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Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.




THE FOOL ERRANT

BEING THE MEMOIRS OF

FRANCIS-ANTONY STRELLEY, ESQ.

CITIZEN OF LUCCA

EDITED BY
MAURICE HEWLETT

AUTHOR OF "THE QUEEN'S QUAIR," "NEW CANTERBURY
TALES," "RICHARD YEA-AND-NAY," "LITTLE
NOVELS OF ITALY," ETC., ETC.


Published July, 1905.


To

J. M. BARRIE

AFFECTIONATELY




CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

I. MY EXORDIUM: A JUSTIFICATORY PIECE
II. AURELIA AND THE DOCTOR
III. MY DANGEROUS PROGRESS
IV. FATAL AVOWAL
V. DISASTER
VI. I COMMENCE PILGRIM
VII. I AM MISCONCEIVED AT THE HOSPITAL
VIII. THE PEDLAR OF CRUCIFIXES
IX. I AM HUMILIATED, LIFTED UP, AND LEFT CURIOUS
X. I FALL IN AGAIN WITH FRA PALAMONE
XI. I EXERCISE COMMON SENSE, IMAGINATION AND CHARITY
XII. I SEEK - AND FIND
XIII. HAVING EMPTIED MY POCKET, I OFFER MY HAND, BUT RESERVE MY HEART
XIV. MY HAPPY DAYS; THEIR UNHAPPY END
XV. I AM IN BONDAGE
XVI. VIRGINIA AND I FALL OUT, BUT ARE RECONCILED
XVII. ERCOLE AT THE FAIR
XVIII. FRA PALAMONE BREAKS THE LAW, AND I MY CHAIN
XIX. I AM AGAIN MISCONCEIVED
XX. SURPRISING CHANGE IN MY FORTUNES
XXI. MY DIVERSIONS: COUNT GIRALDI
XXII. I WORK FOR AURELIA, AND HEAR OF HER
XXIII. AURELIA FORGIVES
XXIV. VIRGINIA VEXES
XXV. I PREPARE FOR BLISS
XXVI. I DISAPPOINT MY FRIENDS
XXVII. I SLAY A MAN
XXVIII. VIRGINIA ON HER METTLE
XXIX. I TAKE SANCTUARY
XXX. I MARRY AND GO TO LUCCA
XXXI. MY ADVENTURES AT THE INN
XXXII. WE LIVE HAPPILY IN LUCCA
XXXIII. TREACHERY WORKS AGAINST US
XXXIV. I FALL IN WITH THE PLAYERS
XXXV. TEMPTED IN SIENA, BELVISO SAVES ME
XXXVI. MY UNREHEARSED EFFECT AND ITS MIDNIGHT SEQUEL
XXXVII. I COMMIT A DOUBLE MURDER
XXXVIII. AN UNEXPECTED MESSENGER LIFTS ME UP
XXXIX. VIRGINIA DECLINES THE HEIGHTS
XL. I GET RID OF MY ENEMY AND PART FROM MY FRIEND
XLI. I RETURN TO FLORENCE AND THE WORLD OF FASHION
XLII. I STAND AT A CROSS-ROAD
XLIII. AGITATIONS AT THE VILLA SAN GIORGIO
XLIV. I CONFRONT MY ENEMIES
XLV. THE MEETING
XLVI. THE DISCOVERY
XLVII. THE FINAL PROOF
XLVIII. THE LAST




INTRODUCTION


The top-heavy, four-horsed, yellow old coach from Vicenza, which arrived
at Padua every night of the year, brought with it in particular on the
night of October 13, 1721, a tall, personable young man, an Englishman,
in a dark blue cloak, who swang briskly down from the coupe and asked in
stilted Italian for "La sapienza del Signer Dottor' Lanfranchi." From
out of a cloud of steam - for the weather was wet and the speaker
violently hot - a husky voice replied, "Eccomi - eccomi, a servirla." The
young man took off his hat and bowed.

"Have I the honour to salute so much learning?" he asked courteously.
"Let me present myself to my preceptor as Mr. Francis Strelley of
Upcote."

"His servant," said the voice from the cloud, "and servant of his
illustrious father. Don Francis, be accommodated; let your mind be at
ease. Your baggage? These fellows are here for it. Your valise? I carry
it. Your hand? I take it. Follow me."

These words were accompanied by action of the most swift and singular
kind. Mr. Strelley saw two porters scramble after his portmanteaux, had
his valise reft from his hand, and that hand firmly grasped before he
could frame his reply. The vehemence of this large perspiring sage
caused the struggle between pride and civility to be short; such faint
protests as he had at command passed unheeded in the bustle and could
not be seen in the dark.

Vehement, indeed, in all that he did was Dr. Porfirio Lanfranchi,
Professor of Civil Law: it was astonishing that a bulk so large and
loosely packed could be propelled by the human will at so headlong a
speed. Yet, spurred by that impetus alone, he pounded and splashed
through the puddled, half-lit street of Padua at such a rate that Mr.
Strelley, though longer in the leg, fully of his height, and one quarter
his weight, found himself trotting beside his conductor like any
schoolboy. The position was humiliating, but it did not seem possible to
escape it. The doctor took everything for granted; and besides, he so
groaned and grunted at his labours, his goaded flesh protested so
loudly, the pitfalls were so many, and the pace so severe, that nothing
in the world seemed of moment beyond preserving foothold. Along the
winding way - between the half-discerned arcades, palace gateways, black
entries, church portals - down the very middle of the street flew master
and pupil without word spoken. They reached the Pra, skirted its right-
hand boundary for some hundreds of yards, and came to the door of a
tall, narrow, white house. Upon this door the doctor kicked furiously
until it was opened; then, with a malediction upon the oaf who snored
behind it, up he blundered, three stairs at a time, Strelley after him
whether or no; and stayed not in his rush towards the stars until he had
reached the fourth-floor landing, where again he kicked at a door; and
then, releasing his victim's hand, took off hat and wig together and
mopped his dripping pate, as he murmured, "Chaste Madonna, what a
ramble! What a stroll for the evening, powerful Mother of us all!" Such
a stroll had never yet been taken by Mr. Francis Strelley of Upcote in
his one-and-twenty years' experience of legs; nor did he ever forget
this manner of being haled into Italy, nor lose his feeling of extremely
helpless youth in the presence of the doctor, his tutor and guardian.
But to suppose the business done by calculation of that remarkable man
is to misapprehend him altogether. Dr. Lanfranchi's head worked, as his
body did, by flashes. He calculated nothing, but hit at everything; hit
or miss, it might be - but "Let's to it and have done" was his battle-
cry.

The lamp over the door of his apartment revealed him for the disorderly
genius he was - a huge, blotch-faced, tumble-bellied man, bullet-headed,
bull-necked, and with flashing eyes. Inordinate alike in appetite, mind
and action, he was always suffering for his furies, and always making a
fine recovery. Just now he was at the last gasp for a breath, or so you
would have said to look at him. But not so; his exertions were really
his stimulant. Presently he would eat and drink consumedly, drench
himself with snuff, and then spend half the night with his books,
preparing for to-morrow's lecture. Of this sort was Dr. Porfirio
Lanfranchi, who had more authority over the wild students of Padua than
the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Senate put together.

The same lamp played upon the comely and ingenuous face, upon the
striking presence of Mr. Strelley, and showed him a good-looking, good-
tempered, sanguine young man of an appearance something less than his
age. He was tall and supple, wore his own fair hair tied with a ribbon,
was blue-eyed and bright-lipped, and had a notable chin - firm, square at
the jaw, and coming sharply to a point. He looked you straight in the
face - such was his habit - but by no means arrogantly or with defiance;
seriously rather, gravely and courteously, as if to ask, "Do I take your
precise meaning to be - ?" Such a look was too earnest for mere good
manners; he was serious; there was no laughter in him, though he was not
of a melancholy sort. He pondered the world and its vagaries and
examined them, as they presented themselves in each case, UPON THE
MERITS. This, which was, I think, his strongest characteristic, should
show that he lacked the humorous sense; and he did. He had no time to
laugh; wondering engaged him. The life of the world on its round showed
him miracles daily; he looked for them very often, but more frequently
they thrust themselves upon him. Sunrise now - what an extraordinary
thing! He never ceased to be amazed at that. The economy of the moon,
too, so exquisitely adapted to the needs of mankind! Nations, tongues
(hardly to be explained by the sublime folly of a Babel), the reverence
paid to elders, to women; the sense of law and justice in our kind: in
the leafy shades of Upcote in Oxfordshire, he had pondered these things
during his lonely years of youth and adolescence - had pondered, and in
some cases already decided them UPON THE MERITS. This was remarkably so
in the matter of Betty Coy, as he will tell you for himself before long.
Meantime, lest I keep Dr. Lanfranchi too long upon the threshold of his
own house, all I shall add to my picture of his pupil now is that he was
the eldest son and third child of Squire Antony Strelley of Upcote, a
Catholic, non-juring, recusant, stout old gentleman of Oxfordshire, and
of Dame Mary, born Arundell, his wife; and that he was come to study the
moral and civil law at this famous University of Padua, like many an
Englishman of his condition before him. He was twenty-one years of age,
had as much money as was good for him and much more poetry than enough
in his valise - to say nothing of the germ of those notes from which he
afterwards (long afterwards) compiled the ensuing memoirs.

Dr. Lanfranchi had not said "Accidente!" more than twice, nor kicked his
door more than half a dozen times, before it was opened by a young and
pretty lady, who held a lamp above her head. She was, apparently, a very
young and very pretty, rather little, lady, and was dressed with some
care - but not more than her person deserved - in black and white. Her
dark hair, which was high upon her head, was crowned with a large
tortoiseshell comb. She held the lamp, as I say, above her as she
curtseyed, smiling, in the way. "Be very welcome, sir," she said, "and
be pleased to enter our house." It was charming to see how deftly she
dipped without spilling the lamp-oil, charming to see her little white
teeth as she smiled, her lustrous eyes shining in the light like large
stars. It was charming to see her there at all, for she was charming
altogether - in figure, in face and poise, in expression, which was that
of a graceful child playing housewife; lastly, in the benevolence,
curiosity and discretion which sat enthroned upon her smooth brow, like
a bench of Lords Justices, or of Bishops, if you prefer it. This was
none other than Dr. Porfirio's wife, as he then and there declared by
grunts. "Mia moglie - a servirla," he was understood to say; and pushed
his way into his house without ceremony, while Mr. Strelley, with much,
kissed the hand of his hostess. The salute, received with composure, was
rendered with a blush; for this, to be truthful, was the very first hand
ever saluted by the young gentleman. The fact says much for his
inexperience and right instinct at once.

Quite at her ease, as if she were the mistress of a well-kissed hand,
was Signora Aurelia Lanfranchi, for that was her name, and had been so
for rather more than two years - quite at her ease and most anxious to
put Strelley there. Relieving him of his cloak and hat, of his sword,
pistols and other travelling gear, in spite of all protestations on his
part, she talked freely and on end about anything and nothing in a soft
voice which rose and died down like a summer wind, and betrayed in its
muffled tones - as if it came to him through silk - that she was not of
the north, but of some mellower, more sun-ripened land. She was in fact
of Siena, a Gualandi by birth, and extremely proud of it. Strelley was
so informed before he had been four-and-twenty hours in her company. But
now, having spoiled him of his defences, she invited him into the
salone, wooed him thither, indeed, with that sidelong head and sort of
sleek smile with which you coax a cat to come to your knee. Mr. Francis
would have followed her singing to the bonfire on such terms.

At the table, which was liberal, was the learned doctor seated already,
napkin to chin. Mr. Strelley was shown his place, and expected to take
it while the fair housewife waited upon the two; and when he seemed
timid, she raised a wail of pretty protest and dragged him by the arm
towards the chair. It was absurd, it was preposterous, he was robbing
her of her pride. She had eaten long ago - besides, it was the woman's
place, and Nonna was in the kitchen, ashamed to appear in the state she
was in. Signor Francesco must please her in this - she would be vexed -
and surely he would not vex his hostess. To this wilful chant the doctor
contributed his burden of "Che! che! S'accommodi!" and rapped with his
knife-handle upon the table. Old Nonna, toothless, bearded and scared,
popped her head beyond the kitchen door; to be short, insistence went to
a point where good manners could not follow. Mr. Francis sat himself
down, and Donna Aurelia, clapping her little hands, cried aloud that
victory was hers. "Quick, quick, Nonna, these signori are at table!" She
stormed into the kitchen, and speedily returned with a steaming and
savoury dish. She dispensed the messes, she poured the wine, she hovered
here and there - salt? pepper? cheese? yet a little bread? Madonna
purissima, she had forgotten the mustard! No! it was here - it was here!
There must have been more rejoicings over the recovery of the mustard
than were made for the victory of Lepanto. Betweenwhiles she talked
gaily or pathetically or intimately of things of which the guest had
known nothing, but immediately felt that he now knew all; the moral
lapses of this professor or that, the unparalleled slight offered to
Signora Pappagallo by Donna Susanna Tron, the storm of rain and thunder
on Tuesday week - no, it must have been Monday week; a scandal in the
Senate, a duel in the Pra, how the Avvocato Minghini was picked up dead
in Pedrocchi's - a meat-fly in his chocolate! Sparkling eyes, a delicate
flush, quick breath, a shape at once pliant and audacious, flashing
hands with which half her spells were woven - all these, and that
wailing, dragging, comico-tragic voice, that fatal appeal of the child,
trained by the wisdom of the wife, completed the rout of our youth.
Before supper was over he was her loyal slave.

She insisted upon showing him his quarters. They were not, it seemed,
upon this floor, nor the next below - no, but on the next below that.
Signor Francesco must follow her as, lamp in hand, she went downstairs,
her high heels clattering like Spanish castanets. She opened his door
with a key which she then handed over to him: she showed him his
bedroom, his saloon. "Your citadel, Don Francis," she said, "your refuge
from my heedless tongue. Your chocolate shall be brought to you here,
but we hope you will give yourself the trouble to dine with us.
Generally my husband sups too late for your convenience. He is always at
the cafe till nine o'clock. He sits there with his friends and hears the
news, which he knows beforehand as well as they do. And when they have
done, he tells it all over again to them. This is the way with men; and
I sit at home and make my clothes. This also is the way with women, it
seems. There is no other." She stayed a few more minutes, chattering,
laughing and blushing; then with a sudden access of shyness wished him
"felicissima notte," and held him out her hand. Mr. Francis stooped over
it, and saluted it once more with profound respect.

He was long in going to bed. He wrote furiously in his diary after a
space of restless contemplation, when he roamed across and across the
room. But now I must leave his raptures and himself to his own pen,
having got him inmate of a household where by ordinary he might have
lived a blameless three years. If, however, he had done that, I don't
suppose the singular memoirs which follow would ever have been written.




CHAPTER I

MY EXORDIUM: A JUSTIFICATORY PIECE


If we soberly reflect upon the part which the trappings and mantlings of
men have played in their affairs, we shall not hesitate, I believe, to
put into that category many things which have hitherto been considered
far less occasional. What is honour but a garment? What money but a
walking-stick? What are fine manners but a wig? If I professed, instead
of abhorring, the Cynic school of philosophy, I might go on to ask what
were love but an ointment, or religion but a tinted glass. I can thank
my Redeemer, as I sit here in my green haven, with the stormy sea of my
troubles afar off, beating in vain against the walls of contentment,
that through all my vicissitudes I was never tempted to stray into such
blasphemous imaginations. Fool as I have been, and fool as I have
declared myself upon the forefront of this very book, I have never said
in my heart, THERE IS NO GOD; but much and loudly have maintained the
affirmative. And although I have been sadly, wickedly, detestably errant
from His way, there is one divine precept which I have never failed to
keep, and that is, LOVE ONE ANOTHER. All other affections, additions,
accidents, accessories of men, however, from the lowest, which is Money,
to the highest, which is Polite Education, I have been able to discard
without concern or loss of self-respect. This fact alone should furnish
good reason for my Memoirs, and commend them to the philosopher, the
poet, the divine, and the man of feeling. For true it is that I have
been bare to the shirt and yet proved my manhood, beaten like a thief
and yet maintained myself honest, scorned by men and women and yet been
ready to serve my fellows, held atheist by the godly and yet clung to my
Saviour's cross. In situations calculated to excite the contemptuous
ridicule of the meanest upon earth I have been satisfied that I was
neither contemptible nor reasonably ridiculous, and that while I might
herd with ruffians, and find in their society my most comfortable
conversation, I was the richer, partly for that I had lost in choosing
to consort with them, and partly for what I had gained. As having
nothing, yet possessing all things; as poor, yet making many rich - the
boast of St. Paul, the hope of St. Francis of Assisi! in those pithy
antitheses is the summa of my experience.

Eldest son, but third child, of my parents, I was born upon the 4th of
October, in the year 1700; and for that reason and another (to which I
shall shortly allude) was named Francis, after the great Champion of our
faith commemorated upon my birthday. The other reason was that, oddly
enough, my mother, before my birth, had dreamed of him so persistently
and with particulars so unvaried that she gave my father no option but
to change the settled habits of our family and bestow upon me the name,
which he despised, of a patriarch whom he underrated. Her dream,
repeated, she told me, with exact fidelity and at regularly recurring
periods, was that she could see St. Francis standing on a wide sea-shore
between sand-dunes and the flood of waters - standing alone there with an
apple in his hand, which he held lightly, as if weighing it. By and by,
said my mother, she saw three women come slowly over the sandhills from
different points, one from the south, one from the north, and one from
the west; but they converged as they drew near to St. Francis, joined
hands, and came directly to him. The midmost of the three was like a
young queen; she on the side nearest the sea was bold and meagre; the
third was lovely, but disfigured by a scar. When they were come before
St. Francis, after reverences, they knelt down on his right hand and his
left, and the queenly woman in front of him. To her, courteously, he
first offered the apple, but she laughingly refused it. She of the scar,
when it was held before her, covered her face with her hands and shrank
away; but the hardy woman craned her head forward and bit into the apple
while it was yet in the saint's hand. Then the young queen would have
had it if she might, but was prevented by the biter, and the two
clamoured for it, silently, by gestures of the hands and eyes, but with
haste and passion. At this point, said my mother, her dream always
ended, and she never knew who had the apple. She fretted greatly because
of it, and was hardly recovered after I was born.

My father, who disliked all women except my mother, and, Catholic as he
was, had scant respect for the mendicant orders, hated this dream, hated
to be reminded of it, hated the name which he had been persuaded into
giving me, and, as a consequence, I believe, never loved me. For
unnumbered generations of our family we had been Antonys, Gerards,
Ralphs, Martins; the name of Francis was unknown to the tree; he never
ceased to inveigh against it, and foretold the time when it would stand
out like a parasite upon its topmost shoot. "Your Italian ecstatic," he
told my mother, "began life by running away from his father and only
came back for the purpose of robbing him. He taught more people to live
by singing hymns than ever were taught before, and preached the virtues
of poverty, by which he intended the comfort it was for the blessed poor
to be kept snugly idle by the accursed rich. It never occurred to him to
reflect that, if everybody had been of his opinion, everybody would have
starved, the world would have stood still, and neither St. Ferdinand of
Spain, nor St. Edward the Confessor, nor Don John of Austria could have
become famous. As for your women and apples, the conjunction is
detestable. Cain was the result of one woman's desire for an apple, and
the siege of Troy that of another's. I don't wish this boy to grow up
either murderer or pretty Paris."

The like of this speech, often repeated - indeed, never omitted when so I
happened to fall into some childish disgrace - may be imagined. It made
an outcast of me, an exile from my nursery days. I grew up lonely,
sullen, moody. I could not meet my father with any comfort to either of
us; and though I loved my mother, and she me, that cold shadow of his
prejudice seemed to be over my intercourse with her, to chill and check
those emotions which should glow naturally when a son stands in the
presence of his mother. To be brief, I was an unhappy, solitary lad,
with sisters much older and brothers much younger than himself; cut off,
too, by reason of religion, from the society of neighbours, from school
and college. Such companions as I could have were far below me in
station, and either so servile as to foster pride, or so insolent as to
inflame it. There was Father Danvers, it's true, that excellent Jesuit
and our chaplain; and there were books. I was by nature a strong,
healthy, active boy, but was driven by sheer solitariness to be
studious. If it had not turned out so, I know not what might have become
of me, at what untimely age I might have been driven to violence, crime,
God knows what. That there was danger of some such disaster Father
Danvers was well aware. My faults, as he did not fail to remind me week
by week, were obstinacy and pride of intellect; my weaknesses, lack of
proportion and what he was pleased to call perversity, by which I
suppose he meant a disposition to accept the consequences of my own
acts. I freely admit a personal trait which will be obvious as I
proceed. Trivial as it may seem, and does, at this time of writing, I
must record an instance of it, the last I was to exhibit in England.
Never vicious, I may sincerely say convinced, rather, that women are as
far above our spiritual as they are fatally within our material reach,
it was by my conduct to a woman that I fell into a way of life which
nobody could have anticipated. In my twentieth year, in a moment of
youthful ardour, I kissed Betty Coy, our dairymaid, over the cheese-
press, and was as immediately and as utterly confounded as she was. I
remember the moment, I remember her, a buxom, fresh-coloured young
woman, rosy red, her sleeves above her elbows, her "La, Mr. Francis,
what next?" - I remember all, even to my want of breath, suddenly cooled
passion, perplexity and flight. It is a moot point whether that last was
the act of a coward, but I can never allow it to be said that in what
followed I showed a want of courage. I devoted a day and night to
solitary meditation; no knight errant of old, watching his arms under
the moon, prayed more earnestly than I; and when I had fully made up my
mind to embrace what honour demanded of me, I sought out the girl, who
was again in the dairy, and in solemn form, upon my knees, offered her
my hand. Father Danvers, walking the terrace, was an accidental witness
of my declaration, and very properly told my father. Betty Coy,
unfortunate girl, was dismissed that evening; next day my father sent
for me. [Footnote: I need only say further of Betty that she, shortly
afterwards, married James Bunce, our second coachman at Upcote, and bore
him a numerous progeny, of whose progress and settlement in the world I
was able to assure the worthy parents.]



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