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It would be idle to rehearse the interview between an angry father and
an obdurate son. The more I said the angrier he got: the discrepancy
between us made a reasonable conclusion hopeless from the first. When he
cried, Did I mean to disgrace my name? and I replied, No, but on the
contrary I had been wishful to redeem it - "How, you fool," said he, "by
marrying a dairymaid?" "Sir," I answered, "by showing to the world that
when a gentleman salutes a virtuous female it is not his intention to
insult her." I was too old for the rod or I should have had it. As it
was, I received all the disgrace he could put me to - dismissed from his
presence, confined to my room, forbidden any society but that of Father
Danvers and my own thoughts. My infatuation, however, persisted, and
threatened to take the dangerous form of FRAUD. I could not for the life
of me see what else I could do to recover the girl's fair fame,
hopelessly compromised by me, than exhibit to the world at large the
only conceivable motive of my salute. I knew, immediately I had done it,
that I could not love Betty Coy, but I believed that I could prove the
tender husband.

Correspondence to this effect - all on my side - with her parents decided
mine to hasten my removal abroad. It had always been intended that I
should study in Padua, rather than in Paris or Salamanca, if for no
better reason than that that had been Father Danvers' University, and
that he knew many of the professors there - among others, Dr. Porfirio
Lanfranchi, who became my host and guardian, and had been class-mate and
room-mate of our chaplain's. These things matter very little: I was not
consulted in them, and had no objections, as I had no inclinations, for
any particular residence in the world. Before my twenty-first birthday -
I forget the exact date - the hour arrived when I received on my knees my
mother's tearful blessing, embraced my brothers and sisters, kissed my
father's hand, and departed for Oxford, where I caught the London mail;
and, after a short sojourn in the capital, left England for ever.

I conceive that few further prolegomena are necessary to the
understanding of the pages which follow. Before I touched the Italian
soil I was, in the eyes of our law, a grown man, sufficiently robust and
moderately well-read. I was able to converse adequately in French,
tolerably in Italian, had a fair acquaintance with the literatures of
those countries, some Latin, a poor stock of Greek. I believe that I
looked younger than my age, stronger than my forces, better than my
virtues warranted. Women have praised me for good looks, which never did
me any good that I know of; I may say without vanity that I had the
carriage and person of a gentleman. I was then, as I have ever been,
truly religious, though I have sometimes found myself at variance with
the professional exponents of it. In later years I became, I believe,
something of a mystic, apt to find the face of God under veils whose
quality did not always commend itself to persons of less curious
research. On the other hand, I do not pretend to have kept the Decalogue
of Moses in its integrity, but admit that I have varied it as my
occasions seemed to demand. I have slain my fellow-man more than once,
but never without deliberate intention so to do. If I have trespassed
with King David of Israel, I feel sure that the circumstances of my
particular offence are not discreditable to me; and it is possible that
he had the same conviction. For the rest, I have purposely discarded
many things which the world is agreed to think highly necessary to a
gentleman, but which I have proved to be of no value at all. I will only
add this one observation more. For my unparalleled misfortunes in every
kind of character and dangerous circumstance I am willing to admit that
I have nobody to thank but myself. And yet - but the reader must be
judge - I do not see how, in any single case, I could have acted
otherwise than as I did. What, then! we carry our fates with us from the
cradle to the grave, even as the Spinning Women themselves wind that
which was appointed them to wind, and ply the shears and make fruitless
their toil when they must; and all that we acquire upon our journey does
but make that burden more certainly ours. What was I but a predestined
wanderer - and fool if you will - burdened with my inheritance of
honourable blood, of religion, of candour, and of unprejudiced enquiry?
How under the sun could I - -? But let the reader be judge.

I left England early in September, made a good passage to Genoa, and
from thence proceeded by easy stages to Padua. Arriving there by the
coach on the night of October 13, I was met by my host and tutor, Dr.
Porfirio Lanfranchi, and by him taken to his lodgings on the Pra della
Valle and introduced to the charitable ministrations of his young and
beautiful wife - the fair, the too-fair Donna Aurelia, with whom, I shall
not disguise from the reader, I fell romantically and ardently in love.




CHAPTER II

AURELIA AND THE DOCTOR


It was, I know very well, the aim and desire of this beautiful lady to
approve herself mother to the exile thus cast upon her hands, and it was
so as much by reason of her innate charity as of her pride in her
husband's credit. To blame an ambition so laudable would be impossible,
nor is blame intended to lie in recording the fact that she was a year
my junior, though two years a wife. Such was the case, however, and it
did not fit her for the position she wished to occupy. Nor indeed did
her beauties of person and mind, unless a childish air and sprightly
manner, cloudy-dark hair, a lovely mouth and bosom of snow, a caressing
voice, and candour most surprising because most innocent, can be said to
adapt a young lady to be mother to a young man. Be these things as they
may - inflaming arrows full of danger, shafts of charity, pious
artillery, as you will - they were turned full play upon me. From the
first moment of my seeing her she set herself to put me at ease, to make
me an intimate of her house, to make herself, I may say in no wrong
sense, an inmate of my heart - and God knoweth, God knoweth how she
succeeded.

Aurelia! Impossibly fair, inexpressibly tender and wise, with that
untaught wisdom of the child; daughter of pure religion, as I saw thee
at first and can see thee still, can that my first vision of thee ever
be effaced? Nay, but it is scored too deeply in my heart, is too surely
my glory and my shame. Still I can see that sweet stoop of thy humility,
still thy hands crossed upon thy lovely bosom, still fall under the
spell of thy shyly welcoming eyes, and be refreshed, while I am stung,
by the gracious greeting of thy lips. "Sia il ben venuto, Signer
Francesco," saidst thou? Alas, what did I prove to thee, unhappy one,
but il mal venuto, the herald of an evil hour? What did I offer thee in
exchange for thy bounty but shame and salt tears? What could be my
portion but fruitless reproach and footsore pilgrimage from woe to woe?
But I forget myself. I am not yet to disinter these unhappy days.

It is not to be supposed from this apostrophe that when I fell at once
to love my master's wife I saw in her more than my lamp and my saint,
the gracious presence which should "imparadise," in Dante's phrase, my
mind. I was an honest lad, very serious and very simple. Perhaps I was a
fool, but I was a pure fool: and he had been a very monster of depravity
who could have cast unwholesome regard upon a welcome so generous and
modest as hers. I declare that she was never anything to me but a holy
emanation, not to be approached but on the knees, not to be looked upon
but through a veil. So from this page until near the end of my long
history she will appear to the reader. I never had an unworthy thought
of her, never an unworthy desire. I never credited her with more than
charity towards myself; and if I gloried in the fact that I was
privileged to love so wondrous a being, the thought humiliated me at the
same time. I was conscious of my nothingness before her worthiness, and
desperate to fit myself for her high society. A noble rage for
excellence possessed me; like any champion or knight of old I strove to
approve my manhood, only that I might lay the spoils of it at her sacred
feet.

By origin Aurelia was a Sienese, the daughter of the ancient, noble but
reduced family of Gualandi, and had, without knowing it, caught the
fancy of Dr. Lanfranchi when he was in her native city upon some
political question or another. At the age of eighteen she had been made
the subject of a marriage treaty between her mother and this learned man
of fifty - a treaty conducted by correspondence and without any by-or-
with-your-leave of hers. It may be doubted whether she had done much
more than see and quiz her husband until she was brought to his house,
to be mistress of that and slave of its master. Doing violence to the
imaginations of a lover, I can look back upon her now with calmness, and
yet see no flaw upon her extraordinary perfections. I can still see her
lovely in every part, a bright, glancing, various creature, equally
compounded of simplicity and common sense. Her greatest charm was
precisely what we call charm - a sweetly willing, pliant disposition, an
air of gay seriousness, such as a child has, and a mood which could run
swiftly, at the touch on some secret spring, from the ripple of laughter
to the urgency of tears. She was very devout, but not at all in our way,
who must set our God very far off if we are to consider His awful
nature; she carried her gaiety with her into church, and would laugh in
the face of the Blessed Virgin or our Saviour just as freely as in that
of the greatest sinner of us all. Her carriage and conversation with
Heaven were, indeed, exactly those which she held towards the world, and
were such that it was impossible not to love her, and yet, for an honest
man who desired to remain one, equally impossible to do it. For although
she was made in shape, line and feature to be a man's torment and
delight, she carried her beauties so easily, valued them so staidly, and
considered them so unaffectedly her husband's property, that he would
have been a highway thief who had dared anything against her.

Here, indeed, was to be reckoned with that quality of strong common
sense, without which she had been no Tuscan girl. She had it in a
remarkable degree, as you may judge when I say that it reconciled her to
her position of wife to a vast, disorderly, tyrannical man nearly old
enough to be her grandfather. It enabled her to weigh the dignity, ease
and comfort of the Casa Lanfranchi against any romantic picture which a
more youthful lover could paint before her eyes. I am convinced - the
conviction was, it will be seen, forced upon me - that not only was she a
loyal, obedient and cheerful, but also a loving wife to this huge and
blusterous person, of whom nevertheless she was a good deal afraid. For
if he fondled her more than was becoming, he stormed at her also in a
way not tolerable.

When Dr. Lanfranchi met me on my arrival, I remember that he took my
hand in his own and never let go of it until he had me in his house.
This made me feel like a schoolboy, and I never lost the feeling of
extreme youth in his eyes. I believe now that his terrific silence, his
explosive rages, mock ceremoniousness, and startling alternations were
all parts of his method towards his pupils, for my experiences of them
were not peculiar. I have seen him cow a whole class by a lift of his
great square head, and most certainly, whatever scandalous acts may have
disgraced the university in my time, they never occurred where Dr.
Lanfranchi was engaged. Burly, bulky, blotched as he was, dirty in his
person, and in his dress careless to the point of scandal, he had the
respect of every student of the Bo. He was prodigiously learned and a
great eater. The amount of liquid he could absorb would pass belief: it
used to be said among us that he drank most comfortably, like a horse,
out of a bucket. His lectures were extraordinary, crammed with
erudition, which proceeded from him by gasps, jerks, and throttled cries
for mercy on his failing breath, and illustrated by personalities of the
most shocking description - he spared no deformity or defect of any one
of us if it happened to engage his eye. Sometimes a whole hour's lecture
would be consumed in a scandalous tale of Rome or Naples, sometimes
indeed it would be a reminiscence of his own youthful days, which
policy, if not propriety, should have counselled him to omit. Yet, as I
say, he never lost the respect of the class, but was feared, served, and
punctually obeyed.

It was much the same at home - that is, his methods and their efficacy
were the same. In private life he was an easy, rough, facetious
companion, excessively free in his talk, excessively candid in the
expression of his desires, and with a reserve of stinging repartee which
must have been more blessed to give than to receive. Terrible storms of
rage possessed him at times, under which the house seemed to rock and
roll, which sent his sweet wife cowering into a corner. But, though she
feared him, she respected and loved the man - and I was to find that out
to my cost before my first year was out.

Meantime that year of new experience, uplifting love and growth by
inches must ever remain wonderful to me - with Aurelia's music in my ears
and Love's wild music in my heart. Happy, happy days of my youth!

"Dichosa edad y siglos dichosos aquellos, a quien los antiguos pusieron
nombre de dorados!" cried the knight of La Mancha; and I may call that
Paduan year my age of song. It ran its course to the sound of flutes,
harps, and all sweet music. I never knew, until I knew Aurelia, that
such exulting tides of melody could pour from human throat.

When Aurelia rose in the morning and threw open her green shutters, if
the sunlight was broad upon the Pra, flecked upon the trees, striking
the domes and pinnacles of the Santo with fire, she sang full diapason
with that careless fling of the voice, that happy rapture, that bravura
which makes the listener's heart go near to burst with her joy. If rain
made the leaves to droop, or scudded in sheets along the causeways, she
sang plaintively, the wounded, aggrieved, hurt notes of the nightingale.
Her song then would be some old-remembered sorrow of her land - of
Ginevra degli Almieri, the wandering wife; of the Donna Lombarda, who
poisoned her lover; or of the Countess Costanza's violated vow. So she
shared confidences with the weather, and so unbosomed herself to nature
and to God. Meantime she was as busy as a nesting-bird. She made her
doctor's chocolate, and took it in to him with the gazette or the news-
sheet; she would darn a hole in my stocking, on my leg, without pricking
me at all, look me over, brush me, re-tie my hair, pat me into order
with a critical eye, and send me off to my classes or study with a sage
counsel to mind my books, and a friendly nod over her shoulder as we
each went our ways. She would go to mass at the Santo, to market in the
Piazza; she would cheapen a dress-length, chat with a priest, admonish
old Nonna, the woman of the house - all before seven o'clock in the
morning; and not before then would she so much as sip a glass of coffee
or nibble a crust of bread. On Sundays and Festas she took her husband's
arm and went to church as befitted, wearing her glazed gown of silver
grey, her black lace zendado. She took a fan as well as a service-book -
and happy was I to carry them for her; she had lace mittens on her hands
and a fine three-cornered hat on her head. She looked then what she
truly was, the thrifty young housewife, who, if she was as lovely as the
summer's dawn, was so only by the way. And thrifty she proved herself.
For when she had kneeled and crossed herself twice towards the altar,
she pulled up the shining silk gown all about her middle and sat down
upon her petticoat.

Exquisite, fragrant, piteous Aurelia! Is it wonderful that I loved her?
And who was I - O heaven! What sort of lover was I to disturb her sweetly
ordered life? To that I must next address myself, cost me what it may.




CHAPTER III

MY DANGEROUS PROGRESS


I was fairly diligent during my year of study at Padua, fairly punctual
in attendance at my classes and lectures, fairly regular in my letter-
writing home. I acquired no vices, though there were plenty to be got,
was not a wine-bibber, a spendthrift, nor a rake. I was too snug in the
Casa Lanfranchi to be tempted astray, and any truantry of mine from the
round of my tasks led me back to Aurelia and love. To beat up the low
quarters of the town, to ruffle in the taverns and chocolate houses with
sham gentlemen, half frocked abbes and rips; to brawl and haggle with
vile persons and their bullies, set cocks a-fighting or rattle the dice-
box in the small hours - what were these pleasures to me, who had Aurelia
to be with? From the first she had taken her duties to heart, to mother
me, to keep me out of harm's way, to maintain her husband's credit by
making sure of mine. These things she set herself to do with a generous
zest which proved her undoing. Slowly, and from the purest of motives,
her influence upon me, her intercourse with me grew and spread. Slowly
the hours I spent with her extended - unperceived by her, exquisitely
perceived by me - until, at the date to which I am now come, near a year
after my entering the university, I may say there was not a spare moment
of the day, from my rising to my going to bed, which was not passed with
Aurelia.

To make the full import of this plain to the reader I must particularise
to some extent. My own rooms, I have explained, were in the same house,
two storeys below the Lanfranchi apartment. In them I was served with my
chocolate by old Nonna the servant, and was understood to leave them at
seven o'clock in the morning and not to return until midday, when I
dined with my hosts. The afternoons were my own. I was at liberty to
take horse exercise - and I kept two saddle-horses for the purpose - or to
make parties of pleasure with such of my fellow-students as were
agreeable to me. At six I supped with Aurelia alone, and at seven I was
supposed to retire - either to my own room for study and bed, or into the
town upon my private pleasures. These, I say, were the rules laid down
by Aurelia and her husband at the beginning of my residence in Padua. By
almost imperceptible degrees they were relaxed, by other degrees equally
hard to measure they were almost wholly altered.

The first to go was the practice of taking my chocolate abed. One
morning Nonna was late, and I rose without it. The same thing happened
more than twice, so then I went upstairs to find out what had hindered
her. There I found my Aurelia fresh from Mass and market, drinking her
morning coffee. Explanations, apologies, what-not, ensued; she invited
me to share her repast. From that time onwards I never broke my fast
otherwise than with her. So was it with other rules of intercourse. The
doctor was a machine in the ordering of his life. His chocolate at six,
his clothes at eight; he left the house at nine and returned at noon. He
left it again at two in the afternoon and returned at nine in the
evening; he supped; he went to bed on the stroke of ten. Except on
Sundays, high festivals, the first, the middle, and the last day of
carnival, through all the time of my acquaintance with him, I never knew
him break these habits but once, and that was when his mother died at
Mestre and he had to attend the funeral. On that occasion he must rise
at six, and miss his dinner at noon. He was furious, I never saw a man
so angry.

I cannot tell how or when it was that I first spent the whole of my
afternoons in Aurelia's society, nor how or when it was that, instead of
leaving her house at seven in the evening, I stayed on with her till the
stroke of nine, within a few minutes of the doctor's homecoming. It is a
thing as remarkable as true that nothing is easier to form than a habit,
and nothing more difficult to break. Formed and unbroken these habits
were, unheeded by ourselves, but not altogether unperceived. There was
one member of the household who perceived them, and never approved. I
remember that old Nonna used to shake her finger at us as we sat
reading, and how she used to call out the progress of the quarters from
the kitchen, where she was busy with her master's supper. But my beloved
mistress could not, and I would not, take any warning. It became a sort
of joke between Aurelia and me to see whether Nonna would miss one of
the quarters. She never did; and as often as not, when nine struck and I
not gone, she would bundle me out of doors by the shoulders and scold
her young mistress in shrill Venetian, loud enough for me to hear at my
own chamber door. Aurelia used to tell me all she had said next morning.
She had an excellent gift of mimicry; could do Nonna and (I grieve to
say) the doctor to the life.

The end of this may be guessed. Privilege after privilege was carelessly
accorded by Aurelia, and greedily possessed by me. At the end of six
months' residence those three still evening hours existed, not for the
blessedness of such intercourse alone, but to be crowned by the
salutation of an adorable hand; and when I retired at last, it was not
to my bed, but to my window; to the velvet spaces of the night, to the
rustling trees, the eloquent congress of the stars; to sigh my secret
abroad to those sympathetic witnesses, to whisper her name, to link it
with my own; to tell, in a word, to the deep-bosomed dark all the daring
fancies of a young man intoxicated with first love. And from privilege
to privilege I strode, a fine conqueror. A very few months more, and not
only was I for ever with Aurelia, but there was no doubt nor affectation
of concealment on my part of how I stood or wished to stand before her.
I postulated myself, in fine, as her servant in amours - cavalier I will
not say, for that has an odious meaning in Italy, than which to describe
my position nothing could be wider of the truth. I did but ask liberty
to adore, sought nothing further, and got nothing else. This, upon my
honour, was ever the sum of my offence - up to my last day of bliss.

You would have supposed that she could hardly have misunderstood the
state of my affairs, had I said or done nothing. So quick-witted was
she, it is inconceivable. But as time went on, and success with it, I
quite got out of the way of concealment, and spoke of myself openly as
her slave. She used to laugh at me, pretend to think me an absurd boy;
and now and then threatened (and that half in jest) to tell her husband.
I know very well that she never did. The padron, we used to call him to
each other, having taken the name from old Nonna. It was one of our
little foolish jokes to pretend the house an inn, he the landlord, and
ourselves travellers met there by hazard. We had a many familiar,
private sayings and nicknames of the sort, secret cues to look across
the table when he was there, and smile at each other - as when he railed
(as he was fond of doing) at Tuscan ways and speech, at the usage of
Siena, her own country, or when (after his meal) he made a noise,
sucking his teeth. Sweetly pleasant, dangerous days - were they as lovely
to her as to me? How can I tell? There was no doubt but she knew me
thoroughly. The little pleasant encroachments of mine, stolen upon her
unawares, were now never checked - I am speaking of the end of my first
year, when I could hold her hand unreproved, and kiss it as often as I
pleased. I took and kept, and exhibited to her without embarrassment,
little trifles of hers - a hair-ribbon, a garter, a little trodden Venice
slipper; if she asked for them back, it only provoked me to keep them
closer to my heart. She saw no harm in these foolish, sweet things: she
felt herself to be my senior; by comparison with her position, mine was
that of a child. To the very end she maintained the fiction that she was
my foster-mother, responsible to my parents for my advancement in
education and morals. Assuredly she taught me her tongue and kept me out
of gross iniquity; but equally certain is it that I learned more than
Italian.

I learned, however, to be very fluent in that, for, inspired by love of
Aurelia, I attacked it with extraordinary passion. All Italy, and above
all Tuscany, took sacred air from her; there grew to be an aureole about
everything which owned kinship with her. I was a severe ritualist, as
every lover is: it became a blasphemy in me to think of Aurelia in any



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