repeat to you, dear Angelica, how deeply I have been afflicted whenever I recalled to mind the lost fortunes of our house, our own sufferings, and the difficulties with which we have so long had to contend. Still, it would be a far heavier grief for me to think that we had in any way degenerated in spirit from the honour of our family — a family that was never accused of yielding to any other, however rich and powerful, in point of courtesy and a generous return of such favours as it might have received. But Fortune having at length deprived us of this power, while one of the greatest of obligations has just been conferred upon us, we may truly consider our situation as one of the most trying and unhappy, whatever path we choose to pursue. For without the sudden interposition of our benefactor I must instantly have perished, and your own safety and honour been exposed to the most imminent risk. This benefactor, whose courtesy and generosity rescued us from destruction, is no other than Anselmo di Messer Salimbene, who, regardless of the ancient enmity and wrongs heaped upon him by our house, even to the murder of one of his ancestors, has paid a thousand ducats and restored me to life and liberty, solely out of affection for you. But, alas! in what manner can we make an adequate return for such an obligation? What is left for us, if we do not wish to exhibit to the world one of the most glaring instances of ingratitude, and to crouch before our benefactor with the feeling of a dependant and of a slave — what is left for us, but to throw ourselves upon his mercy, to place you in his power, and, leaving you at his disposal (as I doubt not his honour and humanity), thus grant him an ample return for all the benefits conferred upon us? I am convinced he loves you, and you will every day become more dear to him if you show yourself capable of making the greatest sacrifices for him, of relying fully and devotedly upon his heart and honour. When we reflect, moreover, that he might have permitted me to perish in order to render you an easier victim to his arts, and that, scorning the prospect of thus obtaining you, he restored me to your arms, I shall feel ashamed to appear in his presence, and I 198 will fly for ever from my native place, even from Italy, if you consent not to my proposal. I would prefer death to the continual sense of such an obligation, and from the enemy of our father’s house! What! would I remain here to be pointed at as ‘that Carlo Montanini, the first of his family who ever owed his life or the smallest obligation to one of the Salimbeni, who has now not only saved his life but paid for him a thousand gold florins without a chance of obtaining them again?’ And it is indeed impossible for us to restore them; we are barely enabled to support ourselves, and you must be aware that we shall be considered by him as the most ungrateful of wretches if you do not permit me to reward him with yourself.” Here Carlo ceased, while, her face covered with tears and blushes, stood the trembling Angelica, equally terrified at the idea of losing him, and of sanctioning the passion of one whom she had hardly yet learned to love. “Ah, brother!” she cried, “how little did I imagine when I clasped you in my arms after believing you dead that Fortune could still thus cruelly persecute us! Wretch that I am, to have lived to hear all you have said; far, far more bitter than all the injuries borne by our ancestors. So young, so very young too as I am, you know I could never bear to lose you, that I have never had any will but yours. Then pity me, and do not take advantage of the cruel situation in which I am placed, my dear and only brother, the last support and solace I have left. Yet, I will do everything, yes, everything in the world you can ask of me, but make myself so very wretched, so worthless in my own eyes, and without knowing that I can even love the object of your choice. Oh, better at once to die than live in such perpetual fear and torment, as I am sure I should do by becoming the companion of one whom I have not yet learned to esteem. Yes, would that I had died when my poor mother died, closing at my birth these eyes that have shed so little light of pleasure upon others, but so many silent and bitter tears. Indeed, when I think of all we have suffered, it signifies little what becomes of me; and after all your kindness, rather than bear the loss of you, if you could really have the heart to desert me, I will go whithersoever, I will become whatsoever, best pleases you. Yet, when you shall have made me the property of another, my life will afterwards be at my own disposal, and I would most willingly sacrifice it to discharge the obligations you owe, while I observe what is due to my own honour.” Here relapsing into a flood of tears mingled with stifled sighs and sobs, the unhappy girl ceased; when her brother, little less affected than herself, strove to give her comfort in the following words: ‘My best and sweetest Angelica. wherefore do you afflict yourself thus? Had I been one of the harshest and most unkind of brothers, instead of preferring, as I did, rather to lay down my life than expose your safety and honour by leaving you dependent upon a pitiless world, you could hardly complain more bitterly than you do. And what have we to dread when we recall to mind the delicacy and nobleness of feeling that has hitherto marked the whole conduct of Anselmo towards us both, when he did not even let us know the singular kindness and obligation he so lately conferred upon us? It is an appeal to our gratitude that we cannot and ought not to disregard; 199 and in what other manner can we notice or return it but by an equal appeal to his honour, by placing unlimited confidence in him who scorned to take advantage of our situation, though under the strongest temptation, but, by restoring an only brother to his sister, deprived himself of the power and opportunity of indulging his passion for her? From such a passion I trust there is little to dread; and, by the spirit of our ancestors, I will never consent to be outshone in an act of courtesy and liberality, and by a Salimbeni, though both our lives and honour were to be the forfeit! Then dry up your tears, my noble-hearted sister, and believe that an enemy capable of so disinterested an act of kindness towards us will never give us cause to repent, or abuse, by making you unhappy, the trust we are about to place in him. At all events, my best Angelica, if you love me, consent to accompany me this evening to his house, and let us convince him that, though we cannot submit to such excessive obligations, we can act as kindly and generously as himself.”
About nightfall, therefore, he proceeded with his sister towards Anselmo’s villa, and inquiring of the porter, on his arrival at the gate, whether his master was at home, they were immediately admitted. But what was Anselmo’s astonishment upon entering the room to behold Carlo and his beautiful sister! He was unable to utter a word, until her brother, taking him aside, begged to speak to him in another apartment. Signifying his assent to this, Anselmo conducted him through a noble suite of rooms, and dismissing his servant, requested, with some degree of embarrassment, to know his pleasure. “Noble sir,” replied Carlo, “I believe I am debtor for this poor life of mine to your mercy and compassion, no less than my dear sister, who owes everything she possesses to the same generous hand. Were our family what it once was, we should have rejoiced to return the obligations you have conferred upon us as we ought; but as we are possessed of little beyond our daily subsistence, we are so unfortunate as to have nothing to offer you in return beyond our poor selves. By restoring the forfeited life which we were unable to purchase, you have truly rendered us your property, and it is in your power to dispose of us as you please. Whatever our misfortunes may have been, we would not willingly add ingratitude to the account: there yet burns within us some spark of our ancestral spirit, ambitious of discharging the debt we owe with our best services and with our lives. Do not scruple, therefore, as we are your slaves, to make use of us for your profit or your pleasure as you deem fit.”
Upon concluding these words, without awaiting a reply, Carlo left the room and hastened home. What were Anselmo’s emotions of surprise and joy to behold him depart alone! Doubting whether he could believe his senses, he was almost overwhelmed with the conflict of his feelings when he beheld her seated in the saloon where he had left her — her whom he had so long and passionately loved. Surely she must have consented, he thought, to accompany her brother, and was no longer insensible to his passion. Yet deep grief and wretchedness seemed depicted in her beautiful countenance, and made a holy appeal to the heart. He gazed upon her with the most intense interest 200 and emotion, unable to utter a word, continuing long absorbed in these feelings, as if awed into silence by the charm of her sudden appearance and by the exquisite grace and loveliness of her person. In this manner they sat, Anselmo still gazing upon her with a variety of contending feelings, for some length of time, without either uttering a syllable, while Angelica betrayed her confusion and distress by attempting to stifle the sobs that escaped from her, hiding her face in her hands. Unwilling to behold this, Anselmo, having adopted his resolution, left the room; and in a few minutes Angelica found herself surrounded by some of his female relatives; while he sent off his servants in various directions to summon several of his most particular friends, acquainting them, at the same time, that he had a matter of the utmost importance to consult them upon.
In the course of an hour, a pretty numerous party being assembled, Anselmo requested them to give him the honour of their company to a friend’s house, and sending the same request to Angelica and the ladies, he led them towards the mansion of Carlo Montanini. How much was Angelica surprised, on their arrival, to hear Anselmo inquire for her brother, who shortly afterwards made his appearance at the gate, saying, “Signor, what are your commands?” “Carlo,” replied the other, “you called upon me, not very long ago, begging to speak with me in private, and I now return your call, desirous of conversing with you before all this honourable company.” “Signor,” said Carlo, “I am prepared to obey you in everything;” and then inviting the whole party in, he led the way to his principal hall, where, all being seated, Anselmo addressed them in the following noble manner: “My very kind and dear friends, sweet ladies, and noble citizens, I doubt not you are all intent upon the meaning of this visit, and not a little curious to hear my motives for so unusual a proceeding, almost unprecedented on the part of ourselves or our ancestors. But the importance of the occasion required it; and I wished to convince as many of my friends as possible that it is not always in the power of Fortune to tarnish the splendour of sterling merit and true nobility of mind; that, superior to riches, power, and pomp, these are qualities that may still shine conspicuously forth; while, without them, what, alas! are nobility, glory, and pride of birth? The truth of this has, I am happy to say, even now been beautifully displayed in the conduct of Carlo and Angelica Montanini, whose surpassing grace and courtesy of manners, whose liberality and gratitude, under the most trying circumstances, have triumphed over their adverse lot, and fully shown the nobility of their minds to be equal to that of their descent. Pity it is that mine ancestors should so long have borne enmity against spirits of such a stamp; should have despoiled them of their native honours and possessions and exposed them to the injuries of Fortune and to the machinations of designing men. Had a Carlo and Angelica sooner appeared, much family discord and unhappiness might have been prevented. As it is, you must now learn how long and ardently I have cherished an affection for the sister of Carlo, the beautiful Angelica, whom you have so kindly accompanied hither. Her worth, her gentleness, and accomplishments, all her virtues and noble qualities, 201 are too well appreciated and beloved to create the least surprise when I declare myself one of her earliest and most devoted admirers. Yet it was only the sagacious mind of Carlo that penetrated my secret, long concealed even from the object of my regard, and it is hardly worthwhile to repeat the recent circumstances that brought it to light. Enough to say that Carlo imagined he owed everything he possessed, even his life, to my influence, and that, acting under this impression, as he had already concluded upon sacrificing himself for his dear sister’s sake, so in the height of his gratitude and noble-minded courtesy, he believed they ought both to sacrifice themselves for mine. Noble instance of generosity! Because I had restored so noble a spirit, an only brother (a common duty) to his sister’s bosom, he, knowing I must be passionately attached to her, surrendered both her and his own services into my hands, willing rather to become my victims than to live free under the sense of unrequited favours, though unknown to any but themselves. Thus it was not the world they feared; they risked together their peace of mind and their reputation; but they feared only the silent reproaches of their benefactor. For they knew I was ambitious of making Angelica mine, beyond the dearest object I ever pursued; but the moment she was placed in my power, I restored her, without even addressing to her a single word, to the arms of her brother, as you have seen; and I am now here to entreat of him and of all of you to use your best influence with that lady that she will some time, should I be esteemed worthy, permit me to call her by the honoured name of wife.” Carlo here expressing an entire obedience to his wishes, and the whole party uniting with him in pressing his sister to accept Anselmo’s hand, the ladies drew her forward, while her lover, taking out three rich diamond rings, approached, and placed one of them upon her finger, espoused her in the presence of them all. Then turning to the spectators, he continued: “Methinks it would ill beseem the splendour of my Angelica’s beauty, of her virtues and her rank, to receive her dowerless into the family of the Salimbeni, the ancient foe of her house, but now, I trust, for ever united with it in bonds of lasting amity and love. Be witness, therefore, for me, my gentle and courteous friends, that I here endow her with one-fourth of the whole of my possessions, apportioning, likewise, the same share to my dear and only brother, Carlo, for his sole benefit and use.”
As he concluded these words, loud murmurs of applause and heart-felt approbation ran through the assembly, each vieing with the rest in congratulations to the happy parties, whose disinterested virtues and generosity merited so rich a return. The marriage-contract having been drawn out and singed, Anselmo, accompanied by the same honourable train of friends, reconducted his lovely bride into the mansion of his ancestors, where, after partaking of a rich repast, he dismissed them with many thanks, though not without giving them a fresh invitation to meet again on the following Sunday at his ancestral villa.