Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 9/Beppo, the conscript - Part 2

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Paolo Vanni, to tell the plain truth at once, was not a happy man, very far from it. And the real cause of his discomfort was in fact that “warmness” which has been spoken of. Yet old Paolo was continually laying up treasure where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt. The carefully kept account of the amounts that he had from time to time invested in this way, all duly paid over to heaven’s appointed stewards here below, and regularly acknowledged, showed really very considerable investments in that absolutely safe stock. Yet somehow or other the promised satisfaction of mind did not follow from the operation. Perhaps it was that he laid up still larger treasures in the storehouses where moth and rust do corrupt, and where thieves do break in and steal. But neither the moth nor the rust could much damage old Paolo Vanni’s treasure, for it consisted in hard silver dollars; and no thief had ever broken in or stolen from him as yet. It is true, however, that he did strive very pertinaciously to serve two masters. His spiritual guide assured him that this was not only possible, but very easy to be done; easy at least for him, who had the means to do it. For curiously enough, according to the teaching of Don Evandro Baluffi, the curato of Santa Lucia, the more successfully you served Mammon, the more satisfactorily you were enabled thereby to serve God. How was a man to found a perpetual mass, with music and tapers of the larger size—or even without these luxuries, for that matter,—if he had not paid sufficient court to Mammon to secure the means of paying for it?

Perhaps, however, it is all a matter of proportion. Perhaps Paolo Vanni did not insure highly enough, for he looked on the treasure laid up in purchasing masses and such like, in the light of money paid for insurance; not exactly against the moth, and the rust, or against thieves, but against certain other contingencies that he had somehow or other learned—assuredly not from Don Evandro!—to fancy might attend the possession of wealth.

Notwithstanding, however, the kind and constant encouragement of that judicious spiritual guide, philosopher, and friend, and the undeviating payment of this insurance money in many forms, poor old Paolo Vanni, despite his wealth, despite his thriving and prosperous farm, despite his hale and vigorous old age, was not contented or happy. I take it there must have been some importunate voice, though no one of those about him ever overheard it, which must have been constantly earwigging him with doubts and disagreeable suggestions, of a kind quite opposed to the consolatory assurances of the good Don Evandro. But surely this “voice,” whatever it was, could not have incarnated itself, or rather investmented itself, in a triangular beaver, snuffy black waistcoat, long-tailed surtout coat, shiny black camlet shorts, black worsted stockings, and thick, low-cut shoes, with big plated buckles on them! Surely it did not come out of any tonsured head on which the Episcopal hand had ever rested in ordination? Surely it was not the voice of any teacher duly appointed, authorised, and guaranteed by the Church; and therefore ought not to have been listened to for a moment in opposition to Don Evandro, who spoke with all the authority that these things could impart? Nevertheless so it was, that old Paolo Vanni, though his sixty odd years sate as lightly on him as sixty years could well sit, though his six feet of height was still a good six feet, undiminished by droop or stoop; and though he could not be said to have been what is usually phrased “unhappy in his family,” was a discontented and querulous old man.

There were, however, other causes besides the presence of that importunate voice which I have conjectured might have annoyed him, causes connected with the Bella Luce family politics, which no doubt contributed to this result.

With Assunta Vanni, his old wife, he certainly had no cause to be discontented. Assunta, the sister of a farmer holding a much poorer farm than that of Bella Luce, higher up and further back among the hills, had been a beauty, very tall like her husband, who had also been a remarkably handsome man. This, however, is of less account in a country where beauty, especially of figure and person, is the rule rather than the exception, than it might be considered elsewhere. Santa had been a good wife, an excellent helpmeet, a thrifty housewife, and had borne her husband two children, both boys. What could a wife do more to merit the admiration of a Romagnole farmer husband? Moreover, Sunta had the highest possible reverence for her lord and master, and looked on his will as law beyond appeal. If ever they had any difference of opinion, it was that whereas Paolo always wished to retain the savings of the year in the shape of hard cash—scudi sonanti,[1] as the expressive popular Italian phrase has it,—Sunta would fain have hoarded them in the shape of additions to her already uselessly abundant store of house-linen. The difference had years ago been arranged on the understanding that all that could be made or saved by the assiduous labour of the females of the family in turning flax into yarn, should go to increase the store in Signora Vanni’s presses; always on the understanding—a point which had given rise to a slight contest, in which Paolo had been easily victorious,—that Sunta should herself pay for the weaving of her yarn in the neighbouring town out of the proceeds of it.

The labour of the females of the family, I have said; and have nevertheless mentioned that Sunta Vanni was the mother of two sons only. And doubtless the English reader pictures to himself Dame Vanni in the similitude of Dame Durden, who, as the rustic old stave says, “kept five serving maids.” But this would be an error. Italian farmers, with the exception of a few in a larger way of business than Paolo Vanni of Bella Luce, do not in that part of Italy use any labour on their farms save that of the members of their family. A large family is held to be a sign and means of thriving. But it must be a family in the strict sense of the word, connected by blood, and not merely by the tie between the employer and the employed. Whose, then, were the other fingers besides Dame Vanni’s own, which assisted in twirling these ceaseless Bella Luce spindles, and contributed to the accumulation of sheeting and table-cloths as little intended to be ever used as such, as the rarissimi of a bibliomaniac’s library to be read. Whose were those active fingers?

They belonged to Giulia Vanni; and were among the very few things that Giulia Vanni could call her own. Giulia was the orphan child of a distant cousin of Paolo, who was nevertheless his nearest relative. Paolo was, I think, hardly the man at any period of his life, to charge himself willingly with the support and care of other people’s children. But in the first place it must be understood that public opinion, and even the exigencies of the law, are much more stringent upon such points in Italy, than they are with us. A nephew, who is capable of doing so, may be compelled by law to support his uncle by the father’s side—(not so his mother’s brother)—and public opinion would extend the claims of kinship very much further. To a mediæval Italian, it was quite a matter of course that a brother, a son, a father, or even a cousin, should suffer death for his relative’s political or other crime; and this strong solidarity of all the members of one house has left deep traces in the manners and sentiments of the people to the present day. Paolo Vanni may have therefore felt, that he could not without risking a degree of opprobrium that he was not prepared to face, refuse to take this little orphan cousin, far away cousin though she was, to his home.

But in the next place there are strong grounds for thinking that Giulio Vanni, the father of little Giulia, though a poor man, was not altogether a destitute one. He must, people thought, have left some little property behind him. But Paolo Vanni, who was with him during his last illness, and at the time of his death, and who naturally had the management of whatever small matters there were to manage, showed that when all was paid, there was nothing left; that Giulia was wholly unprovided for; that there was nothing for it but for him to show his charity by supporting and bringing her up. I believe that if all the yarn those rosy taper fingers had twiddled off that eternal distaff, had been fairly sold in Ancona, the proceeds would have paid the cost of Giulia’s keep. I have a strong idea, too—to speak out plainly, and shame that old thief against whose machinations Paolo Vanni was always paying insurance money,—that if that troublesome voice, which has been mentioned as bothering the wealthy farmer, could have been overheard, one might have learnt some curious particulars about the executorship accounts of Giulio Vanni. Don Evandro, at all events, must have known all about it . . . sub sigillo confessionis . . . . for Paolo was a very religious man.

All these matters, however, were bygones, and altogether beside the present purpose. Whether Giulio Vanni had ever been entitled to any modicum of this world’s goods or not, she clearly possessed none now,—at the time, that is, to which the singular events to be related in the following pages, refer,—some year or so before the present time of writing. It will be more to the purpose to tell the reader what Giulia at that time had.

She had eighteen years; and all the knowledge, experience, wisdom, health, and talents that could be gathered in that space of time on the slope of an Apennine valley;—and not altogether such a bad dower either, as some of the more tocher’d lasses of the cities either on the northern or the southern side of the Alps may perhaps be disposed to imagine. Imprimis, there was a figure five feet seven inches in height; lithe, springy, light, agile as that of a mountain goat; a step like a fawn’s, and a carriage of the pretty small head to match; a fair broad brow, not very lofty, but giving unmistakeable promise of energy of character and good practical working intelligence; above it a wonderful profusion of raven black hair, not very fine, but glossy as the raven’s wing, and falling on either side from the parting at the top of the head in natural ripples, on which the sunbeams played in a thousand hide-and-seek effects of light and shade; well-opened large black eyes, frank and courageous, with a whole legion of wicked laughing imps dancing and flashing about like fire-flies in the depths of them; a little delicately formed nez retroussé, which very plainly said “beware” to such as had the gift of interpreting nature’s code of signals; a large but exquisitely formed mouth, the favourite trysting place of smiles and innocent waggeries, the home of irresistible sweetness,—a mouth that bade him, or even her, who looked on it pay no heed to the warning conveyed by neighbour nose, but on the contrary, place boundless trust and confidence in the proprietress of it,—a mouth whose signals every human thing with eyes in its head could read, whereas only cynically philosophic physiognomists, who had burned their fingers, or at least their hearts, by former investigations of similar phenomena, could understand what that queer little nose said. It cannot perhaps be fairly asserted that all these good things were wholly the gift of old Apennine; but the splendid colouring,—a study for Giorgione!—the rich, clear brown cheek, with a hue of the sun’s own painting, like that which he puts, when he most delicately touches it, on an October peach!—that was Apennine’s own present to his daughter! For the rest, the mountain women said that Giulia Vanni was too slight to be good for anything—a mere wisp! The mountain men said that she was as beautifully made as any lady of the cities. The town women said that her waist was thick and clumsy. The town men, when they saw her, thought slender waists a mistake. Phidias would have said that she was the incarnation of his beau ideal.

In short, no lovelier nut-brown maid ever stepped a hillside than Giulia Vanni, as she was at eighteen years of age! That warning nose might hang out what signals it pleased, and that host of laughing devils in her eyes might mockingly bid you take care, every time your glance met hers;—it was all in vain! The male creature under thirty that looked on Giulia Vanni fell in love with her! And how well she knew her power! And how she enjoyed her royalty! And what pleasant fun she found it to scatter her fire-darts around, herself scatheless and invulnerable the while, the cruel Diana that she was!

But if it was impossible to look on the brilliant, flashing, dangerous creature for an instant without receiving a wound from her eyes, what must have been the lot of poor Beppo Vanni, the eldest of Sunta’s two sons! Poor Beppo, who had to live in the same house with her, to grow up with her, to share his work with her, to play with her, and laugh with her, to have little household secrets with her, to be her slave and work for wages in smiles not unpunctually paid—what could become of him? What, but to worship the very ground she trod on, and look to the hope of winning her as the lode-star of his life!

Winning her, quotha!—a pretty winning, old Paolo and old Santa considered it! Winning a wife without so much as a pearl necklace to begin the world with! And he, Beppo Vanni, heir to the lease of Bella Luce and—nobody knew, not even dame Sunta—how many thousands of scudi besides. Not if they knew it! The sly puss might see what she could win for herself; but it would not be Beppo Vanni—no, nor even Carlo Vanni, his younger brother.

And thus it appears what else there was, besides those suspected small-voiced importunities which have been hinted at, to make old Paolo Vanni querulous and discontented. Besides, it was not only that his son and heir was bent on making a fool of himself by marrying a girl without a bajocco; but he would not make a match which his father was very anxious to secure for him. Don Evandro, like a true friend of the family, had proposed the thing in the first instance, and would doubtless have managed the whole affair with that tact and success which the Italian clergy are so remarkable for in such matters, if only Beppo would have been reasonable. But to his father’s intense annoyance, he would not; having been bewitched and rendered wholly unreasonable by the “laughing devils” in Giulia’s eyes. Don Evandro had tried to exorcise them once, summoning Giulia to an interview in the sacristy for that purpose. But it was clear from the result that he did not succeed; and he never tried a second time!

To Beppo himself it was really a question—could he win her? And a very dubious question too. It was not that he was not perfectly well aware of the advantages of his social position. He knew all that was due to the presumed future tenant of Bella Luce. He knew that his father was the richest man in the parish of Santa Lucia, and in the neighbouring parishes around it (putting the owners of the soil who lived in the cities, and of whom the cultivators of the soil saw little, out of the question; as of course they were out of the question); he knew that he was presumably his father’s heir; and he was quite as well aware as any Romagnole peasant, of the value of money and the social position it commands—which is equivalent to saying, he was as well aware as anybody in the world. But for all that, it was an anxious question with him—could he hope to win her? He knew that she had absolutely nothing; that she was maintained by his father’s charity; and for all that it was with him a very anxious question, whether he could win Giulia Vanni for his wife or no.

And Giulia herself? What was her view of the matter? Her public conduct in the little world of Bella Luce, and her private feeling? Well, the last perhaps is hardly a fair question. Perhaps Giulia would herself scarcely have been able to answer it consistently and entirely, even if her own heart were the asker. I suspect that her own heart never had categorically asked of her that question up to the time in question. Of course the writer has a means of forming some notion as to the real state of her feelings at that period—a clearer one perhaps than she could have formed herself—because he has the knowledge of her subsequent conduct to guide him to an appreciation of them. And it will probably be best to let the reader arrive at a knowledge of the secrets of her inmost heart in the same manner. As to her visible behaviour in the little Bella Luce world, little, it must be admitted, can be said in defence of it, beyond what Beppo always said, appearing to consider that it was an abundantly ample answer to all possible fault-finding.

“But she is so beautiful!” he would say; “she is so beautiful!”

So she was! But that did not justify her in wearing an honest man’s heart to fiddle-strings! spoiling his rest, destroying his appetite for supper, and keeping him awake o’ nights. And really if it had been the settled purpose of her life to do all these cruel things, she could not have set about it in a more workwoman-like manner. Did you ever observe a kitten rub its nose and cheek against a person’s hand, purring in the most insinuatingly flattering manner all the while, and then start away with a sudden bound, rush under a neighbouring chair, and then put up its little back and spit? Well, this was exactly the type of Giulia’s manner to Beppo! There was never anything of tenderness,—no symptom of love,—such love as Beppo wanted,—to be detected in her manner, in her looks, in the tone of her voice. But she would be so good, so kind, so frankly affectionate, that he would be tempted either by eye or voice to some manifestation of the passion that was consuming him. No sooner had he done so than she was off like a startled fawn, and either avoided him, or was cross to him for the rest of the day.

There was one sign only that might perhaps have led an intelligent looker-on at the game to hope that there might be something better in store for poor Beppo, though it altogether failed to assure or comfort him. This was the way in which Giulia would behave when others attacked, or slighted, or belittled Beppo; especially when his brother, who was about two years his junior, and just Giulia’s own age, did so, as was not unfrequently the case. Then, indeed, it was clear enough that Beppo had a friend, if nothing else, in his beautiful cousin! And surely it ought to have led him to see a thing or two! Only Beppo was not the man to see anything that anybody tried to hide from him. Besides, it was more generally in his absence that Giulia would make a sortie, like a tigress from a jungle in defence of her young, in Beppo’s behalf. And Carlo would get a scratch from the claw that he did not forget as soon as he ought to have done. And then old Paolo or dame Sunta would sneer, and say something disagreeable if they were present; and Giulia would be as cross and scratchy as possible to Beppo afterwards.

This younger brother Carlo was by no means a lad of whose allegiance most pretty girls would have been otherwise than proud. He was, though not so tall as his brother, who was slightly taller than his father—and he was over six feet in his stockings,—nevertheless, like most of the Romagnole peasantry, a very fine young man. He was of a lighter build altogether than his brother, somewhat darker in hair and eyes, and of a less jovially ruddy brown complexion. Beppo would have been deemed probably the handsomer specimen of manhood by a jury of girls—(delivering a secret verdict to a female judge)—taken from the fields and hill-sides. Carlo might perhaps have had the verdict from a similar jury chosen from a city population. Then he was cleverer than Beppo, or at least was held to be so by all the world in which they both lived, including Don Evandro, and both Beppo and Carlo themselves. Beppo considered Carlo as a quite unprecedented (at least in those parts) prodigy of genius. And Carlo, if not quite persuaded of the justice of that opinion, was thoroughly convinced that his brother was a brainless lout, while he himself was a very clever fellow.

He was the cleverer of the two, certainly. His intelligence was the readier, and nimbler; he was the better scholar, wrote a better hand, and was infinitely quicker at accounts, or calculations. But Beppo, though slow, was no fool; and there are many subjects—and those not amongst the least important that human hearts and heads are called upon to decide for themselves—respecting which—give him time to bring his mind to bear upon the point—I would far rather have bound myself to be ruled by Beppo’s than by Carlo’s judgment. And then one was always sure to know what Beppo really did think and feel. And I am not so clear of that in the case of master Carlo.

Perhaps old Paolo and Sunta might have made up their minds to allow young Carlo and Giulia to come together, if only she would have kept her hands off the sacred person of Beppo their first-born. It is too bad to use such language! As if Giulia showed any sign of wanting to . . . . . I think I can see how her eye would flash, and all those laughing devils in it we talked of, would turn to fire-darting furies, if the phrase were used in her presence. But that was the thought of the old couple upon the subject. And though I don’t think either of them would have dared to say as much in crude words in Giulia’s hearing, I have little doubt that she had to brook many a sneer and insinuation of the sort from them,—to be rebutted by cruel treatment from her towards poor Beppo, and, I strongly suspect, to be followed by midnight hours of weeping, and bursts of passionate agony, of which laughing, flashing, proud, scornful Giulia’s pillow was the only witness.

I think, as has been said, that Giulia might have had Carlo Vanni, if she would. But though there were symptoms enough that he would have been well pleased to settle all the family disagreements in that manner, it was very clear that Giulia would have nothing to say to any such arrangement.

Clever, sharp Carlo, with his handsome dark eye, his locks as black as her own, his fine long Grecian nose, and light svelte figure, did not suit her taste. Was it really true that she liked heavy, good-natured Beppo, with his honest dark-blue eyes, and curly dark-brown hair, and Herculean shoulders, at all better? Old Paolo would have sneered bitterly in reply, that Giulia knew which side of the bread the butter was, none better! Young Beppo would have almost as bitterly answered, that she cared as much about him as she did about the oxen in the stable!

In fact, he often did say so; for it was a favourite comparison of himself in poor Beppo’s mouth.

“I don’t remember ever to have seen cousin Giulia steal away into the fields to help the oxen at their work, the way she went off to’ther night to help you, Beppo, with shucking that lot of gran-turco[2] in the loft,” said Carlo once, viciously, for his father and mother were present.

“Because the gran-turco would never have been finished that night, if I hadn’t given a hand; for Beppo was so sleepy he could not hold his stupid head up!” replied Giulia, colouring up and tossing her head.

“And wouldn’t she do as much or more for you, or for Babbo,[3] or for old Cecco, the blind beggarman, or for the oxen either, for that matter? Would not she do anything on earth she could for any living creature?” demanded Beppo, with immense energy. “But for me more than another,” he added, with bitterness, “no! You know better than that, Carlo!”

But what would most have tended to make all straight and comfortable at Bella Luce, would have been that Beppo should have made up his mind to the match which his father and his parish priest had picked out for him. And there was really very little reason why he should not do so;—very little reason, that is to say, except those mischief-making eyes of cousin Giulia;—and the natural and notorious perversity of Dan Cupid, who really can only be led or driven by parents and guardians on the same principle on which Paddy is said to have succeeded in driving his pig from Cork to Dublin,—“by making the cratur think it’s from Dublin to Cork, that I’m wanting him to go!”

If cousin Giulia had been out of the question, really Beppo might have done worse than make up to Lisa Bartoldi, the rich Fano attorney’s only daughter; as his father, and Don Evandro, and Lisa’s father, old Sandro Bartoldi, wished him to do.

“Ay, if cousin Giulia were out of the question! as she would have been if Paolo Vanni had never taken her to live at Bella Luce.”

“See what comes of doing a charitable action, and sacrificing one’s own interest to one’s goodness of heart! It’s always the way!” said old Paolo Vanni one day, in talking the grievance over with his guide, philosopher, and friend, Don Evandro.

The priest did not answer him save by a steady and meaning look right into the old man’s eyes; the full translation and meaning of which I take to have been, that that able divine and confessor wished to intimate that his view of the circumstances in question placed that bringing home of the orphan cousin on the debtor, and not at all on the creditor, side of that double-entry account between his parishioner and the Recording Angel, which it was his duty to keep properly posted up.

And, after all, it was not so clear that all would have gone upon wheels—as the Italian phrase has it—even if cousin Giulia had never come to Bella Luce. Beppo might possibly have looked kindly on Lisa. But the attorney’s daughter was not a bit more disposed to accept Beppo Vanni for a husband than he was to take her to wife. And that, at all events, was not cousin Giulia’s fault! And though old Sandro Bartoldi was very desirous that his daughter should marry all Paolo Vanni’s hoarded scudi, he was far too doting a father to his motherless girl to have attempted compulsion.

And really Lisa Bartoldi was a very nice girl,—pretty, delicate-featured, golden-haired, blue-eyed, very fragile-looking, and slender. Worse wrong could not have been done her than to place her side by side with Giulia Vanni. It was to make her appear a poor, washed-out, faded, half-alive, wisp of a creature by contrast with that richly-developed and magnificent organisation! Her hair was really golden when the sun lent a little real golden light to tinge it. Her complexion was really charmingly delicate, with the faintest possible tint of the blush-rose in the cheek. But by the side of Giulia she seemed to fade into a general whity-brown atony of colour, like wood-ashes that still glow feebly in the gloom but fade into lightless grey when the sun’s beam touches them. “Che vuole![4] as the gossips said. Poor Lisa had been born and had grown up in a very dull house, in a very dull street, in the very dull town of Fano, while Giulia had been drinking from morning to night the free, fresh air of the breezy Apennine. What chance had Lisa in sleepy, stuffy Fano, from which even the sea-breeze is shut out by its walls, and by a range of sand-hills still higher than they, with a creep to mass in a neighbouring church for her whole dissipation, and a crawl on the passeggiata[5] under the lime-trees on festa days for her sole exercise?

Lisa knew, however, a great many things that Giulia did not;—necessarily so. Not that, to the best of my judgment, she was in any degree the cleverer girl, or had the more powerful intellect of the two. In the first place, I have a great notion of the truth of the mens sana in corpore sano; and, in the next place, there was always a sort of feeble, sickly sentimentalism—a great deal more common on the northern than on the southern side of the Alps—about Lisa, which did not give me the idea of a strongly-constituted mind. But, of course, she was by far the more cultivated, had far more pretension to lady-like manners—(though it must be understood that there is infinitely less difference in this respect between one woman and another in Italy than among ourselves, the manners of the lower classes being better, and those of the upper strata of society worse, or at least less refined, less educated, and less conventional, than those of the corresponding classes at home)—and to refinement. Though, as to lady-like feeling, my own impression is, that Giulia’s sentiments, if one could have got at her heart and seen them there in situ, instead of coming at them through the medium of her own exposition of them, would be found to be such as might have done honour to any crusader-descended duchess, and set a very useful example to not a few such.

And Lisa Bartoldi was a good girl in her way, too. But dull, herculean Beppo, with the frank, deep blue, steadfast eyes, and the honest, sunburnt, open face, would have nothing to say to her, preferring his nature-created duchess. Not that it ever had entered into his head to compare the two. Compare our Giulia to Lisa Bartoldi! or, indeed, to any other of mortal mould!!

No; he could have nothing to say to Lisa—nothing to say to her, that is, in the way of love, for they were very good friends, perfectly understood one another, and sympathised upon the subject, and would speak very freely upon it when they met, as was often the case, on occasion of the young farmer of Bella Luce coming into Fano on market-days.

And indeed they found much to say to each other upon such occasions. For Lisa had a secret of her own—a secret the joint property of herself and a certain captain of Bersaglieri,[6] one Giacopo Brilli—which she had no objection to trust to great, honest Beppo, in return for his bewailments of his hapless passion. The exchange was hardly a fair one; for Lisa was happy in her love, and, with a little perseverance, had not much to fear from the rigour of a doting father, who, however, for the present, declared that it was altogether impossible to bestow his heiress daughter on a man who proposed “no consideration, positively none!” in return. It would be a one-sided and altogether unformal contract. Besides, it was no secret that simple Beppo gave in return for Lisa’s confidences. All the world knew his pains! He would bellow out his soft complainings to any one who would listen to him, pouring out all his great, big, earnest, simple, deeply-smitten heart.

Carlo said once that Beppo reminded him, when the elegiac fit was on him, of one of his own oxen, breathing with outstretched head its melancholy bellowings to the breeze as it went a-field. And if Giulia’s eyes could have wielded daggers as well as look them, when he so spoke, methinks Carlo would never have jibed at his brother or any one else any more.

Farmer Paolo Vanni, and his counsellor Don Evandro, supposing it finally admitted that it was beyond their united power to bring Beppo and Lisa together, would have been glad to secure the Fano attorney’s crowns on behalf of his younger brother, Carlo. And Carlo, despite a certain degree of inclination to make love to his beautiful cousin, half due to real admiration of her beauty, and half to a feeling that it would be very pleasant to carry her off from under his brother’s nose, would have had no difficulty in acceding to such an arrangement. But neither in this way did it seem likely, for the reasons that the reader is in possession of, that Sandro Bartoldi’s money could be made available for increasing the greatness of the Bella Luce family.

And it is now intelligible, also, why old Paolo Vanni, despite all his worldly prosperity, was not altogether a happy man, and why the Bella Luce household was not an abode of that unbroken felicity, contentment, and peace of mind, which are usually supposed to be the characteristics of dwellings placed in romantic situations, and ten miles from the nearest post-office.

  1. Sounding crowns.
  2. The common country name for maize in Italy—“Turkish grain.”
  3. Daddy, the common phrase with Italians of all classes.
  4. “What would you have? or, “What can you expect?”
  5. Parade, town-walk.
  6. The Rifle Corps.